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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!

Squash and Chickpeas

I have this idea about what a dinner plate should look like.  It goes something like this:

Veggie + Grain + Protein = Complete Meal

We keep the protein pretty varied based on what is on sale at the grocery store.  Sometimes fish, sometimes poultry, sometimes meat is served as the main attraction of the meal.  The veggies are usually steamed and the grain is either rice, couscous, or (most recently added to the line up) quinoa.  Well… steamed vegetables get old and we need to be eating more veggies…enter the 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes cookbook by Carol Gelles!

I get why vegetarianism is so hip and healthy.  I do.  I just have two “but”s: 1) I always worry I’m going to miss the protein too much and 2) I have absolutely no vegetarian recipes in my binder.  I can get over the first hurdle every once in a while – no problem.  To get over the second hurdle, I ordered the cookbook to test drive some recipes.

Given that squash is in season (and on sale at Kroger this week) and given that I always have cans of chickpeas in the pantry (you never know when you’ll need to bust out some humus!), I decided to have this recipe start the kick-off.

The prep work is really easy and doesn’t require anything fancy, just a cutting board, a knife and a bowl or plate.  Mince the garlic, dice the zucchini and squash, and chop up herbs to start off.

I prepped two pots for this next part.  I wanted to spoon the final product over rice, so I started some rice in a smaller pot.  For the squash and chickpeas, I pulled out a large pot.  After warming the olive oil, I added the garlic for a minute before adding the can of tomatoes (with juice and all!).

As the directions stated, I crushed the tomatoes against the side of the pot to break them down.  I then added the rest of the ingredients to the pot and brought it to a boil.  As soon as it hit a gentle boil, I turned it down to low, half covered it with the lid, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

Before serving the stew-like dish onto the rice, I realized that something was missing.  It was delicious, but it was like having the 1st and 3rd of a chord and missing the 5th to complete the sound.  It needed a kick, so I grabbed the paprika and shook some into the pot.

We each had two helpings of this dish!  It was delicious and sooooooooooooooo easy.  Totally a keeper.  Thank you Ms. Gelles!

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