Monday, March 29, 2010

Chicken with a Spinach-Tomato Ragout over Roasted Garlic Polenta

I was craving polenta today - actually I have been for about a week but tonight I was craving it AND I felt like cooking. I had a tube of Trader Joe's polenta, but I wanted creamy polenta so decided to make it from scratch. I have made it several times and love trying new ingredients and flavors in the polenta. Besides the almost constant whisking, it's not hard.

I love rustic chicken dishes served over polenta but can never do that when Jon is home, so I took advantage of him being at a work dinner tonight and made this for myself.

The Polenta - Roasted Garlic with Gruyere

  • 3 cups liquid; I used 2 c vegetable broth and 1 c water
  • 1/2 bulb roasted garlic, mashed and combined with the liquid
  • Large pinch of thyme
  • 3/4 c stoneground yellow cornmeal
  • Approximately 1/3 c shredded gruyere cheese

Bring the liquid/garlic mixture to a boil. Season with thyme. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, whisking continuously until creamy, about 12 minutes. Sometimes this takes longer (up to 18 minutes), but mine came together pretty quickly tonight. Whisk in the cheese.

Chicken with a Spinach Tomato Ragout - Ingredients

Note - I made this for just myself; double the ingredients for 2.

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded out just a bit
  • Salt, pepper, paprika
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach
  • 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth


  • Heat olive oil in a saute pan
  • Season chicken liberally with salt, pepper, and paprika and add to pan. Cook 3 min per side or until golden brown.
  • Add onions and garlic, saute 2 minutes. If your pan seems too dry, add a touch of broth.
  • Add tomatoes, saute 2 minutes.
  • Add spinach to the pan and let wilt down for a minute (I just threw it in on top and didn't stir it in).
  • Add broth and bring to a simmer; let simmer until chicken is cooked through, just a few minutes. Adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve over the polenta.

This turned out exactly how I had hoped - fragrant, flavorful, comforting, and rustic. And although I had 2 pans actively going at once and requiring attention, everything came together very quickly and easily.

Chile Chicken Saute over Pasta

Last year I went through two years' worth of Food and Wine Magazines and tore out all of the recipes I had marked to make before recycling the magazines. This one was one I had saved - Chile Chicken Saute. The recipe recommends serving the chicken mixture in tortillas or over rice - we decided to serve it over pasta to keep it simple.

I loved how the tomato sauce really thickened the dish and added great color. I made a few minor changes, my adaptation is below. Here is the original recipe.

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 sm onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 each red, yellow, and green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Optional: adobo seasoning
  • 1/2 c canned tomato sauce
  • 3/4 c frozen corn
  • 1/2 c water
  • Freshly chopped cilantro


  • Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large saute pan
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper (and optional adobo seasoning) and add it to the skillet in a single layer. Cook over high heat, turning once, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a covered dish.
  • Add remaining oil to the skillet.
  • Add onions and peppers and saute about 4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, corn, chili powder, and cumin; saute 1 minute.
  • Return chicken and any juices to the pan and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add tomato sauce and water and cook over medium heat, scraping up brown bits. Let simmer 5 minutes until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened. Stir in some of the cilantro.
  • Serve over pasta (or rice) and garnish with cilantro.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Breakfast Burrito

When the weather is nice, we love taking our dog for a walk around the local lake. Our dog is a rescue, was abused as a puppy, and is very scared and nervous around new people, kids on bikes, etc, but once we get to the lake, she's the happiest and most relaxed dog in the world! It makes us so happy to see her this way.

Last weekend the weather was perfect so we decided to go to the lake. I wanted to make a quick breakfast that was delicious and full of protein to give me energy for the walk, so I came up with this breakfast burrito.

Ingredients (for 1)
  • 2 eggs beaten with a splash of milk
  • Shake or two each of salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder - shake into the beaten eggs
  • Handful of chopped peppers - I used red, yellow, and green
  • Handful of chopped onions - I used green onions
  • 1/2 tomato, chopped
  • 1 tortilla shell
  • Shredded cheese - I used a Colby Jack blend
  • Optional: fresh cilantro
  • Touch of olive oil plus small pat of butter


  • Heat olive oil and melt butter in an omelet pan over medium heat
  • Add peppers, onions, and tomatoes; saute until cooked and them move to the side of the pan.
  • Add eggs and quickly scramble them
  • In the meantime, top a tortilla with shredded cheese and melt for 10-15 seconds in the microwave
  • When eggs are done, place them in the center of the tortilla; top with the veggies, a touch of cheese, and the cilantro.
  • Roll and eat!

This was so delicious! I loved using the chili powder and cumin in the eggs, and the cilantro added such a bright and fresh flavor.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chicken in a Brandy-Dijon Sauce with Mushrooms

My favorite way to prepare chicken is to sear it and then make a pan sauce. It's quick, easy, so versatile and the ingredient possibilities are endless.

I had mushrooms last week so decided to use them. I like chicken Marsala, but wanted to do something different, so I chose brandy. I also added some Dijon mustard for more flavor.


  • 2 chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded thin
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil - just enough to have in the pan to cook the chicken
  • 1 sm shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 mushrooms; I used baby bellas. White mushrooms would work too.
  • 1/3 c brandy
  • 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard


  • Heat olive oil in pan over medium high heat
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper; coat in flour and shake off excess
  • Add chicken to pan and cook 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Flip again if the chicken isn't cooked all the way through.
  • Remove chicken from the pan and keep warm.
  • Add a touch of olive oil to the pan; add shallots, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute 2-3 minutes.
  • Deglaze pan with the brandy, scraping up all of the brown bits.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a steady simmer. Add mustard. Let simmer for a few minutes. Return chicken to the pan, spoon the sauce over the chicken, and let simmer another few minutes.

This sauce was delicious!! I served the chicken over egg noodles and along side fresh spinach sauteed with garlic.

Soup Sunday: Vegetable Barley Soup

I had a real craving for a good, hearty vegetable soup last weekend...something that was easy, but would be filling and last all week for lunches. The last time I made vegetable soup I didn't add any barley or juices from the tomatoes. I played around with these things this time around and the result was incredible. For such a simple soup without any added salt, I couldn't believe how much flavor I got out of it.

I used Swanson's Natural Goodness Low Sodium Chicken Broth because it is what I had in, but vegetable broth would work as well. This recipe is my own.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 baking potato, diced
  • 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, roughly chopped; I used Muir Glen Organic and really noticed a difference - I'm so glad my supermarket finally carries them! And I prefer buying whole tomatoes and chopping them myself - you are more likely to get higher quality tomatoes in a can when you buy whole vs chopped.
  • 64 oz broth - I used low sodium chicken broth
  • Juice from can of tomatoes
  • 1 c frozen mixed veggies - lima beans, corn, peas, green beans
  • 3/4 c pearl barley
  • Pinch thyme
  • Pinch black pepper


  • Heat olive oil in a large soup pot
  • Add onions, carrots, and celery; saute 5-7 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes; saute 2 minutes.
  • Add potatoes, thyme, pepper, then add the broth and juices from the tomatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, slightly uncovered.
  • Add frozen veggies and barley. Let simmer 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.

I usually say that soups are good at first, but always better the next day. But with this one, I was impressed immediately. This recipe served 8.

A Special Treat..Gooey Chocolate Cakes

Throughout this pregnancy I have been craving nothing but sweets which is odd for me. I'm the type of person who could have Halloween candy sitting around until Easter and never touch it. But a bag of potato chips, forget it! Gone in a day!

So when thinking about Valentine's Day, I decided to bake a dessert. I went in search of easy ideas (remember, I'm not a baker), and got a suggestion to make
this recipe from the blog Reservations not Required. It looked easy enough and sounded delicious. I ended up making it a week late, but it was worth the wait. Make sure you eat this dessert warm. Jon wished we had some vanilla ice cream to go with it - I agree!


  • 1/3 c all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder; I used Ghiardelli
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate; I used Ghiardelli. 4 oz coarsely chopped, 1 oz finely chopped
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • Added: powdered sugar for serving
  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  • Butter (or spray) a 6-muffin pan; sprinkle the cups with flour and tap off the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa, and salt together
  • Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Put the 4 oz of coarsely chopped chocolate and all of the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally just until they are melted (took about 4 minutes). You don't want the butter and chocolate to separate. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until they are homogeneous
  • Add the sugar and whisk until well blended
  • Add the dry ingredients and using the whisk, stir (don't beat) them into the eggs.
  • Little by little, using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate/butter mixture.
  • Divide the batter evenly amongst the muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the top of each.
  • Bake the cakes for 13 minutes exactly - there is no way to test them as the inside stays liquid.
  • Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a cooling rack for exactly 3 minutes.
  • Line a cutting board with a silicone mat, parchment paper, or wax paper. Lift the cakes out of the muffin pan and set on the board. I was able to easily do this without flipping the pan, as I thought I'd have to do.

I served them sprinkled with the powdered sugar.
These little cakes were so rich and delicious, and not too sweet. We both loved them and I would definitely make them again.