Tag Archives: very good recipes

Caramelized Broccoli and Other Vegetables

I have a new favorite way to cook broccoli and I can’t take credit for it. First, let me say that Broccoli is probably my favorite vegetable side. I like the taste, and the nutrient profile makes it an excellent choice for adding some green to a plate. It is easy to cook and lends itself to many styles and flavors. It is available year round without too much of an out of season mediocrity factor. It is also usually a good value. What’s not to love?

All of these factors result in Broccoli gracing our plates several times a week. That means I am always thinking about different ways to prepare it. I admit that I search Google, Pinterest, etc. quite often for ideas and I am sure that I am not alone. That’s when I found what I believe to be the best way to cook broccoli, ever, Caramelized Broccoli

The recipe came up many times in my search and while I can’t be certain, I think it originated with Chef David Gingrass, a well-known Bay Area chef. In one article he said it would make a Broccoli lover out of a hater. If you are a broccoli lover like me you then become obsessed.  It is easy to prepare, but takes a bit more time and effort than putting it in a steamer. This is a small price to pay for the fantastically delicious results.

Now, even though I have made this recipe a number of times, I can’t quite leave it alone. If you can caramelize broccoli, what other vegetables would benefit from this technique? The short answer is lots. And so the experimentation begins…

The requirement of any vegetable is that it can be cut into a good-sized slab creating at least one flat surface. It also needs to be fairly dense since it is going to be under pretty intense heat. While the experimentation continues, here are two vegetables that were wonderful.

Zucchini was my first test. Halving it lengthwise and creating chunky fingers was the perfect shape, The garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice were an ideal complement to the creamy texture that the caramelizing created. To carry the experimentation further, I will be trying yellow squash and perhaps eggplant.

The next experiment was Cauliflower. This was certainly not a huge leap as it is closely related to broccoli. Cut into thick steaks, it too, was a delectable addition to a dinner plate. In this case it joined Steak and Roasted Beets.

I’ve just conducted a mini brainstorming session and have added Carrots, Leeks, Sweet Potatoes, and Delicata Squash to my list of possibilities. I’m sure this is only the beginning.

I think that this calls for a “Master Recipe” of sorts. So, without further ado, here we go:

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Caramelized Vegetables

A master recipe to create golden, sweet, and tender vegetables. Cooking times will vary by vegetable. You are looking for golden brown and tender.

Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Pound Vegetable "Planks"
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive OIl Divided
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp. Water
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Sliced
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
Instructions
  1. Cut firm, dense vegetables into flat slices about 3/4" thick.

  2. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep skillet that has a lid. The heat should be medium high.

  3. Lay the vegetables in the skillet cut side down. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes (depending on the vegetable) until they are golden brown.

  4. Add the water cover again and cook until water evaporates, and vegetables are barely tender, 3 - 6 minutes.

  5. Add remaining Oil, the Garlic and Pepper Flakes. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the garlic is golden. 3 -5 minutes.

  6. Remove to a plate and drizzle with the Lemon Juice and serve.

This technique would make even the most vegetable resistant eater into a fan. Here’s hoping that you will give it a try. I know that I will continue to experiment with other vegetables and maybe even other flavors. It is easy and oh so delicious.

 

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!!

Christmas Love: Chocolate Chip Cookies

‘Tis the season to be Fa La La….as an old friend liked to say. ‘Tis the season to be baking as well, and the oven is already fired up and the cookie sheets are parchment lined. Every year my cookie list gets a little bit shorter which requires the recipe selection to be totally on point. Biscotti have to appear, as do Peanut Butter Blossoms. I have to save space for one or two new recipes which leaves only 2 more spaces (yes, I am limiting things to 6 recipes this year) for old standbys.

As long as I can remember baking, Chocolate Chip Cookies have been part of the holidays. My mother always made the original Toll House Cookie recipe. Legend (or truth) has it, that it originated at The Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Ruth Gains Wakefield is credited with creating it back in 1938 and it is a tried and true recipe that has stood the test of time.

It is a basic cookie dough that combines butter, white, and brown sugar with chocolate chips and quite often, nuts. It is wonderful just as it was written, but oh what delights can result from tweaking the recipe here and there. The variations I am sharing today are perfect examples.

Imagine, if you will, that basic cookie dough laced with candied cherries and orange peel, studded with toasted pecans and mini chocolate chips. Then imagine the addition of warm spices like cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. Notes of fruitcake, but in the best way possible and a delightful chewiness that made my first grandson dub these his favorite cookie ever. 

Chocolate Chip Fruit Drop Cookies
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Servings
6 Dozen
Servings
6 Dozen
Chocolate Chip Fruit Drop Cookies
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Servings
6 Dozen
Servings
6 Dozen
Ingredients
Servings: Dozen
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the flour, soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until well combined.
  4. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time blending gently but well.
  5. Stir in the candied fruits, nuts, and chips.
  6. Drop by tablespoon on to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store airtight.
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Variations are endless. Try pistachios and dried tart cherries or almonds and dried cranberries. There are so many varieties of chocolate chips now that simply swapping bittersweet or milk chocolate can create something magical.

You can even use White Chocolate Chips. Debbie Downer Alert: I realize that these ar not real white chocolate, but only a blend of milk, fat, and sugar marketed to imitate white chocolate. They worked well in this recipe, but if one wants to be totally a purist, a good quality real white chocolate bar could be chopped up and substituted. That being said, chopped chocolate would not lend itself to the “Pearl” analogy in the name of this recipe, but maybe you could call them “gems.”

In spite of the truth in labeling issue, these cookies were delicious. Cocoa gave them a rich chocolate flavor that was heightened by the addition of a bit of espresso powder, always a good idea when making anything chocolate.

Chocolate and Pearls Cookies
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Servings
4 Dozen
Servings
4 Dozen
Chocolate and Pearls Cookies
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Servings
4 Dozen
Servings
4 Dozen
Ingredients
Servings: Dozen
Instructions
  1. Combine the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. whisk together to blend thoroughly.
  2. Cream butter in a large bowl. Add the sugars and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. add the vanilla and beat to blend.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients (a third at a time). gently blend. Fold in the chips.
  5. Spoon by scant tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets.
  6. bake at 350 degrees 8 - 10 minutes until the edges just begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes.
  7. Remove to cooling racks and allow to cool completely. Store in an air tight container.
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Another wonderful thing about the chocolate chip family of doughs, they freeze beautifully. Good to know if your baking time is limited to small windows at random hours. Whatever your baking plans this holiday season, I hope that you include something with chocolate chips and other wonderful ingredients that bring out your own Fa La La.

Thanksgiving Memories of Not So Long Ago

Thanksgiving week is here. The planning is complete and implementation is about to begin. In recent years we have had a blended family Thanksgiving. Along with family, recipes get blended as well. I have been in charge of stuffing/dressing and gravy. Since both of these are near and dear to my heart, it’s an assignment that I welcome every year. I shared the whole process several years ago and the time seemed right to revisit the experience before I relive it this Thanksgiving.

Stuffing or in this case dressing, as it will not see the inside of a turkey, is many folks’ favorite part of the dinner. It certainly is mine. I make a dressing that has evolved over the years to become an homage to my time in California and my Italian heritage. I gave it the rather silly name of Mama D’s Cali-Itali Stuffing. This is a seriously hearty stuffing filled with Italian sausage and artichoke hearts. The bread is sourdough, next to rice-a-roni, the San Francisco Starch of choice. Artichoke hearts add flavor and as the recipe has evolved, I now use frozen (Trader Joe’s are the best) instead of canned. It also now gets baked in a bundt pan, because who doesn’t want a nice slice of stuffing.

Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
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Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Mama D's Cali-Itali Stuffing
Print Recipe
Use this for your holiday dinner. Make it your own by adjusting the flavors to your family's taste.
Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook until it is well browned. Turn and break apart as needed.
  2. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Pour off most of the drippings. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic. Saute stirring frequently until the onion is golden and the garlic is fragrant, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the artichokes and spinach to the pan and continue to cook for another 3 - 5 minutes. The artichokes should have a little color and the spinach should be wilted.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, sausage, and the vegetables from the pan (include all the drippings, too). Toss to combine.
  5. Add the seasonings that you are using along with the cheese and toss again to combine.
  6. Pour in the eggs and blend well. Add the chicken stock. Use enough so that the stuffing is very moist, but not mushy. Taste and make any necessary adjustments to the seasonings. Add a little salt if you think it needs it.
  7. Grease a large rectangular baking dish. Add the stuffing and smooth out evenly. Do not pack it down. Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 - 40 minutes.
  8. Combine the remaining olive oil and the melted butter. Remove the stuffing from the oven. Take off the foil and drizzle the butter/olive oil mixture over the top. Return to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes until the top of the stuffing is golden brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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Every Thanksgiving table needs a boat of gravy. Since in our blended Thanksgiving someone else is making the turkey, I had to come up with a recipe that would be rich and tasty without the benefit if turkey drippings. This Garlic and Wine Gravy fills the bill. It is flavorful but has a lightness about it that makes it feel slightly less a guilty pleasure.

Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Garlic and Wine Turkey Gravy
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a small fry pan. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until golden brown. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the wine is reduced by half, 5 - 7 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring often for 2 minutes.
  4. Add about 1 cup of the stock and continue to whisk until it is smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and add the reserved garlic and wine mixture and the Italian Herb Blend.
  5. Continue to simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until the gravy thickens. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Serve with turkey, dressing, or anything else you want to put it on.
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This year I have so much to be thankful for. Our family is thriving and the younger grandboys are a true delight. I cherish the time I get to spend with them. Our first grandboy is “home” for the holiday and the time spent with him is precious. I hope that you too, have many things that make you thankful and happy. Enjoy the day and all the blessings that it brings.

 

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.