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May 31, 2015

West African chicken mafé (chicken stew in peanut sauce) {gluten-free}

West African chicken and peanut stew: gluten-free, dairy-free, party-easy!

Ever since sixth grade, when I used my required year-long project to learn all about Ghana -- history, culture, geography, show and tell, and lots of book reports -- I've longed to travel to that part of the world. Recently, while flipping through one of my favorite mail-order catalogs, I spied a jar of West African maffé sauce. As I read more about it, I realized it was simply a shortcut sauce to use as a base for chicken mafé (yes, different spelling, but the same thing), a rich, thick stew combining peanuts (or peanut butter), tomato and a few spices you already have in your pantry. With coconut milk as the foundation, West African chicken stew is a perfectly rich and thick dish that happens to be both gluten-free and dairy-free. One jalapeño pepper, with the seeds and ribs removed, provides just the right amount of heat without overwhelming the peanut flavor; although the cayenne pepper really adds to the flavor of the chicken, you can cut the amount in half, or omit it. Serve the stew over rice, and it's a feast in a bowl, great for entertaining but easy enough for everyday.

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May 3, 2015

Spanish chicken with saffron and green olives {gluten-free}

Spanish chicken with olives, an easy party dish with real wow!

Whenever my parents entertained, my mother served one of her party dishes, a short list of easy-to-cook chicken (always chicken) dinners with a wow factor. She never made those dishes for everyday dinners, only for parties. I'm not sure why, but that's how she rolled. Mother would have added this Spanish chicken to the party list, because it's really easy on the cook (though it looks complicated), and it's beautiful on the plate. I want you to enjoy it on a weeknight, for lunch, for no particular occasion, or even on a picnic. The wow factor comes from a pinch of saffron, and some smoked paprika (pimentón), which is much easier to find these days, even in the grocery store. Smoked paprika comes in several degrees of heat; dulce (sweet, with no heat) is the most common, but if you can find picante (hot), that's the one I like to use here. This is not a hot and spicy recipe, and I know that, even if you think you don't like hot food, you'll miss the slight bit of hot paprika if it's not there. If you can't find picante, use regular smoked paprika and add the tiniest pinch of cayenne. Put this dish on your party list, and on your everyday list, too.

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March 22, 2015

Lighter chicken and black bean enchiladas

Lighter chicken and black bean enchiladas, fun to make with the kids!

In the house where I grew up, nary an enchilada graced our dinner table. In fact, we never ate any Tex-Mex or Mexican food at all. (A deprived childhood. I know that now.) In my own kitchen, I love to create pans of enchiladas with leftover bits from the Thanksgiving table, and sometimes I make the classic combos, too. This version of the popular creamy chicken and black bean enchiladas is a little bit healthier without losing any of the gooey goodness that makes them crave-worthy. Use whole wheat low-carb tortillas, low-fat cheese, and nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in the filling; you won't miss a few calories and carbs. I love my own crazy mixed-up red enchilada sauce, which gets its light, bright flavor from sofrito; a good-quality canned sauce will be fine if you don't have time to make your own. The small amount of green chiles doesn't make these very spicy, but you can leave them out if you wish. Let your kids help you fill and roll the enchiladas for some family fun in the kitchen.

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March 4, 2015

Grilled curry chicken with chutney and rice {gluten-free}

Use your panini press or broiler to grill this easy curry chicken.

The weather outside has been frightful, but chicken cooked on a grill is always delightful. If you like to stand outside in your coat, scarf and mittens and tend the grill, my hat's off to you. However, a grill pan on the stove or, in this case, a panini press, can give you that grill char you love, without suffering in the cold for it. The secret to great curry chicken is a long marinade, so start this recipe in the morning for dinner, or even the night before. Toss together the marinade ingredients, and pour them over the chicken. Refrigerate, and it will be ready to grill when you're ready. You can broil this in the oven, but a grill pan or panini press will give you those beautiful marks as well as the smoky grill flavor. Double the recipe, while you've got the grill heated; you can refrigerate or even freeze the leftovers for sandwiches, stews and curries. What a great way to banish winter.

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March 1, 2015

Pressure cooker barley soup with chicken, sausage, mushrooms and leeks

Make this pressure cooker barley soup on the stovetop, and use your favorite chicken sausage.

I know what you're thinking: this soup doesn't look very soupy, does it? Well, in real life, it's a soupy soup, but in the life of a food blogger who wants to show you the goodness swimming below the surface, and who removes a little too much of the broth to make sure the barley and other ingredients reveal themselves in the photographs, it's a bit hard to see that there is, in fact, really rich liquid binding everything together. Although you can surely make this soup in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, the pressure cooker, if you have one, does an exceptional job of pumping flavor into broths, and tenderizing grains. It's really a kind of double soup recipe. First, you make a chicken broth; then, use the meat from the broth to enrich the barley soup. This freezes well, so make a batch today, and save some for later. On the snowiest days of winter, you'll be glad to have some of this soup on hand for apres-shoveling lunches.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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