Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Happy Adoptaversary!


I had this wonderful, endearing post written on March 3, which was my dog’s 1 year “adoptaversary”. Why didn’t I post it, you ask? Unfortunately I somehow deleted all but one paragraph messing around trying to add pictures from my iPad! Major bummer! I never had a chance to sit down and get back to it until now…almost a month later. In any case, here is the recreation of that post complete with a homemade doggie treat recipe!

Gemma Pooches

Gemma Pooches

One year ago today we adopted our cute and crazy mutt, Gemma Pooches (yes, I gave her a middle name! Is that a problem?). As I mentioned in an earlier post, the adjustment to being a first time dog-mom took me a little longer than I expected. You see, I have never owned a pet…unless you count the beta fish in a vase (remember when those things were all the rage?) I had in college. Sadly little fishy only lasted a week or so…so I don’t really count that. Anyway, I have never really been around animals that much and have had allergies to dogs & cats all my life. I have been getting allergy injections over the past 5 years and my tolerance for dogs improved greatly…doctor gave me the ok to have a pet.
Hubby loves dogs and after hearing non-stop about our friends’ dog and seeing the joy he got from playing with him I randomly said “Let’s get a dog.” He said ok, but I know he thought I was full of ‘you-know-what’. I started checking on the internet for adoptable dogs and we spent a few weekends checking out some shelters and adoption events…all with no luck. I finally found a shelter that was a little bit further from us and we headed there to see if we would find the one.

Gemma loves the pool!

Gemma loves the pool!



I first just have to commend this shelter for being so clean and taking such great care of the dogs. The first thing I noticed (besides the craziness of so many people looking and trying to adopt) was how happy the dogs were. There were other shelters we visited that I literally started to tear up because the dogs just didn’t seem happy or most of them were just lying in their cages looking defeated. They also had many volunteers who were in and out taking the dogs for a walk or to play. Our volunteer knew a great deal about the dogs we looked at and was very helpful. We met a few dogs, but Gemma was the one I had a connection to. Now, this is where I have to stop and say that a year ago I would never have said such a thing…I really didn’t get the whole “animal lover” thing and figured a dog is a dog. There was just something about her, though, and although we liked some of the others I just had to have her.

Gemma paying it forward...donating food to the shelter that cared for her until she found her furever family!

Gemma paying it forward…donating food to the shelter that cared for her until she found her furever family!

Gemma was basically everything we said we didn’t want in a dog. For some reason, I had it in my head that I wanted a male dog, not really sure why that was, but in any case Hubby didn’t necessarily care about the gender. We did agree though that we didn’t want a dog that was too young or active. Gemma was female, only 10 months old and although she is half boxer and half beagle…her temperament is ALL Boxer! She is so full of energy and would literally play 23 hours a day if she could (I think she would at least take an hour to eat and sleep!). Our friends cautioned us about “Boxers being crazy, hyper and stubborn.” While this is somewhat true I’ve learned that with the right owner they are awesome dogs!

Gemma is a great study buddy!

Gemma is a great study buddy!

We brought her home and I was completely neurotic…every little thing scared me; I was your typical first time mom…just with a dog instead of a baby! Lucky for me, Hubby is always the voice of reason and doesn’t feed in to my neuroticism…I finally calmed down a bit and Gemma & I enrolled in mommy & me classes…ok not really, it was just basic dog training, but we both benefited greatly. I have to admit that I didn’t think we were going to graduate considering we were put in the timeout room during the first session, but as the weeks went by I gained more confidence and Gemma learned her commands like a pro…I finally saw how smart she really is. After our training and reading lots of books and articles I understood how to be a good pet parent to a headstrong dog and Gemma and I have bonded into best buds.

Gemma cooling off in the lake after some dog park fun!

Gemma cooling off in the lake after some dog park fun!

Fast forward to the present and I am “one of those animal people”. I love Gemma and can’t imagine life without her. If I can, I take her wherever we go. When we went on vacation I called our dog boarders every other day because I missed her so much. I can’t wait to get home each day and see her and look forward to warmer weather so we can get back to our neighborhood walks and play days at the dog park. I post more pictures of her on my Facebook page then most parents do of their children. I still can’t believe I have become this person…and most people who know me can’t either!! Such a transformation.
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The public service portion of my post is this: For those of you who might be considering a pet for the first time…I say make sure you are ready for the work and responsibility that goes into it…and if you feel you are willing get out there and adopt!! Don’t get stuck on “breeds” or wanting puppies…there are too many dogs who are waiting for a home of their own. Trust your gut…even if the dog you like isn’t what you have in mind!
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To celebrate Gemma’s adoptaversary I made these healthy (don’t tell her that!) homemade dog treats. The original recipe can be found here. I modified it just a bit omitting the wheat germ (because I didn’t have any) and applesauce, and increased the amount of pumpkin (to make up for the lack of applesauce) and added peanut butter because Gemma just loves peanut butter! Also, this makes a lot of treats, especially depending on the size cookie cutter you use, so I recommend freezing some and taking them out a little at a time. They only last about 5 days since they have no preservatives.
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Homemade Healthy Dog Treats
3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup ground flax seed meal
1 tbsp. raw honey
3 eggs
½ cup olive oil
1 cup water
½ cup natural peanut butter
1 cup pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour and flax seed. Set aside
3. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients; honey, eggs, oil, water, pumpkin and peanut butter. Stir until well-combined. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Form dough into a ball and roll out flat onto a well-floured surface until about ¼” thick.
5. Using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place on prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until treats are very brown and very hard.
7. Allow to cool before serving.

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A for Effort?


My first “month without” has come to a close. I have to say it was much harder than I thought it would be…especially since I chose alcohol which I do not consume that much of to begin with and because it is a short month.

Wine with dinner anyone?

Wine with dinner anyone?


I considered being dishonest, but the truth is I slipped up two times…but hey 26 out of 28 ain’t bad, right? In percentage terms that is a 93%. If this were a test in school I’d still get an A. So I’m not going to beat myself up over it.
My first slip up was early in the month and I just genuinely forgot about this little goal I’d set for myself. It was a Friday and all I wanted was to have a nice date night with my Hubby after a long and hard week of work and school (and continued stress due to life without a kitchen). We tried out a new restaurant and without even thinking I ordered a glass of wine to compliment by filet mignon salad. Oops!
Date NIght
My second slip up…was not necessarily a slip up but a conscious choice I made when I had my stove back for the first time and was able to make us a decent meal. I had picked up some delicious Espresso Vinegar, some grass fed organic New York Strip Steaks and went to town. I just could not indulge in an amazing meal without a glass of wine! Oops, again!
Kitchen Remodel
Anyway, as this first month has come to a close I am proud of myself. Overall I did not feel any different or better and will continue to indulge in my wine, in moderation of course.
Now it is on to the next: Sugar/Sweets/Candy. This month is going to be a real challenge. I love sugar and sweets so it will be a true test of my willpower. However, I am counting on feeling better not having toxic sugar in my body. Talk to me in 30 days & I’ll let you know!!

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Eat Your Veggies!


As a child I never really ate many vegetables. As a matter of fact I never really ate much of a variety of anything. I was a very picky eater…and very stubborn…and luckily for me Mom & Dad didn’t force such issues as eating vegetables and I got to eat a lot of PB&J for dinner growing up.

It’s strange though that as I’ve become an adult I eat more vegetables and actually really like them! Even more strange I sometimes actually crave them! Something that I started eating as an adult is edamame. It is tasty and filling, which makes it a good side dish. You can make it many different ways, but this recipe I found on Pinterest is by far my favorite. It’s super easy, full of flavor and very satisfying.

To make this recipe even easier I buy the “steam in bag” frozen edamame, but you can use any frozen edamame and just throw it in a bowl or a Ziploc bag and microwave for a few minutes to steam it.

If you don’t have or can’t find flavored olive oil you can use regular EVOO. This tastes amazing with the white truffle olive oil I picked up at my favorite specialty store!

By the way, I’m still unclear if edamame is a vegetable or a legume. A little Google research shows most people are split…some say veggie, some say legume. I say veggie, but what do you think?

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Garlic Asiago Edamame
2 cups frozen edamame, steamed
1-2 tbsp. white truffle olive oil (or flavor of your choice)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup asiago cheese, grated

1. Heat olive oil in pan.
2. Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds or just until fragrant
3. Add edamame and sauté until crisp & lightly brown.
4. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Add cheese. Stir.
5. Serve.

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Time for New Year’s Resolutions


I am completely not into New Year’s Resolutions. You are probably wondering “why are you talking about new year’s resolutions a month after you’re supposed to make them?” Well it’s simply because I decided I did want to do something meaningful in 2014…I just don’t think it’s beneficial to try to do that on January 1st. Why not give yourself a month to adjust to the fact that it is a whole new year? Or maybe that’s just the procrastinator in me…or the fact that 2014 did not start out so great! In any case, better late than never!

Last year I set out to try to make myself a better person overall…I didn’t really set any specific goals, but I think I did pretty good with this. In 2013: I started grad school. I lost 25 pounds (let’s not count the fact that I gained back 10 between November and now!). I made some internal changes to have a more positive outlook and be a more pleasant and happy person. I worked to improve my communication skills (is this a job application?). I attempted to be a better wife. Some days were better than others, but I have to say I did show personal improvement…and even though there may have been days and even weeks and months that I reverted back to my old ways, I did not beat myself up about it or let it get me down. I just brushed it off and got back on the horse.

Enjoying a cinnamon apple martini @ Bonefish Grill!

Enjoying a cinnamon apple martini @ Bonefish Grill!

So for 2014 I want to continue my self-improvement but I don’t want to set “resolutions” which I will undoubtedly break. I am also a person who struggles with long-term commitment so when I came across some other blog posts that talk about “a month without”, I really liked the idea. (Be sure to check out my page with all 12 months!)

So I decided that starting February 1st (this was supposed to be written & published yesterday…still need some work on that darn procrastination!) I was going to give up one thing each month to improve my health and well-being. Most of the things I chose have to do with my terrible eating habits and poor nutrition. I am hopeful that the great feeling giving up my vices provides me after 30 days will ultimately lead me to cut down dramatically. The end result will hopefully be an overall healthier me I’ll be able to control myself better and not over do it with my favorite things (which are mostly bad for me!).

You see I’ve accepted a few things in 2013 that I will continue to follow in the years to come. I’m sure many of you may already know these things or follow them. Such things as, there is no such thing as a diet. You must be in the right mental state to lose weight. You must eat healthy normal size portions (I refuse to say “small” because that makes me think of deprivation) and you must eat whole foods. You can still treat yourself once in a while and it is not the end of the world. There is no such thing as a “restricted” food (or drink) so long as you do not over do it! You do not have to join a gym or hop on the crossfit bandwagon to get exercise…you can walk your dog everyday or run around like a lunatic with her in the backyard. You can feel better and less stressed out simply by getting enough sleep and maintaining a positive frame of mind.

So to start off my year of “withouts”, in February I am going a month without alcohol. I assure you this is not because I am an alcky…I enjoy a glass of wine (ok 2 or 3 glasses) with dinner on the weekends or as long as I don’t have work. I also like to try different martini recipes now and then. So this actually won’t be so difficult since I don’t indulge every day (like my #1 addiction…diet coke!).

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I leave you all with this Apple Cinnamon martini recipe. You will need to prepare this in advance, since it takes some time to infuse the vodka with the apples and cinnamon. I left mine sit for about a week, but within 3 days or so you will get a good flavor. Just remember the longer the better, but be careful that your apples don’t start to disintegrate.

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Apple Cinnamon Martini

Apple Cinnamon Infused Vodka

  • 1 bottle of good quality vodka (I used SKYY)
  • 3-4 apples, cored and sliced thin (I used my mandolin to get them really thin)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

            Divide the sliced apples between two large jars, filling about 2/3 of the way full. Add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar. Pour the vodka evenly into the jars. Seal. Let sit in a cool dark place for 3-7 days.  Strain vodka into a container and enjoy.

Apple Cinnamon Martini

  • 3 oz. Apple Cinnamon Infused Vodka
  • 1 oz. Honey Simple Syrup
  • Splash Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur
  • Ice

         Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients, shake well and pour. Top glass with a slice of apple.

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


It’s been 10 months since my last post. Very. Very. Sad. At least this time there are some excuses. The first being the adoption of our cute and crazy dog Gemma. That happened all the way back in March, but the adjustment phase for me was a bit long! Don’t worry I will dedicate an entire post to that heartwarming story in the next few posts. Let’s just say I’ve never owned a pet and being a first-time “dog-mom” was not easy some days.

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The next thing that took me away from the blog was starting graduate school. In May I decided to go for it and so far have completed two semesters. I am currently in my third semester. I never imagined working full-time and taking two grad classes would be so hard. There are days when I absolutely feel I have no life other than go to work come home and do school work….weekends are now for school work as well. But I think I’m getting better with my time management and have dramatically decreased my procrastinating ways, which has allowed time for other things.

It is strange, though, what actually made me sit down and type this post. It is due to the loss of my kitchen! Recently we were hit hard by the infamous “Polar Vortex” that has been sweeping the U.S. and we had the misfortune of a frozen pipe that burst. When you wake up and start to walk down the hall and hear what sounds like rain coming from downstairs…you know what you are about to find is not going to be good! Water was coming out of the ceiling, down through the light fixtures, down the walls, all in the cabinets and drawers! It’s been a mess, but we are thankfully moving forward, however we have to get a whole new kitchen which has left me without for almost two weeks now and will probably be without for at least another week or two.

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Hubby set me up with a makeshift work station and so we haven’t had to eat out every night, but I feel like the only food I can make is the mediocre stuff I used to make before I knew how to cook. Although that is not entirely true…I’ve managed to come up with a few great meals thanks to my Nu-Wave Oven, Nu-Wave PIC, and my crockpot.

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But it’s just not the same. I’ve come to find cooking as something that makes me feel happy and de-stressed. I love coming home on a Friday and making a great dinner for Hubs and me. It is just what I need after a long week. (Although let me be clear, our number of take-out nights has drastically increased thanks to grad school!) I like being able to use fresh herbs and ingredients and trying new recipes…something that is just not possible right now.

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So to all of you out there who’ve had to suffer through this ridiculous cold today’s recipe is for a very delicious and hearty chilli. A few things with this chilli…although I used one recipe as my base I made a lot of changes. I also poured over the internet to learn about chilli. I definitely recommend adding your own touches, changing the amount of spices and tailoring it to your own preferences. Also, based on my (limited) research I would recommend using beer as the original recipe calls for. I am certain this will give a unique dimension to the flavor. Unfortunately we do not drink beer so I had none and didn’t see the point in buying any just for this batch of chilli so I substituted beef stock. It was still delicious but I’m definitely going to try it next time…even if it means asking for a bottle from a neighbor!

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Also this makes a huge batch…my slow cooker is smaller, only 3.5 quarts, and this recipe filled it all the way to the top. I was actually worried that it wouldn’t all fit in there, but luckily it did. If you have the same size slow cooker then you may want to cut the recipe down or just make this in a large stock pot on the stove (or get a bigger slow cooker!) or if you’re a risk taker just hold your breath as you add all the ingredients and hope it all fits!  

Hearty Slow Cooker Chilli

Source: Burnt Carrots

Ingredients: 

1 lb beef stew meat, cubed

2 lb ground beef

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, diced

1 green pepper diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles 

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cumin

12 oz dark beer or 12 oz. beef stock

1 (14.5 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (or substitute diced canned tomatoes if you like chunks!)

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut beef cubes into smaller pieces. I cut each cube into fourths.
  2. Brown the beef stew meat and add to slow cooker.
  3. Brown the ground beef. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  4. Add the salt and pepper to the meat in the slow cooker. Then add the beans.
  5. Heat olive oil in the pan. Add diced onions, green peppers, and brown sugar. Cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onions, keep heat on medium low. Add garlic towards the end of cooking. Once the onion mixture is done, add the chiles, chili powder, coriander, and cumin.
  6. Add onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the cocoa powder and stir well. Add tomatoes and beer. Stir. Cook chilli on low 8-10 hours.
  7. Serve piping hot with a side of cornbread.

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I’m HIGH…on White Truffle Olive Oil


Gourmet Vinegars & Oils

Wow, I just discovered this amazing store in one of my favorite nearby towns that has the cutest little shops. According to the owner, this store has been there for 2 1/2 years so I am not quite sure how I missed it. They sell different flavored vinegars and olive oils (as well as regular) and have them on tap right in the store so you can taste everything. Using a good balsamic vinegar is extremely important in cooking (although I tend to use the cheaper versions for marinades) and I had just recently finished up the fancy $30 bottle Hubby & I picked up a few months back so I started looking around for somewhere more convenient than heading into the city, where I could get some good quality vinegar and came across the Tubby Olive. I tasted a few vinegars and made my choices and while I was there decided to try some of the olive oils…ended up with an Almond Olive Oil which I plan to use in baked goods…and then I came across the truffle infused oils! The black truffle oil was good, but the white truffle oil was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. I could’ve literally drank a cup of it (of course, heart attack would likely follow!). The owners (who are a nice older couple) started telling me all the different ways they use it….I started throwing around my own ideas and we were like a bunch of junkies hyped about our drug of choice.  I am so excited to use this stuff…that’s why I just had to share….and you can definitely look forward to some future posts using these awesome ingredients.

White Truffle Olive Oil

Like I’ve said before in past posts buying the best quality ingredients you can afford really makes a difference in cooking. This is not an original idea of course…I learned it from reading and hearing other chefs say it but until I actually started to look at cooking more as a “hobby” I never really listened to this. Now I buy better ingredients when I can and love to splurge on a special meal.

Can’t wait to make dinner tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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It’s Been A While…


Well to say it’s been a while is pretty much an understatement. It has been almost exactly 6 months since I posted my last blog. I wish I could say that my life was so busy and amazing that I just didn’t have the time….but the truth is I just didn’t do it!

So I have no important life events or amazing news to share…but I can share that over these past few months I’ve been trying my best to work towards a healthier lifestyle. My focus now is to lose weight (hmmm….didn’t I say that before??), but overall I have come to a point in my life where I want to be healthy and stick around till I’m old and dyed blonde (no grey hair here!). To really make this lifestyle change I am approaching it with baby steps. I have adopted the attitude that every little thing helps….so even if it is just one little change it is still a change and that’s what matters. One of the first things I’ve started doing is trying to cut out as much processed food as possible (although I am starting to think I need a support group to break my Diet Coke addiction). Another step I’ve taken is to try different “health foods”. One of the foods I’ve fallen in love with is the now trendy “Quinoa”. It is very healthy and if you’d like to see why you can read it here…sorry I just don’t feel like going over why it is so good for you! I am overall a picky eater and have a lot of issues with food textures (where was Early Intervention when I was a kid??) so even though I kept seeing Quinoa recipes everywhere I turned, I was hesitant. I finally took the plunge and it’s a keeper. I use it in my salads, replace it for rice & pasta, and use it for breakfast foods like protein bars and “oatmeal” (quinoa in place of oats), etc.

Tonight I decided to modify my Creamy Chicken Piccata recipe and not only make it a “slimmed down version” but to replace the pasta with quinoa. It was so delicious…..I was inspired to sit down and get back to blogging!!!! Woohoo!!

So here it is….a slimmed down healthier version of, ironically my last post…and unfortunately since Hubby was working late I only made this for one person so the serving size is one, but you can easily alter the ingredients to make as much as you want.

Creamy Quinoa Chicken Piccata

(Serves 1)

For the chicken:

4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to 1/4″ thick

salt & pepper, to taste

1/4 -1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

For the Quinoa:

1/2 tbsp. light butter

1/2-1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup fat free half & half

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tbsp. capers

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

To make the chicken, sprinkle both sides with the lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper & garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the garlic. Brown the garlic in the butter for 30 seconds to 1 minute and add the lemon juice.

Whisk in the half & half and bring to a slow boil, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes until heated through and slightly thickened (may take longer than 5 minutes).

Add the basil, salt & pepper.

Remove from heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese. At this point, if you want a thicker sauce, return to heat and simmer until slightly more thickened. You can also add more cheese if you like.

Stir in the quinoa and the capers. Serve on a pasta plate.

Slice cooked chicken into thin strips and place over the quinoa. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, if desired and serve.20130222-204624.jpg20130222-204638.jpg20130222-204653.jpg

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Creamy Chicken Piccata


So like many bloggers…and many many women out there…I am obsessed with Pinterest. I have found such great ideas, recipes, clothes, tips, etc. Today’s post is for one of the very first recipes I found on Pinterest and tried out. Like any recipe it required some adjusting to get it just right, but last night when I made it Hubby & I both agreed that I had hit the mark! The original recipe, “Creamy Grilled Chicken Piccata”, calls for you to grill the chicken but since I didn’t plan ahead to make this I didn’t have a chance to marinade the chicken and thus I just decided to go ahead and make it in a pan. I used all fresh ingredients (no dried herbs, please!!!!) so if you do substitute dried you can just add the dry herbs (ex. basil, garlic powder) directly to the flour, rather than blending them like the directions below. I’ve also made a “slimmed down” version of this which tasted great, as well.  Hubby didn’t even know it was “healthified”, which is my test for how good my “slimmed down sensations” really are (trust me, he usually can tell right away when I make it low-fat). Too make it healthier use whole wheat pasta, fat free half & half, light butter, and only 1/2 cup of cheese and you can use a non-stick pan to eliminate the need for olive oil, or you can grill your chicken like the original recipe calls for.

Make this for a quick and easy weeknight meal or for date night in with your Honey! You won’t be disappointed!!

Creamy Chicken Piccata

(Modified from Plain Chicken)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (approx. 8 oz. each)

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters (or 1 egg)

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 lemons

2 cups fresh pasta, such as penne or gemelli (if you don’t want to make your own it is available in the dairy or deli refrigerated section of the grocery store)

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp. capers, rinsed & drained

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/4 cup asiago cheese (or other cheese of your choice)

  1. Prepare the chicken by pounding to about 1/4″ thick. In a shallow dish or plate combine the flour, salt & pepper. Combine the juice of 1 lemon, the egg substitute, 1/4 cup basil, and 1 clove of garlic in a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds to combine all ingredients, making sure the garlic is finely chopped. Pour this into another shallow dish or plate.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
  4. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, making sure to coat well and shaking off any excess. Next, dredge the chicken through the egg mixture, shaking off any excess.
  5. Place the chicken in the heated oil and cook for about 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. (If chicken gets done before sauce cover with foil and place in an oven on the “warm” setting (around 170 degrees F).
  6. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat (I used the same pan that I used to cook the pasta). Add 1 clove of minced garlic and cook just until fragrant (about 30 seconds to 1 minute). Add the juice of 1 lemon. Next add the heavy cream by whisking in and continuing to whisk until heated through. Whisk in the cheese, stirring until cheese has melted. Once sauce has thickened (should just coat the back of a spoon) add the capers and basil and stir until just combined. If sauce is too thick add some of the reserved pasta water a little bit at a time until you reach desired consistency. Last, add the pasta and stir to coat well.
  7. Serve about 1 cup of pasta in a bowl and place one chicken breast over the top. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
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Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker


Wow, I can’t believe how much I’ve slacked off on my blogging! First I hadn’t been feeling well…even having to call out sick from work, which I haven’t done in over 2 years!! Then life just got busy with a party for Hubby’s Motor Cycle Club & a girl’s getaway to Atlantic City…the Blog had to take a back seat! Anyway, despite my illness, fatigue and busy schedule, I still managed to cook a few good meals and even snap a picture here and there.

So what’s the best kind of meal to make when you don’t feel like cooking?? A Crockpot /slow cooker meal, of course!  My inspiration for this recipe is from the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummand. The original recipe, Penne with Chicken Thighs, call for the thighs to be cooked in the oven for 1 ½ hours, so I figured why not just throw it in the Crockpot. Be careful with how long you cook this in the slow cooker, though. Even with the low heat of a slow cooker chicken can and will get dried out if left in too long. So, I wouldn’t recommend this as one of those that you start in the morning so it’s done when you return home. It will only take about 2 hours on high (or low if your crockpot runs a little hot…which mine does.) After 2-3 hours use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken has been cooked through. Remember cooking times are approximate and you can never be sure if meat is cooked thoroughly without taking the temperature. Serve the chicken thighs with any pasta that you like or have on hand. I recommend using my Marina Sauce, but you can use jar spaghetti/marinara if you want to.

Crockpot Chicken Thighs

4 bone-in chicken thighs

1 tbsp. olive oil

Salt & Pepper, to taste

1 tsp. Italian Seasoning

Marinara Sauce

¼ cup parmesan cheese

  1. Season the chicken thighs with the salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the chicken thighs on both sides (about 3-5 minutes per side).
  3. Transfer to the slow cooker and add the marinara sauce. Cook the chicken thighs in the slow cooker for 2 hours on high or 3-4 hours on low (this depends solely on your slow cooker).
  4. When chicken is cooked through serve over cooked pasta of your choice and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

 

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Garlic Naan Bread


At one of our recent trips to Whole Foods, I picked up a pack of Naan to serve as a side for our dinner. I was surprised how good it was…better than some restaurants I’ve even been to. Maybe it was because it was flavored with garlic & herbs. I’m not sure, but I fell in love. When I ran out and I didn’t want to go to the store to get more I hit the internet to see if Naan is hard to make. Of course, since I don’t have a traditional Indian Tandoori oven I knew it wouldn’t be exactly the same, but thought it was worth a shot. I found this recipe on the Budget Bytes Blog and thought it looked pretty simple, plus it called for all ingredients I had on hand. I modified it by adding some garlic & cheese so it would be like the kind I purchased at Whole Foods. I cooked it up on the grill and it tasted almost as good as if it had been made in the traditional way. I froze what we didn’t use and when I want to use it I just take out a piece or two at a time. It freezes really well so you can definitely make a big batch if you’re feeling ambitious. You can use it as a side to kabobs and rice or an accompaniment to any meal. You can also be creative and use it for sandwiches and pizza. For plain Naan, just omit the garlic and parmesan cheese.

 

Garlic Naan

Source: www.budgetbytes.blogspot.com

(Makes 16 servings; 1 Naan = 2 servings)

2 tsp. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

½ cup water

3 cups flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup olive oil

1/3 cup plain greek yogurt (you can use either non-fat or low-fat)

1 egg

½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

3 cloves garlic, mashed

Olive oil, for brushing (optional)

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the yeast, sugar and water. Stir until the yeast and sugar dissolve and allow to sit for about 5 minutes or until it looks “frothy”.
  2. Add the oil, yogurt and egg and mix on very low speed (using the paddle attachment) until just combined.
  3. Switch the paddle attachment to the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the salt, garlic, cheese and 1 cup of floor. Continue to mix on low, adding ½ cup of flour at a time until a smooth ball is formed.
  4. Knead the ball of dough in the mixer for about 3 minutes. The dough should be smooth and very soft, but not sticky.
  5. Cover the dough loosely and allow to rise until double in size.
  6. After the dough rises, flatten the dough and cut into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a small ball.
  7. Roll out the balls of dough to about 1/4 “ thick.
  8. Preaheat the grill to medium.  Brush the dough with olive oil, if desired, and place over indirect heat. Allow the dough to cook until brown and bubbles form. Flip the dough over and allow the other side to brown and bubble. Serve hot.
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