Caprese Chicken with Balsamic and Red Quinoa

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By Corinne

Summer is the season for tomatoes and basil and caprese everything! While we are heading into fall here, my basil plants growing out on my deck are still doing well, though I think this meal will probably be the last harvest I get from them.

Chicken breasts these days seem obscenely large. If you’re using gigantic ones, half is certainly enough for a serving.

Time: 30 min or less

You will need:

  • 1C red quinoa
  • 2C chicken or vegetable broth or bouillon
  • 2 large chicken breasts, halved, or 4 small chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 3C cherry tomatoes halved
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 1/2- 3/4C balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped
  • 4 generous slices of mozzarella

Thoroughly rinse quinoa and add to a medium pot with 2 cups of the broth of your choice. While quinoa is regularly touted as a super food, it’s also super bland, so don’t just cook it in water! Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. It will take about 20 min to cook. Stir occasionally. It’s finished when all liquid is absorbed.

If your chicken breasts are quite large, hold flat on a cutting board with your non-knife hand. Using a sharp knife, slice horizontally into two even pieces.

Place chicken breasts in a large frying or sauce pan that you have a lid for. If you don’t have one with a lid, you can probably cheat and place a dinner plate over top. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat 6-7 minutes on each side until cooked through, then remove from pan.

While chicken is cooking, halve cherry tomatoes. After chicken has been removed from pan, add the cherry tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes until tomatoes have just begun to soften. Add the 1/4 C chopped fresh basil, 3 cloves of minced garlic, and 3/4C balsamic. Stir for an addition 1-2 minutes.

Add the chicken breasts back to pan, and place mozzarella on top. Cover pan with lid or plate for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted.

Divide quinoa between 4 plates. Top each with a generous amount of tomatoes and sauce and then with one of the cheesy chicken breasts. Top with additional basil for garnish if desired.

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Layered Zucchini Bake

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By Corinne

Zucchini is one of those vegetables that I only eat in the summer when it’s in season. It’s called summer squash for a reason!

I like to use yellow and green zucchini for this as I just think it looks prettier ­čÖé You can of course use whatever colour you happen to have on hand, it makes little difference in taste.

I usually do this in the amount listed below, however, in the photos I had halved the recipe since I only had 2 zucchini.

Serves: 4-6 as a side

Time: 15 min prep, about 35-45 minutes cook

You will need:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic minced or pressed
  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 10 slices of prosciutto
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary minced
  • 3/4 cup chardonay
  • 1/2 cup of fresh parmesan or asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until softened- about 5 minutes. Add the chardonnay and reduce by half. Add the minced garlic and rosemary.  Add half of this to a 9 inch baking dish.

Cut the ends off of the zucchini and slice lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick.

If using both green and yellow zucchini, place a slice of each, and then half a slice of prosciutto. Continue in this manner until all zucchini and prosciutto are used and your pan is full. Put the rest of the onion/wine/herb mixture on top.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. At 30 minutes, remove from oven, testing doneness with a fork. I like my zucchini to stay fairly firm, but you may wish to bake for an additional 10 minutes before adding the cheese. Add the cheese for the last 10 minutes of cooking, if needed you can put the oven on broil for the last minute or two to brown them up.

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Chipotle Pepper Beef

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By Corinne

This supper is full of some of my favourite flavours. Cilantro ┬áis one of those weird things that people either love or hate. I like cilantro so much that I often eat a sprig or two when I’m prepping it just because it SMELLS SO GOOD! I do find that it doesn’t keep too well in the fridge, so don’t buy it too much in advance, and try to use it up within a few days.

You will need: 

  • 1.5-2 lbs of inside round steak or roast(or other lean cut), sliced very thin
  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • about 1 cup fresh tomatoes (I used cherry this time because it’s what I had. 1-2 roma tomatoes also works well)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin (preferably toasted and ground)
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (more if you like it spicy) do this with the leftovers
  • 3/4 ┬ácup water
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • additional cilantro for garnish

Thinly slice red pepper and set aside. Thinly slice jalape├▒o into rounds and set aside.

Thinly slice beef. This is sometimes easier if it is partially frozen, so feel free to put it in the freezer for 40 minutes or so before slicing. Add beef to pan with 1 tbsp of oil over medium high heat.

Quarter and thinly slice onion, add to pan with the beef. Cook for 10-15 min.

While beef is cooking, give the cilantro a good rinse as it’s often sandy and give it a rough chop. Reserve some of this for garnish. Use a food processor, blender or hand blender (what I used) to process the ingredients for sauce. Process tomato, water, cumin, cilantro, garlic and chipotle pepper together until you have a fairly smooth sauce.

Add sauce to beef and onion mixture, cover, reduce heat, and allow to simmer for about 35-45 minutes until sauce is thickened and beef is tender.

For the last 10 minutes of cooking, add red pepper strips and cook uncovered for the remaining time. Cook until peppers are tender but still have a good colour.

Serve over avocado lime rice, garnished with jalape├▒o slices, additional cilantro and a few wedges of fresh lime.

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Avocado Lime Rice

By Corinne

Oh Avocados!

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As the cartoon implies, when you go to buy an avocado, it seems as though they are all either over ripe or hard as rocks. I generally buy them in a bag when the price is right, and of course, they all seem to ripen at exactly the same time, leaving me needing to use up 4-5 avocados in a short amount of time.

This rice is delicious in a wrap, or with Chipotle Pepper Beef.

Time: about 25 min – 5 min prep, 20 minutes cook

Serves: 4 as side

  • 1.5 cups rinsed brown rice
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup finely minced cilantro
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • juice of one lime (if your lime isn’t very juicy, feel free to use two)
  • half a minced jalape├▒o

Cook rice using your preferred method. I generally use a rice cooker, but just follow your usual method.

While rice is cooking, remove skin and seed from avocado. To do this, run a knife lengthwise along the avocado through the fruit around the seed. Twist halves apart, and use your knife to knock out the seed. I generally cross hatch it with my knife and then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, but since you are mashing it you can just take it out in one chunk if you like. Discard skin and seed and place flesh in a bowl. I was going to take photos of this process, but sometimes I don’t feel like re-creating the wheel so to speak. There is a lovely diagram of how to cut an avocado here as well as additional information about them.

Juice lime(s) over avocado. Mince about 1/4 cup fresh cilantro and mince or press clove of garlic. Add to avocado. Use a fork to mash together. Season with a pinch of salt.

When rice is cooked, mix together with mashed avocado mixture. Serve hot.

Lemon Pepper Chicken and Blackberry Salad for Two

By Corinne

I adore salads. I know that ‘adore’ seems like a word reserved for kittens and perhaps rich cheesy goodness but I really l do love salads. ┬áI love them making them with fresh greens from my little garden all summer long, but even in the winter between bowls of soup, I still crave crunchy greens. In the summer, salad is our side for almost every meal, but in the winter I tend towards a supper salad, as greens for just a side are not only pricey, but can be hard to get in good condition

The only thing that makes me sad about a supper salad is I generally make them in whatever portion I need them for that supper, so I often don’t have leftover supper salad for lunches.

Time: about 20 minutes

Serves: 2- though easily doubled.

You will need:

  • 1 large head of romaine, washed and chopped
  • 2 mini cucumbers, or half of a regular English cucumber
  • 6 oz (180g) of fresh blackberries
  • 1 cup of finely shredded red cabbage
  • 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts or 3-4 boneless skinless thighs (what I used in the photo)
  • lemon pepper seasoning

For the dressing:

  • juice from one lemon
  • 3-4 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 tsp liquid honey
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • few grinds of fresh pepper

Whisk together all dressing ingredients and set aside. This probably makes a bit more dressing than you need for two salads, but better a bit extra than not enough!

Wash and chop lettuce, spin to dry and set aside. Finely chop red cabbage, and mini cucumbers and set aside.

Season both sides of chicken breasts or thighs with lemon pepper seasoning. I like Mom’s Pantry lemon pepper seasoning because it’s quite lemony and has no salt added, but whatever lemon pepper seasoning you like will do.

Heat about a tbsp of canola in a heavy bottomed pan (I used cast iron, but whatever pan you have will work) over medium heat and add chicken to pan. If your chicken is super thick on one end, you can give it a few pounds with a meat tenderizer to even it out a bit for easier cooking. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

Assemble salads. Divide romaine and place on plates, scatter red cabbage and cucumbers on top. Slice chicken and and top salad with sliced chicken and a generous handful of blackberries. Whisk dressing and drizzle over salad. Eat. Enjoy.

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Italian Chicken Soup with Quinoa and Spinach

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By Corinne

Doesn’t this sound like some sort of hipster healthy living type soup? Well. Sure it does. But just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean it can’t also be filling and delicious! If you don’t love quinoa, then feel free to use a small pasta instead.

This recipe calls for a parmesan rind. If you haven’t started using fresh parm (or asiago) I highly recommend it. While it’s more expensive than the stuff that comes in a can, it also has a great deal more flavour, since you know, it’s not mixed with sawdust. One of the best things about using fresh cheese is saving the rind for soups. When you get down to the rind, just throw it in a bag and put it in the freezer until you need it. It adds an incredible amount of flavour to soups and stews. It generally doesn’t dissolve fully in the soup, but does get softer. If your soup is at a full roiling boil it may somewhat dissolve, and I’ve accidentally forgotten to take it out before pureeing soups. Oops.

Serves: 3-4

Time: about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on how long you let the soup simmer

You will need:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 pound (250 grams) boneless, skinless chicken thighs – about 3
  • 1 tsp each dried oregano, thyme, basil
  • several generous grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1 cup white navy beans -I used dried, which I rehydrate and freeze. 1 cup is more than half of a standard can – you can probably just use a whole can if you’re using canned beans, unless of course you have a use for your leftover beans!
  • 1 can (28oz, 794g) tomatoes -I used whole and smushed them up, but diced would work great as well
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie stock – I used my favourite┬áHomemade Veggie Bouillon
  • 1/2 cup dry wine – red or white, if you happen to have some open, it’s awesome to deglaze the pot with after cooking the onion/celery/chicken, but it’s ok to omit
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • grated parm or asiago for garnish if desired
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup dry) – to be added to individual bowls
  • handful of chopped fresh spinach- to be added to each bowl

Dice onion and celery, add to a heavy bottomed pot with a few tbsp of butter or oil. Chop chicken into small pieces and add to pot with onion and celery. Allow to cook until the vegetables have some colour and the chicken is cooked. Add the minced garlic and stir around until fragrant, but don’t let the garlic burn.

If you are using wine to deglaze – pour a little in the pot and scrape up all the delicious browned bits.

Add the tomatoes, stock, carrots, beans, thyme, basil, oregano, pepper and parmesan rind. Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, but longer if you have time.

While soup is simmering, rinse quinoa well in a small mesh sieve to remove bitter saponins. Cook quinoa in a 1:2 ratio of water – if you are using half a cup of quinoa, use 1 cup of water. If you are using 1 cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of water etc. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low for about 20 minutes. When liquid is absorbed and quinoa has ‘popped’ it is ready.

Chop a handful of fresh spinach for each bowl, ladle in hot soup, and then add a few tbsp of cooked quinoa to each bowl. Garnish with grated parmesan or asiago cheese if desired.

Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks with Lentils

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By Corinne

This is a hearty, healthy, and VERY easy to put together meal. The lamb is slow cooked in a simple broth until it’s mild, tender and falling apart. The lentils are cooked with it, so your side is already done!

This recipe is inspired by and lightly altered from Wholesome Kitchen by Ross Dobson- which unfortunately is no longer in print. It’s a nice cookbook with lots of recipes for beans and legumes, so if you ever happen to find a copy, pick it up!

Time: 10 min prep, 3 hours in oven, or 6-8 hours in slow cooker (crock pot) directions at the end)

Serves: 2-3

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup dried brown or green lentils
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 4 oz pancetta or bacon
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken or veggie stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 lamb shanks
  • flat leaf parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F. In a dutch oven, or other large heavy lidded pot, cook pancetta or bacon, remove from pot and then cook onion in the leftover fat until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, the shanks should be just covered by broth. ┬áIf they aren’t, ensure that at 1 1/2 hour mark you turn them over. Cook covered for 3 hours until meat on shanks pulls easily away from the bone and is very tender. Serve with a generous portion of lentils and sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley.

Crockpot- cook bacon and add to slow cooker. Chop onions (no need to pre cook) and add all ingredients to crockpot. I usually prepare everything the night before in the crock pot, throw it in the fridge overnight and then take it out and turn it on in the morning. ┬áCook on low for 6-8 hours. ┬áIf desired, reduce stock to 1/2 cup rather than one cup, as cooking in the crockpot there will be extra liquid – I usually just leave it at 1 cup and mop up the extra broth with some delicious bread!

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