January 10, 2011

No Fuss

I have had several readers request that I write a post about easy recipes they can make in a snap yet still get the stamp of approval on the deliciousness factor from their picky eaters.  So here it is, the no fuss post.  We are all busy.  Lets face it, we live in a time that moves a day ahead (sometimes a week) then the actual moment.  We are all products of this fast-paced, in your face type of lifestyle.  Does this mean we should get use to the excuse of being the Queen of "take out" or letting your husband be the king in the kitchen (by all means though, if he offers...let him. Ha.)?!  No mam!  There is something very satisfying for both the heart (and the belly) when you can cook for your family, friends, and loved ones.  They say the "home is where the heart is".  I say "my heart belongs in the kitchen".  Have you ever wondered why the Kitchen is always the central point in a house? Like all rooms and hallways lead there?  For good reason; everyone always gathers in the kitchen, like the command central. It is a place to fill your belly and soul.  Even if you think you can't cook or don't have time, I promise you can and you do.  I love to cook (like you didn't know that already), so making dinner for me is a time of joy during my day.  I can put my favorite apron on, and start dancing in the kitchen with my pots and spoons as if I was doing the mambo.  I love it.  One tip I learned a long time ago, was to make a meal plan for the week.  I like to do mine on Sunday evenings for the upcoming week (I usually cook about 5 nights a week, the other 2 are for going out).  It keeps you organized so you only have to make one trip to the store for the week, and you know ahead of time what you will be cooking for dinner that night, which saves you stress and time so you won't be scrambling the last minute.  The following recipes are dinners that make it to my list time and time again.  They are all super fast, scrumptious, and easy easy easy (aka NO FUSS). They are favorites of my little family and I hope you can find the time to start cooking and enjoying it if you don't already.

P.S.  this is totally unrelated, but I went to Ikea today and it is seriously one of my favorite places on the planet...is that weird?!  It isn't like it was my first time there where I was transported into some Swedish dream world.  It just now hit me that this place majorly rocks my socks!  I got to drop my 3 year old off to their fantasy land/kid place where he had the time of his life with his cousins, while I shopped.  Then the kids got their entire lunch free, and to top it off I got a ton of stuff for under $50 and then we got Frozen Yogurt there for $1!  This place is heaven.  I am going again this week.  It will be my new second home.
P.S.S. Ryder lost his shoe there (Ikea) today.  Some guy points it out and I say "I know, I don't want to trace my steps back in Ikea".  Seriously, could you imagine? I would still be there looking....
P.S.S.S My husband hates when I get amped up and get excited for our family date night to Ikea to see what tickles my fancy.  He is a good hubby though and tags along.  Thanks babe for letting me be goofy in my Swedish Wonderland.

Ok, onward to the recipes (what you have been waiting for!).  Enjoy!
Grilled Chicken Fajitas (My own recipe)
Garlic and Herb Marinade (recipe to follow)
4 Thin Chicken Breast (thin chicken breast are much faster on the grill to cook then thick cut)
White Onion (chopped into strips)
1 red Bell Pepper (chopped into strips)
1 Green Bell Pepper (chopped into strips)
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
1 clove of Garlic (minced or pressed)
Monterrey Cheese (shredded)
Fresh Avocado slices
Whole-wheat tortillas (I buy mine at Trader Joes, they are my favorite ones).

Marinate the Chicken for at least 4 hours prior to grilling.  Grill the Chicken until completely done and no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear, on your outdoor grill or Foreman, or a grill pan (really whatever works for you).  As the Chicken is grilling, saute the Garlic, Onion and Peppers in a little Extra-Virgin Olive Oil in a Pan until they are soft and tender.  Cut the Chicken into strips and set on a platter next to the onion and peppers.  Warm your tortillas in the micro for a few seconds.  Fill your Tortilla with the veggies, chicken, and top with cheese and avocado slices Done!  Told you it was as easy as it gets.

Garlic and Herb Marinade
**I make this in a cruet and use half the bottle for marinating the chicken for fajitas, then I store it in the fridge and use the rest to marinade chicken to grill the next night.  It is much fresher and Delicious than buying a bottled marinade.
1/3 cup Water
1/3 cup Vinegar
1/3 cup Vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried Italian-style seasoning
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp crushed dried rosemary
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well and shake vigorously.  That is it!

**For another quick Dinner, use the Marinade above to marinade Chicken, grill the Chicken and serve over a salad of Spinach, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes with a Greek Dressing (recipe to follow).  You could also serve with crostini or any crusty bread if you want a starch.

Greek Dressing (allrecipes.com)
1 cup Extra-Virgin Olive oil
3 tsp Garlic Powder
3 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp dried basil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients, except the red wine vinegar, very well.  Pour the vinegar into the mix and mix again vigorously until well blended (shake).  Store in tight container and store.

Lemon Chicken Breasts (Ina Garten- Barefoot Contessa)
1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbl minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup white wine
1 tbl grated lemon zest (from two lemons)
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
         salt (I always use sea salt) and fresh ground black pepper
4 boneless Chicken breasts (6 oz each breast)
1 lemon

Warm the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the Garlic.  Cook Garlic for about 1 minute.  Off the hear, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and salt.  Pour this sauce into a 9X12 baking dish.

Place the chicken breasts over the sauce in the pan.  Cut the lemon into about 8 wedges and tuck wedges among the pieces of chicken.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly done.  Cover with foil and let sit 10 min.

**This is a great recipe for days that are busy, because you can put in the pan in minutes and then it cooks for a full 40-50 minutes, so you can be busy doing other stuff while it is baking.  I like to serve this with just a boxed Italian couscous (Sprouts has a good variety) or a loaf of fresh from the oven garlic bread (toast Garlic bread in the oven with the chicken for the last ten minutes or so that the Chicken has to cook.  I also like to serve this with french string beans(we like these way better then American green beans) seasoned with Olive Oil and lemon pepper. **

Simple Salmon (my own recipe)
2 (6 oz.) Skinless Salmon Fillets (about 1 lb)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Lemon Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp dried Rosemary
1 lemon

In a baking dish, lay Fillets down, face up.  drizzle about 2 tsp Olive oil over the fillets, season with a pinch of sea salt (to taste).  In a small bowl, mix the Lemon Pepper, Garlic Powder, and Rosemary together.  Sprinkle spice mixture over the oiled fillets.  Slice lemon into 8 wedges.  Use 4 wedges to tuck around the Salmon, reserve the other 4 wedges for later.  Broil the Salmon for about 10 min on High, or until the fish is no longer pink in the middle.  When it is done, let the fish rest for a few minutes the squeeze the juice of two lemon wedges over the warm Salmon, and garnish with the other two.

**I make this every week, since Salmon is so good for you.  It is a very healthy, low-fat, easy dinner.  Make this one tomorrow!!!  P.S.  I like to serve this with roasted red potatoes and steamed Broccoli.

Spaghetti with Olives and Tomato Sauce (Giada De Laurentiis)
My family loves Spaghetti, like the rest of the world.  This isn't your normal "open the Prego jar and pour over noodles" Spaghetti.  It is amazing, my kids love the olives, and it is easy and fresh.  Love it!
1 pound dried spaghetti (I use the Barilla Whole Wheat kind)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup Olives pitted and halved
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes, plus more if desired
3 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. When water comes to a boil, add pasta, stirring constantly for the first minute to help prevent spaghetti from sticking together. Cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes.

In a large saute pan, heat oil. When almost smoking, add olives and red pepper flakes. Saute for 3 minutes over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and carefully pour in tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain pasta in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Add pasta to the sauce and toss to coat completely. Add pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce a bit. Plate pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil.

Simple Tomato Sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

Add 1/2 the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months. **Great time saver.  Make this sauce ahead of time, so you only have to make the pasta portion on a busy day**

**Serve this with a good bib salad, or any green leafy salad and Italian Dressing (recipe to follow). French bread or Garlic bread if you want a starch is always a hit as well! **

Italian Dressing (allrecipes.com)

1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery salt

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic salt, onion powder, sugar, oregano, pepper, thyme, basil, parsley, and celery salt. Store in a tightly sealed container.
To prepare dressing, whisk together 1/4 white vinegar, 2/3 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons of the dry mix.
**Again, as a time saver make this ahead of time and you can use it thorough the week, just keep it in the fridge.

Upcoming posts for the week ahead: Lunch for the Sophisticated, Low Carb Options, and healthy baking at it's best...and of course, something in regards to Chocolate!  Stay Tuned!


Lindsay Banner said...

LOVE it Britt!! :) I am salivating!!! Can't wait to try these!

Chelsea said...

yum! i have major chicken issues. there used to be thin cut hand trimmed chicken at the grocery store, but now its not there, so I get the Tyson bag from costco--its so thick and i hate having to cut it and make it thin!! what chicken do you buy? is it thin already or do you have to do major surgery on it like me?

Swirls of Happy said...

I too hate trimming raw meat, but we usually only eat fish and chicken since they are the best for you. I have found the best chicken at Frys. Its the foster farms thin-sliced, all natural chicken breasts. They are seperated by parchment paper and they are already all trimmed. Try going there...good luck momma!! P.S. I hate thick Chicken breasts too!!! LOL