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.

Cooking with Chickadoodle: Roasted Bell Peppers

So, like any normal, sane, and decent person, I love bell peppers.

Okay, like any person who likes bell peppers, I… like bell peppers.

I love ‘em in salad, on pizza, as an appetizer on a veggie tray, and most other normal ways they can be eaten. They don’t even have to be raw! I love them pickled, stir-fried, barbequed, and oven-roasted.

So, often enough, long about this time of the year, when the weather turns cold, I will get some bell peppers from the store and roast them.

I don’t really do anything special—it’s about a 45-minute process total, but dagnabbit, they turn out so tasty!

So, here’s my prep, complete with pictures.

First, I foil-line my pans, even the non-stick ones. Bell peppers stick. I also coat the foil with a thin layer of olive oil. Then, I cut the bell peppers into chunks and place them skin-down on the foil.

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After that, I pour a little more olive oil on the peppers, as well as some “Italian Street Fair” from the Spice & Tea Exchange. I stir the peppers to coat them.

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Next, I add some pepper, thyme, basil, and rosemary and stir some more, and put the peppers in at 425 F for 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, I check and stir the peppers, then set the timer for another 20 minutes.

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Tasty!

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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…

Salted caramel cookie butter cookies

So, I stumbled across the wonderful invention that is cookie butter about 4 months ago. I bought some crunchy cookie butter from Trader Joe’s the other week, and then, I got to wondering: what on God’s green earth does one do with cookie butter? I mean, it’s this mostly mild-flavored but extremely tasty paste that’s not the least bit healthy for you (though apparently not much worse overall than peanut butter, so there is that, I guess…), so… do I make cookies with it? Do I dunk oreos in it? Do I spread it on celery à la peanut butter? Do I use it as a caramel substitute for dunking apples? Do I just eat it out of the jar? WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS AMAZING STUFF?! 

Around the same time, I had purchased some fleur de sel caramels from Trader Joe’s, as well. Divine inspiration: Why not make cookie butter cookies with bits of the caramels in them? What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, a lot, if one does not have waxed paper or foil to line their cookie sheets with. I have beautiful non-stick sheets, and there was no way in hell that I was going to subject them to twice-burnt sugar. That just seemed like a bad idea. I would have preferred to have gone with waxed paper, but foil certainly served its purpose.

I followed this recipe, adapted from Feastie:

Biscoff Cookie Butter Cookies

makes roughly 3 dozen cookies

barely adapted from Baking Bites

Ingredients:

  •  1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff cookie butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 12 Trader Joe’s fleur de sel caramels, cut up into 8ths

Instructions:

  1.  Position oven rack in the center of the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil. 
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy and pale. 
  4. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in the cookie butter.
  5. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until just combined.
  6. Add the caramel pieces and fold them in–don’t over-mix!
  7. Place the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, scoop out small balls of dough (about 1″ in diameter)  on prepared baking sheet. 
  8. Bake cookies until lightly golden and brown around the edges, about 12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet set on a cooling rack for 2 minutes, then gently transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. 
  9. While the first dozen cookies are in the oven, start forming/rolling the second dozen and place them on the second prepared baking sheet. When the first dozen are done baking, quickly slide the second dozen into the oven. After the first dozen cookies have been transferred to the cooling rack, you can slide that piece of parchment paper off onto the counter and prepare the third dozen dough balls (just put them directly onto the parchment) – slide the whole piece of parchment paper back onto the baking sheet right before you put the third dozen cookies in the oven. 

A few notes:

While this worked for the most part, I would probably actually just press the caramels into the top of the cookies instead of mixing them in next time. While I’d line the cookie sheets either way, caramel is… not the most pleasant stuff to work with. I actually wound up refrigerating them for a few minutes before I folded them into the dough because they were trying to stick together at room temperature. Since the damage had already been done, the fridge also kinda stuck them together. Oops.

I also let the cookies just cool on the foil-lined pans, as we do not have cooling racks, and, again, working with caramel can be unpleasant to work with. I still had to use a spatula to remove the cookies from the foil intact. ‘Cause, y’know, caramel sticks to everything. And can be unpleasant to work with. (Have I hammered that home yet? It’s worth it, but never let it be said that I didn’t warn you what you were getting into.)

Finally, the original recipe called for only 1/4 tsp. of salt. But these are salted caramel cookies. So screw that. They didn’t turn out too salty.

Oh, and be warned: these things stick to your teeth. While they are delicious, your enamel probably will not thank you down the road. I’d say that these are an occasional treat, unless you want to, um… make these into bar cookies and drizzle salted caramel over them after they come out of the oven? I dunnno… It’s an idea.

Anyway, enjoy!

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!

SO MUCH PASTA SAUCE

So, just before our power went out for a few hours yesterday (yay, spring storms!), the boyfriend and I had just managed to finish preparing an amazing dinner. I had wanted to make a focaccia bread that one of the boyfriend’s roommates had made a week or so ago (though I managed to screw it up and accidentally added 133% of the needed water, but it still turned out pretty good, all things considered), and I wanted to make something to go with it. Pasta was the obvious choice, but I wanted some veggies–and not just salad. So, I endeavored to make a pasta sauce that would a) prove me a true (1/8th) Italian, and b) be eaten by the boyfriend, who is not the world’s biggest fan of a lot of veggies.

I based my recipe off of this one from AllRecipes, and I will note my changes below.

First, I roughly 2/3’d the recipe. Kind of, anyway. I still added 2 bell peppers (one green, one red, both diced fairly small), the rough equivalent of 2 carrots in baby carrot form (and diced instead of shredded), no zucchini (I used 2 large-ish celery stalks, diced small instead), 1.5 pounds of ground beef instead of doing half pork sausage, 14 oz. of tomato paste on top of 52 oz of diced tomatoes (and it still didn’t thicken), and all of the herbs were dried (we used about 3/4 of a tablespoon of dried basil and 1/2 a tablespoon of garlic powder). I don’t know how many ounces of mushrooms I used, but I’ll state right here that I minced 2.5 medium-large ones. Also, the recipe never says when to throw in the meat. We tossed it in before simmering, so it could soak up some flavor. This was, in fact, an excellent idea.

All in all, it turned out to be really, really good. The boyfriend maintains he could not taste the veggies much, if at all. (I suspect this is at least in part due to going heavy on the herbs.)  It was rather more like a stew with a thin broth, but quite chunky. We figure it would feed 4 or 5 reasonably hungry people for two or three nights (more like 3).

If you have a whole afternoon to spend, it’s definitely worth the time.

Added later: This sauce is actually perfect as a burrito with a whole-wheat tortilla and shredded parmesan cheese. Just saying.