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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Lemon and Garlic Chicken and the Importance of Having a Great Team

If you have the bad luck of falling and injuring yourself over the years more than once it is very important you don’t wait years to fix yourself.  If I could go back in time I would do so many things differently.  Aside from trying to avoid falling in the first place I would get help.

Which means finding a great team and I have been very lucky in that respect.  I have Pam, my exercise guru, who is very knowledgeable with body mechanics and takes the time to make sure those of us in her pilates and TRX aren’t doing nutty things with our alignment.   I have Christine, who is an amazing massage therapist that battles my knots and tension.  And Maria, my physical therapist, spent nearly two years helping me get strong and healed.  I just finished my last appointment with her and fingers crossed I don’t do anything stupid and lands me back in PT!

Of course I’m seriously grateful that my husband supported me through all this.  I really couldn’t have done it without him.  There have been some painful and tough times and he never wavered.  He’s my rock.

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For Christmas my dad found some really cool cookery books for us.  The one for my daughter is called “150 Mediterranean Recipes” by Jacqueline Clark & Joanna Farrow.  Loads of delicious recipes in the book and I chose to make the Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic.   I mostly followed it so here is my version.

Prep the lemon by peeling it and then thinly slicing it.  Set aside.

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In a small saucepan bring to a simmer about 14oz of chicken stock.  Add 8-10 garlic cloves cut in half.  Simmer while you cook the chicken thighs.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.

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Season 4 chicken thighs with sea salt and pepper and begin to brown the chicken.  While the chicken is cooking, preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

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Once browned, transfer to a baking dish.  Spoon out the garlic from the stock and add it to the baking dish along with the lemon slices.  Set aside.  Add 2 tablespoons of flour or corn flour to the skillet, use a whisk to scrape up the browned bits of the chicken.  Cook for a minute or so to cook the flour.  Then add 6oz of dry white wine.  Keep stirring constantly.  Pour in the stock.

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Stir until the sauce thickens.

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Add the sauce to the baking dish and bake until the chicken is cooked through.  Meanwhile cook up some rice pilaf.

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Once the chicken is cooked, top the rice with a chicken thigh and pour sauce over the dish. Add some fresh chopped parsley and voila!  Dinner is served.

I look forward to trying more recipes from the books we were given. 🙂

Chicken Dopiaza

It is amazing how fast a month can fly by with family visiting.  It was a great time but we’re now back to reality with getting the garden cleaned up before the snow comes.  Which doesn’t look like it will be long now for snow.  Higher towns around us got snow last night though for us it has just been bucketing rain.  This week we had the wind show up on time to shake the trees free of their leaves.

Autumn wasn’t as spectacular as it can be but it was lovely to see the colours, fortunately my in-laws were here for the short peak.  They got some really nice pictures to bring back home.

We’ve started a sort of a tradition of when we are all together we do a curry night.   I do two, one spicy and one on the mild side for my MIL.  This dish was definitely spicy but with loads of flavour.  I used the recipe for Chicken Dopiaza from “The Best Ever Curry Cookbook”but I changed it a bit.  One I was restricted with some ingredients and two I wanted this to use as few dishes as possible.  Especially since I was doing two curries!

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This would probably be a great dish for a cold given how much onion it calls for.  And ginger!  A cure for sure.  In a skillet heat up vegetable oil and add 8 cardamon pods, 2 bay leaves, and 2-3 chilis, chopped.   If you want this dish to be milder (crazy I know!) use less chilis and/or remove the seeds.

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Chop two small onions and add to the skillet.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped.  Cube about a pound of chicken breast and add to the skillet. While the chicken is cooking grate a piece of fresh ginger which is about 1″sq/2.5cmsq.

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Then comes the fun part, adding all the fabulous spices!  Add 1 tsp of ground coriander, chili powder, and ground cumin.  Add 1/2 tsp of turmeric, ground pepper, and sea salt.  Add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Adjust the seasoning as needed.  If you want it even spicier add more chili powder.

The recipe calls for 8 small onions.  I bought 5 cipollini onions and quartered them.  Add them to the skillet and cook through.

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My FIL requested peshwari naan for curry night.  My husband looked up the recipe and made some.  I was a bit worried, given the stuffing, how it would pair but it worked really well.

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This had quite the kick to it.  One by one our eyes started watering.  But the heat didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the dish.  Like I said, possible cold cure!

Curry Inspired Couscous

We still have tomatoes and aubergines coming out of our garden at a great rate so it is time to get creative so they don’t go to waste.  It was a crazy week last week with my husband traveling and with the kids schools stuff so I only got round to cooking a meal for the kids on Friday.  Well, I did feed them the rest of the week, not that much of a slacker!  But I stuck with the easy stuff I could do with my eyes shut.  I was in the mood for something curry flavoured and we had chicken on hand.  This could be done!

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I thought it would be a fun twist to use the Israeli Couscous I had on hand.  Cook that using the directions on the package.  First I prepped the chicken with a marinade paste.  I mixed a tablespoon of olive oil with a tablespoon of red curry paste, a teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of cumin, and a bit of sea salt and pepper.  Mix well and spread it on the chicken thighs.

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Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and brown both sides of the chicken.

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Finish off the chicken in the oven.  Chop up a small onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Add them to the skillet and cook on medium low temp.

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Slice up the aubergine and several tomatoes and bring the temp up to medium to saute.

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Add 1/2 a cup or so of chicken stock.  Add 2 tablespoons of red curry paste, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of chili powder, a few dashes of garam masala, and a sprinkle of asafoetida.  As it simmers also add a few splashes of lime juice.  Stir in the couscous.

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The kids came into the dining room and said how wonderful it smelled.  I was a little jealous as I don’t have a sense of smell and the spices that go into curry can be wonderful.

 

Aubergine Quinoa and Any Time is a Good Time for a Clear Out

Every year we try to accomplish something with the house.  Some years are more successful than others of course depending on what we have going on or how expensive the next set of projects are.  This year we finished our closet and redid our son’s bedroom floor.  But the big thing done is we did a massive clear out of the carriage house and the house itself.

I am convinced stuff multiplies.  How else do we explain filling a 20 yard skip?  Granted a lot of it was from the carriage house and old odds and sods left over from previous owners, the debris from our projects, that sort of thing.  But it feels so good doing some serious organisation, rediscover what we have, and do some major recycling.  We do try to fix, upcycle, and recycle before the last resort of throwing out.  Plus we have loads of stuff for the Girl Scouts fundraising yard sale.  It’s taken us all summer but it’s a big project to cross of the never ending list.

We’re starting to get some result from our garden.  Of course it comes all at once!  Our aubergine and tomatoes are coming in fast so it’s on to preserving and eating so none of it goes to waste.  The aubergine we decided to grow this year is called fingerling, I believe, and they are small diameter and about 8in/20cm long.  Perfect size for a small family.

Quinoa aubergine 1 2016

I wanted to make roasted aubergine and roasted tomatoes with quinoa for dinner.  The longest bit of this dinner is the roasting, everything else comes together quite quickly.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Slice the aubergine and tomatoes and place them in a single layer into the baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Roast until the veg is cooked through and begins to brown.  While this is roasting cut up some chicken and begin to brown with olive oil in a skillet.  Add about half a cup of chopped red onion and a few cloves of chopped garlic.

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Cook the quinoa according to directions.  It only takes about 15 minutes to cook so plan accordingly.  Once the tomatoes and aubergine are done remove from the oven.

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Slice up the aubergine and add the veg to the skillet with the chicken.  Add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock and about 1/4 cup of white wine.  I chopped up a small handful of fresh oregano from our garden.

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Add the quinoa and about 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan.  Stir well and serve.

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Top with more parmesan and enjoy!  This is quite filling without being heavy and perfect to throw together after a day of projects.

Leftover Chicken Makes a Great Crostini

When the kids came back from Florida I did up a roast chicken dinner.  I chose that because it’s a special dinner and I need the bones to make homemade stock.  I had the bad luck of picking one of the hottest days of the year so far with about 95% humidity.  The A/Cs were working overtime and not necessarily winning.

The kids enjoyed the dinner but of course we have a ton of chicken left over.  I’ll freeze some for soup later in the cooler months but I was in the mood to make crostinis for my husband and me as a light meal.  I made three toppings.  A quick one with heirloom tomatoes, red onions, and a vinaigrette to keep things nice and bright.  I also made one of our favorites, Buttery Mushrooms, that I could just eat bowls of.  For the third I did up a chicken with sundries tomatoes.

Chicken crostini 1 2016

Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet and add a handful of chopped sun dried tomatoes.  Cook low and slow for several minutes to make sure the sun dried tomatoes soften up.

Chicken crostini 2 2016

Next I sliced up about a 1/4 cup of red onion.  Add it to the skillet and allow the onions become translucent.

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Cut up about a cup of the roasted chicken.  Add that with a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme and a splash of lemon juice.

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Cook until the chicken is warmed through.

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For the bread we used the boule my husband makes which is absolutely fantastic.  I sliced and buttered it before toasting.

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Obviously this would great with a lovely bottle of wine.  But I was in the mood for a dirty martini and I have to say that worked well.  Olives go well with crostini.  🙂

“Anybody Got a Peanut….” Chicken

Who doesn’t love a good classic?  My family loves The Princess Bride.  Though I’m not sure I’m ok with a movie I grew up with being called a classic.  To me those are the black and white films from another era.  I know it’s denial!  But I’m sticking with it.

It’s a film that we love to watch with popcorn reciting the quotes as they come up in the film.  Well to be honest we throw out the quotes even if we aren’t watching the film.  Get to the food you say?  “As you wish….”

Because it’s just been my husband and I for the past month (our kids come back tonight!) we had two chicken thighs left over from the four pack that needed to be used.

Peanut chicken 1 2016

I wanted to go with Asian flavours for this dish.  Prep the marinade for the chicken thighs first.  In a bowl whisk peanut oil and soy sauce (we use gluten free amino acids) in a ratio of 3:1.  Finely chop a clove of garlic, some scallion, and grate about a teaspoon of fresh ginger.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Mix well and coat the two chicken thighs.

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Set aside for at least a half an hour.  While you make the sauce, cook the rice noodles to the package instruction and grill the chicken.  In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil.  Chop 3-4 cloves of garlic and saute them on medium heat.  You don’t want to brown the garlic.

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After a few minutes add about half a cup of chopped scallion.

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Add the leftover marinade from the chicken and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce.  Bring to a simmer and add a tablespoon or two of lime juice.  Stir in a large spoonful of peanut butter.  I chose chunky to save me a step of chopping up peanuts.

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Add more peanut butter as needed to get the right the balance between the sweetness of the peanut butter and saltiness of the soy sauce.

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When the chicken is nearly done add about a cup of chopped red bell pepper.

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Add the rice noodles with 1/2 a cup of the hot water the noodles were cooked in to thin out the sauce.  Toss to coat.

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Top with the chicken and serve as soon as possible.

I have to say even though our food bill was much lower with the kids off on their adventures I am so excited they will be home.  With huge appetites and all.  🙂

 

Orzo with Lemon Chicken and New Tools

Some learning curves can be exciting.  Some not so much, like my learning curve with statistics in college.  Loved the subject but come test time it was always like I’d never been to class.  Never got far on that curve, bell or no bell.  But now I’m liking my learning curve.  Because there are a few projects I want to do, such as start a YouTube channel, and I was in the weeds with Unix, much to my chagrin, I needed tools that I could make headway on my own.  I.e not bugging my husband/IT guy all the time.  He has always been good about helping me but I hate not knowing how to do something!

So I am now a proud new owner of an iMac.  And I’m loving my new setup.  One, I can find and set up software I need, that is a big step in getting things done.  Though if it heads into Unix territory like GIMP then I have to ask for help there but for the most part it’s been good.  And it’s pretty easy to get an apple person on the phone if need be.  I’m quickly collecting senior tech phone numbers.

I do like the iMovie on the desktop, much easier than the iPad.  So watch this space as they say, I hope to have something soon.  The big thing I need to figure out is the uncopyrighted music so I don’t get slapped by YouTube.

Going through our cupboards I realised we had orzo still so I thought it would be nice with lemon, yoghurt, and oregano. Orzo lemon chicken 1 2016

I also wanted to grill up some chicken thighs.  Prep these ahead of time with a marinade.  With a ratio of 2:1 mix olive oil and lemon juice together.  Season with sea salt and pepper. Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves and a small handful of fresh oregano.  Mix well and coat two chicken thighs.

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Set aside for about an hour.  In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and start softening about half a cup of chopped red onion.  Once the onion starts to become translucent add 3-5 cloves (depending on size) of garlic, chopped.

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At this point start grilling the chicken on medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a medium simmer.  It’s important to stir frequently as orzo has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the skillet.  Add more liquid as necessary because you want to make sure there is enough for the sauce.

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When the orzo is half cooked add a few sliced mushrooms and another small handful of oregano, chopped.  Stir well.  Near the end of cooking add a third of a cup of plain yoghurt and about a cup of chopped red bell pepper.  This gives the dish a nice pop of colour.

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Serve once the chicken is cooked.

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The flavours of this dish are very bright with the yoghurt and lemon.  It’s a great dish if you are getting tired of salads!

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.

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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.

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

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

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

Rosemary Lemon Chicken Kebabs

Tomorrow is a big day with the vote in the UK.  It’s surreal because, like for a lot of people, this vote can directly effect how we transition in a few years to move back.  But I can’t vote as subjects of the crown can’t vote if they don’t live in the UK.  So I just have to wait and see.  It will be nice to see the propaganda from both sides to die down.  Talk about muddying the waters!

In the meantime I’ll just keep cooking along.

We didn’t just have a Dalek cake for the small family gathering.  To avoid a sugar high I cooked healthy food as well.  I kept it very simple with grilled veg and chicken kebabs.  I grilled up mushrooms, peppers, onions, scallions, and aubergine.

The inspiration for the chicken came from a restaurant chain, Bertucci’s, where they have a spicy chicken wing with lemon and rosemary.  No idea what the recipe is but I figured I could get close to the recipe.

Rosemary lemon chicken 1 2016

I popped into my local store (my garden) for fresh thyme and rosemary.  I do wish there was an easy way to prep thyme, so annoying, but what can you do?  Finely chop a small handful of each.  In a bowl add a ratio of 2:1 of olive oil and lemon juice, the herbs, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, sea salt and pepper to taste.  Then add cayenne pepper to the level of spiciness you want.  I kept it on the mild side as my aunt isn’t a huge fan of spicy food.

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Mix well and add chicken to marinate.

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When you are ready to grill add the chicken to the skewers and cook until the chicken is cooked through.  Turn a few times so the chicken is cooked evenly.

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It was a lovely relaxing lunch with family with plenty of room left over for cake!  And any left over chicken and grilled veg is perfect for a salad later on.  Which is handy after a bike ride and you aren’t up to cooking!