Organic Sage and Lemon Chicken with Homemade Bread Stuffing

I hardly need an excuse to eat stuffing, but having a ton of saved homemade bread heels is definitely a legitimate one. And roasting a chicken? Come on…

For this elaborate-sounding gastronomic delight, I’ve made Roasted Sage and Lemon Chicken with Homemade Bread and Veggie Stuffing. It sounds complicated, but it’s totally not.

For the stuffing:

If you make bread or buy bread, save the parts that get stale! Keep them in the fridge or freezer (depending on how long it takes you to get enough to make a pan of stuffing), pull them out, and cut them into 1″ cubes. Set that aside.

Chop up whatever veggies you like and have on hand. I used carrots, onion, green bell pepper, amd , button mushrooms for mine. In a very hot skillet with a small amount of oil, sautée the veggies until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Then add the cubed bread to the pan. I think it’s helpful and delicious to add about two tablespoons (or more) of butter to get the bread all toasted. The caramelized flavor really goes a long way. Sautéed over medium-high heat for about five minutes, moving the veggies and bread around occasionally.

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When you’re satisfied with the tastiness, add enough chicken or vegetable stock until the entire mixture is moist but not soaking wet. Transfer this to a buttered casserole dish. Dollop the top in a few places with the garlic and sage butter (see below).

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Cover with foil and set it aside.

For the garlic and sage butter:

In a food processor or blender, out one stick of organic unsalted butter, 10 fresh sage leaves, three cloves of garlic, and a pinch of sea salt. Blend until it’s pulverized. Set aside.

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For the chicken:

Rinse and pat dry a 4 pound organic chicken. Separate the skin from the meat as best as you can (slide your finger between the skin and meat and try to make a pocket). Do this on both the breast and thigh side of the bird. Insert as much garlic and butter as will comfortably fit.

Then rub the chicken skin with a bit of mayonnaise (trust me). Season the outside with the zest of one grated organic lemon, sea salt, garlic powder, paprika, and cracked black pepper. Use all of these spices to taste.

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Then stuff the cavity with the lemon you zested, four peeled garlic cloves, one onion, and some fresh sage. Cut up the larger things so they’ll fit. Place the bird on a roasting pan with a lid (or cover it with foil).

Putting it all together:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Once it’s up to temperature, put in the chicken and stuffing. Place the chicken on the higher rack and the stuffing on the lower one. Cook both covered things for 45 minutes. You won’t need to baste the chicken because of the mayonnaise. It keeps everything very moist and the seasoning exactly where it should be. After the 45 minutes is up, remove the foil and lid from both the chicken and stuffing.

Raise the temperature to 400. Put the items back in the oven and cook for another 15 minutes. Your stuffing is done. Keep the chicken in for additional 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest.

There! You’re done. Cut up the chicken or serve whole…it really doesn’t matter. Whatever you do, though, make sure to drizzle the drippings over the meat. This is critical! There’s so much flavor in that juice.

Serve the chicken and stuffing together. Introduce whatever veggies you like to this party, but the star of the show will definitely be the chicken!

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Organic Wild Garden Lettuce Mix from Southern Exposure Seeds

So many people think lettuce is difficult to grow in the hotter regions in any other season other than winter. Well, it’s now nearing the end of May, and I’ve still got quite a beautiful, organic bounty. I think the trick to growing great lettuce is proper moisture and only a few hours of early or late sun per day. I have my lettuce in a very large concrete pot that I salvaged from a neighbor’s trash. A gardener could never imagine throwing away such a treasure! A pot on a rolling plant stand is ideal because you can easily move it in or out of the elements (wind, sun, rain, etc.) without breaking your back.

Anyhow, I cleaned out this FREE 20-gallon pot, filled it with nutrient-rich organic potting soil and some homemade compost, sprinkled some lettuce mix seeds on the top and gently worked them in. Don’t bury them more than 1/4″ deep. Water them daily, but only enough to keep the soil from totally drying out, and watch your lettuce babies sprout! Some will start sprouting in just a few days, and it grows rather quickly.

One of the best things about lettuce are the “cut-and-come-again” varieties. Romaine is the most well-known, but there are many others. Lots of the very leafy lettuces are this way. These kinds are great because you don’t have to harvest the whole head to get your daily greens. Cut from the outside first. You’ll be amazed at how long you can do this for. And I can’t prove this, but I think that snipping here and there makes the lettuce grow faster!

It’s salad season, so don’t be afraid to grow your own delicious, organic mixes. You’ll never be able to go back to grocery store lettuce again. Visit wild garden lettuce mix to purchase the same Southern Exposure product. (And, by the way, this seed exchange specializes in seeds for the southeastern United States!)

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Organic Beef Chili Over Baked Oven Fries

When I was a little kid, my dad and I used to have friday night daddy-daughter bowling dates at our local Don Carter’s bowling alley. We used to laugh, bowl, and, best of all, eat chili cheese fries. I have fond memories of crispy deep fried french fries buried underneath gooey liquid cheese and (most likely) canned chili. I loved it. I really did. You see, growing up and becoming electively conscious of the food choices I make and, more importantly, where my food comes from is a double-edged sword. I can’t eat that that stuff anymore. But…I can make all of the naughty treats I loved as a kid in a more healthful way.

You can do this, too. Trust me. To mimic our chili cheese fries, you need to make chili. Whether you go full on cow or totally vegetarian, the secret is lots of spices and slow cooking for a very long time.

For the chili:

I like to use grass-fed organic ground beef. I prefer a 90-10 fat to meat ratio. I brown It in a Dutch oven, drain it, and set it aside. I then put a small amount of canola oil in the skillet and brown one cup diced onion one cup diced bell pepper over medium-high heat. (If you’re like me and like it spicy, add some fresh or pickled jalapeños, too.) When the veggies are nice and brown, but not mushy, add four large cloves of minced garlic. Cook for about a minute and then add the meat back to the pan. Add two tablespoons of chili powder, one tablespoon of cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to taste, and mix well. Then add two 14 ounce cans of your favorite organic diced tomatoes with all the liquid. Add two tablespoons of tomato paste and mix again. Bring to a simmer. You should have enough liquid to cover about half of the ingredients. If you don’t, add a bit of water. Let this cook in a your covered dutch oven or other heavy lidded cooking vessel for about a half hour at a low simmer. Then add one can of black beans and a small package of frozen sweet corn. Continue to simmer for at least another hour. Taste and adjust the spice and salt levels to taste.

For the fries:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your favorite potatoes into thick planks and soak them in cold water to draw out some of the starch and prevent from browning. Next, dry them on a clean kitchen towel. Toss them with a bit of canola oil and a pinch of salt. Put on a non-stick cookie sheet and bake on the center rack for about 20 minutes (or until brown on the edges). Remove from the oven and toss again with your favorite spices. I like to use garlic powder, salt, and pepper, but get creative if you want! Potatoes are a great blank canvas. (Feel free to ask me for suggestions!) Once you’ve seasoned your fries, put them back in your 425 oven until the fries are crispy and brown.

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Now for the best part:

Put a heaping pile of fries on a plate, top with a massive helping of your healthful and protein-laden chili, and shred some of your favorite cheese over the top. I love sharp Vermont cheddar, but you could use pepper jack, Colby, or whatever you prefer. Pop in the microwave just long enough to melt the cheese, grab a fork, and dive in. You will be so very happy you did.

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Fancy Spring Chicken

Springtime recipes are a lot of fun. It’s the time where what I harvest goes into the skillet. I try to rely on my own homegrown produce as much as possible. Fancy Spring Chicken is a perfect example of this. I had Brussels sprouts and contender buff valentine beans, but not enough to use them on their own for a side dish. I also had a lovely chicken breast, some local baby bella mushrooms, sweet onion and, of course, lots and lots of pasta.

I started by boiling my farfalle (bowtie) pasta in salted water. I then blanched the Brussels sprouts and beans for two minutes in salted, boiling water. By the way, after you blanch, you must drop the veggies immediately in an ice bath to set the color and stop the cooking process.

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I then cut up the chicken in 1″ cubes and tossed with a small amount of olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and dried basil. I heated a skillet to medium-high and seared the chicken on all sides. Then I added a splash of good Chardonnay to the mix. Let the alcohol cook off. The concentrated flavor that’s left is oaky and amazing.

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Once the pasta is done to al dente, drain and set aside.

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Wipe out the chicken skillet, add a bit of olive oil, heat the pan to medium-high heat, and toss in the sliced mushrooms. Once those are about halfway done, add a bit of chopped onion, fresh garlic, and a generous pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Wait about a minute and add back the blanched beans and Brussels sprouts. Make sure to drain the veggies well before doing this. Sautée for a couple of minutes and then add the cooked chicken back to the skillet.

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Once everything is filling your house with wonderful smells and is warmed all the way through, add the pasta. I drizzled more olive oil over the top and tossed in more basil and sea salt.

Crushed chili flakes and freshly grated parmesan cheese are also nice finishing touches.

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And, if you want to get really fancy (as if the bowtie pasta wasn’t enough), you can drizzle some balsamic vinegar syrup over the top.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Craft Beer and Gourmet Chocolate at McK’s in Daytona Beach

I’m not going to say nobody has ever done this before, but this was my first time for sure. My friend Kristen and I went to our local Irish pub to get some tasty brews to pair with some equally tasty, locally made chocolates. I’m fairly adept at pairing wine with foods based on flavor profiles, so I decided it would be fun to do it with chocolate and beer. In a nutshell, it was AMAZING!
Some very unexpected favors came through, but all of them were good.

Here’s what we tried…

Abita Purple Haze Lager & Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cream Truffle
Abita Purple Haze Lager & Dark Chocolate Enrobed Candied Orange Peel

Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Ale & Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel
Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Ale & Dark Chocolate Candied Ginger

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout & Dark Chocolate Champagne Truffle
Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout & Dark Chocolate Ganache Truffle

We moved from light and fruity to more dark and heavy combinations. And, over all, the most interesting mentionable point about our epicurious adventure was that the Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout & Dark Chocolate Champagne Truffle combo left a root beer taste on our tongues.

This was a spectacular Wednesday night. And perhaps someday we will move past dark chocolate, but it’s not likely.

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Sun Dried Tomato & Garlicky Mushroom Pizza

Tonight was pizza night. We do this every week, but tonight we did something a little different. First, we made beer crust. Second, Celeste was our dinner guest…and photographer. We used our Zojirushi bread machine to mix and knead the dough to perfection, and, believe me, it’s worth the investment. We sautéed mushrooms, rolled the dough, preheated the pizza stone, chopped the sundried tomatoes, made the sauce, and voila! PIZZA! There were a few steps in between that I’ve left out, so let me know if you’d like the details…but, hey, it’s late, and I have to work in the morning. Thank you, Celeste, for this photo. As you would say, “I wish people could smell this.”

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Organic Volunteer Tomatoes Make Me Happy

There’s nothing better than the first tomatoes of the season. No matter what they taste like or what they look like, you grew them. Hopefully they’re completely amazing in every way, but, no matter what, they’re all yours. What’s even better, though, is when the first shiny, red, tomatoes are from a plant that sprouted right from some compost that you mixed into your garden. See these little babies? They taste even better than they look. Thank you, compost. Thank you, Mother Nature. And, thank you, massive miracle that is a tiny seed.

Organic Heirloom Carrot and Cucumber Salad with Dill

This was a day to clean out the veggie drawer. My friend gave me lots of gorgeous heirloom carrots, and I have a volunteer cucumber plant that produces perfect cukes faster than I can eat them. Carrots plus cucumbers plus a mandolin equals happy Springtime in a bowl.

This recipe is one of those that’s not really a “recipe” at all. But, if you want to duplicate mine, take one large carrot and one large cucumber and slice very thin. Use a mandolin if you have one, but watch your fingers!

Add veggies to a bowl and add half cup apple cider vinegar, quarter cup water, a splash of canola oil, one tablespoon dried dill, teaspoon sea salt, teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, two teaspoons sugar, and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.

This salad is the perfect companion to a sandwich, but completely wonderful and healthy on its own. Happy eating!