Smokin’ Basil-Tomato Chicken Skillet

Smoky skies

Hazy days in Reno

Well, it is darn smoky here in Reno, compliments of the massive Rim Fire burning outside Yosemite National Park, nearly two hundred miles away. More than 100,000 acres are ablaze and only five percent of the fire is contained. Each morning we are greeted with smoky, hazy skies and a blood-red sun (which, where I come from, is an ominous apparition). The mountains and foothills are eerie shadows in the distance and sometimes not visible at all.

I lived in Billings, Mont., back in 1988 when the historic Yellowstone fires blanketed the region in smoke and ash. These past few days remind me of that very long summer spent wondering when I’d see blue skies again. The local news predicts we’ll start to see things clear out around Tuesday, but I won’t hold my breath (well, maybe I should!).

So what does all of this have to do with cooking? It means I can’t or shouldn’t be cooking outside, which is part of what summer is all about. Last week I was grilling tri-tip, but this week is all about what to put in my poor neglected skillet.

So here’s a quick (dare I say smokin’), tasty and healthy dish for you to try. I wish you all clear, blue skies to end your summer!

IMG_8338Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes, no salt, drained
1/4 cup fresh Basil or Basil Paste
3 to 4 oz. prewashed Spinach
1/8 tsp. each, Salt and Pepper
2 to 3 Tbsps. grated Parmesan Cheese

Add chicken to hot cast iron skillet.

Add chicken to hot cast iron skillet.

Cook through for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Cook through for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and basil. I used basil paste, my new favorite ingredient.

Add the tomatoes and basil. I used basil paste, my new favorite ingredient.

Combine and heat through.

Combine and heat through.

Turn off the heat and add the spinach. Stir constantly as it wilts.

Turn off the heat and add the spinach. Stir constantly as it wilts.

Serve alone or over your favorite pasta. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. A smokin' fast dish!

Serve alone or over your favorite pasta. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. A smokin’ fast dish!

My Big Fat Greek Meatball Gyro

Wow. Here it is, August already, and I didn’t realize how long it’s been since my last post. Where did July go?

Summer is always super busy for me, as I’m sure it is for everyone. I hope all of you are taking advantage of sunny days and warm weather. I am trying to get outside as much as possible, packing in camping trips, Dutch oven events and dog trials while the good weather lasts. Maybe I should call this post “My Big Fat CRAZY Summer!” Because it has been.

But, since I actually have this one weekend off, I thought I’d share a fun twist on a Greek classic. The traditional gyro is usually served with lamb, but not everyone may be a fan (like my husband). And, as I am always trying to find ways to jazz up staple proteins like ground beef, I found this fun recipe to create a meatball version of the gyro. This meal is quick, tasty and can be pretty lean if you use lean ground beef or ground turkey. You can take it one step further and turn it into a lettuce wrap, instead of using pita bread or Naan. So many options for a light and tasty summer dish.

What really makes the gyro so tasty, for me, is the creamy and slightly tangy tzatziki sauce made from yogurt and fresh cucumber. And it is probably one of the easiest and healthiest sauces to make.

TTzatziki Saucezatziki Sauce Ingredients
1 6 oz. container Greek Yogur
1/2 Cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
1 clove Garlic, crushed
Salt to taste

Remove the seeds from a cucumber and dice.

Remove the seeds from a cucumber and dice.

Add the diced cucumber to a bowl with the Greek yogurt.

Add the diced cucumber to a bowl with the Greek yogurt.

Add the crushed garlic clove.

Add the crushed garlic clove. Season with salt to taste.

Combine thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve with the gyros.

Combine thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve with the gyros.

My Big Fat Greek Meatball GyroGyro Ingredients
1 lb. lean Ground Beef
2 Eggs
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 tsp. dried Marjoram
1 tsp. dried Oregano
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1/2 Cucumber, sliced
8 oz. Grape Tomatoes, halved
Naan flatbread (found in deli section of most grocery stores; Pita bread or lettuce leaves may be substituted)

Place the ground beef in a bowl.

Place the ground beef in a bowl.

Add the two eggs.

Add the two eggs.

Add all of the spices, including salt and pepper.

Add all of the spices, including salt and pepper.

Combine thoroughly.

Combine thoroughly.

Form into large meatballs. This will make about 12-18 meatballs.

Form into large meatballs. This will make about 15-18 meatballs, depending on the size.

Spray a cast iron griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium temperature.

Spray a cast iron griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium temperature.

Cook the meatballs, turning often to cook evenly. Internal temperature should be between 155 - 165, depending on how rare you like your beef.

Cook the meatballs, turning often to cook evenly. Internal temperature should be between 155 – 165, depending on how rare you like your beef.

Starting to get a nice sear.

Starting to get a nice sear.

If you are using Naan, warm in a microwave for 30 seconds to soften. Add the meatballs, tzatziki sauce, cucumbers and tomatoes. Opa!

If you are using Naan, warm in a microwave for 30 seconds to soften. Add the meatballs, tzatziki sauce, cucumbers and tomatoes. Opa!