Dinner Cheats: Balsamic Chicken

2015/01/img_2150-0.jpgTomorrow I’m teaching a private class on cooking chicken and sauces. I can’t wait to show them how easy it is to turn plain old boring chicken into something delicious. Here’s a simple dinner cheat for chicken that I use all the time!
Start with a few chicken breasts or tenderloins. Whatever you have handy will work. I actually used two chicken breasts I had left over from a “family pack” I bought for dinner the other night. It had 8 pieces in it and I only needed six. So, I threw the other two in a gallon sized ziplock bag.
Then, I added a dash or two of my favorite garlic salt blend, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar. (I may have added a little more balsamic. We love that stuff!)
Zip it up and toss it in the fridge if you’re going to cook it in the next 48 hrs. Or, you can label it with a permanent marker and toss it in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook, defrost it and dump it in a baking dish. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Or, if you prefer, slice it up and sautéed it in a frying pan.
This is great sliced on top of a green salad or tossed in pasta, but we’ve also had it with rice and green veggies. I like to keep it handy for those busy days when I want to eat healthy, but I’m too busy to cook. It’s even gluten and dairy free for those of you with allergies.
Happy eating!

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Dinner Cheats: Pesto Chicken

Are you tired of being stressed out over dinner plans? Looking for something crazy easy, fast to prepare, and simply healthy? Of course it MUST be delicious!
Dinner Cheats is designed to save your weeknight sanity. Each week I’ll post a new recipe to help you reach your mealtime goals. This week our recipe is so simple, my 10 year old daughter could do it without any help.
Pesto Chicken
Boneless skinless chicken breasts
Pesto sauce (My favorite brand is Artisan Fresh, available at Sam’s Club.)
Garlic salt

Spread pesto in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the chicken in the pan and season with garlic salt. Then, spread another layer of pesto on the chicken. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 min. Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes.

Serving ideas:
Serve with buttered pasta.
Slice over a crisp green salad.
Top with steamed veggies and Parmesan cheese.

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Four Cheese Baked Pasta

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I’ve been sick for two weeks and that means I’ve gained a few pounds. Comfort food is definitely my drug of choice, but it turns out all the carbs in the world won’t cure bronchitis. Go figure.
Still, I tried my best and I found that one dish popped up more than once on our table during my convalescence. It was so delicious, that I decided to whip up a big pot of it for my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner this week. She loves Italian food, so I made a feast of Caprese salad, prosciutto mozzarella baguettes, Parmesan chicken, and this fabulous Four Cheese Baked Pasta.
It not only tasted delicious, it looked beautiful in my new Le Creuset brazier.
Here’s how it’s done:
Ingredients
2 lbs pasta (I used mini shells)
30 oz Ricotta
1/2 cup Parmesan Romano blend (1/4 c each)
1 cup mozzarella
1/2 tsp garlic salt
2 eggs
2 cups pasta sauce

1. Boil your pasta to al dente and preheat your oven to 350.
2. Mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, garlic salt, and eggs. Stir until smooth and well-mixed.
3. Drain your pasta and mix in with your cheese mixture and pasta sauce, stirring well.
4. Spread pasta into a casserole dish and top with mozzarella.
5. Bake 30 minutes and then share this awesomeness with people you love.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

Recipe:Alfredo Sauce

I love pasta. LOVE. Really.
My favorite pasta has always been miniature shells in Alfredo. I can’t get enough of this creamy sauce and I just adore how the tiny shells cradle little puddles of the sauce so that they explode in my mouth like bursts of awesomeness. Mmmmmmm.
When I first realized I could learn to make the foods I loved most, Alfredo sauce was near the top of the list (just behind my grandmother’s dinner rolls.) it took a few years and lots of experimenting to find the perfect recipe. But then, one day, it all came together in a tiny saucepan and I’ve never looked back. Now family and friends often request my Alfredo when were together for dinner. It’s shocking how simple it is to put together. So easy, I even taught my youngest how to do it just last week. She’s excited to be able to make her favorite pasta now (though she prefers bow tie pasta with her Alfredo.)

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Alfredo Sauce
1/2 c butter
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in a saucepan with the cream. Stir in cheese and stir until melted. You can add some garlic or basil if you prefer. (I prefer to sauté minced garlic in the butter before adding the cream.)

That’s it. Isn’t it easy?
One thing I’ve learned is that Kraft grated Parmesan will thicken up your sauce better. I suspect this has something to do with the anti-clumping agent used in that product. If you use a fresh grated Parmesan then you’ll get better depth of flavor, but it will also be more “stringy” as it melts.

And that’s all there is to it. Go forth and make great pasta.