Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chicken Broccoli Pasta

As far back as I can remember, when asked what I wanted my mother to cook for my birthday dinner, I had the same answer: Chicken Broccoli Pasta. And when asked what cake I wanted, the answer was either Strawberry Shortcake (the easy answer), or Mother's Day Cake (the hard answer because it takes about a day to make). Between the pregnancy and packing to move (that's what military families do!), this is not a post about the day-long cake making. Don't get me wrong - when I get there, you'll love it. But for now, let's focus on the main course.

Chicken Broccoli Pasta was, what I thought until about a year ago, a super fancy pasta dish made mostly for impressive events like birthdays, or at least Sunday Dinner. But now? Now I realize my mother was tricking me for years... because this is one of the easier dishes I've ever made. Is it still impressive? Yes. But does it take a sizable chunk of time? NO! Does it even take a sizable amount of talent? NO! In fact, this is now my go-to girls night dinner. I generally start cooking after everyone gets there: just get people set up with beverages, and then go-to. I'd say it is a 20 minute dish. Which, considering that you have to get pasta water to boil, is about as good as it gets. Especially when it's your favorite meal we're talking about.
Compile all the ingredients.
ooh wow. Clearly I was cooking for girls night when I took this picture, since that's the worst grouping of ingredients yet. Sorry about that. Point is: less than 10 ingredients in the whole thing. That's including things like "salt" or "butter," which I assume you already have. Clearly, since I forgot them in the picture...

Step one: cut-up raw chicken breasts (yuck) into bit-sized bits. Once you've done that, wash your hands and revel in the happiness of the worst part already being over. Now saute the chicken with butter, some lemon (optional), lemon pepper, and salt and pepper until cooked through.

(oh, and put the water for your pasta on to boil... at least I have to do it now for timing's sake, but I have about the worst stove in America so it takes forever.)

Step two: in a food processor put in about 6 ounces of parmesan cheese (if you buy it in blocks instead of pre-shreaded or shaved, break it up and let is whirl around a few seconds). Once in pieces please add butter (in chunks), some cream, garlic and parsley. Pulse everything together. Smell. (mmm... garlic, parsley, cheese... amazing smell. Does it make you want to add some more garlic? me too... go for it.)

If you're being super-healthy, you can use milk instead of the cream. It was in the original recipe my mom started modifying way back in the 80's... but I say you should go for the gusto. It's fancy.

Step three: just before the noodles are done (about 8 minutes?), add cut-up broccoli to the water. Cook until the pasta is al-dente and broccoli is cooked, but still firm. Drain.

Step four: In a large dish add the three groups in this order: cheese mixture, chicken, and then pasta/broccoli. Add more salt and pepper than you think you might need. Place on the table. When you're ready to eat toss together and top with some extra cheese, salt and pepper.

mmm... doesn't that feel fancy and delicious? And it all happened so fast. And you now look super talented. Winning.

Chicken Broccoli Pasta

3-4 chicken breasts, cut-up
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs butter, divided
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 box fettuccine noodles
6 oz parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
1/2 cup cream
1 head (or more) broccoli

Cut chicken breasts and saute in 1 tbs butter, 1 clove garlic and 1 tsp lemon pepper. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice in if desired. Saute until cooked through.

Boil fettuccine noodles. Just before the noodles are done (about 8 minutes), add the cut-up broccoli. Drain when noodles are cooked al-dente according to the box's suggestions.

In a food processor combine 6 oz chopped (or shredded) Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup butter (cut into pieces) 1 clove garlic and a handful of parsley. pulse and add 1/2 cup cream.

In a large dish add (in this order): cheese mixture, chicken, then pasta/broccoli. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss, garnish with extra cheese, salt and pepper. Enjoy like it's your birthday. Or mine.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pepperoni lasagna

So, I took a vacation. A vacation from blogging. A vacation from food. And ate nothing but waffles and macaroni and cheese from a box for about three months. All because I am going to have a baby this (late) summer.

Hooray for babies! Boo for remembering to eat interesting food.

However, there is one thing that I've been making consistently during this break... and it's lasagna. Is it because it's comforting? Yes. Is it because it's impressive (so I feel that I've done something useful)? Yes. But it's also because, even with my manly infantry husband around, there are guaranteed to be days worth of food out of this one.  Days worth of food that every meal I am excited to eat.

Lasagna is one of those funny things where everyone has their own style, and their own recipe. When I got married to my darling husband we went back and forth making his mother's lasagna, or my mother's lasagna. We've settled on this... which we call "our" lasagna. (which is pretty much my mother's plus pepperoni.) We settled on my mom's as a base not just because it's delicious and wonderful, but also because it takes about 1/3 of the time to make. And I am a sucker for easy. As seen on this blog (minus that chili recipe, which is not easy, but is DELICIOUS).

Also, once you get the rythym down to this, it really does not take that much effort. I'll explain it here, but if you just want to do it your own way, scroll down. Scroll down and be happy.
Boil a bunch of water (salted) in a big pot for your noodles, and cook them however the package asks you to. Then drain the hot water, and let them hang out in some cold water until you're ready for them. easy.

Brown a pound of spicy sausage and a pound of ground beef (note, if you have a large pan and can do them both at the same time, add the ground beef about 2 minutes after the sausage - they tend to cook at slightly different rates). Drain fat from meat mixture and add a large (#10) can of crushed tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste, 1-2 cloves of diced garlic, 1 tbs Italian seasoning (rub it between your hands as you put it in if you're using the dried stuff - it'll let all the goodness out), and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Let that simmer while you finish making everything else (or you can use right away if that's how it got timed today). easy.

In between all this fun - when you're not stirring noodles, or browning meat - put together "the white layer." Add a large container of 4% milk fat cottage cheese (I used low-fat for years, but this is SO much BETTER), 1.5 cups parmesean cheese (note, I generally just add a "tub" of the shreaded stuff, but if you have the time, shread away!), two eggs and about 1/4 cup (ish) of freshly chopped parsley. Mix that all up. done. easy.

Open up a 4c bag of shredded mozzarella cheese. That's your last later. Easy.

And now here is the optional and only slightly time consuming moment of your day. Heat a small pan to medium, and add pepperoni. Let it toast for 3-5 seconds and flip. You want it to be slighly crispy along the edge. Take it off the heat (drain it on a paper towel), and do it again! Keep going (you may have to drain the liquid once or twice). It's so tasty and awesome. Maybe you should try one... just to make sure it is safe.

Now layer noodles, white layer, cheese, meat layer twice in the pan. And then add a layer of pepperoni - and a little more cheese.

Stick your wonderful pan of creation in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Then wait 5-10 after it comes out of the oven before cutting... and enjoy. It's easy. It's tasty. It is impressive. And it makes even the fussiest baby-bellies say "oh my goodness, I'm happy."

Pepperoni-Studded Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles
1 lb spicy sausage
1 lb ground beef
Large (#10) can of crushed tomatoes
Small can of tomato paste
2 cloves of diced garlic
1 tbs Italian seasoning
Large container 4% milk fat cottage cheese
1.5 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/3 cup "deli sized" pepperoni
3-4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Boil noodles according to package direction.

Brown and drain sausage and meat. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic and Italian seasoning. Let simmer.

Combine cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs and parsley in a seperate container.

Brown pepperoni in a dry skillet for 3-4 seconds on each side and drain on paper towels.

Layer noodles, white layer, cheese and meat layer twice in the pan, followed by a layer of grilled pepperoni, and another layer of cheese.

Bake 350 for 35 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with salad and warm bread. Be adored.