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Chicken Parmesan / Chicken Parmigiana

February 7, 2011

Chicken Parm is one of my all-time favorite Italian dishes.  Growing up, we frequented the Olive Garden and it was all I ever ordered.  For my 18th birthday, I chose to go to the Olive Garden just for that Chicken Parmesan.  Well, I also loved their breadsticks.  Knowing full well how much I love it, my parents were sure to tell me that they had found “the best chicken parmesan recipe”.  Then, they told me it was one of Tyler’s…so it must be good!  Unlike most of his Ultimate recipes, this one is pretty quick and super easy.  And, you probably have a bunch of the ingredients already!

Adapted from Tyler Florence, FoodNetwork.com

Tyler has 2 versions of this recipe.  I made the simpler one from Food 911 and have listed some of the changes – mainly, there are a few less ingredients with the version I made.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
  • Pinch sugar
  • Pinch red pepper flakes  – I used cayenne so that the kids wouldn’t bite into the seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)  – I used what I had…1 breast and a package of breast tenderloins.  I cut the breast in half to make it thin enough.  Using tenderloins saves you from having to pound the chicken (as in the recipe I used which I’m guessing was accidentally omitted from this version)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup dried plain bread crumbs – I used Italian since that’s what I had
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling  – I didn’t use the cup of Parm since it wasn’t called for in the other version.  If you are using plain breadcrumbs, I would definitely use the Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves – not in the other version
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder  – not in the other version but I will add next time if using plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound spaghetti pasta, cooked al dente

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  The other version is quicker and calls for an oven temp of 450 degrees – go with 450 since 350 degrees won’t get your mozzarella as brown and bubbly.

Coat a saute pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil gets hazy, add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves; cook and stir for 5 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add the olives and some hand-torn basil, reserve the rest of the basil for finishing the chicken. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes), cook and stir until the liquid is cooked down and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes; season with sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and keep warm.

Get the ingredients together for the chicken so you have a little assembly line. Put the flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. In a wide bowl, combine the eggs and water, beat until frothy. Put the bread crumbs on a plate, add the 1 cup parmesan, chopped parsley, and garlic powder – or make it easy and use Italian seasoned bread crumbs.  Season with salt and pepper and stir with a fork until thoroughly combined.

If you are using chicken breasts, I highly suggest that you cut and/or pound them to about 1/2 inch thick otherwise, you may end up with undercooked chicken or cooked chicken with a burned crust.  To save time, get the chicken breast tenderloins like I did…that way, you get a little extra breading and it’s easy to serve.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high flame in a large oven-proof skillet. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, and then dip them in the egg wash to coat completely, letting the excess drip off, then dredge in the bread crumbs. When the oil is nice and hot, add the cutlets and fry for 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.

Ladle the tomato-olive sauce over the chicken and arrange the mozzarella on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and remaining basil. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with spaghetti.

You want it to look like this…the browned cheese is sooo tasty!

PREP: 10 minutes   COOK: 45 minutes   SERVINGS:  6-8

The entire family loved this recipe!  It really was easy to make, so if you’re still learning to cook, this is a great one to try!  And, if you are a master at feeding your family, this should definitely be part of your rotation – what kid doesn’t love big pieces of breaded chicken (kinda like giant chicken nuggets) loaded with a bunch of cheese?!

It’s an easy recipe to make little substitutions here and there , just don’t skip the kalamata olives!  They keep for a long time in the fridge, so they are easy to keep on hand.  Some of the canned whole tomatoes come with basil already in them, so if you want to make this from your pantry, buy those instead.  Or, keep a cute little basil plant in your house and you’ll always have fresh basil!  And, if you pick up the mondo size bag of shredded mozzarella at Costco, you can portion out smaller bags, keep it in the freezer and you are ready for Chicken Parm any time!

LEVEL: Easy   TIME: 55 minutes   GRADE: A

Buttered Rum Martini

January 15, 2011

One night I met my dear girlfriend Tina out for drinks at Claim Jumper.  I think it was probably her idea to order their Buttered Rum Martini – the description compared it to the Buttered Rum Lifesaver that we all loved as kids.  In fact, that was my favorite Lifesaver…so, I immediately fell in love with this libation.  I had no luck finding a recipe for it, but after a little of this and a little of that, I created this recipe that is darn close!

  • 1 ounce Butterscotch Schnapps
  • 1 ounce Coconut Rum
  • 1 ounce Vanilla Vodka
  • 1 ounce Pineapple Juice

Measure all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake, shake, shake and strain into a martini glass.

Kung Pao Chicken with Coconut Jasmine Rice

December 20, 2010

 

 

I’m a huge fan of stir-fry and have been making good use of the wok my Dad got for me a few years back.  If you don’t have one but cook Asian dishes, it really is a must-have.  Not the electric kind either…get one with a flat bottom so that you can maximize every BTU that comes out of your residential stove.  I love that Cooking Light has truly embraced Asian Fusion and this recipe is a keeper.   It is not authentic Kung Pao, but it is a slightly healthier Western version that will give you all the flavor of take-out at half the calories and half the cost.

 

 


Adapted by Cooking Light, December 2010

  • 2  tablespoons  dark sesame oil
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  pound  skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4  cup  water
  • 3  tablespoons  lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  teaspoons  cornstarch
  • 1  teaspoon  brown sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon  bottled minced ginger
  • 1  to 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1  cup  thinly sliced red bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
  • 1  cup  snow peas, trimmed
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes or until chicken begins to brown.

Combine 3/4 cup water and the next 5 ingredients (through crushed red pepper), stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Add water mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Add bell pepper and snow peas to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and sauce thickens. Sprinkle with nuts.

Calories:  275   Fat:  13.8g (sat 2.6g,mono 5.3g,poly 4.8g)   Protein:  25.3g   Carbohydrate:  11.9g   Fiber:  2.2g   Cholesterol:  94mg   Iron:  2mg   Sodium:  502mg   Calcium:  41mg

PREP: 20 min   COOK: 20 min   SERVINGS: 4

Along with this recipe was a recipe for Coconut Rice.  I am half Filipina and like any good little Asian, I have a rice cooker.  It was my first gift from my grandmother when I moved out on my own.  I wasn’t sure if the recipe would work in the rice cooker…it did!  So, if you have one, just throw it all in there instead of a saucepan and push the button!

  • 1 cup uncooked Jasmine rice
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to a simmer; cook 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.  Remove from heat; fluff with a fork and stir in chopped cilantro.

Calories:  97   Fat:  1.5 g Sodium:  155 mg

The Kung Pao, as I had mentioned, is super tasty and the sauce is a great base for any stir-fry.  Remember, stir-fry is done in restaurants on special burners that spit out ridiculously high heat, so to have your chicken turn out tender and moist, you want to cook it quickly, on your highest heat setting.  I used breast tenderloins which I cut into smaller pieces and I did a big no-no…I didn’t completely defrost the chicken.  It was one of those nights where I let the microwave defrost the chicken but stopped it before the edges started getting cooked.  So, it took longer than 3 minutes for my chicken to brown, but it was good to go after about 8.  Sesame oil can handle much higher temps, so you’ll see it used in many stir-frys…don’t sub if you can avoid it.  Cooking your chicken at a lower temp takes longer and cooks out a lot of the juices!

My family loves a lot of sauce, so I doubled all of the sauce ingredients.  And, since this was for the whole fam, I left out the red pepper until the end when I set aside some for the kids, then added a bunch of red pepper to the rest.  I expect the leftovers to carry a lot more heat…the red pepper didn’t get cooked into the dish, which is typically what will bring on the heat.  Nothing a little Sriracha can’t fix!

I had Coconut Milk on hand for the rice, so I made it.  I considered just making plain rice and next time, I probably will.  Even doubling the recipe, I only needed half a can of the milk, so now I have to quickly find something to make with it.  Plus, it wasn’t a drastic difference.  The bulk of flavor came from the sauce in the Kung Pao.  If you have Cilantro on hand, add it in but don’t go out of your way to pick up coconut milk.

This was a quick and easy meal that the whole family enjoyed.  If you are new to stir-fry, this is a great one to try.  The steps are easy and if followed, you will have a fabulous meal that is better than your local Chinese restaurant.

LEVEL: Easy   TIME: 40 minutes   GRADE: B+

Scallops Bonne Femme

December 6, 2010

I came across this recipe years ago, courtesy of Rachel Ray.  It has been a regular in our home for years and when my hubby recently requested it, it seemed time to get it posted.  This is a wonderful recipe for a weeknight meal or even to serve to guests.  The sauce is a fantastic base…rich and creamy, yet light enough to partner with scallops.  We love bacon around here, but I wouldn’t substitute bacon for prosciutto…the saltiness of the prosciutto is a great partner for the sweet scallops.

Adapted from Rachel Ray, FoodNetwork.com

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 12 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste  – dried nutmeg works just fine
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 or 2 dashes hot sauce – not necessary
  • 8 slices prosciutto
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves chopped
  • 20 large sea scallops, trimmed of any connective tissue and patted dry
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs  – I prefer to use Panko

Place oven rack at center of oven and preheat broiler – I preheat to 450.

Heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a small pot over medium heat and add the shallots and mushrooms, cook 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle flour to softened shallots and mushrooms and cook 1 minute then whisk in wine, reduce 30 seconds or until alcohol has cooked off, add stock and bring to a bubble. Stir in cream and heat through. Season sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper and a couple dashes hot sauce, then reduce heat to low.

While the sauce is working, cover cookie sheet with foil and place prosciutto on the sheet and crisp up 2 minutes on each side under the broiler. It will continue to crisp as it cools.  I crisp the prosciutto using the oven at 450 – every time I have used the broiler, I have burned the prosciutto.  450 is far more fool-proof.

Heat a skillet or cast iron pan over high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and dress with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Sear the scallops to caramelize 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side then cover them with sauce, bread crumbs and parsley and finish in oven about 6 to 7 minutes until brown and bubbly.  It is important to make sure that you pat your scallops dry prior to seasoning – they will not caramelize if they are still wet.  Also, I prefer to coat the pan with olive oil instead of the scallops and have found they take longer than a minute to caramelize.  I omit the parsley…I don’t feel it adds enough flavor to be worth the effort and instead will add some grated parmesan and a quick spray of olive oil or pan spray.  Reduce oven temp to 350 and bake uncovered until crisp and bubbly.

PREP: 5 minutes  COOK: 25 minutes  SERVINGS: 4-6

Rachel serves this dish with wilted spinach and crusty garlic bread.  In our family, we like this over angel hair pasta with a fresh French loaf on the side plus a salad.  This is a rich sauce with incredible flavor – definitely a winner for serving guests!  I typically will double or triple the sauce, depending on how many scallops I am using.  You want plenty of sauce to coat your pasta.

LEVEL: Easy-Intermediate   TIME: 30 minutes   GRADE: A

Chorizo Egg Casserole

December 5, 2010

One of the things I love about Reno is the basque influence – there are chorizo dishes seemingly everywhere!  Growing up on chorizo and egg burritos, I decided it was time for a remake.  After some searching, I found Emeril’s Mexican Breakfast Casserole that was close to what I wanted, but I love the combo of chorizo and potatoes, so after some changes, I created this Chorizo Egg Casserole that is perfect to make ahead and bake for guests or to bake and freeze for later.

  • 1 -4 ounce can diced chilis, drained
  • 1 – 19.5 ounce package chorizo, removed from the casing
  • 3 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
  • 3/4 cup yellow onions, diced
  • 1/2 bellpepper, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican chili powder
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup Monterey or pepper jack cheese, grated
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1/8 cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • sour cream for garnish
  • hot sauce for garnish

In a large skillet, cook the chorizo and potatoes over medium-high heat until the chorizo is cooked and the potatoes are firm but fork tender, 8-10 minutes.  Add onions and bell pepper, cook for 4 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and strain to drain the excess grease.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs, half-and-half and chili powder.  Stir in the chilis.

Spray a 2.2 Quart glass casserole dish with pan spray.  Spoon in half of the chorizo and potato mixture, spreading out to cover the bottom of the casserole dish.  Sprinkle half of the cheeses and cilantro then pour over 2/3 of the eggs.  Layer remaining chorizo and potatoes, remaining eggs, then remainder of cheese and cilantro.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake and serve.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour until the eggs are set and a knife inserted comes out clean.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream and hot sauce.

PREP: 10 minutes   COOK: 15 minutes + 1 hour   SERVINGS: 8

If you like chorizo, this is a must try!  I am going to serve this for breakfast next time I have overnight guests…I’ll prepare the day ahead and refrigerate.  In the morning when I make coffee, I’ll pop this in the oven and an hour later, breakfast will be ready!  Yum!

LEVEL: Easy   TIME: 1 hour 25 minutes   GRADE: A

New England Clam Chowder

December 5, 2010

Clam chowder has been one of my favorites since I was young.  I try it at nearly all restaurants, but it’s always quite heavy and loaded with calories.  I did a little searching after Food Network Magazine recently featured Clam Chowder for their Lighten Up Challenge.  I liked the base recipe, however I could not seem to find fresh clams at Costco nor my local grocery store.  I hate hunting for ingredients, so I had to make a few modifications.  This recipe turns out a bit sweet, so if you want to kick it up a notch, add more pepper.

  • 2 – 6.5 oz. Canned Clams in Clam Juice
  • 3 cups Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 3 slices smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, about 3/4 cup, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 cup water or clam juice
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives, for garnish

Coat a stock pot with pan spray and cook the bacon until crisp, 5-7 minutes.  Add the onions and celery, cook 2 minutes, then add garlic and cook another minute.  Add potatoes, thyme, water or clam juice, juice from clams and salt.  Cover and simmer over medium for 10 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.

Add flour and mix, then add sliced butter until melted.  Slowly add half-and-half and gently stir to incorporate.  Reduce heat to low and cover for 15 minutes until all flavors are fully blended.  Generously add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with parsley and chives.

PREP: 15 minutes   COOK: 40 minutes   SERVINGS: 4

For a quick, make at home clam chowder, this is a winner.  The most labor intensive part is cubing the potatoes – make sure they are small so they don’t take long to cook.  This is a one-pot meal that can be made ahead for lunch or served right away for a cozy weeknight meal.

LEVEL: Easy   TIME: 55 minutes   GRADE: B+

Mushroom and Sausage Ragù with Polenta

October 6, 2010

I love Italian food and enjoy making it at home, but I haven’t actually made or tasted a ton of Italian food outside of the typical stuff you find at Italian-American Restaurants.  It had been an Italian week at our house, so Polenta was a must!  It has always looked so creamy – kinda like a mashed potato, that I was very excited to try this one out.  I did make the mistake of buying pre-cooked and seasoned Polenta that comes in a roll.  Go with the uncooked, unseasoned type and season it yourself.  You can typically find it in the bulk bins in your grocery store.

Adapted from Cooking Light, October 2010

  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  olive oil, divided
  • 8  ounces  hot turkey Italian sausage
  • 1/2  cup  chopped onion
  • 1  pound  cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2  large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4  teaspoon  kosher salt, divided
  • 1  (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 1/2  cups  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2  cups  water
  • 1  cup  uncooked polenta
  • 4  ounces  1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1  tablespoon  butter

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cheese, and butter. Serve with sausage mixture.

Calories:  428   Fat:  18.7g (sat 8.4g,mono 8.5g,poly 1.4g)   Protein:  18.2g   Carbohydrate:  46g

Fiber:  4.6g   Cholesterol:  53mg   Iron:  3.3mg   Sodium:  821mg   Calcium:  74mg

PREP: 15 min   COOK:  30 min   SERVINGS:  4

The flavor in the Ragu was tasty and full of flavor, even though it used few ingredients.  I used mild sausage and added some red pepper to my plate since this was for the entire family, including the little ones.  If you haven’t used Cremini mushrooms, they look a lot like Baby Bellas – another reviewer used those when they couldn’t find Cremini.  I was not a huge fan of the polenta and I know that it is because I used pre-cooked.  I will definitely make this again and use uncooked polenta.  This is an inexpensive weeknight meal worthy of regular rotation.

LEVEL:  Easy   TIME: 45 min   GRADE: B

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