Every-color Rice with Chicken

Do you ever have one of those days where you want something warm and comforting, but you just do not seem to have the fuel your body needs for a big meal?  So do I and today was one of those days.  I needed a food-hug to get through the day, so I decided to make a spin-off of a meal my momma used to make.

This meal is not only colorful, it’s delicious.  This is an awesome way to sneak veggies into your meal in a soothing way.  You can also adjust this recipe for nearly endless variations which makes it a great staple in your book of recipes.

I used two pots today, but you can just as easily use one very successfully.  If you use one pot, then you get all the delicious, caramelized chicken bits and pieces in your rice dish – a real benefit.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken, uncooked, cut into tenderloin sized-pieces.  Breast or thigh.
  • One package of “yellow rice”**
  • One cup or small can of black olives.
  • One handful or a cup of frozen peas.
  • One handful or a cup of frozen or fresh peppers.*
  • Various seasonings.  My favorites are garlic powder (not salt), Lawry seasoned salt, salt & pepper
  • Olive oil
  • One medium  or small yellow onions.
  • Two to four garlic cloves (optional if you have garlic powder around).

Some ingredient notes:

*On peppers, the more colors the merrier.  I look for sales on  the red/orange/yellow peppers because they add sweetness and color to a dish.  There are also bags of frozen strips of tri-colored peppers in some grocery stores.  These are an inexpensive way to keep beautiful and delicious peppers available at all times for your dishes.  Just a little handful adds a ton of beauty to a dish.

**Yes, there really is a product called “yellow rice”.  You can also make this with regular rice and saffron, but I’m a lazy creature by nature and the package takes a whole lot of work out of this dish.  You can also use white rice, but really – the color of yellow rice is absolutely stunning – a perfect foil for all those pretty colors you’re going to throw in.

Preparing ahead of time takes away some of the pressure.

I like to have as much of my cooking goodies ready ahead of time so that I can just throw ingredients into the pan like some mad scientist!  If you are like me, then go ahead and slice up your onion into medium-thin slices, slice your olives in half if they’re whole, chop up some garlic into tiny dices.

Cook the chicken first.

The first task at hand is to get your chicken going and pretty and colorful!  I give you the option of using either breast meat or thighs.  I confess:  I used to think that chicken thighs were the worst thing ever.  In fact, I told my boyfriend that I never eat chicken thighs and I sure didn’t intend to start.  Yeah, I’m that hard headed.   Every once in a while, however, something will get through my thick skull and makes its way into my thinking process and this time it was chicken thighs.

Chicken thighs are really flavorful in a dish like this where the juices and flavors of the thigh will be cooked into the dish as a whole.  I really feel that thighs are the way to go for this dish because of a certain richness they add without being overpowering.  That being said, feel free to use breasts if you like them better.  I recommend having them cut into tender-sized pieces no matter what you choose.

Heat up your pan and, when hot, add a little bit of olive oil into the pan – just a bit.  I usually make an S-shaped swirl.  This gives you enough lubrication for your chicken without weighing down the dish.

Season both sides of your washed and dried chicken with generous amounts of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or similar product.  When your oil is hot enough and the top of it isn’t smooth but is dimpling a little, then go ahead and set your chicken pieces down in that oil.

Did you know foods have personal-space preferences?

Remember, all foods have their own sense of personal space.  Some foods like onions and other vegetables are social creatures and don’t mind being heaped up all in one pile.  Meats and mushrooms, on the other hand, like a little personal space.  Give the pieces enough space around them to where they don’t necessarily touch.  You’ll find that they always color up and cook a lot more happily.  Happy food makes happy tummies, and I’m all about the happy tummy!

So nestle those chicken pieces on into your beautiful olive oil and listen to them sizzle.  Give each one a little wiggle so that some of your olive oil gets beneath them so that they brown better and stick less.  A little sticking is perfectly fine; every little piece that sticks and really browns is going to enhance your dish in the end.  So don’t sweat the small stuff.

Developing color and moisture in the chicken pot.

The temperature should be medium-hot.  The goal is to let the chicken get colored up on one side to where you have a beautiful browned and interesting surface.  This also sears in juices, so resist the urge to poke and worry the chicken.  It knows what it’s doing; let it be.

If you’re new to cooking, just take a peek now and again by lifting the chicken pieces and looking under them.  If the chicken looks pale, it’s not ready to be turned.  Wait til it’s something you’d want to see on your plate before turning it over.

When your chicken are pretty and colorful, go ahead and give them all a flip.  Remember to wiggle them so that they don’t stick.  Then let the other side color up.

When the chicken is nearly the color you want, I throw in the pieces of bell peppers with the chickens so that they can warm up.

When your chicken is done, take the chicken and peppers and set aside.

Two-pan method versus the one-pan method

Two pan method:  while the chicken is cooking, go ahead and saute some onions in a pre-heated pan into which you’ve added olive oil (again, an S-shape) which you’ve also heated up.  I like to throw a little Italian seasoning over my onions as they cook.  If you’re using garlic, throw those in when the onions are nearly done and just browning.  If not, then put your garlic powder in when you put the onions in; seasoning them before they’ve released their moisture helps distribute the seasoning flavors throughout your onions.

One pan method: when the chicken is removed from the pot, throw the onions in and cook as in the two-pan method.

Prepare the onions and rice.

Either way:  cook the onions until they have sweated out a lot of their moisture, but are still retaining their shape.  They should be a little soft and nicely browned without being completely caramelized.

When the onions are done, pour 2 and 1/2 cups of hot water into the pot.  Bring to a boil.  Once the water is boiling vigorously, not just little bubbles… (I know, it’s very hard to wait for that moment) then pour in your yellow rice.  Stir and continue to boil the rice/water/onion mixture for one minute.

NOTICE: Most packages or  yellow rice are the same; however, if your rice calls for less or more water – then use the amount recommended on the package.

My stove tends to stay really hot so I’ll actually turn my  heat down to 2 or simmer when I’ve added the rice.  In my case, the water will continue to boil as I stir it and stirring it helps it come down to a simmer temperature.  You can try this as well so you don’t scorch your rice.

Stirring at this point helps you to keep the rice moving around and not sticking to the bottom of the pan.  The olive oil in which you cooked stuff helps, too.  If you are using the one-pan method, use this time to scrape all the good chicken bits from the bottom and into the boiling water.  That’s the good stuff!

Put everything together.

After your minute has passed, take your chicken and nestle the pieces into the water-covered rice.  Make sure that all the pepper pieces go as well.  Then dump your frozen peas and black olives on top.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes without stirring, or until all of the water is absorbed into the rice.

Finish your beautiful dish.

When you see all the water is absorbed, take the pot off of the heat.  Add two pats of butter and give the whole gorgeous thing a good stir.  Enjoy the beautiful yellow, red, green, orange, and black colors in your beautiful yellow rice.  Don’t forget to take a nice deep smell of this super-comforting dish.  It really smells like home and happiness and love and chickeny-goodness!

IMG_0452

Serve up a heaping dish for yourself and your family and enjoy!

Every-color rice and chicken.

Every-color rice and chicken.

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Mediterranean chicken and roasted potatoes

med chicken plated

Bandera, Texas is usually a very warm place; however, this time of the year the winds can pick up and it gets pretty chilly for a Texas town!  After doing a morning’s chores, I decided I wanted something warm, flavorful, and filling but not necessarily fattening.

Today, I knew I had some really nice roma tomatoes from the store that I could not resist, a small package of goat cheese I picked up as a treat, and frozen chicken thawing in the fridge.  I also had potatoes that needed to be used while they were still good, so I decided to make my Mediterranean chicken and roasted potatoes.

Both of these dishes are simply delicious, do well with one another or paired with other sides, and are really very easy to make. They bring color, flavor, and love to your table and will definitely reward you for all of your hard work outside!

Mediterranean chicken and roasted potatoes.

The potatoes:

You will want to do the potatoes first because they cook in two segments at 40 minutes each.

  • 6 medium sized baking potatoes, cut into wedges.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I prefer extra-virgin for its fruity flavor)
  • 1/2 cup of water.
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice – fresh or bottled.
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced finely.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Spray a pan large enough to hold all of your potatoes with a non-cook spray.

Take your washed and dried potatoes and slice them in half lengthwise.  Place the flat side down and cut into half twice and then again twice so that you have evenly-sized wedges.  The closer in size the wedges are width-wise, the more uniformly they will cook.

In a separate container, mix the oil, lemon juice, oregano together.  Add the garlic to the oil mixture and stir well.

Place the potatoes in a deep bowl and salt and pepper them. Toss them around a little to make sure the S&P gets on each of the potatoes.  Then add the oil to the bowl.

Wash your hands thoroughly and then use your hands to mix the potatoes and oil.  Yes, you will smell  like garlic.  If that bothers you, use vanilla extract in  your hand-washing soap when you are done tossing the potatoes.  If that does not bother you, you are like me.  I love garlic, love the smell of it, and I don’t mind getting a sniff of it here and there as I’m cooking!  The more the merrier!

Place the oiled potatoes into the baking pan and pour the water into the bottom of the pan.  This is the secret to roasting potatoes without them becoming dry and sponge-like.  (Don’t tell your friends – let them just imagine you’re a genius.)

Place the potatoes into the oven and set the timer to 40 minutes.  At the end of 40 minutes, stir the potatoes around making sure to spoon the delicious garlic-infused oil/water over the potatoes.  While the first 40 minutes is taking place, you can prep your ingredients for the chicken dish.

When your timer is up and your potatoes are turned and bathed, set the timer for another 40 minutes; use this time to actually cook the chicken dish. The total cook time will be 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Mediterranean Chicken

  • 3-4 chicken breasts, washed and then salted and peppered, cut into halves or thirds.
  • 6 roma tomatoes – diced into pieces around 1/2″
  • 1 tablespoon of capers, drained and rinsed
  • I small can of black olives, sliced (or slice your own)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice – fresh or otherwise
  • half a small onion, sliced thinly
  • Worchestershire sauce – 1 tablespoon
  • Garlic powder
  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 pats of butter.
  • Fresh goat cheese crumbles

I’m going to go on a cooking rant – I can just feel it bubbling up inside of me, so buckle up because here we go.  Cast Iron.  No, no, no – I know – they’re heavy, they’re confusing sometimes, they don’t have the ever beloved teflon non-stick that people are convinced they MUST have – but really…. if you can just try one nice big cast iron pan, I promise that you will hear angels sing, see fireworks, and ask it to marry you.

OK maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit.  But seriously – a well-seasoned cast iron pan will rock your world and your cooking and even clean up time!  If you’re new to cast iron pans, I’ll post an article about how to choose, use, and enjoy them.

So – no matter what pan you choose (subliminal messaging:  cast iron) you will want to heat the pan to medium/medium-hot.  If you use stainless, I sometimes use a simple non-stick spray to help clean up.  Once the pan is good and warm, add your oil and let it heat.

While the oil is heating, combine all of your other ingredients except for half of the onions and all of the lemon juice into a bowl and let them meet each other.  Toss in your seasoning, give them a little stir so that they’re mingling and getting happy, then get  ready to do more with your chicken.

Vegetables: Mediterranean chicken

Vegetables: Mediterranean chicken

Eat at least 2 olives and pretend that you’re doing quality control on the way.  Don’t tell anyone you did it – deny it vehemently if anyone suspects anything!

Note, in this case I used green olives because we had a party and ate all of the black olives.  Oops!  I really cannot resist olives!

Gently nestle the seasoned chicken breasts into the olive oil.  I really believe the care you give to the food you’re cooking and the fun you let yourself have comes out in the quality at the end.  Enjoy the process!  Listen to them sizzle as they hit the pan.  Give them a little bit of a wiggle so that the oil gets under them and they stick a little less.  Then let them be for a bit.

You want the one side of the chicken to sear a bit.  You don’t want to micromanage the food, poking it, looking at it, moving it around; you’ll anger it and it’ll decide it wants to ruin your dinner party.  Let it just rest until the one side is at least white (not pink), and preferably has a little color to it – just a bit.

If you’re impatient and you really just cannot resist doing something to it, show it some love by putting some more seasonings on the top side.

Once the chicken is ready on one side, go ahead and flip it over to give the other side some color.

chicken and onions

At this point I added the reserved half of the onions to the skillet to start to pick up some color and caramelize a bit.  To me, there are few flavors that really make a dish as interesting as caramelized onions.  Cook until the chicken breasts are nearly cooked about 10 minutes.

Chicken browning, veggies are on standby.

Chicken browning, veggies are on standby.

Once the onions have picked up color and the chicken breasts have as well, dump the tomato mixture into the pan with the chicken.  Stir the tomato mixture around the chicken gently so that the tomatoes and the chicken both have a chance to touch the bottom to continue cooking.

med chicken

Breathe in deeply and enjoy the smells.  Tangy, rich, bright, deep – they’re all there.

med chicken close

Turn down your heat to medium/medium-low so that you don’t cook this too quickly.  The goal is to let the tomatoes cook down and lose their structure, but not to burn them or let them get too mushy.

Go in occasionally and use a spoon to lift up the cooked tomatoes, put them on the chicken, and let the still-uncooked tomatoes get their turn at the bottom of the pan.

Once about half of the tomatoes are cooked down, I turn the chicken over.  Use a spoon to pick up the juices from the tomatoes and bathe the chicken pieces in them.  Take your lemon juice and sprinkle over the top of the chicken pieces, season with a little more salt and pepper – just a little.

When all of the tomatoes are done and the chicken is complete, about 15 minutes, put 2-3 pats of butter into the sauce and stir it in to finish your sauce.  Get your warm plates ready.

For this dish, I put the potatoes on the plate first.  Then you serve the chicken beside it, or on top of the potatoes.  That being said, I think serving them on the side is best because the roasted potatoes keep crisp and you can always drag them over to the tomato sauce to pick up some of the goodies.  Yum!!

Sprinkle a tiny bit of fresh goat cheese crumbles on top of the chicken.  Then be sure to eat some of the extra goat cheese because it is Just That Good!!

Just look at that.

med chicken plated 2

This is a dish that is piquant, warm, so easy to cook, and very pretty with its reds and greens topping the beautiful golden chicken.  Be sure to share it with friends and family.

med chicken plated for 2

Enjoy!!