Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tomato Sauce Part II: Chicken Parmesan

Aren't Wednesdays fun when I have a follow up to a previous post?  I really love this chicken parmesan because it is so simple.  I just whip some tomato sauce out of the refrigerator, season and quickly saute the cutlets, assemble the dish for the oven and ta-dah!  I have dinner.  It is a fave of the Baking Toddler and Baking Husband too!

Baking Toddler at 13mos old.  1 1/2 years later he's still digging the sauce!
Speaking of the Baking Toddler...for the last two weeks I have witnessed a miracle.  I'm really hesitant to even tell you because I'm afraid I will jinx myself.  But this is here it goes.  For the first time in two years, six months, two weeks and one day my son decided to sleep through the night.  He has done this for two weeks straight.  I just want everyone to know what an epic event this is in our house.  So I urge everyone to congratulate me him on sleep...beautiful sleep.  It is such a happy, momentous occasion.

Easy Chicken Parmesan
serves 4
4 (3oz) chicken cutlets
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
Kosher Salt & Pepper
1 cup Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. 
  • Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the chicken and season with salt, pepper, thyme and basil.
  • Heat a heavy large skillet over high heat. Add the cutlets and cook just until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the skillet from the heat. 
  • Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9" baking dish or glass pie plate.  Place chicken in dish and pour sauce over and around the cutlets. 
  • Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan evenly over each cutlet. Sprinkle the butter pieces atop the cutlets.
  • Bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. 
***Serve atop pasta or along side a simple salad.

Monday, March 28, 2011

In The Freezer: Tomato Sauce

It wasn't until a month before the birth of my son that my freezer was stocked to the brim for the first time in my adult life.  It almost felt like some sort of grown up accomplishment, a milestone if you will.  My husband and I never really took advantage of freezer space and quickly discovered that once you have a child there is more to a freezer than the storage of ice cubes and occasional cartons of ice cream.

Soon I found bread, doughs, mac n cheese, casseroles, proteins, fresh berries, condiments, frozen pops and sauces stacked upon the freezer shelves.  One staple I always have on hand is tomato sauce.  Though not a meal in itself, it is a perfect springboard to make a quick and tasty meal.  From a simple tossing of sauce and noodles to a quick chicken parmesan this is one of my go-to recipes for a delicious family dinner.

Now the sauce.  I had been a big fan of Giada's marinara sauce...and then I had a kid...and then I didn't want to take the few extra minutes to chop onions, garlic, carrots, and a celery stalk.  Yes, I had become lazy and maybe a little boozy because I was craving a sauce that had a little extra bite from wine.  Luckily I found this recipe from an ancient MS Living magazine.  This sauce is sweet with a little heat from the pepper, has a good bite from the wine and added freshness from the fresh herbs.  Not to mention it is a dump, cook, serve, store, freeze kind of recipe...a winner for this mama!
Sneak Peak!!!  Look what's coming on Wednesday!
Traditional Italian Tomato Sauce
adapted from: Mark Strausman, owner and chef, Campagna
makes 9 cups

4-28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup Chianti or other dry red wine
1 tablespoon dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil
Salt and Pepper
  1. In a medium stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, and saute until golden brown, 1-2 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes.  While oil is sizzling, slowly add half of the tomatoes.  Add wine, stirring to combine.  Add remaining tomatoes.
  2. Reduce heat.  Add the oregano, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  3. Add the basil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Store sauce in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 4 days.  Store in freezer for up to 1 month.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Well that there is Yankee Cornbread!

I grew up eating cornbread that came from a white and turquoise box.  It is sweet and delicious and was one of my favorite things to eat at my childhood table.  I remember slicing a piece in half and slathering it with butter at the end of a meal.  It was so tasty and sweet, it could rightfully pass for a dessert in my book.  But then again, I couldn't wait for morning to come so I could enjoy a slice for breakfast as well.

According to my father, who was raised on homemade southern cornbread, this cornbread from a box was "Yankee Cornbread."  I think his argument was that it was too sweet, or maybe it was because it was from a box, or because my mom was from Nebraska (and yes, I realized Nebraskans are Mid-Westerners-but to some Texans anything north of the Red River would be considered 'Yankee')...whatever the reason that cornbread was not *real* cornbread.

Well, I wonder what he'd think of this cornbread.  It is sweet and wait for it...wait for it...OK here it is...and loaded with CHOCOLATE!  It would be perfect for brunch served with coffee or tea.  And I'm pretty sure it could be a yummy midnight snack too.

Casa Luna's Chocolate Chip Cornbread
Bon Appetit October 2008
serves 8
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray 9x5x3 inch metal loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Whisk milk, canola oil and eggs in a medium bowl.  Add milk mixture to dry mixture; stir until just blended.  Transfer to prepared pan.
  4. Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes.  Invert cornbread onto a rack.  Cool slightly.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I spy something green...(Almond Curried Chicken Salad)

My sister-in-law, Sarah, sent me this recipe years ago when I was newly pregnant and battling the most awful "morning" sickness.  I say "morning" because it began at 2am but it didn't end until 8 or 9pm.  I was miserable.  But finally after week 13, I felt like myself again...and I was hungry!  Starving.  I made this chicken salad at least once a week-I really love it.  This week I had the worst craving for it (I missed it)-so I just had to make it.

Once I took the picture I thought it was such a lovely color green and perfect for a St. Paddy's day post.  Boy, I sure am submitting a lot of non-baking posts-but they are so yummy!  So why ignore, right?

Almond Curried Chicken Salad with Asparagus
Serves 4
2 cups asparagus, 1-inch pieces cut on diagonal
1/2 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus some for roasted asparagus
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, plus some for roasted asparagus
2 cups cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
Mixed or spinach leaves
  1. Toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 375 F for 10 minutes, or until crisp tender.  Set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, curry, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Add cooled asparagus, chicken and almonds, toss to coat.
  4. Serve on a bed of mixed greens or spinach leaves.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Brownie Bites

Alright.  I have to admit that I hate edges on brownies.  I just don't understand the allure of making brownies in that pan.  I want my brownie to be chewy, fudgy and soft each and every bite, with that said, I created the edgeless brownie.  It's simple, I took a biscuit cutter to an already made and cooled batch of brownies and cut brownie circles straight from the pan.

It was perfect-no edges...and they were all the same size...and they make great gift packages.  But then I realized there were brownie remnants left over.  What should I do with all of these bits of brownie left in the pan?  Make brownie bites, of course!  This is easy, can be a little messy and I think children would LOVE to make these tiny morsels of bite size brownies.

Brownie Bites
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1-9"x9" square pan of baked brownie or left over brownie edges and pieces (that what I use!)
2 cup sparkling sugar or nonpareils
  1. Heat water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside to cool.
  2. Trim off any super hard edges of brownie.  Grab about a tablespoon size piece of brownie, and roll into a ball with your hands, pushing the crunchy surface pieces to the center.  Place on a parchment or wax paper lined sheet pan and repeat with the rest of the brownie pieces.  
  3. Roll the brownie bites into the sugar syrup and then roll into sparkling sugar or non pareils, coating well.  Brownies bites can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An Attitude and Altitude Adjustment (Recipe: Brownies)

Ugh...I've got to change my life!
At the beginning of the year I asked my husband if he believed in New Year's resolutions.  His response was not too surprising, "No."  As I fell back onto the couch I followed with, "Me neither...ugh...but I've got to change my life."  Now picture the back of the hand raised to the forehead in a somewhat 'woe is me' moment as I fall limply onto the couch pillow.

"What do you mean?" he asked.  And then I rattled a list of things I'd like to change: the tidiness of my house, my weight, unfinished projects, my punctuality at work, finding time to exercise...and the list goes on and on.

There is a simple solution, there really is, and its all about organization and time management.  Two things that I think I'm lacking in my home life.  Two things that could ultimately lead to all the little things I want changed.

First I tackled my house.  I made a checklist of household chores (hate that word) to be done in a weeks time.  I strive to hit everything on the list but won't beat myself up if I don't get there.  Have I done my clean sweep, as I type this, I'm sitting on two dozen Little People figures and it looks like the cast of Toy Story decided to camp out in my living room.  I have a toddler and have to accept that my house will not always be spotless.

So please click the flower and it will take you to the checklist.  I'd love to share it, and if it helps someone else out (even if its just ONE person) I will be happy with that.
An Altitude Adjustment
Now on to the eats!  I used to make these brownies ALL THE TIME when we lived in College Station.  So much that I had the recipe memorized by heart.  Then we moved to Idaho, meaning we moved from sea level to an altitude of 5000 ft., and I could never get the brownies/altitude adjustment figured out.  It was the only baked good that faltered and I quit making it.  The Baking Husband asked if I'd make these brownies for him a while back...he missed them.

I would love for anyone that lives at an altitude of 5000 feet or higher make these and tell me if you did anything differently.  I tried all different high altitude suggestions and could never find one that worked.  I now live back on flat land, but would still love to know what you did!
Sneak Peek!!!  Brownie Bites!!! Coming to you on Monday!
Outrageous Brownies
slightly adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter and dust a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet with cocoa powder.
  3. Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. 
  4. In a separate large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. On a large piece of parchment or waxed paper, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter.  Pour into the baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake. Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.
***I have stored the whole sheet pan of brownies in the freezer for up to two weeks, double wrapped in plastic wrap.  Thaw them at room temperature and they are still awesome!

Sweet Tooth Friday