Posts tagged Italian food

Kids Eating….sauteed spinach

I love spinach nearly as much as I do dark chocolate. Seriously, when there was the E. Coli outbreak back in 2006 linked to bagged spinach I felt like I went through leafy green withdrawl (so sad to see it stripped from all the grocery store shelves—if only I were a decent gardener!). Romaine lettuce, iceberg, butter lettuce, they’re okay, but the thick heft and chewiness of leaf of spinach, simply tasty.

Not so for my kids. “This tastes like you’re eating leaves,” my oldest said once. “Well… you are,” I explained. Of course, that didn’t make her any more eager to eat it. So I add spinach into my foods, but I don’t push it with my girls.

Sometimes, it’s all about the recipe. The other day I had a duel challenge—my kids aren’t huge gnocchi fans and well, you already know their thoughts on my favorite veggie. But I wanted a meal with both. I made them plain pasta and for my husband and me I tried something new. For each of my girls I put a little of my new creation on their plates and expected to eat their leftovers later. No leftovers. In fact, my two oldest girls went back for seconds—we’re talking sautéed spinach here. And it wasn’t a fluke. I made the recipe again this week and sure enough they ate it. I wish I could say the recipe was something terribly creative and unique, but taking a few extra steps was what made the dish yummy. That and I didn’t try to tweak it for my girls, I just made something I wanted to eat.

My daughter with a second helping

*Note—for this recipe I tried a stir-fry technique with Italian food. I sauteed the veggies first (the spinach) and moved it to the sides of the pan as you would in a wok. Then I add the main ingredient (the gnocchi) to the center of the pan and then tossed in my sauce ingredients. Couldn’t have been simpler and less mess to clean up too.

Fast & Easy Creamy Sauteed Spinach with Ricotta and Fontina Gnocchi

Ingredients

1 17.6 ounce package gnocchi

4 cups spinach

1 cup ricotta

¾ cup fontina

1 clove garlic

1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil, separated

ground pepper and salt to taste

2 Tablespoons either half and half or cream (optional)

Fresh, chopped basil (optional)

Directions

Cook the gnocchi according the package directions.

Add the olive oil to a large sauté pan and bring to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds before adding the spinach (I don’t even bother pulling them into smaller pieces I just throw them whole into the pan). Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or just until the spinach leaves just barely begin to wilt. Push the spinach to the outer sides of the pan and add another ½ tablespoon of oil. Add the cooked gnocchi to the middle of the pan. Let the gnocchi cook for about 4 minutes before moving them around.

Now that the gnocchi have had time to sauté, turn the heat down to medium. Add the ricotta cheese in dollops on top of the gnocchi and sprinkle with the cheese.  Don’t mix the ingredients until you see cheese just beginning to melt. Sprinkle with pepper and salt, stir briefly until the cheeses mix with the rest of the ingredients. For a creamier sauce you can add a few tablespoons half and half or heavy cream at this point. You can also toss in fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and/or a few red pepper flakes. Serve.

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30-Minute Meal: Easy Chicken Parmesan

Ah, the 30-minute meal. Just because you need something quick and easy to make, it doesn’t mean you have to reach for the mac ‘n cheese box. Although having Cheerios for dinner every once in awhile doesn’t hurt anyone, right?

Chicken Parmesan has become a standard around our house, but not just because it’s a cinch to make. Along with having a short ingredient list (made up of mostly things you should have on hand), this dish tastes like it took hours to prepare.

Want to know the secret? Keeping it simple. The dish combines butter, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, garlic and chicken—that’s it. You batter the chicken with the Parmesan to create a crust. Unlike traditional Parmesan chicken, there’s no need to dip the chicken three times—in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs mixed with Parmesan. And no need to fry the chicken either, a little broiling at the end makes for a crispy finish. Instead, you can dip the chicken right into the cheese, then just pour the butter over the top. The chicken is oven-ready in less than ten minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, I prepare pasta noodles and heat up a marinara sauce to serve alongside. Okay, I’m going to have an infomercial moment now, but here goes—wait, there’s more! I can usually turn this one meal into two. With the leftover chicken, I make Italian subs the next day. On a hoagie roll, I add thin sliced Parmesan chicken, then ham or pepperoni (or skip the additional meat altogether), then tomato, shredded lettuce and add a little mayo to the bun. I often sprinkle either dried oregano or basil onto the mayo and even add a few drops of red wine vinegar to give the sandwich a little zing.

So one, 30-minute meal can actually give you two days worth of bring-the-family-around-the-kitchen-table worthy dinners. Maybe, this does deserve the infomercial treatment!

Recipe

Ingredients:
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 8-ounce packaged shredded Parmesan cheese
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9” x 13” baking dish with heavy aluminum foil (not a necessary step, but it makes clean up soooo much easier). Lightly coat the pan with cooking spray.

Cut the chicken breasts into long pieces (or tenders). Empty half of the bag of Parmesan into a shallow tray or plate. Mix the pepper and garlic into the Parmesan cheese. Dip each chicken piece into the Parmesan and then place onto the pan, being careful not to crowd the meat. Add more Parmesan cheese to the plate when needed. Drizzle the butter onto the meat.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees as the meat’s internal temperature. Bump the oven heat up to broil. Heat the chicken on the broil temperature until the cheese just begins to become browned (about 2 minutes). Remove the chicken from the oven. I usually serve the chicken along with pasta and spaghetti sauce. With the leftovers, I cut the strips into thin pieces and place on a deli roll, along with shredded lettuce, tomato, and mayo (sprinkled with a little dried oregano or basil) to create an Italian sub sandwich.

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Better than Pizzeria Pizza

Sausage pizza perfection!

I’m not a huge fan of Chicago-style pizza where the crust plays center stage and the ingredients are an afterthought. Maybe it’s having spent a few years in New York eating thin-crusted pies that you fold over and eat with your mouth turned so that the fresh mozzarella doesn’t drip off onto your plate. Seems like the crust should be somewhere in between that wafer-like crust that sometimes gets a little too dry and the loaf-style pies that leave you feeling stuffed after just one bite. This recipe finds that happy medium—plus it’s so easy to make.

In my family, each person gets to fashion a pie. My oldest child loads hers with meat, while my youngest has lately decided she prefers Hawaiian style. It’s become a favorite meal at our house, even if it’s more work than picking up a couple Hot & Ready’s from Little Caesar’s around the corner. With any extra dough, we melt butter and brush it across the dough and sprinkle the leftover cheese on it for breadsticks. So if you’ve never attempted pizza at home, what are you waiting for? And if you’ve tried making pizza in the past but have had lackluster results, give this a try.

Here’s the recipe:

*Note: I always double this recipe so that there are plenty of leftovers. But, I do both batches separate in my food processor. This will make between 7-8, 8”-9” pies.

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups water, slightly warm

2 T. sugar

1 packet yeast (or 2 ¼ teaspoons)

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup bread flour

1 T. salt

3 T. olive oil

1 jar spaghetti sauce

Pizza toppings: ham, black olives, pepperoni, sausage, salami, mozarella cheese

Directions

In a small bowel or measuring cup mix together sugar, yeast, and warm water. Let this mixture sit at least three minutes or until bubbly. While the yeast proofs, in a food processor, mixer or large bowl measure out the dry ingredients (if you don’t have bread flour, no problem. Bread flour will give you a richer texture, but it’s not the end of the world—or your pizza—if you use 100% all-purpose flour in the recipe). Add the olive oil to the yeast mixture. If you’re using a food processor, add the liquid ingredients while the processor is running. Alternatively, use a mixer or handheld mixer to pull the ingredients together. Mix until the dough comes together to form a ball. The dough should be sticky. Add extra flour or a little water to get the right consistency.

On a floured cutting board, knead the dough until the ball is smooth. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Place the dough ball into the bowl and flip once so that it’s covered slightly with oil. Cover with a dampened kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for at least an hour or until doubled in size (if it goes a little longer, that’s fine).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. At your floured cutting board, pour out the dough ball and divide into four equal parts—or two big balls if you’re doing larger pizzas. Keep the balls covered with the damp towel while you’re working on the other ball. Roll out the dough to about ¼” thickness, adding flour as necessary. Spray your pizza pans with cooking oil and then sprinkle with cornmeal. (I use pie pans, springform pans, and even cast iron skillets for pizzas.) Gently transfer the dough to the pan and press in. Prick the dough with a fork and fold over any extra dough at the edges.

Spread ½ cup or more spaghetti sauce onto the dough. Add your pizza toppings and add cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. With extra dough, I make breadsticks.

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