Chicken and Pasta

I realize I’m falling down on the job of posting every day.  Yes, already.  But I will offer up the only excuse I have at the moment…I’m a slacker BEEN BUSY COOKING!!!

LOL.  Kat meme pics are amusing, but that’s not what I intended for this blog to be about.  And while I’m trying to turn Groovy Noms into a real life business, I AM still feeding Rat Boy and Hubby daily.  Some days, it’s just nothing new or interesting.  😦

Today I have good stuff.  The Pioneer Woman gave me the idea, and this is a slightly twisted version of her Penne Pasta with Chicken ThighsDeliciously twisted!

We will begin with chopped onion.  I chopped one half, and diced the other…just to be different.

Add some garlic, of course.

And olive oil.  Saute until tender and glassy.  It will smell divine!

Insert chicken thighs, skin side down so they will brown obediently.  I used my fingers to scoot the onion/garlic mix out of the way.  You might want to use a spoon, however.

I know.  Raw chicken looks…well, raw.  But when it’s brown, it looks golden!

When they ARE brown, flip those thighs over, and drain most of the grease from the pan.  I accomplish this by using a wooden spoon to hold the thighs, and carefully pour out most of the liquid into the sink.

It’s best if the sink is clean, due to occasional unplanned thigh-flight.  Obviously, chickens are unaware they do not fly.

Once the pan is safely back on the stovetop, add a jar of pasta sauce and a can of roasted tomatoes.

Add about 1/2 cup of a nice red wine, and give everything a stir.

This one is very nice.  So I had to drink it.

Let the chicken simmer, uncovered, about an hour on low heat.

Then add zucchini slices, and whatever other veggies you might desire.

Veggies are looking lovely right now.  The corn is for today.  But it looked so pretty, I just had to take a picture while the chicken was simmering.

When the zucchini has cooked, about 10-15 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove chicken, zucchini, and tomato chunks from the pan.

Turn up the heat, and stirring constantly, reduce what remains of the sauce.

Boil some pasta.  I was feeling the farfalle last night, aka bow tie pasta.  In whole grain, even!

After draining the pasta well, without rinsing, pour the reduced sauce over it and gently mix to coat.  The pasta will soak up the sauce and yummy chicken juices.

Serve chicken over saucy pasta.

Garnish with basil, if so desired.  Hubby and Rat Boy are getting a bit tired of basil this year, but it’s still going strong.  😛

Eat, enjoy, and LOVE that there’s only 2 pans to wash!  (And the collander.  but I’m not counting that one.)

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Herb Crusted Pork Loin

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the Pioneer Woman doing a herbed pork tenderloin.  Fortuitously, the next week at the market, they had pork loin on sale!  Obviously, the stars were in alignment for me on that day.

I’m also happy when I get to make something for dinner that’s a little upscale, without using every pan in the kitchen!  😛

The trick to this is really getting the loin to cook without sitting in the juice at the bottom of the pan and getting soggy.  It’s really hard to call it a crust if it slumps off into the pan the minute you try to serve it!

I don’t have a roasting rack, which would be good for this, so improvisation was in order.

I sliced potatoes and onions very thinly and put them in alternating layers in the bottom of a 9×13″ pan.

The layers optimally will be about 2 inches thick.

Drizzle oilve oil, salt and pepper over your potaot foundation, cover, and bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are just beginning to get tender.

While the potatoes are baking a bit, deal with the loin.  😛

Rub the loin with olive oil.  For this, i eschewed my favorite roasted garlic infused oil, and just used a good grade of Sicilian olive oil.

Rub the loin generously with the oil, and begin to pat the herb mixture onto the meat.

The herbs should stick in a nice thick layer.  I used Herbs de Provence, because I particularly like the mix of rosemary, thyme, basil, savory, and oregano.  It also looks pretty.

If you notice some bare patches, just get a small handfull, and press it onto the meat.  Then lay the loin on top of the potato and onion foundation.

Do not cover, as you don’t want to steam it, you want the herb layer to form into a crisp crust.  Bake at 400F for about 35 – 40 minutes.

Cover and rest the whole thing for about 5 – 10 minutes.  Then slice and serve with the potatoes and onion base, which will have now absorbed a bit of the herb flavor, along with some pork drippings.  Yum!

The pork will be a little pink, and very juicy because the crust holds in the juices.  The potatoes around the edges will get a little browned, so altogether, it really makes a nice presentation.  And you only have to wash one pan after dinner!  😀

Meat Sauce for Any Pasta

Did I mention we eat a lot of pasta?  Rat Boy thinks this is the best thing I cook.  So I do it a lot…just because he’s the resident rodent.  🙂  Plus, it’s easy, and generally makes at least two meals!

Dice onion and finely chop garlic.  Saute on medium using a bit of olive oil until the onion is translucent and it starts to smell delicious.

I use a LOT of garlic.  We lurves the garlic!

Add about 1 pound of ground meat.  I’ve made this sauce with beef, grass fed beef, buffalo, and pork.  It all works!

Coarsely chop a tomato or two and throw them in as well.  This is a great end for the tomato that’s just a little too ripe to eat, but not so ripe that it’s headed for the dust bin.

Finding uses for overripe fruit makes me happy.  It’s not much, but I’ll take what I can get!  😛

When the meat is browned, pour in a jar of pasta sauce.  My favorite is Classico tomato and basil.  Yes, more basil.

I also add a couple of cans of fire roasted, diced tomatoes.  I like the variety that has olive oil and garlic.  Yes, more garlic.

I think this is the part that gives the sauce its special taste.

Pepper to taste, stir well, cover and simmer on low heat for at least 2 hours.  This really makes the sauce.  I do it on the stove, because I’m home, and because it only makes 2 pans for washing this way.  However, for the simmer you can use a crock pot as it will do the job just as well without burning down the house.

Give it an occasional stir.  Make sure it’s still simmering, but not cooking too hot, as it will burn if too much liquid evaporates.

And burned pasta sauce makes everyone a sad panda.

Serve over any pasta.  It’s equally good with any kind.  😀

I’ll garnish with coarse chopped fresh basil.  Yes, more 😛  And some lots of  Parmesan.

This is actually the Einkorn pasta that I mentioned to the Queen in a previous comment.  It’s whole grain, and quite tasty, lacking that cardboard character that some of the whole wheat pasta has.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

We really do live on a bizarre schedule around here.  After 2 weeks of vacation in the middle of September, we are switching from having Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday as Hubby’s days off, back to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off.  It’s really no wonder that I have trouble remembering what day of the week it is sometimes.

I suppose it’s a good thing that Rat Boy likes homeschooling, because I’d probably send him to school on Thursday through Sunday some weeks, and Monday through Thursday on others.

I actually tried to take him on Saturday one time when he was younger.  He wouldn’t get out of the car.

But I digress.  And probably will again, possibly in the near future.

Quinoa.  Apparently that’s where it’s at for the pot-smokin’ hippie  healthy foods-oriented crowd.  I’ve tested fed it to Hubby and Rat Boy on several occasions.  I usually throw some frozen veggies in with it, as a half-ass, fast attempt at a pilaf.  They were not impressed.

Quinoa, pronounced “Keen-wah”, is a grain that is not a grain.  I totally understand if it has identity issues.  It is referred to as a pseudocereal, because it is not a member of the grass family like wheat, but instead has relatives like beets and spinach.  And it’s amazingly healthy.  And grainy.  Great substitute for rice (and we are a rice-loving family).

And it’s OLD.  Like older than the Roman Empire, or the Greek, or even the Egyptians!  Quinoa originated in the Andean region, where it was domesticated 3000 to 4000 years ago for human consumption.  There is even evidence that shows an association with pastoral herding 5200 to 7000 years ago.  So much for the world civ lesson.

I recently discovered there are red and black varieties, as well as the white.  Mum, over the weekend, asked me to make a couscous salad for her retired teachers meeting, and because I was feeling persnickity a bit avante guarde, I decided to instead do quinoa.

1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups water cooks just like rice.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on low 20 minutes.  Cooking times are longer for the red and black varieties, as are the cooking times for more whole hulled rices.

Cool…overnight if possible, then add cherry tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, and feta cheese.  Amounts of course will vary, depending on how much you’d like to make.  I started with 4 cups of red quinoa to 8 cups of water.  I made a LOT of quinoa.  WAY more than I’d intended.  But no worries.  It even freezes well!

Isn’t it pretty?

Toss everything together with a drizzle of olive oil…I used a roasted garlic infused variety that I put on everything I possibly can.  Did I mention that I really like garlic? Oh yeah, and juice from about 2/3 of a lemon.  I used Meyer, but can’t always get them, so I’m sure a ‘normal’ lemon would be fine too.

I added some chopped fresh oregano to the first batch, then basil…yes, it’s still going strong out on the porch…to the second.  And some mint.  Because Mediterranean dishes use mint.  Just believe it.

It really is pretty.  Colorful.  Tastes fabulous.  Healthy.  Can you possibly ask for more?

Oh yeah, easy to make also.

Kitchen Kat expressed his approval by nomming on my leg while I was doing the washing up.

I can’t believe how huge his claws look.  😛  And how bad my kitchen rug looks.  I should be totally embarrassed now.  But it’s been a long day.  I’ll work on that tomorrow.

Pan Seared Shrimp and Scallops with Apricot Cream Sauce

My friend, Thomas from Norway, made a variation of this dish for me when I nearly froze to death visited Oslo a few years ago.  He used scallops and dried apricots (I’m assuming that apricots do not grow in Norway).  It was delicious!  So I keep making it, and changing it up a bit here and there.  This time I added the shrimp, as it is summertime on the Texas Gulf Coast and the shrimp are fresh and plentiful!

I decided to use fresh apricots.  The fresh apricots at the market looked so good!  I just had to have some.  🙂

Pan seared shellfish is always a winner in my book.  I used a little thyme infused olive oil.  Be sure not to brown them, not cook them all the way though, as you’ll be finishing them in the sauce.

I did the shrimp separately, as you want to gently turn the scallops, but you can stir the shrimp.

Mmmmmm.  Yummy!  😛  I love shrimp!

Remove scallops and shrimp to a plate.  I used the leftover juices in the pan to stir fry/steam some asparagus while preparing the sauce.

Just toss it for a minute or so in the hot pan, cover and remove from heat.  By the time the sauce is done, so is the asparagus.

For the sauce, I used a larger pan on low heat.  Start by melting the cream cheese (the variety of which is your choice entirely), adding a little white wine to thin the melting cheese.  I used about 1/4 cup wine for a 8 oz. block of mascarpone.  When the cheese is melted, add the diced apricots.

Let the sauce simmer just slightly, stirring until all the lumps are incorporated.  Not the apricot lumps.  They will stay lumpy.  The sauce will take on a gorgeous pale apricot color from the juice.

Add the shrimp and scallops with any drippings from the plate, and let them finish cooking.  Since they were only pan seared, they should need another 5 minutes or so to be completely cooked.  That gives them time to soak up the apricot flavor of the sauce.  🙂

I made some quinoa with shitake mushrooms to go with this saucy seafood dish.  Pasta and rice are also good choices, as you want something to soak up the extra sauce.  It’s so good, you’ll want to lick the plate if there’s no other way to eat it!

I added some sprigs of fresh thyme just before serving.  Just because it looks pretty.  I already had the flavor it the shrimp and scallops from the oil, but more thyme never hurts!  And black pepper of course.

The presentation looks suitably upscale also.  I’m making myself hungry again.  😀

Tilapia

We are SO lucky in some ways.  Yes, it’s hot.  Yes, it’s humid (well, usually).  Yes, traffic stinks.  But we do get to have access to some of the best fresh seafood, courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico.

I was feeling adventurous yesterday, so I ran over to the fish market about 20 minutes from the house to see what they had in stock.  It’s always fun to arrive and see the shrimp trawlers pulled up to the docks out back, and see the guys unloading their haul with shovelfuls of ice.  The seagulls I could do without, though Rat Boy has believed they are his minions ever since the fateful beach trip where I gave him a bag of Goldfish crackers and let him feed the flying rats until his little heart was content.

Anyhow, I decided to get some Tilapia, mostly because it looked great, and they had already sold out of Redfish.

I like to bake Tilapia, as it’s pretty firm, but usually very thin.  The filets I got yesterday were a little more robust, but they were a bit larger than usual, so I guess that’s to be expected.  I start by slicing an onion (sweet for this dish) fairly thin, and layering it in the bottom of the pan.

The fish lays nicely on top.  This keeps it raised up on a little platform of onion, not soggily soaking in all the juices.  Plus, the onion tastes fabulous when it’s finished!

Sprinkle some black pepper and chili powder on the fish, then drizzle olive oil over the filets.  This is the thyme infusion I made about a month ago with thyme from the thyme/basil experimental pot on the porch.

I added a thinly sliced lemon and some coarsely chopped basil.

Pop it into a hot oven…400F for about 20-25 minutes.  The fish should be flaky when it’s done.

It just looks gorgeous when you pull it out of the oven.  If you’ve got a nice casserole dish, you can use that, and it goes straight to the table looking awesome!

Last night, it was available at my take out counter (aka the kitchen counter) with a mushroom couscous.

This is SO easy, and looks so pretty.  Everyone thinks it took hours to prepare.  Truth is, I only had the oven on for about 30 minutes in all.  But we won’t share that.

Don’t forget…keep wiping your brow and muttering, as I find that tends to keep the menfolk out of the kitchen.  Then enjoy a nice glass of vino!  🙂  And graciously accept their praise when they dig into this yumtastic fish!

Taking Root

Having crossed our great state of Texas 6 times in the past 3 weeks, I’m feeling a bit beat up.  Maybe it’s residual motion sickness.  Whatever.

A few things have kept me going, besides the awesomness of my family and friends.  One of them is Bloggess.  Because I feel a bit like Copernicus looks.  And I need hugs, too.

Since I’m really not up to actually murdering anyone today, I’ll also share with you all the end of the Basil rooting experiment.  It’s still alive and looking good, by the way.  Go me!  😛

The water is that interesting shade of brown due to the seaweed solution which I had dumped into the plain tap water.  Seaweed stimulates cell growth, so I was trying to be kind to the little rootlet before manhandling it.  And then the dirty work!

Looks happy, right?  Especially with a dish of yummy pasta with meat sauce sneaking into the photo!  Life is a juggling act…on one foot when you have a tiny kitchen.  😀

I’ll try really hard to have something more foody tomorrow.  Honestly, I just couldn’t find the motivation to visit the kitchen today, other than to make coffee this morning!  Maybe it was that yoga class last night.

After missing so many classes from being out of town, I could barely walk to the kitchen this morning.  😦

I struggled on…the coffee was worth it!

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