Thursday, September 20, 2012

Quick & Easy Super Chicken Supper!

Quick and Easy Super Supper - Chicken, Artichoke and Olive Pasta 

This one is for all the working cooks in the universe... I’m gonna say what you’re not supposed to say, “I’m too tired to make dinner tonight!”

Let me ask you, have you ever had no idea what to make for dinner?  You get home from work, and your mind goes blank when you walk into the kitchen? Do you stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open or at the stovetop, and nothing comes to mind?  Well, I have!  I’ve been so tired, spending the day extending my brain function beyond the acceptable capacity levels, that thought of going into the kitchen, and creating some spectacular dinner that’s going to dazzle the family, is simply too exhausting.

Well friends, I’ve got a recipe that will make your life a lot easier, and is a super supper. It’s Chicken, Artichoke, and Black Olive Pasta, a mouthwatering dinner that will grab hold of your salivary glands and put a smile on your lips. Toss a salad with a light vinaigrette, and a freshly baked baguette... dinner is served!

So what makes this so effortless? It’s simple – open a jar of red pasta sauce, grill a couple of chicken breasts, pour in a can of artichoke hearts, and finally, sliced black olives... Oh, and cook a package of linguini. Recipe below.

There are a couple of reasons why I love this dish, besides the easy part. First, it’s a dish from one of my favorite restaurants here in Sarasota – Crab & Fin, on St. Armand’s Circle. My husband and I go there for an occasional splurge. It also reminds me of some great times I’ve had sitting on the sidewalk veranda with my mom, friends and my husband, people watching and making fun memories. This entrĂ©e has been a standard on their menu for quite some time... in fact, since they were Charley's Crab many moons ago.

The other reason, well it’s a really tasty dish! All the elements together blend beautifully; the artichoke hearts add a creaminess with a hint of tanginess, the char of the chicken is warming, the deep ruby red sauce adds a level of comfort, and the black olives lend a little sweetness. One twirl of the fork, and you’ll taste for yourself!

I mentioned easy... I prefer to use a pre-made pasta sauce, but you could make your own (if you have the energy). My personal go-to-ready-made sauce is the Publix grocery store signature brand, either Tomato & Basil or the Garden Vegetable - both do quite nicely as a base. Besides, what you add to the sauce is what makes it your own! Now, if you want to make it more special, gourmet pasta sauces from a specialty market, like Casa Italia in Sarasota, add a layer of elegance to the dish. I’m sure the staff will have some appetizing suggestions for you!

SRQ Foodies Take on Crab & Fin’s Chicken, Artichoke Pasta
Serves 4

1 24 oz.  jar      Tomato Sauce
2                         Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts
1  14 oz.  can    Quartered Artichoke Hearts
½ c.                    Large Black Olives sliced
12 oz.                 Linguini cooked al dente (enough for four people)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, grill until thoroughly cooked. While chicken is cooking, heat sauce in pan over medium heat; add artichoke hearts and black olives.  Once chicken is cooked, let it rest 5 minutes and cut into bite size cubes, add to sauce.  While chicken is resting, bring water to a boil and cook linguini al dente. When pasta is ready, pour sauce over noodles, toss lightly, and top with a sprinkling of shaved parmesan. Godere! (Italian for enjoy according to Google Translate)

Seriously, you’re talking less than 30 minutes total for a fresh semi-homemade dinner – and it’s so much better than ordering a pizza or reheating a frozen dinner of some sort. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with frozen dinners, sometimes it’s nice to just heat something up. But... if you can make it yourself, the pride that comes from cooking dinner for the ones you love will boost your self-confidence and energize you!

Until next time....

May life be as delicious as your dishes!

SRQ Foodie

Monday, September 17, 2012

Girl Time – Refreshing Fun!

Watermelon, Feta and Basil Skewers and Sparkling Wine - An afternoon of friendship!

Seriously, he knows he's too cute!
One of my besties, Richelle, recently came for a short visit. It had been a while since we’d gotten together, so some serious catch up time was needed for both of us. I’d been a bit off for a few weeks, so a visit with her was just the right medicine to perk up my mood.   Even though her beautiful baby Kade took much of our attentions (he’s 7 month’s old and too cute for words) we got some real girl time in, catching up on what’s been happening with each other and a little venting. Thank goodness for girlfriends, who else but a true friend can you vent and confess to without judgment!  

Bubble, Bubble - no toil, no trouble
Girl time calls for bubbles and tasty snacks. On her way down, Richelle texted to ask if I had something chilled, and I replied, “I’ve got a bottle of sparkling wine on ice”.  Her response... “Perfect!” Trust me, it was! I had picked up a bottle of Domenico de Bertoil Prosecco from Italy at Casa Italia, a little gourmet market in Sarasota. It was creamy, with a slight crispness, and bright with tons of bubbles, or “beads” as the description read.  I don’t think the beads stopped rolling up the Champagne glasses until we finished. I love sparkling wine - it makes me happy!  

I wanted to make some appetizers that would we could enjoy without a lot of fuss, both in preparation and enjoyment. I remembered a wonderfully refreshing appetizer my husband and I had tried at a wine tasting a couple of months ago - Watermelon, Basil and Feta skewers. I thought that might go well with the bubbly, and it did! The recipe is so simple, watermelon, feta and basil on small toothpicks. It might sound like a strange combination but believe me - it’s not!

Bejewel your appetizers with these gems
Watermelon, Basil and Feta skewers are a great appetizer, and as I said, they’re super easy to assemble. Three ingredients and some toothpicks, a little prep time and voila, they’re done! The first time I tried to make these was quite humorous! The feta was a little crumbly, so when I tried to pierce the squares of cheese, they broke in half. UGH! My husband, who is very ingenious, pulled out the Dremel drill and tried to drill little holes in the center, some worked, some not. The cheese still split in two -double UGH! I even tried to squeeze the cheese together to give it a “fake” hold, but when we picked up the skewer, plop - the cheese fell off, and the watermelon square slide up and down the plastic pick.

Cheery appetizers - colorful pink and green
This time, I tried a different feta from the local Amish market, it seemed creamier, and I placed the cheese in the freezer while I cut the melon. That may have been the trick because it worked well, no splits, no crumbles, and the cheese stayed firmly on the toothpicks. These colorful appetizers are quite refreshing when you eat them. The basil adds an element of earthy greenness, the melon is sweet and rejuvenating and the feta offers a sharp tanginess. All three eaten together is really enjoyable. By the way, I found the cutest bejeweled party picks along my travels, and they add a little bling to the food.   

Recipe for Watermelon, Basil and Feta Skewer
SRQ Foodie’s Version

Small Seedless Watermelon – cut into bite size cubes
Creamy Feta Cheese – Cut into bite size cubes (keep cold until ready to cut)
Fresh Basil Leaves 
Small Toothpicks or Skewers

Cut melon and feta into bite size cubes (approx. ¾ inch each). If the basil leaves are huge, cut to no larger than a ½ inch each.  Pierce a cube of melon onto toothpick, then add basil and finish with cheese. That’s it!  I chilled for an hour before my girlfriend came over.

I wanted to do a second treat, and thought some mission figs with goat cheese would be a nice addition, and they were! I’ve seen a lot of photos of figs and goat cheese on Pinterest, and since I had some goat cheese and figs in the fridge, I decided to make up my own creation... figs sliced in half with a dollop of goat cheese placed on top. YUM!  Nothing fancy and certainly, not a lot of effort. There are some really great recipes for mission figs online, one in particular that has caught my eye, is from one of my blog idols; Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy. Here’s her recipe for Roasted Chevre, Honey, Walnut Stuffed Figs. It’s definitely on my list to try!

All in all, my afternoon with my bestie was like the hors d’oeurves, refreshing and rejuvenating.  And the girl talk was just what the doctor ordered, so to speak. My advice to you - if you’re feeling blue get together with your girlfriends, chill a bottle of sparkling wine and make these appetizers... I promise, you’ll be better in no time at all!

Until later... May life be as delicious as your dishes!
SRQ Foodie

By the way, I welcome feedback, comments, suggestions or your recipes you want to share! Message me at srqfoodie