Monthly Archives: September 2011

Chicken and Mushrooms in Garlic White Wine Sauce

(This photo is courtesy of the website where I found the recipe since my photos came out slightly less appetizing, which is absolutely no indication of the taste. This meal rocked.)

I recently took a spin through my previous blog posts to make sure I sounded literate. After confirming that, yes, they’re written in English (and my photo skills need some serious work), I realized something else: They’re a little repetitive. “I had X, Y, and Z ingredients”  (usually veggies) “and I didn’t know what the eff I was going to do.” (Pardon my French.) It’s no surprise, however, since this is representative of my style of cooking. I kind of just wing it based on what I have or what appeals to me from one day to the next.

It’s odd, though, when you consider the fact that I’m an obsessive planner and list maker. But I suppose cooking is the one area where I can completely let go and allow things to happen organically. (You know, after I look through 20 versions of the same recipe.) It also has to do with the fact that I recently made the commitment to try, as best I can, to consume all of the groceries I purchase each week in order to minimize food and dollar waste. So I’m always looking for new ways to combine whatever I have on hand. Funny thing is, when I plan meals I tend to have more waste than when I fly by the seat of my pants. (When I figure out why that is I’ll be sure to fill you in.) I also find that it’s mentally easier to take things one meal at a time than attempting to come up with five meals in one planning sesh.

This buy-what-you-want-and-figure-it-out-later method makes it much easier to use ingredients based on what’s in season. While you can have a rough idea of what’s available different times of year, you really don’t know what nature’s sporting until you take a lap through the store and see what’s available. So I could plan until my fingers cramp, but I could show up at the store and find they don’t have a crucial ingredient I need (or they do, but it’s from New Zealand). Of course, my style is infinitely easier to execute when you’re only cooking for one or two at a time. But for me, this is what works best right now so I’m going to keep rolling with it.

And that’s why last night’s dinner followed a familiar pattern. On my refrigerator shelf: mushrooms that needed to be consumed ASAP and a boneless skinless chicken breast. (I still have the squash and beets from Sunday’s farmers market, but they can wait until later this week.) I put my Google skills to work and landed on a winner (one for which I had all of the ingredients): Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic White Wine Sauce. Um, yes please! Bonus: It took 15 minutes to prep and cook, making it an ideal weeknight meal. If I were a menu maker this would totally be on it. The dish reminded me of chicken marsala, but with cleaner, lighter flavors and infinitely less butter.

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic White Wine Sauce

Ingredients
(Serves 1—increase accordingly)

1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 6 oz), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion (or ½ medium onion), chopped
8 oz white button mushrooms, minced
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup chicken broth
salt and pepper
Spinach, steamed
Parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Preparation
Heat a large skillet on medium heat with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp butter. When hot, add chicken. When cooked, set aside and cover with foil. Add another Tbsp of oil to the skillet. Saute the garlic and onion until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add mushrooms, salt and pepper stirring occasionally until they cook down and become golden (about 5 minutes). Add the wine and chicken broth and stir with a wooden spoon, breaking brown bits from bottom of the pan. Cook until liquid reduces by half.

To serve, place steamed spinach in bottom of a bowl. Top with chicken and mushroom sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley. (FYI, I didn’t have any parsley and the meal certainly didn’t suffer. It probably would have looked prettier, though, as the image above confirms.)

Adapted from: SkinnyTaste.com 

Advertisements

Minestrone Soup & Roasted Corn

This weekend, Robert (boyfriend/official taste-tester/grill-master) took me to my very first University of Michigan football game. We had a great time, the team won, and he showed me around the beautiful campus and darling town of Ann Arbor.

Sunday afternoon on our chilly, drizzly drive back to Chicago, we’re mid conversation when he suddenly veers off the highway. There’s no rest stop or gas station around. “Where are we going?” I ask. He points to a small building with piles of pumpkins and produce outside. A farmers market. Does he know the way to my heart or what?

After a quick lap around, we each grab a basket and begin loading them up. Spaghetti squash. Beets. Corn. Raspberries. Macintonsh and Honeycrisp apples. Butternut squash. Peaches. Potatoes. Onions. Zucchini. I fill mine until the metal handles make an indentation in my forearm and I question how much longer they’ll stay attached to the basket. That should do it. We purchase our produce (a combined total of less than $20) and head back to the car.

The moment we hit the road again and the cold rain splashes against the windshield, I already know what the future holds for most of my fresh finds: Minestrone soup. It’s one of those soups that require no recipe and changes every time I make it depending on what I have. But it’s always delicious. Before arriving home, I stopped by Whole Foods to fill in a few holes for the meal (and for the rest of the week). Shortly after opening the door to my apartment, before I even thought about unpacking, I got to work slicing and dicing. In less than an hour dinner and an episode of Mad Men were served. It was the perfect homecoming after a wonderful Fall weekend away.

Minestrone Soup
Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (28 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 Yukon gold potatoes, chopped (keep the skin on)
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 bunch red Swiss chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped
Salt & pepper
2 cups whole wheat penne (optional)

Preparation:
Heat the oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the carrots. Sauté for 5 more minutes. Add the broth and tomatoes with their juices. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the beans and potato. Simmer until potato is fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

In a separate pot of boiling water, cook the pasta. Once al dente, about 10 minutes, drain.

Once the potato is fork-tender, add the zucchini, squash, and Swiss chard to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook a few more minutes until chard is wilted.

To serve, place a handful of pasta in the bottom of a bowl and add the soup. (Cooking the pasta separately prevents it from becoming mushy.)

Roasted Corn

At the farmers market, Robert grabbed a few ears of corn. “Can you make some corn tonight, too, please?” he asks. While my mind has moved on from sweet summery corn, I told him I could easily boil a few ears—no problem. However, once I started making the soup it dawned on me that I was using the big pot that I’d normally use for corn. Shucks! (Ha.) What other options did I have? The grills at my building are closed up for the season. I could cut the ears in half and use a smaller pot….like the one being used to cook the pasta. That wouldn’t work. Could I roast it? I’ve roasted just about every other kind of veggie. I jump online (on my iPhone….I’m starting to see the benefits of having an iPad in the kitchen) and a quick Google search takes me here. I discover that roasting may just be the easiest way to cook corn. Ever. The recipe is for a corn salad, but it starts with roasting the corn. I figured that’s where I’d end. If you pick up a couple of ears of corn in the next few weeks, I highly recommend giving this method a try. You literally stick the corn—husk and all—in the oven and leave it. Apparently, the husk traps the steam in, which helps cook the kernels. It came out sweet and crunchy—just the way it’s supposed to be.

Preheat oven to 400. Place the corn (in the husk) directly on the center rack and roast 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes before removing the husks.

Fish & Summer Veggie Packets

Lately, the moment I walk into Whole Foods (which, by no accident, puts me directly in the produce section) my eyes dart around to the butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and apples. I want to race around the store Supermarket-Sweep style and pile my cart with these cozy fall foods that make me feel like home. But this week, something different happened. My eyes lingered longingly on the zucchini…and the tomatoes…and the peppers. Summer. Was I ready to abandon it so soon? The weather sure hasn’t. With temps back up in the mid-70’s here in Chicago, it has felt more like June than September. Standing somewhere in the confusion between the corn and the pears, I had a moment of clarity: I was going to ditch the meals I had planned for this week and make one last goodbye-to-summer dinner.

I picked up whatever veggies appealed to me most. Yellow squash. Cherry tomatoes. Sugar snap peas. Yellow and orange bell peppers. Mushrooms. Broccolini (a recent obsession). Many of them were local, too (Wisconsin and Indiana if that counts). It made me feel a little better about what I was doing, knowing that the crops in my region were still offering whatever remained of the crisp taste of summer.

When I got home, I still didn’t know what I was going to make. A salad sounded too obvious, plus I had had one for lunch. Stir-fry? Made that on Friday. What’s something that would pair nicely with this bounty of veggies while allowing the clean flavors to soak up the spotlight? I got it—fish! Mild, flaky white fish. I opened the freezer: cod and halibut. Score!

Cod

Halibut

The rest, I suppose, unfolded from there. I decided to make packets – layering the veggies (first flavoring them with olive oil, lemon juice, white wine, salt and pepper), then the fish, and topping it with lemon slices. (Added bonus: Using foil means minimal cleanup.) Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I’d share the result here because when I completely make up a recipe the outcome tends to be edible, but questionable. (Cooking has never been intuitive for me.) But this time was different. So different. I achieved exactly what I was hoping for: A meal that tasted like the middle of August. One last time.

Fish & Summer Veggie Packets
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 bunch broccolini, remove ends (and throw away), cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 cups sugar snap peas, remove ends
1 cup white button mushrooms, cut into thin slices
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 Tbsp olive il
1/2 cup dry white white (such as chardonnay)
2 lemons
salt & pepper
4 filets (4 to 6 oz each) of flaky white fish such as cod, halibut, or trout (thaw if frozen)
four slices of foil

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400.
Place all cut veggies in a bowl. Add olive oil, white wine, juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Starting with one slice of foil, place a pile of veggies in the middle. Top with one fish filet. Season filet with salt and pepper and top with two lemon slices. Fold into a packet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of foil. Place two packets each on two baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Using a spatula, transfer fish and veggies to a bowl and pour juices that have collected on top.

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Sometimes I just want a homemade muffin. It’s a fact. I find it goes hand-in-hand with wanting my apartment to smell like a bakery for the rest of the morning while I browse through cooking magazines and sip my Starbucks House Blend coffee. I woke up Saturday morning and wanted a muffin that was maybe just a little bit naughty (no matter how much dried fruit and flax you stuff in there, it’s still going to be a confection), but wasn’t a 500-calorie sugar bomb that would keep me full for all of five minutes. Some protein and fiber would be nice, too. So I jumped on my favorite food blogs and soon enough found my winner: Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins. There isn’t a word (or ingredient) in there that I don’t love.

So I mashed. And I measured. And I mixed. And in less than 30 minutes, breakfast was served. I nibbled my muffin, sipped my coffee, leafed through my magazines, inhaled deeply and smiled. Sure enough, my apartment smelled like a bakery just like I hoped it would.

Ready for the oven…

Who could possibly wait for them to cool?

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Ingredients:
1½ cups flour (I used 100% white whole-wheat)
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. applesauce
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
6 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1 cup low-fat milk*

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together to blend. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, brown sugar, eggs, banana, peanut butter and buttermilk until smooth.  Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated and fully blended. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Top with peanut butter and banana slice.

*Original recipe said 1 cup buttermilk, but I found low-fat milk worked just fine.

Adapted from: Annie’s Eats

Four Veggie Flank Steak Stir-Fry

sweet. spicy. steamy.

When checking out a new recipe, one of the first questions I ask is, how can I add more veggies? Sometimes it requires a little finesse, but boosting the health factor of Friday night’s dinner—a stir-fry—was a cinch. When it comes to stir fries, pretty much anything from the veggie world goes. The recipe I adapted included asparagus and red bell pepper. A good start, but we could do better. So while stocking up on ingredients for the weekend at Whole Foods, I also grabbed some sugar snap peas and mushrooms. That’s more like it. By the time dinner was served, I had about twice the amount of veggies (while keeping the quantity of meat the same) per serving than the original recipe.

However, I learned from this experience that if I’m going to pile on the produce when making stir-fries I need to get myself a wok—stat. The pan I used was filled to the brim, which made my stir-frying action messy and spastic. (Typical, really, of what I look like in the kitchen anyway.) Fortunately, having two dogs came in handy.

A delicious, comforting Friday night meal that beats take-out any day of the week.

Four Veggie Flank Steak Stir-Fry
(Serves 4…or in my experience two with a little extra for leftovers.)

Ingredients
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1 ½ inch long pieces
2 red bell peppers, seeded, de-ribbed, and cut into 2 inch long strips
8 oz white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups sugar snap peas
1 lb. flank steak cut into 2 inch-long pieces

Sauce
6 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp chili oil
4 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 6 Tbsp of water

Preparation
Whisk together the sauce ingredients through the chili oil and set aside. Boil a small pot of water on the stove. Once boiling, add the asparagus and cook about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a pan with 1 Tbsp canola oil on high heat. Stir-fry the beef strips, in 2 batches, for 2-3 minutes until browned, but still pink inside. Return the first batch of beef to the pan and add the bell pepper, sugar snap peas, and mushrooms. Stir and toss over high heat until just beginning to wilt, 1-2 minutes. Add the asparagus.

Quickly stir the cornstarch with the water and add it to the pan. Add the stir-fry sauce. Cook until sauce thickens, 1-2 minutes. Season with red pepper flakes & serve with brown rice.

Adapted from: SimplyRecipes

Chicken with Tomato-Herb Pan Sauce

As if I didn’t already think about food enough (at least 50 percent of what I write for magazines deals with food in some way) I’m pretty sure I’ve been dreaming about it lately. Not that I’m complaining. Wednesday night I dreamed about this recipe. It’s no wonder how the chicken and tomato-herb pan sauce made their way into my dream to begin with: I’ve looked at it about a dozen times in the past week on this blog and have checked out similar recipes on a variety of different blogs, too.

But here’s the miracle to end all miracles: I had nearly all of the ingredients already on hand from my grocery shopping trip on Sunday (which I did sans list…shh don’t tell anyone). That was five days ago. Okay, maybe it’s not fate, after all, that these delicious ingredients were hanging out in my fridge all week…perhaps I subconsciously swiped them up while shopping because I had studied (yes, studied) the recipe so many times. Whatever caused those ingredients to appear in my refrigerator and in my dream, one thing was for sure: I had to make it last night. While I didn’t have every single ingredient (that would have really been a miracle), I had the basics and used what else I had (fresh basil instead of oregano; sauvignon blanc instead of chicken broth) to make my own version of it.

And it ruled. Among its many wonderful qualities (taste being numero uno) was the fact that it was fast. It took me no more than 20 minutes—start to finish—to whip up after I came home from hot yoga yesterday evening.

Before I get to the recipe, however, I have to make an apology. You’re going to see a lot of chicken here. I’m sorry. It’s not that I have an obsession with the bird or anything, but I seem to eat a lot of it. And although I made bone-in, skin-on chicken earlier this week, it’s usually the boneless, skinless variety. That’s because I tend to buy a lot of it when it’s on sale at Whole Foods and freeze the breasts individually. When I don’t know what else to make for dinner, chicken is usually the answer. So if you enjoy chicken (or have a lot of it) and want to learn new ways to make it, then I’m your gal. (I also make a lot of fish and am going to start cooking red meat about once a week, so you always have that to look forward to…)

But let’s get back to tonight’s stellar supper: Chicken with Tomato-Herb Pan Sauce. (Wait, I need just one more moment to swoon. Is there anything better than the combination of olive oil, butter, white wine, and garlic? The answer is no. Throw in vine-ripe cherry tomatoes and fresh basil and I may never eat anything else again. Maybe.)

Chicken with Tomato-Herb Pan Sauce 

Printer-Friendly Version 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:
2 tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12 oz.)
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Preparation: 
In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, oregano, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the seasoned butter with the olive oil. While that heats, season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place the chicken breasts in the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side and cooked through. Transfer to a plate, cover with foil, and set aside.

Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes to the same skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to char and burst, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining butter mixture to the pan. Add the basil. Crush the tomatoes slightly and continue stirring until the butter is melted. Add the wine to the pan, scraping the bottom to loosen the browned bits. Cook until well blended and a reddish-caramel colored sauce forms.

Slice the chicken, transfer to serving plates, and top with the pan sauce.

Sauteed Broccolini

Printer-friendly Version

Ingredients:
1 bunch broccolini
olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut into slivers

Preparation:
Remove tough ends from broccolini. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, drop the broccolini in and cook for about one minute—until the stalks turn a radiant green hue. Drain in a colander. Heat olive oil and garlic in a pan on the stove. Once the garlic starts to brown, add the broccolini and sauté for about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and serve.

Roasted Chicken Breast, Beets, and Garlic Kale

This is a perfect example of a typical weekday meal for me: Some kind of protein, a green (in this case kale), and another veggie (beets). When thinking about meals, I always consider color (different colored produce contains different kinds of good-for-you phytonutrients, so eating a variety of colors provides a smorgasbord of disease-fighting compounds.)

If you’re not familiar with cooking kale or beets, check out the recipes below to see just how easy it is. And, if you don’t think you like their taste, I urge you to give them a try. The way I cook beets brings out their natural sweetness and the roasted garlic makes the kale taste so good you could eat the entire bunch (which I do on a regular basis.)

Monday Night Chicken

This recipe comes from my wonderful sister, Leah. It’s bursting with flavor and this method of cooking the chicken breasts (starting on the stove and finishing in the oven) makes them totally tender and juicy. In fact, I commented last night, “This chicken tastes like it’s from Boston Market, but without any of the grease.” By the way, it’s called Monday Night Chicken, but you can make it any day of the week.

(Serves 2)

Set the oven to 425. Heat an oven-safe pan on medium heat on the stove. Add about 1-2 Tbsp olive oil plus 1 Tbsp butter. While that’s heating, take two bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Once the butter is melted place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and cook for about 5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side 5 minutes more. Finally, place the pan in the oven and cook 15-20 minutes.

Roasted Beets

Set the oven to 450. Take two beets, remove the stems and, using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin. Slice each beet in half, slice each half in half again, and then cut horizontally into small 1/4-inch thick pieces. Place the beets in the middle of a slice of foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and seal into a packet (this traps the steam and helps them cook). Place in oven and cook 30-45 minutes (the longer you leave them in there, the softer and sweeter they get, which is how I like them.)

Garlic Kale

Set the oven to 450. Rinse kale, remove tough stems with a knife, and tear leaves into bite-sized pieces. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Thinly slice 4-5 garlic cloves and sprinkle on top of kale. Drizzle kale and garlic with olive oil (about 1 Tbsp) and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and cook for about 10 minutes.

Pre-cooked kale