Cilantro Parsley Pesto Chicken

I know this bowl of green stuff looks very unassuming and maybe even a little scary.  Let me put you at ease by saying that this may be my favorite new condiment/sauce/dip/very yummy stuff!  It is really easy to make and packs a lot of flavor in one spoonful.  I’ve used it on chicken (as I’ll show below), mixed it into pasta and even spread it on a sandwich.  It just gives anything bland a punch of flavor.

This is not a traditional pesto as there is no basil or pine nuts, or any nuts at all.

The easiest part of this pesto is it’s all made in a blender, without cutting or chopping anything else.  First add in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Wash one bunch each of cilantro and flat leaf parsley.  I know this looks like a lot, but it all gets blended into only about one cup of pesto.

With your bare hands just rip off the tops, stems included.

Poor herbs, they had no idea was was comin’ to ‘em!

Stuff the herbs down into the blender.  Now here’s the hard part, if you have a cheap blender like mine.  Once you start the blender it will blend the bottom half pretty easily, but the herbs toward the top would be blended.  Intermittently stop the blender and push all the leaves down toward the blades.  You can also drizzle more olive oil in slowly as the blender is running.

Here’s the lovely green concoction!

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

My favorite way to use the pesto is on chicken breasts.  I use chicken with bone and skin on.  Lift the skin and with your fingers and rub the pesto onto the meat, and then some more over the skin too.

Roast the chicken in the oven and savor the beautiful herbal flavors of cilantro and parsley in the juicy chicken dish.

Cilantro-Parsley Pesto Chicken

2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro

2 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 large garlic clove, minced

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

6 chicken breasts, bone and skin on

 

Add in oil, garlic, herbs and seasoning to blender.  Pulse blender until blended well. With machine running, add in more oil in a slow, steady stream if needed.

Lift the skin of the chicken and with your fingers and rub the pesto onto the meat, and then some more over the skin too.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or until done.

Stuffed Beef Roll

My great friend, Valeria is an amazing cook!  She is also the queen of making up great recipes with what she has on hand in her fridge and pantry. This is one of her creations and I had to steal it for myself.

Unfortunately, my picture of this tasty stuffed beef roll does not do her recipe justice.  (sorry V!)

Just imagine a meatloaf with salty ham and creamy cheese oozing out of the middle.  Yup, I’m drooling too!!

Use three pounds of good ground beef.

Put all the beef ingredients into a large bowl and combine.

Once everything is combined, split the mixture in half.

Spread one half of the beef mixture onto a sheet of aluminum foil into a square.

Layer on the ham, leaving about 2 inches on the bottom and 3 inches on the top.

Place the slices of cheese on top.

The is the most fun part!  Start by folding up from the bottom.

Keep it rollin’!

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…………

Towards the end, fold down the top and smooth the seam out.

Make sure the ends are nicely sealed up too.

I don’t have pics of the rest of the cooking steps, but I have to imagine it’s because I had a hungry family in the background crying, “Mommy, stop taking pictures and let us eat it already!”  So, there you go.

Stuffed Beef Roll

Beef:

3 pounds ground beef

1 egg

½ cup Italian bread crumbs

¼ cup milk

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

 

Stuffing:

8 slices black forest ham

6 slices cheese (muenster, provolone)

Fresh basil (optional)

Place all the beef ingredients into a bowl and combine well.  Divide in half and spread one half onto a large sheet of aluminum foil, into a 12 inch by 12 inch square.  Layer on the ham and cheese, leaving at least 3 inches at the top of the square.  Fold the bottom edge of the foil up and keep rolling to the top, then fold the top down to seal.  Use your fingers to smooth out the seam and ends.  Repeat the same thing with the second half of the ground beef mixture.

Lay both beef rolls on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until done.

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Shells

These stuffed shells are a cinch to make and bake.  They are also a great make-ahead dinner item.  They can sit in the fridge during the day and just bake them right before dinner time and voila, dinner is ready!

My only problem is that my daughter doesn’t eat anything green.  So her plate ends up with all the cheesy stuffing and the shells are devoured quickly.  That’s why I always cook extra shells just for her.  Can someone please tell me when this perpetual-fear-of-vegetables stage will be over?

Combine the ricotta, spinach, basil, egg, nutmeg and salt and pepper and mix well.

The options are endless as to what you’d like to add to your stuffing…………fresh herbs, bacon, prosciutto, Italian sausage.  You can also substitute the spinach with artichokes or any other vegetable.

If you add a protein, this dish would hit all the food groups; meat group, dairy group, vegetable group, and pasta group.

Here’s the lovely mixture.  I really could just eat this with a spoon………..except for the raw egg part.

Use the jumbo shells.

I always cook extra shells,  for my picky daughter and also because some will break in the boiling process.

Once stuffed, cover with sauce and cheese and bake.  Simple and delicious!

 

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Shells 

24 jumbo pasta shells

1 15-oz. container ricotta

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

10 leaves fresh basil, chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 26-oz. jar spaghetti sauce

 

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cook pasta shells according to package label directions; drain and set aside to cool. While pasta cooks, in a large bowl, stir together ricotta, spinach, basil, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg.

2. Spread 3/4 cup spaghetti sauce over bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Stuff shells with cheese mixture and place in dish. Spoon remaining sauce over shells and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.

3. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake about 10 minutes longer, until bubbly and cheese begins to brown.

Cranberry Chicken

I do realize that I’m using cranberries in a recipe and its not even Thanksgiving!  You do not need to wait for the holidays to make this chicken dish.  It’s great any time of the year.  The sweet and tangy sauce is so easy to make, it’s just 3 ingredients.  I promise.

I served it with steamed rice and roasted brussel sprouts.

Start with one can of whole cranberries.  Not the jelly stuff, you want the whole cranberries in it.

These are the other 2 ingredients.

Pour in half the bottle of French dressing and one packet of onion soup mix and combine.  Just look at those beautiful colors!

I like to use chicken thighs with the bone in.  I’m trying to be a little more health conscious lately, so I removed the skin.  You can keep it on if you you’re feeling frisky.

Pour the sauce all over the chicken, making sure you get the under side too. And bake.

What you’ll get is delectably tender chicken with a creamy sweet and savory sauce that you’ll want to drench your rice in.  Then you’ll want more rice for the sauce that’s left on your plate.  Then you’ll want more sauce for the extra rice that you got.  It’s a vicious cycle!  But so worth it.

Cranberry Chicken

1 can whole cranberries

½ bottle French dressing

1 packet onion soup mix

8-10 chicken thighs

 

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl .  Place the chicken thighs in a 9×13 pan.  Pour the cranberry mixture evenly over the chicken.  Make sure to coat the bottom of the chicken as well.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done.

You will definitely want to serve this with rice to sop up all the great sauce.

Italian Bruschetta Sandwich

This whole sandwich was made from leftovers of an Italian dinner date at home with my hubby.  The sandwich is the perfect package when it comes to packing in lots of flavor all in one bite.  It was so very true in this instance.

Here I have layers of creamy cheese and avocado, salty Italian deli meats, and the bruschetta provides the tang from the balsamic vinegar and freshness of basil.

I layered a piece of whole wheat bread with goat’s milk cheese, capicola, salame and my homemade tomato bruschetta (which I’ve posted before).

And then I topped it all off with avocado slices.  Why?  Because everything tastes better with avocado.  I used hass avocados because that’s what we have most of in Southern California and because I think it has the best flavor.

I didn’t provide a recipe because the pictures are pretty self-explanatory and because this post was mostly to get you thinking about putting anything into a sandwich that you might want.  There are NO RULES when it comes to sandwiches, am I right?!

The Best Roast Chicken

I have roasted many a chicken in my time and this is by far the best way I like it.  The chicken comes out crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  The lovely bed of vegetables it sits on absorb all the chicken juices and it’s just a delectable meal, all in one pan.

I beg of you, make this tonight!  You can’t go wrong with roast chicken.

Start off with a large roasting pan, glass or metal will work.  I rough chop red potatoes, carrots, fennel, and onion.  You can substitute your favorite root vegetables, but my family loves this combination.

Then pour on some olive oil to coat well, salt and pepper and the leaves of 5 sprigs of thyme.  The combination of fennel and thyme is to die for!

The lemon wedges and thyme are for stuffing the chicken.  It gives the chicken a wonderful aroma from the inside out.

One of the most important things when roasting chicken is trussing it.  That just means that you need to get all the limbs tight and secure around the body of the chicken so that it cooks evenly.  I’m sure you’ve bought one of those Costco or grocery store chickens all bound with string.  There’s a good reason for it!

Here’s my favorite trick for trussing a chicken the lazy way.  Hey a girl needs some shortcuts sometimes!  Besides, I don’t like fumbling around tying up my chicken with kitchen twine.  I mean, the poor thing’s been through enough already, don’t you think?!

Start by tucking the wing tips into the chicken’s armpit.

Next, use kitchen scissors or a knife and carefully snip a hole in the flap of skin near the chicken butt.  Tuck the left drumstick through the hole of the flap of skin on the right side.  Then do the same with the right drumstick.


When you are done, it should look like this.  Each drumstick is tucked through the flap of skin and secured tightly to the body of the chicken.  Give the chicken a good rub down with olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

The Best Roast Chicken

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch fresh thyme

1 lemon, quartered

1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced

4 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks

4 red potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks

2 bulbs of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme and lemon. Reserve 5 sprigs of thyme for the vegetables.  Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck the legs into the skin flaps and tuck the wing tips under the body. Place the onions, carrots, potatoes and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 5 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

Pot Roast, It’s What’s For Dinner

I must admit, this is not the prettiest plate of food I’ve ever made, but comfort food doesn’t have to look good.  It tastes so good, it doesn’t even matter.  I’m sure a French culinary chef would disagree with me, but I’m not French or a chef so there you go…….

This is the kind of meal you wanna come home to when you’re cold, tired and just want some good down-home food in your belly.

Start with salt and peppering your hunka meat (chuck roast in layman’s terms) and then browning it in a dutch oven.

Throw in the onions and get a good char on them.

Pull our your onions and throw in your cut carrots.

When all the vegetable are done, pour in your liquids and give your pot a good whisking.  Make sure to release all the crusty goodness on the bottom of the pot.  I actually used chicken stock because I didn’t have beef broth on hand.  Look at the color the chicken stock turned just from the whisking!

Put your hunka meat back in the pot and throw the vegetables on top.  Place your fresh rosemary and thyme on top and bring the whole thing to a boil.  Put the lid on the pot and place the whole thing in the oven.  The key to really amazing pot roast is “low and slow.”  This will cook at 275 degrees for about 3-4 hours.  You’ll want to check on it half way through to move some of the veggies around.

In that 3-4 hours time, your whole house will be perfumed with the tantalizing smell of the most amazing pot roast you’ll ever have.  Don’t be surprised if you get a few dogs showing up at your door too!  They follow their noses, ya know.

Pot Roast

From Pioneer Woman

1 whole (4 To 5 Pounds) Chuck Roast

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 whole Onions

6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)

Salt To Taste

Pepper To Taste

1 cup Red Wine

2 cups Beef Stock

3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste

3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste

First and foremost, choose a nicely marbled piece of meat. This will enhance the flavor of your pot roast like nothing else. Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can do a butter/olive oil split).

Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.

Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up.

When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

Chicken Cacciatore

I just learned that cacciatore means hunter in Italian.  So this dish, is chicken made in the “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions and herbs.  I served it here with creamy parmesan polenta.

I think that driving to the grocery store in my SUV and picking out a package of raw chicken thighs to bring home could be a form of hunting.  Okay, I know it’s a stretch, but none the less I managed to get meat into my kitchen and prepare it for my family, as a hunter would have done.  And boy was it tasty!

Start by browning the chicken thighs.

In the same pan, add the vegetable and cook until soft.

Add in the tomatoes, capers and wine.

Reduce and add the chicken back in to finish cooking and for all the flavors to marry.

I deeply implore you to try this with creamy polenta.  The flavors just sing together.  The creaminess helps to balance the acid of the tomatoes and capers in the chicken.  You will call this a new favorite, I just know it.

And when you serve this to your family,  make sure that they appreciate the fact that you “hunted” for the meat and prepared for them a delicious home-cooked meal with your bare hands!

Chicken Cacciatore

Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

 

8 chicken thighs

2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons drained capers

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves

 

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the bell peppers, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce.

Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken.

Beef and Bean Burritos

Have I mentioned that my daughter (who is half Chinese) does NOT like Chinese food?!  Nooooo, her favorite food is Mexican.  I guess that goes well with her spicy personality.  This was a definite treat for her and she loved every bite.

What’s not to love?  Creamy refried beans and seasoned ground beef all wrapped up in a flour tortilla, dripping with enchilada sauce and melted cheese.  THIS Chinese girl likes Mexican too!

I added a side salad of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes to cool down the palate.  A dollop of sour cream would have been even better, but we ran out of it, so there you go!

Start with browning your ground beef with minced onions.  Add seasonings too.

Microwave one can of refried beans with some cheese and smear it on a warmed flour tortilla.

Spoon over the lovely meat mixture.

And fold in the sides.

But you should definitely use two hands, unless you’re bored and want to give yourself a challenge.  My other hand was holding the camera (of course).

Then up like this.

And lay it fold-side down.

Get them all into a 9×13 pan and pour on the enchilada sauce.

Let the cheese rain down!

Put it under the broiler for a few minutes for the cheese to melt and call your family to the table for this easy and tasty meal.

This would be a simple make ahead meal too.  Just leave the cheese off and store in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it up.  When everything is warmed through, toss on the cheese and broil it up.

Beef and Bean Burritos

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

 

2 pounds Ground Beef

1/2 whole Medium Onion

1 can (28 oz) Enchilada Sauce

Salt And Pepper, to taste

Cumin, Oregano, Chili Powder, Garlic To Taste

1 can (28 Ounce) Refried Beans

3/4 cups Grated Cheddar Cheese

12 whole Flour Tortillas

Extra Grated Cheese, For Sprinkling

Extra Sauce, For Drizzling

Cilantro Leaves, Optional

Optional Filling Ingredients: Mexican Rice, Sour Cream, Guacamole, Green Chilies, Pico De Gallo

 

Brown ground beef with onion and season to taste. Pour in sauce and simmer over low heat. Add water if mixture gets too dry.

Heat refried beans in a microwave. Add cheese and stir in till melted. Keep warm.

Heat tortillas in microwave for one minute.

Spread a small amount of beans on each tortilla. Add meat. Fold over ends, then roll up. Place the burritos in a 9×13 pan. Pour red sauce over the top and sprinkle with more grated cheddar.  Broil in oven until cheese is melted and burritos are hot. Serve immediately.

Farfalle Pasta Salad

I had a version of this pasta salad for the first time at my monthly scrapbooking club get-together.  My friend Tina is known in our group for her pasta salad.  That night I think all the ladies talked more about this pasta salad than we did scrapbooking, or anything else for that matter.

This is a very pretty dish with lots of color and texture.  It’s also great because you can serve it cold or at room temperature.  This would be great at your next church potluck too!!  Just saying……..

Tina’s original version does not include the use of meat, but since this pasta salad was the main dish I was serving to my family for dinner, I had to throw in some protein.  Here I have salami, turkey and ham.

Dice up the colby jack cheese.

Here is the farfalle pasta all cooled down and tossed in the creamy sauce.

My Italian friend told me that farfalle actually means butterfly, not bow-tie.  I had no idea for all those years.

So here’s the butterfly pasta!

Add in the cilantro and fresh tomatoes for freshness.  In this pasta are also black beans, sweet corn, shredded carrots and black olives but I forgot to snap some shots of that.  Please forgive me, thanks!

Farfalle Pasta Salad

 

12 oz box farfalle (bowtie) pasta

1 can sweet corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1 can black olives , drained

1 cup ham, cubed

1 cup turkey, cubed

1 cup salami, cubed

1 cup cheese, cubed

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 carrot, shredded

 

Dressing:

4 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1 envelope of Italian dressing

3 cloves pressed garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

 

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente, drain and cool.  Meanwhile, combine the dressing ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the noodles once they have cooled off some and then toss.  Add remaining ingredients.  Allow pasta salad to sit for one hour refrigerated for flavors to marry.