Category Archives: Main Dish

Chicken Breasts…the Right Stuff(ed)

As we began the Holiday Season, I shared a post about stuffed chicken breasts. Little did I know that when the new year began, that I would still be singing their praises. Not to sound like I am repeating myself, but I have come up with yet two more ideas for filling a chicken breast and both of them are delicious and easy.

Why am I suddenly obsessed with stuffing chicken breasts? First off they are a lean and inexpensive protein. In and of themselves they are pretty bland and very boring, but that is what makes them so wonderfully versatile. They are quick cooking which is always a plus for weeknight suppers and can embrace any cuisine from comfort to gourmet.

Another reason to stuff a chicken breast is to keep it moist and tender, especially when it is heading into the oven. I’m sure that we have all choked our way through a dry and tough chicken breast at one event or another. Stuffing works from the inside to keep everything moist. To create a little extra moistness insurance, wrapping or coating it with something fat based helps as well.

There are two ways to stuff a chicken breast. The more gourmet method is to butterfly a good-sized breast and then pound it into a nice evenly flat canvas that can then be stuffed, rolled, and tied.

A simpler approach is to cut a deep pocket into the breast and fill it to the rim with something yummy. That is where we are heading today. The fillings of choice are more carb friendly for those that care about that sort of thing. They are vegetable forward with just the right amount of richness to create a palate pleasing sensation.

This can be considered a master recipe. I wrote it for two servings because that’s how many I cook for most of the time. It can easily be doubled, tripled or quadrupled if that’s what you need. A little simple math will give you the amount of ingredients you need. This stuffing will generously stuff the breasts with a little left over to create a comfy bed in the baking pan. Without further ado I give you Stuffed In the Side Pocket Chicken Breasts.

Stuffed In The Side Pocket Chicken Breasts

A master recipe for creating moist and delicious baked chicken breasts.

Servings: 2
  • 2 6-8 Ounce Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic Chopped
  • 1/3 Cup Chopped Onion Any type will work
  • 2 Cups Raw Vegetables, chopped Pick the ones you love.
  • 1 Ounce Cream Cheese Optional
  • 1 Tbsp. Bread Crumbs As needed, optional.
  • 4 Strips Bacon For wrapping the breast
  • 1 Tbsp. Mayonnaise To coat breast if not using bacon
  • Paprika
  1. Using a sharp knife and going slowly, cut a pocket in the thickest side of the breast. Do not pass go or cut all the way through. Set Aside

  2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. Reduce slightly and add the onions and garlic. Cook stirring occasionally until the mixture is soft and fragrant,

  3. Add the vegetables that you have chosen and continue to cook for 7-10 minutes stirring often. The vegetables need to be soft and slightly caramelized. At this point you should have about 1-1/4 cups of delicious stuff(ing).

  4. Depending on the vegetables moisture level, add cream cheese and/or breadcrumbs to make a thick (not runny) mixture. Add any additional seasonings and heat  long enough for everything to get acquainted.

  5. Cool the mixture slightly and and spoon it into the pockets of the breasts. Pack it gently but do not fill it to the point that the stuffing is coming out. If you have some left, spread it in the bottom of the baking pan you will be using. Give the pan a good spritz of cooking spray first.

  6. Choose how you want to finish the outside:  Wrap the breast with the bacon strips securing with toothpicks or kitchen twine if necessary. OR Spread the mayonnaise evenly on the tops of the breasts. Add any seasoning of you choice. 

  7. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 25 -30 minutes. Watch carefully and check for an internal temp of 160 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Now for how I made this recipe my own:  Spinach Artichoke Dip is a staple at many parties…you may have even indulged in it over the holidays. It also makes a killer stuffing for  a chicken breast. Marinated artichoke hearts and fresh spinach are sauteed with a little garlic and olive oil. Once they are happily united some cream cheese and grated parmesan are added. To keep the stuffing in the chicken where it belongs, a touch of bread crumbs ( a small carb price to pay) is added as binder. The final touch is a thin coating of mayonnaise and a light sprinkle of parmesan. A dusting of paprika makes it pretty. It only takes 25 minutes or so in the oven and it is ready to be the star of the show. Porcini Laced Faro (from a box) and sauteed grape tomatoes round out the plate.The chicken breast pocket can also be a new home for leftover vegetables. Brussels Sprouts roasted with bacon and onions was uncharacteristically left over from a previous dinner. Chopped up and packed inside a chicken breast made it’s second life almost as wonderful as its first. I enrobed this one in bacon that carried on the bacon that was in the stuffing, These are but two of a virtually endless set of possibilities. Use the master recipe and join the movement to stamp out dry chicken breasts. Share you creations and let’s start a new day of moist and tasty chicken breasts for all!!

The Season of Stuffed Poultry

It’s that time of year. The time when poultry becomes king (or queen) of the table. Soon Turkeys of all sizes will be transforming into golden centerpieces anchoring tables laden with foods rich and light, but mostly rich. I love Thanksgiving. After the prime reason of being thankful for all that we have, it is a holiday that centers around food. Food is what Mama D’s Kitchen is about. That and family and memories and love.

Sometimes that centerpiece is another kind of poultry. I remember one Thanksgiving when I was very young, there was a goose on the table. I do not remember eating it, but it was there. I’ve crowned my Thanksgiving table with Cornish Hens and Turkey Breasts and one year after 15 long hours, a smoked turkey. Note to self on that one; if you do this again plan more appetizers and less wine…

This really isn’t about turkey, but it is about the wonderment that stuffed poultry in any form creates. These days the turkey is often cooked separate from the stuffing, which I guess makes it dressing. When I do turkey I’m usually in the unstuffed crowd. This is because I love the stuffing, probably more than I love the turkey. I like my stuffing on the side with lots of crunchy crust and other good things (if time allows you will be hearing about that).

I do enjoy poultry when it enrobes an aromatic and semi-carb laden filling. Chicken breasts are the perfect canvas (once they are butterflied and pounded flat) for this kind of creation, especially if they are generously built. This dish checks off all of these boxes and it’s wrapped in bacon to boot. On the practical side, the stuffing was created from what was on hand. If you’ve been following along on my food adventures, you know this is how I roll most of the time. I like to use what is in the pantry or refrigerator and enjoy the challenge of combining these finds in a manner that is both creative and tasty. I’m also cheap and hate to throw food away.

So having the time, inclination and ingredients I created a stuffing that was based on quinoa. This high protein grain has been popular for some time. It is visually stunning, with its spiral germ that creates an intriguing pattern.

It has a bit of chew to it and a subtly nutty taste that enables it to welcome all manner of vegetables and herbs. Poking through the refrigerator, I found crimini mushrooms and a cubanelle pepper. At first they didn’t seem to be a match, but when they joined forces with  red onions, garlic, and rosemary they got along beautifully. I let them cook for a good long time in olive oil. I added some chicken stock occasionally to keep things moving. The flavor had a chance to concentrate and what seemed like an overly large pile of vegetables cooked down to just the right size.

Before the quinoa was tossed in, the veggies got an extra shot of flavor from a splash of Marsala, a slightly sweet Italian wine. All that was left to do was butterfly and flatten the chicken breasts. These were large weighing in at about 8 ounces each. All the better to hold a generous portion of the stuffing. They were big enough to hold themselves together without the benefit of twine of toothpicks but just in case, I wrapped a couple of slices of bacon around them for good measure.

They baked for about 25 minutes before they were plated alongside some sautéed Cherry Tomatoes. The chicken was moist and tender and the stuffing was savory with just the right amount of chew.Give this recipe a try. Experiment with different grains and flavor profiles. This is easy enough for a weeknight but would be just as comfortable on an intimate holiday table.

Quinoa Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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Quinoa Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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  1. Cook quinoa according to the package directions and set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, pepper, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook stirring occasionally until everything is very soft and browned, 10 minutes or so. Add chicken broth as needed to keep the vegetables moist.
  3. While the vegetables cook, butterfly the chicken breasts and flatten them to an even thickness. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Add the rosemary and the Marsala and simmer until the wine is evaporated. Stir in the reserved quinoa and toss well to combine.
  5. Put about 1/2 cup of the filling on each of the open chicken breasts. Roll up carefully.
  6. Wrap 2 bacon strips around each breast. If necessary, secure the rolls with toothpicks or kitchen twine.
  7. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread any remaining quinoa mixture on center of sheet. Place the chicken rolls on top of the quinoa.
  8. Bake 25 in a preheated 375 degree oven until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is brown.
  9. Remove any toothpicks or twine before serving.
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As we enter this holiday season, I wish you happy times with the ones you love. Thank you for following my food adventures.


Whole Lotta Chili Goin’ On

As we leave Halloween behind and prepare to make a quick stop at Thanksgiving before plunging headlong into Christmas, it is important to note that as the weather and decorations change, so does what the Kitchen of Love turns out. Friends, we are at the cusp of Chili Season. This is a season (and dish) that loves Fall, adds a bit of zest to Winter, and can make the coldest, dampest Spring day feel a little less bleak.

This dish for almost all seasons has many versions and a history that rivals many urban legends. I would guess that almost every cook has a version and that there are as many dos and don’ts as there are recipes. It’s not from Mexico, but the spice profile is. It is the subject of an ongoing, often heated debate; beans vs. no beans. Native of Texas, but with possible roots in the Canary Islands. Created in a nun’s vision or out of necessity. We may never know for certain and many articles have been written. What is certain, however is that any way you like your chili is all right.

I’ve shared several chili recipes over the years, but I do believe that there is always room for one more. This one features a wide variety of chilis in different forms, hence the name. It starts with my homemade red chili sauce made with ancho and guaillo chilis. There are roasted poblanos and canned green chilis to give some texture and mild heat.

Jalapenos join onions and garlic for the vegetable base.The spices include Ancho and Chipotle Powders, which brings the chili total to seven. That’s a “Whole Lotta Chili.”

There is also debate as to whether tomatoes should be added. I have done chili both ways and they each have their merits. This version uses some tomato paste partly for a little more richness but mostly because there were a couple of tablespoons left in the tube.

All of these flavors require a protein profile that is just as varied. Smoky Bacon, Chicken Thighs, and Turkey Italian Sausage rounded out the meats. There was about 1-1/2 pounds total. I used what I had on hand, but you could go with beef, ground or chopped, or all ground turkey. Even skip the meat and double up on the beans (if you are of the chili with beans army). Remember there are no rules for chili…as long as you aren’t serving it to Texans.

I am a staunch member of the chili with beans club, so I doubled down with Kidney and Black Beans. I love the pasty yet meaty texture of Kidney beans (How’s that for a description?) and the smoky flavor of Black Beans. Together they gave some added depth to the chili.

Chili seasonings are only limited by the chili maker’s taste and spice cabinet. You can choose screaming hot or sweetly spicy depending on your sensibilities. I tend to be a savory and mildly spicy kind of gal ( and Papa D wouldn’t want it any other way). I have even put Mexican Chocolate in my Turkey Mole Chili. For this recipe however, I stuck mostly to tradition and used plenty of Cumin, a touch of Coriander, and a healthy amount of Mexican Oregano. Yes, there is a difference, try it. I opted for Ancho and Chipotle Powder instead of Chili Powder; It was a personal choice, use what you really like.

I added some Corn Broth to the chili sauce mainly because I had it in the freezer. Chicken or vegetable stock works well, too. I like my chili on the thick side. That requires a thickening agent. I used Masa Harina. This is fine ground corn flour. Add some water or stock to the flour and shake it like crazy to create a slurry. It works quickly and cooks out to a subtle corn taste that I love.

This is just one suggestion for chili. I have several of them in my recipe archives, if you are inclined to, browse. A winter kitchen needs at least one chili recipe. Take this one as a starting point and make it your own.

Whole Lotta Chili
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Whole Lotta Chili
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  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it renders some fat and is just beginning to brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  2. Add the chicken and turkey sausage to the pot and cook until they are cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Leave the drippings in the pan.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, and jalapeno to the pot and cook until the onions soften and everything smells wonderful.
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir to blend it in. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the chili sauce and stock along with the chili powders and oregano. Stir in the green and poblano chilis. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes to blend the flavors.
  6. Add the rinsed and drained beans to the pot and let everything simmer another 15 minutes.
  7. Increase the heat to a low boil. Shake the masa harina with a half cup of water in a jar until it is well blended. Stir the mixture into the chili and continue to stir until it thickens.
  8. Give it a taste and adjust the ingredients as needed. Serve.
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A Monday Kind of Pasta Frittata

As Summer finally (maybe) comes to an end, leaving a checkerboard path of meatless meals in its wake, I am again moving into “Meatless Mondays.” I am also once again cleaning out the refrigerator, putting ingredients to use before they are useless. That being said this recipe would be wonderful even if it was planned in advance.

I have just returned from a wonderful visit with California friends. While I was living it up in a penthouse suite overlooking the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, Papa D was left to his own devices as far as meals were concerned. One evening he cooked a pound of pasta to go with the container of Sunday Gravy that I had left in the refrigerator. Wisely, he decided to save some of the pasta  to scramble with eggs (his idea).

Liking the idea when I got home, I ran with it. There were a few other leftovers that needed rescuing. Peppers, tomatoes and some cheese all were nearing the end of the road so they gathered together to become a pasta frittata.This dish, and the use of pasta, is popular in many areas of Italy. It can be labeled Neapolitan or Sicilian and is probably claimed by many other regions, but it always seems to use leftover pasta as its base. Techniques can vary, but I like cooking the vegetables first.and adding the pasta second. Olive oil is a driving force in this process as is initial high heat. Once the eggs are added along with some cheese, things need to get low and slow. This is a dense dish that takes time to set. This also allows time to enjoy the fragrance that the garlic and other vegetables create.When the frittata is almost set, it gets crowned with a little more cheese (a hard grating cheese is best. Asiago, Romano or Parmesan are good choices) and heads for the broiler. Lightly golden and ever so slightly crusty it is ready for its close up. A sprinkling of basil or any other available herb gives it a little more color.This makes a lovely weeknight supper, but it is just as at home for a weekend brunch. The format is easy and lends itself to whatever embellishment you want to add. This served two lavishly and could easily serve more with a salad and some crusty bread added.  

Pasta Frittata
Servings: 2
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Onions
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Sweet Peppers
  • 2 cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 1 Cup Grape Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Cooked Pasta
  • 4 Eggs Beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. Milk
  • 1 Tsp. Italian Hebs
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Italian Cheese Divided
  • 1/4 Cup Thinly sliced Basil
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in an oven proof skillet. Add the onions and peppers and cook stirring occasionally until softened and beginning to brown. 5-7 minutes.

  2. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan and cook another 3 - 4 minutes. The garlic should be fragrant and the tomatoes should begin to soften.

  3. Add the pasta and toss to combine the ingredients. Continue to cook, tossing occasionally until the pasta begins to take on some color, another  5 minutes or so.

  4. Heat the oven to broil. Beat the eggs, milk and half of the cheese together until well blended. Stir in the Italian herbs. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pan so that it is even.

  5. Lower the heat to medium and cook lifting the edges of the egg to allow the mixture to cook through. Once the eggs are almost set, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and transfer to the oven.

  6. Broil until the top is golden and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

I don’t want to cut anyone’s weekend short, but Monday is just around the corner. If you make pasta over the weekend, make a little extra…a frittata might be just the way to begin the “Meatless Monday” tradition.


Bringing Back Summer…Grilled Turkey Tenderloins

Remember a short time ago when I was gushing about Fall coming to the Midwest? Well, this is the Midwest after all and seasons are relative. My last casserole adventure had barely been seen when the weather decided it wasn’t quite finished with Summer. For what seems like an eternity we have been plunged back into hot humid weather and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in the foreseeable future.

Here in the Midwest grills never really get put away. Oh, we may cover them, but we never seal them because we know that we might wake up to another summer day when we least expect it. So, I’d like to share a mostly grilled dinner that happened recently. The protein is Turkey Tenderloin. This has been a staple all summer long.

These come from Aldi. a grocery store chain that is re-inventing itself and the way people look at buying food. These stores have been a “no frills,” limited inventory, house brand, haven for people looking to save money. This year they began a multi-million dollar project of revamping their stores to expand their product line and tap into the shopping habits of more consumers. To illustrate this, everything on the plate came from Aldi; Organic Rainbow Baby Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, and Sweet Potatoes. Even the Memphis Barbecue Sauce that glazed the sweet potatoes was an Aldi find.

I didn’t set out to create an “All Aldi” dinner. It just happened and it is happening more often thanks to the fact that I can once again walk to my local Aldi (the above mentioned re-vamping caused the store to close for a month, yes, a month). They reopened brighter, bigger, and more grocery store like. The quality of their products has been improving over the last few years and this remodel is the final step to compete with, if not the “big boys,” at least the smaller more boutique chains that are expanding everywhere. Yes, they are a cousin of Trader Joe’s.

Now back to this End of Summer, Please! dinner. These tenderloins come marinated. I like the Cracked Pepper Flavor. There are two large tenderloins in each package, so there is plenty for dinner with leftovers for salads and sandwiches through the week. Just open the package, drain off the marinade and they are ready for the grill.

The sweet potatoes went on the grill, too. The wedges browned beautifully and were brushed with a bit of barbecue sauce for a little extra flavor.

The only part of the dinner that didn’t make it to the grill, the carrots and snap peas, roasted in the oven dressed, in a little brown sugar and olive oil. I am in love with Rainbow Carrots. Besides being lovely to look at, they are delicious to eat. Once I had to hunt for them, now I find them everywhere in every shape and size. From 2 pound bags of large carrots to bunches of baby carrots still sporting their ferny crowns, to these baby versions all peeled and pretty and waiting to be cooked.

I even attempted to grow them in my tiny garden this year. My pitiful harvest attested to the fact that “trash gardening” doesn’t work for everything. (magnified to show detail)

Roasting carrots is by far my favorite preparation technique. They only need a drizzle of olive oil and maybe a pinch of brown sugar and some salt and pepper. I like to keep additional seasoning to a minimum so that the sweetness of the carrots comes through. If I want to change things up I may add a little fresh thyme or some cumin, but I don’t often gild this lily.

They can roast by themselves or as in this case be joined by some onions and towards the end of roasting some snap peas. They go with everything color and taste wise.

Non- Recipe, Recipe:

Roasted Carrots

For one pound of carrots you need about one tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2  teaspoon brown sugar ( more is all right, too), salt and pepper to taste. Toss these together in a bowl. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lightly coated with cooking spray. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, stirring once or twice. 

This is one dish that really doesn’t have a season. Carrots, rainbow or not, baby or big are available year around and are usually cheap. They will continue to grace the plates of many meals in the Kitchen of Love. Oh, and before I forget….

Fall, please come back. I miss you.