Monthly Archives: March 2017

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

It’s been raining off and on lately.  We’ve been having beautiful warm sunny days and then the very next day, it’ll be cold and rainy.  Sometimes we get both extremes on the same day.  It’s on days like this that I go out to the garden and pick snails.  I have snails everywhere.  They eat my plants, flowers and fruit.  I put them in a plastic bucket and toss them into the GREEN garbage bin.  I figure there they are able to live by eating all the weeds and grasses that I throw in there and once a week, they get hauled off to the dump’s large compost pile.  I try not to kill insects when I’m outside.  I figure that that is their home.  The only exceptions are black widows.  I hunt them down and smash them with gusto.  They scare me.  As long as insects are outside, they are safe from me but don’t get into my house.  You never know what mood I might be in.  Generally, inside, I’m not too kind.

There is this one snail that I have left alone.  I was just thinking that I haven’t named him.  I’ve been remiss.  Two years ago, I had my house painted.  This snail had his house painted at the same time with my paint!  I hope they didn’t charge me for that.  So, his shell is painted to match my house.  (It’s a new thing in the design world.)

Whenever I see him, I leave him alone and snap a picture to send to my daughter.  This last time, she asked me how long do snails live?  Good question.  I googled it and they only live a year.  So this designer snail might be the son or grandson of the original painted snail.  I’ll still honor this guy and let him live in my garden. My daughter made a remark about how I see the world a little differently than most people.  This is my daughter and I know I felt the same way about my mom.  This got me thinking about this blog and you.  Yes, you.  I feel so appreciative to have you read my musings.  I realize that you don’t have to.  In fact, many of the blogs I follow, I often skip over the story because I’m really just wanting the recipe.  Unless of course, the story catches my interest.

I used to teach high school Spanish and would often start the class with a story of my past, when I was a child or teenager, of my present, something silly that I did or said, or of my family or pets that made me chuckle.  I don’t have a problem laughing at myself and my loved ones.  I’ve figured out that you have taken my students’ place.  They were a captive audience but you aren’t.  I recognize that you could pass right over this.   And so if you have made it this far, thank you.

Today’s recipe is an entree.  I thought it was time to switch a little since all I have been doing is treats and desserts.  It reminds me a little of a snail because it is rolled up into a spiral. Unfortunately, once it’s cooked it just looks like a stuffed chicken breasts.  It’s so yummy.  It looks more complicated than it is but it could  easily be a weeknight dinner.  You could prepare some things in advance like the chicken breasts could be flattened days ahead.  The marinara sauce could be store bought or made in advanced.  I used only one can because I don’t like too much sauce but if you do by all means just add another can.   Let me know if you try it.  Write in the comment section and send me a picture.



4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

1/2 tsp. Salt, divided

Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

4 pieces Bacon

12 oz. Spinach, stemmed

4 oz. Softened Cream Cheese (I used Neufchatel)

1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

2 Egg Whites, slightly beaten

1 1/4 cups Breadcrumbs

1 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Homemade Marinara Sauce (You could always use a jar marinara but why, when it’s so easy to whip one up at home!

2 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1- 2 can (14 oz.) Tomato Sauce, no salt added

3 cloves Garlic

2 tsp. Basil

1 Bay Leaf

Salt and Pepper to taste

Red Chili Pepper Flakes (optional) to taste

On medium heat, place Olive Oil in a saucepan.  Once the Oil is hot, add Garlic.  Lightly brown garlic.  At this time, you can leave the garlic or take it out.

Add the Tomato Sauce, Basil, Bay Leaf, Salt and Pepper.  Bring heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally while cooking the Chicken.

Spray or oil bottom of casserole pan.  Flatten Chicken Breasts by placing in between two plastic warp sheets and pounding until 1/4 inch thick.  Season with 1/2 of Salt and Pepper.

Cook Bacon until crisp.

Remove Bacon and reserve 1 Tbl. of bacon grease.  Set aside 15 – 10 Spinach leaves.  Add remaining Spinach to skillet and stir until slightly wilted.  Remove from heat.  Transfer Spinach to the food processor.  Add Cream Cheese, Parmesan, Bacon, and remaining Salt.  Process until smooth.

Place Spinach Leaves on top of Chicken.  Spread 2 Tbls. of Spinach/Cream Cheese mixture.

Roll up Chicken Breasts, dips in Egg Whites and roll in Breadcrumbs.  Place seam side down in prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from oven. Set oven to broil.  Spoon on Marinara Sauce and sprinkle with Mozzarella.

Return to oven and broil 2 to 3 minutes until Cheese melts.

Serves 4.  Each serving contains: 455 Calories, 25.6 g. Fat, 21 g. Carbs, 36 g. Protein.

Eat well, drink well, and live well.  Until next time.

Blood Orange Chocolate Cake

Last week, I was invited to the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition.  This year we judged the Northern and Southern Hemispheres together.  I don’t think it works well for the Southern Hemisphere since they are about to harvest their olives at the end of this month, April and May.  So, their oils were in fact last year’s and they were competing with the Northern Hemisphere’s fresh oils.  I’m hoping that will change.  I know our chairman of the competition, Darrell Corti, will try his best to remediate the situation.

Judging in the L.A. International is such an honor.  I sat at table number six with two highly experienced and well-renowned judges, Toshi Suzuki, from Japan and Maria Lourdes Toujas, from Argentina.

We tasted about 50 oils a day from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.  We would eat lunch together and then had the afternoon free.  I would go to my room, read, do a Sudoku and sometimes nap.  At 6:00 we would gather again for dinner.  The dinners were exquisite.  Every night there was great food and wine.  I was offered a taste of a 1957 Port, a dry Vermouth that was outrageously good, a Muscat from Australia that is extremely rare, and two New Zealand wines that only grown in that country.  What an experience!

As with all wonderful meals, besides the great food and libations, it was the company of the fellow judges that made these experiences so wonderful.  I was surrounded by judges from all over the world, many who I had met last year and a few new ones this year.  We had five judges from Sacramento, whom I have been on sensory panels before.  The others were from Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.  Conversations covered everything from olives to family and life at home.

Margaret Edwards, from New Zealand, is a producer and has been an international judge for a good number of years.  She is such a lovely person.  We got to talking about recipes and she told me about her Mandarin Chocolate Cake made with olive oil, of course.  She sent me the recipe and I wanted to try it out for this posting.  She writes on the top of the recipe that it is a very easy cake to make.  The ingredients and instructions support that claim.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have some of the ingredients, namely, mandarin infused olive oil and ground almonds.  A substitute for mandarin olive oil is the grated peel of a mandarin and plain olive oil.  So, I thought to do that.  I went to the grocery store with a list of things, I bought two mandarins but forgot the almond meal.  Margaret’s cake is gluten-free.  Do you do that, bring a list to the grocery store and still forget some items?  When I got home and I found that I didn’t have a main ingredient, I looked in the pantry and saw that I had a bit of Blood Orange-Infused Olive Oil.  I had four blood oranges left on the tree.  I decided to find a nice blood orange chocolate cake.   this recipe is a little more complicated than Margaret’s.  The candied oranges were delicious but the syrup was very sweet.  I poured the syrup over the the frosting but I think next time I would just drizzle a bit on each piece.  I got the recipe for the cake from Temecula Olive Oil.  The recipe is not well-written but not difficult to figure out.  The Blood Orange Buttercream, I figured out on my own.


2 cup Unbleached Flour

2 cups Sugar

3/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

2 tsp. Baking Powder

1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Expresso Powder

1 cup Milk

1/2 cup Blood Orange Olive Oil

2 Eggs

1 Blood Orange Zest

2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 cup Boiling Water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

Add Flour, Sugar, Cocoa, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Salt and Espresso Powder in a large mixer bowl and stir with paddle attachment until well combined.

Add Milk, Olive Oil, Eggs, Zest, and Vanilla to flour mixture and mix on medium speed until well combined.


Reduce speed and add Boiling Water to the cake batter.  Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to batter.

Pour batter evenly into the two cake pans.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and completely cool.  Frost.


1/4 cup Softened Unsalted Butter

1 lb. Confectioner’s Sugar

Juice 1 Blood Orange (1/4 cup)

2 Tbsp. Cream

1 tsp. Salt

Zest of 1 Blood Orange (2 Tbsp.)

For Candied Oranges (optional):

2 Peeled and thinly sliced Blood Oranges

1 cup Sugar

3/4 cup Water

While cake cools, place Sugar and Water in a small pot and boil.  Add Oranges and boil on medium to low for 20 minutes.  Take Oranges out and place on a silk-at or parchment paper to cool.

For Frosting, place Butter, Confectioner’s Sugar, Orange Juice, Cream, Salt and Zest in large mixer bowl.


With whisk attachment, whisk until incorporated.  Frost cake and decorate with Candied Oranges.





Baker, not quite

I have been noticing that a lot of my friends and acquaintances have been thinking that I am a baker.  I really consider myself more of a cook than a baker.  I’m baking so much now because I discovered the joy of using olive oil in baked goods.  I’ve always cooked with olive oil but this is very new to me and I’m enjoying the exploration.

I’ve often mentioned that my mom had a wonderful hand with pastries and desserts.  Mom never slept more than three hours every night.  This would allow her to bake in the mornings while everyone else slept.  It didn’t make her happy.  She always wished she could sleep longer and this was often our morning topic of conversation.  If she wasn’t shopping in the afternoons, she would also bake then, while I was in school.  So the delicious pastries and breads showed up out of no where.  I never saw her make any.  She was also a great cook but that’s another post.

I grew up having cleaning chores but never had much to do in the kitchen besides the dishes.  I do remember going through mom’s cookbooks and ogling the pictures.  There were a few times where I did create a dish or two.  I remember making tuna sandwiches. Tuna sandwiches are a sensitive topic with me.  When I was in school, I often had them for lunch.  Mom would make my sandwiches but in Argentina, they don’t make tuna salad.  So my sandwiches consisted of bread smeared with a little mayonnaise and chunks of tuna in the middle.  I was teased every time I ate one.  The kids would say that I was eating cat food and laughed at me.  When I was 8 or 9, I had tried tuna sandwiches at friends’ houses and wanted to duplicate them but I didn’t know how.  I made lunch for my parents one day.  Tuna Salad Sandwiches were on the menu.  I tried to duplicate the crunchy and sweetness of “American” tuna sandwiches with what I could find in the pantry.  Resourcefully, the sandwich filling became tuna mixed with mayo, chopped walnuts and raisins.  It wasn’t bad.  My parents smiled as they ate them.  I ate those at home for years. That was the first recipe that I ever created.

I caught some flu bug a few weeks ago and found myself sitting on the couch watching daytime TV.  I seldom have the TV on during the day but I was not feeling well enough to even read.  You can imagine what I watched, that’s right, mostly cooking shows.  I cannot believe the garbage that they are promoting on these shows.  I wasn’t watching the food channels, not shows like the Barefoot Contessa or anything.  I was watching, well, I ‘m not going to name them, but the popular shows on the regular stations.  I was appalled at the disregard for the nutritional content in the recipes.   These weren’t desserts or treats.  They were showing main dishes. Ooey, gooey cheese, butter, tremendous amounts of carbs were everywhere.  I’m all for fats.  I love my cheese.  But these recipes had little to no value to them.  I’m sure they tasted great but …

Today, I’ve posted a coffeecake.  It’s not low in calories but I think it has many wholesome ingredients that makes having this treat on a weekend morning worth it.  The chocolate chips sink to the bottom giving almost a crust on the bottom.  I would make this for my son to entice him to get out of bed and ready for school.  It helps getting dressed quickly when the house smells yummy.  I hope you will agree.


2 Eggs

1 3/4 Unbleached Flour

1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp. Baking Powder

1 3/4 cup Plain Yogurt

1 cup Sugar

3 Tbls. Olive Oil



1/2 cup of chopped Almonds


1/3 cup Brown Sugar

1 tsp. Cinnamon




Grease a 13 x 9 pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir Yogurt and Baking Soda in a bowl.

In another bowl beat Eggs and Sugar until light yellow and fluffy.

Sift Flour and Baking Powder into Egg mixture and blend.

Fold in Yogurt and Chocolate Chips and smooth.  Pour into pan.

Mix Almonds, Brown Sugar and Cinnamon.

Sprinkle over coffeecake.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until an inserted toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Until next time, eat well, drink well and live well.