Caprese Stuffed Chicken

Battle with the garden has commenced.  We may be winning but I’m not sure yet.  I find it ironic that the stuff we don’t want growing in the garden are the toughest to get rid of.  They are tenacious.  Our grass never grows as well on the lawn as it does in the flower beds.

Some of it is our own doing and not understanding how invasive something can be.  A few years ago, because we like to brew beer, we planted hops.  One was very lackluster while the other is determined to take over the world.  The first season or so wasn’t too bad, the hop plant just grew like gangbusters.  Hops can grow a foot a day, which is crazy.   But last year the hops broke the lattice that sort of held them and crawled across the rest of the flower bed.  It wasn’t pretty.

This year we’re rethinking the hops.  Not to get rid of them but we definitely need to put them elsewhere.  In the meantime we are being brutal with them.  The root system snakes everywhere under the soil.  We were taken aback by the length and thickness of those suckers. They were like tree roots.  I have a feeling there will be more battles with the hops.

Along with the work in the garden that comes with the warmer weather, the lighter dinners start up again.  Which I am very ready for!

Caprese stuffed chicken 1 2017

Recently I thought it would be fun to do a pan seared caprese stuffed chicken over salad. In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Add about a cup of sliced sun dried tomatoes and cook on low to medium heat for a few minutes.  Finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on size, and add to the skillet.

Caprese stuffed chicken 2 2017

Saute for several minutes until the garlic is nearly cooked and then toss in a handful of shredded fresh basil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.

Caprese stuffed chicken 3 2017

Slice 4 chicken breasts 3/4 the way through lengthwise.  Evenly distribute the caprese mix between the chicken breasts.  Season with sea salt and pepper and brown on both sides.

Caprese stuffed chicken 4 2017

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and add fresh mozzarella cheese inside the chicken and bake until the chicken is cooked through.

Caprese stuffed chicken 5 2017

Serve on top of a salad.  A dish light enough for the warm weather but gives you enough energy to conquer the garden.  Which we definitely need!

 

Italian Salad and Being Exercised by the House

Negative space.  Great when it comes to artwork.  Not so much when it comes to a house.  Our house was built in 1895 and I have to say it was solidly built.  It’s still relatively square. But man, when we redo rooms or do projects we find some serious negative space.  While our kids are off on their summer adventures we redid my son’s floor.  Because the wood had been damaged we had to pull up the old flooring.  Which gave us a chance to put in new insulation.  And that is where we saw the latest example of negative space.  So we stuffed a lot of insulation in.  Our son will be quite toasty this winter.

Thankfully that is a few months off.  On Father’s Day we joined our friends in the traditional Father’s Day BBQ and I had made a twist on the caprese salad with bacon and lettuce.  I didn’t have the time to get stuff together for a blog post then but I thought I’d remake it for my husband and I but added chicken.  Because why not?

Italian salad 1 2016

In a skillet start cooking 4-5 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped up.  Once the bacon is half cooked add about a third of a cup of chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped.  Add a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme.

Italian salad 2 2016

While this is cooking make up the dressing and grill the chicken.  I just seasoned the chicken with sea salt and pepper as it will be dressed before adding to the salad.  In a bowl add olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The ration was about 1:3/4 oil to vinegar.  Whisk to emulsify. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Italian salad 3 2016

Cut up the chicken into small pieces.  Add the chicken and the bacon mixture to the bowl and toss in the dressing.

Italian salad 4 2016

Add to lettuce and top with chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

Italian salad 5 2016

A super easy, flavourful salad for summer nights.  Without leaving you feeling stuffed.

Italian Potato Salad

My husband and I have been enjoying exploring the bike paths that run through our area.  I’m still surprised at how much I love biking.  And it’s great along the shady paths with the little breeze we work up.  Keeps the humidity off of us.  Still tweaking the bike so it fits  me better.  I found a memory foam seat cover which eases the bumps we go over.  Today I’m bringing the bike back to adjust the handle bars.  My husband and I tried but damn if we couldn’t shift it.

Of course after doing a ride we don’t want a heavy meal and to be frank I lack the energy to whip up anything complicated.  Still building up the stamina!  We bought some lovely new potatoes from the farmer’s market this past weekend and a potato salad is an easy thing to make before the ride.  As my husband isn’t into things with mayo I decided to make an Italian potato salad.

Italian potato salad 1 2016

I made up the marinade first so the sundried tomatoes could soak a bit.  I used the ratio 2:1 for olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   Whisk to bring the two ingredients together and add a couple of cloves of garlic chopped, a few teaspoons of fresh thyme, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

Italian potato salad 2 2016

Cook up the potatoes until soft, drain and add to the marinade.  Some potatoes will soften and fluff a bit with this, more than others.  The ones I bought definitely fluffed a bit.  Stir to coat evenly in the marinade.  Add chopped proscuitto, freshly grated parmesan, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Chill then serve.  Though you could have it warm if you prefer.

Italian potato salad 3 2016

Prior to the ride I marinated steak with thyme, sea salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar.  Easy to grill up and dinner is ready in no time at all!

Baked Eggs and Getting on the Right Path

Yesterday I started my physio for my hip.  Something I should have done when I fell in January.  I have no excuse but after a total of about 3 months resting the back in bed over the course of this year I wised up.

Because I had two severe falls within 5 years on my left hip I shifted the SI joint.  Which apparently is really hard to do.  But I seem to want to excel in the worse areas.  The woman who is guiding me through physio said that while a lot of people say they’ve shifted the SI, it’s not common.  Injuring that area is but not the shifting bit.  It’s been an interesting look into body mechanics.  The muscles reacted so quickly to protect the area and “locked” things down.  But I didn’t do anything to fix the ligaments so now that I’ve been fixing the muscles things are disabled.  Loosey goosey, if you will!  So I have to have a brace round my hips as they said I need to treat it like, in layman’s terms, I sprained my bum.  Oops.

But I’m thrilled we now have a plan action.  Spending a crazy amount of time heating and icing my lower back and hip gets very boring very quickly.  I have too many things on my list!

One dish I’ve been trying to get down is baked eggs.  I had been trying to do a French recipe from Barefoot Contessa for baked eggs.  She had said to broil them and I’ve had no luck.  I got the flavour down but not the cooking part.  Jovina Cooks Italian posted about marinara baked eggs.  Actually baked, not broiled and I had some marinara sauce to use up.  I can take a hint.  🙂  This is my take on it.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.

Baked eggs 1 2015

In a small baking dish add a third cup of marinara sauce.  Heat this up in the microwave.

Baked eggs 2 2015

Add three eggs.

Baked eggs 3 2015

Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Baked eggs 4 2015

Baked until the egg whites are firm and the yolks are runny.  This is the tricky part.  So don’t get discouraged if you struggle with this bit.

Baked eggs 5 2015

Top with basil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Buttered toast is perfect to go with this.

Baked eggs 6 2015

This was a great way to start the day.  Full of flavour and hearty.  And it went way better than the French recipe but I’m not giving up on that one.  Once I get that down I’ll post it.

Gorgonzola Risotto with Filet Mignon and Sundried Tomato Sauce

Last week I passed the three year mark for blogging.  One of the changes WordPress seems to have made is they now make it very low key.  Basically it’s “So, yeah, you are another year down, don’t forget to take out the trash” tone to it.  I liked how it was before where they gave you a great breakdown on how you are doing, what was a hit, what wasn’t.  I’m ok with a little woot, woot!

And with three years of recipes sometimes it’s hard to come up with something new.  Things have been somewhat calm this past week which would allow me more time to cook.  But then instead of writer’s block, I was having a bit of cooking block.  Broke that on Wednesday!  I wanted a special meal with flavours that wouldn’t be subtle.  We had a couple of filets in the freezer and some sundried tomatoes to use up.  Off to the store to get some gorgonzola and oyster mushrooms and I had a very good idea of what I wanted to do.

Prep the ingredients beforehand for everything.  To add a bit of crunch to the dish I toasted a third of a cup of pine nuts.  Do it in a dry skillet.  And keep an eye on it!  It can take awhile to toast but can burn quickly.

Gorgonzola risotto 1 2015

Remove the pine nuts from the skillet and set aside.  In a larger skillet start the risotto.  This recipe is for 2-3 people.  First by melting 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add a finely chopped small shallot and 2 cloves of garlic.

Gorgonzola risotto 2 2015

Add 1/2 a cup of risotto and saute for a minute or so.  Then add a tablespoon or so of champagne vinegar.  Stir well.

Gorgonzola risotto 4 2015

This recipe needs about 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock.  This current batch I made was the best so far.  So much flavour!  Add about a 1/2 a cup at a time and allow the risotto to absorb the liquid.  At this point, in a small skillet, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter.  When it is hot add the filets to the skillet.  Make sure they are seasoned well with sea salt and pepper.  Baste with the butter as you cook.

Gorgonzola risotto 5 2015

Finish the steak off in the oven at 350F/175C until the desired doneness.  Allow it to rest while you finish the meal. In the same skillet, add a bit more butter then saute some shallots, garlic, and sundried tomatoes.  Saute for a couple of minutes to soften the tomatoes then add a handful of the oyster mushrooms.

Gorgonzola risotto 7 2015

Once the risotto is almost done add a third of a cup of crumbled gorgonzola and about the same of mascarpone cheese to the risotto.

Gorgonzola risotto 8 2015

Mix well.  Just before serving add the pine nuts and a small handful of basil.

Gorgonzola risotto 9 2015

Serve with the filet and top with the mushroom sundried tomato sauce.

Gorgonzola risotto 10 2015

There were a few strong flavours in this dish but it was balanced and delicious.  When I mentioned it to my daughter she said I could make it for them.  Anytime.  I think I can swing that.

PS.  So I started this post this morning but got interrupted by doctors appointments and things.  The whole day went pear shaped and I only just remembered I hadn’t finished this when we were walking the dogs.  My husband called it postus interruptus.  🙂  As we are getting ready for date night I’ll be further behind on reading posts but I promise to catch up!

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce

Summer, at least in relation to school, is coming to an end.  Tomorrow my daughter has her orientation for high school tomorrow and my son has his meet and greet at the middle school.  So we’ve had fun the past couple of days playing games and letting them be lazy.  Because after today we are off and running with a new year. And back to doing the school lunches.  Though with the days starting earlier as they move up schools I’ll have to do them in the evenings but that’s ok.  I’ll survive.  🙂

I’m just thrilled they are still into board games and such.  I hope they don’t outgrow that.  We have so much fun with family time.

Given that all that went on last week, quick meals were the thing.  This dish couldn’t be simpler.  But it has a lot of flavours and falls into the comfort food category.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 1 2015

It’s hard to go wrong when you have sundried tomatoes and garlic.  We also had on hand some apple smoked chicken sausages.  These are fully cooked so this was added at the end.  If you start with raw sausages, brown them first and set aside to cook off near the end.  In a skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add a few cloves of garlic that have been chopped.  Also, add several chopped sundried tomatoes.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 3 2015

Chop up a few mushrooms and slice the sausages and add that to the skillet.  One of the towns we went on our honeymoon was San Gimignano which is famous for the towers.  It also has very good white wine.  I wanted to use this for the sauce.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 2 2015

Add about 1/2 a cup of a good white wine to the skillet. Bring to a simmer.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 4 2015

While this is cooking prepare the spaghetti.  Near the end of cooking add 1/2 a cup of cream and 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Mix well.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 5 2015

Add the spaghetti and a handful of fresh basil.  Toss well and serve.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 6 2015

Quick and easy comfort food.  When it’s a tough week, it’s perfect.  In fact I did a similar dish at the end with tomatoes from our garden.  Seems to be my go to flavour profile!

Nearly Lost the Battle with the Charcoal….

So apparently chickens are flammable.  I found out the hard way last night while cooking chicken for the non fish lovers in the family.  I’m still getting used to cooking with charcoal and I made the mistake of walking away after I put the chicken thighs on the grill.  I had other parts of the dinner to prepare.  The grill didn’t think that was a good enough excuse.  When I checked the chickens were balls of flame.  I removed the grill part with the chicken from the heat and started blowing the chicken out like candles.  Oops.  Fortunately they weren’t flaming chickens for long and they turned out ok if you ignore the blackened outside.  Forgive me but I was too busy to take a pic. 

Luckily everything else went smoothly.  The other day a few of us popped down to Saumur to check out the market.  It was a lot of fun and quite large.  It wanders through a lot of streets but we found the food side and found some wonderful ingredients.  One was selling fresh mushrooms including pink ones.  I have no idea what they are called but he also had shiitake mushrooms so I got a bit of both.  I also found a lovely piece of salmon.  There was a bit of language juggling as we sorted out I wanted the skin on but the scales off.  But we got there in the end.  

  
 Following the suggestion from the mushroom man, I minced up some fresh garlic, sliced the mushrooms, and prepped the basil to sauté.  

  
In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Once it is hot add the mushrooms and garlic.  Stir as it begins to cook so the mushrooms are evenly coated with the olive oil.  The mushrooms will shrink a bit.  As they begin to brown add a bit of lemon juice to taste along with salt and pepper.  Near the end add a healthy handful of the basil.

  
Once they have browned nicely they are ready to serve.

  
In addition to setting the chicken on fire I also grilled salmon.  I was much more successful with that.  I added a bit of lemon juice and thyme along with salt and pepper to the salmon and cooked it medium rare.  

 
Yesterday we went to Fontevraud Abby which was very interesting.  The scale of it is immense.  It has been sanitised quite a lot and almost looks brand new in some areas.  Still I was glad we went.  

   

  

  

I’m not sure what rose this was but it was stunning.  It was like it was lit from within.  The gardens were lovely though in the cisterns I thought ducks were stuck given the sounds.  Turns out to be two frogs.  Not sure if there was a massive argument or one of them was hoping Barry White music would break out.  But one was running and one was chasing!

Roger from Food, Photography, and France was kind enough to email me about Les Halles in the towns.  So I went back today as I didn’t know what market was on and this one came recommended.  It had some amazing cheeses to chose from.  And there was a fresh produce stall.  So thank you Roger!  

We found a bistro to have lunch.  They seriously know how to do cheese plates here.

  
I also spotted pork belly on the menu.  The flavour was really good.  I think they should have slow cooked it more as it was pretty firm though.

 
As you can see, I’m still having loads of fun.  It’s going to be hard going home.  Tomorrow I’m taking an art lesson so I’m excited for that.  Life is good!

Bruschetta Chicken Salad

It’s a lovely rainy day today.  I say lovely because we’re still not having many of them.  Optimistically we planted more seed to replace those that didn’t come up.  Right now we have one leek and one onion coming up.  Stand back and prepare to be overwhelmed!

For the life of us we can’t grow beets.  We keep trying.  In fact we had one come up a few weeks ago but it disappeared.  So did the carrots!  So we replanted and also sprinkled blood meal round the beds.  I hope we start to make some progress.

The other night I was in the mood for Italian but nothing heavy as it was hot.  I saw various ideas for bruschetta chicken which sounded wonderful.  The drawbacks to the recipes was that they called for store bought dressings.  It’s easy enough to make it from scratch.

In a bowl mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar.  Add fresh thyme and finely chopped garlic.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

Bruschetta chicken salad 1 2015

Add the chicken breasts to marinate for at least an hour.

Bruschetta chicken salad 2 2015

While the chicken is marinating prep the bruschetta part of the dish.

Bruschetta chicken salad 3 2015

Quarter the tomatoes and add a few cloves of finely chopped garlic in a bowl.  Toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and pepper.  The fresh mozzarella and basil should be added just before serving.  Grill the chicken and the slice it to serve over a bed of lettuce.

Bruschetta chicken salad 4 2015

As a side I also grilled up some veg to make a light supper.  I love this time of year with all the fresh veg.  Not so much the heat but you can’t have it all!

Black Garlic and the Craziness Quiets Down

I feel like school is out for summer.  It was a long tax season inside and outside of the office.  But hey the 15th of April comes around the same time every year so I knew I’d be able to breath soon.  A woman I do Zumba with asked if I’ve been cooking up a storm.  I wish!  Well, it’s not that I haven’t been cooking and things but there just wasn’t time to actually blog about it.

I did this dish a few weeks ago.  My husband found black garlic and thought I’d have fun trying it out.

Black garlic sauce 1 2015It’s an interesting ingredient that has been fermented.  The flavour that comes through is balsamic vinegar, so much so I double checked the container wondering if anything was added.  But no that is what comes out with the fermentation.

In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped garlic.  For this dish I used two small bulbs.

Black garlic sauce 2 2015You want to cook the garlic on low to medium heat and let the flavour infuse into the oil.  After a few minutes add about 14 oz of diced tomatoes.

Black garlic sauce 3 2015While the sauce is cooking prepare the pasta of your choice.  Add it to the sauce.  Add a handful of fresh basil to the sauce.

Black garlic sauce 4 2015Serve with parmesan or asiago cheese grated over the dish.

Black garlic sauce 5 2015This simple dish has an amazing amount of flavour.  I have one more bulb of the garlic to use, oh the possibilities!

Now it’s time to catch up with all the blogs and get back into creating again.  🙂

Home Cooked Food – A Cure for Long Travels

It’s been a very busy year for my husband with business trips and he just did two weeks to close out the year.  It was a tricky time though, what with the kids’ Christmas concerts, teacher conferences, and the like.  Thank goodness for technology as I was able to record a few of the songs the kids did and we could have him on speaker phone so he could be part of the conference.  Which is wonderful as he hates to miss this stuff.

As you can imagine he misses the home cooked food as well.  Two weeks of sandwiches and so so hot food begins to wear a person down. So a special meal was called for.  I was ready for it too because the second week was a kid free week and I don’t really cook for myself so it was fun to get creative again.

For the first course I did a cheese plate and opened a bottle of a lovely red wine.  For the second I wanted to have some of his favourite ingredients.  Roasted parsnips and pan sauteed Brussels Sprouts were no brainers.

At Thanksgiving I was able to pick up beef tenderloin from the farm where I got the turkey.  I now have more of an appreciation of the labour that goes into perfect looking filet mignon.  My knife skills being what they are mine didn’t come out perfect but they weren’t too bad.  But there is definite room for improvement!

I purchased some grape tomatoes and I sliced them in half.  On a baking sheet add the tomatoes, pieces of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper then bake at 300F/150C.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 1 2014

Bake for about 45 minutes.  Unfortunately the garlic didn’t cooporate and for some reason they came out hard as rocks.  So I chopped up more garlic, added some more olive oil into a skillet then sauteed this with the tomatoes.  Meanwhile broil the beef seasoned with salt and pepper to medium rare.  For meat that is 2 inches thick do 5 minutes on each side.  Mine was thinner so I did it for less.  Then rest the meat for at least 5 minutes.  While the meat is resting, add a handful of shredded basil to the tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 3 2014

Top the beef with the tomato mixture and serve.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 4 2014

It was such a lovely evening catching up with my husband.  I miss him when he’s gone and there is always so much to share.  Of course I had to step back to make room for the homecoming the dogs gave him!  Goodness me it was like a pair of dolphins leaping about, quivering with excitement.  He was licked within an inch of his life!  LOL.