Chicken Burgers

Not much says summer like burgers on the grill! I mean what is better than a hot meat patty topped with fresh, crisp lettuce and a nice cold tomato, ketchup, mustard, mayo for you southern folk, dill relish or pickles, melty cheese for you dairy loving  peeps, a nice soft bun and my personal favorite avocado slices and a fried egg. That and a cold beer is just amazing! There are so many different types of burgers. So many different meats that can be used and flavor palates that a burger can take on. It can be whatever you want it to be. Classic or edgy … burgers are summer!

A recent doctor’s appointment says I need to lay off red meat and greasy burgers, among other things. No way I can just give up burgers, I LOVE them. It really has nothing to do with the fact that they are usually made out of beef, it’s the burger concept. So many toppings that can be personalized. I had to find an acceptable alternative, I wasn’t going to make it through the summer without them. My mom can’t eat red meat, so she makes turkey burgers and I had one she made recently and it was pretty good (I am not a fan of ground turkey, so that was the only thing I didn’t like about it, otherwise it was DELICIOUS). I thought I would see about using some ground chicken and see if I liked that better. Let me tell you … after a little experimentation … I am not going to miss beef burgers at all! These chicken burgers are a really healthy alternative and full of flavor! Even hubby loved them and doesn’t miss the beef aspect!

A word of caution, you have to be careful with ground chicken (& ground turkey for that matter), it will dry out quick and be kinda bland. This recipe has given me super flavorful and moist burgers. It’s a great base to add whatever flavor palate you want. Also, this recipe is heart healthy! 🙂

1 lb ground chicken breast
1/2 of a ripe avocado
1/2 of an onion
1 clove of garlic (2 cloves if you’re like me and love garlic)
1/4 – 1/2 cup bread crumbs
smoked paprika
salt/pepper to taste
fresh herbs when I have them

Throw the avocado, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs & salt & pepper in a food processor. Process until paste. Put the ground chicken and paste into a bowl and combine with your hands (seriously, hands are the best kitchen tools! ;). Pop the mixture back in the fridge for about 20 minutes b/c at this point it will be kinda sticky and loose. Form into burgers and cook on the grill for about 5-6 minutes per side.

Warm up a nice soft bun and top with your favorite things and enjoy! 🙂 My personal faves are avocado slices, ketchup, brown mustard, lettuce, tomato, goat cheese and occasionally a fried egg! 😉

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Grilled Chicken w/roasted veggie & balsamic pasta

No great story to tell tonight. I made a really yummy pasta dish and the picture turned out great (if I do say so myself), so I thought I would share. Last night we had an unseasonably warm day and evening. It was 70-something as a high. I was in the mood for pasta since it had been a while since we’d had it, but the warm weather did not really call for a hot, hearty pasta meal. So, we grilled chicken and I made pasta as a side instead. It was perfect! Satisfied the craving AND made for a little bit lighter fare on a warm evening.

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Boneless skinless chicken breasts (however many is needed to feed your crowd)
Olive Oil
Penzey’s Fox Point Seasoning (or other favorite chicken seasoning)
Fettucine Pasta
1-2 zucchini
1 container grape or cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper (cut into bite size pieces)
1 shallot (chopped, but not finely)
2 medium’ish garlic cloves (chopped fine)
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt/Pepper
Dried basil (I didn’t have fresh on hand)
Parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Peel the zucchini in striped (or completely if you prefer it that way) and cut into thick rounds. Put the tomatoes and zucchini on a sheet tray, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes (or until desired doneness, we do not like mushy veggies around here) and turn once during the process. Tomatoes will most likely burst, don’t worry, it just adds flavor! 🙂 Once it is cooked, cut the zucchini into wedges (I cut the rounds into fourths).

Meanwhile, pound the chicken breasts until even thickness on both ends. Brush will olive oil, season liberally with your favorite chicken seasoning on both sides. Grill until done (12 minues on one side/8 minutes on the next … depending on thickness of chicken). Set aside and let rest (don’t want to lose all those great juices).

While the chicken is grilling away, start your pasta water and cut all your other veggies (shallots, pepper, garlic). This is also a good time to chop your parsley.

Once you throw the pasta in the water (don’t forget to salt the pasta water), start a sauté pan with a little olive oil on medium heat. Once the pan is hot, throw in the shallot and red bell pepper. Cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped garlic and cook for just a minute. Next add about 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and let the shallots, peppers and garlic sorta marinate in it. Give it a minute to cook and then take it off the heat.

Once the pasta is done, drain it then throw it right back in the pot and add the balsamic veggie mix and the roasted tomatoes and zucchini and dried basil. Toss well (I find tongs work best for this).

I add a little parsley at the very end to add a little freshness.

Dinner is served! 🙂

If you want a twist … a little goat cheese ‘never hurt ‘nobody! 😉

Jambalaya

We have had a cold snap here … as in 30’s and snow the last two days. It was a really wet snow and slushy. This morning’s commute was GROSS. Wet and cold and blustery … which is ok in February, NOT MAY! Last night was so cold and wet that hubby and I wanted a hot, hearty meal to comfort our disgruntled spirits from the weather. Hubby’s jambalaya was the perfect solution. Fairly quick and easy and so filling and comforting.

Spice Mix:
We make the spice mix and just keep it on hand for when we want jambalaya.
2.5 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. onion powder
1/2 – 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (we use only a little cayenee because I don’t like it super hot. If it was just for hubby, he would put quite a bit more in.)
1 tbsp. dried, ground oregano
1 tbsp. dried, ground thyme


Rice:

3 cups of chicken broth
1 tbsp. spice mix
2 cups jasmine rice
Cook rice according to package directions. I use Golden Star or Mahatma brands jasmine rice.

Jambalaya Meat/Veggies:
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 packages Hillshire Farm turkey polska kielbasa
1 green pepper
1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic

Directions:
1. Cut each chicken breast into bite size cube. Toss in a few spoonfuls of spice mix or until it looks like it’s well seasoned (it took us a few times to find out the right amount).
2. Slice kielbasa into ½ inch rounds and then slice the rounds in half.
3. Cut green pepper into bite size pieces.
4. Add small amount of olive oil. Saute chicken until barely cooked. Remove from pan into a bowl.
5. Add a small amount more of olive oil. Add peppers. Saute until barely soft. Remove from pan into the same bowl the chicken is in.
6. Add kielbasa to same pan and brown. Remove from pan into chicken & pepper bowl.
7. Add garlic to pan, saute for a few minutes (too long and it will burn and be bitter).
8. Add ½ cup chicken stock to pan, allow to simmer and deglaze the pan for 5 minutes or so.
9. Make sure to taste for seasoning.
10. Add chicken, peppers and kielbasa back to pan. Let simmer for a few minutes just to get the flavors combined.
11. Serve over rice.

Variations 1: If we were still living on the East Coast, I would definitely make it with shrimp. Shrimp out here is expensive and so disappointing (no flavor) so we don’t use it. We did make this with my in-laws back in March (who DO live on the East Coast and can get delicious shrimp and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg) with shrimp and it was fannntastic. If you can get good shrimp and not break the bank, you should absolutely add it in! Just cook the shrimp until just done before saute’ing the garlic.

Variation 2: If I make this when hubby is not eating, I would add okra for sure. You could just add some frozen sliced okra. You can cook it with the peppers until just done. It is amazing.

Spring Pesto Pasta and Chicken

Sorry for the delay folks … school work has gotten the best of me the last couple months. Now that I am in the homestretch to the end and the workload is starting to wind down, I’ve been letting my creative juices flow a little more and the results have been pretty tasty if I do say so myself! 🙂

The sun has come out (oh wait, it’s almost always out in Denver) and feels warm (NOT always true in Denver) and a sun dress or two may have made an appearance! The windows have been open more often and the cool breezes blowing in. Sunshine, warm weather and cool breezes put me in the mood for lighter fare to eat and quicker meals so I can spend more time outside. This is one of those recipes that is perfect for a spring evening and for eating outside! 😉

I recently saw a recipe for an edamame and spinach pesto. I took the base idea and made it my own and the result was not half bad! 😉

Spring Pesto Pasta and Chicken
I apologize for the poor quality of the picture … all I had was my phone handy.


Pesto:

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, defrosted
1 cup spinach leaves (I used baby spinach)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water (or chicken or vegetable stock would be great too!)
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt & Pepper to taste

Chicken & Wine Sauce:
2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup white wine (I like a Riesling because it’s almost always a nice, light wine – feel free to use whatever you like, should always be worth drinking)
1/2 tbsp. butter
1 lb gf pasta (this works best with something like a spaghetti or fettucine, not so much with short-cut pasta)
1 shallot
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tsp Penzey’s Florida Seasoned Pepper
Goat cheese crumbles

Combine all the pesto ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor. Start the food processor and once the mixture has started to combine, start streaming in the olive oil through the top of the food processor spout. You may need to stop the blender and scrape the sides of the food processor. Pour enough olive oil to get the mixture to creamy. Let the mixture blend for a couple more minutes. It should be creamy and smooth. Taste to adjust for salt & pepper. Add to a small saucepan and cook for a few minutes until simmering … just to heat and get rid of the raw flavor. It’s a beautiful spring green color!

Start the pasta water, bring to a boil, add the pasta and salt generously (this adds great flavor to the pasta and the dish once complete). Cut the chicken into small cubes, sprinkle the Penzey’s Florida seasoning over it and toss and let it sit a minute. While that is sitting, cut up your shallot to your desired size (I don’t mind seeing it and eating it, hubby doesn’t want to know it’s in there), mince up the garlic.

Put a sauté pan over medium heat, let it get hot and add olive oil (“Hot pan, cold oil, food won’t stick” – The Frugal Gourmet) … just enough to barely coat the bottom of the pan (don’t want to deep fry). Add the shallots (they should sizzle when adding), sauté for a couple minutes, add the chicken and brown (“brown food tastes good” – Anne Burrell). Add garlic and sauté for just a minute (burned garlic tastes bitter). Add white wine and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it all cook together for a few minutes and marry together.

Drain pasta (reserve a cup of pasta water), add to a large pasta bowl. Toss with warmed pesto. If the pesto is too thick, add a little pasta water until it’s at the desired sauciness (yes, that’s an “Amy-ism”). Plate pasta, add chicken to top, sprinkle on goat cheese crumbles. VOILA! Enjoy with a glass of white wine and a beautiful sunny evening! 😉

There are so many great variations for this recipe … here are a few of my favorites:

Bacon Variation 1: Render up some bacon that has been chunked into small pieces. Cook until crispy. Add to pasta once the pesto has been added and they have been tossed together or as a garnish on top.

Veggie Variation 2: Roast some veggies till just under done and add to the chicken the last couple minutes of saute’ing (or just make the sauce with the roasted veggies). The picture shows some eggplant that I tossed with salt and pepper and olive oil and then roasted. The chicken and veggies can also be grilled and then cubed up afterward. The wine sauce can also be made by itself and poured over grilled meat if you want to put a whole chicken breast.

Seafood Variation 3: This would be fabulous with some grilled shrimp or fish as well. We can’t get good fresh seafood here in Denver, therefore it’s chicken. This is where the making the wine sauce separately would work.

garlic, lemon & dill grilled chicken with garlic sauteed spinach

warm weather (ok, ok … HOT) has arrived here in the western united states (& everywhere). one of the hardest things for me is to come up with summer dinner ideas that don’t involve a salad. i love hearty meals, but when it’s hot i do not want to eat something heavy or heat up the kitchen making it. the solution … grilling!! we love to grill all summer (well, we grill all year long ;), it keeps the house from getting hot and makes for wonderfully flavorful food! and you can grill just about everything! we do! grilling is also a great way to make a pretty quick dinner. throw something in a simple marinate for 30 minutes (or several hours) & throw it on the grill. you will soon have a delicious dinner that has kept the kitchen cool and provided a filling, but light summer meal.

tonight’s dinner was no exception. i needed something fairly quick, delicious and nutritious. voila! quick throw-together marinade, add a side and there you have it … dinner!

Grilled Garlic/Lemon/Dill Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 lemons*
1-2 tsps dill (amount depends on your like of the flavor of dill)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tbsp citrus champagne vinegar
olive oil

Put garlic slices, dill, cracked black pepper, vinegar, squeeze juice from 1.5 lemons into bowl. Whisk olive oil into other ingrediants. Add chicken breasts and marinate for 30 minutes to 3 hours in the fridge. Let meat stand for a few minutes before putting it on the grill.

Garlic Sauteed Spinach

2 bags fresh spinach
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic sliced
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in large saute’ pan on med-low. Add garlic slices. Do not turn the heat up to high or garlic will brown to quickly and turn bitter. Let garlic cook slowly flavoring oil for few minutes. Once oil has been flavored by the garlic dump in the spinach and turn constantly with tongs until spinach has wilted a bit. Once wilted, take off the heat and put in a serving bowl. If spinach cooks too much it will turn slimey.

Enjoy!

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* Quick foot note … if you are finding that your lemons, limes or oranges do not want to give up their juice, toss them in the microwave for 20 seconds and you will soon have a very juicy citrus! a little trick i learned along the way. 😉

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herb butter & goat cheese linguine with fresh tomatoes

well, one new per week is going pretty well. i’ve a week or two that i didn’t even end up cooking all week, but for the most part it’s really pushing me to try new things.

this week’s recipe (i found it in either i had the great honor of making for a dear friend of mine and it was DELICIOUS & so easy to make gluten free. i would change a few things next time, but overall it was a great week night recipe for two chicas who love goat cheese! 😉 sorry, no pics this time … we inhaled it too fast! 😉

1 pound linguine (i used gf fettucine b/c it was all i could find at the store)
8 ounces goat cheese crumbled (i used a garlic & herb goat cheese)
6 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup parsley (flat leaf italian) chopped finely
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped (i used quite a bit less than this as we are not huge dill fans & it’s a bit strong)
1/4 cup fresh tarragon, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 cups multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, chopped

Put the pasta water on to boil and when it’s boiled add the pasta & cook till al dente.
While the pasta is working, in a serving bowl, add the crumbled goat cheese.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
Add the shallots & cook until softened (about 5 minutes).
Stir in the white wine & cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.
Add the parsley, dill, thyme & tarragon.
Add the pasta to the goat cheese, pour the herb sauce on top & toss for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes & toss gently, season with salt & pepper.

Seee, easy peasy!

My variation:
I roasted cherry tomatoes & green beans together until the cherry tomatoes had burst a bit in place of the fresh tomatoes, i just seasoned with a little salt & pepper.
I also sauteed some orange & yellow sweet peppers with the shallots to add some color and i mean, you can’t go wrong with adding peppers! 😉
I didn’t this time, but next time I will definitely add a couple cloves of crushed garlic to the sauteed onions & peppers.
I added a grilled chicken breast on top of it … i seasoned it with salt, pepper & some Penzey’s italian herb mix.

risotto = deliciousness

wow it’s been a long time since i’ve written on here. must remedy that!

late last year i visited NYC with my mom, sister & a good friend. the first night we ate at a restaurant called “risottoria” … if you’re in NYC, you MUST try it! it’s amazing! and it’s gluten free! my mom has a gluten allergy and had eaten there with my other sister & a friend on a previous trip to NYC. i wasn’t sure b/c other things i’ve had that were gluten free were not so good. not horrible, but definitely didn’t taste “normal”. this however was the exception! we had gluten free breadsticks that were just incredible and risotto (which i had never had before) that was delicious! well, needless to say, i was inspired! and i finally acted on that inspiration!

life has been super busy since we were in NY that i hadn’t had a chance to do much exploring in my cooking lately! that was remedied this weekend! and i found out some interesting facts about risotto!

1) all liquids added must be warmed or the risotto will flake
2) you often need more liquid than the recipe calls for
3) you can add ANYTHING to risotto – it’s like pasta, only it’s rice!

what i made: risotto w/mushrooms, white wine, parmesan cheese & chives

how i made it:

ingrediants:

1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups aborio rice
6 cups meat/veggie stock (in this case i used chicken)
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1 tsp garlic
1/2 onion chopped fine
1 tbsp chives, snipped
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (add more or less according to your taste)
fresh ground pepper
olive oil
a medium to large sauce pan or skillet w/sides & a lid
another medium sauce pan

1) saute the onions, mushrooms & garlic in some olive oil until tender
2) while saute’ing the onions, mushrooms & garlic, put the wine & chicken stock in another sauce pan to heat. bring to a low simmer and leave heat on very low when it does start simmering.
2) melt 2 tbsp of butter in pan and add rice, cooking on medium heat for just a minute or two – stirring constantly.
3) add 1/2 cup of liquid and stir until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and begins to look “creamy”.
4) continue adding 1/2 cup of liquid at a time, stirring constantly and only adding more liquid when the previous liquid has been fully absorbed. continue until the liquid is finished.
5) continue cooking until the rice is tender (more liquid may be required, if no more stock, you can use water for this last part – just be sure it’s warm)
6) once it is tender, add cheese & chives and stir in. turn off the heat and cover for a minute or two and let the flavors meld … and VOILA! you have risotto!

add a seasoned grilled chicken breast or any kind of meat you like (let the flavors you add be your guide) or just eat it by itself (i could have made a meal out of it alone) and it will promise to be a warm, hearty & filling meal!