Pesto- and Avocado-Stuffed Chicken

This post is well over due… oops! Last week, we had two small chickens (they were on sale at the store, packaged together, so we couldn’t resist even though they were not on our shopping list) and we needed to find someway to make use of them or else butcher them further to freeze the parts. Freezing a whole chicken is something I’ve never attempted, nor do I ever want to; and cutting it up to freeze it in pieces just seemed like so much work. :p

So, instead, we nixed a one or two other planned meals and made the chickens. Tuesday night, after dinner, I set to making homemade pesto for our first roast chicken. Brent or I (honestly, I don’t remember who’s idea it was) thought stuffing the chicken with pesto would be more interesting that the standard lemon and garlic roast chicken. In addition, to try adding texture and substance, we agreed we’d crisp up some of the shredded white sweet potato (seriously, we had a lot of this stuff–it’s gone into a ton of recipes lately!) and add that plus some avocado to the chicken cavity.


Ok, so here we go with official ingredients and process…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 package of basil (about 3 to 4 cups)
  • 1 whole chicken (ours was about 2 and 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/4 cup of shredded white sweet potato
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or¬†enough olive oil to brush over the entire chicken)
Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Blend the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, basil and a pinch of salt in a food processor or blender. Ta da! You now have a very basic, homemade pesto. ūüôā
3. Spread out the shredded white sweet potato on a baking sheet. Bake in the over for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until at least some are crispy.
Meanwhile, prepare the chicken: remove any gizzards and other internal business, rinse it under cold water, and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on the rack in your roasting pan.
4. Brush the entire chicken (top, bottom and sides, but not the inside) with olive oil.
5. Chop the half of avocado.
6. Gently mix the avocado, shredded sweet potato and pesto together in a medium bowl.
7. Using a big spoon, ladle or your hands to scoop the pesto mixture into the cavity of the chicken.
8. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper–as much as you like. Also, tie the legs closed with cooking twine.
9. Roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer reads 175 degrees when inserted into the breast of the chicken.
We like to roast our chickens closer to 20 minutes per pound because you can always cook more if it comes out under done; you can’t undo overcooking.
Our chicken came out incredibly moist, and the skin was just a little crispy. If you like really crispy skin, crank up the heat at the beginning or the end for about 10 to 20 minutes.
When serving, make sure you scoop out some of the sweet and savory pesto mixture from inside the chicken. I’ll admit, I was a bit leery of the combination of avocado, sweet potato, and pesto; but it was really tasty! Some sweet, some salt, some savory, a little crisp from the skin and a good portion of creamy goodness from the stuffing over the slices of moist chicken breast… delicious!

Seafood Pesto Pasta

Tonight, Brent and I enjoyed a new experiment. We’re calling it seafood pesto pasta. Last week, I made a pesto from scratch for a roasted chicken; we also had some scallops and shrimp in the freezer. So this weekend we bought a spaghetti squash and tonight we threw it all together.


Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 8-10 scallops (uncooked)
  • 3 cups of small shrimp (already cooked)
  • 1/3 cup of pesto (homemade, if possible)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bake the spaghetti squash for 60 to 90 minutes, until tender (ours needed just 75 minutes).
  3. Let the spaghetti squash cool for 10 to 20 minutes.
  4. Cut the squash in half, length-wise. 
  5. Scoop out and discard the seeds; then, package one half for use at another time. (Unless your squash is super small. We only needed half because ours was pretty big.)
  6. Shred flesh of the remaining half of the squash into a bowl.
  7. Melt the ghee over medium high heat in a pan.
  8. Sauté the garlic in the ghee for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. 
  9. Sauté the shrimp in the garlic and ghee for about 3 to 4 minutes, until heated through.
  10. Remove the shrimp from the pan and place in a bowl to the side. 
  11. Sauté the scallops in the garlic and ghee for about 2 to 3 minutes per side, until cooked through.
  12. Remove the scallops from the pan and place in the bowl with the shrimp. 
  13. Toss the shrimp, scallops and shredded spaghetti squash with the pesto in a large bowl. 
  14. Serve and enjoy!
This recipe is great to do together. While I handled cutting and shredding the spaghetti squash, Brent took care of the shrimp and scallops. 
It didn’t take quite like I expected. The spaghetti squash was stronger in flavor than I expected, but it was still really good. Traditional pasta provides a bland, starchy canvass for pesto and any protein you add to it. Rather than the heaviness you find with pasta, the whole dish was light and yet still filling.¬†
We hope you find this as fun and delicious as we did.

Butternut Squash and White Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash

Two weeks ago, we made that awesome Paleo Butternut Squash from Health-Bent.com with our own homemade sausage.¬†(I can’t emphasize enough how delicious it was. It was so delicious!)

Now, not knowing what a “small butternut squash” really meant, we purchased a butternut squash that turned out to be much larger than necessary for that recipe. What did we do all the leftovers? Well, for nearly two weeks, it’s been sitting in a plastic container in our fridge. Finally, this morning I said for perhaps the 10th time in the past two weeks, “we need to find a way to use that butternut squash.” And Brent’s response was perfect: what about a hash?
Brilliant. ūüôā
We also had plenty of leftover shredded white sweet potato, onions, and bell peppers. So, here’s is my latest variation on breakfast hash.¬†
Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee
  • 3 cups Butternut Squash, diced
  • 4 cups shredded white sweet potato (diced would be great too, ours just happened to be shredded from our experimental lasagna)
  • 1 large red bell pepper (approx. 1-1.5 cups)
  • 1 cup onion (I used one and a half small yellow onions)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Method:
  1. Heat the Ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté the onion and butternut squash for about 2-3 minutes, until the onion is nearly translucent.
  3. Add the shredded white sweet potato and continue sautéing for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the red bell pepper and continue sautéing and stirring for another 2-3 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked through (it should change color from bright, starchy white to a dull ivory, almost like onion just before turning translucent).
  5. If you want to add a little seasoning, like salt and/or pepper, sprinkle a pinch over the dish during the last minute or two of cooking.
  6. Serve hot or cold.
Here are a few pictures of the process:
I think this new breakfast hash was really successful!¬†I made a lot of it so we could portion it out for breakfast for at least a few days this week.¬†We’ve been eating so many scrambled eggs and egg muffins this month, Brent and I are looking forward to this change of pace.¬†
You could easily use regular sweet potato, shredded or diced, and of course toss in green or yellow or orange bell peppers if you like/have them laying around. 
Lately, our grocery store has had very few regular sweet potatoes in stock and [oddly] has had lots of white sweet potatoes at the same price per pound of the few regular ones on the shelf. So, we’ve bought more white than regularly the past couple of weeks. However, there’s no flavor difference that I can tell. But I will say, I think the white sweet potato prevents the whole dish from getting too orange. I would have loved to toss in a green bell pepper for more color vibrance, but we simply didn’t have one on hand.¬†
One final note: We love for our food to have a little heat, but I am well aware of my own lack of understanding in applying spices. If I’m not following a recipe, and Brent is too busy to lend a hand, I won’t experiment with that domain. This butternut squash and white sweet potato breakfast hash is naturally sweet and could easily support a little kick–so jazz it up for yourself.
And let us know what you think! What spices would you add? 

Stewed Beef and Homemade Broth

This was an experiment of mine, which was a little terrifying at first but turned out well in the end. ¬†My attempts at saving money this month have been pretty great (a more flushed out post is to come once we’ve completed this Whole30), and I tried to go a step further by using beef neck bones. ¬†

Here’s what I had to work with:
  • 6 beef neck bones (approx. 3 lbs)
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1/3 large red onion
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 4 cups water
I added the celery, onion, and garlic to the slow cooker first, placed in the neck bones seasoned with the herbs above, and then filled the crock with water.  I then covered and turned the slow cooker to low.  At first, the smell was very sweet, and I was terrified I had just wasted all these ingredients, so I left it to cook overnight.
I planned on turning it off at 2:30 today (started at 6:00 the night before, for a total of 21 and one half hours) but we took longer running errands than expected.  It finally got turned off at 4:00, and thank goodness I waited as long as I did.  For a total of 22 hours, the meat is tender and juicy, and the broth is quite flavorful.  Heather and I agree that it will probably need some salt once we use it for cooking, but for now we have most of it in the freezer.
The meat will serve over lettuce or as a snack with scrambled eggs.  When all is said and done, this was not a bad way to spend a day and 8 dollars.  

Salmon Loaf

A few weeks ago we made these awesome Basil Salmon Burgers from Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet Cookbook, but we had so much basil-salmon mix that we chose to freeze some of it for a later date.

 
This weekend, I was feeling a bit creative and realized we could use the mix to make a salmon loaf. Why not, right? Toss in a little almond flour, some egg… shouldn’t be too hard.
I was so proud of myself–I thought I was being really quite clever and unique. Only later I called my mom to tell her about it, and she said “Oh! I have a great salmon loaf recipe from Grandma.” It deflated my spirits a tiny bit, but no matter. I was still excited to try it.
 
It really was quite easy!
 
I mixed together approx. 3 cups of the basil-salmon mixture, 1 egg and 1/4 cup of almond flour.
 

Then Brent suggested topping it with some of the shredded white sweet potato we had left over from other recipes, for the sake of texture.

 

I baked it at 350 for about 40 minutes.

 

It came out beautifully. It was not quite as salty as the basil-salmon burgers, and the crunch from the shredded sweet potato was really a nice touch.
 

Oh, and I forgot to mention: we didn’t bother greesing the pan. Salmon is such a fatty fish; if you’re starting with a salmon filet like we did (instead of from the can like my grandmother used to do), there should be plenty of natural oils to keep it from sticking.

Happy cooking!

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