Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chicken - Chicken - Chicken

Apparently I've been overdoing it on the chicken lately because my family is starting to protest.  (They're not hesitant about letting me know when I cook too much of something.)  They told someone recently that our weekly menu consists of "chicken, chicken, chicken, fish, chicken, chicken, chicken."  OK point taken - I need to change up my menu and make something different.  It's just that I love chicken and I cook it so many different ways that I never get tired of it.  Unfortunately that's not true for the rest of my family.  They will be happy to know that last night's chicken dinner will be the last time they're served chicken for the rest of the week. 

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh spinach, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
4 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
juice from 1 Meyer Lemon
1/4 cup white wine
1 Tablespoon heavy cream

Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for 6 minutes at 350.  

Combine goat cheese, lemon zest, spinach, garlic and 1/2 of the walnuts.  

Cut a pocket in each chicken breast.  Divide the filling into quarters and stuff into the pocket of each chicken breast.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  

Heat olive oil in skillet.  Add chicken and brown on each side.  

Transfer chicken to a baking dish and bake 20 minutes at 350.  


Add butter to skillet and melt.  Add wine and scrape browned bits from bottom of the pan.  Bring to a simmer and reduce to a thick sauce.  Stir in lemon juice and heavy cream.  Whisk to combine.

  Sprinkle cooked chicken breasts with remaining walnuts and serve with pan sauce. 

If you're not a goat cheese fan you can substitute feta or cream cheese.  This stuffed chicken breast is elegant enough for a dinner party and simple enough for a weeknight meal.  How could anyone get tired of chicken?


Monday, January 30, 2012

Just When You Think You Know Someone

This is a picture of my husband and I on our wedding day - a little over 18 years ago now.  I like to think that I know him pretty well but the truth is, he's full of surprises and I may never completely figure him out.  I've known this wonderful man since we were ten years old - which seems like plenty of time to figure him out, right? Over the years I have managed to learn a few things about him.  I know that he likes to talk to the T.V. when he's watching a football game and now I've learned to expect these one way conversations.  Ironically though, I'm still discovering new likes and dislikes when it comes to his food choices.  Last year, for example, I found that my significant other likes guacamole! Seriously? - How did I not know this before.   Bear in mind that we lived in Texas for 2 years - the guacamole capital of the world!  All those dinners at Mexican restaurants wishing I had someone to share a bowl of guacamole.  All of the avocados that I passed up in the grocery store because I felt guilty making guacamole for myself. We could have been eating guacamole together for the past 18 years.

On a recent trip to the donut store I learned some more important information about my husband - he likes jelly doughnuts! He claims that he has ordered them before but I don't think think I've ever seen him order a jelly doughnut. We've ordered plenty of doughnuts together and he usually opts for the glazed, sugared twists or the Boston creme varieties. I think my jaw actually fell open when I heard him order a jelly filled doughnut.  (Sometimes I think he's just messing with me to keep me guessing.) Now that I know he's a jelly doughnut fan, I decided to make my own baked version at home. 

I tore this recipe out of a Cooking Light magazine back in 2008 and I've hung onto it all these years.  Even though they looked fantastic, I hesitated to make them before now because I didn't think there were any other jelly doughnuts in the house. 

Baked Soufganiyot 
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
3/4 cup warm milk
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon Meyer Lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 cups flour
3/4 cup jam
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm milk.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

 Add remaining milk, sugar, butter, zest, vanilla, salt and egg.  Beat with a paddle attachment.

 Add 2 cups flour and beat on medium speed.  Stir in remaining flour until a soft dough forms. 

Switch to a kneading attachment and knead dough 5 minutes.  Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour. 

Punch dough down and let rest 5 minutes.  Divide dough into 16 pieces.  Place dough balls on a silpat lined baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise 45 minutes.


Bake doughnuts for 14 minutes at 375.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Make a pocket in each doughnut by pushing the handle of a wooden spoon through one side of the doughnut. 

Fill a condiment bottle with jam and squeeze a small amount into each hole.

Sprinkle filled doughnuts with powdered sugar. 

My family really liked these doughnuts.  I was nervous about them falling short of their fried counterparts but no one really seemed to care that they hadn't been fried.  My jelly doughnut loving husband loved them too! 

 Here's a bonus picture from our wedding reception.  Check out those puffy sleeves.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

I have made all different kinds of peanut butter cookies.  I've tried literally dozens of peanut butter cookie recipes and my family overwhelmingly prefers this version the best.  I found this recipe on the back of the Jiff peanut butter jar.  It's not fancy or complicated - just simple and delicious.  The only variation that I made to the original recipe is that I don't like to press my peanut butter cookies with the back of a fork.  I'm not really sure where this tradition started but I don't like fork marks on my cookies - I prefer a more rustic looking peanut butter cookie. 

Jiff Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe
1 ½ cups peanut butter            2 Tablespoons vanilla
1 cup shortening                        2 eggs
2 ½ cups brown sugar               3 ½ cups flour
6 Tablespoons milk                    1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

Cream shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla.  Beat in eggs.

Add dry ingredients.

Use cookie scoop to make cookie balls . (I don't press them down.)

Bake 10 minutes at 350.  

I made a double batch of these yummy cookies so I could put some in my freezer for another day. 


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lemon Heaven

It's day two of my Meyer Lemon cooking extravaganza.  I went back to Walmart and I bought two more bags of Meyer Lemons because I already have literally dozens of recipes that I want to make with them.  I spent some time searching the internet for Meyer Lemon recipes and I was absolutely giddy looking at all of the options for this juicy little fruit.  I felt like a kid in a candy store trying to decide which one to try first.  The winner - Meyer Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken from Food and Wine magazine.  I took quite a few liberties with the recipe so my chicken came out looking quite differently than the one pictured on the website. 

Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
zest from 1 Meyer Lemon
salt and pepper

1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
5 cloves garlic, smashed
8 springs of fresh thyme
1 Meyer lemon sliced thinly
1/2 cup water

 Rinse chicken and pat dry.


Combine first 6 ingredients and rub under skin and on top of chicken.

Place on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up and place onion, garlic. lemon, thyme and water in the bottom of the pan. 


Roast 30 minutes at 425, covered.


Flip chicken over and roast 20 minutes longer without the lid on the pan.

Remove the pan from the oven and place lemon slices on top.  Return to oven for 10 minutes.

I made this chicken early in the afternoon, let it cool, wrapped it in foil and put it in the refrigerator.  After a particularly busy evening, I came home and warmed this chicken, threw together a Meyer Lemon vinaigrette salad and dinner was served.  I thought it had a nice bright lemony flavor but my family wasn't  a huge fan of the chicken.  They thought the texture of the chicken was a little "off" but I really think that it was a chicken issue and not a cooking issue.  On a positive note, I have lots of lemon chicken leftover to put in my salads for lunch next week.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Lemon Dance

I was absentmindedly strolling through Wal Mart last week when a bright yellow produce display caught my eye.  I could hardly believe my eyes - an entire bin of Meyer Lemons - in Wal Mart !?!  The food blog world has been buzzing about this delightful fruit for months and I have been on the lookout for Meyer Lemons for weeks.  There they were - right in front of me - calling my name.  I actually did a little happy dance in my head right there in the middle of the Wal Mart produce section.  (At least I thought the dancing was in my mind because as I placed the bag of lemons in my cart, I realized that I was getting some pretty strange looks from the other produce shoppers.)  I wanted to buy a cart full of lemons but I limited myself to one bag since I really didn't even know what I was going to make with them.

Meyer Lemons are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.  There are tons of Meyer Lemon recipes on the internet.  From what I've read, you can use them almost interchangeably with regular lemons.  The Meyer Lemons were noticeably smaller than their lemon counterparts and they have a slight orange hue.   Out of curiosity, I sliced one in half as soon as I got them home.  They looked really sweet and juicy so I tasted it - definitely a lemon!  It was a little sweeter than a traditional lemon but it still had a nice sour bright taste. 

Now that I was the proud owner of my very own bag of Meyer Lemons, I had to decide which recipes were worthy of my precious lemons.  I want to try Meyer Lemon Ricotta Almond muffins and a Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken but the first thing that I decided to make was a simple Meyer Lemon vinaigrette.  What better way to truly enjoy this delightful fruit than whisked into a little olive oil and vinegar and drizzled over a green salad?  I didn't follow a recipe but I combined a few of my favorite salad dressing ingredients to create this vinaigrette.

Meyer Lemon vinaigrette
zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
fresh ground black pepper

I whisked together all of my vinaigrette ingredients in a shallow bowl and viola!...Meyer Lemon dressing.   This dressing was crazy good - I may never buy bottled salad dressing again.

I put together a quick salad (lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, yellow peppers, spiced pecans and blue cheese) and drizzled my dressing over the top. 

I can't remember the last time I was that excited to dig into a salad.  It was so good.  It's worth buying a bag of Meyer Lemons just to make this vinaigrette. 

If you are lucky enough to come across some Meyer Lemons in the grocery store - go ahead and buy yourself a bag.  (Just be careful not to do your happy dance until you get home.)  I'm starting my own little collection of Meyer Lemon recipes so if you have a great Meyer Lemon recipe - please send it to me. Also, if you like this post, you can share it with your facebook friends by clicking on the "recommend" link on the right side of the page.