Lemon-Pesto Chicken and Pasta

Every once in a while, I decide that what I’m having is good… but it could be better. Take Safeway’s lemon capellini salad. It is tasty. It is one of the few things I will eat containing capers. But sometimes, it needs a little… je ne sais quoi. So, I indulged myself.

As a side note, I would add cut up fresh tomatoes and capers to this, but the husband is no more a fan of them than I am. In fact, he’s not a fan of fresh tomatoes at all, whereas I love them.

DISCLAIMER: All amounts are guesses. Some are more of a guess than others. Most liquids were “a splash or two”, and most seasonings were “mmkay, looks good…”. Just remember that.

You’ll need:

~1.3 lb boneless skinless chicken breast.
~6 oz rotini (or other types of pasta, but rotini holds the flavor well)
lemon juice
olive oil
pesto
~1/4 tsp salt
~1/2 tsp pepper
~1 tsp dried oregano
~1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic paste (roughly 1 medium clove of garlic, minced)

Directions:

Cut chicken breast into bitesize pieces and brown in skillet, using olive oil or cooking oil (a couple tablespoons) and around 1/4 cup lemon juice. When cooked, coat with the salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and ~1.5 tablespoons pesto.

Cook and drain pasta such that it is a little softer than al dente. Add roughly 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1.5-2 tablespoons pesto. Mix until coated.

Serve chicken over pasta with your choice of cheese (I recommend something like parmesan, romano, etc.). Goes well with steamed veggies of most kinds, as well as white wine.

A Dish for Any Meal: The Versatile Frittata

Okay, so it’s probably not an actual frittata. I have only one good frying pan, and while I’m pretty sure it’s oven safe… I have only one good frying pan.

It all started with the usual: me pondering what a good, quick-pack meal would be for my weekday lunches. Something pre-made, obviously, and something I could eat for other meals if I wound up not eating it for lunch.

I was tired of just veggie/meat dishes, and nothing with legumes was jumping out at me, and then, I remembered that one of my favorite Starbucks breakfasts is the spinach-feta wrap. The one with the egg white.

But I didn’t want any bread.

Heyyyy, frittata!

I went on a grocery run later that evening, and within fifteen minutes, my kitchen smelled like heaven and within an hour, I had an easy meal for the next four days.

The ingredients I used:

  • Open Nature chicken sausage with sun-dried tomatoes and provolone
  • arugula
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • common white mushrooms (fresh)
  • sun-dried tomatoes (mine were jarred with oil and herbs)
  • diced red, yellow, and green pepper
  • cayenne, black pepper, oregano, basil, and the Spice and Tea Exchange’s “Italian Street Fair” seasoning

The instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Dice the mushrooms and chop the sausage (I used 2 of the 4 sausages in the pack). Sauté the diced pepper, mushrooms, and sausage for seven or so minutes in two or three teaspoons of olive oil with a bit of garlic powder. Let sit. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add two handfuls of washed arugula, and a half-handful of your cheese of choice. Add a few sun-dried tomatoes (I used maybe 7 halves). Stir. Pour in the sauté and stir again. Pour into a greased casserole dish–mine was a shallow 9 x 9 square. Sprinkle a little more cheese on top, and add a few shakes of each seasoning/spice/herb. Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on how done you like your eggs.

I’ll confess, I had a bite while packing my first serving away to grab tomorrow morning. It was delicious. 10/10; would make again.

Meal in a (taco) bowl: Salsa-chicken mix

So… I need quick-pack lunches. Badly.

Salads are normally my go-to, but sometimes, I get bored of tossing lettuce (well, more recently, broccoli slaw) with some or all of the following: bell pepper (roasted or raw), tomato, carrots, celery, avocado, olives, and lunch meat. Oh, and also some manner of dressing, usually vinaigrette.

As much as I can do with it, it just gets boring.

I’d recently bought some Safeway Kitchens fire-roasted salsa, not knowing what I was going to do with it. I’d also picked up 3 bell peppers–one each of red, orange, and yellow.

On the walk back from the bus stop (got off one early to get in some walking on such a nice day!), it hit me: fiesta bowl!

I stopped into the grocery store to grab two grilled chicken breasts and a large avocado.

I chopped up the avocado and peppers, shredded the chicken, and tossed that together with the can of salsa. (Probably a 15-oz can–I’ve recycled it, good Seattleite that I am, and composted the leftover veggie bits. Yeah, I’m good.) I then smeared a bit of that on a tortilla and put some shredded cheese on that and microwaved it. I probably could have actually made a taco bowl (or 6) out of the mix, but I tried it as a burrito first.

The results were 100% delicious. Also messy. Very, very messy. And very, very worth it.

So, for those of you who want an actual recipe-format recipe…

Chickadoodle’s Taco Fiesta Bowl Mix… Stuff

1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 large, ripe avocado (firm-ish, just a bit of give to the touch)
2 medium-ish grilled chicken breasts
1 can Safeway Kitchens fire roasted salsa (~15 oz) or similar

Wash, seed, and chop the peppers. Cube the avocado. Chop or shred the chicken. Toss that in an at least 4-cup container with the salsa. Spread as a burrito filling or use as a dip or its own salad. Top with shredded cheese if desired. As always, enjoy. (If you don’t, you’re probably doing it wrong.)

So many salads…

I’m trying to eat healthier. It’s not that hard–I like my fruits and veggies. But still, keeping it creative can be a little challenging.

My sausage-veggie bake is a pretty good start, and is great for winter.

But during these warm summer months, it’s nice to not heat up my kitchen.

This is where salad comes in.

I love salad. There is so much to do with it.

So, without further ado, here are two of my more recent creations:

Greek-style salad with French flair:
Combine and toss:
–a bed of Safeway’s fresh herb salad mix
–5-6 dry salame nuggets, cut into chunks
–black olives
–1 small-ish roma tomato
–an agreeable amount of cucumber
–half an avocado, cut into bite-size chunks
–Safeway’s cucumber-tzatziki dressing
–crumbled chevre (just found out this is a thing, OMG…)

Green fusion salad:
Combine and toss:
–a bed of Safeway’s fresh herb salad mix
–5-6 dry salame nuggets, cut into chunks
–red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size chunks
–1 small-ish roma tomato
–an agreeable amount of cucumber
–half an avocado, cut into bite-size chunks
–Private Selection (QFC/Fred Meyer) miso orange sesame dressing
–crumbled chevre (just found out this is a thing, OMG…)

You may have noted, these salads have many ingredients in common.

I love the herb salad mix, but I think the second salad might do well with some dried noodles and some cabbage instead, and the tomato could be removed. Grilled salmon or chicken would substitute well for the salame, and it could be grilled teriyaki chicken or salmon in the second salad, and lemon and pepper for the chicken in the first salad. Both could stand the addition of snap peas. You could substitute pretty much any crumbled or cubed cheese for the chevre, or remove it entirely in the second salad.

The point? The possibilities are endless…

Chickadoodle’s dinner for two… er, a small army #5

So, I’ve been wanting to make something healthy and delicious lately. Too much in the way of carbs; not enough in the way of veggies.

The thing is, I also wanted something with meat. I’d been seriously craving sausage lately, so that was my springboard.

I first found some recipes for baked ziti with sausage and broccoli rabe, but the bechamel sauce… well, let’s just say I was too lazy.

And I wanted something more vegetable-y.

I searched again, this time specifically for a sausage and veggie bake. One of the search results turned up with this.

I would have been happy with it, but the boyfriend is not a fan of bell peppers. (The only time I got him to have anything with bell pepper in it was when it was so cooked into spaghetti sauce that the flavor and texture just weren’t there.)

Instead, what I wound up with was this:

  • a 4-pack of aidelle’s aundouille cajun sausage
  • a small yellow squash
  • a small zucchini
  • a small red onion
  • about 3-4 cups of pre-cut broccoli/cauliflower florets
  • 3 red potatoes and one large yukon gold potato
  • 2 medium carrots
  • varying amounts of salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, basil, sage, oregano, parsley and rosemary
  • the barest hint of crushed red pepper
  • olive oil

I washed the veggies as needed (a little bit hindered by a small gouge I somehow managed to put in my thumb with my other thumbnail and was trying to keep bandaged and dry) and cut all of them into less-than-bitesize chunks. The onion, I went so far as to dice. I cut the sausages into halves length-wize, and then 1/4-inch wide chunks after that.

I split that between two casserole dishes, and sprinkled on the olive oil and spices/herbs/whatever they are and tossed them in the dishes. The oven had been pre-heating to 400F during this time.

I wound up baking the dishes for about 50 minutes instead of 25, the last 15 of which were done at 375F.

And then I ate it, as you do. Except not all of it, because that would be a hell of a lot of food. Like I said, there was enough for a small army. A very small army. Of maybe 6-8 people.

It was delicious.

Chickadoodle’s Dinner for Two… err, the Family #4

So, the boyfriend and I staged a meeting of the parents recently. No, we’re not getting married anytime soon, but people get curious after two and a half years. The boyfriend’s mom had met my parents after a series of unfortunate events last summer (though the meeting was not one of them)—long story short, the boyfriend’s car broke down in a really scary part of town at midnight, so my mom came to rescue us, only to deliver the news that my dad had been in a nasty bike/car (he was on the bike) accident earlier that day and had suffered what turned out to be a type V or VI AC separation. He was otherwise relatively unscathed, and his helmet undoubtedly saved his life (See, kids? Wear a freakin’ helmet!), but he was bruised for months afterward and recovery was not pretty. The boyfriend’s mom picked him up the next morning, and we bribed her to stay and sit a spell with Betty Crocker’s French breakfast muffins. It worked. Nobody can resist French breakfast muffins!

ANYWAY, neither of my boyfriend’s parents had encountered my parents when my parents weren’t a) preoccupied with a husband with an AC separation and b) hopped up (well, just really mellowed out, actually) on painkillers for said AC separation. My parents mostly knew the boyfriend’s parents by reputation. (True story: the boyfriend’s dad was part of a segment on the radio program “Marketplace” about a year ago. My dad, upon hearing the boyfriend’s dad’s name, popped around the corner from making dinner and grinned at me. My mom walked in the door 10 minutes later with a “So guess who I heard on the radio?” Marketplace is kind of a big deal in our house. So sue us.) I’m not entirely sure what the boyfriend’s parents knew of mine other than what I’d told them.

BUT REALLY, I wanted to cook to impress. Having just come across a pretty awesome recipe in our local blood center’s “Give Twice” cookbook (give twice between June and the beginning of October; get a free cook book!), I thought, “you know, this is a really good idea!” The boyfriend, who’d already had the fortune of sampling the dish, rather agreed.

So, I present to you, Chicken Vesuvio à la Chickadoodle.

The original recipe calls for 4 halves of boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut into bitesize pieces. To feed 6 people somewhat heartily, it took about 6. (There was a little left over, but not much, I tell ya!) You also need:

*~2 lb red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bitesize chunks as well.
*3-4 tbsp dried parsley
*1 tsp garlic powder
*3-4 tsp oregano
½ – 1 tsp crushed rosemary
~2 tsp dried basil
a pinch of dried bay leaves
~1 tsp lemon juice
*3-4 tsp table salt
*½ – 2/3 c. olive oil

(*original ingredient, except that the garlic powder was garlic cloves)

In a skillet, brown the chicken. If you are cutting still semi-frozen chicken while browning one batch as I did, a boyfriend is rather helpful in making sure the chicken doesn’t burn, catch fire, or otherwise explode. The original recipe says to toss that and the potato pieces into a bag with the other ingredients to coat them, but I just stuck them in the dish I baked them in and coated them there (making sure to put the coating on top, as opposed to creating it beforehand, which you can do with the bag method).

Cover and bake at 325 F (or maybe a little higher…) for 1 hour, or until potato pieces are soft (read: edible).

Serve with crusty French bread and salad, paired wine optional. (A nice cab sauv will do.) Follow it up later with some two-topping peach crisp, the recipe for which I may or may not post later. The boyfriend and I couldn’t figure out which topping we wanted to use (mine was shortbread-like, his more of a brown sugar-y, oatmeal-y masterpiece), so we halved each of our recipes and had a contest. They both won.

Hell, the whole dinner was a win, both in terms of food and company, and I’m glad of it!

Chickadoodle’s Dinner for Two #3: Absurdly Easy Chili-Mac

Okay, this is actually a dinner for two for 3 or even 4 nights, but whatever. This is the way students on a college budget survive.

For this, you need:

–2 boxes of your favorite macaroni and cheese
–2 cans of your favorite canned chili (I commonly mix two types of Nalley or Stag chili)
–1 can of your favorite beans to use with chili
–2 cups of grated cheddar cheese (optional)
–spices to taste (cayenne pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes are common favorites) 

First, prepare the macaroni and cheese as you would normally. Keeping the pot warm on low heat, stir in the chili and the beans, as well as the spices. Stir in the cheese, melting it if desired. Actually, it will probably melt in the process, anyway; you may as well accept it.

Serve it up and eat it. I recommend having some salad to go along with it.

The whole process takes about 30-40 minutes, including re-heat time. (The non-mac ingredients, especially the cheese, will lower the temperature of the whole thing.)