Goat Cheese, Dried Plum and Rosemary-Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Sautéed Hazelnut Vegetables

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Dried Plum Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Happy May, everyone! May is a beautiful month — flowers blooming, temperatures heating up, my birthday…(#justsayin).

Before the weather gets too warm to use the oven, I have been trying to cram in all the delicious roasted meats and vegetables I can. And delicious they are.

Stuffed chicken is always tasty, but for whatever reason, I find myself making my stand-by of baked chicken with BBQ or teriyaki sauce most of the time. Maybe stuffed chicken, meat, etc. just seems more complicated (even though it’s not), which also makes it look all-the-more impressive when you do break out a recipe like this one.

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I owe the inspiration for this recipe to the California Dried Plum Board, who tasked us Recipe ReDuxers with developing creative ways to use dried plums — formerly known as prunes — in everyday cooking.

Besides May being my birth month, it’s also National Osteoporosis Month, something that we all should care about. I think so many times, we forget about bone health, but it is so crucial to health, especially as we age. Strength training and other weight-bearing activities can have a huge positive impact on bone health, not to mention overall health. Food is also important — and not just dairy! Enter, dried plums.

Emerging research shows that eating dried plums may have positive effects on bone health. Previous studies discovered that eating 100 grams (two servings; about 8- 10 dried plums) of dried plums for one year was associated with increased bone mineral density (BMD) and improved indices of bone turnover in postmenopausal women. Another study indicated that one serving of dried plums may be as effective in preventing bone loss in older, osteopenic postmenopausal women. You can read more about dried plums and bone health here.

BUT, as well all know, if we don’t enjoy the food being recommended, then we probably won’t eat it.

Fortunately, this is not a concern with dried plums, because they are DELICIOUS and super-verstile in the kitchen. I prefer to use mine in a savory way, as seen here.

I’ve also been trying to cut down on and eventually eliminate added sugars from my diet, so I was thrilled to know that dried plums can be pureed and used as a replacement for refined sugar in recipes. Dried plums are naturally sweet but not as cloyingly sweet as straight sugar, which is a major win in my book. No need for uber-sweet desserts here, folks.

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Goat Cheese, Dried Plum and Rosemary-Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Sautéed Hazelnut Vegetables

You can choose to make just the chicken and pair it with another side, but the combination of the vegetables with hazelnuts and this chicken is scrumptious. Feel free to change up the vegetables used if you’d like — sautéed kale and other greens would pair also pair nicely.

Ingredients:

Stuffed Chicken

  • 1.5 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, pounded
  • 3/4 cup California Dried Plums, puréed or finely mashed
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

Vegetable/Hazelnut Sauté

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, preferably cold-pressed
  • 2 cups spinach or other leafy green
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 2 cups carrots, thinly sliced into ribbons (you can also use a peeler to get this effect)
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
  2. Using a fork, mash California Dried Plums, goat cheese and rosemary together. Lay pounded chicken thighs on a baking sheet and evenly distribute goat cheese and dried plum mixture onto half of chicken thigh. Fold the other half of the chicken thigh over the mixture. If this sounds confusing, imagine the filling as a hot dog and the chicken as the bun.
  3. Brush the stuffed chicken with 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. sea salt. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. About 30 minutes in, brush with remaining balsamic vinegar.
  4. Meanwhile, while the chicken is baking, heat olive oil in a large skillet for 1-2 minutes, then add onions and saute for 2-3 minutes. Next, add the carrots and saute about 10 minutes, or until desired doneness. Add in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes, until just wilted. Turn stove off then add balsamic vinegar and sea salt and toss.
  5. Chop cooled toasted hazelnuts. Sprinkle over vegetables.

To see more ways in which Recipe ReDuxers use naturally sweet, convenient and nutrient-dense California Dried Plums, check out the link below.

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Homemade Nutella {Recipe ReDux}

It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for me to want chocolate.

In fact, every day is a chocolate day. Just like I need coffee every morning, I enjoy a square of dark chocolate every night. It goes really well with the red wine that I drink every night, but that’s a different blog post. [insert red wine emoji here]

clean nutella

Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, that doesn’t mean I can’t be smitten with the ladies behind Recipe ReDux. They clearly know the way to my heart with this month’s theme — CHOCOLATE!

Favorite Chocolate Matches
Does your chocolate need a friend? This month’s posting will be after Valentine’s Day, so you may have a bit of extra chocolate around. What’s your favorite chocolate match? Be it traditional peanut butter or something more exotic like cayenne + chocolate. Show us your favorite healthy chocolate combo recipe.

I do love cinnamon + chocolate + cayenne à la Mexican Hot Chocolate and will gobble up pretty much anything with chocolate and peanut butter.

homemade nutella

But once Nutella comes into the picture, ALL BETS ARE OFF.

Nutella is like candy, though. In fact, the first — AKA main — ingredient in brand-name Nutella is sugar, then palm oil.

nutella_ingredients

No thanks.

I’ve been wanting to make my own Nutella using REAL ingredients, and this seemed like a sign from the gods that now was the time.

This Chocolate Hazelnut spread’s number one ingredient is………..

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HAZELNUTS! Then comes chocolate. Who would guess that the first two ingredients in a chocolate-hazelnut spread are hazelnuts and chocolate?

Well, now you can feel a little better about smothering this stuff on everything — or just eating straight, which is my preferred method of ingestion. This “Nutella” contains only 7 ingredients, is a clean recipe, contains only 2 Tbsp. of maple syrup as a sweetener and is super-chocolately thanks to 72% dark chocolate.

Homemade Nutella {paleo, gluten-free}

You’ll think that the hazelnut “powder” will never turn into a smooth, dreamy hazelnut butter, but have patience young grasshopper and stand and watch as it slowly becomes smoother and creamier.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 3.5 oz. dark chocolate (70% or higher is best)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (the one in the carton, not the can)
  • 1/4 cup dutch cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup (or more if you want it a little sweeter)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Toast hazelnuts for 10-15 minutes, until they are fragrant and start to look toasty.
  2. Wet a large cloth and pour toasted hazelnuts on top of the cloth. Fold the cloth over and keep rubbing until most of the hazelnut skins have come off (don’t worry if you feel like there’s still a lot on — I did too and my Nutella still turned out super smooth and creamy)
  3. Add toasted, skinned hazelnuts to food processer and process for about 10 minutes, until “butter” forms.DSCN0709
  4. While hazelnut butter is forming, melt dark chocolate in the microwave.
  5. Add melted dark chocolate and remaining ingredients and process until well-blended.

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Enjoy with bananas, apple slices or straight out of the jar. I’m not a big bread-eater, but if that’s your thing, this would be delicious spread on toasted bread.

paleo nutella

For more chocolatey deliciousness, follow the link below.

Drinks: Ginger Beer Refresher {Recipe ReDux}

Super-refreshing, spicy and sweet all at once, ginger is definitely a favorite of mine. Despite this, I had mostly confined ginger to food applications. No more. After drinking my first Moscow Mule — and admittedly many more since then — I have been telling myself ‘I have to buy some ginger beer.’

So when I found out this month’s Recipe ReDux theme: “Beverages are Hot!”, I instantly knew the time was right to drink the proverbial koolaid. And while I’m all for an alcoholic cocktail, today I went with a non-alcoholic version (it was, after all, only 8 a.m. when I made this).

*In case you didn’t know, ginger beer does not generally contain alcohol. It tastes similar to ginger ale, but is brewed with real ginger and often times citrus fruits as well. To me, it tasted like a slightly spicy, though mostly sweet, ginger soda.

gingerbeer_mandarin_mint_refresher

But what to mix with ginger beer? There were so many delicious flavor combination ideas: mandarin, blueberry, strawberries, berries of any kind, mint, lemon, lime, mango…and the list went on and on.

ginger_beer

Somehow, I made a decision — no small feat for the indecisive type (clearly me): mandarin and fresh mint!

And thus the Ginger Beer Refresher was born!

Recipe: Ginger Beer Refresher

Yield: 1 cocktail

I made this virgin but it would be amazing mixed with vodka or rum. Let’s be honest, I’m going to make this again tonight before I go out. Would also be delicious if you swapped the mandarin for blueberries.

ginger_beer_cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) ginger beer (I used Reed’s, which was on the sweeter side)
  • 1 mandarin orange, such as a halo, segmented
  • 4-5 fresh mint leaves, torn
  • Ice cubes as needed

ingredients

Directions:

Place mandarin segments and mint in a glass and pour in ginger beer. Using a spoon, straw, or muddler, poke at the mint and mandarin to infuse the drink with more flavor.

ingredients2

pouring_gingerbeer

Enjoy!

ginger_beer_refresher

Super-easy, no?

Check out more amazing drink recipes from Recipe ReDux-ers by following the link below!

Pork and Pomegranate: Lucky Foods for the New Year {Recipe ReDux}

Christmas is only 4 days away!! Which means I’ve been holiday shopping like a mad woman and dreaming up what I’ll make this year for the festivities — LOTS of cookies, a roasted butternut squash and kale salad and some tasty cocktails, for starters.

But what to make next week for New Years? This month, Recipe ReDux tasked us with creating a recipe that includes “lucky foods” to get 2014 started right.

I won’t lie, I really wasn’t sure what foods were considered lucky. I asked my grandparents since I figured between the German, Czech and Armenian cultures, there had to be some kind of food that was considered lucky.

Nope — no ideas from the grandparents. I even asked my friends and the rest of my family, and nothing.

So I started searching for “good luck New Year foods” on the Internet (when all else fails, it’s nice to know you can google it) and found that many of my favorite foods — pomegranate, lentils, pork and greens — are considered lucky and enjoyed by various cultures to bring in a good New Year.

I figured, why not create a dish with a few of these ingredients? The more luck, the better! I think 2014 is going to be a good year!

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The Lucky Ingredients:

Pork. Pigs are thought to symbolize progress, either because they only move forward (not backward) or because when searching for food, they push their snouts forward. You say potato, I say patato…point is we all want to make progress in the coming year.

Pomegranate. In Turkey, pomegranates are considered good luck with their red color (often symbolizes life) and their many round seeds. And you guessed it, round foods are thought to bring prosperity (think coins).

The Recipe:

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate-Balsamic Sauce

Ingredients:

For the pork:

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • 2 cloves black garlic*, mashed
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (regular paprika would also work)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (about 1 medium-size pomegranate)
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine mashed black garlic, brown sugar, black pepper, rosemary, smoked paprika and salt. Apply the rub over the entire pork tenderloin. Bake on a greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet for 45-60 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 145 degrees.

While the pork is cooking, heat small pan over medium heat. Add balsamic vinegar and pomegranate seeds and let simmer until the mixture is reduced by half.

Slice pork tenderloin and pour pomegranate-balsamic reduction over the pork. Enjoy for a prosperous — and healthy — 2014!

*Black garlic can be found at Asian grocery stores or a specialty store. I found mine at Trader Joe’s. Black garlic is actually fermented and has a milder, sweeter flavor compared with regular garlic. If you can’t find it, substitute with finely minced regular garlic.

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Want more good luck food inspiration? Check out these other yummy ideas from Recipe ReDux members. And have a very merry Christmas and happy New Year!