Need to up my chicken & vegetables game.
June 28, 2013 7:56 AM   Subscribe

We do chicken and vegetables for dinner at least twice a week because it's quick, easy, cheap, and healthy. But it is so BORING! I think I need seasoning help.

Normally I just do a no-salt seasoning on the chicken, and maybe some garlic powder, and then bake it. For the vegetables, I steam them and then add salt/butter.

I know that there have got to be other ways to do this that actually make me WANT to eat dinner. But what are they?

Note: I am not interested in solutions that take more time (we have a toddler) or use more pots/pans (we don't have a dishwasher). I just want to know what spices / seasoning mixes I should use to make this dinner not a chore to eat.
posted by rabbitrabbit to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
I do this a lot. I buy spice mixes from Fresh Direct (they have like Fines Herbes ones, a cumin based one, different things.) Or I do rosemary and balsamic. I put it in a grill pan with a top on it and leave it. It probaby dries out a bit too much for most people's tastes but, you know, I'm lazy so it does OK for me.

Then with the vegetables, try roasting them instead of steaming once in a while. There's like nothing better than roasted vegetables. Except maybe grilled, but that would be more equipment.
posted by sweetkid at 8:02 AM on June 28, 2013

One solution would be to marinade the chicken. There are numerous bottled marinades available that would make this really simple. Just put the chicken in a plastic bag with some of the marinade, squeeze out as much air as you can, then seal the bag. Put it in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before dinner; turn it over once or twice. Then prepare the chicken as usual.
posted by DrGail at 8:03 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

We will often roast veggies with the chicken, rather than steam them. One big stoneware baking dish/pan, chicken and veg mixed together, rub all with olive oil then hit with coarse sea salt. Stir everything up about a half-hour into baking, to get some of the run-off chicken fat all over the veggies, which helps them brown even more. One dish to wash.


* Bone-in dark meat is the best, and has the added benefit of being the cheapest.
* Try a mix of regular and sweet potatoes, diced into cubes.
* Brussels sprouts are AWESOME when roasted with chicken.
posted by jbickers at 8:03 AM on June 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, I should have mentioned that my spouse, for whatever reason, does not like roasted vegetables. I love them and would have them every night, but they're not really on the table (so to speak).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:06 AM on June 28, 2013

Do Chicken Cacciatori. You can do it in a skillet on the stove, or all day long in the crockpot. I also don't see why you can't do this in the oven in a baking pan.

Brown the chicken breasts (optional) Use a can of diced tomatoes in sauce. Throw in some carrots, mushrooms, onion and peppers if you like them. Any or all of these can be frozen. Garlic or garlic powder. Dash of wine. Basil. Simmer on the stove, serve over pasta or not. Yum! I think this is great in the crock pot with chicken with bones. The chicken gets soft and delicious.

Terrikaki chicken over soba noodles can be a new thing. Do the veggies in Terrikaki too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:07 AM on June 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was going to suggest chicken teriyaki (been craving some myself) as well as lemon - lemon and butter, lemon pepper, lemon garlic.
posted by kat518 at 8:09 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Salting the chicken will make it taste much better, and limiting salt from your diet may not be making you that much healthier.

Also, you might try my default treatment for veggies: saute them with garlic, salt, olive oil, and pepper. I think it creates more flavor than steaming. Roasting the veg with the chicken is another good idea.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:10 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Rub boneless thighs with cumin, garlic, a little curry powder if you want, ginger powder if you want (some of these are redundant, but who's counting?) and bake or pan-cook or however you make chicken.

Or use hoisin sauce on thighs.

Or just cook the thighs, take their juice afterwards and mix with a little coconut milk from the can and a little tomato paste and spices like the ones above for a bit of a Caribbean sauce.

Also why not bake your chicken with roasted vegetables for YOU and steam some others for your husband? do you have to have matching vegetables?
posted by DMelanogaster at 8:22 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Keep jars of sundried tomatoes (or sun roasted or sunblessed or whatever they're called in your part of the world) in the pantry and here's the easiest and tastiest chicken recipe known to (wo)man.

1. Wrap the chicken breasts(s) in either bacon or proscuitto or parma ham (you can split larger breasts into 2, 3, 4 parts, wrap each part with the bacon or ham) and place in a shallow, ovenproof dish.

2. Place a sun[something'd] tomato on top of each breast; put slices of your favourite cheese on top and dribble a little of the oil over the whole dish.

3. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 200/400/gas mark 6.

Bonus: Leftovers are even better the following day and freeze really well. Can also be served as a pasta sauce (increase oil, add some tomato passata when reheating) and is lovely with salad.
posted by humph at 8:23 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Here are some simple flavor ideas and combinations -

salt and pepper +

smoked paprika with veg and rice
chili and lime with mangoes and veg
lemon zest and thyme with red potatoes and onion
bacon wrapped with baked potatoes
orange glaze with ginger green beans
nutmeg and allspice with apples and cabbage

There's also a book called "The Flavor Bible" that you might find useful for finding ideas to improvise on to keep things interesting
posted by j03 at 8:27 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

TryPenzeys spices. They have a variety of pre-mixed spices that can really shake up your cooking. Just a simple shake on spice most often, so it won't add more time to your meals. I love their sweet curry mix and Chicago steak run.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 8:29 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Slit the chicken breasts open horizontally to make a pocket. Stuff in some cheese and ham or prosciutto, or green pesto. Dredge in beaten egg and some Panko breadcrumbs. Serve with lightly steamed asparagus or broccolini.

Or, throw chicken thighs in a crockpot or casserole dish with a finely-sliced onion, garlic, a can of apricot nectar and a packet of (dry) French onion soup mix. Cook on low until done. Serve with mashed potato and something steamed and green.

Sliced chicken breast stir-fried with green curry paste, a tin of coconut milk, splash of fish sauce , squeeze of lime and some fresh green beans, served with jasmine rice. (Very basic green chicken curry)
posted by Salamander at 8:32 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like the curry and tandoori pastes from Patak--you can slather them right on the chicken or soak the chicken in yogurt and then add the pastes. Harissa, bbq sauce (I like Stubb's) and even whole-grain mustard and yogurt also work well.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:33 AM on June 28, 2013

I did a nice quick and easy cheat chicken pie recipe earlier in the week and it came out really well. You need (for 4):

4 Chicken breasts (Boneless Skinless
Can of green beans or sprouting broccoli
frozen peas (some)
2 cans of cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom)
1/2 loaf chibata bread

Dice the chicken and the veg into bite size pieces. Pour all into dish and cover with torn bits of the bread. Bake in the over for 45 mins or so at 160 C or 325 F.

Either serve with potatoes or rice etc.
posted by koolkat at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2013

Agree that you should try sauteeing instead of steaming your veg, but you could also try glazing - works great especially for carrots and root veg - stick your prepped veg in a pan with a little water, salt and a little butter. Cover the pan, cook on medium until the veg is 75% done, then take the lid off - the remaining steam will finish cooking, and then all that will be left is butter, which glazes the veg. After glazing I like to toss some chopped fresh herbs on them - parsley or basil with carrots (or thyme, but add that when you take the lid off), dill is great with potatoes.
posted by hungrybruno at 8:38 AM on June 28, 2013

I do a simplified version of this dish: chicken with dijon sauce.

Bake a couple of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in heavy pot or skillet (I use a Le Creuset Dutch oven). I prefer to sprinkle the chicken breasts with sea salt before I bake them, and maybe some black pepper, but I don't add any other seasoning. I bake at 350 for about 50 minutes. When the chicken is done, I lift the breasts out of the pot and set them aside to rest. I set the pan on the stove. Depending on how much fat has melted into the pan, I may or may not add a tablespoon or so of canola oil. I saute some chopped shallots (4-5 total, a bit more than the linked recipe calls for) in the fat, then add white wine (3/4 cup) and low-sodium chicken broth (3/4 cup). I let that boil until it's reduced by half, then pour in 1/4 cup heavy cream. While I let the sauce thicken up, I steam some vegetables. Then I stir 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard into the sauce and serve (the recipe calls for chives or scallions added to the sauce at the end, which I'm sure would be great, but I don't bother).

The sauce is incredible, even with boring old steamed vegetables. The recipe takes a few more steps than plain baked chicken, but no extra pots and pans, and it's so, so delicious.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:45 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

A crockpot could really help you extend the chicken + veg theme without adding extra work. This Moroccan chicken is easy and delicious.
posted by judith at 8:47 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I cheat a little 'cause I use the outdoor grill for this (chix, veggies, tortillas three times a week), and it's simple: a couple tablespoons of olive oil, a glove or two of garlic smashed and chopped, salt and pepper. Sometime I dash in some sriracha. Maybe a bit of soy sauce for color.

Anyway, roll those chix breast around in the oil and garlic and salt and pepper and refrigerate for a couple of hours before taking it to the heat.

The vege goes on the grill when the chix is 2/3rds to 3/4 done, depending on the vege (beets go on before the chix, green beans after 3/4 done).

Tortillas go on last, just as yer about to go to the table. You can punch up your tacos with make ahead salsa (or store bought) and some guacamole (it'll keep for a day, two at most in your fridge, so it's not a great make ahead thing).

If you don't have a grill, broil your chicken instead of baking it.

Don't marinate in acid (citrus, vineagar). Does weird things to the meat.
posted by notyou at 8:48 AM on June 28, 2013

Chicken thighs. Jar of decent green salsa (salsa verde). Baking dish. BOOM. (Optional: cover bottom of pan with lots of chopped greens like swiss chard, or onions and scallions, first.)

(Roast at 400 F for 1.5+ hours.)

Variation: toss chicken thighs with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano. Chop roughly one whole head of cabbage (removing core). Put cabbage in pan - it looks like too much but it collapses as it cooks. Salt and pepper cabbage and dot with butter. Add layer of chicken thighs. Cover and roast until everything's tender and it's made its own sauce.
posted by Andrew Galarneau at 8:57 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding the recommendation for Penzey's. My very favorite of their blends is this Greek seasoning, which I just shake on top of the chicken pieces before I roast them. It does include salt, but it isn't overwhelming. I also love dried thyme. If you sort of rub it roughly between your palms as you sprinkle it over the veggies or whatever, I swear it releases more flavor.
posted by katie at 9:01 AM on June 28, 2013

For a twist on steamed vegetables, try 1. tossing them in olive oil (I keep a couple of bottles of flavoured EVOO to shake things up without spending more time), sea salt, and lemon; 2. drizzling a vinaigrette (homemade or bottled) over the vegetables.

In addition to premade seasoning mixes, you could also get herbs in squeeze tubes from Gourmet Garden--saves you a lot of chopping!
posted by peripathetic at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2013

I'd suggest playing around with Thai/Vietnamese flavors. You can make a really gorgeous sauce/marinade from:

*fresh ginger
*fish sauce
*lime juice and zest

Play around with different combinations of these flavors--they work really well on chicken and fish, as well as on vegetables.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:57 AM on June 28, 2013

I'm a devotee of San-J Szechuan Sauce. I found it first at my local Whole Foods but when they inexplicably stopped carrying it, I started ordering it from amazon. It's savory and spicy, more or less depending on how much you use. I am okay with plain food most or all of the time, but this really pleases my palate and I end up using it more than I would expect.
posted by janey47 at 10:12 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a simple trick to make your boring chicken from bland to WOWZA. Cook your chicken as you do now but 15 minutes before it finishes, brush on Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce and broil for the last few minutes. It will caramelize and bring a simple Asian flavor that so many of my guests have thought I spent hours on. The trick is to make sure that your baking dish is lined with aluminum foil. It's a mess to clean up if you don't.

The same Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce can be lightly brushed on steamed veggies - again, just a little layer of flavor that is both sweet and spicy.
posted by HeyAllie at 10:15 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

We very much like Pollo Borracho (Drunken Chicken) around here. The recipe we use is in Memories of a Cuban Kitchen, but it's very close to this one. Serve with black beans and rice. And platanos maduros if you want the full Monty (and I know that you do).
posted by jquinby at 10:20 AM on June 28, 2013

I love this very simple but insanely flavorful chicken-and-mushrooms dish. Your spouse can skip the mushrooms (though they are basically delicious umami flavor bombs in this recipe).

In general, veggies are very easy to steam in the microwave. So you could roast veggies for yourself and just pop them in the microwave right before mealtime for your partner.
posted by lunasol at 10:26 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am assuming you are roasting a whole chicken, though this works with chicken pieces just cut back on the garlic etc. 40 clove Chicken. I don't pre brown the chicken just take the lid/foil covering off at the end to brown up the chicken. The don't peel the garlic, it goes lovely and sweet and looses a lot of it's strong garlic flavour and is great to then squeeze out over plain steamed veggies or to eat on thick slices of bread.

Also experiment with throwing a bit of soy and garlic (or whatever you fancy) in when steaming your veggies, it can add a nice asian touch without any extra work. Steaming with stock, a nice vinegar, a slice of lemon or a bit of miso or garlic or even wine n the water can be nice too.

I regularly make a Moroccan style chicken similar to what someone else suggested and it's a great and super easy and you can throw in all sorts. I like to use up all the left over bits of veg in that. Serve with rice and it's super easy, or add sweet potato chunks in with it and up the fluid a little and you have a one pot meal.

Also if you like roast veg and your partner doesn't, just steam them a little early and toss yours in some oil and throw them in the oven to brown up while the chicken cooks.
posted by wwax at 10:32 AM on June 28, 2013

Seconding jar of salsa + chicken + oven = amazing. The leftovers are even better.

You might also want to check out a trader joes (or equivalent) for "simmer sauces". I'm thinking boneless skinless chicken thighs, plus yellow curry from a jar, a bag of frozen green beans and tiny potatoes. Just simmer them all in a big pot. A fistful of fresh basil makes it really amazing if you've got some on hand. One pot to wash, and your basic protein+veg+starch needs met.

I also love this poached chicken.
posted by fontophilic at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2013

Po boys! I know it's not 100% authentic, because you won't be frying the chicken, but a nice breading/sear/bake routine to some chicken makes for some pretty legit scooby-sized Po boys.

Add some collards, and you're in good shape for a solid dinner.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:54 AM on June 28, 2013

Came here to recommend Trader Joe's simmer sauces, but fontophilic beat me to the punch.

So here's something else: put 2 tsp. curry powder and 1 Tbsp. flour in a saucepan. Put the pan on medium heat and stir occasionally until the curry becomes fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add a small can of diced tomatoes with their juice, 1/3 cup chutney (I like Patak's hot mango chutney), and a diced onion, stir to mix, bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is just done. Add lemon juice and parsley to taste, and serve with rice, pasta, or a good, crusty bread.

You can add other vegetables besides onions if you want a stew, or serve them on the side.

I also like Dorie Greenspan's recipe for curried chicken, peppers, and peas en papillote, which is both elegant and easy. (Sorry about the annoying ads on the linked website; I didn't feel like typing out the recipe.)
posted by brianogilvie at 11:36 AM on June 28, 2013

Baked chicken with Dijon and lime is easy and delicious.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I make oven-baked chicken thighs once a week in the fall/winter. I really like mixing the marinade in the morning, letting the pan of chicken & marinade hang out in the fridge until I come home from work and then I shove the whole pan in the oven to let it cook while I walk the dogs.

Here are my faves:

Pineapple Juice (I buy the individual cans and use 2 of them for 8 thighs), sherry, soy sauce, garlic, ginger

LOTS of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. My mom makes this but prefers oregano to the rosemary.

Not a marinade, but deelish: Slather thighs with mustard, roll in bread crumbs (I like panko, but have crushed up pita chips when I was out of bread crumbs).

Bake any of them at 350° for about 45 minutes. The sauces from the first two are good drizzled over steamed/roasted vegetables.
posted by sarajane at 1:11 PM on June 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

If you're just looking for a different seasoning mix, I like Jane's seasoning salt on both chicken and veggies. I also like chicken and veggies cut into bite-sized pieces and tossed with a spoonful of pesto, if you can get your hands on a decent fresh pesto.
posted by Orinda at 3:31 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

A good way to bake chicken is to add slices of lemon/lime/orange, sliced clove of garlic, couple of sticks of fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary (chopping not necessary), salt, pepper, olive oil. Toss to combine everything and bake. I usually cover it with aluminium foil but don't know if that's necessary.

With the veg, try different things on them like dill, thyme (lemon or normal), oregano, basil, chilli flakes, garlic powder, lemon juice. Different combos work well too, also experimenting with fresh/dry. Lately I love dried dill sprinkled on things like beans, tomatoes, cucumber but prefer garlic/chilli/lemon on broccoli. Up to your individual tastes though. And I second Jane's crazy mixed-up salt, even though I live in Australia I hunt out the places that import it because I love it so much. It has a little bit of everything yummy and I use it instead of plain salt in most things.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:25 PM on June 28, 2013

If budget allows, try organic chicken.
posted by piyushnz at 7:37 PM on June 28, 2013

There's a recipe for chicken breast with tarragon that is DELICIOUS but it takes time to do it right. So my short-cut way is:

1 tsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp paprika
Some number of chicken breasts (3-4 I think, but I am heavy on the spice)
Rub that ALL over that chicken and cook however you want.

Add a ton of tarragon to the buttery vegetables. Preferably if you use a bit extra fat/butter with those veggies. If you've got chicken fat or juice run off from baking, toss that with the tarragon and then add to the steamed veggies.

Side note, I often add baby tomatoes to anything savory that I bake. They don't require prep like chopping and they taste great after roasting in an oven.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 9:35 PM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Honestly, you could just buy any savory spice blend at random from Penzeys and try it and it would be better than what you're doing now. I love aleppo pepper on the chicken and zatar on the vegetables, personally (and my partner and I ate that combination probably twice a week for at least a year). But you could do anything. You're working on such a blank canvas, you can hardly go wrong.
posted by willbaude at 11:34 PM on June 28, 2013

As far as the chicken goes, what I do is drizzle some olive oil over a couple of boneless skinless chicken breasts, sprinkle a good layer of garlic salt over them, and then drizzle generously with balsamic vinegar. Then I bake at 350deg for about thirty minutes. It's super simple but the balsamic vinegar keeps it from being boring.
posted by meggan at 6:39 PM on June 29, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. This gives me a nice list to work through. (I made the salsa verde one on Friday night and that was a hit.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:15 AM on July 1, 2013

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