Tarragon chicken breasts, cauliflower puree and beet salad

The plates were literally licked clean last night. There wasn’t a speck of food left, even after second rounds. THAT is how good dinner was last night.

The family and I are going to Hawaii next month and are dead set on eating healthily until that trip. We were a bit bad this last month with birthday cake here, homemade banana pumpkin bread there, pizza here, a sando there. It is time to get back on the saddle!

Ingredients:

Chicken

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt/pepper
  • tarragon
  • chickpea flour

Cauliflower Puree

  • one head of white cauliflower
  • two cups of chicken stock
  • salt/pepper
  • one teaspoon dried rosemary
  • one teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • butter
  • one medium red onion

Beet salad

  • five roasted beets (I prefer Love Beets)
  • two clementines
  • heaping handful of baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup of feta
  • balsamic dressing of your choosing

Getting started on this dinner was a bit of a struggle. I couldn’t decide on anything. But I also didn’t want to have to go back out to the grocery store. I knew we had chicken breasts, I knew we had cauliflower…and that was ALL I knew. I had made roasted cauliflower just the night before so I didn’t want to cook the same thing. Then I remembered cauliflower puree…god’s gift to those that don’t want to eat mashed potatoes (I think I even like the cauliflower ones more). I got working on those because they take a bit longer than everything else. I could figure out the rest while the cauli was cooking down. I also forgot to get a picture. Oops!

I don’t make my cauli puree the same was as most people. I pull out my cuisinart FIRST and shred the cauliflower using the shredding disc. From there I put the shredded cauliflower into a large, high sided pan, add salt and pepper, and mix in the two cups of chicken stock. I turn the heat to med/high and stir frequently. I cook this until the liquid is mostly absorbed into the cauliflower. This is a good time to peel and chop your red onion and prepare the chicken (more on that below).  Once the stock is absorbed I add the rosemary and thyme. I cook that for a few minutes and then stir in the parmesan. Once that is mixed well, I pour (in two batches) the cauliflower back into the cuisinart (now with the regular chopping blade) and whir until smooth. I set it aside in a bowl and cook the rest of the food. Back in the pan where I cooked the cauliflower, I pour a tiny bit of olive oil and a add a pat of butter. When that sizzles (should be quick with the hot pan), add in the red onion. Turn the stove to medium/low. The key to this recipe is browning the red onion while still keeping it soft. When cooked to your desired crispiness, stir it into the cauliflower puree.

The chicken couldn’t be easier. Pound out the chicken to equal thickness. Salt and pepper the top and wait a few minutes. Then sprinkle on a thin layer of tarragon and spoon on a thin layer of chickpea flour. Rub the tarragon and chickpea flour gently into the top of the chicken breast. Don’t worry about the bottom side. You don’t want to flip the chicken to season the other side because the chickpea flour will become a paste.

When the cauliflower and the onion are finished, add a bit more oil/butter to the bottom of the pan and, once sizzling, put your chicken breasts into the pan, chickpea flour side down. While that cooks (on medium), repeat the seasoning process on the other side of the chicken breast in the pan. Flip when the chicken becomes opaque on the bottom. Cook the chicken to 165degrees.

While the chicken cooks, cut up five beets into 1/2 inch pieces. Peel two clementines and slice horizontally. Chop the spinach into bite size pieces. All all of the above and the feta into a bowl. Toss with a dressing of your choice (Hubs makes a super simple, kick ass creamy balsamic that paired well with this — balsamic vinegar, olive oil, plain yogurt, mustard, lemon, salt and pepper).

This whole meal was filling, spectacular (if I do say so myself) and had no offending starches (potatoes, flour, etc).

Easy Egg Muffins for Brunch

On Easter, our very small neighborhood (three families, each with two kids) was having a small get together/breakfast/egg hunt. Our family had made previous plans for brunch but we joined for the early morning portion (egg hunt, bagels, mimosas, coffee). I was feeling a little guilty about leaving early so thought I would use some easy stuff in my refrigerator to bring.

The day before I had “blown out” six eggs for decorating and needed to use those eggs asap so decided to make some egg muffins using that and some leftovers that were about to spoil.  This took at total of 5 minutes of prep, 30 minutes to cook and 15 minutes to cool/set. Makes 12 muffins. 

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs (beaten)
  • two cups of roughly chopped fresh baby spinach (though thawed and drained frozen spinach would work, too)
  • about two cups of leftover chopped rotisserie chicken
  • a cup of halved cherry tomatoes
  • a cup of leftover cooked quinoa
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • about a packed cup of crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a big bowl thoroughly. Spoon into paper muffin cups in a muffin pan. As these won’t “rise” very much, spoon the mixture a bit taller than the rim of the pan. Cook for about 30-45 minutes. Once cooked through, take them out of the oven and let cool/set for about 15 minutes. They’ll last in the fridge, covered, for about a week. Great for car trips or anything where you need “handy” food. But they look FANTASTIC for pot luck brunch.

Image

 

Image

I’ve done these a ton of different ways. I like to cook them at the beginning of busy weeks when I know I won’t have time to cook lunch. Everyone in the family can grab and go for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack. If you have a kid that enjoys food, these are great for lunchboxes, too.
 
Variations: replace any of the above with corn kernels, kale, sausage, sweet peppers, sun dried tomatoes, chopped broccoli, pancetta, pepperoni, ham, cheddar. I’ve done all of them. Basically whatever you need to get rid of.  Below is some muffins I made earlier in the week that were heavier on the quinoa, onion, kale, pancetta, corn and crumbled goat cheese. They were a HUGE hit.
 
Image

Sort of Farinata/Faina and Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Our new au pair (“S”) is from Argentina. Prior to living with us, she lived in Minnesota for a year (brrrr!). I think she is loving California’s weather after this brutal winter. That means she has been far from home for over a year and hasn’t eaten anything from her home country in that long. So I started doing research on typical Argentinian food. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but I am an awful preparer of meats. For some reason they baffle me. I can never get the crust right, the inside the right temperature. Thus, I forego, and leave it to the experts. Steak was out. What else? Empanadas? Not really in our food parameters (being encased in a flour dough, and all). And then I learned about faina. VERY similar to the Italian farinata/ceccina that we prepared when our Italian au pair was with us. I decided this was the way to go. Except, of course and as is typical of me, I changed it practically completely. Ended up being more like a nod to Argentina than an actual tribute or “taste of home”. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesomely flavorful. It just wasn’t “faina.”

Faina is traditionally make with chickpea flour, eggs (or “flax eggs”), salt, pepper and olive oil. Sometimes rosemary. Sometimes cheese. When we cooked the ceccina for E, it was blaaaaaaaand. I didn’t want that to happen again! I oomphed it up with pancetta, tomatoes, red onion, basil, oregano, kale and spinach. Mushrooms would have been EXCELLENT in this. Alas, none in the house. 

But one can’t eat farinata alone! So I picked mint, cut up a watermelon and added some feta for a fantastic spring-y salad. And, as a side, added some of the pulled rotisserie chicken that costco now sells by the bag. Have you have this?! It is the best. All of the benefits of rotisserie chicken without having the pull if off the bone. Very flavorful. 

Image

Ingredients (serves four)

Farinata

  • Cup and a half of chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax
  • Water as needed
  • Cup of chopped pancetta
  • One whole red onion thinly sliced
  • Handful of spinach, chopped
  • Two fronds of kale, stripped and chopped
  • Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Total of one cup of finely chopped rosemary, chopped oregano, chopped basil
  • Half a cup of crumbled feta

Salad

  • Watermelon
  • Mint
  • Feta
  • Balsamic glaze

Chicken

  • pulled rotisserie chicken 🙂

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. You are going to need a cast iron or oven safe pan for this. Set you chickpea flour base by putting the flour into a large bowl and adding water until it is the consistency of pancake batter (I suggest if you have time doing this a few hours ahead of time as I’ve heard that it makes the batter “stronger”). In a separate bowl, make your flax egg by adding water to the flax until it is moistened. Let that sit until your batter is ready.


Image

Chop the herbs, chop the spinach/kale, chop the tomato, chop the onion.

Image

 

Add salt and a good dose of pepper to the batter. Mix in the flax egg with a whisk. While that pulls together, saute the pancetta and onion in your cast iron pan on the stove top.

Add the kale and spinach to the pan, cooking through. Add the herbs and remaining ingredients to the batter and then the contents of the pan. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add a bit of oil to coat the bottom of the hot pan. Pour the mixture into the hot pan and put into the oven for 25-30 minutes. All ovens are different (sadly). It is finished when it is pulling away from the sides of the pan and browned on top. The interior will be soft and chewy. The exterior crispy. Let the farinata cool in the pan while you prepare the sides. Flip onto a plate once cooled. Serve as slices.

Image

 

The salad is easy. Chop the watermelon into bit size pieces, chop fresh mint, pour in some crumbled feta cheese and a bit of balsamic. Mix. Ta da!

I just threw a bit of the chicken into a saute pan to warm quickly. It is already cooked through so doesn’t need much.

Juiciest turkey burgers with white sauce and pureed cauliflower “buns”

I got a bee in my bonnet to cook up some of my, IMHO, delicious turkey burgers. This would have been the first time I would do it without starch so it was going to take some modification. First off, I needed a “bun”. Of course one could eat a turkey burger with a knife and a fork…but really? Isn’t that just a big, flattened meatball?

So the bun. I’ve made “bread” from left-over “pizza dough” before so I thought I would go with a variation of that. Because I wasn’t using any panko in the burgers (which usually is how I keep them moist), I decided to try something new. Mushrooms. MUSHROOMS! It was a genius idea, I must say. These were fantastic. As I was cooking up the burgers, I had a strong urge to make tzatziki. Alas, when I pulled out the big ol’ tub of yogurt, moldy and almost empty. YUCK! So when I dug into the fridge I came up with a winning combo of flavors for a tasty white sauce (I’m not sure how else to term it) that took only 2 minutes to make.

Ingredients:

The turkey

  • Package of ground turkey thigh meat
  • Half large red shallot
  • One cup of dry porcini mushrooms
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh parsley
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax seed
  • Two tablespoons of sumac, separated
  • Salt and pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • One pat of butter, chopped

The bun

  • One head of cauliflower
  • Two large eggs
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flax
  • One cup of feta cheese

The white sauce

  • Two heaping tablespoons of cream cheese
  • Two heaping tablespoons of feta cheese
  • A few sprigs of parsley
  • One teaspoon of sumac
  • 1/4 cup of white or rosé wine
  • Five cherry tomatoes chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and put a silpat on a large cookie sheet. Cut the florets off of the cauliflower and puree in a cuisinart. Move the cauliflower to a mixing bowl. Add a sprinkle of chia seeds and about two tablespoons of ground flax. Mix in the feta and the eggs and mix until evenly coated. Spread the cauliflower mixture onto the silpat and make sure all points are of even thickness…about 1/2″ thick. If it isn’t even, the thinner parts will burn.  Put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. (Note: I had made demarcations similar to bread for sandwiches to make it easier to cut later…this was not smart. I should have let it cook as a whole and then used a circular cookie cutter to make round, bun like shapes…they didn’t “fit” the burgers very well.)

Image

Put the dry mushrooms into the cuisinart and pulse until they are finely chopped (think 1/4″ pieces). Add enough hot water to cover the mushrooms and let them sit in that water until everything else for the turkey burgers is completed. In a mixing bowl (I used the same bowl as the cauliflower mix, just quickly rinsed) put the ground turkey, salt and pepper, a sprinkling of chia seeds (about a teaspoon), two tablespoons of flax seed, the chopped oregano and parsley, two tablespoons of sumac, a few healthy shakes of Worcestershire sauce, the finely chopped shallot and the pat of butter (chopped).

Image

When the mushrooms seem saturated, put then in a strainer over the sink and push them until the extra water is pushed out.

Image

When drained, add to meat and mix gently by hand.

Image

Form into patties and set aside until you are ready to cook them.

Image

 

(I made an itty bitty one for my daughter to try. Next time I would do a bunch of these and throw them in the freezer for an easy dinner for the kids)

Make sure you are checking on the “buns”. When the top is browning (like below), take them out. They get “harder” when they cool. Don’t forget to turn them a few times if you have a fickle oven like myself. 

Image(This would be a good time to cut them into the circular shapes…which is what I would have done, had I been smarter)

Either while the turkey burgers are cooking or now, you can make the sauce. Couldn’t be easier. Grab a fork and a microwavable cereal bowl. Fork in a few dollops of cream cheese, a healthy shake of feta, a teaspoon of sumac and a few sprigs of chopped parsley and mix them with a fork. Pop them into the microwave for 15 seconds. Add a splash of wine (more if you like it thinner, less if you want to keep it thick) and the chopped cherry tomatoes (and their juices), mash with the fork and then pop back in the microwave for another 15 seconds. Stir it up and a bit, et voila! 

Image

Cook the burger either on the grill or in a saute pan as you would any burger. I cook these on a bit lower heat (low-medium) turning when the first side is browned and then, when the second side is browning, I test the temp with an instaread thermometer, taking them off the heat when they hit 160.

For my veg last night I simply steamed a large batch of broccolini . The picture below doesn’t do justice to the how absolutely DELICIOUS this was. I think this would have been better with a round “bun”…or with some fresh spinach with the burger. But really flavorful and juicy.

Image

 

 

Scrambled eggs with sausage and kale: AKA A quick and easy dinner for one when the hubs is away

Last night I was on my own for dinner…this rarely happens. And it was glorious. I watched bad television and ate the below yummy-ness by myself and put as much cheese on it as I wanted! The hubs was gone and the au pair was out with friends. And it was just ME.

You see, hubs isn’t the biggest fan of cheese. And I LOVE cheese. And I usually use nights when he is gone to cook with garlic. But by myself? I didn’t really feel like making a big production. So I used up the last of the sundried tomato chicken sausage, a few fronds of kale (is fronds the right word? branches?), three eggs and feta. LOTS and lots of feta.

Ingredients:

  • Two links of sun-dried tomato chicken sausage
  • Four fronds of dinosaur kale
  • Three medium eggs
  • 1/2 cup of feta

As the chicken sausage has so little fat in it, I had to add some oil to the pan first. I chopped the sausage into bite size pieces and threw them into the hot pan. I stemmed the kale and chopped it into tiny pieces and threw them into the pan, as well. When the sausage was cooked through and browning, I cracked three eggs directly into the pan and stirred them with my wooden spoon to do a quick scramble. When the eggs were firming up, I dumped in the feta and stirred until just melted and mixed in. It was crazy quick, majorly easy and truly delicious. Would have paired well with a big glass of cold rosé had I had a bottle open.

Image

Bad ass kale and mushroom quiche

The next few recipes are going to be a bit out of order as I promised that I would get this recipe up today, even though it was queued for later this week.

Recently I’ve found that I have been searching for the veg portion of the meal before figuring out what the “rest of it” will look like. I pick the green veg and then the meat/base/accompanying vegetables. In this morning’s Goop (Yes, I read it. Shush, you!), she interviews an owner of a vegan restaurant in Philly and this quote really spoke to me:

Don’t think of veggies as afterthoughts and side dishes. Put extra effort into them and let them shine!

^^^ This. This is where my brain is these days. Focus on the veg, make them delicious and then add in some other awesomeness to help make it whole.

Image

When at the grocers yesterday (still filling the fridge up after a week away) I saw some gorgeous kale. I knew we needed to use up some of the eggs and feta in the fridge so a quiche was devised. I never really follow the proportions they insist upon in quiche recipes…so again I foraged off on my own. I also picked up some sliced, fresh mushrooms to lose a step. And as this was mostly a meal for our au pair and myself, I allowed it to be extra cheesy as hubs doesn’t do “cheesy” (his loss. right?!).

Ingredients:

  • Dinosaur kale (I used one and a half handfuls)
  • Two cups of sliced porcini mushrooms
  • Eight medium eggs
  • One vidalia onion
  • One medium shallot
  • One cup of feta
  • Half cup of cheddar
  • Half stick of butter, separated
  • Olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • Two roma tomatoes
  • Flax seed
  • Cooking spray
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Handful of basil
  • Parm, to finish

This comes together pretty quickly for as many ingredients as there are. And the above feeds three. This would be an excellent “side dish” if paired with something meaty. Or it could also take on epic status with the inclusion of some sun dried tomato chicken sausage.

Image

Preheat the oven to 375. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of butter chopped into fourths over medium heat in a sauté pan. I actually like a bit of a thinner pan for this type of cooking. My favorite sauté pan is also my cheapest. It browns the butter super quickly and heats the oil fast, as well.

Chop the vidalia into a medium small chop. A chunkier chop would work well here, too, if you want a bit more tooth in your onion. When the butter is starting to brown, add in the vidalia and have it sop up all of that buttery, browned deliciousness.

While that softens, start on the kale. I like dinosaur kale because it is so easy to remove the stalk by pulling on the greens in the opposite direction from the bottom of the stalk (obviously, rinse and pat dry the kale before you do this). When you have stripped all of your kale, roll it up like a chiffonade and cut it across the grain so that it is in thin strips.

ImageAs soon as the vidalia is getting a bit more translucent, add in the mushrooms, one more tablespoon of butter (quartered) and cook until all are tender and slightly browned. I also salt and pepper my mushrooms at this point. A splash of wine (any wine, really…last night we were drinking rosé) right about now does WONDERS to the complexity of the flavor, too.  Next time I make this, I am going to use a bit more wine than I did last night. 

I used the time the mushrooms were cooking to crack and beat my eggs. Most recipes would call for about four eggs in this. I used eight or nine (I lost track) medium sized eggs. As I wasn’t using any milk to “lift” the eggs, and it was going to be main and only dinner, I wanted to add a bit of heft. I whisked them until incorporated then beat in a bit more salt and pepper and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and dumped in the two cheeses. 

ImageNow that the mushrooms were soft, I piled the kale on top of the mushrooms. I grabbed my madonlin and sliced thinly the shallot, sprinkling it on the kale. The kale will cook down now…but it will cook down a bit more quickly with another splash of wine. Incorporate the mushrooms, kale and onions once the kale’s green is brightening. Let that cook over low to medium heat until the kale is soft. 

Meanwhile, make the space on your mandolin a bit wider and slice your tomatoes into 1/6″ slices. Spray some cooking spray on the inside of your glass pan (I used a Pyrex casserole dish as I needed more than just a slice).  Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with ground flax seed and parmesan (to make a bit of a strach-less, healthy crust).

Image

Once the kale/mushroom combo seems well cooked, stir it again so that it is well mixed and then pour it into the pyrex dish. I had to move things around a bit because the mushrooms were heavy on one side and the kale on the other.

Pour the egg and cheese mixture on so that it evenly coats the veggies. And then layer the tomatoes across the top. Put it in the oven, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through.

The tomatoes on top give it some needed sweetness, the cheddar the bite, the pepper the heat and the feta some added salt…and they all work well with the savory-ness of the dish. If I did it again, I would then put some chopped parsley/ground flax and parm on the top to add a little crunch to the top and broil it for a few seconds at the end.

Image

Image

A veg-tastic dinner: Braised kale, leeks and chickpeas AND Mast-o-khiar with sauteed beets

We are heading to the east coast to visit my folks on Saturday so I am trying to clear out my fridge before we go, using up the fresh veg.

This recipe caught my eye when searching for kale and leek combos. I had three huge leeks in my fridge and had some kale left over from the farmer’s market from TWO weeks ago. I would hate for that deliciousness to go to waste. A variation, I knew, of this recipe would fit my needs perfectly…but would it need a protein? Would hubs eat chickpeas not mashed up like hummus? Would I need another side? It looked filling…but enough to be a whole meal?

Just in case it wasn’t, I added in what was planned to be roasted beets with maast-o-khiar (aka, cucumbers and dill in yoghurt). “Planned to be” because we had a slight mishap last night with the oven. Our truly lovely au pair was helping put away clean dishes the other night (love her) and put our plastic grilling prep pan in the oven thinking it was a roasting pan. I had no idea and preheated the oven. Et voila!

Image

 

Obviously no beets would be oven roasted last night. After opening up every window and door in the house to air out the noxious fumes, I continued on with my meal prep, changing direction on the secondary salad. 

Image

It was a bit chilly last night (by Northern California standards) so didn’t want to grill the beets…how else to use up this GORGEOUS, gorgeous veg?? SAUTE! I would slice them very thinly and salt and saute them. This was a super quick fix and I think that I may do these more often. They were sweet and crispy and would be a fantastic topping to a LOT of different dishes. Next time I did this though, I would probably get bigger beets (less to peel) and make them more like 1 inch strips…almost like an onion topper. OOOH! With crispy onions next time, too! THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! okay, onward.

Braised Kale, Leeks and Chickpeas

  • one bunch of kale (de-stemmed and chopped into bite size pieces)
  • one can of chickpeas (14 oz and drained)
  • 3 large leeks (the whites and light green parts, cut across the grain into rings and separated
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock/broth
  • olive oil
  • pat of butter
  • salt/pepper
  • tablespoon of paprika
  • red bell pepper…fresh, cut into rings
  • feta

Sauteed Beets and Maast-o-Khiar

  • fresh, raw beets cut with the greens cut off, peeled and then thinly sliced (I used eight small beets but could have used at least four more)
  • one large cucumber, partially peeled
  • 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dill
  • apple cider vinegar
  • salt/pepper

Image

In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan that can be covered, pour enough olive oil in to coat the bottom and about 2 mm of oil. Turn on the gas on medium heat. Add a pat of butter.

Once shimmering, add the sliced leeks and paprika and stir, coating them in the olive oil and slowly browning butter.

As they start to soften, add in the kale and chickpeas, coat the veg and then turn down the heat to simmer and, just before covering, add the sliced bell peppers. Stir every few minutes, adding stock if it starts to scorch on the bottom of the pan. It should finish cooking in about 15-20 minutes. Add salt towards the end with about half of a cup of feta.

ImageWhile the kale is cooking down, start on the sauteed beets. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. You should already have peeled the beets. Thinly slice them (aren’t they gorgeous) and add a little bit of salt.

When the oil is hot, add the beets, flipping in the oil to coat them. Cook them for about four or five minutes and then flip them so both sides get cooked.

Pour in a bit of chicken broth to release the yummy goodness on the bottom and cover for five more minutes. Some of the smaller pieces might become crispy before the others. Set them aside on some paper towels to drain. Continue on with the bigger pieces until they are soft and then drain those as well. They will be served cold so don’t worry about keeping them warm.

Image

Maast-o-khiar can be made a thousand different way (pureed, chopped, sliced, etc). For last night, I went with sliced. And I wanted them extra thin so I pulled out my mandolin. 

I sliced one large cucumber this way…but probably could have used another cucumber to really feed three adults. (I also would have added in more beets…lesson learned)

After slicing the cucumbers, I put them in a bowl with apple cider vinegar and some salt. You can use sherry or red wine vinegar, as well. Balsamic is too sweet for this recipe. Leave them in there for 20-30 minutes. I was pressed for time after dealing with the oven debacle, so they only got about 10 minutes this go round. It was still delicious.

Image

After 10 minutes, I drained the vinegar and added in the yoghurt and the finely chopped dill (having removed from the pile any major stems). Don’t mix this up too quickly. Let the yoghurt come to room temperature (or close to it) and THEN mix it up. Once mixed, add in the beets so that they are distributed evenly throughout.

We served the two dishes side by side on the plate. I probably needed a bit more of both salads for three people as they are both incredibly light. Both are probably best served as the side for a protein. It would probably pair really well with the ginger chicken or the chicken sumac. The feta definitely was needed, in my opinion, on the kale and leek recipe. It made the meal. Hubs added some extra heat to the kale and leeks via sriracha but I think I agree and will next time add in some chili flakes. And next time? A LOT more of those amazing beets. 

Image