Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pasta Fresca

A few weeks ago while husband and I were on the hunt for a new car, we went to a place for dinner called Noodle & Company. I thought it was delicious, and a great little place for quick pasta dishes. I ordered Pasta Fresca off the Mediterranean menu and loved it. So, tonight I set out to recreate the dish at home.

I knew that I could probably look for the recipe online, but I was up for the challenge of going off my instincts- it was much more fun that way. And- it turned out awesome, I am excited!

For Pasta Fresca you will need the following: 1 large chicken breast, or 2 small, a half box of penne pasta, 3-4 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, 1/2 cup of shredded parmesean cheese or feta, 1 small red onion, sliced, 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped, 1 small tomato, sliced, salt, pepper, and roughly 1/4 cup of each balsamic, evoo, and white wine.

This dish does require multi-tasking, but don't dismay if you have poor multi-tasking skills. I am confident that you can do it, because they are easy skills. It's a great dish to cook with someone else to split the multi-tasking.

To start, bring water to a boil for the pasta. Then, coat your chicken in about 2 tbs of evoo, and add about 1 tsp of each salt and pepper. Preheat your grill to cook the chicken. You'll want to go ahead and place the chicken on the grill first once it is heated. (I waited and I ended up having to wait on the chicken to finish, so do start it first.) While the chicken and pasta are cooking, start to cook the onions until they are almost soft, at that point, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Let the onions and garlic sit on low. Next, combine the 1/4 cup of each evoo, balsamic, and white wine. Add about 1/2 tsp of each salt and pepper and whisk it all together. Let this stand. Next, gently saute the spinach in 1 tbs of evoo. Add salt and pepper to taste to the spinach. This will only take about three minutes. Once the chicken is finished, let it rest for about five minutes. Then, slice the chicken. Drain your pasta. Top the pasta with the spinach, onions/garlic, sliced tomatoes, and chicken. Pour a liberal amount of the balsamic mixture over it all. Top with the parmesean. Enjoy.

I enjoyed a cup of coffee from Guatemala after dinner (compliments of Megan). Let me tell you, that stuff rocks.

Later tonight husband and I went to the store and I asked him to pick up some Rasinettes. He said they had no Rasinettes, so, I took matters into my own hands and made chocolate covered crasins. Almost, but not quite, as good.

Until next time..

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Julia & Chicken Salsa Verde Bake

So, I hate to go to the gym. I mean, I really hate to work out. There are probably about one hundred-fifty seven other things I would rather do before going to the gym. But- I know that I should/it is good for me so three days a week I drag myself there for thirty minutes, no longer and no more. However, today as I was working out "The French Chef" with Julia Child came on. Needless to say, today's workout was made much more enjoyable. Thank you Julia.

Husband has been out of town for the past two nights. I hate it when he is gone because, well, I just (most of the time) enjoy his company. But- the one good thing about his absence is that I can cook what I like and don't have to worry about his tastes. Tonight I made a Chicken Salsa Verde Bake. It's a Rachael Ray recipe that I have been wanting to try for a while.

To make this you will need 1-2 chicken breasts, 1 tbs evoo, 1/2 cup sour cream, a Mexican cheese blend, 1/2-1 cup of your choice of salsa, 1 half of an onion chopped, 1 can of kidney beans, and roughly 2 cups of tortilla chips, crushed. This is a halved version of the recipe which will feed about 4 people.

Start by pre-heating the oven to 375 degrees. Then, heat the evoo over medium heat to pan-cook your chicken. This will take 10-12 minutes, flipping once. While that is working you can combine the kidney beans, onion, sour cream, and salsa into a large bowl. Once the chicken is cooked, let it cool, and then shred it. Add it to the bowl with the beans etc. and stir together. In a 9 x 13 pyrex (I used an 8x8 and it worked fine) coated with cooking spray, put down a layer of tortilla chips, then put a layer of the chicken mix, then top with a layer of cheese. Continue to layer the ingredients until gone. I topped mine off with an extra layer of chips and cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.

It doesn't really look pretty, but overall, I thought the dish was easy and good. I didn't really like that the onions weren't soft though. But- that is my personal preference, I'd just rather them be cooked.

I'm off to watch "Eat, Pray, Love", have a phone date with husband, and sleep!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Kenneth's mom brought us some oysters on Thursday and we cooked them last night (after buying a new car I might add!).
I will say that the first time that I ever had oysters I did not really enjoy them that much. Everyone that was there was going on and on how they loved them so much, and I did not see what was so special. Well, in the years to follow, I have grown to like them. I wouldn't go so far, though, as to say love them quite yet.

We cooked ours in the microwave, which may seem a bit unconventional, but it works and they're good. You place six oysters in a small pyrex dish, cover with a wet paper towel, and cook for three minutes. They should open up in that time. After that, open them up! We didn't have an oyster knife so, we used a screwdriver- hey, it worked. My husband did all of this work last night because I don't really enjoy the opening up process.

We then topped off the oysters with cocktail sauce that I had made, butter, and other toppings. I stuck to the cocktail sauce and butter. Husband made what he calls a "rooster" which entails butter, cocktail sauce, horseradish, Tabasco, and a jalapeno. The cocktail sauce is a simple recipe which includes: about a cup of ketchup, 3 tbs of horseradish, the juice of half a lemon, about a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and a dash of Tabasco sauce.

To accompany the oysters, I made some southern-style squash. I started off a skillet with some evoo. To that, I added three squash, sliced, and one onion, sliced. I let them get soft, and then added some garlic, salt, pepper, and a little bit of sugar. It was sort-of a summery dish, but it was nice with the oysters. And- we ate the squash straight from the pan while we made our oysters. It was fun.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 So Far

The first eleven days of this new year have been good and busy. We ended up staying home for New Year’s Eve and had some friends come over to celebrate. It was really fun and was a good way to start off the new year. We had steak, potatoes, and roasted tomatoes for dinner that night. The next morning, however, was my favorite meal. We had brunch, since we all woke up pretty late (being that we have arrived in our mid-twenties and 12AM was a late bedtime for us). I fixed grits, smoked salmon tartines, and muffins. My college roommate Megan was home from Guatemala and spent New Year’s with us, along with our friends Jesse and Krew, and she helped cook brunch too. It was like old times in the kitchen. That is one of my favorite things about cooking; it brings people together and creates awesome memories.

For the grits, I used Quaker instant, but instead of cooking them in water, I cooked them in chicken broth which I think gives them a lot more flavor. When they were finished, I added salt, pepper, butter, cheddar and parmesan cheese (I of course had already scooped out a small bowl, non-cheese, for my cheese-hating husband). The smoked salmon tartines are an Ina Garten recipe. First you make the egg salad (which is rockin’ by the way) that tops everything off. The recipe is here. After making the egg salad, you slice up some smoked salmon and place it evenly on pieces of a sliced and toasted baguette. Our grits and tartines were accompanied by apple-cinnamon and blueberry muffins (from a box- don’t judge me).

Other meals we have had thus far this year include stir-fry, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, and pork chops. It was my first time ever making stir-fry and it didn’t come out quite as I would have hoped, but it was a good start for not following any recipe. What was really most exciting about it is that we got to use our wok for the first time. Into my stir-fry, I included red, yellow, and orange peppers, sliced, one onion, sliced, and sliced carrots. For the meat, I used kielbasa.

The meatloaf I made is from my mom’s recipe, although I never make it as good as her. I am fortunate that my husband loves meatloaf. It was one of my favorite things growing up and it’s exciting that he likes it too- in fact, he is the one that wanted to have it for dinner that particular night. With the meatloaf we had asparagus and mashed potatoes.

Tonight we had pork chops, collard greens, and roasted carrots. I had never cooked collards before, and I was feeling a little less southern by not having done so. It was time to add them to my repertoire. I browsed some recipes online before I started to get an idea of what to do. I was a little concerned at first because a lot of the recipes were calling for them to be cooked for two hours. It was 7:00 when I was looking, two hours wasn’t really going to work for me. I then found a recipe saying you could cook them in 30-40 minutes-much better. I started by washing my collard greens to get rid of sand etc., and then cutting off the stems, and cutting them to size. Then, I dropped them into boiling water and let them simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I chopped my carrots, tossed them in evoo, salt, pepper, and dash of brown sugar and put them in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. I then made a butter compound with parsley, thyme, and crushed red pepper for the pork chops. I grilled the chops and let them rest while everything else finished. It was a good meal.

Today was a snow day and so is tomorrow! Yay!