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Just finished reading The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novelby Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant (she arrived after the birth, actually). Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the father is a wealthy man in the area who carries a lot of clout. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of middle-aged high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, and wealthy) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, on October 3rd, 2016.

chix_breasts_emmental_arugula

Yet another filled chicken breast. You pound out the breast so it’s thin, fill it with a couple of strips of Emmental cheese (similar to Gruyere) and stuff in some arugula. Fold over, sear, roast and serve with a nice white wine, shallot and butter sauce.

My Colorado friends were visiting me – this was awhile back; it’s just taken me awhile to get this posted. One night we had dinner here at home, so I made these chicken breasts with a white wine and shallot sauce. We had some watermelon with Feta and mint and also enjoyed a dessert, which I’ve posted already.

The recipe couldn’t have been much simpler. Chicken breasts are pounded out thin with a mallet or a stainless pounder, so they’re about 1/4 inch thick. Two narrow slices of Emmental cheese are chucked in chix_breasts_raw_emmental_arugulathe fold, along with a little handful of arugula. The breasts are seasoned with salt, pepper and some kind of mixed herbs, they’re seared in a bit of oil and hopefully the same pan can go straight into the 350° oven for just a few minutes (5-7) until the breasts are just cooked through and the cheese is amply melted. Whisk them to a plate and serve with the white wine sauce you made. Probably should start the sauce before you cook the chicken.

The sauce was easy enough, although it did take awhile to boil it down (reduce it) so that it thickened some. I actually sprinkled in a tiny bit of flour, but it probably wasn’t necessary. It contains shallot and garlic, white wine white_wine_sauce_shallots_honey_basiland chicken broth, lemon juice, honey, fresh basil and at the last, a couple of T. of butter. That was drizzled over the finished chicken breasts. I forgot to take a picture of it once it was served . . . sigh. With trying so hard to get dinner on the table, hot, I forgot photos! Do have everything else done before you start cooking the chicken, as it comes together very rapidly.

If you like arugula, make a little side salad for the plate. The recipe came from Tarla Fallgatter, from a long, long time ago, 2002, from a class I took from her.

What’s GOOD: overall, this is a very nice, tasty dish. I liked the cheese (there isn’t a lot of it, or it might be too rich), and I liked the bit of arugula too, but then, I’m an arugula fan. You can stuff the chicken ahead of time, so all you’d have to do it pan sear it and quick-like push the pan into the oven for a few minutes. A lovely guest-worthy dish.

What’s NOT: some people might say this is too fussy, with pounding and stuffing. It really doesn’t take long to do. The sauce might not be necessary, but I think it added much to the flavorfulness and moisture for a chicken breast, which can often be dry. This wasn’t. But, the sauce does take some extra steps and minutes to get it just right.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Breasts with Emmental & Arugula

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from a Tarla Fallgatter recipe, 2002
Serving Size: 6

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves — pounded to an even 1/4 inch thickness
2 cups baby arugula
8 ounces gruyere cheese — or Emmental, cut into 6 2-inch long strips
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Mediterranean herbs — or herb blend of your choice
SAUCE:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup shallots — peeled and minced
2 tablespoons garlic — minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
3/4 cup dry white wine — or red wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — at room temperature
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup fresh basil — thinly sliced (divided use)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. SAUCE: In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the shallot, with the salt and pepper, for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking another 30 seconds, then add white wine, honey and broth and let bubble for another 5-8 minutes until reduced by half. Add red chile flakes. Lower heat to below a simmer and add the unsalted butter a tablespoon at a time without letting the sauce boil at all, then add half the basil. Use remaining basil to garnish the chicken.
3. CHICKEN: To prepare the chicken, place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4 inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Discard plastic wrap. Top each chicken breast half with 1 slice cheese (or two small strips), and 1/4 cup arugula, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal; sprinkle with salt and pepper. (The chicken can be prepared up to a day ahead, covered and refrigerated at this point.)
3. Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet (one that’s heat-proof to 350° oven temp) over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes on each side. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan; bake for 5 minutes or until done and internal temperature reaches 160°F. Do not insert thermometer into the cheese. Keep warm.
4. To serve, place chicken on a cutting board and cut into 1-inch slices. then place chicken onto a heated platter or individual plates and drizzle with sauce and sprinkle basil on top. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 457 Calories; 25g Fat (50.9% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 120mg Cholesterol; 214mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on August 24th, 2016.

grilled_chicken_greek_marinade2

What do you think of when you hear “Greek marinade?” Lemon juice? Olive oil? Garlic? Yes, all of the above plus oregano. This recipe is more lemon juice than oil and enhanced with some red pepper flakes.

Recently I had a houseguest, Jennifer, who is vegan, but also doesn’t eat a lot of other things as well. I can’t say that it was exactly hard to cook for her, but it was a bit foreign to cook for her. My cousin was along too, and he must eat GF. So one night I made the pasta recipe I made not too long ago, Pasta alla Trapenese with Eggplant. But we had to eat it with lentil (GF) linguine. And because Jennifer was very interested in having more veggies in the dish, I added a bunch of other things, which totally diluted the flavor from the eggplant, which, to me, was the star of the dish. I couldn’t even taste the eggplant. And I’ll just tell you, I didn’t much like the lentil linguine. It was mushy and I cooked it less time than the box suggested. I count myself lucky that I’m not allergic to wheat.

So the next evening I made an old favorite created by Paul Prudhomme, The BEST Bean Salad, one that’s been on my blog for years. I didn’t fiddle with the recipe at all (it’s extremely low in fat). It was all Jennifer had for dinner except for an English muffin she microwaved with some fake shredded cheese (non-dairy and not soy based, either) on top. But Gary was craving some meat, I think, so I defrosted boneless, skinless chicken breasts and had wanted to try this Greek marinade anyway. The bean salad has very similar seasonings (lots of oregano), so the two dishes were a complement to one another.

The marinade was simple enough to make – I found the recipe over at Julie’s Lifestyle blog. I tinkered with her recipe just a tiny bit – all the main ingredients are there, I just slightly adjusted the amounts. It’s a wonderful combination – the lemon juice is the star of the show, and it shines through in the grilled result – I thought it was wonderful. I’m extremely careful when grilling chicken breasts (boneless) because they can go from moist and juicy, to dry and inedible in a matter of a minute or two. Use an instant read thermometer and take chicken breasts off at 150°F. If you use chicken thighs, they need to cook until they reach 165°F. If you’re combining both types, put the thighs on first, then the breasts during the last 6-8 minutes as they cook in no time at all.

What’s GOOD: the lemon flavor for sure. Cooked perfectly, to 150°F, they were SO juicy and tender. Easy.

What’s NOT: for some it would be cooking/grilling to that exact temperature – an instant read thermometer is a must here. If you don’t have one in your gadget arsenal, you need one!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Greek Marinade for Chicken

Recipe By: Recipe adpated from Julie’s Lifestyle (blog) 2016
Serving Size: 4

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves — minced
3 tablespoons oregano — reduce by 2/3 if using dried herbs
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley — reduce by 2/3 if using dried herbs
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Chicken: use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs

1. Combine all the ingredients in a sealing plastic bag and mush around to combine.
2. Add chicken pieces [ I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts] to the bag and mush it around so all the chicken surfaces are covered in the marinade. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
3. Remove chicken and blot dry on paper towels. Discard marinade.
4. Heat an outdoor grill to high, then reduce temperature to medium. Using a oil-soaked paper towel, rub the grill so the chicken will be less likely to stick.
5. Place chicken pieces on the grill and cook until one side is golden brown. If the chicken sticks to the grate, leave it a bit longer – once the chicken has cooked sufficiently it should be loosened so you can lift it. Turn the chicken over and continue grilling, with cover closed, until the internal temperature of chicken breasts has reached 150° or if using chicken thighs, cook it to 165°F. Remove to a platter and allow to rest for about a minute, then serve. If you are vigilant about not overcooking the chicken (past 150°F or 165°F), you’ll be rewarded with very tender and moist chicken.
Per Serving (marinade only): 174 Calories; 17g Fat (84.1% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 7g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 3mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on July 23rd, 2016.

bff_crispy_chicken

Probably I’m old-school. No, not just probably, I’m sure I am. I don’t always get on the bandwagon with acronyms. But I do know what BFF means; it’s just that I wouldn’t have used it to name a recipe. But oh well, somebody else did.

To call these “chicken fingers” would probably make it sound like it’s just for kids, right? And these are definitely better than that! I made these for my granddaughter Taylor and her 2 friends who were visiting from NoCal. I was delighted to have them here – they’re all very nice girls – very helpful too. They cleared dishes and washed them every time I prepared a meal for them. They had a grand time shopping, beaching and walking around Disneyland until their feet were aching.

So, this dish. First I pounded 3 big chicken breasts until they were an even thickness of about 1/4-1/3 inch, then cut them into narrow little planks. Next, I set up 3 dunking or dipping stations – first it was seasoned flour, then eggs, then into a panko and Parmesan pan. They’re very briefly fried (really, like about 2 minutes total, maybe 3) in vegetable oil, then served on a bed of salad dressing-dressed greens. I made a watermelon salad with Feta cheese and fresh mint from my garden, and that was dinner. Vanilla ice cream rounded out the dinner with their choice of toppings.

Since I had some salad dressing (home made) in the refrigerator, I opted to not make the dressing you’ll see below in the recipe. However, because the recipe recommends you use leftovers in a sandwich the next day, and to garnish or spread the bread with the lemony Parmesan dressing, I have left that part of the recipe intact. Lots of people who made this, from Food52 land, used the dressing to DIP the chicken into as they ate it.

bff_crispy_chicken_narrowWe all enjoyed this – the chicken was hot and crispy right out of the pan. Each bite was eaten with a bit of the dressed salad. I did have leftovers, and I had them for dinner the next night and wished I’d had some of the dipping sauce. But I think the leftovers would have been great in a sandwich – and the creamy dressing would have been a wonderful treat with the chicken. All by itself, the chicken is good – I wouldn’t call it sensational – but it was very good. With the salad it was elevated to a much higher status in my book. Some readers of Food52 thought they’d try baking these to avoid the calories from frying.

What’s GOOD: a very simple dinner entrée. Especially for warm, summer dining as it was the night I served this sitting out on my patio. Although I didn’t make the dressing, next time I definitely will do so – it had great raves over at Food52. I enjoyed the piquant taste of the chicken served on the salad (I used arugula and baby spinach). Be sure to give the chicken sufficient salt – although Parmesan is salty, there isn’t all that much in it, so do season the flour mixture with both salt and pepper.

What’s NOT: some folks don’t like to dirty-up the kitchen range or countertop with fat spatters, and it definitely did need a bit of a clean-up. But no complaints at all about the taste of this dish.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

BFF Crispy Coated Chicken

Recipe By: From Food52
Serving Size: 4

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts — or chicken tenders
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper
3/8 teaspoon garlic salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups panko
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated Vegetable oil
DRESSING:
3/4 small garlic clove
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — finely grated
3/4 tablespoon crème fraiche
1 5/8 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon honey
4 3/4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste — optional
Salt and pepper

1. Pound chicken breasts to about 1/3 to 1/4-inch in thickness. Cut into narrow planks (fingers). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Get breading stations ready. Mix flour and garlic salt on a plate. Next, beat eggs in a shallow but wide bowl. Then mix together panko and parmesan in another shallow bowl or plate. Put a clean plate at that end.
3. With one hand coat a piece of chicken with flour mixture and then drop into egg mixture. Pick it up, coat both sides with egg then drop into panko/cheese mixture. Using your other hand, coat both sides with panko/cheese. Set on the clean plate and continue coating the rest of the chicken.
4. Add enough vegetable oil to generously coat your nonstick frying pan and heat on medium high heat. Once hot, add enough chicken to fill the pan. Once the coating has turned golden brown flip each slice over, about 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Add additional oil to make sure that the panko/cheese mixture can also brown evenly on that side, about a minute. When both sides are nicely browned, remove to a plate with paper towels and keep warm in a low oven until you’ve fried all the chicken. Do not over cook them or they’ll be dry.
5. The chicken can be served hot or room temperature. To reheat, heat in a 350° F oven or toaster for 5 minutes or until coating sizzles.
6. Dress the salad with the dressing and place chicken on top.
7. Pack chicken pieces into lunch boxes with a small container of ketchup.
8. Tuck pieces of chicken between two slices of your favorite toast with lettuce and tomatoes and the bread spread with some of the dressing.
9. DRESSING: Mash up the garlic clove your favorite way. Add garlic with Parmesan, crème fraiche, lemon juice and anchovy (if using) and mix thoroughly. Add olive oil and whisk until evenly mixed and emulsified. Taste and add salt, ample pepper, or more lemon juice.
Per Serving: 388 Calories; 22g Fat (50.6% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 162mg Cholesterol; 355mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on July 7th, 2016.

curried_maple_mustard_chicken_breasts

It may be a little hard to see, but the chicken breast has been sliced – I had large boneless, skinless breasts, so I could have fed 4 people, I swear, with just 2 breasts. The glaze/sauce is subtle but really, really good.

The recipe for this came from Food & Wine magazine, although it called for bone-in chicken breasts, which I didn’t have. I searched around the ‘net and found a few other bloggers or sites that prepared this chicken, and one suggestion was to reduce the amount of sauce. I did that, although when finished, I wished I’d had a little extra to drizzle on the finished, sliced chicken. So, I went back to the recipe and upped the amount of sauce from what I prepared. But, if you or your family like more stuff to drizzle, do more sauce that indicated below. Someone else had used part butter, part olive oil. I liked that option. SO, all that said, the recipe below is changed a bit from the magazine’s version.

First I pounded the chicken breasts to an even thickness (about 1/3 inch) with a piece of plastic wrap covering the meat. Then you briefly melt the butter in the baking dish/pan in the oven – (don’t use a big, honkin’ pan as the butter/oil will spread all over – confine it to a baking dish that’s just a bit bigger than the chicken breasts, however many you’re making). Don’t melt it for more than a few minutes or the butter will burn. You can mix all the other ingredients in at the same time (Dijon curry_maple_mustard_glazemustard, maple syrup and curry powder) but unless you watch this very, very carefully, the mixture WILL burn (mine nearly did). Then you dunk the chicken in the glaze mixture (mix it right on the pan – see photo). Once the butter melts, whisk it just a bit, then do the dunking. Turn the breasts over a couple of times to get as much of the mixture on the chicken as possible.

Then it’s merely baking the chicken until it reaches 160°F. Now, I’ll warn you – use an instant read thermometer if at all possible –  when I baked this it took about 15 minutes, but depending on how thick your chicken is, it might even be LESS than that. If it’s not quite there, just continue baking for another 2-3 minutes before you check it again. If it goes higher than 160°, trust me, the chicken will be dry.

I used frozen chicken breasts, thawed, of course, and I’ll tell you for sure – this was SO juicy. I was vigilant, though, about the temperature. I hate-hate dry chicken. So do yourself a favor and use the thermometer. I had a little bit of the wild rice salad with watercress left over from a few days ago, and it was perfect with this chicken (you can see it in the background on the plate.

What’s GOOD:  The flavors were subtle, believe it or not! The curry hardly could be tasted (I know, doesn’t sound right, but it wasn’t a strong flavor at all). You’re aware that there’s a little bit sweet, a little bit sharp (the mustard) but when mixed together it’s quite mellow. Liked it a LOT, and it was SO SO easy! I had dinner prepared in about 20 minutes. I have left overs of this, and I may put it on a salad. Actually I have 3 more meals of it ahead of me, so I’ll need to think about other ways to eat it. Very juicy and tender meat. Liked it all a lot.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything – even the pounding of the chicken took about one minute total. If you have some other left over veggies or salad to serve with it, it’s a cinchy easy dinner.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Curried Maple-Mustard Chicken Breasts

Recipe By: Adapted from Food & Wine
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter — cut into pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon curry powder — mild or hot
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

NOTES: As shown, there isn’t much “sauce” to serve or really, to even baste with. You can double the amount of sauce, but reserve some from the beginning (i.e. don’t dunk the chicken into all of it – the raw chicken would contaminate the sauce), then use that warmed reserved sauce for serving.
1. On a flat surface place a chicken breast, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and pound gently until the chicken is evenly thick, about 1/3 inch thick. Don’t pound the thin end. Repeat with other breasts.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a glass or ceramic baking dish a bit larger than the chicken breasts, combine the butter with the maple syrup, mustard, curry powder and cayenne. Bake for about 4 minutes, until the butter is melted – don’t do it any longer or it will start to burn. Whisk in a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and let cool slightly, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the baking dish and turn to coat with the sauce. Bake for about 15 minutes, basting occasionally, and turning the chicken over once during the baking time, until the chicken is glazed and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 160°. Transfer the chicken to a work surface and slice into pieces, on an angle and serve immediately. If there is any sauce left in the pan, spoon over the chicken.
Per Serving: 277 Calories; 15g Fat (47.7% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 8g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 173mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on May 3rd, 2016.

chix_breasts_santa_fe_style

As I keep saying, I never have enough recipes for chicken breasts, making them some new or different way. I have dozens and dozens of tried and true recipes, but I get tired of repeating them. So, here’s a new recipe for a boneless, skinless chicken breast stuffed with Boursin cheese, then oiled, coated in Panko and baked. Then served with a really high-profile sauce or salsa.

This recipe has been residing in my to-try file for a long time. I changed it up just a little bit, but only to make it easier, I think. The original recipe was given to me by an old friend, Karen B, and she found it in a Sacramento Bee article in 1988. So, see, it’s “old.” As I read the recipe, I concluded that maybe Boursin cheese didn’t exist in 1988. You think? I don’t really know, but instead of using soft goat cheese and making the herb and garlic filling with freshly bought or harvested herbs and minced garlic, I just bought one of the little round discs of Boursin (the garlic & herb one) and used it! To make 4 servings (4 breasts) you’d use the whole 4-ounce container. I halved the recipe, and actually I ate only half of the chicken breast pictured above, so will have 3 more meals out of the 2 breasts.

First you need to make the sauce, or salsa, so it has time to marry the flavors. It was easy – chopped up fresh tomatoes, basil, cilantro, green onions, red wine vinegar, EVOO, salt and pepper, and a little bit of minced jalapeno chile. To give it some zip. I didn’t refrigerate it – but you could easily make it a few hours ahead. I have some left over, but am not sure the cilantro will last very long sitting in the sauce.

The chicken breasts are boneless and skinless. I removed the chicken tenders for another use (no, I don’t know what – maybe I’ll treat my kitty-cat to some in his dinner). The breasts then were flattened (pounded) gently, between pieces of plastic wrap, until they were uniformly about 1/4 inch thick. I cut the Boursin cheese to fit down the middle, lengthwise, of the breast, and folded it on itself, kind of pinching the edges together. If you’re concerned – or have difficulty – fork-whip an egg and use it as glue on the edges to hold them together. I also lightly salted and peppered the interior of the chicken.

santa_fe_breasts_stuffed_rawThen, I lightly oiled the outside of each of these sort-of rolls and gently dipped them into a bit of Panko crumbs. I didn’t truly coat the outside, but used just enough to give it some crunch. Then I placed the rolls on a rack on a baking sheet – see photo at left – (lined with foil, although there weren’t any drips – but there could be and it might not be very easy to clean up). Put the seam side up and gently press the ends in so the cheese doesn’t ooze out the ends. Into a 375° oven it went and baked for about 30-40 minutes. The chicken didn’t slump or open up at all – I was almost surprised, but it didn’t. I tested the chicken with an instant-read thermometer, and once it reached 155° in the thicker part (inserted into the chicken, not the cheesy interior) I removed the pan and let it rest for just a couple of minutes.

Since each breast was rather large (the Costco ones are pretty big), you could slice the chicken on the diagonal and fan them out onto a heated platter (but then the cheese would ooze out, I think) or serve a half of one, or a whole one to hearty eaters, with the sauce spooned over the top. It made a lovely, juicy, cheesy (but not overly so since there isn’t all that much cheese in each portion) entrée. I loved the sauce – wish I’d had more of it. Next time I’ll probably make more, so I’ve increased the amount of sauce in the recipe below, just so you’ll have plenty. If you know you’re going to have leftovers, my suggestion is to hold out the cilantro and add it only when you’re ready to serve, and only use enough of the sauce that you’ll use at that meal. That will preclude the cilantro from becoming gooey in the sauce if you keep it a day or two.

What’s GOOD: A lovely presentation. Very juicy, as long as you don’t bake it past 155°F. Loved the sauce/salsa. I liked the crunch of the little bit of panko crumbs on the outside. Easy to put together, easy to bake. Would be nice for a company meal.

What’s NOT: pounding the chicken is really very easy, although not to everyone’s taste. It does take just a bit of fussy work to get the cheese down the middle, sealed, oiled and panko-crumbed. But only a few minutes, really. Worth doing according to me! IF you check the temperature while baking the chicken, you’ll be assured of a juicy entrée. If you don’t, it could very easily get over-cooked and dry.

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Chicken Santa Fe Style

Recipe By: Adapted from a newspaper article, 1988 (Sacramento Bee)
Serving Size: 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
4 ounces Boursin cheese — garlic & herbs type
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil for coating, and panko crumbs
SAUCE:
3 large tomatoes — peeled, seeded and chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 green onions — minced, including some of the tops
2/3 cup cilantro — chopped
1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper — minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1. SAUCE: Combine ingredients and chill. Taste the sauce for seasonings. If it seems too tart, add a smidge more oil. If too bland, add a smidge more vinegar. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. CHICKEN: Remove tenders if attached to chicken breast and use for another dish. Place each breast on a flat surface with a piece of plastic wrap under and on top. Using a pounder, gently flatten the chicken at the thicker end only so it measures 1/4″ thick and about 5″ across (and about 6″ long). Do not pound so thin you make a hole anywhere as you need the breast to remain intact to retain the cheese filling. Cut pieces of the Boursin and place a narrow rope of it down the middle. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Pull both sides together and they should more-or-less hold their shape, with the seam at the top. It will be approximately round in shape. If desired you can rub the seam-edges with beaten egg to help them hold together.
3. Drizzle the outside of each breast with olive oil, then roll the breasts in panko crumbs, without allowing the seam to open up.
4. Place stuffed breasts, seam side up, on a rack on a baking sheet lined with foil.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until an instant read thermometer, inserted into the meat (not the cheese) registers 155°F. Let cool slightly. You may slice the chicken diagonally and fan the pieces onto a hot serving platter or serve the rolls individually, spooning the sauce over the top.
NOTE: If you’re making more than you’ll eat at one meal, I’d advise not adding the cilantro to the sauce, and only use part of the sauce. Cilantro, once exposed to liquid, tends to get slimy, so add it in just before serving. Alternatively, you could sprinkle it on the finished dish, or pass cilantro at the table and people could add their own.
Per Serving: 524 Calories; 41g Fat (69.2% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 288mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on December 5th, 2015.

pretzel_crusted_chicken_cheddar_sauce

Yet another way to creatively make a chicken breast into something distinctly special. Pretzels are pounded to make a kind of a rustic crust – oh so good – and then it’s served with a delicious cheddar cheese sauce on top. Decadent.

Right off the bat I’ll tell you that normally I’m not a fan of pretzels. If they’re served for an appetizer I usually pass them by. I don’t crave them, and they’re kind of empty calories in my book. But oh my, this way, making a crust with them, dipping chicken breasts in an egg-mustard mixture, then the pretzels are pressed onto the chicken. Sautéed in oil until the top and bottom are crusty brown, then baked in the oven for 8-10 minutes, then served with a very simple, but very tasty cheese sauce. Yes. Delicious.

Probably the most tedious thing about this is pounding the pretzels – do it in a plastic bag with a pounder or rolling pin until the pieces are still visible, but not like they’re crumbs. For sure don’t use a food processor for this step – it makes the pretzels too fine. You want all those little pieces that turn brown as it cooks in oil. There is a bit of prep to make this – prepping the chicken breasts (pounding them between 2 pieces of plastic wrap until they’re about 1/4 inch thick, maybe 1/3 inch), prepping the pretzel crust, making the egg-mustard mixture to dip the chicken into. Then prepping for the sauce – grating cheese (medium flavor, not sharp) and heating the milk in a separate pan so it comes together quickly once you start making it. The sauce is easy – just have everything ready before you begin.

Have the rest of your meal all ready too – a salad and veggie, perhaps – have the table all set – so then once you have the chicken in the oven, you whip together the sauce and when the chicken comes out, everything is done and ready to serve.

Don’t be tempted to add salt to this dish – the pretzels provide ample for it, and the cheese does too. Some cheddars have quite a lot of salt, so there’s another reason not to add any more salt. The dip into egg and mustard gives the pretzels something to stick to. Then they go into a wide pan with some fairly hot oil in it, and sauté just until the crust is brown, about 2 minutes per side. The chicken needs to be placed ON a rack – so you don’t make the bottom crust soggy, and it bakes for a short time in a 375° oven.

Meanwhile, get started on the sauce and it will come together while the chicken is in the oven. It comes together very quickly once you start, and it’s a great accompaniment to the chicken. Serve – to raves. I’m telling you. It’s delicious. Recipe came from a Phillis Carey cooking class.

What’s GOOD: you’ll be amazed that crushed-up pretzels could taste so good on chicken. It’s really special, and very different. People will not know what’s on the chicken – make it a guessing game and keep the bag of box of pretzels out of sight. I loved the crunch of the pretzel crust. Loved the cheddar cheese sauce too. Altogether wonderful.

What’s NOT: well, maybe all the prep time – more than usual, I guess. Sorry about that, but once you try it you’ll be glad you did.

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Pretzel Crusted Chicken Breasts with Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 10/15
Serving Size: 6

CHICKEN:
2 large eggs — scrambled
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups crushed pretzels — (put them in a plastic bag and pound them – do not use a food processor)
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
6 pieces boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
CHEDDAR CHEESE SAUCE:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk — warmed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch cayenne
1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese — shredded

1. In a shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and mustard until smooth. In a separate shallow dish, combine the pretzels and thyme.
2. Trim chicken and pound between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to an even 1/4″ thickness. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off. Dredge in the pretzel mixture to coat.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F.
4. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat until it’s very hot. Add half of the chicken and brown well on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a rack set over a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining oil and chicken halves. Bake chicken for 8-10 minutes in the oven until cooked through.
5. SAUCE: Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbly, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. Taste for seasoning and spoon the sauce over the chicken.
Per Serving: 553 Calories; 29g Fat (48.1% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 190mg Cholesterol; 887mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on November 27th, 2015.

very_lemony_chix_thighs

There’s something so extra special (to me) about chicken with lemon. Lots of lemon. This fits the bill!

Recently I drove up to Northern California to visit with my daughter and her family who live in Placerville (California Gold Country). One night we went out to dinner, another night Dana did a spaghetti dinner, and the 3rd night I made this lemon chicken. It was really wonderful. And easy. I loved the lemon flavor that permeated the chicken (I used thighs) and the sauce was really wonderful on the chicken and on the rice we made to go with it.

I didn’t have a recipe in mind when I decided to do chicken with lemon, but went online and this recipe came up within the first few. It’s from Southern Living, back in 2010. If you want to make it according to that recipe you certainly can, but it won’t be as lemony as the chicken doesn’t get cooked with the lemon sauce at all. I altered the recipe just a little bit because I bought chicken thighs, not breasts, as was called for in the recipe. And I like the chicken cooked in the lemon anyway, not just as a side flavor or sauce.

So first you dip the chicken in flour with some pepper mixed in. Then the boneless, skinless thighs are sautéed in a bit of olive oil and butter just until they get golden on both sides. They’re removed to a plate while you concoct the sauce. Lemon juice and chicken broth are added in and cooked just a bit, then the chicken is added back into the pan, a lid put on and you simmer the thighs for about 20 minutes or so until they’re done. In that time, the sauce has cooked down just a little, and it’s thickened some because of the flour mixture used on the chicken. You can make a few very thin slices of lemon to put on top of the chicken as it cooks, then add a few for garnish also. And a bit of Italian parsley is sprinkled in and also on top when it’s served. We served the sauce on the side so you could decide where you wanted it – only on the chicken, or also on the rice.

What’s GOOD: I loved-loved the lemony flavor, but I love lemon any way, shape or form, so it was a no-brainer for me. I think everybody else liked it too. It’s easy to make – easy enough for a weeknight dinner for sure. The butter added into the sauce at the last made it special.

What’s NOT: the only thing I’d mention is that the breading you put on at the beginning and is slightly browned, gets soggy when it cooks in the lemon sauce – so don’t expect crispy anything. It’s all soft food, so to speak. Delicious nevertheless.

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Very Lemony Chicken Thighs

Recipe By: Adapted from myrecipes.com
Serving Size: 8

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter — divided
2 tablespoons olive oil — divided
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
8 lemon slices
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped
Garnish: lemon slices

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess.
2. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook half of chicken in skillet 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and done. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with 1 Tbsp. butter and remaining olive oil and chicken.
3. Add broth and lemon juice to skillet, and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Add chicken pieces back into the pan, coat with sauce by turning each piece over, cover with a lid, reduce heat and simmer for about 20+ minutes, until chicken is tender. You may add the thin lemon slices to the chicken during this cooking process if you’d like.
4. Remove skillet from heat and remove chicken from sauce onto a heated serving platter; to the sauce add parsley and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, and stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over chicken. Serve immediately. Garnish, if desired with more lemon slices. Serve with rice, pasta or mashed potatoes to soak up some of the delicious lemony sauce.
Per Serving: 218 Calories; 15g Fat (61.4% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 79mg Cholesterol; 508mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Uncategorized, on November 11th, 2015.

oven_fried_chicken_prosciutto_cheese

Not exactly quick, but not hard, either. In any case it’s delicious and worth making.

My friend Cherrie and I were finally able to find another class we could take with our favorite cooking teacher, Phillis Carey. Since the cooking school in San Diego closed some months ago – the one we attended often, Phillis is trying to find new venues to teach. But she’s always taught classes in other places and one is in Orange County, about once a month. (The downside is that the class is in a very cramped little space, hard, folding chairs, with a tray on our laps – i.e., not ideal.) This class was about Italian cooking at home.

Phillis is the queen of chicken breast cooking. She’s written an entire cookbook about it (her website is the only way to purchase it). And she continues to develop new and better ways to eat chicken. I don’t know about you, but I eat a lot of chicken and I love new/better ideas of ways to cook it. This one is worthy of a company meal – I might not go to the trouble just for a meal on my own.

The idea behind the oven fried part is that you lay the chicken breast (coated in eggs and bread crumbs) into a very little pool of hot oil in a rimmed pan and it sort of “fries.” How? Well, first you make a long, deep cut in the center of the boneless, skinless chicken breast half and open it up like a book. You don’t cut all the way through. Anyway, you fill the chicken breast (more on that in the next paragraph) and fold it together. Kind of squeezing it so it sticks together. Meanwhile, you will have heated the oven to 425° F. That’s HOT. Then you use a older, less attractive rimmed baking sheet (one that you don’t care how it looks and how the oil will mark it) and you heat olive oil (a tablespoon of oil per chicken breast) in that pan in the oven. When Phillis demonstrated this, after she put the baking sheet of oil into the oven to heat – it took about 4 minutes. It was smoking. That’s what it’s supposed to do. If you used canola oil (with a higher flash point) it wouldn’t smoke, and you can do that. It’s just that olive oil will give you a bit more flavor (more Italian, obviously). In the interim you will have coated the chicken breasts (dipped in beaten eggs and then a breadcrumb mixture that contains some Parm) and once the oil is smoking hot, you pull the oven rack out and gently – very gently – lay the chicken breasts, smooth side down (first) – in the hot oil. It will sizzle. If it doesn’t sizzle, then the oil didn’t get hot enough. That’s what creates the crust – you can see how beautiful it is in the photo at top. The chicken is baked in that hot oven for 7 minutes, then the breasts are turned over and baked another 6-8 minutes and they’re done. When the cheese (she used Fontina – a good melting cheese) begins to ooze out of the edges of the chicken you know it’s done. And you can serve it immediately, while it’s still hot as a pistol.

The filling – well, you could improvise if you wanted to. If you don’t like basil, use a different herb (fresh, though). If you don’t like Fontina, use Provolone or what you have on hand. A soft cheese, though, but not Jack or cheddar (tasteless). If you don’t like sun-dried tomatoes (these are the oil packed ones, drained) use fresh, but oven dried roasted tomatoes. Don’t use regular dried tomatoes – they’d be too firm even if you reconstituted them. And don’t use fresh tomatoes as they would give off too much liquid (would steam the chicken and you’d lose the whole point of the oven frying technique). She used prosciutto. You could use pancetta, but it won’t have the smoky flavor of prosciutto. But do remember that both of those Italian deli meats are salty. Use it judiciously.

So, you lay on a nice big leaf of basil on the open chicken breast “book.” Stack the filling on one side. Then you add the prosciutto. I’ve added into the recipe to cut it up in bite-sized pieces before laying it in the chicken. Phillis just laid a slice on the breast, but prosciutto kind of shreds when you try to cut it, so I think cut into pieces makes it easier to cut and eat it. Then the well-drained sun-dried tomatoes are added. I’d cut those up in small pieces also. THEN, you divide up the cheese and kind of cup it in your palm and place it on top of the filling. The other chicken breast half is laid over, pulled slightly and you press down (to compress the cheese) and so the edges of the chicken stick together. If you really wanted to do it right, brush the outer edge of the chicken with a bit of the beaten egg (used in the coating) to seal the edges. But it’s not really necessary to do that step.

The nice thing is that you can stuff the chicken a day ahead (covered, in the refrigerator). And you can coat the chicken an hour ahead (and refrigerate). So if you’re having guests, everything is ready except heating the oil and baking them. See? Easy, really. And it makes a beautiful presentation. That top turns a perfect golden brown.

Now, just a note about the CHICKEN. I buy my chicken breasts at Costco, and they’re big honkin’ breasts. Those are just too big for this recipe. So either buy smaller breasts (ideally about 6 ounces per serving), or if you use the big, big breasts, cut off the tender (you’ll do that anyway) and cut off some of the outer edges so you do end up with about a 6-ounce portion. If you were to use a bigger breast it will take longer to cook through and unless you’re feeding football players, they won’t eat it all. The chicken is very rich and filling.

What’s GOOD: the flavors are wonderful – very Italian for sure. I loved the crispy crust. I loved the oozing Fontina cheese in it. The flavor boost from the sun dried tomatoes was lovely. When I make it I will be sprinkling on just a tiny little bit of salt ONLY on the outside edges (where the prosciutto isn’t), as whatever chicken doesn’t have any filling needs just a hint of salt. It’s a beautiful presentation – serve on a platter if you want to with a sprinkling of Italian parsley and a few whole stems for color. The chicken is very rich, and is high in calorie with all those goodies in it and the oil it’s cooked in, too.

What’s NOT: only that it does take a bit of prep. But it’s not hard to do. Just a bit of time. The chicken probably won’t be great as leftovers. You’ll not be able to get the crispy crust the 2nd time around, so plan to eat it at the first sitting, if possible!

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Oven-Fried Parm-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Cheese Filling

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 9/2015
Serving Size: 4

4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breast halves
4 slices prosciutto — chopped
4 large basil leaves
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed — drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups Fontina cheese — grated (or use Provolone)
CRUMB MIXTURE:
3/4 cup dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated (or Pecorino)
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley — minced
COATING and BAKING:
2 large eggs — lightly beaten with 1 T. water
1/4 cup olive oil — for the baking sheet
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)

1. Using a sharp knife, butterfly the chicken breasts by slicing in half, horizontally, but not all the way through; just open it like a book. Lay on the prosciutto, a basil leaf and a tablespoon of the sun dried tomatoes on one side of the opened breast. Divide the cheese among the pieces, then fold top side over the filling. Press together firmly and try to seal the edges (chicken meat against chicken meat). May be refrigerated at this point up to a day ahead.
2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine the bread crumbs, Parm cheese and parsley on a shallow plate. Dip the chicken bundles in the egg mixture (keeping the edges together so they don’t open up) and then in the breadcrumbs, coating well. (At this point the chicken can be chilled for up to an hour.)
3. Once oven is at temperature, pour the olive oil (approx 1 T. per chicken breast) into a rimmed large baking sheet. Use an “old” one as the oil and the baking may discolor the pan. Place pan in the oven to heat – about 3-4 minutes. It will be VERY hot and the olive oil may be smoking slightly. Add the chicken, top side down and bake for 7 minutes. Turn the chicken over (very carefully) and continue baking another 6-8 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. The chicken is done when the cheesy mixture begins to ooze out of the seam. If you are baking more than 4 of these, use a separate oven and another baking sheet to roast the chicken. If you have a convection oven that has a convection/bake cycle, use that, same temp and same amount of time. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
4. It is best to use smaller chicken breasts for this – don’t include the chicken tender. If you buy very large breasts, trim some of the edges (and use for something else) to bring the size down to about 6-7 ounces per breast.
Per Serving: 983 Calories; 51g Fat (47.9% calories from fat); 107g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 380mg Cholesterol; 6745mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on September 24th, 2015.

herb_roasted_turkey_breast_wine

Simple preparation of a turkey breast – enough for 4 people – very tasty and easy.

I’ve been making an effort to eat some of the frozen meat and other stuff in my freezer. After my darling DH passed away, I hardly even cooked for weeks and weeks. I’ve entertained very little, and on any ordinary evening I never seem to have the interest in doing a really nice dinner that would feed 3-4 people with all the accompanying side dishes to go with it. But I’ve got good steaks that have been there for 18 months. A big honkin’ pork shoulder that’s been there for probably 2 years. I should give that one away as I couldn’t possibly eat it up and it probably shouldn’t be re-frozen. I’ve had plenty of chicken breasts, salmon fillets, chicken thighs and pork chops in a variety of shapes and sizes. But the beef is languishing in there.

The meat in these freezers – some are in the kitchen freezer and pounds and pounds of varied meat items live in my garage freezer. I’ve had several packages of casseroles or vegetables, or even a dessert. Today I decided to defrost a turkey breast half that I’d stuck in there some months ago. I have another recipe on my roast_turkey_breast_tobakeblog for a dry brined turkey breast that I’ve prepared several times since I first made it – and have loved it. Today I did some internet sleuthing and found another recipe from Taste of Home. It was a simple enough preparation and needed about 1 1/2 hours to roast.

The breast weighed about 2+. I slathered a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil under the skin, then patted a dry mixture on top comprised of dry thyme, dry rosemary, garlic powder and salt and pepper. It got laid upon a bed of sliced onions and a couple of stalks of celery cut up, and then I floated in about 3/4 cup of white wine. Into the oven it went and about 90 minutes later it was at exactly 170° on my Thermapen instant-read thermometer. There at left you can see the raw breast ready to bake.

I also made a zucchini casserole which I’ll write up next. That’s what I had for dinner – turkey and zucchini. No salad (had one of those for lunch). It was very filling and tasted delicious. I still haven’t been able to go into my dining room (alone) and set the table there to eat my dinner. Dave and I had dinner in there all winter long, and ate outside on our patio in the summer. I’ve hardly done any patio dining (alone) either. I’ve still got construction going on anyway, and furniture is pushed every which way. But I haven’t been able to eat in the dining room because it makes me sad. As good as I’m doing most of the time – it’s been 18 months – to eat dinner in the dining room, alone, staring at the windows or roast_turkey_breast_bakedmy plate, holds very little interest. In time, maybe. I love my dining room, and I sit there often to do homework for my bible study classes. I’ve entertained in there, no problem. But to be there alone to eat just floods me with too many memories.

So, this dinner was eaten at the kitchen counter with the 6 o’clock news on nearby. And it tasted really good. The zucchini casserole was a perfect side for the juicy, herby turkey. At right is the whole half-breast just out of the oven. Underneath it are some onion slices and chopped up celery – and the white wine was poured in to keep it moist.

What’s GOOD: it’s EASY – only about 5 minutes of prep required – the rest of it is baking in the oven. There’s enough of it (for me, just this one person) for another 3 meals, I think. Maybe I’ll make some kind of Indian curry with it, and perhaps a turkey sandwich. Will have to go buy some bread – I don’t even have any in the house!

What’s NOT: only that it took 1 1/2 hours to bake – not necessarily a quick weeknight dinner. But worth doing anyway if you can make the time.

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Herb-Roasted Breast of Turkey

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Taste of Home, 2015
Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 pounds turkey breast
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 medium onion — thickly sliced
3 stalks celery — chopped
3/4 cup vermouth — or other dry white wine

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Gently wedge a finger or two underneath the turkey skin, being careful not to tear it or dislodge it. Make room to drizzle (or use a brush) in the lemon juice and olive oil that you mix up in a small bowl. Pull turkey skin back in place.
3. In a small bowl combine the pepper, rosemary, thyme and garlic powder. Using your hands, pat the herb mixture on the skin of the turkey breast, spreading around to the edges. It’s not necessary to do the under side as it’s almost all bones.
4. In an 8×10 inch baking pan (with sides) place the onion slices and the celery chunks. Make it mostly flat and place the turkey breast on top, skin side up.
5. Add the white wine to the pan and bake for about 90 minutes, or until the breast meat has reached 170°. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. The drippings can be made into a gravy, if desired, or save it to flavor soup broth.
Per Serving (assumes you eat all the skin): 25 Calories; 12g Fat (30.2% calories from fat); 56g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 139mg Cholesterol; 1103mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on July 22nd, 2015.

moroccan_spiced_grilled_chicken_breasts

Another easy recipe for grilled chicken breasts. Make up the yogurt-based marinade with oodles of Moroccan spices at least a few hours ahead, or ideally the day before and chill the chicken in it. Grill and garnish with a bit of reserved marinade and some cilantro.

The other night I decided to cook at home for Dave’s best friend Joe. He was visiting (on business) as he does every couple of weeks. Usually he goes out to dinner with customers or an employee , but this night he had dinner with me. I defrosted some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and searched my recipes for some new way to make them. Elise over at Simply Recipes made this version. I changed it around just a little bit – I added some turmeric; I made a bit more of the marinade and reserved some to put on top (forgot to show that in the photo, sorry) and I garnished with more cilantro.

About the topping: I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a rare chicken breast that doesn’t need some kind of topping – like a chutney or a relish, or mango salsa, or a mustard sauce. Something. So on this one I merely made a bit more of the marinade and used it to help the chicken be more tasty and moist. Chicken can get dry so easily – especially so on the grill if you’re not watching it carefully. I don’t know if you have any secrets to maintaining moist chicken? My only technique is to pound the chicken breasts a bit thinner in that thicker part (Costco’s chicken breasts are really big, and very thick) so they cook more evenly. And I use a meat thermometer. Generally chicken is supposed to be cooked to 165°, but breasts are done at 150°. So when I grilled these I checked the internal temp about 4 times to make sure I didn’t overcook them. They were perfectly cooked. The yogurt marinade mostly cooks away during the grilling process – and much of it ends up burned on the grill itself.

What’s GOOD: I liked the subtle flavor of the marinade – it is not overpowering at all – in fact if I did it again I’d probably add more of the spices to the marinade. It needed a bit more. But it was good. It’s low calorie, and I’ll also tell you it’s delicious cold. I made a plum chutney (to serve with another meal and I’ll post about that in a few days) and ate the left overs with that, which was very nice.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Just don’t over cook it, okay?

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Moroccan Spiced Grilled Chicken Breasts

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Simply Recipes blog, 2015
Serving Size: 4

2/3 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — (do not use fat free)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic — minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons cilantro — minced (for garnish)

1. Mix the marinade ingredients (yogurt, lemon juice, cilantro, olive oil, garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper) together in a medium sized bowl. Remove about a third of the mixture and refrigerate until serving time, to be used as a topping.
2. If chicken pieces are thick, pound them slightly so they are a more even thickness. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and thoroughly coat with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator from 2 hours to overnight.
3. Heat grill on high heat if you are using a gas grill, or prepare coals for direct heat if you are using charcoal. Allow for one side of the grill to be the “cool” side. If you do not have a grill you can use a cast-iron grill pan on your stove.
4. Grill the chicken breasts over direct high heat a couple of minutes on one side. Then turn them over and move them to the cool side of the grill. Cover and cook for a few minutes more, until the chicken is cooked through.
5. Use a meat thermometer to test and remove the meat from the grill when the internal temperature of the chicken breast reaches 150°F. Do not overcook, as chicken breasts can easily dry out. Dollop some of the reserved marinade on the chicken and garnish with chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 309 Calories; 12g Fat (37.0% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 114mg Cholesterol; 403mg Sodium.

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