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Maple Simmered Chicken with Cranberries and Vanilla


When I was running a special culinary program at a local natural foods store, I found the basics for this recipe in a monthly magazine, as I recall. I tried it on our customers and they loved it so I posted it. The photo was too small for our current blog format, so I made it again recently and realized how versatile this recipe is.

First, you can make this recipe from scratch or take advantage of time-saving shortcuts. I also realized that instead of using chicken breast, which is really nice, you could substitute leftover turkey and cranberry sauce from a holiday meal. If you served mashed or whipped squash or sweet potatoes and have some left over, then you have all the components you need to make this. You could even substitute mashed potatoes for the squash if you want.

I pureed the squash, which was absolutely delicious, but it doesn’t look as appealing in the photo as it would have if I had just whipped or mashed it. You can make yours however you wish. Not only is this recipe simple, it’s delicious and total comfort food on a cold, rainy night.




Maple Simmered Chicken with Cranberries and Vanilla
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  1. For Squash
  2. 1-1/2 pounds butternut squash, trimmed, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  3. 2 - 3 tablespoons butter
  4. 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  5. 1 - 2 teaspoons cinnamon (I use Ceylon cinnamon, which is mild and slightly citrusy, so amount of cinnamon is based on taste and what type of cinnamon you're using)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  7. 1/2 - 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg or to taste
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  10. For the Poaching Sauce
  11. 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  12. 8 ounces fresh cranberries
  13. 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  14. 1/4 cup water or chicken broth
  15. 1 pound chicken breasts sliced into 1-inch pieces
  16. 1 teaspoon Rain's Choice pure vanilla extract
  1. Fill a medium pot halfway with water and bring to a boil on high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Add squash and simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes. Drain well and return to pot. Add butter and yogurt and mash with a potato masher or whip with a mixer. Add spices, vanilla and salt and pepper to taste and blend well.
  3. Cover and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, add maple syrup, cranberries, thyme and 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth. Bring mixture to a boil on high heat; reduce to medium low and gently simmer for 10 minutes, using the back of a spatula to mash the cranberries until all are broken up.
  5. Add chicken to cranberry mixture and cover skillet. Increase heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Flip chicken and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Cut into thickest piece of chicken to check for doneness; if still pink, flip chicken and cook for 2 minutes or until chicken is opaque throughout. Remove chicken from sauce and stir sauce well. If the sauce is still runny, reduce it until thick. Add vanilla to sauce, stir well and allow to rest briefly.
  6. Serve chicken on top of squash (or plate squash on the side if preferred) and with cranberry sauce over chicken.
  7. Serves 4
Alternative Directions
  1. To save time, purchase fresh, pre-cut butternut squash. Cut any large pieces of squash in half. Follow the above directions for finishing the squash.
  2. To make the sauce, use 1 jar or can of whole cranberry sauce, not the jellied sauce. Pour into the skillet, add maple syrup, thyme and water or broth, blend well, and cook just until sauce is hot. Add chicken pieces and continue the recipe.
  3. When the chicken is tender, add vanilla.
  4. If you have leftover turkey, omit the chicken and heat turkey in the sauce. When turkey is hot, remove and reduce sauce until it is thick. Add vanilla, stir, and then add turkey slices briefly to heat.
  5. Plate as above.
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Patricia Rain
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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.
Patricia Rain
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