Chicken Thighs with Couscous and Kale

As a military family, we shop at the local base commissary. Every couple of months, they put out a magazine called Eat Well Live Better, and it usually includes a series of recipes and meal ideas for a featured military family. In the Winter 2017 edition that I picked up last week, I found that the solution to their meal challenge “One-pot meals for toddlers and adults” fit my own family perfectly. Moreover, the specific recipe I chose for Try It Tuesday catered to foods everyone in my family enjoys: my son love couscous. My husband is a fan of how kale blends into dishes so seemlessly. I enjoy the Moroccan spice profile chosen by the author. 

The original recipe can be found on page 18 of the magazine if you’re a military family. Or, right here if you aren’t: Chicken Thighs with Couscous and Kale.

Unfortunately, our commissary didn’t have any Israeli or pearl couscous, which cooks differently from the instant stuff you find in most grocery store (and is different still from traditional couscous that is steam-cooked); this was the beginning of my troubles with the recipe. While I was purchasing the ingredients, I decided to use instant couscous and resolved to add it in the last few minutes of cooking. Unfortunately, my pregnancy brain kicked in a few days later when I was cooking and I followed the instructions for the Israeli couscous. That meant my couscous didn’t toast but burned to the bottom of my skillet. It was also ready well before the chicken thighs were actually cooked. On top of that, our TV wasn’t working properly, so my two-year-old son was whining because he couldn’t watch his new favorite cartoon while I made dinner. 

With a little teamwork from my husband, who took a break from his workout to fix the TV and get our son calmed down, and a little quick thinking from the chef (add more broth to keep the couscous moist; pick out the chicken, cut into small pieces, and cook in a second skillet) dinner was salvageable, but I don’t know that any of us enjoyed it like we should have. Although I enjoyed the flavor (I recommend using only one teaspoon each of the thyme and cumin and adding an extra clove of garlic for a more balanced flavor), I couldn’t stop thinking about the mess I’d made for myself to clean up in the kitchen. My husband was disappointed we were having couscous. My son was just grumpy. All in all, we just had one of those nights.

That said, I’d like to try this recipe again with either the proper couscous or a fully functioning brain that will remind me about the tweaks I need to make when substituting ingredients. Hopefully my fiasco (or one of your own) doesn’t keep you from trying a tasty new recipe this week!

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Baked Penne with Sausage and Apple

Without meaning to, I actually redeemed my homemade macaroni and cheese fail with this recipe! Unfortunately, providing a link won’t work this time because I got this recipe from a recent Family Circle magazine and when I try to accesd an online version, I get a page to sign up for a subscription. If you already have a subscription to this magazine, or if you can find a way to get to the recipe (or something similar) online, I highly recommend it. This was a crowd pleaser in my house. 

The recipe has a nice mix of flavors with the apples, onions, kielbasa, and honey mustard sauce. The only modification I made was to replace the shredded Gouda with an Italian cheese blend in the hopes of making this more husband friendly… and it worked. After two bites, my husband said that if I want to make homemade macaroni and cheese, I should use this recipe without the apple and sausage. The texture was less rich and creamy than most mac ‘n’ cheese dishes and had a delightfully crunchy layer of cheese on top. In fact, the bites just under that crust were the best of the bunch. 

Interestingly, this was presented by the magazine as a side-dish, but with the kielbasa and cheese, it was hearty enough to be a main dish. I served it with green beans and apple slices. My son was a little unsure of the new tastes, but he ate without fighting, so I consider that a win. We will definitely be eating this in our household again soon! 

Dip ‘n’ Roll Pretzles

It’s not Tuesday, or a new recipe, but my two-year-old and I had fun making these this morning. I’m still trying to use left-over chocolate chips from Christmas baking and I remembered having fun making chocolate-dipped pretzles with my mom as a kid. We did have to swap out some toppings when Vincent sneezed right into the plate of sprinkles (good thing he’s cute), but the making of this treat went without further mishap. 

Grapefruit Marmalade

As promised, I’m doing another citrus recipe this week — this time, a grapefruit marmalade. I love grapefruit and grapefruit juice. The bright flavor really refreshes at this normally gray time of year. The acidity also feels cleansing after the holiday indulgences in December. Needless to say, finding the recipe in the January 2017 Family Circle magazine motivated me to pick up a few small Mason jars and head into the kitchen. This is the first jelly or jam I’ve made since my Grandma Jean and I attempted sugar-free peach jam when I was eleven. I had been diabetic for about a year and she invited me to come help her make the jam. We spent all afternoon in the steamy kitchen and followed the recipe exactly only to end up with jars of slimy, bitter, inedible goop. Artificial sweeteners have come a long way in the past 20 years, but those of the time were not meant to be cooked, as my grandma learned after calling the sweetener company in question. Although it wasn’t specified in the recipe, only their liquid version would have given the desired results. Needless to say, that awful experience (no, really… it was so bad that Grandma drew little skulls and crossbones on each lid before disposing of them), I haven’t done much jelly making, and I felt a little nervous about trying this recipe.

Obviously, I did try, and I was pleased with the results. I had a print copy of the magazine, but you can find a link to the recipe here:

http://www.familycircle.com/recipes/ingredient/star-ingredient-grapefruit/?page=3

The only changes I made were to halve the recipe (I’m the only one in my house who eats grapefruit) and to use dried thyme instead of fresh. Even halved, the recipe made more marmalade than I expected (I had an extra jar of it). I also found that I could hardly taste the thyme, possibly because I didn’t use fresh. I didn’t miss it, however, and don’t plan to use any when I make this again.

Since I couldn’t eat 3 jars of marmalade on my own (this recipe doesn’t give instructions for traditional canning that allows the contents to be kept for long periods of time), I took it to the women’s group meeting at my church. We ate it on wheat crackers with plain cream cheese. It was a cool, satisfying snack that got nothing but positive reviews. Now, I need to find more people who like grapefruit so I can make this again and share!

Cranberry Orange Shortbread 

I know the citrus season extends beyond January, but various childhood memories always make me think of January as the month of oranges, clementines, and grapefruits. As such, this week and next week’s recipes feature citrus. Today, it’s cranberry orange shortbread on the menu! They are sure to be a welcome addition to your afternoon coffee or tea break. Check out the recipe here: http://www.momontimeout.com/2015/11/cranberry-orange-shortbread-cookies-recipe/

It’s rare that I love a recipe without reservation, but I LOVE these cookies. I’m already a fan of the cranberry-orange combination, but these include the delicate notes of almond extract to balance out the tart flavors. Moreover, the author is absolutely on-point to push bakers to pull the cookies from the oven at the lower end of her time range. The soft, moist texture that results from not over baking pushed the recipe over the top. I admit, I also enjoy the preparation of shortbread. There’s something so satisfying about cutting the butter into the flour-sugar mixture and kneading the dough with your hands.

I did not make any modifications to this recipe, but I did mix and match the optional ingredients. I added the orange juice (if I’m zesting the fruit, I may as well use the juice, too, right?), but I didn’t coat in additional sugar. Despite my preference for sweet over salty, I don’t like to overdo the sweetness. So often, that simply distracts from the more interesting flavors. I will admit, my cookies weren’t so sparkly and picture-perfect as the author’s, though I’m sure they tasted just as amazing.