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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Quinoa Tuna Patties

Quinoa Tuna Patties

We were hungry, and I thought fast, and this is what I came up with, “Quinoa Tuna Patties.” Quinoa is a gluten-free whole grain, will actually it has been simulated to be called a whole-grain.

Wikipedia describes quinoa best by saying, ” Quinoa is a species of goose-foot, it is a grain grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is a pseudo-cereal rather than a true cereal. It is not a member of the grass family, it is closely related to species such as beetroots or spinach.”

Quino Nutrition Label Quinoa is the only eatable plant grown for consumption that has the perfect balance of all 9 essential amino-acids essential for human health. The only other food that is eaten with all 9 amino-acids is beef, poultry, and pork. meat. It also contains some vitamins and minerals as shown in the Quinoa Nutrition label image.

It is recommended to rinse quinoa before cooking it. Why?  Because the seeds are coated with saponin which is  a bitter substance that protects the seeds from predators. However, most packaged quinoa sold in the U.S. has been pre-rinsed, but taking the side of caution is best.

Tuna when purchased fresh will contain between 22 and 24 grams of protein. The “yellowfin” has the most protein from all ocean harvested tuna. If purchasing canned tuna, keep in mind it is pasteurized during the canning process. If the meat is dark, 100 gram serving has 25 grams of protein, were as white meat tuna has 23 grams. Tuna also provides essential amino-acids.

Both quinoa and tuna are secondary sources of energy (complex carbohydrates are first) with their primary purpose, being to build muscle, and protect the integrity and health of human cell tissue.

This meal can also be prepared in 30 minutes and is also considered a Salad as a Main Course, because of having a meat mix in with it.

Now for our featured recipe: Quinoa Tuna Patties, and here is what you will need.

12 to 16 ounces of mixed leafy greens

10 ounces (2 5 oz. cans) tuna

1 or 2 medium eggs

1/4 cup bread crumbs, prepared with toasted sourdough bread

1/8 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup mixed vegetables

2 to 3 tablespoons avocado oil

Vinaigrette for leafy greens to follow.

Mixing ingredients for - Ouinoa Tuna PattiesCook quinoa according to package instructions and set aside. While you are cooking the quinoa, heat some water to boiling, place frozen mixed vegetables into a large bowl and pour hot water over them for about 2 minutes, or until thawed out. Drain off water and set aside.

Open the cans of tuna and drain off water. In the large bowl with vegetables add tuna, eggs, salt, garlic, and bread crumbs. Mix together until well incorporated.

frying tuna patties in avocado oilYou and either form a ball of tuna mix with your hands and fry in a large heated skillet with avocado oil or as we used a cookie cutter, to form the tuna patties. We only used one egg, therefore it did not hold together well. Next attempt at this meal, we will use two eggs and possibly 1/3 cup of bread crumbs. Cook on both sides just enough to warm the ingredients and cook the eggs, about 2 minutes on each side.

Plated Quinoa Tuna Patties Mix in a small jar 1/4 cup ginger syrup (purchased at Natural Grocer’s, or your favorite health food store), 4 tablespoons avocado oil ( a 1 litter bottle at Costco is $9.79 – 2014) and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar. Place lid on jar, and shake. Plate leafy greens, drizzle vinaigrette over greens and top with a Quiona Tuna Pattie, and serve.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta - close up

Dinner was wonderful tonight with this gluten-free Penne pasta dish. It was mixed with a Brown Butter Sage sauce.

Sage has a history of being used in folk medicine apart from culinary uses. It is most commonly drunk as a tea, as the herb is good for the nerves, digestive system and for balancing estrogen levels in women.

Sage can help calm a fever, and is also natural blood purifier. It can also be useful for aiding the liver for detoxification purposes. Sage is also a natural nerve tonic to relieve a nervous headache.

Do you have joint pain, lethargy or a weak digestive system? Sage could be the answer for you.

Sage is usually an herb that accompanies chicken, and that is what the sausage is, a chicken sausage mixed with apple and cinnamon. The Penne pasta used in this recipe is a multi-grain gluten-free pasta. The grains include brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth. The quinoa seed is native to Peru, and the amaranth seed is native to Mexico.

Quinoa is not a true grain but a seed, and it contains the most protein when compared to any other grain. Both quinoa and amaranth also are great for keeping your blood sugars leveled.

Now for our featured recipe, “Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta” in a “Brown Butter Sage Sauce”. Both the chicken sausage and pasta are organically grown ingredients. Here is what you will need:

4 tbsp. olive oil

1 package chicken sausage

3 cups multi-grain gluten-free, Penne pasta

2 cups cubed, butternut squash

1 tbsp. dark brown sugar

½ cup pecan pieces

1 stick, salted butter

8 sage leaves, small

½ tsp. Himalayan Salt

½ tsp. black pepper

Slide a small baking sheet into your oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

Cook gluten-free pasta according to package instructions. Any brand will do. We used De Boles.

preparing butternut sqaush for Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne PastaPeel and cube up two cups of butternut squash. In a bowl, toss the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and dark brown sugar. Remove heated baking sheet from oven, add the squash to the aluminum folded lined hot baking pan and place back into the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once during the cooking time. Remove once the squash is tender.

searing chicken sausage for Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne PastaIn a large medium heated skillet, add olive oil and sear the chicken sausages on all sides. Remove, slice and add back to the pan to cook the centers.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sausage, pasta and butternut squash, and set aside.

We provided this 39 second video as an illustration  for making the “Brown Butter Sage Sauce.”

Heat a 10 inch skillet on medium heat. Place the stick of cold butter into the hot pan, lift and swirl the butter. Add in the sage leaves and keep swirling until the butter has completely melted, should be a deep brown color, but not to the point of burning.

adding pecan pieces to Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta

After you have poured the brown butter sage sauce over the pasta, toss to mix well. Sprinkle pecan pieces over top and mix in.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage with Gluten Free Penne Pasta - close upPlate and serve.

 

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Wheat Free Alternative Grains and Other Plant Sources

Wheat Free Alternative GrainsWhole grains are a big part of a healthy diet. They make up a large part of the bottom of the food pyramid. But it’s not just whole wheat and brown rice. As you take on the wheat-free lifestyle, you soon discover the wide variety of grains to choose from.

In recent years there has been a frenzy of interest around quinoa. It’s just one of the grain alternatives you can choose from. All of these are healthy swaps in your favorite breads, pastas and side dishes.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)

This is a nutritious super-food that’s actually a nut from Peru. Quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor. It cooks faster than rice, in about 15 minutes. It’s a versatile ingredient that’s good as a hot cereal or ground into flour. It adds moisture to baked goods. Try it in a dish like Autumn Root Vegetables with Quinoa.

Flax seed

This seed has a nutty flavor. They need to be ground to get the most nutritional fiber value, although they can be toasted whole first than Flax seed an alternative to wheat flourground for later use. Add them ground to add to salads, cereal and bread dough.

Liquid flaxseed oil is also available. Try this recipe Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Breast with Flax and Wheat Germ Breading.

Buckwheat

This alternative to wheat is not a member of the wheat family and it isn’t technically a grain, but it’s often used in place of grains. It’s a good alternative for those with wheat allergies. Diets rich in buckwheat seem to promote lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Buckwheat is sold both roasted and raw and used whole, cracked or ground into flour. Use as a flour in pancakes with this recipe Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes 

Amaranth plant and seeds

Photo Credit: news.nationalgeographic.com/

Amaranth

The amaranth is a broad-leafed, bushy plant that grows about six feet tall. It has brightly colored flowers that can contain up to 60,000 seeds. The seeds are nutritious and are ground into flour. Not a true grain, amaranth is often called a pseudo-cereal. Amaranth belongs to the plant family that includes beets, chard, spinach, and some weeds. Try these recipes made with Amaranth flour, like Amaranth Pasta , Amaranth Pancakes, or Traditional Amaranth Atole Recipe.

 

Rice flour

Rice flour is used to enhance other grains. Available in both white and whole grain brown, rice flour is finer than wheat.

Millet

Millet is a drought-tolerant grass. The seeds can be used as a sorghum substitute. It can be used like rice, served creamy or fluffy.

Oats

Oat flour alternative to wheat flour

Oat Flour

Oat flour is another great alternative to wheat. When using oats you should select gluten-free oats. These are specially-selected varieties that have eliminated the cross-contamination with wheat, barley and rye.

There is also Almond flour and Coconut flour that are becoming the top of the list alternatives to using wheat.

These are the most popular whole grains or other plant sources you can find to substitute for wheat. Each has its own unique flavor and can be used in many different ways to add variety to your cooking and baking.

 

 

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Quinoa Maya Chicken Bake

Ouinoa Maya Chicken Bake

This is a really delicious and healthy recipe. It’s made with quinoa, which is a whole grain rice grown in its natural environment, the Andes Mountains of Peru. The native soil and climate affect its taste, scent and texture.

The Incas called quinoa “the mother of grain” and fed it to their warriors before battle. Today it is referred to as a “supper grain” as it has many health benefits including a balance of essential amino acids. There are 23 known essential amino acids, and our bodies make only 10 of them. That requires that we eat foods that will provide the other 13, and quinoa does that for us when we consume it.

For that very reason our featured recipe is Quinoa Maya Chicken Bake. Are you questioning what does Maya have to do with the recipe? The Maya’s were native’s that spread their influence to Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and western El Salvador to as far away as central Mexico, more than 620 mi from the central Maya area. The many outside influences found in Maya art and architecture are thought to have resulted from trade and cultural exchange rather than direct external conquest.

Today the few Mayans that exist grow there own coffee beans in the known areas that they dwell. The coffee is very good and is known as Mayan Coffee beans. The flavors of coffee beans, either poor flavor or rich flavor, all depends on the earthy soil and climate the coffee tree is grown in. The Mayans know how to grow their coffee beans.

The spices we used in our featured recipe is a Maya Coffee Rub that was purchased at the Whole Foods Market.

Here is what you will need:

ingredients needed for Quinoa Maya Chicken Bake

Click Image to Enlarge to View Ingredients for the Maya Coffee Rub

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Next cook the quinoa according to package instructions and set aside.

steaming vegetables for Ouinoa Maya Chicken Bake

Put your frozen fresh vegetable mix into a steamer and steam according to package instructions. You can use your choice of vegetables that you prefer. When done, set steamed vegetables aside in a large bowl with a lid over it.

While the vegetables are steaming, prepare the chicken breast for marination. Cut the chicken breast crosswise, 3 times. Cut each section into one inch chunks.

marinating chicken breast for Ouinoa Maya Chicken Bake

In a measuring cup, mix the Maya coffee rub, vinegar, and oil. You can also choose to use olive oil if you wish. Place cut chicken into a large bowl and pour spice mixture over meat. Mix up meat with the spice mix till chicken is well coated. Set aside for about 30 minutes for flavors to infuse.


close up baking chicken in Nu wave oven for Ouinoa Maya Chicken Bake

After chicken has marinated for 30 to 40 minutes, place onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until chicken is done. The meat should cook fast, as it is cut thin. Here we baked ours in a counter top Nu wave oven. set aside when done.

bowl of steamed vegetables

Next take the bowl of vegetables, pour in the one cup of quinoa, and meat. Mix up the ingredients in the bowl until will incorporated.

Ouinoa Maya Chicken Bake

Plate and serve. That Maya Coffee Rub, is a bit spicy. But oh boy what flavor it has!! I believe, if the Mayans from the past could taste this dish, they would approve.

If you wish, you can use 1/4 slice of turkey breast in place of chicken. Turkey was the main staple meat of the Mayans over 3000 years ago.

 

Sources on the Mayans:

Mayan Civilization 

 

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Toasted Whole Grain Orange Muffins

Toasted Whole grain Orange Muffins

I found this recipe in the April 2014 magazine –  “Better Homes and Gardens“. The recipe is called Toasty Whole Grain Orange Muffins. But I changed the recipe a little, and I liked the Toasted better then the Toasty.

To me toasty is when you are around a camp fire on a cool night in the mountains and you want to get your hands and feet toasty warm. Or when you pull back the stick with a marshmallow on it, and someone says, “Isn’t that a bit toasty?’

The grains the recipe called for, I toasted them in the oven. So that’s why I used Toasted in place of Toasty.

We did use cooked Quinoa. This recipe is great to prepare, when you have had some quiona with your dinner, and there is some left over, quiona that is.

Quinoa  is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. It also has nine times more fiber than any other whole grain.

This muffin would be great for breakfast for the reasons just mentioned, protein, and fiber. Fiber slows digestion, giving you longer sustained energy, as well as the protein.

Here is what you well need.

ingredients for Toasted Whole Grain Orange Muffins

1 cup regular rolled oats

1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled

1/3 cup finely chopped almonds

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

 

toasting grains for Toasted Whole Grain Orange Muffins

In a large bowl toss oats, cooled cooked quinoa, and almonds, add oil and toss some more to coat.  Place mixture onto a nonstick cookie sheet or baking pan. Spread out into an even layer. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until toasted, stirring once. Remove; place pan on a wire rack and cool.

Grease a cup cake pan with twelve wells that are 2 1/2-inches round; set aside.

In a large bowl stir together all but 1/4 cup of the quinoa mixture, the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

whisking wet ingredients

Here is what you will need for the wet ingredients:

2 teaspoons zest of orange

1 ½ teaspoons of orange oil

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons butter, melted

 

In a 2-cup measure whisk together buttermilk, eggs, sour cream, butter, orange oil, and orange zest. Add all at once to flour mixture. Gently stir just until moistened, the batter should be lumpy.

close up of muffin pan filled with wet muffen mixture

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each well, ¾ full. Sprinkle with remaining quinoa mixture. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in muffin pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Toasted Whole grain Orange Muffins

Serve warm. If desired, serve with orange marmalade.

 

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