Tag Archives: quick

Chicken Milanese

How to stretch those dinner dollars – Part 2

Last week when I made the Chicken Casserole I set out to demonstrate a use for my homemade chicken stock. Tonight when I rustled up one of my favorite quick dinners I realized that I was using the second of three large chicken breasts that came in a package my wife bought. The thought occurred to me that it was a great way to demonstrate getting a real value for your food dollar.

Kat picked up a package of boneless chicken breasts at Aldi last week. There were 3 large breast halves in the package weighing in at 2.43 pounds (or about ¾ pounds each) for $6.05. If I could use each of the 3 breasts for the basis for 3 different dinners for two that’s just over a dollar per plate! Sure I use other ingredients in the preparation but the protein is often the most expensive element of a meal. When you’re on a budget and trying to stretch your dinner dollars…a buck a person is an awesome start!

So once again I find myself posting a less than glamorous recipe but hey it’s Monday night after a tough day at work, after the NFL playoffs yesterday. I didn’t feel like spending all night in the kitchen and yes, at the risk of sounding silly I’ll say it again; this too is a Recipe Randy Cooks. It also happens to be one of my favorite ways to use boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.

Because I was using an extra-large chicken breast half I was able to get 4 nice pieces out of one breast by first butterflying it, then dividing it into 4 equal pieces. Here is a video that shows how to butterfly a chicken breast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySB2jgO1ljU&feature=fvw . For this recipe the breasts should be pounded very thin, no thicker than ¼ inch at the very thickest part.

Note that I dump out the oil and wipe the pan after cooking each batch of chicken. This is my secret method of ensuring a perfectly and evenly browned cutlet every time. Oh, and lest I forget… Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette is my favorite salad dressing and it’s a perfect choice in this dish. Traditionally the cutlet is buried under the salad but Kat and I both prefer it alongside so the chicken stays nice and crispy even after drizzling on a little fresh lemon juice.

Chicken Milanese

1 – Large Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast, butterflied and divided into 4 pieces, then pounded to ¼ thickness or less.
2 – Eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp – Water
2 Cups – Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Cup – Whole Wheat or Unbleached Flour
Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Olive or Canola Oil

Salad of Green Leaf Lettuce with Grape Tomatoes and Celery slices.
Salad Dressing
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Wedges

In one bowl, season the flour well with salt and pepper and stir to blend. In another bowl, gently beat the eggs and water to combine. Place the Panko Crumbs in a third bowl. One at a time dredge the chicken pieces first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg, then finally in the Panko Crumbs to coat evenly. Place the chicken in a single layer on a foil or parchment lined sheet pan to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.

Warm two tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering hot cook two pieces of the chicken, turning only once, until “light” golden brown on each side. Move the cooked chicken to a paper towel to wick away any excess oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Discard any oil left in the pan and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then add 2 more tablespoons of oil and repeat the process, cooking the other two chicken pieces.

To serve, toss the salad, tomatoes, and celery with the dressing being careful to use only enough dressing to coat the greens. Place the chicken on the plate and cover partly (or not) with the salad. Top with shaved Parmesan and garnish with lemon slices to finish.



Menu for Two – Pan Seared Sea Scallops with a Fresh Herb White Wine Sauce, Oven Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus Spears.

Last week my wife Kathy had a rough week fighting the cold that I probably gave her when I had it the week before. Since she was feeling somewhat better by Friday I wanted to cook her something special so I went browsing at Costco for something out of the ordinary. With a crispy salad and some crusty bread, these scallops fit the bill perfectly!

I shop at Costco or BJ’s often as bulk stores are a great way to stretch your grocery bucks. For instance, while you might find nice fat Sea Scallops (nearly always pre-frozen) at a local seafood market or grocery for 12.99 to 15.99 per pound, these came in just over 9.00 per pound for a two pound bag. Two pounds are enough for 3 dinners for the two of us and that boils down to about $6.00 per meal or $3.00 per person. Just try to find that kind of deal at a seafood restaurant!

Speaking of buying frozen seafood; for a very long time I absolutely refused to buy frozen scallops or shrimp. While I wouldn’t consider myself a food snob…I simply did not care for the way the frozen ones tasted when compared to fresh. Then I came across an article about sodium tripolyphosphate . Sodium tripolyphosphate is a preservative that packagers will “claim” is used to “retain tenderness and moisture”. In fact it absolutely ruins the flavor and texture of certain foods, especially shrimp and scallops, giving the flesh a diluted, soapy flavor and an unpleasant spongy, almost waterlogged texture.

So why do seafood packagers use this additive, which is also used in household cleaners, laundry detergent, and paint? The simple answer is Sodium tripolyphosphate “can substantially increase the sale weight of seafood in particular”. Need I say more?

Fortunately, in the U.S., Sodium tripolyphosphate must be listed in the ingredients list on the package label. Also fortunately, Costco and BJ’s both carry frozen shrimp and scallops that do not contain Sodium tripolyphosphate! Do yourself a favor and read the ingredients next time you buy frozen seafood. For the same reason I also try to avoid the “fresh” scallops that are sold soaking in “their own” liquid.

Menu for two – Pan seared sea scallops with a fresh herb white wine sauce, oven roasted baby creamer potatoes and asparagus spears.

Note: Before I get started on the recipe there is one other tip that I must mention: WATER KILLS BROWNING! In searing and roasting the browning that occurs on the outside surface is where the flavor comes from. Searing your scallops while they are wet will prevent them from browning. To get the most flavor from your browned foods always be sure to pat them dry with a paper or dish towel before cooking.

For the Scallops you will need:

12 medium – Sea Scallops, thawed, rinsed, and dried well.
¼ Cup – Dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
Juice of ½ – Fresh lemon
3 Tbsp – Butter, Cut into 6 or 8 cubes, and kept cold.
2 Tbsp – Shallots, minced
2 Tbsp – Fresh basil, sliced in thin ribbons ( see http://www.basilbasics.com/chiffonade.html )
1 Sprig – Fresh rosemary
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil

For the Potatoes and Asparagus you will need:

12 – Baby Potatoes, I used half red bliss and half Yukon gold potatoes
12 Large or 16 Medium – Fresh green asparagus spears
Olive Oil
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

To Prepare:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the potatoes. Trim the stem end of the asparagus, rinse and dry. When the potatoes are dry toss them with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Spread them evenly in a glass 9 X 12 inch baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the asparagus spears with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Set the asparagus aside.

2. Warm 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 sprig of rosemary in a non-stick pan over medium high heat swirling the oil occasionally as it heats. Dust the scallops lightly with the Italian herb seasoning.

3. After 15 minutes carefully remove the potatoes from the oven. Carefully tilt the baking dish so that the potatoes move to one side allowing room to add the asparagus spears. Add the asparagus and place the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes longer.

4. While the vegetables finish roasting, sear your scallops: When the oil in the pan is hot the rosemary will begin to crackle and pop. Remove and discard the rosemary then gently place the scallops, one at a time, into the pan. You should hear a distinct sizzling as soon as each scallop hits the oil. Sear the scallops for two minutes on the first side, gently flip, and sear one minute more before removing directly to serving plates. Cover each plate with a paper towel or foil to keep the scallops warm.

5. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside to rest.

6. As soon as the last scallop is removed, add the shallots and the wine to the pan. As the wine comes to a boil swirl the pan and, using a wood or silicone spatula, scrape any browned bits from the pan. Reduce until the wine takes on a syrupy consistency then add the lemon juice.

7. Turn off the burner and allow the residual heat to reduce the liquid by half. Gently swirl in the butter cubes 2 or 3 at a time letting these melt before adding 2 or 3 more. Continue swirling the pan until all of the butter has been incorporated, swirl in the basil and spoon the sauce evenly over the scallops.

8. Carefully place the roasted vegetables on the plate and serve.



Penne with Italian Sausage, Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, & Herbs

For a weeknight dinner that is super easy to prepare try this Penne with Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, and Herbs. Want to mix things up a bit? Replace the sausage with bite sized cubes of cooked chicken or turkey breast, use whole grape tomatoes instead of chopped, or add capers and chopped green & black olives for a real Mediterranean twist. This pasta is great served with salad and a hunk of crusty whole wheat baguette and makes more than enough for lunches the next day.

Penne with Italian Sausage, Fresh Tomatoes, Feta, & Herbs

2 pounds tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped
1 16 ounce package Chicken or Turkey Sweet Italian Sausage, sliced diagonally, browned well, and drained
1 cup green onions, green and white parts diagonally sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon, chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 13.5 ounce box Whole Grain Penne pasta

Mix first 8 ingredients in a large pasta bowl. Set mixture aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Add hot pasta to tomato mixture and gently toss to coat. Add Olive Oil, Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently toss.

I Love Shrimp and Grits!

I love shrimp and grits and in my travels around the South I have enjoyed more than my fair share of some fine versions of this recipe. Unfortunately shrimp and grits dishes are nearly always loaded with salt and fat. Between the ham or bacon (or ham and bacon), heavy cream, and butter I would not call this dish particularly heart healthy. However if you think about it the main ingredients are not all that bad.

Shrimp – Surprisingly, ounce for ounce, shrimp are packed full of low-fat, low calorie protein, they are a good source of selenium, vitamins D and B12 and they actually provide more good cholesterol than bad! Note: If you are using frozen shrimp always buy shrimp that does not contain sodium triphosphate.

Grits – Grits are a very good source of antioxidants, dietary fiber, and iron.

Cheese – Cheese is one of the best sources of calcium in the world and it’s rich in phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and vitamin A. This recipe contains cheddar cheese; did you know that aged cheeses like cheddar are actually good for people that are lactose intolerant? This is because aged cheeses contain very low levels of lactose and can be an important source of calcium for people that suffer from lactose intolerance.

My point is, while I don’t want to turn my blog into a “diet” or “nutrition” blog, I believe you can eat smart without having to sacrifice flavor and enjoyment. In this recipe I still use a little fat but every single ingredient brings health benefits to the table, the fat that it does contain is good fat, and your taste buds will still have a little fun!

Shrimp and Grits

Notes: There is no extra salt added to the recipe because the extra sharp cheddar and the blackening seasonings add enough salt for my taste. The Chipotle Tabasco brings a nice smokiness and the granulated garlic just seems to round out the flavor. If you prefer a “clean eating” style meal, feel free to use low fat cheddar cheese. I like to serve these with fresh spinach sautéed with chopped shallots and plenty of fresh ground pepper.

2 ½ Cups – Homemade chicken stock (or low-sodium canned broth)
¾ Cups – Quick cooking grits
¾ Cups – Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp – Plain nonfat yogurt
¼ Tsp – Granulated garlic
½ to 1 Tsp – Chipotle Tabasco sauce, depending on your taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 Lb – Large shrimp (About 20), peeled, deveined, and patted dry
1 Bunch – Green onions, sliced on the bias (at an angle) in half inch slices
1 Clove – Garlc, peeled & minced
3/4 Tsp – Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic
1 Tbsp – Olive oil

Turn one burner on high and another on low. On the first burner bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large sauce pot with a tight fitting lid. Slowly whisk in the grits, chipotle Tabasco sauce, granulated garlic, and ground black pepper. Move the sauce pan to the burner that is set to low, whisk once more and cover. Stir occasionally and cook 7 or 8 minutes until the grits are thickened.

Toss the shrimp with the Blackening Seasonings.

Place a large sauté pan on the first burner (still on high) adding the olive oil as the pan gets hot. Stir in the garlic and keep stirring until you smell the garlic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the shrimp and cook without moving for the first minute. Shake the pan to loosen the shrimp and cook one minute more without moving. Add the green onions and toss (or stir) with the shrimp, remove the pan from the heat and set aside. (The shrimp will continue cooking with the pan off of the heat.)

When the grits have thickened remove the sauce pan from the heat and fold in the yogurt and the cheese. Continue folding until the cheese has thoroughly melted and blended with the grits. Serve 4 to 6 shrimp per serving over a generous mound of grits.