Hi guys! Excited to bring you all a guest post from Jackie, a dietetic intern who is doing a rotation with me this week! On Monday, I showed her the behind the scenes ropes to my blog, and we cooked and photographed this amazing recipe for spring vegetable coconut couscous with harissa chicken, inspired by a recipe she learned in her favorite dietetic rotation (maybe second favorite now 😉). I'll turn it over to her!
I was born and raised in South Carolina, y’all, as were my parents and their parents and so on. Growing up, my mom cooked a lot of traditional southern food and kept the pantry stocked with every kid’s favorite snacks. My friends used to come to my house just to eat- seriously! My parents are slim, and as well all know, weight/body size is a determining factor in health (sarcasm there!), so we never thought about nutrition. It wasn’t until college when I had my first salad!
You guys should also know that I was a BOOKWORM. Major. I beat my school’s accelerated reading record in the 5th grade, and yes, I am humble bragging. But combine my love of books with my parents huge emphasis on further education, and you get a person who couldn’t run the mile in high school to get an A in PE class. Sigh.
Fast forward to my later years of college. I got my degree in exercise science, but something about nutrition had me intrigued. I had taken a couple courses because my advisor was a dietitian and highly recommended them. As life would have it, I didn’t find a job after college with my exercise science degree that I was truly interested in. In a matter of months, I found myself taking the GRE and getting accepted into a graduate nutrition program.
The more I learned about nutrition, the more I wanted for my body. Since I was thin, most people presumed I was healthy, but I had been abusing my body and neglecting to give it the care it deserved for far too long.
I began choosing foods that I had never eaten before, like “crazy” vegetables and grains I couldn’t pronounce (looking at you quinoa). I never forced myself to eat something I didn’t like, but I would try a food prepared several different ways before I’d decide if it wasn’t for me. I also found ways to enjoy moving my body, and I bet I’d get that A in gym class now. Going back to school for nutrition healed all the misconceptions I had about food, weight, and health- and in turn truly changed my life.
While in this internship, I had the pleasure of working with Augusta Locally Grown run by Kim Hines and her absolutely beautiful staff/volunteers in Georgia for 3 weeks during my dietetic internship. One of those weeks was assigned, but the other two I chose to go back because I enjoyed it so much. I adore ALG, and I love the focus on prevention. Providing fresh fruits and vegetables to communities that do not typically have access helps improve their overall health.
Working with them was incredibly inspirational, even on a personal level. I began my journey with providing better food choices and consistently feeding my body a variety of foods a couple years back, but I didn’t know the benefits of buying local fresh produce. The people at ALG taught me about supporting local economy, providing more quality nutrients in fresh picked foods, and how to eat in season.
While ALG does a lot (and I mean a LOT) for the entire community, I found myself settling into Icebox Urban Farm. Icebox is the hub of ALG and Judy is the heart and soul of Icebox. She does both gardening and cooking classes, using fresh produce from right outside to enhance her dishes. Miss Judy has some of the most colorful stories about life, and you can see that color come through in her cooking!
Last week, she taught me how to make a very simple but unique dish with peas from the garden. Peas are in season right now and blooming beautifully. Describing how the flavors would mold together, she showed me how to make coconut milk couscous with snow peas. What a different take on traditional savory couscous! I took this recipe to the Department of Public Health, passing along the dish in a cooking demo while adding in some of the nutritional benefits to my talk.
This recipe for spring vegetable coconut couscous with harissa chicken takes inspiration from Miss Judy. We added in more spice with the chicken and extra seasonal veggies. One of the great things about Miss Judy’s style of cooking is that there’s no right or wrong. She doesn’t usually measure ingredients or go by the book. That’s why it’s so easy to take the basic couscous she showed me and make it into your own, as we did here in The Joy of Eating kitchen. The couscous gives a rich, creamy flavor from the coconut milk, while the harissa chicken thighs provide your tastebuds with a kick. Peas, asparagus, and carrots brighten the couscous with coconut and pistachio garnish adding a nice crunch. Steaming the vegetables with the couscous leaves them perfectly crisp tender. Cilantro is my all time favorite herb, and it adds just the right amount of tangy, bright flavor- and spring is all about brightness!
Spring Vegetable Coconut Couscous with Harissa Chicken
- 1 lb chicken thighs
- 2 tbsp harissa paste
- 1 cup whole wheat couscous
- 10 oz canned coconut milk
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 8 thin asparagus stalks, diced
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 teaspoons nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup pistachios
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
- 2 tbsp currants
- 2 tbsp cilantro
Preheat oven to 400. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Rub chicken thighs with harissa paste. Evenly space thighs on baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.
While chicken is baking, bring coconut milk to a boil in a large pot. Add asparagus, carrots, peas, nutmeg, cloves, and salt to coconut milk.
Once boiling, remove from heat and stir in 1 cup couscous. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
Fluff couscous. If desired, garnish with pistachios, coconut, currants and cilantro. Serve couscous with chicken.
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