I didn’t know I had that …

I spent 20 minutes organizing my spice cupboard last night. I plan on sorting my pots and pans tonight, and maybe even the pantry, if I have time.

This urge to clean and organize is always with me, but every now and then it gets overwhelming and I go on a cleaning/tossing/sorting binge. It usually happens after the holidays, at the start of summer vacation and before a new school year begins.

Maybe, on a subconscious level, I know life is going to get busy and I feel I’ll be able to cope better with everything in its proper place.

Or maybe I just like to clean.

Either way, I’m coming across food items I didn’t know I had (and several still boxed appliances I forgot about, too). I used the jar of sun-dried tomatoes in last night’s dinner: Mediterranean Smothered Chicken from Iowa Girl Eats. Yum, yum, yum!

MEDITERRANEAN SMOTHERED CHICKENMediterranean Pasta

  • 4 small chicken breasts
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper
  • Angel hair pasta, 8 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 cup marinated roasted tomatoes, chopped (I substituted sun-dried tomatoes)
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil

Pound chicken to even thickness then brush both sides with extra virgin olive oil and season with garlic salt and pepper. Saute in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes a side, or until no longer pink in the center. Remove to a plate then set aside.

Add pasta to a large pot of salted, boiling water then cook until al dente. Drain then set aside.

Let skillet cool off the heat for a few minutes, then return to burner and reduce heat to medium. Add extra virgin olive oil and shallots then season with salt and pepper and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic then saute for 30 more seconds, stirring constantly.

Add roasted tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, and lemon zest then saute until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, half & half, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and basil then reduce sauce slightly, about 2 minutes.

Divide pasta among plates then top with a chicken breast. Smother with tomato and artichoke mixture.

Source: iowagirleats.com

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An edible souvenir

My family and I escaped to the Twin Cities for a few days last week. We didn’t plan on doing much, but managed to pack a lot into four days away, including a visit to Valley Fair, shopping, a Twins game and canoeing on a lake.

My husband grew up in a river town. The kids and I did not. It took four tries before we were finally able to maneuver the canoe under a bridge – and this was after we crashed into a wall. Twice.

I was freaked out the entire time that we would tip over, but we didn’t. Our victory made lunch at Lucia’s a few hours later that much sweeter, as did the most delicious strawberry shortcake I ever had. Organic strawberries, homemade whipped cream and a shortcake with the best strudel-type topping. Yum!

I wandered to Penzeys Spices afterward and bought a 3.4-ounce jar of vanilla sugar, determined to recreate the magic at home. I served the recipe below at dinner last night. Is it a spot on duplication? Not yet, but I’ll get there. It did take four tries for the canoe, after all.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKEstrawberry shortcake

For the strawberries:

  • 1 quart strawberries, hulled and slightly mashed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

For the shortcake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the strawberries with the sugar and vanilla sugar; set aside.

For the shortcake: Grease a round, 9-inch cake pan and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Blend in the butter and egg and mix well. Add enough milk to make a moist, slightly sticky dough. Start with 2 tablespoons and add more as needed. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on the table, place the dough on top, and roll the dough gently into a 9-inch round. Place the round into the cake pan. Don’t worry if it isn’t a perfect fit. Brush with the melted butter. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the pan, let cool briefly and split apart carefully into two layers. We’ve found a bread knife works well.

Spread the strawberries between the layers and on top of the shortcake. Top with whipped cream or serve it on the side. To make the whipped cream, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until it reaches your desired consistency. Putting the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for half an hour will give you successful whipped cream every time.

Recipe courtesy of Penzeys Spices (www.penzeys.com)