Month: February 2016

Pesto Change-o

Like a lot of folks who are trying to eat a little healthier but rarely feel truly satisfied at the end of a meal that doesn’t contain a little meat, chicken has become a staple in our kitchen. It’s easy to work with, pretty affordable, and neutral enough in flavor that it goes with almost anything else you can put next to it. But, if you’ve found yourself leaning kinda hard on poultry to do the heavy lifting, you might be running out of ideas. That’s pretty much where I was when I started pondering ways to liven up the party.

I think I might have stumbled upon a good one, you guys. These chicken roll ups are packed with flavor, but portion controlled, and still hold the door wide open for very nearly any vegetable or starch you want to pair with them.  They’ve got just enough creamy and cheesy, thanks to goat cheese; a little bite of salty from black olives; some sweetness from the roasted red pepper; and the herbaciously savory goodness of pesto. It’s a perfect little package of yum.

Equipment:
Knife and cutting board
Medium mixing bowl
Spoon for mixing
Can opener
Measuring spoons
Large sheet pan
Tongs
OPTIONAL: Tooth picks

Ingredients:
1 package thinly sliced chicken breasts (mine had six pieces in it, which is what this recipe is based on)
Salt & Pepper
1 3.5 oz container of goat cheese crumbles
1 large roasted red pepper, small dice (You can either buy a whole jar of them and use the rest for a salad or something, or, if you want to just buy one fresh red pepper and roast it yourself, you can find directions here.)
2.5 tablespoons pre-made pesto
1.5 tablespoons chopped black olives
3 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh parsley
6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan (slightly more than 1/3 of a cup)
Pan spray

Preheat your oven to 325°.

In the mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese, diced red pepper, pesto, chopped olives, and chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spray your sheet pan with pan spray. Season both sides of each piece of chicken breast with salt and pepper, then lay them out flat, big end towards you, on the sheet pan. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling on the big end of each piece of chicken, then roll them up, tucking the chicken around the filling as you go.  If you want to use a toothpick to make sure they stay rolled up, go for it. Mine held together without them, though.

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Pop the chicken roll-ups into the oven for 20 minutes, or until they’re just cooked through. Top each roll-up with one tablespoon of the shredded Parmesan, then put them back into the oven just until the cheese melts. Let them rest for 5-7 minutes before serving.

I had one for lunch with about 3 ounces of cooked farro, and I was pleasantly full. For a dinner sized portion, you could do two with a starch and a veg. As you probably figured out, this recipe makes six, but doubling the recipe is a cinch if you have more mouths to feed or want to make sure there are lots of leftovers. Also, if you wanted to add a little more color to the plate, take the remaining roasted red peppers and puree them up in the blender with a little water or stock and a pinch of salt for a nice bright sauce to drizzle over the chicken.

Enjoy!

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You’re Kale-ing Me!

The boyfriend and I are working on a few things when it comes to the food/eating situation in our house. First, we’re trying to cook together at least once a week, because it’s fun, and because I work most nights, so our time together is limited to a couple nights a week and the three or four hours I’m awake on the weekend days before I have to go back to work. Also, we’re trying to get our meals prepped ahead of time for at least a few days. He’s been better about that than I have because he’s got these slow cooker meals he throws together that have been providing him with lunches for the whole month. And finally, we’re trying to eat just a little healthier through the week, so we can still go have beers and nachos, wings, etc. on the weekend. Soup seems to be an easy “go to” for us at least a couple times a month.

I think my love of soup is pretty well established, right? I’ve seen several versions of a Kale and Sausage soup on Pinterest, other blogs, and various other websites. For some reason, I’d never actually made one, and I thought it was about time. This one is packed with flavor, a little smoky, and requires no additional salt. The recipe is bulked out a bit for guaranteed leftovers, but only takes about 45 minutes (including non-active cooking time) to come together.

Equipment:
Your favorite large soup pot
Spoon for stirring
Can opener
Knife and cutting board
Measuring cup and spoons

Ingredients:
1 large yellow onion, medium dice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 14 oz smoked turkey sausage, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 can diced tomatoes (I used the Italian ones with oregano and basil because they were on sale, but use whatever you like)
2 cans cannellini beans, drained but not rinsed
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 bunches kale, cut into 1-1.5 inch strips (I used the curly kale that might also be called Scots kale because I feel like it holds up better in soup. Use whatever’s available, though.)

In the bottom of the soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until it just starts to give off some fragrance–less than 30 seconds, probably. Then add the onions and stir. Saute until the onions are soft. Add the smoked paprika and sausage. Stir well and cook for about 2 minutes. The sausage doesn’t have to brown. You’re just giving each ingredient time to make friends with the others to build layers of flavor.

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Add the can of tomatoes, stir, and let everything cook together for another couple minutes. Then, repeat with the two cans of beans.

Stir in the chicken broth, bring it to a boil, and add the kale. It’s probably going to look like way too much for the pot at first, but just push it down into the soup until you can get a lid on the pot. Turn the heat down to medium and let it bubble away for about 5-7 minutes. This will help the kale wilt down. Uncover, give the whole thing another stir, and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Give it a taste to see if you think it needs any additional seasoning. I felt like it didn’t need any additional salt, but your palate might be different.

Happy Soup-ing!

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How ya like them apples?

Valentine’s Day. It’s a thing. If you’re not part of a couple, you can either choose to ignore it, wallow in your singlehood, or celebrate not having to feel any obligation to do anything at all about it. If you’re part of a couple, there’s generally a range from, “Oh geez. This again?” to, “Gimme all the romance! All of it! Now!”

The boyfriend and I are somewhere more towards the low energy end of the spectrum, but we usually end up caving and at least getting cards or something. If you’re like us, and you want to acknowledge the day, but would like to keep the Fuss Factor to a minimum, you might enjoy this little treat.

This is what would happen if your typical Rice Crispy treat was us, and decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It takes a little extra effort to dress up, but doesn’t go too far out of its way to make it a whole production. For this version of what is an infamously low maintenance dessert, we’re going to do two things to make it just a little more special– we’re going to brown the butter, and we’re going to make a topping. The brown butter gives it a nutty flavor, and makes it a little crispier. As the boyfriend describes it, “More like a baked good.” The topping, a very simple apple pie type concoction, spices things up just a little, and gives the whole she-bang another layer of flavor.

Equipment
Large sauce pan
Measuring cups and spoons
Mixing spoon
9″ x 11″  baking pan
Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth
Small bowl
Knife
Cutting board
Saute pan

Ingredients
For the treats:
4 tablespoons butter
10 oz (one package of the large ones) marshmallows
6 cups puffed rice cereal
Pan spray to coat the baking pan

Melt the butter over medium heat in the large sauce pan, swirling occasionally, until the butter becomes a golden brown color. The solids in the butter will brown and sink to the bottom. Strain the butter through the strainer or cheesecloth into the small bowl to remove the solids, then add the butter back to the pan along with the marshmallows. Stir until the marshmallows have melted completely into the butter.

BLOG_MELTY
Then, add the rice cereal and stir to coat. Pour into the baking pan and press to make sure it’s evenly distributed. Set aside.

For the topping:
4-5 small apples (enough to make one cup), peeled and diced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Melt the butter and the brown sugar together over medium heat until the sugar is melted, stirring constantly. Add the cinnamon and continue to stir until the mixture becomes a loose caramel. It might look a little dry, but don’t worry, once you add the apples it’ll loosen up a little. Add diced apples and stir until the apples are well coated and cooked through.

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Spread the apple topping over the treats and cut into whatever shape you want.

Alternatively, you could spoon the apple topping over each treat individually when you serve them, if you want to be a little more fancy pants about it all.

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From start to finish, this shouldn’t take you more than half an hour to put together. I recommend ordering pizza or Chinese food, opening a bottle of wine, and making these while you wait for the food to arrive, but if you just don’t give a crap, grab a pile of napkins and a fork and go to town. I’m not judging!