Category Archives: recipes

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes…err, Mushrooms

I was perusing Pinterest for a recipe to try, as I have been checking out Pinterest lately for recipes. There is such a variety of culinary adventures to undertake. I do feel guilty ignoring my collection of New Orleans cookbooks, however.

My husband and I don’t normally eat a lot of chicken, though we probably should opt for it rather than red meat or pork. When I saw the recipe for chicken with mozzarella and pasta, I thought that sounded like a tasty combination. Plus, cheese compliments so many dishes, in my opinion.

I want to thank the blog Julia’s Album for this delicious recipe.

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

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I didn’t take a picture. This photo is credited to Julia and her blog, Julia’s Album.

Side note: I did make a couple of adjustments.

  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small jar (3-4 oz) of sun dried tomatoes in oil (I used a bag of dried sun dried tomatoes)…Note: drain if using sun dried tomatoes in oil, and set aside oil for sauteeing
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenders (The recipe implies keeping them whole, but I think I would chop them next time)
  • Salt and pepper (for seasoning chicken)
  • Paprika (for seasoning chicken)
  • 1 cup half and half (I used heavy whipping cream)
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (I recommend shredding your own, because it tends to melt better than pre-shredded)
  • 8 ounces penne pasta (I think this recipe would go with cavatappi or rotini as well so all that creamy goodness can work its way through the pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon basil (if dry), or more if fresh
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Note: If using sun-dried tomatoes in oil, use the drained oil to sauté the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes for 1 minute until fragrant….If you did not use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, just use regular olive oil to sauté.
  2. Remove sun-dried tomatoes from pan and set aside. Don’t be like me and turn away for a moment. I burned some of mine and had to toss some out. Those little things brown quickly, and you don’t want them brown. Lol!
  3. Season the chicken tenders with salt, pepper, and paprika. Add chicken tenders to the pan (or cut them into chunks and add). Cook on high for 1 minute on each side.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions and save some pasta water. Drain and rinse and set aside.
  5. Slice the sun-dried tomatoes and add them back to the skillet. I sliced them prior to initially sautéeing them, because slicing them after would have been more difficult with the oil on them.
  6. Add the half and half or whipping cream (whatever your preference), as well as the mozzarella cheese, to the skillet and bring to a gentle boil. Once the cream starts boiling, reduce to simmer and cook. Stir consistently to make sure the cheese completely melts. The recipe recommends adding some of the reserved pasta water to the sauce to keep the sauce from getting too thick. I did not do this.
  7. Add the basil and red pepper flakes. (I also added some grated parmesan cheese)
  8. Add salt to taste.
  9. Finally, add the pasta into the sauce and fold everything together.

Note: After burning half of my sun-dried tomatoes, I was glad that I had some chopped baby bella mushrooms on hand to add in. I think that this can also be done with fresh spinach as well.

Final word: The recipe was great but after initially cooking the chicken I would take it out to make the sauce and then add the chicken back in again. I found it difficult to stir the sauce while the chicken was in the pan.

 

 

Rosemary Chicken Lasagna (without the Chicken)

I found a recipe on Pinterest that was from the blog Feasting at Home by Sylvia Fountaine. It is a recipe for Rosemary Chicken Lasagna, with a twist. The noodles aren’t noodles…eggroll wrappers are suggested. To make this dish less heavy, I chose to eliminate the chicken and just use the spinach and mushrooms. However, I will include the entire recipe for those who want to use chicken. The recipe includes directions if you want to eliminate the chicken.

Rosemary Chicken Lasagna 

20161219_210523Filling:

  • 2 pounds chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces (I replaced this with 1 1/2 pounds of sliced baby bella mushrooms)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (if dry, use less-but fresh is highly recommended)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • Cracked pepper
  • 1-2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (arugula can be used as well)
  • 12 ounces of fresh mozzarella (I used the baby mozzarella pearls) (8 ounces is for the lasagna filling and the other 4 ounces if for the bechamel sauce)
  • 15 ounces ricotta
  • 3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 package of egg roll wrappers, or fresh lasagna pasta sheets

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 4 ounces mozzarella (reserved from previous mention)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 cups hot whole milk
  • 1 1/4 kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I bought and grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (I left it out)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Season with salt and cracked pepper. Sauté in a skillet on medium heat, in some olive oil until golden and cooked through. Set chicken aside.20161219_181808
  3. In the same pan, sauté diced onions until tender, on medium high heat for about 5 minutes. A little more olive oil may be needed. Add garlic and lower heat to medium, sauté and for 2 minutes. Sauté mushrooms until liquid is released and mushrooms are tender, approximately 10 minutes. Add chopped spinach, or arugula, and stir until wilted and then add chicken. Set aside.
  4. To make the Bechamel Sauce: In a small pot, melt butter on medium heat. Add flour and stir for five minutes on medium heat until flour is golden. Whisk in the hot milk (one cup at a time). Add rosemary and bring the sauce to a boil. Do not leave unattended and continue to stir. Add 4 ounces of mozzarella and stir until cheese is melted and the sauce thickens. Add salt, nutmeg, and white pepper. Simmer for a few minutes and set aside.
  5. To assemble lasagna: Butter or grease an 8×12 inch pan. Pour in 1/2 cup Bechamel Sauce…enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish. Lay one layer of pasta sheet (if using eggroll wrappers, use two layers) over the Bechamel Sauce. Using a teaspoon, place teaspoon-sized dollops of ricotta across the pasta sheets, using about half the container of ricotta. Then pour the lasagna filling across. Next, drizzle 1/2 of the Bechamel Sauce on top, then sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 4 ounces of the mozzarella and half of the lemon zest. Repeat, adding another layer of pasta, or eggroll wrappers, lightly pressing down. Add more dollops of ricotta, finishing off the container, top with the lasagna filling, 1/2 cup of the Bechamel Sauce, the remaining mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and the remaining lemon zest. Top with the last layer of the pasta, or eggroll wrappers. Pour the remaining Bechamel Sauce, sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan, and sprinkle with some of the rosemary.
  6. Bake, tightly covered with foil, at 400 degrees F, for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until the top is golden.
  7. Let the lasagna rest out of the oven for about 20 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!

Final note: I have to say that the eggroll wrappers were a bit different, but definitely made for easier layering. I was a bit heavy-handed with with the rosemary, as I used dry rosemary, because my local grocer was out of fresh rosemary. When I make this again, I will use fresh sheets of pasta. This recipe was quite labor intensive, but fun to make. It was my first time making a roux, which I should have known how to do for years, being as I am from New Orleans! I welcome comments and feedback on your experience with this recipe!

 

Anthony Bourdain visits Austin!

Shortly after moving to Austin, me and my husband went to see famed foodie and traveler Anthony Bourdain read from his newest book Medium Raw. The evening was amazing! I expected a reading and a book signing. Plain and simple. Bourdain was so colorful in his reading and story-telling. Through seeing him on No Reservations and A Cook’s Tour, I had gotten the impression that he was a bit standoffish and arrogant, yet upon meeting him to have my book signed he was kind, patient and friendly.

During the Q & A period, an audience member asked, “How do you feel about the oil spill in the Gulf”?

To paraphrase…He said that the people on the Gulf Coast are strong people but have been through too much already. The shrimpers and fisherman were already hanging by a thread and now it is almost like they have nothing. He stressed that the effects will be felt for a long time to come, but that he is amazed how the people in New Orleans keep rebounding because their spirit is so strong. I applauded and cheered as well as several others in the audience. He then said that there are places that resemble New York City, and places that resemble Chicago, but there is no place on earth that is anything like New Orleans! This time I applauded and cheered again in unison with others but a tear of joy was shed in that bittersweet realization that I am proud to be from New Orleans and no matter where I go New Orleans will always be my home!

Before we left the theatre we stood in line with over a hundred admirers of the world traveler and waited to have our books signed. The line moved quickly and while waiting I made several acquaintances. One was a transplant from Seattle who moved here for work and two others who were originally from Austin. The moment came when we were next in line to meet Bourdain. I have to admit that I was nervous but when it was my turn, I made sure to tell him that I was from New Orleans and how his comments about New Orleans really made my night. He asked, “Have you seen the show Treme?” To which I replied, ” Yes the entire season!” He said that they asked him to be a contributing writer for the second season and I said how great an addition that would be to the show! 

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Myself and Anthony Bourdain

So not only did I enjoy the show but Anthony Bourdain absolutely made my night! For weeks I have been plagued with homesickness, a feeling I expected. However, I did not think about just how much I would grow to appreciate my hometown. Yes, there are issues, but New Orleans rebounds consistently and grows stronger with each challenge. I am proud to call New Orleans my hometown. That does not mean that I will not venture outside. I am happy to be building a life in Austin, but New Orleans will always be my home. When I got to Texas I was amazed at how different things are, including the people, the culture and the food. It really opened my eyes. Just like the time I realized that Mardi Gras wasn’t a national holiday! And my eyes will continue to widen… 

Posted by Dawn

Hello World!

image Well, it is Sunday…such a great day to get in the kitchen! Cooking is a way to relax and I have even gotten the husband to join me in the kitchen. In the beginning, he would only want to know when the food was ready but now he and I are a team in the kitchen.  I love that he is open to just about anything that comes out of the oven or off the stove. In our household, we are not very discriminating when it comes to food. Pad thai one day…lasagna the next…enchiladas…and on some days we must have ramen. But no matter what is in the pantry, I always find a way to jazz it up a bit. Because we are on a limited budget, I have not been able to buy crawfish tails, shrimp, or steaks. Our palates are a bit spoiled. Back in New Orleans we were able to splurge on these items.
 
While I was initially disappointed in that we couldn’t cook the richest tasting foods, I came to realized that any dish can be tasty. A little creativity and great herbs and spices go a long way! Last week, I decided to pull some tamales out of the freezer. I have not yet learned how to make them from scratch. The good thing was that these tamales were locally made (in Texas). They were on sale at the local grocery. I read the directions saying that they needed to be steamed. I was like “I don’t have a steamer” and was thinking that I would have to spend extra money to buy a metal insert in which to steam the tamales. I was short on funds, even though it was only a mere four or five bucks. While at the grocery getting some shredded cheese and black beans, I had an epiphany. I would use what I already have: a pizza pan which had holes in it, put it over the my wok with a little water and top the tamales with foil! Ingenious! I rigged my McGyver-style notion and presto, it was a success! Definitely not New Orleans famed Manuel’s tamales, but it was quite delicious! My hubby and I topped our tamales with some Old El Paso enchilada sauce and shredded cheese. I cooked some black beans from a can (only 72¢): sauteed garlic and onions and added some cumin and voila those black beans were tasty! 

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Cooking is cathartic: the aroma of freshly chopped cilantro and shallots, the scent of trinity mix (a blend of green peppers, onions and celery) that fills the house…Aah!