Thursday, June 30, 2011

Classico Sun Dried Tomato Pasta

There are many things I love about summer, and no I am not talking about the Texas heat! What I am talking about are the wide array of fresh vegetables that are in season during the summer months. Many of these vegetables are my favorites and I crave them year round and purchase them at the grocery store whenever they are available. While I may be able to enjoy fresh spinach, bell peppers and tomatoes year round, their flavor is unparalleled when they are enjoyed in their proper season.

I love pasta that includes fresh vegetables, a little oil and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and no sauce. This is especially true with in this pasta dish. The bell peppers and spinach really shine while the cheese adds just a touch of creaminess to round out the palette. Next time you're craving a nice bowl of pasta this summer, you should give this recipe a try, I think you'll find it to taste like summer.

Classico Sun Dried Tomato Pasta

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup sliced shallots
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
2 cups raw spinach, thinly sliced
1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken breast halves and place in the oil.
Cook until the chicken is browned, about 3 minutes each side.
Place in a prepared baking dish and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the shallots, bell peppers and spinach and set aside.

Pour the chicken broth and water into a large pot and bring to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, I cooked mine for 5 minutes for al dente.
Drain and reserve some of the pasta liquid.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and add the pine nuts.
 Cook until golden brown and set aside.
In the same skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the bell peppers and shallots for about 3 minutes.
 Add the spinach and basil and cook until wilted.
 Add the sun dried tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes.
 Remove from the heat and add the chopped chicken, pasta and Parmesan cheese to the skillet.
Toss and mix well until the cheese is melted and incorporated in the pasta. Top with additional Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
 Source: Neiman Marcus Pure and Simple Cookbook

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Oven "Fried" Chicken Breasts

I have mentioned before on this blog that fried chicken is one of my great weaknesses when it comes to trying to eat healthy on a consistent basis. I have always been skeptical of recipes that claim a breaded, baked chicken can replace the deep fried taste I love. Until this recipe, those doubts were well founded.

The secret in this recipe, I believe, is in both the marinade and the use of bone-in chicken breasts with the skin. The marinade and the skin and bones in the breast lock in the juices and flavor. Additionally, the skin actually gets crispy and because the rib bones lift the breast meat up off the bottom of the pan, the bottom doesn't suffer the soggy fate you would experience with a boneless-skinless chicken breast. While there is still a difference between this chicken prepared in the oven and that which is deep fried, it's good enough to put into dinner rotation at our house, any time I crave fried chicken. I hope you will enjoy it as well.

Printer Friendly Version

Lemon Oven "Fried" Chicken Breasts

3 small lemons (2 zested and 3 juiced)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 large garlic clove, pressed
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon paprika

Zest and juice the lemons and place the produced juice and zest in a gallon sized Ziploc bag.
Add the soy sauce,
 pressed garlic clove,
1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper and canola oil to the bag.
 Shake to mix well then add the chicken breasts and seal the bag, squeezing out most of the air. Place the bag with the chicken in a baking dish and set in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degree. After an hour, take another gallon sized Ziploc bag and add the flour,
 paprika and the remaining salt and pepper.
 Seal the bag and shake to mix well.
 One by one, remove a chicken breast from the marinade and place in the flour mixture, seal the bag and shake to coat. place in a prepared baking dish.
 Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken and place in the oven to bake for an hour.
 Remove and let cool, and serve with your favorite veggies.
Source: Neiman Marcus In Circle Cookbook

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies. They are...quite simply...the best food in the world. I have a special spot in my heart for this delicious treat. Growing up, my sister and I would often be awakened at around 10:00 p.m. (long after we had been tucked into bed for the evening) by the most delightful aroma, that of freshly baked cookies. We would rush downstairs to find our dad baking slice and bake chocolate chip cookies in the little toaster oven. He would always turn around looking like a 5 year old boy that got caught sneaking cookies before dinner! Dad would then cut off two more cookies and the three of us would enjoy our little midnight treat. I cannot help but think of these stolen moments from my childhood whenever I smell or eat chocolate chip cookies.

There are as many variations of the chocolate chip cookie as there are bakers of chocolate chip cookies. My favorite recipe of the moment uses Crisco and semi-sweet chocolate chunks.

Printer Friendly Version

3/4 of a stick of Crisco butter flavored all-vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups of firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons of milk (I used skim milk)
1 Tablespoons of vanilla
1 Large egg
2 Cups of flour (I increased this amount from the original recipe by 1/4 of a cup)
1 Teaspoon of salt
3/4 Teaspoon of baking soda
1 Bar of Semi-Sweet chocolate (8 ounces) roughly chopped

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In your standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the 3/4 stick of shortening, 1 1/4 cups of brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons of milk, and 1 Tablespoon of vanilla. Beat until smooth and fully combined.
3. Beat the egg into the mixture. Break the egg in a separate bowl before adding it the mixture. I know this is an annoying step, but I cannot even tell you how many times I have had to fish out a small piece of egg shell that has made its way into the batter. Very frustrating!
4. Slowly add the 2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda to the mixture. Mix until just combined.
5. After coarsely chopping the chocolate, add all of it to the batter, even the tiny slivers.
6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator for about an hour. This period of time in the fridge keeps the cookies from spreading and thinning out in the oven. Also, it is very helpful if you want to make the cookie dough early and then make fresh cookies later in the day.
7. After the dough has cooled, roll the about 1/2 a cup of dough between your hands to form perfect orbs of cookie dough. Spread out evenly on your prepared cookie sheets.
8. Bake the cookies for about 8 to 10 minutes. Take the cookies out before they are fully cooked as they will continue to bake after you remove them from the oven.
9. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk!

50th post celebration dinner at R&D! See Staci's post for the review (we liked it!).

Puppy play time!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Baked Kale Chips

Long before we started this blog, several of the food blogs I read posted recipes for baked kale chips. Initially these recipes didn't interest me much, that is until I joined the Urban Acres produce co-op and received a bunch of kale every two weeks in my produce share. For the past two months, I have received kale in my share and, unfortunately, let it spoil before I was able to use it in a meal.

This time I decided to employ the kale chips recipe early so as to not loose the freshness of the vegetable. I actually tend to love my leafy greens, but even I can get tired of the usual preparations. So I decided to give the baked kale chips a try. The result was a light, slightly spicy, and crispy snack that I think would easily curb a craving for salty chips. If you have kids that are reluctant to eat their green vegetables, I think this would be a great recipe to try.

Printer Friendly Version
Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch curly kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse kale, remove stems and ribs and cut into bite size pieces. Place in a large bowl.
Add the olive oil, salt and chili powder and toss to coat.
Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the kale from the oven and let cool. Serve as a snack and enjoy.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Perfect Popovers

I decided to make Eggs Benedict for brunch at our lake house for my husband and parents. However, I do not like English Muffins, and I am not a huge fan of biscuits. I am, however, a huge fan of Popovers! So, I decided to use popovers as the base for my Eggs Benedict as a fun change. It made for a bit of a mess, but that is why we have forks and plates.

Popovers: I was first introduced to these delicate and delicious puffs of pastry years ago at the Zodiac Room. The Zodiac Room is an essential part of the childhood of a Dallas girl; it is a rite of passage when your mom takes you to the Downtown Neiman Marcus for a day of shopping and lunch at the Zodiac Room. In this delightfully feminine and seemingly timeless department store luncheon spot, you dine upon fluffy popovers with strawberry butter. It is a treat for the taste buds and the soul. This recipe is adapted from Epicurious.

Printer Friendly Version

4 Tablespoons of butter cut into 9 small even pieces
2 Large room temperature eggs, lightly beaten
1 Cup of whole milk, at room temperature
1 Cup of flour
1/2 Teaspoon of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees for at least 20 minutes to make sure the oven is one even temperature.
2. Place one piece of the cut butter in the bottom of each muffin tin in the muffin pan. Place the muffin pan on a cookie sheet (this is to prevent the butter from oozing onto the bottom of your oven...creating an unpleasant mess).

3. Whisk the two eggs in a small bowl.

4. Whisk the cup of milk into the whisked eggs.

5. In another bowl, mix together the cup of flour and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

6. Whisk the egg and milk mixture into the flour and salt mixture. Whisk until only small lumps remain.

7. Before adding the batter into the muffin tins, place the muffin pan into the 400 degree oven for 4 minutes. This will melt the butter.
8.  Remove the pan from the oven after 4 minutes.

9. Immediately divide the batter into each of the 12 muffin tins.

10. Bake the popovers for 25 minutes.

11. Enjoy this puffy and delicious treats with strawberry butter or as Eggs Benedict!

This was the brunch spread...popovers, prosciutto, poached eggs, Hollandaise sauce, strawberry butter, fruit salad, and chocolate chunk cookies!