Feta stuffed chicken boob and Kalamata couscous

I made up this really good kalamata sauce a few weeks ago and I was thinking of a dish to incorporate it again last night. After a raid of the pantry and the fridge I came up with this recipe. It can easily be adapted to fit what you have available. I would have loved sun-dried tomatoes in the chicken but not in the pantry, not in the budget. For the record chicken boob is just chicken breast, I’m just being immature.

Feta Stuffed Chicken

  • 2 chicken boobs
  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • teaspoon olive oil
  • dash of oregano
  • salt and pepper

*Always be aware of cross contaminating – use separate cutting boards and knives

Preheat oven to 375F. Start by cleaning the chicken of extra fat and then splitting the chicken breast open and creating a cavern for the stuffing. Mix balsamic, oil, salt, pepper, and oregano in a bowl and then add chicken to marinade flipping over to coat all sides. Cover and set aside.

In a separate bowl, finely dice the white onion and green pepper and mix together with the feta. Then using your hands stuff the split chicken breasts with your veggie feta mix. Place on a cookie sheet or cake pan and cook for 30 minutes.

Couscous with veggies and Kalamata sauce

sauce ingredients before blending

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 peeled cucumber
  • 1 large tomato
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 2 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives
  • 2 green onions

Cook couscous in a saucepan then move to a bowl to begin to chill. For the sauce I used a hand emulsion blender, but a blender or food processor would work too. Mix sour cream, mayo, diced green onions, and jarred kalamata olives into a bowl or blender and mix until slightly chunky. Mix the sauce into the couscous and add tomato and cucumber. Fold together to fully coated and enjoy.

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Saucy Chicken Broccoli Stir-Fry

Greasy Chinese (or any Asian cuisine) takeout is one of my all-time favorite treats. I love all of the dishes in the same order that they’re bad for me, the worst ones, of course, being my favorite. General Tso’s chicken, sesame beef and broccoli, curries, Peking ravioli, hot and sour soup, crab rangoon (though I’ve only maybe once eaten one of these with actual crab in it), any kind of crispy (read: ‘fried’) spring roll or dumpling…YUM! Other than the oil, salt, and sugar many dishes are laden with, the spice factor is one of my favorite parts — it adds the perfect extra dimension to the heaviness of these favorites. Mexican cuisine is my favorite go-to, something I’m always in the mood for. My relationship with Asian cuisine is slightly different, in that I’m not constantly craving it, but when I do, watch out — I’ve GOT to have it.

Most members of my family are passionate about food and cooking, and my Aunt Susie is no exception — this is a very slight twist on her incredible stir-fry recipe. The first time I tried it, I was instantly hooked. It’s seriously perfect — you get that same satisfaction of take out — all of the hot, sweet, sour, savory flavors, but you can control everything that goes in and therefore tailor it to your exact taste. The sauce is the key to this recipe and really, every ingredient in it can be increased or decreased, or eliminated all together (or add more components!). I’ve posted the measurements that I use, but go nuts…it’s simple and everything in the dish can be interchanged.

My favorite combo of meat and veggie for this stir-fry is broccoli and chicken. Auntie’s is asparagus and chicken. Kyle suggested I throw in carrots and snow peas along with the broccoli, and it was excellent. Go in any direction here — onions, peppers, bamboo shoots — you really can get creative.

Yikes. Raw chicken is never pretty, but once it

Begin with some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. One large breast is plenty to feed two hungry people. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Throw the pieces in a bowl and sprinkle liberally with soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix around so all pieces are coated and let this sit while you prep the other ingredients.

The chicken pieces with a little soy sauce and sesame oil. The sesame oil will also help the chicken pieces from sticking to each other when thrown into the hot pan.

Now, cut up your veggies of choice. Again, bite-sized pieces are ideal. Along with the veggies you’ll also want to finely chop a big clove of garlic and a good chunk of fresh ginger (in size equal to the clove of garlic or bigger). For garnish later, slice a few scallions, and if you’re into spice, a Serrano pepper or two.

For the sauce, I add all of the ingredients to a Mason jar and just shake it up. So easy! Throw in the garlic and ginger you just chopped, chicken stock, soy sauce, black bean/garlic sauce (easy to find in any grocery store in the international foods aisle), sesame oil, brown sugar, a splash of water, and cornstarch (this is the magic ingredient that will turn the cloudy, runny mixture into a thick, shiny, glaze-like sauce — reminiscent of, but better than, what you’ll find in takeout Chinese dishes). There’s one final ingredient, but it’s not as accessible as the others. In fact, Aunt Susie sends this to me all the way from San Francisco, along with a few other sauces I became addicted to while living there. One of many great Chinese food restaurants in SF, called Henry’s Hunan, bottles their own chili flakes and fermented black beans in a spicy oil. It’s absolutely to die for. I have to ration mine at home because it’s such a commodity. I’ll bet you could find something similar — if not, fine to skip it, or just add some red chili flakes (the same kind you’d put on your pizza). Screw the top on and shake away. Done!

Some of the sauce ingredients. I used water & bouillon paste in place of chicken stock. The jar on the left is the Hunan sauce -- mmmm.

I’m told the key to stir-frying properly is to cook everything quickly over a very high heat. Kyle and I have been looking for a good wok but haven’t found one yet (at least not in our price range). This is the ideal way to cook a stir-fry, as all of the heat is concentrated to the bottom of the pan. Until I own a wok, I’ll use a cast iron skillet for its excellent even-heating properties. It also gives the ingredients a nice color.

Get your pan super-hot and add some vegetable oil. Once this has heated up, throw in your chicken pieces. You want to make sure the chicken browns slightly, and there are a few tricks to this. First, the pan should be very, very hot. Second, make sure your chicken is in a single layer in the pan. If you have more than that, cook it in two batches, otherwise, it could steam before it sautés. My Dad is so good about this rule that he actually cooks each serving of stir-fry separately. I have the best memories of waiting for it to be my turn when Dad would cook this during my childhood years. His is a Schezuan-style stir-fry and absolutely amazing — I’ll have to share that recipe sometime, too.

Once you get the chicken in the pan, let it go a few minutes to really get some golden-brown color. Then, using a wooden spoon, stir it around to expose the raw sides of each piece to the pan. I’d say in total you’ll want to cook it for about 4 – 6 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces. Once it’s done, dump it into a bowl and add a little more vegetable oil to your pan.

Cooked chicken

Throw your veggies in and repeat the process — give them a minute or two to get some color and then stir. After 2 minutes or so, throw the chicken back into the pan and stir everything together. Now comes the fun part.

Push all of the chicken and veggies to one side of the pan (leaving a good amount of open pan surface), or, if using a wok, take the veggies out and leave them aside with the chicken, so that you’re left with an empty wok. Grab your Mason jar and be sure to shake again, vigorously — the cornstarch likes to stick to the bottom. Once you’re confident everything is thoroughly mixed, pour your sauce mixture into the pan (still on high heat).

Sauce, all shook up!

Right before your eyes, the liquid will begin to bubble and become dark and glossy. Mix as it bubbles with a wooden spoon to keep it moving and to avoid super hot patches that could burn the sugar. Once all of the sauce has pulled together (about a minute) push the veggies and chicken into it and stir to coat everything (if using wok, dump all ingredients back in and stir to combine). Let everything reheat through and combine for a good minute or so.

Sauce poured into pan. On the upper right, you can see how the sauce changes completely as it comes to temperature.

Serve immediately over rice or noodles. Although I prefer noodles over rice in general, rice is ideal here for soaking up all of the delicious sauce. Either way works though.

Finished stir-fry, piping hot!

Garnish with the scallions and Serranos, and, the perfect final touch…roasted peanuts or cashews! I promise you won’t miss the restaurant version…this has it ALL. The first time I made it, I knew I’d have to spend a bit more money than usual on groceries, since I didn’t already have a few of the ingredients. But trust me, it is a worth-while investment…this is a great weeknight go-to and an excellent base recipe to experiment with different meats and veggies. Someday I’d like to try deep-frying dark meat chicken before coating it in sauce (à la General Tso)…but for now I’ll stick to this; a truly mouth-watering, healthier, and more flavorful alternative to the deliciousness that is Chinese takeout. All that’s missing is the white cardboard box…and a few empty calories. 😉

Ingredients list (for 2 hungry-sized servings):

Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of black bean/garlic sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of Henry’s Hunan crushed chili sauce (or 1 tsp. dried red chili flake)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • Splash of water
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced finely
  • 1 sq.-inch piece of ginger, minced finely

Stir-fry:

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Sprinkle of soy sauce
  • Sprinkle of sesame oil
  • 2 cups broccoli (if frozen, let it thaw)
  • 1 large carrot, sliced into coins, or julienned
  • 1 handful snow peas
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 Serrano pepper, sliced thinly
  • Handful of roasted peanuts or cashews
  • Vegetable oil for cooking

Leftover snack for Kyle 🙂

I’d love to hear more winning meat/veggie combos, so please do share! Hope you guys love this, and thank you a million times to my talented Auntie for this recipe and for bringing a little bit of San Francisco into my kitchen via sauce and stir-fry! I love her.

Spicy Quinoa Soup w/ Avocado

Quinoa is new to me. So new, that I only recently found out it is pronounced Keen-wah, not Quin-O-ah. In any event, I’m instantly a fan. I like the whole super food idea….small grains packed with tons of nutrients, vitamins, and protein. I’ve been on the Chia Seed wagon for a couple years now and honestly do find myself with more energy after eating them. So when I saw this recipe on our friend Jessica Simpsons’ blog, ForgivingMartha, I knew I was going to make it. For the record, this is a our skinny attractive friend Jessica, not this Jessica. High five Nick Lachey.

Anyway back to soup. It’s a simple soup to make and can easily be adapted. For the vegan, gluten-free recipe follow the linked recipe, but I only had chicken stock and don’t care about vegans anyway. Hence the pork in the site name. Follow the directions and have a hot and spicy soup in thirty minutes for a very affordable price.

Spicy Quinoa Soup

  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 oz. chipotle peppers in adobo, sliced (about 2 peppers)
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 1 poblano, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of leeks, sliced and rinsed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 limes
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup of quinoa, dry
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

In a skillet, heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic and leeks seasoning with salt and pepper. Use onions if you don’t have leeks, and cook until soft and aromatic. In a separate saucepan, add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of quinoa and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until water is absorbed and the seeds pop their tails(actually the germ spiraling out, but I like to call them tails). Finally in large pot mix the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, all the peppers including adobo sauce, cooked leeks and garlic, along with the spices and the juice from 1 lime and bring it up to medium-high heat. Let it cook for 30 minutes, lowering the heat if you get boiling bubbles. It’s soup so the longer you cook the more the flavors will blend.

To serve, ladle into a bowl, add a large scoop of quinoa, and add sliced avocado and a wedge of lime. Cilantro would be nice too but I did not have any. Makes about 4 servings.

Galaxy Cafe

Yesterday Katy and I went to Galaxy Cafe for lunch because I had a groupon that was about to expire this weekend. Usually I feel like restaurants on groupon are sub par, otherwise, why would they be on there? But I got it anyway as a reason to try a new place in a new city and luckily this wasn’t the case.

We went for lunch around 1pm and had no wait at the deli style counter. After a long debate over the menu, Katy ordered a seared tuna salad and I decided on a build-your-own burger, but flipped the script last second for the daily special of shrimp tacos. Everything is better as a taco. We got a number, sat in a comfy booth, and were served within 5 minutes.

The shrimp were fried and delicious. On top of flour tortillas and topped with avo, pico, and fresh slaw they were great and worthy of a repeat. And with your choice of side for a little over $9 it’s not a bad deal. My side was whipped sweet potatoes but as Katy put it when she tried them, “it’s like pie filling”. Great texture and taste but a bit too sweet to eat the whole side.

From my tacos and what I tried of Katy’s salad they know what they are doing at Galaxy. Check it out if you’re in the neighborhood.

Galaxy Cafe
1000 West Lynn Street
Austin, TX

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Spreadable, Secret-Ingredient Caramelized Onions

Happy 2012, everyone!  While I do realize many a New Year’s resolution revolves around healthier eating and cutting back on high-calorie favorites, I might remind you that it’s still football season — the perfect loophole!  Which means it’s most certainly acceptable to be eating junk at least once a week.  I save my official “cheat day” for Sunday, as this is my favorite time of the week to be permanently parked on the couch (other than the occasional, or if you’re in your 20s, frequent, trip to the fridge for a cold beverage) enjoying delicious treats.

One of my favorite ways to eat on a Sunday is to prepare, along with all three of my talented, food-loving roommates, several different tapas-style, ‘bar food’-like snacks.  This way, we all get a chance to experiment in the kitchen and everyone gets to try a little bit of everything.

The idea for this mini-recipe came to me a few years ago when a good friend and life-long Brooklyn resident (who also happens to be my best friend’s boyfriend) circulated an article amongst our burger-loving friends reviewing the Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern in NYC — considered by many to be the best in Manhattan.  The chef was describing the lone topping he dressed this burger with — sliced onions that were given several hours to break down into the perfect, jam-like consistency over very low heat.  Brilliant!

Now, as much as I love to be in the kitchen, a few hours for onions sounded a little extreme for your average at-home cook.  A $26 burger deserves nothing less, but I have the Patriots to watch and beer to drink.  So I found a way to imitate what I imagined these onions tasted like.  Hopefully someday I’ll have the opportunity to taste this burger myself!

It still takes a bit of time, but the onions are well-behaved and can take care of themselves for the majority of their cooking time.  I hope you’ll love these as much as I do!

Begin with some white or yellow onions.  I generally buy a bag of small- to medium-sized white onions, but I think any onion will do.  Red onion would work fine as well.  I used four this time, and while the onions cook down a lot, it was still plenty for an appetizer for four people.

Cut off the tops and bottoms of each onion and remove the papery skin.  I purchased an awesome mandolin at HEB (Texas’s biggest food market chain; sort of a hybrid of Stop & Shop, Costco, and Walmart) for $7, and for this recipe alone, it was worth it.  Perfect uniform slices every time, though the same task can be done with a good, sharp knife.  You want to cut through the onion in the direction that will give you rings.  If you don’t have a mandolin, just do the best you can to keep the slices uniform.  An eighth of an inch is a perfect width.

Once you have all of your onions sliced, get a large skillet over low-medium heat.  As much as I love cast iron, this is an instance where non-stick is going to save you a lot of time later.  This is because onions are very sugary (we’ll be making them even more so), and the cast iron skillets in our house aren’t old or seasoned enough to ensure perfect onion removal (though they’re getting there, slowly but surely).  Also, the dark metal will get too hot too quickly and brown the onions a little quicker than we’d like.

Add olive oil and butter to the warming pan.  I did equal parts of both.  You could also use all butter or all olive (or vegetable, canola, peanut) oil.  I find about half of a tablespoon of fat per onion is about right.

Once the butter is melted, add all of the onions to the pan, and stir, doing your best to coat each piece of onion in the butter/oil mixture.  Now, the waiting begins.  I let the onions sit on the stove top, leaving the heat at medium-low (about 3 out of 10 according to our stove top knobs).  I came back to stir them every 6 minutes or so.  Or you can try tossing them the way fancy chefs do.  I gave this up after half a batch ended up on the burner.  I’ll stick to my trusty wooden spoon.

As time goes on, the onions will go from translucent to yellow to golden to amber to caramel-colored.

After 6 minutes

After 12 minutes

After 18 minutes

After 24 minutes

After 30 minutes

After 36 minutes

After 42 minutes

After about 40-45 minutes (this may vary) of cooking time, it’s time to add the secret ingredient – a generous dollop of grape jelly!  Yum.  Or raspberry.  Or apricot.  I can’t think of any kind of fruit preserve that wouldn’t be delicious in these.  The sticky jelly acts as a perfect binder to pull the onions together into an almost sauce-like consistency.  Funnily enough, in the finished product you can’t necessarily pick up the taste of the fruit; the ingredients just become a perfect synergy.  Along with the jelly, sprinkle in brown sugar.  Adding additional sugar to the onions helps to speed up the caramelization process — something I learned from another one of my best friend’s mom, who has some serious tricks in the kitchen…she makes the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had.  One time she even shared her recipe, taught me the exact process, step-by-step, and mine still don’t come close to hers.  That’s true kitchen magic in my opinion.

Now’s also the time to season with some salt and fresh-ground black pepper.  White pepper would be awesome here, so as not to mess with the pretty color of the onions, but I didn’t have any.  No biggie, probably wouldn’t make a huge difference in the end anyway — they end up pretty dark in color.

Continue to cook down about another 10 minutes.  Now, add a sprinkling of each balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, and mix.  The onions at this point should be very reduced, tangled, and a deep toffee color.  Finally, deglaze your pan with a good splash of wine — red, white, rosé, anything.  They say only cook with a wine that you’d drink.  Luckily this isn’t a problem for me because I’ve yet to meet a wine I don’t like.

Please use your imagination and mentally superimpose a lemon into this photo

Since I was making these on New Year’s Day, we happened to have some champagne left over from the night prior’s festivities — perfect.  Stir everything around and cook down another 5 minutes or so to burn off most of the liquid from the wine.

And…done!  These will go great on all kinds of things.  Some of my favorite applications — pizza (I often add a little garlic and extra oil at the end, then use them in place of tomato sauce), calzones, sandwiches (pastrami, turkey, grilled cheese!), burgers (with Swiss cheese and bacon), over hot Italian sausages with grainy mustard.  Also from here you could add beef broth and you’d pretty much have a classic, from-scratch French onion soup.

This day, however, being in finger-food mode, I served them as a simple appetizer over a wedge of room-temperature Brie.  Perfect yin/yang situation…the buttery, creamy Brie became slightly melty and balanced great with the syrupy sweet, tangy onions.  Cheddar or goat cheese would be fantastic as well.  Just spoon the warm onions over the cheese and serve with crackers.  Or if you’ve got a little more energy than I did, cut a baguette into thin slices on a bias.  Sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake on a sheet pan in a single layer for a few minutes at about 350°.

One (optional) addition to the plate are a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.  Tear up a few leaves onto each bite.  Something about the woodsy-ness (yes, spellcheck, I know that’s not a word) adds the perfect finish, plus the green pine needle-looking herb makes the plate a little more aesthetically pleasing.

Here’s the list of ingredients:

  • 4 small/medium white onions
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. grape (or other) jelly
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup wine
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Last but not least, some toasted walnuts, pecans, or almonds would have been great to throw on top of the onions.  Enjoy…preferably with a glass of the wine or champagne you just cooked with!  Or a good ol’ Bud Light like I did — it was football Sunday, after all. 🙂

Turf N’ Surf Food Truck


This eclectic gem of a food truck has abolished my cravings for east coast seafood that I’ve had since I moved here. Done is Louisiana style po’ boys, the seafood is AMAZING and completely filling. We’ve tried fried shrimp, seared tuna, and fried catfish, and all were worth ordering again. They offer everything in the form of two tacos instead of a po’ boy which is nice since lately everything is better as a taco to me.

As the name states they have more then seafood, offering all your favorite land animal snacks but I haven’t been around to try them yet. If they are anything like the seafood then you won’t be dissapointed. Prices range from $8- $13 for po’ boys/tacos and are completely worth it.

$3 Jalapeno hush puppies and a buffalo chicken po’ boy are on my menu for the next visit.

Turf N’ Surf Food Truck

207 Congress St. between 2nd and 3rd

fried shrimp taco with slaw and greens

Rustic Chili

First of all Happy New Year!! I hope everyone had a great night of celebrating and stayed safe and out of jail. I made a resolution to write on the blog once a week, so like all resolutions I will start off strong and slowly let it fade away.

Anyway, this time of year there is a perfect storm of reasons to make a crock of chili. Usually winters freezing cold makes you crave a warm bowl of chili, but now I’m in Austin and it’s 70 degrees so I can’t use that excuse. However I could simply say I’m in Texas and it’s state law to make chili at least once a year (I so wish that was a real law). But more importantly, there are about 40 football games in a 7 day span and we all know chili is the ultimate football food.

I’ve had a itch to make chili for a few weeks now since I found a retro meat grinder at the thrift store. It was the ultimate find – $7.50 for a badass meat grinder. So I got together all the ingredients, cracked open a Genessee Cream Ale and got to work. Since I usually use ground chuck in chili, I bought a big 2 pound chuck roast.

I cut it into manageable sized pieces and dropped them into the top of the grinder. Crank, crank, crank. Nothing. There is way too much gristle (cartilage and tough inedible fibers in meat) to push through the grate. I pretty much would have needed to drop it in a blender first to make this grinder work, so I cut my losses, chugged down the beer and improvised. I pounded out the meat to tenderize it a bit then cut it up with a sharp knife into quarter size pieces. It actually ended up working out well because I cut out some fat and could work around the gristle. In the end, it would have been a lot faster and less stressful to just buy the pre-ground chuck, but this ended up with a different texture which I enjoy and which is also why it’s called Rustic. Because chunky means rustic right? No? Whatever.

From here you can move on as if its pre-ground or self-cut, since it is the same process. So check out the recipe below and try it out. It works in a crock pot or just a large spaghetti pot. I’m a huge fan of spicy, so adjust the portions to fit your taste!


Rustic Chili Recipe

  • 2 lb chuck roast or ground chuck
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • teaspoon of cumin
  • 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans
  • 1 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 ounces of tabasco
  • salt and pepper

Heat a large skillet with oil, and once hot add the beef. I tried to get it real hot first to sear the meat, but probably not necessary for ground chuck. This is when I seasoned the meat, adding salt and pepper as well as the cumin. Cook until all the pink is gone, then transfer to your crock pot or pot using a slotted spoon leaving the grease and excess water behind. This step is important because it keeps the chili from being way too fatty like it would if you tried to cook everything in the crock pot.

Next, add the diced peppers, jalapenos, and onions as well as minced garlic into the crock. For the tomatoes, I used whole peeled tomatoes and crushed them in my hand making it more rustic and unique. Helps make each spoonful different. Then strain the juice off your beans and add them in, as well as the diced tomatoes with green chilies and all your spices. Do it in steps so you don’t go past your desired spiciness level. Set the crock to 250 degrees and let it chill out for at least 6 hours, but longer is better! It will thicken and darken with time and I recommend finishing up the seasoning after its cooked and the flavors fully mix. But that’s it, simple and easy and ready for the big game. Have fun.