For Cinco de Mayo, I pulled some Puerto Rican black beans from the freezer, made a batch of rice in the rice cooker, and tossed these honey lime chicken breasts on the grill. It was such a perfect pairing that I've decided to serve the same menu on Cinco de Junio (today), Cinco de Julio, and Cinco de Agosto, too. Do as I do, and make your own holidays, or fire up the grill any time at all; this chicken tastes holiday-special, yet it's so easy to make for everyday cooking. The tang of lime -- oh so Mexican -- balances the sweet honey, and cumin adds its smoky goodness. I served the chicken with beans and rice. Next time, I'm going to roll a few slices into a tortilla wrap with a bit of bacon guacamole.
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Old-fashioned curried chicken salad, the kind you find in the supermarket deli case, seldom floats my boat. Too much curry powder makes it bitter; too much celery overpowers the curry. Too much mayonnaise drowns it all. If that sounds familiar, then this curried chicken pasta salad with apricots and cashews just might restore your faith. Start with big chunks of chicken, add your favorite small pasta (I love the mini penne and mini bow ties), some crunchy Granny Smith apple, plump dried apricots, and cashews. Use mango-studded Major Grey's chutney in the dressing. Make all of the components ahead, and combine at the last minute for a very fresh, fruity, un-gloppy chicken salad.
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Just in time for holiday weekend entertaining, here's an easy roasted eggplant spread (or dip, or side dish, or sandwich stuffer or pasta topper) with garlic, red bell pepper and onions, that takes less than ten minutes of work time and can be made in advance. It's vegan, gluten-free, and finger-lickin' good. Who could ask for anything more? The pairing of eggplant and red pepper might remind you of caponata; the addition of cumin echoes the flavor of baba ghanoush. Two Facebook friends suggested using this spread in lasagne or in a wrap -- both great ideas that show off the versatility of the recipe. I've gone with fresh parsley here, because it's always available in my local market, but later in the summer, when I have abundant herbs in the garden, I'll substitute with basil or mint, or some of each.
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A few weeks of recuperation after a recent health issue left me with the urge to cook, but without the energy to spend hours at the stove. My slow cookers came to the rescue. A few minutes of prep, a few hours in the slow cooker, and minimal exertion on my part resulted in some wonderful meals using ingredients straight from the pantry. This hoisin chicken couldn't be easier: three ingredients, including the chicken thighs, and three hours in a small slow cooker. The recipe came from a Kikkoman brochure, with a slight tweak here and there. Hoisin made a thick, sweet glaze on the chicken, and the slightly acidic broccoli slaw -- for which you can substitute your own favorite cole slaw -- provided a tart counterpoint with some welcome crunch. You can make the chicken and slaw a couple of days ahead. How perfect these sandwiches would be for a picnic!
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