Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

Like the years before, halfway into Fall, I actually begin to crave something other than rich soups, stews and casseroles…weird, right?  I also did not want to take the time needed to make a few of those yummy, indulgent dishes.  So instead, it was back to a favorite, trusty 30-minute meal!  Another plus, it’s a bit on the healthier side compared to the latter mentioned too!   Keeping myself in check for that Thanksgiving feast this week!

*Another great thing about this dish is you can easily make it to your liking by choosing regular or gluten-free noodles, chicken, shrimp, halibut or no protein at all!  Please make it your own!

The Starting Lineup

Blackened Chicken

  • 1 lb Chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • cooking oil
  • Fresh lemon

Pasta

  • 12oz pasta noodles of choice, boiled and drained
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar Roasted Piquillo (or red) Peppers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 1/2 cup (8oz) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled, plus more for garnish
  • Kalamata olives, no seeds
  • Chopped fresh basil

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CHICKEN:

In a bowl, blend all of the dried and ground herbs together.  Squeeze the fresh lemon and a bit of cooking oil over the chicken breast and sprinkle the spice blend evenly over the chicken.   You can pan sear, bake or grill the chicken till cooked through and juices run clear.  Tent with foil and set aside as you prepare the sauce.

NOODLES:

Prepare about 2 minutes less than package directions.   Drain.  Set aside.

SAUCE:

Have a large skillet and your food processor (or blender) at  hand.

In your skillet over med-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Next, add in the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened.  Next, add the chopped and drained piquillo/red peppers and cook for another 3 minutes.

Transfer the veggie mix from the skillet to a food processor or blender.  Blend till fairly smooth, some chunks left are ok!

To that same large skillet, melt the remaining butter over med-high heat and pour the pepper puree back in.  Next, whisk in the broth, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  Finally, whisk in the heavy cream and parmesan cheese till smooth.

Add the cooked pasta, Kalamata olives, 1 cup feta cheese and fresh cut basil to the sauced skillet, toss to coat.

Serve with the blackened chicken, sliced, over top and sprinkle with a bit more feta and fresh basil.  Enjoy!

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Milanesa de Carne with Roasted Jalapeño Chimichurri

Today I’m going south of the border…like SOUTH, south of the border with this simple, comforting dish that is very popular in parts of Mexico and South America.  The milanesa I prepared is a variation of the Italian version brought over (think chicken parmigiana) more than a century ago.  It can be any meat of your choosing: beef, chicken or pork and lightly dredged and shallow-fried till golden.  In fact, health conscience people are even baking them to cut down on their fried food intake.  To each their own…though I stick with the authentic way!

I amp my recipe up with the slightly spicy and smoky flavor of my Roasted Jalapeno Chimichurri!  It’s quite simple and very versatile!  Make sure to use it with your potatoes as well, and if there is any leftover, spoon it over eggs, burritos, sandwiches or a dipping sauce!  Finally, make sure to squeeze that fresh lemon over each bite as the acid cuts through the fried richness…salivating now.

The Starting Lineup

Milanesas

  • 4-6 (appx 1 1/2 lbs) Thinly cut beef steaks, i.e. literally “Beef Milanesa” in my grocer’s meat section.
  • 2 Limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs + 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (can substitute in Panko bread crumbs)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • vegetable oil
  • Lemons, quartered, for serving/squeezing over top the milanesa

Roasted Jalapeños Chimichurri

  • 2 jalapenos
  • 2 cups cilantro
  • 2 cups parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp dry red wine
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt & pepper, to taste

*Serve with a simple salad, crispy roasted potatoes and lemon wedges.

Start with the Chimichurri sauce (this can also be done the night before).  Roast your jalapenos over an open flame (gas oven/grill) or under your broiler, turning until the skin is slightly charred and blistered.  Let the jalapenos steam in a closed paper bag or plastic wrap covered dish for about 10 minutes.  Remove the outside blistered skins and the seeds.

Using a food processor, blender or an immersion blender (like I did), combine all of the Chimichurri ingredients and blend until fairly smooth.  Cover and set aside in your refrigerator.

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Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, to keep the fried and breaded steaks warm while you cook the others.

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and in a large zip lock, bag combine the steaks, lime juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Let sit out and get to room temperature while your heat up the oil.

In 3 shallow dishes:

1st dish:  Flour   2nd dish:  beaten eggs   3rd dish:  breadcrumbs seasoned w/ garlic powder, dried parsley, salt & pepper.

Heat 1/2 inch of  oil in a large skillet to medium-high heat.  Make sure the oil is hot prior to frying up the steaks.

One by one, dredge each steak lightly in the flour, then the eggs, followed by an even breadcrumb coating.  Place in the hot oil, cooking each side for about 3-4 minutes until a golden brown crust.  Remove to a paper towel lined baking sheet in the oven to soak up any excess grease and keep warm while preparing the remaining steaks. *TIP: You may need to lightly pat dry the lime marinated steaks with a paper towel prior to the dredging process.

Serve each steak with a simple side salad, roasted potatoes (or fries) and lemon wedges.  Drizzle the Chimichurri sauce over top and enjoy!

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Braised Red Wine Pot Roast with Cheesy Potato Pierogis

Pot roast is notorious for being a family favorite.  It’s a hearty meal that taste like you’ve slaved over the stove all day, yet is easy to prepare while still being affordable for the working man and woman.  So basically, we like to have this meal often, especially as the weather cools down.  I love Fall and Winter.

Now, that being said, growing up and into my 20’s it was such the same, old-fashioned “pot roast”.  I am an advocate for the saying, “don’t fix what isn’t broken”, but I also like to change things up.  So THIS is a roast that has all of the same qualities as mentioned in my opening, BUT is spruced up just enough that it is absolutely wonderful for a holiday get together or dinner party!…plus, you can finish that bottle of red at dinner!  Did you see the potato pierogi’s instead of your typical cut russets??  Yes!!!  Doooo iitttt friends….

*Can be made in your slow-cooker, no problem!  If you would like to take an extra step, you can sear the meat (add to slow cooker), followed by sautéing the vegetables and scraping up the brown bits with the liquids while on a low boil.. Pour into your slow cooker, over the roast, add seasonings and cover on low for 7-8 hours.  High, 5-6.

**It can also be braised in a large covered pot (same directions) on your stove top on medium-low (simmer).

The Starting Lineup

  • 4-5 lb chuck roast, seasoned all over with kosher salt & ground pepper
  • 2 Tablespoon oil (i.e. canola, vegetable, olive)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups mushrooms (I prefer whole, but you can slice)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock (or broth)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups dry red wine (i.e. cabernet)
  • 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Fresh thyme & rosemary, bundle/”Bouquet Garni”
  • Parmesan cheese, hand grated, garnish
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped, garnish
  • *To thicken sauce, if needed: 1 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp milk (optional) per cup of juice, once removed from the oven.

Quick Pierogis

  • 1 package potato and cheese pierogis, frozen (12-16 count)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

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Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

In an oven-safe Dutch Oven pot, heat to medium-high and add in the oil.  Sear all sides of your roast till browned on the outside (about 12-15 minutes).  Transfer roast to dish and set aside.

To that same pot, add in the onions, carrots, mushrooms and garlic, add a bit more oil if needed, cook down for 4-5 minutes.  Next, add in your tomato paste, broth, wine and water.  Bring to a boil while scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of your pot with a wooden spoon.  Soooo much flavor there!!

Turn off your burner, add back in the seared roast (plus any drippings from the dish it was resting on) along with the bay leaf, thyme & rosemary.  Cover and transfer to the oven for 2 1/2-3 hours.


When your roast has almost finished being fork tender, bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil.  Add in your pierogis and cook to package directions/drain.

On a large serving platter, lay out the cooked, hot pierogis and top with the cheddar cheese (melts beautifully!).  Place your roast and veggies right in the center along with a couple ladles of the rich, beefy red wine gravy over top.  Sprinkle on the parsley and grate some fresh parmesan cheese over top.  Enjoy!!

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Runza’s

Being from the great Midwest state of Nebraska, there are two things that are certain…college football and Runza’s!  You basically cannot have one without the other.
Now, technically these are most often called Bierock’s and are of a Russian/German background ..there’s that German in me again.  However, Nebraska has made these bad-boys a delicacy due to its chain of famous Runza’s Restaurants, established back by a brother and sister in 1949.
Whether there, or now in your home too, you can try the original, original with cheese, or make it your own with chili, southwest or philly ingredients, swiss and mushroom..you name it!  Hey, sometimes I’m even known to make a breakfast version of the classic.  Where are you on that Runza?? 😉
The Starting Lineup
Dough
  • 1 package yeast
    2 cups warm water
    1/2 cup sugar
    7 cups flour (regular all-purpose, unbleached)
    2 eggs
    3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    1 teaspoon salt
Filling
  • 2 lbs ground beef
    1 yellow onion, finely chopped
    5 cups finely shredded cabbage (1/2 a head of cabbage)
    2 tablespoons water
    1/2 teaspoon oregano
    1
    + teaspoon pepper
    2+ teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

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DOUGH

In your stand mixer bowl, add the yeast packet to the 2 cups of warm water, stir to dissolve.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Now with the bread hook attachment, mix together the yeast, sugar and 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Add eggs, oil and salt. Gradually add remaining flour and beat for about 5 minutes, until all is combined. Dough will be soft.

Pour dough into greased bowl. Cover with towel and let double in size in a warm place. This will take about 2 hours.

FILLING

Brown your hamburger, 1/2 of the chopped onions and a hefty pinch of both salt and pepper in a large skillet.  Break up the beef very well.

Next, steam the cabbage and remaining onion by adding both to the meat-filled skillet, add water/cover and steam for 10 minutes, or until cabbage and onion are soft. Turn off heat.  Mix in the Worcestershire and oregano, taste for more salt & pepper. Let cool.

ASSEMBLY TIME

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Turn dough onto clean work surface, add a bit of flour to your surface and rolling pin if needed/dough is sticky. Knead for a minute. Cut into about 12 ‘chunks’, working with one at a time.

Roll each chunk into either a circular or rectangle shape, about 1/8th of an inch and 6″-8″ around *there is no wrong or right as it all taste delicious!

In the middle of each rolled out piece of dough, lay a slice of American cheese down.  Top with a hefty 1/2 cup+ of filling and similar to a burrito, fold edges over and pinch together. Place filled pockets, seam side down, onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  Cover the two baking sheets of filled Runza’s with a tea towel and, again, keep in a warm place for a second rise for about 15-30 minutes.

Finally, place into your preheated oven, 400 degrees, for 20 minutes till golden brown.  Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy with some crinkle cut French fries and ranch!  Enjoy!

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*The leftovers can be frozen and even cooked straight from frozen!  Yay!  Place on a lined cookie sheet for 45-50 minutes at 325 degrees!

 

Toasted Coconut Huckleberry Oat Muffins

Living in a home with little kids means lots of snacks… snacks between meals, snacks after school, snacks before bed, you get the picture.  Now, while trying to cut down on their sugar consumption, yet keep the sweetness in the treats, I found a fabulous product that does exactly that!

It is Steviva’s Nectevia Blue Agave Nectar!  This fabulous all-natural sweetener contains just 1/4 of the calories, carbs and sugars of regular agave or table sugar, yet the Steviva plant is 250 to 300 times sweeter and is safe for those with diabetes or hypoglycemia!  Plus I quite enjoy that I can use this in everything from baked goods, teas and smoothies to pan sauces and marinades for dinner, so versatile!

Now back to the muffins at hand, these are a tasty, healthy alternative to sneak some yummy goodness in your children’s tummies!  They will taste a sweet natural sugar from the blue agave, fresh berries and coconut (tropical much?) and will also keep their body’s full with the benefits of the old-fashioned oats and the “snuck in” chia seeds!  You can feel good about serving these anytime Snack Time hits!

*If huckleberries are hard to come by, feel free to use blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc of your choosing.

**You may absoutely substitute the flour for a gluten free based flour, and the vegetable oil to a heart-healthy coconut oil, etc.  Just make sure to do the proper conversions.

To find and purchase one of the many fabulous Steviva products, please visit:

 

The Starting Lineup (Makes about 15 muffins)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup Steviva Nectevia Blue Agave Nectar
  • 2 cups oats, old fashioned
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup coconut, unsweetened (plus more for top garnish) + milk to cover
  • 3/4 cup huckleberries
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your muffin pans.

In a small bowl, add in the 1 cup of coconut and fill with a bit of milk to cover/soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, agave, buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Mix the above wet and dry ingredients together until just combined.

Next, squeeze the milk soaked coconut and add to the muffin mixture (this coconut flavored milk can be saved for another use…great in baking, smoothies or for cereal!).  Fold in the 2 cups oats and berries.

Fill the muffin tins about 3/4th of the way and top with a bit of shredded coconut on top.

Bake your muffins for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.  Serve warm.

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Bacon & Blue Stuffed Mushrooms

Whether you’re planning a party, enjoying a romantic steak dinner at home or need a new creative idea for some football game snacks, this is a fun twist on a classic appetizer!

More often than not, when I think of blue cheese, I often think of bacon.  They pair together as well as peanut butter and jelly in my book!  So while I was at our local grocer last week, I saw they had a special on their packages of bacon AND mushrooms and figured I could make something great happen between them!  With the few simple ingredients listed below, you truly get a rich and indulgent, highly umami kick-in-the-butt of flavor!  These are oh so good and “fancy”….yet insanely easy!

*For the larger sized button mushroom, pick from the crate of individual mushrooms; not the prepackaged variety.  At home, store unwashed in a paper bag for up to 2-3 days in your refrigerator before use.  **Simply double the ingredients if making 2 dozen, etc.  ***These are naughty and rich, so I always allot about 2-3 per person.  ****Can be assembled earlier in the day and popped in the oven to warm through when needed.

The Starting Lineup

  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 12 large button mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz. blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 Tbsp chives, fresh, divided 1:1

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Clean any dirt off your mushrooms with a vegetable brush or dry paper towel (do not rinse with water, as they become water logged and wont hold up well).  Gently “snap” the stem off of each mushroom, while leaving the cap whole (set caps aside on a foil lined baking sheet).  Then give a rough chop to all of the stems.

In a skillet over medium heat, crisp up the chopped bacon.  Once done, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined dish and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease in the pan.  To that bacon grease, add in the chopped mushroom stems and sauté for 3-4 minutes, then add in the minced garlic for 1 minute more.

In a medium size bowl, thoroughly combine the sautéed stems and garlic with the crisped bacon, softened cream cheese, blue cheese and 1 tablespoon of the fresh chives.

Using a spoon (I use two spoons myself), stuff each mushroom cap with the filling you just made.

Transfer your tray of stuffed mushrooms to the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Serve immediately.

Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of fresh chives and enjoy!

*Makes 12.  Literally double the ingredients to double the recipe. 🙂

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Creamy Pumpkin & Sage Bacon Alfredo

Call me “basic” but come Fall, I sure do love me some pumpkin!  Now I’m not fully crazy, as in pumpkin spice coffee every morning, noon and night crazy.  I do, however, like to use the orange offspring of squash in more creative ways.  Todays “way” is in the form of pasta!

To convince my family my idea was some sort of genius, I also used 2 of the tastiest key words in describing our future dinner, “alfredo” and “bacon”…Yep, that got their attention!

Now sure, this is after all Alfredo so it does contain a bit of cheese, but it’s actually not all that artery clogging and indulgent as you may think.  For one, I used less than 1 cup of parmesan cheese, mainly for the saltiness it brings.  I substituted the heavy cream for it’s lighter cousin, half & half, and if you want to lessen the saturated fat of butter, feel free to use Tresomega Nutrition cold pressed coconut oil!  Plus, lets not forget the health benefits of the sneaked in pureed pumpkin!

Now honestly, this sauce is fantastic on any pasta or fluffy gnocchi of your choice, it would be good on a shoe for that matter.  Though for my gluten free friends, I highly recommend the new GF pasta made by my buddies at Tresomega Nutrition!  It contains no wheat nor corn and is made with organic rice, quinoa and amaranth which keeps that same bite and color of your traditional pasta noodles.  It also doesn’t fall apart when cooked like most of its counterparts!  I’m fully a fan!

Please find out more info on Tresomega Nutrition products here:

  1. http://www.tresomega.com/
  2. https://www.facebook.com/TresomegaNutrition/
  3. https://www.pinterest.com/tresomega/
  4. https://twitter.com/tres_omega

You can also purchase the Tresomega Nutrition brand at:

  1. http://tresomega.com
  2. https://www.sams.com
  3. https://www.amazon.com
  4. https://www.walmart.com

The Starting Lineup

  • 1lb of your preferred pasta or gnocchi (Tresomega Gluten Free recommended)
  • 8 strips bacon, grease reserved, divided
  • 2 Tbsp butter or Tresomega cold pressed coconut oil
  • 12 sage leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 cups half & half (16oz)
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp each kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup pasta cooking water (optional to thin sauce)
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I tried this recipe with both pasta noodles and gnocchi and BOTH are delish!

Begin this Fall-inspired pasta by chopping, grating and mincing your bacon, onion, garlic and parmesan cheese.

In a large skillet on medium heat, crisp up your bacon.  Once done, transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined dish and set aside while keeping the bacon grease in the skillet.  *There should be about 2 Tbsp of grease.

To that same pre-greased skillet, add to it either the butter or cold pressed coconut oil along with the chopped onions and sauté, about 7-8 minutes.  Turn down to medium-low and then add in the garlic and sage and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Careful not to burn the garlic, but to slightly crisp up the sage.

**Here you can boil a large stockpot of salted water to a boil and add in your pasta of choice and cook to package directions.

Once the veggie medley is finished (smells gooooood huh?!), you will add in the pumpkin puree while whisking in the half & half to form a creamy consistency.  Next, whisk in the grated parmesan cheese, crisped sage leaves, 1/2 of the cooked bacon, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Cook over low heat till combined and then add in your perfectly cooked pasta.  ***You can also add in the 1/4 cup of pasta water if you’d like a thinner consistency.

Serve warm, with the other 1/2 of cooked, chopped bacon sprinkled overtop, a bit more parmesan and sage leaves if desired.  Enjoy!

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