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Blaugust 9: Sometimes I Cook


For longer than I could say, I haven’t been cooking much. So the fact that I made something quite delicious for dinner this evening feels like an achievement.

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And it tasted better than it looked! I used Ronzoni Garden Delight pasta, which has vegetables in it as well as the usual grains. I made a tasty but not particularly noteworthy tomato sauce. I put a little more balsamic vinegar in it than I should have for that amount of sauce. The red pepper flakes gave it a nice kick.

The chicken was cooked simply, coated in breadcrumbs and then pan fried in oil. I bought chicken thighs this time because it was a better deal. I prefer breast meat in general, but this was pretty good. The golden-brown rule: the thinner the piece of meat, the easier it will be to cook. The result was cooked perfectly with a delicious crunch.

To drink, I had some of this Italian margarita (premade) that I found the other day. I have to admit it’s not my favorite, but I’ve discovered that the flavor goes very nicely with ginger beer, so I mixed some in.

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That’s it for now. I know it isn’t too exciting to read, but when you’re trying to build up certain habits, a moment of victory feels like it’s worth documenting. Tomorrow I’ll be eating the leftovers, probably with some sauteed asparagus.

Workout Plans and Garlic Hands (Salmon and Kale Dinner)


I like to put a check mark on my wall calendar every day I work out. I had this idea when reading some blog post in which someone was talking about the “gold-star” system for marking when they had accomplished a certain thing. I can’t remember what that thing was, but I thought I would see if it helped me get back into the habit of working out. Early this month I looked at my calendar and saw the two checks next to each other on May 1 and 2, and I thought, hey, it would be cool to put a check mark up every day this month!

I don’t always do the same level of workout, but I’ve read that this is a good thing. You need to take breaks some days. Of course, it’s better to get your heart rate up and to work out for a little longer, but ten minutes is still better than nothing at all, if you just push yourself a little to make it a good ten minutes. I’m extending my definition of workout out a little bit to make it a little easier to get it done every day, so if I take a long walk one day I don’t need to do more, and if it’s late and I haven’t done it yet, a few minutes with some weights or a few yoga poses will do for that day. That doesn’t mean I’m going to slack off and just do a short, basic workout every single day…

It’s all part of my general awareness that I need to be more mindful of my health and habits. Healthy living is an ongoing journey. It’s not about losing five pounds to fit into skinnier jeans or looking “good” in a bikini. People can choose to lose weight strictly for vanity purposes if they want to. That’s not my aim. I would like to lose a bit of weight, but I don’t think I need to–at the same time, I don’t want to gain any more. I’m trying to focus on the health aspects because I know that is what is going to help me have a better quality of life when I’m older. Keeping active and feeding myself with good things is an investment in myself. I want to be a hot old lady.

Today’s dinner was made with those goals in mind, after a nice workout of yoga and weights. I defrosted a filet of salmon and dressed it with olive oil, chopped garlic, french sea salt, and some thyme and tarragon. Lemon would have been great on it, but I had no lemon.

I had already eaten before I realized this picture was blurry. It didn't look like it when I was taking it! This is what I get with my phone. So inadequate.

I had already eaten before I realized this picture was blurry. It didn’t look like it when I was taking it! This is what I get with my phone. So inadequate.

As you might have guessed, this is not a recipe. It’s just a basic way of cooking fish, with herbs to make the flavor a little more interesting. One of the things I have mentioned before is that if you’re making something like this, seasonings and herbs should be to taste. Use the ones you like. put curry powder on it if you want. That’s the beauty of a simple thing like this.

As a side, I sauteed some kale in olive oil and more garlic (one clove for the whole meal, and there was still some left over! Seriously, it was huge), adding some roasted red peppers halfway through. Since those are already cooked, I could have mixed them in after the kale was done cooking, and if I ever do this again I think I will try it that way.

At least it still fit in my hand.

At least it still fit in my hand.

My favorite sort of food to cook is generally simple and easy to make, but kind of looks fancy. There’s a sense of indulgence and luxury, but it’s actually not fancy at all and usually doesn’t cost too much. I’d estimate that the ingredients for this dinner (not the full price for each thing, but the portion I used) come out to less than $3. It was tasty and healthy and natural. And satisfying in a way that admittedly delicious fried food rarely is, if ever. That’s another reason to eat healthy. Junk food satisfies a shallow craving, giving instant gratification. Natural, nutritious food satisfies on a deeper level, and over time will make me feel stronger and healthier.

Review: Fun and Interesting Meals from Plated


On something of a whim I took advantage of an offer from this site called Plated. Buy 2 plates, get 4 free! My initial order I had to cancel, which resulted in an account credit of $70-80 after paying around $20. Not a bad deal in my book. A little later, I took advantage of that “free” money to try out the service.

I ordered two different meals/4 plates. When you’re ordering, one recipe usually makes 2 “plates” (some might make 4). The actual amount of plates would depend on how much you and/or the other people that enjoy the dish want to eat, of course. I would mostly classify the recipes as gourmet homestyle, occasionally ethnic or fusion. They send you a recipe card–more like a recipe poster–and most of the ingredients to cook it. You will probably have to supplement it with things like olive oil, butter, pepper, or other basic cooking ingredients that most people have available in their kitchen.

Although many things sounded delicious, the price was important to me (not all plates cost the same), so my final decision was tomato-braised chicken with fennel and steak gyros. Once the order shipped, it got to me overnight. Considering that some of the food they send is perishable, that’s a very good thing. I thought everything was very well-packaged and everything from my order was present and accounted for. I actually decided to do an unboxing and first impression video, which you can watch if you’re interested in this part of the process:

But I made it before I’d fully experienced my meals, so I wanted to go a little more in-depth here.

Steak Gyros: This was pretty easy to make and turned out to be delicious! I did overcook the steak just a tiny bit, as they recommend having it rare and mine was closer to medium-well, but that didn’t hurt it. It was good-quality steak and the seasonings they provided gave it a great flavor. The naans that came with the order were so tasty, I wished I had more of them. I did alter some of the side/sauce aspects of the recipe (I explain this a little in the video). Overall I was very happy with this one.

Tomato-braised Chicken with Fennel: First I should say that I HATE black licorice, and so I don’t like strong fennel flavors that much, but I love chicken, and I’ve had recipes with fennel that I did like, so I decided to try it out. This one was slightly more interesting to cook because I’ve never made fennel before. This used the leafy part as a garnish, but also the root as one of the main ingredients. Cooked in oil and tomato with a rather interesting mix of spices, I actually really liked the end result. I would have liked there to be more chicken, and I must admit I was a little disappointed by the cuts I was provided because there was a lot of fat on them. So it wasn’t perfect, but I liked the flavor of the dish. It also came with couscous, which I had never made before. That part turned out to be incredibly easy and although couscous doesn’t have much flavor on its own, I like it. Also, between the fennel bulb, a yellow onion, and the chicken, the yield for this recipe was HUGE. I’d say it could feed four people, maybe adding another side dish.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed my first experience with plated despite one or two things that weren’t perfect. (And expecting perfection is silly, really.) Promotional deal aside, this is not exactly a budget-friendly service. For the amount of food I got for the money, I probably would have been better off just getting a similar recipe and getting the ingredients myself. BUT, you’re not just paying for the food. You’re paying to have it bundled and ready to cook, as well, and for the convenience of having it delivered right to you. They also make efforts to send sustainable and ethical ingredients, which are worth paying a little extra for if you can afford it. Also, if you can’t afford to order frequently, you can always skip a few weeks to save up for your next order, but make sure you keep an eye on your account so you don’t accidentally get one when you didn’t want it. The default is every one or two weeks, depending on what you select. I’m not in a position to afford this very often right now, but I’d be interested in doing this regularly in the future, after my income grows.

Why you should try it: I think the best reason to give Plated a try (other than the great first-time deal they offer!) is to experiment with a recipe you might never have tried otherwise. I doubt I ever would have made gyros if left entirely to my own devices, and now I know I might like to use fennel in cooking other dishes. I might have done that eventually, but without this incentive I doubt it. I made the recipes on my own, but this could also be fun to do with friends and family, if you like to cook together.

If after all that you’re intrigued, and you want some free plates, use my referral link below:

https://www.plated.com/invites/7c742d

Happy cooking!

Baked Breaded Eggplant Cutlets


One of my best non-recipe experiments in the past year or so was my eggplant parmesan-inspired dish. The title of this post is the closest I could come to an appropriate name for them. I think it fits pretty well.

As the story goes, I had an eggplant, and I was thinking of just roasting it, but then I decided I really wanted to bread something, and eggplant would work perfectly! I sliced the eggplant into slices of fairly even thickness, although they were not exact, because if I don’t like going to the effort of using recipes, you can bet that I don’t usually bother to chop or slice things exactly evenly. Once sliced, I put the pieces through a typical dredging (flour, egg, breadcrumbs) and laid them on a foil-lined baking sheet.

The breadcrumbs I used were seasoned, and I believe they also contained cheese. I then mixed in some parmesan cheese (the crumbly kind) to make it even cheesier. I drizzled olive oil on top of each piece, trying to be liberal with it without drowning them. The point was to make them nice and brown on top, not to make them soggy.

Side note: I think it would certainly be possible to eliminate the cheese and egg from this recipe and make it vegan! (Is there a vegan egg substitute?) It should still be pretty tasty.

The whole baking sheet when into the oven, somewhere around 400 degrees, for 20-30 minutes (I honestly can’t remember now), until they were nice and browned on top. If you decide to try this, they’re done when they look done. Eggplant doesn’t take that long to cook.

In plating, I decided to top them with a little of tomato sauce from what I think was the best batch I’ve ever made (it seems the secret is adding more salt). Overall, I’d say they came out perfect. The one complaint is that they cool pretty quickly. Luckily, they still taste good that way.

Some of the larger slices were cut in half only because they fit better that way in the dredging bowls. It is not a necessary step.

Some of the larger slices were cut in half only because they fit better that way in the dredging bowls. It is not a necessary step.

Forgive the photo quality. I’d love it if there was a really clear picture of this, but it’s pretty hard to to that with my phone’s camera. In any case, this should give you an idea of the resulting product. I ate it for dinner, as well as some quickly pan-fried slices of the same eggplant that wouldn’t fit on the baking sheet, but I think it could also be a great appetizer for a dinner party. Whenever you decide to eat it, just remember to try to get it crisp! It just adds a little extra something.

Three Dishes, One Post! Also, I’m Taking Requests!


I have made a number of dishes that I intended to write about soon after, but somehow time just slipped by me. Now it’s been quite a while, probably two months or even more, since I made these things, but I enjoyed them so much that I still want to write about them.

1. Cranberry sauce!

This is actually the first time I’ve made it without a recipe. Previously I made it for Thanksgiving, and if you’re cooking something for a special meal involving other people, you don’t want to take the risk that you’ll screw it up. If I’d ruined the cranberry sauce, there would have been none, and what, WHAT I ask, is Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce? Crap. That’s what. But this time, I found cranberries at $1 per bag at a small produce market, and as I’d been wanting to make cranberry sauce for a while, I decided to get one. Then of course it sat in the fridge for 2-3 weeks until it was a choice of either making the sauce or throwing them away.

I put 1-2 cups of water in the pot with the cranberries and started boiling that. (It was more than 1 cup, but I wasn’t being very precise in measuring so I don’t know exactly how much.) So then, when the cranberries had started bursting their insides out all into the water, I went to add the sugar. It turned out that I had almost no sugar. I’d run out of white sugar ages before, and my brown sugar had almost completely solidified. (I don’t bake much, so I never really worry about stocking these things.) I chipped as much as I could off the sugar block, poured it in the pot, and threw the rest away. I still haven’t bought new sugar yet.

I felt it needed a bit more sweetener than that, so I added a healthy pour of agave nectar. It won’t give your sauce the same flavor as sugar, but it will help to balance out the sourness of the cranberries just as well. I also added a very small amount of ground nutmeg. A minimal sprinkling added a very subtle flavor, but unless you REALLY love nutmeg, I wouldn’t add very much at all.

Feeling experimental, I added 2 teaspoons or so of vanilla extract. I think the kind I have is bourbon vanilla extract, but you can add any kind you have on hand. It made it so delicious. I highly recommend adding vanilla extract to your cranberry sauce.

I actually still have some of the sauce in the fridge. I have no idea if it’s still good.

2. Zucchini chili-mango stir fry with brown rice!

I had bought this seriously enormous zucchini and it had to be used fairly quickly. I decided to stir-fry a large portion of it and eat it with rice. The stir-fry was composed of zucchini and yellow bell pepper, I think. There wasn’t much in it, but that’s ok. For a sauce, I used the remainder of this mango chili marinade that had been in the fridge for at least five months, diluted a little with water so that it would coat the veggies better. I thought it might end up too sweet, but even though it was on the sweet side, it was just perfect.

I’m a jasmine rice kind of lady, so I’ve only made brown rice once or twice before. I forgot how much longer it takes to cook than regular rice, and as a result the veggies were ready way before the rice was. Imagine my surprise, however, when it turned out the brown rice was SO TASTY!! I’ve had brown rice before, of course, and it always tasted kind of bland and boring. Somehow it was really good this time. I don’t think it was the sauce from the stir-fry that did it, either. Unfortunately, I have no idea how I did this or if I’ll be able to replicate it. Maybe I just really like brown rice now.

That sure came out of nowhere.

3. Breadcrumb-fried zucchini slices over linguine!

To use the rest of the zucchini, I decided I wanted to fry it in breadcrumbs. I used a fairly half-assed version of your standard breadcrumb-coating method, with panko breadcrumbs because that was the only kind I had. Italian-style breadcrumbs would have been better. But that’s ok. I placed the slices in my pan of hot oil, flipped them carefully, and then put them on a paper-towel-lined plate when done. The trick is to keep a careful eye on the oil to make sure it doesn’t get too hot, or you’ll end up burning everything.

I decided they’d be delightful over pasta, so I made up some linguine (does anyone else feel like pasta always takes so much longer than you expect it to?), tossed it with olive oil, black pepper, basil, and oregano, and laid several zucchini slices on top. There may have also been tomatoes. I must say, the plating was lovely, but I wasn’t really in a “taking pictures of my food” space when I was cooking any of these things. So there are NO PICTURES. However, I’d be quite happy to make this again if anyone’s interested in a more detailed non-recipe with pictures–I might use eggplant next time, though. Of course, I won’t know you want to see this unless you comment.

 

I’ve made some other fairly standard meals as well, which all turned out delicious, but they’ve been the sort of extremely basic meals that pretty much anyone can make. Literally. I’ve had a lot of egg sandwiches in the last two months or so.

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Now, what’s that you say about requests? …is what I’m sure you’re asking.

I think it would be fun to try to make some ideas that come from random people on the internet. Or people I know, too, but if you make the request in real life and not here, I won’t do it.

My one rule* is that it can’t be baked goods. Those can only be successfully made without a recipe if you’re experienced enough to know what you’re doing. I do not know what I’m doing. On the rare occasions when I do actually bake, I follow the recipe. If I were to try it, I would just be wasting all the ingredients on something that will most likely be edible but not worth eating. If it’s something for which I could use pre-made pastry (pie crusts, crescent rolls, etc.), that would be doable.

*I’m also not going to make anything involving brains, tongues, sweetbreads, animal feet, or anything super weird like that. Because ew.

 

Keep in mind I have very nearly literally NO money right now, so it might be a little while before I can actually afford the ingredients. That’s ok though! I’ll make a list and do whatever I can in this regard.

Only Fresh?


Chili and tomato sauce are things that I make from time to time, always using fresh tomatoes in my non-recipes. That is, until several weeks ago, when I had a bunch of fresh cilantro to be used but couldn’t find good tomatoes for less than a fortune. So I bought cheap canned tomatoes instead. The huge cans were on sale, so I got quite a lot of tomatoes. As it turned out, far more than were necessary.
First, I made chili. I used two large cans of tomatoes, not realizing how much that threw off my usual ratio. I seasoned until it smelled good. In the end, that wasn’t enough. Not only did I have more left over than ever before, it was not quite as good as usual. I still ate it.

A bit later on, I finally made tomato sauce. I only used one can this time (I think). In went the usual olive oil, and after simmering them long enough to have sauce rather than whole peeled tomato soup, all the usual seasonings joined the party. I tried it and found that it came out very nice. It tasted just like tomato sauce …

But not my tomato sauce.

The difference was notable. When you use fresh ingredients, the resulting flavors of the dish are–there’s no better word for it–fresh. (I realize I’ve now used this word a lot in this post, and I usually try to avoid that, but it’s the only word that really gets my point across.)

Perhaps it was the extra ingredients in the canned tomatoes: salt and added preservatives. That’s the first hint that it not only will taste different, but will not be as good for you. I do add salt to tomato sauce, but not very much. As a result, what I make is typically far healthier than any store-bought kind (large quantities of olive oil included).

While the canned tomatoes definitely saved me money, I have long been a believer in spending more for better quality, within reason. At times it’s a necessary sacrifice, and I’ll admit I’ve had more ramen dinners than I ever really wanted, but in general, the difference between fresh and pre-packaged items are worth it. Tomatoes can be a bit of a problem in winter, though, because they aren’t in season. However, it clearly depends where you go. Everything is always more expensive at Whole Foods and some of the local artisan co-op type places (City Feed, I love your coffee, but I cannot afford your groceries), but I got ten pretty nice roma tomatoes for $2 at Johnny D’s in Brighton Center yesterday. Knowing where to find the deals is key.

I’m not even a fan of frozen vegetables, for the most part. In some recipes they work just fine, and they’re certainly going to save you money, but I can’t help noticing a deficiency in flavor and crispness. Do a simple test: take some frozen broccoli and some fresh broccoli and cook them exactly the same way, for the same amount of time, and then compare them. If you come back and tell me you didn’t notice a difference, I’m not going to believe you. It matters.

I do buy frozen vegetables at times. Here’s another problem, though: I’m far less likely to use them than fresh ones. Knowing my food will actually go bad is a greater incentive to eat it. Seeing all the colors and options set out before me, rather than a collection of white bags with pictures of produce on them, gives me a much better sense of the food that’s available to me. Not to mention that some of the things I like to do with vegetables, like salads and sandwich toppings, are not possible with the frozen variety. Hell, I have a bag of frozen corn that seemed like a good idea at the time, but has been sitting in my freezer for at least two months now. I’m not a huge fan of corn, but I was going to make some kind of chowder-casserole concoction that never came about.

Anyway. Although it seems like buying frozen and canned food items is just a good way to save money, it doesn’t work for me, because I’ll leave them sitting for substantial lengths of time in favor of going out for a burrito or something. If I buy fresh produce, I feel much more compelled and in fact excited to eat it. So really, which option is more budget-friendly?

What Do You Do With a Bunch of Fresh Basil?


Buying fresh herbs kind of sucks–because they always sell you more than you can use, and then all that goodness goes to waste! The last time I bought cilantro, half of it turned into rotting mush in the bag before I got a chance to make the thing I’d been planning to make with it.

But sometimes I just really want to buy they anyway. There’s a small produce store in Brighton Center that generally has really good stuff at good prices, so I like to go there sometimes so I’ll have good fresh fruits and vegetables. They sell fresh basil and cilantro for a dollar a bunch. (Not that this is really different from most grocery stores, but it’s still a nice price). I wanted basil, so I got one bunch.

One bunch is just too much. I’ve gotten more used to the idea of copious fresh basil, instead of adding it as an afterthought or a garnish. I like it in salads, particularly if I have blueberries or strawberries to put on the salad as well. Add a little drizzle of olive oil, and you’ve got a great thing going. Unfortunately I have no berries, but that’s ok. Just using basil in a regular old salad definitely kicks up the flavor, at least one notch, if not two.

I’m sure most people are aware that basil is great for cooking, too. Pizza, sauteed with vegetables, mixed up into a marinade for some chicken… whatever you think will taste good, there’s a good chance you can do it with basil. (Wow, that sounded weirder than I thought before I typed it out.)

Of course, one way to use up a substantial portion of that bunch is to make a nice batch of tomato sauce. I had that intention, but unfortunately I left the burner on too high for too long on my pot of tomatoes, and they burned horribly. They were not salvageable, and I didn’t want to go out and get more tomatoes, so I had to just scrap that whole idea. In this case, my cooking failure was due to not paying attention, rather than not having a recipe going in! I’ve made tomato sauce a whole bunch of times and this has never happened before.

I wish they would sell smaller bunches of herbs for 50c. I don’t want good basil going bad because I only wanted to use small amounts… but what am I supposed to do? I only have so many ingredients that will logically combine with basil. And I’m not planning to shop again before Thanksgiving. I suppose I can always freeze the rest if I don’t feel like using it right now.

Maybe I can make a basil-mozzarella omelet tomorrow morning. I might even spare some of the grape tomatoes that I plan to put on my salad for tomorrow’s lunch.

If you feel inclined, leave a comment and let me know what you do with your basil.

Improvised “Mexican” Pizza–Mmmmm!


While distracting myself from work by wondering what I would eat for dinner, I determined that if I bought pizza dough (I know you CAN make it, but that’s way too much time spent on a pizza for me), I could make a sort of “Mexican” pizza. I put Mexican in quotes because it is in no way remotely authentic. It just had some flavors in that category…

This is now two weeks ago, or something along those lines. Might be longer. So to the best of my ability, I will try to describe what I did for you.

First, I bought dough from Whole Foods. You can buy fresh, uncooked pizza dough from most grocery stores, I’m pretty sure. You can also buy pre-made crusts, which is an option if you want it to be a bit quicker.

Having made pizza from a store-bought dough several times, I recall having lots of trouble getting it to stretch, so I turned to the internet to figure out how to stretch it. My inclination that it would have to sit out at room temperature for a while seemed correct. I covered it in flour and left it there, returning later and stretching out the dough fairly successfully. Look up how to do this: I am not the person to instruct you on the method.

Once it was fairly stretched I plunked the dough down onto a (possibly over-)greased cookie sheet. I do not own a pizza stone, sadly. I want one. And then toppings went on.

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Okay, so that picture is actually after it came out of the oven. I didn’t get any before pics.

As I got the dough ready I cooked up one patty of Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Chicken Burger. If that sounds kind of bad to you, I assure you, they are DELICIOUS. If you like those flavors in general you will like the burger. I actually would have made two for the topping, but I only had one left. It was very sad.

If I can remember right, the toppings went like this: first, sliced tomatoes and salsa as sauce. I tried to sauce it sparsely because I didn’t want to overpower it. I highly recommend using a SPOON to spread the salsa, as if you just pour it on you very well may end up with too much. Second, cheese. I THINK it was cheddar. I generally prefer mozzarella on pizza, but I didn’t have any. Third, diced red pepper and pieces of a chicken burger. I did my best to distribute things fairly evenly, but of course some sections of crust still ended up larger than others. if I added any other toppings or seasonings, I can’t remember.

The pizza went into a preheated oven at about 425°. I would say it cooked for around 20 minutes, but once again, I don’t really remember. Then I took it out and let it cool for a little while.

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Cutting it was interesting because it might not have been cool enough yet, and also I don’t have a pizza cutter and my sharper knife wasn’t clean. But I managed.

Topped with sliced avocado after cooking.

Topped with sliced avocado after cooking.

 

I think I ate two servings’ worth of this pizza. You can’t blame me, it was delicious–you probably would have too.

Overall it was quite delicious. The crust was slightly crunchier than I generally like but it was still very good. I do recall wanting it to be spicier, though. Should have used more salsa.

 

Are you sick of my pictures of dinner yet?


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Pre-seasoned drumsticks from Whole Foods, baked in the oven + kale sauteed in olive oil, fresh ginger and garlic, with tomatoes. It is YUM and was so easy. Want to know how easy? Ask me and I’ll do it again and post about it.

 

Chicken Tikka Masala (from a jar) – Success!


My most recent anti-recipe dinner was chicken tikka masala. I have actually made this several times in the past and I have a method that I really like. It’s very easy, and I bet you could do it too. I am going to try to describe things in a way that lets you copy the method, even though I don’t have a recipe. I bet it would also be really good with shrimp or just veggies, if you want a meatless version.

The first thing you should know is that I do not make it from scratch. I have no idea how you would do that. I buy the sauce in a jar, usually from Trader Joe’s, but you can often find some version in the “world” sections of any regular grocery store. In just a minute, you’ll see a picture of the one I used this time.

I really like to play up the coconut flavor in the dish, so I add coconut milk. I combine one whole can with the whole jar of tikka masala sauce.

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These were the ones I worked with for this particular go at the dish. For this purpose, I really think that any can of coconut milk will do, so go ahead and get the cheap one. Alternatively, I think it says the can contains 14 oz of coconut milk, so you can figure out how to measure that out. You can also add less, if you don’t want it to be quite so heavy on the coconut, or MORE if you just can’t get enough.

I have in the past added minced or diced garlic to the sauce as well, but I didn’t this time.

So, because I had an onion left over from making chili, I decided I would add some sliced onion this time. I cooked them up in some canola or olive oil (I can’t remember) first, to make them less onion-y. Once they had been simmering a while, and a few started to brown, I tossed the chicken in the pan.

tikka masala lovefood 001

 

The chicken should be cooked before you add the sauce. However, since you’re going to simmer it all for a while, it doesn’t have to be fully cooked. Just so that it’s not still pink and raw… if you make this with the onions, you don’t have to keep them separate from the chicken like that. It’s just something I do.

When the outside of the chicken is no longer pink, that’s when I add the sauce. All you do it pour it over and then stir it together. It’s very very simple. Be careful when pouring, because there’s definitely a possibility of staining if you happen to splash.

To try something different, I thought I would add some more vegetables to it. I added an entire bag of frozen peas with pearl onions. It was very pea-heavy. If you wanted a smaller peas-sauce ratio, half the bag would probably do. Or you can just make it a judgment call.

Stirring it in with a wooden spoon, so that the bottom of the pan doesn't get scraped up.

Stirring it in with a wooden spoon, so that the bottom of the pan doesn’t get scraped up.

At this point, I cover and simmer the whole pan for at least 30 minutes. Generally no more than 45.

The pan I used here is a very large, Cuisinart cooking skillet. If you don’t have a pan like this with high sides, then you should use a pot instead. You want to make sure it’s a container that will actually hold the sauce and that you can cover easily (because no one wants to struggle to cover their pans while they’re trying to cook. It’s just not fun).

When it’s cooked long enough to be sure the chicken is cooked through and all vegetables you put in are cooked, that’s it. You’re done. In fact, I probably cook it longer than I need to. I bet 20 minutes would be fine. You don’t want to cook it too long, because then the chicken will start to get dry.

So then you just serve it up and eat.

tikka masala lovefood 005

Here it is just after cooking, over jasmine rice. Tikka masala has enough flavor that I didn’t want to do anything fancy with the rice. I put a little bit of butter into the water as it boiled, but otherwise the rice is just plain. Jasmine rice is my favorite and definitely my vote for pairing with tikka masala. Basmati rice would also be good.

And that’s all! It really is very easy to do, and you can experiment with any add-ins you’d like. It takes a little bit of time, but not all that much effort. Also makes great leftovers, tastes exactly the same warmed up the next day.

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