Archive for the 'chicken' Category

Easy Italian Chicken & Pasta Casserole

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What is it about casseroles? I mean, they’re awesome. They’re kind of fail-proof. They usually always taste great, at least relative to the effort it takes to make them which is minimal. They usually always involve at least one can of something and they definitely always involve a crunchy top.

Though I think my favorite thing about casseroles is the “put in the oven for 30 minutes” and walk away part. Then you’re life kind of turns into one of those Domino’s pizza commercials. You know, what can you do in 30 minutes?

Normally, for me these 30 minutes consists of cleaning up the kitchen and then making a side dish. But this still isn’t half bad. I don’t have the stress of having multiple dishes cooking up all at the same time, and when we’re done eating dinner, most of the clean-up is already done.

The one bad thing about casseroles refers back to that “can of something” point. Usually it’s a can of high sodium, high fat Campbell’s Cream of Whatever soup. I love these casseroles as much as the next mom from Ohio, but there’s gotta be something better. There is. Giada made a casserole.

I make this a lot. It’s easy and fresh and not too heavy. Give it a shot and tell me what you do in your 30 minutes.

Easy Italian Chicken and Pasta Casserole
Adapted from Food Network

1/2 box Farfalle Pastini (tiny bow ties)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cubed (1-inch cubes)
1 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice (I use the ones with Italian seasoning)
2 generous handfuls shredded Italian cheese blend (I use Sargento Italian 5 cheese blend)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I use Italian seasoned)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, season a little more, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, shredded cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 2 or 3 quart baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

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Yorkshire Country Captain

This is my favorite picture of my grandmother, here with my dear sister from a Christmas 5 or so years ago.

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Since she’s been sick and in the nursing home, we’ve had to gather up a lot of my grandmother’s belongings from her old home. A lot of memories left open for the taking, the giving, the passing. Each of us in this small little family kept what things meant most to us from her house. For me, the most sentimental thing was her cuckoo clock which now hangs in my dining room. Every time I look at it or hear it “cuckoo”, I think of my grandfather religiously walking over to the corner of his kitchen and pulling the chains to wind the gears all while looking over his shoulder at his young, clumsy granddaughter (that would be me) to say “don’t ever touch this”. He said it each time. I was never offended because it was like he was reading my mind. I wanted to touch it so badly, but the odds were that I would break it. He knew it and I knew he loved it just as much as I did. Proof: they never turned the cuckoo off. They let it chime all day and all night in their small little 1960’s ranch. Sigh.

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Well, aside from the cuckoo clock there were a few other treasures I am harboring from my grandmothers home. Small little porcelain bowls with black painted rims grandma used to put sliced bananas topped with crunchy orange sugar in or her famous store brand Jell-o that magically NEVER EVER formed that thick skin on the surface. Always eaten out of those bowls.

There’s also a sewing table and the desk where my grandpa kept all the bills and letters. We have the desk in our entryway now. It still smells like my grandpa – whatever aftershave or lotion he used to use. When I walk up the stairs into my apartment I smell my grandpa. It’s a good feeling.

And then there’s the beautiful honey colored dresser that she kept in her front bedroom. I love the story behind this one. My grandparents had a very old fashioned marriage. He was not comfortable with my grandma working – so she didn’t, for the most part. She would babysit and iron clothes for a little money, but she didn’t take a job outside the house. Except for when she really wanted something. Like this bedroom suite. She worked at a factory for 6 months so she could save the money to buy this furniture. Once I heard this story, I was certain I didn’t want this dresser to just be sold to just anyone. I wanted to keep it in the family.

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However, there was something I didn’t even know existed that I now am the proud owner of. For my birthday this year, my Aunt Diane gave me one of my favorite gifts – my grandma’s first cookbook…

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…and a notebook full of family recipes.

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I spent a good hour on the sofa flipping through each page of both the book and the notebook when I got them safely back to my home. There were many little treasures inside and various amusements. Here are a few:

This is the inside cover of the cookbook. It was printed in 1940, which is, I believe, 6 or 7 years before my grandparents met and wed.

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My grandmother wrote Mrs. Jack Radabaugh, Findlay, Ohio. She was a very proud and good wife. I mean look at the man, what a hunk! Can’t see him too well? Just trust me on this one – a hunk and an American hero. He is where Marlo likely got her red locks from.

Something special my aunt slipped inside was a Christmas card from my grandpa to my grandma from before they were married.

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It was a Hallmark card – nothing but the best for my grandma.

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I was particularly curious to see if much has changed in the realm of home cooking in the last 70 years. I found small things. Common ingredients were named differently. Some recipes called for “salt pork” which I assume is just bacon. Also, ovens must have been incredibly inefficient. A lot of muffin recipes called for a 400 degree oven, and a 30-45 minute bake time. Can you imagine? Also, some words were spelled differently: see sirup for syrup and sider for cider.

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My grandma obviously had a boiling sugar disaster on the toffee page. Guess I get my clumsiness from her.

While there were many great recipes for sweets, I have been desperate for some new interesting entrèe recipes. First stop for me was the Poultry section of the cookbook, where I was caught first by the name of this dish, and second by the ingredients which sounded like a delicious ensemble that was right up our alley. I briefly explored the internet for a history of this dish, but nothing turned up. If anyone knows anything about this – why it’s named this, where is it from – I’d love to know. It was relatively uncomplicated, but not exactly the easiest meal I’ve prepared. However, it was fantastic. Really really good – I mean how could it not be with all the bacon and butter. Oh well, we won’t be having this every week, but I’ll definitely add it to the rotation.

*Oh and I want to apologize the the picture looking like a pile of slop. Marlo was having a complete unprovoked meltdown (picture screaming and hyperventilating) right when I was getting everything ready to plate. Needless to say, I plated it wrong (gravy first, then peas and onions) and not very attractively. Furthermore, crying persisted through a laughable photo session. So, believe me, even though it may look like prison food but it tasted like a million bucks.

PS…. HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNT DIANE!

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Yorkshire Country Captain
Adapted from The Household Searchlight Recipe Book

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup chicken stock
2 slices thick-cut slab bacon diced finely
1/2 medium onion minced
1/2 medium onion sliced
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 Tbsp. curry
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup frozen peas, partially thawed (I measured them out and let them sit on the counter while I prepared the rest)
1-2 cups cooked rice

1. Trim and pound the chicken breasts to even thickness.
2. In a pie pan, whisk together flour, curry, salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. In large skillet that has a lid, cook bacon and minced onion over medium high heat until bacon is browned. Push onion and bacon to the sides of the pan. Now my bacon didn’t really render a lot of fat so I actually at this point sprayed a little cooking spray in the middle of the pan. If you’ve got a lot of fat in the pan, don’t worry about it.
4. Dredge both sides of the chicken breasts in the flour mixture and place in center of pan. Gently brown (3-5 minutes) and flip cook 1-2 minutes more.
5. Pour chicken stock in pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until chicken is tender and done (about 5-8 minutes). Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.
6. In a small pan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium high heat and add sliced onion and almonds. Cook until onions begin to soften and almonds are lightly toasted. Add peas to pan, lower heat to medium and cook until heated through (4-5 minutes).
7. In a separate small pan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter and whisk in 1 Tbsp. flour. Add this to the chicken stock whisking constantly until it is completely blended. Reduce heat to low, stirring frequently. You may need to add a touch more stock or water to loosen it up if it thickens too much. Season gravy to taste.
8. To plate, add desired amount of rice on plate. Place chicken breast on rice and pour half the gravy over chicken and rice. Finally top with onions, almonds and peas. Repeat with second dish.

Chicken Caprese Sandwich

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Last week, the butcher only had really small chicken breasts. Instead of buying extra I just stuck with two and figured I’d just make quesadillas or something with them. If you couldn’t tell from my most recent posts, we’ve been eating a lot of Mexican lately. I had some beautiful Indiana grown tomatoes from the farmer’s market that needed to be used as well as some fresh mozzarella in the fridge, so I thought I’d try something new and came up with this sandwich. It’s by no means a novel idea, but it was sooo good and I was quite proud of this. The chicken breasts, which were about a quarter pound each, ended up being the perfect size. And to be quite honest, this would be just as good without the bun.

Chicken Caprese Sandwich

2 small chicken breasts pounded very thin (1/4 inch) and cut in half crosswise
garlic powder
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup your choice grated Italian cheese (I used and recommend Asiago)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 thin slices ripe tomato
2 1/4 inch slices of fresh mozzarella
6 basil leaves
2 sandwich buns

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Season both sides of chicken breasts with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
2. Combine breadcrumbs and cheese in shallow dish.
3. Heat oil in large oven proof pan over medium high heat. (If you do not have an oven proof pan, you can just use a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.)
4. Dip chicken in egg and allow excess to drip off. Then dredge in breadcrumbs.
5. Place chicken in pan and quickly brown both sides of chicken breasts (2 minutes each side).
6. Place one mozzarella slice on two pieces of chicken. Transfer pan to oven and bake just until cheese begins to melt (3-5 minutes). Remove pan from oven (careful – the handle will be hot!)
7. Stack two pieces of chicken, one with mozzarella cheese, on sandwich bun. Top with 2 slices of tomato and 3 basil leaves.

Garlic-Lime Chicken

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I’m flirting with going vegetarian.

I’m reading up on different kinds of grains, beans and legumes. I dream about finding joy in bowls full of greens. I constantly (weekly) ask my husband if he thinks he could go meat-free (the answers are always inconclusive -or- NO).

But for now, I’ll try and focus on eating healthier meats.

Like chicken.

If you’re anything like me, you eat a TON of chicken. Gaggles of chickens… or is it flocks? or…herds? I’m not great at my collective animal term knowledge.

I think chicken is the healthiest lean protein to eat (aside from fish – but I’m not in Seattle here) and one of the cheapest to get all natural, free range, or organic. So let’s pass up the ground chuck for some beautiful, pink, glistening chicken breasts; and, you know cook ’em up in a tasty way.

This is where I run into problems. I’m so bored with my chicken recipes and I’m always on the hunt for new ones that don’t take a lot of time or fancy ingredients.

Here’s one that’s great. All the ingredients you probably already have, and it takes no time at all and barely any effort. Crack open a Corona with these.

Garlic-Lime Chicken
Adapted from All Recipes

3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons lime juice

1. In a small bowl, mix together salt, black pepper, cayenne, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and parsley. Sprinkle spice mixture generously on both sides of chicken breasts.
2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute chicken until golden brown, about 6 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons garlic powder and lime juice. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently to coat evenly with sauce.

Yummy Chicken Quesadillas

Sometimes I wish my mother was Italian and my father was Mexican. Or maybe even the other way around – that might produce a better looking child, but what do I know.

The reasoning behind this is that I love Mexican food. My frequent attempts at making it is always just average at best because apparently I’m way to pasty white to really make it well. I’m not confident handling the flavors or the ingredients and I just constantly feel like a fish outta water in the whole genre. I never know what’s missing and what I need to add. This is where a Mexican mother would come in handy because I’m sure that if I had a generations old Mole sauce to make for Jeff, he might love me a little more. Also, I would’ve inherited, perhaps, a more natural rapport with cilantro instead of being completely repulsed by it.

But even though I don’t have any Gomez, Rodriguez or Flores blood running in my veins, these quesadillas tasted pretty awesome. Okay, I understand that quesadillas are probably the whitest of all Mexican food you can make, but cut me some slack, alright? The wet rub on the chicken can really take all the credit for the awesomeness. The flavors are spot on. The addition of the tomatoes really gave the dish a nice fresh flavor, too. Hope you like them! Adios!

Chicken Quesadillas
Adapted from Annie’s Eats

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts pounded to an even ½ inch thickness
½ small yellow onion, finely diced
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
4 large tortillas
olive oil, for brushing/or spray olive oil
1 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese

For the wet rub:
1 ½ tsp. chili powder
1 ½ tsp. fajita seasoning
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lime

1. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium high heat. Whisk wet rub ingredients together in a pie plate. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and juices run clear. Remove from the heat and using 2 forks, shred chicken. Scrape out any black bits from skillet and add diced onion. Sauté, stirring constantly, onions are tender.

Brush one side of a tortilla with olive oil. Flip over and top one half of the tortilla with chicken mixture, diced tomatoes and shredded cheese to taste. Fold the tortilla over and carefully place the folded quesadilla onto the grill pan or skillet. Cook until heated through and cheese has melted. Repeat with remaining tortillas. To keep quesadillas warm while the others are still cooking, place in the oven on a baking sheet or other oven safe dish at 200°. Cut the finished quesadillas into triangles and serve with salsa, sour cream or other toppings of your choice.

It’s Beautiful Out. Why Aren’t You Grilling?

By now, you know how I feel about grilling. It’s my favorite way to cook-anything. Meat, pizza, vegetables, you name it – I’d rather it on the grill. Not only does food cook better, but it tastes better and there’s half the clean up afterwards. Here’s a few of my favorite grilling recipes that are easy and delicious.

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

4 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves*
2/3 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salt and pepper both sides of chicken breasts. Combine pesto and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour over chicken breasts in a shallow dish. Let chicken marinade for about 20 minutes in the fridge. Dampen a cloth or paper towel with olive oil and oil the grill rack, or (with flame off) coat the rack with cooking spray. Preheat the grill. Shake off excess pesto and place chicken on the grill over high heat. Grill about 5 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through, turning just once.

*It’s a good idea to pound your chicken breasts down to an even thickness. This helps the meat cook more uniformly and quickly.

Adapted from: FineCooking.com

Grilled Asparagus a la Francesca

In Wicker Park, Francesca Forno is probably one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Chicago. A little over a year ago, I ordered a side of their grilled asparagus and thought I’d hit solid gold. I was set to reproduce it at home. Here is my version.

1 Lb. Asparagus, rinsed and tough ends trimmed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/2 of a lemon, or lemon wedges for each diner

Place asparagus in shallow dish and pour olive oil over asparagus. Salt and Pepper asparagus generously and toss to evenly coat each spear with olive oil and seasoning. Over a medium-high flame, line up asparagus on the grill perpendicular to the grates. Grill about 3 minutes and then turn each spear and grill 2-3 more minutes depending on how thick the asparagus is and how done you like your asparagus. I’ve found that nice sturdy thick spears hold up better to grilling than the delicate pencil thin spears. Obviously then, you will have less spears to individually turn. This can be tedious. Remove asparagus from the grill and place on serving dish. Top with Asiago and squeeze juice from half a lemon over the asparagus, or just serve with lemon wedges. Don’t skip the lemon though. Trust me, you need it.

Bistro Chicken with Peppers

Jeff and I eat a lot of chicken. The butcher in town gets all natural chicken meat from an Amish farm and it is delicious. I probably buy five pounds of chicken breasts every week. I’ve decided this is the week Marlo gets to try a little chicken, too. While Jeff and I prefer to eat white chicken meat, all the literature out there suggests feeding your baby the fattiest cuts of meat, so tomorrow I’ll be picking up some chicken thighs for my lil’ thunder thighs. I’m hoping the homemade process goes well, because I really want to avoid buying jarred pureed chicken. It’s really hard for me to eat prepared, shelf-stable foods with meat in them. Or even frozen foods with meat. I love Lean Cuisines, but I would always leave a little pile of “chicken” (in quotations because there’s no proof that it’s really chicken) behind in the plastic tub. Surprisingly, one thing that makes Jeff and I such a good match is he has the same hang up.

So, you won’t find any bags of frozen Tyson chicken nuggets in my freezer, and hopefully you won’t find any jars of baby chicken dinners in my cupboard. Interestingly enough, however, you will find cans of chicken meat in there. In my hometown, there’s a local farm called Brinkman’s and they also run a small market in town where they have a quality butcher and deli display. Well, they sell their cooked chicken, turkey and beef meats canned. Canned meat, weird right? If I saw a can of meat at Meijer (this probably exists and I just don’t know about it – on the same note, Brinkman does actually sells their canned meat at the Meijer in Findlay) it would probably send chills up my spine. But for some unexplained reason, I trust Brinkman’s. They could can anything for me and I would gobble it up.

Having this trusted resource for canned, cooked, quality meat has been a HUGE shortcut in my family for many recipes. If any recipe calls for something like chopped rotisserie meat, I just sub a can of Brinkman’s chunked chicken. My friend (whom I will leave nameless, but you know who you are) once told me she loves Brinkman’s meats so much that she eats it right out of the can. Well okay then, that puts her on a different level of loyalty of which I will never reach, but I will shed a tear or two if Brinkman’s ever shuts down that cannery. It’s been threatened many a times for many a years, but I think it’s just a publicity stunt.

Here’s a chicken recipe that you won’t need a can of chicken for.

The obsession with roasted red peppers continues. I actually made this dinner quite a few weeks ago; so, no, the grill is still out of commission. Looking back, I can say that my past week’s worth of ghetto fabulous meals was a tactic to encourage Jeff to go get a new tank of propane. Posting this is also a tactic, to remind him of how delicious dinner can be when I have a grill to cook over.

I got this recipe about 4 years ago out of Cooking Light. It is one of my favorite chicken dishes in my recipe box. They suggested serving it with mashed potatoes, but that seemed a little off to me (not to mention Jeff doesn’t like mashed potatoes). So I usually serve it with wild rice and a green vegetable. Enjoy!

Bistro Chicken with Peppers

2 roasted red peppers sliced into 1 inch strips
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (or 1 whole chicken breast cut in half)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped shallots (you can sub an onion if you can’t find a shallot)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. fennel seeds

Combine salt and garlic on a cutting board; chop until mixture becomes a coarse paste. Rub garlic mixture over both sides of chicken breasts. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes or until golden, flip. Add shallots to the pan with the chicken, cook 1 minute stirring constantly. Add broth, curry, thyme and fennel to the skillet. Stir. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add peppers and cook 2 minutes uncovered or until chicken is done. Serve chicken topped with peppers.



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