Tag Archives: grinder

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

Boneless skinless chicken breast can be so boring sometimes! Yesterday morning I had taken two frozen breast halves out to thaw and thought all day about how I was going to prepare them; I ran the gamut from simple and uncomplicated to full blown kitchen chemistry lab. By the time I left work I had in my mind visited Italy, Spain, and the South of France, stopped off in Ireland for a while and even hung out in Mexico and the Deep South!

When I finally got to the grocery store I was feeling totally uninspired so I picked up salad ingredients and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and headed home. I figured I would cook the chicken simply, using whatever I could dig up in the pantry. Then as I dug around I began to form an idea; I had zucchini that needed to be used, pasta, a giant jar of capers, Spanish olives, a can tomatoes and bingo that was it…We were going to the Mediterranean!

Drawing on fond memories of Snapper Veracruz and Pasta Puttanesca recipes I had prepared in the past I landed somewhere between simple and a science experiment. I cooked the chicken separately from the sauce because oftentimes when chicken is cooked in a liquid, it produces an unappealing protein scum (for lack of a better description). This also allowed for a good browning of the meat, assisted by a little tomato paste, that really added a richness to the final product. The anchovy paste and the final tablespoon of capers also boosted the flavor of the sauce.

Note: If it seems your sauté pan is not large enough to hold everything use a large bowl to fold together, the sauce and the pasta.

Chicken Penne Mediterranean

1 – 28 Oz Can, Peeled Whole Tomatoes
2 – Lg. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves, trimmed and cut in ¾ to 1 inch chunks
8 Oz – Whole Wheat Penne
2 – Med. Zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 – Med Onion, Quartered then sliced
1 – Small Carrot, finely grated
¼ Cup – Capers, 1 Tbsp reserved
¼ Cup – Green Spanish Olives, pitted
¼ Cup – Dry White Wine
¼ Cup – Balsamic Vinegar
¼ Cup – Chicken Stock
1 Tbps – Tomato Paste
1 Branch – Celery, sliced
3 Cloves – Garlic, minced (divided)
1 Lg. Sprig – Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp. – Dried Oregano
¼ tsp – Anchovy Paste (Optional)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh Ground – McCormick’s Italian Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil
Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved

In a large sauté pan over med heat warm 4 Tbsp. of olive oil until shimmering. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, anchovy paste and about ¼ Tbsp. of ground Italian seasonings to the pan and sauté 1 minute, stirring. Stir in onions and celery and cook stirring occasionally until the onions begin to turn translucent. Stir in the carrots, rosemary, and oregano, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine and allow it to come to a boil, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the tomatoes, carefully crushing them as you add them to the pan. Add the capers and olives and allow the sauce to come to a boil once again. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook 30 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and continue simmering.

Meanwhile warm 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. When oil is shimmering, add 1 clove of garlic and stir briskly, 30 seconds. Stir in chicken and cook stirring for 1 minute then add the tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often until the chicken has browned and just cooked through. Add the cooked chicken, zucchini, and chicken stock to the sauce and continue simmering until the zucchini is just cooked through. Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper and remove and discard the rosemary sprig.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook per package instructions. When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain (do not rinse!) in a colander and fold the pasta, along with the reserved tablespoon of capers, into the sauce. Serve garnished with shaved parmesan.



Zucchini & Mushrooms Stuffed with Ground Turkey and Quinoa

Do I seem to be on a quinoa binge lately? Honestly, I am not obsessed with the stuff, although I will admit we have been eating a lot of it, and why not? The more I read about this Miracle Grain the more benefits they seem to discover; everything from it being a complete protein to being heart healthy. Consider that and the fact that it tastes pretty good and it’s not really a stretch to go with the quinoa over the rice or the mashed potatoes.

Add versatility and value (a cup or two of quinoa goes far!) to the mix and I’m sold. Just recently I have eaten quinoa as a side dish (yep, like rice or mashed potatoes), in casseroles, and even in salads, the latter of which was a favorite that I plan to explore even more in days to come. I have “heard” of quinoa in bars, like granola, in flakes like cereal, and even cooked like a risotto which frankly I do have my doubts about. Some things, such as a velvety, creamy risotto, are indeed sacred!

Nevertheless, tonight I was pondering how to use some plain quinoa I had left over from a previous dinner along with a package of ground turkey. I didn’t want to cook another casserole and meatloaf with quinoa just sounded a bit too farfetched so I thought…how about a stuffing? Yeah, a stuffing sounded good, especially a sausage stuffing with a little kick and maybe some nice gooey melted cheese.

This recipe made such a large batch that I only used about half to stuff enough zucchini and mushrooms for Kathy and I with leftovers for lunch. The rest will freeze well for a another meal which definitely makes the recipe a great way to stretch those dinner dollars! Pre-cooked brown rice, barley, or even bulgur would all work very well in place of the quinoa.

Quinoa and Ground Turkey Stuffed Zucchini & Mushrooms

For the stuffing…

8 oz – Medium Mushrooms (I used 8 baby bellas)
8 oz – Medium Zucchini (3 whole)
1 Package – Ground Turkey (about 1.2 Lbs)
1 – Medium Onion, chopped
1 – 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
1- 9 oz Bag of pre-washed Baby Spinach
2 Cups – Quinoa, pre-cooked
½ Cup – Dry White Wine, divided
¼ Cup – Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4 Cup – Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Cloves – Garlic, minced
1 Tsp. – Fennel Seed, crushed
About 1 Tsp. – From McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Clean the mushrooms, removing and reserving the stems. Wash the zucchini well, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the centers to form a cup for the stuffing. Reserve the centers and chop them along with the mushroom stems.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, stir in the chopped mushroom and zucchini stems & pieces. Add the garlic and about 1 tsp. from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the onion and cook, stirring until the onion is translucent. Stir in the ground turkey along with the fennel seed and cook using a spatula to break up the turkey. Continue stirring and cooking until the turkey appears mostly cooked.

Add ¼ cup of wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until most of the wine has evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes then fold in the spinach and cook 5 minutes more.

Fold in the quinoa and 1/4 cup of wine and continue folding gently to incorporate. Remove from heat and fold in the parsley and parmesan cheese just before using.

To prepare the Zucchini and Mushrooms…

Cleaned Mushrooms & Zucchini (from above)
McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil
Sharp Provolone Cheese slices

Pre-heat the oven to 425 Degrees. Place the Zucchini and Mushrooms on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil then season with the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder. Bake 10 minutes and remove mushrooms, bake the zucchini 5 minutes more. Drain any juices from the mushrooms into the stuffing and mix well.

Mound stuffing onto the mushrooms and zucchini. Drape with enough Provolone Cheese to cover and bake 10 minutes more.



Chicken Soup with Cannelloni and Kale

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 2)

One of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday morning is sipping coffee, listening to The Sunday Blues with Dar , and cooking a big pot of soup. The work is indeed therapeutic for me and I feel the stress of the previous week slip away as I slice onions, chop celery and carrots, and build the foundation of a flavorful meal. Then as the kettle begins to heat up and the steam begins to rise, that pleasant and familiar aroma fills the house and warms me to my soul!

To be honest I had misgivings about posting this recipe as the photo is not particularly glamorous and this soup in particular is really quite simple. Then as I thought about it I realized that soup is one of my favorite things to cook, I make it quite often, and it has become an integral part of the culinary routine in my home. Soup is economical as it is often made with the trimmings and leftovers from previous meals, and who can deny the heartwarming qualities of a big bowl of soup and a hunk of fresh bread?

So there you have it. This too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. And so it will be included.

This soup is a recent favorite and one of the easier soup recipes that I make. The garlic is a recent addition and it not only boosts the flavors but also raises the antioxidant levels of the dish. I guess the jury is still out on the old “Jewish Penicillin” theory but if we can raise the nutritional benefits of a dish by adding a little flavor then I am all for it! It may be surprising to you that with a whole head of garlic in the recipe, the garlic flavor is really quite subtle.

Sometimes I make this soup with chunks (2 cups) of browned Italian turkey sausage; sometimes I make it with chicken. Both are quite good and satisfying. Although I did not do it in the soup pictured, another favorite way to add flavor to this soup is to add a tablespoon or so of pesto to the bowl before ladling in the hot soup. Also of note in the photo, the “garnish” is a few good grinds from a McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder .

I served this soup with a fresh green salad and a warm whole grain baguette.

Chicken Soup with Cannelloni and Kale

2 Cups – Boneless Chicken Breasts, cubed in approx. ½ inch cubes
2 cloves – Garlic, minced
2 to 3 Grinds – McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning
2 – 14.5 oz Cans, Cannelloni (White Kidney) Beans, rinsed and drained
4 Cups – Kale, rinsed, trimmed and chopped large
1 Whole Head – Garlic
8 Cups – Homemade Chicken Stock
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 425°. Using a knife or kitchen shears trim the top of the garlic head just enough to expose the tops of the cloves inside. Remove as much of the papery “skin” from the outside of the head as you can, without the cloves falling apart. Place the garlic in the center of an approx 12” square of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper. Bring the foil up around the garlic and seal loosely into a package. Bake for 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are brown and soft through and through.

Meanwhile, place a large soup pot on the stove and bring 7 cups of chicken stock to a simmer over medium heat. Add the beans and the kale, stirring to blend. Reduce the heat enough to maintain a light simmer.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and season the oil with 2 to 3 grinds from the Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder. When the oil is shimmering add the chicken and 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook stirring frequently until the chicken is brown in places and cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon (or a Spider) remove the chicken and garlic from the skillet and add it to the soup.

When the garlic is done roasting, separate the cloves and squeeze the contents of each clove into a blender. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and blend until smooth. Add this mixture to the soup, stirring to incorporate. Simmer the soup another 30 minutes to allow all of the flavors to develop.



Menu – Broiled Fish with Pesto over Mixed Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Quinoa & Brown Rice

Several friends have asked me to share some of my “Clean Eating” recipes as Kat and I have been trying to eat better foods on a regular basis. Some are new to cooking so I thought it would be helpful to include the recipes for the entire menu including each step in the preparation. So here is a super quick, healthy, yet tasty menu that’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight. I would love to hear some feedback on how you like the recipe written in this fashion. If you like them I will include more “menu” posts as my blog continues.

Broiled Fish w/Pesto over Mixed Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice

Don’t let all my notes and stuff scare you…I just want to spell it our for my friends that are new to cooking. Start to finish this meal was uncomplicated and came together in about 1/2 hours time. (I almost typed 30 minutes…but we won’t go there!)

For the Fish you will need…

( Note: Figure on about 3 servings per pound of cleaned fillets. I haven’t been fishing in forever but I’ve been finding some really nice packaged fresh fish at Costco lately. Just check the “Packaged On” date and choose accordingly. The fresher the better!)

Fresh fillets of halibut (pictured), corvina, grouper, or tilapia if you must, sliced into 4 to 6 oz portions.
1 Tablespoon per serving, extra virgin olive oil
1 light sprinkle per serving – mixed dried Italian herbs in a grinder (I used McCormick’s).
1 Tablespoon per serving – jarred basil pesto (I used Kirkland brand from Costco).

For the Asparagus you will need…

(Note: These asparagus stems were about 1/2″ thick at the base. I clean the spears by grabbing the base with one hand and just below center with the other, then bend the asparagus until it naturally breaks. What you are left with at the base is generally the tough stringy part, and at the tip…the good stuff. I don’t always do it but you can blanch and freeze the bases to use in stocks or purees at a later time.)

6 to 8 spears per person – fresh large asparagus, cleaned and rinsed
1 Tablespoon – balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons – extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated black pepper

For the Mixed Greens you will need…

About 1 cup per serving of bagged baby greens
Just enough dressing to barely coat the greens. ( I used http://www.briannas.net/flavors/real-french.html )

For the Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice

(Note: I used http://www.seedsofchangefoods.com/our_foods/product.aspx?c=rice_grains&p=279 also from Costco. We love this mix and eat it once or twice a week. It’s ready in 90 seconds and it’s great plain or mix in anything you like from fresh chopped herbs and a little sautéed garlic or browned onions, to last nights leftover stir fry.)

About 1 Cup per serving Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice.

To Prepare…

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. clean, rinse, and pat the asparagus dry. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and oil until slightly thickened. On a foil covered cookie sheet gently roll the spears in a single layer while drizzling with just enough of the oil to coat. Place in the heated oven for 15 minutes.

2. While the asparagus is in the oven place the fish on another foil covered cookie sheet and roll each piece while drizzling with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. With the fish skin side down, lightly sprinkle each piece with the spice grinder. Set aside until the asparagus comes out of the oven.

3. In a large bowl toss the greens with barely enough dressing to coat. (Note: Don’t overdo it! The idea is to just season the salad without drenching.)

4. After 15 minutes, carefully remove the asparagus from the oven and turn the broiler on high. Grate a little Parmesan and black pepper lightly and evenly over the spears.

(Note for step 5: If you have a conventional oven, leave the door cracked open an inch or so to the first stop. This will prevent the broiler from overheating and cycling off. The fish should be about 4 inches from the coils or flame.)

5. Allow the broiler to heat up for at least a minute or so then place the fish in the broiler and close. Broil the fish for 4 minutes per inch of thickness…3 minutes if it’s 1/2 inch or less.

(Note: You want the fish to cook fast and until the flesh is just becoming opaque (no longer transparent) in the center. The fish will continue cooking even after it is removed from the oven.)

6. While the fish is cooking nuke the quinoa and prep your plates with about 1 cup each of the dressed greens and a carefully placed serving of the Asparagus. Add fresh tomatoes if you like!

7. Remove the fish from the oven and carefully place each serving on top of the greens. “paint” each piece with about 1 Tablespoon of the prepared pesto.

8. Finish the plate with an approx. 1 cup serving of the quinoa and….

Viola! It’s time to eat.