Sunday Cooking

Sunday Chicken, of Course!

Something about Sunday and Roasted Chicken – a great combination!  On (almost) any given Sunday, you’ll find a chicken roasting in the oven around dinnertime at our house.  Couldn’t be easier, and there’s usually plenty left over for lunch during the week, as it is or turned into a chicken salad.  I usually roast potatoes and carrots along with the chicken, but today I opted for the chicken on it’s own with a side of homemade pasta (Cavatelli – see earlier post), and a mixed green salad.

I like to butterfly the whole chicken and roast it skin-side up laid out flat on baking/cookie sheet.  (That way, every piece gets crispy and golden brown.)  Using a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, cut on either side of the backbone to remove.  Gently pry the chicken open and split the cartilage (from the inside) between the chicken breasts.  A small crack will allow you to pry the chicken flat.  Turn it over onto a foil lined baking sheet pan and pat the skin dry.  Rub with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Bake at 425F for about an hour.  When the chicken comes out of the oven, transfer to a serving plate and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 5-10 minutes.  You’ll have no trouble carving it from there and it will soon become a family favorite!

Roast Chicken and CavatelliSunday Dinner

We enjoyed dinner tonight with our good friend, Christine.  She brought a delicious carrot cake for us to enjoy for dessert!  Delicious!

Christine’s Carrot Cake

Minestra

I also made a batch of Minestra today.  It’s an Escarole and White-Bean Soup that was a staple in our house growing up, that’s rich with nutrition, and loaded with flavor.  I use a chicken or vegetable stock as the liquid for the soup, plus add flavor with small chunks of pepperoni, crisp pancetta, or ham.  You can easily skip the meat (and use the vegetable stock) for a hearty and delightful vegetarian option.

The recipe for this soup is very much your own.  Read on for the steps I take to make it, but the idea is that you’ll combine the greens, beans, stock, and any other flavor add-ons to create a wonderfully healthy soup!

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.  If you’re using small chunks of pancetta or ham, brown it in the oil until crispy.  Then add a couple of garlic cloves (chopped) and sauté for about a minute.  (If you’re not using the pancetta or ham, start off with the garlic.)  Start adding the 2 heads of well-cleaned and large-chopped escarole (or substitute another leafy green) until it wilts and cooks down a bit.  Start adding the chicken or vegetable stock little by little to help cook down the greens.  You can add the beans at any time.  If you’re using cannellini beans from the grocery store, you’ll also want to add a little parsley, a small-diced carrot and celery stalk, and half a diced onion.  If you’re making your own beans (recipe follows), then the carrot, celery, onion and parsley are already in there.  You’ll end up using about a quart of stock, and you’ll add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for about 30 minutes until the greens are tender and the seasonings are to your liking!  Enjoy!

Minestra

White Beans

Start with a pound of white beans (Great Northern) that you’ll soak (covered) in water overnight.  Rinse the beans and combine them in a pan with enough fresh water to just about cover them.  Add in a small-diced carrot and celery stalk, have a diced onion, and a handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus a sprinkling of salt and pepper (maybe ½ to 1 teaspoon of each, depending on your preference).  Cook over medium heat at a gentle boil until beans are tender.  Cool, but don’t drain the beans.  Scoop into pint-size containers and freeze until you’re ready to use them in soups or any number of other dishes, as you like!


Sunday Cooking

Today was a pretty typical Sunday with food preparations for the week – and beyond.  In about 2.5 hours, I made several dishes that will be enjoyed for lunch and dinner throughout the week – with a lot left over to freeze for use later this month.  Here’s what I made today:

Breaded Chicken Cutlet Tenders (that I “tendered” myself from 4 boneless/skinless breasts that were on sale).  I probably ended up with 25 pieces of crispy golden chicken.

Breaded Chicken Cutlets - So versatile!

Stuffed Artichokes

Sauce and Meatballs

The great thing about prepping items such as these is the chicken, artichokes, and meatballs have basically the same ingredients in them:  bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, italian parsley, kosher salt, pepper, and a little extra virgin olive oil.  As I was prepping the stuffing for the artichokes, I was also prepping the breading for the chicken and mixing the meatballs.  These versatile ingredients are absolute staples that I always have on hand.

… and finally, some fresh-made Cavatelli (Italian pasta, similar to gnocchi, but made with ricotta cheese instead of potato).  Sounds like a big undertaking, but really couldn’t be easier.  3 Ingredients to make this hearty delicious pasta:  Small container of Ricotta Cheese, 1 egg, and about a cup and a half of flour (added to the mixer bit by bit until the dough forms and is dry enough to work with).

The following pictures show the progression in making the Cavatelli.

Step 1 – Pasta Dough Ready to Roll

Step 2 – Roll it Out

Step 3 – Ready to Cook or Freeze

Step 4 – Cavatelli – Ready to Eat!

What we ended up eating for dinner was the Cavatelli and Meatballs, along with some crusty bread and a salad, and the other items will be enjoyed during the week as lunch and a variety of dinner entrees.


Sunday, Fun Day, SOUP!!

It was anything but cold here in San Diego this past weekend, but it is winter – and with that comes the craving for delicious nutritious soup!  You know my freezer is always stocked with homemade soup selections, so it was time to restock!  Here’s what came from two chickens and a few vegetables:

4 Quarts Chicken Soup, 5 Quarts Roasted Chicken Lentil Soup, Chicken Salad, and Roasted Chicken (with sweet potatoes) for dinner!

Chicken Soup/Roasted Chicken Lentil Soup

Chicken Soup/Roasted Chicken Lentil Soup

The recipe for this lentil soup is straight from Ina Garten’s Vegetable Lentil Soup recipe, with the added deliciousness of  shredded roasted chicken!  Either way, it’ll warm you up!

Roasted!

 

 

 

 

 

Lentil and Roasted Chicken Soup
(Vegetarian – Omit the Roasted Chicken)
1 pound lentils
3 large yellow onions
2 leeks, white parts only (chopped)
3 cloves garlic – minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBSP Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP minced fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp. ground cumin
8 celery stalks – ½-inch chop
6 carrots – ½-inch chop
3 quarts chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Bone-In Roasted Chicken Breasts (shredded) – optional

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot on medium heat, sauté the onions, leeks, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are translucent and very tender. Add the celery and carrots and sauté for 10 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until the lentils are cooked through. Check the seasonings. Add the red wine and shredded chicken.   Serve hot, sprinkled with grated Parmesan.
 

Versatile Chicken!  I love to make chicken salad with roasted chicken, so I cut up the two chickens, roasted the 4 breast halves with the legs and wings, used the two backs and all the thighs for the chicken soup.  Two of the roasted chicken breast halves were shredded for the Lentil soup, and the other two were chopped and combined with some chopped celery, carrots, walnuts, dried cranberries, a dash each of Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and cumin, along with a couple spoonfuls of mayo – and voila – Roasted Chicken Salad!

Treat yourself to a Sunday, Fun Day in the kitchen – and reap the reward with meal after meal!

Your freezer IS your pantry – saving money, saving time!


Sunday Prep Kitchen (and an Easter menu idea!)

Sunday was one of my typical days of prepping all that I brought home from shopping on Saturday, in less than 2 hours!   I didn’t set out for anything in particular as I went shopping, but found many great buys that will make their way to our dinner plates throughout the week ahead.

Sunday Prep

Sunday Prep

I couldn’t walk past 98 cent eggplant or asparagus at 98 cents per pound.  Whenever I find eggplant on sale, I typically make Eggplant Parmesan, but having a tray already in the freezer, I thought about a grilled vegetable pizza and knew I’d be stopping off at the Italian import store for some peppery panceetta and pizza dough.  As I continued my way around the store, the fennel flashed me back to a delicious Italian sausage and fennel sandwich I had a couple of weeks ago on crusty Italian bread.  My mouth literally started watering, so in the cart went the fennel as I headed for the sausage aisle.  Some of the best meals happen when you have no set plan in place!

As I was in the midst of prepping, cooking, and storing, I came across the leftover mashed potatoes from a few nights ago – and they quickly became my go-to potato pancakes.  That was Sunday – and we’ll be sinking our teeth into delicious meals all week long!

What are you having for Easter dinner?  I’ve made a ham for every Easter I can remember, and I just don’t feel like a ham this year.  I started thinking about what to have, and although I’m still thinking, I might use that grilled eggplant in a vegetable lasagna (grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, and spinach, topped with goat cheese, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella.)  I’m thinking of grilling some chicken basil sausage on the side (for a little Easter je ne sais quoi,) make some garlic bread, a salad – and we’ve got Easter dinner.

Whatever you’re having, you’ll want to make the most delicious Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake for dessert!

Lemon Blueberry CakeI made this for our friend Christine’s birthday on Friday night – and it’s the perfect spring/Easter dessert.  You won’t be disappointed.  Mike came across this recipe a week or so ago (Sally’s Baking Addiction website,) and I’ll be making it again real soon.

Here’s wishing you a week filled with good food and happiness!  Buon appetito!


Twice Baked Goodness (and Sunday Soup)!

We all love a baked potato – but how about a twice-baked??  (I know, nothing new, but everything old is new again.)  Funny how foods are in fashion – then you don’t think about them for a while.  Here’s the perfect potato side – with all its cheesy deliciousness!

Twice Baked Potato

Bake 4 potatoes as you would normally, or microwave them on high covered with a damp paper towel for 12 minutes, re-arranging after 6 minutes.  After they cool, slice them across the middle and scoop out the potato meat, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato in the skin.  Heat a pat of butter (2 tsp) and 1 tsp finely chopped garlic in a saute pan for about 30 seconds.  Pour in 1/2 cup milk and bring to a simmer (not a boil).  Pour over the potato and mash together with a handful of sharp cheddar cheese, some chopped bacon of ham, some chopped chives or fresh parsley – or anything else you want.  Scoop the mashed potato mix back into the shells.  Sprinkle with some additional cheese and bake at 450 F for about 8-10 minutes until golden brown.  Top with some sour cream – and you’ve got a spectacular side!

Sunday Soup Sensation!

It was a cold (for San Diego) and rainy weekend, so I stocked the freezer with some of my favorite staple soups.  You can always find a variety of home made soups in my freezer – and now we’re fully stocked up again!

Minestra – This is an escarole and white bean soup that’s nutritious and delicious.  Check out the recipe in an earlier post (in the Soup/Salad category).

Minestra

Ina’s Lentil Soup

(Click link for recipe)  This is the best – and makes about 5 quarts.  I roast a couple of bone-in chicken breasts (Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper) at 375 F for about 45 minutes and when they’re cool, shred the chicken into the soup.  Hearty and oh-so-good!

Giada’s Artichoke and Chicken Spezzatino

(Click link for recipe)  The mix of flavors with artichoke hearts, chicken, and cannellini beans is amazing – this soup won’t disappoint!

Enjoy!


Homemade Cavatelli!

Last day of winter break before going back to work tomorrow, so what better way to spend part of it than making homemade fresh pasta, Cavatelli to be exact!  My absolute favorite!   It’s very similar to a (potato) gnocchi, but made with ricotta cheese, and instead of little dumplings, the dough is rolled into little shells.  I posted this very easy (3 ingredients) recipe  a while back, and today’s updated post shows the same pasta made with my very vintage hand-crank Cavatelli machine.  The previous post, Sunday Cooking, shows a picture of hand-rolled pasta shells.  A little more free-form than these more uniform shells, but either way, they’re great!  (If you do get your hands on a machine, it’s even more important to have very dry and well-floured dough so it doesn’t get stuck in the machine!  Thanks, Dad, for that in-the-moment advice!)  It’s a good idea to lay them in a single layer on a sheet pan to freeze so they don’t stick together when put in a freezer bag for storage.  Take them right from the freezer into a pot of boiling salted water for 4-6 minutes.  They’ll float to the top when ready!  Buon Appetito!

Picture of fresh pastaCavatelli

Picture of vintage pasta makerCavatelli Machine


8 Home-Cooked Meals for under $20?? No Problem – I’ve got you covered!

As I’ve shared many times before, I spend a few hours in the kitchen every weekend and we’ve got fresh and delicious home-cooked meals throughout the week ahead – and beyond!  Today’s adventure in the kitchen (and this blog post) isn’t about a new recipe I’ve been waiting to try, but all about my regular routine of ensuring I can always answer the question, “What’s for Dinner?” (and lunch, too, for that matter!)

So what does 8 meals for under $20 look like?

Chicken Salad Roasted Chicken goat-cheese-basil-chicken

 

 

 

 

I reserved 4 of the chicken breasts to prepare the Goat Cheese-Basil Chicken that will go in the freezer for easy weeknight meals (2 [2 serving] meals) that can be on the table in 45 minutes.  Then I roasted the remaining 2 chicken breasts with all the dark meat pieces.  The roasted breast meat (and a few of the thighs) were used to make the Chicken Salad (Quart size container – Easily 4-5 servings), and the rest of the dark meat pieces to be served alongside a salad, rice or potato, for another 2 [2 serving] meals.  (I saved the back bones to make chicken stock, too!)

Although I’ve shared each of these food prep ideas before, I thought it worth another post to remind everyone that fresh and delicious home-cooked are always within reach – at a fraction of the cost of going out or stopping at the drive-thru window on your way home from work.

I’m reminded about what I wrote in the “About Joe” section of this blog nearly 7 years ago, and it’s still true today.  Here’s an excerpt from that section:

I’ll write about shopping smart and turning leftovers into delightful new creations.  I’ll share ideas on dishes that can be made ahead and placed in the freezer to ensure a hot healthy meal after a long day at work.

I believe everyone can enjoy home-cooked meals at a fraction of the cost of going out – and feel good about what you’re doing for yourself and others in the process!  Food is a great way to share a part of yourself – and it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.

Thanks for joining me on my adventures in the kitchen, and I hope you’re inspired to try some of the recipes and prep-ahead ideas to reduce stress, eat fresh, and enjoy great food together!

Buon appetito!

 

 

 

 


Economical, Flexible, Delicious!

Cooking on a regular basis doesn’t mean you have to come up with something new and different each and every time.  What it does mean is that you and your family will have healthy home-prepared meals at a fraction of the cost of going out – even fast food!  As part of this weekend’s ‘Sunday Fun-day in the Kitchen’, here’s a tray of breaded chicken cutlets (that have made an appearance on this blog before) that was the result of 3 large boneless chicken breasts for $5.18!!  Imagine the possibilities:  Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Sandwiches, Sliced Chicken atop a Green Salad, or any other way you can imagine eating crispy delicious oven-baked breaded chicken cutlets! – And what a bargain!!

Platter of Breaded Chicken Cutlets

Breaded Chicken Cutlets

Using a sharp knife, filet the boneless chicken breast to about 1/4″ thick, then cut into 4-5 cutlet size pieces.

Kosher Salt and Black Pepper both sides of each piece, dredge in flour, dip in beaten egg, then coat with seasoned bread crumb mixture.  Place on a prepared (cooking spray) baking sheet pan, drizzle olive oil between and around the pieces, then bake for about 15 minutes on each side to a crispy golden brown.  (You should shake the pan about half way through the cooking on each side to ensure the cutlets don’t stick to the pan.  Add more olive oil as needed.)  Once cooked, move cutlets to rest on a plate – then enjoy!  These store really well in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Now you know what’s for dinner!


Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Easy, Delicious, and Nutritious!

It’s Sunday again, and for those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you know I usually invest a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon in the kitchen so I’m sure to have delicious and nutritious lunches and dinners throughout the week ahead.  One item I typically pick up at the store each week is a tub of hummus to have with any variety of raw vegetables, pita chips, or pretzels.  As I was reaching for it at the store this morning, I remembered that I used to make it myself many years ago, so I turned to the canned food aisle and picked up a coupe of cans of Garbanzo beans, instead!

Roasted_Red_Pepper_HummusMaking your own hummus couldn’t be easier.  Open and drain the Garbanzo beans and empty into a food processor.  Smash 1-2 cloves of garlic and throw that in, along with the juice of 1/2 lemon, about 3 TBSP Tahini (or peanut butter works perfectly well) and a pinch of salt.  To make the Red Pepper part of the hummus today, I added about 1 roasted red pepper (that you’ll find in a jar by the oils, mayo, and mustard section in your grocery store) and a pinch of salt.  (I also added in a couple of dashes of Aleppo pepper flakes for a little bite!) As the food process is doing its magic, drizzle in extra virgin olive oil until the hummus becomes a consistency you desire.  Not too runny, not too thick!  Perfect to stick to the veggies, chips, or pretzels.  Have fun with this recipe.  The basic ingredient is the Garbanzo beans, some garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.  The rest is up to you!


Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner (and Roasted Fennel)

Actually, this post is all about the Roasted Fennel!  It might be a largely overlooked vegetable, but if you’ve never tried it roasted – do yourself that favor – you’ll be hooked!  Fennel is one of those items you see in the grocery or produce store, might cause you to pause and ponder, and then you move on.  You might have tried it raw and enjoyed (or not) its black licorice flavor, but roasting this root vegetable completely unveils another dimension of flavor.  Sweet, caramelized, and DELICIOUS!  I enjoyed it as a side to my Sunday Chicken, Warm French Lentils (Ina), and Roasted Asparagus – then it made an appearance the next day atop my Salmon Burger (recipe in the Sandwiches/Burger section.)

Winner - Chicken DinnerFennel - Ready to RoastFennel - Roasted!

 

 

 

Start by rinsing the fennel bulbs and discarding the green tops (though they make great garnish.)  Cut off the base, the slice the fennel bulb into wedge sliced chunks.  Arrange on a foil lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  You can also add some red pepper flakes or Aleppo chile flakes, if you like!

Toss together with clean hands, pop into a 400F oven and roast until caramelized – golden brown – and ready to serve.  (Cooking time probably about 45 minutes – toss the fennel around once or twice during cooking.)  Enjoy!  Let me know what you think if you give it a try.

(If you don’t like black licorice flavor – no worry – you won’t even taste that!)