What I’ve Been Eating

I’m still loving that farro and kale salad that I mentioned back in February, especially now in the summer months when I don’t always want to eat something piping hot. Sometimes I eat a big bowl of it for a meal but more often than not I eat it as a side dish.

The farro, cucumber, sunflower seeds, cranberries and balsamic/honey dressing are the foundation of the salad but I’ve been but I’ve been swapping out the kale with whatever greens I can find on sale or adding additional veggies like bell peppers for extra crunch. Sometimes I’ll add shredded rotisserie chicken from the market or fry up some diced cubes of tofu for extra protein. It’s a pretty versatile recipe that’s become a staple in my kitchen. Highly recommend.

I’ve also been obsessed with this Braised Chicken Thighs recipe from the May 2015 issue of EveryDay with Rachael Ray magazine. I can’t stand Rachael Ray. Her personality and voice grate but occasionally she has some good recipes. I just make sure to stick to her magazine and website.

Braised Chicken Thighs & Roast Broccolini with Feta

Serves 4

  • 4-5 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 2 lemons — 1 sliced, 1 juiced (about 4 tbsp.)
  • 1 small head garlic (7 to 8 cloves), cloves peeled and sliced
  • 1 small chile pepper, chopped, or 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 sprig oregano, leaves stripped and chopped (about 1 tbsp.), or 1 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Greek
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 bundles broccolini or baby broccoli, ends trimmed
  • 4 oz. feta, preferably Greek, drained and crumbled (about 1 cup)
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 450.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron or deep skillet over medium-high. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil, two turns of the pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook, turning once, until browned, 7 to 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add the sliced lemon, half the sliced garlic, and the chile and oregano to the skillet and stir for 1 minute. Add the wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Return the chicken to the skillet; spoon the pan juices over the thighs. Partially cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add the parsley and lemon juice.
  3. Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, arrange the broccolini in a single layer. Toss with 2 to 3 tbsp. olive oil and the remaining garlic; season. Roast until the tips of the florets are browned and crispy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Divide chicken among plates. Top with lemon slices and pan juices. Serve with the broccolini topped with feta.

When I made the recipe I only made the chicken part since I didn’t have any broccolini or feta. I made the mistake of adding all of the garlic (the chicken only needs half a head a garlic, the other half is supposed to be for the broccolini) but amazingly it came out fantastic. If you love garlicky chicken, then this is the recipe for you. It’s incredibly simple (a one pot dish essentially) and relatively quick to make and the chicken always comes out super juicy and flavorful.

The only intentional change to the recipe I made was to swap out the wine for chicken broth since I don’t usually drink wine. I also used fresh basil instead of parsley and oregano because that’s what I had on hand and it was fab. I’m sure any herb would work.

I’ve also tried the recipe using firm tofu that I sliced and pan seared first. It was okay but definitely not as good as the chicken version. The flavors didn’t seem to penetrate into the tofu as well. If I make it with tofu again, I would marinate it for a few hours before searing.

And, of course, I served it up with the farro salad on the side. Yum!

Trader Joe’s not the most economical place to shop especially if you’re working with a budget. I never buy fruits or vegetables there — their produce is way overpriced — but they have great deals on a lot of their pantry items. I love buying nuts/seeds there because they’re a good price. Also, the turnover rate of goods at TJ’s is excellent because they’re such a small store, so I always know the nuts are fresh and haven’t been sitting on a shelf for months. I’ve yet to encounter a rancid nut.

1 lb of roasted and salted sunflower seeds was $1.99 and 12 oz of chia seeds cost $4.99. The farro (8.8 oz) was $1.79 and the manuka honey (8.8 oz) was $10.99. I bought the honey for skincare purposes based on tarababyz raves. She has dry skin and uses a different, larger, pricier jar of manuka honey that was $30+ from an e-tailer. I was hesitant about investing that much on a product I wasn’t sure was worth the hype so I was happy to find this smaller, more affordable jar at Trader Joe’s. It’s really thick and has almost an herbal, medicinal smell and taste.

I know I once complained about the quantity of farro that comes in a bag. If you eat it plain it’s not a very good value. But if you bulk it up with lots of veggies and protein the way I’ve been doing lately, you can really stretch the number of servings you get out of it. When I make my farro salad, I usually have enough leftovers for two people for at least a week.

I also tried chia seeds for the first time ever. I watch a lot of food vlogs on YouTube, mainly vegan/vegetarian ones for inspiration, and I’ve been intrigued by chia for the longest time now. You soak these little seeds overnight that kind of look like poppy seeds and the next morning you have something with a pudding-like consistency.

The first time I tried chia seeds, I made a chocolate pudding by adding milk, cocoa powder and maple syrup. I found a bunch of recipes for chocolate chia pudding on Pinterest and for some reason they all used maple syrup as the sweetener. Personally, I didn’t care for the taste. The maple syrup was too prominent and I could barely taste the cocoa. If I had to do it all over again I would’ve used a sweetener with a neutral flavor like plain sugar.

The second time I used chia seeds I made a banana pudding. I used one ripe banana, sugar and milk and it came out so good. Now that recipe I would recommend.

As for the consistency of the soaked chia seeds, it’s really interesting. I would say it has the gelatinous consistency of tapioca pearls or sago, except for the center which stays a bit crunchy like a poppy seed. Imagine sago/tapioca pearl with a poppy seed in the middle and that’s basically what chia pudding is. The chia is pretty much flavorless but it absorbs whatever flavors you add to it.

Next time I’m going to make coconut pudding with coconut milk and sugar. I love chilled coconut sago (tapioca pearl soup) as a dessert in the summertime — if you’re Asian you probably know what I’m talking about — so I’m certain the same concept and flavors will work with chia seeds.

For those lazy weekends when I don’t feel like doing anything elaborate, I’ve been making quesadillas. Mine are super simple: some greens (spinach or whatever I have in the fridge) and cheese that I shred myself tossed with a bit of taco seasoning for flavor (which is basically Kraft’s “Mexican cheese” in the dairy section of the supermarket minus the jacked up price tag).

I always eat my quesadillas with a crap ton of sour cream. Salsa I can take it or leave it but sour cream is a must.