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Raisins make sweet, savory dishes

I am one of the lucky ones. I have an absolutely terrific mother-in-law who treats me like a daughter, not like a daughter-in-law.

For more than 35 years she’s been an adviser, a baby sitter (lo those many years ago), a terrific friend and one of the best people I know. In fact, the only thing that keeps her from being absolutely perfect is that fact that she doesn’t like raisins.

I know, not a deal breaker in the scheme of things, but I happen to love raisins and when it comes to making cookies, or bread, or even baked chicken, I can throw a whole box in, eat whatever is on my plate and yet I still pick the ones sticking out of the leftovers when I’m putting them away.

We have had many an “interesting” discussion as to the merits (and advisability) of me putting raisins in any and all dishes that happen to come out of my kitchen when she and my father-in-law (who happens to belong to team raisin) come over to eat.

Raisins are incredibly adaptable and are right at home in savory or sweet dishes and have incorporated themselves into breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

My Mothers’ Day gift to my readers are the following recipes, which are all simple and work well with golden or black raisins. I do however prefer the golden raisin in chicken and savory dishes as, in my opinion, it’s a tad bit milder and sweeter in flavor than the black raisin and lends itself better to a savory dish.

As for my mother-in-law, she gets chocolate.

Raisin Caramel Bites

1 cup butter or margarine

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups raisins, chopped

1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Icing:

1/3 cup butter

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons milk or non-dairy substitute

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Add the flour and salt to the butter mixture and combine. Add the raisins and nuts. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Do not over bake; the crust should be slightly soft to the touch. Let cool to room temperature.

For the icing: While the mixture is baking, melt the butter in a saucepan, over medium heat, until it becomes light brown in color. Remove from the heat immediately; cool slightly, then add the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Beat with a wooden spoon until the frosting is smooth. Gently spread the frosting over the top and cut into small squares. Depending on how you cut it, you can have 12 to 16 pieces.

One-Pot Garbanzo Bean and Raisin Chicken

4 to 5 tablespoons oil

4 pounds chicken thighs (skin on)

Salt and pepper

1 large onion, chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons minced garlic

3 stalks of celery, chopped

1 red or green pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon flour

3 cups chicken broth

3 to 4 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup dark raisins

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan then sear/brown the chicken on both sides (but don’t cook it too long). Remove it from the pan and place it on a plate. Add in onions, garlic, celery and red or green pepper to the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, turmeric, paprika and cinnamon; cook, stirring vigorously, for about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, flour, broth and honey; whisk to combine. Return the chicken to the mixture; cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the beans and raisins and continue to cook, uncovered until the chicken is completely cooked. Serve with rice. Serves 8.

Lemon and Raisin Chicken

1 cup golden raisins

3 tablespoons oil

6 to 8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

6 to 8 skinless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 lemons, thinly sliced into rounds

1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Lemon slices for garnish

Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, soak the raisins in 1/2 cup of warm water until softened, about 20 minutes; drain and set the raisins aside. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides (4 to 5 minutes per side) and remove the chicken to a plate. Heat the remaining oil and brown the thighs the same way. Remove them to a plate. Do not clean the pan.

Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly so they don’t stick for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the onions to a bowl. Put the browned chicken back in the pan. Place the lemon slices, sautéed onion and raisins between and around the chicken pieces and sprinkle the top of the chicken with the cumin. Pour the chicken broth over the pan and bring it to a boil. Cover and place the pan in the oven and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked throughout. Place the chicken pieces on a platter and gently spoon the sauce over the chicken, garnish with fresh lemon slices and chopped parsley and serve. Serves 10 to 12.

Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@verizon.net or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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