Food Fast =/= Fast Food

Hey!  I’m Stacey, also known as Starpulp around the interwebs.  I’ve been asked by the lovely Devon to put together a post for her while she’s out being fabulous and running around monuments and stuff.  lucky bitch.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s eating like I’m single.. because I’m not.
What did I used to eat when I was single?
A Jennie-O Frozen Turkey Patty sauteed in a pan w/ a side of steamed broccoli.
Seriously, almost every night. Yum.
But not really something I can make on a regular night or I just might end up single again.

So I cook yummy food.  Problem is, once I get off work around 5:30 and go for a run for about an hour and walk the dog and check the mail and whatever else stuff I have to do, it’s usually almost 8pm.  (how do people with kids do it, seriously??)  So the last thing I want to do at this point is make something that takes forever to prep and cook.  In fact, I’m usually about to chew my arm off by this point and need food…STAT.

Thankfully I’ve learned a trick or two over the years.. and I try to incorporate that into fun, fancy recipes I find online to speed the whole process up a bit.

For some reason unknown to me, I had a craving for black beans, sweet potato, and chicken.  I swear I’ve never actually eaten this combination on the same plate in my life ever.

Then I found this in my email – Jerk Chicken Casserole.

According to Betty, it’s “Packed with chicken, black beans and sweet potatoes, this Jamaican-style casserole is a meal in one.” um… yes! Yes, please!

Great.. all-in-one.  Less time, less fuss, and hopefully, more yum.

I have to admit, the ingredients list was sorta a pain.  I mean, when I was heating up frozen turkey patties, I didn’t need spices all too often, so I DID have to spend a fortune at the store for this.. but I am sure I’ll use these spices again.  Some of you more established cooks may have some of these ingredients on hand already.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4  teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4  teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
6  boneless skinless chicken thighs I used 3 chicken breasts instead
1  tablespoon vegetable oil olive oil
1  can (15 oz) Progresso® black beans, drained, rinsed
1  large sweet potato (1 lb), peeled, cubed (3 cups)
1/4  cup honey
1/4  cup lime juice
2  teaspoons cornstarch
2  tablespoons sliced green onions (2 medium)  yuck!!!

STEP 1

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.

Done and done.

In small bowl, mix salt, pumpkin pie spice, allspice, thyme and red pepper. Rub mixture on all sides of chicken. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in oil 2 to 3 minutes per side, until brown.

OK this step I didn’t skip or really adjust.  I had a feeling this might be important and sear the flavor into the chicken.

STEP 2

In baking dish, layer beans and sweet potato. Top with browned chicken. In small bowl, mix honey, lime juice and cornstarch; add to skillet. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Pour over chicken in baking dish.

Beans rinsed & drained.  Sweet potatoes chopped.  Cornstarch Mixture bubblin’.

STEP 3

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (180°F) and sweet potatoes are fork tender. Sprinkle with green onions.

Woah!  Stop the presses.  Bake?  45 minutes (plus the 15 minutes extra it takes my oven to cook anything..).  Uuuh. Yah, not happenin.  I almost deleted this recipe right there on the spot.  Then I thought.. hang on a minute. This doesn’t need to be baked.  I mean, it IS chicken, I still gotta cook it.  But why not steam it?  8 minutes > 60 minutes. Wins every time.

Queue… Ziploc Zip ‘n Steam bags.

I first learned of these watching…The Biggest Loser. Yup.  During one of their cheezy infomercial breaks, two team members steamed some veggies in this.  Great. Veggies.  It worked. I bought a box.  Then and only then did I see the long list of items it can cook – including FROZEN CHICKEN. Love.

These suckers can cook 3 frozen chicken breasts in 8 minutes.  True, I think the bag says 6, but it really takes 8 (at least in my microwave).  I know what you’re thinkin.. ewww.. microwaved chicken breasts?  I’m imagining dried out chicken.. when it gets the pink, rubbery ends. blech. But have no fear, these really do make the juiciest, moistest chicken breasts that are ALMOST better than crock pot chicken. Almost.

So, I zapped the chicken in the micro for 8 minutes (while I jumped in the shower).  Came out, scooped out the beans and sweet potatoes out of the baking dish and into another steamer bag.  Steamed those in the microwave for 3 minutes. Dumped everything back into the baking dish, poured the cornstarch mixture on top and baked.. for about 10 minutes…just long enough to get everything friendly w/ that cornstarch mixture.

omfg.. the smell.. the amazing aroma that filled my house reminded me of Turkey Day.  If I needed anything to motivate me for the Subaru Distance Classic Half Marathon that’s coming up this Thanksgiving.. it is certainly this dish.  It gave me memories of pumpkin pie (duh, there’s pumpkin spice in there), sweet potato casserole and all the other yummy goodness that awaits those on that national holiday.

Oh and while it smelled amazing, it tasted even better.  That bubbly cornstarch mixture blended all the flavors into an amazing slightly sweet, comfort food goodness.

OH! And how’d I do on time?  Well, if you add it all up, a meal that typically would have taken possibly 80 minutes to prepare and bake actually took me all of 25 minutes. (and I squeezed a shower in too!)  Had I actually been prepared – it would have taken even less!  I COULD have zapped the frozen chicken in the microwave while rinsing the beans and cutting the sweet potato. Yadda Yadda.

I’d call it a success.

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2 Comments

Filed under Chicken, Dinner, Europe 2011

2 responses to “Food Fast =/= Fast Food

  1. Pingback: Confections of a Food Bitch, Guest Post « Starpulp

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