Mediterranean Chicken on an Iowa Farm Table

Chicken served on an Iowa farm table is pretty common: fried, grilled, casserole, soup, salad, etc. Mediterranean? That doesn’t seem common at all. It isn’t. But I’ll return to that after a little background information.

Over the past few months, I have been helping my mom downsize her home. She has lived in that house for 25 years and had hosted family dinners, sleepovers for 9 grandchildren, visiting relatives from out-of-town, bridge clubs, a grandson’s entire baseball team in town for a tournament (two years in a row), countless Spite & Malice card games … you get the idea.

At the center of all this activity is the kitchen table. For most people a “kitchen table” is a small(er) table for everyday use and the “dining table” is the big table used primarily for gatherings of more than, say, 6 people. Not so for my mom, or most farm wives for that matter. Her kitchen table is as big as her dining table. It never has less than one extra leaf in it and, most often, two. The third leaf is readily available for last-minute expansion.

table service

This table serves. It serves 12 people as easily as it serves 2. It serves as her desk, sewing station, list-keeper, devotion venue, and quick-cup-of-coffee-for-a-visit spot. If I think about the number of dishes that were washed after being used on this table, my head spins. But then I think about the number of prayers that have been said around this table, and my mind finds peace.

When she decided to move into a smaller place, I knew right away she’d want to keep this table. I get that. I can honestly say I shed a few tears when I replaced my first table. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t expensive. It wasn’t the table per se. It was the memories that were built, the relationships formed and the time that was spent around that table.

table tribute

Before she moved, I thought we needed to pay tribute to that table in that house. My mom and I asked my sisters-in-law to come to dinner. The four of us have a shared life. We’ve been together for over 30 years and very seldom do the four of us take time to sit down together. So I set Mom’s table with her wedding china, Candlewick glasses, anniversary wine glasses, tablecloth and napkins and made a meal to honor the laughter, tears, prayers and stories we’ve shared.

Mediterranean Chicken with Asparagus

table time

For this meal, I wanted to make something out of the ordinary … something to show them, in my own way, how special they are to me. So what did I do? I used them as guinea pigs. I tried a new recipe.

Luckily, it worked out. Amazingly, it was fabulous!

This one-pan, stove-top chicken dish is too good not to share. Sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and capers provide the sweet and savory Mediterranean flavors in less than 30 minutes.


Print Recipe
One Pan Mediterranean Chicken
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15-20 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15-20 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Allow chicken to rest 20 minutes.
  2. Pour flour into a one-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add chicken pieces, seal and shake until chicken is coated in the flour.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken (do not crowd the pan) and brown until golden brown (about 4 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side (3-4 minutes).
  4. Remove the chicken to a plate.
  5. Add artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, lemon juice, garlic and crushed red pepper to the pan and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, and stir in to combine.
  6. Push the vegetables to the sides of the skillet, and return the chicken to the pan. Cover the pan and cook the chicken and the vegetables on low-medium heat for about 5-10 more minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked through and no longer pink in the center.
  7. Spoon the "sauce" from the skillet over the chicken.
  8. Sprinkle chicken and vegetables with fresh lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Recipe Notes

Artichoke Tip: Frozen or jarred artichoke hearts can be used for this recipe. If using frozen, make sure to thaw completely. In either case, drain well before adding to the hot pan.

Chicken Tip: For best results, use chicken breasts that are about 1.5" thick. This can be achieved by pounding the chicken (placed between two pieces of plastic wrap) with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin to desired thickness. Extra thick breast pieces can be split in half lengthwise by running a sharp knife through the center, parallel to the cutting board.

Leftovers: If there are any leftovers, cube up the chicken and add it, the vegetable mixture, some chopped Kalamata olives and feta cheese to cooked pasta for a cold salad. This combination will also make a great Mediterranean pizza topping or panini-style sandwich!


For this special meal, I served the chicken with roasted asparagus, Onion Pie (you heard me), a fruit salad, and stuffed cucumber “cups”. For dessert, we had an  “Almond Joy” parfait, one of my mom’s favorite combinations.

Change is never easy. It is much easier, though, when you share it, and a good meal, with those you love most … around a table.


Mediterranean Chicken with Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Bundt Coffee Cake

Grandma Opal’s Coffee Cake

If I close my eyes and try to remember my Grandma Opal, I picture a 4′ 10″, gentle, but yet strong lady with the most beautiful white-grey hair, kind eyes and an easy laugh. But if I want to remember our time together, all I have to do is make her signature coffee cake and the smell of cinnamon, pecans and sweet vanilla will bring her right back to me.

The dishes and tablecloth in this picture were passed on to me by my grandma.

I think the thing that is truly remarkable about my grandma was the courage that was required of her in the first 30 years of her life.  She and her brothers and sisters were orphaned when she was eight years old. In 1918, her father died of influenza and pneumonia. Less than two months later, her mother died from pneumonia following a hernia surgery. She and her five brothers and sisters were taken in by family and neighbors and, being the oldest, she cried herself to sleep many nights, worried about the care her siblings were receiving.

Grandma loved school … well, she loved learning. She remembered being bullied by the big kids (nothing new under the sun, as they say), often walking two miles to the nearest country school, and changing schools seven times in eight years. Despite all that, she had a gift for spelling and being a good student, she hoped she could continue beyond the typical 8th grade education and go to high school.

In those days, and given the circumstances of being cared for by relatives, there just wasn’t money to pay for her continued education. At 14, she went to work. Three dollars a week was her wage for housekeeping, laundry and caring for new mothers and babies. By the time she married my grandfather, she was earning eight dollars a week. She was 22 years old.

From what we would consider a meager wage, Grandma was able to save money to buy her own furniture. She ordered a new cookstove for $49 and a heater for $65 from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Starting their life together in the heart of the depression taught them great lessons on being self-sufficient, frugal, and grateful.

After losing their first baby at childbirth, she developed some form of kidney poisoning and nearly died. A new drug saved her life and she was later able to deliver two healthy baby boys.

The first 28 years of her life sound full of sadness. Then, I see a picture like this, my favorite of her, and I know that she also experienced much happiness.

She lived for 101 years. This is what she wrote to describe her life:

As I look back through the years, I know my life wasn’t easy at times,
but can see God’s hand was guiding me through the years.
I had a good husband and my two boys for which I am grateful.

Faith … gratitude … and a whole lot of class.

I loved spending time with her. Whether is was sharing a frozen pizza between my high school activities, baking cookies together at Christmas, canning and freezing garden produce side-by-side, or just playing a long game of UNO! together, we created simple memories. We had a lot in common but she envied my 5’8″ height and was quick to say so each time I could reach the upper shelves of her kitchen cabinets for her. I can only hope the grey hair that I keep camouflaged will someday be as beautiful as hers. To be remembered as a good-natured, fun-loving, faith-filled woman like her, would be a huge compliment. To be remembered by the smell of something warm and comforting fresh from the oven … well, that would be icing (or glaze) on the cake.

The hand-written version of this recipe, signed with a wish and, as always, given with love.
Print Recipe
Grandma Opal's Coffee Cake
The smell of this coffee cake baking is enough to make a non-coffee drinker crave a cup to accompany their first bites! A few simple steps and even more simple ingredients are all it takes to make my grandmother's cinnamon-struesel specialty.
Bundt Coffee Cake
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Bundt Coffee Cake
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat the inside of a bundt pan well with butter or cooking spray. Sprinkle liberally with flour, turning the pan on it side and rotating to distribute flour evenly. The entire inside of the pan should be well coated.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake and pudding mix. Add oil and water, mixing on a low speed just until combined. Increase mixer speed a little and add eggs, one at a time, allowing 2 minutes of mixing between each addition.
  4. Struesel mixture: combine sugar, cinnamon and pecans in a small bowl; set aside.
  5. Pour half of the batter into the bottom of the bundt pan. Sprinkle the struessel mixture over batter. Pour remaining batter into pan.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until cake is brown and set in the middle. Cake is done when a toothpick, inserted in the center, comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes. Use a very thin knife to gently release the outside edges of the cake from the pan. Place a serving dish over the top of the pan and invert quickly so the cake will drop onto the dish.
  8. Allow to cool completely.
  9. A powdered sugar frosting or glaze may be drizzled oner the cake, if desired.

Coffee Cake

Beef and Potato Tostada

Maria’s Tostadas

It is fair to say I do 98% of the cooking in our home. I am not complaining. After all, it is something I love to do. It wasn’t, however, always that way. When my husband and I were first married, we were both in grad school, were both working part-time and we arrived home at about the same time each night. We also had a newborn. In other words, time, money and energy ran on empty a lot. I probably cooked more often than he did but he made dinner regularly. His go-to meals were:

  1. spaghetti with meat sauce,
  2. chili,
  3. tuna noodle casserole, and
  4. tostadas.

Chicken and Beef Tostadas

The first time he made tostadas, I remember thinking “Hamburger and potatoes? In a taco? Don’t let him see you panic or he’ll never cook again!” 

It doesn’t happen often but I managed to keep my mouth shut.

At least until it was time to open it and take a bite. Then, all I said was, “This is delicious! Who taught you to make this!?!”

“Maria, our foreign exchange student from Mexico.”

Apparently, when he was in high school, his parents had taken this student into their home after the family she was supposed to stay with had to move. And to this day, we are making her tostadas!

Beef and Chicken Tostadas

Crispy corn tortillas are covered with a seasoned beef and potato mixture and topped with shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and sour cream or taco sauce. The potatoes are extra yummy because they are cooked with the ground beef and pick up the flavor of the meat drippings as they cook. They are a bit messy to eat but delicious down to the last bite.

When I decided to make these for dinner and for the blog, I thought about some of the new taco restaurants in our area and the street tacos they serve. One of my favorites is a chipotle chicken taco. Ground chicken and a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce went into my grocery cart. The chipotle flavor made me think of sweet potatoes and a new tostada combination was born!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Tostada

If you have not worked with chipotles in adobo before, you can find them in the Hispanic food section of the grocery store in a 7-8 ounce can. The chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapeños, canned whole, in a vinegar-based, spicy-sweet sauce. A little goes a long way with these peppers. When I open a can, I empty the entire can into a food processor and puree the peppers and the sauce until smooth. After covering a cookie sheet with parchment paper, I drop tablespoonfuls of the puree onto the paper and place the cookie sheet in the freezer. When the discs are frozen, I cut the parchment paper between the discs, layer them into a resealable plastic bag and return them to the freezer. When a recipe calls for chipotles, I take the amount I need out of the freezer and return the rest for another recipe.

Freezer prep for chipotle in adobo

Even as I write this, I am thinking of another combination I want to try: al pastor (pork and pineapple). One simple recipe … endless possibilities!

Gratias, Maria!


Print Recipe
Tostadas
Potatoes and ground meat make a simple and delicious combination for homemade tostadas! Add condiments (guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, cabbage, jalapeños, etc) for the "perfect" combination.
Beef and Potato Tostada
Servings
people
Ingredients
Servings
people
Ingredients
Beef and Potato Tostada
Instructions
  1. Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a light drizzle of vegetable or avocado oil to pan.
  2. Add ground meat, potatoes, onions, salt, black pepper, and Mexican oregano (if using).
  3. Break meat apart as it browns and stir occasionally, allowing meat and potatoes to brown lightly. When the meat is no longer pink, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until potatoes are tender.
  4. Stir in desired amount of chipotle in adobo puree (see hints in blog post), if using.
  5. Taste the meat/potatoes and add salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.
  6. To toast the tortillas, lightly coat both sides with vegetable or avocado oil and place on a pan, under a low broiler for 1-2 minutes on each side. Tortillas will begin to brown and be crispy on the outside. (This can also be done in a sauté pan on the stove top.)
  7. Place tortilla on a plate, spoon meat/potato mixture on top and add condiments (see list in notes below) as desired.
Recipe Notes

Meat/Potato Combinations: Ground beef pairs well with a Russet (Idaho) potato. Ground chicken and sweet potatoes are an excellent combination. Ground pork is great with either a Russet or a sweet potato but is especially good with hominy (not a potato but the texture is similar). To use hominy instead of potatoes in this recipe, wait to add it (drained and rinsed) until the meat is almost fully cooked.

Condiment List: sliced jalapeños, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, sliced radishes, sour cream, fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges, green onions, and guacamole.


Beef and Chicken Tostadas


 

Wine & (Apple) Roses

Roses are red,
Apple are too,
Add some white wine and …
Here’s a dozen for you!

Is there someone in your life that you would like to impress, congratulate, or show gratitude? Flowers are always a good choice but EDIBLE flowers? Oh my!

These beautiful sweets look ever so complicated but they are really quite simple. Yes, they take some time but when you (the “giver”) see the reaction of the recipient (the “givee”), it will be worth every minute.

The basic recipe requires red apples, crescent dough, cinnamon/sugar, a rolling pin and a muffin tin. Seriously, that’s it. You can go to the next level with a filling like I used for this post … golden raisins macerated in white wine and spices and then pureed … or try peanut butter, Nutella, or caramel sauce … all based on what you think the “givee” will like!

To give you every opportunity for success with this process, I asked my youngest son to come home and take pictures and video for this post (Photo Credit: Marcus). Here we go!

Apple Roses

 

Step 1: Wash 3-4 (depending on size) red apples, cut in half, remove core as pictured, and slice into very thin (1/8″) semicircles. Discard (i.e. eat) end pieces. You will need 60-70 semicircles. Place in a bowl of cold water (enough to cover apples) with the juice of one lemon.

 

 

Step 2: Microwave apples in lemon water on high for 4-5 minutes or until apple pieces are flexible and do not break when bent. Remove from water and dry on paper towels. Set aside.

 

 

 

Step 3: Open the tube of crescent dough and unroll two triangles (or one rectangle) and place on a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, gently roll dough into a 9″x6″ rectangle.

 

 

 

Step 4: Using a pizza/pasta cutter or a knife, cut dough into three strips (9″x2″ each). Move dough strips a few inches apart.

 

 

 

Step 5: Sprinkle dough with sugar (and cinnamon, if you want just a simple cinnamon/sugar rose).

 

 

 

Step 6: Lay 5-6 slices of apples, overlapping as shown on the top half of each strip (notice I am working from the top of the photos). Start and end the apple slices about 1/2″ from the end of the strip.

 

 

Step 7: Spoon a thin line of filling (recipe below), peanut butter, Nutella or caramel at the base of the apples (the center of the dough strip).

 

 

 

Step 8: Fold bottom half of the dough strip up and over the apples and filling. Press down gently to secure in place. You should see the rounded tops of the apples sticking out from the dough edges.

 

 

Step 9: Video time! Gently roll up the dough from one end to the other. Focus on the spiral dough end as the video perspective shows. This will make for a nice, flat bottom to the rose. If you have trouble securing the dough at the end of the rolling process, spread a little melted butter on the end to keep the dough from unraveling.

 


Step 10: 
Place each rose in a well buttered muffin pan and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Use a thin knife to go around the outside of each rose, loosening it from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before removing roses to cooling rack.

 

 


Wine/raisin filling

What better paring for roses than wine? And what is a raisin but a dried grape? This is a perfect filling to compliment the apples without overpowering their sweetness.

1/2 cup white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works well)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Remove from microwave, cover and let sit for 30-60 minutes. Put all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Allow to cool completely.


I have also made this recipe using pie crust which is AMAZING. The crescent dough is more forgiving when rolling. There are other recipes that use phyllo dough which I’m sure is fantastic … I just don’t have good luck with it for whatever reason.

The goal here is not to create a culinary masterpiece (although it comes close). The goal is to make something by hand to show someone else how much they mean to you. Skip the card … maybe add a single rose and a bottle of white … and deliver it personally.

Gifts that nourish the soul are the best gifts.


Who wouldn’t love a dozen of these homemade Apple Roses? Simple, beautiful, delicious and filled with a white wine and spiced golden raisin puree.

 

 

 

 

Turkey Poblano Chili

Everybody has their favorite chili. It’s one of those “my mom’s better than you mom” kind of things.

For the record … MY mom makes THE BEST chili. This is not up for discussion.

Maybe your mom didn’t make your favorite chili (shhhhh … I won’t tell). Maybe your favorite chili comes from a spouse or a restaurant. Some people like it thick … some like it thin … with beans … or without … ground beef … pork … chicken … spicy … mild … on a hot dog … or fries …

The point is chili is versatile.

I happen to be one of those eaters who likes chili in all its variations. When I found a recipe for Turkey Poblano Chili, I was curious about the use of turkey but truly all-in with the poblanos. I started growing poblanos in my garden a few years ago and I just can’t get enough of them (see post on Iowa: Home of Giant Poblanos and Stuffed Peppers Mexican Style). I switched up a few things and really love the result.

This is when I remind you that a recipe with a long list of ingredients is not necessarily a difficult recipe. Do not be intimidated by this list. Trust me … you will enjoy the process and LOVE the result.

Simple sides like corn bread, tortilla chips, or polenta are all good choices to complete the meal.

If your mom makes chili like this, I’m impressed.

She can’t beat my mom’s chili, but I’m impressed.

Print Recipe
Turkey Poblano Chili
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 1 day (see note below)
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 1 day (see note below)
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Roast the poblanos: Cut poblanos lengthwise in quarters, removing the stem, seeds and membranes. Lay the pepper pieces, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the skin side with one tablespoon of olive/avocado oil, and place under the broiler for 5-6 minutes, or until skin is blistered and charred. Remove the peppers from the broiler, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam (5-10 minutes). Place pepper pieces on a cutting board and gently scrape the loose skin from the peppers (no need to remove all the skin). Dice 3 of the peppers (12 pieces) into 1/2” pieces; set aside. Cut the remaining 2 peppers (8 pieces) into thin strips; set aside.
  2. Chili: Heat a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Drizzle remaining olive/avocado oil into pan and add ground turkey, breaking the turkey up as it cooks. When browned (no longer pink), add salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, onion, and garlic to the pan. Reduce heat to medium and stir to distribute spices evenly; cook for 3-4 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add 2 cups of turkey/chicken broth/stock, tomato juice, beans, hominy, tomatoes, and the reserved poblano pepper strips. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Poblano puree: Place remaining reserved diced poblanos in a food processor with a small handful (at least 1/4 cup) fresh cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice. Pulse until evenly chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the broth/stock and process into a thick puree.
  4. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth/stock, the puree and corn to the soup, stirring to combine. Simmer gently for 30-40 minutes to break-down tomatoes and combine flavors.
  5. Garnish with sour cream, toasted pumpkin seeds, sliced radishes, finely diced onion, shredded cheese, and jalapeño slices.
Recipe Notes

As (almost) always, this soup is better if made a day in advance.


Chili is a staple for cold days, game days, and soul-comforting days. Mix things up a little with this slightly smoky, mildly spicy version made with ground turkey, poblano chiles and a blend of sweet corn and hominy.

Hearty Beef & Vegetable Soup

Hearty.

I have been making this soup for about 7 years now and “hearty” is always the word that comes to mind as I make it and as I eat it. It is an incredibly simple recipe. It is full of incredibly simple ingredients. It tastes anything but simple.

It is hearty.

I had to refer to the dictionary just to see how the word is officially defined. There are seven different ways listed that this adjective could be used, referring both to physical and emotional situations. As I looked through the list, the one that seemed to best fit a comfort food like this was “substantial, abundant, nourishing.” The ground beef and potatoes cover substantial, the vegetables and broth cover nourishing, and the amount of soup this recipe makes covers abundant.

But it was another group of words that may better describe how this soup makes me feel: “genuine, sincere, heartfelt”.

Those are not words typically used when referring to a meal. I think they fit this recipe so well because I have an emotional tie to it. Almost seven years ago, I lost my dad. As it is for most, it was a very sad and difficult time for my family. We got through that time by the grace of God and knowing that we would be reunited with him “in the blink of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). We were also surrounded by extended family and friends who supported us with good memories, kind words and food. The community in which I was raised knew when words fail, food sustains. For days, we would receive quick visits from friends and neighbors who “just stopped by to give a hug and drop this off”. If we weren’t at the house, we would return to a pan or two sitting by the door. Casseroles, baked goods, meat and cheese trays and, yes, soup.

There was love in every bag, bowl or disposable pan.

I don’t know if it was the “meat and potatoes” nature of this soup that gave me the comfort from losing my farmer father, but comfort is what I got. One of my mom’s closest friends made it for us and I remember thinking as I ate it for the first time, “why does this soup taste so good?” I think she poured all of her best memories of time spent with my parents into making that soup. I could taste that it was genuine, sincere, and heartfelt. Every single time I make this soup, I think of Darlene, of all the other comfort food and the people who delivered it, and especially of my dad.

There’s another definition of hearty that caught my eye: completely devoted and wholehearted.

That’s my dad.

He was hearty too.

Print Recipe
Hearty Beef & Vegetable Soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Passive Time 1 day (see note)
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Passive Time 1 day (see note)
Servings
quarts
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Drizzle olive oil into pan and add ground beef and onion, breaking up beef as it browns.
  3. When beef is no longer pink, remove the excess fat, reduce heat to medium and stir salt, pepper, tomato paste, dried thyme and crushed red pepper into the ground beef and onion.
  4. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20-30 minutes, until carrots and potatoes are tender.
  6. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or thyme and croutons.
Recipe Notes

As (almost) always, this soup will taste better if made a day in advance!


Simple, hearty, and deep in flavor, this soup recipe needs to be in your collection. Ground beef combines with chunks of potato, carrot and celery in a rich, but light, broth.