Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicken w/Smoked Ham and Parmesan

I originally found this recipe about 5 years ago in a cookbook about Italian cooking.  Since then, I have made this too many times to count.  It is one of the regulars in our dinner rotation due to its ease and quickness of preparation.  Additionally, we usually have the ingredients for this in our refrigerator at all times, so no special trips to the store are needed.  You can use whatever smoked deli ham ham you prefer for this (I like Boar's Head brand), and any leftover ham can be used for sandwiches for lunch the next day.  I have even tried prosciutto, but the flavor of the ham overpowered everything else, so I would not advise using it in this case.

We typically will have this with a side of pasta (one of our favorites can be found here) and some form of vegetable(s).  I particularly like to pair this with sauteed broccoli or roasted asparagus.  

Chicken w/Smoked Ham and Parmesan

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 thin slices smoked deli ham
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted
Salt and pepper

Lightly pound chicken breasts to achieve a uniform thickness.  Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high.  Place chicken in pan and cook 7-8 minutes on first side.  Flip chicken.

Cook on second side for 3-4 minutes.  Lightly drape each piece of chicken with a slice of ham.  Divide Parmesan cheese evenly and sprinkle over each slice of ham.  Drizzle each piece of chicken with 1/2 Tbsp butter.  Continue cooking another 2-3 minutes, or until chicken is done and ham is warmed.  Serve immediately.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

When it comes to appetizers at a restaurant, spinach and artichoke dip is one of our favorites.  We have had this at Applebee's and Cotton Patch Cafe, so naturally I decided to try to make my own version at home. I searched thru hundreds of recipes online and finally decided to go with the basics I saw in each of them.

The base of this dip is an alfredo sauce mixed with cream cheese.  I loaded mine with both spinach and artichokes in an effort to get my daughter to eat as many vegetables as possible.  Looking thru the fridge, I found some Romano, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses, so in they went as well.  A little salt and pepper for seasoning and it was ready for the oven.  It came out restaurant quality, and there was even enough to serve as a snack for the next couple days.

One key to this dip is making sure you remove as much moisture from the spinach as possible.  I start with frozen spinach which I thaw either in the fridge or the microwave.  Once it is completely thawed, I place it on a stack of about 6-8 pieces of paper towel and roll it up.  I then wring out the paper towels like they are a wet cloth.  I can usually get about half a cup of moisture out this way, which means the finished dip will have a much creamier texture.

I will definitely make this again, but there are a couple things I may try to, as Emeril would say, kick it up a notch.  For example, the next time I make this I will probably add a couple roasted and chopped poblano peppers to the mixture to give it a little heat and a smoky flavor.  But that's for later.  Right now, I'm going back for a few more chips and some of this dip.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

10 oz Alfredo sauce (homemade or jarred)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed
1 15 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Thaw frozen spinach and squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible.  In large mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients.

Pour mixture into an 8x8 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake a t 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and top begins to brown (if desired, you can place the baked dip under the broiler for a minute or two if you like the top more browned).  Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spaghetti w/Olive Oil and Garlic

Simple pasta dishes are a favorite in our household.  They are excellent for a light lunch, or as a side dish with dinner.  One of our staple dinners is grilled or roasted chicken with a side of Spaghetti w/Olive Oil and Garlic, along with a steamed vegetable or two.  This is one of those dinners that I can have on the table in less than 30 minutes, and is very nutritious as well.

This dish even makes doing the dishes easy, as the "sauce" is made in the same pan the pasta is cooked in.  If desired, you can also top this with a little Parmesan cheese for added flavor.

Spaghetti w/Olive Oil and Garlic

1 lb dry spaghetti
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  Drain using colander.  Return empty pan to burner and add olive oil.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.

Return pasta to pan and add parsley.  Toss to coat.  Serve immediately. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quick Peanut Butter Fudge

Although my wife loves nearly everything chocolate, she finds chocolate fudge to be too rich.  I agree with her, plus the process of making fudge just seems like too much work to me.  Additionally, there are so many things that can go wrong that the whole idea just doesn't seem worth it.  So for a long time, fudge was just something we had at other people's house or purchased near the holiday season.

Then I found this recipe.  I can't take credit for it, but man do I wish I could.  We both love peanut butter, so peanut butter fudge is right up our alley.  And considering it only uses four ingredients and can be put together in about 5 minutes total.  All this, and it is made in the microwave.  No double boiler, no candy thermometers, and no dropping hot syrup into water looking for the perfect consistency.  Just microwave, stir, pour into pan, and refrigerate.  It is literally foolproof.  I like to use creamy peanut butter, but crunchy works as well.

A quick tip about measuring peanut butter.  If you spray the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray, you can remove the peanut butter from the measuring cup much easier.

Quick Peanut Butter Fudge

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb (by weight) powdered sugar

Place butter and peanut butter in large microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Stir mixture.

Return butter mixture to microwave.  Microwave on high another 2 minutes (CAUTION:  it will be like hot lava at this point.  Use pot holders).  Remove from microwave and quickly stir in vanilla.  Add powdered sugar and stir until well mixed.

Spread mixture into parchment lined 8x8 inch or 7x11 inch baking pan.  Refrigerate at least two hours.  Cut into 1-inch pieces.  Keep tightly covered at room temperature.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Crumb Topped Tomatoes

This past week, I was looking for a quick side dish to make with an Italian dinner I was making.  I had picked up a bunch of Roma tomatoes at the grocery store (I know, homegrown is better, but you try finding good tomatoes in February in Nebraska).  One option was to make spaghetti sauce (the usual standby), but I decided to go with Crumb Topped Tomatoes.

Crumb Topped Tomatoes are nothing more than oven-roasted Roma tomatoes topped with a mixture of Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and baked until golden brown.  They do take about an hour and 15 minutes to make, but nearly all of that time is baking time, leaving you free to do other things (like look through some of my other recipes).  As they bake, the tomatoes give off their juice, which is then soaked up by and flavors the bread crumbs.  If you like fried green tomatoes, you'll love this.

Crumb Topped Tomatoes

8 Roma tomatoes
Salt to taste
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 cup bread crumbs (plain or Italian seasoned)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut Roma tomatoes in half lengthwise and place in 9x13 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil.  Bake in 350 degree F oven for 1 hour.

In small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Stir in remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil.  Spread bread crumbs over top cooked tomatoes.  

Return tomatoes to oven.  Cook an additional 15 minutes, or until bread crumbs are golden brown.  Serve immediately.

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