Saturday, July 25, 2015

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken ~ Heart healthy!

This is a simple way to spice up a low-calorie dinner, I enjoy this honey mustard chicken breast recipe prepared on the grill using boneless, skinless chicken. But you could easily prepare it in the oven during the winter months.

Julian's Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken
You simply prepare the marinade, set a few tablespoons aside for spooning on at serving time, and let the chicken relax in the sauce before cooking. I often make the marinade at lunchtime and put the chicken in for about 6 hours. But when pressed, I've marinated in as little as 45 minutes, and it still comes out good. The marinade takes under 10 minutes to prepare and the chicken breasts take under 15 minutes to grill. So it really is a quick yet flavorful dinner and a great way to prepare those hard-to-grill boneless, skinless breast pieces which I typically avoid when grilling. Using the marinade helps to keep them moist and flavorful.

Grilled and Ready for Final Saucing
As I mentioned at the outset this recipe has a little kick, and that's mostly from the red pepper flakes. If you don't like even mildly spicy (hot) food, then omit the red pepper flakes. With that said, the red pepper flakes really just add a medium bit of heat that compliments the sweet honey, so I do prefer to include them.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Marinating - Click to Enlarge
1/2 cup of whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 cup of honey
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved*

*I'm actually using cut pieces of chicken breast in these photos, as I find a half of a chicken breast these days to be extremely large. I'm not sure how they grow such large chickens, but I find the size of these 'organic cut chicken breast pieces" more palatable.


Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve 4 tablespoons of sauce and then pour the rest over the chicken, turning each piece to coat. Place in a zippered storage bag or in a dish covered with plastic wrap. Marinate for as long as possible, up to 8 hours, although as noted above it can be as little as 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator during the last 30-60 minutes and let it sit at room temperature. Remove chicken breasts from excess marinade and cook. Dispose of honey-mustard mix in which the chicken has been marinating.

Grill:  Clean and oil grill grates. Preheat the grill on medium-high heat for 15 minutes Grill chicken for about 5 to 7 minutes per side turning half way through. Cooking time will depend on thickness. Oven: Place in a uncovered baking dish in a preheated 350F degree oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is done (about 160-165F degrees internal temperature).

Pour the reserved 4 tablespoons of honey-mustard sauce over cooked chicken and let rest covered with foil for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Goes great with rice and asparagus!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Julia Child's Mixed Berry Clafouti

The clafouti (also spelled clafoutis) is a traditional dessert in the Limousin region of France, whose capital is of course the famous Limoges. Julia Child described it as 'peasant cooking for family meals and about as a simple a dessert to make as you can imagine.'  But my own experience making the dish following a Martha Stewart recipe left more to be desired. So I turned to the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking to see if Julia could do any better for me. Indeed she did!

Julian's Mixed Berry Clafouti
The Limousin region is known for its cherries and this dessert typically features sweet black cherries. Certainly you can make it with the classic pitted sweet cherries, but today I have several types of berries leftover in my refrigerator so I'm going to make a mixed berry version instead.

Simple Ingredients
A clafouti is a dessert usually eaten warm and somewhere between a flan, a fruit tart and a cake. Julia describes the batter as pancake-like. Her recipe provides a version that is more toward the egg flan/custard than Martha's which came out more cake-like. We much preferred Julia's version, which I provide to you below. You can substitute fresh, ripe peaches as well and if you do keep the flour as noted below. If you use cherries, which tend to be less juicy, then reduce the flour to 1/2 cup.

Julia also modified the recipe in later editions of her book to use a blender, but I find mixing it by hand is perfectly acceptable using a wooden spoon or wire whisk.

Ingredients (services 6-8)

1 1/4 cups whole milk or half/half
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest*
3 cups berries (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry or combo)

Small carton whipping cream or powdered sugar (optional)

*this is my addition, not in Julia's original recipe


Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Mix together the milk, 1/3 cup of the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, flour lemon zest, and cinnamon.

Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a lightly buttered baking dish. Place in the oven until batter firms about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and place the berries over the batter. Sprinkle on additional sugar depending on the sweetness of the berries. Pour on the rest of the batter and press any berries down to cover as much as possible.

Bake at 350° for about 35-45 minutes until puffed and a knife in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes and serve warm. Julia indicates that a dusting of powdered sugar is the classic finish, although we prefer a fresh lightly whipped sweetened cream topping.

Fresh Whipped Cream Topping:  Pour small 4 oz carton of heavy whipping cream in mixer with the whisk attachment. Turn the mixer to high and slowly add 1/4 cup sugar and then 1 tablespoon vanilla extra. Blend until fluffy but not too stiff.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Easy Summer Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is always a hit and not hard to make. It is more popular and holds up in the outdoor heat better than potato or traditional macaroni salad.  It scales up and down nicely and you don't have to measure the ingredients.

Two Pounds of Tri-Color Rotini Feeds a Large Crowd
As shown here, I usually use a tri-color bowtie or rotini pasta, but really any pasta will do.  Cook it until it is just tender (al dente) and not too soft.  I usually make one pound and the ingredients below are about right for that, but you can adjust up or down as you prefer.  Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and toss with just a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking.

While the pasta was cooking and cooling, cut into small pieces the following:
  • bell peppers (1 each, red, green, orange and yellow)
  • red onion (1 medium)
  • zucchini (2 small) or seedless cucumber (1 large)
  • provolone cheese (buy a 1 pound chunk and cut into 1/2" squares)
  • pitted olives (Kalamata, green or others of your choice and quantity)
  • McCormick brand "Perfect Pinch" Salad Supreme seasoning

Add the ingredients to the bowl of cool pasta.  Using a small bottle of Italian salad dressing, pour about half the bottle onto the ingredients and toss gently with your hands trying to assure you do not break up the pasta.  Refrigerate overnight.  The pasta will absorb the dressing and be rather dry the next day.

 Just prior to serving, chop up some fresh basil and toss on the pasta, add the remainder of the salad dressing, and about 4 tablespoons McCormick Salad Supreme season, again turning it by hand to combine.

Tastes delicious and looks lovely.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Blueberry Lemonade Fizz

Looking for a refreshing summer cocktail? Then give this flavor combo a try! If you follow my posts you know I love this flavor combination and have paired them in all variety of desserts. But this is the first time I'm making them into a cocktail.

Julian's Lemon Blueberry Fizz
I was inspired when I saw my favorite rum company (Cruzan) had come out with a rum combination in this flavor and so making the cocktail was quite simple.

Ingredients (per cocktail)
5-8 blueberries
pinch of sugar
half a fresh lemon
2 ounces Blueberry Lemonade Rum (Cruzan)
Lemon-Lime Soda or Ginger Ale, to top off the drinks

Place 2-3 blueberries in the bottom of a rock glass and muddle (crush) them with the sugar, and blend until they are well combined and colorful. Cut a fresh lemon in half and set one half aside for an additional drink.. From the half, slice one piece for the garnish as shown. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice from the cut half into the glass, ensuring it does not contain seeds. Add the flavored rum, 3-4 ice cubes and top with soda. Stir gently to combine.  Serve immediately.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Easy Refrigerator Cakes ~ Piña Colada or Strawberry, both a refreshing summer treat.

Today I'm sharing two recipes that I often make while we are at our Caribbean home. Because we are on vacation, I always want a quick and easy, as well as cool and tropical, dessert. So these are perfect make-ahead desserts that your family and friends will love particularly in the warmer months.

Julian's Piña Colada Cake
The few ingredients for both are pretty easy to come by (as they have to be in the islands) and the preparation is fast. I usually make the cake portion while I'm making dinner or just after. Then it sits in the refrigerator allowing the flavors to meld. Ideally allow either cake to sit for 3 hours or more (24 is just fine too). If you feel like living on the wild side, sprinkle either with a little flavored rum. For example, use pineapple or coconut run on the Piña Colada version or strawberry rum on the Strawberry version. I prefer Cruzan rum whenever in the Caribbean.

Piña Colada Refrigerator Cake

This cake, to replicate the flavors of the national drink of Puerto Rico, is made with two types of coconut, and two types of pineapple to give it a great Caribbean flavor blend. Make sure you purchase the coconut cream (often found either in the juice or cocktail mix isles of your grocer), and do not substitute coconut milk or water.

Julian's Piña Colada Cake
1 Pineapple Supreme boxed cake mix
    3 eggs, 1 cup water, 1/3 cup vegetable oil per package instructions
1-15 ounce can cream of coconut (below)
1-20 ounce can crushed pineapple in syrup
1-8 ounce container Cool Whip Whipped Topping
1-8 ounce bag shredded sweetened coconut

Bake the cake per the package directions. Remove from the oven. Open the cream of coconut and stir. Using a large fork make holes all over the cake. Pour the cream of coconut evenly over the cake. Let cool on the counter. When room temperature cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Strain the crushed pineapple to remove excess liquid. Stir into the Cool Whip. Spread on the top of the chilled cake. Sprinkle the shredded coconut over the cake evenly. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours more. Cut and serve.

Spreading the Topping

Strawberry Refrigerator Cake

For this cake you can use fresh or frozen strawberries. I've used both and really there seems to be no benefit to using fresh. But if you have them on-hand and cleaned and sugared, feel free to use them.

Julian's Strawberry Cake
1 Strawberry Supreme boxed cake mix
    3 eggs, 1 cup water, 1/3 cup vegetable oil per package instructions
2-16 ounce packages frozen strawberries (sliced or whole)
1/2 cup sugar
1-3.4 ounce package vanilla instant pudding
  1 cup cold milk (half the amount the package suggests)
1-8 ounce container Cool Whip Whipped Topping
Chopped pecans (optional)

Poking Large Holes in the Strawberry Cake
Bake the cake per the package directions. Remove from the oven. In a small sauce pan, add the strawberries and the sugar. Cook while stirring over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are soft, 3-5 minutes. Let both strawberries and cake cool until just warm to the touch.  

Using a blender or food processor, pulse the strawberry mixture until they are finely chopped but some chunks remain. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make holes all over the cake. Pour the strawberry mixture evenly over the cake and assist as necessary with getting it to move down into the holes.  

Spread Carefully to Avoid Mixing the Toppings
Mix the the instant pudding with only 1 cup of milk following the package directions. Fold the pudding into the Cool Whip until well mixed. Carefully spread over the cake, sprinkle with the chopped nuts (optional) and cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or over night.  Cut and serve.