Sunday, August 19, 2018

Stuffed Chicken Marsala

A restaurant favorite of my hubby, stuffed chicken marsala is a meal I have tried in vain to get right.... until now.  I set aside the 6 different recipes I have tried in my attempts to do this justice.  Finally, I nailed it.

The trick is to use far less marsala than most recipes call for.  My first try, the recipe called for half a bottle of wine.  Seriously?  I got a buzz just smelling the sauce.  Now that I have a solid decade of cooking with wine under my belt, I can see what a mistake that was.  But you live and learn.

Ingredients:

Filling:
4 oz. Cream cheese, softened
3 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1 tap. dried basil
2 oz. shredded mozzarella
3-4 T. parmesan
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. each oregano and fennel seed, if desired

Chicken and sauce:
3-4 T. each olive oil and butter
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 T. minced garlic
2 whole chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
2 T. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1/4-1/3 C. Marsala wine
3/4-1 C. heavy cream
1/3 C. parmesan

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the filling, set aside.

Next, separate the two halves of the chicken breast, take the larger half and cut that in half at it's thickest point.  Repeat for the second chicken breast.  Cut a 2-3 inch slit into the thickest part of the chicken and make a pocket. Spoon prepared filling into each pocket, then season the chicken generously with Italian seasoning.

Heat oven to 375.  In a large skillet or cast iron dutcD oven, add half of each olive oil and butter to pan over a medium high heat.  Sear chicken over medium high heat until lightly golden brown on both sides.  Remove from pan and place on a baking sheet or an uncovered ceramic dish and place in oven to finish cooking, depending on size of chicken pieces, it should take 18-25 to finish baking.

In the cast iron Dutch oven or skillet, add remaining olive oil and butter and sautee mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  When mushrooms are almost tender, about 1-2 minutes before they finish cooking, add marsala wine.  Reduce by half, turn heat to a low and slowly stir in heavy cream.  Stir in parmesan, keep the heat on low to avoid curdling the sauce.  Add additional parmesan to thicken the sauce as needed.  Sauce is done when it coats the back of a
spoon.  When chicken is ready, add to the sauce and serve over pasta or mashed potatoes with side salad.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Tomato Basil Bisque

You know what they say, the third time is the charm.

On my third time making this, I finally nailed it.  I discovered the missing ingredient, the je ne sais quoi, the piece de resistence.  And in my head, I'm saying both of those phrases in a luxurious French accent which in my waking (and talking) hours, I simply do not possess.

The rich tomato flavor that I've been persuing in my struggles to make the recipe amazing comes from a simple, pantry staple.  Tomato paste.  I know, it sounds weird, but that's what truly sets this apart.  Here's how it comes together:

Ingredients:
1 can diced tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 red or orange sweet bell pepper, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 T. garlic, minced (about 3-4 cloves)
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1/8 C. white wine (optional)
1 T. basil
1 6oz. can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can crushed tomato or tomato puree
1 C. marinara sauce
1-2 C. chicken broth or stock, reduced sodium
1 C. heavy cream
2 T. parmesan
1/2 tsp. paprika (optional)

In a large, cast iron Dutch oven, heat 1 T. each olive oil and butter until hot.  Add in cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper, and shallor, cook over medium high heat until tender and tomatoes have popped or split their skins.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant (30 seconds to a minute).

Smash until mixture resembles a chunky paste.  Deglaze pan with white wine (or chicken stock/broth).  Add in tomato paste and stir until well combined.  Add in remaining butter and olive oil.  Stir in chicken broth/stock in 1/4 C. increments until the first cup is well combined.  Stir in basil, marinara sauce, and heavy cream.  Stir in paprika (optional).  Add more chicken broth/stock if desired.  Let simmer over medium low heat for 10-15 minutes, stir in parmesan cheese.  Serve with crusty bread, grilled cheese, or with a light side salad.

Yields: 6-8 servings

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Rosemary Lemon Chicken

At a local, upscale restaurant last week, I tried their Sage Chicken and was blown away by how a few simple ingredients made a luxurious, elegant dish.  And then I got to thinking....why couldn't I make my own take on this at home.  And the grocery store so kindly put the few ingredients I needed on sale this week, I'm taking this as a sign from the universe.  When the universe (of chicken dinners) knocks, I simply must answer.  So this is what I'm making for dinner tonight.

3 chicken breast halves, butterflied (for 6 portions)
salt and pepper
1-2 T. flour or cornstarch
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
2-3 cloves minced garlic (1-2 tsp.)
1 large lemon
2-3 springs fresh rosemary (or 10-12 leaves of sage, if you prefer)
1 tsp. basil
2-3 T. white wine
1/8 C. heavy cream

Heat butter and olive oil in a nonstick or cast iron pan over medium heat, until butter has melted.
Season chicken with salt and pepper, lightly dredge in flour.  Sear over medium heat 4-5 minutes, flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan.  Saute garlic until fragrant, add in basil and squeeze in 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, stir gently to combine.  Stir in white wine and heavy cream.  Add chicken back to pan and top cutlets with rosemary (or sage leaves).  Bring to a low simmer and let simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Serve over mashed potatoes or angel hair pasta with sauteed mushrooms, garden salad, and crusty bread.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Deli Roasted Chicken Breast

Since relocating to a new town that is sans Italian deli, Mexican tiendas, panaderias, and marcados, Indo-Pak takeout shops with small grocer attached, I've had to get a little more creative and up my game.  A lot.

Without the incredible Italian deli counter to serve my charcuterie needs, better and more versatile recipes are not just a thing I want, but something I need to keep my house - and more importantly my kitchen, from descending into madness and too much Panera takeout.  But, I digress.  A better recipe for tomato basil soup is in the works, I just need to put the finishing touches on it.

What I was craving lately was a simple, but flavorful, chicken sandwich.  Just roasted chicken, sliced thin, and piled high on a hearty sandwich roll with a a mound of mixed greens, a smear of basil-pesto or really good mayo, and a sprinkle of black olives.  I wasn't looking for buffalo chicken or mesquite chicken, just a classic and versatile chicken.  That way the leftovers would be great tossed on a salad or in a pasta dish with some angel hair and a drizzle of olive oil, crunchy red bell pepper, and a splash of lemon juice.

This is so full of classic chicken flavor, I'm instantly smitten.
And, all the ingredients are generally on hand, which I may love even more.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tsp. each: salt and pepper
2 tsp. each. oregano and roasted garlic powder
1/2 tsp. each cumin and onion powder
2-3 T. olive oil
2 large chicken breasts, fat trimmed
1/4 C. white wine
2 T. butter
2 tsp. basil, if desired

Heat oven to 350.
In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, cumin, garlic and onion powder, and oregano.  Sprinkle over chicken lightly, coat both sides.  Heat olive oil in a cast iron dutch over over medium-high heat until hot.  Add chicken to pan and cook for 7-9 minutes or until chicken pulls away from the pan easily.  Flip and sear for 5 minutes.  Add white wine to bottom of the pan then top each chicken breast with 1 pat of butter.  Let wine reduce by half (takes 2-5 minutes).
Remove pan from stove into oven, covered.  Roast chicken for 15-20 minutes or until thermometer reads 175-180.  Cool completely before slicing thin for sandwiches.

Yields: 6 sub sandwiches

Leftover makeover ideas:
1.  Chop chicken and add to pasta
2.  Chop chicken and toss with thin sliced onions and peppers for killer fajitas
3.  Add to mixed greens, sliced almonds, parmesan, and thin sliced pear for an entree salad.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Carnitas Cheesesteak Sandwich

Carnitas Ingredients:
3 lb. boneless pork roast
1-2 medium red bell peppers, sliced julienne
2-3 small onions, sliced thin
1 minced shallot, optional
2 tsp. each oregano, cumin, black pepper, and ancho chile powder
2 T, minced garlic
1 tsp. each granulated garlic, smoked sweet paprika, salt
1/4 C. each orange juice and red wine
2-3 T. worcestershire sauce
2 T. olive oil
juice of 2-3 limes

Cheesesteak ingredients:
1 T. olive oil
4-8 oz. thin sliced or shredded cheese (I used provolone and cheddar)
16" loaf French bread or 4-6 sub rolls
2-3 T. butter

In a small bowl, mix well the minced shallot and garlic, oregano, cumin, black pepper, chile powder, granulated garlic, salt, and paprika.  Pat pork roast dry and drizzle with olive oil.  Coat with seasonings.

Add all remaining carnitas ingredients except pork to bottom of a crock pot, stir to combine.  Add pork roast.  Cook on low for 10-12 hours.  Lightly shred the meat.  Reserve the cooking liquid.

Add 1 T. olive oil to skillet and add carnitas meat along with onions and peppers.  Fry lightly for 5-10 minutes, stir occasionally.  (Deglaze pan with cooking liquid from the crockpot as needed.)  Top with cheese.

Lightly butter French bread (cut into 4-6 sections) or sub rolls.  Toast in the over at 400 for 5-7 minutes or pan sear on a griddle over medium-high heat until lightly golden brown.

Top with cheesesteak mixture and additional cheese, if desired.
Serve with salad or fresh fruit.

Yields: 8-12 servings

Leftover makeover ideas:
Serve meat in tortillas for tacos
Use in enchiladas
Add to baked bean casserole for hearty side dish
Stir in BBQ sauce for kicked up pulled pork

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Smoky and Sweet Garlic Lime Marinade for Pork and Chicken

Summer flavors are here!  And I'm marinating and rubbing, hubby's thrillin' and grillin' his way into all kinds of yummy stuff.  My latest craze: PORK!

Grilled pork ribs, chops, pork steaks - all things pork and smoky! This summer I am in the mood for pork, but I wanted a twist on a Mexican marinade with something sweet and smoky - this is what I've come up with using pantry basics with a fully loaded spice cabinet and a few fresh limes that I needed to use up. To pair with this yummy entree, peach lime spritzer - a favorite summertime treat.

1/8 C. worchestershire sauce ($.10)
1/8 C. white wine ($.10)
2 T. Liquid smoke ($.10)
2 T. minced garlic ($.05)
1 T. basil ($.05)
2 tsp. black pepper ($.10)
3 T. brown sugar ($.05)
2 tsp. each smoked paprika and onion powder ($.10)
juice of 2 limes ($.20)
1 sliced lime ($.10)

Whisk together all ingredients except sliced lime.  Lay slices of lime on top of pork chops, top with marinade.  Allow to marinate for 2 hours to 2 days.  Grill pork chops and serve with rice, salad, and additional lime wedges and sliced avocado.

Cost of marinade: $1.05

Monday, April 4, 2016

Summer Pasta: Margherita Pasta Sauce over Capellini

I created this light and easy sauce recipe about 3 years ago, when hubby and I moved into our home, the first home we have ever owned.  Instead of one of us running to the grocery store for a jar of sauce for our pizza that night, I used what we had on hand - and it's become my signature summer pasta sauce - it's light, meatless, packed with bright, sweet flavor.  And it takes all of 30 minutes to make, maybe a little less if you have a handy-dandy bean masher, which just so happens I do.

Easy to make for a crowd but perfect for a few servings, this can be a great dish for a brunch or a side dish for a BBQ.  It's super versatile which makes it one of my go-to meals, I'd eat it every day or two if I had my choice.

1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes ($1)
1 sweet bell pepper, red, orange, or yellow, rough chopped or quartered ($.20)
3 cloves of garlic, minced ($.15)
2 T. each olive oil and butter ($.50)
1/4 C. white wine (I use pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc) ($.25)
1-2 T. dried basil ($.10)
1/2 tsp. fennel seed, optional ($.05)
salt and pepper ($.05)
2 T. heavy cream, optional ($.05)
1-2 T. parmesan cheese ($.15)
1/2 lb. capellini pasta ($.40)

Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.

Add olive oil and butter to a small cast iron pan over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, add in the whole tomatoes, rough chopped bell pepper and minced garlic.  Cook over medium-high heat, covered, until the tomatoes start to pop and split their skins.  When most of the tomatoes are soft, use a bean mashed to break up the tomatoes.  Stir in basil and fennel, season with salt and pepper.  Once the tomatoes have cooked down, about 1-3 minutes, stir in the white wine a few tablespoonfuls at a time, letting the wine cook down before adding more.  Finish the sauce with parmesan and heavy cream, add in capellini pasta, cooked al dente, along with a few tablespoons of pasta water, toss well to coat, cook an additional 1-2 minutes, and serve.

You can top with mozzarella cheese or provolone, if desired, for a baked pasta entree.
Yields: 2-3 servings
Cost: $2.90
Cost per serving: $.98-$1.45

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bavarian Pork Loin

I've long been a fan of my local Italian deli/grocery store and they have this Bavarian pork loin at the deli counter which is just all kinds of addictive.  It wasn't until a few weeks ago (when I scored a pair of whole pork tenderloins) that it dawned on me: I could try making this myself.  Why do brilliant ideas like this take so long to reach my brain, I'll never know.  But I am making one of these beauties today and am beyond excited!

What makes it even better is that having a full and varied spice cabinet, a few pantry basics, and less than 5 minutes - and I had the spice paste to rub into the meat.  Woo-hoo!  Very happy when an idea comes together - and so I don't forget what I did in my haze of talent, awesomeness, brilliance, and just sheer excitement, here is my recipe:

2.5 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed ($3.15)
2 T. spicy brown mustard ($.10)
2 T. olive oil ($.10)
1-2 T. white wine ($.10) - I used pinot grigio
2 tsp. each: paprika, onion powder, and salt ($.10)
1 tsp. each: roasted garlic powder, black pepper, and thyme ($.10)
1/2 tsp. each: oregano and dry ground mustard ($.05)
pinch of cumin
splash of worchestershire sauce

Mix all but pork tenderloin until fully incorporated.  Spread mixture onto thawed and dry meat.
Roast in oven at 350 for 2-3 hours, uncovered.  Meat is done when exterior is firm and meat registers 180F.  Cool 15 minutes, then slice thin for sandwiches, thick for serving alongside potatoes and root veggies.

Cost: $3.70

Friday, December 11, 2015

Blonde Brickle Brownies - Toffee Blonde Brownies

Call them Brickle Brownies or Blondies, these sweet treats will definitely answer!  I used to make these for my father every Christmas and it's a tradition that I must admit I miss.  So this year, I'm making the blonde brickle brownies as I always made them in my youth - with a little more brown sugar, a little less fanfare, and tons of yummy toffee goodness!  Dad, this one is for you.

4 eggs ($.40)
1 C. dark brown sugar ($.10)
2/3 C. granulated sugar ($.05)
2/3 C. butter, melted ($.75)
2 tsp. vanilla extract ($.25)
1/4 tsp. butter extract ($.25)
2 3/4 C. flour ($.25)
1 tsp. baking powder ($.05)
1/2 tsp. salt ($.05)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, optional ($.05)
1 bag Heath Bits of Brickle or chopped toffee pieces ($1.50)
1/2 C. chopped pecans, if desired ($1.50)

Heat oven to 350.
Grease a 13x9" baking dish, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs well.  Stir in brown and granulated sugars, cream together.  Stir in melted butter and both extracts.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix well to combine.  Fold in toffee pieces and chopped pecans, if desired.

Spread into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.
Serves well with vanilla ice cream.

Yields: 24 brownies/bars
Cost: $5.20
Cost per serving: $.24

Monday, October 19, 2015

Creamy Homemade Chicken Stew

The cooler autumn weather really puts me in the mind for soups and stews, hearty pastas, and savory roasted treats.  Lately, chicken has been what everybody's in the mood to eat, so I took some odds and ends out of the fridge and pantry and came up with a hearty and slightly creamy chicken stew that was a huge hit - and there are a few store-bought shortcuts to make this an easy weeknight menu option, too.

I made a chicken and vegetable stock from scratch, as I had lots of veggies that were getting a little too soft for snacking - but that's the beauty of soup!  You can make use of a lot of things you already have on hand and end up with an amazing meal for so little money.  Here's what I did:

Ingredients
Chicken and veggie stock:
1 T. olive oil ($.15)
3-4 small onions, skin on and thick sliced or chopped ($.10)
1/4lb. baby carrots, roughly chopped ($.15)
4-5 celery stalks, roughly chopped ($.25)
4 pieces bone-in chicken (I used drummies) $1.00
1 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, oregano, black pepper, and fennel seed ($.10)
2 T. basil ($.10)
2-3 tsp. salt (to taste) ($.05)

Heat olive oil in a 5-7 qt. stock pot over medium heat, add celery, onions, and carrots and cook at medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add all remaining ingredients except salt and top 4 quarts of water.  Raise heat to a medium-high and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Taste and add salt and additional seasonings as needed.

Stew:
2 T. olive oil ($.30)
1/2 T. butter ($.10)
1/4 lb. baby carrots, finely chopped ($.15)
3 celery stocks, finely chopped ($.15)
2-3 small onions, minced ($.10)
4 cloves garlic, minced ($.10)
1 shallot, minced ($.05) (optional)
3-5 T. flour ($.05)
2-3 C. chicken, rough chopped ($1.25)
1/8 C. white wine, optional ($.25)
2 small or 1 large potato with skin on, sliced paper thin ($.10)
1 T. basil ($.10)
1 1/2 tsp. each black pepper and oregano ($.05)
1/4 C. heavy cream ($.25)
Chicken and veggie stock (see above or you can use storebought stock)

Directions:
Heat butter and olive oil over a medium heat until oil starts to shimmer.  Then add onions, celery, carrots, shallots, and garlic to pan.  Sautee over medium heat until just tender, then add basil, oregano, black pepper, and salt to taste, stirring well.  Add in flour, a tablespoon at a time and stir constantly, add white wine.  Stir in stock by the ladleful, while stirring.  Once stock is incorporated, add potato and chicken and let simmer over a medium-low heat for 30-45 minutes.  Stir in heavy cream 5-8 minutes before serving, keep stew at a low simmer.  Top with fresh parsley, parmesan, chives, green onions, or cheddar cheese as desired.  I topped mine with 1-2 T. parmesan.

Serve with salad and warm yeast rolls.

Yields: 10-12 servings
Cost: $4.90
Cost per serving: $.49

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sweet Citrus Pork Tenderloin

A tender, succulent grilled pork tenderloin that was made for sandwiches...that is the life I aspire to.  And with this take on a tenderloin, I think I am one step closer to sandwich nirvana.  I love creating new flavors and have a considerable spice cabinet to pull from and here, I've used bold citrus flavors with sweet and a little tang to punch up a pretty piece of pork.

In the summer, when the whole pork tenderloins go on sale, I'm right there, grabbing a couple and thinking of all the ways I can use them.  I take them home and cut them into meal sized portions of about one pound to a pound and a half and vacuum seal them, after I've marinated them for 24 hours.  When I'm cutting up the pork tenderloin, the small scrappy pieces become stew meat (or in my house, stirfry or taco meat) so there is no waste from a beautiful tenderloin.  I even cut thick chops for stuffed pork chops and prep them on the spot, including stuffing them.  Whenever I can spare the time, I will freeze the pork for a couple of hours, just enough to make it easier to get a good slice and a neat edge when I'm portioning the pork out for our meals.  During the week, I just have to thaw a portion and roast it when I'm home from work.

While this recipe could work well with most citrus flavors, I just went with what I had on hand at the moment.

Marinade:
1/4 C. each: white wine, orange juice ($.25)
1/8 C. each brown sugar, olive oil ($.25)
2 T. molasses or honey ($.10)
1 small red or orange bell pepper, minced ($.35)
1/2 tsp. each: black pepper, garlic powder ($.05)
1 tsp. each: salt, paprika, onion powder ($.10)

1.5 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed ($3.40)
Whisk together all ingredients.  Marinate pork in mixture overnight.

Roast in oven at 400F for 1 hour 20 minutes or until meat is golden and internal temperature reads 180F.  Cool 10-15 minutes, slice thin for sandwiches or thicker for an entrée.

Yields: 3-4 servings
Cost: $4.50
Cost per serving: $1.12-$1.50

Serve with tortillas and salad, sliced thin and piled on sub rolls with cheddar, lettuce, and onion, or with white or fried rice and sautéed peppers and onions.  Can also be served as an appetizer on small rolls with coleslaw on top.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Peppery Smokehouse Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is one of my signature dishes and I've been having a blast this summer finding new ways to season it, though my Italian garlic seasoned tenderloin is a classic, I have been so inspired by all the amazing flavors and recipes I've been reading so it was time to update this classic.  And what screams summer more than a smoky, peppery flavor that is super savory and a little tangy.  This pairs well with a fruity lemonade or a crisp white wine based cocktail.  Peach and lime sangria, anyone?  Next time I'm going to try a sweet citrus pork tenderloin.

Another thing I love about pork tenderloin - it makes fabulous, decadent, over-the-top gourmet sandwiches with the addition of crusty bread, some good cheese (I love Havarti, gouda, sharp cheddar, or even some smoked provolone), caramelized onions/charred peppers/sautéed mushrooms.  Pair with a classic side or spinach salad and dinner is done.  And it looks beautiful enough for a casual dinner with friends, too.  Just put out a few cheese and bread options, let people serve themselves.

Marinade:
1/4 C. each worchestershire sauce, steakhouse marinade, and red wine ($.50)
2-4 T. brown sugar ($.05)
a few dashes of liquid smoke ($.05)

Season blend:
1 tsp. each: cumin, paprika, garlic powder, ancho chile powder ($.20)
2 tsp. smokehouse black pepper (free after coupons)
1 tsp. California black pepper seasoning and hickory smoked salt (from the Spice House) ($.20)
1/2 tsp. each: oregano, onion powder, mesquite seasoning ($.15)

1.5 pounds pork tenderloin ($3.25)

Mix marinade ingredients together and marinade the pork overnight.
Heat oven to 400F, line a 2 qt. baking dish with aluminum.  Season the pork tenderloin with pepper blend and place in the prepared baking dish.

Bake at 400F. for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in center reads 180F.  Cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cost: $4.40
Yields: 2-4 servings
Cost per serving: $1.10-$2.20