Taste and see …

Comfort food at its best August 29, 2011

Filed under: Dinner — F. Penner @ 6:41 PM
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After a weekend of wondering whether the tornado was going to take me away, or if I was going to lose my power, or if the rain was just going to wash us all away, and not really eating anything that constitutes ‘real food’ in anyone’s book (baked veggie sticks, cookie dough, tortilla chips… although there may have been a few fruits & veggies in there) I wanted something real.  Something comforting & delicious (obviously!), but I wanted to eat an actual meal.  Thankfully, I hadn’t lost power, so I didn’t have to throw anything out – I went looking in my freezer & fridge, and found some chicken drumsticks and some potatoes.  I then raided my cupboards and found some canned green beans that were ‘best by’ last Monday.  I double-checked online to make sure they were safe to eat, and voilà!  I had my homemade, comforting, delicious ‘real’ meal – oven-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  Total American comfort food.

As I was getting the chicken ready, I remembered that a while back I had roasted a whole chicken, and saved every last bit of that bird that I could.  I’d already made stock from the bones, but I still had a whole container full of the drippings – which meant I could make gravy to go with my mashed potatoes!!  Sweet!  I’ve really only ever made gravy when I make shepherd’s pie (and I think I may have attempted it for the 2 times I’ve ever made roast beef) but I know the general idea.  So after getting the chicken, potatoes & green beans underway, I threw 2 tablespoons of the chicken drippings and 2 tablespoons of flour in a pan, let that warm up and mix up so I had a nice roux, then added 3/4 of a cup of water from the potatoes (right before I drained them) and 1 1/4 cups of chicken stock.  Then I let that cook ’til it thickened, seasoning it with salt & pepper, and then (for any Bridget Jones fans) – I sieved it, but not because it was lumpy… Since I had used the chicken drippings, there were bits of chicken in the gravy that I didn’t really want.

Gravy before sieving...

... and after - ready to go on my potatoes! 🙂

I didn’t use any kind of recipe for the chicken or potatoes – never have.  I think this meal was probably one of the first meals I ever cooked back in high school – my mom was getting her master’s degree, so she’d leave me directions for dinner when she had class.  I dredged the chicken pieces in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and added a little bit of olive oil drizzled on the bottom of the pan and over the chicken, then cooked it at 375° until it got golden brown (although I do have a thermometer that I probably should have used…).  As for the potatoes, I like mine with salt, pepper, butter, milk, and cream cheese (or sour cream).  Soo good!!!

the end result - yum!!


Pita bread & lentils April 18, 2011

Filed under: Breads,Dinner — F. Penner @ 11:19 PM
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I’ve been trying for like, 2 years, to get the spices for this one meal I had at my best friend’s house one time, and I finally remembered to ask her a) when I was visiting and b) when I had a pen & paper handy!  I decided that I was going to make it as soon as possible when I got back from vacation, because I remember it just being really really good (I don’t think she’s ever served me anything that wasn’t…).  This is going to be kind of a ‘lazy’ entry, because I didn’t measure any of the spices, I just threw them all in, then added more of whatever I wanted more of!  It’s basically chicken, lentil soup, and a whole bunch of spices.  Since I’m just one person, I made a smaller amount, so just mess around with the amount of chicken & soup, etc., for however many you’re cooking for.  I probably made enough for 3-4 servings…

Chicken with lentil soup

  • 1-2 (depending on size) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
  • olive oil
  • 1 can Progresso Lentil Soup (or your lentil soup of preference)
  • cinnamon
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • oregano
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • thyme

Cook the chicken pieces until just cooked with a little bit of salt & pepper (and I added some garlic powder too), drain the juices if you want, then add the can of soup and the spices to your taste.  I ended up adding in more cinnamon and coriander because I couldn’t taste them – the garlic and cumin kind of overpowered everything else.  I let this mixture simmer at low heat, covered, while I baked up the pita bread.  You can also serve this over rice, with or without the pita.  The pita just sops up the soup so nicely, though!  And again – since this is a ‘lazy’ entry, I’m just posting the link for the pita bread.

Pita bread from Tasty Kitchen

I was right – this was really tasty, and quite filling (and made me feel all healthy and stuff!).  I realize the picture of the chicken and lentils really doesn’t look appetizing, but it really is yummy…  You can always just buy the pita bread, but I wanted to try making it cuz I’m odd like that (I also really like baking bread – and I don’t have a bread machine, so I get to knead it all myself!  It’s wicked fun – seriously.).



Chicken & pasta with… white wine August 16, 2010

Filed under: Dinner,Pasta — F. Penner @ 7:30 PM
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That’s right.

I cooked with wine for the first time ever in my life a few days ago.  And I didn’t even buy the wine – it was given to me because it was given to one of my friends and she didn’t want it.  So yay! for free wine!! 🙂  I decided to make this recipe because I saw the ‘mac and cheese’ part of the title and immediately wanted to try it.  Unfortunately, the sauce doesn’t actually have any cheese in it, so unless you sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta when it’s all done (which I recommend) it’s not so much mac and cheese.  It’s still good.  It’s a little involved, with all the chopping and julienning, but it’s worth it.  Oh, and it calls for a pound of pasta, but I’m pretty sure I only used half a pound, or whatever half a box of mini fusilli pasta is, and it was plenty!!  I think if I had made the entire box, there wouldn’t have been enough sauce to go around.

  • 2 whole Shallots, Finely Chopped
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped
  • 1 whole Zucchini, Julienned
  • 1 whole Medium Carrot, Julienned
  • 2 whole Chicken Breasts, Trimmed
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ¾ cups Dry White Wine
  • ¾ cups Chicken Stock
  • 1-¼ cup Cream
  • ⅓ cups Pasta Water Reserved
  • 1 pound Pasta (fusilli Is Great, But Spaghetti Or Angel Hair Are A Fun Twist Too)

Finely chop the shallots and garlic, then set aside.  Cut the zucchini into 1/4-inch medallions, then into 1/4 inch strips and set them aside.  Peel the carrot and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces.  Halve each piece lengthwise, then slice them into 1/4 inch matchsticks and set aside.

Trim the chicken breasts and separate the fillet.  Season both sides of all 4 pieces with salt and pepper.

Fill a large pot of water and set it on the stovetop to boil.  Heat a large skillet to high heat.  (The recipe recommended stainless steel for a better fond, which I happened to have, so I used that instead of my non-stick pan.) Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and let that heat up.  Place the chicken in, “show side” down.  Make sure the pieces have a bit of oil on them to help caramelize, and then leave them alone for 2-4 minutes.  When they’ve got a nice brown crust, turn them over and brown the other side for 2-3 minutes.

Note: The pan will probably be very hot. Watch carefully so that you don’t burn the chicken and turn it down to medium-high heat.

Remove the chicken to a clean cutting board to rest.  It’s not cooked yet, but it will finish cooking when it gets mixed back into the sauce.  Cooking it in the two stages keeps it from drying out.

Add the pasta to the water, and give it a stir.  Cook the pasta until 1-2 minutes before al dente (according to the instructions for the pasta).  It’s going to continue to cook when it’s added to the sauce.  Drain and set aside.  Don’t forget to reserve 1/3 of a cup of the pasta water!

Put the skillet back on the stove at medium-high heat.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil.  Drop in the garlic and shallots.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir regularly until golden brown.  Add ¾ cup white wine and deglaze the pan.  Make sure to scrape up all the fond.  Continue to let the sauce simmer and when the liquid has reduced to about a third or a half of what it originally was, add in the chicken stock.  Reduce the liquid again to about a third or a half.

While reducing the sauce, use tongs and a sharp knife to slice the chicken into strips, and then into bite-sized pieces.

Add 1 ¼ cups cream to the sauce, and stir.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the carrots and the chicken.  Stir and bring to a boil.  This is important to finish cooking the chicken.  Keep it boiling and stir occasionally over the next two minutes to make sure that the chicken is cooked through.  Stir in half the pasta water you set aside.  Add the pasta, and mix it all together.  Throw the zucchini pieces in and give everything a final stir.

The next couple of minutes are crucial – the pasta will still be cooking and absorbing liquid and this is when the overall creaminess of your dish will be determined.  If it is too thick, add remaining pasta water or wine or stock.  If it is too thin, let it reduce.  If its not rich enough, add more cream and reduce.  You be the judge.  Just be patient, the pasta will absorb liquid.  Check every 30 seconds, give it a mix to see if it’s the way you like it. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve it with some Parmesan sprinkled over the top.


Cooking with Renee July 10, 2010

Filed under: Dinner — F. Penner @ 8:14 PM
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I made dinner with one of my friends the other night because she wanted to make Chicken Cordon Bleu but didn’t know how.  Neither did I, really, but I’d eaten it before, and I knew the general principle, and how hard could it be, really??  So I got all the stuff we needed, she came over, and we cooked!  We made the chicken, mashed potatoes, and roasted broccoli. It was all very yummy (and I didn’t get any pictures so there are no visuals) and it was good girl time!  We also watched ‘The young Victoria,’ which was really good if you haven’t seen it.

We started with the chicken – pounded it out like the recipe said – and got all the coating stuff ready.  Then I decided that maybe we should get to the potatoes because sometimes those take longer than I think they should.  So we left the chicken, peeled and cut the potatoes and got them going, then went back to the chicken.  I didn’t have any plastic wrap, so when it says to pound the chicken in between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, well, I didn’t do that :).  Which probably made rolling it up a little more difficult.   Which possibly made coating the pieces in the panko more difficult.  Oh well.  It still tasted yummy!  It took longer to cook than the 20-25 minutes the recipe says.  Maybe we didn’t pound it thin enough?  Or maybe I just need to get a meat thermometer.  And the broccoli… I don’t think I’ve roasted broccoli, but let me just say – it was good.  You should make this recipe.  Alton Brown knows his stuff.  Broccoli + olive oil + garlic + panko + cheddar cheese = wicked good!


Curried chicken and tortellini salad June 19, 2010

Filed under: Pasta,Salads — F. Penner @ 11:24 AM
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I think I might be back into my sort of groove with trying new things – and posting them!  I don’t even remember how I came across this recipe at Cooking.com – I know I was supposed to be working and not looking for recipes :/  Since I made the Chicken and cherries I discovered that I kind of like curry powder.  And I like almost everything else in this recipe too, so since it’s summer and I’m all about the weather-appropriate food, I decided to go for it!  I went with a store-bought rotisserie chicken and dried cranberries.  I also used a little bit of sour cream in place of some of the mayo, and I only used 1/2 a cup total.  (I’m not the hugest fan of mayo – hence the sour cream substitution – plus I needed to use the 1/4 cup or so that I had left :))  Because I was a little wary of just dumping everything on top of the pasta and chicken, I mixed the sour cream, mayo, curry powder, salt & pepper together before I added.  I didn’t want to have one bite that was all curry powder, and another that was all mayo.  Ew!!  After having this for lunch a couple days in a row, I began to wish that I had gone with the 3/4 cup of mayo/sour cream, because it got a little dry.  The first plate or two I had was fine, though.


  • 1 12-16 oz. package tortellini or ravioli
  • 1 cooked rotisserie or barbecued chicken
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 cup chopped apples, dried cherries, or dried cranberries (or a combination)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste


  1. Cook the tortellini or ravioli according to package directions.  Drain and put into a medium bowl.  While the pasta is cooking, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and discard.
  2. Cut the remaining chicken meat into bite-sized pieces and add to the pasta.  Chop the scallions and add the chopped white part and some of the chopped green stem.
  3. Add the fruit, mayonnaise, peas, curry powder, salt, if desired, and pepper, if desired.  Mix well.  Garnish with remaining chopped green part of the scallions, to taste.