Feta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Pesto Sauce

This is one of my personal favorites on the blog.  I am a big fan of all these flavors (and even though I hate tomatoes, I love them sun dried!).

A great recipe for a casual dinner party, these stuffed chicken breasts look a lot fancier than they really are; they’re not intimidating to cook at all, and the result is so flavorful and pretty, they’re definitely worth the little bit of extra effort.

And the sauce is to die for.  Buon appetito!

For the chicken
4 chicken breasts
1 cup feta
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
~1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp flour
~2 Tbsp pesto
dash of salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash chicken breasts and carefully make a slit in the side of each one, lengthwise. Stuff with feta, herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes, then sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Grill until well done.*

2. While chicken is grilling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for a few minutes until it is translucent. Add butter and garlic and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for just a few minutes, until garlic begins to brown and becomes fragrant. Add chicken broth.

3. In a separate bowl, stir flour into milk until it is dissolved. Stir into skillet, along with a little salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes, stirring constantly as sauce thickens. Add pesto and stir until well mixed.

4. By now your chicken should be done; plate the chicken, spoon sauce over it, and enjoy immediately. Serve with salad, vegetables, and brown rice, which tastes rich and delicious with a little of the creamy sauce.

Serves 4.

* I use a George Foreman Grill, which only takes ten minutes; alternatively, you could prepare the sauce and then bake the chicken in it; or pan-fry the chicken and use the grease as a base for the sauce in lieu of chicken broth.

Stella’s Grilled Shrimp and Tuna Salad

Another quick but restaurant-worthy weeknight meal, ready to eat in under 15 minutes! It’s certainly not gourmet, but it tasted like the type of salad I’d pay $10 for in a local cafe, and, with a hearty helping of seafood and heaps of mixed greens as a base, covered all my nutritional bases.

I used frozen shrimp, canned tuna, commercial salsa, canned olives, and my handy George Foreman Grill (I did say weeknight meal).

1 cup frozen shrimp (about 10 medium shrimp)
6 oz. can of albacore tuna
2 oz. can sliced black olives
1 avocado
1/2 cup goat cheese
2-3 Tbsp chunky roasted chipotle salsa
splash of fresh lime juice
~3 cups mixed salad leaves

For the shrimp marinade
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp hot sauce (I used Tiger Sauce, leftover from a recent camping trip)

1. While grill is heating up, defrost shrimp in microwave for about 3 minutes. Thoroughly douse with marinade until each piece is lightly covered; set aside.

2. Toss salad leaves into a medium to large bowl. Drain tuna and olives and scoop out on top.

3. Grill shrimp for approximately 4 minutes, until nicely grilled. If using an indoor grill, this should result in well done but not overcooked shrimp. Toss warm shrimp into salad bowl.

4. Slice and dice avocado and add to bowl. Sprinkle with lime juice, then add cheese and a big spoonful of salsa.

Serve immediately. Makes enough for one full-meal salad.

Pan-Seared Bison Steak with Mushroom Wine Sauce

Enjoy this low-carb, “primal” or “paleo” dinner option that is quick and easy! This whole recipe should have you sitting down with a juicy bison steak within 20 minutes. A great way to live a life of luxury on weeknights!

For the steaks
2 bison steaks, cut of your choice
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp bacon grease

For the sauce
1 cup cremini mushrooms, diced
1/4 white onion, finely diced
1/2 cup ground almond meal (for low-carb) or flour
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp garlic powder
dash salt
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup red wine
8 oz. tomato paste
1 cup water

1. Preheat an ungreased cast iron skillet over medium high heat while preparing sauce ingredients.

2. Melt butter in large saucepan and then stir in mushrooms and onions. Stir for about two or three minutes until mushrooms are cooked.

3. Meanwhile, drop bacon grease in your other skillet so it can begin to melt. Rub all of the steak spices into the steak and place it under a clean dishcloth or paper towel, and set aside.

4. In a one cup measuring cup, place almond meal or flour, paprika, all spice, garlic, and salt. Pour the mixture into your saucepan and then add one cup water. Stir vigorously as mixture thickens. Add red wine and tomato paste, and continue to stir. Once the sauce is mixed to a nice, uniform texture (just a few minutes), reduce heat to simmer. Continue to stir intermittently and reduce heat further if sauce begins to boil. Add more water as necessary to achieve desired thickness.

5. Drop steaks gingerly into cast iron skillet – careful, the bacon grease may pop! Cook for about two to minutes on each side. This should result in a medium-rare to medium steak, depending on the size of your cuts. If you desire your steak more well done, and they are not yet too crispy, you can cook them for longer in the pan over lower heat. Alternatively, you can transfer them to a preheated oven to finish them off.

6. Remove the steaks from the pan and drizzle with mushroom wine sauce. Serve with a side salad (pictured here: mixed leaves with goat chese and chopped pecans).

Serves two. Makes enough sauce for leftovers (good on salad, in wraps, or on other meat dishes – great on pasta!).

Lemon and Rosemary Grilled Chicken

This is pretty basic, but it was delicious, too, so I thought I’d go ahead and post it.

2 chicken breasts, butterflied
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
splash of white wine
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
extra olive oil to drizzle

1. Squeeze lemon juice into a large, shallow pan or dish. Add olive oil, wine, and 1 1/2 Tbsp rosemary, reserving a couple of springs for garnish. Place chicken breasts in dish, rubbing oil and herb mixture into each one, turning over, and leaving mostly covered with oil. Let marinate, covered, for at least a half hour in the refrigerator, preferably up to two hours.

2. Meanwhile, heat and prepare your indoor or outdoor grill. Then, remove chicken breasts from the marinade, allowing most of the liquid to drip off, and place on the hot grill. If some rosemary sticks to the meat, that’s okay. Follow your grill’s time guide to ensure chicken is cooked through. For my indoor grill, the cooking time was about 6 minutes. If using an outdoor grill, turn the chicken over halfway through.

3. When chicken is well done, remove from heat and serve immediately garnished the the remaining rosemary and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

I used a George Foreman Grill for these, and served them with grilled asparagus topped with oven-roasted almonds and finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Great with white wine.

Serves 2.

Spicy Southwestern Buffalo Burgers

I finally made a trip to Sprouts recently (and was impressed), and I was delighted to see ground buffalo there, so I decided to try some. Of course, the only thing I could consider making for my first buffalo dish was a burger!

I have read in several sources that buffalo meat has 70-90% less fat and 50% of the cholesterol of beef. It is also higher in protein, iron, and all the omega and amino acids. Though buffalo is surprisingly non-gamey in flavor, it does have a slightly sweeter, lighter taste, and doesn’t feel as greasy on the palate.

I happened to have an unopened jar of spicy Southwestern mustard, so I decided to go with that as the inspiration for my buffalo burgers. I created a spicy, Southwestern seasoning mix for the meat, and topped my burger with grilled onions, lettuce, mustard, and mayo (sorry, I can’t stand tomatoes unless they’re breaded and fried or cooked in a complex sauce, and I think they ruin sandwiches). The grilled onions are key here.

I also chose spelt buns for these burgers, having never eaten spelt before. Spelt is an ancestor and cousin of modern wheat and, as it is lower in gluten, may be better for some folks with mild gluten sensitivity. It also has a higher nutritional value, being rich in vitamin B2, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of niacin, thiamin, and copper. An ancient grain with a long history in the Middle East and Europe, it was very popular in America up until the 20th century when farmers turned to more intensive wheat growing. While the texture of these spelt buns is the same as their regular whole wheat counterpart, the flavor is slightly sweeter and definitely nuttier. This complemented the other ingredients perfectly to create a rich burger; I was impressed.

I grilled both the onions and the burgers on a George Foreman grill, but you could use an indoor or outdoor grill or cast-iron skillet just as well.

1 lb. ground bison meat
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin rings
1 jalapeño, deseeded and sliced
~8 leaves green leaf lettuce
4 slices of Cheddar cheese
spicy Southwestern mustard, bought or homemade, to taste
mayonnaise, bought or homemade, to taste
4 spelt or whole wheat buns, toasted

1. In a large bowl, combine meat, Worcestershire sauce, and all the herbs and spices. Mix thoroughly with your hands and then form into four balls of about one quarter pound each. On a clean, even surface such as a glass cutting board, roll the meatballs out into patties and pound lightly with your palms.

2. Grill patties until cooked through to your personal taste. I like mine just well done. Be especially attentive with buffalo burgers – because of bison’s lower fat content, they are not good when overcooked. On a George Foreman grill, I find that about three and a half to four minutes is just right.

3. Meanwhile, toast your buns and slice the other ingredients and set aside for assembly.

4. Once burgers are done, remove them from the grill and assemble your burgers: on an open-faced bun, spread mustard on one side and mayonnaise on the other. On top of the bottom bun, place patty, then top with jalapeños, cheese, onions, and lettuce. Place top bun atop the burger and press down gently.

5. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 quarter pound buffalo burgers. Really, really delicious.