If you’ve gotta play at Garden Parties, make Grilled Greek Chicken

Grilled Greek Chicken

Grilled Greek Chicken
& Fresh Chopped VeggiesFresh Chopped Veggies

We kicked off the summer this holiday weekend by having my parents over to help my cousin’s family get their first backyard garden started (my husband and I share a multi-family home with them). I am not much of a green thumb or one for manual labor, so naturally I volunteered to cook lunch. My mom and dad started their garden a few years ago and over time it has really flourished. It’s great not only for the fresh food rewards, but it keeps you active, outdoors, and is very good for our friend mother Earth. I was at Yoga when they arrived, so it was such a pleasure to see everyone already in action when I came home – three generations working harmoniously together. The little record player in my mind started spinning around and Ricky Nelson’s Garden Party started playing full blast.

People came from miles around, everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air

Ricky’s song tells the story of a concert at Madison Square Garden gone awry, where older fans were disappointed by his “modern” 70s look and new country swing – ending with him abruptly walking off stage in the middle of the set. When I was planning the menu, I wanted to keep with the healthy theme of the task at hand. At first I was worried my family might groan over my alternative choice to the usual BBQ fare, but I stuck to my guns and chose a recipe I saw on the Rachael Ray show for grilled Greek chicken.

Played them all the old songs, thought that’s why they came
No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same
I said hello to “Mary Lou”, she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave

The Spread

The Spread

There was the usual excitement over firing up the grill as the aroma spread through the yard. When the dinner bell rang, I got a few stares and a “what is THAT?!” from a couple of the diners. After a little nudging they gobbled everything down with delight. It was a light yet filling compliment to a long day of working in the sun. I had my Ricky-style “you can’t please everyone” defense planned, but luckily for me our little garden party ended on a much higher note.
 

If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck
It’s all right now, learned my lesson well
You see you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself

The chicken marinade was incredibly easy and packed with flavor. It is served on grilled Naan bread with fresh chopped veggies and a homemade tzatziki (pronouced “tsah-zee-kee”) sauce. The best part was not having to turn the oven on in my tiny little AC-free kitchen! Perhaps the dish might make a repeat appearance at the end of the summer when we can use our own garden fresh veggies ripe for the picking!

Until we beat again… Kasey

Grilled Greek Chicken with Feta Tzatziki Sauce (Adapted from the Rachael Ray Show)
Serves 4 to 6

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

4 chicken breasts
Poultry seasoning
3 lemons, 1 sliced and 2 cut in half
3 cloves garlic, grated, pressed, or finely chopped
1 Fresno chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 tbsp dried orgegno
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 English cucumber, 1 half peeled, seeded and shredded, the other cut in half lengthwise, then sliced about 1/4″ thick
1 6 oz. container plain, Greek style yogurt (I used Chobani)
1/2 cup crumbled feta, plus more for the table
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and sliced into 1″ strips
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1″ strips
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
4 to 6 pieces Naan or pita bread, grilled
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

For the Chicken:

    1. Sprinkle poultry seasoning on both sides of chicken. Transfer to a large, resealable bag.
    2. To the chicken, add the sliced lemon, 2 cloves garlic, chili pepper, oregano, rosemary, and olive oil.
    3. Seal and marinate for at least one hour or overnight.
    4. Before grilling, bring chicken to room temperature. Grill on medium-high heat for about 12 to 15 minutes, until cooked through or internal temperature reads 160 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes, then slice on an angle and top with juice of one of the halved lemons.

For the Tzatziki:

    1. Peel, seed and shred half of the cucumber. Transfer to strainer, sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and pat dry/let drain for about 20 minutes.
    2. Combine shredded cucumber, juice of remaining lemon, remaining clove garlic, yogurt, feta, dill, and parsley in a food processor, and pulse until smooth. Keep chilled.

To Assemble:

  1. Chop remaining half of cucumber and veggies.
  2. Grill Naan or pita bread, about 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Top each piece of bread with generous amount of tzatziki, a handful of veggies, chicken, olives, and extra feta (if desired).

    Our Humble Backyard Garden

    Our Humble Backyard Garden!

Liner Notes

  • For the poultry seasoning, I used Weber Beer Can Chicken Seasoning - available at most grocery stores in the spice aisle.
  • I used the shredder attachment for my food processor to shred the cucumber and it worked really well.
  • Given the lemony flavor, the marinade would also work well with a white fish.
  • Make the tzatziki anytime for a light and creamy dressing!
  • Save time the day of your BBQ – Everything can be prepped the night before serving.

Grab a beer and relax with Garden Party, by Ricky Nelson:

Cruisin’ along the Shepherd’s Pieway

Shepherd’s pie made with ground beef.

Recently I was presented with a dilemma I hear quite often. My cousin’s wife, Regan, is a vegetarian and her husband, my cousin DJ, is a meat-loving carnivore. Growing up, Shepherd’s Pie – a hearty casserole usually made with ground beef – was a staple in our family and something he would love for her to make. As new cook, making a dish you’ve never eaten and can’t really taste can be a daunting task.

Baby let’s cruise
Away from here
Don’t be confused
The way is clear

A few days later at the grocery store I had Cruisin’, by Smokey Robinson stuck in my head. I wandered the aisles as if coasting along the open road in an old, classic convertible – top rolled down and hair flowing in the wind. My drive brought me to the rendition by Huey Lewis & Gwyneth Paltrow. An unlikely pair, they still managed to do the song justice and make it sound great.

So let the music take your mind
Just release and you will find

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
made with red kidney beans

Suddenly, my imaginary car came to a screeching halt. What if we cooked the veggies and gravy together, then split it between two dishes using ground beef and red kidney beans? This not only satisfies both passengers, but also allows the cook to taste the sauce and adjust the flavor if needed. Even better, it can be quickly transformed into an all beef or all vegetarian dish with simple adjustments. At that moment, the convertible Shepherd’s Pie was born!

You’re gonna fly away
Glad you’re going my way
I love it when we’re cruisin’ together

I took my idea for a test drive and was pleased with the results. The beans brought a surprisingly bright touch and the sturdy beef flavor wasn’t compromised by the vegetable base. What seemed at first like a seemingly strange combination gave this dish a brand-new set of wheels, letting the whole family cruise together in harmony. Now it’s time to hand the keys over to Regan and let her take this baby out for a spin!

Until we beat again… Kasey

Cruisin’ Together!

Convertible Shepherd’s Pie
Makes about 8 servings – 4 meat & 4 vegetarian

Ingredients

2 lbs. baby red potatoes, scrubbed clean and quartered
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs. 93-percent lean ground beef
2 medium onions, diced
1 lb. carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, grated, pressed or finely chopped
4 tbsp butter, divided
4 tbsp flour
1/2 cup stout beer, such as Guinness
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp horseradish
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sour cream
2 – 3 tbsp chives, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Scrub and quarter the potatoes. Place in medium pot and add enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 12-15 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes cook, chop onions, carrots, and garlic (if chopping).
  3. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add veggies and cook until tender crisp, about 6-8 minutes, adding garlic about 1/2 way through.
  4. While the veggies cook, in an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, cook beef until no longer pink, breaking up with back of a spoon.
  5. Sprinkle veggies with flour and cook for about a minute. Gradually whisk in beer and cook for another minute, then add broth, worcestershire sauce, and horseradish. Bring mixture to just under a boil, add peas, then simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add pepper to taste.
  6. Preheat broiler.
  7. Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Pour into 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.
  8. Divide veggie mixture between beef and kidney beans.
  9. Drain potatoes, then smash in remaining butter and sour cream. Add chives, then salt and pepper to taste. Divide and spread potatoes evenly over both dishes.
  10. Broil until golden, about 5 minutes.

Notes

  • Roll the top down! Easily make it all bean or beef by doubling up on one and skipping the other.
  • If making an all beef pie, use beef broth instead of vegetable.
  • Make it a coupe – This recipe can easily be cut in half, especially if making all bean or beef (cooking times may vary).
  • If you can’t find baby potatoes, use regular red bliss cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • Shepherd’s Pie is typically starch/protein heavy and this is no exception. Balance it out with a side of mixed greens or simple salad.

Cruise with me baby! Huey & Gwyneth singing Cruisin’ in the movie Duets:

It’s all right, as long as there’s Chicken Soup

Beats the canned stuff any day!

I finally got around to seeing the Avengers last week. With all the best Marvel superheroes on the big screen, it was a comic book fan’s dream come true. Seeing it all in IMAX 3D surely intensified the show. There was so much action and imagination at work, it was hard to leave uninspired. As the saying goes, when an amazing team is formed, the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Well it’s all right, doing the best you can
Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand

In the music world, I am a sucker for any kind of duet or collaboration. The Traveling Wilburys were the Rock & Roll Avengers of the late 80s. How could you go wrong with Dylan, Harrison, Orbison, Petty, and Lynne? All are stars in their own right and together they created a musical powerhouse with their one hit wonder “End of the Line”. It’s a simple song that warms your heart… a little chicken soup for the music lover’s soul, if you will. Continue reading

Bring your Good Times and your Mac & Cheese too

Just out of the oven…

Lately I’ve been on a huge 80s kick. I was walking home from work the other day when Celebration, by Kool & the Gang started to play. I was instantly transported back to those lost but not forgotten family gatherings at the local VFW (you know you had your fair share!). This song always brought everyone to the dance floor and feeling good. I love any excuse to throw a party, so I thought I would turn my inaugural post into one.

Celebrate good times, come on!

As Kool and his gang whisked me away to the far off 80s land, I realized when it’s not the dancing that brings people close, it’s definitely the food – especially good ol’ fashioned comfort food. If Celebration is one of those quintessential dance songs that never goes out of style, macaroni and cheese is its comfort food counterpart. Both are incredibly cheesy, but forever classics.

There’s a party goin’ on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years

Continue reading