Sunday, August 26, 2012

YiaYia Approved Spanakopita

OK, so I don't have a Greek grandmother to invite into my kitchen and try my Spanakopita. I did however get a few tips from my Greek friend Kristi who used to watch her YiaYia cook it. Unfortunately, I am not at the level where I make it look as easy as making a bowl of cereal. Nevertheless, I did it and did it darn well on my first attempt. I apologize for my lack of modesty, but when you manage to cook this item, I give you full bragging rights because it is not the easiest dish to make. It is however, extremely delicious and worth the attempt. Remember the post I wrote about going out on the limb and trying out a new challenging recipe? (See pasta alfredo post).  Well, add this number to the list. You truly feel empowered once you've tried your first bite. Especially if you're as lucky as I am and have a Greek friend to give it two-thumbs-up!

I decided to make this recipe on a whim when I realized I had a couple hours to spare.  It was take a nap, or get my butt up and get a few ingredients from the store to make the Spanakopita.  I am ashamed to say that the nap came in as a very close second.  I fetched the three ingredients I didn't have and came home to take on the challenge.  You'd be surprised of what measures you take in order to use up the large amount of food that is about to expire.  In my case, it was feta cheese that I convinced myself I needed a couple of months after being married.  Did I mention I purchased this number at Costco? We all know where this is going.  Let me give you some advice...If you are a family of two, unless you're planning on cooking for a Greek army in the next few months, do not purchase the tub of crumbled feta cheese.

Regardless, I ended up making a Lebanese feta salad (see one of my first posts) and Spanakopita.  Add some wine and you have a deliciously ethnic meal. This dish is fun, sort of easy, and positively delicious!

Ingredients
2 large bags or 3 bunches spinach
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions (green onions) finely chopped
6oz crumbled feta cheese
5oz part skim ricotta cheese
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
12 sheets filo dough
2 tbs melted butter

Steps
1.  In a pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and steam the spinach for 4-5 minutes
2. Drain spinach and squeeze out any excess water
3. In a deep pan, combine onions, scallions, and extra virgin olive oil and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent
4. Add spinach and remaining ingredients to the pan and take off the heat after stirring enough to completely mix ingredients together
5. Bring out filo dough from freezer and CAREFULLY place on a flat surface (filo dough is extremely fragile and can tear very easily)
6. Slit a few lines into the filo dough creating 3 slices of filo dough
7. Be sure to use 3 layers of dough for each spanakopita
8. Use a kitchen brush to spread a small amount of melted butter over the dough

9. Use a small spoon to scoop out a small amount of filling and place it near the corner an edge.  Fold over the corner and continue folding (pretend you're folding a paper football you used to flick into a little goal in class)

My hands were too messy to take a picture of the process. ^Compliments of Google.

 10. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes
Serve hot and enjoy!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Broccoli Cheddar Stuffed Chicken

May I just say, this weather is absolutely breathtaking!! Yesterday Brian and I went to the Cincinnati Blues Festival and we danced the night away. If you were there and witnessed that, we're glad we could provide you with some laughs and you're welcome!

This weather has brought out our tennis moves and I am happy to say that I have continued with the 30 day challenge by playing tennis about 4 times a week.  It's been so enjoyable that I think the 30 day challenge is over yet I don't even care. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing tennis AND posting to the website every week. Thank you TED Talks (see New Year's Resolution in July).  Along with great weather comes more time spent outdoors. Hanging out in mother nature's territory is all well and good but this means less time in the kitchen.  For some of you, I'm sure that's a good thing. For others, well, you would just rather sit indoors and create new recipes. That's fine by me, but here's a recipe that allows you to have the best of both worlds.  It's VERY easy to make to the point that we played a game of tennis while it was in the oven. How's that for multitasking?

As I'm sure most of you have experienced, chicken can get boring quickly.  I'm the type of person that (spoiler alert) loves flavorful food and refuses to eat bland meals. If I don't enjoy the taste of something, I won't waste my time, calories and efforts to eat it. The good news is that I'm not picky. The only food I can honestly say I seriously dislike is blue cheese.  Call it what you want, Gorgonzola or Blue De Gex but it is still blue cheese. Sorry peeps. I know that as an aspiring chef I should love everything in site but I'm only human and something's gotta give.

As I was saying, chicken falls into the bland category.  Chicken is one of the few foods that if eaten solely by itself is not too enjoyable.  Add a couple of ingredients to it however and you've got a savory dish!  This recipe is one that combines a couple food groups I love most with a protein that shouldn't be taken for granted: vegetables, dairy and chicken. I highly recommend you try this out and don't be afraid to venture into new ideas.  Think of different ingredients you can use to stuff the chicken.  The world is your oyster and the possibilities are endless.

Serves: 2         Prep time: 15 minutes     cook time: 30 minutes (add about 10 minutes per added chicken breast)
Ingredients
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup frozen broccoli florets
2 oz sliced cheddar cheese
2 tbs condensed cream of broccoli soup
1/2 cup (Italian) bread crumbs
1 tbs melted butter
salt
pepper
tooth picks

Steps
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
1. lay one long piece of Saran (plastic) wrap on an open counter space
2. place the chicken breasts on top of the wrap and fold over the wrap so that it covers the chicken evenly
3. use a mallet to pound the chicken and thin it out. Be sure not to pound it too thin that it tears apart. You want the chicken to still be in one piece. **If you do not have a mallet, use a small pan/skillet.
4. unwrap the chicken and place it on a large plate, and season with salt and pepper
5. spread 1tbs of soup on each breast and follow with the slices of cheese and broccoli
6. in order that the chicken does not fall apart, be sure to wrap it into a tight roll
7. use toothpicks to keep the chicken together
8. place the stuffed chicken into a bowl of breadcrumbs and lightly toss it up and down so that the crumbs cover the chicken evenly
9. place the chicken on an aluminum foil wrapped pan
10. drizzle the melted butter over the chicken
11. bake it in the oven
12. Serve hot and enjoy!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Linguine con Alfredo

Hello culinary fanatics!  It is Sunday and for once in a very long time I am enjoying it to its fullest rather than doting on the fact that tomorrow is Monday.  If you've done your homework and read the previous post, you are most likely anticipating the delicious pasta recipe  (see Simply Caprese).  This pasta dish is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  Unfortunately it is not a nutrition booster, so I consider it a decadent indulgence.  I usually let a couple of months go by before considering it again. Reason being, once I get something in my head, it's stuck there until I act on it. 

If today is the day that you are wanting to indulge and enjoy the good life, take a bite out of it and cook something fantastic!  It doesn't have to be this recipe.  There are plenty of others before this one.  Take some time to really think about what you want to eat, and make it!  What do you have to lose?  Here's my theory: People spend too much time thinking of what they want to eat and much less time actually being proactive and cooking it. Eventually they come up with enough reasons not to make the effort to put together a substantial meal and end up making a sandwich or getting take-out.  I have one word for that--Unacceptable. 

Reap the benefits of putting your heart and time into something you want.  You'll be so proud of yourself in addition to having a satisfied stomach.  You'll be surprised that something this good can be so fun, easy and positively delicious!

Serves: 6-8                            Prep-time: 1-2 minutes                               Cook-time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 quart heavy whipping cream
2 tbs unsalted butter
3 cloves minced/pressed garlic
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
salt
pepper
chopped basil for garnish

Steps:

Pasta:
1. Bring water in a deep pot to a boil
2. Add a tablespoon of salt and quick drizzle of olive oil to the water
3. Place pasta in boiling water and follow the cooking directions on the box
******DO NOT BREAK THE PASTA IN HALF.  Breaking the pasta makes it very difficult to twist with a fork and takes away from the presentation of the dish**********
4. Drain pasta and splash it with a bit of (hot) water so that it does not stick together

Sauce:
1. In a deep sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat then add garlic
2. Add cream then stir every few minutes down to the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking or burning
3. Once cream is lightly boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cheese
4. Continue to stir then add salt and pepper to taste
5. If a thicker consistency is preferred, whisk the sauce for about five minutes on low heat
6. Twist a bed of pasta onto a small plate and pour the sauce over it with a ladle
7. sprinkle a bit of chopped basil atop the pasta bed to add color and flavor

Serve immediately and pair it with a crisp white wine and light salad (caprese).
Bon Appetite