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 Prepare Birria de Borrego

 

How To Prepare Birria de BorregoPreparing Birria de Borrego  can be considered a labor of love, as it takes more than three hours to prepare, and it is well worth it.

What is the difference between lamb and beef you may ask? Lamb tends to have less marbling than beef, and when you trim the fat around the edges after cooking, the meat ends up much leaner.

You ask what about the fat? Will to start, even though their are no studies that have linked saturated fat to heart disease or raising your cholesterol, you will be happy to know that how you prepare meat influences its healthiness. Grilling, broiling, and roasting, For example, meat that is grilled, broiled, or roasted tends to reduce fat, were as pan-frying will increase it.

Buying Your Lamb At Market

Organic standards help lower the risk of contaminated feed and organic lamb has higher nutrient quality. But to assure you are truly buying an organic raised animal, make sure that packaging say 100% grass-fed. However, remember that the word “organic” by itself does not guarantee a natural lifestyle for the lambs.

As long as a lamb is fed purely grass from a pasture it can have higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Birria de Borrego on a serving platterIn Australia, where lamb is eaten frequently by both children and adults, recent studies have shown lamb to rank among the top omega-3 foods in the daily diet.

Grass-fed lamb has shown to average around 25% more omega-3 than grain fed lamb, including as much as 49% more alpha-linolenic acid.

The World’s Healthiest Foods (WHF) website used their nutritional profile of grass-fed lamb, and found on average that 100% grass fed lamb’s meat to have 40 milligrams of omega-3 per one ounce of roasted lamb loin.

WHF says that’s 50% of omega-3 found in an ounce of baked cod or broiled tuna, and 67% of the amount found in one ounce of sesame seeds.

Our featured recipe is a locally grown 100% grass-fed Birria de Borrego or Roasted Lamb, and here is what you will need.

By the way, if the area were you live doesn’t raise lamb, check out these websites…

www.localharvest.org

www.eatwild.com

They can help you find small local farms in your area, and both sites are searchable by zip code.

Preparing Birria de Borrego

2 pounds lamb roast

Dried Anchos with description6 ancho chilies, dried

3 chilies Negron, dried

1 ½ cups water

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon oregano

2 bay leaves

¼ teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoons wine vinegar

2 tablespoons avocado oil

8 tortillas – Link here for homemade recipe

Salsa Verde – optional

Guacamole – optional

Place lamb roast in a large pot with tight lid. Add 1 ½ cups of water, garlic, pepper, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, vinegar and bay leaves to the pot.

Bring the pot of lamb to a boil. Once the lamb is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and place the lid over the pot. Simmer for two hours until the lamb meat comes off the bone easily with a fork. Remove pot from heat.

Allow to cool some, then remove the lamb from the pot and place on a plate or cutting board. Shred the lamb with a fork and cut with a knife if necessary. Salt to taste and place shredded meat into a large pot.

Cut the stem off the chilies and slit them lengthwise. Remove the seeds and place the chilies in a small saucepan with two cups of water. Bring the chilies to a boil and boil for two minutes or until the chilies are tender. Remove chilies from the water and chop coarsely.

Birria de Borrego - plated

Add the chopped chilies to the lamb and mix thoroughly. Reheat the lamb before serving. Serve on tortillas with salsa or guacamole topped with cilantro. A great meal for your Cino de Mayo celebration this May 5th, 2016.

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How To Cook Dried Beans

Mixed Legumes on paper and burlap - How To Cook Dried BeansSoaking dried beans or legumes in water first, helps with dissolving the raffinose sugars that can cause discomfort in the digestive system. Rinsing the beans after soaking and draining any water after cooking will further help to reduce the sugars as well.

soaking deied beans - How To Cook Dried Beans

Image credit: EHow

Here are some steps you can take to reducing the raffinose sugars, a complex carbohydrate found in most in most dried beans.

This type of sugar is also found in cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus, among other vegetables, and including whole grains.

The California Dry Bean Advisory Board recommend this method for gas-free beans.

  • Place 1 pound of beans in 10 cups of boiling water for 2-3 minutes
  • Remove from heat, cover and set aside overnight

 

Soaking the beans overnight helps to remove or dissolve between 75 to 90 percent of the indigestible raffinose sugars.

If you want, you can add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking water to help remove the raffinose sugars as well.

Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils

Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils

Delicious Living recommends soaking 1 cup of beans in 3 cups of water for 6 hours before cooking them.

After soaking the beans, drain them of the water, then rinse thoroughly. Now your beans are ready to be cooked.

When cooking the beans, you can add any herbs and spices, but do not add any salt or acidic ingredients, like vinegar, tomatoes or juice, which can considerably slow the cooking time. Add these ingredients when the beans are done cooking.

When cooking your beans you can use either water, or a stalk made from vegetables, beef or chicken.

Cooking times will vary depending on the type of beans you will be using. Most cooks will tell you that dried lentils or split peas do not require soaking, but they do require sorting and rinsing.

Keep in mind that cooking lentils in too much liquid, or over cooking them, will make them mushy. They should only be cooked for 20 minutes or until tender.

How to Use Cooked Beans

Moroccan Three Bean and Kale Soup

Moroccan Three Bean and Kale Soup

Dried beans when cooked are very versatile, and although they have different flavors and textures, they can often be used interchangeably in recipes.

Cooked beans can be used to make soups, added as a topping to vegetable salads, add to cooked rice, couscous or pasta salads for texture.

Here are some of our featured recipes using cooked beans.

Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas

Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas – Featuring a side dish of quinoa with black beans, onion, corn, and chili pepper

Spicy Chorizo and Bean Soup

Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils

South Of The Border Chicken Tortilla Soup

Gluten Free BBQ Chicken Lasagna

Moroccan Three Bean and Kale Soup

Garlic Lime Chicken Fajitas

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Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils

Prosciutto Cotto and LentilsLentils have 18 grams of protein per serving, making them the third highest level of protein than any other plant food. Garbanzo beans and wheat berries both have 12 grams of protein per serving.

types of lentilsOut of all the varieties that are grown for consumption, the French Green Lentils are considered the most flavorful, having a delicate peppery taste.

They originated in Puy, France, though today they are also grown in Canada (highest production) Italy and the United States.

The French variety lentil hold their shape well while only taking about 30 to 40 minutes to cook.

On New Year’s Eve in Italy people eat “lenticchie stufate” or in a soup. Why? This is an old symbol of good luck in the Italian tradition, because of their round shape, which resembles coins. They say the more you eat, the more wealth that comes to you.

Our featured recipe contains French Green Lentils, and here is what you well need to prepare your own Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils.

diced vegetables for Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils

Real Whole Food Nutrition

2 medium stalks celery, diced

2 medium yellow carrots, diced

1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 small red onion chopped

1/2 cup tomato paste

4 1/2 cups broth, your choice beef – chicken – vegetable

3/4 pound prosciutto cotto – about 2 slices 1/2 inch cut, cut into 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch squares

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons avocado oil

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil and minced garlic – sauté until fragrant.

adding vegetables to garlicNext add prepared onion – carrots and sweet potato and mix together.

adding lentils and tomato paste Next add rinsed lentils and mix in. Then add tomato paste and stir being sure ever lentil is coated.

adding brothAdd broth, place lid on pot and simmer 30 minutes or until lentils are cooked.

After 30 minutes there will be only about 1 cup or so of broth – drain and set aside – leave lentil mixture in soup pot.

warming avocado oil and pork fatIn a warm pan with avocado oil add some prosciutto fat with prepare prosciutto cotto and sauté in oil until meat is warmed.

We used refined high heat (to 550 degrees) avocado oil, which has no flavor, therefore not contaminating or changing the smoked flavor of the prosciutto cotto.

Remove meat and mix with lentil mixture.

Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils - close upSpoon Prosciutto Cotto and Lentils to a platter and serve.

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Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo

When the suns behind the winter clouds and not able to warm your skin, the next best thing is Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup.

The cannellini beans or white beans are also known as white Italian kidney beans. The skin of the white kidney beans are much thinner and more delicate than their red cousins. White beans also have a smooth, but slightly nutty tasting interior.

Concerned about your daily fiber in take? A half cup serving of cooked cannellini beans are a excellent source of dietary fiber, providing you with 7 grams of your 30 grams of fiber needed daily for good health.

Here is what you will need for this simple and nutritious Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo Soup.

Our ingredients are all organic grown and harvested and pasture fed meat.

red kale2 tablespoons avocado oil

12 ounces pork chorizo sausage, 1-inch slices

1 medium red onion, diced

3 gloves garlic, minced

1 medium purple carrot, diced

1 rib celery, diced

4 cups chicken stock

2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon Himalayan salt optional

4 cups red kale, stemmed and leaves torn

spooning from the sauce pot - Red Kale Cannellini Beans and ChorizoOver medium heat, add oil to a large sauce pot. Once heated add meat and brown. Next add onions, and garlic. Stir until garlic and onion is just browned about 1 minute.

Next add diced carrots and celery, and stir until you see the vegetables brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Next add chicken broth, beans and salt.

a large sauce pot of Red Kale Cannellini Beans and ChorizoBring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, and add kale, then stir in. Place lid on pot, and on simmer let soup cook another 5 minutes.

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo - close upTo thicken the soup a little, as we did not use potatoes (their starch content will thicken soups), you can add some arrowroot starch. In a small glass add 1 tablespoon of starch and stir in a teaspoon of fresh water, and add when soup is boiling. When soup has thickened some, lower heat to a simmer. Add kale and stir in, then place lid on soup pot and let cook another 5 minutes.

Red Kale Cannellini Beans and Chorizo

According to Mangia Bene Pasta, the Cannellini beans are difficult to harvest when ripe and therefore are harvested in the fall when the pod is completely dry.  As a result, the beans are rarely eaten fresh.

In some parts of Italy, the beans are a popular accompaniment to tuna and pasta dishes containing poultry. In the United States, vegetarians often utilize the hearty beans as a fish or chicken substitute, due to its protein source (WiseGeek).

The dried beans double in size when soaked, so a few beans go a long way in a dish.  Cannellini beans are available in supermarkets in both dried and canned form. If cannellini beans are unavailable, great northern beans or navy beans can be used, though they are a much smaller bean.

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Greek Grilled Chicken

 

Grilled Greek ChickenSusanna Hoffman wrote an article for the food magazine “Saveur” in 2010 stating that Greece is the fountainhead of European culture. The mysterious Minoans were among the first residents of Greece, arriving around 2700 B.C, writes Susanna.

Besides finding wild grapes and making wine with them, they also discovered a bitter native berry they began to cure and press, and if you guessed the olive, you guessed correctly. The olive, and its oil, became the economic foundation of their civilization (Food History Of Greece – Saveur).

Making Greek Grilled Chicken

We love barbecuing as the food always seems to have a special flavor. Our featured recipe is Greek Grilled Chicken, and before we bring out the recipe, we wanted to show you what we did to evenly and flavor-fully cook the chicken.

slits cut into chicken breastsWe cut small slits crosswise on each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. Doing this helps the marinade penetrate the meat, which disperses the marinaded flavor throughout the meat and not just on the surface. It also helps the chicken cook evenly.

We also did this method with roasted chicken breasts (Roasted Chicken With Chipotle Cinnamon Orange Glaze), and we have to say it always gives exceptional flavor to the meat, as well as the meat cooks evenly and retains its juices. Making those slits in the meat before marinading it, makes for awesome BBQ or roasted chicken.

A Greek food expert on “About Food“, expresses Greek seasoning as the “quintessential” Greek flavors, which are olive oil, lemon, garlic, and oregano (About Food).

With that said, our mouths are watering, so let’s bring out the recipe, and here is what you will need.

making Greek Grilled Chicken marinade The Marinade

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Greek seasoning (bought at Whole Foods Market)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

Dash black pepper

In a glass measuring cup or an equivalent vessel, add all 7 ingredients and mix well.

marinading chicken breastsUsing 6 to 8 chicken breasts, without the skin and bones, make those slits in the meat. I don’t like using plastic bags to marinate my food. In a large bowl, while layering the breasts, pour marinade over meat. If you noted in our first image, the chicken breasts are sitting on a piece of wax paper, take it, and invert it over the chicken. Place bowl in the refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

Grilled Greek Chicken on the BBQHeat your BBQ grill, and place the meat on the hot grill with flame turned down. Turn chicken about every 4 minutes. If you are using some thick chicken breasts, it will take about 25 minutes or so to cook the meat to 165 degrees internal meat temperature.

Grilled Greek ChickenPlate and serve your Greek Grilled Chicken with a side salad or vegetable. Enjoy those “quintessential” Greek flavors!!!

Enjoy our other Greek inspired recipes:

  1. Greek Marinated Chicken with Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad
  2. Greek Yougurt Dill Spread with Ham and Red Cabbage On Wasa Crisp Bread
  3. Grilled Figs and Eggplant Salad with Blackberry and Fig Dressing – (Figs and Eggplant are part of the Greek cuisine)

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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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