Tag Archives: chicken

Chicken-Swiss sandwich with sun-dried tomato pesto mayo

Hearty sandwiches on good crusty bread have always been one of my weaknesses (and Paul’s too). Really, we could live on interesting cheeses, fresh raw or grilled vegetables and mixed greens (and sometimes, free-range, sustainably raised, fresh meats) all piled onto crusty artesian bread slathered in a recent mayonnaise-based sauce. Unfortunately, a sandwich of this complexity can be one of the more expensive meals if you get the good bread from the bakery, and the fancy cheese and the high-quality meat from the deli. But we treated ourselves last night. And here OS what we created: chicken breast with Swiss cheese, mixed greens and a sun-dried tomato pesto mayonnaise.


Recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto:

8 oz sun-dried tomatoes (dehydrated/dried, not packed in oil or water)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all items in a food processor or blender and blend until desired coarseness. Add additional olive oil if necessary to alter consistency. Use as is on pasta or sandwiches, or blend at a 1:1 ratio with mayonnaise for a creamier sandwich spread.

To make chicken-Swiss sandwich:

Sautéed chicken breast in olive oil, salting and peppering to taste. Toast desired bread (we used a La Brea French loaf from the bakery at our Kroger). Spread pesto mayo on both sides of bread, add thinly sliced swiss cheese to one slice of bread, and place cooked chicken breast on top of cheese (to melt cheese). Pile with mixed greens and top with second slice of bread. Enjoy while still warm!

Post Script (for those interested in the process by which the recipes on this blog originate):
This is probably the most collaborative Paul and I have ever gotten in creating a meal for a single night. The process went something like this.

Paul: How about some sort of turkey melt sandwich?
Jess: What about something with sun-dried tomatoes?
Paul: Chicken would probably go better with sun-dried tomatoes.
Jess: And we need a type of cheese. What about Swiss? And then we could pile some mixed greens on top.
Paul: So, use like a bakery, French bread or baguette?
Jess: Probably a loaf that we can slice would work better.

…And then we went to the grocery stores.


California Rolls, They’re Unforgettable (Also Goodbye For Now)

Alas, I fear the time has come here at Cramped Kitchen to step away from the blog for the time being.  While I have immensely enjoyed opening my culinary world and sharing with you my many mishaps and occasional accidental successes, I find myself needing to take a prolonged break.  As my AmeriCorps term comes to a close in late August, it is time once again to begin job hunting, and when you add that on top of the 60 hour weeks I am currently doing at the Boys and Girls Club, I find myself with not a lot of free time.  It was a long and arduous decision, but in the end common sense and George Washington’s face helped me realize that those precious few free minutes every day should be spent with Jess rather than working on the blog (stupid heads, I should have known tails never fails).  Jess will continue to post here, and I hope to return in the fall when I find myself a full-time job.  I have had such a great time cooking and writing this for you, and I appreciate those of you who took the time to read it.  Even if you only read it once.  Or stumbled upon it by accident.  Or had to read it because I am your son and you are required to love me.  Regardless, thanks, and I hope you have enjoyed it.

Being that this is the last post for a while, I thought I would wait for something good to post about, and tonight is definitely the night.  We love cooking Asian-style food, and tonight we made chicken fried rice and homemade sushi rolls.  Now some of the people I went to college with are sushi snobs and would probably turn up their nose to our efforts, but I thought it was amazing.  We went with simple California rolls, which is crab, avocado, and cucumber rolled up with rice in seaweed.  It is actually a lot easier than you might think.  The key is spending the time to get the rice right.  We started with sushi rice, which we were able to buy in bulk for very cheap.  We used about 3 cups of dry rice, and ended up with 5 rolls.  The first step is to wash the rice thoroughly, rinsing until the water is no longer cloudy.  We then boiled it, as we do not have a rice cooker.  While the rice was cooking we heated some salt and sugar in rice vinegar until completely dissolved.  This mixture was mixed in with the rice after it had finished cooking and was set aside to cool.  Now I am not a big rice person, it was always too bland for me, but this simple addition added so much great flavor to the rice that I would have eaten it by itself.  Once the rice was done it was simply a matter of putting everything together.  Thin slices of avocado, cucumber, and imitation crab were placed on a bed of rice and rolled up in a sheet of seaweed.  It really was not a lot of work, and the taste was fantastic.  And considering it cost us less than $2 per roll to make, we will be trying this again very soon.  Maybe next time we will be more creative and try a more difficult roll.

The other part of our meal was a simple chicken fried rice, something I have been craving since I have been away from Appleton and separated from my baby.  This too was a simple dish.  We started with about 2 cups of rice, (we actually just made 1 big pot of rice for the sushi and the fried rice), and then stir fried it in our wok with mushrooms, carrots, peas, chicken, garlic, ginger, and some red pepper.  Once again, after cooking the rice, it is simply a matter of minutes to throw this dish together.  It was the perfect meal to go out on (temporarily).  It was so easy that I could make it, and it was so delicious I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.  And just like restaurant style Asian food, I ate half a plate and was full for about an hour, at which point I found myself starving again.

Check out more pictures here.

Following a Recipe: Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives (and Couscous on the side)

Tonight’s dinner was Mediterannean in inspiration. Chicken with mediterranean olives and couscous – the food so nice they named it twice! (Sorry…I couldn’t resist.)

Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives

2 chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
3 medium sized shallots, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup mixed olives (your favorites – kalamata, green, black, stuffed, marinated, etc. – even unpitted, as long as you warn your diners to beware of pits)
3/4 cup dry white wine
Olive oil
Fresh parsley, rough chopped
Salt and pepper

Season chicken with salt and pepper and saute in large skillet on medium heat, 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. In same skillet, add shallots and saute for 5 minutes, until tender. Add tomatoes, olives and garlic and saute for 3 more minutes. Nestle chicken back in pan, add wine and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 5-10 more minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breasts. Stir in parsley just before serving. Serve with rice, over noodles, alone, or with mediterranean-inspired sides of your choice (such as the couscous recipe that follows). Enjoy!

Jess’ Couscous

2 cups couscous
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cucumber, sliced lengthwise and then into thin slices
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 green onions, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pour boiling water over couscous in bowl, cover, and allow to set until couscous is soft (between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on the variety of couscous you use). Meanwhile, chop tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro and green onions, and put in large bowl. When couscous is soft, add to vegetables. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with main dish, or enjoy as a light lunch.

Following a Recipe: Roasted Chicken, Apples and Leeks

Paul and I had never bought leeks before. In fact, until I got to the checkout line at the coop, and saw on the little screen what she rung up, I wasn’t actually sure I’d even picked out the right thing in the produce section. Needless to say, I had.

Roasted Chicken, Apples and Leeks

2 small apples (we used Fuji and they provided a fantastic balance of sweet and sour in the dish)
2 leeks
olive oil
salt and pepper
rosemary (we used dried because we could find fresh, but fresh would be ideal)
4-6 chicken drumsticks, thighs or wings (about 1 to 1-1/2 lbs chicken)


Preheat over to 400 degrees. Quarter apples and cut out seeds. Slice leeks in half length wise, and then into 2-inch long segments. (I used the entire leek, dark green leaves and all, but some people prefer to use only the light green and white portions.) Toss leeks and apples with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary in roasting pan or casserole dish. If using dark green leek leaves, make sure these are well-coated with olive oil, otherwise they can easily dry out. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and place skin side up in roasting pan amidst apples and leeks. Place pan on center rack in oven, and roast until chicken is cooked through, about 40-45 minutes. Remove and let set for another few minutes, to allow juices to soak back into the chicken. Enjoy as a complete meal, or serve, as I did, with these garlic, onion, and fontina mashed potatoes. (My tip: take a bite of the green leek leaves with a bite of apple. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and salty, chewy and creamy.)

(See the original recipe here.)

Childhood memories

Updated: Scroll down for a picture of Paul’s delicious chicken!

Everyone has a list of food they absolutely loved when they were a child.  Maybe it is a simple classic that their mom made them everyday for lunch.  Or maybe it is a special treat they wanted on important days like birthdays.  Whatever they are, these foods conjure up warm happy feelings inside the individual, remembering how much they loved to eat that food.

For me, chicken and peanut sauce was NOT one of those things.  In fact, I always hated when we had it.  I don’t know if that is because I didn’t really like peanut butter until I got to college, or if it was because we ate it with angel hair pasta which I did not like, or if it was because it was my sister’s favorite meal.  Yeah, I’m weird about food like that. For instance, if I go to a restaurant I can’t order the same thing someone else at the table is getting.  It’s one of my rare faults. Anyways, I never really got into chicken and peanut sauce, but the other day Jess was commenting on how I don’t really cook anything exciting anymore, as shown by my lack of blog posts recently.  So I tried to come up with something I could make her for Wednesday night when she had her lab and would be home late.  I was thinking of memorable dishes from my childhood and I came to this one.  I figured that now that I like peanut butter it would be ok, especially since it would be with spaghetti and not angel hair.

I couldn’t really find a recipe online that I really liked so I ended up combining 3 or 4 of them.  Prolly not the best idea, but it worked out ok. It took a little longer than I would have liked, but that might have just been me being slow.  In the end it tasted great, with just a little hint of spicy to pick it up.  My sister would have been proud.

Paul’s Chicken with Peanut Sauce

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water
minced garlic
1/2 onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1 can chicken broth
ground cayenne red pepper
red pepper flakes
coconut milk (optional)

Saute chicken in pan with 2 tbsp oil, season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, and water in a small bowl.  Mix until all chunks are removed and you have a smooth consistency throughout. In a separate saute pan heat garlic, onions, and green pepper in 2 tbsp olive oil for 5 minutes.  Then add chicken broth and simmer until it has reduced by about half. Add the peanut butter mixture.  Stir thoroughly.  Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the sauce.  If necessary add coconut milk to get the right consistency. Add cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you want it. Serve over your choice of pasta.

Curry Fever

Forward note: This post is written with a nod to our friends: Aneesh, Mads, and James’ VR mug (from which I borrowed the title of the post).

Updated 10-27-09: See pictures of our Indian feast!

Sai Ram brunch. Thursday night Indian food at Downer (the good nights). The delicous Indian food Mads and Aneesh cooked for us at the cottage for New Year’s. Mads’ mom’s delicious meal during graduation weekend.

These are my delicious memories of Indian food. Notice none of them occur during the time Paul and I have spent in Bloomington. So, naturally, we’ve had a hankering for Indian food recently. And, because we’re poor and can’t afford to go out to dinner for the real thing, last Sunday night, we decided to bite the bullet and try to make it ourselves.

Having watched the magic and mystery that is anyone cooking Indian food, one could naturally conclude that it is extremely difficult. Mads and Aneesh spent upwards of 2 or 3 hours in the cottage kitchen cooking for us: chopping dozens of vegetables, stewing this, sautéing that, steaming this, and adding spices upon spices with such apparent ease that I had to simply chalk it up to it being in their blood. Once we tasted the product, I knew that there was no way I’d ever be able to make something that tasted that good.

But we decided to try to at least concoct something edible. Chicken curry – that seemed classic enough, and with no mashing of mysterious, rare ingredients. So we began with an online search for “Chicken Curry Recipes.” A word for the wise here: don’t ever do that. There are like twelve thousand million different chicken curry recipes out there: South Indian Chicken Curry, Malay Chicken Curry, Coconut Chicken Curry, North Indian Chicken Curry, Kerala Chicken Curry, Bobby Flay’s Chicken Curry, and on, and on, and on. And it’s not like looking up recipes for Chicken soup, where they’re all pretty much the same. Every single curry recipe was different. Different spices, different bases, different order of cooking ingredients, different cooking times, different cooking vessels…yikes! So, I began sifting through them and searching for one that seemed kind of parallel to the simple verbal recipe I’d received from Aneesh: sauté some onions, garlic and ginger; add curry, tomatoes, chicken and water; simmer. And I wanted one that included, ideally, cauliflower, peas, and potatoes, because I like them in Indian food. No small task.

What I ended up with was a recipe that basically had the same order of operations given by Aneesh, with spices that I actually had in the cupboard, and I thought I could just throw in the veggies and it’d be fine. It may not be authentic Indian, but as I am not authentic Indian and Paul is not an authentic Indian, I didn’t care. (Heck, I don’t even know what the phrase “authentic Indian” means. If your curious, this blog by an authentic Indian studying the Indian diaspora may shed some light.)

So, I began, editing the instructions at will, as I usually do. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I never actually follow recipes. Even to make something as simple as pancakes.) And, after an hour and a half or more of cooking, I had a vat – literally, a vat, to feed 10 people – of my own chicken curry. It smelled like curry, looked like curry, and, to my great surprise and delight, tasted like curry! (Not as good as yours however, Aneesh; don’t worry.)

But the hardest part was yet to come: making the rice. Paul and I rarely eat rice. Neither of us really like it plain, so we only cook it in things, and even then rarely. So at the store, we’d bought the cheapest rice possible, and that came in a bag. After we’d used it once, we put the remainder in a tupperware container. This is where our problem lay: we had no back-of-the-box instructions to follow. And I forgot whether we had instant rice or real rice. So Paul searched the internet, and initially came up with dozens of sets of instructions, all some variation of “follow the back of the box.” Helpful, internet. Thanks so much. Finally, he did find something that at least gave proportions of rice to water and how many people X amount of rice would serve. We guessed on the rest, and it mostly worked (although we had to cook it longer than expected because it was a little watery).

Curry: check. Rice: check. Naan bread: check (Paul had made this while I was brewing the curry). Authentic Indian meal: maybe. You’ll have to judge for yourself based on the pictures (which, as I am writing this post from school, will be coming as soon as I get home and can upload them from the camera). We do have just slightly less than a vat of curry left, however. So if you come visit us in the next month or so, you just might be able to try some!

Here is an approximate reproduction of my curry recipe.

Jess’ Chicken Curry with potatoes, cauliflower, peas and peppers

Yield: 1 vat of curry (but, honestly, 1 brimming 8 qt pot)


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large cubes

1 large onion
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger (you got a better way to measure it when you’re at the supermarket?), grated
2 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic (because I hate cutting it up myself; it makes your hands stink)
2 tablespoons cooking oil (I know, Mads’ and Aneesh, you guys use butter; but this is healthier)
1 chopped fresh cayenne pepper
1 large tomato, diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce (or paste; sauce was just what we had on hand)

4 tablespoons curry powder (yes, I thought it was a lot, too; just do it)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (could reduce or omit this, I think)
1-2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon crushed bay leaves (or 1 whole bay leaf)
1/2 -1 teaspoon ground black pepper (because I like it)
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (NOTE: this gives it a hefty kick; tone this down – a lot – if you don’t like spicy foods)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (also, you could omit this; I think it just cuts the spice a little bit)
salt to taste

Veggies: (add any or all or others you have on hand)
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (because they were going to go bad if I didn’t use them)
1/2 green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped cauliflower florets
2 medium-sized potatoes (approximately 1 1/2 cups), cut into small cubes
1 cup frozen peas and carrots (or just peas; I had peas and carrots open in the freezer)


To make curry base, sauté onions, garlic, chopped cayenne pepper, and ginger in the bottom of a large soup pot, until very tender and slightly pasty. Add all the spices, stirring well to mix between each addition. Add tomatoes and tomato paste Allow flavors to blent, stirring frequently over medium heat for about 10 minutes. This will yield a thick, pasty base that smells delicious. Add chicken chunks, stirring to coat with base, and enough water to cover. Allow to simmer on low to medium for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Chop the vegetables during this time, adding the potatoes as soon as they are chopped along with more water to cover. Add the remainder of the veggies, and water to cover, if needed. Curry should have the look of a soup with broth to cover the veggies and chicken. Simmer on low for another 10-20 minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked and vegetables are desired tenderness. Serve over white rice, with sauteed spinach and naan bread. Enjoy!

Southern Comfort

Paul and I made fried chicken, mashed potatoes with green onions, and our favorite spicy kale tonight! If we’d had remembered to make the biscuits from the tube we had in the fridge, it would have been the ultimate comfort food meal. No time for much more but pictures now. But I promise the recipes for our spicy kale (one of our favorite ways to get our vitamins) and, of course, for the delicious chicken soon!