Tag Archives: Chicken Breasts

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
Print Recipe
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.

 

Those Lazy, Hazy, Salad Days of Summer

Nat King Cole sang about “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” touting the pleasures of soda, pretzels, and beer along with weenies, beaches, girls in bikinis, and drive-ins. It was the early 60’s and I was bursting into my teenage years. I was old enough to know that the song was corny, but young enough to memorize all the words.

Here in the Midwest, August brings the hottest and haziest weather. It’s a time that can make one lazy and perhaps a little crazy. While soda, pretzels, and especially beer have their place now, these are the salad days of summer. Gardens and farm stands are bursting with a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Even grocery stores are featuring produce from closer to home. Farm standThe weather is warm and the kitchen can be hot so a salad makes a perfect supper. A bed of greens can be topped with almost anything, be it grilled, sautéed, or even left over, creating a one plate meal that is satisfying, healthy, and easy on the cook as well.

A recent al fresco supper featured a Cobb Salad Mama D style. Mixed greens, were graced with grilled chicken, pepper bacon, and aged gouda cheese. A drizzle of Ranch Dressing was a perfect topping. Subtly different but familiar enough to please everyone.DIGITAL CAMERAA salad can be created on the spur of the moment using whatever is on hand. A few Sunday nights ago, supper started with a visit to the pantry followed by a browse through the refrigerator. Cannellini beans spent some quality time with chopped red bell pepper, red onion and a bit of olive oil and white balsamic.DIGITAL CAMERAWhen everything was well acquainted, it joined some mixed greens, olives, tomatoes, feta cheese and toasted pine nuts to create a tasty and healthy meal.DIGITAL CAMERAThere are other times when my salads are carefully thought out and planned around specific ingredients. I had some wonderful Rainier Cherries that were begging to take center stage. These cherries have red and gold skin surrounding golden flesh that seem to shout for attention. The flavor is sweet yet slightly tart. Pitted and halved they were beautiful. Turning my back on dessert, I decided to feature them in a main dish salad. Toasted walnuts and grape tomatoes were other colorful additions.DIGITAL CAMERA

Herb coated chicken breasts were sliced and added to the salad giving it a protein boost that was incredibly tasty. The “secret” ingredient here was olive oil/cracked black pepper low-fat mayonnaise. Mixed with fresh herbs it coated the chicken and kept it moist and oh, so flavorful! This would make a wonderful main dish with a vegetable of your choice as well.DIGITAL CAMERAA honey, mustard, and white balsamic vinegar dressing brought out the tangy sweetness. I used a lemon infused olive oil to make the vinaigrette, but any extra virgin olive oil would be perfect, too.  A few crumbles of blue cheese gilded the proverbial lily.

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Chicken and Cherry Salad
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Chicken and Cherry Salad
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Honey Balsamic Dressing
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Mix the parsley, chives, and thyme with the mayonnaise. Spread the mixture on both sides of the chicken breasts.
  2. Heat a fry pan over medium heat. Spray lightly with non-stick spray. Add the chicken breasts and cook, turning once until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes per side. Remove from pan and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Make the Dressing: Combine the dressing ingredients in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake until everything is blended together. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Toast the walnuts over low heat in a small fry pan. Cut the cherries in half and remove the pits. Cut the grape tomatoes in half lengthwise. Set all of these aside.
  5. Divide the lettuce between two large plates. Slice the chicken thinly and place on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle the cherries, tomatoes and walnuts on top of the chicken. Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad. Top with the blue cheese crumbles and serve.
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Summer still has a few more weeks to reign supreme. Many fruits and vegetables have yet to reach their peak. I’ll be romping through the garden (and produce department) many more times and I’m sure I’ll have some interesting things to share. I’d love to hear about your latest salad adventure…Keep in touch.  

                                                               Love, Mama D

 

Are Chicken Thighs the New Breasts?

For years, chicken breasts have been the darling of cooks both on and off diets. They are nutritious, low in fat, and can be cooked in almost limitless ways. Price wise they are generally a bargain even if they are not on sale because there is little or no waste.  Chicken breasts for all their sterling merits, do have a few drawbacks. They are easily overcooked and this can result in a dry, tough, and less than appetizing results. 

20130625_172131 (1)Brined and Grilled Chicken Breast

As I shared  in a previous entry, I had all but given up grilling B.S (this is just an innocent abbreviation not a comment or reference to my subject) chicken breasts because of that overcooking issue until I discovered brining, that is. I  have however, continued to happily cook them indoors.  Sauteing, baking, even in soups and chilis, they are my go to protein.

DIGITAL CAMERAChicken and Artichoke Soup

Lately, I’ve noticed there is a new B.S. Chicken part showing up in recipes . That would be chicken Thighs. I’ve even seen articles in cooking magazines about them.  How could this be? I ,who have always been a white meat kind of gal , have started to use B.S thighs in mycooking and more amazing still, I like it.  B.S  Chicken parts can co-exist in my kitchen . I usually use them in different preparations. The results are not always to my liking, but since this is all about the adventures of cooking I am bravely continuing to experiment. I like them best  in more highly seasoned dishes and I think they benefit from some serious browning with or without dredging.

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Tuscan Garlic Chicken Thighs

There is one place where I’ve found them to be exceptional and that is grilling. They stand up to the flame and that is something their breast brethren can’t always do (unless they’ve been brined).  Another grill plus for thighs is that they can hold their own with intense and spicy flavors. Thighs have a stronger chicken flavor that comes through even when the heat and spice is on.DIGITAL CAMERA            Grilled Chicken Thighs with an Orange Marmelade, Rice Wine Vinegar, and

Rosemary Glaze

Nutritionally,  calorie counts are almost identical for breasts and thighs (approximately 110 calories per 4 ounce serving). Thighs have slightly more fat , saturated fat, and cholesterol than breasts, but if you subscribe to the everything in moderation adage, eating them occasionally will not unbalance a healthy diet.

Where did that come from?

I do, however agree with Oscar Wilde,

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”