Wednesday, February 6

Tasteful Times: Chicken Roulade with a Roasted Beet & Jowl Bacon Salad

This month, I had the pleasure of being asked by the lovely folks over at Tasteful Times to put together a special Valentine's Day recipe using a few of their top-notch products sold at their wine and gourmet foods shop.

Simply picking the ingredients was the first challenge. Their assortment of cured meats, mostly local, was a dream world for me. Not to mention their even wider selection of cheeses, snacks, baking mixes and, of course- wine!

After much deliberation (and salivation) I went with two cheeses and two cured meats to feature in my  meal.

The first dish incorporated their Port Salut cheese and Smoking Goose Capocollo de Dorman. The mild milkiness of the Port Salut was the perfect mix with the peppery Capocollo, which I rolled and baked into flattened and pressed chicken breast. Here's how you can make it at home:

Spicy Chicken Roulade

What you need (to serve 2 people):
2 6 oz. chicken breast
4 pcs. Smoking Goose Capocollo de Dorman
2 oz. Port Salut cheese

The plan:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Take your chicken breast, and place it in between two pieces of saran wrap. Using the smooth side of a meat tenderizer (or a heavy frying pan) flatten the chicken until a little less than an inch thick. From there, spread a layer of the Port Salut and then a layer of the capocollo and roll the contents up into the chicken. I used a couple toothpicks to secure but you could also use some kitchen twine.

Next, brown each side of the rolled chicken in an oiled and well-heated frying pan that is oven safe. Once you get a good brown crisp on each side, pop the pan into the oven until the chicken has cooked through, around 20-25 minutes.

Roasted Beet & Jowl Bacon Salad

What you need:
1/4 lb. Smoking Goose Jowl Bacon
2 oz. Capriole Goat Cheese
1 large beet
mixed greens

The plan:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Once your oven is up to heat, place your beets (contained in a well oiled, oven safe dish and covered in foil) on the middle rack. Meanwhile, put your bacon in a pan and get to frying. Once you've cooked the jowl bacon, remove it from the pan and set on a paper towel then cover. When your beet is fork tender, peel the skin and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. You can get extra festive for Valentines Day by cutting them into hearts like I did. From there assemble your greens, crumbled goat cheese, beets and bacon on a plate and enjoy!

 For an extra touch, discard all but 1/4 cut of the leftover fat oils, then a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of dijon and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then whisk together for a warm vinaigrette dressing.

We paired both recipes with the one of our white wines from the Tasteful Times Wine Library, a wine club we've been a part of for over a year now and absolutely love. It has been a fantastic way for us to build up our collection and try wines we wouldn't normally pick.

If you are a local reader I hope you make a visit to Tasteful Times to check out their stuff. I assure you, you will be so happy you did! Also- thanks to everyone over at TT for letting me feature some of your delicious products! Salud!

Monday, February 4

For the birds: Homemade suet cakes

In the winter, we get really pumped to see all the birds in our backyard. They look especially beautiful against the white snow. We have a couple different feeders to lure them in but the suet cakes are one of the most popular. Comprised of fat drippings, dried fruit and nuts, I recently decided to make my own rather than buy them.

Because of my love of bacon, we tend to have plenty of drippings on hand. How do we collect them? We just pour the fat from the pan while it is still hot into a dedicated container we keep in the freezer. It's pretty simple.

Suet, or bacon fat. Clearly someone's excited. 

To make the suet cakes for our birds, I just took 1.5 cups softened suet, 1/2 cup nuts (I used peanuts and almonds- make sure they are plain and raw), and 1/2 cup dried, mixed berries and pulsed it around in a food processor until things are well incorporated.

Fruit &nuts for the cakes.
Add in some suet.
Then place in the mold. Voila!

From there I just pressed the mixture into square molds that would fit in our feeders and froze the mixture in the mold for an hour. I had all the ingredients lying around and the actual process of putting it all together took about 15 minutes. I will say, it's a pretty messy ordeal as you're dealing with melted fat so beware!

Friday, February 1

A healthy super-bowl snack

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love traditional tailgate food. Mostly because it always includes something barbecued and something bacon. With all of those recipes floating around this time of year, I thought I'd throw something in the mix for my gluten-free/more health conscious friends. This recipe might seem like an odd pairing but I promise you- it is delicious.

The original idea for this recipe stems from something that was made at one of my wedding showers. Made by Ben's aunt, the Mango Caprese Salad was a hit and something I've made many times since. Though, over time it has evolved in presentation. When I make it to take to work for lunch, I generally cube the cheese and mango and toss it in the dressing. Recently, for a holiday party over at Lilly Lane, I decided to put a twist on the recipe to make it group friendly (read: less likely to spread germs).

What you need to make roughly 2 dozen skewers:
2 Ripe Mangoes
24 oz. Fresh Mozarella

1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 C. Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 C. Fresh basil, julienne sliced

The plan:
Chop your mangoes and mozarella into roughly 1x1 inch cubes. Alternate four cubes of each on a skewer. Mix all ingredients for the dressing and then pour over top the skewers. It's that easy.

In the photo above I ran short on fresh basil and had to use dried which was fine but not ideal. With fresh basil, you could even incorporate it into the alternation of cheese and mango. Either way you dress it up, this recipe is delicious and you should give it a try!

Wednesday, January 30

Mid-Winter Greening

After the holidays, the winter can become a little bleak. Personally, I love winter and don't really mind the cold (must be the Scot in me) but I can't say I don't mind a little bit of plant life around the house to change things up. Recently, we decided to coordinate our potted plants a bit more and upgrade all their containers from the hodge-podge of random plastic/ceramic to all ceramic. Not only do they look better, they are much healthier with a little more space and replenished soil.

Above is an amaryllis we are trying to grow. I say trying because for the last couple weeks we had it right up against our kitchen window and I think it was overexposed to light. We've moved it back to the entryway table and things are looking a bit better. As you can see, we're also gearing up for Valentines day!

This guy was half-dead and made up of one 4 inch long, purple-ish spike when we found him at our local garden center a couple years ago. Because we have a thing for bringing plants back from their last leg, we took him home and he seems to be thriving. We found an industrial and minimal concrete planter which seems to be just right. I love the clean lines paired with the spiked fronds of the plant. To replenish the soil I used some new cactus mix potting soil and it seems to be doing just fine. 

On the other side of the bookcase, we have this one. This vining tropical plant that has beautiful purple flowers during the summer tends to stay dormant during the winter. I'm not sure exactly what it is but the buds resemble a clematis amd the sap and leaves are just like milkweed. Any guesses? Anyways, to train the vines, I put a couple pieces of curly willow in the plant (still leftover from our wedding) which gave the whole arrangement some nice height. Just plain potting soil seems to work for this kind of plant. 

This one was just a stump when Ben found it in the back of a work garage. I still remember when he came home with it in a broken plastic container and solid rock soil, insisting we save it. Which meant taking it with us to our parents over the next week as we were heading that way for the holidays. We carted it hundreds of miles that week, lugging it in and out of a few places and have tended to it for the last 5 years. It has flourished into a pretty spectacular little tree and this month, we gave it a new home in a cool eastern style container from my mom. Thanks, mom!

In 2010, I was lucky to have a really amazing group of interns at the Statehouse. On their last day, they gifted me this beautiful pear terrarium (after reading this post) and it is looking as good as ever. That tiny jade tree in front something we're working on brining back but so far, so good. 

Finally, our latest adopted plant, is Big Jade. I love the look of this jade tree and it seems to be very happy with some new soil (part cactus mix, part regular potting soil), a bigger pot, and some corner window light.

These few changes have added a nice fresh touch to the house. When replanting anything, remember to  give the roots some space, use the appropriate soil, and be flexible with your placement. You may have to move indoor plants around a few times to find a good spot, but it is worth the work! Here's some more info from Martha if you're looking to integrate or rejuvenate any indoor plants of your own.

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