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!

 

Tomatillo Steak Salad

Autumn may be flowing in, thank goodness, but I’m not above having a nice salad.  Even though it wasn’t intended.  How would a salad happen accidentally?  It’s easy when you are having a flighty moment.

I definitely knew I wanted to do grilled skirt steak with a tomatillo sauce.  I was thinking a rustic type of sauce to act as the veg portion of the dinner.  That didn’t work out as you will see.

tomatillo-dressing-1-2016

We didn’t have much luck with growing tomatillos the past few years so we didn’t attempt it this year but luckily the farmer’s market had some.  Our garden has produced a bumper crop of hot peppers.  I just wish tomatillos weren’t so sticky once you peel the papery covering off.  Cut the tomatillos in half and keep the pepper whole.  Fire up the grill and roast the tomatillos and pepper until they start to char.  You don’t want charcoal veg as a result so keep an eye on this as it will cook quickly.

tomatillo-dressing-2-2016

As I said my plan was to have a rustic meal but I realised a grilled potato and a bit of steak wouldn’t cut it.  When I did up the sauce it became more of a dressing rather than a veg side.  So salad it was!  Using a food processor add the tomatillos and pepper.  I kept the seeds to give it a kick.  Throw in a couple of cloves of garlic, a teaspoon or so of cilantro, and a few splashes of lime juice and olive oil.  Blend.

tomatillo-dressing-3-2016

I kept the steak simple seasoned with sea salt, pepper, and worcestershire sauce.  Because it is grass fed be careful on how hot you cook it.  Sear then lower the heat.  Keeps it tender. Slice the steak and top with the tomatillo sauce. Any leftover sauce can be frozen for later.

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!

Grilled Tarragon Chicken Salad and Radio Show

Every once in awhile you have to go outside of your comfort zone.  I had the opportunity to do that yesterday.  I’ve mentioned Luca, a chef in town and a friend of mine, who does cooking shows.  You might remember my daughter had a chance to do a show with him.

He also does a weekly radio show on our local talk radio with Dan Mitchell talking about cooking and he brings bloggers, chefs, etc on as guests.  He invited me to join him.  I had an absolute blast doing this. I was nervous about doing it but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to do something new.

Here is the podcast if you would like a listen.  But please, I know I sound American.  Every time it comes up that I’m English, without fail, I get “but you don’t sound English”.  That bothers me.  Like there is a doubt of who I am.  I came over very young and didn’t go back again until I was an adult.  The accent doesn’t start coming out much until I’m back in the UK.  It is what it is!  Other than that I do hope you enjoy the podcast.

And of course I had to show up with food.  But because the show was in the morning and there isn’t a kitchen so it had to be something I could serve cold.

I decided to do grilled chicken with tarragon.  For dinner I did it as a salad and for the show I did it as lettuce wraps.

Grilled tarragon chicken 1 2015

For the marinade I finely chopped a few cloves of garlic and a handful of tarragon.  Mix it with equal parts white wine and olive oil.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Make sure it is mixed well and then add the chicken to marinade for at least an hour.

Grilled tarragon chicken 2 2015Grill the chicken and let it cool.  Meanwhile toast half a cup of pinenuts in a dry skillet.  You want to pay attention as you are doing this. The nuts can easily burn.  Keep the pinenuts moving in the skillet as you toast them.

Grilled tarragon chicken 3 2015

Once they are golden remove and set aside.  I did try to do a wine vinaigrette but it just didn’t have any brightness to it.  So I did up a tarragon lemon dressing instead.  Do two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice.  Add a bit of tarragon and season with sea salt and pepper.  Shake it up.

To assemble, lay out the lettuce leaves and layer with the chicken, veg of your choice, and the pine nuts.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with creme fraiche.

Grilled tarragon chicken 4 2015

It is very easy to convert it to wraps.  Just put less into each piece and wrap it up!  Perfect for a warm summer day.  As I said this was a fantastic experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  🙂

Pomegranate Chicken and Don’t Be Cruel

If people want plastic surgery that’s their business.  Though vanity can get many into trouble.  It gets a bit obvious.  But hey if they want to muck about with their bodies regardless of the outcome that’s their business.  But I really have a problem when people extend their vanity to their dogs.

I took my goofy dogs to the vet the other day and there was this little doberman puppy with its ears taped up.  Without thinking (something I do a lot!) I asked what happened to him.  They replied that it is normal to do this.  I said if it was normal they would be born that way.  I was so disgusted!  Our neighbour did that to his boxer as well.  The poor thing was taped up for over a year.

Of course they were a bit snarky about it and while I was weighing Murphy he overturned a cookie bowl and I had to wrestle them off the cookies.  So much for keeping my dignity!

I asked the vet if he really performs these unnecessary procedures.  Being that it was his first day he said he would ask his dad who owns the practice.  Though he did say they are between a rock and a hard place because if they don’t do it and do it safely these people would go elsewhere and possibly harm the dogs more.  I really would they would ban these procedures.

I stuck with the salad theme last week as the warm weather continued.  A while back Chica Andaluza blog about a chicken made with pomegranate molasses.  It looks amazing.  But it was too hot to bake so I mixed it up a bit so I could grill the chicken.

In a bowl mix the following:

8oz of plain greek yoghurt

2 Tablespoons of pomegranate molasses

3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1″sq/2.cm of fresh garlic grated

1-2 teaspoons of chili powder

1/2 teaspoon of garam marsala

Season with sea salt.

Pomegranate chicken 1 2015

Mix well and add the chicken to marinate for at least an hour.

Pomegranate chicken 2 2015

Heat the grill to medium. I ran into a bit of trouble with the chicken sticking which was unfortunate as it left some of the flavour on the grill!

Pomegranate chicken 3 2015

For the dressing I mixed up a bit of olive oil, pomegranate molasses, and white balsamic vinegar.  I also made some croutons.  Slice some bread and butter both sides.  Season with dry rub and cube the bread and brown in a dry skillet.  Slice the chicken and top the salad and serve.

Pomegranate chicken 4 2015

Nice and light.  It was the first time using the pomegranate molasses and I really like it.  Now to figure out what else I can use it!

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!

Grilled Pork Salad With An Asian Flair

I heard from my mum this morning and she wanted to know what I was feeding my kids as they are growing like weeds!  I wish I knew!  I know it can’t just be they have a tall dad.  I have one as well but I didn’t get very far with the height thing.  And I did eat my vegetables though for all the good it did me. 🙂

It is strange coming into the last bit of the school year.  Both kids are finishing up at each of their schools and getting ready to move up to the next school.  Which means a flurry of celebrations and year end events.  A lot of lasts.  My son’s school has a cookout for the whole school with activities outside.  They finish off with a water balloon toss with the oldest students and the teachers.  They absolutely love that bit!

A big change from when I was a kid though would be the new tradition of having a graduation for every level of school including preschool!  At least our son’s celebration is called a recognition instead of graduation.  It’s a bit much.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m insanely proud of our kids.  I love watching them grow and becoming fabulous people.  They are really coming into their own.

The other day I planned on grilling pork in an Asian marinade to put over salad.  Great plan until I realised we had run out of gas for the grill.  Plan B was grilling on the stove top.

In a bowl mix together the following:

4 tablespoons of peanut oil

3 tablespoons of oyster sauce

3 tablespoons of rice vinegar

1 tablespoon of lime juice

2 tablespoons of amino acid

3-4 finely chopped garlic

A couple of teaspoons of cilantro

Grilled Pork Salad 1 2015

Marinate the pork for at least an hour.  Also, take some of the marinade and marinate a few mushrooms.  If you are lucky enough to have a working grill on hand, grill away until the pork is cooked.  Otherwise continue with plan b.

Grilled Pork Salad 2 2015

While the pork is resting grill the mushrooms.

Grilled Pork Salad 3 2015

Slice the pork and mushrooms and top your salad with them.  For a dressing I quickly mixed up a bit of peanut oil, rice vinegar, and lime juice.

Grilled Pork Salad 4 2015

A great light meal for the hotter weather.  And we’ve since rectified the gas situation so no more plan b for the time being!

Greek Lamb Burgers and Going Batty

We were destined not to have a good night sleep the other night.  There is the usual noise of the dogs shaking at times and our cat sleeping by my head. She has an incredible talent for purring.  Loudly.  But you get used to the normal noises.  We weren’t getting the normal noises this night.

In the fog of my brain I heard what I thought was one of the dog peeing by the side of the bed.  Which didn’t make any sense at all.  So I dismissed it but then I realised Guinness was sniffing around the window by my side of the bed pretty intently.  At the same moment I remembered the craft bag with the jumper I’m knitting for my husband so I leapt out of bed (not a good idea for my back) and felt round and found everything dry.

So what was the sound?  The window is about 6 feet by 4 feet and has the winter plastic still on it because the window is a bit drafty.  Guinness kept alerting and sniffing at the window.  I hear what sounded like wings at first.  I was thinking a bird but there isn’t anyway for a bird to get in.  Then it sounded like a bug buzzing.  Then I heard the wings again.  So something got in.  A tiny bat.  Though big enough I still can’t figure out how it squeezed through.

Then we were stuck with how to get it out without killing it or it getting into the room past the plastic.  The end result was my husband going out through the guest room window and along the porch roof to our room to remove the screen. I sliced the plastic to unlock the window.  At this point the bat was up at the top of the window and still as could be.  I honestly thought it might have died.  Of course I was keeping my fingers crossed that his little friends wouldn’t join him and we’d wake up to a crowd of bats.  Luckily he eventually left.

We were so exhausted!  So I needed a quick meal because I just didn’t have the energy to do anything complicated.  I had some ground lamb and I was in the mood for some Greek flavours.  A burger and a salad would do the trick.

Greek lamb burgers 1 2015I’m so proud of myself.  Well I should say ourselves.  We grew herbs in pots.  Inside.  And they lived.  My skill set for gardening definitely lends to the outside bit of gardening.  One of the herbs we grew is oregano.   In a bowl chop a few cloves of garlic and add a teaspoon of fresh oregano.  Then add a couple of teaspoons of red wine vinegar and olive oil, a tablespoon or so of panko bread crumbs, and half a cup of feta cheese.  Season with salt and pepper then mix well without overworking the meat.  Form into patties.

Greek lamb burgers 2 2015While the grill is heating up mix up the tzatziki sauce and greek dressing.  Grill the burgers until they are done making sure you get a nice sear on them.

Greek lamb burgers 3 2015Throw together a quick salad and serve with the dressing and sauce.

Greek lamb burgers 4 2015

This was really good with a cabernet.  And gratefully last night was uneventful.  No more uninvited guests!

Chicken Avocado Salad and a Frost Advisory

Correct me if I’m wrong but it’s still summer, right?  So it was completely insane to me to find us under a frost advisory.  Sunday afternoon we grabbed as many tomatoes as we could as the plants were too tall for us to cover.  The only other veg we really had to worry about were the peppers.  So we got those covered.  Turns out the temperature stayed just high enough but we have two more evenings this week that may get close to frost.  I had to dig out my winter hat to walk the dogs!

For Saturday I wanted to do a light healthy meal with chicken and avocado.  I was put in the mood for this last week when we had some gorgeous weather.  Saturday rolls round and it’s raw and cold.  I would not be dissuaded!  I put on more layers and got on with it.  🙂

This is super simple with layered flavours and it’s quick to put together.  The longest bit was the side of roasted potatoes.

Cook up 5-6 rashers of streaky bacon.

Chicken avocado 1 2014

Set aside the cooked bacon on paper towels and pour out most of the bacon fat and save for other dishes.  You only need a tablespoon or two.  Thinly slice a chicken breast and start browning it in the bacon fat.  Add a couple of chopped garlic cloves and a couple of mushrooms.

Chicken avocado 4 2014

As the chicken cooked I made the dressing.  This was a bit of an experiment as I had an idea of what flavour I wanted as well as consistency.  But wasn’t sure how to get there.  I started with a base of mayo.

Chicken avocado 2 2014

In hindsight I should have started with half the mayo I actually used.  I added sriracha sauce, lime juice and cilantro.  The important thing is not to have the aftertaste of mayo.

Chicken avocado 3 2014

To serve I layered lettuce leaves with the chicken, mushrooms, and chopped bacon.

Chicken avocado 5 2014

Add sliced avocado and fresh tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing over and serve.

Chicken avocado 6 2014

Now the idea was to make these as wraps but I served it this way because there was a lot of food.  Kudos for my family for being game and making them into wraps.  The thing I loved about this dish was it was filling but not heavy.  I hate feeling stuffed but also dislike being hungry a short time after so this was perfect. And we had just enough room for popcorn and watching “Young Frankenstein” with the kids.