Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Goat Cheese and Chive-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Last week I posted a recipe for Goat Cheese, Chicken, and Asparagus Pasta that I had found over at The Bachelor Chefs. Since I was pretty happy with the way the pasta turned out, I decided to also try my hand at their Goat Cheese and Chive-Stuffed Chicken Breasts recipe.


I'm glad I did because it turned out to be pretty phenomenal. The combination of the crunchy breadcrumb coating with the goat cheese in the center is perfection. Seriously, wow.


The nice thing about this recipe, besides the flavor, is the amazing pay off you get with minimal effort. You can also easily make as much or as little chicken as you need. Instead of using plain goat cheese I used a garlic and herb combination for extra flavor. If you've never stuffed a chicken breast it may sound like too much of a pain in the ass, but I promise it's not.

I'm making this for dinner again tonight in fact.

Goat Cheese and Chive-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
4 ounces goat cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons minced chives
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, mash together the goat cheese, chives, and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Separate into 4 parts.

3. Lay the chicken breast flat on a cutting board. With a sharp knife cut a pocket into the center of each breast. If you'll notice chicken breasts are always flatter on one side and more tapered on the other. I find it easier to cut on the tapered side. I just set the breast down, place my palm on top, and slowly cut into the breast (like when cutting french bread). Be careful not to cut thru to the other side.

4. Fill the pockets with the cheese mixture. Press the top lid closed, sealing in the mixture.


This is the step where you'll want to bread your chicken. The Bachelor Chefs used a two-step breading of egg and flour, but I prefer my usual three-step breading of flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. As always, this is really up to you and what you like best. If you've never tried the three-step method or panko breadcrumbs then you should really give it a go. It's amazing. Either way just make sure you season your chicken with salt/pepper directly (rather then seasoning the egg or flour) before you start breading. It really makes a difference.

5. In a bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs with some seasonings and/or add some Italian seasoned breadcrumbs in with the panko for extra flavor. In another bowl, beat the egg with a little bit of water. Then, place some flour in a plastic bag (or another bowl) and you are set to go. (I usually place a piece of parchment or wax paper under my bowls to help reduce the mess on my counter.) Since I didn't want to risk my chicken falling apart by throwing it in a bag of flour, like I usually do, I just sprinkled the flour on top of the chicken on a paper plate. Effective but messier.

One at a time, dredge each chicken breast in flour, then the egg/water mix, and then the breadcrumbs. Repeat for each breast and set aside.


6. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Place breasts into skillet, browning each side for 2-3 minutes. If you don't have enough room then brown your chicken in batches. I usually just brown two at a time but since I only had three breasts it was easier to throw them all in together.


7. After all the chicken is browned on both sides, you're going to want to transfer the chicken to the oven and let chicken cook through (7-10 minutes). If you're using an oven proof skillet you can just transfer the whole thing into the oven, but I prefer to use a foiled lined baking sheet with a baking rack on top since it allows the chicken to brown on all sides. All personal preference though.

Take out and serve!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Telephone Inspired Makeup

While I wasn't too fond of Lady Gaga's Telephone video (it was too much for me), I was still pretty smitten with the makeup. Seriously, the makeup artist who did the makeup deserves major high fives. Girl looks fierce.

When I these tutorials on youtube I just had to post them:


You can see a finished photo here.


You can see a finished photo here.

Doesn't this guy rock? I wish it was perfectly normal for us to walk around wearing this much makeup.

A Madness of Angels: Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift

Title: A Madness of Angels: Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift
Author: Kate Griffin
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Orbit
Publishing Date: April 6th 2009
Hardcover: 544 pages

Stand Alone or series: First book of a new series

Summary: (from Goodreads)
For Matthew Swift, today is not like any other day. It is the day on which he returns to life.

Two years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home.

Except that it's no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that his death was irrefutable...despite his body never being found.

He doesn't have long to mull over his resurrection though, or the changes that have been wrought upon him. His only concern now is vengeance. Vengeance upon his monstrous killer and vengeance upon the one who brought him back.

Review:

I decided to give this book a go after it was recommended by N. K. Jemisin in an interview. Anything described as “urban fantasy series set in modern-day London and following the exploits of a sorcerer who isn’t quite human” is bound to grab my attention. The Dresden Files are my absolute favoritest series out there and anything that has a similar vibe is definitely right up my alley.

As the summary explains this story is about the wizard Matthew Swift. Swift wakes up from being dead with a tendency to call himself 'we' and a determination to exact revenge on the person who not only caused his death, but his resurrection as well. But in the two years that Swift has been gone a lot of changes have taken place in the magical community and he’ll find revenge isn’t always as swift as one would like.

At first this book actually took a bit of effort to get me to keep picking it back up. Usually I’m the type of person who finishes books in one sitting since I can’t wait to know what happens, but this book didn’t spark my insatiable curiosity as usual. Instead the beginning felt too over written and bogged down by unnecessary details. But slowly, and a bit to my surprise, the story started to grab onto my attention and the writing I found over written became interesting. By the time I finished this story I was much more impressed then when I started it. One of my favorite things about this story is the way Swift changes back and forth from “I” and “we” seamlessly. The shift between Matthew’s perspective and that of the otherworldly Angels was great. Not only was it done in a way that wasn’t too confusing, but it also added depth to the story.

My biggest complaint about the story is that there wasn’t any real mystery going on. While an author can be guilty of keeping all of their cards close to their chest, this story could have used a little mystery. At the end I think even the totally clich├ęd plot twist would have been preferred to the utter unsurprised feeling this story left me with. I also kept comparing this book to the Dresden Files and the Nightside series throughout the story and I don’t think that ended up being a good thing. In the end, Swift felt like second best to Dresden and John Taylor (though that is still great when compared to other books that are out there).

I also thought the magic was thought out really well. I liked the idea that an area can affect the way a person does magic and that some concepts have a special power all their own. I just wish Griffin had taken it a step further.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:
I leant against the wheelie bin and half-closed my eyes, struggling to retain control. We were tired, in pain, and angry. We had not come here for this; this was not how things were meant to be, the wrong kind of living. Everything, we realised, but everything, was wrong.

I was too tired to care.

We opened our eyes. The world was bright blue in our vision; electric fire.

We stepped forward through the swirling remnants of dirt and monster. We opened our arms and let the blue fire spread between our fingers. It was so good, so easy! We thrilled in it.
“Do you wish to fight us?” we yelled towards the advancing men. “Do you think you will live so long?”

They stopped, hesitated, drew back in the middle of the road, and I could have just sat down in the filth of the street, stopped, could have, but that the fire was now burning behind my eyes. Beautiful, brilliant blue fire. “Do you not relish what life you have?” we called, letting the flames burn across our skin. “Do you not live for every breath, dance every moment to the rhythm of your own heartbeat, have you not seen the fire that burns in every sight?”
We tightened our fingers, ever so slightly, pulling them into the shape of a fist. Above us, the neon lights of the street lamps exploded, the burglar alarms on the sides of the shops popped, spraying metal, the water in the gutter bubbled, twisted, turned, like it was being sucked down into a vortex. “If all you see in life is its end,” we called, “then join us!”

It was so easy, now we were willing to try, the power felt so good, that brilliant, sacred word we hadn’t dared to whisper since I had first reopened my eyes, the magic of the streets, my streets, our magic . . .

Verdict:

I definitely recommend giving it a go. While I did enjoy this book I’m not sure I’ll be reading the sequel. Then again, maybe the second book will avoid some of the problems of the first since less back story is necessary. Fans of Jim Butcher, Simon Green, and Neil Gaiman should feel right at home with this story.

Rating: 7. Very good

Monday, March 29, 2010

Rosemary Roasted Cubed Potatoes

I don't know if this is a problem a lot of people struggle with, but I've noticed it's always a challenge for me to find creative side dishes. Most of the food blogs I follow focus on main dishes and desserts the most (which is totally understandable and I'm also guilty of). So, I'm gonna try to include more recipes for side dishes when I find any worth posting. This recipe for potatoes is as great a place as any to start.

The thing I like about this recipe is the general lack of effort it involves. I also like how the potatoes have a slight crunch on the outside but are still soft on the inside. This recipe is also super easy to adapt since you're pretty much starting with a blank state (just omit the rosemary and replace it with whatever you like). Just make sure you don't skimp on the oil. Potatoes stuck to the pan is a major let down.


Jamie Oliver’s Rosemary Roasted Cubed Potatoes
(Serves 4 -5)

Ingredients:

1lb potatoes, scrubbed and cubed into 1″ pieces (use the little new/red potatoes)
Sprig of fresh rosemary
olive oil or duck or goose fat (I jsut use olive oil)
5 cloves garlic, skin on and smashed
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425° F.

2. Place your potato cubes in a large pan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Drain them immediately in a colander and allow them to steam for a couple of minutes until the dry out a bit.

3. This is where Oliver says to "bash up the rosemary leaves in a pestle and mortar" but I skipped this step since I don't have a pestle and mortar (and even if I did I doubt I could force myself to muster the effort for such an unnecessary task). I also didn't have any fresh rosemary so I substituted dry. I know, I'm a horrible person.

4. Heat some olive oil, or duck or goose fat, in a roasting tray. What I did was just toss the pan, with the oil, in the oven while I waited for the potatoes to come to a boil. Then add the garlic cloves, potatoes and rosemary to the oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss together until well coated.

5. Place in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, shaking the try every so often, until the potatoes are golden and crispy. (I gave mine a good shake about every 5 minutes just to be sure.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holi - Festival of Colors

Yesterday we went down to the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah to celebrate Holi. Even though we got there late and weren't able to buy any colored powder, it was still an amazing experience.


You wouldn't believe how many people were there and how nice everyone was. (The temple's website claims it's the largest festival in the U.S. and I can easily believe it.) It was one of those days where you feel connected to everyone and are happy just to be alive.

Plus they had llamas. Everything is better with llamas.


After the festival we headed over to the Lone Star Taqueria for some of the best tacos I've ever had.


Tacos, llamas, and everything coated in vibrant colors? Heaven.

-You can see more photos here.

Baked Ziti

This is the best baked ziti dish I've ever had. It's so good that the act of just typing this recipe up has made add the ingredients to this weeks shopping list. Not only is this Baked Ziti like a super tasty easier lasagna, but this recipe will feed 6-8 people making it perfect for when you have guests over. This is also a dish that refrigerates/freezes really well. (Since there's only three of us I only baked half of the pasta one night and baked the second half a few days later.)



By adding a little bit of sugar to the sauce you end up with a really amazing marinara. I actually made a smaller batch of the sauce to go with some pizza rolls (I plan on posting a recipe eventually) and it was great. The chunks of mozzarella are also really amazing in this dish. I couldn't find fresh basil at the store (I know, what the hell right?) but dried worked out just fine. And if you don't like cottage cheese still give a try. I hate cottage cheese with a fiery passion and yet I never would have guessed there was cottage cheese in this dish if I hadn't made it myself. The Cook's Illustrated people are pretty adamant that ricotta cheese isn't as good in this dish and so far they haven't led me astray. (Plus cottage cheese is about half the price of ricotta ao what do you got to loose?)

I know some of you, and by "some" I mean the one random person who might stumble upon this, may look at the picture of this dish and be utterly unconvinced that this dish is as good as I say it is. I don't blame you (I can't believe this is the best photo I got). But I promise that is you give it a shot you will be happy with the results.

Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

1 lb 1% fat cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
1 lb ziti pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Directions:

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F Whisk cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 Tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12 inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.

3. Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl, transfer mixture to Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat.

4. Transfer pasta mixture to 13 x 9 inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

5. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 3 Tablespoons basil and serve.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett

I almost never fail to finish a book. For the most part, no matter how crappy a book is I will finish it to the end. I think this has more to do with my boredom of life and my curiosity about the ending then it does anything else (I’m the same way about movies). I just like to be distracted from anything productive I could be doing it seems.

So, when I don’t finish a book it sticks out in my mind like a wayward branch. Sometimes I can’t even put my finger on why I stopped reading a particular book in the first place. Ariel, by Steven R. Boyett, is one of those books.


After reading a great review of the book on The Book Smugglers I checked Ariel out from the library. But what sounded to be everything I could ever hope for in a book (unicorns, sci fi, magic, urban, post apocalyptic) turned out to be kind of dull. I just couldn’t get into the story for some reason.

I want to say upfront that sometimes my brain just refuses to participate. They have been other books before that I didn’t finish and yet loved them when I finally gave them another go. So the fact that this book didn’t hold my interest is not necessarily the fault of the author. Either way, this book was not interesting enough to hold my attention and after about halfway in I gave up.

It’s too bad.

Rating: 0. Didn't finish

Friday, March 26, 2010

Black and Blue (What I Wore)

These pictures make my dress look black and white but it's actually navy with light grey stripes.


Dress - Faith21
Knitted shrug thing - Lane Bryant
Fake leather jacket - Faith21
Tights - Target
Black cowboy boots - ebay
Bow - I made it with some extra ribbon I had lying around
Earrings - I'm not sure. They're my go-to pair

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Music Thursday

New music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are. This week has been crazy busy for me so it's nice to take a little time to listen to some music.

These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

Beggin' by Madcon:



Boston by Augustana:



Starry Eyed by Ellie Goulding:



Let’s pretend we don’t exist by Of Montreal:



Artist of the week: Zero 7

Somersault:



Distractions:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pinky Toast

-Cross-posted at Random Thoughts

I am completely smitten with the artist Pinky Toast on etsy. Her artwork is not only freggin amazing in every sense of the word, but her prints are also super affordable. The question isn't even should I buy something, but how am I to pick only one?

1. Atomic Moon Balloon-Whisper a Secret
2.
Litte Heart Beat and Butterflies-Root Doll Girl
3.
Mushroom Root doll-Fungus Friend Fairy Tale

I'm having a really hard time deciding. I freggin adore the redhead with the mushroom (if only it was made into a necklace), but I think I might get this pocket mirror. Decisions decisions.

You can find her shop here.

The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon

Title: The Alchemist's Daughter
Author: Katharine McMahon
Genre: historical fiction


Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Publishing Date: October 24th 2006
Paperback: 352 pages

Stand Alone or series: Stand Alone

Summary: (from Goodreads)
There are long-held secrets at the manor house in Buckinghamshire, England, where Emilie Selden has been raised in near isolation by her father. A student of Isaac Newton, John Selden believes he can turn his daughter into a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. Secluded in their ancient house, with only two servants for company, he fills Emilie with knowledge and records her progress obsessively.In the spring of 1725, father and daughter begin their most daring alchemical experiment to date - they will attempt to breathe life into dead matter. But their work is interrupted by the arrival of two strangers: one a researcher, the other a dazzling young merchant.

During the course of a sultry August, while her father is away, Emilie experiences the passion of first love. Listening to her heart rather than her head, she makes a choice. Banished to London and plunged headlong into a society that is both glamorous and ruthless, Emilie discovers that for all her extraordinary education she has no insight into the workings of the human heart. When she tries to return to the world of books and study, she instead unravels a shocking secret that sets her on her true journey to enlightenment.

Review:

Emilie has lived under the watchful eye of her father all her life and has essentially zero knowledge of the world beyond the small town of Selden. In fact, to say Emilie leads a sheltered life would be the understatement of the year. While Emilie may know about books and numbers, when it comes to men or flashy baubles she’s completely clueless. So when a handsome young man in a fancy embroidered waistcoat comes visiting one day, it’s no surprise that Emilie is swept away at first glance.

And of course this doesn’t work out too well.

I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking when I decided to check out this book, but The Alchemist's Daughter was a lot different then what I had hoped for. While the book itself wasn’t bad, the story had far too much introspective waffling on the part of Emilie and not enough alchemy. As I was reading I kept waiting for something to happen and yet very little actually did. While it was interesting to watch Emilie grow throughout the story, the plot was lacking.

This book also had some cohesion issues. At first I felt like I was reading a historical fiction based on scientific ideas, but then the book morphed into a standard historical romance novel. Then the story would go back to the science and then back to the romance. Instead of being a seamless transition between all these elements, the story felt very disjointed.

This book also reminded me of why I dislike historical romance so much. I just can’t get behind the idealization of certain time periods for women. This book shows some of the obvious flaws with women not having any say in their own lives and I just don’t get how that appeals to anyone.

Verdict:

I liked the writing style but the book was pretty standard.

Rating: 5. Blah – essentially neutral

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Week In Pictures

-Cross posted at Random Thoughts

Actually my life is pretty boring so this is two weeks of pictures:


Ryan's sister, Kapri, had her baby last week and she's just precious. The day we drove out to see her was chilly but the sky was so pretty I just had to take a picture. I know it's a tad corny to take cloud pictures, but I couldn't help myself. This picture is actually straight out of the camera and I took it while we were driving home from Kapri's.

I can also mark "try sushi" off my bucket list finally. We went to the most amazing place last night and I can't believe I was such a pansy about the whole thing. If you think you don't like sushi you're wrong. You just have to find something that works for you.

Besides some randomness, there are also pictures of a puppet show we took Holden to and my new bike Ryan surprised me with. It's been a good two weeks. Now I'm off to pick up some more books I've been coveting and season one of Dexter. I have a feeling next week is gonna rock to.

Cheers.