Sunday, March 19, 2017

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken

I confess that there hasn't been much going on in my kitchen lately. Most of the dishes in my dishwasher are cereal bowls. There are dairy products with expired dates in my refrigerator. I think about cooking, but planning a menu and going to the grocery store is too much strain on my already-tired brain.  The bright side is that there is less than a month of tax season left.  The business returns deadline is behind us, I only have 2 more weeks of client interviews left. Soon another tax season will be behind me and I'll be back in the kitchen again!

All this past week we've grabbed dinner on the way home or ate cereal (mini shredded wheat is the cereal of choice these days). I so crave a homemade meal. This easy and flavorful pasta dish met the criteria. I found this recipe online but tweaked it to our tastes, adding spinach and artichoke hearts. Of course, the sun-dried tomatoes provide so much flavor, due to the concentration of flavor during the drying process. This recipe uses the oil from tomatoes left in olive oil and has no cream, it thickens with milk and a little cornstarch. Both of these cut down the calorie ratio in this dish.  After sitting at my desk 12 hours a day we don't need a meal laden with calories!  I served it over pasta because that's how my Hubbers likes it. It could easily be served over vegetables for even less calories.

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken

1 pound chicken fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced garlic
7-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained (reserve liquid)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 can artichoke hearts (not marinated), sliced in half
4 ounces fresh baby spinach
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup fresh parmesan cheese

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.  Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, shake off the excess and set the pieces aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Cook the chicken until golden on each side, cooked through and no longer pink (about 12 minutes).  Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet; saute the garlic one minute.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms; cook until the mushrooms are softened.

Reduce heat to medium-low heat, add the milk and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the milk/cornstarch mixture to the center of the pan.  Continue to simmer while quickly stirring the mixture until the sauce thickens.

Add in the spinach and parmesan cheese, allow sauce to simmer until the cheese is melted and the spinach is wilted.  Add the chicken back in the pan and heat through. Serve over pasta or vegetables, if desired.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Texas Sheet Cake

My family has been making this chocolate cake ever since I can remember.  As I'm now 60, that's a while now! It's very popular in the southern states, which is where I trace my Okie roots to. I'm always amazed at how many people have never had or heard of this cake as various forms of the recipe have been around forever. It's a favorite of my officer manager, Anne, so I recently made it for her birthday.  At 8:30 in the morning she was already enjoying a piece!

It is a very easy chocolate cake, using ingredients commonly found in our pantries. It's a very moist cake and, because it's baked in a sheet pan, the cake can be cut in brownie-size pieces. It's a great cake to take to a gathering where you need to serve many people.  No one can resist! Our recipe calls for cinnamon, many of the recipes don't.  I like the addition of the spice, it adds a nice sweetness to the cake.

Rumor has it, the cake is called Texas Sheet Cake  because it makes a cake as big as the state of Texas!

Texas Sheet Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1 cube unsalted butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk


1 cube unsalted butter
6 tablespoons buttermilk
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, combine the shortening, butter, cocoa and water.  Bring to a boil and set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, soda and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.  Pour in hot liquid mixture and beat well.  Add the eggs, vanilla and buttermilk, beating well.

Pour into a greased (I use Pam baking spray) 11x17x1-inch baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, make the frosting. Pour frosting over the cake while the cake is still warm (this will help the frosting spread over the cake).   

To make the frosting, bring the butter, buttermilk and cocoa to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla, stirring out any lumps.  Add more powdered sugar, if necessary, to get a proper spreading consistency.

Chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) may be added to either the cake batter, frosting, or both. I usually just sprinkle some over the top of the frosted cake.