Monday, December 12, 2011

And That's NOT Chicken Paprikash

I am very proud of my ethnic heritage; I am Ukrainian on my dad's side, and Hungarian on my mom's.  There are a bounty of wonderful taste sensations to be found in the recipes from both these cultures.  I tend to make the Ukrainian foods for special times such as Christmas, birthdays, or big gatherings, while I make my Hungarian dishes for every day.  So in October I was craving some creamy delicious comforting food and I decided I would make a big pot of Chicken Paprikash.  I knew I could cut down some of the calories by using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, and I could actually saute my onions in chicken broth rather than oil.   So I chopped up two large onions and slathered a good tablespoon, maybe tablespoon and a half of Hungarian paprika over them.  That scent of onions and paprika just makes my heart happy.  But as I sauteed the onions I became convinced I needed more paprika...the onions weren't as deeply red as I liked.  So I grabbed the container of paprika, popped the lid up and vigorously shook a whole bunch more into my pot.

My nose immediately knew there was trouble.  I had grabbed the cinnamon and now a good tablespoon and a half was in the pot with my onions and paprika.  Oh I tried to scoop it out, but it was too late; the bubbly onions had absorbed all the cinnamon.  And it was smelling very aromatic in my kitchen.  I sadly said goodbye Chicken Paprikash and hello Chicken Marakesh!  Isn't it nice that chicken is such a world traveller?   I ended up with sweet potatoes, chicken, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, a chopped up jalapeno, garlic and chick peas simmering away on my stove top.  I made couscous and added lemon juice, honey, oregano and some raisins to it to give it a little bit of that hint of the East.  Maybe it wasn't what I originally planned but it sure tasted good.

There was a time when I would have dumped out everything, cried for an hour and then wondered what the hell I was going to do.  Now at this stage in my life I am more willing to look at a mistake and think of it as an opportunity to adapt, improvise or improve.   Mistakes in and of themselves can be frustrating, upsetting, heart breaking, annoying or just plain silly.  But if you can learn from it, great.  If you can take that mistake and turn it into something good, even better.  Sometimes it's a small thing, like putting cinnamon into a dish where it doesn't belong....sometimes it's a huge thing like placing your trust in someone and finding out everything you believed in and about that person was a lie.  But if you learn how to stay on your feet, adapt, change, learn, grow or just survive it...then it's not a mistake, it's experience.  And experience shapes us into the people we are!  

Chicken Marakesh in the Slow Cooker

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
2 large onions, diced or sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 14 ounce can of garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 19 ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2  tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

Place onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, chicken, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and garlic into your slow cooker.  Combine all spices in a bowl, stir to mix well then sprinkle it all over the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Stir.  Cook on low heat for 4 to 5 hours or until chicken is cooked through and sweet potatoes are tender.  

Now...I have to tell you I tripled the amount of spices called for.  I also added 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger, grated, and 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced.    I think you could chop about 1/4 cup cilantro and sprinkle it over the top as garnish and it wouldn't be a bad thing.  Makes 8 servings at about 300 calories a serving.

Serve over rice, couscous, or quinoa.  I like it with this:

Snowflake Raisin Couscous

2 tsp olive oil
½ cup chopped green onion
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cups chicken stock or broth
1/3 cup lemon juice
¾ cup instant couscous
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped parsley
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp salt

 In medium pan heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic; sauté 2 minutes.  Add stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Remove from heat and cover.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Stir to fluff it and serve.

 You can also add ¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted.  Do this when you are fluffing up the couscous.  I usually only do this if I have company. 

This makes about 4 servings and can be easily doubled.  One serving is about 250 calories.  

Chicken Paprikash 

One frying chicken, cut up into pieces
2 to 3 large onions, chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp Paprika
1/4 cup canola oil 
1 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt
1 clove minced garlic
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, diced (optional)

Place oil in large pot over medium to medium high heat.  Add onions and paprika.  Saute until onions are wilted.  Add chicken and  and let brown, turning pieces over so they become well coated with the paprika onion mixture.   Add the garlic and saute just a few minutes.   Add about 1 to 1.5 cups of water to the chicken.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let this simmer for an hour to hour and a quarter, until chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender.  Add the peppers and let cook another 15 minutes, then add the sour cream or yogurt and let heat through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, couscous, quinoa or spaghetti squash.

You can saute the onions in chicken broth to cut calories as well.  This makes 6 servings, at about 375 calories each when using sour cream and about 345 when you use Greek yogurt. 

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