Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chicken Paprikash and Nut-Crusted Tilapia

If you're a When Harry Met Sally fan, all you're thinking right now is, "Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash."  I did have an urge to watch the movie after I made this.

Every once in awhile you try a new recipe and it is so good, you put it right on your menu for the following week and it becomes a staple.  This amazing phenomenon occured twice in my household last week and I am beyond thrilled!  Two brand-new, delicious dishes, courtesy of Rachael Ray, that the entire family devoured.  My facebook friends have been dying for these recipes, so here they are in all their glory.

Chicken Paprikash

sliced or diced chicken breast, about a pound.
2 Tbsp Dry Sherry (you can find the cheap stuff with the vinegars)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 sliced onion
1 julienned red pepper
1 Tbsp sweet paprika (not spicy)
1/3 cup sour cream
parsley, salt and pepper

Combine the chicken, 1 tbsp sherry, garlic, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl.  Stir in 2 tsp vegetable oil.

In a separate bowl, combine the chicken broth, 1 tbsp sherry, and 1/2 tsp cornstarch.

You're supposed to use a wok for this but I just used my largest non stick skillet.  Please keep in mind that you're not supposed to heat these skillets empty, or to high temperatures because teflon fumes can be toxic or something.  You'd think they'd make frying pans out of safe stuff, but apparently not.  So I put some oil in the pan before heating it.  Get it nice and hot, then add your chicken and cook it in a single layer for a minute or two.  Stir it around until all sides are browned.  Transfer it to a plate.

Lower the heat slightly and add the onion and bell pepper; saute them until softened, then add the paprika and the cooked chicken, along with any accumulated juices.  Increase the heat to high, stir to combine, then add the broth mixture.  When the chicken is cooked through, add the sour cream and parsley and serve over rice.

This was DELICIOUS.   We all loved it, but next time I will add a little spice.  Some crushed red pepper had to be added to my husband's plate for him to eat it :)  I had him do all the prep for this, and then I did the cooking so this might give you an opportunity for a little teamwork in the kitchen.

Nut-Crusted Tilapia With Spinach and Roasted Carrots

Slice 4 carrots, toss them with olive oil, spread them out on baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper.  Put them in the oven at 375 degrees.  Roast about 25 minutes.

Combine 1/4 cup ground (in a blender) cashews, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and a little pepper in a bowl. 

Place 4 to 6 tilapia fillets on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spread mustard over the fillets.  You want to use a high-quality, grainy, REAL mustard.  Please do not use yellow mustard.  This is not a hot dog.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the fillets and press to coat.  Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil on top.  Bake for 12 minutes.  If you want them done the same time as the carrots, put them in when there are 12 minutes left on your carrot timer.

In a medium skillet, saute the garlic in olive oil just until fragrant, then add the spinach and cook until wilted (if you're using fresh) or warm (if you're using frozen).  Season with salt and pepper.

Simply serving a tilapia fillet, a scoop of carrots, and a scoop of spinach on a plate looks so pretty. It was lovely to see all those colors on one dinner plate, and the double serving of vegetables will make anybody happy.  The fish was beyond delicious, and we can't wait to have this dish again.  Experiment with mustards to find one you like.  We really like strong-flavored, seedy mustards, but a dijon would probably work just as well if you need a milder flavor.  You could also serve some rice or pasta with this.

I also made Chocolate Chip Cookies with my three year old and it went pretty well.  I pre-measured all the ingredients and used a stand mixer, so she just poured and watched. 

Try these recipes!  You will not regret it!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cashew Chicken, Shrimp Alfredo, and Shopping!!!

I think I've blogged about this before, but I did several things differently this time so I'm doing it again.  I was out of Chipotle in Adobo as well as grill seasoning so I had to improvise, and it still turned out yummy!  I love it when that happens :)  Also, I buy these chicken cutlets at the grocery store....they're thinly sliced for you behind the counter, and so they're much more expensive than regular boneless skinless chicken breasts.  I insist that they taste better, are more convenient, and cook faster and more evenly, so my husband humors me and lets me buy them.  This recipe calls for diced chicken breasts, but when I suggested chopping up the expensive cutlets......well, you can imagine.  So I agreed to cook the cutlets whole.

Instead of seasoning the chicken with grill seasoning, I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.  I browned the chicken in corn oil (it's just what I had around) and set it aside, covered with foil.  I added a julienned pepper and onion to the same, hot pan and sauteed them until soft, then seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a tad more cayenne.  Use as much cayenne as you want, or leave it out altogether.  If you have some chipotle seasoning, it will taste better, but like I said, I was out of it.  Leave out the salt if you are using salted cashews.  When the veggies are done, take the pan off the heat and add one or two tablespoons of honey and two or three tablespoons of real maple syrup.  If your chicken is not cooked through, add it back to the pan, but it back on the burner, reduce to low heat, and put a lid on it.  Let it steam until cooked through, then remove the chicken again and add the cashews to the vegetables.  You want to add them at the last minute so they don't get soft. 

Place a chicken breast or cutlet on top of scoop of white rice, then top with plenty of veggies and sauce.  This was yummy even though I was missing the grill seasoning and the chipotle seasoning.  I keep wanting to try this recipe with broccoli; I think it would be a great addition, visually and health-wise.  I'm not a huge broccoli fan, so I don't keep it in the house and keep forgetting to get it for this recipe.

I got to go shopping yesterday :)  We have an awesome gym membership, and I was really into for the entire year after Ayla was born, but since I got pregnant for the third time I just haven't had that kind of energy.  Even just doing yoga, I would lightheaded, dizzy, and nauseous so I've sort of given up.  My husband still goes on a daily basis he wants to be huge like Arnold, so he takes the kids and goes for two hours at a time.  I usually take the time to nap, shower, or do housework, but I needed to do some shopping for Audrey.

She just had her third birthday and received some clothes as gifts from her friends, prompting me to go through her dresser for the first time in over a year.  She's on the small side and was in this size for a long time.  At 3 years I was a little surprised to find 18 month clothing in her dresser!  After completely thinning it out and keeping only the 2Ts which I knew were still big on her,  I needed to add some essentials to her wardrobe.

I already have some 3T jeans that I bought at a thrift store awhile back, and she has no shortage of sweaters and tights, so I figured a few Tshirts and one or two dresses would get us through the spring; no problem.  Then, if her shorts are too small we can deal with that.  Old Navy is my favorite cheap kids' clothes store.  Carter's is my favorite, but I tend to spend several hundred dollars when I go in there, and it's hundreds of miles away, so we'll save that for later.  At Old Navy I got her two 5-dollar shirts, two 6-dollar shirts (all short-sleeved, can be layered), one short-sleeved dress than can be layered with a sweater and tights or worn alone in the summer, and one hoodie dress, which admittedly will be useless in a few months but was on clearance.  It's also the exact same dress she got for her birthday, in a different color, and I was stoked to stumble upon it.  So for $46, I am set for several months :)

I'm getting ahead of myself.  Before all this, I dropped off Justin and the kids in the pouring down rain at the gym and headed to Old Navy.  I then browsed Rack Room Shoes but decided it was too cold and nasty outside to shop in a strip mall, and I went to the indoor shopping mall.  I got myself a cup of decaf with my Starbucks gift card I got for my birthday a few weeks ago.  I was ecstatic to discover you can get peppermint mochas year-round.  I browsed the maternity store, two children's stores, three or four skinny-people stores (which I love, but have no business shopping it in my present condition) and Macy's, whose prices I could not believe.  I then walked the perimeter of the mall three times, and bought myself some frozen yogurt, having finished my coffee.  It was so nice!!  No agenda, no kids, just killing time for two whole hours.  I wandered into the department store I was parked outside, the one I had to walk through to get to my car, and came across some $5 long-sleeve Tshirts for myself that I couldn't pass up.  I pulled up to the gym as my husband was walking out, I fat and happy and he high from his workout.  We got home at 5 and had the dinner dilemma:

Audrey had to be at gymnastics at 6 and I had not taken anything out for dinner, which is exactly why I plan one of these meals every week:

Shrimp Alfredo with Peas

Shrimp defrosts quickly, cooks quickly, and lasts for a long time in your freezer.  Buy it frozen, but make sure it's deveined and "easy-to-peel".  Dump it straight from the bag into a colander, run some cold water over it, and it will be defrosted by the time you're done peeling it; about five minutes. 

Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta, and put your (jarred alfredo) sauce in a small pot over low heat to gradually warm.  I like to pepper my jarred alfredo sauces.  I like Classico sauces, but we usually get whatever is on sale.  Heat some olive oil in a skillet, season your shrimp with salt and pepper, and saute it in a single layer.  When the bottom is pink, flip it over and cook until the other side is pink.  When the entire outside of the shrimp is pink, IT'S DONE.  Overcooked shrimp is not yummy; please don't overcook it.  You may have to do this in two batches; just move the cooked shrimp onto a clean plate and cook the other half of your shrimp.

Add half a pound of frozen peas to your boiling water about a minute before the pasta is done.  Then drain all of it together, return to the hot pot, and add the sauce and the cooked shrimp.  We're talking ten minute dinner, here.  We made it to gymnastics right on time, and it's far away.

Ask your pediatrician about feeding shellfish to your toddler.  We got the go-ahead because we have no family history of any food allergies, and Audrey herself has no food allergies, so they figured it would be okay at about age 2, when I asked.  I haven't tried it with my 14-month old, though.  Audrey doesn't care for shrimp.  Her father doesn't like it either (even though the last time I made alfredo sauce he said it would be good with shrimp in it.  Go figure).  I personally love this dinner, and had three helpings.

Hope you enjoy at least one of these :)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tilapia with Leeks and Bacon

First let me show you some pictures of my girls enjoying our asparagus soup from a few nights ago:

Tilapia with Leeks and Bacon

Tilapia is a mild, white fish that's very versatile and a good place to start if you're not sure how to prepare fish, or if you think you don't like fish.  Leeks are a mild green onion, like a giant scallion.  They can be a little frustrating because they do require some preparation and a lot of the veggie goes to waste, but they're great in sauces and soups.  Bacon, well....who are we kidding, bacon is good on everything.

This sauce is taken from an original recipe by Rachael Ray, called Super-Herbed Sauteed Salmon with Creamy Leeks and Bacon.  I find the flavor of Salmon to be a little strong for the sauce, so I prefer to use Tilapia, and I just season it lightly instead of "super-herbing" it.

You'll need 3 to 4 medium-sized leeks.  Pick out leeks with the largest portion of light-green on the stalk.  You can't eat the white part or the thick leafy green part, so cut those parts off and slice the rest of it in half down the length of it.  Then slice the leeks into half-moon shapes.  See all those layers in the leek?  The leeks grow up, from the root of the plant up through the dirt, and the dirt gets trapped in between all those layers.  You don't want to eat the dirt; so you need to rinse the leeks.  Put your sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water.  The leeks will float, but the dirt will sink to the bottom.  Swish them around in the water for a few minutes, or just let them sit while you make the bacon.  When you fish them out, you should see a fair amount of dirt in the bottom of the bowl.  Place them on a clean, dry dish towel and pat them completely dry.

Chop half a pound of bacon and crisp it up on the stove, preferably in a non-stick skillet.  You want it as crispy as you can get it without burning it.  Remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate.  Pour most of the grease out of the pan (into whatever receptacle you usually dispose of bacon grease) but save one or two tablespoons and put the pan back on the heat.

In a separate skillet, melt two tablespoons of butter and add the leeks, then start your fish (below).  When the leeks are softened and turning translucent, add 3/4 cup of dry white wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce it by half, then add about a half of cup of cream, or up to a cup.  Reduce it again by about half, then taste and season as desired.

Season both sides of 3 or 4 tilapia fillets with salt, pepper, and thyme.  You can also use cayenne pepper if you think you'd like it a little spicy.  Add the fillets to the hot pan with the bacon grease in it (the burner should be at about medium to medium-high now) and brown both sides of the fish.  I say to use a non-stick pan for fish because fish is very likely to stick to the bottom of another style pan, and you want to be able to flip it gracefully and without leaving chunks of fish in the bottom of your skillet.  To flip the fish you will need to use two spatulas.  Turn it over gently so as not to break the fish.  This should take about 3 or 4 minutes per side, and it should also be cooked through by this time.  If your sauce isn't quite done, turn the heat off of the fish a little early to let it finish cooking more slowly.

The original recipe calls for the bacon to be stirred into the sauce at the last minute, but my husband likes it to remain as crispy as possible, so we sprinkle it on top at the table.  Serve the fish on top of a scoop of white rice (made well ahead of time in my handy-dandy rice cooker), then top with the sauce and the bacon.  Enjoy!!

Remember if you'd like the sauce a little thicker, you can make a roux and use it to thicken the sauce as much as you'd like.  You can also serve another vegetable alongside the main dish if the leeks won't be enough for you.  And if you're really opposed to cooking with animal fat, feel free to omit the bacon and bacon grease altogether; the fish will be fine cooked in butter (still animal fat) or olive oil.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Asparagus Soup - Must Taste!!

We're eating asparagus two nights in a row because it goes bad quickly.  That, and we love asparagus.  I think it goes best with salmon so on the rare occasion we have salmon in the house (it can be expensive) I always make asparagus to go with it.  Tonight I decided on asparagus soup.  It's one of our all-time favorite recipes; it is so, so yummy.  It's pretty involved, so if it looks too complicated for you, just try to do it on a night when your husband can keep a close eye on the kids, or make it for lunch while they're napping, or while your husband has them at the gym or something.  Hire a babysitter if you have to, the soup is that.  Good.  I got this recipe from a vegetarian cookbook, credited to "Consulting editor Nicola Graimes."  This is a great recipe to try if you've never had asparagus, or if you think you don't like asparagus, because its mild flavors will be a gentle introduction to the loveliness that is asparagus.

You'll need:
a pound of asparagus (I like the skinny green kind)
6 small-medium shallots or 3 to 4 giant shallots
lemon juice
1 cup milk (I use whole, but whatever you have is okay)
1/2 cup light cream (I could only find regular and it was fine)
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock ( vegetable cubes are hard to find, so I've done it with chicken and it turns out just as good.)

a sieve
two soup pots
a blender or food processor

This recipe requires you to slice asparagus, which is unusual; but you do it just like you would a carrot.  After trimming them (with your toddler, see previous blog), line them up and slice them into tiny round discs.  Set them aside and slice the shallots.  My grocery store carries humongous shallots and I find that 4 is sufficient, but use your best judgement.  They have a mild onion flavor that is fantastic in soups and sauces.

Sautee the shallots in butter until they're slightly softened, then add the asparagus.  Cook for about 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper, and add the broth and the lemon juice.  The recipe calls for a tablespoon of lemon juice; I probably use a little more than that.  Save your lemon; you'll use it for the salmon later.  Bring the soup to a boil, half-cover it, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the asparagus are very tender.

Take the soup off the heat and allow to cool slightly before pouring into your blender.  Puree the soup.  Set up your sieve in such a way that it can rest on top of your other (clean) soup pot.  Pour the soup into the sieve so that it falls through into the clean soup pot.  Stir and scrape along the sieve, like you're sifting powdered sugar, so that you get the maximum yield out of your puree.  When it turns into a pulp, add the milk to the sieve and sort of rinse it out to get a little more out of it.  Put your dirty sieve in the sink and put the soup pot, now full of soup, back on the stove.  Heat it gently (you don't want to scorch or boil the milk) and slowly stir in the cream.  Give it a taste, season as desired, and you're all done.  You can serve this a first course while your main dish is cooking, or eat it as a light lunch.  It's not a soup that eats like a meal, so I wouldn't make it the main course for dinner. 

Salmon is my favorite fish because it has such a wonderful flavor all by itself, and this is also the reason some people don't like it.  It's probably the only fish that is popular raw, cold smoked, heat smoked, baked, sauteed, broiled, ground into burgers, and even pureed into cheese spreads.  The french serve it tartare.  It tastes great any way you slice it, and is popular among nutritionists for its concentration of good fats.  All this flavor is yet another reason it is perfect to serve with asparagus soup, because you really don't have to do anything to it.

If you're unsure how to pick out fresh salmon, you can buy it frozen.  Your best bet is to find a fish market in your area.  They can tell you when and where it was caught, how to store it, how to cook it, whether you can eat it raw, and how long to hold onto it before cooking or eating.  The general rule of thumb is to smell the fish.  It should not smell like anything, especially not fish.  Fresh fish shoud smell like nothing, but it can be hard to detect 'nothing' when you're in a fish market, because they can be smelly in general.  If it smells a little fishy because you're getting it from a grocery store and they have no idea where it came from, it will probably still be okay once you cook it completely, as long as the smell is not strong or offensive.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; this will ensure easy clean-up.  Lay your salmon fillets (about one per person, but it's good leftover too) on the parchment paper and season both sides with salt and pepper.  Squirt some lemon juice on top.  I used one half a lemon for the soup and the asparagus, total.  Stick in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes and enjoy!  If you want it done at the same time as your soup, put it in the oven towards the middle of the soup-boiling stage.

I served this with plain white rice, which I made ahead of time in my handy-dandy rice cooker.  It's one of my favorite kitchen appliances.  Alton Brown will tell you not to buy one unless you eat a ton of rice, but we do eat a ton of rice, and it has saved my life on multiple occasions.  It stays good, and warm, in there for days, so it's great for early pregnancy and stomach viruses!  When you're all down for the count with a nasty stomach bug, and all you're supposed to eat is rice anyway, it's so nice to have it already made and warm, waiting for you in the kitchen. 

So you see, it's okay to make something a little complicated like asparagus soup when you have easy things to go with it like baked salmon and white rice :)  Just don't make it the same day you make risotto or you might have your hands full.

Friday, February 4, 2011

First Trimester and Feeding the ... Frogs?

We are active members of a local playgroup, and we love it.  It gets us out of the house at least twice a week to do new things and meet new people.  Activities are posted on the website's calendar and you pick and choose which ones look appropriate for you and your child.  My oldest loves to feed the horses at the retired horse farm, feed the ducks at the hospital duck pond, and feed the fish in the koi pond at the Japanese restaurant.  Recently an acitivity called "Feed a Frog Friday" was posted on the calendar and we immediately signed up.  I'm not much for amphibians, or the bugs they eat, but my husband was available to join us and it sounded like fun for my tomboy.  So we get there, and they ask all the children to sit down in a room full of folding chairs with tanks of creepy animals all around the room and a stuffed hawk hanging from the ceiling.  The lady starts talking about frogs.  She continues to talk about frogs.  Audrey wants to stand on a stool to see the animals in the back of the room.  She is told to sit down.  "I'm's pretty unreasonable to ask three-year-olds to sit still for this,"  I point out.  "If she can't move around we're going to have to leave.  And I was under the impression we would be feeding frogs...?"  "Oh, you will!  I just don't want her to fall!"  Okay fine.  Lady at the front takes a giant toad out of the tank and holds it up for the kids to see.  She reads a story about frogs.  She takes a snake out of a tank.  "Now we don't want to scare the snake," she says.  "So be sure not to make any sudden movements."  I'm starting to wonder if she realizes her audience is made up of 20 three-to-six year olds.  By this point my husband has taken the screaming baby out for a walk, and I have to be the one restraining the squirming toddler while she PETS A SNAKE.  *Shudders*.  After they pet the snake, it goes back in the tank, and she pulls out a dead mouse to feed to the snake.  I assume it ate the mouse, that was not something I was about to watch.  Around minute forty, Audrey is saying, "I want to feed the frogs I want to feed the frogs I want to feed the frogs I want to feed the frogs," and I have to tell her I don't think it's going to be happening.  And then we were thanked for coming and asked to bring a friend next time.  Fat chance.  Why they call it feed-a-frog-fridays, I will never understand.  There was no frog-feeding involved.  Luckily my somewhat disappointed toddler was calmed with a granola bar and a long drive home, during which she conked out.  Long lectures are exhausting.

Today my hematologist said having three children is like making a milkshake with the lid off of your blender.  It works, but it can get messy.  And yes, I have been battling the symptoms of the first trimester of my third pregnancy, which explains to you why I haven't been blogging about cooking, if you've ever been pregnant.  Cooking is not something you want to do when you're newly pregnant.  Every odor is enhanced during cooking and that is bad for nausea.  I have literally been leaving the house when my husband cooks, so I don't have to smell it (or him).  But I'm at week 13 now and it has been getting better, so I actually cooked last night!  Whoo-hoo.  I made a menu, and went grocery shopping and everything.  The menu helps keep me accountable.  I wrote on there, "Thursday, Chicken with Mushroom sauce, Sauteed Asparagus, and couscous,"  so I have to do it, right?  Usually :)

Today I actually did NOT want fried food for lunch and went to two different places to get myself something healthy instead of ordering what I got for the kids.  I also did not eat breakfast AND had blood drawn and was totally fine until lunch at 1.  Hello, trimester 2.  You're my favorite.

And all this feeling better might have something to do with the fact that we finally had a date night the other night for the first time since before my inlaws were here just before Thanksgiving.  Over the holidays we were trying to save money, and with babysitters charging what they do, and me wanting to throw up everywhere we went, we weren't doing much.  But we finally went out for sushi (hold on a sec before you realize I shouldn't be eating raw fish) and frozen yogurt and a movie.  The sushi restaurant is one of the best places in town and they have a lot of delicious, cooked, pregnancy-friendly selections.  I had a delightful baked salmon roll and a smoked eel roll; and was soooo thoroughly ecstatic and satisfied to be eating sushi, OUT, with my husband and no kids.  The Mochi is conveniently located right next door and we couldn't resist.  Their almond yogurt is to die for, and I could eat those little mochi balls non-stop.  I'm into royalty (see Halloween blog) so we went to see the King's Speech and it was excellent.  Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, and multiple other Harry Potter cameos; you can't go wrong.  It was lovely to see something focused on one of the kings of the twentieth century as well; Elizabeth II is so prominent a figure but people don't always look to her immediate predecessors for storytelling.

We did not order drinks while we were out, and we did not order anything at the theater, and with a sitter it still cost us a hundred bucks.  Once a month, maybe.....

And on to last night's dinner.  This is my very own, made-up recipe.  There aren't many of them, but they're good.  It's a pretty standard white wine and cream sauce, a little similar to Chicken Marsala or Chicken Divan, but made with the stuff I already have in my house.

Chicken with Mushroom Sauce

Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper, and thyme if you like it.  Saute them in olive oil until they're browned on both sides.  Remove from the pan and cover with foil or a lid.  Add some butter, and the (sliced white) mushrooms to the hot pan.  I use an 8oz package of mushrooms.  When they're getting soft, scoot them to one side of the pan and make a roux on the other side.  This is done by melting a few tablespoons of butter and then whisking in about a tablespoon of flour.  Cook it for a minute, then stir it into the mushrooms.  This will prevent your sauce (gravy, as it really is; most gravies are made this way) from getting lumpy, because the flour is already dissolved into the butter and will disperse itself evenly through the liquid you're about to add.  Pour in about a cup of dry white wine (I keep a cheap box of chardonnay in the fridge for cooking.  You're supposed to cook with good wine, but good wine doesn't last that long in my house).  Use a whisk to scrape up all the goodness in the bottom of the pan, all that buttery chickeny mushroomy flavor, as well as to incorporate the roux into the wine.  Boil the sauce for a few minutes; the wine will reduce (evaporate, thicken and concentrate) by about half and then you can add the cream.  Use half a cup to a cup of whatever fat concentration you prefer, whatever looks good, and then cook it some more until it reduces again.  Give it a taste, season it with salt and pepper if you like, and add the chicken back in.  Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer until the chicken is cooked all the way through.  If you have really thin cutlets, the initial sautee may have done the trick, but they usually need a little more than that, so just check on them after about three minutes and you should be good to go.  Remove the chicken onto your plates, whisk and taste the sauce again, and pour the sauce over the chicken.

You can really go to town with the sauce; add all kinds of herbs, try it with a different wine or a different veggie; try dredging the chicken in flour before sauteeing instead of making the roux, etc etc.  Try it with heavy cream, light cream, or broth instead of wine.  Rachael Ray likes to add a little high-quality dijon mustard to her pan sauces to act as a quick emulsifier (it's what they put in mayonnaise to make the oil 'stick' to the vinegar) so her sauce doesn't separate.  It works that way in homemade salad dressing too.

Sauteed asparagus:

Asparagus is a great veggie to make with your toddler, because you can prepare it without a knife.  The whitish stems break off (to then be discarded) and the rest of the stalk will again break in half, leaving the perfect size for sauteeing.  My 3-year-old puts on her princess apron, climbs up on the kitchen bench, and breaks asparagus with me.  Not only does this occupy her for a whole five minutes, it also makes her MORE LIKELY TO EAT THE ASPARAGUS.  It's miraculous. 

Sautee the asparagus with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, until it is tenderized but still slightly crunchy.  If you want soggy asparagus, buy it canned.  Serve it alongside the chicken.

Couscous is one of my favorite things to keep in the house.  The kids love it, we love it, it comes in various flavors, it goes with everything, and it cooks in five minutes with no attention from me.  You bring some water to a boil, add the couscous, put the lid on, take it off the heat, and literally five minutes later you have couscous.  Serve it underneath or alongside your chicken.

And there you have it.  Don't miss my next post; I'm making Asparagus Soup and it is Heavenly.