Dinnertime Prep: Slow Cooker Coconut Curry

That’s right it is time for the prep work for dinner. This is one of my favorite easy weeknight meals. While I work from home now, I used to make this all the time when I was working. It is a simple recipe and when I have a busy day ahead, I can prep all of the ingredients the night before and then just put them into the crockpot in the morning and forget about it for the day. It is a longer list of ingredients but many of them are staple pantry items that I almost always have on hand. So making it only requires a little shopping for fresh veg.

Ingredients:

1 can coconut milk (928 per can)

1 coconut milk can’s worth of water (0 cal)

a head of broccoli (60 cal in three cups, which was what my broccoli head yielded)

1 can chickpeas, drained (506 cal per can)

1 sweet potato, cubed (I go with larger cubes so they retain their texture over the long slow cook (114 cal)

1 yellow onion diced (115 cal)

2 cloves minced garlic (8 calories)

2 tsp grated ginger (2 cal)

1 tsp red pepper flakes (6 calories)

1 T ground turmeric (24 calories)

1T cumin (22 calories)

1T paprika (19 calories)

2 tsp salt

28 oz can diced tomatoes (254 calories)

and rice for serving (make separately)

Without the rice the calories for this entire slow cooker’s worth of food is 2058 calories. It gives me and my babydoll four meals. There are two of us so this is eight portions. Each portion is approximately 258 calories without rice. I usually have half a cup of cooked white rice with my portion which adds 121 calories so for me a portion would be about 379 calories. You might separate it differently so I put the calories for the whole thing above. Hopefully that helps you out with your math.

Are you ready for the directions?

  • put the sweet potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Add everything except the broccoli
  • If you are home when this is cooking, leave out the broccoli at this point and turn the slow cooker on low for 8 hours or high for four.
  • If cooking for eight hours add one additional cup of water.
  • In the last hour of cooking, add the broccoli and allow it to finish cooking.
  • If you are not home to add the broccoli for the last hour, layer it on top of everything else and don’t mix it in before setting it on to cook. It will still be okay if you add it earlier it will still be good, just softer. Sometimes I like to have left over broccoli (pre cooked) that I just add in the last few minutes to warm up with the rest of the curry. It is something to play with, depending on how you feel about broccoli.

This is really a super simple recipe to make and I find it really delicious. I personally like the heat level on this but my babydoll does add a squirt of siracha to his bowl. In addition, when I make this, it does make enough for use to have four meals. (there are two of us). I only make enough rice for us to eat with that night’s portion and we mix the rise with the curry in our bowls. This mix does freeze very well actually. The broccoli suffers a little with the reheat, but over all it is great to have extra meals ready to go when things get hectic so I will take a little broccoli wiltage for that.

We eat this as a nice hearty vegetarian meal. You an of course add chicken to it if you wanted. Occasionally I have added chicken to use up left overs. However I don’t think that this meal needs the addition. It is hearty and filling and feels far more caloric than it actually is. (In case you are wondering what the speckles are in the picture, we had a little quinoa left in the bag that wasn’t enough for a portion so to clear the cabinet I added it – you can put it in raw and it cooks with everything else, just add about half a cup more water. It mostly breaks down and thickens the sauce) I find it especially satisfying on a cold evening when the wind is icy and I need warming from my bones outward.



Dinnertime Prep: A different sort of stuffed pepper, Chicken Parm Style

This is the time of year where I crave the warm and rich flavors of large meals. And I have to admit that I love a good chicken parmesan. I know there are ways to reduce the calories in a traditional chicken parm but I also have to admit that whenever I use them I feel like I am eating a chicken parm substitute.

So for me, the best way to get my brain shifted is to think stuffed peppers with a twist. While I like stuffed peppers, I never really crave stuffed peppers. For me at least, they are not in the same crave-able category. I find that if I say stuffed peppers with a twist my brain doesn’t have the gooey chicken parmesan expectations so instead of being disappointed that this isn’t a traditional dish, I am pleasantly surprised by the flavors.

And I am surprised by the lowered calories. Because the one thing this recipe does, is limit the amount of cheese used. There simply isn’t enough space to put the same heaping mounds as I do with the traditional dish. For this recipe I used four peppers (two red Bell and two Poblano). I like both actually. For a light dinner I generally find that one half of the bell pepper is the perfect size for me. My babydoll likes both poblanos or one entire red pepper). The peppers are still good the next day so we have the left overs for lunch. They reheat pretty well the next day. I have never had them last longer than one day so I am not certain how well they keep long term.

The reason that we make this number of peppers is because when we purchase chicken we break it into one pound portions and freeze it that way. If we use four bell peppers it uses up all of the one pound of chicken, with the poblanos it leaves a little left over chicken that I use in a salad.

If you don’t eat chicken, feel free to leave it off. (You will also be able to leave off the egg.) Instead just use the seasoned panko as your crispy element)

It is a pretty simple recipe all told and fun to play around with. I broke out the calories for each item and put the full count for the whole recipe as I made it as well as for my portion size at the bottom of the ingredients list. This is how I make it, but hopefully the break out will let you tweak it to your individual needs)so let’s get into it.

Ingredients:

4 peppers (bell, poblano or a mix of your choice) – 24 cal per bell pepper (whole), 48 calories per poblano pepper)

one cup of marinara sauce (131 calories for the whole cup, 8 per tablespoon)

half a cup of grated parmesan cheese (216 per half cup, 22 calories per tablespoon)

four ounces of mozzarella cheese (316 for four ounces, 79 cal in one ounce)

one pound of chicken cut into small pieces (can use breast or thigh as is your choice) (breast:748 in one pound, 62 calories in one half pepper full thigh:802 cal per pound122 cal per half pepper

once cup unseasoned panko bread crumbs (you will have some left over, (640 cal per cup/ 80 cal per half pepper which I use for the final count but I never use all of the crumbs)

one egg (78 cal 8 cal per portion)

two tsp dried oregano (6 cal per whole recipe)

1 tsp dried rosemary (3 cal per whole recipe)

2 tsp garlic powder (3 cal per recipe)

1 tsp dried onion flakes (17 cal per recipe)

eight fresh basil leaves (if you have them, if not add 1 tsp dried basil) (three cal per recipe)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (83 Cal)

Approximate Calories for the entire recipe: 2,438 calories for the entire dish

Approximate Calories per portion size (one half of a bell pepper) apx 305 calories for one portion

Steps:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Chicken or crispy bits (if no chicken):

  • In a plastic container with a lid add oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes and if using dried basil (if using fresh, set the leaves aside for now).
  • Add in the panko bread crumbs.
  • Put the lid on and shake the mix to combine all of the ingredients. Then taste the bread crumbs and adjust, if you need more salt or pepper, add it now. This is the seasoning for your chicken so make sure it suits your taste.
  • in a separate bowl, whip your egg with a fork.
  • Then we bread. Dip your chicken in the egg and then into the bread crumb mix. I like to add a few pieces to the mix, put the lid on and shake, then put the coated pieces on a plate until everything is done. I find it stays neater this way.
  • Discard whatever bread crumbs remain after this as they are now contaminated with raw chicken.
  • If not using chicken, make the mix as above.

To the Stove top!

  • Take your breaded chicken bits, or seasoned bread crumbs if not using chicken, to the stove.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in the pan on medium heat and when a bread crumb dropped in sizzles, start adding the chicken. You are trying to get a crisp on the bread crumbs. You are also cooking the chicken somewhat (about 80%). If there are some pink bits when you are done, that is okay as it is going into the oven. This is to start the cooking process so everything is done at the same time and to crisp the bread crumbs.
  • Work in batches so that you get all of the chicken crisped up and at least partially cooked through.
  • If not using chickee, heat the oil on medium heat and then add the bread crumbs to toast in the hot oil. When they are golden brown remove from the heat and set aside (I like to put them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil – i do this with just the bread crumbs as well as the chicken bits)
  • Once the chicken is done I set it aside and clear away the breading station and sauté pan.

Preparing the peppers

  • Slice in half and take out the seeds.
  • put the peppers in a glass baking dish. I like to line them up so they help keep each other upright like little cups.
  • Add a Tablespoon (more if you like) of marinara to each pepper half.
  • Add a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese to each pepper half.
  • Add in your chicken or a heaping spoonful of your toasted bread crumbs. (The part that touches the sauce below and the cheese above will loose some of it’s crispness, so don’t try and be neat with the laying out of the crispy bits. it is the center part that will stay crisp so sort of mound the chicken or bread crumbs.)
  • Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese (you are welcome to use grated if you like, just make sure you have a thick layer. You need the moisture inside keeping the chicken from drying out and you want the bread crumbs protected so they don’t burn. I find it easier to have a block of mozzarella and slice it into the appropriate amount. If you find mozzarella difficult to slice, put it in the freezer for ten minutes and then slice. you don’t want to actually freeze it, you just want to get it firm with the cold.)
  • Once everything is assembled put it into the over for 45 minutes. Or until the mozzarella is bubbling with brown spots and the pepper is kind of wrinkly and saggy looking and cooked all the way through. Serve hot.

I love this recipe because it reduces both the amount of chicken and the amount of cheese I consume in a sitting, yet still makes me feel like i am having something just a little bit decadent. I actually use this technique for a lot of heavier dishes I like. I will make Chicken cordon bleu peppers for example. The trick is to take the key elements of the heavier dish and shrink down the portions while still retaining the flavor. It also helps that I live with someone who loves stuffed peppers regardless of what is stuffed into them. For me this is a quick and easy dinner with left overs that can be eaten the next day.

If you are on your own or find that this portion is too much for your household, you can prepare the recipe as above. If leaving out the chicken just toast a smaller amount of bread crumbs for your portion size. If using the chicken make sure to cook it all the way through if reserving for another night, or just cook a smaller amount of chicken, one breast or thigh instead of one pound. When I lived on my own i would just make this as a single pepper meal. and used one chicken thigh. I ate one half for dinner and ate the second one the next day. It is a very scalable meal

The colder weather brings out the yearning for some old school comfort foods. with a little adjustment this is one of the recipes I use to give me that comforting flavor, while keeping the calories in check. I hope it helps you as you move from fall to winter as well.