Pesto Pronto by Brandy Fernow

As a chef instructor, people always ask me “do you cook like this at home every night?” And my answer is a swift “nope!” Yes, I am a chef, but I am also a busy mom of two active 1st and 2nd grade boys. That means I’m running all week from school, to sports, to cub scouts, volunteering, doing homework, playdates, cleaning, cooking, and of course teaching classes at Marcels!

So no, I don’t cook every night and it’s certainly not a gourmet meal every night either. We do eat at home every night and I have learned to cook smart. Cook one night, then turn that into 2 more meals that I can make in 15 minutes or less.

One of my favorite go-to’s for this technique is a simple pesto sauce. What probably comes to mind is the traditional basil, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. I certainly make this version to toss over pasta or accompany chicken, but I also use the same fundamentals to make a dozen other “pestos” which to me is generally an herb, nut, cheese and oil – whipped together in seconds with the help of my food processor.

Now – to make this a million other ways, you just swap the herb, nut and cheese combos. For example, Mexican night – use cilantro, pepitas, queso or cotija cheese, and a dash of red pepper flake. Or sweeten it up a bit by swapping arugula for basil, pecans for pine nuts, adding 2 tablespoons of honey and ½ cup ricotta. Or try parsley, almonds, and asiago.

This way you can pour over ANYTHING! Pesto variations are great poured over steak pork, chicken or fish, tossed with pasta, quinoa or favorite grain, drizzled over roasted veggies, you name it.

Bonus – you can freeze in portions and re-use. Why haul out that food processor more than once? Make big batches of a few kinds and freeze in portions. Pull out and enjoy on that frenzied night you’re trying to get something fresh, but fast on the table.
I’m featuring this favorite pesto technique in a private event this month at Marcels for a group of moms looking to cook once, eat twice. We are serving the pesto over flank steak, then recycling it to a pasta for the next meal. If you have a group that is looking to learn something specific or want to have a good time with your friends, let Marcels know and they can customize your own private event!

Fresh Basil Pesto
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  2. ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  3. Zest and juice of a lemon
  4. Handful of fresh parmesan
Instructions
  1. Add all to a food processor and add olive oil until you have you preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoon Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning mix
  3. 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  4. 1 medium onion
  5. 1 zucchini
  6. 1 red pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together oil and seasoning mix. Add chicken cut into chunks. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Heat grill to medium high heat.
  3. Cut vegetables into chunks and toss with some more olive oil and TOSA mix to coat.
  4. Thread chicken and vegetables on skewers. Grill until chicken is cooked and vegetables are crisp tender.
  5. Serve with saffron rice.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Chicken with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

Chicken with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters - Spicy Thai Peanut Butter
  2. 1 ½ tablespoon soy sauce
  3. ½ tablespoon brown sugar
  4. 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  5. 1 ½ cups warm water
  6. Optional: ½ to 1 tablespoon of sambal oelek for additional spiciness
  7. 4 oz. rice noodles (fettucini style)
  8. 1 small bunch broccoli, cut into small florets, stalks sliced ¼ inch thick
  9. 1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  10. ½ red pepper, small dice
  11. ½ pound chicken, cooked and diced or shredded (1 ½ cups)
  12. 1/4 cup peanuts, broken into large pieces
  13. 1 green onion, white and green parts, sliced thin
Instructions
  1. Mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, hoisin, water (and sambal oelek, if using) together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Soak the rice noodles in hot tap water for about 30 minutes.
  3. Steam the broccoli, carrots, and red pepper until the broccoli is bright green and barely tender. Drain the water from the pan. Add sauce, chicken, and noodles to pan. Heat gently until noodles meld with the sauce, and the sauce has thickened a bit.
  4. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with peanuts and green onions.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Key West Chicken Wraps

Key West Chicken Wraps
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  2. 1/3 cup honey
  3. 1/4 cup soy sauce
  4. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1/4 cup sliced scallions
  7. 1 ripe mango, diced
  8. 1 avocado, diced
  9. 1 small jalapeño, minced
  10. 1/2 jicama, peeled and diced
  11. 1 head Boston leaf lettuce, separate and clean and dry leaves (or 4 soft whole grain tortillas)
  12. 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Dressing
  1. 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  2. 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  3. 1 teaspoon honey
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon white ground pepper
  5. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over chicken. Cover dish with foil and marinade in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours. Turn chicken once midway through marinating time.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken, covered, in oven for 20 minutes. Remove chicken from oven, uncover and turn chicken pieces over, and bake for another 15 minutes, until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Dice chicken into bite size pieces.
  3. For the dressing: combine lime juice, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine avocado, mango, jicama, and jalapeño. Add dressing to taste. Fold in chicken. Season, as needed, with more dressing.
  5. When ready to serve, arrange lettuce leaves or whole grain tortillas on a platter. Divide Key West Chicken Salad amongst leaves or tortillas. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
  6. Serves 4
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Spiced Chicken and Grape Skewers

Spiced Chicken and Grape Skewers
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  8. 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  9. 8 (10-inch) skewers
  10. 1 1/2 cups seedless green grapes
  11. Cooking spray
  12. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  13. 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt. Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat. Marinate the chicken for 20 minutes. While the chicken is marinating, soak the skewers in water, if wooden.
  2. Thread 4 pieces of the chicken and 4 grapes onto the skewers, alternating them. Spray a grill pan with cooking spray and preheat over a medium-high heat, or prepare an outdoor grill. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with mint and serve with lemon wedges.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoons Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning mix*
  3. 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  4. 1 medium onion
  5. 1 zucchini
  6. 1 red pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together oil and seasoning mix. Add chicken cut into chunks. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Heat grill to medium high heat.
  3. Cut vegetables into chunks and toss with some more olive oil and TOSA mix to coat. Thread chicken and vegetables on skewers. Grill until chicken is cooked and vegetables are crisp tender.
  4. Serve with saffron rice.
  5. *Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning blend available at Marcels
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/
 

The Deep Blue Sea by Cherise Slattery

I woke up at 4 am. My bed was rocking back and forth. Images of the movie The Perfect Storm came to mind. I was sure my life was over! Too scared to open the balcony doors, and too dark to see anything anyway, I imagined the 30 foot swells that were going to tip us over as I fitfully fell back to sleep. I awoke the next morning to sun peeking through the blinds, and ventured a look outside. With the boat still rocking, imagine my surprise to see tiny, 3 foot waves of the most beautiful blue you could imagine. Yes, I survived my first Caribbean cruise.

When I mentioned I was taking my first cruise, everyone said “You won’t even feel the boat moving, and the food is fantastic.” Well, they were half right!

The food on our ship was abundant. I wandered through the offerings before choosing my meal every day.   There was fresh fruit, grilled vegetables, carving meats, salads, cheeses, breads, pastries, plus prepared foods. You have a taste for Italian food, check. You want Mexican, check. Asian, Caribbean, German, American, check, check, check and check.  In addition to that, you could go to one of the restaurants on board, sit down, and order off a menu that changed every night. Besides being perfectly prepared, the food was displayed beautifully, with fruit and vegetable carvings at every turn. Even with all these choices, I found myself being drawn to Souvlaki almost every day for lunch. I currently have an obsession for Tzatziki sauce!   Please enjoy my version of Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki
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Chicken Souvlaki
  1. 1 ½ pounds chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  2. 1/4 cup olive oil
  3. Juice from 1 fresh lemon
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. salt and pepper
Tzatziki
  1. 1 small cucumber, peeled and grated
  2. 1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  3. 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
To serve
  1. pita
  2. tomatoes, thinly sliced
  3. red onions, thinly sliced
Chicken Souvlaki
  1. Combine all ingredients, marinate in refrigerator for two hours, occasionally stirring.
  2. Thread chicken onto skewers, discard marinade. Grill chicken over medium heat until cooked through and slightly charred.
Tzatziki
  1. Grate the cucumber and drain through a fine mesh sieve. Combine all of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve
  1. Wrap chicken and sauce in a pita with thinly sliced tomatoes and red onions.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Pasta Shells with Artichoke Cream and Smoked Chicken

Pasta Shells with Artichoke Cream and Smoked Chicken
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Ingredients
  1. One 8-ounce jar oil-packed artichokes, drained*
  2. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  3. 2 cups heavy cream
  4. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  5. 1/2 pound medium pasta shells
  6. 3/4 pound skinless smoked chicken breast**, cut into strips
  7. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  8. 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, season the artichokes with salt and pepper and simmer them in the cream over moderately low heat until very tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer the artichokes and cream to a blender and purée. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the shells and return them to the pan. Add the artichoke cream, smoked chicken, tomatoes and chives; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowls and serve.
Notes
  1. *Or use frozen artichokes. Do not use the tangy marinated artichokes.
  2. **Make your own smoked chicken breast using Cameron's Stovetop Smoker.
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Chicken Soup with Ricotta Dumplings

Chicken Soup with Ricotta Dumplings
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 3 quarts, plus 1 cup chicken stock
  2. 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  3. 2 stalks celery with leaves, thinly sliced
  4. 1 large yellow onion
  5. ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  6. 2 teaspoons salt
  7. ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Dumplings
  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 3 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 2 eggs
  5. ½ cup part skim ricotta cheese
  6. ¼ cup low-fat milk
  7. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  8. 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. In a large pot combine stock, carrots, celery, onions and parsley, maintaining a minimum depth of 4” of liquid for the dumplings to float. Bring to a boil over medium heat then reduce to a simmer. Salt and pepper to taste.
  2. To make the dumplings, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, milk and herbs; add to flour mixture. Stir just until dough holds together. Using a tablespoon, form dumplings into balls and drop into boiling broth. Cook 15 minutes.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Chicken, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

Chicken, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons butter
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 2 stalks celery, chopped
  4. 3 carrots, chopped
  5. ½ pound fresh mushrooms, chopped
  6. ¼ cup flour
  7. ¾ teaspoon salt
  8. ¼ teaspoon pepper
  9. 3 cups chicken stock
  10. 1 cup cooked wild rice
  11. 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  12. 3-4 cups cooked chicken, diced
Instructions
  1. In a deep saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté for 3 minutes, or until onion is wilted. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes longer. Add the flour, salt and pepper and cook until the mixture bubbles and begins to turn golden. Add the stock; cook and whisk until thick and smooth. Add the wild rice, chicken and parsley and heat through.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/