Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chicken Minestrone

It's time to shed that holiday weight!! Without fail, I always manage to pack on a few pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe it was the excessive amount of cookie dough brownies, but it's hard to say... ;)

Unlike most New Yorkers, I'm stuck in the office this week so my healthy meal also had to be a quick one. I had left over chicken in the fridge, from you know where...Costco! After looking through my fridge, I discovered I had all the ingredients to make my own version of Minestrone soup, with chicken!! It was deeeelicious and super filling! (And healthy to boot!)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 15 oz cans diced tomato
10 oz can Cannellini beans
15 oz can chick peas
1 tbsp all-purpose seasoning
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cups pasta, any tube shape
Pre-cooked, shredded chicken

1) Heat oil over medium heat. Add in onion, celery and carrot and saute until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute.
2) Add the tomatoes, broth, beans, chick peas and herbs and bring to a boil. Turn down and heat and simmer to 20 minutes. 
3) Add the pasta and cook for 6 minutes. Add in chicken and cook until chicken is heated through, about 3-4 minutes.
4) Let cool, serve and enjoy!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Aside from great company, I received great gifts and over-indulged in some pretty amazing food!! 

I am a sucker for holiday treats and my contribution to our holiday feast did not make it easy for me to control myself. I've recently become addicted to Pinterest and can't stop finding recipe ideas...I'm on inspiration over load to say the least!! 

After seeing this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies, I knew I was in trouble! These were one of the most delicious baked goods I've had yet! Soft, gooey cookie dough atop fudgey, moist brownies definitely hit the spot! (All 10 times that I had one!) ;)

Brownie Recipe:
1 box brownie mix, and all ingredients listed on the box

Cookie Dough Recipe: 
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

3 tbsp milk

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup semisweet chip

Chunks of peppermint Bark 

1) Prepare Brownies according to the directions on the box. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick spray. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 35 minutes. Watch closely and remove from oven when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.
2) To make cookie dough,  in your mixer combine butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Mix in milk and vanilla. Mix in flour just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
3) Spread cookie dough over the cooled brownies. Top with crushed pieces of peppermint bark, of any size. (You can skip the peppermint bark all together, but I wanted to add a little Christmas flare!) 
4) Refrigerate until the dough is firm.  To speed up the process, you can place them in the freezer.  Use a sharp knife to cut the brownies. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nashville Weekend and Stuffed Pepper Soup

I'm so sad to see this weekend come to a close. After spending four days playing and chasing around my nephew I miss the little guy like crazy. All the fun we were having left little time to cook, but we definitely ate well all weekend!

On Friday night, I whipped up a batch of
cassoulet. It was a hit (even after my brother doubted me and served himself half a bowl...he went back for seconds!) Saturday, we ran errands all day but made a pit-stop at Ashley's parents house for some delicious homemade veggie soup. It was great! With a mix of potatoes, white kidney beans, Lima beans and veggies, this soup warmed our hearts and filled our stomach.

Sunday came a little too quickly but I was greeted bright and early with a southern classic: biscuits and gravy! I've never had them before but have seen it on countless menus. After lounging and laughing with Grady, we made lunch. Ashely found a great recipe for Stuffed Pepper Soup on Pinterest (which I am not addicted to!) While Ashley manned the stove, I was her sous-chef and handled the chopping. 

After about 45 minutes, we were eating one of the most delicious soups I've ever had. In one piping hot bowl we noshed on plentiful servings of fruits, protein, and grains and amazingly, this dish is only about 260 calories! I definitely suggest trying this one!

Chopped and ready for the pot!

Sauteing the peppers and turkey


The finished product
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 lb ground turkey
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 chopped red bell pepper
1/2 medium onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz each) cans petite diced tomatoes flavored with basil, garlic and oregano
1  14.5 - 16oz can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

1) In a large Dutch oven, brown ground turkey on high heat and season with salt and pepper. Drain any excess fat after thoroughly cooked then add peppers, garlic and onion. Cook for about 5 minutes on low heat. (These should not be very tender...they'll continue to cook later.)
2) Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce marjoram and chicken broth. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. 
3) Meanwhile, cook the rice as directed on the package. For one cup rice, cook with two cups of water. Bring to a boil then let simmer until water has evaporated. If it still tastes chewy, add a bit more water and let simmer until cooked through.
4) Once soup has simmered mix in cooked rice, season with salt and pepper to taste then serve.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stay Tuned...

Hey everyone  - Just wanted to let you know you may not see me for a few days. I'll be busy chasing around the little cutie below. I'm heading to Nashville to visit my Brother, Sister-in-Law and handsome nephew, Grady. 

I will be doing a little cooking so I'll be sure to update you. (It may take some time though, considering I'll have to clean up after this guy first!) ;) 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ingredient Remix: Ravioli in Sage-Butter Sauce

After last nights delicious meal, I couldn't help but think about how the rest of my unused sage was going to go to waste. I have a love-hate relationship with unique ingredients. I love trying them out, but hate that I rarely use what is left over. I just couldn't let this happen again.

Within a few short minutes, I knew exactly how I wanted to use my left-over sage: Ravioli with Sage-Butter Sauce. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but this use to be my favorite dish at Olive Garden. That is, until they took it off their menu because they found the sauce too hard to prepare. 

Really? I'm pretty sure the sauce took about 3 minutes to make and the ravioli in only 4. That's dinner in less than 10 minutes!! I wish every meal was that easy. This definitely should be added to your list of go-to weeknight meals. It will not disappoint. 

1 package, frozen meat ravioli
5 tbsp butter
10 sage leaves
juice from 1/2 lemon
Parmesan cheese

While ravioli cooks, melt butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat until golden brown color appears along the outer edge of the butter. Add the sage leaves and remove from head. Squeeze in lemon juice and set aside. Drain pasta, leaving some cooking water and gently pour into serving dish. Pour butter sauce over pasta and sprinkle on cheese as desired.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lemon-Sage Chicken Breasts

The holidays are coming and my schedule is packed! Almost every night for the last two weeks I have had something planned after work. Sadly, while I am out having fun, you readers are probably getting worried! Yes, I'm still here...just not in the kitchen. 

I've had a wonderfully relaxing weekend and thought it would only be right to round the night out with a great meal. I wanted to try something refreshing but equally healthy. Lemon-sage Chicken with a side of Spinach and Swiss Chard hit the spot! 

This dish is amazingly easy and pretty delicious too! We opted out of starch with this meal, but you could easily serve it with a side of cous-cous or quinoa and it be equally great!

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lbs)
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 large eggs
juice of 1 lemon
4 sprigs of sage, leaves only
3/4 cup cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp butter
1 10oz package of mixed Swiss chard and spinach leaves

1) Rinse and dry chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a shallow dish, pour some flour and sprinkle with salt. In another shallow dish, lightly beat the eggs then add juice from the lemon. 
2) Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. Next, dip in the lemon-egg mixture, coating both sides. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until golden on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sage to the skillet, then turn the cutlets and cook until golden on the other side, about 3 to 4 more minutes. Transfer cutlets and sage to a paper towel lined plate. 
3) Drain out any remaining oil from skillet. Add the win and chicken broth and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir until blended.
4) Transfer the chicken to a platter. Top with the fried sage then drizzle with the pan sauce. 
5) In the same pan the sauce was cooked in, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to pan over medium high heat. Toss in chard and spinach leaves. Cook, covered for 1 minute. Stir, then cook for another minute. 
6) Remove from heat and plate with chicken. Enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Since I began this blog, I vowed to always tell the truth about the meals I've prepared. Last nights meal is one of those stories that just has to be shared! 

I need to start by mentioning the idea for this meal. It came to me when I was thinking about what I have stored in my freezer. I realized that I have tons of chicken breast and a few spicy sausage links. What could I make with these? Instantly, Jambalaya to mind. The funny part about this, I don't really care for cajun flavors in dishes, but I push myself to try new things. That is exactly what I did. Sundays meal plan = Chicken and Sausage Jambalay

Now that we're all up to speed, allow me to explain the fiasco that became of this dish. Obviously, the first rule to cooking so to read your recipe through before you begin cooking. Last night, I didn't bother to do that. I rubbed the chicken breasts with creole seasoning and began browning it in the heated oil. Within minutes, the creole season began to burn. Luckily, not in flames, but a stinky, black, smokey burn that I knew would ruin the dish. I removed the chicken and poured water in the pan to deglaze it. Once the burnt seasoning had softened, I cleaned my pan and started over.

This time, since I had already browned the chicken, I started to brown the sausage in oil. If I hadn't burned the pan the first time around, I would have had creole seasoning in the pan so I tossed a little bit in with the sausage. As that was browning I scanned the recipe. Oops! I was suppose to cook the sausage first, with no seasoning, all along. If I had done this, there would have been rendered fat from the sausage in the pan, preventing the creole seasoning from burning. Lesson learned. Read before you cook! 

Now on to the recipe...Don't skip anything! ;)

1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch chunks
2 tsp creole seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil
3 links of spicy sausage
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
1 small green pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
1 medium white onion, diced
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup raw brown rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes, in juice
parsley for garnish

1) Season chicken with creole season. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown for about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate. Add chicken and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to plate.
2) Add peppers, onion, thyme, flour and cayenne to pot and cook, stirring continuously, until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in rice then add brother and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
3) Stir in chicken and sausage, cover and continue to simmer for 12 minutes. 
4) Serve and garnish with parsley. This would be great with a fresh piece of bread. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quick Fix: Shrimp and Tomato Quinoa

Wednesday night is never a great night for me to cook. I typically arrive home exhausted with little energy to cook. On a positive note, the cause for my fatigue relates to my love for food as well as helping others. I spend Wednesday nights chopping and prepping food at God's Love We Deliver (GLWD). 

GLWD's provides thousands of meals each week to women, men and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses. These meals provide not only high-quality nutritious meals but also aid in boost the spirits of each client when their food delivery arrives to their home. 

My part in this wonderful organization begins at the root of each dish. Each week, I work with 10 to 15 other volunteers to slice and dice vegetables that are eventually used in soups, stews and side dishes. These are then incorporated into GLWD's daily menu and sent off to the clients. It is an amazing organization to be a part of. 

With that said, after two hours of chopping in the kitchen, I don't really feel like making dinner when I get home. I was fortunate enough to change all that tonight. On my ride home, I came up with a great, quick and healthy meal: Shrimp with Tomato and Quinoa. It was light and delicious but packed full of protein. 

11 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (I halved cherry tomatoes, but you can certainly use any kind you have on hand)
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

1) Begin by preparing your quinoa. Rinse one cup of dried quinoa and place in a pan with the two cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn to low and let simmer until all water is absorbed and quinoa is fluff, about 20 - 25 minutes.
2) In a sautee pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Toss in shrimp and cooked all the way through,  about 2 minutes on each side. Push shrimp to the side of the pan, away from heat and stir in tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender.
3) Pull shrimp from side of pan and mix with tomato mixture. Top with quinoa and mix until cobined with tomatoes and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste.