Lemon Coriander Pancakes

In attempt to not apologize for the infrequency of my blogging regimen (again), let’s talk about books.

I am or used to be an avid reader. I remember well completing series after series of children’s books- The Boxcar Children, Babysitter’s Club, Animorphs, Goosebumps, etc. I also recall seeing every episode of Rugrats, and really most Nickelodeon shows, created, so I’ll also make a point of the seemingly endless free time afforded to my childhood. As I got older, books became more complex, profound. Their meaning expanded beyond a simple story: soon, the very characters became references for identity, and the settings became imaginative worlds to which I could draw parallel my own experiences. Favorite books became more important than television, than movies, than soccer practice. I defined myself by introversion, by my ability to sit down and read for hours without fatigue. The books I read and loved were compared and contrasted to the literary lists complied at the beginning of the school year, and I felt some odd sense of shame when I hadn’t yet read a classic “every one else had.” I read through high school, I read through college, I even read voraciously on breaks in graduate school.

So what do I read now?

I’ve belonged to book clubs and made friends of people who love to read equally. I talk at length about the purpose and intention of novels with my brother, who likely now balks at the slow pace of my consumption. A book a month now seems challenging, not for the objective time to complete the reading, but for the procrastination and/ or schedule demanded of the remaining 28 days. I’ve been reading the same book since February, that I argue I enjoy, but will I finish by June? Seeing as it’s May 31, unlikely.

The list of novels and short stories I have set aside to read is growing and growing, and I compel my passion for completing them by my sense of identity that still includes “reader.” In fairness, I read news, blogs, trivial headlines, and biased and purportedly unbiased articles on a daily basis. But with every intention I plan to invigorate anew my love for fiction, in hopes that this phase of my life is one of the only in which novels have demoted their position.

Anyways, here is a great recipe for lemony and herbal pancakes, to mix up your Sunday morning. Maybe you’ll follow the stack with a few enjoyed pages of your favorite book.

Lemon Coriander Pancakes

Serves 3-4

1 cup all-purpose flour (or 1/2 all-purpose, 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour)

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground coriander

 

1 large egg, room temperature

2 tbsp. melted butter, slightly cooled

3/4 cup milk

1 lemon, juiced

Zest of 1 lemon

Butter and maple syrup to serve

In a graduated cup measure 3/4 cup of milk, then add the lemon juice and stir. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl stir together the dry ingredients. Melt the butter in a small bowl. Add the egg and whisk together. Add the butter and egg mixture, as well as the lemon zest, to the milk and stir. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Heat a griddle to 350 degrees. Pour out 1/4 cup of batter to make 8-10 pancakes. Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface, then flip (about 2-3 minutes). Cook an additional 2-3 minutes until the center is set.

Plate the pancakes and top with butter and maple syrup. Enjoy!

 

Greek Chicken Plate with Garlic Cauliflower Rice and Coconut Tzatziki

This is the best meal I have eaten in weeks. Months? Years? It’s hard to know for sure, but I do know that this recipe is absolutely delicious. I was craving Greek food intensely, but being halfway through whole 30, hummus and feta cheese and creamy sauces are still totally off limits, making me believe this craving would have to wait. But I conspired a bit with the ingredients in my fridge and decided this could be done. And I didn’t miss the hummus, or the feta, or the creamy sauces at all! Well, perhaps because I made a pseudo-tzatziki with coconut milk, and mimicked the grains with cauliflower rice, but seriously, it all works as well as any Greek restaurant meal.

I also, after eating this dinner, went out to run a few hours later, in the 80 degree evening after sunset, and ran faster and stronger than I have in weeks, months? I’m not sure if it’s the three months of training finally catching up and working, or the past two weeks of really prioritizing nutrition and sleep, or maybe… the chicken!? Ha, probably not the chicken. But just maybe it is, indeed, magic.

This recipe seems elaborate, with multiple components and ingredients; however, it truly is a 30-minute meal (not a-la-Rachel Ray) and comes together easily. I’ll emphasize that I do multi-task like a pro in the kitchen, but I’d wager that anyone can whip this up easily on a weeknight. There’s a few hours of hands-off time to marinate the chicken, but that’s as labor unintensive as can be.

If you’re following whole 30, or just really into Greek food, please make this. And, if you’d rather, you could always replace the cauliflower with rice or cous cous, but you definitely don’t need to and should give this version a try.

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Greek Chicken Plate with Garlic Cauliflower Rice and Coconut Tzatziki

Serves 2-4

1-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Greek Chicken Marinade

  • 1 1/2 small lemons (or 1 large), juiced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

1 large head of cauliflower, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp oregano

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 yellow onion, sliced finely into half-moons

2-4 vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Coconut Tzatziki

  • 1/4 cup coconut cream, cooled (cooling after whisked and stored in a small container allows the cream to thicken to a consistency nearer a thin yogurt)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 large cucumber, diced
  • 2 green onion sprigs, diced
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Start by mixing together all marinade ingredients in a large dish. Add the chicken, turning a few times to coat. Refrigerate the chicken in the marinade for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a cast iron skillet or oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown for 4-5 minutes on one side, then flip. Cook on the reverse side for 1 minute, then move the pan to the oven and bake the chicken for 10-15 minutes (it will depend on the size of the breasts; I find 0.5 lb breasts to take 12 minutes, but you can check with a meat thermometer or cut into the chicken to verify its cooked through).

While cooking the chicken, split the head of cauliflower into quarters, then cut the leaves and stems from the head, cutting at an angle underside the cauliflower head. Break the quarters into florets then pulse in a food processor until the cauliflower is the consistency of small grains (I had to do this in 4 smaller batches). Mince the garlic and add to the cauliflower mixture. In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic-cauliflower mixture as well as oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes then lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes, until the cauliflower is softened somewhat.

While the cauliflower is cooking, mix together the coconut cream, lemon juice, cucumber, green onion, and spices in a small bowl and set aside.

Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Remove the cauliflower rice from the pan and plate. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to that pan and add the diced onion with a bit of salt and pepper. Sauté briefly, about 2-3 minutes, over medium-high heat, just until the onion is translucent.

Add the onion next to the plated cauliflower rice. Slice the tomatoes and align beside the onions. Slice the rested chicken and plate atop the rice and veggies. Spoon the coconut tzatziki over the chicken. Serve!

Take big bites with all ingredients on one forkful. Then slow down and savor each flavor. Enjoy!

Spring Onion and Thyme Chicken Salad

I last made this chicken salad, I think, over 4 years ago at my apartment in Durham. My mom and Brian were over and were hungry. I whipped this up pretty quickly for an easy dinner, and then it was promptly devoured with pita bread dippers and even a spoon. Chicken salad is so easy, yet so delicious, it’s interesting that I should go several years without making it. What’s important, though, is that Brian loved it (loves it? who knows). This chicken salad involves poaching the chicken, which seems, on first glance, to be the least flavorful way of cooking chicken there is. However, poaching the chicken in a flavorful stock with fresh herbs and vegetables actually ensures the most moist, juicy chicken ever. And once tossed with the other salad ingredients, this truly becomes a decadent lunch- or dinner-time food.

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Spring Onion and Thyme Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts poached

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3/4 – 1 lb.)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, quartered

1/2 cup mayonnaise, light or otherwise

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 green apple, diced finely

1/4 yellow onion, diced finely

4 spring onions, diced

2-3 tbsp. fresh chives, minced

2-3 tbsp. fresh thyme (several sprigs)

Salt & pepper, to taste

To prepare the poached chicken, add all ingredients to a sauce pan, including the stock. Bring the mixture just to a boil, then lower the heat to very low and cover. Poach for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts) until the chicken is tender to touch. Remove the poaching liquid from the heat, and allow the chicken to cool in the liquid for 10-20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid and chop roughly. Strain the liquid and store as stock for a later date! (It keeps well in the freezer).

Mix together the chicken salad ingredients and serve, over a spring salad with cucumber or in a pita pocket or on a slice of bread. This keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

 

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Light and Lemony Tuna Salad

After long runs in the sunshine, or even just a delightful day outside, I find myself craving light, fresh, and bright-flavored foods. Little fish tacos with a margarita, or cucumber salad, or guacamole and super thin chips. Or, when you’re in a pinch, a quick and easy tuna salad. A can of tuna is a ubiquitous pantry member, yet it usually lies dormant on the shelf for months, until someone remembers it and either tosses it out or finally puts it to use. It’s definitely considered a back-up food, as most foods with long shelf-lives are, but it certainly warrants a bit more attention. Tuna salad can be heavy, rich, and, frankly, pretty gross if prepared poorly. Which is how I feel about it when I see it in a cafeteria. But by swapping some of the fat-laden components for more fresh ingredients, tuna salad can elevate to a truly delicious salad topper, dip, or sandwich.

There are pros and cons to tuna consumption, weighing on contrasting sides the mercury content and over-fishing against the nutritional benefits (when consumed in moderation). It can be considered a health food when eaten on a weekly to monthly basis, which, to be fair, it never is. The economical and moral impact of buying and eating tuna has more controversy, and you can follow-up with your documentary of choice. I always buy dolphin-safe, sustainable tuna, but that is admittedly pretty hard to find. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both have a good selection to choose from. Other choices range from albacore to white tuna to super white, packed in water or oil with or without salt. Go with whatever sounds good. I usually select albacore packed in water, lightly salted. But I love salt and buy everything with it, so take that as you will.

The best pairing, I think, to the slightly dense-tasting fish, is lemon and fresh greens. Lemon and herbs have the magic ability to freshen and lighten almost every food, and combined they almost transport you to the garden somehow. In Spring-time, of course. Herbs obviously have great variety of flavor, and alternating your choice here can give your lunch the diversity it needs, if you’re a tuna-salad-eater. But this combination I would say is pretty classic.

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Fresh and Lemony Tuna Salad

Serves 2

1 can albacore tuna packed in water

1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt (I love Fage)

1 tbsp. mayonnaise with olive oil (or mayonnaise of choice)

2 tbsp. minced chives

2 green onions, diced

1 lemon, zested

Dash of cayenne

Salt & pepper to taste

Drain the tuna thoroughly, then add to a small mixing bowl. Break up the tuna with a fork. Add the yogurt and mayonnaise and stir to combine. Add the chives, green onions, lemon zest, and seasonings. Stir to mix completely. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve the tuna salad over a bed of mixed greens, on a pita, on a sandwich, with crackers, in a wrap, or whatever way your head can dream up.

Spring Vegetable Quinoa Salad

It’s been warm for the past two days, which would be exciting if the weather channel didn’t have that 10-day-forecast of anxiety available. So while it broke 50 degrees (60 yesterday!) for three days in a row, I know it’s fleeting, with promises of colder, rainy weather later this week. I also had no opportunity to enjoy a spare minute of warmth with travel and working late, so I’m hardly feeling like Spring is around the corner. It’s nice wearing a different coat, though, and not freezing walking to my car. But, man, everybody is talking about the weather these days. Maybe because we’re all desperate for it to change. Onto other topics- salad. Vegetables in salad. Spring vegetables in salad. Because agreeable weather or not, it seems as though lighter, brighter vegetables are finally coming into season, and that is something to truly enjoy. My grocery list is now just a list of various vegetables, with Greek yogurt and eggs tacked on to the end. It’s my favorite. So I wanted to use these vegetables in a way that would truly spotlight them. Vegetables don’t need to be relegated to the side of the plate, shadowed by a hunk of meat and barely seasoned. They can and should be the center, the flavor of the dish! This salad is absolutely bursting with veggies, which may or may not seem natural to you, but it tastes so cohesive and delicious. Holding the asparagus, broccoli, and radishes together are the quinoa and a quick and easy lemon vinaigrette. I’ve been eating this for lunch all week (with a side of Greek yogurt- yum [by the way, some Bonne Maman jam swirled into Fage is the. best. snack/lunch side. ever.]).

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Spring Vegetable Quinoa Salad

Serves 4

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups chicken stock

2 stalks broccoli, chopped into small florets

12-15 asparagus spears, chopped into 1 inch segments

3-4 spring onions, chopped into 1 inch segments

4-5 radishes, sliced thinly into rounds

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chicken stock

Lemon vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Dash of freshly cracked black pepper

Romaine lettuce, sliced/ chopped

Goat cheese, crumbled, to serve

Hard-boiled egg, diced/ crumbled, to serve

To prepare the quinoa, add to a hot pot over medium-high heat. Toast the quinoa for 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the liquid is fully absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. Stir to fluff and set aside.

Prepare the vegetables. In a large sautee pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Sautee the asparagus and broccoli until softening and lightly browning, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of chicken stock and allow to boil, steaming the vegetables. Continue to cook until the liquid has boiled off, about another 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon vinaigrette. Add the cooked broccoli and asparagus, as well as the radish rounds and spring onions. Mix to coat. Add the cooked quinoa and stir to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To serve, add the chopped Romaine lettuce to a plate. Top with the spring vegetable quinoa salad. Sprinkle on goat cheese and/or a chopped hard-boiled egg for additional protein to round out the meal. Serve with a small side for a complete lunch.

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This isn’t exactly dinner, necessarily; but would be a great side or main lunch component. The lemony spring flavor and fresh, bright vegetables are so inviting with the nutty quinoa holding everything together. This is how I like to eat salad.

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

It’s the first day of Spring! Oh my god. The first day of Spring! It almost was never going to happen. I hear the birds chirping in the morning now. And while I still don my heaviest and puffiest of winter coats, I don’t always have to zip it up to my chin. And sometimes, in the afternoons, I don’t wear gloves anymore. I don’t experience the weather between 2 and 3, when it’s supposedly the warmest, but it looks like it’s almost nice outside. And the sun is effectively fooling me into thinking it is so. There is so much hope in today. Even though the forecast predicted 50 but it never felt much above 35. Tomorrow, though; tomorrow it is supposed to be 60 degrees! 60! This is what Spring is, really. The promise that tomorrow will be 60 degrees. If I were still in North Carolina, Spring itself would be a celebration. Spring is the most beautiful time, I believe, in the South. Summer can just get a little too warm and long. Chicago isn’t quite the same, as Spring usually means a bounce between winter and summer just long enough that you start to wonder if it’ll ever be Spring… until it’s Summer in late June. I’ll take anything, though. Absolutely anything.

I wasn’t sure I was going to share this recipe, because it is so very simple. It’s more of a technique, applicable to multiple spices and variations. But it’s a worthy one, I feel. And with Spring starting today, it just feels right to share a lemony side dish. I guess mostly because it reminds me of Easter, and that’s now just weeks away. These potatoes certainly aren’t a meal on their own, but this preparation- the boiling then roasting- prepares absolutely perfect bites. Crispy, crunchy exterior and a smooth, mashed potato like inside. Tossed in lemon and sprinkled with fresh rosemary, these potatoes are a wonderful side. I also enjoy them plain, dunked in ketchup, so really whatever you want to do is probably fine.

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Lemon Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Serves 4

6 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes (ish)

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped finely

Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium pot filled 2/3 full with water, add cubed potatoes. Bring the water to a boil, and boil the potatoes for 4-5 minutes, no more.

Drain the potatoes and add to a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes gently to coat. Pour the potatoes onto a baking sheet (best if lined with parchment paper). Roast teh potatoes for 20-25 minutes, until crisping and browned on the edges.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and toss with fresh rosemary. Add additional seasoning if needed. Eat hot, room temperature, or cool; pretty much all ways these taste great.

 

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SPRING. Eat some potatoes.

Lemon Barley Risotto with Peas

In Chicago, you cannot be outside and not see winter. Not in the densely gray sky; not in the salt-bleached asphalt; not in the naked trees, with snow climbing high up their trunks; and especially not in the ground, exhibiting at any point a full mountain range of snow piles, exhaust-stained at its base and crisply white at its peaks. Winter is truly everywhere, save a few perfectly positioned glances out the window at sunset. So maybe this makes me a Chicagoan now, but I am utterly delighted at the idea of snow falling thickly on my south-eastern friends and family, while I optimistically drive on clear paved roads on a (remarkably) sunny day that nearly breaks freezing. We’ve suffered enough winter this year, and I’ll take any wins I can. Even if it’s just “oh, thank God it didn’t snow today!” I’m a little jealous that for other parts of the country (that I so recently called home), snow is an exciting rarity that requires immediate rest and relaxation. I wish snow meant hot chocolate and blankets instead of freezing, slow commutes. But there’s promise of a genuine heat wave- temperatures sky-rocketing to the 40s- so maybe it’s time to celebrate Spring, just a little bit, just to see how it feels. This dinner is nice in that it incorporates the fresh components of Spring flavors- lemon, peas, thyme- but requires ingredients that are pantry staples or easy freezer grabs. It’s a healthy variation on an Italian favorite, and a nice mix up from rice or pasta. The barley creates this “risotto” through the slow cooking process, yielding starches to the surrounding broth with time. It’s utterly creamy as a result, and while I’ve had “real” risotto only once or twice, barley risotto is a pretty fair comparison.

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Lemon Barley Risotto with Peas

Serves 3-4

1 tbsp. butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup pearled barley

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

3 cups water

1 tbsp. thyme, fresh or dried

2 cups peas, frozen

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, (freshly) grated

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, mix vegetable or chicken stock and water and heat until boiling. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, with a ladle ready for use.

In a pot, melt 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add barley and toast, stirring frequently, about 3-5 minutes. Once the barley is fragrant and lightly browning, add thyme and bit of salt. Next, add about 1 cup of stock/water to the barley and stir. Cook  the barley until it’s absorbed most of the liquid; then, add another cup of stock/water. Repeat this process, adding about 1-1/2 cups of liquid at a time, stirring regularly, until the barley is tender and the liquids are almost entirely absorbed. This process can take anywhere from 25-45 minutes, depending on the barley.

Just before the barley is finished, with a bit of liquid remaining, add the frozen peas. Cook the peas in the barley for 2-3 minutes, until bright and softened. Remove the barley from the heat and add juice of 1/2 a lemon, zest of 1 lemon, and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Stir together and season additionally if necessary.

Serve the barley risotto plain, with a sprinkle of goat cheese. Or, serve along side some lemon grilled chicken or your other favorite protein of the day.

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I went with some meat this time. It’s been awhile. (Also, I know you like this chicken, Brian).