Sunday, January 5

Pesto Chicken Roulade




Chicken has found a larger presence in our diet over the last year. We both enjoy it, but sometimes it's just hard to come up with something different. A gal I work with mentioned buying some stuffed chicken breasts at the store, and one of them was a pesto and something. I mentioned it to Harry and we decided to give it a try.

Roulade is simply a fancy term for "roll-up". The chicken breasts we buy at Lanning's are HUGE and this would easily serve four people. In fact, I think I made it one night when we were kind of tired and it was the only thing we ate - and still had leftovers. I've taken the leftovers to work and heated in the microwave with no issues.

This isn't really a recipe that can be measurement specific. Count on one large breast for every two people you plan to serve.


I trimmed the extra fat from each breast, then put it inside a zip bag. It's great therapy to pound the dickens out of a piece of meat.


I use the zip bag because I'm not fond of raw chicken juice flying around the kitchen.






After the chicken, the ingredients are pretty simple. I used about a half-cup of pesto to cover both breasts, about a half-cup of parmesan-romano blend, one-third of a cup of mayo and just enough panko to coat. Use your own homemade pesto, mayo and crumbs, along with your fresh-grated cheese. We've had to make some sacrifices (read: cut some corners when we don't have hours to spend in the kitchen) since we both went back to work full time.


The pesto isn't coated too thick, nor the cheese - go with your own tastes. In the end, we found a nice balance between the chicken and the filling. I learned by error that pesto can be overwhelming if I use a too-heavy hand.


Then, roll up the chicken from the long side. Place seam side down on your work surface. I did all of this on the paper that the chicken was wrapped in.


I might have gone a little heavy with the mayo on this try. Trust me when I say the mayo does nothing more than seal the moisture in and keep the crumbs attached. After this was cooked, we didn't taste the mayonnaise. The chicken, however, was SO juicy.


Sprinkle on a coating of panko (I've also used regular dried bread crumbs with success) and place the breasts in a pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until your thermometer reads 160 degrees.





The crust browns nicely at 350. I wouldn't recommend going much higher - the crust might brown too quickly and the chicken get dry before the inside is cooked through.




Harry sliced the Pesto Chicken Roulade and it came out rather nicely for our first attempt at something like this. The bruschetta was yummy too!

As I said above, this is more for an idea of what else to do with chicken. Pound your breasts flat, smear them with ingredients you enjoy, roll it up and bake it.

Enjoy!

Saturday, January 4

Finding inspiration...

It's easy to make excuses. I can say it's because I'm working full-time. I can say it's because our hours are so jacked up that we only have a few hours each evening for Debbie and Harry time. But I know in my heart those are just excuses. I have plenty of computer time every single day. I've been up for a little over two hours. I've just kind of fallen into a (bad) habit of just surfing each morning until its time to go to work. On the weekends, we'll sit beside each other and surf, pointing out cool things we find.

And then this happened:






I have been wanting to do a weekend runaway to Cleveland (yes, Cleveland, Ohio) for ages. I finally pouted long enough that Harry agreed. On the agenda: The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, lunch at Bahama Breeze (don't judge me), a winery or two, the casino and B Spot, and Nirvana.

So we planned a weekend in October, found a hotel within walking distance of the rail station and headed north. Friday night, we took the train to the Horseshoe Casino and had burgers and fries at B Spot. Google it. It hurts my heart that we were not impressed. I'll still try a stand-alone B Spot and give it one more shot.

Saturday morning was the day I was waiting for: Cleveland's West Side Market! Our primary mission was all about the sausage. But, which stand to choose? We made a circuit of the entire market looking at the options. Our first stop garnered butter, cheese, gnocchi, and pierogi. We picked the shop we would buy our walleye. And then, and then...we bought NINE different types of sausages. Smoked, double-smoked, hot, mild, fresh.

We visited Great Lakes Brewing Company, Bier Markt and Market Garden Brewery. I posted pictures to Facebook via my smarter-than-me-phone of our travels and finds.

It was fun. I wanted to do more.

We did this:





And we did this:





Then we did this:





Which was part of this:





And I even had a burst of creativity with the labels:





A few other things happened that kept reminding us of what we used to love to do: play in the kitchen and create food. In the real world we live in right now, it's impossible to jump back into the farmers market thing. It just won't support us anymore. But, over the last couple of months we've had many discussions about how to take it to a level that we can sustain while still working full time.

I'll go into more detail in the coming weeks. I'll also do full posts explaining the pictures. Debbie & Harry's Kitchen needs a makeover and some love for the old posts. It feels very good to be writing this. Oh, how I've missed it all.

Monday, April 9

Heritage...A to Z through our kitchen

Courtesy mmagallan at sxc.hu
In most everyone's kitchen, there are certain intangible objects that influence the way we cook. In our kitchen, heritage plays as much a part of our meal planning as a love of great food or a desire to experiment.

Harry's family is a blend of Danish and hills of eastern Kentucky. On my side of the fence, I have the roots of eastern Tennessee and the Canadian Maritimes. During our childhood years, we've found a constant. We both come from homes where both parents worked. For the most part, weeknight dinner was usually a meat, potatoes and some sort of vegetable. When Harry and I are short on time for cooking, we usually fall back to those heritage meals.

In my house, corned beef wasn't just for St. Patrick's Day. Mom loved a New England boiled dinner and we probably had it a few times a year. The smell of the slow cooking of the corned beef brisket would fill the house. Then, the aroma got turned up a few notches as Mom added cabbage and rutabaga along with carrots and potatoes. In all these years, 2012 will go down as the year that I finally believe I got my boiled dinner to turn out just like Mom's.

There weren't a lot of dinners Harry would like to repeat from his mother. He told me if he judged pizza by the first one she ever made - which was the first time he ever ate pizza - he never would have eaten it again! But, Harry loved his mother's meatloaf. Through most of my years, while I loved Mom's meatloaf, I was just never able to replicate it on my own. I'm sure the reason is that she has a recipe card somewhere that she still follows to the letter today.

Mom blended her fishing-village family's food heritage with that of Dad's family. Slow-fried southern style chicken with milk gravy. In the summer, I always looked forward to fried green tomatoes (just flour, salt & pepper - none of that batter crap!) and fried okra (these were fried in corn meal, salt and pepper - again no batter!). In the summer, we put up food for winter - strawberry freezer jam, green beans, tomato juice, freezer corn, Lady Ashburn pickle relish.

Through our years, our tastes have changed. Our travels have led us to enjoy foods from around the country and around the world. But, our family heritage still finds its way into our kitchen.

Grill...A to Z through our kitchen

Harry's rolling his pennies for a grill like this! Thanks to Jack880 over at Wikimedia Commons

As a noun, it is a device. As a verb, it is what you are doing.

Grills come in just about every size and shape you can think of. There was a competition where we live, “Monster Barbecue Build Off”. Build or modify an existing grill and then have a cook-off. Voting for the best grill and judging for the best ribs. You can not imagine some of the grills that were built. 

With the arrival of warmer weather our cooking moves outside for at least three or four times a week. A grill is not just for meat, we use it for vegetables and fruit as well. Squash, tomatoes, peaches or apples done on the grill lend a unique and delicious taste as a side dish or incorporated in the main dish. You don’t have to buy your fire roasted tomatoes from your local grocer. And a combination of meat and veggies on a stick, (Kabobs) makes a delicious light meal. 

But I digress; I often do that where food is involved. The GRILL! Stay within your budget but do not go cheap. This is one where you really do get what you pay for. The most important part of the grill is the burner controls and burners. Or if you are a charcoal purist, the gridiron for the charcoal is very important. We have both; we use the charcoal smoker to slow roast and the gas grill for general cooking. We also have a portable grill for our camping trips, one that folds down. 

Pick the right grill for the type of grilling you will be doing. Decide on how many burners you need, do you need a side burner for pots, a rotisserie attachment? (A whole pork loin basted often and turning slowly over low heat…now I am hungry). Infrared warmers, warming racks, the list of features you can have on a grill is extensive and expensive. In one of the stores we shop there was a ready made outdoor kitchen for only twenty seven hundred dollars. Ahh, no. 

It is as simple as this, the grill can be used for weekend gatherings of family and friends and/or used for daily cooking, providing and unique and tasty flavor for whatever dish you are preparing. 

It is time to break out the grill, buy the charcoal or gas, fire that puppy up and let the neighbors know that summer is here. Good grillin. 

And as always, batteries not included.

Tuesday, April 3

Crockery, Casseroles and Cookbooks...A to Z through our kitchen

Having a kitchen of my own for nearly 30 years, I've collected an eclectic mix of, well, everything! There's very few items that I could ever need, even for a once-off dish or catering gig, in which I don't have the proper means to cook it or serve it. And many of these items come with so many memories.

In the foreground is a bean crock. I've actually only used it successfully once, for Christmas dinner this past year. The memories belong more to my mother. The bean crock came from Grannie, and Mom can remember beans for supper every Saturday night when she was a kid. Since Mom is, um, 20 years older than me, you can imagine how old this crock is.

With the bean crock are two bowls I received when Gramma passed away. Now, there's a very famous blogger who claims to channel Lucille Ball. Well, I do channel Lucille Wright - except I've never tried to make her banana pudding. While I use the larger bowl in the back for raising bread, I remember Gramma filling either of these bowls with banana pudding with a baked meringue crust. If the dinner was for a big holiday, Gramma used the large bowl. If it was "supper" preceded with a phone call saying "well, I just had a few things that needed to be cooked", she used the small bowl.

Out of all these casserole dishes, only three were purchased during my adult years. The small square in the foreground - great for a chicken pot pie just big enough for Harry and I - belonged to a set of Corelle dishes I needed for my post-divorce kitchen. The top two round casserole dishes on the back/right were purchased in 1983. Everything else came from Gramma's kitchen. They are all so sturdy and lend themselves to baking as well as serving when I feel the need to be proper and serve at the table. Which isn't very often.

I've culled my cookbook collection drastically over the last 18 months. With the dark corners and the strange early morning light, I could not get a proper picture. I have it whittled down to just about 100 cookbooks now. The ones that get the most use, not surprisingly, are some of the old, heritage cookbooks from Gramma's collection.

I have a few "celebrity" cookbooks that I turn to often. Cat Cora, Harry's dream girl, finds her way into our kitchen often with "Cooking from the Hip". I'm particularly fond of Justin Wilson, who was a celebrity cook long before the Food Network made everyone a celebrity. Mark Bittman's "The Minimalist Entertains" taught me that it was possible to serve guests without going overboard.

Of course, with the Lucy mantra of "We got plenty!", I hope I can be forgiven for always going overboard.

Is there an item in your kitchen that was passed from a previous generation? Or, do your children jokingly fight over who will get a certain item when you are no longer in need of it? I'd love to hear about!

Monday, April 2

Bar Glass...A to Z through our kitchen

It's just after 5:00 a.m. and still dark outside. With less than a cup of coffee in me, I know this photo isn't great but it's the best I could do.

I have a LOT of bar glass. I can host a wine-tasting party for 24 or Irish Car Bombs for 16. OK, I have way more than 16 pint glasses, but only 16 shot glasses. Martinis? Margaritas? Brandy Alexander? Irish Coffee? I have the glassware for all.

Keep in mind that this cabinet doesn't hold all of our coffee cups, the tea cups from 2 sets of china (8 and 24 respectively) or our travel sippy cups. Other than those few random plastic cups I've picked up along the way, a pewter shot cup that was handcrafted for me in Louisiana, Missouri, and my cocktail shaker, this is nothing but bar glass.

I started bartending in 1987 in a little beer and shot bar my then in-laws owned in Mount Vernon. Through the years, I've worked in just about every kind of alcohol venue you can imagine - nightclubs, full-serve restaurants and the Olympics of bartending in Columbus, Ohio: the Lobby Bar at Holiday Inn on Lane during Hiney Gate (RIP) during Ohio State's 2002 championship season.

I don't know if it's the bartender in me that desires all this bar glass. After all, it's not like Harry and I are actually that social. We did host my entire family for Christmas dinner a couple of years ago and that number didn't hit 20. There was also very little alcohol flowing.

It could be something else that makes me want to collect bar glass. I've had my own kitchen since 1983. In all that glass up there, there might be 2 or 3 pieces that I've carried from my children's teenage years. Yes, teens and dishwashing didn't seem to mix in my house. I can't count the number of glasses I bought during their years at home.

There's something else in that collection of bar glass: memories. There's the hand-painted wine glasses that we actually use for margaritas. I haggled for those in the straw market on our trip to Nogales, Mexico. There are hurricane glasses from Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans. There's the pair of pint glasses from Three Little Pigs, somewhere in Virginia while Trey and I were on a business trip. There are several pairs of wine glasses indicating that Harry and I completed the Indiana Wine Trail.

While most everything in our kitchen is actually used on a regular basis, I know that my collection of bar glass is just that - a collection. I dream of a glass cabinet someday to display it properly. Do you collect anything in your kitchen? Trivets? Salt shakers? Potholders? Le Creuset? Tell me about your kitchen collection in the comments!

Sunday, April 1

Appliances...A to Z through our kitchen

From left to right - ish: Dazey Fondue Pot, KitchenAid Food Processor, Cuisinart Hand Mixer, Breville Immersion Blender, ChefChoice Knife Sharpener, Crock Pot Slow Cooker, TWO Taylor Digital Scales and a Waring Blender

 A few months ago, Harry and I decided to add a section called "What's in our kitchen?". Our thought was sharing some of the things that make our lives simpler and lead to us spending so much time cooking - other than a love of food. So, when I was trying to think of a theme for the A to Z April Blogging Challenge, "What's in Our Kitchen" was an easy one.

When most people think of appliances, their minds go to refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers - you know, the big stuff. While we have most of the usual characters (my heavy-duty dishwasher is Harry), it's the small appliances that make our kitchen lives so much simpler and have expanded our kitchen chops. Not to be confused with gadgets, these workhorses are tools, just as a carpenter couldn't get by without a power saw.

If you've been here before, you'll notice that our KitchenAid 600 professional stand mixer is conspicuously absent from the top photo. Please pause for a moment of silence...

Tragically, the KitchenAid 600 died a painful death in the midst of a major baking frenzy on Sunday, March 25, 2012. Four and a half years, thousands of loaves of bread, thousands of rolls and pounds upon pounds of ground meat and pasta. She served us well. And we will welcome a new 600 into our home within the next couple of weeks.

The food processor handles almost every chopping, grinding and shredding duty in our kitchen. But, when it comes to grinding horseradish, Harry prefers to use our ancient blender. A lot of people like to make their smoothies in a blender, but I prefer to make mine with my immersion blender in a cocktail shaker. The immersion blender (or boat-motor) is also handy for pureeing soups right in the pot - and with a quick rinse, it's ready to use again.

Not so conspicuously absent is our POS Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker. We still hate the damn thing, but are saving up for a good coffee/espresso combo machine.

While I've never made true fondue, our fondue pot is the BEST thing I've ever found for melting chocolate for Buckeyes at the holidays. I can melt the chocolate without fear of water possibly dripping in from the double-boiler method. And I don't own a double-boiler.

Harry used to make fun of me when we first started cooking together because my knives were so dull. He patiently sharpened each one by hand. That got old, so in addition to his stones we now have an electric sharpener in our kitchen. He keeps the knives tuned up between full sharpenings with a ceramic rod.

I can't forget our digital scales - they aren't just for diet-related portion control. We weigh our meat as we package it (with our vacuum sealer) and also weigh dough portions. We've learned that when our loaves of bread weigh the same, they tend to bake at the same rate.

While I'm not addicted to my slow cooker, I can't imagine not having it around. There are days when it just makes sense to throw something in it in the morning, and then dinner is ready with no rushing around. I also have a mini-slow cooker for dips and such. In the basement, we have two electric roasters that I love to use to make jam and fruit butter.

While I'm sure I've forgotten a few things, the only other thing I can think of right now is the ancient microwave that's on its final stretch. Honestly, I only use it to occasionally warm up my first cup of coffee and some leftovers for lunch. But, we use it enough that we'll probably replace this old one later this year.

What small appliances make your kitchen life easier? Leave a comment or a link to a blog post extolling the virtue of the small kitchen appliance!


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