Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lemon Basil Pasta with Garlic Lemon Chicken

 

I first tried this recipe out one one of my best friends a few months ago. We loved it, her and her hubs loved it - and it has become a regular ever since!

I guess you could describe the sauce as a light Alfredo - - with a kick. I adapted the sauce from my Chicken Bryan recipe - minus the butter and tomatoes, plus a little milk and Parmesan. And, of course - I topped it with garlic lemon chicken, my as of recent go-to chicken recipe. 

Lemon Basil Pasta with Garlic Lemon Chicken
Serves 6-8 

Pasta Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
½ - ⅔ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
½ cup cream
½ cup milk (plus up to ½ cup more - to thin sauce)
1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 large handful fresh basil, chopped (do not use dried!!)
16 ounces pasta, cooked and warm (I use penne)
vegetables - chopped and cooked (I like to saute zucchini and yellow squash in just enough butter to prevent sticking)

Directions:
1. Saute garlic with butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until fragrant. Add
in lemon juice and white wine and bring to simmer for 2-3 minutes to reduce sauce by about half.
2. Remove from heat and slowly wisk in cream and milk. Add in Parmesan cheese back over low heat, stirring until melted. Add in more milk if necessary to thin sauce (I usually add about 1/3 cup more for a thin sauce). Stir in fresh basil.
3. Toss sauce with cooked pasta and vegetables.


Lemon Chicken Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts – pounded to uniform thickness
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons white wine (optional)
olive oil

Rub:
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teapsoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
dash of cayenne and paprika

Directions:

1. Mix together rub ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle liberally on both sides of the
chicken.
2. Heat just enough olive oil to coat bottom of large skillet, heat over medium. Brown chicken on both sides.
3. Pour lemon juice and wine in skillet, simmering to deglaze and reduce around chicken.
4. Continue to cook the chicken as the sauce reduces, occasionally flipping to coat
with sauce, until chicken is done.
5. Allow to cool for a few minutes - slice into strips.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mango-Berry Quinoa Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing


 

This dish pretty much sums up all of my current food obsessions. I bought a 4-pound bag of organic quinoa from Costco last week, and have been trying to think of creative ways to add it into our meals, especially in dishes the kids will eat.


Quinoa itself is pretty bland, and tasteless - but it really adds a neat texture, color, and wonderful nutrition when added to a recipe - taking on all of the flavors around it.

If you have never cooked with it - think of it kind of like oatmeal. You wouldn't put a bowl of plain oatmeal in front of the family and expect them to eat it and love it, but add some fruit, and a little cinnamon and honey - and it's a great, wholesome breakfast.

Which - is where I got my inspiration for this salad. We see a lot of savory recipes that use quinoa, but I haven't seen too many sweet. I have also been incorporating lemon and basil into just about everything I can think of lately - and I thought that the combo would really freshen and sweeten the fruit even more.

This simple salad is so versatile - I had a little bit of the leftovers warmed up for breakfast, also great as a salad with dinner, a snack for the kids, or even a healthy dessert!

This is a great way to step up any fresh-fruit salad, adding nutrition and unique, fresh flavor. I am sure this will be a regular for us this summer as more fresh fruit comes into season!


Mango-Berry Quinoa Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing
(this makes a pretty big salad - more potluck sized, I would probably cut it in half for a family)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed VERY VERY well
2 1/2 cups water (more or less)
zest from 1/2 lemon (about a teaspoon)
3 cups dicced fruit (I used mangoes, strawberries, and blueberries)
handful of basil - about a 1/2 cup, loosely packed (plus more for garnish)
1/4 cup honey
1-2 lemons

Directions:
Rinse quinoa very well, until water is perfectly clear. In a medium saucepan, add quinoa, water, lemon zest, and stems from basil. Over medium-high heat, bring the quinoa to a simmer. Once it begins simmering, remove basil stems, and cover. Continue to simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Add more water while cooking, if necessary.

 

When the quinoa is finished, fluff it with a fork and allow it to cool, uncovered while you prepare the sauce and fruit.

Add a handful of basil leaves to a mortar and pestle, and crush until a paste is formed. (I had about 1 Tablespoon.) 

If you do not have a mortar and pestle - you could either mince the basil by hand, or throw the basil, honey, and lemon juice all in a food processor or blender.


Wisk honey and lemon juice into the basil paste.

Prepare fruit by dicing into uniform-sized pieces.


In a large bowl, combine fruit and sauce. Stir to coat.


Then, add in the quinoa. Chill for at least two hours, stir again before serving.




Wednesday, April 4, 2012

'Skinny' Mug-Brownie




Last night, I was feeling sorry for myself - and with no chocolate in sight to initiate my pity party, I decided to 1/8 my brownie recipe and cook it in a mug. I have tried other mug brownie and mug cake recipes before - and haven't really loved any of them. But this - was delicious. Today, I looked up the calorie count - 752. Yikes. No pity party should ever merit that many calories, let alone from a single mug! I'm gross.

So today - I set out to try a "skinny" version of my recipe. I tried two versions, replacing the butter/oil with yogurt in one, and applesauce in another, and switching out the sugar for organic agave nectar in one, and honey in the other. Also, substituting half of the flour for whole wheat in both.

187 calories, people.

That's 1/4 the calories of yesterday's attempt at a Biggest Loser contestant. 187 calories is less than eating two of those little dinky "100-calorie packs." Promise, this will satisfy your sweet tooth. Those little bags, will not.

Honestly, bite-for-bite, I would probably choose my original full-fat, full-sugar, full-calorie recipe in a blind taste test. But, this skinny version is seriously good. Really good. And after eating an entire serving - without the guilt, the greasy after-taste, and not to mention the extra 565 calories - makes this version completely worth it.


 
I tried two different versions of this same recipe. On the left, I used agave nectar and yogurt, on the right is honey and applesauce.

Honestly, they taste almost identical. If I had to choose a favorite, I would probably choose the agave nectar mug. You could sub applesauce for the yogurt and vice versa, and I don't think you would even notice a difference. The agave and honey just sweeten a little bit differently.

The mug on the left was cooked perfectly, the mug on the right I overcooked just a bit. My husband likes almost anything baked over-done, but I always like mine soft and gooey!

Skinny Mug Brownies

Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon applesauce or yogurt - any variety (I used a fat free light vanilla yogurt - you could also use a plain Greek, or even a fruit-flavored yogurt)
2 Tablespoons agave nectar or honey (I used an organic blue agave nectar)
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons flour (I used 1 T white, 1 T whole-wheat)
1 Tablespoon egg white (If doubling, use one whole egg white)
1 Tablespoon chocolate chips
1 little splash of vanilla (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1 generous pinch salt

Directions:
1. Mix all ingredients together in a mug with a fork.
2. Microwave for about 30 seconds. Do  NOT over bake - or it will turn out like a dry chocolate sponge. The brownie will be done when bubbles form at the top - but still looks wet.
3. The brownie will be HOT. Let it stand for a few minutes - and enjoy your guilt-free treat!

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