Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Stuffed Portabellas

The last time I went shopping I picked up a pack of portabella mushrooms because stuffed portabellas is one of our favorite meals. Served with a salad it's a perfect dinner for the two of us.
Here's the portabellas
 And here's most of what went into my creation. As you can see, I'm currently a WalMart shopper so I'm going to use a jar of store brand sauce and a can of store brand chicken meat. And next I'm going to use up all the odds and ends of stuff I have on hand.

The first thing we're going to do is remove the stems from the portabellas and scrape out most of the gills with a spoon. Save the stems, we're going to use them in the filling.
 Next, I sprinkled each one with a little olive oil and some Romano cheese.

 I chopped up half an orange bell pepper, 3 cloves of garlic and a shallot.  You can use what ever kind of bell peppers you have on hand and any kind of onion.
Now I chopped up the mushroom stems along with a couple other mushrooms that really needed to be used up. It was about 1/2 cup all together.
I also had half a bag of frozen chopped broccoli, so I nuked it just long enough to thaw it out, and put it on a paper towel to drain along with the can of chicken. My fear is that with the alfredo sauce it's all going to run all over the place when I bake it!

Time to cook. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. We're going to sauté the peppers, onions and garlic in a little olive oil until they just start to sweat.

And then I stirred in the chopped mushrooms. I'm going to sauté these until the mushrooms release all their juices and then cook them til all the moisture is gone.

I'm still worried that with the sauce it's going to be too runny, and because I don't have any bread crumbs on hand, I'm going to use these almost stale crackers that I found in the cupboard.

I put them in a baggie and crushed them.

The mushrooms are done cooking, so I turned off the burner

Next, I really squished all the moisture out of the chicken and broccoli as I could

and then added it to the pan

Next I added the cheeses. I had this much parmesan

and this much mozzerella

and that didn't seem like very much so I added some romano too. Probably about 3/4 cup altogether

Then in went the crackers (save a couple pinches for the topping) and the alfredo sauce, (again, save a couple tablespoons for the topping)

And then I mixed it all together

And then I pilled it into the portabellas

I topped each one with about a tablespoon of reserved sauce and sprinkled them with the reserved cracker crumbs and a little more romano. And into the oven they go for 12-15 minutes.
 And while they baked I used up half a bag of leftover salad mix and my last big tomato to make a salad. Then decided to spread the salad out on a plate to make a bed for the mushrooms to sit on.

And when the time was up, they looked like this

And I placed them on the salad beds and served them up.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Seriously, does anyone really need nine different kinds of vinegar? Probably
not, but that's what's currently in my kitchen! And it's led me to a flavor
explosion when it comes to salads and vegetables. Mix some of this with your
favorite light oil, a little salt and pepper and you've got instant salad dressing.
or VINAIGRETTE if we want to sound like a real home chef.
Basic Vinaigrette
3 parts light oil
1 part vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix well. You can use a blender, or shake it in a jar, or whisk it in a bowl. Just
get it well mixed and let it stand for a few minutes for the flavors to meld, whisk
lightly before using.  Very basic, very easy, very fresh and very tasty.
Most of the recipes I've seen call for 3/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup vinegar. You want
a different taste? Switch oils, switch vinegars or add what you like. Honey Dijon
is currently popular, made by adding 1 tablespoon of prepared Dijon mustard, and a
tablespoon of honey. You can go where you want with this. Add your favorite
chopped herbs, finely chopped garlic, shallot or onion. It's all up to you.

And who says salads have to start with a bunch of green stuff?
This is sliced tomatoes, an orange bell pepper, purple onion slices
and black olives with a balsamic vinegar dressing, sprinkled with parmesan cheese.
Another salad with a simple oil and vinegar dressing topped with feta.

Vinegar and oil dressed coleslaw.
Don't have oil and vinegar? Try just a little salt and pepper.

Let it sit for about 20 minutes, and the juices from the vegetables
will create their own dressing.
Here's your basic lettuce and tomato salad with no dressing on it
at all, Salted and pepper the tomatoes, let it sit, then toss.
 And if all else fails, a wedge of lettuce with some ranch dressing will do!
But getting back to our vinaigrette, here's some additions you can try:
Citrus juice, in place of about half the vinegar, lemon, lime or orange
Add a splash of sesame oil, and nuts and seeds of your choice.
Soy sauce, ginger, lemon grass and hot sauce.
And always herbs, herbs and more herbs!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

One Pan Meals: Ravioli Alfredo

Ravioli, broccoli and chicken floating in a rich, creamy
Alfredo sauce. Topped with parmesan and served with sliced,
seasoned tomatoes. Add some garlic bread and you've got a meal!
Okay, so technically it's not ravioli, it's agnolotti, I get it at my regular
grocery store, they have a wonderful selection of fresh pastas that save
me lots of time in the kitchen. And those jars of roasted red bell peppers
are perfect for adding a dash of color and flavor.
1 package fresh stuffed pasta        
1 jar prepared Alfredo sauce         
1 large chicken breast                   
1 handful sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small head fresh broccoli           
roasted red bell pepper
olive oil, salt, pepper
First things first, get out a big pan, like a dutch oven and fill it with
water (a couple quarts), add about a teaspoon of salt and turn it up
on high to bring it to a full boil.
While you're waiting for the water to come to a boil, quarter and season
a couple small tomatoes. Season to your taste with what you like, I often
drizzle a few drops of olive oil, then use salt, pepper and garlic salt.
 Remove three or four pepper strips from the jar and place them on a
paper towel to drain. Separate your broccoli into bite size florets.
And slice the chicken into bite size pieces as well.
 Cook your pasta according to package directions

 Essentially, you drop it into the boiling water, wait for it to come
back to a boil and cook it until it's tender. Remove the pasta with a
slotted spoon and place it in a strainer, don't dump the water, we
need to blanch the broccoli!
 When the water comes back to a full boil, add the broccoli, let it come
back to a boil. The broccoli should be bright green and still crispy, this may
take 30 seconds or 3 minutes, depends on the size, temperature and quality
of the broccoli. When it's done, drain the whole thing over the pasta
in the drainer. While the pan is still hot, set it back on the burner and add
about a tablespoon of olive oil.
 Season the chicken bites with salt and pepper and when the oil
is hot, add the chicken and sauté it on all sides.
 When it's almost done add the mushrooms and red peppers and
cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through.
Now turn the heat down, add the broccoli
 and the pasta
 and stir gently to mix
 Pour the sauce over
 Mix gently and heat it through. Taste and adjust seasonings
as necessary
Garnish with your sliced seasoned tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
Serve it with garlic bread and you've got a one pan meal!
You can really tailor this to your own tastes. Add garlic, onions, spinach, basil,  use
a different sauce, in place of chicken use sausage, feel free to make it your very own.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dessert: Fruit Fluff Pie

This is one of my favorite refrigerator pies, almost a cheesecake, but light and
fluffy, flavored with the fresh fruit of your choice. I've made this pie with peaches,
cherries, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, raspberries and bananas. Today I'm using
blackberries and a clementine orange.
1    pre-made graham cracker pie crust       
               (or make your own from your favorite recipe)
 2   8 oz. packages cream cheese (softened)  
1   cup whipping cream                               
                   1   cup fresh fruit, chopped, cut up, quartered, or sliced
1    tsp. vanilla extract                                 
              sugar, to taste                                                
First prepare your fruit. You need about a cup of whatever fresh fruit you
choose to use. Sprinkle it with about a tablespoon of sugar and let it sit for
about 30 minutes to allow the fruit to make it's own juice. If you are using a
fruit that will turn brown, sprinkle it with a  bit of lemon juice. 

Whip the softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until it's light
and fluffy. Now if your cream cheese is still pretty firm, microwave for 30
seconds or so and it will soften right up and then whip away.
 Now add about half of the prepared fruit and whip it a little longer, until the
fruit is totally incorporated into the cream cheese. Now taste it. Sweeten it with
sugar to your liking, and if you choose you can add extracts that complement
the fruit you have chosen. Now set this whole bowl aside.
 In a separate bowl, whip the cream. When it starts to thicken add the vanilla
and sugar to your taste. I use about a tablespoon of sugar.
 Whip until stiff peaks form.
 Plop the whipped cream into the bowl with the cream cheese and
fruit mixture.
 Gently fold the two mixtures together.
Add the remaining fruit and fold to incorporate.
Place it in your prepared crust and refrigerate for at least 2 hours
before serving.
Use whatever fruit you like when you make this. And if you like you can
also add 1/4 cup or so of chopped nuts (really good if you used bananas!)