Baked Chicken with Pesto (and Bacon!) and some news

 I have some very exciting news for those of you who have been silently bemoaning how completely shitty my photography is. I (finally) got a Cannon DSLR! So now I can take pictures like this:

Honestly, I fell in love with this picture and didn't have any where else to put it.

Anyway…for the past few months, I have been searching high and low for the perfect pesto recipe. Last night, I found it. If you haven’t made Ina Garten’s (aka The Barefoot Contessa) Pesto, you need to. It is a religious experience. Words simply can not describe.

All you do, is take some basil, salt and pepper, nuts, cheese and garlic

 

And process them for a few mintes in ye-olde food processor.

After I made this wonderous dish, I thought to myself: “Self,” I thought, “you should throw some of that deliciousness down on some chicken.”

So I did

 And then I remembered something that everyone on the internet knows. Bacon is awesome, so I wrapped it all up in bacon and threw it in the oven.

And behold what I have wrought

Chicken with Pesto and Bacon:

  • 1 1/2 cups Basil, packed
  • 1tbs Walnuts
  • 1tbs Pine Nuts
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Grated Parmesean Cheese
  • 1 pinch each Salt and Pepper
  • 3 Chicken Breasts, halved
  • 1lb Bacon

For the Pesto:

Combine nuts in the food processor and process for 15 seconds. Add Garlic, Basil and Salt and Pepper. While processing, slowly add the Olive Oil and blend until the basil pieces get as small as they are going to. Add the Cheese and blend until combined. Makes 1 Cup.

For the Chicken:

Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread about 1tbs of Pesto over each piece of Chicken. Wrap in two to three strips of Bacon, and bake until bacon is browned and chicken is cooked (~45 minutes).

Roasted Red Peppers

Everyone has a list of things that they simply will not pay for. If roasted red peppers aren’t on your list then they should be. You can pay up to $10 for a bottle of them OR you can make them yourself for the cost of red peppers (~$1/lb around me). Your call.

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For Roasted Red Peppers:

  • 2-6 Red Bell Peppers
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 3 tbs Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 450F. Place rinsed and dried peppers a hot, dry pan on high heat and cover. Turn every 5 minutes or so until peppers are evenly blackened (about 20 minutes). Place the peppers on an aluminum lined cookie sheet in the oven for one hour.

Do Laundry or some other productive thing (I watched Myth Busters).

Remove the peppers from the oven and place in a brown paper bag until they are cool enough to handle. This allows them to steam a little bit (yay residual heat). Once they have cooled, remove the skin by gently rolling the pepper between your hands and peeling it off (similar to a hard boiled egg).  Pull the pepper apart into strips and carefully remove any seeds. Put finished strips in a bowl with olive oil and garlic. Refrigerate until ready to eat. Will keep, refrigerated, indefinitely (I don’t actually know how long they keep because I usually eat them all right away).

 

Cooking Styles and Flavor

When I first moved into my apartment (and out of dorms!) my sophmore year, I was thrilled to finally have a kitchen. So, of course, I started looking for recipes. The first thing that I ever learned to make by heart was Salsified Chicken, which I affectionately dubbed my “White Trash Casserole” because, well, if you make it you’ll see why. (When you take off the lid you are confronted with a sheet of lumpy melted cheese. Less than appetizing…)

It was cheap, tasty and I was even able to trick myself into thinking that it was not horrible for me. There was only one problem. From the flavor to the texture, the entire thing was completely homogenous. Every bite tasted the same. Don’t get me wrong, the taste was quite good, but it was boring. The reason? Everything gets cooked together in eachothers juices. There is no room for individual flavors (or any texture other than “mushy”) to develop. Paula Dean would be proud.

I decided to challenge that. Using the same basic ingredients (chicken, rice, beans, tomato, cheese and onion-yes, I know that the beans aren’t in the origonal recipe. A girl’s not allowed to be creative?) but cooking them seperately and combining them at the end resulted in an interesting, multi flavored, multi textured culinary experience. Since I didn’t want to completely lose the gastronomical tie between the flavors, I decided to insert lemon as a unifying ingredient.

Black and white makes it a better picture, right?

 For White Trash Casserole:

  • 1lb Chicken Breast cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 container Chicken Broth
  • A Splash of Orange Juice
  • One small container Salsa
  • 2 Cups of Instant Rice
  • 1/2 Bag of Shredded Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Cook the chicken in a pan. Add Broth, Juice and Salsa. Bring to a boil. Mix in Rice, salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Sprinkle Cheese over top. Let sit until rice is cooked and cheese is melted.

You can see why it was easy to memorize…

For Something a Little Tastier:

  • 1 Cup uncooked long grain white rice
  • 1 Cup dry black beans
  • 1 Lemon
  • Lemon Juice
  • Lemon Pepper
  • 1 lb Chicken Breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • Feta Cheese as desired
  • 4 Tomatoes
  • 1 Med. Onion

Combine chicken, rice, beans and sauce (recipes below) in a pot. Sprinkle Feta on top and serve.

For Beans:

Soak beans overnight or bring to a boil in two cups of water for three minutes and let soak for 1 hour. Rinse beans thoroughly. Cover with water and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cook until beans are tender (about one hour) then add lemon juice to taste.

For Chicken:

Place chicken in a shallow bowl and just cover with lemon juice. Let marinate for 1/2 hour to overnight. Thoroughly dry the chicken with a paper towel and dry rub with salt and pepper. Cook in a dry pan until just browned. Set aside.

For Rice:

Combine rice with two cups of water and 1tbs zest from the lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring water to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes and remove from heat until all water is absorbed.

For Sauce:

Roughly chop tomatoes and onion. Place in food processor with lemon-pepper. Process until blended. Pour mixture into sauce pot and bring to a simmer. let cook until onion begins to turn sweet, about 15 minutes.

 

Go ahead and try both. What did you think? What kind of technique changes have you made to enhance your food?

Of Chickpeas and Food Processors

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Do you know what’s awesome? Cooking for lots of people. And baking bread, that too (but more on that next time). Do you know what is less awesome? Having a roommate who is gluten intolerant. At least it was until I discovered a recipe for socca.

Socca is a flatbread made from equal parts chickpea flour and water and, because it is made out of chickpeas and not wheat it is lacking in, well, the wheat proteins that make my roommate severely need to lie down.

To accompany this delectable recipe I decided to make a spinach yoghurt dip and to make a go at hummus.

Unfortunately, I am lacking in chickpea flour. Fortunately, I had a bag full of dried chickpeas, which means it was time to whip out the food processor.

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I have a kinda shitty food processor

Alternating between the food processor and a fine sieve you can end up with a ratio of 3:2 for chickpeas to flour (I had some left over chickpea particles at the end, so your mileage may vary).

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Whisk the flour together with equal parts water, one scallion, a crushed clove of garlic a splash of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt.

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Pour the batter into a skillet lightly coated with olive oil and flip when it can move freely in the pan until lightly browned on both sides. Congratulations, you have just made a hummus pancake.

Recipes:

For the Socca:

1 ½ cups Dried Chickpeas

1 cup Water

1 Scallion (the green part) sliced

1 Clove Garlic, Crushed

1 tbs Salt

2 tbs Olive Oil, divided

For the Chickpea Flour

Check for bad chickpeas (black or cracked) and throw those ones out. Pulse the chickpeas in a food processor on high for one minute. Sift the resultant powder into a bowl. Replace the large chunks into the processor. Repeat three to four more times, or until you have one cup of flour. If you have extra, you can grind the rest in a spice grinder and freeze it in an air-tight container for up to one month.

For the Batter

Combine flour, water, scallion, garlic, salt and half the olive oil. Whisk gently until flour is incorporated. (Note: my end result was a bit on the fluffy side, so you might want to add more water or less flour)

For the Loaf

Pour the batter into a 10-inch oiled skillet and flip after about 3 minutes, or until it becomes unstuck from the pan.

Spinach and Yogurt Dip:

½ Package Spinach

½ cup Plain Yogurt

1 Clove Garlic

1 Scallion

1 Squirt Lemon Juice

1 tbs Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Steam the Spinach in a microwave for 2 minutes. Combine everything in the (cleaned) food processor and process until homogenous.

“Hummus”:

So… I tried making hummus without tahini. The texture ended up being more like falafel, but it was still freaking delicious, so it shall be included here.

1 cup dried chickpeas

½ cup olive oil

1 dash lemon juice

1 clove garlic

Lemon-Pepper and Salt to taste

For the Chickpeas:

I usually do a quick soak by boiling the chickpeas (or whichever bean) for two minutes in water and then letting them soak for an hour (“quick” refers to not overnight). This will double the volume of the chickpeas.

For the…Compote? Yeah, I’m gonna go with Compote

Combine everything in the (once again cleaned) food processor until it is chunky and delicious.

Enjoy!

Healthy Eating OR In which I start Weight Watchers

Hey gang. Clearly I haven’t been posting much of late. This is mostly due to a large variety of work related stress reasons and my complete lack of energy or desire to do anything but watch Family Guy when I get home from work, much less come up with new and exciting recipes to take pictures of and tell you lovely people about.

 

That is all about to change. You see, something else that I haven’t been doing while not blogging was eating healthily. And so, starting today, I will be doing 8 straight weeks of Weight Watchers points counting.

 

For those of you who don’t understand how Weight Watchers works, every food (except for most fruits and vegetables) has an assigned point value based upon its calories, fiber, carbs and protein content (ex. a slice of bread is 2 points, a cup of sweet and sour chicken is 12). Every day, I have 29 points to “spend” plus 7 buffer points that add up over the week. The idea is that the only way to not starve on this system is to eat well (and avoiding those 6 point doughnuts).

 

Naturally, I will be logging my suffering for posterity (and you charming folks). 

 

Have you ever done WW or another dieting system? Got any advice? Encouragement? Validation about how I don’t really need to lose weight? Validation that, yeah, it’s probably a good thing? Comment!