Caprese Chicken

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I don’t know who originally invented the caprese salad, but I would just like to say “thank you”! I cannot get enough of the delicious combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. It just might be best flavor combination ever invented . . . seriously.

Here’s what I’ll be eating this summer. A lot.

Caprese Chicken

So good, and so simple! Take a sautéed chicken breast and top it with delectable caprese salad with a balsamic reduction, and you have beautiful Caprese Chicken.

To make a good caprese salad, you must have the proper ingredients. This means fresh basil (not dried), fresh mozzarella (not that string cheese stuff), and the ripest tomatoes you can find. This is definitely a dish to make during the summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar are important too. Reducing the balsamic vinegar concentrates the flavor and really makes this dish, so don’t skip that step.

The best way to keep fresh basil on hand is to buy a basil plant or two. I have a couple of basil plants by my kitchen window, so I can simply pluck off a few leaves whenever I need to (try adding basil leaves and a slice of lemon to your water).

Fresh basil

Unfortunately, California is going through a drought, so I decided not to plant any tomatoes this year (sniff), but I should be able to get some awesome tomatoes from the local farmers market.

This should feed about 2 people, but we had very large chicken breasts, so we were able to feed 2 adults and 2 kids with this recipe.

Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

First, pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet (or your weapon of choice) until uniformly thick. Season with salt and pepper, and then set aside.

Add the balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a high-simmer (or low boil) and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vinegar is reduced by half. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is hot (you should start to see small ripples in the oil), add the chicken breasts and let cook, undisturbed, for 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat, if needed. When properly browned, the chicken will release from the pan with little effort. Flip the chicken and cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until cooked through. (Note: adding a lid to the pan during the last few minutes of cooking will help the middle of the chicken get done faster.) Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let rest a few minutes before cutting.

To serve, cut the chicken into slices on the diagonal (or however you like) and carefully transfer the chicken to the dinner plates. Top with the tomatoes, and then tear the mozzarella into small pieces and place on top of the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and the balsamic reduction, scatter a few basil leaves on top, and then add fresh ground pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

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Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

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My local grocery store sells the most delicious quinoa salad in the deli case. It has quinoa, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, and red onions, all mixed together with a mildly sweet lemon basil dressing. The salad is light and refreshing and has a great combination of sweet and savory flavors. I took one bite and I immediately started thinking about how I could recreate this salad at home.

Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad

I served this salad at my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner last night, and it was a big success! The bowl was practically scraped clean, but I managed to save some leftovers, which I had for lunch today, topped with some left-over salmon (yum!).

I omitted the artichoke hearts and red onions from my recipe, since they are not part of my low FODMAP diet, but feel free to add them to your salad, if you like. You can adjust the ingredients and quantities shown in my recipe below, but be sure to only use fresh basil. I had some trouble finding fresh basil in the grocery store, so I went to my local nursery and bought a basil plant for about the same price I would pay for a handful of basil as the grocery store. Now I can plant my basil plant and have fresh basil all summer long!

The quinoa will need time to cool in the fridge, so be sure to cook the quinoa the day before, or at least a few hours before you plan on serving the salad. This recipe will serve about 6-8 as a side dish.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
1 container of grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/3 cup feta cheese
1 tablespoon sliced green onions
2 lemons, juiced (approximately 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

To prepare the quinoa, first add the quinoa to a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold water to remove the bitter coating. Add the quinoa to a large saucepan or deep skillet (make sure it has a lid). Add 3 cups of water to the quinoa and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. I usually stir it once or twice while it’s cooking and check the water level. Burnt quinoa doesn’t taste good (don’t ask me how I know).

Once the quinoa is cooked, let cool for 30 minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight.

To prepare the salad, remove the quinoa from the fridge (the quinoa should be cold), and add the tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and green onions. Gently stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup, fresh basil, and salt and pepper. Pour into the bowl with the quinoa and gently stir until thoroughly coated with the dressing. Have a taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Dad’s Easy Mediterranean Chicken

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My dad recently sent me this chicken recipe, which he says received rave-reviews from his dinner guests. Of course I had to try it, and I have to agree – this is one tasty dish! It is full of flavor . . . actually, I’ll let my dad describe it to you . . .

“This recipe offers an exotic blend of flavors, orchestrated by the turmeric, that will appeal to adults, but probably not children. It assumes a Dutch oven but will work just as well in a crock pot or other lidded vessel. In that case, do the initial sauteing in a frying pan and transfer to the final cook pot.”

I altered his recipe slightly to work with the ingredients on hand, but the essential ingredients and flavors are the same.

Ingredients
3/4 cup chopped onion
8 oz package mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic minced
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2/3 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes (or whole cherry tomatoes)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, cut into bite-size pieces (canned or marinated)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
Olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, sauté the onions and mushrooms in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1-2 minutes. Remove the contents from the pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the chicken thighs for about 2-3 minutes per side. Add salt and pepper as desired. Remove browned thighs from the pan if you need more room for the un-browned ones, and add more oil as needed.

Once all the thighs are brown, add them back to the pan along with onion and mushroom mixture and all other ingredients. Lightly stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil, and then reduce heat to simmer (uncovered).

My dad likes to simmer the mixture for 2-3 hours until the mixture has a meat sauce consistency with all the ingredients well ‘blended’. He also suggested serving it after 40-60 minutes of simmering, at which point the thighs will still be intact (which is what I did). Serve over rice.

Thanks for the recipe Dad!

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Mexican Chopped Salad

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I made my Mexican Bean Salad last weekend. It’s a family favorite, but we always have some left over the next day. It keeps great, so we usually just enjoy a “rerun” of the yummy bean salad on day 2. This week I wanted to do something a bit different though, so I decided to make a chopped salad with my leftovers. I just mixed a few salad ingredients into the bean salad and presto-chango. It was so good! The dressing on the bean salad combined with the avocado to add the perfect amount of flavor for a nice, light salad.

I served this salad with my yummy Chile Lime Chicken, which would also be great chopped up and mixed into this salad.

Ingredients
2-3 cups leftover Mexican Bean Salad
4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped into small pieces
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 avocado, chopped

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately.

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Perfect Beef Chili

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Chili is a simple meal, consisting usually of meat, beans, tomatoes, and spices, but if you ask 10 different people to describe the perfect chili, you will likely get 10 different answers. I, for example, like to have veggies in my chili, but my husband considers this chili blasphemy. (That doesn’t stop him from devouring several bowls of my chili, however.) 

I realize that your idea of the ideal pot of chili may be different than mine, but for me, this is the perfect beef chili: thick, hearty, and tons of flavor (without being spicy). I keep the chili mild, for my kids, but I like to add a dash or two of hot sauce to my bowl, after serving. If you like your chili spicy, then you can add a couple of diced chili peppers, before simmering.

Ingredients
1 lb ground beef
1 15oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cubes beef bouillon
1/4 cup beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon hot New Mexico chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of water

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, and cook, using a spatula to break the beef up into small pieces. When cooked through, drain the excess grease and return to the stove.

Add all of the remaining ingredients to the pot, stirring well to combine. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 2 hours.

Serve hot, with a slice of cornbread.

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Summer Menu: Week 4

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Happy Back to School for those of you who had kids start school last week! Remember when we used to start school the day after Labor Day – what happened to that? Well school may have begun, but according to the weather (and my stomach) it’s still summer and this week’s menu is filled with great summertime recipes.

Click on the link below to download a PDF of the menu, grocery list, and recipes.
Summer Menu: Week 4

Here’s the menu for this week:

Sunday: Greek Pasta Salad with Sausage

 

 

 

 

Monday: Grilled Lemon Herb Pork Chops with LO* Pasta Salad

 

 

 

 

Tuesday: Grilled Chicken Tandoori

 

 

 

 

Wednesday: Tomatoes with Fresh Basil over Pasta

 

 

 

 

Thursday: Green Salad with LO* Tandoori Chicken
(no photo)

Friday: Vegetarian Pesto Pita Pizza

 

 

 

 

Saturday: Fish Tacos

 

 

 

 

*left-over

 

Happy cooking!

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Greek Pasta Salad with Sausage

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I guess I could call this a Mediterranean Pasta Salad since it has Greek and Italian ingredients, but the name isn’t as important as the taste (which is great, by the way!). Tender pasta mingles with olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, chickpeas, and Italian sausage for a main dish salad full of flavor and interesting textures. Be sure to make the pasta salad (not the sausage) in advance, so the flavors have time to develop. 

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 pound corkscrew pasta, cooked and cooled
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can black olives, roughly chopped
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 package Italian sausage

Wisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, sugar, and ground pepper in a large bowl. Add the cooked pasta, garbanzo beans, olives, feta, red onion, and tomatoes, and stir gently to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Add the Italian sausage to a large, cold skillet and add 1/2 cup of water. Cover and place over medium-low heat. Simmer until the water evaporates, and then remove the lid. Brown the sausage, turning frequently, until the sausage is cooked through.

Let the sausage cool slightly, and then cut into slices. To serve, fill bowls with the cold pasta salad, and place sausage slices over the top.

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Chicken Caprese Panini

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Summer is here and my garden is finally producing some ripe, red tomatoes! I love the taste of fresh tomatoes off the vine, and one of my favorite ways to eat them is the Caprese Salad, which is simply tomatoes combined with fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

This panini has all the wonderful flavors of Caprese Salad, with chicken added to make this sandwich hearty enough for a main dish. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients (maybe add some pesto, procuitto, crushed red peppers, or spinach). Fresh mozzarella cheese is best, but I was out, so I had to use Colby-jack instead.

Ingredients
1 loaf Italian bread (ciabatta, etc), sliced 1-inch thick
Mayonnaise
Olive oil
2 large tomatoes, sliced and de-seeded (try heirlooms)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Chicken, cooked and sliced
Mozzarella cheese, sliced

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spread mayo on one side of a slice of bread, and spray the other side of the slice with olive oil (I use a Misto for this, but you can also brush the olive oil on with a pastry brush). Lay the bread in the skillet, olive oil side down. Place a tomato slice on top of the bread, then a few basil leaves, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with a slice or two of chicken, and finally cheese. Place a second bread slice on top of the cheese.

Reduce the heat to low, if needed. Using a cast iron pan, or other heavy dish, press down on the sandwich for about 1 minute to flatten it. Spray the top slice of bread with olive oil. Flip the sandwich and then use the pan to press down on the sandwich again until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Remove to a plate and repeat for the remaining sandwiches. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Bean and Kale Ragout

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Do you ever find yourself torn between wanting something healthy for dinner, and not wanting to spend a lot of time slaving over a stove? Well, my friends, this is the recipe for you.

This main dish stew is healthy, easy to prepare, and full of comforting flavor. Plus, you’ll probably spend more time chopping the vegetables (which really doesn’t take that long) than you will at the stove.

All of the ingredients are combined in a big pot and then left to get better acquainted, while you relax with a glass of wine (just a suggestion), and look forward to the flavorful white beans and tender kale. Now do you see why I love one-pot meals?

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash cayenne pepper
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Add the olive oil to an extra-deep skillet (a dutch oven or large pot will work too) and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and kale and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until the onions soften and the kale wilts.

Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the diced tomatoes (with juice), garlic, chicken broth, bay leaves, oregano, basil, cumin, and cayenne pepper.

Cover and simmer until the kale is tender, about 45 minutes. (Now’s your time to relax – don’t forget your glass of wine!)

Stir in the beans and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Take a bite (careful, it’s hot!) and add some salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with your favorite crusty bread, or try my Olive Oil Toast recipe. Enjoy!

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Tabouli Salad

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This refreshing salad is full of flavor and a perfect side dish (or light meal) to enjoy on a warm day. Look for bulgur wheat in the bulk bin department of your grocery store. Be sure to make this in advance, so the flavors in the salad can blend into yummy goodness.

Ingredients
1 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons
1 lime
1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup chopped green onions
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Mix the bulgur wheat and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt together in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water into the bowl (no stirring necessary). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a medium bowl. Cut the lemons and lime in half and squeeze their juice into the bowl with the olive oil. The easiest way to do this is to stick a fork into the cut side of the lemon or lime, and then squeeze the lemon (or lime) around the fork, while simultaneously moving the fork in a circular motion around the inside of the lemon (or lime). (Note: use a fine mesh strainer over the bowl to catch the seeds.) Stir in the garlic and the mint.

When the bulgur wheat is ready, stir the dressing into the bulgur, cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Before serving, stir in the tomatoes, cucumber, and green onions. Take a bite . . . or two . . . or three. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and enjoy!

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