About Maggie Canon
Maggie Canon is a nationally recognized magazine, website and book editor. She founded InfoWorld magazine and was the editor in chief of several other leading technology publications. She has since focused her career on consumer content including developing and launching the leading lifestyle website Glam.com and producing the best-selling book series America 24/7.
In addition, she was the co-host of HGTV¹s 21st Century Home television series. She is an avid traveler, cook and entertainer. Check out her blog, Chez Maggie and Jeff where she has posted some of her favorite recipes.
Latest Posts by Maggie Canon
With the holidays right around the corner Jeff and I have been working on taking off a few pounds in advance of facing all the wonderful food that is so hard to resist this time of the year. Mostly we’ve been grilling and eating simply during the week and then making one really nice meal each weekend, but that gets boring pretty quickly so I brought out my trusty Weight Watchers cookbooks to liven up our weekday meals. A while back I joined WW and lost 30 pounds. The program really works, but it does require vigilance, which as much as we like to cook sometimes slips away in the sauce. So back on track for this home chef.
One of my all time favorite recipes from WW is this goat-cheese stuffed baked chicken from WW’s Simply Delicious cookbook. The crispy, Panko-crusted chicken filled with a gooey concoction of goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions, and basil tastes divinely decadent but is only 284 calories per serving (6 points in WW lingo). You will not think you’re dieting when you bite into this chicken.
Goat-Cheese and Herb Stuffed Chicken Breasts
2 ounces goat cheese
2 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry and diced
2 scallions, minced
1 tbls. basil, chopped
1 tbls. kalamata olives, diced
2 tsp. thyme, diced
¼ cup Panko crumbs
2 (½ lb.) whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 tsp. reduced calorie mayonnaise
1 ½ lb. pounds of baby spinach, rinsed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a pan with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick spray. Combine the cheese, tomatoes, scallions, basil, olives and thyme in a bowl, mashing with a fork until blended. Place the Panko crumbs in another dish.
Lay the two whole chicken breasts flat on a cutting board covered with a plastic wrap ( do not separate the breasts, leave them whole). Cover the breasts with another sheet of plastic and pound them until they are about ¼ inch thic). Spread the cheese mixture on one half of each of the whole breasts. Fold the other side of each chicken breast on top of the cheese mixture until it is covered (you’ll secure it in a minute with toothpicks).
Spread 2 tsp. of the mayo over each breast and then sprinkle with the Panko crumbs. To secure the cheese mixture inside each chicken breast weave three tooth picks through the edge of each breast to close them up. Spray the tops of the chicken lightly with nonstick spray and bake until the chicken is cooked through and crust is golden, about 40-45 minutes.
When the chicken is almost done, place the spinach in a large steamer basked set in a saucepan over 1 inch of boiling water. Cover tightly and steam until spinach just wilts, about 2 minutes. Slice the chicken on the diagonal while the spinach is cooking. Put some spinach on a plate and top it with two slices of the chicken (each chicken should produce 4 slices).
Meatless Mondays seems to be a theme this week. I read an article today from the Washington Post with recipes that look awesome! I’m definitely trying the stuffed Portobello mushrooms for sure! It doesn’t matter what day it is, just eat lightly!
Have you heard of Meatless Mondays? I became aware of the concept a couple of years ago after reading Michael Pollan’s brilliant book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’d also read articles about the negative effect of eating too much meat on our bodies, industrially raised animals, and event the planet. Who knew? Cow farts produce methane gas, a significant contributor to global warming according to some scientists.
It turns out eating less meat goes way back: During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. “Food Will Win the War,” the government proclaimed, and “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” were introduced to encourage Americans to do their part.
The effect was overwhelming. Some 10 million families, 7,000 hotels and nearly 425,000 food dealers pledged to observe national meatless days. In November 1917, New York City hotels saved some 116 tons of meat over the course of just one week. According to a 1929 Saturday Evening Post article, “Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating. Lots of people discovered for the first time that they could eat less and feel no worse – frequently for the better.”
Now, we are no vegetarians, far from it, but I decided we should do our part to reduce global warming, and hopefully improve our health, by eating at least one vegetarian meal a week. Our go-to meatless menu is eggplant Parmesan; it’s delicious and filling and you can get several meals out of this recipe.
I’ve adapted the traditional recipe two ways: tidy little stacks that make for great lunch leftovers; and also a “skinny” version, which is included at the bottom of this post. I like to serve this with pesto pasta. Of course, I like to everything with pesto!
Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
Ingredients for Eggplant Stacks
2 large eggplants, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 cup dry, fine seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup flour
¼ olive oil (and more if necessary for sautéing eggplants)
8 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ Parmesan cheese, coarsely shredded
2 cups tomato sauce
Ingredients for Tomato Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
1 Spanish onion, ¼ -inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbls. fresh thyme leaves, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
1 tbls. fresh oregano leaves, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled diced tomatoes
½ can tomato paste
½ cup red wine
1 ½ tsp. sugar
1 tbls. Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation for Tomato Sauce
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Deglaze the pan with the red wine.
Add the tomatoes with their juice, the sugar and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes until thick. Add the Balsamic vinegar and cook an additional 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Preparation for Cooking Eggplant and Assembling Stacks
Place sliced eggplant in a colander and salt both sides. Let set ½ hour and then dry them on paper towels to remove the excess moisture.
Place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate dishes. Dredge eggplant slices first in flour, then dip them in the eggs and coat them with breadcrumbs. Repeat process until they are all coated.
Heat 1/8 cup oil on medium high heat in a large non-stick frying pan. Sauté eggplant slices one minute on each side and set on paper towels to drain. Add remaining 1/8 cup oil as needed.
In a large glass-baking pan (coated with non-stick spray), place one layer of eggplant slices to cover entire bottom of the pan. Spread a dollop of tomato sauce on each eggplant slice and sprinkle with cheese. Place the rest of the eggplant slices directly on top of the eggplant slices in the pan to create a stack. Repeat steps of covering each stack with tomato sauce and a generous topping of the Mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for ½ hour.
Tips and Tidbits
The eggplant stacks hold up to a week in the refrigerator; they make great leftovers for lunch (or dinner for that matter). You can substitute homemade tomato sauce with store-bought sauce, but it’s not a good idea. To pick a perfectly ripe eggplant, make sure the stem and green leaves are bright green.
To make a lower-fat version of these eggplant stacks, use this recipe for baked eggplants (use the tomato sauce from the recipe on this post) and fat-free cheese. The only fat-free cheese we like is made by Lifetime. As a general rule, non-fat cheese is awful, but this brand works if you’re using it in a baked dish. It doesn’t melt as nicely as real cheese, but if you’re watching your calories, it is a suitable substitute.
When Jeff and I entertain a large group (which I define as anything more than dinner for 6), I plan a menu where most of the cooking is done ahead so we can enjoy our company. We still want the food to be delicious and memorable, we just don’t want to spend time in the kitchen doing last minute things like chopping, sautéing or flambéing (not that we flambé much!). Trust me, you don’t want to be in the kitchen with Jeff when he’s under the gun to get food on the table. You know Gordon Ramsey? Well, take out the swear words and you get the picture.
We recently hosted or first murder mystery party. I’ve wanted to do one for years and in celebration of a dear friend’s birthday we took the dive into new entertaining territory. I picked a game theme–Wine & Murder Mystery—that all of our guests could relate to and didn’t require difficult costumes because the party was a bit last minute.
As the host and hostess of the game, Jeff was Ralph Rottengrape and I was Tiny Bubbles. The game was a hoot and a half and everyone got into their characters and laughed and joked all night. Fair warning, the hosts shouldn’t imbibe much because the game rules and process are a bit complicated and require someone to keep their wits! If not to solve the mystery, to finish the game!
Since we knew the game would require our mostly undivided attention we settled on a simple menu of Chicken Coq Au Vin served over fresh pappele pasta with an artichoke salad. (The other guests brought appetizers and desert.) Coq au Vin is a classic French dish and one of the easiest, but as always I wanted to find a recipe that elevated the culinary experience a few notches. This recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated, and the secret to its robust flavor is reducing the red wine with herbs before adding it to the cooking process. The reduction sauce enhances and deepens the flavor of the dish.
Not only was the savory stew full bodied and delicious, we made it the day before. The day of the party I prepped the salad and got the water ready for the pasta. By the time we were knee deep into the trying to figure out who killed Lenny, all we had to do was gently reheat the coq au vin and serve our guests.
Coq Au Vin
1 bottle fruity, smooth, medium-bodied Pinot Noir
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
2 tbls. fresh parsley leaves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut in half crosswise
5 tbls. unsalted butter
24 frozen pearl onions, thawed, drained, and patted dry (about 1 cup)
8 ounces brown mushrooms, stems trimmed, halved if small and quartered if large
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tbls. tomato paste
2 tbls. all-purpose flour
Bring all but 1 tablespoon wine (reserve for later use), broth, parsley sprigs, thyme, and bay to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to 3 cups, about 25 minutes. Discard herbs. Meanwhile, cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons fat in small bowl; discard remaining fat.
Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of chicken in single layer and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining chicken and 1 tablespoon bacon fat.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add pearl onions and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and flour; cook, stirring frequently, until well combined, about 1 minute. Add reduced wine mixture, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; add 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Return chicken, any accumulated juices, and reserved bacon to pot; increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken to large bowl; tent with foil to keep warm. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer sauce until thick and glossy and measures 3 cups, about 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and reserved 1 tablespoon wine. Season to taste with salt. Return chicken to pot and top with minced parsley.
Tips and Tidbits
Frozen pearl onions are the best invention EVER! It saves at least 30 minutes of tedious (and frustrating) prep time and are prefect for a stew like coq au vin where everything cooks together for a while. We are normally fresh freaks, but having tried these onions, we are complete converts.
Coarsely chop the zucchini flesh and squeeze dry. Dice the pulp with the onion, tomato and garlic. Heat the butter and oil together in a medium sauté pan and sauté the vegetables until they are lightly browned. Remove the vegetables to a bowl. Add the ground beef and crumbled sausage to the pan and sauté until thoroughly cooked. Drain any excess fat. Return the vegetables to the pan and add the sun-dried tomatoes, diluted tomato paste, parsley and ¼ cup of the Romano cheese until well combined.