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Where EAST meets the Northwest

HOMEMADE & HEALTHY. A serving of Weeknight Chicken Tikka Masala is seen in New York. This dish is full of flavor, easy, inexpensive, healthy, and quick. It can be served over brown rice, zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, or just plain raw baby spinach leaves for extra nutrition. (Photo/Melissa díArabian via AP)

Asian Reporter web extra, October 3, 2016

Make a Chicken Tikka Masala thatís easy and full of flavor

By Melissa díArabian

The Associated Press

Iím a big fan of saving takeout and delivery food for true cravings, not convenience. Even the healthiest of eaters has a few culinary vices ó for us, itís Indian and Thai food and pizza delivery.

Sometimes, we just want our favorite pizza delivered ("doorbell pizza" my girls called it when they were younger), and no homemade version will scratch the itch. Fine. But calling in an order of pad thai and dumplings just because we canít be bothered to spend a few minutes to make our own food is a troubling slippery slope. Delivery isnít the devil; but save it for cravings.

The key to fending off the temptation to order in takeout as a convenience on a busy weeknight is to have a few easy recipes in your toolkit that you can whip out at a momentís notice. And, it has to be easy enough to execute, even if I donít think of it until 5:00pm.

For me, bonus points if itís ethnic food. Since we donít have an Indian restaurant within a 20-minute radius of my house, Iíve been re-creating the flavors at home.

Todayís recipe, Weeknight Chicken Masala, is a bit of a recipe hack; not fully authentic, Iíll admit. But the spices are easy to keep on hand (and truth: if you are missing one of them, make the recipe anyway and the world will continue to spin), the recipe is fast to prepare since it uses boneless, skinless chicken breast, and it can be made totally non-spicy or loaded up with whatever spice I have on hand, from sriracha to fresh serranos, or even just cayenne pepper.

Frozen chicken breasts wonít slow you down either: microwave for a minute or two until the meat is thawed enough to cut into cubes small enough to thaw quickly. I indulge in a small amount of cream added at the end, which brings a lushness that is worth the few extra grams of fat, but feel free to sub plain Greek yogurt if you wish.

This dish hits all the marks ó full of flavor, easy, inexpensive, healthy, and quick. Serve it over brown rice, zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, or just plain raw baby spinach leaves for extra nutrition.

Food Network star Melissa díArabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook Supermarket Healthy.

Weeknight Chicken Tikka Masala

Start to finish: 1 hour

Servings: 4

Marinade:

1/4 cup plain yogurt (Greek or regular)

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon lime zest

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons fresh ginger

Chicken sauce:

3 chicken breasts, cut into 1 Ĺ inch cubes

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or cinnamon)

3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sriracha (optional) (or dash cayenne)

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes

3 tablespoons heavy cream (or 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt)

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

In a medium bowl, whisk together all the marinade ingredients, and stir in the chicken cubes to coat. Let sit for at least 10 minutes or refrigerate up to a few hours.

In a large heavy sauce pan, cook the onion in half the oil over medium-high heat until onion begins to soften, about five minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and stir. Add in the dry spices and stir with a wooden spoon until very fragrant, about one minute. Add the sriracha and tomato paste and cook until tomato paste has deep color and aroma, stirring, about two minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick sautť pan, heat the remaining oil over medium high heat and brown the chicken (remove any excess marinade). Cook the chicken on all sides until golden ó it will not be fully cooked in center.

Pour the chicken cubes into the bubbling sauce, add between 1/3 and 3/4 cup water and let it all cook together for 10 minutes, or up to 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the heavy cream or Greek yogurt and serve with chopped cilantro and lime for garnish.

Nutrition information per serving: 261 calories (98 calories from fat); 11 g fat (4 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 81 mg cholesterol; 436 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 24 g protein.

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