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Oh how I have missed you…

My dearest food lovers,

I have missed you more than I can express.

The last few weeks have been demanding and I have had to focus all of my attention on school.  I kept thinking: “if I have time to be doing [insert fun thing], I have time to be studying.”  It was ridiculous and I may or may not have taken it to an extreme.

The light at the end of the tunnel was the midterm and our professor had dangled an impossible carrot in front of our faces (the carrot was irresistible).  He told us that if we managed to score a 90% or above on the exam, we would be able to skip the final.  I took the bait.

The midterm was on Monday and this morning, we had our exams returned to us.  In the 12 years he has been teaching this course, there have only been 3 students who scored above a 90%.  My friends, I am lucky number four!  I received a 94% on the midterm.  It is a huge load off of my shoulders and now, I can return to being normal (i.e. not being a shut-in and only cooking soups so that it lasts for days).  Most importantly, I can return to my hobby!  Cooking and blogging!  Can you tell I am excited??

I wanted to celebrate by making a real meal.  Not that my soups and stews over the last three weeks weren’t real meals, because they were, but I haven’t had time or the will to make something nice.  I decided on a chicken recipe from one of my newer cookbooks, The Newlywed Kitchen.  I served the chicken piccata with a zucchini barley recipe and the combination was flavorful yet light.

Without a doubt, the chicken was the star of the meal.  I have never made chicken this way, so I was surprised (and delighted) to find that cooking it this way produced savory results.  You start out by butterflying a chicken breast and then pounding it down to about ¼ of an inch.  Next, you dredge the chicken in flour, Parmesan cheese, and a pinch of paprika.  Cook the chicken breasts in a skillet with a bit of olive oil for 3 minutes on each side, and then remove and keep warm.  Add just a little bit more of olive oil, and then toss in the rest of the ingredients: mushrooms, a leek (white part only), garlic, lemon juice, chicken stock, 1/3 c. of dry white wine, some capers, and about 3 tablespoons of fresh parsley.  It was incredibly simple and perfect.

This chicken piccata wowed both the pelirojo and me, so it is undoubtedly a keeper.  It turned out to be a scrumptious way to celebrate and a heartening way to start the month of March!  I hope you are all well, and I look forward to catching up on everybody’s culinary adventures!

All my love,

Apicius’ Apprentice

Chicken Penne Pasta

Well, here we are.  It is finally Friday of what has been a long and very busy week.  But the weekend is finally upon us, and I have plenty of fun plans to celebrate the last three days of the Triangle Restaurant Week!

Since the last few days have been so packed, I planned ahead with the week’s menu and made a sauce that would last me for a few lunch and dinner meals.

Before you gasp at the quantities listed in the ingredients to the left, know that I doubled the recipe so that I could have enough to last us over a few days.  And, if you’re normal (unlike me) you can make enough pasta in advance so that all you have to worry about is reheating it in the microwave.

However, if you aren’t normal (like me) and you have a thing against reheated pasta, then you’ll have to take an extra couple of minutes into account in prepping the leftovers.  Don’t roll your eyes!  I’m not imagining it (I don’t think..)!  The consistency of pasta changes once it has been microwaved.  It gets gummy, or hard and it just bugs me.  All this means is that you have to warm up water in a tiny pot just for pasta.  It will take an extra 15 minutes, but it’s worth it to me to have freshly cooked past.  (Ok… I suppose it’s silly enough that you can roll your eyes…)

The recipe is adapted from Spitler & Yoakam’s 1,001 Best Low-Fat Recipes, and is very simple and versatile.  If you are of the vegetarian persuasion, you can simply omit the chicken and have a very flavorful dish.  Even if you aren’t vegetarian, I don’t think you would miss the chicken if you left it out.  There are enough harmonious notes in the dish to keep your palette intrigued.  The only thing I will try changing next time is the olives.  The black olives were nice, but I’d like to taste what kalamata olives would do to the flavor.

It’s time to start getting ready to close up shop and let the Friday fun begin!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Penne with Basil Cream Sauce

I love pasta recipes, but I rarely take the time to make the sauce from scratch.  I am the master of dressing up store bought sauces by adding onions or veggies, but I know this doesn’t count.  This was my first attempt at a white sauce and it was adapted (yet another recipe…I know!) from the 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes cookbook.

The original recipe didn’t call for mushrooms but mushrooms make everything better, don’t they?  Since I didn’t know if it would mess up the sauce, I sauteed it first and then removed it before starting the sauce.  Here’s what I did:

  1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil for the pasta.  Follow the directions on the packaging to cook the penne.
  2. Sautee the diced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil.  Once it’s done, remove the mushrooms and place in a bowl until step 6.
  3. Add the olive oil to the frying pan over medium heat and add the minced garlic.  Sautee the garlic quickly (I did for about 20 seconds) and then add the flour.  Combine the flour and garlic (it will start clumping at this point).
  4. Add the half-and-half and the salt.  Stir the combo until it’s all smooth.  Stir consistently and bring to a boil.  Once the mixture has thickened, remove the frying pan from the heat.
  5. Add the grated parmesan cheese to the frying pan and stir.  Make sure the cheese melts into the sauce.
  6. Add the chopped basil and the diced mushrooms to the sauce.
  7. Put the cooked penne in a serving bowl and add the sauce over the pasta.  Toss until combined and add pepper to taste.
  8. I sprinkled some parmesan cheese over the final product.

It was light and perfect for lunch with a side salad.  I wondered if sun-dried tomatoes would be another good addition to the pasta.  I’ll have to try it out next time!  And yes, I said next time because this recipe is delicious and a keeper!

 

Garbage Asparagus Soup

Great name for a soup, no?  It’s a twist on what my Dad used to call his garbage omelette. On Saturday mornings, my parents would usually take turns making breakfasts.  Dad’s specialties included french toast and his famous garbage omelette.  Anything that was leftover in the fridge would usually make it into the skillet, and it was awesome.

I had some asparagus in the fridge for a recipe I hadn’t gotten around to making and for some reason, soup just sounded better today.  I threw the asparagus into a pot and covered it with the leftover chicken broth from the green beans recipe I made the other day.  Meanwhile, I sauteed some onions and garlic in a pan until the onions were clear and then threw them into the pot.  Once the asparagus was tender enough, I used my trusty hand blender to puree it into a smooth consistency.  I had just a bit of heavy cream leftover from my attempt at the mushroom sage sauce, so I added it to get the creaminess that I wanted.

I love smooth soups, but I like when there’s just a little something added.  I had some turkey bacon and mushrooms leftover from the weekend brunch that sounded like the perfect addition.  I cooked those up and added them into the mix.

Have I mentioned that I wasn’t using a recipe?  Nothing to adopt or look off of, and it rocked.  ROCKED!  Ian said I could make this every week if I wanted to 🙂

Long live the garbage asparagus soup!

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