Monday, April 30, 2012

mediterranean chicken fettuccine

I'm always on the search for meals that require few dishes to wash when I'm done (after all...who likes to do the dishes?).  This one was a winner on that count, for sure.  I also loved it because 1) it was easy, 2) it was easy, 3) it was I need to keep going? :)

P.S. Did I mention it was under 500 calories?  Yeah, that's right.

Don't be intimidated by the ingredient list for this dish.  It's quick to put together, and the final product looks and tastes delicious.  It would be a perfect recipe to pull out when company comes over - it's one of those meals that looks as if you've slaved all day in the kitchen when really you've been soaking in a bubble bath.

You start by browning some chicken thighs in a bit of olive oil. 

Once the chicken is browned on both sides (not cooked through), remove it from the pan and keep it warm. Then, toss celery, onions, and garlic into the pan and saute them until they are tender.

Finally, add crushed tomatoes, red wine, and some delicious spices.  Nestle the chicken back into this entire mixture, plop the lid on your skillet, and let things simmer for half an hour.  That's it!

By the time everything is done simmering, your chicken will be cooked, you will have a beautiful and savory red sauce to go with it, and your house will smell divine.

To serve, place chicken with plenty of the sauce over a bed of fettuccine.  Top with feta cheese and sliced olives to give it that real Mediterranean touch.

Mediterranean Chicken Fettuccine
From Taste of Home's Light and Tasty 2002

6 skinless chicken thighs (about 6 ounces each)
1 T. olive or canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 cup dry red wine or chicken broth
2 t. dried oregano
2 t. dried basil
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. salt
2 bay leaves
8 oz. uncooked fettuccine
1 cup (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup sliced stuffed olives

In a large nonstick skillet, brown chicken in oil.  Remove and keep warm.  In the same skillet, saute onion, celery and garlic until tender.  Add tomatoes, wine or broth, oregano, basil, sugar, pepper, salt, bay leaves, and chicken; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook fettuccine according to package directions.  Uncover chicken mixture; simmer 10 minutes longer or until chicken juices run clear.  Discard bay leaves.  Drain fettuccine; top with chicken and sauce.  Sprinkle with feta cheese and olives.  Serves 6

Nutrition: 427 cal, 16g fat (6g sat fat), 86mg cholesterol, 953mg sodium, 36g carbs, 4g fiber, 29g protein.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

baked barbecue pork chops

Lately, I've been looking for fast and easy recipes.  It seems as if every time I get in the kitchen, Pebbles wants me! :)  She's a cutie, but she sure makes getting dinner on the table quite a chore.

These pork chops were one of the best recipe finds I've had all year.  They were quick to put together and tasted absolutely delicious!  Normally, pork chops have a tendency to be dry...not these!  They were full of flavor and really moist.  Cookie Bandit said that they were some of the best he's ever had.

You start by browning both sides of the chops in a bit of oil.  I used my cast iron to get a nice sear on them.


Then, whip up a homemade barbecue sauce using water, ketchup, vinegar, and spices.

Pour the sauce over the top of the pork chops, and bake them in the oven until done.  Easy!

We love these simple pork chops with a side of blueberry tossed salad.  It's an easy and delicious meal...a perfect option when you are toting an infant around! :)

Baked Barbecue Pork Chops
from Taste of Home's Light and Tasty 2008

4 boneless pork chops
1/2 t. salt, divided
1/4 t. pepper
2 t. canola oil
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup ketchup
2 T. cider vinegar
1/4 t. celery seed
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf

Sprinkle pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.  In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook chops in oil for 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned.

Transfer to an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray.  In a small saucepan, combine the water, ketchup, vinegar, celery seed, nutmeg, bay leaf, and remaining salt; bring to a boil.  Pour over pork.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.  Discard bay leaf before serving.  Serves 4.

Nutrition: 190 cal, 9g fat (3g sat fat), 55mg cholesterol, 505mg sodium, 5g carbs, trace fiber, 22g protein.

Monday, April 23, 2012

hearty meat sauce

Sometimes you want delicious but you don't want to spend an hour getting it.  This meal is for those times.

I created this hearty meat sauce once when we spontaneously invited company over.  We are usually not spontaneous people - I generally plan for days when I know someone is coming over.  In this instance, though, I had to create something fast with ingredients we already had in the refrigerator.  We loved the result so much that we wrote down what I did and have been having it ever since!

This meat sauce takes only about 15 minutes and just 1 pot...can't get any better than that!

First dice up some mushroom, green pepper, and red pepper.

Also chop up some kielbasa.  I like to quarter it lengthwise and then slice up the quarters.  If you are cutting fat, turkey kielbasa works great.

Put your veggies and kielbasa in a deep skillet or pot and saute with about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Cook and stir until the veggies are tender and meat is heated through.

Pour in some red wine and let it simmer for about 2 minutes - gives it a great flavor!

Finally, stir in your tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, and oregano.  Cook and stir until everything has heated through - about 3 minutes.

This sauce is delicious no matter how you serve it, but we love it over gnocchi.  Since gnocchi only takes 3 minutes to cook, this truly is a 15 minute meal!

Hearty Meat Sauce
1 t. olive oil
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 lb. smoked sausage, chopped into small bits
1/4 cup dry red wine
14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
8 oz. tomato sauce
2 T. tomato paste
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. oregano

Saute peppers, mushrooms, and sausage in olive oil until the veggies are tender and meat is heated through.  Add wine; cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and heat through.  Serves 6.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

honey bunches of yum!

I lived six years in California, and I never made granola.  Now that I'm in Texas, what do I make?  Granola! :)

This recipe is easy and absolutely delicious.  It's a great way to get your fiber in the morning, and it seriously tastes like the nut clusters in Honey Bunches of Oats.  I have eaten it plain, in a bowl with milk, or as an added topping to yogurt or cereal.  However you do it, you'll love it.

First spread oats, almonds, and sunflower seeds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Put this mixture into a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes so they can get nice and toasty.

Meanwhile, mix together some butter, Grape Nuts, cinnamon, and honey in a bowl.

Add the oatmeal mixture to the honey mixture and stir to get everything coated.  Then, spread it back out onto the parchment paper and put it back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until it's lightly browned.  Once you take it out, set it on a wire rack to cool.

After the granola has cooled, all you've got to do is break it into chunks and mix some dried fruit into it.  You can use whatever fruit you like, but I've chosen dried cranberries and bananas.

Did you know that the banana chips you buy at the store are often fried and therefore incredibly high in fat?!  Rather than go that route, I like to dry my own banana.  It's easy, even if you don't have a food dehydrator.

First, split the banana straight down the middle by putting your finger in the bottom and just pushing into it.  It should look like this as it splits into three equal parts...

Lay your banana pieces on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and stick them in a 200 degree oven for 2-4 hours, or until they are nice and leathery.  Your house will smell delicious, and it's not something you've got to babysit or keep checking on...just remember to get them out after 4 hours!  After they are dried out, chop them up into small bits and mix into your granola.

Mix this granola with corn flakes or bran cereal for a healthy breakfast or throw into a cup of yogurt for a delicious afternoon snack.  Enjoy!

Honey Bunches of Yum
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (optional)
1 1/4 cups honey
1 cup Grape-Nuts
1 T. butter, melted
1 T. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried bananas, chopped into small pieces

Combine the oats, almonds, and sunflower seeds; spread onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine Grape-Nuts, butter, cinnamon, and honey in a large bowl.  Add the oatmeal mixture; mix until well coated.  Spread onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, break the granola into small bits and stir in dried fruit.  Keep in an airtight container for up to 2 months.  Makes 16 servings.

Monday, April 16, 2012

i'm baaaaaack!

That's me, my husband (aka. Cookie Bandit), and our adorable little girl (aka. Pebbles).  We've had quite the past year!
  • May 2011 - We found out I was pregnant!
  • June - October 2011 - Morning sickness...ick. :(
  • September 2011 - Cookie Bandit got offered a job we'd been praying for.
  • October 2011 - We moved from California to Texas.
  • December 2011 - I turned 30, he turned 29, and we traveled out of state every weekend to celebrate the holidays with our families.
  • January 2012 - I was HUGE.
  • February 2012 - Pebbles made her arrival!  Oh yeah...we also bought a house!
  • March 2012 - Moved into our new house (still working on unpacking).
  • April 2012 - Finally taking a breath.
This has been a fantastic year for us, but it's also left me little time to devote to you guys (or cooking in general).  But, I'm finally back and ready to put up regular posts.  Whooohoo!  It's about time, right?

Starting this week, I'll be posting a few recipes a week, so be on the lookout!  I've also updated my recipe box on Tasty Kitchen (search "thecountrycook"), updated my online cookbook and recipe index, and started a Pinterest page devoted exclusively to recipes from this site (search "DCCookin").  If you haven't yet joined Pinterest and want in on the action, shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you an invite.  On another note, while I'm keeping my facebook page alive and active, I've decided to leave the world of Twitter - I still just don't get it.

Before all of that, however, will you celebrate with me the before and after?

My before kitchen (in the little bitty apartment we just moved from):

Yep, those are all of the cabinets.  There wasn't really room for all of our food, much less our dishes.  Needless to say, most of our kitchen things stayed in boxes.

Now...the after (in our new house):

It's also got a pantry and an additional countertop with cabinet storage underneath.

I could just spend all day in that kitchen!  I look forward to showcasing many a meal created there.

We've also got one more "cooking space" in this house... :)

Anyways, I'm glad to be back.  Thanks to all those who guest posted for me while I was on hiatus.  Now...let's get cooking!
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