Grilled Basil Spinach Pesto Burgers

I spent a sunny afternoon at Starbucks the other day.  If you can’t read on the beach, you might as well read on the Starbucks patio with an iced coffee and a brownie.

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Unfortunately, it’s hard to read when you’re trying to eavsdrop on the two couples sitting at the table behind you.

From what I gathered, one couple was visiting from Ottawa.  And they were talking about open bars and weddings, and hiking the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu, and I really wanted to join in on their conversation, and perhaps make some new friends.  But that would have been weird, right?  Is it socially acceptable to just join in on someone else’s conversation?  Probably not, eh?

But, like, what would they have done if I had turned around and said “Oh, hey, you hiked the Inca Trail?  Cool.  My boyfriend really wants to do that, but I have a lot of reservations about it.  Like what is the bathroom situation like?”

I didn’t say anything.  I just kept reading my book.  So I guess we’ll never know.

But maybe that’s how people make new friends when you’re an adult in the real world.  By butting in on strangers conversations.

Once they left I could focus on my book again.  Then I went home and made supper.  And what a supper it was!

I’ve already told you about the fabulous peach cobblers I made for dessert.  Now I’ll tell you about the main course.

I was in the mood for burgers, but I didn’t know what kind.  And then I saw this recipe from my old buddy Martha.  I’ve often grilled portobellos and topped those with pesto for a quick and easy supper.  But never had I thought to put the pesto IN the  burger.  Such a super fantastic idea!

I tweaked it a bit by adding some lemon juice to the pesto and using whole wheat ciabatta buns.  I considered swapping out the walnuts for pine nuts, but the grocery store was out, so walnuts it was.  Plus walnuts are cheaper anyway.

The pesto is totally adaptable.  Swap out the herbs, greens, or nuts for whatever you’re feeling.  I’m sure arugula instead of spinach would be fab!

I made a side of these zucchini fries from Weeklybite, which I’d pinned the recipe for ages ago and finally just got around to making.  They made a great side dish.  And they’re a vegetable.

I felt all fancy with my pesto burger and zucchini fries.  So much flavour from the pesto!  And the cheese is all melty and the tomatoes soft and juicy.  It’s such a shame I didn’t have a bottle of wine chilled to go with it.

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Grilled Basil Spinach Pesto Burgers

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 4

1 cup basil

1 cup spinach

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

1/4 cup walnuts

1 tbsp lemon juice

450g ground chicken

Pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

2 large tomatoes, sliced (4 slices per tomato)

Fresh mozzarella

4 whole wheat ciabatta buns

Preheat grill to medium heat.

In a food processor (or blender), process basil, spinach, garlic, walnuts, and lemon juice until comes together as a nice pesto sauce.  I used my Vitamix and had to add a little extra lemon juice to get the pesto to come together.  This probably wouldn’t be an issue in a food processor.

In a bowl, combine 1 tbsp of the pesto, the chicken, and some pepper.  Use your hands to mix until combined.  Don’t over mix.  Bring mixture together into a big round disk.  Score with the side of your hand into 4 equal portions.  Form each quarter into a burger, making an indent so it’s thinner in the center.

Brush burgers with oil.  Place on grill.  Cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Flip and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so until burgers are cooked through completely.  We don’t want any raw chicken!  Cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of your burgers and your grill.

After flipping the burgers, drizzle the tomato slices with olive oil and place on grill.  Cook for about 2-4 minutes until slightly charred with grill marks, then flip and cook another 2-4 minutes.

When burgers are almost done, top each burger with a mozzarella slice to melt.  Place your buns on the grill (I use the top rack) for a minute or two to get a little colour.

To serve, spread some of the remaining pesto on both sides of bun, top with a burger and two tomato slices.  Yum!

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Look at that green pesto!

The Easiest-Best-Three-Ingredient-Chicken Recipe Ever (aka Salt and Pepper Chicken)

Holy moly, that’s a long title!

But it’s true!  This is the easiest, but also the best, chicken recipe you’ll ever make.  And you only need three ingredients.

Although the title is long, it is accurate.

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But before we get to the chicken, let’s discuss Big Brother 15!

You know it’s officially summer once Big Brother starts.  And you know I think of the Big Brother cast as my BFFs since I hang out with them all summer long.  What a season it’s shaping up to be!

I don’t think there’s ever been such intense game play right off the bat like this.  Going after the strong players at first is practically unheard of!

And the hostility!  This is the meanest group of hot people I’ve ever seen.  For having good looks, some of these girls just don’t have beautiful insides to go along with them.  Just because you’re pretty does not give you permission to be nasty.

Other things I’ve found interesting about this season so far include:

1.  Aaryn and David were probably the shortest lived showmance ever.  It’s too bad he got voted out so early.  He was interesting to watch and got a lot of screen time.  But, lucky for him, I think he dodged a bullet by getting voted out and nipping that relationship in the bud.

2.  What is up with the relationship between Amanda and McRae??  Weirdest showmance ever!  But he’s grown on me.  He’s kinda sweet in that nerdy awkward kind of way.  And he told her she was his queen.  Isn’t that really all any woman wants in a relationship?  Good for the pizza delivery boy!

3.  What was up with GinaMarie’s meltdown over Nick being voted out?  You would have thought someone died.  She’d only known him a couple of weeks.  I don’t get it.  I can’t fully get on board with GinaMarie because she’s one of the mean girls.

4.  I’m not sure how I feel about the whole MVP thing.  My theory is that CBS changed it this week to have America vote for the third nominee instead of a MVP who could nominate a third houseguest because they were tired of America voting Elissa, Rachel’s sister, as MVP every week.

So there’s my Big Brother rant.

Now, back to chicken.  I wasn’t going to blog it because it’s so simple, but then I decided because it is so good, you need to know about it.

I first made this last summer after going on a major pinning binge and pinning like every Martha Stewart chicken recipe.  This one caught my eye because Michael is in love with Boston Pizza’s salt and pepper chicken wings, and I may steal one from his order every time he gets them so I can confirm that they are delicious.  If salt and pepper wings taste awesome, why wouldn’t salt and pepper chicken breast grilled on the BBQ?

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Salt and Pepper Grilled Chicken

slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 2, easily multiplied

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 chicken breasts (I used boneless, skinless)

Combine salt and pepper in small bowl.  Rub all over chicken breasts.  Let sit room temperature for 30 minutes (this kinda skeeved me out because I don’t like to let meat sit out on the counter, so I let them sit at room temperature for a bit, and then I put in the fridge until I was ready to BBQ).  Preheat grill to medium heat.  Grill until cooked through (no longer pink, juices run clear, use a meat thermometer if you’re not sure) about 10-15 minutes per side depending on thickness of your chicken.

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I like to top the chicken with a fresh fruit salsa and serve with rice.  This time I used grilled pineapple salsa.

 

Grilled Lasagna

Did you know you can make lasagna on your BBQ?

I tried making grilled lasagna last year, and sort of burnt it.

This year, I figured I’d do better, but rain thwarted my attempts twice, and then the third attempt almost didn’t happen because of a bee.

A HUGE bumble bee.

I almost didn’t see it because it was just chilling on the floor of my deck right outside my patio door, and I almost stepped on it.  I thought it was dead at first because it didn’t move for ages.

But it wasn’t dead.  And it wasn’t flying away.

And I wanted lasagna.

So what did I do?  I called Michael.  Since he is deathly scared of bees, I figured he’d know what to do.

Solution: Spray Windex at it through the screen.  It worked!  The bee flew away, and I was able to grill my lasagna.

And it was very, very good.  And not burnt this time.

Bonus:  You just throw away the tin foil.  No pan to clean.

Grilled Lasagna

(from Food Network Magazine)

1 1lb ball fresh mozzarella, halved and thinly sliced (I used the slicing side of my box grater)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 tbsp olive oil, + more for drizzling

3 tomatoes, 2 sliced and 1 grated

12 oven-ready lasagna noodles

Water

8 cups spinach

1/3 cup low fat ricotta

1/3 cup fresh herbs, chopped (I used a mixture of basil, parsley, and oregano)

Preheat grill to medium.  This is where I went wrong last year.  DO NOT grill on high or they will burn!

Combine mozzarella, parmesan, red pepper flakes, and all but 1/4 tsp of the garlic in a bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss.

Get your foil ready.  Arrange four large pieces of foil on your work surface.  Drizzle foil with olive oil and place one lasagna noodle on top of each piece of foil.   I was using the long rectangle ones, so I snapped my lasagna noodles in half and placed them side by side to make more of a square shape.  If you’ve already got a square noodle, leave it as is.  Drizzle 1 tbsp of water on top of your four lasagna noodles.  Divide half of the spinach, tomatoes, and cheese mixture between the four packets.  Top with another lasagna noodle and 1 tbsp water, and repeat layering steps: spinach, tomatoes, cheese.  Top with another lasagna noodle and 1 tbsp water.  Drizzle with a little olive oil so they won’t stick, and fold up the tinfoil, crimping the ends to make four foil packets.

Grill packets until noodles are tender, about 10 minutes each side.  Set aside to rest for five minutes.  Mix the tomatoes, 1 tbsp olive oil, and leftover garlic in a small bowl.

Open foil packets.  To serve, top with tomato mixture, ricotta, and herbs divided among the four lasagnas.

FYI: The leftovers make a great work lunch the next day.  Just don’t heat up the foil in the microwave.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Remember that salsa I told you about on Monday?  Did you make it yet?  It’s good isn’t it?

But you know what tastes even better?

That salsa on top of this chicken!

Have you ever been to Jamaica and had real jerk chicken?

I have and it was delicious!

Jerk chicken has a reputation for being spicy.  But don’t fear, my heat sensitive readers!  I didn’t find this chicken incredibly spicy.  All the spice lives in the ribs and seeds of the jalapeno, and I left those out.  Next time I make it, I’m going to try leaving the jalapeno seeds in, or using a hotter pepper.  Give that a try if you want to up the heat factor.

This chicken has some great flavor!  Maybe not the exact same as the chicken I had in Jamaica, but delicious none the less.  Top it with the salsa, and it’s like a flavor explosion in your mouth!  And it all looks so pretty too!

Serve on top of a bed of regular or coconut jasmine or basmati rice and you’ve got yourself an awesome Caribbean inspired supper.  Ya mon!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

(ever so slightly adapted from The Looneyspoons Collection by Janet and Greta Podleski)

serves 4

3-4 green onions, chopped

Juice of 2 limes

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 clove garlic, finely grated

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

2 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp pepper

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Put all ingredients except chicken in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Put the marinade in a large ziplock bag, add chicken, seal, make sure chicken is coated, and refrigerate overnight.

Heat grill to medium-high heat.  Grill chicken until cooked through, flipping once, about 10-15 minutes per side.

Serve chicken on a bed of rice with grilled pineapple salsa.

Grilled Green Pizza

As I said on Wednesday, grilling pizza was on my summer to do list.

Last year I made my first attempt at grilling pizza, and it was kind of tricky.

Like how do you get the dough onto the grill?  And how do you flip it over?  And how do you get it to cook without turning into a charcoaled mess?

Well, this year after doing some research in magazines and on the internet, I’ve worked out the kinks.

It went a lot more smoothly.

The crust on grilled pizza is just so amazingly crispy!

And with two kinds of cheese and avocados, how can you go wrong?

Grilled Green Pizza

(slightly adapted from Rachael Ray Everyday Magazine)

makes 2 small pizzas

1/2 recipe for pizza dough (I made a full recipe, then divided it in half)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled

1 tsp ground cumin

1 green pepper

1 red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges (keep root end attached)

1/4 cup salsa verde

1 1/2 cups pepper jack cheese, grated

1/4 cup feta, crumbled

1 avocado, sliced

Handful of cilantro, chopped

Prepare your pizza dough (or use store bought).

Heat grill on high to 500º.  Prepare garlic/cumin oil by placing the oil, cumin, and garlic in a small bowl and mix together.

Slice the sides off the pepper so you have four pepper “planks”.  Arrange the peppers and onion wedges on a baking dish and brush both sides with the flavored oil.  Place the veggies on the grill, and cook, turning with tongs, until tender and charred in spots (about five minutes).  Take off grill and cut pepper planks into strips.

Lower the heat on one side of the grill to low.  This is the key to grilling pizza!  Shape your dough into two rectangles.  Place them on the back of an oiled baking sheet.  Slide the dough onto the grill, long side of dough perpendicular to the grates on the low heat side of the grill.  Space-wise, I found it easier to cook my crusts one at a time, but if your grill is large enough, and you’re strategic enough with the placement of your first piece of dough, you could probably do them both at once.

Cover, and cook crusts until the bottom gets firm and starts to brown (about 3-4 minutes).  Loosen the crust with a spatula.  Let cook another minute.  Then with the help of tongs and spatula, flip the crust over.  This should be fairly easy as the dough should be firm and lift easily.  Cook until bottom starts to brown, about two minutes.

Remove crusts to baking sheet, flat side down.  Now it’s time to add the toppings.  Brush with flavored oil.  Spoon on salsa verde.  Layer on pepper slices, onions, and pepper jack cheese.  Put the baking sheet on the cooler side of the grill and cover until cheese melts (2-3 minutes).

Remove from heat.  Add the feta, avocado, and cilantro and enjoy!

It’s the weekend.  Fire up the grill and have some pizza… and a margarita!

Grilled Chicken Caprese

I was a little slow firing up my grill this season for a couple of reasons.

1.  I ran out of propane last fall and didn’t refill my tank until, oh the middle of June because I have issues with getting stuff done.

2.  My BBQ had blown over last winter (probably due to lack of a full propane tank to weigh it down) and I was afraid something might have happened to the propane connection and that I was going to blow up when I lit it.

3.  My deck has been taken over by wild squirrels (well possibly just one or maybe two different squirrels).

In the past four years that I’ve lived here, before this year I had seen a squirrel on my deck maybe twice.  Now he shows up almost daily.

He shouldn’t even be on my deck because a) I live in an apartment on the second floor and b) there are no acorns out there.

Michael says he’s building a nest in my BBQ, which he very well may want to.  Add that as #4 on my list of why I was hesitant to grill this year.

You may say, “Well Karen, he’s just so darn cute.”

To which I would reply, you’re crazy!  Look at those beady little eyes and those claw like fingers.  I agree with Carrie Bradshaw, who wisely said, “A squirrel is just rat with a cuter outfit.”

You’re darn right it is.

I am terrified the squirrel is going to somehow find its way into my apartment and then we will have a whole new situation to deal with.  I also don’t want to share my deck with him when I’m out there, because if it touches me, I’ll lose it.

I was out there reading yesterday morning when it tried to make its way over from the neighbor’s.

I may have yelped, jumped up, and ran inside to the safety of my apartment.

He’s a belligerent little fellow.

One of them will just stand there on my railing and look at me through the screen door as I holler at it to “GO AWAY!” and clap my hands to make noise, unphased.

Did you know there is an eHow on how to get rid of squirrels from your deck?  I don’t think it was drafted for apartment dwellers, but I’m going to give some of their tips a try anyway.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a dog or a cat to put out there, and I don’t have a lawn to pile acorns on as a diversion either.  I am going to try the chilli powder and soap though.  I just need to get some non-fruity smelling, stinky soap that he really won’t like.

Anyway, so as you can see, it was difficult for me to work up the courage to fire up the grill.

When I did, that pepper salad and this chicken were the spoils of my labour.

And who do you supposed showed up after I finished BBQ-ing?  Mr Belligerent Squirrel was out there sniffing around the deck by the BBQ.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions for getting rid of squirrels, I would greatly appreciate them!

Grilled Chicken Caprese

(slightly adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine)

4 chicken breasts

4 slices of fresh mozzarella

2 plum tomatoes, sliced (you need 8 slices)

8 basil leaves

4 slices of prosciutto*

3 tbsp olive oil

2 lemons, cut in half

1/4 cup pesto

Cut a deep pocket into each chicken breast.  Place a cheese slice, two tomato slices, and two basil leaves in each pocket.  Wrap one piece of prosciutto around each chicken breast, trying to enclose the filling.

Preheat grill to medium.  Brush the chicken with olive oil.  Cook until cooked through, ideally turning only once.  This is where I had some issues.  It was windy and some of my burners kept going out.  I ended up turning mine a few times, because I wanted to make sure they weren’t burning.  I probably ended up cooking mine for a total of about 30 minutes.  The original recipe said to grill 10 minutes, turning once and then move to a cooler part of the grill for five minutes until no longer pink.  Mine definitely needed more time than that.  Once cooked, transfer to a plate.

Grill the lemons for the last five minutes or so, until they get some color.

Combine the oil and pesto and drizzle over the plated chicken.  Serve with the grilled lemon halves (they get nice and juicy).

* Note:  I think most of the cheese ended up melting into the BBQ.  I’m not sure if this is because I didn’t do a good enough job of wrapping the chicken with the prosciutto to seal it in or not.  Next time I might try two pieces of prosciutto to see if that helps.  I’m also thinking this might be good done in the oven in the winter.

 

 P.S.  A Freckle In Time is now on Facebook!  See the link to the right to “like” it!  I wish I could make a “dislike” button for squirrels.