Grilled Chicken and Mango Salad

Serves 4

Sometimes I just want a bowl of raw, fresh greens.  It happens either when it’s warm out or just as a simple craving (remnants from my vegetarian past maybe), but this time it was a real need.  Too much wheat in the week naturally leads me to a bowl of the opposite.  There goes the wisdom of the body seeking balance on its own!

The grilled chicken breast has its own story.

This chicken lived a good life.  It roamed around freely and ate worms, insects and grass and all the other things chickens eat.  It hung out in the sun and got its feathers ruffled by the wind.  It chased other chickens and got chased a bit, too.  It was a happy chicken.  The farmers who send us our CSA shipments seem like very happy farmers who love their jobs and their animals.  So, when we get our whole chicken delivered, breaking it down is the next step and we feel like we’re participating in this whole, loving process of getting our food from the farm to our table.

(In lieu of a video of me breaking down a chicken, (I’m quite good at it, but sorry, no time to get to this step!), check out this link which I think does a great job of simplifying what may seem like a daunting task.)

Anyway, our happy chicken comes with great health benefits and is SO MUCH tastier than any conventional chicken.  Pastured* organic chickens are leaner which means lower in fat.  Because they grazed on greens, they and their eggs are loaded with Omega 3s, Vitamins A and E as compared to their caged, warehoused counterparts.  They are also free of antibiotics, which is no small thing!  No antibiotics means they weren’t sick to begin with!  Not to mention they are free of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.  It’s nice to eat poison-free food!  It also wasn’t artificially fattened.  As a result, this chicken looks and tastes different.  Even the breasts are juicy and tender, which is a bonus for me since I’m not a fan of white meat.  (I know it’s bizarre that I prefer dark meat and red meat…I have no logical explanation.)

You’ll need:

For the Chicken:

2 split chicken breasts

1 T olive oil

1 t Herbs de Provence

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt

Dressing:

1/4 C golden balsamic vinegar

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1 T dijon mustard

1 t maple syrup

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad:

Baby greens or romaine lettuce

1 mango, diced

1/2 C candied pecans, chopped

1/4 C sunflower seeds, toasted

To make:

Chicken:

1. Wash and dry chicken breasts, then generously season with salt.  Add lemon juice and olive oil and lastly the Herbs de Provence.  Let sit for at least an hour in the fridge.

2. Heat a stove-top grill (or a real one, by all means!) over med-high heat.  Take chicken out and let sit at room temp for about 10 minutes before grilling.  You’ll have to be the judge on time since there are so many X factors, but I grilled for about 12 minutes on one side, then about 10 on the other.  (These chicken breasts also needed a bit of grill time on their sides which they got for a few minutes each.)  Internal temps should be 165 degrees.

3. When done, cut chicken into strips and set aside.

Dressing:

1. Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.  Taste test with a bit of lettuce/greens and adjust accordingly.  A bit of lemon juice may round things out a bit if you’re not sure what it needs.

2. Just before assembling salad, dress the greens in dressing reserving some for chicken at the end.

Get your salad on:

1. With dressed greens in bowls, top with mango, pecans and sunflower seeds.  Lastly, top with chicken and IF you think it needs it, add more dressing.

2. Enjoy!

*A quick word on free-range vs. pastured chickens.  Unfortunately the regulations are loose and therefore the definitions are, too.  A free-range chicken can mean that the chicken saw a few minutes of daylight on a concrete slab before heading back into a crowded warehouse.  Pastured means the chickens at least got access to grass and natural, wild food.  It’s tough to tell what’s best by the labels.  My two cents is, if possible, get your animal protein directly from a reputable farm.  For more info, http://www.motherearthnews.com/Relish/Free-Range-Versus-Pastured-Chicken-And-Eggs.aspx

Advertisements

Black Beans with Shredded Chicken and Apple Salsa

Serves 4

I really fell in love with this bean, also known as the turtle bean, when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were in Costa Rica for some time.  (Long story short, we came back home married, much to everyone’s surprise:)  Their ubiquitous “gallo pinto” is served as a side with everything and it is highly addicting!  The versatility of black beans gives them high marks in my kitchen.  They hold up well in veggie burgers and yet can be velvety smooth as soup.

Why eat black beans?  Well, there’s protein and fiber in a magical combination that supports digestive health, blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular health.  Then there are all those antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients…just eat them!  And if you can, do so regularly!

This particular recipe was in Bon Appetit not too long ago.  I deviated from it as usual, but rest assured that whatever variations you bring to the dish will surely be successful.  The stars of this show are the beans and the contrast of the apple salsa, so as long as those are full of love and flavor, this one will be a hit with almost everyone!  Even kiddies! (Vegetarians – seriously, omitting the chicken will not affect how delish this dish is!)

Pura Vida!

You’ll need:
for the rice and beans:
1 C brown rice, soaked in 2C water + 1T lemon juice overnight
1 C dried black beans, soaked overnight (alternatively, you could use 2 cans of organic black beans)
1 1″piece of kombu
1 bay leaf
4-6 C vegetable stock or water
1 large red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 t cumin seeds, toasted (optional on the toasting)
1/2 t ground coriander

for the chicken:
1 lb chicken (I like to use thighs and legs)

some fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

sprinkling of ground cumin

for the salsa:
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
2 T cilantro, chopped (or more if you love it!)
2 scallions, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime (or lemon if you don’t have limes)
sea salt to taste

To make:

Preheat oven to 350.

1. Cook the rice- Add a pinch of salt and set on high heat until it reaches a boil. Then reduce to simmer and cover.  It should take about 40 minutes.  (Yes, you are cooking the rice in the same water it soaked in.)
2. Cook the beans- Discard soaking water and rinse beans.  Put beans in a pot with water (or stock), kombu and bay leaf over high heat until it reaches a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until beans are tender.
3. Get the chicken in the oven- Once rinsed and dried, sprinkle with salt (be generous), pepper and some cumin and add lemon juice.  (Sometimes I add a touch of olive oil for good measure.)  Let roast in the oven until done, about 40 minutes depending on cuts used.
4. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and add onions.  After about 5 minutes, add the garlic, cumin seeds and coriander.  Caramelize until tender and slightly browned.
5. When beans are done, add beans to onion mixture with just enough liquid as you would like.  Over low heat, let cook to allow the onions to soak the beans with flavor.  In the meantime, shred the chicken.
6. To serve- Place rice and beans on plate and top with shredded chicken.  Top that with the apple salsa and serve with extra lime wedges.
7. YUM!

P.S. There are ways to make this seemingly involved dinner easier such as using canned beans and buying a rotisserie chicken.  But to be honest, it takes me about 20-25 minutes to get everything prepped and cooking.  Once it’s on the stove/in the oven, dinner’s pretty much done;)