Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

Chicken Thighs: Budget-friendly and Delicious

I happened upon this video from Epicurious last week and then gave it a try using items already in my fridge and pantry. It’s brilliant…simple, delicious, and looks like I spent hours. I’ll be trying more combinations over the coming weeks. This will be the best 2 1/2 minutes you’ve ever spent! Watch it!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken Thighs with White Beans

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Ingredients
8-12 chicken thighs
1 fresh lemon, thinly sliced
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, slivered
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
Salt, pepper
2 cans white beans or 2-3 cups dried beans you’ve soaked and cooked

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Directions
Please rack in top third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Arrange in 9×13 baking dish. Brush top of each piece with a small amount of olive oil.

Spoon beans around chicken. Space out the slivered garlic. Tuck in the lemon slices. Pour liquid so that it comes about halfway up the chicken. Leave tops exposed. Lay rosemary sprigs around dish.

Bake in top half of oven until chicken browns, about 30-45 minutes.

It was really that simple!

For a more exotic way to prepare chicken, try spicing things up with chipotle and ancho chili!

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

Include a Hedgehog at Tea!

mygrandmasrecipebookThank you Morgan for this delightful recipe! If you’ve never visited mygrandmasrecipebook.com, you are in for a treat – or two! Morgan chronicles some great old-fashioned recipes including this one she sent exclusively for my blog!

Chocolate Hedgehog Slices

This is a very nice, traditional Australian recipe from the 70’s and 80’s that is often served for afternoon tea or parties.  I remember my grandmother and mother both making this for children’s birthday parties or just a special treat.

Ingredients
400 grams (14oz) plain sweet biscuits/cookies (shortbread or plain graham crackers would work)
250 grams (9oz) unsalted butter
1 cup caster or granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecan nuts


Putting the biscuits/cookies in a zip-loc plastic bag, crush the biscuits with a rolling pin or other heavy tool until they are small pieces.


Melt the butter in a large bowl.  Add the cocoa powder and stir until mixed.


Add the other ingredients and the biscuits, and then stir to combine.

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Line a lamington tin (13” x 9” slice tin) with baking or greaseproof paper and spread the mixture into a thick layer.

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Refrigerate for 1 hour; before the slice is set too firmly, cut into squares.

Keep refrigerated until served.

Notes:
It is possible to substitute walnuts or almonds for the pecans.

This is an unbaked recipe using eggs, so it is not advised for young children or pregnant women. Please practice good egg safety.

Note from Brad: This no-bake dessert really hits the spot when you need a chocolate fix.  And since it uses cocoa powder and nuts, it’s a bit healthier than other sweets! Give it a try and let me know what you think! Better yet, make it at home and tag me (@GourmandBrad) and Morgan (@grandmasbook) on a photo of your concoction in Twitter.

10 Apps No Cook Can Live Without

I know this is a dramatic title. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Huff Post lately! But seriously, these are the apps I rely heavily on while in my kitchen. And as always, feel free to chime in and share what apps you find indispensable to cooking.

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iPhone camera
What would I do without my smartphone camera? I use it to take pictures while I’m cooking which is handy. But more importantly, I take photos of recipes in magazines whenever I am in a waiting room! Remember the days when you were in the doctor’s office and found a recipe you wanted to try, so you had to either write it down on a scrap of paper or secretly tear it out of the magazine? (OK, I never did that!) Now I snap a photo and refer back to it when shopping or ready to cook.

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Epicurious
This was the first cooking app I ever used and it continues to be a mainstay. I’ve compiled many of my favorites in the recipe box feature. I like the categories such as “picnic ideas,” “main course salads,” or “Mexican tonight.” Photos, reviews, ratings, and step by step instructions make this a user-friendly resource that is loaded with recipes. Epicurious features a suite of mobile applications, including one for your smart Samsung fridge!

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Grocery Store
I’m not going to recommend any specific grocery store since I have no idea what’s available in your area. I will tell you however, that if your favorite store has a useful app, download it! I really like the Wegmen’s app. I can add all my ingredients to the list and it will organize them by aisle for faster shopping. It gives me a total of what I’m about to spend. Other cool features include tons of recipes and even a prescription refill option.

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Coupons
You might already have a favorite coupon app since there are a few out there. This one from coupons.com allows you to register your loyalty card, add applicable coupons to your account, and redeem them right at checkout. It takes some time to scroll through the available coupons whenever you go shopping, but saves you the trouble of clipping and storing paper coupons. Since I love to cook, it helps keep costs down on my grocery bills.

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Grill
If you like grilling, then the Weber’s Grill app is one to consider. Besides a slew of grilling recipes, it serves up grilling techniques and a handy timer. It has a grocery list feature, but since I use my grocery store app, I haven’t really taken advantage of that section.

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Thermometer
This is more of a product than an app, but it’s the app that makes it so cool. Weber’s iGrill products mean you are no longer tethered to the grill or oven when cooking. The app on your phone keeps you updated on internal temps. If like me you start talking to your guests in the kitchen while your meat is cooking out on the grill, then this is a lifesaver.

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Converter/Calculator
If you’re a baker, this app is for you. Scale recipes up or down like a pro. Convert between metric and non metric measurement.

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Substitutions
Have you ever been up to your elbows in a recipe only to find you are missing a critical ingredient? I sure have! Substitutions is a handy app to have when you need to find a way to make a recipe work when running to the grocery store that minute is not an option. Even better, the app helps you find substitutions for ingredients that cause allergic reactions. Brilliant!

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Pairing
If you are an average Joe (or in my case, Brad) like me, your knowledge of beer, wine, and cheese is limited to what you like. But that’s not always helpful when it comes to entertaining. That’s why it’s important to have a couple of useful apps for wine, beer, and cheese pairing suggestions. Unfortunately, I have not come across one app that does it all, but I have a couple that I rely upon. Here they are:

Pocket Wine Pairing
PairWise

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Plus one bonus!
Cheese & Wine

What’s on your smartphone that makes home cooking easier? I’d love to know!

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

Brad’s Stromboli, That’s Amori

If you are a Stromboli aficionado, please don’t be offended. I know I broke a few rules, but honestly, this recipe I whipped up is delicious. Like it’s relative, the pizza, you can use whatever ingredients you’ve got on hand. I highly recommend you get a bit adventurous and try a few new combinations.

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This is where the purists will pitch a fit…

I used my French bread recipe as the base. Most recipes call for a pizza dough, but I like the sweet, chewy texture of the French bread I make, so I took culinary license!

Follow the recipe linked to below, but STOP when you get to the directions for punching down the risen dough and separating it into two halves.

French Bread Recipe explained in excruciating detail with photos!

Ingredients for Filling
2 packages or 1 pound sliced Black Forest ham
1 package sliced pepperoni
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
1 package or 1/2 pound sliced provolone cheese
1 bell pepper, sliced
1 egg, beaten

Directions
While your dough is rising, prepare your filling ingredients. I sliced and sautéed a green pepper in some olive oil. If you wanted to use spicy sausage, you would cook, drain, and cool it. You could slice and fry up an onion.

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Roll out dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Layer cheese, meat, and vegetables. For my two Strombolis, I used mozzarella, ham, and peppers on one and I used ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, and provolone on the other. Season with salt and pepper. Roll tightly. Please on cookie sheet and brush on egg wash.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Baking time will vary depending upon your oven. Let it sit for a few minutes before slicing. Serve with a small dish of pizza or red pasta sauce for dipping. Please note I did not spread sauce inside of the Stromboli before baking. I was worried it might get a little soggy after sitting. Since the recipe makes two, any leftovers are easily wrapped in tin foil and reheated later.

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How do you like your Stromboli? Please share your preferences!

“New” Cuisine is Not Always Better

I love retro foods, so when I stumbled across Mary’s delightful website Old Fashioned Recipes, chock full of oldies, but goodies, I hit the jackpot! She provides recipes for award-winning chocolate cake, creamy scalloped potatoes, chicken pot pie, and much more!

Mary was kind enough to include one of my favorite family recipes for my grandmother’s banana cake. It’s nice to know gram’s cake recipe found an audience among people who love simple, yet delicious home cooking.

If you’d like the recipe to Banana Cake with Penuche Frosting or to browse similar fare like your Gramma used to make, then be sure to visit her site!

Top 10 Summer Beverages

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Even though June 21 did not officially kick off summer, at my house, it’s summer once the fresh mint is ready to cut and stuff in a glass! My mint is ready for harvesting and my automatic ice maker is churning out cubes on a regular basis come 5 o’clock. If you are entertaining guests this summer on the back deck, I hope one or two of these drinks will add a pleasant kick to your menu!

Rather than working my way from least favorite to most favorite, I thought I would start out with the ones I like the most at the top of my list! Enjoy.

1. Pimms
First produced back in 1823, Pimms was first introduced to me several years ago by a colleague from London. Thank you Kathryn, wherever you are now! It has a sweet, slightly spicy aroma. I serve it exactly as directed on the back of the bottle.

1/4 cup Pimms
3/4 cups fizzy lemonade
1 sprig fresh mint
2-3 slices fresh cucumber
1 sliced strawberry
1 slice fresh orange
1 tall glass and fresh ice

2. Bobby Flay’s Red Sangria
I’ve tried a number of sangria recipes over the years and I always come back to this one from Chef Bobby Flay. I keep the key ingredients in my pantry at all times. It is a beverage my dinner guests ask for now. I switch up the fruits a bit depending upon what I have handy, but the base remains the same. Give it a try the next time you cook out!

3. Chef Roblé’s Cucumber Lemonade
This one is alcohol-free and may sound a little wonky. But trust me. You will want to add this drink to your summertime rotation. For some reason the cucumber adds this subtle refreshing flavor to homemade lemonade that is unbelievable. Buy yourself a citrus squeezer and give this recipe a try!

4. Citrus Slush
This was a popular drink back in the ’70s. Hard to believe it is still around, but it is one of my summer party favorites. It packs a hidden punch since it tastes like a fizzy fruit drink, so watch out if you are sipping these poolside! You will be the hit of the day if you take this as your dish to pass at the next neighborhood cookout, I promise!

5. Margaritas
A summer list of adult beverages would not be complete without the Margarita! The nice thing about the Bon Appétit article I linked to above is that they break down the ingredients with a bit more detail.

6. Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris

My neighbor always made this version growing up. Of course I was of legal age the first time I ever tried them!

1 box frozen strawberries (or 1/2 bag)
1 small can frozen limeade
1/2 cup rum
1/4 cup strawberry liquor
2 cups ice

Blend well. If you do not like seeds in your drinks, use a high quality blender like a Vitamix.

7. Mojito
If you find yourself grilling up some fajitas or roasting a cuban-spiced pork roast, pull out a few more sprigs of mint and mix up a pitcher of Cuban Mojitos. This refreshing summer beverage was originally “consumed for medical purposes!” Who am I to argue with the healing properties of a refreshing summer concoction?!?

8. Mimosa
You cannot go wrong with a good, old-fashioned and simple-to-make mimosa! Mix orange juice and champagne for a refreshing summer drink any time of the day. I like one part OJ to 3 parts bubbly, but feel free to use your own favorite ratio. Some people shy away from using good champagne for this cocktail, but I disagree. While I would not recommend diluting a Dom Perignon with anything, I never go for the bargain bin sparkling wine either.

9. Gin and Tonic
Like the mimosa above, the key to a decent gin & tonic is use of a decent gin. I recommend you give Fords Gin or Anchor Old Tom a try. Using a rocks glass, stir about 2 ounces gin with a splash of tonic, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice over ice. Substitute the tonic with Sprite or 7-Up and you’ve got yourself a Lime Rickey.

10. Trappistes Rochefort Beer
Brewed by the Trappist Monks inside the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy, Belgium, these guys know how to make awesome beer. After all, they’ve been brewing it since 1595 so they’ve had a lot of practice! If you like a full bodied and delicious beer, give this one a try. Choose between the 6, 8, or 10, depending upon the percentage of alcohol you prefer. I’d say give the 8 a try if you can find it. It’s my favorite!

It turns out, it’s not easy narrowing this list of my favorite summer drinks down to just 10. I hope you’ll help me out here folks by adding links to your faves in the comments section!

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

Pie Crust and Two Kinds of Quiche

I know that Pillsbury makes a perfectly edible refrigerated pie crust, as do many other companies. But if you performed a side-by-side taste test between homemade pie dough and store-bought, the one made from scratch wins hands down!

Over the years I have made an occasional attempt to mix up my own pie crust, but it was never the right consistency. Strange, because my scones are always the perfect texture and the strategy is not that different.

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to learn to make edible pie crust. I am proud to say, I’m getting there! I practiced with a couple of quiches which were more than just edible. They were actually pretty damned tasty!

The beauty of quiche is that you can put whatever you want in one. The base for each was 6 eggs, a cup of milk, 2/3 cup light cream, salt, and pepper.

In version one I added sauteed broccoli, rendered diced speck (kind of like Italian bacon), and cheddar cheese.

For version two I sauteed yellow summer squash and added turkey sausage crumbles. (I took a shortcut and bought Jimmy Dean turkey sausage pre-cooked crumbles. They were easy and worked just fine.) I incorporated a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

Start with the pie crust since it needs time to rest. These ingredient measurements are more of a guideline since the amount of water will depend on how it feels. Some folks swear by the food processor, but since my Gramma never used one, I decided to learn by hand.

Ingredients for Two Crusts

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt or so
2 sticks butter cut into pieces
ice water – start with about 5-6 Tbs and add slowly as needed.

Directions

Mix flour and salt. Add butter. Use pastry cutter and incorporate butter until you get a sandy texture. Add water slowly and mix until it comes together. Do not over handle. Do not add too much water or it will get soupy.

Take one half and place on floured surface. Roll out until it is big enough for your pie plate. Trim edges. Flute. Use a fork to poke holes all over. Repeat with second pie crust.

If you are making a two crust pie, then here is where instructions diverge. I pre-baked my crusts, but you would fill your crust, lay the top over the filling, and trim/crimp, egg wash, then bake.

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Place pie plates in the freezer while you prepare your fillings. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Before you bake, cover each pie dough with tin foil and add pie weights. As you can see, I used dried garbanzo beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil, then bake 10-15 minutes longer. My edges ended up a bit dark, so next time I would leave tin foil around them for this last 10-15, or cover them when baking the filling.

Add your fillings and bake until the centers are set. This took about 35-40 minutes in my oven. Yours may differ.

Overall, my pie crusts were quite good. The best part came with the pie dough scraps which I rolled out, spread with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I then rolled it up and baked until golden. My Gram always does this with pie scraps and it is delicious. She calls it Schnikerhausen. I call it yum!

What are your favorite quiche add-ins? Leave comments below so we can try different combinations!

I Hit the Jackpot! Expiration Date Lamb

I Hit the Jackpot! Expiration Date Lamb

Some people regularly hit the clearance racks at their favorite clothing stores, but not me. My stomping grounds are the local meat counters on the lookout for deep discounts. When meat is close to its expiration date, the price drops. I see it as a great opportunity to save money on groceries and try new recipes!

My most recent bargain – boneless butterflied legs of lamb. Since lamb is one of my favorites, I grabbed both pieces and gleefully brought them home as visions of stews and kabobs danced in my head!

I threw both packages in the freezer until I started craving some stew.

Lamb Stew à la Bradley Nierenberg

Ingredients

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp flour
1-1.5 pounds lamb (trimmed and cubed)
Salt
Pepper
1 medium onion (halved and thinly sliced)
2 cups carrots (peeled and cut into chunks) (Full disclosure: I used two ginormous carrots in this stew…my chunks of meat are much larger than they appear next to the carrot coins!)
5-6 sliced baby portabella mushrooms
5-8 bay leaves
2 tsp. rosemary (dried or fresh)
1 cup chicken stock

Directions

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Trim and cube lamb. Season with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in heavy bottomed pot. Brown lamb.

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Sprinkle browned cubes with flour.

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Cook 2 minutes longer, stirring so that it does not stick. Remove lamb with slotted spoon and set aside.

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Add a bit more olive oil to the pot and saute onions, mushrooms, and carrots. Reincorporate meat.

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Add bay leaves, rosemary, salt, pepper. Stir.

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Add chicken stock. (Tip: As you can see in the photo, I added too much chicken stock and it never thickened up. I think 1 cup will be perfect. but, if you want more “gravy” then use 2 cups but add more flour.) Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer covered until lamb is tender. This takes about an hour. Uncover and continue to simmer until ready to serve.

Season as needed. Serve with mashed potatoes, egg noodles, or polenta.

What’s in your favorite lamb stew? Please share your recipe with us!

Japchae – You’ll Wish Every Day Was Your Birthday!

Japchae – You’ll Wish Every Day Was Your Birthday!

Mind-blowing is not really the right word. I wonder if “palette epiphany” is a phrase? I hope so because I had a palette epiphany a couple of weeks ago during a potluck lunch celebrating a friend’s birthday. Pot“luck” is an apropos name for such an occasion because as luck would have it, a Korean neighbor introduced me to Japchae.

Japchae is traditionally served in Korea during a birthday celebration I was told. I think I could eat it every day, “un”birthdays included! Twice since that fateful day, I’ve prepared my own versions, once with beef and the second time with turkey breast. My neighbor served a vegetarian Japchae which was “lick your plate” delicious. I will need a lot more practice to perfect the timing and flavoring. But if I say so myself, they were not too bad for first-time attempts.

Unfortunately I do not have an “after” photo of the beef version. To be perfectly honest, I was so excited to try it, the bowl disappeared before I remembered to shoot a picture.

Ingredients – Serves 4

Dangmyeon (sweet potato starch noodles)
Beef, chicken, pork, or turkey (optional)
Shiitake mushrooms (soaked in warm water)
Garlic, minced
Sugar
Soy sauce (Korean if available)
Sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Egg
Spinach
Green onions
White onion
Button mushrooms
Carrot (matchsticks)
Red bell pepper
Black pepper
Salt
Vegetable oil

Directions

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Slice into small bite-sized strips the meat and shiitake mushrooms. Place in a bowl. Marinate with 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp. sugar, 4-5 grinds black pepper, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil. Mix and place in fridge until ready.

Prepare the rest of your veggies as you would for any stir fry. Keep them separate from one another. They are all stir fried separately. I was lazy and bought a bag of carrot match sticks. Clean and slice mushrooms. Clean and cut bell pepper into matchsticks. Half a small white or yellow onion and then cut into thin slices. Clean and cut green onion into 1-inch sections.

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Separate egg yolk and save the white to use another day. Add a pinch of salt to yellow and stir in to break yolk. Heat nonstick frying pan. Turn off heat and add egg yellow. Roll in pan to thin it out. After the heat of the pan cooks it on one side, flip to cook other side. Takes about a minute per side. This egg garnish is called jidan. Let it cool and cut into very thin strips.

Blanch about 4 ounces of fresh spinach in pot of boiling water (a minute of less). I used bagged spinach so did not rinse it first. If you use un-bagged, then rinse it well before blanching. Run under cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze out the water and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in large bowl. Add 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil and mix well. Set aside.

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Use the spinach water and boil 4-6 ounces of noodles for about 8 minutes. Strain and rinse. They are super long so use a pair of scissors and cut them into shorter lengths. Not bite-sized, but long strands like boxed spaghetti length. Add them to the large bowl and season with 2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar. Mix well. Set aside.

Time to stir fry! Heat your non-stick frying pan (or wok) to medium high. Add some vegetable oil. Judge your own cook times. The first time I made this I over-cooked some of the veggies.

Start with the onion and green onion. Add a pinch of salt and cook for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add to the noodle bowl. Set aside.

Reheat the pan, add more vegetable oil, and stir fry mushrooms for 2 minutes. Add to noodle bowl.

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Reheat pan. Add more oil. Stir fry carrots for 20 seconds. Add bell pepper to the same pan and cook 20 more seconds. Transfer to noodle bowl.

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Reheat pan with oil. Stir fry the meat and mushroom mixture you marinated until meat is no longer pink. Transfer to the noodle bowl.

You are almost finished! Grab your noodle bowl and add another minced clove of garlic, 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon sugar, ground black pepper to taste, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds. Mix everything together. Sprinkle more sesame seeds on top to finish.

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I’m not sure what the Korean phrase for “dig in” is, but if I did, I would add it here! I’d love to hear from anyone who tried making this or has their own version to share! Leave comments below!

Not Your Momma’s Chicken and Rice

Not Your Momma’s Chicken and Rice

I was in the mood for chicken and rice last week but wanted a healthier option than I grew up with as a kid. I looked through my pantry and fridge for what I had on hand and typed a few of my available ingredients into Bing. Batta-boom. Chipotle Braised Chicken and Rice with Zucchini courtesy of Epicurious was just what the doctor ordered. I have included a link to the original recipes. I made a few twists and turns of my own. If you give it a try, let me know what adaptations you make!

Chipotle and Ancho Braised Chicken

Ingredients

1/2 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leafs
1 T butter
salt
pepper
1 1/2 T olive oil, divided
3-4 pounds chicken quarters
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili pepper
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

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Cook onion, garlic, and bay leaf in butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil with 1/8 teaspoon salt in a skillet over medium heat until onion starts to cook down and caramelize, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

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Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken in remaining tablespoon oil in and transfer to a plate.

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Stir in chile powders and onion mixture into pan and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add stock and simmer.

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Place chicken back in, and ladle some of the onions and broth over each piece. Cover and look on low 25-30 minutes. Turn once or twice to get flavor over entire pieces. Transfer chicken and onions with a slotted spoon to a platter. Skim off and discard fat from sauce, then boil until slightly thickened. Stir in lime juice and cilantro and spoon sauce over chicken.

Zucchini Rice

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice
1 3/4 cups cold water
3 T vegetable oil, divided
1 T coriander seeds, slightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch rounds, then quartered
1/2 cup chopped mixed cilantro, parsley, and mint
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup pecans toasted and coarsely chopped

Directions

Cook rice and water with 1 T oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 50 minutes. Place in bowl to cool down.

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Saute coriander and cumin in 2 T oil in skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.

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Add garlic, zucchini, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Saute until zucchini is crisp-tender, and slightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

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Toss zucchini with rice, chopped herb mixture, lemon juice, pecans, and salt and pepper to taste.

This made a delicious and healthy dinner if I do say so myself. I hope you will share your favorite chicken and rice dish! Please leave a comment and remember to friend me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/brad.nierenberg.9 and Twitter https://twitter.com/GourmandBrad

Buon appetito!