Do you suffer from chicken boredom? I’m about to change that with this super flavorful, incredibly easy dish that I can only describe as my latest chicken flavor bomb! It’s a stuffed chicken, but not in the way you usually prepare it. This method makes it easier to stuff and much easier to eat! Tucked into each slit of chicken is prosciutto and a slice of your favorite cheese along with garlicky, buttery sage leaves. Then, that garlic butter gets spooned right over the top before it goes into the oven. It really is sensation, especially with my Momma’s famous Spinach salad! Chicken boredom be gone forever!
He’s 80 years old this year and the iconic face of America’s best-selling brand of rice from 1950 through the 1990’s. Ever since I was a little girl, Uncle Ben was a regular at our dinner table. It was the brand of rice my Mom trusted. Therefore, it’s a brand I still trust today. Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice was actually revolutionary when it was introduced in the 1930’s. It was the first rice to be parboiled which offered several benefits. Parboiling retained more or the nutrients in the rice, it cut down on cook time and it was resistant to weevils, a common problem when storing rice. So I was thrilled to have stumbled upon the Uncle Ben’s 50th Anniversary Cookbook in a thrift store this week, and what a bargain! It was half off fifty cents! The cookbook celebrates Uncle Ben’s recipes from 1943 until 1993 and features dishes like Sweet Pepper Risotto and Pacific Paella. But the recipe that caught my eye was the Spinach, Bacon and Mozzarella Salad with Warm Rice Vinaigrette Dressing. I love the idea of soaking the cooked rice in a sweet and sour combination of vinegar, oil and brown sugar eliminating the need for additional dressing for the salad. It can be made with either the Uncle Ben’s Original or Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice. (I prefer the original.) The rice mixture is delicious served warm over the spinach or cooled down. I added a pint of grape tomatoes to the recipe since they go so well with the mozzarella. This is a great salad for the start of a new year, and if you’ve never had rice in a green salad, it’s the one to try! By the way, here’s a bit of trivia about Uncle Ben. From 1971 to 1983, his face was removed from all packages. But in 2007, Uncle Ben’s image was back on the box and he was promoted to the Chairman of the Board by a new advertising campaign. Way to go, Uncle Ben!
It has been years since the incident, but it’s been burned in my memory, and to be perfectly honest, it still haunts me. I invited a couple from the Midwest to dinner, and watched as they sat there at the dinner table, not quite knowing what to do with the food I had prepared. They just looked at the platter with a blank stare. I had prepared a beautiful medley of grilled veggies, charred French bread slices and a big scoop of ricotta in the center. I had drizzled a lovely balsamic reduction over the entire array of vegetables and topped it with ribbons of fresh basil. Sound familiar? Who knew this type of dish would be a huge food trend years later? When I asked the couple if they would like something else, their reply was simply, “Um, we’ve never eaten like this. We usually have meat and potatoes for a meal.” But they eventually warmed up to the idea (the wine helped) and devoured the entire platter! Today, I still make the same dish with red peppers, zucchini and vegetables in season. But now, I love making the grilled medley with homemade ricotta and homemade balsamic reduction. For the reduction, I add two tablespoons of Port. If you have it on hand, it adds a wonderful complex flavor to the balsamic vinegar. For the homemade ricotta, if you can find raw milk, you’ll get a much better yield. (Sprouts is your best bet) It’s quite a bit pricier than the whole milk but well worth the money for the amount of ricotta it makes. Make these two recipes and you’ll be upping the ante on Antipasto!
If you want to bake up a scrumptious Snickerdoodle cookie with that classic soft and chewy texture, there are a couple of tips to get you the best results. First, don’t skimp on the cream of tartar. That’s what gives the Snickerdoodle that twist of tanginess. (If you don’t have it, go buy a nice fresh bottle. You may be making these a lot!) Next, whisking the butter and sugar together for a long time is important because it whips air into the cookie dough, which helps make them soft and chewy. So whisk for at least 5 minutes until light and super fluffy. (Christina Tosi, cookbook author and owner of the award-winning Milk Bar Bakery says that under-whisking the butter and sugar is the biggest mistake home cooks make.) Then, don’t over bake the cookies. You want that chewy center. Finally, roll the dough in the cinnamon sugar mixture twice. The topping here is just as important as the batter. So now, go gather up your room temperature butter, eggs and the rest of the ingredients, because, a day without a Snickerdoodle is just plain crummy!
I’ve never been a picky eater. But meatloaf was not one of my favorites, even though the dish has withstood the test of time as a favorite comfort food. Well, what a difference one recipe can make! I went from never giving meatloaf a second thought to maybe thinking about it a little too much. These days I can’t get enough of this special recipe that makes meatloaf so very flavorful and moist. What secrets does this variation hold? There are several. First, the two cups of whole milk that the breadcrumbs happily soak in. That alone gives the meatloaf a rich and ultra moist texture. Second, sautéing the sweet yellow onion adds to the moisture plus gives the loaf a slight natural sweetness. Then the sauce that gets brushed over the top before baking gives this meatloaf a hint of spice, a bit of heat from the dry mustard and sweetness from the brown sugar. All in all, this is a wonderful meal for the family, especially when paired with mashed potatoes, gnocchi, pasta or just some charred crusty French bread. This quote from Bon Appetite magazine summed up meatloaf the best: “Meatloaf in its many iterations and guises was often a sort of culinary scrap heap, a refuge for leftovers, in the spirit of many casseroles and of shepherd’s pie. It was a way to stretch protein. It was a way to use up excess vegetables. It was a ragtag orchestra of ingredients on the verge of expiration. And it made music more uplifting than anyone could have anticipated.” This recipe is definitely music to my ears and a brand new one woman fan favorite!
A beautiful plate of sliced tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil drizzled with a rich balsamic reduction was always a mainstay on our Italian table growing up. You have come to know and love it as Caprese or Insalata Caprese. (Have you ever noticed that this dish reflects the colors of the Italian flag?) Besides being a delicious and light salad or appetizer, Caprese is as versatile as a dish gets. So much so, that you’ll now find it in many variations and combinations with other foods. The Marinated Chicken Caprese is the perfect example and is sure to be a new favorite for you and your family! You can make the pesto and balsamic reduction from scratch or use store bought. The Chicken Caprese also answers that age-old pesky question; How can I come up with new ways to cook Chicken? Well, maybe I can help you at least for this week!