Sunday, May 26, 2013

Easy crock pot chicken tikka masala

Apparently "tikka masala" is a pretty vague term. Generally it involves chicken, tomatoes, and Indian spices but there's a ton of variety among recipes. But, this is how I like it. As a bonus, it's incredibly simple to make.

What makes it so easy? First, everything gets dumped into the slow cooker, rather than having to attentively stir and simmer on the stove. Second, the use of garam masala precludes the need to measure out tons of individual spices. Finally, I used a tip that I got from recipes in Slow Cooker Revolution to microwave the aromatics prior to slow cooking to deepen the flavor without having to use the stove. To me, once I start sauteeing and dirtying pans it defeats the purpose of the crock pot.

Usually the chicken for this dish is marinated in yogurt, but in order to keep it dairy-free I just added lemon juice to tenderize the chicken and add some acidity. I didn't bother marinating since everything gets simmered  for so long.

Serves 4

  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 Tbs ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 small can (5-6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 10-oz can mild RoTel or a 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut cream (I used Trader Joe's) or coconut milk solids (get just the solids as per the tutorial in this recipe) or heavy cream
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, minced
  1. Combine the onion, ghee, garlic, and garam masala in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave it for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. I did 1 minute, stir, 2 minutes, stir, then 2 minutes again, stir.
  2. Add the tomato paste to the onion mixture (it's easiest to incorporate while the onions are still hot).
  3. Dump the chicken in your slow cooker. Squeeze the lemon juice over it and sprinkle with salt. Mix in the onion mixture along with the cayenne and diced tomatoes. Combine everything thoroughly so that the chicken is nestled in the sauce.
  4. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or until tender.
  5. Before serving, stir in the coconut cream and minced cilantro.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Moussaka (grain-free, dairy-free!)

Uhhhhmm...hi :)

So, clearly I've not posted in a while. Basically, I just kept putting it off and putting it off and whoa, before I knew it, it'd been months since I posted. Relocating from Florida to California meant forming a whole new routine. I worked back in my rituals for training, taking care of my pups, and so forth, but in doing so I kind of fell out of the habit of blogging. But, it's important to me; I love it and I miss it and it's long overdue that I get back to posting. I found a boxing gym, resumed powerlifting and did a meet, accidentally got addicted to CrossFit oops, found a better way to spend my morning commute, and I'm still eschewing grains in favor of meat and veggies. I'm loving the mountains, the weather, the farmers markets, the ridiculously low-priced artichokes and avocados, the incredible array of ethnic cuisines, and generally enjoying California. So I'm still doin' me, still cooking, still training hard. I just need to share it with you guys :) (As an aside, if you're still reading I'd love it if you leave a message in the comments just so I know that you folks are still out there...)

But enough about me. It's recipe time!

Every time I go to a Greek restaurant, I see moussaka on the menu and I want to order it. Anything with roasted eggplant is a huge win for me. I love it when it gets all brown on the outside and creamy on the it with cinnamon-kissed lamb and it's Erica-heaven. Problem is, it's normally topped with a bechamel sauce which includes lots of dairy and flour and sometimes breadcrumbs. However, I found inspiration for a solution in, of all things, a pasta recipe on a vegan dessert blog. An "alfredo" sauce based on almond milk, thickened with pureed cauliflower instead of flour? Sounds promising. I also added some eggs for body which worked incredibly well.

This recipe is kind of time-consuming, but it's easy to make, and as a bonus the leftovers taste even better the next day.

Serves about 6


  • 1 large or 2 medium globe eggplants (2-3 lbs)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or other milk of choice (I think lite coconut milk would work well)
  • 1.5 cups frozen cauliflower
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 lbs ground lamb (can substitute ground beef, turkey, or a combination...I often use half ground lamb, half ground turkey since lamb is so pricey)
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about a cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh parsley, divided
  • 1 28 oz can tomato puree
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Slice the eggplant into 1/2" thick rounds. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for about 25 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven to cool, but keep the oven at 400.
  2. While the eggplant is roasting, make the meat sauce. Heat a bit of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until it is just starting to turn translucent. Add the meat and garlic, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Brown until no pink remains and juices are clear. Drain the grease (I use a turkey baster for this). Add the cinnamon, allspice, oregano, lemon juice, vinegar, tomato puree, and half of the parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered on low until the sauce has thickened with no watery puree, at least 10 minutes but preferably 20-30. Set aside.
  3. Next, make the bechamel sauce. Bring the cauliflower, almond milk, garlic powder, and a generous pinch of salt to a boil in a saucepan. Once it's boiling, cover and simmer on low for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and blend with the eggs. I used an immersion blender; first I blended the cauliflower smooth, then blended in the eggs one at a time, working quickly to ensure that the eggs don't poach in the sauce. It will look like a gross foamy mess at this point, but fear not!
  4. Brush a 13"x9" pan with olive oil. Layer the eggplant slices on the bottom, slightly overlapping. Spread the meat mixture evenly over the eggplant. Slowly pour the bechamel sauce evenly over the top, pouring carefully to ensure that it doesn't disturb the meat layer and instead stays on top. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes or until the top is browned in spots. Sprinkle the top with the remaining parsley, cut into squares, and serve.

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