Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting into the groove...

I haven't been cooking much since the 30 Days of Beverages. I just didn't feel like it. So we've been eating a lot of take out. Going into restaurants a lot and eating really easy stuff that I don't consider "cooking". I'm done with it. It gets old. Know what I mean? It's like being on vacation and in the beginning the restaurants are fun and exciting and different, but by the end of the trip all you want is something cooked from scratch at home on your own dishes. I got there.

So the cooking has begun again! Woohoo! Batten down the I come!

I planned quite a menu for this week and almost stuck to it completely. Impressive given we had a bit of a family hiccup this week when my dad landed himself in the hospital! Never fear, he's okay, and the menu lives another day. =)

I've had this Rachel Ray Big Orange Book for about a year and have only made a few things from it, so I relied heavily on this book for the week's ideas. The thing about Rachel Ray is that if you're a single mom who works fulltime, the 30 minute meal thing is a lifesaver! Generally speaking her recipes are relatively healthy although I do tend to adapt them a bit as I go. For example, I usually sub whole wheat pastas or breads, add more legumes to things where I can and reduce fats a smidge as she's really liberal with her EVOO pours.

The other night my parents were settling back into the house from dad's stint in the hospital and I figured the least I could do was bring him a "down home" meal. Who doesn't love a little home cookin' when they haven't been feeling well? So, RR's Italian Chicken and Dumplings it was. This is an inventive use of gnocchi and pesto and was really tasty. It truly did take me only about 30 minutes from start to finish so that was good. The downside? It used about 3 pots....I like a 2 pot or pan dinner generally. I'm not one to enjoy dishpan hands. =) But nevertheless, this recipe's a keeper and will be made again on a cold or rainy day or when someone doesn't feel well in our house! I used more chicken stock than the recipe called for as well as an extra tablespoon of flour so that it would still thicken the way a good chicken and dumplings should. Try're gonna like it!

Italian Chicken and Dumplings

5 tablespoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 pounds chicken tenders, diced into bite sized pieces
5 tablespoons butter
12 large white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
4 celery stalks from the heart, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 fresh bay leaf
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup fresh basil leaves
a generous handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
a handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
a couple of handfuls of grater Parmigiano-Reggiano
Zest of 1 lemon
2 (10-12 ounce) packages fresh gnocchi

Place a large pot of water on to boil for the gnocchi.

Heat a pot with 1 tablespoon EVOO, one turn of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, then season with salt and pepper and lightly brown. Remove to a plate and add another tablespoon of EVOO and 2 tablespoons butter and heat. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, and 1-2 fresh bay leaves, then season with salt and pepper. Soften for 5 minutes, sprinkle in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in 2 1/2 cups of the stock, slide the chicken back into the pot and simmer to allow the sauce to thicken.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup stock in a food processor with the basil, parsley, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, salt and pepper. Turn the processor on and pour in the remaining few tablespoons EVOO.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat with the zest of 1 lemon.

Salt the cooking water and drop the gnocchi in the water. Cook until the gnocchi floats, drain and add to the lemon butter and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss the gnocchi 2-3 minutes in the lemon butter until light golden at edges.

Turn the heat off the chicken and stir in the pesto sauce. Serve the chicken in shallow bowls and top with lemon butter dumplings.

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