Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chicken Cutlets Milanese with Butter Beans and Gnocchi

I think this came from a Rachel Ray magazine. I'm trying to make some of the recipes I have in my no-cookbook recipe stand, and this was on the list, so we had it tonight. I have to say, I thought it was tasty and easy (and fast), which makes for a good weeknight meal in my book. And it was pretty. I even had The Big Geek take a picture, which hardly ever happens around here.

Two 8-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I cooked 3 breasts, but they were from a package so I don't know their individual weights)
2/3 cup instant polenta or cornmeal
3/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (I believe mine was just Parmesan, but I am not positive. I didn't have quite enough grated so I used shredded for the gnocchi.)
Flour, for dredging (about a handful)
1 large egg
2 Tbsp EVOO, plus more for drizzling (add a Tbsp for every additional breast you cook)
12 oz gnocchi pasta
3 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
One 15-oz can butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 springs rosemary, leaves chopped (or some dried rosemary--maybe 1 tsp?)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (I forgot to halve them, then thought, "this would be better if the tomatoes were halved")
2 cups arugula leaves
Juice of one lemon

First, fill a large pot with water and put it on the stove to boil.

While that's warming up, place the chicken breasts on a work survace and, slicking with a knife parallel to the chicken, cut in half to make 4 cutlets. Pound the cutlets between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.

On a plate (or in a shallow dish, like a pie plate), combine the polenta with half of the cheese. Fill another plate with flour. In a shallow bowl, beat the egg with a splash of water. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Set up your assembly line: chicken, flour, egg, polenta mixture, clean plate.

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp EVOO over medium-high heat.

Dredge each cutlet in the flour, then the egg, then the polenta mixture.

About this time your water is probably boiling. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water (salt the water).

Place 2 cutlets in the heated skillet and cook, turning once, until crisp and golden, 6 to 7 minutes.

Before these are done, your gnocchi will be floating. Drain them into a bowl and return the empty pasta pot to the stove. Place the butter in the pasta pot and melt over low heat.

While that's melting, remove the first cutlets, add another Tbsp of EVOO, and put 2 more cutlets into the skillet.

Stir the butter beans and rosemary into the melted butter. Add the gnocchi adn remaining cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Flip your 2nd batch of cutlets and, when cooked, remove them from the skillet. If you're cooking more, add another Tbsp EVOO and repeat.

In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the arugula, lemon juice, and a drizzle of EVOO. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place cutlet on plate. Top with the salad and serve butter beans and gnocchi on the side.


This would have been good with white wine. Damn, why am I only just thinking of that??

The little geek and baby geek liked the gnocchi and chicken. Actually, so did The Big Geek. He thought the butter beans were "chalky" and he doesn't like cherry tomatoes. I, however, thought the entire thing was delicious. I'm sure we'll have it again, and they can just pick around the butter beans.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Baked Ziti with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Smoked Gouda

In an attempt to make up of our night of consuming melted cheese and chocolate for dinner, I decided to go with a Cooking Light recipe tonight. This is quick and easy and could be prepped ahead of time and then popped in the oven about 20-30 minutes before dinner, plus it contains lots of good stuff. Quantities listed are what the recipe says; quantities in parenthesis are what I actually used.

8 oz uncooked ziti
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 small)
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper (2 peppers)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomaotes with basil, garlic, and oregano OR 2 cans tomatoes plus Italian seasoning/basil/oregano to taste
4 cups baby spinach (1 bag or approx 12 cups--yes, I know, that seems like a lot, but it wilts and I'm sneaking spinach into my family's diet. It's noticeable, of course, but they don't realize how much of it they're eating)
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) shredded, smoked Gouda cheese, divided. If you don't like the smoke taste you can use regular Gouda, or you can use a different kind of smoked cheese like smoked cheddar, but the smoked Gouda is yummy.

Preheat oven to 375.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil.

Add onion and pepper. Saute 5 minutes. Add garlic to pan, saute 2 minutes or until onion is tender.

Stir in tomatoes (and seasoning if needed) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add spinach, one handful at a time. Cook until spinach wilts and repeat until all desired spinach has been added.

Remove from heat. Add pasta and 1 cup cheese to tomato mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Even the Big Geek, who is a huge carnivore, likes this. And, as I said, he has no clue how much spinach he's eating.

Of course, I realized tonight that he also didn't know that ziti was pasta. He acted like he didn't know what I was making when I mentioned the plan for dinner, and then at the table I asked if he remembered having it before.

"Yeah, but you didn't mention the pasta before."

"Ziti IS pasta."


So he learned something, we all had a nice dinner, and everyone ate his or her spinach for the day. :)

German Cheddar and Beer Fondue

If you don't own a fondue pot, you should. In fact, it wouldn't hurt you to own a few. I have one with a pot made of enameled cast iron, but at a fondue party we hosted a guest brought one that had a metal outer pot for water and an inner pot made of ceramic (basically a double boiler). I'm going to find out what kind it is and get one of those, because it worked really nicely.

Anyhow, if you've never had fondue, you are missing out. Yes, I know, you're basically eating cheese for dinner, but man, is it delicious. Don't fix it every night if you're trying to eat a low-fat diet. At least it's low-carb (depending on what you dip). . .

At our party, we made two cheese fondues. One was a traditional swiss fondue, which was good but didn't quite set correctly. The second was this recipe, which was so good I might have made it for dinner again tonight if I'd had enough cheese. It will be making appearances at future "date nights" the Big Geek and I have at home after the kids go to bed.

You start out making these on the stove in a regular pan and then transfer them to the fondue pot. Or, if you don't have a fondue pot, I guess you could just stand around the stove and eat it, or put it in a little crock pot. From experience, I can tell you what you CAN'T do--you can't make this at home and then try to take it to a party. It won't work out. You can't cool fondue and reheat it--trust me.

This recipe is from Rachel Ray 30-minute Get Real Meals.

10 oz (2 1/2 cups) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (you can try the low-fat, but I'm not going to)
4-6 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 rounded tablespoon flour
1 cup German lager
2 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (I used a whole grain, and it was awesome)
3 drops of Tabasco
3 drops of Worcestershire sauce

In a bowl, combine the cheeses with the flour. Add the beer to a small pot and bring it up to a bubble over medium heat. Reduce teh heat to simmer and add the cheese mixture in handfuls. Stir constantly in in a figure-eight pattern with a wooden spoon, melting the cheese in batches. When the cheese has been incorporated fully, stir in the mustard, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Transfer to a fondue pot and serve.

Incredibly easy, incredibly delicious.

Serve with:
Cubed or thick sliced sausages
Blanched cauliflower and broccoli (see, it's healthy!)
Green apple slices
Roasted potatoes or carrots
Cubes of bread
Anything else that appeals to you!

Rachel says this recipe serves four. I made two of her fondues, which should have served 8, and 12 people ate it with some of the swiss fondue left over, and I don't think anyone was hungry.

Fondue probably isn't little-geek friendly. Sharp, long forks and bubbling pots of cheese plus kids is not a good combo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stovetop Sausage Mac and Cheese

This is a fast, easy, filling recipe that's great for a cold day. It was originally printed in Cooking Light, but I've made a few adjustments (and doubled it, because I like leftovers).

1 package Chicken sausage, chopped. (Package usually contains 4 links--get the flavor you like and adjust other additions to this dish accordingly. As written, any kind if Italian/artichoke/sundried tomato will work.)

2 1/2 cups fat-free milk
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded reduced-fat SHARP cheddar cheese
2/3 cup (about 2 2/3 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup (4 oz, or 1/2 a package) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
10 cups hot cooked elbow macaronie (about 16 oz uncooked, or 1 box)

Optional (but strongly suggested):
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (not in oil), julienned (if you're lucky, you can find them this way at the store.)

Cook macaroni according to package directions.

While that's cooking, heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute 4 minutes or until browned.

Combine milk and flour (add 1 Tbsp at a time) in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk (or fork). Add milk mixture, spinach, and sundried tomatoes to pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir in cheeses, onion powder, and garlic salt. Cook 3 minutes or until cheeses melt, stirring constantly.

Stir in pasta.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Easy Meatless Manicotti

This dish isn't one I'd serve at a dinner party, but it's a good weeknight meal that couldn't be easier.

2 cups (8 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 (16 oz) carton fat-free cottage cheese (or low-fat, if you can't find fat-free)
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1/4 cup (1 oz) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (8 oz) package manicotti (14 shells)
1 (26 oz) jar fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce (or whatever sauce you like)
cooking spray
1 cup water

Pre-heat oven to 375. Spray 13 x 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large zip-lock bag, combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella (reserving 1/2 cup of the 2 cups), cottage cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Seal the top and mush it around to combine the ingredients.

Pour half the sauce into the bottom of the pan.

Snip of one corner of the bag (not too big a hole), and use the bag like a pastry bag to fill the manicotti. Place them in a single layer over the sauce in the baking dish. You will have exactly enough filling for 14 manicotti, so don't worry about running out.

Top with remaining sauce. Pour 1 cup water into the dish (I like to pour mine into the sauce jar and shake it around first to get all of the sauce out). Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour (or until shells are tender). Let stand 10 minutes before serving (I suggest leaving it covered for 10 minutes, perhaps while your garlic bread toasts, and then uncovering it for another 5-10).

The shells can be a little "al dente" sometimes, but considering that this is the easiest version of Manicotti I've ever seen, who cares? Plus little geeks can help you squish the ingredients in the ziplock, and older little geeks might even like to try filling the shells.

I also like that you put it in the oven and walk away. I use this time to clean my kitchen, usually, but you could do something more fun if you're more creative than me.

Just remember that it takes an hour to bake (plus another 10-15 minutes of "resting") and plan accordingly!

from Cooking Light