Lemon & Honey Grilled Chicken

After a trip to the Savannah Bee Company, I’ve been mildly addicted to their Sourwood Honey. The local store is a favorite of ours. Beyond the great honey and products, they have a live hive inside (no, the bees don’t fly around the store…but you can watch them work through the clear walls!) and a children’s “hive” for coloring and reading. While shopping one day, I indulged in no less than 8 samples before deciding I really ought to buy some of the liquid gold.

sourwood honey

Even if you don’t have a jar of sourwood, you should try using some good honey the next time you fire up the grill. Lemon & Honey Grilled Chicken combines the tang of lemon (which tenderizes the meat during the marinating time) with the sweetness of honey to create a flavorful departure from your standard grilled BBQ chicken.

Lemon & Honey Chicken

Marinade

  • Chicken (thighs, trimmed)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 C. red wine vinegar
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 T. dried Italian herb blend
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a food processor or blender. Pulse until well chopped and blended. Pour marinade over chicken, and refrigerate for a few hours (I did 4).

Lemon & Honey Glaze

  • 1/4 C. lemon juice
  • 1 T. honey (sourwood)
  • 1 T. butter, melter
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Whisk all ingredients together. Brush onto chicken in at the end of the cooking time.

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Grilled Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi always seems like a good idea – until you look at recipes that call for mountains of butter or oil. I’m not afraid of butter – but my ass and thighs can be a little vindictive. I recently came across a scampi recipe that replaced all of the fat with chicken stock. Good idea! I thought, but the rest of the recipe had little to offer. So I incorporated the use of chicken stock with a better Scampi recipe, and came out with a pretty good (lower fat) Shrimp Scampi.

Grilled Shrimp Scampi

I marinated and grilled my shrimp. If you don’t feel like grilling (or the weather isn’t so good) you can saute the shrimp in the pan before you start your sauce. Drain the shrimp from the marinade, and quickly cook them in your pot. Set them aside when they are slightly under cooked, they will cook through while they rest on the plate (this goes for grilling the shrimp too).  The sauce goes together quickly, so don’t worry about your shrimp getting cold.

Grilled Shrimp Scampi

  • 1 Lb. pasta (linguine)
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1. T. olive oil
  • 4 -6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 C. white wine (Chardonnay)
  • 1 C. chicken stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grilled shrimp
  • Garlic bread crumbs

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add in garlic, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the wine, and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Add in stock, lemon juice, salt and pepper; simmer for 5 minutes. Add reserved pasta and handful of parsley to sauce. Reduce heat to low, and cook pasta for about 5 minutes or until pasta is cooked through and soaked up most of the sauce.

To serve, plate pasta into a shallow bowl. Top with 6 or 7 shrimp and 1 to 2 Tablespoons of bread crumbs.

Grilled Garlic & Lemon Shrimp

  • 1 Lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • wooden skewers

Combine lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Add shrimp and marinate for 30 minutes. Put shrimp onto skewers (5 or 6 per stick). Grill over medium heat for 3 minutes per side, or until almost cooked through. Remove from heat and allow to rest while you prepare the sauce. Remove from skewers to serve.

Garlic Bread Crumbs

  • 4 – 6 slices bread
  • 1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 2 T. olive oil

In a food processor, pulse bread and garlic until finely ground. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add in garlic bread crumbs and cook until golden, stirring frequently.

Grilled Vegetable Couscous

Spring has come and gone a dozen times in the last few months. It’s 75F and sunny one day, then 45F and raining the next. I am so ready for this hard-to-get Spring to make it’s appearance and stay! Maybe if I grill up some Spring veggies, and act like the cold doesn’t bother me, Springtime will quit playing games….

Grilled Vegetables

Couscous is a quick-cooking, small granule pasta. It is bland and boring a blank slate, that is ready and waiting for tons of flavor. Treat couscous like pasta (technically, it is pasta), and consider this dish a “pasta salad”.  My store had zucchini, yellow squash and cherry tomatoes on sale – so they were all a must. Then I picked up a purple onion and a red bell pepper to round out the flavors.

Grilled Vegetable couscous2

 Grilled Vegetable Couscous

  • 1 C. couscous
  • 1 C. chicken stock
  • 1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 yellow squash, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 purple onion, cut into 1/2″ rounds
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 Pt. cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 C. parley, chopped
  • 2 T. sliced olives
  • 1 T. capers
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sliced Vegetables

Brush zucchini, squash, onion and bell pepper with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Make a boat out of tinfoil for cherry tomatoes. Brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Put all vegetables onto a medium-heat grill. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables have softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Chop vegetables into bite-sized pieces.

Grilled Tomatoes

Put couscous in a large bowl. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Pour stock over couscous, then cover with plastic wrap. Allow to steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Stock & Couscous

Add chopped vegetables to couscous. Add in parsley, olives, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Mix in feta. Serve warm or room temperature.

Grilled Vegetable couscous

Grilled Vegetable Couscous pairs well with Beer Can Chicken. Also serve it with some warm pita bread and hummus.

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Luscious Lemon Cake

If The Man is heading to the grocery store on his own accord, it’s always to get wine and cookies. Ok, that’s not being fair…sometimes it’s for wine and cake. Lemon Cake to be exact. But sadly last week, they were out of his favorite dessert! So Little Miss and I decided to whip up a special treat for him while he was off at work.

Lemon Cake Ingredients

You are getting a free pass on the cake portion of this Luscious Lemon Cake – I’m starting with a box mix. Duncan Hines makes a super moist box cake, and with a few adjustments no one will ever know you didn’t bake it from scratch.

Lemon Squeezer

Instead of using oil, I like to add vanilla Greek yogurt. It’s thick, creamy, and alot healthier. I am also replacing some of the water with lemon juice – it is a lemon cake after all. Aside from that, we’ll follow the directions on the box for mixing and baking.

Cooling Cakes

Now here comes the real work – the filling and icing. Let’s start with the Lemon Curd filling. Lemon curd kind of sounds gross (who wants to eat curds…) but it’s really silky and delicious. The strong (yet sweet) lemon flavor will compliment the delicate cake and the mild lemon flavor of the billowy icing. Yes, I said billowy….and I mean billowy! 

Lemon Curd

Ina Garten (AKA Barefoot Contessa) has a super simple Lemon Curd recipe. I halved the recipe (and still had a little left over). I think she wants you to use a food processor and your mixer…but I wasn’t in the mood to dirty anymore dishes (or wash more dishes….we’ll need the mixer later for the icing). So just do everything in the food processor – it works out fine. When it comes to cooking the curd, use medium heat and make sure you stir regularly (especially once it starts to bubble). And while waiting for it to thicken, keep in mind that it will thicken some more as it cools.

Lemon Curd Filling

Isn’t it pretty? After the curd has cooled, spread a layer onto your cake. I left a 1/2 inch rim, to prevent the curd from oozing out.

Lemon simple Syrup

Onto the billowy icing. Lemon-Vanilla Whipped Cream Icing is composed of 3 parts (I know, I know…but they are all totally worth it!) – Lemon simple syrup, stabilized whip cream, and vanilla cream cheese. Now – you could choose to leave out either the whip cream or the cream cheese element. Either makes a nice icing on their own….but for this cake, I wanted the fluffiness of the whip cream combined with the flavor and weight of the cream cheese. The results are perfect for this cake – lightly lemony, a hint of vanilla, and a melt in your mouth texture.

Cream Cheese and Whipped Cream Icing

After your butter and cream cheese are beat together and your whip cream and simple-syrup is thoroughly whipped (no, you didn’t miss anything, I’ll give you more details in the recipe portion at the bottom) gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese. I did this in 3 portions, and carefully beat until everything was combined. Then with a butter knife, spread a thick layer over your cake.

Luscious Lemon Cake

Luscious Lemon Cake

Cake Batter

  • 1 box lemon cake mix (Duncan Hines)
  • 1 1/4 C. water
  • 1 C. vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • juice of one lemon

Combine all ingredients. Follow package directions for two 9 or 8 inch round pans. Allow cake to cool completely.

Lemon Curd

  • 1 1/2 lemons
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 4 T. butter
  • 2 eggs

With a vegetable peeler, remove peel (yellow only, avoid white pith) from lemons. Cut lemons in half. Squeeze to juice, and reserve for later. Add zest and sugar to a food processor. Pulse until peel is finely ground and incorporated into sugar. Add in butter. Pulse until butter and sugar are creamed together. Add in each egg one at a time, and pulse until just combined. Pour in reserved lemon juice and pulse until combined.

Pour mixture into a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until bubbly and thickened (about 10 minutes). Pour lemon curd into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cool.

Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

Assembly

Place first cake round onto a plate. Spread lemon curd onto cake, leaving a 1/2 inch rim around the edge. Top with second round. Starting with the sides, spread a thick layer of icing on sides and top of cake. Refrigerate for an hour before serving. Keep cake covered and refrigerated.

Lemon-Vanilla Whipped Cream Icing

Lemon Simple Syrup

  • 1 C. water
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 2 lemons, halved (use left over lemons from lemon curd)

Combine all ingredients into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Strain syrup into a bowl. Refrigerate until cool.

Stabilized Lemon Whip cream

  • 1/2 C. lemon simple syrup
  • 1 tsp. gelatin (unflavored, powder)
  • 1 C. whipping cream

In a glass bowl or measuring cup, pour gelatin into cold simple syrup, allow to “bloom” for 10 minutes. Hold cup over a low burner until gelatin melts – do not let syrup boil. Allow syrup to cool, but not set up.

In the bowl of a mixer, whip cream until soft peaks form. While on medium speed, slowly pour in simple syrup. Continue to whip until stiff peaks.

Vanilla Cream Cheese

  • 3 T. butter, softened
  • 6 Oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Beat butter and cream cheese until combined and creamy. While mixing on low, slowly pour in sugar. Add in vanilla and beat until combined.

Icing

  • Vanilla cream cheese
  • Lemon stabilized whip cream

Fold 1/3 of whip cream into cream cheese mixture. Continue adding whip cream in thirds, until incorporated. Whip by hand until thoroughly combined.

Helpers are Rewarded

Pesto Chicken Lasagna

In the world of lasagna, this is a fairly quick lasagna. And by “quick” I mean it won’t take you four hours to prepare – but it might take one. If this were Sunday, I’d start my sauces at 10 am, make pasta from scratch, grate fresh mozzarella, and be wore out by the time dinner was ready (I’d also be fat and happy after I ate, and would be enjoying my labor for most of the next week!). But since this is the middle of the week, we’re going to cut some corners to make this meal in a timely fashion.

Pesto Chicken Lasagna

We’ll start with the sauce. Everything goes in the pot, simmers and is done. That’s it! 20 minutes, and you have yourself a fresh, homemade sauce for the pasta. The flavors are simple and mild, and will be a good accompaniment to the strong flavors of the Pesto Chicken and the creamy texture of the Lemon Ricotta.

Tomato Cream Sauce

Next is the Pesto Chicken. Pesto traditionally contains nuts (typically pine nuts). Although I’m a huge fan of pine nuts, I know that some people (like my step dad) can be deathly allergic – so when I think he might be around for dinner, I leave all the nuts in the freezer (except me, I don’t fit in the freezer…. and yes, the freezer is the best place to store nuts). In a dish like this, that is full of complimenting flavor elements, I don’t really miss the pine nuts in the pesto. But if you are appalled at the thought of leaving them out – then add them in!

Do you ever walk by your grocery store deli when they are pulling out the rotisserie chickens? Well it’s a bad idea – you’ll forget what you came to buy, and end up buying 2 of those chickens instead (one to eat on in the store, and one to take home for later!). The meat is so tender and juicy, and it makes for a great start to a quick weeknight meal. Remove the skin, pull the meat, and toss it in the pesto.

Pesto Chicken

And the last layer that takes a little prep work is the Lemon Ricotta. You’ll want to use both the zest and the juice of the lemon – the zest contains all the oils, and has a punchier flavor. But don’t expect an overpowering lemon flavor with this – we don’t want to bite into the lasagna and think lemon! The amount of juice and zest we are using is just enough to give it a fresh flavor that’s slightly zingy.

Lemon Ricotta2

Onto the no-prep elements to our dish – fresh spinach, grated mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and no-boil lasagna sheets. Did you know they made those!? Whoever thought of that is a genius… For a weeknight lasagna, no-boil pasta is ideal. But you want to make sure that the top layer is completely covered with sauce – any parts that aren’t touching sauce will end up crispy instead of soft.

lasagna layers

For assembly, I start with a thin layer of sauce. Especially since we are using the no-boil pasta – you want there to be enough moisture around the sheets. So sauce first (about 1/2 cup, spread evenly around) followed by pasta, then sauce again. Next is the spinach. I prefer a little spinach on each level – but I think The Man would prefer a whole bag per level….so go with what you prefer. Keep in mind that it will wilt as it cooks, and there will be much less when it’s done. On top of the spinach goes the ricotta . Drop spoonfuls evenly around, and don’t worry about spreading it out – it will spread as it bakes. Next is the chicken, followed by mozzarella and then more pasta. Press down a little on the pasta, just to get the bottom layers all cozy together. Now repeat – sauce, spinach, ricotta, chicken, cheese, pasta. For the top, you want a light layer of sauce, and alot of cheese.

Pesto Chicken Lasagna2

After you’ve baked your lasagna til it’s bubbly and brown, let it sit for at least 20 minutes. I know, I know….after all this hard work and an hour in the oven, you are starving. But if you cut into it right away, you are going to end up with a sloppy mess. All your sauce will be left in the pan, and there won’t be a single recognizable layer. And it’s too hot to eat now anyways! So trust me….drink you a glass of wine and chill out. Once the lasagna cools, it will cut smoothly and plate in one solid piece. Enjoy ;)

Pesto Chicken Lasagna

  • No-boil lasagna sheets
  • Tomato Cream Sauce
  • Lemon Ricotta
  • Pesto Chicken
  • 8 Oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Fresh spinach
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese, grated

In a large baking dish, spoon 1/2 cup of sauce evenly into the bottom. Layer in lasagna sheets, slightly overlapping. Follow with 1/3 of tomato sauce, 1/2 of spinach, 1/2 of ricotta, 1/2 of chicken, and 1/3 of mozzarella. Top with layer of lasagna sheets and repeat, ending with third and final layer of lasagna sheets. Evenly coat lasagna with remaining sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350F for 50 – 60 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Lasagna can be assembled in advance and kept refrigerated until ready to bake. Remove from the fridge half an hour before baking. Lasagna is always better the next day, so enjoy the leftovers!

Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes (or 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C. half & half
  • 2 T. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 T. olive oil

Combine all ingredients into a pan. Heat over medium until simmering. Reduce heat to low, continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool before assembling lasagna.

Lemon Ricotta

  • 8 Oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Pesto Chicken

  • 1 bunch basil (about 20 leaves)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 C. grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded

In a food processor, pulse basil and garlic until pulverized. Move to a bowl and add in oil, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. If too thick, add a little more oil (but do not make it super runny). Add in chicken, and toss to combine.

 

Greek Pasta Salad

 

And for the pasta portion of tonight’s Gyro Burger dinner – Greek Pasta Salad. Colorful and flavorful, this is a zingy dish that goes great as a side. Or have it for a quick filling lunch!
Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

  • 12 Oz. tri-color rotini pasta
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 C. red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber; peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 C. Spanish olives, sliced
  • 1 T. capers
  • 2 T. feta cheese, diced or crumbled
  • Greek dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. Combine all other ingredients except for cheese and dressing. Toss to combine. Then add in pasta and dressing. Thoroughly coat pasta and vegetables. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before adding in feta cheese. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Greek Dressing

  • 1 T. fresh oregano
  • 1 T. Italian parsley
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Greek Pasta Salad