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Dinner Menu: Chicken Primavera and Fruity Carrot Cake

I love a quick and easy meal that looks and tastes like it took much longer. This menu sure qualifies. Lots of fresh vegetables and if you want to really amp up the flavor, use a flavored linguine, either from a local source (farmer’s markets usually have them) or the gourmet section of the market. A lemon pepper pasta is really good with this. For the vegetables, I’d go with whatever is fresh from the garden, think of the list below as a suggestion.

The carrot cake is not what you’d expect, it is a fruity, light confection with a definite spring touch.  A favorite when I’m taking birthday cake requests. I haven’t decided yet on the Friday recipe exchange. I’m taking requests…

Meanwhile, on the board tonight:

  1. Chicken Primavera
  2. Carrot Cake

Chicken Primavera

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, cubed in large pieces
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz sliced carrots
  • 8 oz broccoli crowns
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, sliced
  • 2 tsp basil, crushed or ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • ¾ cup chicken broth or equivalent
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 oz grated parmesan
  • 9 oz fresh linguine

skillet, large saucepan

Sprinkle salt & pepper over chicken pieces. Heat oil in skillet, add chicken and saute for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until golden on all sides. Add carrots, broccoli and squash, and stir for 2 minutes. Add basil, garlic, tomatoes. Stir additional 2 minutes. Remove mixture to bowl. Add chicken broth and wine to skillet, deglaze drippings, bring to a boil, reduce heat, add chicken mixture, toss and cover. Reduce heat to low and let simmer while pasta cooks. Bring water to boil in saucepan and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain very well and toss with chicken mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Carrot Cake

  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 ounce can crushed pineapple
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Frosting:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar*
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 bowls, 8×8 baking dish, well greased

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large bowl, combine grated carrots, flour, white sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in egg, oil, vanilla, pineapple and pecans. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, except nuts. Beat until smooth. Spread on cooled cake and garnish with pecans.

* I often use half of the sugar because I don’t like it quite that sweet.

Shopping List:

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 8 oz sliced carrots
  • 8 oz broccoli crowns
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, sliced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • ¾ cup chicken broth or equivalent
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 oz grated parmesan
  • 9 oz fresh linguine
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 ounce can crushed pineapple
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Also: salt, pepper, olive oil, vanilla, butter, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, garlic, basil,

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Thursday Recipe Exchange: Grilled Chicken

Photo by JeffreyW

I had a request to do some grilling and picnic recipes for the next few weeks (thanks Yutsano). We’ll traverse the table: meats, vegetables, side dishes and desserts. By July 4th we should be covered.

Tonight we’ll start with grilling chicken. I have a stockpile of marinade and grilling recipes for chicken breasts. I may be in the minority, but when it comes to many chicken dishes, including bbq and fried chicken, I prefer thighs. They have more flavor and are moister. The introduction of boneless thighs was like a culinary miracle as far as I was concerned.

When I am using marinades, though, I actually prefer boneless breasts. Similar to pork loin, they take on whatever flavors are introduced and cook up quickly. When using a marinade, I think their blandness proves more of an asset than a deficit; they are kind of like a blank canvas for introducing flavors.

And for busy weeknights, nothing is quicker and easier than pulling marinated chicken breasts out of the refrigerator, doing a quick stir-fry or grilling them and serving with rice and a salad. I have three recipes to get us started:

Cranberry Grilled Chicken (recipe here) is one of my favorites and anyone who has read this blog, knows I LOVE cranberries.

And Sunrise Chicken (recipe here) is a great citrus based marinade.

Tonight’s feature recipe is a marinade that is meant for grilling. Grilling gives the marinated breasts a nice crust. It can also be used on pork loin or boneless pork chops, though I prefer apple cider or cranberry juice to the grape juice in that case.

So what do you look forward to the most at a picnic? What’s your favorite thing to grill?

Fruit Juice Marinated Chicken Breasts

  • 4 chicken boneless breasts
  • ½ cup grape or cranberry juice
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ½ cup wine
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic

zip lock bag or sealed container

Add all ingredients into zip lock bag and thoroughly coat & let marinate overnight. Grill 15 minutes each side, 165 degrees internal temp.

When grilling, to avoid drying chicken out, sear on each side (about 5 minutes each side), cook 5 additional minutes for each side, baste with marinade if desired, then move away from high heat for rest of the cooking time. The thickness of the chicken breasts makes a difference here, so adjust accordingly.

You’ re on your own tonight. I’ve been asked to film a drumming on Sunday and tonight is going to be a trial run. Should be fun.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Rice

JeffreyW makes a delicious rice side.

Rice is a staple in my house. I usually make a big batch and serve it with various things over the week. I’ve even switched over to brown rice pastas which I find far superior to most wheat pastas. Let’s get right to it. Here’s an overview of various types of rice:

Brown rice – I prefer long grain, though at the local Asian market I can get brown jasmine, basmati and aborio fairly easily, each with a unique flavor. Brown rice is nutty and a bit sweet.  It’s a great compliment with any fish, beef, poultry or pork.  The only addition it needs is a touch of butter and salt.  Besides being full of flavor, it is also packed with nutrients.  Per cup it has 5 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and niacin, as well as other vitamins and minerals.  It’s a great side that adds flavor to many dishes.  Brown rice cooks like regular rice in a 2:1 ratio of water to rice.  But it takes longer to cook.  About 45 minutes at a low simmer.

I still use white rice, though.  White rice varieties are more delicate and are necessary when you want the rice to take on the flavor of a sauce or spice.  Brown rice’s rich flavor can overpower the balance of flavors in some dishes.

Jasmine—A long grain rice, delicately fragrant, soft, moist and slightly sticky, compliments any Asian dish.

Arborio (white) – A medium grain rice, with a chalky white appearance. It is this chalky area that makes this grain unique, allowing the grains to absorb unusually large amounts of liquid and hence flavor during cooking. This is also what makes it especially suited to risottos, paellas, dolmades and other Mediterranean dishes.

Basmati— An aromatic long grain rice that has the unusual characteristic of doubling in length but not width during cooking. This dry, separating grain is especially suited to Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, such as curries, pilafs.

Time to hit the comments with some of your favorite rice dishes.  I’m curious if anyone makes a good paella. Next week: Soup

Now here’s a little something with brown rice:

Chicken and Rice Wraps

Substitute raspberries, peaches or plums if you like.

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup cooked brown or wild rice
  • 4 large tortillas (flavored ok)

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Raspberry Dressing
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Fresh mint

Mix together chicken, spinach, strawberries, pecans and rice. Mix together dressing ingredients, toss with chicken mixture. Let sit 15 minutes or more. Roll 1/4 of mixture in each tortilla.


It’s That Time Again

The winter cooking blahs have hit again. I am completely uninspired. Happily, it only last a few weeks and then as I anticipate fresh fruits and vegetables season, my creativity sparks.

I thought I might have a resurgence because while in San Diego we stopped at a farm stand next to an orange grove and picked up fresh oranges and strawberries.  Alas, all it did, as I finished off the last orange this week, was make me long for the growing season to hurry up and arrive, but no cooking inspirations.

Come on spring!

Luckily, we have an entire blog’s worth of recipes to choose from. I chose this one: Crispy Potato Chicken. It’s a fun little recipe, and I included the complete menu:

Crispy Potato Chicken with Carrots and Banana’s Foster Ice Cream Dessert

  1. Crispy Potato Chicken
  2. Steamed Carrots in butter
  3. Banana Foster Ice Cream

This recipe originally called for Dijon mustard, I am not a fan, so I always omit it, but I kept it in for this incarnation.  You can also add grated Parmesan or shredded cheddar to the potato mixture if you want to change things up a bit.

Crispy Potato Chicken

  • 2-3 large potatoes, peeled
  • 4 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (opt)
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ tsp ea. salt & pepper
  • ½ tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ice water

2 bowls & baking dish (8×8), lightly oiled

Shred potato, transfer to bowl of ice water. Rinse & dry breasts, place in baking dish and spread with garlic and optional Dijon mustard. Drain potatoes, pat dry and mix with oil & seasoning in bowl. Spread mixture over the top of the chicken pieces. Bake at 425° for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown and chicken’s internal temperature is 185°

This is a quick and alcohol-free banana foster, if you want the real deal, try this Alton Brown recipe

Banana Foster Ice Cream

  • 2 large,firm bananas, sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp orange peel
  • dash cinnamon & nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp orange juice or pineapple juice
  • 6 oz sliced almonds
  • 4 cups vanilla ice cream

skillet and 4 dessert bowls

Melt butter in saucepan, add bananas, sauté quickly until lightly brown. Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel and juice. Boil until syrupy, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Add ice cream to dishes, top with ¼ of banana mixture each and garnish with almonds.

Shopping List:

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 large, firm bananas
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice or pineapple juice
  • 6 oz sliced almonds
  • 1 quart premium vanilla ice cream

Also: butter, garlic, salt & pepper, fresh parsley, dried rosemary, olive oil, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, optional: Dijon mustard, Parmesan or cheddar cheese

Chicken and Rice Wraps

This recipe takes advantage of what’s available from the garden these days.  Substitute raspberries, peaches or plums if you like.

Chicken and Rice Wraps

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup cooked brown or wild rice
  • 4 large tortillas (flavored ok)

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Raspberry Dressing
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Fresh mint

Mix together chicken, spinach, strawberries, pecans and rice. Mix together dressing ingredients, toss with chicken mixture. Let sit 15 minutes or more. Roll 1/4 of mixture in each tortilla.

Greek Chicken Wraps

Nothing beats a good Greek restaurant for a nice lunch meal. I am partial to pita sandwiches, but it can be difficult in my area to find good, fresh pita bread.  So tortillas make a good substitute.  In this recipe, you can use spinach or sun-dried tomato wraps to really spark things up.  Regardless these are easy and quite flavorful wraps.  Perfect for a holiday picnic by the lake.

Greek Chicken Wraps

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon or stone ground mustard
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled & chopped
  • 4 oz plain yogurt
  • ¼ tsp dill
  • 2 oz crumbled feta
  • 2 oz sliced black olives (opt)
  • 4 burrito size flour tortillas, spinach tortillas are a fun choice
  • ½ green leaf lettuce, shredded

skillet  & bowl

Mix together chicken, lemon juice, mustard, 1 tsp garlic, oregano & pepper in bowl, coating chicken thoroughly, let sit for 30 minutes. Prepare cucumbers, add yogurt, dill and remaining garlic and mix well. Refrigerate until served. Wrap tortillas in foil and heat in a 350° oven for 10 minutes, turn oven off and let them stay warm until served. Heat oil in skillet on medium-high and add chicken and marinade. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes. To serve, add chicken mixture, yogurt mixture, feta, olives and lettuce to each tortilla and roll up. Use any remaining yogurt mixture to dip tortillas in.

Thursday Night Menu: Spring Forward Edition

I’m anxiously waiting for Daylight Savings Time. I hate losing the hour of sleep, but love the opportunity to ride every evening. Yesterday was a challenge as I battled unexpected headwinds and 20 mile gusts. I felt like Almira Gulch in the tornado.

One of the guys was stuck in the office with me today, so I ran the options for tonight’s menu by him. He decided the chicken sounded good. We’ll go with the other option next week.

On the board tonight:

  1. Crispy Potato Chicken
  2. Steamed Carrots in butter
  3. Banana Foster Ice Cream

This recipe originally called for Dijon mustard, I am not a fan, so I always omit it, but I kept it in for this incarnation.  You can also add grated Parmesan or shredded cheddar to the potato mixture if you want to change things up a bit.

Crispy Potato Chicken

  • 2-3 large potatoes, peeled
  • 4 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (opt)
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ tsp ea. salt & pepper
  • ½ tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ice water

2 bowls & baking dish (8×8), lightly oiled

Shred potato, transfer to bowl of ice water. Rinse & dry breasts, place in baking dish and spread with garlic and optional Dijon mustard. Drain potatoes, pat dry and mix with oil & seasoning in bowl. Spread mixture over the top of the chicken pieces. Bake at 425° for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown and chicken’s internal temperature is 185°

This is a quick and alcohol-free banana foster, if you want the real deal, try this Alton Brown recipe

Banana Foster Ice Cream

  • 2 large,firm bananas, sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp orange peel
  • dash cinnamon & nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp orange juice or pineapple juice
  • 6 oz sliced almonds
  • 4 cups vanilla ice cream

skillet and 4 dessert bowls

Melt butter in saucepan, add bananas, sauté quickly until lightly brown. Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel and juice. Boil until syrupy, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Add ice cream to dishes, top with ¼ of banana mixture each and garnish with almonds.

Shopping List:

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 large, firm bananas
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice or pineapple juice
  • 6 oz sliced almonds
  • 1 quart premium vanilla ice cream

Also: butter, garlic, salt & pepper, fresh parsley, dried rosemary, olive oil, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, optional: Dijon mustard, Parmesan or cheddar cheese

South of the Border Chicken & Rice

Sometimes it just has to be quick and easy.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t flavorful.

South of the Border Chicken & Rice

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 tbsp pickled sliced jalapeños
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 oz can sliced black olives (opt)

large saucepan or dutch oven

Heat ½  oil in pan, add chicken and cook until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Add remaining oil, onion, peppers & jalapenos to pan and sauté. Stir in uncooked rice and stir for 1 minute. Add water, chicken broth, tomatoes to pan. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to low and let simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Add chicken and olives, simmer for 5 minutes and serve.  Serves 4 – 6

Just Making Stuff Up Now

So I had some leftover homemade cranberry sauce (whole berry) which freezesLucile's Original - Click Image to Close well, btw, you just have to remember to freeze it, dammit.  I had boneless chicken breast.  Oh, look over here, my Lucille’s Creole spice.  Some garlic, bit of salt and pepper and we are set to go. I cut the chicken into 1″ pieces, seasoned it with plenty of garlic and Creole spice, added it to hot oil and fried it up.   Then I covered it in cranberry sauce, covered and let simmer 5 minutes.  Served with garlic toast and greens.  Total time:  15 minutes from start to finish.

Sweet and spicy.  I’d do it again.

Thursday Night Menu: End of Summer Edition

Homer and his pretty red cast

September is Disaster preparedness month. Are you prepared? I used to be a Disaster Relief Coordinator, so I’m a little preachy on this subject. I’ve been in hurricanes, earthquakes, 3-day blizzards and spent many a stormy night in the basement during tornado warnings. I’ve helped more people than I can count after home fires. And one week it was a broken water main, leaving me scrambling to figure out how to get fresh water to us, three Great Danes, 2 cats and a duck. These are all things made a bit easier if you have some type of plan in place.

In other news, we have a new blog mascot, a kitten who has seen some hard times. His name is Homer and he now resides at the home of JeffW and Mrs. J in a pretty red cast and with a total look of trouble in his eyes. If you can look at the pictures without saying “aaaaahhhh” then you are made of stronger stuff than I am.

I thought we’d send summer out with a bang and do a spicy grilled mix and some fruit cobbler. I am a summer worshiper and I mourn its passing. Let’s have a moment of silen…okay, done now. Bring on the fall foods!

On the board tonight:

  1. Fajita Chicken & Vegetable Kabobs
  2. Black Beans
  3. Rice
  4. Fruit Cobbler

Fajita Chicken & Vegetable Kabobs

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp fajita seasoning

bowl

In bowl, mix together 1 tbsp oil, garlic, salt, pepper, & 1 tbsp fajita seasoning, add chicken and toss, coating chicken well.

Cut all vegetables into large chunks (about 8 pieces each):

  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 large tomato
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp fajita seasoning
  • 1 cup fresh salsa

4 metal skewers and bowl

In bowl, combine vegetables with oil, vinegar, garlic, 1 tbsp fajita seasoning and toss gently to coat well. Assemble onto skewers with chicken, using tomato chunks as first and last item (keeps everything else in place).  Grill, turning frequently until chicken is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Do not overcook.

Black beans

To liven up black beans, add a dash of lime juice, some chopped cilantro and a bit of cayenne or chili powder.

Fruit Cobbler

  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz fresh fruit (peaches, berries, apples or a combination, whatever is best available in your area)
  • 1 tbsp sugar

8X8 baking dish, bowl

In 350° oven, melt butter in baking dish. In bowl, sift together flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder & salt. Add milk & egg, whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour into baking dish (don’t stir butter in). Scatter fruit evenly over the top of the batter and sprinkle with 1 tbsp sugar. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until fruit bubbles and batter is golden brown.

Shopping List:

  • 12 to 16 oz can black beans
  • 1 cup dry rice
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • fajita seasoning
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 large tomato
  • 8 oz fresh salsa
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 oz milk
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz fresh fruit (peaches, berries, apples or a combination, whatever is best available in your area)

Also: oil, crushed garlic, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, baking powder

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