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.
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.
From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam.
Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.
The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.
Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.
In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.
When I’m working in the yard, summer always tempts me to spend less time in the kitchen. As much as I love to cook, I find the ‘gardener’ in me takes over. I can’t simply just go out and do a bit of looking. The first thing I know, there’s a little weed that needs to be picked or a plant to prune and that does it — I’m hooked for hours. Nevertheless, one thing for sure and that is the fresh air and exercise builds an appetite which brings me to a fast-to-fix meal.
Today, I’m thinking some chicken fajitas for our evening meal. Before I even go outside, I’ll do a bit of quick prep work, that way it will be a ‘no brainer’ later when I’m tired.
Technically, only beef was used in fajitas, but the term has become ‘blurred’ and describes just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The origin of the fajita goes back to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas (along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexican border) in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as shirt steak. The first print mention of the word fajitas anywhere in the world didn’t occur until the 1970’s.
The chicken breast I’m using in this recipe is marinated for a number of hours making it nice and spicy as well as tender. This is a great little, quick and easy hand held meal.
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsp oil, lemon juice & seasonings. Add chicken. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
In a large skillet, saute peppers & onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove & keep warm. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through. Spoon filling down the center of the tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese & choice of other toppings.
How is it spelled? Portobello or Portabella – from what I understand there is no ‘right’ spelling. Both versions are accepted, but the Mushroom Council decided to go with Portabella to provide some consistency across the market.
The scientific name ‘agaricus bisporus’, for these giant mushrooms comes from the Greek word ‘agrarius’ meaning ‘growing in fields’. A portabella mushroom can measure up to six inches across the top. On the underside of the cap are black ‘gills’. The stems and gills are both edible, though some people remove the gills to make more room for stuffing or simply to avoid blackening a dish. Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all the same variety? The difference is just age– white are the youngest, cremini the middle and portabella the most mature. I really wasn’t aware of that for many years myself.
In May and June of 2016, I posted some recipes on my blog for a variety of stuffed burgers including a mushroom burger. They became very popular on the Pinterest site so I thought you might like to try some of them.
This recipe is for a roasted stuffed portabella mushroom. If you don’t care for salmon you can always change it up for ground beef or turkey using your favorite herbs and spices.
A number of years back, Brion and I decided we would like to seriously explore Rome ‘on foot‘. We rented a furnished apartment up in the hills of the northwest part of the city, by the Embassy residences. Each morning we would set out to travel the cobbled streets of Rome, checking out the art of Michelangelo, the sculptures of Bernini or wander through the ancient Roman ruins. In no other city can you see so much in a short space of time and yet merely scratch the surface.
Rome is the real thing! So many of its legendary sites are the original article that to see them is to fulfill a lifelong dream. It’s this that raises the ‘goose pimples’; that feeling that the city really is as old as its seven hills, that in Rome, time and beauty are measured on an altogether grander scale.
We found it easy and relatively fast to get around the city by using the public transit system. We paid 18 euros for a 7-day pass which could be used as many times as you wished. Rome’s buses struggle to cope with the daily demand that is already well over its operating limits; battling their way through traffic and streets made impenetrable by cars double parked. To rent a car to see the sights of Rome would be an exercise in frustration or to say the least, taking your life in your hands. Best to spend a day and learn the ‘system’ and you’re set!
Rome is a city that bathes in a warm Mediterranean climate. During the month we spent there we experienced some great weather — 20-23 C with only one day of rain.
Of course when in Italy it would be unthinkable not to eat pizza during your stay. We discovered a small little pizza place close to our apartment. Once or twice a week we made a point of enjoying some ‘authentic pizza’. The two options generally available in the pizzerias are Roman pizza (the paper thin, almost charred version) and Neapolitan with the thicker crust. As for the toppings, there are unlimited choices.
The pizza recipe I’d like to share today is one that is probably one that is more American/Canadian then Roman but nevertheless real good. I had adapted it from Pillsbury.com quite a few years ago.
In a medium bowl, measure dry ingredients for pizza crust. Make a well in center & add milk. Stir until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. With buttered hands, gently knead 5-6 times. Spray or butter a 14-inch pizza pan; press dough evenly over bottom & up sides.
In microwave, bake the potato & slice thinly; slightly cook chopped onion. Crisply fry bacon & coarsely chop. Seed Roma tomato & chop along with cooked chicken.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Spread ranch dressing evenly over dough. Combine chesses; sprinkle half of the cheese over crust. Top with thinly sliced potato then remaining ingredients; ending with cheese.
Bake 13 - 16 minutes or until crust is golden & cheese is melted.
If you are pressed for time, no worries, just use a purchased pizza crust to speed up the process.
The 1950’s became the decade of casseroles. ‘One Pot’ meals have been around since mankind first invented cooking utensils but were rediscovered in the 1930’s.
Culinary habits of the 1950’s were practically defined by casseroles. The legendary ‘Tuna Noodle’ and ‘Green Bean’ casseroles, were the two that have endured the test of time and are still around today. Most others have faded away, largely because they simply weren’t that good.
One day when I was going through my mother’s little recipe file boxes, I happened to come across one such recipe. It appeared to be from the ‘Clover Leaf’ company. I vaguely recall her making it but decided to try it. I’m sure at that time, it was probably made with either tuna or salmon. I added a few extra spices just to ‘kick’ it up a notch and we really enjoyed it. As Brion put it, ‘great little comfort food meal’.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Boil macaroni. Place half of the macaroni in a buttered 9 x 9-inch baking pan. Add drained, flaked salmon (or tuna), peas, eggs & seasonings; cover with the rest of the macaroni.
Combine soup, milk & salmon juice; pour over all. Top with cheese or breadcrumbs or a combo of both. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes.
A day when ‘love is in the air’ — roses to be purchased, chocolates and valentine cards to be shared and dining over that special, very intimate supper meal. If only our world would focus more on this emotion all year around instead of just for one day. As I get older, the idea of cherishing each day and the people you care about the most has become so important.
Today is also important to me as it is now one year since I started publishing my blog. With the help of my husband Brion, we have posted 85 blog articles. These stories and recipes are being shared on Facebook and pinterest as well as our website. I have enjoyed the wonderful feedback I’m getting from many different countries as well as friends and family here at home. Thanks to all of you who have followed my blog and I hope you will continue to find it interesting.
Brion and I share a love of seafood so my Valentine supper is Mushroom Stuffed Shrimp. This meal lends itself to being an appetizer as well as a main course dish. Not a lot of fuss and muss, just a nice little elegant meal for the two of you to enjoy.
Peel & de-vein shrimp, leaving tails on. Butterfly each shrimp along the outside curve. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, water, ginger & garlic powder. Add raw shrimp & marinate for at least 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, dissolve bouillon in hot water. Stir in remaining stuffing ingredients. When marinated, remove shrimp from marinate & open shrimp flat & place with tails up in a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of stuffing onto each shrimp.
Bake at 375 F. for 5-8 minutes or until shrimp turns pink. Serve over rice as a main course.
While I was giving some thought to something different and interesting for supper today, a unique memory came back to me. I don’t know if you are familiar with Black Iberian Ham. Brion and I certainly were not aware of the Iberian pigs until we had traveled in Spain and Portugal one year.
Iberian pigs have black skins and hooves and very little hair. Their history is steeped in mystery. Beginning with the acorns from oak tree pastures in Spain to their long curing process. Magically each ham is transformed into one of the world’s most exquisite foods.
Immediately after weaning, the piglets are fattened on barley and corn for several weeks. During the spring and summer, cattle and sheep graze on the oak forest pastures. In fall and winter, when the acorns are falling from the trees, the Iberian pigs are then allowed to roam in the pastures and oak groves to feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns and roots until slaughtering time approaches. At that time, the diet may be strictly limited to olives and acorns for best quality Iberian ham. It is possible for a pig to eat 10 kilos of acorns in a day.
The hams from the slaughtered pigs are salted and left to begin drying for two weeks, after which they are rinsed and left to dry for another four to six weeks. The curing process then takes at least 12 months although some producers cure their hams for up to forty-eight months. The extraordinarily long curing process is possible because of the huge amount of fat on each ham. Over that time period, they loose nearly half their weight as the fat drips away.
The curing hams hang where open windows allow mountain air to ‘caress’ them as they transform from a piece of pork into the ultimate flavored BLACK IBERIAN HAM.
Brion and I have always found that travel is unmistakably the most interesting form of learning one can experience.
This recipe for HAM & SPINACH ROLLS, although quite simple, makes a nice little elegant meal in a short space of time.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor, place egg, 1/3 of soup, onion, garlic powder & salt & pulse for 30 seconds. Add half of the milk, spinach, mustard, bread, thyme & Parmesan. Blend another 30 seconds.
Lay ham slices on work space and divide filling evenly among them. Arrange filled ham rolls in a shallow baking dish. Combine remaining soup & milk; spoon evenly over rolls. Bake, covered for 15 minutes, remove foil & bake 10 more minutes or until bubbly & filling is cooked through. If preferred, garnish with dried parsley.
Today, December 21st, a very special member of our family is having his 13th birthday. He is ‘our’ little mini German Dachshund with the Mexican name. My sister Loretta, adopted Amigo when he was only two months old, so needless to say, they are inseparable.
Amigo is everything you could want in a pet. I’m pretty sure he feels his mission in life is to play ball. He has never been one to like being left alone or to play by himself. Being so incredibly smart, it only takes a few minutes for him to understand what you are doing, playing or even thinking!
On occasion, Loretta has put him in our care. He accepts Brion and I like going to stay with your aunt and uncle and very quickly adapts to our routine. Curious, charming, brave, stubborn and comical are all words generally used to describe Dachshunds and certainly they describe our ‘Miggy’. He has probably done more airplane travel than a lot of people. Although travelling in any mode is not his thing, if Loretta is going somewhere, no question, he’s going to.
Since this is supposed to be a ‘story and food‘ blog I guess I should get to the food part. Since Amigo loves chicken I decided to post STUFFED BREAST of CHICKEN with APPLES, WALNUTS & BRIE today. Now that’s not to say he’ll be eating any but it kind of fits the occasion.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO AMIGO!
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Apples, Walnuts & Brie
In a large skillet, saute onion in 1 Tbsp. butter about 1 minute. Add apple; cook 2-3 minutes longer or until apple is golden brown. Remove from heat; add walnuts, rosemary & a dash of salt & pepper.
Flatten chicken breasts to 1/4" thickness; sprinkle with garlic powder & remaining salt & pepper. Place apple mixture & Brie on half of each chicken breast; fold over. Secure with toothpicks if necessary.
In same skillet, brown chicken in remaining butter. Stir in cider vinegar & 1/4 cup apple juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & cook for 15-20 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 170 F.
Remove chicken to serving platter; discard toothpicks. Combine cornstarch & remaining apple juice; add to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook & stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with chicken.
This recipe is another one of my favorites I acquired from the tasteofhome.com site.
A few years back, Brion and I discovered how good Butternut squash was. I’m not sure why it took so long but since then I’ve tried to make up for lost time. Being a winter squash I had served it with a cranberry stuffing as a side dish that Christmas. This sweet, nutty tasting squash has since then worked it’s way into numerous meals at our house.
The ebook I have on AMAZON right now, includes about 50 recipes in it. One of the recipes that we have enjoyed a lot is this Ham & Butternut Squash Pizza. For anyone who has a problem with yeast, the crust uses baking powder instead. This recipe puts a whole new spin on a traditional ham & pineapple pizza.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Split butternut squash down the middle & scoop out seeds & fibrous strings. Place the cut side down on baking sheet; roast until it becomes very soft & mushy. Remove from oven; allow to cool then scoop out flesh & place in a food processor. Blend until smooth with milk (or broth), salt & pepper. Adjust if necessary so you end up with a nice 'sauce' for the pizza. Set aside.
Heat oil in skillet until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color.
In a medium bowl, measure dry ingredients for pizza crust. Make a well in center & add milk. Stir until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. With buttered hands, gently knead 5-6 times then press into one 14-inch pizza pan.
Spread with 'sauce'; sprinkle with mozzarella ( or nacho) cheese, onion, ham & pineapple. Top with remaining Gorgonzola (or Gouda) cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crust is browned.