Thursday, February 27, 2014

Let's call this.. Ricotta stuffed chicken with basil

This one looks super fancy, but it's not really. It only takes a handful of ingredients and I am serving it with a baked potato and a salad. Well one potato for each person but you know what I mean!

You need (all amounts are pretty much approximate... I cook by taste, smell, look and feel more than measurements)
Don't ask me why this picture is upside down. It seriously will not let me flip it. I've changed it 12 times. Ideally you are reading this on a tablet and you can just turn that upside down to look. 
  • 8 oz ricotta. (fat, skim or if you want it to be really decadent go for whole milk.. you won't be sorry.)
  • Basil. Only fresh. Seriously. Dried basil should be illegal. Just go buy a bunch. Right now. I'll wait.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. These were thin cut so perfect for what I wanted.
  • A couple Tblsp Parmesaen cheese
  • A couple Tblsp Bread crumbs (Panko.. I poured them before I took the picture)
  • Roasted garlic (1 clove or so to taste.. you know what you like better than I do) mince. I forgot to include it in this pic. Poor garlic, feels so left out. I'll make a post on roasting garlic for it soon.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Tblsp or so of olive oil
Really that's it.

Preheat your oven to 350, throw in a potato per person if you are making baked or you know, make whatever sides you want and plan accordingly.

Mix your bread crumbs and parmesan cheese together til combined. Set aside.
I forgot to take a picture of that step, sorry.

Ok, so chop up your basil. I use this cool thing I got from Pampered Chef. No, they don't pay me for this, but I've had this for 15 years the blades are still sharp and I <3 it. I seriously never realized how much I love my Pampered Chef kitchen stuff until I started this blog. You can dice it with a knife if you aren't lucky enough to have one. If you need a PC rep let me know I have a good one... again not endorsing, just a fan.

My kitchen smells AMAZING right now.

This is how it should look.

Now, mix your basil and your roasted garlic with 8oz or so of ricotta (Half the small container) until blended.

It should look sort of like soft serve mint ice cream or something.

Now take your chicken and if you don't have thin cut, you will need to pound it out with a mallet or you can do it with the back of a spatula if you are improvising. I had thin cut and I still did, it just makes it better. You want it about ¼" thick. 
Random kitchen hint... I always do this on my cutting board on top of parchment, then when I have this all assembled I can just transfer the whole thing to my baking sheet!

Salt and Pepper your chicken. I used a tiny bit of garlic as well.

These are approximately 5½-6 oz chicken breasts, give or take.
Divide up your cheese stuff into equal parts and spoon a portion onto each breast.

Now, this is the part where I realized that I did not in fact have the toothpicks or skewers I absolutely should have had and that they must have been used for some type of craftapalooza. Why I am shocked by this I am not sure, but I did have to get creative, and thankfully I had something. It's also when I added toothpicks to the ingredients list. So make sure you have something.

Now, roll it from one end to the other, kind of squish any extra cheese that leaks out back in and skewer it together. See?

 Ok, good. Now, brush just the tops with olive oil. If you don't have a pastry brush, it's ok to just drizzle.

Sprinkle them with your cheese and panko mixture.

Transfer your parchment and chicken to your baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. (It's going to depend on how thick your chicken is, how many you made etc. You'll know when it's done. 

Ok, that's it. Pretty simple overall and everyone raves about it. You can premake them, wrap in parchment and freeze, or make ahead the night before. 
Serve with your sides and enjoy.

Leftovers make GREAT lunch the next day too. You know, if you have any leftover. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chicken Fajitas

Fajita marinade:
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic (or minced if you prefer)
  • 1 Tblsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tblsp teriyaki sauce (you can sub ½ Tblsp pineapple juice & ½ Tblsp honey if you don't have teriyaki made up) 
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and peper to taste
Fajita stuff:
  • Onions, sweet, I recommend Vidalia for this
  • Chile peppers (if desired)
  • Chicken (you can sub steak or pork or shrimp)
  • Bell peppers, I prefer multi colored because they make it look so pretty.
  • Flour tortillas
  • Zucchini (optional, I didn't include it this time but I do in summer when they are everywhere)
  • Cheese. You can get a Mexican melting cheese if you like, or I usually stick with either a very sharp white cheddar or else I just give in and pick up some queso dip from my local Mexican restaurant.
  • sour cream
  • guacamole
  •  sliced green onions
  •  chopped tomatoes
  • Serve with hot cooked rice and refried beans, if desired.
Step 1:Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl... or the easiest way is to dump them all in a large freezer ziplock bag and mix together.
Then you can just toss the meat in there & seal. I cheated. I actually had some chicken I grilled the night before. I'm still going to marinate it though!

Step 2:refrigerate overnight (or at least 2 hours!)
Step 3:Heat the oil in a heavy skillet
Step 4: Slice your chicken into strips.  If you didn't pregrill your chicken, then cook the chicken strips over high heat, stirring constantly until cooked, it won't take long. Cast iron or stainless steel is ideal for this.
Step 5: Drain extra marinade from pan, take out meat and set aside.
Step 6: Wrap your tortillas in foil and pop in oven to warm.

Step 7: Slice your veggies into nice strips. I love bell peppers. See how pretty they are with the multi colors?

Step 8:Add the onion, garlic and chile peppers to the oil in the pan and sauté over high heat for 2 minutes until crispy but tender.

Step 9:Add the bell peppers and zucchini; cook over high heat for 4 minutes. Again I like mine crispy tender but with a tiny bit of char. If you like tomato in your fajitas and want it cooked now is the time to add.
Step 10: Return the chicken to the pan and heat until sizzling hot. Serve and portion. Top with cheese.

Step 11: Serve right away, with warm tortillas, lime wedges, sour cream, guacamole, sliced green onions, and chopped tomatoes, hot  rice and refried beans, (all optional) This is my homemade salsa. Let me know if you want the recipe for that to go up as well. I always serve with tortilla chips too.

ENJOY! For dessert I made caramel apple empanadas. I'll put those up tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Seafood Scampi and Fettuccine Alfredo

So.. you know how there are sometimes foods? This is one of those meals. It is probably the only one that will ever come with this disclaimer... but I feel compelled to add this.
To start with, no one meal should contain this much butter. 

It's awesome and it is DELICIOUS and it will make your mouth happy, but not your heart or arteries, so make this a special occasion meal and don't be afraid to have smaller portions than you might want, and a bigger salad. 

Ok, there's the warning. Now onto the good stuff. I wish my pictures of this were better, but this requires a LOT of constant stirring and it makes it hard to get good shots. 

Cook 1 pound of pasta your choice while you are doing this.
Add a dash of salt and a little olive oil to your boiling water and throw in your pasta. Cook per directions on the back. 

This dinner takes some practice with timing, each only takes about 10 minutes, so prep everything in advance and at least the first time, either have help or only make one (If you double the scampi recipe and add about a ½ cup of chicken stock you will get a great light white sauce to put over pasta)

Side note... for the meal I made in the pictures I doubled my shrimp and left out my scallops because the price was ridiculous this week. Feel free to do that as well, or even leave out the shrimp and use only scallops. Crab is excellent too. 

Seafood Scampi
  • tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ lb small or medium shrimp, deveined, tails removed
  • ½ lb bay scallops or sea scallops (quarter your sea scallops)
  • ½ cup white wine (or chicken stock)
  • 1 Tblsp fresh chopped basil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon (small to medium)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parsley for color

Cut your lemon in half and squeeze the juice of half over your seafood. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and melt 2 Tblsp butter. (The black spot is apparently where I splashed butter my phone. LOL)

Add garlic and let sizzle for 1 minute more
Add shrimp and scallops, and cook for 2- 3 minutes 

Add wine, basil and pepper flakes
Simmer about 3-4 minutes, until shrimp are pink and scallops opaque

Add 1Tblsp butter, squeeze in lemon juice and stir in salt and pepper and cook til butter has melted.
Just before adding over top of pasta, mix in fresh parsley for color and garnish.

Fettuccine Alfredo
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 sticks(1 cup) butter
  • fresh pepper
  • 1 cup parmesan or a combo of parmesean and romano cheeses
  • 1 lb cooked fettuccine or pasta of choice
  • salt & ground white pepper, to taste
  • clove of garlic (optional)
Melt butter in a saucepan

Turn down heat to medium low
Add garlic clove (just drop it in to infuse) if desired
Pour cream into pan and whisk together, heat until slightly reduced (about 7 minutes) whisking often

Grind pepper over the top. Now this is going to be "to taste" but I use about 21 quick grinds of my pepper mill and I use a very mild mix of white and black pepper. I know. I'm weird, but I measure things my own way. 

Slowly add cheese, whisking until combined. 

Stir constantly 1-2 minutes until cheese if full incorporated.
Remove from heat and let "rest" 1 min
Toss with pasta.

Now, top your pasta with your seafood scampi.

I serve this with a salad and it's perfect with homemade 2 cheese garlic bread, but I'm saving that recipe for another day. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Blackberry Vinaigrette

Now, I like salad. When I say, I like salad, I should clarify that. I like GOOD salad with lots of stuff in it, but that's just me. Everyone has their own choice of salad. Here is mine. I'll share what I put in it, but it's really up to you to make yours the way you like.

Lettuce (I use a mix of romaine and iceberg, sometimes some spring mix)
Sweet bell peppers. I like the little ones that my minions refer to as "candy peppers" in multi-colors because they are sweet
Baby carrots
Snow peas
There are no pieces of tomato in this because I think tomato is disgusting. (I do include it in other recipes, but no not in a salad)
Texas Toast croutons

I don't know that I've ever made 2 salads that were exactly the same. 

I like good salad dressing if I'm going to use any. Sometimes I just pick a roasted garlic rice vinegar and go with that instead but if I want dressing, I want something that's going to make the salad. 

These inspired me. I can't even tell you how much I love blackberries. Normally I wouldn't want to "waste" them on something like a recipe, because I prefer to just stuff them in my mouth, but this was a giant container of them so yum.

This one is pretty easy. You can use a food processor, blender or I used my magic bullet. 

1 ½ cups of fresh blackberries
3 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp minced garlic. You can use fresh or jarred, do not try and substitute powdered. 
This is an example of what the minced garlic looks like. 

1 Tblsp agave nectar
1 Tblsp honey
½ cup olive oil
Italian seasonings (you can use what you like or you can buy a mix like this one from Pampered Chef*) 

* I am not a PC consultant, but I do like their products, particularly their stoneware. I don't buy many of their mixes, but I know that by region brands of things may vary by store. I figured I'd use something you can get pretty much anywhere. 

  1. Wash your berries and set aside. Measure out 1½ cups. I measured 2 and ate half a cup, because well... blackberries. 
  2. In your blender, food processor, whatever device you are using, combine your vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, agave and honey. I really like the blend of the agave and honey but you can just use the honey if you don't have any agave. 
  3. Drizzle in your olive oil slowly. If you are using a magic bullet like I did, add it half at a time, blend and then add the rest.
  4. Taste. This is a really important step. You need to make sure you don't want it sweeter. If you do, experiment with the honey and agave until you get a blend that is right for you. 
  5. It's going to be really pretty. You can strain it through cheesecloth or a fine sieve if you have one to remove the seeds. You don't have to, but I like it better that way. You need 2 hands for that so you don't spill it all over the counter so I don't have any pictures of that.
  6. Pour it into a container that has a lid because this makes a bottles worth. 
  7. Then you say TADA and everyone thinks you are awesome.
Go eat salad. It's good for you and it makes an excellent salad dressing delivery system. Besides, tell me that isn't pretty!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Honey Lime Tilapia in a Buttery Cracker Crust

This is one of those dinners that looks a lot more impressive than it is.
I need different plates I think to make my pictures look better.

If you dismiss this because you don't like fish, well, maybe try it. Tilapia is not a fishy fish and it might change your mind.
This also cooks up nicely using chicken (cook about 35-40 minutes if you use chicken)
I am serving this with roasted carrots (which are to die for. I mean it. You might die for these)
A salad with homemade blackberry vinaigrette dressing... (which will be it's own post) and what we call hot crash potatoes.

I originally got the recipe for those from Pioneer Woman several years ago, she calls them crash hot potatoes and we just have it backwards. If you don't follow her blog, you should consider checking it out. She's got some awesome stuff and while some of her dishes aren't exactly what we are looking for, she's got just as many that are! 

Roasted Carrots:
  • 1 bag of baby carrots or a pound of so of fresh carrots 
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs as desired (rosemary, thyme, dill, your choice) 
  • Honey (optional) I used it today because it tied into the theme of dinner
Step 1: Wash and slice your carrots to uniform pieces or use baby carrots
Step 2: Take your carrots and place in a ziplock 
Step 3: Drizzle with olive oil and close the bag. Squish to evenly coat in oil... or you can just mix in a bowl
Step 4: Pour into roasting pan and sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper. 
Step 5: Bake in a preheated oven at 450°F for about 35 minutes. At last turn drizzle with honey, place back in over for about 5 minutes.
(After 30 min can be lowered to accommodate other recipes)

Honey Lime Tilapia in a Buttery Cracker Crust

  • 4-6 pieces of tilapia. I always get boneless and I select my filets based on size. They should fill a pan or however many you need. This does reheat shockingly well. 
  • Salt
  • Pepper 
  • 1 fresh lime
  • Honey- you're not going to use much so if you're running out it's ok to set the bottle upside down so you have enough to work with. 
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Odd twist of an ingredient, 1 sleeve of ritz crackers. I prefer the honey wheat but you can use whatever. Even the football shaped ones or some shaped like christmas trees. Generic are fine and much cheaper 

Step 1: Arrange your fish in a 13x9x2 pan (or the equivalent) Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Step 2: Take your lime and roll it on a flat surface  like a cutting board, your counter whatever you have handy. I love limes!

Step 3: Slice it in half and squeeze the juice over the fish. You should use BOTH halves.

Step 4: Next take the sleeve of crackers and crush them. I give mine to my minions and have them crush them right in the tube. When they're careful they it doesn't even make a mess! They should be finely crushed with only a few little bigger pieces. 

Step 5: Sprinkle crumbs evenly over the top of the fish, it should cover it completely 

Step 6: Cut butter into equal pieces, place in microwave safe dish and microwave til melted and drizzle evenly over the pan of fish 

Step 7: Bake in a preheated oven at 425°F for 15-20 minutes, or until fish is flakey and crumbs are golden brown.
Step 8: Pull out of oven, drizzle honey over the top put back in.  Shut off open and let sit 2-3 minutes.