Food, recipe

Herbs de Provence Chicken with Roasted Vegetables and Ratatouille

Sometimes you want a meal that isn’t too heavy but is still delicious. Bonus points if it’s actually fairly simple. The most complicated portion of this meal is the Ratatouille. But you can make it ahead and freeze or refrigerate until you want to use it. I made this for a large group dinner so the portions are a bit big. Feel free to scale it back to something more manageable if need be.

As usual we will start with a brief vegetable photoshoot.

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But seriously the first step is always your mise en place. Cube your zucchini, squash and eggplant and sprinkle with salt. This is going to help pull the moisture out so that your veggies retain their firmness and don’t get soggy and gross when you start cooking.

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After about twenty minutes pat the cubed veggies dry on some paper towels. During those twenty you can chop of your tomatoes, onion and oregano and heat up your dutch oven.

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Next up is lightly pan frying all your veggies, just one more step to prevent everything from becoming one gloopy mess. Plus they look so glossy and delicious once they are ready.

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Now you have a pan whose bottom is covered in chunks of burned vegetables, time to deglaze! For some reason I find this very soothing. I also use the deglazing time to cook my onions down.

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Next step is adding in some freshly chopped tomatoes and oregano.

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Use a can of tomato paste to add in a richer taste and once everything is cooked add your cubed veggies back into the pan.

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Cover with low sodium chicken stock and let simmer until all the flavors have married make sure that you adjust for salt and pepper early on. You can see the difference in the two photos. The second picture how much richer and thicker the tomato sauce has become.

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Once your ratatouille is cooked you can bag it up and freeze it for later.Which is what I did. I also went ahead and marinaded my chicken and prepped my vegetables for roasting. Step one is finding a Herbs de Provence mix you really love. My go to is this one from Trader Joe’s. It also comes with the super cute spoon.

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Cube some chicken breasts and cover in spices, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

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Next step is your vegetables. I cut up green beans, radishes, mushrooms and I threw in some whole yellow cherry tomatoes. Because I was using these later in the week I wrapped the mushrooms before bagging them.

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Once I was ready to roast my veggies I spread them out in a pan and chopped an onion up. I didn’t bag the onion with my other chopped veg because onions will pull the moisture out over everything and make them soggy. I coated everything in salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil before popping them in the oven.

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I popped both pans in the oven and roasted them at 375 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.

I then put out all three dishes and let my friends plate their own meals and had a nice hunk of gruyere off to the side so people could shave on as much as they liked. I made it snow!

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Ratatouille (serves 10):

Ingredients:

  1. 2 medium eggplants
  2. 2 yellow squash
  3. 2 zucchini
  4. Handful of cherry tomatoes
  5. 1 red onion
  6. 1 bunch of oregano
  7. 1 box low sodium Chicken Stock
  8. 1 can of tomato paste
  9. Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Recipe:

  1. Cube your zucchini, squash and eggplant. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 20 minutes
  2. Dice onions, chop tomatoes and oregano
  3. Pat zucchini, squash and eggplant dry. Fry in a little olive oil in small batches. Do not worry if pan becomes covered in brown bits of burnt vegetable. This will add to the heartiness of your gravy.
  4. Sautee onions and use chicken stock to deglaze your pan of all the lovely flavor left over from frying your veggies.
  5. Add in cherry tomatoes and oregano and cook down.
  6. Add your tomato paste and cook using small splashes of chicken stock to ensure that nothing sticks
  7. Add in your reserved zucchini, squash and eggplant
  8. Cover with chicken stock and adjust salt/pepper/garlic to taste
  9. Serve or freeze/refrigerate until ready to use. When reheating just place in a heavy bottomed pan and use some low sodium chicken stock to prevent sticking, if needed or if it becomes too thick. Remember to check seasoning before serving!

Herbs de Provence Chicken (serves 10):

Ingredients:

  1. 3 lbs chicken breasts
  2. 3-4 heaping Tbsp Herbs de Provence seasoning
  3. 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  4. Salt and pepper to taste

Recipe:

  1. Cube chicken
  2. Toss in rest of ingredients
  3. Freeze or refrigerate until ready to use or move straight to step 4
  4. Roast in oven for 30-45 minutes until fully cooked.

Roasted Vegetables (serves 10):

Ingredients:

  1. 2 medium carrots
  2. 8 oz mushrooms
  3. 8 oz green beans
  4. 8 oz radishes
  5. 8 oz cherry tomatoes
  6. 1 medium sized onion
  7. Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
  8. Olive oil

Recipe:

  1. Chop your carrots into sticks.
  2. Snap ends off green beans and chop in half
  3. Wash cherry tomatoes
  4. Wipe down mushrooms
  5. Chop radishes in half
  6. If bagging and using later than wrap your mushrooms in a paper towel to stop them from getting slimy.
  7. Chop onion and add to mix
  8. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and drizzle with olive oil. Toss well to make sure everything is evenly coated.
  9. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes

 

Food

Crockpot Tomato Soup, Four Ways

It’s cold in Virginia right now, winter is clinging to the ground and the air and my bones need soup. Soup means crockpot time. I know crockpots are getting a bad rap right now because of that episode of This is Us. But they really do make life a lot easier. I tend to get done early on Mondays so I like to make one thing in the crockpot that I can tweak and twist and use all week. Given the weather I went for a hearty tomato basil soup.

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I use my crockpot two ways, I either dump a bunch of stuff in and go off to work so that I can come home to a mostly ready meal. But sometimes I use my crockpot as a less needy dutch oven and add things in slowly and really let the flavors marry and come together slowly. I went for the latter technique this time because I had a bunch of little things to do around the house and this allowed me to add things and go get a task done before coming back to check on it. I started by caramelizing a bunch of red onions with butter, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

 

Once those were cooked down and I’d printed off all the labels for my amazon returns I started on my tomatoes. Since I have an immersion blender I tend to thick chop my tomatoes because they are going to cook down regardless of the size and nobody has time for a petite dice. But I do have a technique for my touch chop that can be done pretty quickly once you get the hang of it.

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First start with a pile of sexy looking tomatoes. The sexier your tomatoes the sexier your soup will be. That’s just a fact. Kidding, start by slicing your tomato in half, then remove the stem with two angled cuts and discard. Next you need to cut slices lengthwise along the tomato and then flip the whole thing around and cut perpendicular. Scoop ’em all up and add them to the crockpot. Easy Peasy, tomato choppy.

 

Once the tomatoes have been added in and you have seasoned again it’s a good time to throw the cover back on and let those bad boys stew. At some point your whole house is going to fill with the tangy smell of cooking tomatoes. At that point it’s time to revisit and add in the last few ingredients you need before it’s ready to be blitzed.

 

I love the roasted garlic you can find at most olive bars. I get a whole container and just pull them out whenever I need a little extra oomph in my food. I also love the perfect fresh balance that basil and tomato make so I chopped up some of that. And then you always need more salt and pepper. Once that has stewed for some more time it’s time to blitz. I wanted to make a nice little boomerang so you could see how cute my immersion blender is. Total fail.

 

Once I had blitzed the soup I added in some tomato paste, parmesan cheese, a dollop of heavy cream and a couple of splashes of low sodium chicken stock just to round out all the flavors. I also needed to add in a little more salt, garlic and pepper. Because crockpots are tricky and always need more than you think they will.

Now on to the three ways I decided to serve my soup! This was the fun part! Because you don’t want to get bored with all your hard work!

Day 1: Sausage and Parmesan Crisps

This one was fairly straightforward, while the soup was finishing off in the crockpot I chopped up some smoked sausage I had in the fridge and cooked it in a pan on the stove. My secret for cooking meat like this are a few splashes of low sodium chicken stock. It helps deglazes the pan and lets you steam rather than roast so they don’t dry out. This billowing cloud above my pan is steam, not smoke. I promise.

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Next I took a 4 oz container of parmesan cheese and made twelve little piles on a silicone baking sheet and baked them at 400 degrees for 3 minutes to make amazingly easy and low carb parmesan crisps!

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I know they look a little soggy but I put them on a paper towel to cool and they crisped up beautifully. They did get a little melty when I put them on the hot soup.

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Day 2: Roasted Chicken and Stuffed Bell Peppers

I love herbs de Provence. It’s a wonderfully savory spice mix that goes well with a variety of proteins and flavors. I particularly like it with tomatoes so I decided to coat some cubed chicken in Herbs de Provence, along with salt, pepper, olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar.

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I set those aside to quickly marinade while I sliced open some small bell peppers and stuffed them with mozzarella I happened to have in my fridge. These little packets are actually meant as single size servings but I am amazed at how handy they are when I haven’t planned ahead.

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I ripped them up and stuffed them into the bell peppers. I added a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar because I love balsamic. I baked everything together on the same sheet pan while I reheated some of the soup up on the stove. I set my oven to 375 degrees and left everything in there for about 30 minutes.

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I decided to be bold and serve my soup on a plate as it had gotten quite thick on the stove. It actually was pretty easy to eat this way and was a delicious treat after a long day at work because it was so quick yet surprisingly fancy and satisfying. Lloyd doesn’t usually stop to talk once food is in front of him but he put down his fork long enough to tell me it was good. Le sigh.

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Day 3: Cheese Straws and Cheese

By the end of the week I was truly ready for something easy peasy. I throw the remains of the soup into a bowl and microwaved until it started splattering. I stuck a couple of cheese straws in there and sprinkled some cheese on top and called it a day. Honestly the simplicity of this meal was what made it so great.

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Day 4: Spinach and Artichoke Dip

And last but not least I just had a little bit of soup left and also some spinach artichoke dip and I figured that they would probably go really well together. I was not wrong. Also, the cheese ended up looking like the Sydney Opera House which was not intentional but totally cool.

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Soup Ingredients:

  1. 8 largish tomatos
  2. Half a stick of butter
  3. 1 large onion
  4. 6-8 garlic cloves (roasted or raw, dealer’s choice)
  5. 10-12 leaves of basil
  6. 2 Tbsp of tomato paste
  7. 1 Tbsp of heavy cream
  8. 1/2 cup of low sodium chicken stock
  9. Parmesan cheese to taste

Soup Recipe:

  1. Caramelize onions and butter with salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste in your crock pot (set to high) for about 1-2 hours
  2. Chop and tomatoes and cook until mushy for about 1-2 hours, season as you go.
  3. Add in basil and garlic once tomatoes are ready to be blended then blend. Do not splatter back splash.
  4. Add in heavy cream, chicken stock, tomato paste and parmesan cheese and let simmer for about another hour.
  5. Alternatively you could put everything into the crockpot at the very beginning and just let it stew for hours and hours until you decide to blend it up. It will still be delicious and is a lot less work.