Three Cheese Chicken Lasagna

September 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Posted in Pasta | 42 Comments
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Here’s what we like about this:

  • It’s a pasta and ooey-gooey cheese combination.
  • The sweet and fresh picked home-grown tomatoes turn this dish into a star.
  • With ground chicken breast and a cream sauce, you’ve got a great summer version of lasagna.
  • The ground garlic cheese croutons added a crunchy little au gratin topping goodness to the whole thing.
  • One teaspoon of cayenne pepper brightens the tomato sauce and brings this dish to an unexpected level of excitement.

What we didn’t like:

  • This is one of these dishes where will power and common sense becomes nonexistent.  Somewhere during your third helping, you realize you can’t stop eating it.

I only make this dish each summer when fresh tomatoes from my garden are rolling around on my kitchen counter.  That beautiful fresh tomato flavor truly shines when paired with the three mild cheeses and the ground chicken. Creamy in flavor, and served simply with a tossed salad it’s a wonderful meal. Let’s take a look.

Three Cheese Chicken Lasagna:

  • 1 package lasagna noodles
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t. cayenne pepper
  • 3 pounds fresh garden tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 T. fresh basil
  • 2 C. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 C. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 C. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 C. milk
  • 1/4 C. chicken broth
  • Handful garlic cheese croutons, ground in a mini-chopper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook until almost tender, according to package directions. Drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil a lasagna baking dish.

In a frying pan heat oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned. Add the onion and red pepper and saute until softened, about two minutes. Stir in the garlic and cayenne pepper and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes and basil, stir well and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, adding the milk and chicken broth to maintain a thick soupy consistency. The amount will depend on how juicy the tomatoes are. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

In a bowl combine ricotta, Parmesan and egg and mix well. Stir in the parsley.

Line the bottom of the baking dish with about 1/4 of the lasagna noodles. Spread with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella, and then spoon on 1/4 of the sauce. Repeat the layering two more times, using up all the ricotta mixture and the mozzarella.  Top with the remaining noodles and finally the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with ground up croutons.

Cover and bake until heated through and the sauce is bubbling. About 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Uncover and cut into squares to serve.

Three Cheese Chicken Lasagna…It’s What’s For Dinner

Braised Chicken with Lemon, Potatoes and Olives

September 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Posted in Chicken | 45 Comments
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We love braised chicken dishes at our house and with my cast iron skillet as my partner, I can’t go wrong. It perfectly and quickly places a crispy brown crust on the chicken skin.Then it’s high sides snuggle ingredients and sauces together to simmer the flavors into a delicious savory goodness.

Let’s take a look at some of the braised chicken dishes I’ve blogged about:

Chicken Marengo:  Flavored with raisins, carrots, tomatoes, black olives in a sweet tangy basil and rosemary sauce. Exciting.

Tarragon Chicken: Simply a tarragon tomato sauce.  Savory.

Sticky Lips Chicken: White wine, scallions in a veal demi glace. Omg.

And Chicken Galliano:  Mushrooms and goat cheese and simmered in a anise flavored liqueur.  Divine.

Thanks to Martha for our latest braised chicken dinner. The chicken soaks up and delivers soft lemony goodness. Accompanied with a bite of briny olives, smooth potato cubes, and topped with fresh sprigs of thyme, it’s a delicious one-skillet meal.

Martha Stewart’s Braised Chicken with Lemon, Potatoes and Olives:

  • 2 1/4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 12 ounces baby fingerling potatoes or halved small potatoes
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup green olives, such as Cerignola, pitted if desired
  • 1 small lemon, washed well, cut into wedges
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season chicken with salt. Heat a large, heavy ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Swirl in oil. Cook chicken, skin side down, until browned, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken, and push to side of skillet. Add 1 cup stock and  1/2 teaspoon salt. Add potatoes to liquid. Bring to a boil. Add garlic, olives, lemon wedges, and thyme to liquid. Return to a boil.
  2. Transfer skillet to oven. Roast, stirring potatoes halfway through, until potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  3. Return skillet to stove. Mix cornstarch with remaining  1/4 cup stock, and stir into pan. Bring to a boil to thicken sauce. Serve immediately.

Braised Chicken with Lemon, Potatoes and Olives…It’s What’s For Dinner.

Spicy Gazpacho Shooters…Summer Tapas Dinner Menu…The End

August 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Soup | 30 Comments
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As you can see, the sun is mercifully setting on my back deck tapas dinner party.

I’ll conclude this series with the last offering of these Spicy Gazpacho Shooters. I’ve never made gazpacho or for that matter never ordered it in a restaurant. I just can’t wrap my arms around cold soups, I  like them hot, steamy and wafting with wonderful spices and aromas.

With all that said, I thought these little cold soup shooters would make a fresh and summery addition to the menu. And when I carried them out on my tomato red platter in my cute little crackly-glass shot glasses, I felt so clever and smug and could have cared less what the soup tasted like.

I Googled Gazpacho and the returns were all similar variations that included fresh vegetables, and always cucumber, tomato and bell peppers. I knew I wanted to kick mine up a bit and added jalapeno and a few shakes of Tabasco.

  • Spicy Gazpacho Shooters
  • 2 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • hand full of crusty croutons
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend.  Chill until ready to serve.

Spicy Gazpacho Shooters…It’s What’s for a Summer Tapas Dinner.

Shrimp Cocktail Sauce Recipe…Summer Tapas Dinner Menu, con’t

August 27, 2011 at 11:00 am | Posted in Appetizers | 24 Comments
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“We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Area Rug”

With all of our rain this year, the high country sports a beautiful carpet of wildflowers and vegetation. The caption is for Nancy…and for those of you who weren’t there when she said it, it’s one of those “had to be there” moments.  She confused two famous movie quotes that included badges and area rugs and …well.. as I said…you needed to be there.

Nothing like a big ol’ platter of shrimp cocktail on the back deck on a Summer evening. I love this serving presentation, an idea I got from Vickie over at Part Three. Not that Vickie invented the shrimp cocktail appetizer, but she did give me this idea of serving the shrimp over peppery arugula that’s been tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.

The crisp arugula seems perfect on the palate as a chaser for that bite of shrimp that’s been dipped in the flavor explosion of a great cocktail sauce. I’m partial to my recipe. For us, it’s the perfect combination. Sweet with catsup, tangy with a bite of horseradish and a little Snap-E-Tom Juice thrown in for some heat it had everyone asking for the recipe.

My Shrimp Cocktail Recipe:

1/2 C. Catsup
1 1/2 T. horseradish — prepared
1 T. Lemon juice
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/4 C. Snap-E-Tom Juice
1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce
Pepper

For the shrimp: In a pot of water, add several stalks of fresh parsley. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice into the water and then add the lemons. Toss in one bay leaf and a small stalk of celery with leaves. Salt the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn up heat until boiling, add shrimp and boil until pink. That’s 1 – 3 minutes depending on size of shrimp.  With a slotted spoon, remove shrimp to a plate, cover and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Peel and devein. Serve with cocktail sauce.

I have no idea what kind of flower this is. Some sort of lily? I’m hoping one of my gardening expert readers, and you know who you are, can point me in the right direction. These were scattered along Lake Irene, Milner Pass, Continental Divide, probably about 12,000 ft. altitude. Aren’t they divine?

Shrimp Cocktail…It’s What’s for a Summer Meal on the Back Deck.

Goat Cheese, Mushroom, Caper and Anchovie Bruschetta…Summer Tapas Dinner Menu, continued

August 23, 2011 at 7:50 am | Posted in Appetizers | 33 Comments
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Love this recipe!!! Goat cheese smeared bread topped with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, briney capers and anchovies…provacative and packed full of flavor. And did I mention easy?

This was the next platter to find its way to the back deck for my Summer Tapas Dinner. Thanks to Greg and Katherine over at Rufous’ Food and Spirits Guide for sharing this wonderful idea. You’ve got to give this one a try. It’s one of those oh-for-pitty-sake good combos. It’s now in my database as a favorite. While you’re at their blog, take a look around. Tons of great recipes and really nice photography.

Before we get to the recipe let’s take a look at some of the water features in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s just short of a 2 1/2 hour drive northwest of our house. We are so fortunate to have such a jaw dropping, spectacular, pristine piece of our country in our back yard. We make a trip to RMNP at least once each summer and I’m always in awe of its grandeur.

Moose Pond.  Our cabin was on this pond.

Nautical Neal, our pontoon boat ride on Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake

Heading under the bridge on our way from Shadow Mountain Lake to Grand Lake

Nancy and me, enjoying the ride.

View of Lake Irene from our picnic table, Milner Pass, Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park

View of Grand Lake from our dinner on the porch at Grand Lake Lodge.

Mushrooms with Capers and Anchovies

  • 4-6 shiitake mushrooms stems diced caps sliced thin
  • 8-10 anchovy fillets minced (I used half that amount, 4 if I remember right)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp salted capers washed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp dry vermouth
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt/pepper

Melt 1 tbsp butter with 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan and saute mushrooms until browned. Add anchovies and garlic and cook until the fish liquifies. Add capers and parsley and cook on medium for a minute more. Add vermouth and deglaze pan. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread slices covered in a layer of goat cheese.

Goat Cheese, Mushroom, Caper and Anchovie Bruschetta…It’s What’s for Tapas.

Summer Tapas Dinner Menu

August 21, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Posted in Appetizers | 31 Comments
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In Rocky Mountain National Park

Our rock and roll loving, wine drinking, bird watching friends Nancy and Neal (California) and Thomas (Ohio) descended on Colorado last week. A couple of days spent in Denver included a lovely dinner at Ja Ja’s a great little French Bistro, and a tapas-style dinner on our back deck the next evening. Throw in a week-long trip to the high country where we stayed at a rustic cabin at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park on a sleepy little mountain lake, complete with moose, marmot, mink, otter, chipmunk, chickoree, ptarmigan, elk, deer, bats and miscellaneous riff-raff (racoon), and you’ve got a fabulous little vacation. “Paradise” as one of us coined it.

Elk Grazing on The Tundra, Rocky Mountain National Park

The 10-day extravaganza included many memorable culinary moments:

  • Foie gras at Ja Ja’s French Bistro in Littleton.
  • Elk medallions at The Rapids Lodge.
  • An evening meal on the porch at Grand Lake Lodge complete with a rainbow over the lake and spectacular views of craggy mountain peaks.
  • A grilled chicken dinner on the back deck of our cabin.
  • Huevos rancheros and a mouth-watering cinnamon roll at The Sagebrush BBQ and Grill.
  • Near fist fights over my spicy orange chocolate brownies.
  • A picnic lunch at Lake Irene on Milner Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Yogurt and granola breakfasts on the back deck while watching hummingbirds buzz around our heads.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the pontoon boat trip on Grand Lake.

Of course it wasn’t all about food. Lots of hikes, visiting, scenic drives over cliff-hanging Trail Ridge Road, and for you birdwatchers, a hike out onto the tundra produced views of the elusive White-tailed Ptarmigan, one male and a female with three chicks. We topped the week off with a serene pontoon boat ride on Grand Lake with Nautical Neal at the helm.

With all that said, let’s take a look at my tapas meal here at the house. Our Colorado evenings have been so lovely that I opted for a casual meal on the back deck rather than stuff everyone around a dining table. I really enjoyed the mostly no-cook offerings with my new favorite discovery being a shiitake mushroom bruschetta dish that I found from a fellow food blogger. I’ll post that recipe tomorrow. Let’s take a look at the starters.

First up was platter of Amadeus cheese, fig jam, grapes and water crackers. Amadeus is a pasteurized cows’ milk cheese from Austria. It’s pale yellow, smooth, creamy, and rich in texture. It’s one of my favorites with fruit and crackers.

Tapas Dinner

An idea from Vickie over at Part Three was a large plate of assorted skewers made a colorful and filling addition to our outdoor meal. Double stuffed garlic and jalapeno olives, dry salami and sun-dried tomatoes complimented traditional caprese skewers of cherry tomatoes, basil and small fresh mozzarella pearls. You can find these small mozzarella pearls at Costco, along with the double stuffed olives. I really liked how the flavors on this plate flowed. The briney olive and salty salami were complimented with the next bites of cool creamy mozzarella, the fresh basil and sweet tomato skewers.

Stay tuned over the next couple of days for the rest of the story. A couple of great recipes coming up that you’ll want to save for your next tapas style, appetizer party and some more photos of the trip.

Tapas…It’s What’s for Dinner on the Deck.

Chicken Cutlets with Jalapeno Orange Sauce and Black Beans

August 18, 2011 at 7:38 am | Posted in Chicken | 23 Comments
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I’m sure you know the routine; one week getting ready for vacation, one week of vacation, one week catching up from vacation equals no time to blog, or for that matter not much time for cooking. I’ll most certainly be back in the kitchen this weekend, but for now it’s a quick fix dinner.

This latin chicken dish is so easy, so full of flavor and a pleasure to place on the table. A great weeknight meal that you can easily be digging into in around 30 minutes. The original recipe called for turkey cutlets and Habanero. We opted for quick-fix chicken cutlets from the meat case and a I woosed out and  bought, deveined and deseeded a jalapeno. I tried, honestly I really tried…but everytime I look at one of those small little criminal orange Habanero, I become very afraid and reach for the more trustable jalapeno.

This recipe comes from one of my new favorite sites, Fine Cooking. It’s a great resource for quick and flavorful meals. Let’s take a look:

Chicken Cutlets with Jalapeno Orange Sauce and Black Beans

5 to 6 Tbs. olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 plus 1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
1/2 tsp. seeded and minced jalapeno chile
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 small sweet onion, chopped
One 15-1/2-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
4 chicken breast cutlets (about 1-1/4 lb.)

In a 10-inch skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil and the garlic over medium heat until the garlic is golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/8 tsp. of the cumin. Add the orange juice, lime juice, and jalapeno. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set the mojo sauce aside. (The sauce can be served warm or at room temperature.)

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and ¼ tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beans and the remaining ½ tsp. cumin and cook until the beans are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the beans to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Wash and dry the skillet. Season the chicken cutlets on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add as many cutlets as will comfortably fit in a single layer and cook until browned on both sides and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining cutlets, adding the remaining 1 Tbs. oil if needed.

Divide the cutlets and black beans among individual plates. Spoon the mojo sauce over and serve.

Chicken Cutlets with Jalapeno Orange Sauce and Black Beans…It’s What’s for Dinner.

The Best Sandwich in the World: Bacon Lettuce and Tomato

August 2, 2011 at 8:28 am | Posted in Breakfast, Sandwiches | 59 Comments
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It’s a tradition around our house that as soon as the first ripe tomato is picked from the garden breakfast the next morning is a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. And with each bite I’m wishing that the sandwich would never end. Afterall it is the best sandwich in the world and what tastes better than the first home-grown vine-ripened tomato::::sigh. Served with an ice cold glass of orange juice and a slice of Rocky Ford cantaloupe it’s an award-winning meal.

This year I planted two Early Girls, one Beefsteak, some sort of who knows what kind of cherry tomato plant (the marker from the greenhouse mistakenly indicated it was an Early Girl), One Better Boy, one Patio and then I got daring and on impulse picked up a yellow Brandywine plant at Whole Foods, (which by the way has yet to produce a single bloom).

So what’s your story Early Girls? The first ripened tomato, picked on July 30, came from the big beautiful Beefsteak plant rather than quicker producing Early Girl plants. Sometimes I think these plants have a mind of their own.

So how do you build the best sandwich in the world?  Here’s how we do it.

  • Thick slice your delicious and prized first fresh garden tomato. Lightly salt and set aside
  • Fry 8 slices of good quality thick sliced bacon (4 slices bacon for each sandwich)
  • Toast 4 slices of OroWeat Oat Nut Bread
  • Best Foods Mayonnaise
  • iceberg or butter Lettuce

Slather each slice of warm toast with mayonnaise. Arrange 4 slices of bacon for each sandwich. Add that thick slice of garden tomato. Top with lettuce and the other mayo slathered piece of toast.  Slice on the diagonal.

Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches…It’s What’s for Breakfast.

Arugula, Cantaloupe and Avocado Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette

July 24, 2011 at 9:52 am | Posted in Fruit, Salad Dressings, Salads | 44 Comments
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With soaring temperatures and our famous Rocky Ford Cantaloupe just hitting our markets does anything sound better than a fresh salad of fruit, greens, a citrus vinaigrette with a kick and topped with a creamy avocado? No way to describe this but simply delicious. You’ll notice I didn’t have any avocado on hand but did have some hearts of palm that made an impressive stand-in appearance.  Want to make it a main course?  Just add some shrimp that’s been cooked and cooled…like you’d prepare for shrimp cocktail. Thanks to Fresh and Foodie for posting this recipe.  Let’s take a look.

Arugula, cantaloupe and Avocado Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette (adapted from Fresh and Foodie):
• 5 ounces arugula, washed and spun dry
• 2 cups cubed seedless watermelon (I used cantaloupe)
• 1 avocado, cubed
• 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
• The juice of 1 lime
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large salad bowl, toss the arugula and watermelon. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Add cubed avocado to the vinaigrette and toss very (very!) gently. This step prevents the avocado from browning in the salad.
3. Add vinaigrette and avocado to the salad bowl and lightly toss to combine. Top salad with freshly cracked pepper before serving.

Arugula, cantaloupe and Avocado Salad with Spicy Lime Vinaigrette…It’s What’s for a Dinner Salad.

No Recipe Required: Fresh Sweet Corn with Avocado and Cilantro

July 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Mexican/Southwest, No recipe required, Quick and Easy, Vegetables | 34 Comments
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  • Fresh sweet corn from three ears of corn
  • Place in a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with a pat of butter
  • Microwave for one minute
  • Top with sliced avocado, chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Fresh Sweet Corn with Avocado and Cilantro….It’s What’s for a Summer Side Dish.

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