Monday, April 27, 2015

Silky Garlic-Basil and Parmesan Chicken Linguine with Baby Kale

Ah this dinner has been one of my all time fave creations that we have repeated several times already!  It's so silky, creamy and gourmet tasting to me!  I feel like I'm eating at a fancy restaurant!  It's pretty easy to make and you can always use the basic idea of it and recreate it in lots of various ways.  Pretty much it's as simple as cooking some chicken to perfection adding some garlic and a veggie using the fond (brown bits) left in the pan and then adding in some butter, parmesan and reduced chicken stock with water when adding the cooked noodles to the pan!  So here's what we did.

We have been wilting greens for this recipe and in each photo it's either Baby Kale or regular Kale both work well.  Baby Spinach, Baby Arugula and Collard Greens would also all work well for this.  You can either pre-wilt the Kale in a non-stick pan sprayed with a good cooking spray or some olive oil and add a little bit of water as needed to help it steam and wilt down, I also add a lid to trap heat and steam to help it cook faster, season with salt and pepper.  Or you can add it with more water when you add the Knorr Reduced Stock to the fragrant minced garlic in the step below.  I prefer pre-wilting it because it's faster to finish than if I have to wait for it to cook down later on.

We used 2 servings (55g each) of Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine‬ cooked for 6 minutes in salted water.  Once finished reserve about 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta water.  (Sometimes I forget and have to just use plain water but it's extra nice to use the pasta water.)  Drain and Set Aside till ready to add it to the veggies and sauce later on.

Perfect Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast you make in a skillet so you can get the fond in the bottom of the pan.  Add 1/2-1 Tsp. Olive Oil heat on medium high till hot add chicken loosely cover with aluminum foil to keep in heat and let out steam for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, flip recover and cook for a second 3 minutes and 30 seconds (or until cooked through, that time is usually perfection for us).  Remove from pan and let chicken rest on a warmed plate covered with aluminum foil for at about 5 minutes.

Using the same pan that you cooked the chicken in, heat on medium another 1-2 Tsp. Olive Oil, usually I only need 1 Tsp.  Add 4 Cloves Minced Garlic and cook until fragrant (only about 30 sec. to a minute) then add 1 Tsp. Knorr Reduced Sodium Reduced Stock and the pasta water or plain water.  Let Reduced Stock melt.  Only add just enough water usually about 1/4 cup, if you need more add more and if you add too much just let it reduce.  Add the Wilted Baby Kale, Cooked Pasta, 1 Tablespoon Butter, 1oz. (28g) Grated Parmesan (grated from the wedge is the best kind and worth the effort).  Season with Salt and Pepper to Taste.  Stir till throuoghly combined and till sauce is tightened up.  Divide between two warmed plates.  We love to slice up the Chicken and place it on top.  Usually it's around 2-4 oz. of Chicken each depending on how much I want that day, typically it's 4oz.

Take about a Tablespoon or 2 amount of Fresh Basil Leaves and either chop them or for a more fun and pretty version roll them up and thinly slice to create ribbons.  Top the Chicken with the Basil.

1-2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil Chopped or Chiffonade/Ribbons
2-4 Teaspoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1oz. (28g) Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Teaspoon Knorr Reduced Sodium Reduced Stock
4 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Seasoned with Salt and Pepper
1 Bag or 2 (85g) Servings of Preferred Greens (Baby Kale, Chopped Kale, Baby Spinach, Baby Arugula or Collard Greens)
2 Servings (55g each 110g total) Trader Joe's Garlic Basil Linguine (You could use any pasta you desire in it's place it just won't taste exactly the same as mine did. LOL)

In this photo I reserved some of the Grated Parmesan to sprinkle on the top.

In this photo we used regular Kale chopped up instead of Baby Kale.  Also a note about a nice wine pairing is a good buttery Chardonnay like Kendall Jackson's Vintner's Reserve!  Super yummy!

Spicy Peanut Butter Toast

I've been enjoying Peanut Butter Toast lately but the thought occurred to me the other day that I could add some sort of chili heat and it might just be awesome like a Thai peanut sauce type idea! So today I tested out a sprinkle of Crushed Red Pepper! OH it was SO good!!!

I used a piece of Thin Sliced Dave's 21 Whole Grain Bread, with half a serving of Peanut Butter (1Tbs.), and a sprinkle of Crushed Red Pepper.

Buttery Lemon and Garlic Baked Salmon

It's a small portion of Salmon (3oz.) sitting on lemon slices, topped with salt, pepper, a clove of minced garlic and 1/4 Tbs. unsalted butter topped with another lemon slice. I did NOT close the foil but left it open and baked it at 400 till done which was about 12 min. Here's how it came out of the oven!!!

Then we "grilled" in our cast iron grill skillet some rosemary asparagus like my Dad makes and added them.

It's super easy to make the Rosemary Asparagus just toss with a tiny bit of oil and then season to taste with salt, pepper, and hubby likes to add some dried rosemary and McCormick Perfect Pinch Sweet Onion & Herb. Though you could do any variation of herbs/spices you like. You could also keep it simple and just do the salt/pepper/rosemary and fresh rosemary instead of dried is easy too you just use less to taste. It's just nice to use the cast iron grill pan to get the blackened grilled taste from it, but I'm sure it would be great simply roasted too.

WOW was it so good and the total Cals. for this very light lunch was about 210!!! That makes it pretty easy to add maybe some sort of grain as well like Quinoa, Farro, Rice, or Couscous. But for yesterday I kept it just like this to give me more smaller snacks/meals throughout the day.

Not sure if you can see from the photo, but it was so tender and juicy and it was more than enough butter in fact I would use that amount for a larger piece next time. The butter, lemon, and garlic created a sauce that was just spectacular! It's crave worthy! It tasted like something you'd expect from a 4 Star Restaurant! Add a bottle of Mumm's Cordon Rouge Champagne (which is light bubbly and lemony) and you'd have a very special dinner!

Update:  I've made this Salmon several times now and I use 1-2 Cloves of Garlic each piece of Salmon and typically they are 4oz. and I use 5g of butter dotted on top.  Don't forget to salt and pepper them and use as much thinly sliced lemon as will cover the bottom of the Salmon.

Ceviche Style Shrimp Tacos

I made Ceviche Style Shrimp Tacos for lunch one day.  I used 3 Mini Tortillas (heated on the gas stove top burner) and diced the red onion in with the shrimp.  Hubby had gotten the cooked frozen shrimp so all you have to do is defrost them and use them cold which makes it a very fast grab and make thing. I just chopped a 3oz serving of the shrimp into smaller bits. Then I squeezed lime juice, tossed in some cilantro, smoked paprika salt & pepper all to taste as well as some diced red onion. So it's kinda like a salsa. I think adding avocado would also be yummy.  I really love those little mini tortillas they are so fun and 3 was perfect for a 3 oz serving of shrimp!

Garlic Carrot "Chips"

Simply slice up some carrot and sprinkle to taste with Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder and toss to coat!  Perfect snack for crunching on!

Rainbow Carrot and Cucumber "Chips"

Yesterday I sliced up some raw rainbow carrots and some cucumber and sprinkled it with my fave seasoning mix (McCormick Perfect Pinch Roasted Garlic Bell Pepper Seasoning) and it was SO GOOD! It seriously is so simple, no cooking, but so tasty and it's a whole plateful for about 100 cals and compare that to a serving of chips at a tiny bit for 150 and it's no comparison. The seasonings give you to bold flavors and the slices are nice and crunchy I just love it so much! You don't even need dip!

Cranberry and Pepita Topped Salad with Chicken and Roasted Cauliflower over Baby Arugula

My hubby has perfected the art of cooking the perfect cast iron pan grilled chicken breast! It comes out so fantastic like it's from a restaurant all juicy and tender and flavorful so it's a staple for us either on a salad like this with a roasted veggie (cauliflower tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper, and garlic powder roasted at 400 till tender), some (10g) dried reduced sugar cranberries, and (8g) pepitas or with a couple of veggie sides like asparagus and roasted cauliflower! It always feels so special to eat!

For this salad I dressed baby arugula with Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar/Olive Oil/Salt/Pepper! Simple and easy to whip up and toss to coat!  For one bag or small box Baby Arugula I add to a extra large bowl 2 Teaspoons Olive Oil, 2 Teaspoons Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste and whisk together and add the Baby Arugula on top then toss to thoroughly coat each leaf.  I divide between 2 plates top with roasted veggie of choice, (cauliflower tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper, and garlic powder roasted at 400 till tender), (10g) dried reduced sugar cranberries, (8g) pepitas, and the chicken sliced up in the amount I want or need usually 2-4oz.

Perfect Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast you can make in a skillet so you can get the fond in the bottom of the pan or in a Cast-Iron Grill Pan.  (Add 1/2-1 Tsp. Olive Oil heat on medium high till hot add chicken loosely cover with aluminum foil to keep in heat and let out steam for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, flip recover and cook for a second 3 minutes and 30 seconds (or until cooked through that time is usually perfection for us).  Remove from pan and let chicken rest on a warmed plate covered with aluminum foil for at about 5 minutes.

For the Cast-Iron Grill Pan, heat on high till hot, spray with High Heat Pam, put the chicken in for 30 seconds then flip to the other side for 30 seconds.  Flip one more time and reduce heat to medium and loosely cover with aluminum foil to keep in heat and let out steam for 3 minutes, flip again and recover and let cook for 3 more minutes or until done, again it's usually perfect for us just like this.  Remove from pan and let chicken rest on a warmed plate covered with aluminum foil for at about 5 minutes.

Sweet & Spicy Avocado Toast! Yum! I used Dave's Thin Sliced 21 Whole Grain Bread, 56g Sliced Avocado, Sprinkle of Crushed Red Pepper, Sprinkle of Smoked Paprika, 1/2 teaspoon Honey Drizzled, and Finished with a Sprinkle of Kosher Salt!

Savory Chicken and Mushrooms with Grilled Asparagus topped with Quick Kimchi

Last week we made our own variation of the Top Chef Winner's Blue Apron Recipe! We just LOVE that quick Kimchi!

We used the recipe for the Top Chef Winner Meal, used 4 cloves garlic instead of the amount they say, and followed the recipe for the Kimchi but I used Hot Hungarian Paprika and it tasted the same as the Korean Chili.

We made our grill pan asparagus as always (heat a cast-iron grill pan till hot, spray with high heat Pam and add the asparagus -1 bundle woody parts snapped off, cut, tossed in 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, sprinkled with McCormik's Sweet Onion and Herb Seasoning, salt & pepper, rosemary- cook stirring occasionally tenting with aluminum foil till tender) and hubby made the boneless skinless chicken breast in the skillet so we can get the fond in the bottom of the pan.  (Add 1/2-1 Tsp. Olive Oil heat on medium high till hot add chicken loosely cover with aluminum foil to keep in heat and let out steam for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, flip recover and cook for a second 3 minutes and 30 seconds (or until cooked through that time is usually perfection for us).  Remove from pan and let chicken rest on a warmed plate covered with aluminum foil for at about 5 minutes. 

When you take the chicken out to rest we added another teaspoon or 2 of oil and I added 2 of those small boxes of pre sliced shiitake mushrooms and cooked them until goldenly scrumptious then I added the rest of the white bottoms of the scallions, garlic, ginger. Then after they were fragrant I added 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp. Korr Reduced Sodium Reduced Stock and 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter. Cook until combined and it tightens up.

One Recipe...Three Spin Offs aka Sweet and Spicy Kumquat Glazed Chicken/Fish With Various Options

Here's the Original Blue Apron Recipe:

We wanted to make this recipe but didn't want to get the shipment that week so we had to set out to gather ingredients and I was fully prepared to substitute Farro which we have in our pantry for the Freekeh but we just so happened to stop by a Sprouts and find some Cracked Freekeh there and bought some!

For some reason the Kumquats were hard for us to find too and they just so happened to also have them at the Sprouts we stopped at. That store is not nearby us so it was on a day trip outing that we stopped by there like we usually do when out that way. The bad news was by the time we found the Kumquats there was no good catfish so we substituted Tilapia instead. I also just used our Rice Flour instead of Instant Flour because we already know it works perfectly and we have it. We also had to substitute a Serrano Pepper for the Bird's Eye because we couldn't find any and just needed one to add heat and boy did it add heat!!! I would do half a chili next time! OH and I also simply used less Freekeh than called for the recipe asks for 3 servings and I just cut it down to 2 instead and it was just as awesome. Sometimes the Blue Apron Recipes can have Portion Distortion but I've read comments on recipes of people complaining the portions are too small and I'm like REALLY??? LOL So I think they try to give people bigger amounts because of all the complaints...OY! Like one time I saw people complaining over a 4 Ounce Salmon Portion and I'm like if you look it up that IS 1 portion and what they thought of as 1 portion was in fact 2 portions!!! So a lot of things I tweak in all kinds of recipes is some of the ratios to make a better portion size. We also used an actual portion of Tilapia and not a whole giant filet.

When we were eating this the Kumquat Glaze was fantastic!!! I mean it was spicy, sweet, citrusy and just all around wonderful! The taste reminded us of Orange Chicken...which lead me down the road of creative thinking to come up with other ways to use it! The cool thing about having bought the Kumquats is we only used a small amount of the little box of them so we had more to use up! So here come the Spinoffs!!!

Sweet and Spicy Kumquat Glazed Chicken with Garlic Cracked Freekeh and Wilted Baby Arugula!

This time instead of using a fresh chili, since we used the last one and didn't have anymore as well, we used a little bit of Crushed Red Pepper and it was perfect!!! It might have been about 1/8-1/4 tsp. of the Crushed Red Pepper, it just depends on how spicy you like it and how much heat your crushed red pepper has!!! LOL

We cut the chicken breast into pieces and cooked them up leaving the fond in the pan. Then when they went to rest we made the glaze in the pan to use the fond with it. Then we tossed the chicken back into the glaze when done.

For the Freekeh we cooked 2 servings as per the directions then drained and rinsed it then returned it to the pan and added some sauteed garlic with the bit of olive oil it was cooked in, the white parts of a couple scallions, and a large handful of baby arugula. Added salt and pepper to taste and set it aside for the arugula to wilt while we finished up the chicken and glaze.

To plate we split the Freekeh and topped it with our Kumquat Glazed Chicken and sprinkled the green parts of the scallions on top! Oh it was SO GOOD! We will make this again for sure! We are even dreaming of making this with oranges too, it was so easy to make the glaze that if we had known how easy it was a long time ago we would have made something like this back then! The neat thing about the Cracked Freekeh is it's texture is a lot like rice, but really you could use any grain you wish from rice, farro, quinoa, to even couscous or cauliflower "rice"! I just love how interchangeable things can be and it makes it fun and a creative thing for me to play with!

Last Spinoff coming up!!!

Sweet and Spicy Kumquat Glazed Chicken over Baby Arugula!!!

The Baby Arugula (1 box or bag) is dressed in Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (2tsp), Olive Oil (2tsp), Salt and Pepper whisked together and tossed to coat. To plate we split the Dressed Baby Arugula between two plates topped it with half the Kumquat Glazed Chicken, then sprinkled the Pepitas (8g per person), Reduced Sugar Craisins (10g per person) and Edible Flowers on top which was mostly marigolds that just so happen to pair wonderfully with the kumquats! Of course the citrusy vinaigrette went perfect with the citrusy glaze!

When we were at Sprouts I had seen Edible Flowers in the section with the little herb boxes so I grabbed some!!! I've eaten some flowers before like pansies and violas and they pretty much taste like lettuce so I didn't have a fear of using flowers. But I've never tried a marigolds before and I was a little scared of them but I cut the large ones in half and then they kinda fell apart but it worked out because they sprinkled nicely over everything. I was the most surprised that the flavor of the marigolds went so well with the kumquat glaze, it really was wonderful! And FUN!

Coconut Banana Crepes/Pancakes!

I am in love with getting the best nutrition and taste for the calories so I'm always on the lookout to try new things and maybe old things I love made in new ways! I found a recipe for Paleo Pancakes which I call Coconut Banana Pancakes or Crepes! Why focus on the method when the focus should be on flavor...if they taste amazing then anyone can make and eat them not just those looking for a certain "diet". This is the way I look at food, not as a diet but as simply FOOD! And what's better than amazing food that gives you amazing nutrition at the same time!!! YEAH!!! That's what I'm talking about!!!

I tweaked a recipe I found on Pinterest to suit me better. Here's the link:

Of course I made a WAY smaller amount dividing it into thirds and changed a few things and cooked it different ways. I replaced the whole eggs with egg whites.

So my recipe is:

1 Banana
4 Servings (184g) Egg Whites
2 Tbs. (14g) Coconut Flour
*Optional I added a tad of Imitation Coconut Flavoring and another time I also added a bit of Vanilla. I love the enhanced flavor of adding those.
Just blend it all up, I used a single serve blender cup like for smoothies.

To Cook:

~One of the biggest tips is that you have to spray your best nonstick pan well (I used Butter Pam Cooking Spray) and when you go to flip spray it again, because of the high protein level it can stick really easy (like fish lol)!

~Also you have to let them cook completely through before trying to flip them, you want the top dry not wet or they will fall apart on you. The easiest way to find out if you can't tell visually is to touch it lightly. One thing that I tend to do to speed this along without one side getting too dark is to slap a lid on it to trap in heat! LOL

~Another tip is when I stack the finished Pancakes or Crepes I do so on a warm plate lined with a paper towel and add a paper towel between each layer that way any excess oil and moisture gets pulled away from them and they don't get ruined while waiting.

For Pancakes like the original recipe, you let it stay thicker when you pour them into place. It takes longer for them to cook this way too so you gave to get your heat just right. As pancakes I like to make this a single serving because I feel like I'm getting a ton, but I could make them 2 servings of pancakes as well. I just use some Sugar Free Maple Syrup and enjoy every bite! You can top with anything you want really!

For Crepes like I have pictured! Which I think it is my favorite way to make them! The only difference is instead of letting them pool up you make sure to swirl the batter like all crepes require to make a nice thin layer in the pan. I love that it cooks a little faster and it seems the longer you cook them the better the texture is since it evaporates all the extra moisture. Make sure they are good and cooked before attempting to flip, if they are too soft they will fall apart and make a mess! So be patient and gentle!
Making them as Crepes it made 4 medium pan sized Crepes which I made a serving be 2 Crepes since they will have a filling.

For the filling as pictured I used Oikos Toasted Coconut Vanilla Greek Yogurt (the full fat one) and dusted them with 1/2 teaspoon Powdered Sugar!
I could imagine all kinds of variations of Greek Yogurt including my own fave flavors made from Plain 2% Fage! Also I could see mixing Greek Yogurt with Cream Cheese for a nice filling as well. Then you could add any fruit you wanted, fresh or cooked down somehow. Your imagination and taste preference is the limit!

I also dusted them with 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar. It only added 5 calories and it's so pretty and fun...why not! It makes me happy!

Here's a photo of them as pancakes with a homemade trial raspberry syrup (needs perfecting):