Chicky Parm

While I’m eating my way through Italy & Spain, I figured I’d share my Chicken Parmesan recipe with you. I was really happy with it and will definitely make it again. Chicken Parm isn’t always something I order out, but I do love it. We had some mammoth chicken breasts from our favorite butcher which feed 2 so I knew just what to do with one. As you may recall, Mr. J grabbed Lemon Pepper marinated chicken and he wasn’t a big fan.

Ingredients

1 large chicken breast (or 2 normal sized)
¼ salad dressing (Italian or Greek)
½ Parmesan Cheese
1 cup marinara sauce
1 egg & tbs water, whisked
1 cup bread crumbs (I mixed Panko & regular)
¼ cup shredded mozzarella (or sliced Provolone)
Pasta (quantity & variety of your choosing)

Directions

Marinate the (defrosted) chicken breasts in salad dressing.
Butterfly or slice a pocket into the breast. I don’t claim to have strong knife skills so I cut a pocket rather than mess with it too much. Stuff each breast with a few tablespoons of Parmesan.
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Carefully dip each breast into egg then breadcrumbs and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. (yes, this was 1 breast, halved!)
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While chicken is cooking, prepare pasta to serve with the Chicken Parm.
Take chicken out when cooked through and top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella. Return to oven just until melted.
Serve over pasta.

Mr. J and I loved it! I probably didn’t stuff it with enough cheese, but I think it was a nice touch. The chicken was super moist and the breading had a great crunch.

I didn’t quite make my own sauce, but I did doctor-up some jarred sauce with my own seasoning and some tomato paste. I finished the pasta in the sauce which was good, but my timing wasn’t perfect so it was a touch over-cooked.
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I wonder about making a few at a time and freezing them. It seems like a handy thing to have pretty ready for a busy weeknight dinner. I keep chicken in the freezer anyway so I’ll have to remember this when I’m defrosting chicken and needing an idea.

I didn’t bake it again after it cooked through since I wanted the crust to be really crunchy and feared it might get sogged. Maybe next time I’ll try pounding it out to be really thin instead of stuffing it. Either way would be delicious. Baking the chicken instead of pan frying definitely kept the moisture in, and I usually don’t like frying things.

This was a great dinner that got us pumped up for our honeymoon to Italy & Spain!

Dinner Straight from the Freezer

I just had a really great frozen meal. No, not a TV-Dinner style meal, but real food, just frozen. Way back when, for my birthday (in March) Mrs. S sent me a gift certificate to pick out a frozen dinner of my choice. They came with a protein, starch, veggie, and even dessert. Unfortunately it got a bit buried and I didn’t choose right away.
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Once we were in the final planning stretch for our wedding, it seemed like the PERFECT time to have a ready-made meal to call on. It came from Omaha Steaks and was delicious.omaha_box_590_390
We had chicken cordon bleu, twice baked potatoes, green beans with herbed butter, and cheesecake. It was a meal for 4, so that meant two dinners. Score!
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It was a really nice gift. I think anyone stressed at work, busy planning a wedding, bringing a new baby home, or just moved to a new home would all really appreciate this.
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Wing It

I’ve been so excited to post these fan-tas-tic wings. Despite chicken being a very regular menu item for me, I haven’t cooked wings…probably ever. Also, I haven’t even thought about cooking wings since I do not have access to the grill. Waaa waaa. Someday it will come out of storage.
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These were so good! I was so happy with them! They were sweet, had a nice soy zing, and the fresh green onions provided a crispness that I appreciated. I truly felt like these were restaurant quality.

Ingredients

1 pound chicken wings, drumette & wing separated, if desired
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tbs honey
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sesame oil
2 tbs chopped garlic
½ tsp salt
¼ cup chopped green onions

Directions

Whisk liquid ingredients together before adding trimmed wings and sauce to marinate for at least 3 hours.
After chicken has marinated, sprinkle with salt and heat oven to 375 degrees.
Bake chicken in a single layer, skin side down for 20 minutes and flip and bake for 25 minutes until browned & crispy
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Serve with chopped green onion.

The leftovers were just as good served cold. It made me feel like I was on a picnic…though I haven’t picnic-ed in years and probably didn’t have Asian-inspired wings then anyway.

The recipe is pretty basic but super convenient since I had everything on hand, and an easy one to set up to marinate while other fun things are happening. I chopped off the wing tip but left the wing and drumette attached. I used the tips to make a little bit of chicken stock.
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I served these bad boys with some of my favorite (also, mayo-less) slaw. It has apple for sweetness and a vinegary/mustardy dressing. I love it and can’t get enough of it. I made it here too. I haven’t attempted potato salad yet and it’s already August so I should really get on that!

These would be a great game time snack, appetizer, or meal. BBQ wings cooked low and slow and finished on the grill are my favorite. Until I live somewhere that allows grills, ours will hide in the garage just waiting for a chance to make the neighbors, and the pup, jealous with a smokey scent in the air.

Fun to Say and Fun to Eat

Succotash is such a fun word and made me really excited to make it since I’d never had it before. Announcing this made Mr. J’s jaw drop which made me even more excited to make this chicken & succotash meal!
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Sometimes I dream about when I won’t live in an apartment and I can have a normal kitchen, or when my puppy can have a yard, and especially when I can have a grill! That sometimes might actually be quite frequently. I promise the dog he’ll have his own yard all. the. time.

This dinner is pretty good inside but would be amazing on a grill outside too. The chicken is stuffed with pepperjack cheese and spinach with a zippy spice on the outside. It’s served with succotash too.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts
6 oz pepperjack cheese, sliced
2 cups baby spinach
2 tbs grilling rub of your preference
1 cup edamame
1 cup red pepper
1 cup corn
1 tomato, chopped
¼ cup lime salad dressing or lime juice and olive oil

Directions

Butterfly the chicken breasts and stuff with cheese and spinach, or cut a pocket into the middle and stuff with cheese and spinach.
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Season the outside with a rub or spice mix
Grill chicken on a grill pan or panini press for about 10-minutes until all juices are running clear
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Meanwhile, saute edamame, red pepper, corn, for about 3 minutes and then add tomato.
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Add lime dressing and serve
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I got this recipe from The Food Network Magazine awhile back. I use spinach instead of argula like they recommend. I also did edamame instead of lima beans and threw in the red pepper instead of summer squash and thought it made it wayyy better.

Funny story. I always stop by the reduced produce, don’t judge, and I thought I was grabbing a bag of cukes & zuccs. I figured the store employees don’t know the difference. I got home and had lots of cukes but no zucchinis. This is kind of like the time when they didn’t know how to label prosciutto and charged me the bologna price. Score! Anywho,  I also got a steal on red & orange peppers (4 for $1.77!!). The cashier just entered the pepper code and it would have been $5-something if I wasn’t watching. I felt like I was on extreme couponing!!

This is an easy & casual one that would definitely impress friends with only a few pans OR deviate from the norm of your grilling menus this weekend!

Easter Recap: Better Late Than Never

We’re now closer to Cinco de Mayo than Easter, but I’m just now catching up.Some things have to be absolutely the same. My Easter basket is one of those traditions I need. During Easter my first year of college I unexpectedly received a replacement basket for Easter at my parents house! GASP! I don’t dramatically overreact too often, but that was one of them. Dad ended up on a chair or a ladder pulling baskets down until we had the right one. Phew. It was iffy.
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Another tradition inside that basket is a dark chocolate egg. I get coconut creme and Mr. J gets fudge, with our names written on top.

Easter dinner was hosted at my sis’ house. We have a fantastic meal and she’s becoming quite the chef! Check out her tablescape! She’s all about the seasonal decor. (She also loves making trifle and I’m impressed with her creativity to use the trifle dish!)
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I made a dip- more about that later.

Our first course was a Baked Potato Soup from Cooking Light. The traditional loaded potato items were on the side for a garnish which made the soup itself a bit lighter since it didn’t include cups of cheese.
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The main course was a Tuscan pork roast, zucchini and corn saute, and a sausage and sourdough stuffing.
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The pork roast had rosemary, garlic, and it was delicious. Sis didn’t like the zucchini and corn side dish, but I did so I took the leftovers. It had some vinegar and I thought it was fresh and tangy.

A Little Sweet & A Little Sour

I know after making my own turkey meatballs I said I should be making them instead of buying them, but I’m crazy at work for another 25 days. I can’t wait to rejoin life afterwards!
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Anywho, I made Sweet and Sour Meatballs using turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s. I’ve made this before but it has been awhile.

Ingredients

1 can pineapple chunks
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tbs soy sauce
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
6 meatballs
½ green pepper, chopped
½ orange pepper, chopped
1 cup rice

Directions:

Bring pineapple chunks, some liquid, brown sugar, and soy sauce to a rolling boil for 2 minutes.
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Add red pepper flakes and meatballs before lowering heat to medium low.
Prepare rice.
Add peppers to meatballs and sauce for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
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How easy?! I didn’t have any egg noodles but it turns out Mr. J thought he’d like it better over rice. I also didn’t have any rice but I did have aborio. Risotto with sweet and sour meatballs turned out to be a success!

I had “natural” pineapple chunks and I liked it much better than regular canned pineapple. It’s definitely as close to fresh as you can get.

Intense Garlic & Balsamic Vinegar Chicken

I’d categorize Mr. J as a sauce person whereas my sauces don’t always come out perfectly. I think they are coming along. I made a lot of sauce even when making chicken-for-two. This was a FLAVORFUL meal.
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This was a pretty quick meal to put together and I loved the vinegar flavor. It felt different and made me want to use balsamic vinegar more often.

Ingredients

2 chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter, softened
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 cup of chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil and cook chicken thighs until a medium golden brown, about 5 minutes.
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Flip the chicken over and cook for about 3 minutes.
Put chicken into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Add garlic to the chicken pan (careful: don’t let it burn).
Stir in balsamic vinegar and chicken broth over a low boil.

Whisk in mixed flour and butter to thicken sauce, cooking for about 2 more minutes over low.
Add in chicken and coat in sauce and cook for 5 minutes.
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I liked the balsamic flavor but also think I put in too much (I used about ⅓ cup) so I’d recommend a quantity of a few tablespoons.I eat a solid amount of chicken but I don’t use chicken thighs very often. They were a great change. A little dark meat here and there never hurts.
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I served this with mashed potatoes (with a touch of sour cream) and steamed green beans. It was a really comforting meal.

Honey Mustard Chicken with a Crunch

After a weekend of food, friends, diner breakfast, and drinks I wanted a slightly healthier Sunday night dinner. I was working with what we already had around, since I hate to grocery shop and we had been gone a lot.
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Honey Mustard Ingredients

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup yellow mustard
2 tablespoon orange juice
1 large clove garlic, minced

Honey Mustard Directions

Wisk honey, mustard, orange juice, and garlic
Refrigerate for at least an hour before enjoying

I love honey mustard. I know you can buy it but this is better. I sneak a little spicy brown into it as well which better rounds out the mustard vs. sweet flavor. A splash of cider vinegar would be good too.Honey mustard is so versatile! Marinate chicken in it, dip veggies in it, put it on salad, put it on a sandwich…the possibilities are endless. Bottled honey mustard always has a few weird preservatives and when it’s this easy to make, why buy it?

Honey Mustard Crunchy Chicken Ingredients

chicken tenders or chicken breasts
1 egg (with 1 tbs water), whisked
½ cup flour
¾ cup breadcrumbs (half panko, half regular bread crumbs)

Honey Mustard Crunchy Chicken Directions

1) Marinate chicken tenders in honey mustard.
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2) Set up your flour, eggwash, breadcrumbs, in that order
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4) bake 20 minutes at 375 on a sprayed cooling rack on top of a baking sheet, turning once

This was so great! I really liked that I could taste the honey mustard and the crunch on the outside was awesome. I served it with honey mustard on the side but could have tossed the crispy tenders in the sauce too. I think I was too scared that the crunch wouldn’t stick since they were baked, not fried.
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Mr. J and I thought the chicken was cooked perfectly. It was a fun and different dinner that was lighter than the restaurant equivalent since the chicken wasn’t fried. I served it with couscous (where I snuck in some finely chopped baby spinach for another veggie dose) and some yellow squash and leeks we had.
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Build a Better Lasagna

I haven’t been cooking a ton, nor have I been super creative with meals lately but it’s my crazy season at work. See me at the end of May and I’ll have space in my head to think. Until then, I’ll keep concentrating on work, wedding planning, and meals that don’t require TONS of effort. Also, mother nature seems to be holding spring just out of the reach of us New Englanders.

The other night I decided to grab lasagna ingredients so I’d have a few meals in my back pocket for nights I am too crazed, googly-eyed, and have brought work home with me. Lasagna is such a great freezer item, especially since I’m cooking for just Mr. J and myself. One batch makes 2 small ones…one for now and one to freeze for later! There’s a tiny bit more time in the season for delicious meals like this.
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Lasagna is something I can’t usually order out (red meat factor) so I make it myself. I also think there are wayy too many bad lasagnas out there so I wanted to share a few tips. I think lasagna is best when baked. Let to rest, and baked again another time. I think the small touches are what make lasagna better. Using different sauces is a big one. I sneak some pesto and cream sauce into my lasagna in small amounts. I have one additionsl sauce in there, but it’s a secret. Hey, I can’t give away ALL my secrets!

Ingredients

1 pound lasagna noodles
¾ pound meat mix of your choosing (ground turkey & sausage / sausage & ground chicken / ground pork & ground turkey etc)
chopped leeks, onions, or shallots
2 cups whole milk ricotta
1 egg
2 cups shredded mozzarella
½ cup shredded Parmesan
2 cups baby spinach
spices: dried oregano, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, & red pepper flakes

Directions

Cook lasagna noodles unless using no-bake
Mix ricotta with egg, and dried spices
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Cook the meat layer (I used ground chicken and crumbled sausage) and add in somebody in the onion family
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Spread marinara into pans and layer with noodles and a few red pepper flake shakes
Then add the meat layer with leeks/onions/shallots, some pesto, shredded cheese, and more noodles.
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Spread some marinara or alfredo, and top with ricotta, parmasan, and chopped spinach before adding more noodles.
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Top the whole thing off with more marinara, spices and bake for 45 minutes. If eating right then, top with mozzarella until melted.

The meat mix is important. It is better when there is more than one in there. A few shakes of seasoned breadcrumbs will also make sure it’s not greasy or bland. Different cheeses are also a huge part in a good lasagna. Mixing shredded mozzarella with some Parmasan provides a good flavor combo. I’ve learned my lesson with part skim ricotta…not a corner to cut. It ends up dry & crumbly, not creamy, and even with the help of the egg, it doesn’t bind well.

I like veggies in there, and think it’s a good balance with all the meat and cheese. Mr. J liked the baby spinach this time over shredded zucchini I’ve done in the past. Some mushrooms in there would be good too, but somebody doesn’t like ‘em. I had some leeks so I tossed ‘em into the meat layer.

I used no-bake noodles for the first time. While it would definitely save some time, I was using a circular pan for one of my batches and these buggers were tricky to fit in. If I made a 9 X 13 pan I’d definitely use them again.

Lasagna always reminds me of the time I ate “veggie lasagna” at the home of a very important Children’s Book author who shall remain nameless (well, she didn’t cook it so ohh well). The quotes are important because there weren’t any noodles, instead there was squash slices. There wasn’t any cheese, sauce, or meat…instead, there was spinach. Ohh it was interesting let me tell you…

Any lasagna tricks up your sleeve? What makes yours better than the average lasagna?

Family Birthday Dinner

I know, you’ve seen lots of my birthday celebratory meals but there are a few more to post! What can I say, birthdays are important to me and what a better way to celebrate than with friends, my Mr. J, and family?

Here’s my amazing meal with some of my favorites:

We started with stuffed mushrooms
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Then we had roast lamb, zucchini and summer squash, and a potato cake.

The lamb was really good. I can’t eat most red meat and lamb seems to be the only one that doesn’t make me sick. I need smaller portions so it just means I have to really savor each bite.

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Mum has a touch with zucchini and squash. Most other people end up with slightly mushy or a soggy mess. Hers somehow is always perfect. She baked it with a touch of marinara and cheese.

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I LOVED this. It was deceptively good. I want to make this with a bunch!

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Now, the star of our family birthdays…THE cake. This cake is amazing and my main reason for sharing this meal with you. Mum has made this cake and served it so many times we’ve lost track. It is just amazing. Without further ado, I present to you: Chocolate Ring of Coconut Fudge Cake.
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Not too many more bday meals. I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I did! Next is my bday dinner out with Mr. J.