Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ridiculously Easy, Lighter Chicken Parm

I apologize for the cheesy basil garnish.... :)
Chicken Parm can be messed up.  It can.

Ever had a reeeaally thick chicken breast, with a heavy, soggy breading and a thick, chewy covering of cheese?  Yeah....  not my favorite.  We made this version last week, and it was awesome - just the right amount of tender chicken, crisp breading, a taste of cheese and bright sauce in each bite.  This was so light, and we all really enjoyed it.   

Ridiculously Easy, Lighter Chicken Parm

 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half for 4-6 thin cutlets
EVOO to mist or brush onto chicken (you can also melt some butter and brush that on - about 2 tbsp. or so)
your favorite marinara sauce (1-2 c. )
grated parm for garnish if you like - or if you need more cheese, mozzarella or provolone
fresh herbs for garnish if you like, minced

For the breading:
1/2 - 3/4 c. breadcrumbs (make your own, use store-bought, Panko, whatever)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (or mix up your own from the ol' dried spices collection)
couple grinds of pepper
pinch of salt
teeny pinch of cayenne pepper if you like

We like the chicken very thin -maybe 1/2".
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, set aside.  Start boiling some water for your noodles.  Mix up the breading ingredients in a shallow dish.  Grab your chicken, and spritz with a little EVOO on each side.  Then dredge (dip/coat/cover/you get it) in the dry breadcrumb mixture on each side, and place on the foil-lined sheet.  Spritz the breasts again with a little EVOO, then stick the tray in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, then check on your chicken, and flip to brown the other side, or just leave 'em alone. 

Heat up your marinara sauce.  Cook your noodles according to the box, drain, and set aside.  If you like lots of cheese, lay a slice of fresh mozzarella or provolone on top of each chicken piece, and heat until bubbly and golden. When the juices run clear/temp measures safe for poultry, then pull out the chicken, and plate it on a bed of noodles, or without.    Spoon a little sauce over top, garnish with fresh basil or parsley, and you're ready to rock!  Serve over pasta, or skip it if you prefer.

*To prep for a freezer meal, bread the chicken breasts, place them on a shallow disposable foil baking sheet, and wrap with foil.  Include a packet or jar of sauce and some noodles if you like.   The chicken can be thawed in the fridge, and then prepped as directed above. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Meal Plan Monday is back!

Here's the plan for the week - my husband and I sat down yesterday, talked through our schedule and freezer contents, then made a meal plan and a grocery list to go with it.  We're keeping it simple since we have something going on 3 of the 5 nights of the week, and it's the first week of a new schedule.  We're also using what we've got on hand, so here goes:

Monday: BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, farmer's market sweet corn, watermelon, baked beans
Tuesday: Pizza, salad
Wednesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, salad
Thursday: Grilled Chicken, steamed baby red potatoes, farmer's market green beans
Friday: leftovers or going out  - depends on the weekend schedule
Weekend: We've got Labor Day plans, so the menu is someone else's responsibility! Whoo-hoo!

For lunches, since we're starting school and work this week, we have a variety of things on hand:

"Main Event" options:
sandwich bread & lunch meat
wraps - tortilla, Laughing Cow cheese & thinly sliced turkey/ham/leftover chicken/veggies
leftover BBQ pork in a Thermos with a roll
leftover spaghetti in a Thermos
summer sausage, cheese & crackers
lettuce and veggies for salads

various crunchy things (veggie chips, Goldfish, pretzels, tortilla chips w/salsa)
fruits, veggie sticks and dip
low-fat string cheese
"dessert" items - baking some cookies today

Teriyaki Flank Steak

Tried a super easy recipe last night...

While paging through a magazine yesterday, this recipe caught my eye.  I needed something for dinner, so rather than put it off, I just went to the kitchen and went for it!  The recipe was for skewers, and called for you to slice the meat into 1/4" strips, and then thread them on to skewers, but I'm lazy, so I just threw the whole thing in a bag and sliced it up afterward.  You do what you need to do.

Teriyaki Flank Steak
1 flank steak (about 1 lb.)
1/2 c. Teriyaki sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
a good squeeze of a fresh lemon (about 1-2 tbsp.)

Add the above items to a freezer bag or dish to marinate meat, at least 30 minutes, or overnight (or toss in the freezer for another night - even better, make one for tonight, and one for another time!).  Heat your grill, and grill until done to your liking.  Let rest for a few minutes, then slice thinly, against the grain.  If you do the skewers, stick the raw meat in the freezer for a little bit to help you slice, and slice the strips before you marinate them.  Then thread the marinated strips onto skewers and grill.  Serve over rice, rice noodles, quinoa, or lettuce.  Top with a few more sliced scallions, and some toasted sesame seeds (toast them in a skillet, it takes just a minute or so). 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Presto Pesto!

Pesto isn't hard to make.

I had it in my head that it was, for some reason, until I finally tried it.  It just takes a few minutes!  I'd been meaning to makes some with almonds, instead of pine nuts for 2 reasons: (1) pine nuts are expensive, yo! and (2) I had a big bag of almonds from Costco that we haven't attacked with as much gusto as I thought we would.  We had some bad luck with basil this year, and I scrounged up enough for a packed 1/2 cup, but not a whole.  Shoot!  Then I saw a recipe that combined parsley and basil - problem solved!  Here's what I did, and another recipe with just basil, in case your crop fared better.

I plan to toss some angel hair pasta with pesto and some little grape or Sun Gold tomatoes from the garden, and toss in whatever else makes sense from the fridge or garden, and maybe throw on some grilled chicken strips or something for dinner tomorrow.  I'll also do some little toasts and spread them with the fresh pesto  and spoon on a little bruschetta topping (also from those great little tomatoes that keep on coming from the garden).   Feel free to share your favorite pesto uses in the comments!

Basil-Parsley Pesto
1/2 c. basil leaves, packed
1/2 c. parsley leaves, packed
1/2 c. whole almonds, toasted*
2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp. feta cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
a squirt of fresh lemon juice if you want

Here's the best part - just throw everything but the olive oil into the food processor bowl, pulse until it's finely ground, and then stream in the olive oil until you get a nice, creamy consistency.  You might need to scrape down the slides of the bowl once or twice to make sure everything is combined.  Makes about a cup of pesto. Keep it covered in the fridge, or freeze in cubes (use an ice cube tray for neat little portions) to use as needed.

*Throw the almonds on a pan in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes, until they start to brown - shaking the pan occasionally (every 5 minutes or so), so they don't get too brown.  You'll smell the difference.  You can do then before making almond butter, too, to add a little depth of flavor.

Basil-Almond Pesto
1 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 c. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. toasted almonds
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until thoroughly combined.  Store covered, in the refrigerator or freeze.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Farmer's Market Veggie Medley

This is the most versatile side dish ever. 

I think you could literally serve it with everything.  Last time at the farmer's market, we picked up some carrots, zucchini, squash and onions.  Right away, I washed everything up, grabbed a knife, and sliced it all up.  Then I made a big bag of mixed veggies, added a few cloves of minced garlic, and a splash of basil-infused olive oil.  I tossed it in the freezer, and I've been grabbing a few handfuls, tossing the mix into a hot pan, and I have a simple, healthy side dish in just a few minutes.  Last night, I ran out to the garden and grabbed some fresh basil, chopped it up and tossed it in before serving.  YUM.  You can add whatever you like - just do it now, while the fresh veggies are plentiful, and you can enjoy the tastes of summer for months to come.

Farmer's Market Veggie Medley

1-2 zucchini, sliced
1-2 squash, sliced
3-4 carrots, sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 tbsp. EVOO, basil-infused or plain
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper to taste
fresh basil, dill, rosemary, or whatever you like

Slice everything, mix it in a freezer bag, and save or another day, or just add it all into a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add some fresh basil or other herbs, if you like.  Season with salt and pepper and serve!  If you freeze it, don't thaw before cooking.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gearing Up

It was good to take a break this summer...

This summer, I just kind of felt like winging it in the kitchen, which was good and bad, and I didn't try out a TON of new recipes since it was so darn hot so many times, so there was just a lot of grilling and old standards goin' on here.  We were on the road a ton, too, so lots of times, we were eating on the run or on vacation.

I like my little space in the blogosphere, because I don't feel like there's anyone out there hanging on my every last word, depending on me to write a new post.  (And if there was someone like that, well, then I failed you miserably this summer.)  I love it when people comment and share, and I love seeing my page views increase, but I haven't wept miserably that I haven't become the next Pioneer Woman with my own show (love her - she is awesome!).

The purpose for this little space is to share my favorite recipes and things with my friends and family if they want to look, store our freezer meal swap recipes and instructions, and to have a place to keep all of my go-to recipes, and occasionally rant and rave about things.  I also like doing my meal plan on the blog, because there's a teeny bit of accountability there.  So, I'll be starting up some meal plan posts again soon, and I will be trying some new recipes out as the weather turns cooler.

This fall, I am going to take a seasonal job, so I will be out of the house most of the school day - that will require more meal planning on my part, fo' sho'.  We also purchased a hunk of cow this summer (yay), so I now have a freezer of awesomeness to go dig into when I need some beefy inspiration.  Feel free to throw out some comments if there are things you'd like to see, or kinds of recipes you'd like us to road test in the kitchen this fall.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Broccoli Salad...with Bacon!

I love this salad.

It starts out all healthy and great with broccoli, cauliflower and onion, and then you go ahead and de-healthify (totally a legit term) it with bacon and cheese.  And mayo.  Yeah, baby!  This is a favorite wherever I bring it, and sometimes we whip up a little batch at home for lunches or dinners.  You can customize it, too - throw in some julienned carrots, some toasted sunflower kernels, or sprinkle in some chia seeds. If you hate cauliflower, it's no biggie - we've made it without before, too.

Just a note - I don't usually follow these amounts exactly.  I like to kind of mix things until they taste right, or look right, consistency-wise.  The dressing for this salad can be REALLY spicy, REALLY sweet, or anywhere in between -  you should make it to your family's tastes.  Keep in mind the flavor of the hot sauce intensifies with time.  For the broccoli-cheese-onion-etc. ratio, just start tossing in handfuls or spoonfuls, and see how it looks - maybe you like 1/2 c. cheese, or 3 lb, of bacon - whatever floats your boat.  Just use these amounts as a general guidelines, and go from there!

Broccoli Salad...with Bacon!

2-3 large broccoli crowns, chopped or broken into florets
1 medium head cauliflower, chopped or broken into florets
1/2 red onion, diced (or you can add a whole onion or none!)
1 lb. bacon, cooked & crumble (don’t use turkey bacon, please)
1 c. longhorn or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 c. mayonnaise (can use low fat or fat free, but it’s sweeter, so adjust the sugar in the recipe as needed)
1/4 c. sugar (the old recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar!!  Start small; you can always add more)
6 tbsp. white vinegar
1-2 tsp. hot sauce (I use Tabasco - again, start with a few shakes, unless you know your family likes it hot.  The original recipe called for tablespoons, but I'd rather start light and add if needed...)

Combine mayo, sugar, vinegar and hot sauce in a small bowl and beat until frothy, or use a shaker and shake to combine.  Refrigerate until just ready to serve.  (I make it ahead of time – the day before works great). You could probably get away with cutting the dressing recipe in half - we go fairly light, so we usually only make 1/2. 

Wash and cut broccoli and cauliflower into bite-size (or smaller) pieces.  In a large bowl, combine with onion and cheese.  Refrigerate until just before serving.  Before you serve it, add the bacon (stays crispiest this way), and then add the dressing.  I like to add a bit at a time, so it's not over-dressed.