Chicken Tandoori Kebabs

February 21, 2017

I’m having a birthday this week, and I think my husband is ready to trade me in for a better model. Not a younger one, necessarily, but a better one. At least one with a better attitude towards her birthday. Sometime along the line, I’ve become pretty grouchy and impossible when it comes to the subject of my birthday.

The only gripe I used to have about my birthday was that it came too close on the heels of Valentine’s day, and oftentimes February 14th got all of the effort and the sparkle. By the time my birthday came around, nobody had much energy for it. I expected parades and fanfare, and I got “meh.” You can read that gripefest here.

I can’t even attest to that gripe anymore, because frankly, the one who no longer cares about my birthday is me. If I had my druthers, my birthday would slither in quietly and slither right back out again, down the drain and under the radar. I could spend my day in bed with a novel, four whiskey sours and a bag of Chex Mix and call it a day.

Is that so wrong?

It’s definitely wrong in my husband’s opinion. Daddy-o’s opinion, too. They’ve both been nagging me for weeks about my birthday. How should we celebrate it? What do you want? What’s your heart’s desire? If you could sneak out for a weekend getaway, where would you want to go?

My response to all of this inquiry? Crickets. I just haven’t answered. Not so much because I’m a brat (although I am), but because I honestly don’t know. I’m at this weird stage in my life where the last thing I want is more stuff, and I’m lucky enough to not truly need anything.

I guess the only thing I really need is some energy and enthusiasm for my own birthday.

The poor, poor men in my life. They deserve all sorts of pity and credit for putting up with me.

My husband has something cooking up in that big brain of his, and he’s being secretive about it–probably as a little revenge for making things so difficult. I’ll have to wait and see on that one.

Daddy-o solved the problem by booking a birthday dinner for two (my diligent husband has to spend my birthday working) at a very spendy, very grand, special-occasion restaurant. It’s set up in the Boulder hills and has a breathtaking view and breathtaking food and an even more breathtaking bill. I’ve only been there twice in my life and the last time was sixteen years ago. So yeah, it’s a very special-occasion kind of place.

I’m quite excited to celebrate and spoil myself with lots of decadent food, but I have to be honest…at my age, a meal like that takes some advance…preparation.

In short: my menopausal ass has to eat like a lean, clean, carb-free machine for a few days prior to a feast like that.

I mean, I guess I don’t have to, but I know I should. Because I know myself. A few days of virtuous eating is necessary for me to enjoy myself under circumstances like these. Is that weird?

Yeah, it’s probably weird but let’s face it, I am kind of odd.

And to my odd brain, it’s a lot easier to actually enjoy my celebratory dinner if I know I’ve got a little wiggle room going in. I don’t want to sabotage my father’s grand gesture by spending the entire time under a cloud of guilt, and I’m a guilt-monger by nature.

I want to sip the champagne and eat the lobster (or the pasta, or the Kobe beef) and enjoy every mouthful, and if I decide I want dessert, I want to order it like a boss.

It’s my day, after all.

A few days of pre-birthday diligence and suffering is a minor price to pay. It’ll make my reward that much sweeter.

This weekend, I went to the grocery store and filled the cart with all sorts of preparatory weapons: lean meat and seafood, eggs, Greek yogurt, the makings for soup and a rainbow of vegetables, even including *gasp* kale. Then I came home and got to prepping and marinating and cooking.

One of the items on the menu: these chicken tandoori skewers. These take a little prep work: you need to trim the excess fat off the chicken thighs, whip up a flavorful marinade and allow the chicken to bathe in that stuff for at least 12 hours. And then skewer away.

Your reward for that effort is SO worth it. Fragrantly spiced, juicy, and smoky from a trip under the broiler or on the grill–these skewers are delicious enough to seem like an indulgence. I chose to dunk mine in a mixture of Sriracha and harissa, but you can dunk your skewers in any sauce you wish. Some sort of cooling yogurt-based sauce would be brilliant here.

Unlike the kale, this chicken dish didn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. So if you’re preparing in advance for a special night out, or if the jeans are feeling a little snug, or if you’re just craving something meaty (but not heavy)–give this recipe a try.

And then, if you wish, eat a slice of that cake, guilt-free.

 

 

Tandoori Spiced Chicken Skewers

slightly adapted from Maya Kaimal MacMillon

serves 6

 

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat

1 tablespoon finely grated garlic

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

1 tablespoon paprika (you can even go heavier if you want that deep, orange color)

Spice mixture:

4 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2-3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

 

melted butter, for basting

wooden skewers, soaked in water for an hour before grilling (to prevent burning)

Lemon wedges

 

Cut the trimmed chicken thighs into 1 1/2-inch chunks.

 

In a large bowl, combine garlic, ginger, paprika, spice mixture, lemon juice, salt, yogurt and oil. Pour mixture into a large zip-top plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces and squish the bag around to coat the chicken. Seal the bag and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

Take the bag of marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers.

Heat grill on medium-high. Baste chicken with melted butter and grill 5 minutes on one side. Turn and baste again and cook for about 3 minutes more.

*If you wish, you can place skewers under the broiler and cook as indicated above, watching closely to see that the chicken doesn’t burn.*

Serve chicken with a squeeze of lemon and any dipping sauce you like.

 

 

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Holy Bejeezus, did you Easterners get hit with winter assholery or what? I kept seeing bits and pieces on the news and that looked like Mother Nature’s wrath at its finest (or worst, if you know what I mean). I felt a little guilty, because while New York and Boston lay snowbound, it was sunny and in the mid-60’s in Colorado. Granted, it was windy as heck, but it was warm. So warm, in fact, that we broke a record high for February. One day it reached 72 degrees, which is freakishly warm for winter in these parts.

While I was happy not to be shoveling white stuff last week, I have to admit: I absolutely loathe the wind. It makes me feel ferocious and stabby. Our house backs up to the mountains, so there’s really no protection from the wind, so when it’s blustery, it’s blustery in a big way. Our barbecue grill goes flying around the backyard and crashes into the patio furniture, wreaking havoc and making a terrific racket.

Even Mozzy, who is almost always happy to frolic outdoors, is not impressed by the gale-force gusts we get at our house. His ears spin around like propellors and it annoys the heck out of him (although it is a comical sight). He comes hustling inside after just a few minutes of that noise.

It might sound silly to crave soup when the weather isn’t chilly, but I found myself craving it anyways. I think it’s because those winds kicked up wicked allergies, so I was sneezing and sniffling like someone with a nasty virus. Yet another reason I’m not a fan of the wind.

I saw this recipe for slow-cooker chicken and vegetable soup in a recent issue of Cooking Light magazine and had marked it as something to try when the weather was bitingly cold and I needed comforting. Turns out, I needed to make it when fighting a serious case of wind-induced rage. No matter the reason, this soup is worth making because it is, indeed, comforting.

Chock-full of vegetables, potatoes and tender chicken, it’s a hug in a bowl. I was actually surprised how much I loved this soup, because when it comes to chicken soups, I’m firmly on Team Noodle vs Team Potato. My starch of choice for soup is almost always pasta–egg noodles, orzo, rice noodles, small shell-shaped pasta…I love them all. But somehow, potatoes just felt right in this recipe. Heartier and more substantial than a noodle soup.

You know what else is to love? It makes a potful, so you can eat off it for days if you have a small family (or a family like ours, where children eschew soup in all forms). It’s a snap to make, since the slow-cooker does all the work after you chop the vegetables, and the use of bone-in chicken thighs really enriches the broth with incredible flavor. Plus, there’s *ahem* bacon in it. Bacon is magic, pure and simple.

So whether you’re freezing your arse off or feeling grouchy or simply needing something nourishing to sustain you, I encourage you to get out your slow cooker and start chopping. I guarantee you’ll feel better once you tuck into that first bowl.

 

 

Slow Cooker Chicken, Potato and Vegetable Soup

serves 6

slightly adapted from Cooking Light

 

4 center-cut bacon slices

1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skinned

2 teaspoons salt-free garlic and herb seasoning blend, like Mrs. Dash

2 cups thinly sliced leek

1 cup sliced carrot

1 cup celery, diced

5 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

5 fresh thyme sprigs, tied together with string

12 oz. small baby potatoes, halved or small yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 cups coarsely chopped baby spinach

 

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in the skillet. Set bacon aside and crumble.

Sprinkle chicken with the seasoning blend. Add chicken to bacon drippings in the skillet and brown over medium heat, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to the slow cooker, reserving the drippings in the skillet.

Add the leek, celery and carrot to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the skillet to remove any browned bits.

Transfer leek mixture to the slow cooker. Add remaining 4 cups stock, salt, pepper and thyme sprigs to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.

Add the potatoes, stir, and cover. Cook 2 more hours or until potatoes are tender.

Remove the chicken from the slow cooker with tongs or a slotted spoon. Discard thyme bundle. Cool chicken slightly, then cut/shred into bite-sized pieces. Discard bones.

Return chicken to the slow cooker to warm through. Add spinach and stir until it wilts.

If desired, serve with the reserved crumbled bacon on the top.

 

 

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I’ve written about Valentine’s Day a few times in the past in this space. I think if you like sweet Valentine stories, you should definitely check out this one.

I think it’s one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written about my daughters, and I’m happy to report that the girls still love each other mightily, even though there’s not the blind devotion that came with the tiny years. These days, there’s a lot more good-natured teasing and busting of the chops, but it’s done with love.

Example: This week, Miss M. had her 5th grade parent-teacher conference, which went well. Her conferences always do. Miss M. is an old soul and a stickler for following the rules and teachers, naturally, love her to bits. She was that way at the tender ago of five, and has not changed with age. Heck, she was probably more mature at five than I was at nineteen. Not proud of this on my end, but whatever.

When we came home from parent-teacher conferences, Miss D. was at the kitchen counter, working on her Chemistry homework. She looked up from her papers and grinned wickedly.

“Let me guess,” she said. “Another totally crappy and disastrous parent-teacher conference.”

“Absolute shitshow,” I said, scanning the mail in my hand. “Your sister is off-task and evil and a complete moron.”

“Total idiot, right?” Daphne said, shaking her head. And then the laughter and the dogpile and the pulling of ears and the tickling.

That’s our family for you. Our unofficial motto is: If we don’t tease you to death, we hate you.

If you detest Valentine’s day or need a little sour with your sweet, you might want to check out my sentiments in this one.

Those of us with small children (or even rather grown ones) know that the face of Valentine’s Day has changed over time. It’s just not the romantic affair it used to be.

Unless, of course, romance has never really been on your relationship radar, because you are attached to a curmudgeon/the least romantic person in the universe. According to my husband, that curmudgeon is me. Remember when he gave me Hell about it in this guest post?

So yeah, not the perfect spokesperson for Valentine’s Day. Hmph.

I guess my point is, I’ve written about love, romance (or lack thereof), devotion and February 14th for a few years now, so you probably don’t need more words about the holiday.

What I hope you do need is some encouragement to do something loving for anyone you love in your life, not just your romantic partner. Why should love be only spread as thin as romance? Love takes so many wonderful forms, so I encourage you to celebrate all facets of the whole loving business. Give a little extra sugar to the parents in your life (if you are lucky enough to still have them around), treat your friend to a latte, give flowers to a dedicated teacher or your yoga instructor, buy your best co-worker a craft cocktail, ply your children with a piece of quality chocolate, cook a much-beloved meal for those you want to feed well.

We’ve had some pretty hard and negative times these last few months (Jesus fuck, I know I feel it), so wouldn’t it be nice to spread a little sweetness around this Tuesday?

I think it’s kind of genius that Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year, because it gets you out of any kind of excessive spectacle. You can get away with a card and a heartfelt gesture of some sort, and I think that’s the true spirit of the holiday, anyways. Who needs a giant teddy bear, a dozen roses and 2 pounds of chocolate? That sounds ridiculous when you’re over the age of, I don’t know, fourteen?

Then again, people are free to celebrate as they wish, so if giant teddy bears are your thing, who am I to say? I guess my point is: honor the loved ones in your life.

Now, if you were going to honor me, because I just assume that everyone would wish to, you should make this. As I’ve mentioned before, there are two kinds of people in this world: chocolate people and citrus people. I am firmly on Team Citrus. This panna cotta channels my favorite pie–Key Lime–and looks so pretty when topped with a few other beautiful things like crumbled cookies, luscious berries and fresh whipped cream. It’s just the thing I want to eat when I want to be spoiled and frankly, I did. It was absolutely delightful. I shared it with my girls, who also loved it, and that made me happy. It doubly made me happy because it tasted decadent but was actually a fairly light dessert. The one person¬† I didn’t share it with?¬† My husband, because he is on Team Chocolate.

Don’t worry, baby. I haven’t forgotten about you. Yours is coming.

 

 

 

Key Lime Panna Cotta

serves 4

from Cooking Light

 

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup low-fat sweetened condensed milk (I could only find regular or fat-free, so I used regular)

2 tablespoons grated lime zest

1/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup 2% milk, divided

1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

2 tablespoons lime juice or key lime juice, divided

cooking spray

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon butter

1 low fat or regular graham cracker sheet, crushed

 

Combine first three ingredients and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes.

Pour 1/4 cup milk into a medium bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over and let stand 10 minutes.

Over medium high heat, bring lime zest mixture to a simmer; whisk into the gelatin mixture. Add the remaining 3/4 cup milk and whisk. Drain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Discard solids.

Stir in 1 tablespoon lime juice. Divide mixture among 4 (4-ounce) ramekins that have been lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Combine remaining tablespoon lime juice and honey. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add crumbs and remaining 1/8 tablespoon salt. Cook about a minute or until lightly toasted. Cool.

To serve, loosen the edges of the panna cotta with a sharp knife and invert onto plates. Drizzle each with honey mixture and a sprinkle of crumbs. Top with berries and whipped cream, if desired.

 

 

 

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