Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bacon always makes things better

I'm always a fan of stuffed stuff.

A couple of substitutions - white onion instead of red since I always have those on hand. Boneless, skinless chicken thigh instead of breast since it was cheaper. Dried cilantro instead of parsley.

The hubby made oven dried tomatoes (an idea we got from our favourite panini place). They're just as intensely flavoured, but more sweet and less tart than sundried tomatoes. These are pretty simple - just drizzle some olive oil and salt on grape tomatoes and bake them for a very long time at low heat (200F or so)

Other than the onion and parsley, I more or less followed the recipe.
I have to admit at this point, I wondered if I had done it wrong
After the success of last week's recipe, Mr. Ringy insisted on incorporating bacon into this week's recipe. So I wrapped them in pancetta. Then I baked them for about 35 minutes at 400F.
Sorry you can't see the chicken... because it's wrapped in bacon
We had them with potato bhaji (into which we also threw in the extra artichoke stuffing) and a lovely Chardonnay which was a gift for performing Ave Maria at a 40th wedding anniversary last weekend.
Naked - so it must be good!

Mmm, artichokes

I love artichokes, in all their varieties. I like artichoke dip, fried artichokes, artichokes in my salad, marinated ones right from the jar. I even cooked my very own whole artichoke for the first time this year, so I did a little happy dance when I saw this recipe, even though I am totally incompetent at rolling things up in chicken and getting it to stay there.

Nevertheless, I made these last night and they turned out great, even if the stuffing leaked out the ends. My only caveat is that I would not want to make them on a week night again. We don't eat dinner until almost 10:00 p.m. because of J's work schedule, so this was just too much work for that late at night. However, my husband told me they were fantastic about four times during dinner and he ate two of them, so this one goes in the recipe box for sure.

Catching up!

Though I couldn't post about the lamb recipe or the stuffed trout while I was up at the cottage, I did make both recipes!

We did the lamb recipe (using flank steak) for our anniversary dinner and it was delicious!

Asparagus, potatoes, red onions, peppers and flank steak.
You'll see that we deconstructed the skewers and served the elements separately.
Happy Anniversary to Us!
Check it out, we even got a bottle of the wine we served at the wedding!

The trout (for which we sandwiched together two trout fillets) was AMAZING. My husband and I were in seventh heaven. I think the stuffing alone will go into my recipe box!

All tied up, bondage style.
The plate was pretty brown - roasted sweet potato fries and sautéed mushrooms, so I feel a bit guilty about the lack of colour.

Check out that flaky goodness!
Mmm. And it was perfectly flaky.

Mmm. Mushrooms.
I can't wait to get back on schedule for this week's recipe!

Sun-dried tomato and artichoke chicken

This is the second time I made this recipe so I decided to try something a little different with it. Nothing too drastic, but I decided to put the stuffing into the chicken, bake it and serve it as a "stuffed chicken breast". While it still tasted delicious, it wasn't exactly the best presentation and was pretty messy looking.

I also forgot to pick up onions from the grocery store and had to substitute with dried chopped onions. It didn't turn out too bad, but the dried onions darkened up quite a bit and made the stuffing look a little burnt, even thought it wasn't.

My mom is visiting us for a few weeks so I was happy to have someone besides DH to cook for and to be able to treat my mom to some of my homemade cooking. In the past, I rarely cooked and was known for burning things to the point they were ruined, so my mom was pretty shocked at how well things turned out. She absolutely loved the chicken and said it was the "best meal she's had the entire trip". Considering we've had fabulous meals at places in Germany, Paris, London and Amsterdam, I considered this a great compliment. Nevermind, she's my Mom and may be just a little bit biased...I'll still take the compliment.

Here is the finished product. Please ignore my poor attempt at presentation.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I've been a slacker!

I have been keeping up with the cooking but not so much at the posting.
I did make the kabobs. I chose to use chicken since I am not a fan of lamb. I also substituted squash for the yellow pepper (it was all fuzzy inside, yuck!). Overall, I thought the flavor was good. It was nice, summery dish. I served it along side some orzo with basil and parmesan.

I also made the stuffed fish. I did not do a whole trout since my husband is not a fan of trout. Instead I used tilapia filets and created fish roll ups. This was a huge hit. The stuffing was amazing. Served with the fish was some roasted asparagus.

I am looking forward to the stuffed chicken breasts. I am making them tomorrow, yum!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Week Five: Sun-dried Tomato and Artichoke Chicken

Sorry I've been so behind, Ladies! Not only did I forget that Thursday was the new recipe post day but I have yet to post my pictures and reviews from last week's menu...which was fabulous, by the way. Hopefully, this recipe will be as good as Rebecca's and you ladies enjoy it. So here it is:


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts


In a saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is hot add the onions and saute until translucent. Stir in the artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes, then add the salt, pepper and garlic. When the garlic begins to lightly brown, deglaze with 1/4 cup of the white wine. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the butter, allow it to melt, then toss in the Parmesan and parsley.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool before stuffing the chicken breast.

Rinse, trim and pound out chicken breasts to about 1/4-inch thick. Do not over-pound as holes in the chicken will make it difficult for the chicken to retain the stuffing.

Put 1/4 of the stuffing mixture at 1 end of a chicken breast. Gentle roll the chicken breast folding the ends in to help keep the stuffing from coming out during the cooking process. Secure the chicken roll with 2 toothpicks. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts and stuffing.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil in a medium saute pan over high heat. Add the chicken breasts, with the secured side of the chicken first, to insure the roll with stay together. Brown the chicken on all sides, add remaining butter, and deglaze with remaining white wine.

Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board and discard the toothpicks. Slice each breast on a bias into 5 pieces and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with remaining pan drippings, garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan and serve.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mushroom and Bacon Dressed Trout

Let me just start by saying that I LOVED this week's recipe. I would eat a whole bowl of this stuffing by itself, it was so delicious!

I didn't use a whole trout--mostly because my husband is picky and doesn't eat fish...or mushrooms...or onions...so this meal was out for him, and a whole trout was a bit much just for me. So I bought a small filet that was on sale this week.

I started by cooking up a couple of pieces of local applewood smoked bacon (yum!). Then I drained some of the fat from the pan and put the onion in to saute in the rest. Once they cooked down, I added the mushroom. I used a portabello cap because I already had them and they are some of my favorites. Then I deviated from the recipe--I didn't have green onion, so instead I added a bit of baby spinach (for some green) with the bacon and then threw in my bread crumbs. Since I didn't have bread either, I used toasted organic wheat english muffin instead to make the breading.

Then I poured the stuffing over the top of my filet and folded up the edges of the tin foil to keep everything inside.
I popped it into the oven for fifteen minutes, steamed some green beans, and served it all up with some homemade corn chowder that I cooked in the crockpot. It was a perfect meal for a rainy day--and a great last day of summer meal for me, since I start back to school tomorrow!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Whole Fish Experiment

I will confess, this dinner absolutely terrified me and I have no one to blame but myself, because I am the one who posted it. I had grilled cheese and soup in the wings, just in case it was a culinary failure.

It started off great. I got a fantastic deal on the fish at B.J.’s warehouse. I got them for $4.49/pound when the grocery store had them on sale for $6.99/pound.

The stuffing came together beautifully and smelled delicious.

Then, I got ready to stuff them. And I got scared. They didn’t “open flat like a book” which flustered me. Then I tried to cut the tails off and they didn’t want to go and that made me more flustered. And they have bones. And I forgot the lemon juice. I eventually got them stuffed and into the oven.

Poke, poke. Is it done yet?

They actually came out pretty good, but I won’t be doing whole fish again for a very long time.

Trout sandwich

My local grocer didn't have whole trout this week. So I bought two fillets and figured I'd make a trout sandwich.

I used whole wheat bread, which I had on hand. I was too lazy to get out the Cuisinart food processor so I just ripped it up into little pieces and made croutons.
I may have snacked on a few.

I also didn't want to buy a whole pack of bacon as we rarely eat it, so I went to the deli counter and picked up a little bit of pancetta. I chopped up the pancetta and sauteed it with the onions, mushrooms and green onions together. I just couldn't resist the temptation of cooking it all in pancetta fat. Mmmm.

I've learned that it's best to add green onions at the end, to keep them nice and green and crisp.
Then I proceeded to assembling my trout sandwich. In addition to lemon juice, salt & pepper, I brushed on a wee little bit of maple syrup, because maple syrup always goes nicely with bacon. I thought the sweetness would balance the savouriness of the stuffing.
All wrapped up with my cool reusable silicone roasting ties.
I sliced it up and we had it with roast potatoes and steamed bok choy. Delicious.

I really liked the recipe. The temperature and timing turned out to be absolutely perfect - the fish was cooked until it just turned opaque. I found there was a bit too much contrast between the mild trout and savoury stuffing, but I probably just didn't salt the fish enough. My husband wished that the trout skin would have turned out crispier, but I thought it was fine. I'd make this again, or at least use the stuffing again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's all Greek to me


Well, other than having a bit of a tough time finding boneless lamb, this meal came together splendidly.

I was going to wax poetic about one of my other favourite kitchen tools, but blenderdance beat me to it!  I made quick work of mincing the ginger using my microplane.  I really love this thing.  It's absolutely perfect for grating Parmesan.

My means of dealing with leftover fresh ginger (and a way to have "fresh" ginger on hand nearly all the time) is to dump the leftovers into a plastic baggie in the freezer.

It keeps really well in the freezer and grates even easier when it's frozen.  I'd like to thank chef Michael Smith for the "keep ginger in the freezer" tip!  Also, I think it's time to make up a loaf of banana bread (or 3).

After visiting my regular grocery store, a local specialty grocery store and the organic grocery store near my work, I thought I might have to break down and go with lamb chops for this meal.  Then, I called over to the meat department at Whole Foods (I'm lucky in that one of the few that are in Canada is about a 5 minute drive from my work) and discovered that they had not 1, but 2 cuts of boneless lamb.  And really, I should have thought of them earlier.  If it's good enough for Top Chef, it's good enough for me.

After marinating over night, I set up the lamb with the onion and pepper on my reusable metal skewers and got them on the grill.

Keeping with a Greek themed meal I served the skewers with a Greek salad, grilled pita, tzatziki, and some grilled halloumi cheese.  Opa!

I was very lucky to be able to share this meal with both Derek and my good friend Shannon that was down visiting from Ottawa.  She only just moved there about 4 weeks ago (after living 2 km from my house) so it was really great to sit down and enjoy this awesome meal with them.  All in all I really liked this meal.  I think that next time, however, I'd skip basting the skewers with the marinade, because while it did impart a bit of extra flavour to the veggies, it left a bit too much, um, residue (?) on the meat.  The flavours were fantastic though, and I will definitely make this again!

Week Four - Mushroom and Bacon-Stuffed Trout

If you have looked at my other blog, you may have noticed that I have a list running down the right hand side. This is my 101 things in 1001 days challenge and my time runs out on September 28th. So I thought I would use this post to kill two birds with one stone, and be able to check off "cook a whole fish."

I like fish. I like it a lot and I like all kinds of fish, but trout is one of my most favorite. You don't see it on restaurant menus very often here and I always order it when I do. I thought I would take a stab at making this recipe from Cooking Light.

Mushroom and Bacon-Stuffed Trout
  • 2 (1-ounce) slices white bread
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions (about 2 bunches)
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms (about 4 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 center-cut bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 8 (8-ounce) dressed whole rainbow trout
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges and fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°.

Place bread in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until crumbly. Sprinkle crumbs on a baking sheet; bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until golden.

Increase oven temperature to 400°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add green onions and onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add mushrooms to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until mushrooms soften and most of liquid evaporates. Add chopped thyme; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Combine mushroom mixture, breadcrumbs, and bacon in a bowl.

Open trout flat as you would a book. Drizzle trout evenly with juice; sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Spoon about 1/4 cup mushroom mixture onto bottom half of each fish; fold over to cover with top half of fish. Arrange fish on a foil-lined broiler pan. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork or until desired degree or doneness. Garnish with lemon wedges and thyme sprigs, if desired. Serve immediately.

Lemon Cumin Chicken

For this week's recipe I was excited to use lamb since I rarely cook with it since my husband is not a big fan. My parents were coming for dinner, so I figured it would be a perfect time to do a couple of different kinds of kebabs and let people eat what they wanted. Unfortunately, the grocery store did not have any lamb that could be used for kebabs...bummer.

Oh well, I made do. Instead I picked up some chicken tenders (which are my favorites for kebabs--super easy!) and some steak tips (to make the picky husband happy). I got up early on Wednesday morning and mixed up the marinade and put the chicken in. I marinated the steak is some spicy BBQ type sauce.

The marinade was easy to make...especially with this handy tool:

For those of you who do not have a microplane, it is one of my favorite gadgets! It is great for grating hard cheeses, nutmeg, and in this case, ginger and garlic!

The chicken sat in the marinade all day and then I skewered everything up. I kept the veggies separate (picky husband strikes again) and did two skewers of chicken and two of steak.

And while I may complain a bit about the fact that my husband is picky, he did do all the actual cooking while I visited with my parents, so I have to give him some credit!
We served everything with a simple salad with balsamic and olive oil and some grilled corn on the cob. The chicken was full of flavor and very tender. The lemon and the cumin really stood out. I LOVE cumin, so I thought it was great. My parents aren't huge cumin fans, but they thought it was pretty good--and even my dear husband had a second helping of the chicken! I think I would definitely use the marinade again--this time with lamb or maybe even the pork tenderloin I have in the fridge right now!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

By the way...

Does anyone else's husband really look forward to these "weekly Nestie dinners"? Because mine really does.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cumin grilled lamb chops

I couldn't find lamb kebab meat at my grocery store, which was just as well because I live in a condo and don't have a grill anyway. So we got lamb chops.

I added a little bit of curry powder because cumin makes me think curry. (When my relatives first met Victor, who's East Indian, one aunt asked, "Do you cook a lot of curry?" Facepalm. My cousin whispered to us, "Don't worry... they think anything with cumin is curry." Luckily, Victor was amused.)

In the absence of a grill, I used my grill pan. See the lovely charred grill marks on the lamb chops. Oh.. I unfortunately forgot to pick up a sweet pepper.
I served it with lemon dill Israeli couscous, salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and grilled figs.Great recipe - simple and delicious. I'll definitely make this one again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cumin Kebabs

I missed last week's salmon because I was out of town, so I was very excited to get back in with this week's recipe. Only one problem; I don't eat red meat. After looking at the lamb in the grocery store, I decided to substitute pork. I am sure the lamb is delicious and that I would love it - it just wouldn't love me back.

I made the marinade last night, using 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger since I didn't have fresh. That is one thing that I very rarely have on hand and I hate buying a whole finger of it just to use once. The pork had almost 12 hours to get awesome.

kebabs ready for the grill

We live in a condo unit and can't have a grill, so I have the biggest George Forman grill that I could find. I seriously love this thing. I used it to cook dinner every night for a week after I got it.

Lean, mean, fat-reducing grilling machine

I served these with parmesan couscous. The meat was so tender and flavorful, the onions got very sweet on the grill and, along with the pepper, gave a nice crunch to contrast with the pork. Definitely a keeper.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Week Three Recipe: Cumin Lamb, Sweet Pepper & Onion Kebabs

I love lamb.  I really do.  When we were on our honeymoon in Greece we ate a lot of lamb.  I also love to cook food on sticks in the summer.  We have "meat and vegetables on sticks" about once a week throughout the summer months.

This recipe comes from the Summer issue of the LCBO Food & Drink magazine.  The LCBO is where we buy our liquor up here in Ontario (it actually stands for Liquor Control Board of Ontario).  Yup, only in special circumstances can you get wine in a grocery store, and you can forget about beer or spirits.  But anyway, several times a year the LCBO puts out a great magazine full of wonderful drink ideas and fantastic recipes.  I've made so many things out of them, and refuse to let Derek throw any of the magazines out.  If you'd like to take a search through some of what they've had in the past, go here. (This is one of my favourite things I've made from these magazines.  I made it at least 3 times in the Fall/Winter of 2004)

Cumin Lamb, Sweet Pepper & Onion Kebabs

If you love lamb, but don't feel like grilling a whole leg, kebabs are the perfect solution.  As most of the lamb in the supermarket is frozen, it's easiest to find these fresh cuts at a butcher shop or farmers' market.

Serves 4

  • 3/4 lb (375g) boneless lamb, such as boneless leg or tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) finely minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) cumin
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) liquid honey
  • 1 large sweet pepper, preferably yellow
  • 1 small red onion
  • Salt and black pepper

1. Cut lamb into bite-sized chunks for threading onto skewers.  In a bowl just large enough to hold lamb, whisk lemon juice with oil, ginger, garlic, cumin and honey.  Add lamb and stir to coat.  Refrigerate covered, turning occasionally, at least 4 hours but preferable overnight.

2. Oil grill and preheat barbecue to medium-high.  Slice pepper and red onion into chunks.  Thread onto skewers randomly with lamb.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill, turning occasionally and basting with marinade until cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Adjust heat as needed.

3. Remove to a platter.  Excellent with grilled pita or flatbread, tzatziki and a tossed green or Greek salad.

Bonus: the magazine also suggest wine pairings!

What to Serve

Henry of Pelham Reserve Baco Noir VQA (Vintage Essentials, $24.95 CAD) (this one is from Ontario, if you can find it, try it!)
William Fevre Champs Royaux Chablis ($21.95 CAD)

Grilled Chicken with Blueberry Sauce

We have never tried a recipe like this before. We love blueberries, and salmon is always delicious, but together...my dear husband wasn't so sure. For some reason he thought chicken would be a better bet. His opinion, coupled with the fact that we had salmon a few days ago, convinced me to replace the salmon fillets with chicken breasts in this week's recipe.

After browsing online for suggestions related to grilled chicken and blueberries (and finding this helpful recipe), I also changed the ingredient list a little. We ended up using more blueberries and balsamic than the original recipe, and swapped out a few other ingredients as well. Our final list:

2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup diced tomato
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salad greens
brown rice

I began by bringing the blueberries, vinegar, honey, tomato, garlic and ginger to a boil in a medium nonstick pan. We didn't use shallots, so this step was pretty quick. I let that simmer about 15 minutes, then gave it time to cool.

Next I used 1/3 of the blueberry sauce to marinate the chicken. I let it sit in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

After marinating, I put the chicken on our little indoor grill. Living in an apartment in our city, grills are off limits. We joke that when we buy a house we will grill out every night from April to October to make up for lost time...

We ate it over brown rice with a green salad. 

And the verdict? Yum, yum, yum!

Berries and Salmon

I was a little apprehensive after ready the reviews here and online. So I decided to not use the balsamic vinegar. I subsituted a squeeze of honey, some lemon juice and a dash of cayenne pepper to kick it up a bit.

Everyone hanging out in the pot getting ready to be mashed and the sauce simmering.

We had a delay in cooking since the propane decided to run out. So while Barry ran for a refill I did the dishes.

All done! To serve along side I grilled red potatoes coated with honey, mustard and hot sauce. Yum!

I found the sauce was a nice compliment to the salmon. The sauce on it's own was not as sweet as I imagined it would be. However, the salmon brought out the sweetness somehow. I only made 2 filets, so I had some leftover sauce that I froze. I am curious to try it with pork and even turkey.