"Ahhh. This smells so good."
Dana Stevens is sauteing vegetables in her kitchen with the bright yellow walls.
At a young 53, with her jeans, T-shirt, ponytail and bare feet, Stevens explained that she's been cooking in that cheery kitchen full of family photos only since November. On the wall is a trivet that says "Dorothy's Kitchen."
Tribune Chronicle photos /
R. Michael Semple
Dana Stevens removes a chicken breast from the skillet recently in her Kinsman home.
The house that Stevens and her husband, Don, live in is where he grew up. About six months ago, this couple and their 14 pets - you read right, 14 - moved to Kinsman after living for 40-plus years in Clovis, Calif., near Fresno.
Their three children are grown: one engaged and still in California, another married and in Illinois and the last in Germany.
"I'm an Air Force brat," Stevens said. After growing up in different towns because of her father's service, they settled in California. She, too, was in the military and met her husband while they were both in the Navy. Their son is in the Army.
Dana's Stuffed Chicken Breast
Submitted by Dana Stevens
Skinless / boneless chicken breast ... one each
Mushrooms - 1/2 cup cooked for each chicken breast
Onions - 1/2 cup cooked for each
Bell peppers - 1/2 cup cooked for each
Shredded cheese - a good handful for each piece of chicken
Pam cooking spray (any comparable product will work)
Chop onions, bell peppers and mushrooms into small pieces.
In skillet heated to medium high, saute chopped vegetable until soft. When done, set vegetables aside, and wipe out skillet with paper towels.
While vegetables cook, with sharp knife cut chicken open on one side only, leaving both ends and other side intact, forming largest pocket possible.
Stuff chicken "pockets" with sauteed vegetables, and secure opening with toothpicks.
In skillet heated to medium high, cook stuffed chicken, turning often. Use lid on skillet. Spray chicken with Pam each time before turning. Using lid makes chicken cook faster and retains moisture.
After cooking, carefully remove toothpicks. Just before serving, cover with generous amounts of shredded cheese - warm until cheese melts.
Note: Use any three vegetables you like. The ones listed in this recipe are my choices. I like to serve this with a steamed, large-vegetable mix - cauliflower, broccoli, carrots - and baked potatoes. We served this for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
In blender, mix 1/2 full blender jar of water with 1 coffee mug full of nonfat dry milk, meat of one mango and a dash of vanilla. Blend well and enjoy.
"He's third generation military - we're so proud of him," she said.
Stevens timed the preparation for her Stuffed Chicken Breast, a healthy recipe she came up with herself and that she hopes others will try. From opening the refrigerator to food on the table, it took just 40 minutes. This included chopping the vegetables that go into the recipe, as well as the ones to be steamed and served on the side. She used a baked potato bag in the microwave and made a mango smoothie in the blender.
"I love meat, and I love vegetables, and I love mixing things," Stevens said.
She cut the fat off the chicken with a pair of scissors. "I believe you are what you eat," she said.
About this time, Creamy the cat wanders in to check out what smells in the kitchen. Soon others follow, like Rocket, a 17-pound feline who earned his name because he once could sprint from one house to the other "in two seconds flat." Stevens said most of her pets - that's two dogs, three rabbits and the rest cats - were either from the shelter or taken in after being thrown from a vehicle.
All these creatures came from California, too. That's 3,000 miles in a big U-Haul truck. Among them is an Irish Wolfhound, a breed that is considered the tallest in the world. During this lunch, Phineus politely laid on the couch. The whole couch.
Stevens said she's been making this recipe for five or six years. She uses it mostly for holidays or for date night with her husband, who volunteers at the fire station next door. Right behind their home is a cemetery - Dana Stevens remembers that's "dead west" - where they can see his parents' resting place from the house.
Stevens says she's "old school." For example, she can't see buying bread when she knows how to make it. She'll buy a block of cheese and shred it herself instead of buying it premade. Among her hobbies is crocheting, which she said she does a lot, making anything from hats to blankets.
This lover of fresh food said the produce prices are better out west, where farmers' markets give grocery stores a run for their money. She grows a few things of her own for the kitchen but also has a bevy of colorful plants outside getting ready to fill the yard with color.
Her only advice for those who want to make the chicken breast is to start the sauteed vegetables for the filling first.
And one more thing: "Before you eat this, take out the toothpicks."