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The Misadventures of Mrs. B

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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2010-02-07

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stuffed Chicken and Pink Pasta

I knew that being cooped up on Wednesday would be the perfect opportunity to make something delicious.

I just love when it snows.  It gives me an excuse to be decadent in the name of comfort food.

Wednesday night's dinner was stuffed chicken and pink pasta.

Just thinking about it makes me drool.

Both of these recipes are ones that I worked out on my own.  I've been making a version of this chicken for years now, and it's become one of my dad's favorite dishes.  When I make it for him I stuff the chicken with tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and olives.

Rob doesn't like any of those things, though.  So for him I stick to cheese.  I'm not complaining.

Still, I knew I should *try* to be good with the cheese because I was making a pink sauce (read: creamy) for the accompanying pasta.  So I stuck with lower-fat versions where I could.

Shall we begin?

I started off with a cup of fat-free ricotta cheese.  Try not to cringe too much.

Then I grated up a half cup of part-skim mozzarella.  Isn't it just the cutest? So curly and fluffy!

Then I ate a handful of the mozzarella and had to grate some more.

Then I added a quarter cup of grated parmesan.  Yes, it's the stuff in the can.  Grouse if you must.

Believe me, I'm usually a cheese purist.  But when we went to the store there was an honest-to-God blizzard starting to bear down on us and there wasn't much time to be choosy.

To this I added a tablespoon of (from the jar) minced garlic.  Grouse, grouse, grouse.  I get it.  I then added a healthy palmful of dried basil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

All of this got mixed together, and I left it in the fridge in order for the flavors to marry.

After about an hour of letting the flavors get all married an mixed up and whatnot, I took my three chicken breasts and made pockets in them.  I couldn't get pictures of this part because, well, my fingers were in a chicken breast.  But I'll explain as best I can: Rinse and trim excess fat off of a boneless, skinless chicken breast.  Then insert a knife into the thickest part of the breast at the top.  Work the knife as far down as you can without coming out the bottom, then work the knife to the left and right.  Again, be careful not to tear through the breast if at all possible.  Remove the knife and work your fingers in there as well to be sure that you have as big a pocket as possible.  And try to be careful not to cut yourself during the process!

Once the pockets were formed, I crammed as much cheese mixture in there as I possibly could.  I got a lot in, too!

I beat together two eggs.

And mixed about two cups of breadcrumbs together with all sorts of dried herbs and spices - parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, onion and garlic powder, and salt and pepper.  Use whatever you like!

Then I dredged the chicken breasts through the breadcrumbs to get a first layer, then quickly through the eggs, then again through the breadcrumbs.  I like a thick crust so I made sure I patted the crumbs on very firmly.

While I was doing this, a pan with about an inch of vegetable oil was heating on the stove.  I was also preheating my oven to 300 degrees.

When the oil was shimmery, I very carefully placed the chicken in the pan.

Leave them there for a few minutes without turning or moving them in any way so as to ensure that the breadcrumbs are forming a nice crust.

Caaaarefully turn them - don't want to knock those lovely breadcrumbs off! And again, let them sizzle and brown for a few minutes.  All we're trying to do here is get a golden crust.

Once you're satisfied with the depth of color, remove the chicken and place on paper towels, patting gently to soak up any excess grease. 

Then place them in a baking pan and allow them to finish cooking in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes - just long enough to cook your pasta and make a sauce!

This is a very, very simple sauce.  I tend to go for very fresh sauces with relatively few ingredients.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat.

Ad a tablespoon of minced garlic and cook for about a minute until it is fragrant.

Pour in one 14.5 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and allow to simmer and thicken.

Add a generous palmful of dried basil (though if I had my druthers I'd much rather have used fresh!), a teaspoon of onion powder and a sprinkle of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.

Let me explain: I had no onions on hand.  Normally I would use minced onion but I had to improvise.  Again, blizzard.

Allow to thicken up, and then stir in a cup of light cream or half-and-half.  Typically I like using fat-free half-and-half but I didn't have any on hand, so I used light cream.

Then I added a handful of chopped parsley for color and flavor, and salt to taste.

And that was it! Doesn't get much simpler than that.

When all was said and done, I had this...


It was far too much for me to handle - my eyes were bigger than my stomach! But it was delicious.  The sauce was a little sweet, but I love it that way.  Rob wasn't as big a fan as I was but then Rob doesn't typically enjoy fresh tomatoes in sauces the way I do.  Either way I'll cut back on the sugar if ever I make it again.
Still, give it a shot in your own kitchen, and have fun experimenting with all the different stuffings you could use for your chicken.  Sauteed mushrooms? Sun dried tomatoes? Spinach? All of the above, perhaps?


Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow Angel

Sometimes, angels are sent to help us and we just have to trust them even though technically we shouldn't.

The past two days have been snow days in my world.  As I've posted prior to this, we've really gotten slammed.  And while I can deal with shoveling and train delays and everything they entail, there's one aspect of my person snow experience that gets me every time.

My walk to work.

I have almost a half mile to walk from the train to the office.  No big deal, normally I can walk this in less than 10 minutes when I factor in waiting at traffic lights.  It was a bit of an adjustment when we moved from Center City to the 'burbs, since now we're right in the middle of a very busy thoroughfare and trucks and buses go whipping by us at extreme speed while we cower at the edge of a narrow sidewalk - just wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. 

Factor in heavy snow and the fact that the plows dump all that snow onto the very narrow sidewalk and you have a recipe for possible disaster.

At first it was super treacherous (and exhausting), with all of us train riders climbing the snow piles in single-file.  One misstep and you're out in the middle of the road.  But we never had an accident, thank goodness.  And since then the business owners have been much better about shoveling, so it's not as bad as it was a couple of years ago.  Still, every time I have to walk to or from the office after a snowstorm, I say a prayer.

Today was no exception.  As I stood in line to leave the train I said:

Dear God, you always keep me safe.  Please have my guardian angel watch over me today and get me in to work with no accidents.

And then I started on my trek.  Right away I knew I was in trouble - yesterday was a nice, mid-30's and sunny kind of day.  Today = super cold.  Very soon I faced a sidewalk completely covered in ice.  But I had to give it a shot. 

BAM! I went down.  I got up.  I took a step.  BAM! I went down again.

Lucky for me the snow broke my fall both times, so it didn't even hurt.  But I did make me extremely worried because I was maybe 50 feet from the station and had already fallen twice.

I got up, brushed myself off, and heard someone call out to me.  I looked up and saw a man in a minivan who had pulled up into the parking lot that I was approaching.

"I saw you fall, is there anywhere I can drive you?"

And you know what? I told him where I needed to go and he opened the door and cleared off the passenger seat and I got in and we took off.  I couldn't believe what I saw outside the car - people walking in the road just to avoid the sidewalk! And now that I think back, he never closed the window or locked the door - I guess he wanted me to know I was safe with him.  Definitely safer than walking in the road.

Turns out he's familiar with my company because - get this - he has the exact same name as the owner.  Right down the middle initial.  So whenever he introduces himself to someone, they immediately think he's the wrong person (my company's owner is a pretty well-known guy).  His children were also taught by the managing officer's wife.  And he and his own wife have a law office two doors down from my building.  Small world, huh?

It wasn't until after I told Rob about this that he asked, "You got into a stranger's car?".  Well yeah, I did.  And in any other situation it might not have been the best idea.  But this morning I never thought twice, and I'm a pretty skeptical person - I guess having spent so much time working and living in the city made me that way.  But in this case, I never occurred to me.  I just knew he was sent my way because of my prayer. 

I'm glad he has such a familiar name - now I'll remember who to send a Thank You card to.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow: Another Brief Pictorial

For those of you not in-the-know, we have been beaten and bruised by snow for the past several days. On Saturday, it was this storm which left us with approximately a foot of snow. And let me just say for the record that by that time I was pretty sick to death of weekend storms. I mean, seriously? How's a girl gonna get a snow day if it only snows on Saturday? By Monday morning everything's cleaned up, at least enough so that you don't have an excuse to stay home. Oh, how I shook my fist at Mother Nature over this.

On Tuesday night, Mother Nature shook back.  And didn't stop until after we went to bed on Wednesday.

At the end of it all, we had approximately 21 inches of snow ON TOP of the foot we got over the weekend. We just sat here yesterday, both of our offices closed, and stared out the window at the howling, blinding white mess outside.

"I don't think we're going anywhere tomorrow," Rob said at around 7:00, while the snow still fell and had been falling for 24 hours.

"I have to agree with you," I murmured, entranced by nature's beauty.

Well when you have to shovel, let's just say the bloom is officially off the rose.  Beauty is not what you're thinking about.

Here are some pictures for all you southerners who I just KNOW are dying to be abused like we northeastern folks are!

Okay, you're probably wondering why this picture is even here.  Let me just tell you that right in the center is the most perfect little snowflake the Good Lord ever created.  And dang it all, I couldn't get it into focus.  But trust me.  It was delightful.

This was how it looked around 9:00 Wednesday morning.  There was a lull in the storm so I figured I'd get a head start on the shoveling.  There was still snow falling as I took this shot but the camera didn't pick it up.

Rob was super duper smart this time and parked at the end of the driveway! So all I did was clear a path for us to get to the car.  Smart guy!

Yet almost immediately after I cleared a path, it was covered with a coating of show.  I'd say I cleared about 4 or 5 inches that first time.

Then I went inside and made some hot chocolate and shook the snow out of my hair.

Today, THIS is what greeted me:

This was after I did my best to at least clear a path to the driveway.  The snow on the lawn was up to my waist.

The sky was so blue, though, and the white of the snow looked so beautiful next to it.
Yes, definitely beautiful.  Wait, what's that big mound of snow with the two wipers sticking up from it? Oh.  That used to be my car.  The car which my husband needed to drive to the store.  Sigh.

My path looks considerably different than it did yesterday...

There's a mirror under there somewhere.  And ooh, I can actually see some silver peeking through the white.  There IS a car under there after all!

Um...can't someone just BRING us cold medicine?

Okay, Mother Nature.  I get it.  You're the boss.  I apologize for putting any pressure on you, and I thank you for the two glorious snow days we've had.

I have just one favor to ask of you now.

Can you stop it already? We have to move next weekend!!!


D is for "Dinner for my Dearest"

Good morning, everyone!

I have not been very active over the past few days as I've been struggling with a bad cold.  Good news is, I get a second day at home since the snow from yesterday pretty much incapacitated us.  And I can breathe through my nose now, hallelujah, but I have this super attractive cough.  I've also been told that I have super attractive bedhead right now as well.  So be it, I say, and where's my hot chocolate?

Anyway, today is a D day.  I was originally going to write about my Dad, but Jenny already did that.  It's okay though, because yesterday I was reminded of a dinner I made for my dearest two Valentine's Days ago.

I came up with the idea weeks in advance.  I decided that I would take the Friday before Valentine's Day off and make a super duper meal for my honey, only he wouldn't know about it.  And I really committed to this concept, to the point where he drove me to the train and pulled away...and I got on the bus to go back home.  Hee hee! I then went to the store and picked up my ingredients.

I decided to make the apartment into a restaurant of sorts.  I typed up a menu for the evening which I taped to the door leading into the apartment and called the place "Chez Bardall".  I put out flowers and candles.  I even made a sign reminding employees to wash their hands before returning to work, and taped it to the bathroom mirror.  That was a hoot, right there.

I spent most of the day cooking, and I really went all out.  I made fresh croutons and bacon bits for the salad, served with fresh bread and compound butter.  I wrapped shrimp in bacon and broiled them.  I made beef tenderloin roast with a chocolate wine sauce (incidentally, I would have drank that sauce through a straw) and stuffed potatoes.  And dessert consisted of chocolate truffles wrapped in phyllo and baked, then served with ice cream.

It was quite a meal.  And very low in calories, in case you were wondering. the day progressed...I found myself feeling more and more rundown.  I soldiered through - after all, I was not about to blow this - but by the time I was preparing myself for my dearest's arrival, I pretty much just wanted to lay down and go to sleep.  I was sure at that point that I was coming down with something.

Still, I got myself looking pretty (I even hot rollered my hair in the midst of all that cooking) and my man got home and was super impressed.  And we ate and drank and were merry.  That is, I was as merry as I could muster.

And then I went to lay down in bed because I could barely sit up through the meal.  I'm such a romantic.

And you know what he did for me? He cleaned up the kitchen.

That's a good man, right there.

The other day I was in the back room and saw a stack of programs from various concerts and shows we've been to which he was obviously getting ready to pack for moving.  And I came across an envelope which I just had to open, of course, seeing my handwriting on the front.  Inside was the card I gave him that night, along with the menu and bathroom sign, and a few rose petals. 

Yep.  A good man.

You're my Valentine every day of the year, sweetheart.  You have shown me more about love and patience in the past four years than I thought was possible in a lifetime.  Every single day you tell me I'm beautiful and make me believe that you believe it.  You make me feel special and smart and like a good person, even when I feel like the worst.  Everyone should be loved as well as you love me.  You're also my best friend, and you delight me on a daily basis with the disturbing and hilarious things that come out of your amazing mind.  And no matter what happens on this road we walk together, I'll stay by your side.  I love you so much.  

Happy Valentine's Day!

Linking to:

Jenny Matlock


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow: A Brief Pictorial

The snow-laden hedges outside my front door

I laughed out loud when I saw this, more out of disbelief than anything else

It was at this point when I considered burying the shovel and going back inside for some cocoa

It was almost up to my knees on the lawn

I hate this stupid hedge, it was hanging down over the car and making it impossible for me to get around it

This is an angel which is creepy looking enough without being covered in snow - my landlady's into the whole 'creepy statuary' genre

Evidently I felt that it was important that I wear my glasses to shovel snow...maybe I thought I wouldn't be able to see it or something?

Good thing he remembered to pick up the wipers when we left the car on Friday night

See ya, snowy angel