Bacon and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast

On the farm, we tend to make due with whatever we have.  Things are often held up with bailing twine, and that includes a baggy pair of jeans.  When I started doing farm chores, one thing that we were making due with was the lack of brakes on the tractor.  In order to stop, you had to release the scraper blade that was attached to the back of the tractor.  The blade would slam down onto the ground and drag the tractor to a stop. This method worked fine for me because I was painfully slow at driving a tractor. I never got much momentum going so stopping was pretty easy. More often than not, I would stop short of where I wanted to be and had to back up and try again.

After I was too pregnant to comfortably sit on a tractor seat, John and Rich hired a young man to take over for me.  Within a week, they had the tractor in the shop, getting the brakes fixed.  I still wonder about the timing on that. Was a compliment for my excellent tractor driving skill or an acknowledgement of my lack of ability to work at a speed worth worrying about? John pretends that he doesn’t remember, then avoids eye contact. I take that as a positive sign.

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Bacon and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 4 ounces Appel Farms Feta
  • 4 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine feta, bacon, and garlic.  Make a pocket in the chicken breast by holding the chicken flat with the palm of one hand, then make an incision in the thicker side of each breast.  Carefully rotate the knife to create a deep pocket, keeping the side of the chicken breast intact.   Stuff the feta mixture into the pockets, dividing evenly.  Secure opening with a toothpick if needed.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano.  Place the chicken breasts in a 9×13 baking dish.  Brush olive oil mixture over chicken breasts.

Bake uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes.

Bacon and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast

Smoky Mashed Cauliflower

As we are getting older, John and I need to watch our diets more closely than we had to in the past.  It’s a part of life that is difficult for us.  One of us loves to make desserts and the other loves to eat them.  I won’t tell you which of us is which, I will let you guess.

One thing that we both need to cut back on are simple carbs.  Cauliflower is a serendipitous solution!  Cauliflower is a starchy vegetable that is low in carbs so it’s a perfect substitution for the higher carb vegetables such as potatoes, peas, and corn.  When mashed, cauliflower has a wonderful texture and the Smoked Gouda gives it a robust flavor that adds vitality to the dish.

smokycauliflower (1 of 1)

smokycauliflower (1 of 1)

 Smoky Mashed Cauliflower

  • 1 large head cauliflower, finely chopped (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon roasted garlic
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup shredded Smoked Gouda
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Fresh chives, chopped (optional)

 

Add the cauliflower to a medium-sized saucepan along with the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the roasted garlic and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the milk and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Mix in the cheese and taste for seasoning. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and garnish with sour cream and chives.

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Paneer Fried Rice

I’m embarrassed to say that my first fried rice recipe consisted of four ingredients: rice, browned hamburger, scrambled eggs, and soy sauce.  Yup, pretty blah.  For years that was what I made and unwittingly called it fried rice.  The fried rice at our favorite restaurant was to me, something unattainable.  I’m thankful that I met an incredible cook who opened my eyes to the secret to making truly delicious fried rice.  She also gave me a bottle of sesame oil, which I immediately used to liberally coat the pan.  She thought I knew better.  I do now.

This recipe is packed full of protein from three different sources: paneer, eggs, and edamame.  It’s a powerhouse of nutrition without being heavy.  I like to change out the vegetables depending on what is in season.  Frozen vegetables can substitute in a pinch.

Paneerfriedrice--4

Paneer Fried Rice

  • 1 lb paneer, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 8 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup edamame
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 cup fresh asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 – 8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use low sodium)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Paneerfriedrice--2

Combine the paneer and Sriracha in a gallon ziplock bag.  Gently mix together so that the paneer is coated.  Marinate the paneer in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the brown rice in an oven proof dish and cover with 2 cups boiling water.  Bake covered in the oven for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and fluff the rice with a fork.  Set aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in an extra-large non-stick skillet or wok.  Add the edamame, carrots, and ginger.  Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes.  Add the asparagus and mushrooms and stir-fry until tender-crisp.  Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and cover to keep warm.

Add four more teaspoons of olive oil to the wok and stir-fry the paneer for 5-7 minutes.  Transfer the paneer to the bowl with the vegetables.

Add the last two teaspoons of olive oil to the wok.  Once the oil is heated, add the eggs and lightly scramble, do not overcook.  Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables and paneer.

Add the sesame oil to the wok and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the brown rice.  Cook rice until the grains are coated with oil and warmed.  Add the vegetables, paneer, egg, water chestnuts, and soy sauce.  Heat through.  Top with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

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Quark Substitutions

One of the most common questions I get is what to do with Quark.  Most recipes using Quark are in German and when German cookbooks are translated into English, the publishers tend to substitute other products for Quark.  Any traditional recipes come from customers who kindly share with me.  If you have a favorite that you would like to share, I would love it!

I mainly use Quark in recipes as a substitute for other soft cheeses.  Here is a rundown of when I would use Quark in a recipe, why I would substitute it for another cheese, and in what situations I would not substitute it.

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Sour Cream

Though sour cream is not a cheese, it’s probably the one I most often substitute.  The consistency and moisture content is the closest to Quark.

When: I substitute Quark for sour cream in baking, dips, spreads, and sauces.

Why: Quark gives the baked goods a richer flavor and adds more moisture than sour cream.  I can also save calories by using Fat Free Quark. (see fat free comparisons below).  For sauces, dips, and spreads, Quark adds a full-bodied, tangy flavor.

When I would not:  Milder flavored dishes such as potatoes.  Quark has a much stronger flavor that can overpower some dishes.

ExampleRaspberry Quark Muffins

Raspberry Quark Muffins

 

Cream Cheese

When:  I substitute Quark for cream cheese in baking, dips, and spreads.

Why:  Quark is higher in moisture so this makes a cheesecake lighter and fluffier, and pastry fillings smoother.

When I would not:  Cream cheese cookies.  The higher moisture can make some baked goods soggy.

Example: Cocoa Cheesecake

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Mascarpone

When:  Mascarpone is rich and delicious but I rarely use it because of the fat content.

Why:  Mascarpone is 47 percent fat.

When I would not:  Mascarpone is luscious and rich and cannot really be replaced.  I have tried making Tiramisu with Quark, but it just isn’t the same flavor and it made a soggy mess.

Example: None

 

Ricotta

When: Lasagna and pasta fillings, baking, and cheese pies.

Why:  I find that Quark has a smoother texture and brighter flavor than ricotta in ravioli and lasagna.  I also prefer Quark in baking over ricotta because of the moisture and texture.

When I would not:  Actually, I always use Quark, it works so much better than ricotta in fillings and baking.  Keep in mind, Quark is higher in moisture so a thickener is sometimes needed.

Example:  I guess that I need to share my ravioli and lasagna recipes!

 

HEALTHY CHOICE

What I love most in substituting Quark for other ingredients is that it is a healthy alternative to other dairy products.  We make Lowfat and Fat Free Quark by taking the fat out of the milk but not adding any stabilizers or ingredients that I can’t pronounce.  That sounds like common sense, but see below for a comparison of ingredients between Fat Free Quark and other fat free dairy products.

Fat Free Quark
Pasteurized nonfat milk, culture, rennet, potassium sorbate

Fat Free Cream Cheese
Skim Milk, Whey, Contains Less than 2% of Sodium Tripolyphosphate (Ingredient Not in Regular Cream Cheese), Sugar (Ingredient Not in Regular Cream Cheese), Pasteurized Milk and Cream (Trivial Source of Fat), Salt, Artificial Color, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate (Ingredient Not in Regular Cream Cheese), and Calcium Propionate (Ingredient Not in Regular Cream Cheese) as Preservatives, Carrageenan, Cheese Culture, Sodium Phosphate (Ingredient Not in Regular Cream Cheese), Artificial Flavor, Carob Bean Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate.

Fat Free Sour Cream
Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk, Nonfat Dry Milk, Cultured Milk*, Whey Protein Concentrate, Modified Food Starch, Maltodextin, Artificial Color*, Potassium Sorbate (as preservative), Sodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Carob Bean Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate**, *adds a trivial amount of fat, **not found in regular sour cream.

Fat Free Ricotta
Whey (Adds Trivial Amount of Fat), Skim Milk, Vinegar, Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum (Stabilizers).

Fat Free Mascarpone
Just kidding!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter and Parmesan

I had three goals in mind for this blog post.

 

Goal #1: Linda at Sound Harvest gave me a wonderful gluten free Sweet Potato Gnocchi recipe.  I know many people, and you probably do to, who for one reason or another are abstaining from gluten.  My goal was to pass this recipe on to you!  Unfortunately, when I ran to the store to get the ingredients, I totally forgot the gluten free flour.  Since that time, I actually went to the grocery store two more times, but forgot the flour on each trip.  So here it is with all-purpose flour and a note on Linda’s gluten free version.

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Goal #2: To let you know about Sound Harvest Delivery.  Chuck and Linda pick up all sorts of food items directly from farms and small businesses and if you live in Whatcom County, they will deliver it right to your door.  How great is that?  Their list of groceries is growing all the time and changes from season to season.  They are also the nicest people, I really love working with them!  I encourage you to take a look at what they have to offer, it’s really a blessing to so many people!

Goal #3: I want to let you know that we started making Parmesan!  Our first batch is aged 9 months and we are thrilled with how well it turned out.  We have it at our Cheese Shop and it will hopefully be available through Sound Harvest very soon.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter and Parmesan

  • 2 – 3 sweet potatoes, I like the white skinned variety, but any will work
  • All-purpose flour (or substitute Gluten Free*)
  • 2-3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 12-15 leaves fresh sage, sliced thin
  • Appel Farms Parmesan, grated

Bake the potatoes until soft.  Allow them to cool until easy to handle then slip the skin off.  Mash the potatoes until smooth.  Add the rosemary and salt and mix well.  I found that one teaspoon of rosemary and salt per cup of mashed sweet potatoes came out perfect.  Amounts vary depending on the size of your sweet potatoes.  Add the flour a little at a time, the amount will also vary.  Keep adding flour until you get a stiff dough.  Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Make the sage butter while the dough rests.  Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until the butter develops brown flecks and smells nutty. Watch it closely to keep the butter solids from burning. Remove from the heat and stir in the sage, set aside.

Place a small amount of gnocchi dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into thin “worms.”  Cut off 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces.  You can cook them at this point or roll them on the back of a fork to get that signature “gnocchi” look.  If you have a gnocchi board, that’s even better!

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Lightly flour the back of a fork and gently press and roll the dough down the back.  The impressions catch and hold the sage butter or sauce.

Working in small batches, drop them into boiling water and cook until they float, about one to two minutes.  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and toss them in the sage butter.  Keep them warm as you cook more batches.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve warm.

gnocchi--2

*Linda uses Namaste Gluten Free Flour.

Orzo Shrimp Salad

Shrimp Orzo Salad

Appel begins with the letter A.  This fact is really important at church potlucks because: “If your last name begins with A-M, please bring a salad.  If your last name begins with N-Z, please bring a dessert.”  I’m kinda sad that I never get to bring a dessert, I love to make desserts.  Someday I might sneak in with a dessert to see if the hospitality committee notices.  I think the elder board would back me up, they like dessert.

In case I decide that I’m being too passive aggressive for a church potluck, I have a new salad recipe ready.  It makes a nice big bowl full and it’s yummy for any potluck!  If you are lucky enough to have a name that starts with N-Z then this salad would be great for a light dinner.  It’s perfect paired with crunchy artisan bread and iced tea.

Shrimp Orzo Salad

Shrimp Orzo Salad

  • 1 pound orzo
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and oil.
  2. Cook orzo according to the package directions.  Drain well then toss the hot orzo in the lemon and oil.  Cool orzo, then add the pine nuts, shrimp, feta, and chives.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve chilled

Shrimp Orzo Salad

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

Being married to the cheesemaker means that I never know when John will be home for dinner.  Sometimes he gets home first, sometimes he doesn’t come in until late.  When the kids were young, we tried to eat together but by the time they were in high school, we gave up trying.  With all of their activities and John’s crazy schedule, dinner became buffet style with eating in shifts.  The slow cooker was and is a life saver.  I love coming home from work to the smell of dinner bubbling softly in the slow cooker.

Pumpkin Chili

Chili is one of my favorite recipes for the slow cooker, the longer it simmers, the better it gets.  Grate some Cumin Gouda over the chili and it’s a total winner!  Cumin Gouda was one of the first Gouda flavors that Jack Appel made for friends and family at Christmas.  Komijnekaas is a traditional cheese very popular in the Netherlands that is flavored with Cumin seeds.  The pungent, peppery flavor of cumin is popular also in Mexican dishes.  Although Cumin Gouda is not in this recipe, it is a quintessential topping ingredient.

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 9 ounces ground pork sausage
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15.5 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15.5 ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 29 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 28 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot until translucent.  Add the garlic and bell peppers, saute for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the pot and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, brown the beef and pork sausage in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Once the meat is browned, add back the onions and peppers, then add the diced tomatoes, pumpkin, chicken broth, beans and spices.
  4. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with Cumin Gouda, sliced green onions and sour cream.

Adapted from The Autumn Chili recipe from Taste of Home

Pumpkins

Yogurt Gravy

One thing that is tricky when cooking with yogurt is sauces.  Yogurt adds a rich, luscious tang but can be frustrating if not added properly.  Yogurt will separate if heated too quickly or at too high a temperature so proper tempering is essential.  My favorite sauce is a yogurt gravy that I serve with roast chicken and mashed potatoes.

Creamy Yogurt Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons pan drippings
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 cup Appel Farms yogurt at room temperature (or substitute plain greek yogurt)

Put 2 tablespoons drippings in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour. cook, stirring until golden.  Add water and bouillon cube.  Cook until thickened.  Remove from heat.  Spoon 1/3 of the roux into the yogurt and whisk.  Pour the mixture into the pan and heat to serving temperature.

Lemon Roast Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 roasting chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small lemon wedge
  • 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a small bowl, beat oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Brush entire chicken including cavety with the lemon marinade.  Place celery and lemon wedge in cavity.  Place chicken in a shallow baking pan.  Pour water into pan.  Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, baste chicken occasionally with pan drippings.  Chicken will be done when the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 165 degrees F.  Serve with Creamy Gravy.
Recipe from Yogurt Cookery (another favorite book) published 1978 by Sophie Kay