Tag Archives: food

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.

 

 

New Orleans’ grocery stores (my personal favorites)

For me, a trip into a grocery store is like a trip to the museum…no matter whether I have eaten or not, all of my senses are engaged as I go down each aisle. The grocery store is a place for me to relax as I peruse the aisle with all of the fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, and cheeses. That is often where I decide what I would like to cook next. I am like a kid in a candy store…

There are some grocery stores I love because of the variety of products that are regional, in no particular order:

Dorignac’s grocery has been serving the Greater New Orleans area since 1947 and has a plethora of products native to Louisiana, from Blue Runner beans to Pontchaloua strawberries to mirlitons to locally caught seafood. The meat department even makes its own italian meatballs, stuffed crabs, au gratins, meatloaf, and red gravy (or marinara sauce). In addition to their cheese, wine, produce, meat and deli departments, they also do catering and have a bakery department which makes wedding cakes and delicious pastries.

Langenstein’s had its humble beginnings in 1922 when it was just a small corner grocery in Uptown New Orleans. However, it has now grown in size with two full size locations in Metairie and Uptown New Orleans. They offer full service cheese and meat departments as well as specialty items local to New Orleans, as well a full service catering department.

Rouse supermarket became a reality thanks to Anthony J. Rouse, Sr. in 1960 beginning with just 4 employees in a 7,000 square foot location in Houma, Louisiana. Mr. Rouse purchased his produce from local vendors and got his fish and seafood from local fishermen. He even made his own sausages and boudin in a shed out back. Today Rouse supermarket is represented by more than 50 stores spanning three states and keeps growing.

 

Cream Cheese Crab Stuffed Mushrooms…my first attempt!

I love mushrooms…pretty much any way they come. If there was one thing I could eat everyday and not  tire of it, it would be mushrooms. Some of the ways I eat them are sautéed with steaks and atop burgers…in pasta sauces and stuffed (preferably with cheeses and crabmeat). When restaurants have them, I can’t help but place an order for their appetizer of stuffed mushrooms. At the moment, Maggiano’s Little Italy has my vote for the best stuffed mushrooms, but there are many others I have yet to explore.

I decided that it was time to go it on my own. I took to Pinterest to find a recipe. The one I found had cream cheese, crabmeat and herbs…sounded perfect. I improvised a bit based off of the following recipe:

stuffed mushrooms

Cream Cheese Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

12 Large White Mushrooms
6 oz. Whipped Cream Cheese (because it’s softer and lighter) (I used 8 oz of reg cream cheese and let it get to room temperature)
1 Tbls Cream or Milk (I used skim milk)
1/4 cup Crab meat (I used a can of lump crabmeat, to save money, which can be found near the canned tuna in the grocery)
1/4 cup green onions chopped small, use some of the greens – it’s about 5 green onions
2 garlic cloves minced (I used the minced garlic in the jar…3 teaspoons)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese + some for the tops (all I had on hand was grated which worked out well)

Directions:

1. Destem the mushrooms and place on a baking sheet or in an baking dish…make sure there is a lip around the edge to catch any liquid…also I notice that the mushrooms toppled…you may want to put a layer of dry beans down to keep them stable

2. Combine the cream cheese, milk, crabmeat, green onions, garlic, and parmesan and mix well

3. Using a small spoon (like a baby spoon if you have one hanging around), fill each mushroom evenly, be generous so that all the filling is used between the 12 mushrooms. Also, a ziploc with the tip cut off is helpful to pipe the mixture into the mushrooms
4. Top with parmesan cheese.

5. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes until the cheese starts to brown.

These are quite rich. If there is any mixture left over I would put it in a ramekin or small dish and eat with crackers. It can go either way really.

 

So long to Garcia’s in Round Rock, Texas

Garcia's chips and dip

I love Mexican food. We now live in Austin proper, but when we lived in Round Rock (just North of Austin) we used to frequent this little family owned place called Garcia’s. They had all you can eat enchiladas for $7.00 some weeknights and really great nachos.

 

 

Garcia's nachos

I love when the nachos are laid out on a plate with the toppings on each chip rather than a pile of nachos with all the toppings on top with ensuring that each chip would have some flavor. Sadly, this restaurant has closed and I have been hard pressed to find another restaurant that will satisfy my cravings for nachos and enchiladas. But here are some pictures…

 

 

 

Some of my favorite foods from home…

Here are some of the foods I love from New Orleans…

Butter Beans and Broccoli

Lately I have been wanting to spend more time preparing home cooked meals.

Cooking at home has several benefits…
1) I know exactly what is going into my food
2) It is much easier to incorporate fresh rather than processed ingredients
3) Purchasing food at the market is less expensive than paying $30 for dinner for two at a restaurant
4) I think that cooking is also a cathartic and relaxing experience

Though the desire to save money and eat healthier are ever-present in my mind, I have often given way to dining out. A great friend once told me, “When you eat at a restaurant, you are at the mercy of the cooks and waiters for your dining experience, leaving no control as to the preparation of your meal and standard of service you receive.”

Now I realize that not all restaurants leave you disappointed but dining out should be an occasional, rather than routine activity.

So I have been making an effort to engage in the pleasurable act of cooking.

Tonight, I decided to make butter beans and rice. The great thing about beans is that there are so many varieties. Also, they are packed with fiber and protein. I decided upon butter beans and rice. A little more exciting than red beans. I paired the beans with Butterball Turkey Sausage.

I cooked the beans for about two hours and voila: creamy, well-seasoned beans! For a side dish, I microwaved some fresh broccoli. Used the new Ziploc Zip’n Steam bags. All I had to do was add one tablespoon of water and microwave for three minutes. The broccoli was a brilliant green as well as tasty and tender. (A side note on the beans: soaking them overnight takes time off of the final cooking process and they tend to come out creamier).

Posted by Dawn

Curtis Stone’s Chicken & Leek Pot Pie

Curtis Stone's Chicken and Leek PieLately, I have been getting out of “my box” in terms of cooking. Have you ever flipped through the pages of a cookbook and said to yourself: “I’ll make this” or “I’ll make that” but then never get around to it because it may be inconvenient, lengthy or new? Well, I have found myself in that situation many time but this time I decided to follow through.

I have seen Take Home Chef’s Curtis Stone make lots of recipes that are targeted at working couples and families who don’t usually have time to cook recipes that take several hours. I checked out his new book from the library: “Relaxed at Home” and flipped through the pages. There was a tasty looking recipe called Chicken and Leek Pie topped with flaky puff pastry dough. My mouth began to water knowing that I just may be able to make this pie myself.

Before I entered into the thought process that usually talks me out of cooking dinner I pulled out the rotisserie chicken I purchased and began shredding it for the pie. I don’t know about you but when I cook, I get into a zone where I am completely and utterly relaxed. I think it is like Zen for Foodies!

How I improvised on the recipe:
1) The recipe called for chicken thighs and legs with the skin to be baked. I used a rotisserie chicken which I shredded…quick, easy and already seasoned.
2) I didn’t have course ground mustard, so I added yellow mustard…it worked.
3) Make sure that you peel a few layers of the leeks away after cutting off the tops and bottoms. And after chopping, put them in a bowl of cold water to clean and separate them because after being cut they have a tendency to stick.
4) Also, I realized that puff pastry tears easily, so unfold it slowly. And also do not let it defrost for too long.
Once you begin with this recipe, you will find that it is something that you can make again and again!