Tomato Basil Chicken turned Paella

In my last post I introduced a new series on the site, Quick Recipes, For Busy Parents. Idea behind the series being, how to make one meal with enough leftover to transform it into something totally different for dinner the next night. 

I'm going to keep this one short, just like the prep and cook time for this dinner. Tomato Basil Chicken leftovers transformed into paella. (If you're a paella truther, please forgive me. This is a homemade, take the bare elements of paella, no time to cook because the baby is crying version of the dish.) So, here's what you do: get home from work and make the decision not to order out. Do not pick up some pita and dip it in hummus and call that dinner. Do not pour a bowl of cereal and pretend you're back in college. And for the love of everything, do not slice up an avocado and insult yourself by putting it on toast. Make a real meal because you worked all day and you've earned it. All you need are the aforementioned leftovers and 30 minutes for light cooking. Frankly, this recipe is more mixing and boiling than cooking. No cutting, just a little stirring. 

Ready?

Let's make this.

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Tomato Basil Chicken turned Paella 

Ingredients

  • Leftovers from the Tomato Basil Chicken recipe
    • We had two chicken thighs and a ton of the vegetables in their juices.
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • fresh basil, torn into pieces
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  1. Steep saffron in 1/4 cup of hot water.
  2. While saffron is steeping cook 2 cups jasmine rice in a pot. (Directions for cooking rice should be on the back of the packaging.)
  3. Meanwhile, grab the leftovers from the fridge. Using a fork, or if you're me, just your fingers - shred the leftover chicken into a large pan. 
  4. Dump your leftover vegetables and any juices into the pan with the chicken. Literally, just empty the Tupperware into the pan. 
  5. Drizzle some olive oil on everything and heat pan on low. 
  6. Once your rice is done cooking, pour the steeped saffron, water and all, into the rice and mix well. 
  7. Mix the rice into the warmed pan of now shredded chicken and tomato basil leftovers.
  8. Turn up the heat and stir everything together for a few minutes. 
  9. Adjust seasonings to taste. For me this meant adding a bit more salt + pepper. Also, some paprika and red pepper flakes. Top everything with shredded basil and shaved Parmesan (if you feel like it). Squeeze lemon 'cause why not?
  10. Eat!
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That's it! You've made a variation of paella out of something that was decidedly very different the night before. Eat your meal out a bowl, drink a glass of wine, be in bed by 9:30PM. 

Oh the parent life! 

 

 

Tomato Basil Chicken

Last week, after 16 weeks of being home with Ben, I returned to work. There are so many thoughts swirling in my brain about maternity leave, child care, balancing work and spending time with my son while also leaving time for dusting, mopping, sorting, washing, folding, combing, carrying, drying, combusting, reading, painting nails, etc. You get the point. But, I want to start with the relatively practical items. First things first, we can't fall back into bad habits of ordering or dining out on weeknights because (1) it's not healthy (2) we're paying for daycare now (3) I'd rather spend that money on cute baby clothes. 

So, here we are. If I thought I didn't have time to cook before, HAHAHAHAHAHA. I was wrong. I had all the time, I was just... Who the hell knows what I was. By the way, let's bookmark this one? A post all about, "What did I do with all that free time?! I could've read all the books and learned how to knit or something." 

Anyway, back to the problem at hand: Cooking at home but not having it take hours, so there's no downtime, and having leftovers BUT not so many that by Wednesday we're ordering out again. because who wants to have the same thing three times in one week? Not us.

The solution? First installment in a new series! Quick dinners for busy parents. recipes that you can pull together in an hour or less and use leftovers the next day in a different meal that takes even less time. 

All you need for this meal are chicken thighs, tons of fresh basil, tomatoes of all sorts, shallots, red peppers, and garlic. Also, one big oven safe pan. Ready? Here we go.

 But first, here are some pictures because this is a blog. 

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tomato basil chicken

(loosely based on this Jamie Oliver recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 package skin on chicken thighs (breasts would work too)
  • 1/2 lb fresh basil, rough chopped. Stems and all! 
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut length wise
  • 4-5 Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 pack cherry tomatoes
  • 1 heirloom tomato, chopped up
  • 1 red pepper cut up into quarter inch pieces
  • 1/2 lemon, 3-4 slices and the rest reserved for squeezing
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika

I also used Trader Joe's "Everything but the Bagel" seasoning, because I use it on everything now. It's the best. You can substitute any poultry or spice rub that you have, or skip and make your own spice mix from what's listed above and whatever you have on hand. 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Pour a glug of olive oil into your pan and heat it up. 
  3. Toss in tomatoes, garlic, shallots, red pepper, and basil. Cook down for just a few minutes. No more than five.
  4. Dry your chicken thighs and rub spice mix into the skin. 
  5. Turn off the heat on the vegetables and squeeze chicken into the tomato/basil/pepper situation. 
  6. Place slices of lemon on each piece of chicken and drizzle the remainder of your olive oil on top.
  7. Bake in the oven for 35-40 min. Finish off on the broil setting for an additional 5 minutes. The chicken should be browned and the spice mix will look blackened a bit. It's not. Don't worry.
  8. Serve on a bed of mixed greens and freshly grated Parmesan or cheese of choice. Squeeze the remainder of your lemon on top of everything. 
  9. You're going to have leftovers. Scoop them all, including the juices in the pan, into some Tupperware (not endorsed). 

Ok, so what to do with the leftovers tomorrow? Stay tuned! 

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The Pancake Alternative

When I was pregnant with Ben, to my surprise and to the surprise of everyone who knows me well, I had only one craving. Pancakes. I always thought that I would crave the obvious - pickles, ice cream, potato chips? But, no. All I wanted breakfast, lunch, and dinner were fluffy, drenched in syrup, pancakes. I ate so many pancakes that I'm almost certain that when the time comes, Ben won't be able to stand the sight of them. Poor kid was force fed pancakes in the womb for weeks on end. 

Every Saturday of my third trimester, while Ian posted up to watch soccer, I made us pancakes. I experimented with many recipes - banana, blueberry, chocolate, revisited my trusty favorite Brown Butter Greek Yogurt Pancakes and even made a pancake "cake" one time which was... let's just say, not to be repeated. The craving went so far that one time I even marched myself to the grocery store at 7:30AM on a Sunday, at 38 weeks pregnant, because we were out of eggs. No eggs, no pancakes. Three cheers for my ever patient husband for never denying my request to make him pancakes and silently working his way through stacks and stacks of flapjacks. For the record, he's not a huge pancake fan. 

Slowly, the weekend pancakes have turned into a tradition of making weekend breakfast. To turn things up a bit we've branched out - biscuits with bacon and eggs, frittatas, bagels, all the variants of breakfasty things. Pancakes make an appearance in the rotation, but not nearly as often. Because, let's be honest, whether out of a box or made from scratch - a pancake is a pancake. You can add all the bells and whistles in the world but, its really not that special. (Of course, I say this now, with the rose colored glasses of pregnancy hormones no longer surging through my body.) This is all to say, the cravings have subsided. 

A few weekends ago, I decided to revisit a recipe from my childhood - syrniki. In Russian, they roughly translate to "cheese cakes". The traditional syrniki are made with a variant of cottage cheese called tvorog. It's a bit tangier and if anything, a form of quark. Unfortunately, tvorog isn't readily available in Clinton Hill and the only place to really get it is at an Eastern European speciality store or by traveling to Brighton Beach. The former isn't in my neighborhood and the latter is too far a trip. When you have a three month old flopping around on a play mat, taking a 45 min trip for a special kind of cheese just doesn't happen. 

So, as always, I improvised. Truth be told, I had a tub of cottage cheese which was about to expire so I used that in place of tvorog. What came out is as close to the traditional syrnik as I've had in ages and a great alternative to the pancake. The syrnik is lighter and smaller in size and it holds up as a leftover. (Have you had leftover pancakes? Unless you're hungover, they're disgusting.) Syrniki can be served with fruit preserves or even sour cream. I prefer mine drizzled with a little honey and spatter of powdered sugar, strong black coffee on the side.

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Syrniki 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cup flour, divided.
    • 1/2 cup for the dough, 1/2 cup for dredging.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sweet golden raisins (I didn't grab a photos of these but imagine a very dehydrated grape.) 
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. honey or agave syrup for sweetness
  • dash of vanilla
  • vegetable oil for cooking
  1. Mix all wet ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Fold in flour and raisins until well mixed. 
  3. Heat a non-stick or cast iron skillet on the stove and pour in a glug of veg oil.
  4. Use your hands to form small patties with the dough. It will be very sticky! 
  5. Dredge each patty in flour and place on the skillet. 
  6. Cook each syrnik for 1-2 min. until golden, then flip until the other side is golden. 
  7. Repeat the above step 1 or 2 more times until your cakes have an outer crust that's a darker golden brown. 
  8. Keep adding veg oil to the pan and cooking the syrniki until you've prepared all of the dough. 
  9. Serve hot for breakfast with a drizzle of honey and powdered sugar. Can also be eaten with fruit preserves and some fresh berries on the side! The leftovers can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. 
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