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Fusilli with Veggie Medley

Happy September! It’s officially time to get out my leaf garlands, scarecrows and hay bales. This is my favorite time of year, and as the weather grows a bit chilly at night, I wanted to take advantage of some of the still fresh veggies of summer. So for dinner tonight it was a light pasta dish filled with fresh asparagus, woody mushrooms and sweet orange bell pepper. Throw in some chicken for protein and I had a perfectly balanced, delicious meal! This is a great dinner to stretch chicken as well – it makes a TON of food, but only uses two chicken breasts.

Fusilli with Veggie Medley

Fusilli with Veggie Medley
  • 1 (16 ounce) package dried fusilli pasta
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 chicken bullion cubes
  • 1 bunch slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 C baby Portobello mushrooms, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain, and set aside.
  2. Warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder – cook in pan until chicken is cooked through and browned, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to paper towels.
  3. Dissolve chicken bullion cubes into water. Pour broth into the skillet. Then stir in asparagus, mushrooms, peppers, garlic, and a pinch more garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cover, and steam until the asparagus is just tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. (check tenderness after 5 minutes)
  4. Return chicken to the skillet, and warm through.
  5. Stir pasta into chicken mixture,  and mix well. Let sit about 5 minutes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, stir again, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
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Chicken Cacciatore

I’ve been using up some beef most of the week – and tonight was in the mood for some light chicken. Also, it’s Friday…the start of the weekend! Perfect time to pop open a bottle of the good Sonoma Valley wine my husband bought on our recent family vacation to Windsor, CA. Since I don’t drink wine, I try to cook with it whenever my hubby wants to indulge in a good glass. So, what can I make with chicken and a good petite sirah? Why, chicken cacciatore of course!

Chicken Cacciatore over farfalle

Chicken Cacciatore

1 cup all-purpose flour for coating
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes + 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 C fresh chopped parsley
3/4 C red wine
2 cups fresh mushrooms, quartered
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pat chicken dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Combine the flour, more salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Shake the chicken pieces in flour until coated. Using tongs, shake excess flour from chicken. Heat the oil in a large skillet (one that has a cover/lid) over medium high until pan is hot. Fry the chicken pieces until they are browned on both sides. Remove from skillet and set aside on plate.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper to the skillet and saute until the onion is slightly browned, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet and add the tomatoes, parsley, Italian seasoning and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes over medium low heat.
  3. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for 10 more minutes. If you desire a thicker sauce dissolve 1 T cornstarch into 1 T water and add to sauce, stirring quickly to incorporate.

We served this up over farfalle pasta (what my daughter calls little butterflies) with some fresh steamed broccoli and homemade quick rolls. It was earthy, full of flavor and delicious. The chicken was fork tender and practically melted in my mouth. The great thing about this dish is that it’s really light, despite the full-bodied flavor. There’s almost no fat in it at all, but you’d never guess it by the taste! This is also easily adaptable to whatever you like – if you’re a fan of chicken on the bone, this would be amazing, I’m sure the chicken would be falling right off the bones. You could omit any of the veggies you don’t like or add some additional ones (carrots anyone?). I’m sure you could use white wine or chicken broth/stock instead of the red. Really it would be pretty hard to mess this up. As with almost all Italian dishes, once the leftovers have smooshed (very technical word) their flavors together overnight, it’s even better! Actually, I just took the pieces of chicken that were left, cut them up into chunks and mixed them in with the remaining sauce for easy serving leftovers. Is it tomorrow yet?

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