January 2013

blackened-chicken-with-pasta-primavera
I just had a delightful time making this dinner. Sauteing vegetables of all sorts, making a delicious but somewhat healthy cheesy cream sauce (somewhat), blackening and roasting chicken, boiling pasta….my kitchen was like a scene out of a Food Network show. Minus the video camera and the million dollar paycheck.

 

This sauce is a nice and light option – not too thick –  and it creates just enough to coat, not drown, your pasta. If you like to drown your pasta, double the sauce recipe.

Recipe
Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pinch minced garlic
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 can 2% evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch or flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2-1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • Handful fresh chopped basil

Pasta

  • 1-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken
  • Blackened seasoning (optional)
  • 1 lb Penne or other desired pasta
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 crowns fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 lb sliced mushrooms
  • Peas! (though I forgot to add mine!)
  • 1 container grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 350. Start by cooking the chicken (or you could pick up a rotisserie chicken).  Brush the chicken with olive oil, sprinkle with blackened seasoning. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet, and brown each side of the chicken – about 3 minutes each side. Transfer to a baking dish and bake the rest of the way – about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size. Cut it into 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, cook the vegetables, which you can do by either sauteing or boiling. I sauted mine in a pinch of olive oil, starting with the broccoli because it takes the longest. Saute the broccoli for about 5 minutes, then add in the pepper, mushrooms, and peas (not the tomatoes!). Saute for 5 minutes more, adding a bit of S&P in the process. Transfer to a bowl.

In the same pan (over medium heat), add 1 tablespoon of butter and garlic. Stir in the wine and lemon and let reduce for a minute or two. Whisk the corn starch or flour into the evaporated milk, and stir into the wine mixture. PS – Did you know that evaporated milk is basically just a healthier way to get that same creamy delicious flavor? It is. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the heavy cream and let it thicken, several minutes. Pour in some milk, about 1/2 cup, more if you want the sauce to be thinner. Mix in the parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Turn the heat to very low.

Hopefully you have already cooked your pasta by now. See, this is all one big multi-tasking challenge. Cook the pasta, drain it, then toss with the sauce, veggies, and chicken, and pour it all into a big ol’ casserole dish. Top with the tomatoes and mozzarella, and bake for about 5-10 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are wilted and the cheese is melted. YUM.
I took about 74 pictures of this, so I feel like I need to show you a few more.

Soft Almond Sugar Cookies

soft-almond-sugar-cookies

I’m a bad blogger lately, I know. I have been busy with work and travel and not a lot of cooking. I will have you know, however, that I am currently in Dayton, Ohio and just warmed up some Handi Snacks pudding cups in the microwave. Woah. I can tell you they are just as delicious as you remembered from your packed school lunches, and eating them slightly warm is almost like eating brownie pudding. Almost.

Anyway, these cookies are exactly what I’ve been looking for. Soft, chewy, sugary. And have you done much experimenting with almond extract? I love it, it gives a perfect hint of something amazing to the standard sugar cookie.

Recipe

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temp
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cream the butter and sugar, then add in the egg and extracts. In a separate bowl mix the flours, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix it into the butter mixture just until combined. Chill the dough for 30 minutes (this is important).  Form the dough into 1-inch sized balls, press to flatten, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar, then bake for 8-9 minutes. DON’T OVERBAKE. Sorry for yelling, but the key is to keep these soft. I wish I was eating one right now with my hot pudding snacks.

open-faced-salmon-sandwich-with-honey
I’m always trying to find new ways to incorporate carbs into my diet. A meal without carbs (particularly dinner) leaves me feeling unfulfilled and starving.  Thus, I wanted to make some sort of sandwich with our favorite individually sealed frozen salmon.  We love salmon as a weeknight meal – so healthy and fast – and we’ve started using Zatarains Blackened Seasoning to spice it up a bit. Just brush the salmon with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning, then roast for 15 minutes at 400.
Last week I made an open-faced sandwich with it:  two pieces of toasted whole wheat bread, topped with honey mustard (I made my own with 1 T. honey + 2 T. Dijon), 1/2 sliced red delicious apple, and roasted salmon. So delicious!
spinach-artichoke-dip-houstons-style
If you have never been to a Houston’s restaurant (now called Hillstone in Dallas, much to my dismay), I pity you. I truly, truly, pity you. From the prime rib sandwich to the BBQ ribs to the grilled artichokes, everything on their menu is perfection. The one item that really stands out for me, however (and everyone I think) – is their spinach artichoke dip. I can really only describe it with one word: perfect.

So, we wanted spinach artichoke dip last weekend, but have been let down time and time again by anything we’ve tried outside of Houston’s. Luckily, I found the recipe online here.  The only changes I made were I used Parmigiano-Reggiano instead of the Romano, I used half the garlic, and I added 2 more tablespoons of sour cream. IT TASTES JUST LIKE IT.

Make this for every party you ever host, and you will become everyone’s favorite person of all time. Oh! And serve it with salsa and sour cream, Houston’s style.

Chicken Parmesan

chicken-parmesan
Last night was a real rarity: John and I stayed in on a Saturday night. And it felt great….no heels, no uncomfortable skinny jeans, no fretting over what to wear. Oh yeah – and quality time with my husband! The Green Bay Packers were playing the Vikings so we decided to stay home and cook something scrumptious – my husband’s favorite: Chicken Parmesan. I love Chicken Parmesan for its versatility – it is simple yet seems perfect for a special occasion, can be healthy or rich depending on your oil/cheese consumption…and everyone always loves it.  Here is how I make it:
Recipe
Sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • Pinch minced garlic (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup good/decent red wine (I used Castle Rock Pinot Noir)
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • ~1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
Chicken
  • 2-3 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cutlets work best if your butcher has them)
  • 1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • S&P
  • Mozzarella and Parmesan (for topping)
  • Olive oil for pan frying
Start by pounding the chicken to 1/4 in thickness (I usually buy the chicken cutlets at the meat counter so I can avoid this). Place the chicken between two pieces of parchment paper and pound to thin out, then cut the chicken into smaller pieces if desired.  S&P the chicken. Preheat the oven to 375.
Next, make the sauce. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the wine, and let it reduce a bit. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and herbs and bring to a low simmer. Reduce the heat to low.
Place the beaten eggs in a large shallow bowl, and mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan in another.  Dip the chicken in the eggs, letting the excess drip off, then the breadcrumbs. Use your fingers to pat the breadcrumbs onto the chicken, then spray with PAM to help them stick.
Spoon about half of the sauce into a large casserole baking dish. Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in a large frying pan, over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken, several at a time, about 3 minutes or so on each side..until golden brown. Place the chicken in the casserole dish, over the sauce.  Once all the chicken have been browned, place the dish in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, sprinkle the chicken with Mozzarella, then broil for a few minutes until melted.
Serve over pasta and with extra sauce (and more Parmesan!).
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