Curried Chicken and Cauliflower Paleo Risotto

I’d never had curry until a year or so ago.

I just couldn’t get past the smell – or at least the smell of the tub of curry powder my husband bought at Costco when we were newlyweds.

Fast forward to about 18 months ago…we were still living in Florida…when a dear friend whose father is from India and who spends time there each year took us to his favorite restaurant. Our entire family, including the super-picky boy, became fanatics for the flavors of India. We’ve enjoyed meals out at Indian restaurants ever since, but it’s only been recently that I’ve finally begun using the flavors at home. It’s been a bit intimidating, but I think we’re getting the hang of it.

This one pan meal is the end result of just playing around and experimenting a bit. It’s really easy to adapt to your personal needs for spice and texture, and it would be easy to substitute beef or even shrimp for the chicken. Don’t like mushrooms? No problem, just skip them. Prefer a red chili paste? It works too. Want to add in some other veggies? Why not. It’s a great template to work from, and one that we’ve been playing with quite a bit.

Really, the only thing I think is a necessity is the cauliflower. By steaming the cauliflower and then allowing it to finish cooking in the curry/coconut milk liquid, it takes on a bit of that risotto texture that I miss so much. I like mine a little thicker, so hubby adds more coconut milk after I pull mine out of the pan.

I’m working to find ways to make more of my recipes quicker to throw together. I’m planning to try steaming, draining and freezing the cauliflower in advance this week. If it works, I’ll update the recipe. You could also easily used precooked chicken or beef to speed things up a little more. Once the chopping and grating was done, it only took us about 20 minutes to put this together – quick enough for a good lunch and perfect for a busy night dinner. If nothing else, make a double batch. The leftovers just get better.

Curried Chicken and Cauliflower Paleo Risotto
Serves 2-4, depending on how large that cauliflower head is

1 cauliflower, grated or buzzed in the food processor until it looks like rice
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1″ chunks
1 to 2 c. large white mushrooms, chopped into small bites
1/2 red onion, chopped into large chunks
2 t. vadouvan or curry powder
3 to 4 T. coconut oil
1 to 2 T. yellow curry paste (we like this one from Amazon)
4 to 8 T. coconut milk, separated
fish sauce or coconut aminos, optional

Serve with:
diced avocado, optional – but it helps cool things down a bit if you get too spicy

The Prep Work:

  • Steam grated/riced cauliflower in the microwave or on the stove with a bit of water for 3 or 4 minutes. You want to just take the crunch off of it, and don’t want it fully cooked.
  • Transfer cauliflower to a strainer and allow to drain for 15 minutes. You can pull a little more water out by adding a sprinkle of salt to the cauliflower.
  • Mix chicken with 1 t. of the vadouvan and set aside.
  • Combine curry paste and coconut milk. I like a ratio of 1 paste to 2 milk – my preference with this yellow curry paste is 1.5 T. curry paste and 3 T. coconut milk, but that can depend on how much cauliflower you have and personal preference.

Get Cooking:

  • In a large frying pan over medium high, heat 2 T. coconut oil.
  • Once the oil is melted, add the rest of the vadouvan and allow to heat for just a moment until it becomes even more fragrant.
  • Add the mushrooms and onions. Cook until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are just cooked, just a few minutes – they’ll continue to cook later. Remove to a bowl.
  • Add the rest of the coconut oil, and then the chicken chunks. Brown and cook the chicken.
  • Transfer the cauliflower rice from the strainer to the frying pan, tossing with the chicken to combine.
  • Pour in the curry paste and coconut milk, turn the heat down and allow to simmer. After a minute or two, add the mushrooms and onions as well.
  • This is where you have to use your own judgement – you’re going to need some more coconut milk, but add it slowly (i.e. don’t dump it directly from the can…not that I’m speaking from experience). A tablespoon at a time. It’s also helpful to taste some of the cauliflower bits. If they’re super spicy, more coconut milk helps tone it down. A dash of fish sauce or coconut aminos adds another flavor to the mix that can be nice.
  • Simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  • Serve with diced avocado.

One of the greatest benefits of going paleo for me has been getting to experience new flavors – I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do!

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firecracker chicken: quick & easy paleo/primal meals

I’m about 10 weeks into this whole paleo thing and while I couldn’t be happier with the weight-loss and general health results I’m seeing, sometimes I want something other than a simple meat and veggie meal.

In fact that’s one of the biggest concerns I’ve noticed I hear about following a paleo diet.

Don’t you get tired of eating just meat and vegetables?

And while this is chicken and veggies, there’s a coconut milk sauce that makes it so different it doesn’t even strike me as a paleo meal when I eat it.

Variety is good, right?

And I feel rather silly…there’s not a whole lot of recipe to this recipe. It’s incredibly adaptable – any meat, any veggies, any seasonings. The one consistent stroke is using coconut milk to create your sauce and serving it on top of zucchini noodles. I’ve been known to add other random vegetables, but what I’m sharing today is the basics…or maybe a template. Feel free to add whatever you’d like.

Maybe it’s more of a technique?

Whatever it is, it’s good, it’s easy, it’s a great way to clear out the fridge and I can get it on the table in less than half an hour.

Total win.

Firecracker Chicken
serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T. coconut oil (more if needed)
2-3 T. Cajun seasoning
2 cups chopped mushrooms (baby bellas are great here)
2 T. sun dried tomatoes (chopped small) or 2-3 roma tomatoes (diced)
1 can coconut milk (less if using fresh tomatoes)
1 t. red pepper flakes (optional)
parmesean cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Slice chicken thinly across the grain and toss to coat with cajun seasoning.
    You want the chicken well coated – the cajun seasoning is going to mix with the coconut milk to create the sauce.
  • In a large frying pan on medium-high heat, heat the oil and add the chicken. Stirring often, cook the chicken until it’s done and has browned slightly.
    Since the chicken is cut thin, this takes just a few minutes. You can even start with leftover chicken and save time.
  • Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.
  • Add mushrooms to frying pan, adding more oil first if needed.
  • Once mushrooms are cooked, add the tomatoes and optional red pepper flakes.
    If using fresh tomatoes, cook for a few more minutes.
  • Add back in the chicken and coconut milk.
    If you’re using fresh tomatoes, add a little less coconut milk.
  • Simmer 5-10 minutes,s tirring occasionally. The coconut milk will reduce a little and get thicker. Taste to check seasonings and adjust.

While the sauce is simmering, make zucchini noodles:

Zucchini Noodles
Serves 4

4 or 5 zucchini
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

  • Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini lengthwise to create long strips.
    They’re pretty – the creamy white skin edged with dark green. I tend to stop when I reach the seeds, turn my zucchini and peel again. I end up with a long rectangle of zucchini seeds that I toss in the compost pile.
  • Heat olive oil on medium in a frying pan or skillet.
  • Add zucchini, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.
    I like to cook the zucchini until it’s just barely cooked. Too long and it gets mushy, too short and it’s crispy. For me, it’s done when I can fold it over without it breaking.

To serve, create a bed of zucchini noodles and top with several ladles of the chicken, veggies and sauce.

A few thoughts:

  • If you can handle dairy, a little fresh parmesean is really good on top…and it’s really nice to add a little to the sauce as well while it’s still cooking.
  • Next up on hubby’s list is to try this with curry powder for a more Indian style dish. I also think you could go a little more Mexican or Italian with the spices.
  • I’d add broccoli, but my family isn’t fond of broccoli cooked with other things.
    I have no idea why, but they’re pretty vocal about it.
    If it were just me, though, I’d add barely steamed broccoli when I add the coconut milk and let it finish in the sauce.
  • Beef and pork would be great instead of chicken, and if I can remember to pick some up I want to try it with shrimp.

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