Lowfat Stuffed Chicken Breast

I’m in the midst of a high protein, low fat, low carb diet experiment, so I was looking for a fun way to prepare chicken breast (I’ve consumed a LOT of chicken breast lately).  This one is pretty delicious.

Lowfat Stuffed Chicken Breast

  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey bacon
  • Fat free shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 350˚.  Place the chicken breast(s) in a freezer bag and pound them with a hammer or the flat end of a meat tenderizer until they’re 1/4″ thick.  Tear turkey bacon slices in half and lay four half slices on each breast.  Sprinkle a handful (1/8-1/4 cup) of cheese on each.  Roll breasts up and secure each with three toothpicks.  Place in a baking dish and cook for 30-50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the meat reads 160˚.  Enjoy!

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Soup Season: Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally soup weather here in sunny Northeastern Ohio, and my goal this winter is to eat as little storebought soup as possible, since it’s generally either full of sodium and or other badness, or tastes approximately like dishwater.  So far this soup season, I’ve eaten my way through two batches of roasted butternut squash soup.  My recipe is a variation on this one at the Food Network.  It’s quick, easy, delicious and freezes and reheats well.

It occurred to me that half gallon canning jars are PERFECT for soup storage.

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 5-6 lbs. butternut squash (two)
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • garlic salt
  • ground pepper
  • 3 medium onions, diced
  • 2 T spicy curry powder
  • 8 c chicken or veggie stock

Preheat oven to 375°.  Halve squash lengthwise and drizzle with oil.  Rub oil evenly over squash surface.  Season liberally with garlic salt and  pepper.  Pop in the oven for an hour or so, until soft and easily scooped from skin.

When I say "liberally," I'm not kidding around.

Remove squash from the oven and allow to cool, so as not to burn your hands.

Meanwhile, dice your onions and toss them in a large pot.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil then saute over medium high heat until translucent.  Add curry powder, mix in, and heat for a minute or two.  Add 4 c stock and mix.  Scoop flesh from your cooled squash into the pot and mix.  Add remaining stock and mix.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium high and cook for 15 minutes.

Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Turn off the heat.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it’s nice and smooth.  In theory, you could transfer in batches to a blender, but it’s much easier (and requires less clean up) this way.

Enjoy!  Alternately, toss it in the fridge or freezer for this week’s lunches, then eat in front of your envious co-workers.

Canning Sauerkraut

No, the greenish fellow in the center is not a mutant -- just poor aesthetic choice of use for a blue jar.

We made kraut this year with the fellow’s family, and yesterday his mother brought over our four gallon crock.  Apparently, most of the brine had either evaporated, wicked out, or leaked, which as you probably know means it was susceptible to growing things if we didn’t get it frozen, canned, or covered in more brine.  Since it was already “done” (i.e. tangy and delicious) and we’re running low on freezer space (due to 1/12 of a cow and expectation of a bunch of ground beef and perhaps some venison to come), I opted for canning.

We lost some kraut due to skimming off the nasty during fermentation, my general inability to can anything without making a mess of it, and the shattering of one jar in the canner, but came out with essentially 10 1/2 quarts of kraut canned from a mostly full 4 gallon crock at the onset of the fermenting process.  After gifting a few quarts, we’ll still be in good kraut shape for a while.

At some point, I’ll post an ode to sauerkraut and all its many virtues, but for now, here’s the basic process for canning, roughly paraphrased from my favorite canning tome (Ball).

Canned Sauerkraut

  • Sauerkraut

Set water bath canner to heating.  Prepare canning jars (roughly 3 jars per gallon crock size to be safe — i.e. a 2 gallon crock ought to net you somewhere around 5-6 quarts of kraut) and lids.

Fill jars with kraut, packing relatively tightly.  To do this, you can use the spoon part of a large spoon for scooping and the handle for packing.  Leave app. 1/2 inch headspace.  Put lids on jars.

Process in a boiling water bath canner for 25 minutes (quarts) or 20 minutes (pints).  Enjoy a few months later on reubens, with apples and sausage, in choucroute garnie, or just all by its lonesome.  Alternately, give as gifts to friends, along with jars of some kind of spicy mustard, prepared horseradish, and hot dog or sausage of choice.

Mmm…Garlic…

We just had dinner at my favorite local Mediterranean joint and I was reminded of the Lebanese Breeze whipped garlic they sell at Pike Place. This is an effort to recreate, based mostly on an Allrecipes version, but tweaked as to proportions.

Lebanese-Style Whipped Garlic Sauce

  • 2 heads or 20 cloves of garlic
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 1/2 c lemon juice
  • 1 c olive oil

In a wide mouth mason jar or other container, use an immersion blender to mince your garlic. Add salt and blend to a paste. Add lemon juice and fully incorporate. Add olive oil 1/4 c at a time and fully incorporate. The final texture should be an emulsion somewhere around mayo but WAY more pungent. Store this in the fridge.

This stuff is amazing spread (lightly) on a sandwich or on veggies or meat. It would probably also work well tossed around with some pasta, so long as you use a light hand. Basically, it’s good anywhere you’d like garlic, so long as you don’t mind having garlic fragrance exploding out of your pores for a day or two following.

Basic Yogurt

Making yogurt is one of the simplest things you can do at home to improve the quality of the food you eat.  Basic homemade yogurt contains, really, one ingredient:  milk.  I can’t believe it took me so long to begin making it at home, as it generally tastes better than store bought AND can be significantly cheaper.  One gallon of milk nets you one gallon of yogurt.  Around here, I would pay roughly $3.79 for a 32 oz container of plain organic yogurt, and roughly the same for a half gallon (64 oz) of organic milk.  For the price of a few minutes of time and a few cents for electricity to run the dehydrator, I save roughly 50% on homemade yogurt.

Here’s the basic recipe.

Yogurt

  • Milk (I like whole, but you can use reduced fat or skim)
  • Yogurt (you can use a previous batch or store bought, so long as the container reads “contains active cultures”), app. 2-6 T

Clip a dairy thermometer to a big pot, them dump in your milk.  Heat milk to 185°, then turn burner off.  Wait until milk cools to 115°, then add yogurt (the amount isn’t an exact science.  Use 2-4 T for a 1/2 gallon of milk and 4-6T for a gallon).

Ladle milk into a container with a top.  Place in a dehydrator set at 115°, and leave for 6-8 hours.

I use 1/2 gallon canning jars, which you can find online, but you can really use any type of container with a lid for storage.  I also use my beloved dehydrator, but you could use anything that would keep the milk at a constant temperature, including an electric blanket, a warm oven with the door cracked, etc.  I make yogurt in the morning, while I eat breakfast, maybe once a week or whenever it looks like I’m down to my last serving.  It really takes next to no time or effort.

One more note on whey:  As with any yogurt, the whey will tend to separate from the yogurt over time — that’s the clear liquid you’ll see on top when you open your yogurt container.  You can either stir it back into the yogurt or, if you like thicker, Greek style yogurt, pour it off.  If you like REALLY thick, creamy yogurt, you can strain it through a few layers of cheesecloth after it’s done “cooking,” to drain off as much whey as possible, but that’ way more work and mess than I like to sign u

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Oatcakes Redux

Okay, so after writing the previous entry, I got the hankering to make a second batch of the oatcakes trying the revisions I mentioned. Done! I like the result, though as I have no sweet tooth, so they may be too bland for most people. You may want to tinker with adding some honey or just topping them with honey or jam before eating.

These are solid enough to take with me when traveling for work next week (my main motivation for making a second batch so quickly) and are relatively healthy and low cal — each contains app. 121 calories.

Oatcakes

  • 0.5 c water
  • 2 oz golden raisins
  • 1 oz raisins
  • 1 tea bag, your choice (orange spice is nice)
  • 8 oz oats, pulsed in a food processor to a coarse flour
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 4 oz unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat water to boiling, then add tea bag and raisins. Set aside.

Mix coarse ground oats and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together raisins, tea (lose the bag, obviously), applesauce, vanilla, and sweetener (if used). Incorporate wet ingredients into dry and mix well.

On a parchment-lined or greased cookie sheet, push dough into a biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter, or canning jar ring to form 3/4″ thick cakes. Bake for 30 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool.

This Weekend’s “Made” List and Upcoming Projects

So, having started this here blog, it feels empty without an initial post, but I don’t happen to have made anything yet today, and I haven’t taken pictures of this weekend’s makings.  That being the case, I’ll just have to summarize and let you know what’s coming:

“Made” 10/15/11

  • Liver treats for Skeeter – These are basically just two trays of frozen beef livers, cut into roughly 1″ cubes, then dehydrated at 155 for eight hours or so.  If you haven’t tried this and you want to give your dog something good for them, all natural, and delicious, DO IT.  You can also do something similar with any scrap pieces you cut from meat you’re using for another purpose.  They keep really well and I can’t imagine a dog turning down delicious, crispy meat/fat/offal/gristle.  Dehydrators are magical.
  • Posole – This was a bit of a cheater meal, since I made it from a kit I purchased at the New Mexico State Fair.  I did, however, have to doctor it up a bit since the “spice packet” and “green chile packet” were both rather bland.  A bit of cumin, some kosher salt and pepper, and a crushed Sandia chile helped a bit.  We had leftovers for lunch today, and I’ll be freezing the rest for quick meals later.  That’s the great thing about being a two person household!
  • Jeena’s Oatcakes – I’m on a quest to find a recipe to create something similar to Heart Thrive oat cakes, since they’re great for quick meals and travel.  Chef Jeena’s recipe sounded like it might be the ticket, but for some reason, my cakes didn’t hold together very well and are just this side of clumpy granola.   I used honey in lieu of agave syrup, but that really shouldn’t have made a difference.  I think for my next go at the perfect oatcake, I’ll run the oats through a food processor first to make them smaller, and maybe add some additional liquid (applesauce?) to get them to hold together more firmly.

Upcoming Projects

  • Curiously Butter Rum-tastic and Minty  Candies – I found a recipe for a knock-off of Altoids a while back, and intend to give it a go today, since I found the ingredients at my local craft emporium.  I’m going for the traditional minty flavor and a not-as-traditional butter rum.  More soon!
  • Beeswax Lip Balm – Since The Fellow is a big fan (addict) of Burt’s Bees lip balm, I’m making a similar lip balm for favor packets at our upcoming wedding.  The recipe seems fairly simple and I think I’ve found adequate packaging components.  This will probably happen some time in the lull between Halloween and HolyCrapItsTheHolidays this year.
  • Winterizing the Garden – We’re still deciding what to do here, but there is rabbit manure and compost to be spread, dirt to be turned, and possibly a cover crop to be seeded.