Roll ‘Em Up: Stuffed Chicken Breast

spinach stuffed chicken breast

Rocked and Rolled

There’s a great scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Chevy Chase (Clark) and his fictional Wally-World-headed family get lost and end up driving through ‘The Hood.’ With the windows

chevy Chase vacation movie

Roll ‘Em Up!

wide open, and over the din of hooker cat calls and maybe even some jive from stereo-typical drug dealers and street pimps, he tells his family that being lost in such a neighborhood will make the Griswold’s appreciate what they have. Suddenly, through the cat calls from hookers on the street…there’s  a gun shot. Clark immediately urges his family to ‘roll ’em up’.

It’s important to know when to quit. When to call it a day. When the fat lady is singing. When the party’s over. When to ‘roll ’em up.’

I think we can all (sadly) agree that after about 2 minutes into the second quarter of last night’s BCS National Championship Game…It was time for Notre Dame to ‘roll ’em up’. I mean it was 21-zip. Even my cousin – the die-hardest of diehard Irish fans texted asking if there was a ‘mercy rule…or something.’ Brutal.

And so the 2012 season comes to a close. The Fighting Irish can head back to South Bend, a little battered, a lot bruised and, yes, without the title of National Champions. Time for them to roll ’em up and regroup for 2013.

As they rolled up their season, I rolled up some chicken.

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Rolls (Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts – I bought the Perdue individually wrapped ones, but I think they’re small and might choose just the regular Perdue breasts next time
  • 1 10oz Package Birdseye Frozen Chopped Spinach
  • 1/4 Cup Progresso Panko Style Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Cottage Cheese – you can use Ricotta Cheese, but, seriously, the cottage cheese was AOK here
  • 1 TBSP Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

1. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken breasts out to about 1/4 inch thick. The best way I’ve found to do this is to sandwich the breasts between either two pieces of Saran Wrap or two pieces of parchment paper on a cutting board. Pound from the center and sort of push out at the end of each pound.

perdue chicken breasts

Don’t pound it too thin!

2. In a microwavable bowl, defrost the frozen spinach – remove from package and zap on high for 3 minutes….stir and zap another 2-3 mins

birdseye frozen chopped spinach

Thawed and Smokin’

3. Squeeze the spinach to remove the excess water. I do use a kitchen towel for this and as long as you rinse the towel in cold water immediately after the squeeze process, the green ‘stain’ will come out easily in the wash

4. In a small fry pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Can you use oil instead of butter? No, it won’t brown the bread crumbs as nicely

5. Add the bread crumbs to the buttery goodness and toast them up. This doesn’t take long…just let them sit in the butter and stir after a few minutes. You want the bread crumbs sorta crispy…

progresso panko style bread crumbs

Toasting ‘Em Up

6. Once toasted, add the bread crumbs to the spinach

7. Stir in the cottage cheese and parmesan cheese. Add about an 1/8 tsp of salt and pepper.

Perdue stuffed rolled chicken breasts

Mix ‘Em Up

8. Place a heaping spoonful of the mixture into the bottom third of each chicken breast and carefully roll the breasts around the stuffing

9. Secure the rolls with a toothpick or two

perdue chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and cheese

Package ‘Em Up

10. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a medium fry pan

11. Brown the stuffed rolled chicken breasts on all sides – about 2 mins per side

perdue stuffed chicken rolls dinner

Brown ‘Em Up

12. Transfer the browned, stuffed, rolled chicken breasts to a baking dish and put into the oven

13. Bake until cooked completely – about :10 mins

perdue individually wrapped chicken breasts

Bake ‘Em Up

14. Remove the toothpicks, slice and serve.

For the Fighting Irish 2012 was a pretty good season –  and in the spirit of Clark Griswold, I will appreciate what we had – a 12-0 regular season for the first time in forever. Even evil Brent Musberger admitted that Coach Kelly had returned the team to a position of leadership. Last night was tough times. And, there is no mercy rule in college football. In spite of being rolled over, Notre Dame didn’t roll ’em up until the very end. They even scored 14 points in the second half – a little pride saved.

It’s on to 2013 for the Irish. Until then, try rolling up some chicken.

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Hookers – Like People Who Catch Fish

Tilapia in a Lemon, White Wine, Caper Sauce

Hook Yourself Up with A Grown Up Dinner for One

With Halloween rapidly approaching, I think back on all of the costumes I selected growing up. For the first 8 or so years, I was a witch – spare me the life-art comments. Then, when I was finally allowed to select my own costumes, I was a cat (hate cats, not sure why I did that), a hobo – cuz I was going to Halloween during the depression? A candy striper – always the do-gooder – smiley face.

Most of the time my parents were OK with whatever I chose to be. My mother even made the witch costume that I wore for the first 8 years – hold comments until the end. But in 7th grade my friends and I on the verge of becoming little women decided to go a little more risque.

Risque…hmmm.  Bear in mind that in my somewhat conservative catholic home I wasn’t even allowed to wear a non-competitive swim suit in 7th or 8th or 9th grade. And, when I sported my first ‘fashion’ swimwear at 14, my father sent me home from the pool.

Toddlers in Tiaras

She’s such a pretty woman!

So, when I announced proudly that the girls and I were going to be hookers, you can imagine the reaction I received.

Yep, hookers.

I’m not even sure that I knew what hookers really did – but I did know that we would be able to look a lot cuter than we had as hobos the year prior.

Naively, I didn’t really anticipate any negative reaction from my parents. I mean I pretty much figured: Hookers. Hobos. Whatever.

Uhm, no.

My father instantly put the kibosh on that idea and informed me that the only hookers in the family would be people hooking fish.

OK. So candy striper repeat it was. Of course, it was an over-made up candy striper – but a do-good candy striper nonetheless.

As far as fishing and hookers…A couple of nights ago, I hooked a couple of tilapia filets at Whole Foods and made:

Tilapia in a White Wine Sauce (serves 1 – there’s no reason you can’t have a real meal when dining alone)

Frozen Tilapia Pescatarian Vegetarian

Have on hand

NOTE: If you’re using the Whole Foods frozen tilapia, 7 hours before you intend to cook, take one package out of the freezer, remove the packaging, place the filets in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

1. Mise en place:

  • 1 tsp of capers rinsed and drained
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine – I used chardonnay because that’s what I had, but you might want to use a drier one
  • 1 tsp parsley chopped
  • the zest of one lemon
  • the juice of one lemon
Whole Foods frozen tiliapia

Mise En Place to Make even Anne Burrell Proud

2. In a 10-inch skillet over medium, heat 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter.

3. Salt and Pepper the filets on both sides, gently coat in flour and place in the heated skillet

Tilapia searing in butter olive oil

Browning the Fish

4. Cook on each side for +/- :04 minutes – depending upon the thickness of the fish.

Lemon Caper White Wine Shallot Sauce

Beautifully Browned

5. Once the fish is wholly cooked, remove from the skillet and keep warm

6. Add the shallot to the skillet and saute until fragrant – about 2 mins

Lemon White Wine Caper shallot sauce

Saute the Shallot

7. Add the white wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Allow the sauce to thicken slightly – about :03mins. If you don’t feel like it’s thickening enough…throw in a little butter (1 tsp) and stir until it melts into the sauce

Whole Foods frozen tilapia

Add in White Wine and Lemon Juice

8. Stir in the lemon zest, parsley and capers

Lemon White Wine Shallot Caper Sauce

Stir in Parsley and Lemon Zest

9. Stir to combine flavors – about :02 mins. Then pour over the fish and serve

Cooking with Wine

Pour the Sauce over the Fish

Halloween is a time when you’re allowed and encouraged to be something you’re not. Whether it’s a witch (stop it), a hobo or even a hooker.

And, while I wasn’t ever allowed to dress like Pretty Woman, I ultimately became quite the skilled hooker…and cooker of fish.

Holy Braciole

braciole flank steak

Beauteous Braciole

OK….last night’s dinner was a bit of work with a lot of steps and a bunch of ingredients. Everyone liked it. That’s my story.

Braciole (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • A 1 1/4 -1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped

    mise en place

    Le Creuset Prep Bowls

  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1 10oz package Birds Eye frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 8-10 baby bella mushroom, stem removed and sliced relatively thin
  • 1/4 cup of toasted pine (same as pignoli) nuts
  • 2 tbsp Poly-O whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Sliced or Shredded Provolone Cheese

    Organic Provolone Whole Foods

    Cut the Cheese

  • 2 leeks – chopped
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 28oz can of Muir Glen tomato puree
  • Herb bundle with Rosemary and Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. In a medium saute or fry pan, over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and add 1 clove garlic chopped and 1 chopped shallot. Saute until fragrant (about 2 mins)

Fragrant Garlic

Saute Garlic and Shallot

2. Add in 1 10oz package of Birds-Eye frozen chopped spinach – defrosted and squeezed dry. Saute until heated through then transfer spinach to a bowl and set aside.

Birds-Eye Spinach

Birds-Eye Spinach Sauteeing

3. Add 1 tbsp of Olive Oil to the same pan and heat over medium. Then add in 1 cup of sliced baby bella mushrooms. Saute until tender.

Whole Foods Baby Bella Mushrooms

I foraged for these at Whole Foods

4. Add back in the spinach and stir to combine

5. Stir in 1/4 cup of toasted Pine Nuts – I buy these in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods. They’re expensive, but buying in the bulk aisle allows you to get just what you need.

Baby Bella Mushrooms Birds Eye Spinach Saute

Spinach, Mushrooms & Toasted Pine Nuts

6. Once heated through, transfer to a bowl and while still hot, stir in 2 tbsp of Poly-O whole milk ricotta cheese. I wasn’t going to add anything here…but needed a binder for the stuffing and I heart ricotta cheese!

Poly-O Ricotta Cheese

Stuffing is Done!

7. Place the flank steak on plastic wrap on a cutting board. Cover with plastic wrap and using the flat side of a tenderizer, pound out the steak to about 1/2 inch thick. Be careful not to over pound and toughen the meat. If the flank steak is super thick, you can carefully butterfly the steak before pounding or even instead of pounding out.

Whole Foods Flank Steak

Pre-Pounded Flank Steak

8. Remove the top and bottom layer of plastic wrap and Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper the meat on the up side

9. Place 4 – 6 pieces of cooking string under the pounded flank steak at about 2 inch intervals. The string will need to be long enough to tie around the braciole once stuffed, so better to err on too long than too short.

NOTE: Putting the string under the meat before stuffing and rolling it, makes the ultimate tying process easier

10. Cover the meat with a layer of the spinach, mushroom, nut mixture. Leave about an inch uncovered all around – I didn’t leave enough space…

Birds Eye chopped spinach mushrooms

Layer on the stuffing

11. On top of that, add a layer of thinly sliced or shredded provolone cheese. You need a medium hard cheese here as you don’t want it all melty and oozing out of the braciole.

Organic Whole Foods Provolone

Because Everything is better with Cheese

12. Carefully roll the flank steak – keeping the stuffing inside.

13. Tie the roll securely with the strings – mine looked a little frankenstein or maybe ‘The Mummy’, but that was fine.

Whole Foods Flank Steak Braciole

Secured Franken-Style

14. In a roasting pan or a lasagna pan over two burners on med/high heat 3 tbsp of olive oil. I used my All-Clad turkey roasting pan…but, should have used a smaller one like the All-Clad lasagna pan.

14. Sear the stuffed flank steak on all sides – about 2 minutes a side.

whole foods flank steak braciole

Searing the Braciole

15. Transfer the seared steak to a cutting board. Set Aside.

16. Depending upon size of pan…Add another 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and heat over medium.

17. Add in 1 medium onion sliced, two chopped leaks and one chopped carrot. Saute until softened – about 7 mins.

NOTE: I might have added a second carrot…but only had one in the fridge.

Leeks Onions Carrots

Saute Veggies

11. Add in 2 cloves of garlic chopped and salt and pepper – saute another minute or two.

12. Raise the heat to med/high and pour in 1 cup of dry red wine to deglaze the pan.  Allow about 1/2 of the wine to evaporate.

13. Pour in 2 cups of beef broth – I had some chicken stock I needed to use so I did 1/2 chicken stock, 1/2 beef broth.

14. Return the meat to the pan and cover with 1 28oz can of Muir Glen pureed tomatoes. Then add in an herb bundle of Rosemary and Thyme – about 2 sprigs of each….

Muir Glenn Tomato Puree

Smother in Muir Glen Tomato Puree

15. Stir the sauce a bit. Bring to a boil, carefully cover with tin foil and place in the oven.

16. Braise in the oven for :50 – :60 minutes.

17. When done…Remove from the roasting pan and allow the meat to rest for :10 minutes.

18. Transfer a few ladles of the braising sauce to a blender and allow to cool….Then puree.

DO NOT puree while the sauce is still super hot – it’ll blow the lid off of the blender…really.

Whole Foods Vegetable Puree Muir Glen

CAREFULLY Puree the Sauce

19. Slice the braciole and transfer to a serving dish. Serve with the pureed vegetable sauce. Make sure you remove all strings and…I had to toothpick the ends…remember to remove those too.

Braciole Spinach Mushroom Stuffed Flank Steak Whole Foods

Holy Braciole!

Holy Braciole! That was a bit of work – but well worth it. And…while it could serve 4, three of us ate all but one slice!

Bitchin’ Brussels Sprouts, So Not Meh

Fresh Farmer’s Market Brussels Sprouts

Last week, Joe Biden reminded us all of a different time. A time when ‘malarkey’ was an

Joe Biden Malarkey

That’s Malarkey!

effective way to call someone out on a lie, an untruth. A time when someone could say ‘malarkey’ and everyone would know what he meant. Joe thought some of what that other guy said was simply, malarkey.

Languages evolve and colloquialisms come and go. At some point, ‘eh’ was replaced by ‘meh’ – meant to convey indifference and signify a sense of ‘whatever’ or ‘not so much’. ‘Meh’ is so much in use that this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine actually included ‘The Meh List’…certainly a sign that ‘meh’ is on its way out.

I remember a few years ago when I asked my nephew where my niece was, he, then about 10, told me that his sister was ‘lolly-gagging in the kitchen with Mommy’ – Hmmm, ‘lolly-gagging’? And, no, by a few years I don’t mean that I asked him this question in 1950. He must have picked that up somewhere, and it sounded funny out of a 10-year old in 2008.

Other words and sayings that have sadly and not so sadly fallen out of favor:

Golly…as in ‘Golly, Davey, if we lie…Dad…And, the Lord, will be mad at us’

Davey and Goliath

Golly, Davey!

Piss-Ant, as in ‘Mom! Mary-Ellen called me a Piss-Ant’

Before Mary-Ellen ever whispered those evil words

Groovy…as in ‘Hey there, groovy chicks. You’re all hep in far out ways’

Groovy Johnny Bravo

And others:

Loosey-Goosey

Willie-Nillie

Fuddy-Duddy

Whipper-Snapper

Interestingly, many of these long gone expressions rhymed…maybe a sign of happier times when Opie skipped by a watering hole toting his fishing pole, whistling on his way home after a long day at school.

Another thing that evolves is the way we prepare foods…The way you first experience a food can sear an impression about that food forever. Like when it was all the rage to boil vegetables until they drooped and sagged, lost all color and even more taste. No wonder kids hated vegetables.

But, thankfully, this trend has passed and is no longer a hip and rad way to prepare veggies. Even the most daunting of greens when prepared well, can be a lot more than just nutritious.

Bitchin’ Brussels Sprouts (side dish for 4)

1. Slice the bottoms off of about 20-25 Brussels sprouts and peel off the outer layer of leaves. You can keep these outer leaves and quick fry them – they’re like chips! Or, toss them

2. Slice each sprout in half lengthwise and submerge cut side down in a bowl of ice water with the juice from one half of a lemon. The acid from the lemon will kill any critters hiding between the leaves…eww

Acidy Water Kills Bugs

3. Melt 2 TBSP of butter in a medium fry pan over med/high heat. You can sub 1 tbsp olive oil for 1/2 of the butter…

Melt that Butter!

4. Remove the soaking sprouts from the ice bath and pat dry with a paper towel

5. Carefully place each sprout cut side down into the simmering butter bath

From Icy Bath to Butter Bath

6. Cook until well browned and then carefully flip each sprout over

sprouts vegetables

I Totally Flipped for them!

7. Whisk together 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and 1 TBSP of Dijon mustard

Steaming Liquid

Steaming Stock and Dijon Mixture

8. Pour the mixture over the simmering vegetables and allow to steam the sprouts to tenderness. You can at this point add salt and pepper to taste – bear in mind that if you used chicken stock, it’ll be salty enough.

Vegetable Side Dish

Simmering Sprouts

9. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, sprinkle about 1 TBSP of freshly grated parmesan cheese over the sprouts, transfer to a dish and serve

Vegetable side dish

Table-Ready

These groovy sprouts are totally bitchin’ and quick and easy to prepare. So, any of you old fuddy-duddies who think you hate Brussels sprouts because you suffered over-boiled vegetables in the 1970s. Don’t lollygag or dilly-dally, get out there and sear, simmer and saute your sprouts. They’re totally not meh. And that’s not malarkey!

We Embrace Change and Coconut Curry Shrimp

shrimp dinner

Embracing Change: Coconut Curry Shrimp

More than 2 years have passed since lovely Sarah Palin asked ‘How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out?’ Don’t worry, we’re not going to talk politics here. But we are going to talk change.

Sarah Palin Asks the Question

Very early in my career during a round of pretty significant layoffs through which I survived, I learned that: ‘Change is good. We embrace change.’ That’s what one of the higher-ups told us, the lil’ people, at the time. And, I repeated it a lot in my head – like orphans who learn to soothe themselves by rocking in their cribs – I managed the shock of watching 30% of the company being marched out the door and soothed myself by repeating ‘Change is good. We embrace change’ over and over and over again. I repeated it until I actually believed it. And it’s been a mantra ever since.

Now, I do admit that not all change is easy to swallow. The mass firing wasn’t fun for anyone, but it was good in the long run for the company – and, a great learning experience for my younger self.

Personal change (as opposed to personnel change) can be tough to handle as well. Last night, for example, my 70-something-year-old father asked to borrow my readers because he forgot his.

That’s right. I now have readers. Still sort of hyperventilating from that one. I do feel the need to announce here that my ‘readers’ are only 1X AND as per my eye guy, I have better than 20/20 vision – it’s just that my eyes have changed and I can’t see menus, in small print, in dark restaurants, whatever. Let’s not discuss this again.

But, most change, is really good. As a food person, in order to keep it interesting and have content on a very regular basis, I’ve had to embrace new foods and cook things that I would have never made before. I’ve had to change the way I think about a lot of things.

Two truths I used to hold:

1. Shrimp is not a meal

2. I hate coconut

But, change is good. And recently I made:

Coconut Curry Shrimp (serves 4)

1. In a large pot on the stove top, whisk together:

  • Coconut Milk Whole Foods

    13.5 oz NOT 14oz

    1 14 oz can of Coconut Milk – unsweetened. For whatever reason, Whole Foods sells its 365 brand of Coconut milk in 13.5oz cans. Could be a marketing ploy and I fell for it and bought 2 – which was OK because I also made coconut rice…and, the 365 brand is very well priced.

    The recipe I tweaked also called for fresh coconut…but I draw the line there as I can’t stand crunching down on flakes of real coconut. So I left it out.

  • The juice from one lime
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp of minced ginger – note, you can store ginger in your freezer for about one eon if you peel it first (use a spoon), wrap it in Saran and then put it in a ZipLoc freezer bag…frozen ginger is easier to grate as well – I used my Microplane grater
Ginger Root

Fresh Ginger Peeling Process

2. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over low heat

Curry into the Coconut Milk mixture

3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 7 – 10 minutes. The mixture will thicken and reduce a bit.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste – just a pinch of each will probably do ya

5. Add in 1lb of large, peeled and deveined shrimp. I know… I normally use frozen, but thought ‘Embrace Change!’ and bought a beautiful looking pound of fresh shrimp at Citarella.

coconut curry shrimp

Citarella Shrimp into the Curry!

6. Return to a simmer, then cover and cook for 12 – 15 minutes until the shrimps are fully cooked

Oh, they’re cooked now!

7. Toss in about 1/4 cup combo of freshly chopped parsley and freshly chopped basil

8. Serve over rice…I made coconut rice with orange peppers and peas – it was very pretty – much prettier than the picture above…Again, I left the flakes of fresh coconut out.

Like it? They LOVE it!

The coconut curry shrimp was really good. I liked it…A lot. And, so did these people.

Up is down. Black is white. Day is night. I eat coconut. Shrimp is a meal.

You know what, in my kitchen at least, there is hopey changey stuff that’s working just fine.

Change is good. We embrace change.