Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Cheesey Baked Goodness

Cheesey Baked Goodness

So now that summer has come to a close and the sun sets earlier it’s time to move away from the grill and back to the oven. While I was trying to figure out what I wanted to make tonight my mind turned to college food. While I was in college I lived a fire station in southern Maine and dinners often had to be quick and not tie up the kitchen for long so others could cook. More than once I enjoyed a frozen chicken breast stuffed with cheese and broccoli from the frozen food aisle and it was delicious but good lord was it unhealthy! I wanted to enjoy those flavors again but with less sodium and cholesterol. I devised a plan on making homemade Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Chicken! To begin with i would need:

  • 1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 package of shredded reduced fat cheddar jack cheese
  • 1 package of frozen broccoli florrets or approx 2 cups fresh chopped broccoli
  • 2 cups of panko bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper

Begin by preheating your oven to 350. Next, you want to start by butterflying your chicken breasts and using a kitchen mallet pound them to approximately 1/4-1/2 inch thick and sprinkle cracked salt and pepper on either side. Place 1 Tbsp of shredded cheese in the middle of each chicken breast and 1-1 1/2 Tbsp of broccoli on top of the cheese. Carefully fold each breast in half and secure with toothpicks, if you are like me you use half a box of toothpicks!

In a small ball whisk together two eggs for an egg wash and place the bread crumbs in a separate bowl. Carefully dunk each chicken ball in the egg wash then in the bread crumbs and place on a cookie sheet which has been sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 40-45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. I served with additional broccoli and basil couscous. Tasted even better than I remembered!

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To start w

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Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork

ImageAs they days get warmer my taste inevitably turns towards that which defines the season, and for me that means BBQ! Since obtaining my smoker I have been dying to try pulled pork. Prior to today anytime I’ve made pulled pork has been in the crock pot, which is still good, but lacks everything that makes pulled pork amazing, specifically the smoke. 

ImageI used a 3.5 lbs cut of pork butt with the bone in. The rub was as follows:

  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp of chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika

Mix all of the ingredients in a zip lock back and apply liberally to all sides of the meat. After the rub has been applied I allow it to sit on the pork for at least an hour in the refrigerator, letting all those flavors meld together. 

While the meat is sitting I started the smoker using charcoal and hickory wood chunks, the smell was amazing! When the coals were good and hot I  added the pork butt to the smoker and there it sat for just about 3 hours.

ImageObviously you can’t have pulled pork without some kind of barbeque sauce, and I’ve tried just about every bottled brand I can find at the store and do you know what? They all taste like syrup or fake smoke. I wanted something more authentic. For the last few years I’ve perfected a home made sauce which is a chili sauce and molasses base and it is the best I have had. Granted, I am biased, but if you haven’t yet try making your own sauce sometime, the difference is amazing!

BBQ Sauce

  • 2 jars of chili sauce
  • 1- 1 1/2 Cups of molasses
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp minced onion
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium low heat for about 15 minutes but don’t let it boil and set aside until pork is done.

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Now it’s 3 hours later and your yard is filled with aroma of smoke and pork, also known as Nirvana. By now I was starving, in came the pork where it rested, covered by tented aluminum foil, for 20 minutes and then pulled apart. While I was pulling the pork the sauce was heating on the stove top at medium low heat. Once all of the meat was pulled into the sauce it went. Finally came the best part, taking that first bite, and you know what? It was just as amazing as I envisioned.Image

 

 

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Mother’s Day

How do you show your love for your mother? How do you let her know you appreciate everything she has done throughout your life? The answer is simple, BBQ! What better way to welcome family over than with Smoked Chicken?  In my novice experience of smoking meat I have stuck to the simple  ribs and small chunks of chicken. I decided to get a little more bold and attempt a whole chicken, and oh boy was I rewarded for my efforts! The process began 24 hours with brining a 7 lbs oven roaster chicken. The Brine was:

  • 1 gal of water
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 2 tbs herbs de providence
  • 2 tbs basil
  • 2 tbs thyme
  • 2 tbs sage
  • 2 bay leaves
Brine

Brine

This wonderful mix was left to sit for 24 hours while I dreamed up tasting delicious smoked meat. After 24 hours rinse the bird under cool water and pat dry. At this point I had begun a bed of coals and hickory wood in the smoker building up a nice heat. The chicken was coated with a tbs of olive oil and a rub of the previous mentioned herbs plus paprika, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder. I stuffed the cavity with sliced apple and onion, tied the wings and legs and onto the smoker it went.
Pre Smoked ChickenSmoking

4 hours of smoking and I was salivating at the smells coming from my smoker. The guest soon arrived and a slight anxiety set in, what if it was over cooked and dry? What if it was under cooked and wasn’t going to be ready? These fears were put to rest as soon as I cut into the breast. What sliced off was some of the juiciest, most flavorful chicken I have ever had. Served with a side of mixed grilled vegetables the end result was amazing.

Smoked Chicken

Smoked Chicken

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Burger Bacon and Batatoes

Enjoying a nice refreshing drink of Gin, White Cranberry Juice, Basil, and Cucumber, I thought it was a good night to try a new accompaniment to the all American Cheese Burger. I saw a recipe for Ranch Foil Packet Potatoes earlier this week and figured this would be a great time to try it. The basics of it are simple, slice up red bliss potatoes, I used 4, and place them into a tin foil packet. Cook 3-4 strips of bacon until crispy and crumble over the potatoes. Add one packet of Ranch Dressing Mix to the foil packet and a tablespoon of butter and mix together. Place on a heated grill over medium heat for 35-45 minutes, turning every 15 to 20 minutes. The end result is a refreshing side dish with bacon. I mean… seriously… what more do you need?

bacon potatoes

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Smoking Season

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It was finally a nice day today and the snow piles have melted enough that I was able to dig out the smoker! I acquired my offset smoker at the end of the fall last year and only had one chance to experiment with it before it got too cold. I have been waiting all winter long to try it again! What better way to get into warmer weather than smoking some ribs?

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The first time I attempted smoking it was with charcoal and wood chips. This time I opted to use all wood, hickory. I made a rub of chili powder, onion and garlic powder, flower, black and white pepper, crushed red chili pepper, oregano, basil, and paprika and brown sugar. Smoking time was 3 hours. The end result was some of the juiciest flavorful ribs I have ever had! I can’t wait to do it again!

Hickory wood getting nice and hot

Hickory wood getting nice and hotimage

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Don’t Call It A Comeback…

Burnished Chicken Thigh with Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Parsnips

Burnished Chicken Thigh with Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Parsnips

Has it really been since September since my last post? To say the last six months have been a little crazy might be a bit of an understatement, but that’s a story for another time. Tonight let’s get right back into the swing of things with this great recipe from Fine Cooking, Burnished Chicken Thighs with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Parsnips.

This is an easy dish that you can have all the preparation done ahead of time and then just throw it in the oven when you get home at night. What will you need? Most of the ingredients are probably in your kitchen all ready, here is what you will need:

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. whole-grain Dijon mustard
1-1/2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
8 chicken thighs (about 6 oz. each), trimmed of excess fat and skin
1 medium-large (12 oz.) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 medium parsnips (6 oz. total), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 small shallots, lobes separated, peeled and halved through the root
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Mix together the olive oil, mustard, vinegar salt and pepper in a large bowl or marinating container. Once your marinate is mixed toss your chicken to coat and refrigerate until ready. When you are ready to cook preheat your oven to 425 F. Cube sweet potato and slice the parsnips. The shallots can be halved. I tossed the entire mixture with additional olive oil cracked sea salt and pepper. Place your chicken and remaining marinade on a baking sheet and vegetables on an additional baking sheet, unless you have one big enough to accommodate all ingredients. Back for 30 minutes. The original recipe states to continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes after this point, which I did. The chicken perfect, just the right “burnished” as the name implies. The vegetable I cooked for only an additional 10 minutes before removing them. Once they are done toss with the chopped fresh parsley and enjoy!

We had ours with a 2009 Pinot Noir from Alderbrook out of Sonoma Valley which was a great addition.

Alderbrook 2009 Pinot Noir

Alderbrook 2009 Pinot Noir

Roots

Roots

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Meat and Potatoes

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It’s raining, it’s the end of summer so I may as well bust out the red meat! Dinner of the night was meatloaf, which is nothing special, just your run of the mill loaf of ground beef. For the side though I decided to try something a little different, something i had just discovered recently and hadn’t had the chance to try, hassleback potatoes, or Swedish Baked Potatoes. The end result was fantastic and a nice mix to the usual baked potato. To start take a russet potato, any number depending on the number being served, and slice them almost all the way through in thin slices the length of the potato so it looks like a bouquet of potato chips. Once this is done for all of your potatoes place them on a cookie sheet or flat baking sheet and slide sliced garlic between every few slice, I did every other. Drizzle your potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and add a generous portion of cracked sea salt and cracked pepper over each one. Once the potatoes are seasoned smear a table spoon of margarine or unsalted butter over each potato and bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and back for an additional hour. I used the additional garlic cloves to dice and add into the meatloaf with minced onion, salt and pepper. To compliment the dish were fresh green beans.  It is not the most fancy meal in the world, but when it’s too wet for grilling and you’re looking for something a little different, it’s a great option!

 

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Brewing Beer

I’m a bit of a homebrewing hobbyist when it comes to beer. I still buy the prepackaged ingredients boxes but I experiment with them, adding a little something something here or there. Today I am brewing a chocolate stout.

When you hear stout everyone thinks Guinness and their first reaction is, “Oh it’s so heavy, it’s like meal!” This couldn’t be further from the truth! Stouts are some of the smoothest, most refreshing, drinkable beers you can find. Why do you think every pub in Ireland has them on tap?

I am forgoing my usual format and not posting the recipe because it is not mine. I simply tweaked it a little. I took a basic Irish Stout recipe and added whole cocoa beans, once when adding the bittering hops and again for the last 15 minutes of boiling the wort. I also added a little bit of vanilla extract. This is my first time messing around with a stout so I will update accordingly. Until then, enjoy the pics of the initial brewing!

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Lasagna

It is finally under 90 degrees and not humid so it’s a good day for some indoor cooking. Lasagna it is! I thought I would try something a littler different today and make my own marinara sauce for the lasagna instead of taking the easy jar route. For the sauce you will need:

  • 6-12 ripe roma tomatoes or 2 cans of whole tomatoes
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 a yellow onion
  • basil
  • oregano
  • sugar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Ad 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to large sauce pan, heat over medium heat, add chopped garlic/ onions to sauce pan and cook over medium heat until tender. Add cans/ blanched tomatoes (make sure you seed them first). Add a tbsp of salt and a tbsp of pepper. Add oregano/ basil to your taste and approx 1 tbsp of sugar. Finally add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Mix all together and let simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Set aside until you are ready to use or freeze for later use.

The lasagna itself is pretty simple. Layer your sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese and fresh basil and repeat. I make mine in three layers. Bake for 45-60 minutes and enjoy!

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Smoked Chuck Roast

So all weekend long I’ve wanted to make something on my grill, and not just the usual burgers and brauts. That’s why tonight I decided to improvise with Smoked Chuck Roast and Grilled Vegetables.  So first things first, if you have a charcoal grill, put that thing to good use! I used a small bag of charcoal, preheated, and then added a soaked mixture of applewood and hickory wood chips.

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While the grill was warming up I took a 3 lbs chuck (pot) roast and put a rub (recipe below) over it. Once the coals were good and hot, place the roast on for indirect cooking. Let sit, covered for 45 minutes, and make sure all vents are open.

While the meat is cooking you can prepare your side, I made a grilled vegetable medley. This consisted of sliced red potato, sliced garlic, sliced onion, onion, and zucchini slices. Oh yeah, and of course butter! This is all held together in heavy duty tin foil for an hour on the grill, flipping once halfway through.

Flip the meat after approx. 45 minutes and add to some more soaked woodchips if needed. When all is grilled and done, enjoy with a nice summer beverage and BBQ Sauce of your choice!

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What you will need:

  • (1) 2-3 lbs chuck roast
  • bbq rub*
  • wood chips
  • (1) zucchini
  • (1) orange bell pepper
  • (1/2) onion
  • (4) cloves of garlic
  • (3-4) red potatoes

BBQ RUB

  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp basil
  • salt
  • pepper

Mix all ingredients in a zip lock bag.

Heat coals/ wood chips for indirect cooking. Once charcoal has grey dusty coating, add wood chips and place rubbed chuck roast on grill. Let sit covered for 45 minutes. Add more charcoal/ wood chips as needed. After 45 minutes, flip meat, remain covered, do not remove cover, this will take heat/ smoke away.

  • For vegetables, slice and place in double lined heavy duty aluminum foil, add 1/4 stick of butter, salt and pepper prior to cooking. Cook over indirect heat on grill, rotating after 30 mins, cook for one hour.

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When all is smokey and done, enjoy!

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