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Varu Chilakamarri Headshot

Guilt-Free "Chicken" From an Indian Kitchen

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Maybe it's all those images of fluffy baby chicks at Easter, or the renewed concerns about what chemicals might be in our factory-farmed poultry, but lately I've had more friends and family asking for my meatless "chicken" curry recipes. I guess the thought of removing that raw, goosebump-laden chicken from its Styrofoam home has become a little less appetizing for some.
If you can relate, do not fear.

Instead, check out these quick recipes for "chicken" korma and palak "chicken," which I originally created for those fearing extended hours in the kitchen. The basic technique involves cooking vegetables and a faux-meat substitute together in a rich curry sauce that is made from time-saving ingredients like almond and cashew nut butter. You can find these wonderful nut pastes in regular grocery stores or in any natural food store, right next to the peanut butter.

While fear can sometimes be a powerful disincentive, it should never keep you out of the kitchen, especially now that we can have our chicken and eat it too (minus the arsenic and antibiotics).

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"Chicken" Korma

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of oil
1 yellow onion
1 tablespoon of minced garlic (fresh or bottled)
1 teaspoon of ginger paste
1 8-ounce packet of frozen meatless "chicken" (e.g., Morningstar Farms ® Meal Starters ™ Chik'n Strips)
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of creamy cashew (nut) butter
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of garam masala powder
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
cilantro for garnishing (optional)

Steps:

1. Add the oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Thinly slice the onion and add it, the garlic, and the ginger to the hot oil, then toss. Roughly chop the meatless chicken into large chunks and add them to the pot. Cook uncovered for about 3 - 4 minutes, tossing intermittently.

2. Once the onion and chicken are slightly browned, add all the remaining ingredients to the pot, except for the cream and cilantro. Then add 1/4 cup of water and stir thoroughly. Cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes.

3. Stir the korma intermittently as it cooks and add 1 - 2 more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent the sauce from drying out. After the korma has cooked for about 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the cream. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve over white or brown rice.

Palak "Chicken"

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of creamy almond (nut) butter
1 cup of plain yogurt
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of garam masala powder
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper powder
1 teaspoon of salt
10 ounces of frozen chopped spinach (slightly thawed and drained)
1 cup of frozen meatless "chicken" (e.g., Morningstar Farms ® Meal Starters ™ Chik'n Strips)

Steps:

1. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine the almond butter, yogurt, spices and salt; stir until the sauce is creamy. Stir in the spinach and cook (covered) for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, move to step 2.

2. Roughly chop the meatless chicken strips into large chunks (tip: you can thaw them in the microwave for about 30 seconds for ease of chopping). After the spinach mixture has cooked together for about 5 minutes, stir in the chicken and allow it to simmer with the spinach for about 10-15 minutes. Serve over plain rice or a lightly flavored pilaf.

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