Smoked Bacon And Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Smoked Bacon And Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

It looks as though bacon will always rule as king of the breakfast meats. Interesting enough, we don’t reach for bacon near enough to add great flavor and fat to other meals, like lunch or dinner. The addition of bacon to other dishes can be a good way to enjoy its smoked flavor.

Charcuterie - The Craft of Salting, Smoking & CuringDo you know the process of smoking bacon?

Chef Jeff Raycroft explains that homemade smoked bacon is a simple process. Jeff says the bacon should be hot smoked in a smoker that has reached an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the smoker is ready, the bacon should be hung or placed on racks and smoked until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Afterward being smoked, the meat needs to be cooled and sliced.

If using charcoal in your smoker, add soaked wood chips directly on top of the charcoal then a water bath added above that to keep humidity up in the smoker which stops the meat from being dried out.

Chef Raycroft recommends the book, “Charcuterie – The Craft of Salting, Smoking & Curing” buy Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn. Link here to have a look inside the book.

Our featured recipe is Smoked Bacon And Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts, and here is what you will need.

stuffing ingredients for chicken breasts2 tablespoons olive oil
4 6-oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons crumbled cooked smoked bacon – 1 slice of bacon = 1 tablespoon crumbled, cooked bacon
6 basil leaves, rolled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

butterfly cut chicken breast seasoned Butterfly the chicken by running a sharp knife horizontally through the thickest part of each breast. Place one hand on top of the breast to stabilize while holding the knife parallel to the work surface while cutting. Do not cut all the way through.

preparing stuffed chicken breastsOpen the breast so both halves can lie flat. Season the exposed surface with salt and pepper, then add 1/4 of the ricotta cheese, crumbled smoked bacon, and sliced basil leaves to each breast.

Fold the breasts in half so the cheese mixture is surrounded by chicken breast on the bottom, back and top. Secure with long wooden toothpicks, if desired.

pan searing stuffed chicken breastsHeat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-safe skillet. Once hot, add the stuffed chicken breasts to the pan to sear.

Once browned on the bottom, carefully turn each breast over and repeat on the other side. Season top and bottom with salt and pepper, if desired, during this process.

Place skillet in preheated oven and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted, approximately 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover until ready to serve.

Smoked Bacon And Ricotta Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts - close upA few minutes before removing the chicken from the oven, start making the balsamic glaze. Heat balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat.

Stir while heating until the vinegar is reduced to about 1/3 of its original volume. It will form a thick, syrupy consistency when it is ready.

To serve, place a stuffed chicken breast on each plate and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Pairs well with a mixed green salad or roasted vegetables.

Here are some ideas for roasted vegetables:

  1. Roasted Sweet Potatoes And Figs
  2. Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables
  3. Excite Your Palate with Spice Roasted Vegetables

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How To Use Avocados In Your Culinary Adventures

Avocado salad and tuna. Isolated on a white background.Avocados are a popular fruit, though used like a vegetable, can find its way into almost any dish. It just seems that when adding avocados to a culinary or baked good, the dish has been enriched. Like this one at Tracy’s Culinary Adventures – Fudgy Triple Chocolate Avocado Brownies, Bobby Flay‘s Crunchy Avocado Salad, or how about pairing avocado slices with grapefruit as in Simply RecipesGrapefruit Avocado Salad.

Avocados have a lot of descriptive words to explain its flavor. Such as a creamy, buttery, and smooth fruit, with distinctive colors like bright yellow and green. Their aroma can be described as floral, green, grassy, freshness, and earthy.

The texture of the fruit is a butter rich melt in your mouth taste and feeling.

How To Pit An Avocado

Pitting an avocado is not hard at all. As a matter of fact you can become a pro in no time once you know the technique.

Avocado Trivia

list with pictures of avocado varieties

Image Credit: 17 Park Side

Do all avocado varieties taste the same? What do you think, yes they do, or no they do not? If you decided on, “No they do not,” you are correct.

There are taste variations between the different varieties of avocados available for consumption.

Not only does the variety determine the taste but it is also affected by the season and how ripe the avocado well get.

It is recommended to taste test the avocados that come into season and are fully ripe, so that you can see which ones you prefer to use in your recipes.

The summer and Fall season avocado favorite among many individuals is the Hass, and the spring season avocado favorite is the Fuerte.

Just remember you can get these avocados out of season because of international trading of produce, but they will not taste the same as when having them in season.

Tips To Selecting A Ripe Avocado

The appearance of a ripe avocado will vary based on the avocado you are selecting.

The Hass variety is one of the creamiest, making it suitable for spreads, dips, and any recipe requiring mashed avocado. Other varieties are firmer and better when consumed in whole slices or chunks.

man shopping for produceThe way to tell if the avocado is ripe or not is to hold the avocado in one hand, and place the thumb of the other hand over the small stem, then gently try and see if you can move the stem.

If stem is firmly in place and cannot be easily removed, that is an indication that the avocado is still not ripe.

The fruit should be fairly heavy and free of blemishes.

To ripen an unripe avocado for use, place it on the counter at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. It would be best not to refrigerate it, as refrigeration halts the ripening process, so you should not store unripe avocados in the refrigerator unless they have already been cut open.

Avocados ripen after they are harvested and not on the tree. If you are picking an avocado off a tree, you should pick a large one with even, dark coloring and a firm texture. After picking it, you will need to let the fruit harden on the counter for 2 to 7 days before it will be ripe and be ready to eat.

If you do not plan to eat the avocado immediately, it is in your best interest to buy an avocado that is still unripened. A ripe avocado will usually only last for a few days in the refrigerator.

To speed up the ripening process, place the avocado in a brown bag with an apple or a banana. These two fruits will release a gas called ethylene, a chemical linked to the ripening process.

Here is our featured recipe using an avocado.

Tuna Salad Stuffed Avocado

1 avocado

Avocado salad and tuna. Isolated on a white background.1 lemon, juiced, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped onion, to taste

5 ounces cooked or canned wild tuna

2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped

Himalayan salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Cut the avocado in half and scoop the middle of both avocado halves into a bowl, leaving a shell of avocado flesh about ¼-inch thick on each half. Cut removed flesh into small chunks.

Add lemon juice and onion to the avocado in the bowl and mash together. Add tuna, avocado chunks, dill, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust if needed.

Fill avocado shells with tuna salad and serve.

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National Hot Sauce Day

tabasco sauce homemade in small glass bottle - National Hot Sauce DayChili peppers and other hot spices have been discovered and used by humans for thousands of years. The peoples of Mexico, Central America and South America have used chili peppers for more than 6,000 years, either used in culinary dishes, or in religious rites.

The chili peppers were discovered in the America’s in the 16th century, and taken to Europe and on into Africa and Asia.

The chili pepper has been altered over the years through selective breeding. The first known commercially bottled hot sauces in North America appeared in Massachusetts (USA) in 1807.

scoville Scale of hot peppers The well known “Tabasco sauce” appeared in 1868 in the United States, and i2010 to present, Tabasco sauce was number 13 on the best-selling list of condiments sold in the United States.

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is a formulated sauce for use with the creation of Buffalo wings, and is the 12th best-selling hot sauce.

According to the Scoville scale, the Ghost pepper and Habanero pepper are used to make the hotter sauces with pure capsaicin extract and mustard oil added for extra heat.

The 2001 published book “The Handbook of Herbs and Spices,” is used as a standard reference for all manufacturers using herbs and spices, including the chili pepper in their products, and the book notes the Carolina Reaper as the world’s current hottest pepper.

The Carolina Reaper appears in the Guinness World Records since August 7, 2013 as the world’s current hottest pepper, with an average heat level of over 1,400,000.

One unchangeable and not widely known fact about the chili pepper…is they are a fruit. Yes most chili peppers can contain up to 170% of your daily need for vitamin-C.

But not to worry, the bell pepper is the sweeties pepper, and you need only 1 whole medium pepper or 3 mini-sweet peppers to receive your daily vitamin-C needs, without the heat.

Here’s a recipe we found by the Insane Chicken to celebrate this day, National Hot Sauce Day. make the pepper sauce if you dare in your own kitchen, or you can purchase it. The Zest Fest name the sauce a 2015 Golden Chili Winner (check out their website…featuring ZestFest 2016  – January 29-31 zestfest.net).

bottled ghost pepper and Pineapple by Sweet Heat GourmetPineapple Ghost Pepper Sauce Recipe

8 ounces pineapple, cubed

2 ghost peppers

1/2 small onion, 6 ounces cubed

1/2 carrot, 3 ounces rough chopped

1/2 ounce golden raisin, 1/4 cup

2 cloves garlic, 1 ounce

1/2 lime, zest and meat the white pith discarded

1/4 ounce ginger, rough chopped

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 ounce cumin

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt

3/4 cup vinegar

Place all but the vinegar in a food processor and pulse till pureed. Add to pot with vinegar and cook 15 minutes. If needed blend again for a smooth sauce.

Fill hot sauce into sterilized hot bottles or jars.

Place in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Let age for at least 1 week.

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Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad

Citrus Fennel and Avocado SaladAccording to Vegetarian Times,  avocado and grapefruit are a common salad combination in Spain and France. Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad is like capturing sunshine in a dish!

Our featured recipe couples the citrus fruits of navel oranges, and ruby-red grapefruit with zesty arugula, the unique flavor of fennel, and creamy avocado. It also has a homemade vinaigrette that includes extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, Italian parsley, and the unique flavor of fresh thyme leaves.

dill and fennel flowersAre you wondering about fennel? Well, fennel is a bulb shaped vegetable with tall, thin, wispy, fronds that have the appearance of dill.

Though the two are from different plant spices. Dill is from the celery family, and fennel is from the carrot family.

Apart from the crunchy rather spicy vegetable, the fronds can be used in salads as well.

Fennel is a firm and crunchy vegetable, and has a flavor much like licorice and anise. Sometimes in the market, the produce worker will refer to fennel as anise, though it is not. Just like comparing yams and sweet potatoes, also very different from one another.

Now for our featured recipe: – Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad – and here is what you will need.

1 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, remove leaves from stems

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 large pink grapefruit, peeled and pith removed, cut segments into 3’s

1 large navel orange, peeled and pith removed, cut segments into 3’s

1 fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced, reserve fronds (optional)

4 cups arugula

1 ripe avocado peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

lemon and olive oil dressingMix first six ingredients in a large bowl, and set aside.

grape fruit with peel removed grapefruit segmentsPrepare fruit, fennel, leaving avocado last so flesh doesn’t brown.

Using a knife remove peel from both the orange and grape fruit. Be careful while cutting away at the peel, so as to remove as little of the fruit as be possible.

Next slice away any white pith, again removing as little fruit as possible.

Arugala and Fennel in a salad bowl with dressingAdd the arugula and fennel to the vinaigrette and mix until well coated.

Citrus Fennel and Avocado Salad - image2On individual plate’s spoon salad mix and top with 1/3 cup grapefruit segments and 1/3 cup orange segments. Next add 4 to 6 chunks of avocado. Before serving add a few cut fronds to the plated salad. Prepares about 4 salad plates.

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Mango Guacamole Chicken Salad

close up of Mango Guacamole Chicken Salad

This salad has flavors of the tropic’s, as it contains mango, avocado, and coconut sugar. It is a quick and easy recipe to prepare.

mango tree with ripe fruit Did you know that mangoes are eaten fresh more than any other fruit in the world?

The mango has been around for some 4,000 years now, and it is biologically a close relative with other flowering plants like the cashew and pistachio trees.

The mango trees originated in sub-Himalayan plains, and there are over 1,000 different varieties, with the Hayden being the most popular.

Mango_tree_Kerala_in_full_bloom

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Mango trees grow up to 115–131 feet tall, with a crown radius of 33 feet. The trees live a long time, as some specimens still fruit after 300 years. Though not a related tree spices, avocado trees can grow just as tall.

When preparing this recipe, it reminded me of our visited to the south of Mexico were the mango trees grow profusely. We seen young children throwing rocks up into the trees to bring down a mango. Yes, they threw a rock up 115 to 133 feet, and never missed to bring down a ripe fresh mango.

Now for our featured recipe: Mango Guacamole Chicken Salad

shredded chicken

Preparation is for two servings.

1 large cooked chicken breast, without bone or skin

3 tablespoons mango puree

3 tablespoons of mayonnaise (Link Here For Homemade Recipe)

1 teaspoon coconut sugar

Shred the cooked chicken breast into a medium bowl and mix with mango puree, mayonnaise, and sugar. Set the mixture aside.

For the Guacamole

1 avocado, seeded and peel removed

1 small tomato, without seeds

2 garlic gloves

2 teaspoons powder coriander

3 tablespoons chopped yellow onion

1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon lemon juice

fresh lemon lime water1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

5 to 6 whole pepper corns

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend together for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Set aside.

Unless you have another use for the other half of the citrus half’s, and including the juiced half’s, you can either freeze the juiced rinds and save for zest in another recipe, or slice them up for lemon-lime water.

Plating The Salad

Now that you have your chicken mixture and guacamole prepared, let’s start to plate it.

plate of baby greens

Add a mixed few hand fulls of baby greens, like spinach, chard, beet greens, and arugula.

baby greens and Mango Guacamole Chicken Salad

Next, using a 5 inch in diameter ramekin, fill chicken mixer to the top, and invert it over the baby greens.

Mango Guacamole Chicken Salad

Next, spread some guacamole carefully over the chicken mixture, and enjoy.

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Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew

Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew

Lentils as well as any legume are an inexpensive source of protein, as well  as fat-free, high in fiber and rich in a number of essential nutrients. Adding lentils to your diet offers a number of health benefits, from controlling your weight to promoting heart health.

varieties of lentils You need 25 to 30 grams of fiber everyday, and one half cup of lentils will supply 8 grams of that fiber. Fiber in foods helps suppress appetite, helping you to manage and maintain a healthy weight.  Eating a diet that is rich in dietary fiber also decreases LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in your body.

If you have diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes, fiber rich foods can also help in the regulation of sugar in the blood stream.

According to the World Health Organization iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, and 1/2 cup of lentils provides 3.3 milligrams in a 1/2-cup serving.

Keep in mind though, that your body can’t absorb as much iron from plant-based foods, including lentils as it does from meat sources. Eating lentils with a food rich in vitamin-C, such as sweet peppers, can help improve absorption.

As you might have guessed by now our featured recipe has lentils, and to  help your body take advantage of the iron in them, the recipe includes vitamin-C sources, including green beans, carrots, and celery.

Our featured recipe is: Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew, and here is what you will need.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 medium rainbow carrots, sliced (colors include yellow, purple, and red)

2 medium celery stalks, sliced

1 bay leaf

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 cups dried green lentils, picked over and rinsed

2 medium purple sweet potatoes, 1/2-inch dice

9 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 – 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Himalayan salt and fresh ground black pepper

Whole leaf cilantro and plain Greek yogurt, for garnishing

chopped vegetables for Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew

Prepare vegetables and in a extra- large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaf. Cook the vegetables while stirring until they are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Next add the garlic and curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Next add 7 cups of fresh water and the green lentils. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook 10 minutes.

Next add the sweet potatoes and continue to cook, with the pot covered, until the lentils and sweet potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.

Nest add the green beans and can of diced tomatoes with juice, and cook until warmed through, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove bay leaf from stew pot, and add the chopped cilantro and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Bowl of Lentils and Purple Sweet Potato Stew

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and whole cilantro leaves. Enjoy!!

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Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad

Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Lettuce Salad

We have been trying out some new flavors lately, and they are really an excitement to the palate. Greek food is a Mediterranean cuisine. Contemporary Greek cooking uses a lot olive oil, including lemon juice, vegetables, herbs, grains, bread, wine, fish, lamb, poultry, rabbit and pork. We have to say the use of rabbit in their cuisine was new for us.

It is very important to never forget olives, cheese, eggplant, zucchini, and yogurt. Greek desserts also are known for their use of nuts and honey. Some of the desserts are Baklava, Greek Rice Pudding, and a Quick and Easy Greek Yogurt Dessert, that consists of only 4 ingredients, strained Greek yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest and juice, biscuits Petit beurre.

Wow that all sounds so delicious, doesn’t it? All of those wonderful desserts including main dish meals found their way into Greek cooking, as Greece has a culinary tradition of some 4,000 years. Yes, 4,000 years to perfect their flavorful culinary meals and treats (dessert).

Ancient Greek cuisine rarely included meat (lamb, poultry, pork, and rabbit) in their food preparations as it was not readily available. But fish was always available, as well as today, their more common source of animal protein.

Their favorite beverages are Portokalada (orangeade) and Lemonada (lemonade). These beverages have been popular in Greece since 1971. These refreshing beverages are served everywhere, in Greek homes, cafes, taverns, and restaurants. They are made with fresh strained orange juice or lemon juice, and mixed with the choice of carbonated water or flat mineral water, and sugar is added to taste.

What do you know about the Greek history of food? Let’s know by leaving your response in the comment section below this article, thanks.

Now for our featured recipe: Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad.

First let’s prepare the marinade for the chicken, then set it aside to prepare the salad dressing. Here is what you will need.

Greek Marinated Chicken

1 cup Greek strained yogurt, plain

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ tablespoon dried oregano

1 medium lemon

½ teaspoon Himalayan salt

Freshly cracked pepper corns

¼ bunch fresh cilantro

3½ to 4 pounds chicken (mix of drumsticks and thighs)

adding lemon juice to marinade for Greek Marinated ChickenFor the marinade, mix together in a large bowl the yogurt, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and freshly crushed pepper corns. After mixng ingredients thoroughly, add lemon zest and lemon juice, and mix in.

adding chopped cilantro to marinade for Greek Marinated ChickenChop a big handful of cilantro, or about ¼ bunch, and stir it into the marinade. You can use parsley, if cilantro doesn’t agree with your palate. We could not find any history of the use of cilantro in Greek food, though cilantro is cultivated in Southern Europe where Greece is found.

marinating chicken

Add the chicken pieces and marinade to a large glass bowl, making sure all chicken parts are covered with marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or albumin foil, and place in refrigerator for a least 30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinading, let’s make the Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear Dressing for the salad. Here is what you will need.

Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear Dressing

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons pear nectar

1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sweet garlic Dijon mustard

One half of a 6-ounce ripe red Bartlett pear, cored and diced, do not peel

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, with herbs

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly crushed pepper corns

ingredients in a nutri-bullet for Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear Dressing

Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear Dressing

 

Blend together in a blender, or food processor (we used our Nutri-Bullet) the oil, pear nectar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, diced pear, cheese, salt and pepper until smooth.

Pour into your favorite dressing server, or a jar and set aside in the refrigerator.

ready to bake  Greek Marinated ChickenNext preheat your oven to 375 degrees. If it has been 30 minutes, remove chicken from glass bowl and place into a 9 X 13 glass baking dish. Bake chicken for 45 to 60 minutes or until chicken is cooked (about 165 degrees internal temperature) and golden brown on top. Set aside to cool about 5 minutes, meantime prepare the Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad.

Here is what you will need.

1 head butter leaf lettuce, cut into 4 wedges

1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced

1/2 half of a 6 ounce ripe red Bartlett pear, quartered lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced

1/3 cup pecan pieces

1/3 cup dried fruit mix, such as blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and raisins

Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad with Herbed Goat Cheese and Pear DressingPlace the Butter leaf lettuce wedges on 4 salad plates or one side of a dinner plate. Arrange the avocado slices, pear slices, pecan pieces, and dried fruit over the lettuce. Drizzle with the dressing.

close-up Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce SaladNext add to each plate two pieces of cooked Greek Marinated Chicken and serve.

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