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
Bacon Weave Stuffed Chicken Breast
In a small bowl, combine avocado filling ingredients. Set aside until chicken is ready to stuff.
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).
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.
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.
That great little cherry tree of ours just keeps on giving. Since we have a water fountain in our yard, the birds are definitely around but there seems to be well enough cherries for them and us. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, this fruit is not the sweetness of the well-known Bing cherry but more a semi-sweet flavor. It is just perfect for baking, jams, jellies or in a cherry liqueur.
Over the years, I have come to really enjoy the flavor of chutneys. I realize it gets a little murky when you bring up the subject of salsa, relish or chutneys. Here’s a mini clarification just for interest.
Salsa is usually mixtures of raw vegetables and/or fruits. Sometimes they contain onions, herbs and chili peppers or with just fruit and various seasonings.
Relish has the ingredients usually cut finer and are cooked with a good quantity of sweetness.
Chutney is almost always cooked and can contain fruit and vegetables. They most often are made with aromatics like ginger root, cinnamon, cloves, chilies and herbs.
All are served cold or at room temperature. Their uses are endless such as an accompaniment to grilled foods, fillings in burritos, toppings for salads or served with cheese, corn chips, pitas or crisp breads.
The flavor and gorgeous color of the cherries made a real nice chutney for these grilled chicken breasts.
We thought it might be nice to share some of the seasonal beauty we enjoyed in our yard this season. I hope you will enjoy looking at our pics. You can also view them in a larger size by going to our Facebook site: Good Food And Treasured Memories.
Grilled Chicken Breast with Fresh Cherry Chutney
In a saucepan, combine cherries, red onion, basil, balsamic vinegar, honey & salt. Bring to a gentle simmer & cook for about 3-5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch/juice mixture & simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat & set aside.
Between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, gently pound chicken breasts to uniform thickness. Brush both sides of breasts with olive oil; season with salt & pepper. Grill on BBQ or in a saucepan on the stove until nicely browned on each side & cooked through. Serve with Cherry Chutney.
This week we are celebrating Brion’s birthday. We have never felt the need to give gifts on ‘occasions’ but rather just enjoy another holiday travelling together or ‘gift’ each other at random. As we grow older, it comes clearer everyday, the special privilege it is to simply have each other to share life with. I appreciate the fact that Brion has always believed in me and supported my endeavors and I’ll be forever grateful for the love we share. This picture of Brion was taken in Havana, Cuba this year along the beautiful seawall.
THANK YOU FOR BEING THE SPECIAL PERSON YOU ARE!
BIRTHDAY WISHES, WITH LOVE
Pineapple Chicken over Wild Rice
Preheat oven to 450 F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Trim chicken, rinse & pat dry; season with salt & pepper. Place the chicken in pan, not overlapping.
Drain pineapple chunks, reserving 1/2 cup of the juice. In a saucepan, whisk together juice, honey, ginger, vinegar & soy sauce. Place over medium heat & simmer, whisking often until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in the water; whisk into the pineapple/honey sauce.
Place the pineapple chunks on top of chicken; pour pineapple/honey sauce over all & sprinkle with the almonds. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken registers 165 F.
The true origin of sun-dried tomatoes is unclear. Italians originally dried salted tomatoes on their ceramic roof tops in the summer sun. This process removes all the water content, resulting in the tomatoes becoming richer in color and taste with more concentrated minerals and vitamins. On the other hand, it is possible to oven dry tomatoes but the difference in taste is enormous. The fast drying process will not allow the natural acidity of the tomatoes to disappear, giving them a sharp acidic after taste. True sun-dried tomatoes have a sweet taste from beginning to the end.
The popularity of sun-dried tomatoes in North America surged in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s. At that time they were classed as a gourmet ingredient found only in the specialty isle of the grocery store. Today that is no longer the case. Their very unique flavor pairs well with a variety of dishes making them staples in our everyday cooking. My choice today, is to use them in stuffing for chicken breast.
Sun-dried Tomato Parmesan Chicken Breast
In a small bowl, combine all stuffing ingredients. Make a pocket in the center of each chicken breast, divide stuffing mixture between them. Close with a toothpick or small wooden skewer.
On a sheet of aluminum foil, place chicken breasts. If you have extra stuffing, place it around the breasts. Bake for 60 minutes. If necessary 'float' a piece of foil over top chicken if it is browning to fast.
Kumquats are believed to have originated in China with their earliest historical mention being around the 12th century. Orange in color, this small bite-sized fruit can be eaten skin and all. The peel is the sweetest part of the fruit and the sourness comes from the pulp, seeds and juice.
Unlike it’s citrus kin, kumquats are able to withstand low temperatures and frost. A small evergreen shrub that can also be hydrophytic, which means they can grow in aquatic environments, and the fruits will drift towards the shore during harvest season. Kumquats are in season January thru April.
Commonly cultivated in Asia, the Middle East, parts of Europe and the southern United States. They can be used in every imaginable combination including pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, salsa and vinaigrette. My choice today is in a stuffing for chicken breast. The combination of kumquats and orange tastes very unique.
Kumquat & Walnut Stuffed Chicken Breast
Wash & chop kumquats (do not peel). In a small bowl, combine with walnuts, onion & pepper.
Between two pieces of plastic wrap, pound chicken breasts to an even thickness. Spoon half of the filling on each breast. Fold over to encase filling; secure with picks if necessary. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Set out 3 shallow dishes. In one combine bread crumbs, orange zest & parsley; fill another with orange juice & in third beat the egg with water. Dip each stuffed breast carefully in orange juice, then in bread crumb mixture to coat, then in beaten egg & again in bread crumbs. Place coated breasts, seam side down, on a lightly buttered baking pan. Drizzle with melted butter.
Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover & bake 10 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Today, November 23rd, our American neighbors are celebrating their Thanksgiving Day. A public holiday, originating as the ‘harvest festival’, is now celebrated along with Christmas and New Year as part of the broader ‘holiday season’.
Here in Canada, our Thanksgiving was celebrated on October 9th. Generally at the heart of this feast is a roast turkey with all the trimmings. I thought I would get a little more creative today and break with tradition as well as giving an acknowledgement to the US holiday.
BACON WRAPPED, GUACAMOLE STUFFED CHICKEN BREAST seems like an interesting idea. Guacamole, an unlikely stuffing for chicken breast as it usually served as a cold tortilla chip dip. It’s one of those taste ‘sensations’ you have to taste to believe. Of course, you have to start with liking avocados —
As history tells us, the Aztec empire created guacamole spread with some of the same ingredients that we use today as far back as the 1500’s. Published recipes first started appearing in the 1940’s.
Along with the guacamole, I used some smoked Gouda cheese in these little delicacies. I was careful not to add any salt in the guacamole. Between the bacon and the Gouda, I felt it had enough for our liking. The meal makes a nice presentation as well as having a great taste.
Bacon Wrapped, Guacamole Stuffed Chicken Breast
Tender chicken breast stuffed with creamy guacamole & Gouda cheese all wrapped in crispy bacon!
Mash avocado with a fork, leaving some chunks. Mince onion & coarsely chop sun-dried tomato pieces. Combine all guacamole ingredients to blend.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut a slit into the center of each chicken breast to make a pocket. Lay breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap & pound flat to about a 1/4-inch thickness. On cut side of breasts, lay sliced Gouda cheese. Divide guacamole between breasts; roll up chicken breasts & wrap each one in two strips of bacon. Make sure bacon ends are all on one side. Use toothpicks to ensure all stays in one piece.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked & bacon gets nice & crispy.
Stuffing chicken breast with a pate is not a new idea but it’s not one I have made use of too often. Pate always seemed to me, it was kind of an upscale thing you would serve at cocktail parties. Over the years, I have probably made more than my share of liver, salmon or pesto pates for various catering events.
Although pate is believed to have originated in ancient Rome, it is essentially a French dish. The recipes are not always extravagant and widely vary from the humble appetizer to one of the world’s most expensive dishes. Traditionally, pate consisted of baked dishes served in a crust or molded into a ‘terrine’. Terrines are usually a coarser, denser texture, making them more satisfying to serve for a main course.
There are no fixed ingredients for preparing a pate — the choice is yours. Classic choices are chicken liver, oysters, bacon, fresh herbs with various cheeses, all ground into a paste-like consistency. Generally with pate, your ingredients are cooked and cooled then processed into a paste. The mixture is then placed in a mold, covered and refrigerated overnight. In the case of terrines, after prepared, they are baked slowly and then refrigerated for at least 24 hours before slicing and serving.
In France, enjoying pate with a baguette, accompanied by wine and cheese for lunch in an outdoor setting would be most common. Pate and it’s variations are actually a very familiar and integral dish to many countries.
My inspiration for this meal today was the fact I had some Brie cheese that I wanted to use up. It actually tasted even better than I though it would which was probably due to the fresh basil used. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it as well.
Pate' Stuffed Chicken Breast with Apricot Glaze
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a baking dish well & set aside. Between two pieces of plastic wrap, place chicken breast, smooth side down; gently flatten to 1/4-inch thickness. Place 2 breasts in baking dish.
In a food processor, place walnuts, basil & garlic, slowly adding the olive oil, pulsing until mixture becomes paste like. Add brie, cream cheese & egg; pulse to blend. Season with salt & pepper.
Divide mixture between the 2 chicken breasts in baking dish; top with 2 remaining flattened breasts. Spread apricot preserves over each breast. Dot with 'Fig Balsamic' olive oil dressing. Lightly spread to cover apricot preserves. Sprinkle each breast with crushed red peppers.
Bake, uncovered for about 40 minutes or until chicken & pate filling are cooked. Remove from oven, slice each breast in half to make 4 servings.
I have always enjoyed incorporating different varieties of cheese into my cooking. Like the saying goes ‘cheese makes it better’. One of the few kinds both Brion and I are not fond of though, is Blue Cheese. Never being able to get past that real strong smell and flavor, it came as a surprise to me when I tasted Gorgonzola and loved it.
During some vacation time we spent on the Monterey Peninsula in California, I noticed in a brochure, an advertisement for a place called Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria. It was in a small beach town called Capitola, about 64 km (40 miles) north of the Monterey Peninsula. We thought we should check it out as it would give us a nice day trip up the coast. The trip turned out to be more than what we expected.
We arrived at Gayle’s right around noon. The place was bustling with business. It had a massive rotisserie and deli case packed with roasted chicken, slow barbecued ribs, hot entrees, salads and sandwiches. In the bakery cases were desserts that could give any French bakery some pretty stiff competition. I stood there trying to make a lunch choice and decided on a very ordinary looking spinach-Gorgonzola pasta. Wow! It was so good, I wouldn’t dream of ordering anything else in future visits. My love affair with Gorgonzola continues.
That afternoon we explored Capitola with its beautiful beaches and historic and colorful architecture, very reminiscent of a Mediterranean village.
I have seen numerous recipes using Figs & Gorgonzola so I thought I would try a little experimenting and see what I could come up with. Achieving just the right balance of sweet and savory can be tricky sometimes. Here is my adaption of Fig & Gorgonzola Chicken Breasts with Raspberry Glaze.
Fig & Gorgonzola Chicken Breast with Raspberry Glaze
Chicken breasts go from ordinary to extraordinary!
In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients & set aside.
Flatten chicken breasts to an even thickness. In a large, resealable plastic bag, place Fig Balsamic dressing with flattened chicken breasts. Gently massage bag to distribute dressing on all of the breasts. Marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.
In a medium bowl, combine cheese, figs, walnuts, bread crumbs, & spices. Cover & set in fridge until ready to stuff chicken breasts.
At baking time, preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a sheet of foil large enough for chicken breasts. Lay breasts on a piece of plastic wrap; divide Gorgonzola filling mixture evenly between them. Gently press filling down slightly. Fold one half of each breast over forming a pocket; secure with a toothpick. With a spatula, place breasts on greased foil in baking pan tucking in any extra filling that might have fallen out. Use any leftover fig marinade to brush over breasts.
Bake, uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 170 F. Place chicken breasts on serving platter. Discard toothpicks. Slightly warm Raspberry Glaze in microwave & drizzle over chicken.