Saturday, December 11, 2010

No Worry Crock Pot Curry

Curry powder. You may not have guessed it by looking at it, but it can pack a potentially life-altering, health-improving punch. It's a complex combination of herbs and spices that generally includes coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and red pepper, but will sometimes be supplemented with additional ingredients such as ginger, garlic, asafoetida, fennel seed, caraway, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, green cardamom, black cardamom, mace, nutmeg, long pepper, and black pepper.

So what makes curry powder so great? Well, many of its ingredients have been linked to improvements in health indicators. What am I talking about? Let's look at an example...

Why tumeric rocks:
  • It may help relieve joint pain experienced by people living with arthritis because tumeric contains more than 24 compounds that fight inflammation in the body.
  • It may help those living with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), because tumeric can aid digestion and reduce disturbances such as heartburn, bloating and gas.
  • It may help those with high cholesterol, because studies have shown that tumeric may assist in the reduction of LDL levels (bad cholesterol), thereby helping prevent atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in the artery walls)
(For more information about the benefits of curry powder and tumeric, visit here and here.)

Fueled by my love for easily prepared, tasty, nutrition-packed meals, I set out to create a healthy crock pot curry recipe. The challenge for me was creating a recipe that resembled the classic coconut curry my mom used to make, but was a bit lighter in that it didn't use coconut milk.* I wanted to develop a curry dish that was well-balanced and allowed me to recognize the veggies, chicken, and grain because they weren't completely smothered in sauce. Go ahead, call me a purist. (For a vegetarian version, omit chicken and substitute vegetable broth or water for the chicken broth.)

Speaking of veggies, feel free to add whatever you may have on hand. Some bell pepper strips or cauliflower would be great additions both flavor and health-wise. Serve over a mini grain like rice, quinoa, or cous cous, and top your curry with one, two, or all of my suggestions below. (Before you judge my vanilla yogurt idea, I'd recommend giving it a whirl because I can pretty much guarantee that you'll be just as surprised as I was by its yum factor! Try it!)
The Stuff:
  • non-stick olive oil cooking spray
  • medium sauté pan
  • crockpot
The Edibles:
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 medium potatoes, chopped into pieces the same size as your chicken
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots (about 1 & ½ c.), sliced (can use frozen)
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
    *Of course you could use coconut milk in this recipe if that's what your heart desires; substitute 1 cup milk for one cup of broth; omit extract and honey
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 T. flour
  • 2 T. curry powder
  • hearty shake of the following: garlic powder, onion powder, and coriander
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 c. frozen peas, thawed
Optional Toppings:
  • 2 T. vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • 2 -3 tsp. toasted flaked coconut
  • 1 T. slivered almonds
The Making:
  1. Spray a medium-sized saute pan with non-stick olive oil cooking spray. Place pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and on all sides.
  2. Doing this quick cook will help seal in the moisture of the chicken and prevent your meat from disintegrating in the crock pot.
  3. Place potatoes and onion in crock pot. If using fresh carrots, add at this time. Top with seared chicken.
  4. Whisk together chicken broth, coconut extract, honey, flour, curry powder, dashes of spices, and a pinch of salt and pepper (you can add more after cooking). Pour over chicken and vegetables.
  5. Cover; cook on high for 3 to 3 & ½ hours or LOW 6 to 7 hours.
  6. Add peas and carrots (if you’re using frozen) at this time. Allow the curry to cook for 30-45 minutes on high with the cover removed in order to thicken the sauce.
  7. Serve over rice, quinoa, cous cous or whatever else you may have on hand!
Optional topping ideas: a dollop of vanilla yogurt, hot sauce, flaked coconut, slivered almonds.

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