Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

On a recent trip to Healdsburg, a quaint little town in Sonoma wine country, we picked up a lovely book called The Wine Lover’s Cookbook, and it really has turned out to be a perfect cookbook for us with all the wonderful recipes each paired with a recommended wine and an alternative wine.


One of the first recipes we tried was this fantastic stuffed chicken that was served over a spinach fettuccine (the original recipe calls for linguine but we liked the colors of the spinach.)


This one’s recommended wine was a Sauvignon Blanc, the backup wine is a Pinot Noir.  And as the book notes, if you choose to pair it with the Pinot Noir, replace the sherry in the ingredients with red wine.



  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup chopped, roasted bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup of dry sherry (or red wine)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of chopped fresh oregano (1/2 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes

Chicken and Noodles

  • 4 large chicken boneless chicken breast
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes
  • 6 tbsp sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 1 tbsp minced chives
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb linguine (or fresh spinach fettucine)


  1. To make sauce, in a large pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Then add garlic and the roasted red peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then, add the sherry, chicken stock, tomato paste, oregano and basil.
  2. Increase the heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture slightly for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until well combined.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry.  With a sharp knife carefully cut a deep incision into each breast.  Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes.
  6. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, the sun dried tomatoes, the basil, the thyme, the shallots, and chives and mix thoroughly.
  7. Using your fingers, stuff the ricotta mixture inside the chicken, equally into each breast.  Dust with flour.
  8. In a large, oven-proof skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes on each side until lightly browned.
  9. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15-18 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, cook the pasta noodles to package directions.
  11. When the chicken is done, plate the noodles, add the chicken, and then spoon the hot sauce on top.  Garnish with chopped chives.

From The Wine Lover’s Cookbook

Crockpot Chicken Tagine

I’m often convinced that Lisa and I are communicating on some other cooking channel that we don’t even realize.  I love all the recipes she sends me and just wish I had more patience to cook them all!  I was delighted to find that we both made a Moroccan Chicken with preserved lemons dish last Friday, although mine was the simplified “still feeling under the weather and resorting to a crock pot” version.  Nevertheless, we were in some ways all eating together!


I happened to have preserved lemons on hand from ages ago when I (thankfully) had the forethought to make them, but I’ve also recently discovered that you can buy them!  As Lisa says, the internet has everything.


I served my tagine over simple couscous made in leftover chicken stock, and making it took maybe 10-15 minutes max!


6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into large chunks
2 tablespoons flour
2 large onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 inch fresh gingerroot, finely chopped
6 ounces dried apricots
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (14 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
2 (14 ounce) cans chickpeas
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 pint chicken stock
1 pinch saffron
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 teaspoons ras el hanout spice mix (or make up spice mix below)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and black pepper
chopped fresh coriander, to serve (Cilantro)
1 bag baby carrots
1 preserved lemon, chopped into small wedges
harissa (optional)

  1. Heat up olive oil in a frying pan/skillet & saute chopped onions & garlic for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock & gradually mix in flour until well mixed & not lumpy. Add honey & tomato paste & mix well.
  3. Add herbs,spices & finely chopped ginger with salt & pepper to taste. Finally add tinned tomatoes & mix well.
  4. Pour the above tomato,onion & spice mix into slow cooker. Add chicken & chickpeas & mix well.
  5. Add dried apricots making sure they are covered by juice. Add the carrots if using and preserved lemons
  6. Give it a gentle but good stir to mix everything together well.Crock Pot or Slow Cooker – Cook on high for about 3 to 4 hours OR automatic with keep warm facility for up to 8 hours.Serve with freshly chopped parsley on couscous.  Serve harissa on the side, so that guests can add according to how spicy they want their dish.

Adapted from Epicurious Easy Moroccan Chicken Tagine.


Roast Chicken (that works!)

As Lisa could tell you, I’ve never really been able to find a good roast chicken recipe.  I’ve complained to her for years that either the bird turned out undercooked or overcooked and I was convinced it was the recipe’s fault.  But then again, I would keep asking myself, was it the recipe or was I just not able to follow the directions?


In general, roasting an entire bird always seemed like the kind of meal that I would make once I’d “made it” – a sort of rite of passage into “real cooking.”  To my delight, however, I found this wonderful recipe that was easy to follow *and* the chicken turned out perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.


The cast iron skillet really has proven itself to me to be one of the most affordable and useful tools to keep around in the kitchen.


It’s been amazing how much of a difference it made for this chicken, and despite the fact that I’d forgotten to buy a meat thermometer, it still turned out great.  I served this with the mushroom risotto from the same book.  I could wax on, but let’s get to the details.


  • 1 chicken (about 3 lbs)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • salt
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 1/2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Thirty minutes before cooking the chicken, take it out of the fridge and pat dry with a paper towel.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over a medium flame and add the butter.  It should be enough to coat the bottom of your skillet.  Once the butter starts to foam, season the bird with salt, then place it in the skillet (any side down is fine) and allow to brown, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Once the first side has a nice golden crust, flip the chicken and repeat the borwning process on the remaining three sides.  Sticking a long pair of tongs into the cavity of the bird is a good way to handle the flipping.
  4. When the entire chicken is browned, take it off the heat and drop the rosemary, thyme, sage, and garlic into the cavity.  Keep the chicken in the skillet or, ideally, transfer to a rack set on top of a rimmed baking sheet.  (Using the already-hot skillet can cook the bird unevenly on one side.)
  5. Roast the bird until a cake tester feels hot to the touch or the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 145 F (I just did it for about an hour, or about 20 minutes/pound.)
  6. Once the bird is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for ten minutes on a rack, loosely covered with foil.  Squeeze lemon juice over the top and finish it with coarse salt and pepper.

From Twenty Dinners by Ithai Schori and Chris Taylor.

“Thai” Chicken Burgers with Coconut Rice Pilaf

Today was one of those perfect fall days. The air was crisp, the sky was a clear, true blue and there was only a whisper of a breeze. My husband and I took a long walk, meandering through streets and neighborhoods that we normally never go through. It is a favorite past-time of ours and we love to walk until just before the point of exhaustion. We arrived home and I still was happy to make dinner. Tonight I made slightly spicy “Thai” chicken burgers, a green salad and then I had to decide what to do for a side. As Frances said in an earlier post, the sides are what can take something that you make all of the time and send it to a new level. I decided to concoct some coconut rice pilaf. I always have coconut milk on hand because if you are cooking a meal for people who keep Kosher or are vegan, it’s a wonderful substitute for dairy. And I buy Basmati rice in 10 pound bags because we love it that much. Everyone has their own pantry staples and mine always include a nice variety of nuts and dried fruits, so I knew that I had the makings for a delicious pilaf without having to go to the store. I also keep some kind of chutney on hand and this time I had Major Grey Mango Chutney which was a nice accent to the burgers.

Thai chicken burger and coconut rice

“Thai” Chicken Burgers adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow

Yield 3-4 servings


1 pound ground chicken, white or dark meat

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 bunch finely chopped cilantro

2 shallots, finely minced

1 teaspoon red pepper paste (I used Harissa, but you could use red bean paste with chili or Korean red pepper paste)

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons of a neutral oil (I used Grapeseed, but canola or safflower oil would be fine)


  1. Using your hands (I know, I know, but you just have to!) thoroughly mix everything except for the oil together. Wetting your hands in cold water, form either 3 patties or 4 patties about 1 inch thick. I made 3, but if you are a very small eater or being good about your diet, by all means make 4.
  2. Heat a grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat and then add the oil.When the oil sizzles if you drop a tiny amount of water in the pan, add the burgers. This will spatter so understand ahead of time that you will have to wipe your stove top when you are finished. Get over it.
  3. This part is going to depend a bit on the size of your burger. I made 3 burgers out of 1 pound of chicken and cooked them for 6 minutes on the first side and 8 minutes, covered on the second side. My burgers were pretty thick so they were wonderfully juicy, but fully cooked when I finished. Do allow your burgers to sit in the pan with the heat turned off for 5 minutes before serving them. This will allow the burgers to absorb back all of the juices that otherwise would run right out the second you cut into them. You do not want to undercook chicken. If the burger looks nicely browned and seems firm to the touch, it’s probably done.

Coconut Rice Pilaf

Yield: 6 servings


1 cup Basmati Rice (Texmati rice will do if you can’t easily find Basmati rice. I buy mine from Amazon…)

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried currants or Sultana raisins

1/4 cup of blanched slivered almonds

1 stick of cinnamon bark

1 15.3 ounce can of full-fat coconut milk

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 cup clover honey or other light colored honey

zest of one orange

Vanilla Soy milk, almond milk or regular milk


  1. In a small skillet melt the butter and saute the chopped shallot and currants or raisins until the shallots are softened.
  2. Add the turmeric, cardamom, orange zest and honey and mix through. Set aside.
  3. In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, add the coconut milk and enough of the other milk to make 2 generous cups. Add the cinnamon bark.
  4. Bring the milk to a boil and add in the rice and give it a stir. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low so that the liquid simmers. Cook for 14 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  5. Warm the currant mixture just until the honey is liquified and then pour it into the cooked rice and gently mix it through. Let the rice sit for a few mionutes to finish absorbing the liquid.

Who knew that being frugal could taste this good?

chicken with lentils

One of the very early TV chefs on WTTW Public Television was someone called Jeff Smith aka The Frugal Gourmet. I used to watch him with my mother and I even bought two of his cookbooks. The recipes are generally quite good and he was kind of a kook – fun to watch and read and seemingly unpretentious.

Unfortunately, his name and show went down in flames when it came out that he was also a sexual predator. I seriously considered tossing his cookbooks when I found out, but I came to my senses and realized that the recipes were innocent of any wrong-doing and I had already spent the money years earlier.

I was looking for a particular recipe when I came across the one I am making for tonight’s dinner – Chicken and Lentils. I will serve it with pita and a green saladwith heirloom tomatoes. A crusty bread is also fine. This is real comfort food – meant for family and close friends. It is not highly spiced, but it is deliciously seasoned. One perfect bite and you will just smile.

Chicken with Lentilsadapted from the Frugal Gourmet

Yields: 6-8 servings


2 cups lentils, rinsed (I’m using red lentils but almost any kind will do)

1 generous teaspoon crushed or finely minced garlic (You can buy the jars in the produce section. It saves time and I go through it so quickly it stays fresh.)

1 teaspoon salt

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons oregano, crushed between your fingers

1 teaspoon dried dill weed, crushed between your fingers

4 cups unsalted chicken stock (You can use all water if you prefer.)

up to 2 cups water

3-4 pounds chicken pieces bone-in, skin on

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

4 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (Juice of about 2 lemons)

2 cups plain Greek yogurt

3 -4 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

Sumac (optional) for garnish


  1. Rinse the lentils and place them in a 6 quart pot with the garlic, bay leaves, oregano, dill, salt and chicken stock. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for about 35-45 minutes until the lentils are very tender but still are holding their shape. (This may vary a little depending on the lentils you use.)
  2. Add the lemon juice to the finished lentils.  Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. In a heavy-duty pan (I love, love, love Lodge cast iron) brown your chicken pieces in Canola oil (or some other oil that can take the heat and won’t add a lot of flavor) after lightly seasoning them with the Kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
  5. Place the browned pieces into a casserole or Dutch Oven.
  6. Pour the lentil mixture over the top. Cover and bake in the 350 degree oven for 1.25 hours.
  7. Serve with a good dollop of Greek Yogurt and some chopped parsley for garnish. Sprinkle with a little Sumac, that wonderful fruity, lemony Middle Eastern spice which can be purchased in Middle Eastern grocery stores or online at Nuts.com. I love lemon so I squeezed on a bit more just before taking that first perfect bite.

Better than a restaurant and in under an hour

So this summer my herbs have been growing like crazy and I decided I really should do a bit of trimming. Of course I couldn’t just throw out perfectly good, fresh herbs. On the other hand, it has been REALLY hot and the last thing I want is to spend hours by a hot oven or stove.

The herb in question here is sage.

I happen to love sage with butternut squash ravioli and brown butter or with eggs, but my husband is not a huge fan. I was undeterred. I had some beautiful fresh sage leaves and I was going to use them. I also happened to have some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and a package of La Quercia Speck Americano (Prosciutto or Jamon would have worked as well) in the fridge. I ALWAYS have several good cheese options and in this case it was an Asiago Fresco. (A good Mozzarella, Pecorino, Cubadu etc. would also work.) My pantry ALWAYS has a good bottle of pasta sauce – in this case a simple, but delicious marinara with basil – some kind of pasta (spinach fettuccine nests). The key is not to get bogged down in finding the exact same ingredients that the recipe calls for but to let yourself work with what you have or is easily available. I really, really hate when a recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons of something that I have no other idea how to use and then I am stuck having spent a fair amount of money on a single ingredient that I don’t even know if I will like. Soooooooooooooooooo while I will always, always advocate for using great quality ingredients, you can and should not feel like a slave to a recipe.

Have I mentioned yet what I decided to make?? Chicken Saltimbocca a la Lisa. This is a recipe that really doesn’t require a lot of careful measuring. I used a large rectangular baking dish (12″ x 9″ x 2.5″). Mine is stoneware and makes clean-up a snap. I also gave in a year ago and treated myself to a really nice meat pounder. It’s round with a handle and has a nice heft to it. The meat doesn’t get torn up and it is highly recommended for getting rid of any aggression you may be feeling.

I preheated my oven to 375 degrees F. I pounded my chicken breast as flat as I could between two pieces of plastic wrap. You could use parchment or waxed paper too. I then generously salted (Kosher salt only) and peppered (cracked black) both sides. With what would have been the skin side facing up, I began my assembly. I took some finely chopped fresh garlic (a generous 1/2 teaspoon for each breast) and spread it across the top. I then took several sage leaves and lay those over the top of each breast. On top of that went one slice of Speck and several thin slices of my Asiago Fresco. I poured about 1/2 of the large jar of pasta sauce in the bottom of my baking dish and carefully laid the chicken on top of the sauce in a single layer. I drizzled a bit of EVOO over everything and I popped it in the oven uncovered for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, I turned the broiler on high and let the cheese brown for five minutes. Watch it, though, since all ovens are different!

While the chicken cooked, I made my pasta al dente and after draining it, I mixed in the remaining pasta sauce and added some freshly grated pecorino. I could have added some fresh basil or used a different kind of pasta, but this is what I had. When the chicken was finished and the cheese was bubbling, I plated everything and served it with a simple salad. This took less than an hour and was full of umami goodness. The chicken was tender and all of the flavors were present and accounted for. People will think you slaved over a hot stove and you will smile (not too smugly) when they are thanking you for this glorious dinner.  Buon Appetito!