Budget Meal: Brown Rice and Black Bean Pilaf with Chicken

2014 Food Blog0183

Today is an easy budget friendly super healthy meal that is bursting with flavor and texture and leaves you full and happy.  Getting tons of protein and whole grain staying power to fill you and warm you up is important with this cold weather.  We had rice and black beans at home so I quickly just googled to see if there was anything different I could do with them.  Of course I gravitated towards an Ellie Krieger recipe- especially because we had every single ingredient on hand.  I added in chicken and extra carrots and it turned out perfect.  I timed everything so while the rice cooked we chopped and cooked the veggies, set it aside.  Seasoned then cooked the chicken,  set it aside.  A little clean up and the rice was complete, so everything got mixed together to eat!  Leaving the kitchen clean, plates full and we were ready to go.  That’s how you do a weeknight meal my friends.

Rice and Black Bean Pilaf adapted from Ellie Krieger

Serves 4

1 cup brown rice, uncooked
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 (15.5 ounce) can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons dried parsley leaves

Place rice and chicken broth in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook rice, covered, until tender and all the liquid is absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes.

While the rice cooks, prep your veggies, then heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, celery, carrot, cumin and chili flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not mushy, about 6 minutes. Stir in black beans and parsley then cook until just warmed through, about 1-2 minutes.

Remove rice from heat, uncover, and fluff with a fork.

Combine hot rice into the pan with the onion-black bean mixture and stir to combine.  Serve with chicken if desired ( below).

Quick Chicken Breast Recipe:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half to make 4 thin ( 1/4″ thick) cutlets or pounded so all one thickness, place in pie plate drizzle with olive oil and season with a little of sprinkle of each based on your taste preferences: cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano.  Heat a large pan over med/ high heat, add chicken when it’s hot, cook for 2-3 minutes per side until no longer pink at the thickest spot.  Remove from heat and let rest until you are ready to serve.


Braised Chicken with Shallots, Dates and Apricots



Although this recipe has to cook for an hour, it is such an easy meal to prepare.  Not much chopping, not a lot of stirring, just let the chicken cook down freeing up time for you to enjoy elsewhere.  This recipe reheats really well the next day.  The chicken fell right off the bone and had nice flavors from the wine and shallots; the contrast with sweet dates and apricots was really nice but maybe needed a bit of something salty to really bring this home- capers maybe…   Overall very nice meal, great way to cook chicken for a change, and a perfect way to eat brown rice.  Enjoy

Recipe serves 4

Adapted from Williams and Sonoma “Taste” cookbook



8 Chicken Thighs, bone in

salt and fresh ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

10 bay leaves

4 large shallots, cut in 1/4″ rounds or half moons

2/3 cup dry red wine

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

8 dried dates, pitted and halved

8 dried apricots, quartered

2 cups cooked brown rice


1.  If preferred, trim the fat and skin from the chicken. Rinse, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper.

2.  Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid (to be used later) over medium-high heat.

3.  Add chicken and bay leaves and cook until browned, about 7-10 minutes on each side. Add a 1/2 cup water, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 35-40 minutes.

4.  Pour off pan juices and reserve. Pile chicken on one side of the pan, raise the heat to medium and add the shallots. Cook until the soften, about 2 minutes.

5.   Add wine and vinegar, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add dates and apricots, then redistribute the chicken in the pot.

6.   Add the reserved liquid and simmer until chicken is heated through and tender, about 12-15 minutes.

7 Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve immediately over brown rice

Food for thought… and Autumn Vegetable Curry


This morning was one of those amazing fall days in Chicago, the kind we all reflect back to when the snow and slush and icy winds start to bring us down.  After an admittedly challenging couple of weeks, there is so much change in the air, not only the seasons.  In times like these it’s important to remember that our lives are only as good as the choices we make, whether they are good choices, hard choices, wrong choices; they all shape who we are, who we will become and the life we will have.

Inspired by two friends today, I took a long break to get outside and bike+ run, not just to work out but to slow down, think, walk, and soak in the great day.  Everyone I passed was smiling, the sun was shining, the lake rippled in the wind and colorful leaves rustled along my path, the skyline gleamed in the contrast of the blue skies, it was as if everywhere I looked, a gorgeous photo presented itself.  It got me thinking about how charmed our lives are, if we can just take a moment to step back and enjoy it.  If the choices we make define who we are, we should make each one count; they should enrich our life, they should inspire us, they should make us happy- it’s our choice, right?  In lou of all the changes a new season brings, our family is faced with all kinds of challenges and choices, our near future of where we will end up is hovering within reach and it’s overwhelming.  It’s helpful to reflect, jot stuff down and just take a moment to put things in perspective.  This is life, it is glorious, we have the ability to make choices and that is pretty great.

Now, to the food!  After all that thought, I bet you are ready to make a choice on what’s for dinner this fine fall evening.  We’ve been loving all the in season produce- fennel, pears, squash and sweet potatoes.  This recipe is another Ellie Krieger gem; we can’t go on enough about how much we love her.  It’s warm and hearty and full of big flavors and so many veggies, you would never guess it’s simplicity could be so good.  This recipe makes a big batch so you can enjoy leftovers over and over!  Enjoy,


1 large onion, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 1½ -inch long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks

1 ½ tablespoons curry powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 cup light coconut milk

1 cinnamon stick

¾ teaspoon salt plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ head of cauliflower, broken into 11/2 inch wide florets (about 3 cups)

1 pound sweet potatoes (garnet yams), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch rounds

2 tomatoes, cored and chopped

Zest of 1 lime

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed

5 cups baby spinach leaves (5 ounces)

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Put the onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder and cayenne pepper into the bowl of a food and process until combined. Add the oil and process until a smooth puree. Cook the curry puree in a large pot over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to darken, about 5 minutes more.

Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, cinnamon, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower, sweet potato, carrot, tomatoes, salt and pepper and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Stir in the lime zest and juice, the garbanzo beans and the spinach and cook for 5 minutes more, until the spinach is wilted. Season with additional salt to taste.

Serve garnished with cilantro, over rice if desired.


Makes about 10 cups Serves 4


Per Serving: Calories 420; Total Fat 12 g; (Sat Fat 3.5 g, Mono Fat 4.6 g, Poly Fat 2.3 g) ; Protein 13 g; Carb TK g; Fiber 16 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 780 mg


Excellent source of: Copper, Fiber, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K Good source of: Calcium, Niacin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Thiamin, Zinc


Copyright 2011 Ellie Krieger. All Rights Reserved.


Corn Cakes

With the holidays upon us, so quickly as usual, easy and fast meals are the ticket!  Here you can use easy ingredients that you most likely have in your pantry and fridge to whip up these cakes.  This whole meal is surprising decadent, and filling.  Serve with a small mixed greens salad with fresh cilantro and lime vinaigrette to really round it all out.
Serves 4
adapted from Eating Well
1 cup instant brown rice
6 scallions, trimmed and sliced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 cup tomato salsa, mild, medium or hot


1.Cook rice with the amount of water called for in the package directions, adding scallions, garlic and thyme to the water. Remove from heat and stir in corn, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Let stand for about 5 minutes to cool slightly.

2.Whisk eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Add the rice mixture and mash with a potato masher until the mixture holds together (it will be fairly soft), about 1 minute. Shape the mixture into 8 patties.

3.Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully transfer 4 patties to the pan with a spatula and cook until browned and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; cover to keep warm. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and repeat with the remaining 4 patties.

4.Meanwhile, combine beans and salsa in a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 5 minutes. To serve, divide the beans among 4 plates and top with 2 patties each.


Tofu Garam Masala

The first time we ever tried Indian Masala was at a little restaurant in Sheboygan called the Grotto.  It was amazing.  The flavors are so complex yet familiar and delicious- creamy, mildly spicy, tomatoey- with the bright color ( and mild flavor) of turmeric, with ginger, garlic, onion, coriander, spicy red pepper flakes and finally the Garam Masala blend of spices itself.  Inspired to make this dish at home, much time was spent scouring recipes.  We wanted something simple, not heavy, but of course it should taste like Masala!  And wefound it- of course with our own adjustments to make it even better.  The challenge, and this was a few years ago now, was to find Garam Masala in the spice aisle.  Nowadays you shouldn’t have a problem and you can easily find delicious Naan bread to scoop up your sauce with… The original recipe calls for chicken so I’m going to put both ways below, tofu is just as delicious but requires less simmering time and water and more pan searing to crisp it up.
Chicken Masala Ingredients:
1 tablespoon Canola oil
1 large onions, or 2 small ones, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large inch of fresh ginger, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
3/4 rounded teaspoon ground Tumeric
1/2 rounded teaspoon Red Pepper flakes, more to taste
3/4 rounded teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 rounded teaspoon ground Coriander
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to be even thickness throughout each
1 cup water
2 green onions, chopped, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup plain non fat yogurt, for garnish
2 cups cooked brown rice
Naan Bread

Cut the pounded chicken in to cubes, season with salt and pepper.  In a large dutch oven pan, heat oil over medium flame.  Once hot, sear the chicken on all sides ( about 4 minutes total) and then set aside, tent with foil.  To the same pan add a bit more oil then add onion, garlic and ginger- cooking over medium heat till they just turn golden- 8 minutes.  Add in the peppers, all the spices, tomato paste, and stir till all well coated/ combined.  Stir in the yogurt to combine then add the water and the chicken breasts in a single layer to the pan.  Simmer for 15 minutes till the chicken is cooked through.  Taste and adjust with salt/ pepper.  Then divide the rice between 4 shallow serving bowls, top with one forth of the chicken/ sauce/ veggies.  Add more yogurt and the green onions for garnish, serve with Naan bread. 

Tofu Masala Ingredients:

1 tablespoon Canola oil
1 large onion, or 2 small ones, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large inch of fresh ginger, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
3/4 rounded teaspoon ground Tumeric
1/2 rounded teaspoon Red Pepper flakes, more to taste
3/4 rounded teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 rounded teaspoon ground Coriander
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 package ( 16 ounces) Firm Tofu, drained, pat dry with paper towels and cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 cup water
2 green onions, chopped, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup plain non fat yogurt, for garnish
2 cups cooked brown rice
Naan Bread

Season your tofu with salt and pepper and a dash each of Tumeric, Coriander, Ground Ginger, Red Pepper Flakes, and Garam Masala, gently combine with your tofu so it doesn’t break apart. In a large dutch oven pan, heat oil over medium flame. Once hot, sear the tofu on all sides ( about 10 minutes total) and then set aside, tent with foil. To the same pan add a bit more oil then add onion, garlic and ginger- cooking over medium heat till they just turn golden- 8 minutes. Add in the peppers, all the spices, tomato paste, and stir till all well coated/ combined. Stir in the yogurt to combine then add the water and the tofu to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes so the tofu is infused with the sauce. Taste and adjust with salt/ pepper. Then divide the rice between 4 shallow serving bowls, top with a breast of chicken and a one forth of the tofu/ sauce/ veggies. Add more yogurt and the green onions for garnish, serve with Naan bread.


Orange-Pistachio Wild Rice Salad

As hinted before in our last quinoa post we made a favorite recipe of ours with our large amount of excess oranges we had on hand… for some reason?   Anyhow, this combination of nutty delicious wild rice and crunchy pistachios, with fresh basil and oranges, is truly unique and so so satisfying it is hard to call it a salad, yet here it is.  This is so easy to make for a busy work week, just cook the rice while you are watching a movie on the weekend, or while you enjoy dinner tonight in anticipation of a ‘salad’ tomorrow.  If you do cook it after work, it will take 1 hour for the rice to cook and 1 hour ( minimum) for it to cool.  If you want to, you can serve it warm ( heck we have!), I found that the oil in the dressing doesn’t work as well in that application however- so drizzle a bit on top before eating and then add some in the next day when it all as cooled off.  This keeps very well for 5-6 days, and is super portable for lunches ( no micro action needed!), and it is filling enough to be called dinner- you can’t lose with this salad!!  What is your go-to salad dish?  Do you make your own salad dressings?  Let us know!
Orange-Pistachio Wild Rice Salad

adapted from Ellie Kreiger So Easy
6 servings

2/3 cup brown rice
2/3 cup wild rice
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 oranges, peel and pith removed, segmented and sliced (about 2/3 cup)
10 large basil leaves, sliced into ribbons (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup chopped pistachios, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

For the dressing:
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine brown rice, wild rice and chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until all water is evaporated and rice is fully cooked, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely, or overnight.

When rice is cool, add orange slices, basil, red onion, pistachios and orange zest; mix to incorporate.

For the dressing:

Combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil, orange juice, mustard, honey and salt in a metal bowl and whisk to incorporate.

Pour over rice mixture and toss to incorporate.


Summer Vegetable Risotto

Risotto often raises a red alert flag in many fellow cooks because we all think it’s too difficult to make. This really isn’t true, and I think where the confusion lies is the fact that you have to slowly add liquid in and stir frequently- aka, be present while cooking. Stirring loosens the starchy molecules from the rice and into your liquid, creating a smooth rich creamy sauce. So adding in hot liquid and letting it absorb into the rice slowly and create the sauce. If you’d like to make this recipe more healthy you can use turkey or chicken sausage, or no sausage at all, and add in half the Parmesan and butter, or replace the butter with 1 T olive oil. This was a great way to use all the summer vegetables coming out of the garden right now. If you have the time and want to use fresh tomato go for it- but we had a lot of fresh corn, basil, zucchini! And let me tell you, this was SO fresh, so creamy and rich and delicious- I can’t wait to eat leftovers for lunch and make this again as the seasons change with different veggies.

Summer Vegetable Risotto
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
Serves 6
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large zucchini, about 3/4 pound, coarsely chopped in bite size pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup cooking Sherry + 1/4 cup water

1 clove garlic, minced 
14 ounces baby spinach, chopped (about 7 cups)
2 ears of corn, boiled to cook and carved from cob
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
2 tablespoons butter

In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage, zucchini and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 5 minutes. Add garlic to combine.

Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sherry+ water; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next (every 5-6 minutes), stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender (you may not have to use all the liquid).

Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, corn, basil, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.