I’m visiting my parents this week and one of the perks of going to Rochester is visiting Wegmans. My family has a long history with this store. In the 50s, my paternal grandfather was the meat, fish and poultry buyer for Wegmans.
My father is a retired plumbing and heating contractor and did much work over the years building the many stores that populated the Rochester area. There are now 95 stores, most in Rochester, with stores in a few other states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.
When my girls were young we’d drive up to Rochester to visit Grandma and Gramps. Our lunch stop was at the Binghamton store. The size of the store and variety of items was a great way to exercise the girls after lunch and before driving that last 170 miles. When we got to Rochester, more than likely we stopped again at the Chi-Paul store. Every day while visiting we made a trip to Wegmans. And I have to admit I still love visiting the store, often!
They are such an innovative organization. Take a look at the prepared meals. These are fully cooked that require reheating only. They also sell EZ Meals., which are uncooked, portioned meals you cook in the container. My parents rely on both of these services as Mom really doesn’t feel like cooking much these days. They are 90 and still live in their own home and with the ease-of-use and wide variety, they eat well.
Anyway, we were in Wegmans earlier than expected yesterday because the forecast is for two-inches of snow later. We were planning on picking up a roasted chicken and sides. I was reluctant to get the chicken so early; I prefer to get it closer to dinner, carve, and serve. Then I noticed that they offer a marinated uncooked roaster chicken that you cook in the bag — this I had to try!
It doesn’t get any easier. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place the chicken in a roasting pan, in the bag, stickers and all. Cook for an 1 hour 15 to 30 minutes. Let rest, open and serve. The only downside is no crispy skin. We chose the Lemon-Rosemary Chicken. It was moist and flavorful. The lemon was probably a lemon flavor as opposed to fresh lemon, it was too to be fresh lemon, but still delicious. I roasted some pre-cut butternut squash and Cipollini onions and we also had asparagus. It was delicious and super easy. Another benefit is the aroma of the roasting food, which I love.
As much as I’ve appreciated Wegman’s over the years, these new innovations are a big relief since I live almost 400 miles away from my parents and can’t physically check on them as often as I’d like. I don’t worry about their nutrition or how they manage their meals.
I was recently confronted with an abundance of multi-colored bell peppers. Peppers are funny ingredient. Unlike zucchini, another prolific crop, which is easily turned into quick breads and muffins, fritters and casseroles, peppers are rarely the star of the dish. Think of sausage with peppers and onions, fajitas come with sautéed peppers and there are so many recipes that call for peppers to be chopped or diced and added to other aromatics such as onions, garlic, celery and/or carrots as the foundation of a recipe. The only time they stand on their own is as a shell for stuffing. And this is where it gets interesting.
There are so many different ingredients to choose from. Ground meat of any type is suitable and also optional. There are a multitude of grains and beans to choose from. Add chopped vegetables and herbs and moisten with a sauce and top off with some crumbled or shredded cheese and you have a delicious entrée.
Watch the Greek-Style Stuffed Peppers Video Here:
Along with the peppers, I also had a few eggplants and decided to go with a Greek-style stuffed pepper. Start by sautéing some ground lamb and diced onion with salt and pepper. Stir in garlic, oregano and just a bit of cinnamon. To keep it moist, I added a thawed pint of tomato sauce I’d made earlier in the season. Cube the eggplant and toss in couple of cups along with more of those bell peppers cut into small pieces. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes. To finish in a traditional Greek style stir in chopped Kalamata olives and crumbled Feta cheese.
While the sauce simmers, slice off the tops and remove the core, seeds and membrane and season the insides with a sprinkle of kosher salt and a grind or two of fresh pepper.
I intended to freeze the stuffed peppers in batches for future use and needed to
partially cook the yellow bell peppers that would house the filling. The pre-cooking step deactivates the ripening enzymes to ensure that the peppers retain their color, shape and flavor.
Place the prepared bell peppers upright in a baking dish. and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Pop in the microwave on high for 3 minutes or until slightly softened. Stuff each shell with the filling.
Use the abundance of vegetables at the farmers’ market to make these delicious and eye-appealing Greek-style stuffed peppers with lamb or to keep it vegan, use a grain such as orzo or quinoa in lieu of the lamb. Keep it colorful and use a variety of colors!
8 bell peppers, tops removed, seeds, ribs and stems removed, save tops
freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1 ½ cups minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced cloves garlic (3 medium cloves)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup chopped bell peppers, any color
1 can (15.5 ounces) fired roasted tomatoes or a pint of tomato sauce
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup feta cheese crumbles
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 9- by 13-inch casserole dish
Lined baking sheet to catch any spills
Season the inside of each bell pepper with a sprinkle of kosher salt and a grind or two of fresh pepper. Place upright in a baking dish.
Note: If you are making in advance and planning to freeze, cover tightly with plastic wrap. Pop in the microwave on high for 3 minutes or just until slightly softened.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the lamb and onions, using the edge of a wooden spoon to break up the meat into a crumbly mix. Cook until the meat is no longer red.
Stir in the oregano, garlic and cinnamon and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes or tomato sauce and bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Stir in the olives and feta off heat and stuff each pepper with the filling.
Cover tightly with foil and place on a lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, one hour for frozen peppers.
When basil is at its peak, the bunches are huge and plentiful. I scoop up tons and bring them home to make pesto; batch after batch. I freeze in one-cup portions, which is perfect for a pound of pasta.
Don’t limit yourself to pasta, though. Pesto is delicious over grilled chicken, just put a good dollop over each cutlet. I also like to use it in a caprese salad – instead of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, little dabs of pesto on the tomatoes and cheese is a fantastic variation.
Grill some eggplant rounds and stack with mozzarella, roasted red peppers and slather a little pesto on each layer.
Here’s some tips to making pesto. Young basil (thin stems) use both the stem and the leaves. Remove tough stems on mature basil. Pine nuts are the classic nut used in traditional pesto, but don’t hesitate to use walnuts or almonds. Be sure to toast your nuts to maximize flavor!
Keep nuts in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent spoilage. Use the lemon juice not only for flavor, but it also prevents the pesto from turning black when mixed with hot food.
See our Spaghetti with Shrimp in Spicy Pesto recipe here.
Head out to the garden or the local farmer’s market and bring home the basil!
This is the final video in our mini grilled chicken series: Grilled Boneless Chicken Thighs.
When you remove the bone from the thigh, the meat is thin and cooking time is quick. The thigh still retains some fat and remains moist. The flavorful meat is good with only salt and pepper and a little oil to prevent sticking. Also try different marinades and rubs.
I like to use the grilled boneless chicken thighs in sandwiches. Choose a nice bun or good bread and use your favorite condiment or condiments, pile on the lettuce and tomatoes and a few slices of dill pickle. The perfect sandwich!
Tune in to Honeypie’s Recipes YouTube Channel to view the Grilled Chicken Mini Series playlist!
Watch the Grilled Boneless Chicken Thighs Video Here
This quick marinade trick was a fluke. Many years ago I was making Rosh Hannah dinner. One cousin doesn’t care for red meat and won’t eat the brisket. I always make something else as a second entrée. One year I was running behind and needed something quick. I grilled chicken and as soon as the chicken came into rest I poured an herbed lemon juice over the chicken. The resting time allows the denatured proteins to coagulate again and when they do, they trap liquid. The salty juices from the chicken and now the lemon, thyme and garlic from the quick marinade.
My cousin and her husband loved the dish and she asked for the recipe. When I told her what I did, she didn’t want to believe me. It was too simple for something that tasted that good!
You can do this, too. Simply juice a lemon, throw in some thyme sprigs and smash a garlic clove and toss these together. Pour this over the chicken after grilling and let rest for 5 minutes. Use lime juice and garlic – sprinkle with chopped cilantro for something different.
These are just two quick and easy suggestions for a quick marinade trick!
Cooking onions highlights their inherent sweetness. Making grilled onions does that and adds a lovely charred flavor so distinctive of the grill.
It’s a simple thing to make grilled onion rings, but frustrating. No matter how hard you try to keep the onion slice in one piece, it eventually softens and falls apart. Then the onion rings begin to fall through the grates and all is lost.
Now I use a vegetable grill tray. Don’t ask why it took so long to get one of these – it changed my life!
Slice and separate the onion rings. Toss with a little oil, salt and pepper, and strew the rings over the vegetable grill tray. Place on the hot grill, cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Turn and cook a little more. Keep turning and cooking until you get the desired doneness. I like some to have a little char on them, but still have some texture.
These are perfect for fajitas, hamburgers or toss over any grilled meat or vegetable.
Next up in mini course on cooking chicken: Grilled Bone-in Chicken Thighs!
Whenever cooking meat or poultry with the bone on, the cooking time takes a little longer. The bone can be in the center or perimeter and location also affects cooking time. Center bones take longer to reach and the meat near the bone is the last to cook because the bone holds that coldness from the refrigerator.
The best alternative on the grill for cooking anything with a bone is to start with direct heat and then move to the other side of the grill and finish on indirect heat. This keeps the outer meat moist and slowly lets the heat permeate throughout.
Chicken thighs have more fat than the breast, so if you overcook a little, it’s a bit forgiving. Use marinades, rubs or just plain old salt and pepper with a little olive oil.
Fire up the grill and get started on your grilled bone-in chicken thighs tonight!
Arugula and spinach are plentiful at the farmers markets now. Reach how to clean and store these stemmed greens and make a vibrant and delicious trip-color salad. As a bonus, we’ve included an extra recipe for parmesan crisps.
Arugula has dark green, small leaves with a peppery flavor that goes very well with other bitter greens, such as radicchio and endive. These are the classic lettuces used in a tri-color salad. The balsamic vinaigrette adds a little sweetness, a great foil for the bitter greens.
The parmesan are so easy to make. Just spread 2 tablespoons of finely grated cheese on in rounds on a lined sheet pan and bake until golden brown. For a little twist, use a crank or two of cracked pepper on each. Let them cook and firm up. Add to the salad for a beautiful presentation.
Make a classic Italian tri-color salad, arugula, radicchio and endive, with a balsamic vinaigrette and and add a Asiago crisp for taste and eye appeal. If you can't find Asiago cheese, substitute Parmesan.
½ cup grated Asiago cheese
freshly ground pepper, optional
Preheat oven 400 degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with silicon or parchment paper
Drop 2 tablespoons for each crisp onto the tray about 2 inches apart.
Spread the cheese into a circle with the back of the measuring spoon.
Sprinkle with a little freshly ground pepper, if desired.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Here’s another video in our mini course on cooking chicken: Grilled boneless chicken breast. Pound the breast with a meat pounder or heavy bottomed skillet to an even thickness. Use your favorite marinade, rub or merely sprinkle with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
A grilled boneless chicken breast cooks quickly. Close the grill on the first few minutes. Gently pull the chicken away from the grate. If it doesn’t release easily, let it cook a minute or two more. Pulling now only rips the meat.
Flip the boneless chicken breast and continue cooking for a couple minutes more with the cover closed. Use a thermometer to get an internal temperature; 165 degrees F is considered safe, I prefer 170 degrees F to make sure there’s no pink left. Don’t forget to let them rest for 3-4 minutes!
These boneless chicken breasts are moist and flavorful, as well as quick and easy.
Skirt steak is a flavorful working muscle that is versatile. Avoid overcooking as it becomes very tough and dry. Marinate a skirt steak, use a rub or simply season with salt and pepper. This tasty steak is also great to use for fajitas, and an excellent choice for a Chinese stir fry. For fajitas or a stir fry, cut the meat with the grain, I know it goes against custom, but for these recipes, cutting with the grain results in tender pieces that are easier to bite into.
Throw some red onions, bell peppers and corn on the cob on the grill along with the skirt steak!