Monday, April 4, 2011

Dinner For The Weary Travellers

This weekend our little family unit spent a couple of days out in Banff, about an hour west of here at The Fairmont Banff Springs. What did you do??

What a great way to get away from it all. The place is so big, we could roam around most of the day and not leave the building. We took O to the pool and realized there was an outdoor pool as well. If you've never been in a outdoor swimming pool in the winter, you have to try it at some point. Fantastic! It's like being in a hot tub without the jets, just not quite as warm. I will talk about the big trip next time, but here's a shot of that pool first. Nothing like swimming in a warm body of water next to the mountains.

Our neighbors, who have spent the last little while in Yuma, Arizona, came home yesterday afternoon after making their way through Montana and some inclement weather on the last leg of their journey. It's spring in the northern hemisphere but you'd never know it here in Calgary. It's still snowing, lots, and it's hasn't been very warm yet. In Prague (Czech Republic) they're enjoying 25 C (77 F) weather while we're still digging our way out of the blast of snow we had this weekend. It's just not fair I tell you!

After they pulled up in front of their house with the travel trailer in tow, we thought it may be a good idea if we had them over for dinner as they didn't have any food in the house. They were all too happy to get the invite so dinner was on. Chuck is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and Reina will eat almost anything. We don't eat that way very often, but I had an idea. I looked in the fridge and we had a few potatoes and a sweet potato. We also had a couple of zucchinis, carrots and a purple onion. I went and bought a few chicken breasts and the menu was set.


Chicken alla Mark

- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 4 slices fresh mozzarella
- 4 Tbsp (59 ml) salsa
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Smashed Potatoes With Roasted Garlic

- 4 yellow fleshed potatoes (organic), cleaned and diced. Leave as much of the skin on as you can as this is where most of the nutrients are in regular potatoes.
- 1 sweet potato (organic). Again, leave as much of the skin on as you can.
- 1 head of roasted garlic and the cloves picked out when cooled
- 2 green onions, finely sliced
- EVOO, the good stuff
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Pan Fried Vegetables

- 1 1/2 cups zucchini, halved and sliced at an angle, This will expose more of the inner part of the vegetable, making it cook faster.
- 1 cups carrots, peeled and sliced at an angle
- 1/2 cup red onion, sliced into chunks
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, pulled off of the stem
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


1) Prepare zucchini, carrots and onion. Set aside.

2) Prepare potatoes and place in a steamer. Set heat to high until it begins to boil. When this happens, set to medium-high and steam until fork tender.
3) Pre-heat oven to 350 F (177C). Prepare chicken breasts for cooking. I cut out the tendons from the tenderloin and any blood spots or bone from where the joint used to be.

Salt and pepper each one.
4) Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and add EVOO. When hot enough, place the chicken in the pan seasoned side down and season the other side. Cook for 2 minutes and flip them over. Pour 1 Tbsp salsa on each breast and place the pan in the oven.

5) Heat another frying pan over medium heat. Pour a little EVOO into the pan and when hot add cumin and swirl around in the oil. Frying it in the oil will add a little extra flavor. Add carrots and a little pepper. Stir.
6) After 20 minutes in the oven, the chicken should almost be done. Pull the pan out of the oven and place mozzarella on top of the salsa. Put pan back in oven and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
7) When the carrots start to brown, add the onions and herbs and stir again. When onions start to become translucent, add zucchinis. Add a little more pepper and sprinkle a little salt over top to get the juices coming out of the vegetables. This will help them not to burn.

8) When potatoes are done, put them in a bowl with a little of your good EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Smush the roasted garlic up with a fork and add it as well.

Press the spuds with a potato masher. You want leave some chunks of potatoes in there. Remember, they're smashed, not mashed. Add the green onions and mix with a spatula. Serve.
9) The chicken should be done now, so take the pan out of the oven and place each breast on a plate.
10) The vegetables should be done now too, so find the sprigs of thyme and pull them out. Place the vegetables in a bowl. Serve.
Yield: Serves 4

I wrote the directions in real time in regards to this whole meal, so I hope I didn't confuse anyone.

Someone before me has to have made a chicken dish like this before but I don't know if there's a name for it or not, so it's pretty much Chicken alla Mark right now. If anyone knows what the name of this dish is, feel free to let me know.

This is a filling meal, but there are also a few health benefits coming out of it. First, the sweet potato is loaded with beta-carotene and vitamin's A and C. Adding a little fat, such as EVOO, helps your body absorb more of the beta-carotene as well. Plus, steaming it doesn't make you GI (Glycemic Index) shoot up like it would when you bake it. The zucchini's are full of vitamin's C and A and other important minerals, and the carrots are also full of the same, as well as vitamin K, among other healthy attributes. Chicken is full of tryptophan, vitamin B3, protein and is also a good source of selenium. The salsa it was topped with (homemade by my wonderful mother-in-law, by the way) helps this meal along by being made mainly with tomatoes. We all know how good the are for you, especially home grown ones.

Little O's Menu

This weekend, she made a statement by eating far more than she normally does. At one sitting, she ate 2 individual cups of yogurt with fruit (blackberry and raspberry). She continued to do this and even eat more after that. Stunning as she usually eats one and calls it quits. We went for breakfast on Saturday in Banff, and she ate a couple of artichokes from my frittata, and a couple of mouth fulls of Mrs. Urban Eater's French Toast. We are very lucky and thankful she eats what we do. This makes eating, especially when we're out, a lot easier.

Quote Of The Day

"After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations."

~ Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, novelist, dramtist and critic

Until next time, good eating everyone.


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