Friday, April 26, 2013

Asparagus Wrapped in Chicken, Wrapped in Bacon

It's so very rare that I make a dish I love and get the recipe on here this quickly. But this shows how incredibly amazing this dinner was because here I am posting the recipe for a dish I made on Tuesday!

See Tuesday was my Dad's birthday.  He decided he didn't want to go out for dinner and since I needed to test a dessert recipe anyway, I thought I would go out to my parent's and treat my Mom and Dad.  I went to their local Wegmans after work with every intention of making a pasta primavera (which will get tested at some point this weekend) but once I picked up a beautiful pack of asparagus, I thought about bacon wrapped asparagus.  THEN (I guess my mind was in overdrive) I thought about a wonderful Rachel Ray dish I made YEARS ago where I wrapped the asparagus in chicken.  So then I thought, why not combine the two?  Wrap the asparagus in chicken and then wrap that in bacon!

This sounded way better, and of course more decadent, than my pasta dish, so I got the ingredients, drove to my parent's house, got busy and had this ready in under 45 minutes.  My mom even commented on how fast the meal came together. AND my mom even said it was the best dinner she's had in a long time!

So scroll below to see how I did it. And also check out Rachel's Recipe.  I didn't consult it once while cooking on Tuesday and yet my version came out almost the same, but with a few important additions.  Bacon being the best one!  Also, this is a pretty budget friendly dish, especially since asparagus is in season and cheap, so make this ASAP!

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)
1 Bunch Fresh Asparagus, woody ends trimmed
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
Kosher Salt
Lemon Pepper Seasoning
8 Thick Slices Havarti Cheese, plain or with dill (Sharp White Cheddar works as well)
4 Strips Thick Cut Bacon
Olive Oil
1 Small Onion or Large Shallot, chopped (about a 1/2 cup )
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 tbsp Flour
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon chopped Fresh Parsley (dried works too)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bring a large pot of water to a boil (make sure the pot's wide enough for your asparagus to fit).  Meanwhile fill a bowl with cold water and add 5-10 ice cubes as well. Once water is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons of salt and then add your trimmed asparagus.  Boil for about 2-3 minutes, and then using tongs, transfer asparagus into the ice bath.  Then, drain the asparagus and set aside.

Next prep the chicken by slicing each breast in half horizontally through the middle.  Then, after placing each breast between 2 pieces of saran, use a rolling pin to pound out each breast to about 1 inch thickness.  Arrange each breast flat on your cutting board. Lightly sprinkle each breast with lemon pepper seasoning and then place two thick slices of cheese right in the middle.  (In the picture you may note that my slices are pretty thin, and unfortunately the flavor got lost, so I would double the thickness)

Then place, 4-5 asparagus spears on the end of each breast, and gently, but tightly, roll each breast so that the asparagus and cheese are neatly tucked in the middle.  Then, sprinkle the outside with a bit more lemon pepper and wrap 1 piece of thick cut bacon around each breast.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet until almost smoking.  Then place each chicken bundle, SEAM SIDE DOWN in the pan.  Allow to cook until brown, about 5 minutes and then flip over to cook for 5 minutes on the other side.  You will know the bundle is ready to turn when it releases easily.  If it sticks to the pan when you try to turn, it's not ready yet! Do NOT try to force it, because your bundles may fall apart.

Once bundles have been seared on both sides, transfer to an over safe dish and place in your preheated oven to finish cooking (about 20 minutes).  Meanwhile, prepare your pan sauce in the same pan you cooked your chicken in.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil, then add the onions to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for a minute more.  Sprinkle flour over onion and garlic and cook for a few seconds and then add in your chicken stock, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Stir in the dijon mustard, bring to a simmer and allow to thicken slightly for a few minutes.  Once thick, remove from the heat, stir in butter, lemon juice, and parsley to finish.

To serve, remove chicken bundles from the oven.  Spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of sauce on each plate and top with a bundle.  For extra special presentation, slice bundles down the middle to showcase the beautiful center (as pictured above).  Also, roasted fingerling potatoes made a great side dish!  You can see those pictured below with the pork free bundle for my dad.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Healthy Fish Tacos w/ Cilantro-Lime Slaw

My fish taco's one of my crowning joys. This one has been in fairly heavy rotation in my house for years and when a twitter follower asked me if I had any taco recipes for "Taco Tuesdays" I decided to work on this one.  When it was finally done, I had to send it to because to me, they're THAT GOOD.  AND this recipe recently won a weekly "Taco Tuesday Challenge" where cooks were asked to submit pictures of their best taco dish.  My Fish Taco picture (see above) was selected last week as the best submission and the recipe is being featured on 3 culinary blogs! Yay me!

Now what makes these tacos so good, and what makes any taco good for that matter, are the toppings.  I top mine with a cilantro-lime cole slaw, a bright and tangy version made with Greek yogurt, and a fresh pico de gallo.  These toppings help to balance the spicy rub I use to season the fish.

So this is like 3 recipes in 1 because you get the fish recipe, the pico de gallo recipe, AND the recipe for cilantro-lime slaw; all of which can be used separately or together.  Serve the pico as an appetizer with tortilla chips or serve the slaw on the side of a heavier Mexican dish like enchiladas.

I hope you add one or all of these to your rotation!  Click HERE to view the recipe on The recipe is also posted on N' Joy Eats website as last week's Taco Tuesday Challenge winner.  OR scroll below for the picture tutorial.

Oh and I almost forgot! For a carb-free meal, wrap these babies in lettuce instead of a tortilla for even more health benefits.  In the picture below, I used bib lettuce but I found that the leaves were too small. I would go with iceberg next time.

Ingredients: (Makes 5-6 tacos)

1 6 oz container Plain Greek Yogurt (about ¾ cup)
1 teaspoon Honey
1 tablespoon Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Fresh Lime Juice (about ½ a lime)
2-3 Cups Pre-Shredded Cole Slaw Mix
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Chili Powder
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Oregano
½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
1-2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. Tilapia Filets
1 package 6” or 8” Flour Tortillas
Fresh Pico De Gallo, for topping (recipe follows)
Lime Slices and Cilantro for garnish


To make slaw, whisk together Greek yogurt, honey, cilantro, lime and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.  Gently toss in 2-3 cups of the coleslaw mix, adding a little at a time until cabbage has completely been coated in the sauce.  Set aside.

Next, set oven broiler to high.  Wrap 6-8 tortillas in aluminum foil and place on lower rack in the oven to get warm.

In a small bowl, add the chili powder, cumin, salt, oregano, onion powder, cayenne pepper and black pepper and stir to combine. Place fish filets on a foil lined baking sheet and brush both sides of the fish with the extra virgin olive oil.  Then rub both sides of the fish with spice mixture.  Broil fish on high for 17-20 minutes, until firm.  Remove the fish from the oven, squeeze the juice from half of a lime over the fillets and cut them into 3-4 inch chunks.

Lastly, remove the tortillas from the oven.  To build the tacos, place 3-4 pieces of fish on a tortilla.  Top with cilantro-lime slaw and some fresh pico de gallo.  Serve with a slice of lime and a sprig of cilantro for garnish.

Pico De Gallo

Ingredients: (Makes about 2 Cups)
5 plum tomatoes, seeded, diced
½ cup red or white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ a Lime
Salt & Fresh Black Pepper, to taste

After you have removed the seeds and diced your tomatoes, add them to a bowl.  Then add the finely chopped onion and cilantro and stir to combine.  Next squeeze half a lime over tomatoes and season liberally with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Give mixture a final stir, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for tacos, quesadillas, burritos, eggs, you name it!

These were even better the next day!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April's Lasagna

This recipe is called "April's Lasagna" but let me start by saying that it isn't exactly MY recipe.  A while back (and I mean a couple of years ago) my Mom called me and told me she made the best lasagna EVER and I had to try it.  Turns out it was The Barefoot Contessa's Lasagna with Turkey Sausage.  I can never get enough of Ina Garten so one Sunday I made the lasgana, and Mom was not lying.  It's an amazing dish!

However, it contained ALOT of cheese.  And don't get me wrong, I love cheese.  AND I'd never seen a lasagna recipe that called for goat cheese and this just seemed genius.  But it also seemed immoral!  I mean I do have a figure to watch and including 4 types of cheese in any dish can be so fattening, not to mention expensive.  So when I went to make it again, I modified it by cutting out most of the cheese and here we are!

I make this lasagna all the time and recently when I made it and posted the pictures on Instagram, alot of my followers asked me for the recipe.  And though Ina is the true author, I decided to go ahead and write my version because 1. I think it's better (sorry Ina) and 2. it is different from hers in a few ways.  There's the cheese thing, also the meat thing (I use HOT Italian sausage instead of sweet-way better!) and then there's the noodle thing. I'm not sure when the "no boil" lasgana noodles were invented but to me, they are the best foodie creation since sliced bread! So I included them in this recipe because no one should ever boil a lasagna noodle again.

So here's MY recipe! A while back I wrote a great Vegetable Lasagna recipe that you should check out, but if you're looking for the traditional, comforting lasagna with meat sauce, this is it!  Enjoy!

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage or Hot Italian Turkey Sausage
1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes
1 6oz can Tomato Paste
6-8 Basil Leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Parsley Leaves, chopped, divided
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning (dried)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 15oz container ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 bag shredded mozzerella cheese
1 box "no boil" lasagna noodles (easily found in the pasta isle)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a pot or large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat, add in diced onion and sautee until soft, about 5 minutes.  Next add in the minced garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds.  Then, one at a time, remove the casings from each sausage and add the meat to the pan.  Use the edge of your spatula to break up the sausage, and cook until no longer pink, about 7-8 minutes.

Once the meat is done, add in the can of crushed tomatoes, followed by the can of tomato paste. Season with the dried herbs and salt and pepper to taste, then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, and then stir in the chopped basil and half of the chopped parsley.  Remove the sauce from the heat.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg.  Then add in the ricotta cheese, the rest of the chopped parsley (I reserve just a little parsley to sprinkle on top), 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir everything to combine and set aside.

To build the lasagna, ladle a little bit of the sauce into your glass baking dish, spreading it evenly over the bottom. Then, cover the sauce with the no-boil lasagna noodles, breaking them as needed to fit.  Cover the noodles with 1/3 of the remaining meat sauce, 1/3 the ricotta and then sprinkle a little mozzarella and Parmesan on top (it's ok if the meat sauce is peeking through in the first 2 layers, you're reserving the largest amount of shredded cheese for the top). 

Repeat the layers, noodles, sauce, ricotta cheese, and shredded cheese two more times, except the final layer of cheese, needs to completely cover the meat sauce (see picture). 

Garnish with the last little bit of parsley. Then, cover lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake uncovered for 15 minutes more. 

Allow lasagna to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving. This lasagna freezes well and is even better the next day so feel free to make in advance.