Category Archives: Weeknight Supper

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.

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Stuffed In The Side Pocket Chicken Breasts

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

Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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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Servings
2
Servings
2
Quinoa Stuffed Chicken Breasts
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  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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Servings
6
Servings
6
Whole Lotta Chili
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  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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Maybe It’s Fall and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Well, once again I begin a post with a weather report of sorts. As of yesterday, Fall seems to have returned to the Midwest. Heavy rain has brought the much-anticipated cold front that in turn has brought out long pants and long sleeves and even the occasional sweater. There is no such thing as a sure thing, but this time it feels different. It is also mid October and it’s more than time.

Mama D’s Kitchen has become soup central. Bubbling pots of chicken and vegetable stock have been perfuming the air with savory scents.  The first soup of the season has appeared and it is a beauty. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It is anchored by homemade Vegetable Stock (kitchen recycling at its best) and features butternut squash, a true harbinger of Fall. It is almost meatless, the unapologetic inclusion of Pancetta was the perfect salty counterpoint to the sweet squash.

Looking for an excuse to turn on the oven, I decided to roast the squash. I love how the roasted flavor is richer and somehow more satisfying. It changes the color of the finished soup, but it still has beautiful golden tones. I let the carrots roast too, because I am currently in love with the resulting nutty sweet flavor.The pancetta was finely chopped and rendered delicious fat as it crisped up in the soup pot. That fat, along with a little butter gave the leeks and garlic something to sweat in that made their presence well established.I added some ground sage and let it release its earthiness into the leek mixture. Then the stock went in, along with a bundle of thyme sprigs, and a time to simmer began. The fragrance that permeated the house was wonderful. The squash and carrots came into the party fashionably late, but in enough time to become the stars of the show. Once everything was perfectly married, it was time to bring in the immersion blender. What else would a fall soup need to thin it out a bit? Why some heavy cream, of course. This is comfort food after all and it really was a modest amount…

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 2Lb. Butternut Squash Peeled and chopped 1" dice
  • 1 Cup Baby Carrots Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil Divided
  • 4 Oz. Pancetta Finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 Cups Sliced Leeks
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tsp. Ground Sage
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream More or less as needed
  • 2 Oz. Goat Cheese Crumbled
Instructions
  1. Toss the squash cubes with some of the olive oil. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 40 minutes in a 425 degree oven, stirring every 15 minutes. Set Aside.

  2. Toss the carrots with a little of the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven stirring every 10 minute or so. Set aside

  3. In a large soup pot heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until it is brown and crispy 7 - 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta and allow it to drain on paper towels. Spoon out all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings.

  4. Add the butter to the pot and once it is melted, add the leeks and garlic. Toss to coat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the ground sage and cook an additional 5 minutes until the leeks are wilted and just beginning to brown.

  5. Add the stock to the pan. Tie the thyme sprigs together with a long piece of kitchen twine. Drop it into the pot and tie one end of the string to the pot handle. Bring up to a simmer, cover and allow to simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.

  6. Remove the thyme sprigs (they will now be stems) from the pot. Add the reserved squash and  carrots. Return to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  7. Once the soup has cooled slightly, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. (waiting 10 minutes helps the splatters not sting as much). Once the soup is smooth, return it to the stove.

  8. Stir in the cream and allow the soup to heat gently until it is nice and hot. Use as much cream as your waistline will allow. Check for flavor and add salt and pepper as needed.

  9. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with the crispy pancetta and crumbled goat cheese.

Serving it up only required a sprinkle of goat cheese and those wonderful crispy pancetta bits.

This was wonderful, but it got better with the addition of Skillet Corn Bread. Remember those little boxes of Jiffy Mix that our moms always reached for. Well, I reached for one, too. I embellished the regular directions with corn, green onions, cheddar cheese, and sour cream in place of milk.

It baked up with a golden brown crust on top and crispy goodness on the bottom (the result of heating the skillet in the oven before adding the batter). 

Joined by a simple salad it completed what was indeed a perfect Supper.

We are enjoying a week of mildly cool weather here in the Midwest. Let’s hope that this time it stays.

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.  

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Pasta Frittata
Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.