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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Enjoy A Meal With A Simple Spring Salad

Enjoy A Meal With A Simple Spring Salad The arrival of spring means that seasonal fruits and vegetables are in season. Produce like asparagus, strawberries, leafy greens and rhubarb among others.

We look through some of our favorite past cooking magazine issues and possibly yours as well to find the perfect spring salads.

Your family will love these vibrant, colorful and delicious salads. If you want to make a meal out of them, just add some chopped cooked chicken, or fish, like salmon, halibut, or tuna.

Both featured salads serve a table of four.

Arugula Salad Topped with Walnuts Strawberries and Parmesan Cheese

Vinaigrette 

1 cup halved fresh strawberries

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar *see recipe notes below

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

1 teaspoon raw local honey (local to your area)
Add ingredients to a blender and blend until well mixed.

Recipe Notes

Aged balsamic vinegar may not be economical for you, as I thought it wasn’t for me. Unless you plan to regularly use it. A bottle of 12 year old aged balsamic vinegar is around $40 a bottle.

What we did, is brought a 1/2 cup of regular balsamic vinegar infused with strawberry (you can also opt for blueberry or pomegranate) to a boil over high heat in a small ceramic coated skillet. Cook until the vinegar begins to thicken and becomes syrupy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool then follow vinaigrette recipe above.

Salad Ingredients

1 cup walnut halves

We found a cool way to candy the walnuts, and credit goes to private chef Chris Crary  with his candied walnut recipe featured at California Walnuts.

1/2 cup California walnuts

1 egg white

1 ounce sugar

2 tablespoons walnut oil

Salt to taste

Beat egg white until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and mix in to peaked egg white. Next add the walnuts and coat with the egg mixture. Place in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Once mixture is cool, toss in walnut oil. Set aside.

16 ounce bag of arugula

2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered

1/2 cup candied walnuts

Shaved Parmesan

Arugula Salad Topped with Walnuts Strawberries and Parmesan CheeseIn a large salad bowl, combine arugula, strawberries and candied walnuts. Plate salad and drizzle with vinaigrette and top with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

To make salad a meal, when mixing salad ingredients, add a cup or two of your choice, chopped cooked chicken, salmon, halibut, or tuna.

Mixed Greens with Smoked Salmon Avocado and Grapefruit Salad

1 grapefruit with white flesh, peeled, pith removed, and dice segments

5 ounce package of mixed greens

1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

5 ounce package smoked salmon, flake with a fork

Vinaigrette

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of sweet garlic mustard (we found this at Whole Foods Market)

1 tablespoon of EV olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Mixed Greens with Smoked Salmon Avocado and Grapefruit SaladMix lemon juice, mustard, oil, salt and pepper to a large salad bowl.  Next add mixed greens, grapefruit, avocado, and smoked salmon. Toss until well coated with vinaigrette. Plate and serve.

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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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Roasted Sweet Potatoes And Figs

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and FigsThe number on producer of sweet potatoes in the United States alone, is the state of North Carolina, planting and harvesting more than 40% of the national supply.

3 popular sweet potato varieties sold at market

Image Credit: Saveur Magazine

The website for the sweet potato industry, North Carolina Sweet Potatoes say that the list of sweet potato varieties changes rapidly and new varieties are released almost annually.

The most popular varieties sold at your local market are, Covington Sweet Potato, O’Henry Sweet Potato, and the Japanese Sweet Potato.

The popular food magazine, also found on line, Saveur says that shopping for sweet potatoes, particularly during the Thanksgiving holiday (USA), you can came across a surprising range of varieties, 16 to be exact.

They go on to say that a consumer can find both heirlooms and new hybrids alike, all which are being grown in the United States.

Our feature recipe – Roasted Sweet Potatoes And Figs – uses three different types of sweet potatoes, which are the speckled purple sweet potato, which is named because of their flecked magenta flesh.

An heirloom variety with pale orange skin and flesh, and not to forget the Hannahs varity which has tan skin and an off-white interior. When roasted the flesh takes on a yellow cast, a lightly sweet flavor, and a dry texture.

Here is what you will need to prepare – Roasted Sweet Potatoes And Figs in your own kitchen.

2 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes, different colors

5 tablespoons olive oil

Himalayan salt and fresh black pepper to taste

6 dried figs

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 peeled coins fresh ginger

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons dark balsamic vinegar

12 scallions or green onions (white and green parts), cut into 1 1/2 inch segments

1 red chili,halved, seeded, thinly sliced

My mother had two fig trees in her garden, both a black and green variety. Fresh figs can be very fragile, and need to be eaten within a day or two of harvesting. We used dried figs in our recipe because they are just as versatile as fresh figs when re-hydrated.

Read more here about the Benefits Of Figs Help Fight Against Common Ailments.

Recipes directions:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Scrub potatoes and slice each one into wedges.

roasted sweet potatoesToss wedges with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, s teaspoons of Himalayan salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle and roast until soft, about 25 minutes.

rehydrating fdried figs with lemon zest, juice, sugar and fresh gingerMeanwhile, place the dried figs in a medium saucepan with lemon zest, juice, ginger, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Cover with fresh water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer until figs return to plump fig pose.

dried figs rehydratedScoop figs from saucepan with a slotted spoon and drain on some paper towels. Let dry, and quarter the figs, cutting away the stems.

In a small saucepan, stir together the balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Figs - close upArrange roasted sweet potatoes on a serving platter. Pour remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a sauce pan and heat. place in onions, and chili. Fry for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Spoon the oil, onions, and chili over the sweet potatoes.

Nestle the figs among the wedges and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Suggested to serve at room temperature.

Ginger and Lemon Juice WaterMaybe you are wondering what to do with the water solution that was used to dehydrate the figs? Put it into your Nutri-Bullet or blender, and blend for about 30 to 40 seconds and drink down a nutritious anti-inflammatory drink.

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How To Spice Things Up When Cooking

Large collection of metal bowls full of herbs and spices -How To Spice Things Up When CookingHerbs and spices are used to enhance the flavor of food, either it be for cooking spaghetti carbonara or baking an apple pie.

An herb or spice can be a seed, fruit, root, bark, berry, bud or leafy part of the plant. They are principally used for flavoring food among other uses. They can be used fresh or dried.

Herbs And Spices Through The Ages

It is said that by the Middle Ages, the most common spices and herbs being traded and used were black pepper, cinnamon (including the alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Herbs and spices are useful for many things, among others are medicinal uses, cosmetic or perfume production uses, and of course they are used add flavor to a meal.

By 1000 B.C. medical systems based upon herbs were found in China, Korea, and India. Also the Egyptians used herbs and spices for their embalming practices and their demand for exotic herbs and spices helped stimulate world trade.

Extracting A Spices Flavor

The flavor of an herb or spice is derived by exposing the volatile oil compounds of the seed or leafy part, that oxidize or evaporate when it comes in contact with air.

As an example, fresh ginger is usually more flavorful than its dried form, but fresh spices are more expensive and have a much shorter shelf life.

Flavor of herbs and spices can be maximized by storing them whole and grinding when needed, as grinding greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation.

If you decide to use dried spices, be sure to use them within 6 to 8 months of purchase. Ground spices are better stored away from light, as it also increases the oxidation of the volatile oils.

metal bowls filled with spices

How To Use Herbs And Spices

When using herbs and spices you’ll want to pick flavors that complement each other, such as the spice mix known as “pumpkin pie spice.” The ratios of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg add great flavor to the pie, and each spice doesn’t over power the other.

The key or rule of thumb to spicing things up is that less is more. Avoid adding too much all at once. Instead, add a little at a time and add more to taste.

A good example of over spicing and unable to fix it, is when you use oregano or cloves. Their volital oils are great for flavoring culinary and pastry dishes, but they are strong in flavor, and only require a small amount.

When using spices to flavor your meat or vegetables, use only 3 different types at a time. You can even use herbs and spice to replace salt. Choose your spice or spices, add a little lemon juice and unsalted butter.

Which spices pair well together for the best culinary dishes you can make? Let’s examine some of the most commonly used spices and which spices pair well with them.

National Meatball Day

raw meatballs on a cutting board with vegetables and herbs on wooden rustic background - National Meatball DayCloudy with a Chance of MeatballsWho remembers the movie – Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs? We personally seen the movie, as we enjoy movies with a twist of culinary action in it (other greats: No Reservations).

A meatball is a small or large ball of ground meat, especially beef, often mixed with other ingredients of choice, like breadcrumbs, eggs, and seasonings

The preparing of meatballs is an individual’s expression of culinary creativity. Everyone who loves cooking has a different meatball recipe. 

There is no rule to cooking meatballs, as they are cooked by frying, baking, steaming, or braising in sauce.

The meatball dates back all the way to between 221 BC to 207 BC in China, with their culinary – Four Joy Meatballs.

Yes, there really is true love for a meatballs. How so? Just look at the different ways of taking ground beef (or meat of choice) and preparing them into little balls.

This list is not complete, but there are many meatball recipes out there.

Do you question the hedgehog meatballs? Well, it really isn’t hedgehog, but as Anglea Day Kitchen says, “This recipe is so called, because when cooked, the rice sticks out, making them look like hedgehogs.”

Hedgehog Meatballsceramic baking dish with Hedgehog Meatballs

2 1/4 pounds ground beef (can also use chicken, turkey, lamb, or pork)

3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green pepper, finely chopped

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

salt and pepper

Sauce:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 40 ounce can of chopped tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

salt and pepper

pinch of sugar

Combine the ingredients for the meatballs and mix well. Shape into balls about the size of a golf ball. Prepare sauce, and place meatballs into an ovenproof baking dish, then pour sauce over the meatballs.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

SAUCE:
Heat the oil in a small saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, herbs, seasoning and sugar.
Simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and pour into a blender or food processor, and puree to a smooth sauce.
Pour the sauce over the meatballs.

Meatballs Are Not Only For Spaghetti

Spaghetti with meatballs is not an authentic Italian dish. As is bowls of olive oil set out for for dunking bread at Italian restaurants (USA), so is spaghetti served with a red sauce and topped with meatballs, both an American creation. The pasta recipe may have made its appearance in New York or New Jersey (USA) in the late 19th century.

Sue, owner and writer of “The View From Great Island” says, I love meatballs.  They’re like little soldiers, all lined up, just waiting to be of service…” She even like’s these little bite sized Bourbon Meatballs which are drenched in apricot chili bourbon sauce, and she says, “They’re perfect for the cocktail hour.”

Bourbon Meatballs on a small white plate with dipping sauce

Image credit: The View From Great Island

3/4 pound ground beef

3/4 pound ground pork

1/2 cup  Ritz Cracker, finely crushed into crumbs (you can opt for plain bread crumbs)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

lots of fresh cracked pepper

1 egg

2 tablespoon olive oil

Bourbon Sauce

1 jar apricot preserves

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoon hot chili sauce

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 cup barbecue sauce

1/4 cup water

Set oven to 350F

Put the above ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large mixing bowl, breaking up the meat as you put it in. Mix together, using the tips of your fingers to gently combine everything without compacting the meat. Form into small 1 inch balls.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs, working in batches. Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until cooked through, about 160 degrees.

Place cooked meatballs into the sauce, and let heat through until ready to serve. Serve on a plate with toothpicks, a drizzle of sauce, and lots of napkins. Serve a bowl of sauce on the side for extra dipping.

To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a skillet and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes until thick.

Sue even makes Herbed Meatballs and says, “You can eat these meatballs on pasta, on a split French roll with sauce and melted mozzarella, or all by themselves in a little bowl.”

Yes, meatballs are not just for topping a plate of spaghetti any more.

Orange Ginger Pork Meatball SoupOrange Ginger Pork Meatball Soup

1 lb. ground pork

2 green onions

3 clove garlic, minced

1 piece (1-inch) peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped

4-5 teaspoons of orange zest

4 cups vegetable broth

8 oz. snow peas, cut into thirds at an angle

1 cup of cooked brown rice

1 cup cooked black beans

Arrange oven rack 6 inches from broiler heat source. Preheat broiler on high. Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil.

In a medium bowl, combine pork, green onions, garlic, ginger, orange zest, and 1/2 teaspoon each of Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper (both optional). Form pork mixture into bite-size meatballs (about 1 inch each).  Arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Broil 5 to 7 minutes, or until browned.

Meanwhile, in covered 5-quart sauce pot, heat broth to simmering on high. Once the broth is simmering, add snow peas, rice, beans and cooked meatballs. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through and snow peas are tender.

There’s even a – Meatball Stuffed Baked Potato – recipe found here at Homemade By Elle.

Enjoy some meatballs however you choose, this day – National Meatball Day!!

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How Too Eleminate Pungent Kitchen Smells

Woman washing a cup in white kitchen. Vegetables on the background - How Too Eleminate Pungent Kitchen SmellsWe all enjoy good aromas in our kitchen. But let’s face it, there are just some smells which we can’t avoid while cooking and are hard to get read of after making dinner.

If you made some fish, then you know how hard it is to get to eliminate the smell from your cutting board or the air? Even preparing onions on cutting surfaces and your hands leave you with that unwanted onion smell? We’ve all been there.

But there’s no need to fret, as there are simple ways without synthetic chemicals to tackle common kitchen odors. And if you want to go – “Green” – you will like employing these ideas.

Let’s start with general everyday kitchen odors.

baking soda to clean odors from cutting board

Image Credit: Homedit

General odorsBaking soda is not just for baking and cooking, it can also be used for removing odors from all over the kitchen. Just as baking soda placed in your fridge will remove odors, but it will also remove odors from your hands.

You can also create a paste with a little water and baking soda and apply to your cutting board or other cooking services to remove any unwanted smells.

You can even wash your garbage pail with a mixture of water and baking soda. Also remove odors from dishrags and sponges by soaking them in baking soda and water as well.

raw fish on a cutting board

Image Credit: The Canadian Way

Fish Odors– Slice a lemon in half and use the lemon flesh down on the cutting surface and your hands to cut that fishy odor. You can also chose to mix lemon juice with water to rinse your hands and cutting surface.

The citric acid in the lemon turns a group of decaying organic compounds called amines. When the lemon juice makes contact with the compounds that are causing that “fishy” smell, they are turned into ammonium salts which are less offensive to your nose.

Garlic Odors – Coffee ground are great at removing garlic smells. Wash your hands and then scrub with the coffee grounds. This exfoliates the skin, removing the dead tissues which is where the stink resides.

Onion Odors– Use some organic made toothpaste, like Dessert Essence made with natural tea tree oil and ginger oil or fennel oil . This will work for any of those strong fish and garlic smells as well.

More Techniques To Removing Fowl Odors From The Kitchen

Have you ever used parsley to combat your garlic breath? Rub it on your hands to remove that garlic smell as well. Not only parsley, but any fresh herb will absorb those odors. Just tear the herb into pieces and rub between your hands.

Most herbs are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Meaning they kill germs, and with the germs gone, so is the odors they can cause.

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