It’s February. What more can I say? Just the name February conjures up grey skies, bone-chilling cold, and short days. February equals winter.
This is the time of year made for down comforters; snuggling with kids and canines; quick trips outside for some fun in the snow; and warm houses that smell like dinner in the oven or on the stove.
My crockpot does double duty in February, as does the oven (on low and slow).
The one thing that I sometimes crave that slow-cooked meals can’t deliver without some help is “crunch.” I am a known potato chip junkie — salty and crunchy satisfies some deep sort of culinary need for me. Unfortunately, the crunch of potato chips also deliver lots of carbohydrates. That doesn’t help my diabetes.
Portion control helps me get some crunch on my plate while eating healthy. Half a cup of crunchy stuff like chips, Fritos or canned French fried onions (a particular guilty pleasure of mine) sprinkled on top of a casserole or on individual servings will deliver the crunchy texture you crave.
For texture with added crunch that isn’t heavy on the carbs, mix in water chestnuts, chopped celery or bamboo shoots, or top with roasted nuts for a final step.
What about some crunch that delivers a burst of extra flavor without the carbs? To add just before serving, try crisp-tender stir fried vegetables (heavy on the soy sauce and ginger to flavor as strongly as you like).
One of my favorite last-minute add-ins is capers. Drain them well, rinse briefly and toss in for the last few seconds of cooking. I made a quick chicken dish recently that was almost a scampi. Served over rice, with a green salad and rolls on the side, it was really good and a little crunchy, thanks to capers.
4-5 large chicken tenderloins
Flour for dredging
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves fresh garlic, crushed
Half a fresh lemon
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon small capers, drained
Dredge chicken tenders with flour. Allow to set and rest on a rack for 30 minutes.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter in olive oil. Add garlic. Place tenders in hot oil. Cook about 2 minutes on each side until meat is partially done. Squeeze lemon juice over chicken, add broth, cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes until juices run clear. Add capers, cover and heat another minute.
Remove from heat and serve immediately over hot rice.
Serves two to three.
It has came to my attention by some readers that I left off several ingredients for the filling in my last column. The ingredients have been added.
EASY LEMON BARS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Pinch of salt
2 sticks butter
Butter for greasing
2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9 by 12 by 2 inch baking pan.
Make the crust. Combine flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter to make a crumbly mixture.
Press the mixture into the prepared pan. You may need to dip your fingers into a little flour or confectioners’ sugar to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers. Bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the filling, mix the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, and lemon juice. Pour this over the baked crust and bake for 25 minutes longer. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, when the bars are done.
Makes 16 bars.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.