Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lemon-Honey Chicken Breasts

Several years ago, I had a recipe for chicken breasts in a white wine sauce with lemon and tarragon. It was a fantastic recipe and I made it fairly often. Then, somehow, I lost the recipe. When I was casting about for a main course that included honey for our Valentine’s Day dinner, I came across a recipe for lemon-honey chicken breasts on the website of the National Honey Board. It was vaguely reminiscent of my long-lost chicken tarragon recipe, and I decided to try to make it more so.

I substituted dried tarragon for the rosemary. Instead of broiling, which is messy, I decided to try baking the chicken, since it’s in a baking dish already. I knew from experience that chicken breasts require about an hour in the oven. After marinating and before putting the chicken in the oven, I poured off the marinade into a small saucepan and heated it through before pouring it onto the baked chicken.

After an hour at 350, the chicken was done, but not brown. I probably should have browned it on top of the stove first. The marinade didn’t cook down very much in the few minutes I heated it, so was still thin. I personally prefer thicker sauces. The addition of some flour or cornstarch would have helped. Next time, I think I’ll try browning the chicken, then adding the sauce and simmering it all on top of the stove for awhile. Whether there’s any advantage to marinating the chicken with this approach, I’m not sure.

Do hang onto the marinade, however you prepare this, because it tastes fantastic. This is a simple recipe that gives great results.

Yum! This one's a keeper!

Lemon-Honey Chicken Breasts
(source: National Honey Board,

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 (3-1/2 to 4 oz. each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients (except chicken) and mix well. Marinate chicken in honey-lemon mixture 1 hour in shallow baking dish. Broil chicken 5 minutes, brush with pan drippings, turn and broil 5 minutes longer or until juices run clear. If desired, bring marinade to a boil; simmer 2 minutes. Strain hot marinade over chicken. Makes 4 servings.

Note: the Honey Board states that honey should not be fed to infants under one year of age.

Recycle: honey jar, oil bottle

Compost: rosemary stems

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Carrots with Ginger and Honey

Continuing with our honey theme, here’s a recipe for glazed carrots with a little kick from ginger. I have in the past made cooked carrots with sugar, following Julia Child’s French-style recipe, so this sounded good to me. I did, however, (as usual!) make a few changes from the way this is written. For starters, I used a pound of regular-sized carrots cut into slices. Also, instead of the fresh ginger, I used ¼ tsp ground ginger. This amount was about right, or maybe a little more. The amounts of butter and honey were as written, which made a little too much glaze.

I’m not sure where Martha is getting her carrots – she probably grows her own - but I don’t think I’ve ever run across a carrot that becomes tender after only 3-4 minutes of cooking. I simmered the carrot slices for about 20 minutes, and they were still a bit crunchy at that point. Kind of al dente, which I thought was just about right. Also, I skipped the sauteing-ginger step, since I was using powdered ginger and since I don’t like dirtying any more pans than necessary. After the carrots were cooked, I drained them, dumped them onto a plate, and added the butter and ginger to the saucepan. I let that cook a minute, added the honey, stirred well, and then added back the carrots and stirred until they were coated.

This might be a good recipe to try with people who think they don’t like cooked carrots.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Carrots with Ginger and Honey

6 bunches (about 2 pounds) baby carrots

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 two-inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled and julienned

3 tablespoons honey

Trim stems of carrots to 1/2 inch. Peel carrots, and wash stem area.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Salt water, add carrots, and reduce heat. Simmer until carrots are almost tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove carrots from heat, and drain. (Carrots can be prepared earlier in the day to this point.)

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger, and saute, stirring, until transparent, about 2 minutes. Add carrots and honey, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until carrots are glazed. Serve immediately.

Serves 8 to 10.

Recycle: honey jar

Compost: carrot peelings

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Coconut Easter Egg Nests

It’s the week before Easter. I have these leftover egg whites and am trying to figure out how to use them up. I know! Coconut macaroons! And I’ll take them to work, so I don’t end up eating them all myself……

I take the precaution of polling my coworkers to make sure they like coconut macaroons. One coworker reveals that coconut doesn’t always agree with him. Studying the recipe, I realize that if you leave out the coconut, what you have is basically meringue. And meringue should be stiff enough to put through a cake decorating tip. Those fancy-schmancy chefs do that sort of thing all the time.

Then, from somewhere in the distant past, comes a memory of coconut nests tinted green and with jellybean eggs. We must have made them sometime during my childhood. So I add “jellybeans” to my shopping list. But then I discover that, it being nearly Easter, the M&Ms people are selling M&Ms that look like speckled eggs. Even better!

Note that this recipe calls for you to beat “till stiff”. I thought at first that it said “till stiff peaks”. After several minutes of beating, it still was not forming what I would call stiff peaks. It was stiffer than it had been, though. Finally I gave up and moved to the next step, which was to put some into a decorating bag with a star tip, and pipe circles that were higher at the edges. The meringue was a good consistency for this, and these cookies turned out just fine. So, if you don’t get stiff peaks, don’t worry.

I wasn’t sure whether to add the eggs to the nests before baking, or after. So I tried both. If you add them before baking, they tend to crack, and the shell color bleeds a little. If you add them right after baking, you avoid these problems, but then you have to break the crust of the cookie to get the eggs on. I decided that the latter alternative was preferable.

I put a bunch of these in a cookie tin and took them to work, where they were well-received. A problem developed after a couple of days, though. The nests started to get really crumbly. I suspect that the tin was holding in too much moisture. A coworker pointed out that this is a good way to determine whether your kids have been sneaking cookies: the crumbs will give them away….

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Coconut Easter Egg Nests
(source: the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, with modifications)

Note: the cookies at the bottom and lower right in the picture are coconut-free. Thanks to my friend and coworker, known in the blogosphere as "Biobabe", for loaning me her digital camera.

2 egg whites
Dash salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Food coloring, if desired
1 1/3 cups ( one 3 ½ oz. can) flaked coconut
Candy eggs

Beat egg whites with dash salt and the vanilla till soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating till stiff. Beat in food coloring, if desired. Fold in coconut.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325° about 20 minutes. Just after removing from the oven, add candy eggs. Makes about 1 ½ dozen.

Coconut-free variation: Omit the coconut. Drop batter onto cookie sheet with a spoon, or use a cake decorating bag and tip to make circles.

Recycle: vanilla bottle, coconut can

Compost: eggshells

Butternut Squash Soup

This dish was the soup course at our Valentine's Day Dinner. You may recall that all the recipes at this dinner had honey in them. This recipe has a lot going for it. It’s a good basic winter soup that includes a nice assortment of veggies. It would probably also be good with pumpkin instead of squash.

There’s just one problem, though, that became apparent when I got to the supermarket. The recipe calls for “1 butternut squash”. Okay….how big? The supermarket had quite a range of sizes. I went with a medium-large one – about a foot long or so. Considering the levels of the other ingredients, maybe I should have used a smaller one. But, the resulting soup had a nice thick texture.

The flavor was fine, too, except that it was almost too sweet. I tend to hold back on the salt and pepper, and in this case should probably have added the full amount called for. That I used homemade chicken broth that is low in salt, and left out the celery, which is naturally relatively salty, might have made a difference too. Or I could have cut back on the honey.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Butternut Squash Soup
(source: National Honey Board,

2 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 butternut squash, peeled,seeded and diced
3 cans (14.5 oz. each) chicken broth
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste

In large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in onions and garlic. Cook and stir until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in carrots, celery, potatoes, squash, chicken broth, honey and thyme. Bring mixture to boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Transfer mixture to blender or food processor; process until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat until hot and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Recycle: broth cans, honey jar

Compost: veggie peelings