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Archive for the category “artichoke”

Susan’s Stuffed Chicken Breasts

susansstuffedchickenbreastsWhenever my friends have news, good or bad, I want to cook for them. For good news it is a celebration! For bad news, it is my version of giving comfort. It is born from a habit started long ago when my family. We always celebrated or mourned surrounded by our people over a table full of food. One of my oldest and dearest friends Susan came over with news recently and cooking was definitely a necessity.

She loved it when I made rolled chicken before, so I followed their fowl lead and came up with another rolled beauty. These chicken breasts came out much less dainty and heartily filled us up. Definitely appropriate for the occasion, since Susan has some ass kicking to do in the near future.

As the holiday season draws near there is a lot of feasting and fasting and celebrating. Embrace the time you have with family and friends. Embrace the time hanging out in the kitchen. Embrace the kids playing chase in the house (and the resulting broken vase). Embrace the chill while sipping coffee in the morning. Embrace the hectic days and the slow, lazy days. Embrace each other and yourself. Time passes swiftly so embrace what you have in real time. Embrace. Embrace stuffed chicken breasts because they are most awesome.

Susan’s Stuffed Chicken Breasts

2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small bunch fresh parsley, stems removed
3 sprigs fresh oregano, stems removed
8-10 fresh basil leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups (or 2 14-ounce cans) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
12 slices thin deli ham
4 cups grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pot over medium heat add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and garlic. Roughly chop the parskley, oregano and basil leaves. Add all the herbs except about 2 tablespoons to the sauce. Set aside the extra herbs for the top of the dish. When the sauce begins to steam, lower heat let simmer for about 30 minutes then remove from heat.

While sauce is simmering prepare the chicken and stuffing. Finely chop the spinach and artichoke hearts. In a medium bowl combine the artichoke hearts, spinach, onion and lemon juice. Toss until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Spread a piece of wax or parchment paper on the counter, at least twice the size of a single chicken breast. Place a breast in the middle of the paper. Cover the breast with a second piece of paper. With the flat side of a tenderizer mallet (or a regular mallet covered in cling wrap), gently pound the breast, starting from the center and moving towards the edges, until it is 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thick. Repeat with all the breasts, changing out the paper as needed. Generously season each breast on both sides with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To stuff the chicken clear a work surface. Position nearby a 9×13 inch baking dish. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish. Place a single breast in front of you on your work surface lengthwise. Use two pieces of ham to cover the surface of the breast as much as possible. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of grated cheese on top of the ham. Spoon 1/6 of the spinach artichoke mixture in a row from top to bottom on one side of the breast. Starting on the side nearest the mixture begin rolling the breast,  making sure the left and right ends overlap at least once at the end of the roll. Place the roll seam down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining breasts.

Pour tomato sauce over chicken rolls, leaving 1/4 inch from the top clear of sauce so there is room for it to bubble up to the dish edges. You may have leftover sauce, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese and chopped herbs on top of the sauce. Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove from oven and let sit for ten minutes before serving.


Spinach Artichoke Dip

spinartdippMy moms are awesome. One gave birth to me and is crazy supportive. The other I have known since I was seven, fed and housed me numerous times, then eventually became the bestest mother in law ever. They both love cooking and sometimes generously open up their kitchens to me when I visit. Sometimes I come in with a plan and bags full of groceries. Other times I dig around and see what they have for making a meal. In the past I have made pecan crusted chicken and stuffed mushrooms in my mother in law’s kitchen. Today I took over my mom’s kitchen to become dippy. Again.

Tonight we had a meatless Monday meal. It was accidental, but yummy. We usually figure out a protein and work vegetables and other stuff around it. This time we went the other direction. I made some guacamole with some gorgeous avocados and also made this lovely, cheesy spinach artichoke dip. As is often the case, I opened mom’s well stocked fridge and checked out what was in there to get inspired for dinner. I have made such a dip before, and it was lovely to see the perfect ingredients just sitting there waiting to be made into a dip – spinach, marinated artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream….It is much more mild than my jalapeño popper dip but still cheesy.

The cool thing about this dip is that it freezes easily, so the huge volume will not go to waste – after we head home my mom can store it in the freezer, then pull out leftovers and bake it up for a quick appetizer when her church or book club group comes over. This is a big recipe! It can easily be halved for a smaller dose, but I like making it for parties and pot lucks, so I share below the big version.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
28 ounces (2 cans) marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 Tbsp grated Parmesean cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer bowl add all ingredients. Mix on medium speed for two minutes until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into 9×9 or larger baking dish and spread top layer evenly. Sprinkle Parmesean cheese on top. Bake for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly. If top has not browned turn on the broiler and let broil until highest points turn brown. Remove from oven and let rest for about ten minutes. Serve with vegetables or other dippable bits.

Antipasto Salad

antipasto salad

During the past few years I have posted Irish themed dished leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. Things like colcannon, shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage (which I must mention is not actually Irish), and even a traditional Irish breakfast! This year I did not quite ramp up to the day in such a thematic day. I did do some bright, green leeks recently, but that is far as it went. This year we are enjoying some of my past creations instead of new ones. I guess in a way I am reaching back part of the roots of Ireland’s history, just not the most recent – the Gauls! Their influence spread across not only Ireland, but France, Swithzerland, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Greece. Yes, I am stretching it, but it is fun! In spite of the name, antipasto does not mean it does not like pasta, or that it is after pasta, but it HAS no pasta, and it comes BEFORE pasta. Just the way we like it. We recently had a Greek kick and did some dishes I posted a few year ago, including dolmas, tzatziki and some Greek burgers. We needed a salad to go along with it, because there was a gap on the plate. Hoping that the Greeks and Italians would cooperate, we mixed up some traditionally Italian non-pasta, savory elements, with some Greek, and boy did they go well! The leftovers were great, too, after hanging out in the dressing. I think the Gauls would enjoy it.

Antipasto Salad

1 cup mixed green, black and kalamata olives, pitted
1 cup pepperocini peppers, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup marinated artichoke  hearts, diced
3 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
1/4 yellow or white onion, finely diced
4 ounces thin sliced salami, diced
1/3 cup Greek salad dressing or other vinaigrette

Roughly chop olives so they are of similar size. Place olives in medium bowl. Add peppers, cheese, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, onion and salami. Lightly toss. Add dressing and stir until well coated. Let sit for about 15 minutes then toss again and serve. The salad can also be made a day in advance and chilled until time to serve.

Kelley’s Killer Stuffed Mushrooms

Have you ever felt like you are being watched? I did just the other day. I was sitting on my mom’s patio and suddenly felt like I was being observed, with the strong need to figure out what was doing it. No people. No pets. A few birds were out there, but they were busy with the feeders. In the end I decided it was the basil. Tall, healthy stalks rising out of a huge pot, with big, bright green leaves soaking up the morning sun. They were leaning slightly in my direction, so the little leaves at the very tips of the stalks worked like cyclop eyes…I decided the only way to rid myself of the paranoia was to use some basil. It wants me to, right? A functional plant that just happens to be pretty, too? I was sure mom’s well stocked fridge would reveal a wealth of ingredients to go with the stalking stalks. As you can see from the list of ingredients I was right. I called them Kelley’s Stuffed Mushrooms because Kelley likes all things Greek, and these have a leaning in the Greek direction, and they would be consumed at her house. Besides all that, she is one of the most awesome people on the planet. This is not my first Greek themed dish, but it is the first time I remember splitting kitchens when making a dish – prepared in one kitchen and cooked in another. These lovely ‘shrooms went stuffed but uncooked with us to a dinner party, and were baked in S&K’s kitchen right before serving. I do think transporting the broth separate from the dish was a good idea, though. Adding the little lime wedges helped add a bit of color, and squeezing a bit on right before enjoying them brought out the lovely flavors of the cheese and olives.
Kelley’s Killer Stuffed Mushrooms

12 baby Portabello mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/4 medium white onion, finely diced
12 kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
3 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
4 quarters marinated artichoke hearts, finely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp ground oregano
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
Salt to taste
Lime, thinly cut into small slices (garnish)
Remove stems from mushrooms. With a small spoon scrape out brown gills from each mushroom cap, making more room for the stuffing. Finely chop the stems and scrapings. In a large skillet over medium high heat add the oil. When oil is hot add onion and garlic. Cook until soft. Before onions and garlic begins to brown add the chopped stems, olives, bacon, artichoke hearts, basil and oregano. Stir occasionally until stems are soft and combined with the other ingredients. Add feta to the pan and stir until it is melted and combined. Remove pan from heat, add juice from the half lime and stir. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide stuffing among the mushroom caps, placing them, spaced evenly, in a 9×12 inch baking dish. Slowly pour the broth in the pan, making a shallow pool under the caps. Place pan in oven and bake for 30 minutes, until mushrooms sweat and shrink. Remove from oven and let sit for about five minutes. Garnish with small lime slices and serve.

Lemon Infused Artichokes

lemon infused artichokes

I found some beautiful artichokes at the store and whisked them home. Instead of preparing them in the more nostalgic way I have in the past, I wanted to try something a little different. To get more of the lemon and garlic flavor deeper into the artichoke I thought cutting them in half and baking would be useful, so chop chop! I did not want them to dry out, so I surrounded them with moisture and covered it all up. Since they are already divided into individual servings it is easy to rely on them for an appetizer course of a dinner party, or have them cooked and ready for whenever you can get the family sat down at the dinner table. The fun thing about making these for a dinner party is watching the guests try to be dainty and tidy while eating them. Although some (like fancy schmancy restaurants) discard every bit of the artichoke except the heart (which can be cut into about four dainty bites) many like pulling off meat from the leaves of the vegetable with their teeth. We fall in the category of pulling off meat from leaves, so it can get a bit messy. That’s okay – either way, conversations can get started over the nuances of artichoke consumption. Have fun with them and don’t forget the dipping sauce!

Lemon Infused Artichokes

4 medium artichokes
1 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup salted butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a five quart pot add the water and about 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. Cut the stems off the artichokes then cut them in half. Drizzle the halves with oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with garlic powder and salt. Arrange halves loosely in the pot. Cover and place in oven. Cook for about 45 minutes until tender. If the heart, above the stem, is not tender, then cook them for 10 – 15 minutes longer. While the artichokes bake prepare the butter – in a small sauce pan over low heat add the butter, garlic powder and lemon juice. When butter melts stir, cover and let simmer for about one minute, then turn off heat. Add salt as desired and stir. Serve as a dipping sauce with the artichokes. When you serve the artichokes make sure to remove the hairy choke portions of the vegetable, right above the heart, and discard. Spooning it out should be easy, since it is exposed when the artichokes are cut in half. In the picture above you can see the dark line where the choke ends and the heart begins, right above the stem. If you want more about the basics of eating artichokes check out the step by step guide here.

Another End of Summer Salad

Okay, so I had a little of this and a little of that in the fridge (some of which was left over from making pizza (add link)) and thought they would make a wonderful end of summer salad. Again. It is a bit different from my other End of Summer Salad (add link), but I am really trying to squeeze in the summer produce, so I decided to post it. I know it was recently, like, right below, but this one has a totally different taste. I have to say right now that I absolutely adore my daughter and love how her fine motor skills are improving exponentially while helping me in the kitchen. Now I must also say that I really enjoyed making this salad all by myself – not having to lean over a footstool, without a helper who is learning to use a knife, or a munchkin putting a little too much parsley in the bowl or an imp who insists on measuring and pouring the olive oil from the huge bottle on her own and spilling about half a cup on the counter. While she watched the last bit of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 version, thank you very much) I snuck in the kitchen and whipped up the salad. I liked doing it by myself as much as I will like the next time she helps break a dozen eggs for a frittata – its just a different way of cooking. Here she comes!

Another End of Summer Salad

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt*
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried parsley leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
Dash of dried red pepper flakes
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, rough chopped
½ large cucumber, rough chopped
1 cup artichoke hearts, rough chopped
½ cup chopped black olives
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack, Feta or Parmesan cheese

Add first seven ingredients in small bowl. While whisking the vinegar mixture gradually add olive oil until well combined. In medium bowl add tomatoes, cucumber, artichoke hearts, olives and cheese. Drizzle dressing over vegetables and stir until evenly distributed. Chill for at least 20 minutes. Toss again before serving.

*If you use Feta or Parmesan cheese you may need less than 1 tsp of sea salt, since they tend to be stronger flavored cheeses.

Tomato Artichoke Soup

What do you make for a last minute dinner party when you are two days away from moving? Not that this would ever happen to me, but if it did I would open my pantry wide and see what I could find that needs to be used. Oooh! Canned tomatoes! And there is a can of artichoke hearts! There is still some garlic cloves left over? Where did those come from? Chicken broth! Yay! Served along with grilled cheese and egg salad sandwiches we had a wonderful spring dinner with very few leftovers. I did not use cream this time to smooth out the soup’s texture, but if you add ½ to ¾ cup during the last half of the cooking process the soup can only get better. Enjoy! I have to get back to sorting toys before Little B returns home. I found it is a really bad task to try and accomplish with her ‘help’.

Tomato Artichoke Soup

2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 29-ounce can tomato sauce
1 14.5 ounce can whole medium artichoke hearts
1 cup chicken broth
½ medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp finely chopped basil
2 cloves garlic
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except salt into a medium pot over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature and cover, simmering for about an hour. Break up artichoke hearts (I scooped them out one by one with a ladle and gently pushed on them with a soup spoon – they easily separated). Adjust flavor with salt as desired. Serve immediately or chill and reheat on low before serving.

Steamed Artichoke

I was about eight when I first remember eating an artichoke. My parents steamed a few. They set them up on plates with small bowls of mayonnaise and melted butter for dipping. Here I was at the kitchen counter looking at this beautiful, yet also ugly green thing with little spikes on the ends of the leaves. I was supposed to eat it? Mom and dad had a rule about food. You had to try everything. You don’t have to like it – liver, creamed turkey, coconut – but you gotta try it. They showed me and my brother how to hold the prickly end and use our lower front teeth to scrape the meat off the tender end. I fell in love for the very first time. The meat had a gentle flavor, almost overwhelmed by the the dipping options of mayo and butter. The closer to the heart we got the more tender and sweet the meat. Dad then showed us how to carefully scrape off the bristly choke to reveal succulent mouthfuls of the heart. The meat was not very filling and it took a bit of effort to get every bite, but what a treat!

Time warp forward about 12 years. My brother and I are sitting at his kitchen table in Austin. He had cooked about a half dozen artichokes in the back yard smoker. The leaf tips were brown and wrinkled, but the meat inside each leaf was soft, having been tickled with flavor from the smoking process. We spent what must have been hours catching up with each others lives and scraping the meat off every single artichoke leaf. The result was a lovely afternoon, an impressive pile of meat and hearts, and plans to make soup. The soup was simple – with all our efforts of the afternoon, all we had left to do was add garlic, cream and butter, then simmer for a bit. We continued talking while relishing every spoonful of soup. The cream of artichoke soup became yet another fond memory of mine closely tied to food.

Here is a simple method for preparing an artichoke on the stove top and enjoying it with some pleasant conversation. Each bite of artichoke never takes up so much room that you cannot talk with your mouth full!

Steamed Artichoke

1 large or 2 small artichokes
4 – 6 cups water
3 Tbsp plus 1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp plus ½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp mayonnaise

Cut off stem of artichoke just below the leaves until it sits level. Chop off the pointed tip of the artichoke and use kitchen scissors to clip off the tips of the larger, lower, tougher leaves that have pulled away from the artichoke. In a deep pot with steamer basket add the water (it should come right to the bottom of where the steamer basket will sit), 2 Tbsp of the lemon juice, 1 Tbsp of the salt and all the black pepper. Bring water to a boil and add steamer basket, placing artichokes stem down in the basket, and cover. If artichokes cannot stand upright there are two alternatives: 1) they can be steamed laying on the side, but should be flipped half way through cooking, or 2) place the artichoke stem down, but use foil to cover and seal in the steam instead of the pot top. Turn down heat to medium-low, but make sure the water continues to gently boil. Steam for 30 – 45 minutes. You will need less time if the artichokes are smaller. The artichoke is ready when the center of the stem gives easily to a knife.

In a small pot add butter, 1 Tbsp lemon, garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Melt over medium-low heat until butter is melted and bubbly. In a small bowl stir together 1 tsp lemon juice with the mayonnaise. Serve artichokes along with the two dipping sauces.

To eat the artichokes peel off leaves, dip them in your sauce of choice, and use your lower front teeth to scrape meat off then inside of each leaf. It helps to have an empty bowl nearby to collect the leaves when you finish with them. As you get closer to the heart the leaves will become smaller and more tender. You will be able to eat most of the leaf, carefully avoiding the prickly tips. When you finally get to the bristly choke, take a spoon and scrape off the bristles, revealing the heart. Scoop the heart out of the base and cut it into bite-size pieces. Dip and enjoy!

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