Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Charcoal Grill Dinner with Salad

I graduated college this last weekend in Phoenix, Arizona. The whole experience was amazing and a relief, finalizing 3 1/2 years of working, writing papers, taking finals, taking care of the home, and basically being stressed out 24/7. Any personal time usually meant guilt. Now, I get to find out what life feels like without daily deadlines. I'm not there yet...it may take a few months of reckless abandon with some casual cooking/baking thrown in here and there. I have to have something to nibble on during my reckless abandon...
One of the best parts of my last weekend was experiencing the whole event with my Mom and Dad. I haven't seen them in so long and I feel teary eyed just thinking about the little time we did have together. I promised to go back in a couple of months, planning to spend a whole week... I can't wait!
Dad was the one that convinced me to start college back up. Now he is here to watch me walk down the aisle in my gown. The emotions were running high inside.
Mom was great! She had her foot operated on earlier and was still sore. Poor Mom had to climb up and down stairs to find seats and take pictures with me. I couldn't imagine being here without them.
Graduation is over and everyone was able to relax. Believe it or not, we had just experienced a monsoon earlier that day. Wind, sand, and debree everywhere! The police shut freeways down during the storms and I could see why. You can't see a thing when the sand starts getting caught up in 60 m.p.h. winds. My daughter, Ashley, is sitting next to me and looks so grown up. Great, I 'm getting teary eyed again.
Mom took me to a tea store and bought me the current issue of Tea Time, the Tea Time cookbook, and I found myself a gift...this beautiful porcelain teacup.
My first dinner back is mostly made on the charcoal grill. The chicken breasts take about 45 minutes total and the salad was assembled while grilling the chicken. The basil pesto is not over powering under the chicken skin and if you make the recipe, do not forget to salt and pepper the outside of the chicken breast really well. The seasoning gives the skin a great crust.
The dressing for the salad uses low fat, plain yogurt, Hellman's mayonnaise, blue cheese crumbled, red wine vinegar, and a little freshly minced garlic. Not fattening but packed with flavor!
I still have so much unpacking to do so this post will be a little shorter then my usual.
Grilled Pesto-Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Individual Ham Cobb Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
Pesto -Parmesan Crusted Chicken
(adapted from Pillsbury's new Grilling cooking magazine)
1 T. olive oil
1 t. finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup basil pesto
3 T. grated Parmesan cheese
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 8 1/2 ounces each)
1/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
Heat gas or charcoal grill. In 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook garlic in oil about 30 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add bread crumbs. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until toasted. Remove crumb mixture to small bowl. Stir pesto and Parmesan cheese into bowl with crumbs.
Loosen skin on chicken to form a pocket, without detaching skin completely. Fill each pocket with pesto mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place chicken on grill, skin side down, over medium-low heat. Cover grill; cook 10 minutes, moving occasionally as needed to avoid burning the skin. Turn chicken; spoon any remaining pesto over chicken. Cook 10 to 15 minutes longer or until juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut to the bone (170 degrees F.)

Ham Cobb Salads with Blue Cheese Dressing
(adapted from Pillsbury Grilling Magazine)

1/3 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
3 T. plain low-fat yogurt
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (buy a chunk of blue cheese and crumble it yourself...much cheaper)

8 cups mixed baby salad greens
2 packages (5 oz. each) honey ham slices, chopped
4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup bacon bits (I grilled 3 slices of bacon on the grill with the chicken and cut into pieces)

In small bowl, beat mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar and garlic with wire whisk. Stir in blue cheese. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Just before serving, arrange greens on 4 salad plates. Top with remaining salad ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad.

If you choose, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

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