Chicken Salad in Braided Bread Bowls

Salad season is upon us! Salads very often are misunderstood … an afterthought. A salad can be an amazing meal of various flavors and textures.

Funny how trends always have a way of coming back. You probably remember those unique bread bowl salads from the 90’s. They were huge, filled with all kinds of ‘goodies’ and loads of salad dressing. They looked so pretty, like having a dinner table decoration you could eat.

When you think about it, bread bowls can be and have been, used in a variety of ways. During the colder months for hearty soups and stews and in the spring or summer for salads, dips etc. A bread bowl moves the meal from humdrum to unique. Of course, whether you use a solid or a weaved bowl will dictate your filling.

I’ve always thought main course salads, especially during the summer months, were great. No turning on the oven (unless you make a bread bowl), easy to prepare, gorgeous to look at and a fabulous taste. Main course salad can have anything in it you like, there is no wrong way to make one.

To keep it simple today, I’m making my bread bowls from refrigerated pizza dough. The salad turned out to be a bit more time consuming but well worth it.

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Chicken Salad in Braided Bread Bowls
Instructions
Braided Bread Bowl
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside Spray the outside of a medium-sized metal bowl generously with cooking spray or wrap with foil. Unroll pizza dough & slice lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips.
  2. On a work surface covered with parchment paper, lay out pizza dough strips so they sit about 3/4-inch apart. Beginning in the center of the strips, weave the second half of the pizza strips in and out to create a basket base. Make sure to reserve a few strips for the braid at the top of your bread bowl.
  3. Using the parchment paper, gently flip the weaved bread dough over the inverted prepared metal bowl on the lined baking sheet. Take the remaining dough strips, braid them together, then drape along the bottom to give a nice design on the top of your basket. Repeat with 2 pizza crust dough for the second basket. Brush the entire surface of the baskets with melted butter.
  4. Bake for 18-23 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven & cool completely before gently removing bread bowls from the metal bowls.
Salad
  1. Whisk together dressing/marinade ingredients. Pour half the marinade into a shallow dish to marinade chicken fillets for 2 hours at least. Refrigerate other half of marinade to use as dressing.
  2. In a non-stick skillet, heat a teaspoon of oil & grill chicken fillets on each side until golden, crispy & cooked through. Once chicken is grilled, set aside to cool. Wipe pan with a paper towel; drizzle with another teaspoon of oil & fry bacon until crisp. Blot on paper towel after frying & crumble.
  3. Slice chicken into strips & prepare other vegetables. Make a 'nest' of torn Romaine in bread bowl. Arrange other ingredients on top. Whisk 2 Tbsp of water into remaining reserved dressing/marinade & drizzle over salad. Top with crumbled bacon & season with salt & cracked pepper to taste.

Spicy Chicken, Bacon & Avocado Pizza

Ever since I made pizza with yeasted potato crust it has become a staple in our meal rotation list. It seems like all it takes to come up with an amazing filling combo is just a little inspiration so the influence of flavors Brion and I tasted in Mexico became a natural choice for me.

Although avocado on pizza may sound weird, if you are a guacamole lover, its glorious. When you think about it, tomato or tomato sauce is a big part of pizza most of the time. Often guacamole is made with tomato, so it compliments pizza well. I used all the ingredients you would normally fit into a tortilla for toppings. Spicy chicken, bacon, avocado, onion, tomato, cheese and GUACAMOLE!

When I make guacamole for pizza, I like to keep it simple: mashed avocados, onion, garlic, lime juice, salt and cilantro. Another thing I found, was that any left over pieces can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag and frozen. When you want to use them, thaw at room temperature then heat slightly in the microwave. Most often pizza is frozen unbaked and needs assembly and baking. This pizza tasted just as good as when it was freshly baked!

Print Recipe
Spicy Chicken, Bacon & Avocado Pizza
Instructions
Pizza Dough
  1. Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. Combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
  2. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Chicken Marinade
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine all ingredients. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
Guacamole
  1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados with lime juice & salt. Stir in garlic, onion & cilantro. Blend well. Cover & set aside until ready to use. You will have extra for something else.
Pizza Topping Prep
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until fairly crisp, drain on paper towels & chop coarsely. Wipe skillet with paper towel. Add marinated chicken, stir-fry until cooked then remove to a dish. Add peppers & onion to skillet; sauteing until tender crisp.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer with paper to a baking sheet.
  2. Using some grated cheese, make a ring around the outer edge of the dough. Roll dough once over cheese ring. Carefully spread the 1/2 cup of guacamole over the bottom of pizza, then sprinkle with a bit more cheese. Layer with avocado slices, onion, bacon, chicken, tomato & remaining cheese. If you prefer, brush to top of the outside ring with egg wash.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, Remove from oven & slice.
Recipe Notes
  • You may choose to prepare your marinated chicken & guacamole before you start making the dough.

Bacon Weave Stuffed Chicken Breast

This week we celebrate my husband, Brion’s birthday. Since we have never felt the need to mark such occasions by giving gifts, we would rather just make some memories together. In January of this year (2019), we enjoyed a wonderful vacation in Merida, Mexico. Known for its rich history in Maya culture and tradition, Merida is also the capital of the Yucatan.

Although referred to as a colonial city, Merida has distinguished itself from other cities in Mexico by having something that can only be seen in its originality in the state of Yucatan, even more in Merida. The ‘you & me’ chairs or the ‘sillas tu y yo’, bring unique quality to this beautiful city. These chairs can be seen all around Merida. When you sit down you are facing the other person. The origin of these chairs is unclear. Popular legend has it that an over-protective father in Merida created this chair design so when his daughter was with her boyfriend they could talk comfortably without having to sit next to each other. The chairs have become part of the city’s culture and individuality.

We had such a great time and felt wonderfully safe during our stay. As I mentioned in a blog from February (2019), one of Brion’s ‘bucket list’ items was to visit Chichen Itza. It was amazing!

As always, Brion had done a great deal of research on the area before we went. I am always grateful for the ‘flawless’ vacations we have enjoyed over the years due to his careful planning.

THANKS FOR BEING THE SPECIAL PERSON YOU ARE!

BIRTHDAY WISHES, TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE

Print Recipe
Bacon Weave Stuffed Chicken Breast
Instructions
Avocado Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine avocado filling ingredients. Set aside until chicken is ready to stuff.
Meat Preparation
  1. Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, carefully pound chicken breasts until an even 1/2-inch thickness. On 2 large sheets of plastic wrap, prepare a bacon 'weave' square for each chicken breast. Place 3 strips of bacon perpendicular to you. Weave 3 more strips parallel to you by folding down alternating strips (no different than a lattice weave pastry crust).
  2. Divide avocado filling between the 2 flattened chicken breasts. Using plastic wrap, roll both bacon & chicken together to form a 'parcel'. Tuck in any loose bacon ends & secure with toothpicks.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a heavy oven-safe skillet, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Sear the bacon wrapped chicken on both sides for a few minutes. Cover pan with foil & place in oven for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 F on an oven thermometer.

Potato Crusted Asiago Sausage Pizza

The customization of pizza crust has undoubtedly been one of the biggest innovations in the (pizza) industry. The crust you choose to make helps to dictate taste, texture, thickness and your selection of toppings.

Pizza has taken on many different forms since its original inception — especially when it comes to the crust. For example:

Thin Crust is characterized by its light, slightly crispy texture. This is the perfect crust for those who want an authentic Italian pizza.

Thick Crust is characterized by its buttery, pan fried taste and texture on the outside, with a soft chewy center.

Flatbread Crust – health conscious people feel less guilty about eating this pizza because it isn’t as filling as other crust types.

Focaccia is a thick, ‘bready’ dough infused with herbs and brushed with olive oil before baking, then covered with cheeses, herbs and spices and minimal toppings.

Wood Fired Crust – it’s characteristics are defined by their deep, smoky taste derived from using real wood to heat the baking oven.

There are endless ways you can create a custom crust for your pizza. Such as using pita bread, English muffins, rice cakes, tortillas, potato slices or chips. I experimented with making a yeast crust with mashed potatoes and sour cream in it. Without trying to sound boastful, it was probably the best pizza crust I had ever made to date. I think I nailed it!

Print Recipe
Potato Crusted Asiago Sausage Pizza
Instructions
Potato Pizza Crust
  1. Prepare mashed potato. In a dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. In a large bowl, combine butter, salt, sour cream & mashed potato; mix well. Add yeast mixture & stir again.
  2. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Dijon Mustard Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, saute garlic in butter until tender but not brown. Stir in flour, mustard & crushed thyme. Season with salt & pepper; add broth & cook, stirring until thick & bubbly. Continue to cook 1 more minute the remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Pizza Fillings
  1. In a skillet, saute red pepper & onion until soft; remove to a dish. In the same skillet, scramble fry sausage meat until cooked; drain on paper towel, set aside. Drain, sliced olives & grate cheese.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove risen dough from bowl turning onto a large sheet of parchment paper. Press or roll dough into a 16-inch circle. Using some of the grated cheese, make a ring around the outer edge, & fold over to make a 'stuffed crust'.
  2. Carefully spread mustard sauce over bottom of pizza, then sprinkle with another portion of grated cheese mixture. Layer with red peppers, onions, sausage meat & olives. Top with remaining cheese.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from oven & slice.

Coquilles St. Jacques

Today, July 25th is my sister Loretta’s birthday. The sibling bond is thought to be one of the most important and longest relationships in our lives. No other peer relationship involves a shared upbringing, shared genes and shared secrets. In childhood, an older sister is an admirable guide to the adolescent world. As we grow older, it is so wonderful to be able to reminisce about events or times you both recall even though to everyone else they are boring. Life events often change the dynamics of many sibling relationships. Thank you, Loretta for being such an amazing sister who has enriched my life in too many ways to count.

I chose this meal for today’s blog not only because Loretta is a seafood lover but from what I have read, it is also ‘St James Day’.

It seems, when you look for any food history that surrounds this meal there isn’t a lot available. The most repeated story is that a knight was saved from drowning by St. James. The knight emerged from the water covered with shells. Coquille St. Jacques translates as the shell of St. James with the origin dating back to the Middle ages.

Classically served in a scallop shell, this special dish consisted of scallops in a creamy wine sauce, topped with breadcrumbs or cheese and browned under a broiler. Scallops, because of their delicate, subtle nature, make a fine marriage with any number of foods and seasonings.

For our meal (in Loretta’s honor), I have used a seafood blend, mashed potatoes and a Gruyere/Parmesan topping. I wish you were here Loretta, to enjoy it with us.

OUR FAMILY CELEBRATES YOU WITH LOVE & AFFECTION ON YOUR DAY!

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Coquilles St. Jacques
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Mashed Potatoes
  1. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until fork tender. Drain & transfer to a bowl; add butter, milk, salt & pepper. Using a hand mixer, whip potatoes, cover & set aside.
Sauce
  1. Drizzle a tiny bit of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt & pepper & cook until tender-crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour & whisk until well combined with onions & garlic. Pour the milk slowly while whisking constantly, making short pauses from time to time to whisk until sauce becomes nice & smooth, then start pouring again. Once the milk has been added, whisk in the Dijon mustard, basil paste, dried dill & parsley. Stir in clams & set aside.
Seafood
  1. Drizzle a medium saucepan with a bit of olive oil. Saute mushrooms until liquid evaporates, set aside. Add a few more drops of olive oil to the saucepan, add the scallops & cook without moving for about 1 minute. Flip the scallops over & continue cooking until they form a nice crust on that side. Remove from pan & set aside.
  2. Add the shrimp to the pan & quickly saute them until they just turn pink & opaque, not much more than a minute. Remove from pan & set aside. Add the salmon to the pan & cook until it just turns opaque, about a minute or two. Add the salmon to the reserved sauce & stir in. Set aside.
Topping
  1. Grate cheese & place in a small dish. Add Panko breadcrumbs, parsley & melted butter. Combine well.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place Place a scallop in the center of each individual oven safe shell; surround with four of the shrimp. Cover with sauce, dividing it equally between each shell. Give the potatoes a quick stir & place them in a large pastry bag equipped with a star tip. Pipe a border around the filling; sprinkle topping mix over filling. Place in oven for about 15-20 minutes until golden & bubbly. Serve immediately. Nice to serve with garlic bread.

Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce

This pairing of pork, corn tortillas and guava brings me back to some of the flavors we tasted on our adventures in both Cuba and Mexico.

Pulled pork sounds like a lot of work but it simply comes down to a gentle, slow cooking process so it can be literally ‘pulled apart’ when finished. Pork shoulder is the most commonly used joint. The long cooking could dry out some cuts but shoulder is quite a fatty joint, therefore providing a natural baste. During the cooking period, most of the fat will dissolve but most importantly its this long cooking process that breaks down the tough fibrous connective tissue called collagen that tenderizes the meat making it so easy to pull apart. Although smokers are very often used, slow cookers or even traditional ovens will do the job nicely.

When the pork is finally done, it needs to rest for 10 minutes and then it should be ready for pulling apart. Use two forks to shred the meat and you’ve got it! This meal not only has great eye appeal, but the taste is wonderful!

Print Recipe
Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce
Instructions
Dry Rub for Pork Shoulder
  1. Drizzle pork with 2 Tbsp of oil; sprinkle with spices & orange zest & rub into meat. Season with salt & pepper. Place in a plastic bag & refrigerate overnight (about 24 hours).
  2. Bring meat to room temperature. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place meat in a roasting pan & bake until thickest part registers 170 F. on a meat thermometer. Basically, roast until it's falling apart. Remove roast from oven & transfer to a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, take 2 forks & 'pull' the meat to form shreds. Keep warm until ready to assemble tortillas.
Orange Guava Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender. Add water (or wine), frozen orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, spices & cubed guava paste. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat slightly & continue to boil gently until mixture reduces slightly. In a cup, combine cornstarch & water & add to sauce continuing to cook about 2-3 minutes more. Taste to see if any spice adjustments are needed.
To Assemble
  1. During the roasting time of the meat, prepare avocados, red onion, cilantro leaves, lime wedges. Drain canned black beans (if using) so they are ready to warm at serving time.
  2. When everything is ready, lay out warm tortillas, top with pulled pork, avocado slices, black beans, red onion, cilantro & drizzle with warm orange guava sauce. Fold or roll tortilla & enjoy!
Recipe Notes
  • If you would rather not have the corn tortillas, cook some rice to serve with pulled pork. Spoon sauce over the meat & serve it with the sliced avocados, red onion & black beans.

Bacon Meatball Stuffed Onions

I think sometimes there’s a slight misconception that the main focus of the meal can’t be made using vegetables. A humble vegetable can turn into a gourmet meal with just a little stuffing.

Onions are the ‘workhorses’ of the kitchen and the foundation of so many dishes across the globe. Sometimes its easy to forget how delicious they really are. We tend to under value anything we have perennial access to. As far as red, white and yellow onions, they are generally interchangeable.

Yellow are the driest, good for long cooking. Red onions are faintly sweeter, good for caramelization and when you need a boost in color. White onions are highest in water content and the mildest, good choice for a raw garnish. When it comes to stuffing onions, all three will work.

Because of their layered structure, onions are really easy to hollow out with a spoon. Just keep spooning until you have a good sized cavity. To make use of the onion pulp, I chopped it and then froze it for uses later on. I preferred to bake these stuffed onions but they can also be cooked on the BBQ as well. Great little sweet/savory summer meal!

Print Recipe
Bacon Meatball Stuffed Onions
Instructions
  1. Cut off the tops & bottoms of the onions & remove the exterior skin. With a spoon, hollow out onions to within about 2-3 outer layers. Set aside. Chop onion pulp & freeze for other uses later.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, parsley, mushrooms, bread crumbs & all of the spices. Mix well with your hands. Preheat oven to 425 F. Stuff onions with meat mixture; wrap the onion meatballs with 3 strips of bacon each. Secure bacon with toothpicks to keep it from unraveling during cooking.
  3. Place in a baking dish & bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven & serve with BBQ sauce. Onions can be cut in half to make 4 servings if you wish after baking them.

Baked Seafood Stuffed Avocados

Very often when you browse through ideas for preparing avocados the comment is made that they should never be cooked. Avocados are most often eaten raw, chopped up in a salad, spread on toast or made into guacamole. This is usually because they can very quickly become bitter once heated. However, if cooked just right, they are delicious.

Roasting avocados is more of an art than a science. If you choose to roast slices, adding some oil, garlic or chili powder with a little salt and pepper helps to draw out the natural flavor. If you want to slice them in half and remove the seed, you can add any number of fillings. Just bake and enjoy, knowing that the flesh just next to the skin, is the most nutritious part of the fruit.

These crab and shrimp filled avocados make an extraordinary Sunday or special occasion brunch entree. If you like avocados and seafood, this one’s for you!

Print Recipe
Baked Seafood Stuffed Avocados
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice & pit avocados. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients; mix well.
  2. Spoon the mixture equally on top of each avocado half. Place in a glass 9 X 13-inch baking dish or 4 individual servings dishes. Make sure your avocados will not tip over during baking time. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked. Serve immediately.

Beef Burgers with Apricot/ Pistachio Chutney

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!

Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. More importantly this date celebrates the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867.

On July 1st, from coast to coast, the country’s birthday is highlighted with colorful parades, concerts, carnivals, festivals and firework displays.

Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event as summer entertaining is all about laid-back get together’s. Easy food prep is the name of the game!

For our Canada Day barbecue, it had to be special so here’s what developed—

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Beef Burgers with Apricot/ Pistachio Chutney
Instructions
Chutney
  1. In a skillet, saute shallots without browning. Add apricots, honey & apricot nectar. Simmer until liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool at room temperature, then stir in the pistachios & a dash of vinegar. Refrigerate.
Burgers
  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers. Shape into 4 patties & refrigerate.
  2. Preheat the barbecue to high & when the grill is hot, place patties on the grill & sear on both sides, making sure not to turn them too soon. When burgers are well marked & can be lifted off the grill easily, remove them to another part of the barbecue where the heat has been reduced & let them finish cooking undisturbed.
  3. While burgers are finishing, brush mushroom caps with oil & grill on both sides until done. Set them aside. Turn off one of the burners, place the burgers on that part of the grill & top each with a slice of cheese. Close the lid for a few minutes & cook over indirect heat until cheese is melted.
  4. Serve on warmed or toasted ciabatta buns. Top each burger with a mushroom cap, a generous spoonful of chutney & some cucumber slices.

Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones

What to call it — an omelette, frittata or quiche? While this trinity of brunch egg dishes all contain eggs, the preparation methods vary. All are delicious but here’s what defines them.

The traditional French omelette contains eggs, a splash of water and a pinch of salt and pepper. The briskly whipped eggs are cooked in clarified butter then turned out of the pan when still a little custardy and unset. These (colorless) omelettes are rolled up like a business letter and served with only a few herbs. In North America, we seem to want to ‘clean out the fridge’ so to speak, adding just about anything and everything. This version is cooked until mostly dry on top and golden on the bottom. As a rule, they are folded over once, then served.

Frittatas are generally thicker than omelettes. The ingredients are mixed in, instead of sprinkled on. While started on the stove, sometimes they are finished under the broiler then served in slices like a pie.

Quiche, on the other hand, is a savory custard baked in a pastry crust or a potato crust. Quiche gets its richness from the addition of whole milk, half & half or even heavy cream. Just to add another twist to the mix — enter the ‘crustless quiche-omelette’.

This particular meal at our house, was one of those ‘clean out the fridge’ ideas that turned out absolutely wonderful. I had posted the salmon/dill scones on a blog a number of years ago. They made an ideal compliment for this meal.

Print Recipe
Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones
Instructions
Baked Omelette
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep pie plate with cooking spray.
  2. In a skillet, saute bacon until cooked but not real crisp; dry on paper towel & crumble. Add onions, mushrooms & garlic to skillet, sauteing in bacon drippings until tender crisp. Chop tomato & 1 avocado. Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt & pepper. Add all prepared ingredients; gently stir.
  3. Pour mixture into pie plate distributing evenly. Bake 35-40 minutes, rotating once half way through. Let omelette cool for 5 minutes. Top with remaining sliced avocado & serve.
Salmon/Dill Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners. In a bowl, mix together flour & baking powder. Add grated cheese, smoked salmon & dill. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk & oil.
  2. Place half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir well. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients & mix until completely combined. Spoon into paper liners until each is filled halfway, then place a heaping tsp of cream cheese in the middle of each scone. Divide the rest of the batter between the 8 cups.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan & continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until scones are just browning on top & test done.