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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Chilling out

Something weird is happening with my refrigerator. It’s working, but maybe a little too well. Our milk was frozen this morning. So was the chicken I had taken out of the freezer two days ago to de-thaw.

Scott ran to the grocery store to buy more chicken while I Googled “Why is my food frozen?”

We think that the freezer door wasn’t shutting all the way and that was making the cooler work all the time, therefore making the refrigerator portion colder than usual.

Or we could need a new refrigerator.

I really hope we don’t need a new refrigerator.

The Ice Age in our kitchen made dinner a little later than usual tonight, but it was delicious.

CHICKEN SUPREME

  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1-3/4 cups crushed Caesar salad croutons
  • 1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth

Cut Monterey Jack cheese into eight 2-1/2-in. x 1-in. x 3/8-in. strips. In a bowl, combine the butter, parsley, oregano and marjoram; spread 1-1/2 teaspoons over each cheese strip. Cover and refrigerate cheese and remaining butter mixture for at least 2 hours.

Flatten chicken to 1/8-in. thickness; sprinkle with seasoned salt. Place a cheese strip on each piece of chicken. Roll up and tuck in ends; secure with a toothpick. Coat chicken on all sides with flour. Dip in eggs, then coat with croutons.

Place seam side down in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30 minutes. In a saucepan, combine wine or broth and reserved butter mixture; heat until butter is melted. Pour over chicken. Bake 20-25 minutes longer or until chicken juices run clear. Discard toothpick before serving

Serves 8

Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home Cookbook by the Taste of Home authors

(H)apple-y Ever After

(It is getting hard to think of cutesy apple titles.)

I don’t know about you, but this weekend went FAST!

My daughter and I ran a 5K Friday afternoon, I took Em and some of her Girl Scout friends to a nature event Saturday morning, Emma had her Halloween party Saturday night, and I worked most of Sunday.

I need another weekend to recover from this one.

CHICKEN POTPIE WITH GREEN APPLES AND CHEDDAR BISCUITS

CHICKEN

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 large leeks, dark green leaves removed, washed thoroughly, light green and white parts chopped
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, quartered, cored, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 large rotisserie chicken, shredded (5-6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
  • 1/4 cup cream sherry
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

BISCUITS

  • 2 cups bleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen solid
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk, plus a few more teaspoons if necessary

To make the chicken filling, adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Microwave chicken broth and evaporated milk in a microwave-safe bowl until steamy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and apples and cook, stirring, until just tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer leeks and apples, along with chicken, to a large bowl. Set aside.

Heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat in the empty skillet. When foaming subsides, whisk in flour and sage and cook until golden, about 1 minute.

Whisk in hot milk mixture and simmer, stirring, until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Turn off heat, stir in sherry and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir sauce, along with parsley into chicken mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour mixture into a 13×9 inch baking dish or divide between 2 smaller baking dishes.

To make the biscuit topping, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cheddar with a fork in a medium bowl. Using a box grated, coarsely grate frozen butter into dry ingredients. Mix quickly with fingertips to evenly blend.

Mix buttermilk into dry ingredients with a fork until dough just comes together. Pinch dough with fingers into small, rough rounds and place over filling. Bake until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve.

Recipe courtesy of Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers by Pam Anderson

Rotten to the core

I’m in a multimedia training class at work. They are teaching all of the print journalists how to live-breathe-think-eat digital first.

Don’t tell my editors, but it’s actually pretty fun. We just wrapped up slide show presentations and I did mine on the apple challenge — to date. I think it turned out well, but one of my colleagues had a smartass comment every time a picture of a less than challenging recipe flashed (the Instant Energy Fruit Cup, for instance).

Granted, not every apple recipe has been baked, cooked or fried. A few have been as simple as chopping up an apple and tossing it with something else, but it isn’t easy having the time, enthusiasm or ingredients on hand for a new apple recipe every day. There have been days I just want to have a bowl of Apple Jacks and call it good.

I didn’t say anything to him. I think he was just bitter he missed out on the Morning Glory Muffins I brought in that morning.

Day 22: Chicken with Tomato & Apple Sauce

I love chicken.

I’m not doing a chicken challenge.

Not next month, anyway.

Chicken with Tomato & Apple Sauce

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 eg
  • ¾ cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Tomato & apple sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Brown sugar, to taste
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Scant ½ cup of water
  • Salt and pepper

First, make the sauce. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a pan. Add the shallots and apple, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar to taste, nutmeg, and water and season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool slightly.

Put the chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat until thin and even. Put the flour into a shallow dish and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lightly beat the egg in the separate shallow dish and spread out the breadcrumbs in a third shallow dish.

Dip the chicken, 1 at a time, first in the flour, then in the egg, and, finally, in the breadcrumbs to coat. Melt the butter with the sunflower oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken, in batches, and cook over medium heat for 1 minute on each side, until golden brown. Reduce the heat and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through and tender.

Meanwhile, gently reheat the sauce. Transfer the chicken to warmed individual plates and pour the sauce over them. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from 1 Sauce, 100 Recipes by Linda Doeser

Day 23: Apple Crepes

I was skimming through photos on my phone and came across a screen shot of a recipe for apple crepes. I have no idea where I got the recipe, but I know I took the photo more than a year ago because the next image was a picture of my kids with apples from last year’s trip to the orchard.

My phone makes it seem like we spend a lot of time at apple orchards.

I made the crepes for my family’s breakfast Tuesday. That’s right, I made crepes on the school day ’cause I’m awesome.

At least, that’s what I posted on Facebook. The fact that I forgot the kids’ lunches today totally negates any Mom of the Year points these crepes racked up in my favor.

Dammit.

APPLE CREPES

Crepes

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Filling

  • 8 apples (I used Golden Delicious and Granny Smith), peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 orange rind, grated
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • Powdered sugar, optional

Beat together crepe ingredients. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Cook crepes in a small pan.

Cook apples in a large pan until tender. Add remaining ingredients.

Place filling in center of crepes and roll into crepe shape. Dust with powdered sugar.

Day 24: Apple Butter

I love apple butter. It is one of those foods that signifies fall. I love it on toast, on English muffins and on biscuits.

I usually buy apple butter at the farmers market, but for this challenge I took the plunge and made my own. Turns out, it isn’t that hard to do. You just need to have time, patience and the foresight not make it on a fluke fall day where the temps soar over 70 degrees and humidity is out of control.

The next time I make apple butter, I’ll do it in February. Not that I’ll need to make some any time soon. This recipe makes A LOT of butter.

APPLE BUTTER

  • 2 pounds McIntosh apples, cored, quartered and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds Fuji apples, cored, quartered and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup Calvados or applejack
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Combine apples, cider and Calvados in a large Dutch oven, and bring to a boil, over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer apples to food mill and process. Discard skins and transfer puree to now-empty Dutch oven. Stir in granulated sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is browned and wooden spoon or rubber spatula leaves a distinct trail when dragged across the bottom of the pot, 1 to 1.5 hours.

Transfer apple butter to jar with a tight-fitting lid and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Apple butter can be refrigerated up to 1 month.

Recipe courtesy of The America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook

NOTE: If you don’t have a food mill, you can skip that while step by peeling the skins from your apples before putting them in the Dutch oven. That’s what I did, as my husband is still giving me grief about the juicer and probably wouldn’t appreciate my bringing a food mill into the house.

Making dinner, plan B

I was supposed to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner last night. I get out the bowl and the onions, and then I realized I never took the hamburger out of the freezer.

Crap.

I could have done two things – go out to eat or whip up some eggs.

I went with the third option. I made chicken in white wine sauce instead.

This was on my weekly menu for tomorrow night, but I had everything ready to go, including the chicken breasts. So I took the hamburger out of the freezer, put it in the fridge for tonight, and made dinner for the family.

That’s one of the great things about making a weekly menu. When life happens, you have what you need to shake it off and go to plan B.

As it turns out, Plan B is pretty tasty.

CHICKEN WITH WINE SAUCE

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¾ cup whipping cream

Pound each chicken breast to ¼-inch thick. Mix flour, salt and pepper together on waxed paper. Coat chicken with flour mixture. Shake off excess.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken. Cook chicken over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove and set aside’ cover to keep warm.

Add mushrooms and white wine to skillet. Cook, stirring, continually for about 2 minutes.

Add parsley and whipping cream to the skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Serve sauce over chicken.

Recipe courtesy of Easy Everyday Cooking