Creamy Chicken, Broccoli & Mushroom Alfredo

This is my weekend off. Which means I have time to cook a new recipe and take pictures!

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for the perfect Chicken Alfredo recipe online. Unfortunately most Alfredo recipes are either too plain for my taste, or else try to keep it light by cutting heavy cream or using low fat cheese. Heh.

I LOVE this alfredo dish. I was inspired by The Pioneer Woman’s Bowtie Chicken Alfredo, but as I tend to do with recipes, I changed it up quite a bit. I don’t know why, but I always have an urge to change a recipe I find on the internet. Maybe it’s because I like making it my own in some way.

Creamy Chicken, Broccoli & Mushroom Alfredo

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Ingredients

  • 300 grams of Penne Pasta (1/3 bag)
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup White Wine (we had Brazos De Los Andes Blend)
  • 3/4 cup Cream (18% M.F. is what I usually have on hand for cooking)
  • 140 grams Parmesan Cheese (I used Zerto’s mixed cheese with Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, and Asiago)
  • 1 Broccoli crown, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup mushrooms (I used a mix of Cremini, Shiitake, Portabella, and Oyster)
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Chicken Broth, for thinning

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook until deep golden brown on both sides and done in the middle. Remove and slice into strips. Set aside.

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Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pan and minced garlic. Stir continuously for one minute and add the mushrooms. Cook for another minute and add the wine.

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Let it bubble and reduce for the next 2-3 minutes. Add cream and broccoli florets.

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Allow to heat and thicken for a few minutes. Add the cheese, leaving a few tablespoons in the container for topping later, and stir. Add the chicken and continue tossing until combined. Add salt and pepper as desired, and chicken broth it you feel it needs thinning. Mine did need thinning, but I just added a bit more cream… *cough*.

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Top with some remaining cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy with a glass of wine ;).

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Farms & Forks Review

Recently I’ve been trying out different grocery stores in an effort to eat healthier and save money. I’ve tried Loblaws, No Frills, Food Basics, and Freshco. My regular grocery day is Tuesday, and every single time I shopped at one of these stores, at least one food item (usually meat or tomatoes) went rotten in less than 24 hours. I put a pack of chicken legs in the fridge FOR THE NEXT DAY and they were gone rancid before I could cook them. In one day. Seriously frustrating. Especially when the food that hasn’t gone bad doesn’t look that appetizing to begin with (which is always the case with tomatoes).

David and I shopped at Loblaws a couple of times. The last time was particularly bad (we haven’t gone back since!). We wanted to pick up a few fresh food items – bread, broccoli, tomatoes, bananas and some meat. We didn’t make it past the broccoli. I picked up one head of broccoli and the entire underside of the broccoli was slimy and really stank. I was so disgusted we didn’t buy anything and drove to a nearby Longos (the only grocery store I’ll actually buy anything at now) to pick up our few groceries.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends from church recommended Farms & Forks. I also heard about it on my workplace’s intranet page and decided to give them a try.

There’s a great selection of food online and it was a lot of fun to sit on the couch and pick out my groceries! I was a little dismayed at the prices, but for organic local food, and after reading their food criteria, this is simply the price you pay for organic and higher quality food anywhere. It makes me a little sad that good food costs so much more money, but I was ready to try something a little different!

Our first food delivery was a bit rocky. Despite my instructions, our food box was delivered to our landlords who promptly dug into the food. They told David later that they thought it was a promotion. Oh the joys of living in a basement apartment!

I personally think any rational person with tenants living downstairs would look at the box first and see if there’s a name, so I didn’t blame Farms & Forks entirely, but obviously it wouldn’t have happened had the instructions been followed.

I wrote to the Farms & Forks team, and they replied with sincere apologies, spoke to the driver to find out what happened (there was a plow coming by and he was in a rush to get out of the way), and reimbursed me for the food that had been eaten. They later gave me a call as a follow-up to our e-mail exchange to see if there was anything else they could do. That’s good customer service!

So, after all that, I decided to give it another shot. And yesterday was my second food delivery! The driver was extremely apologetic and arrived promptly during the delivery time hours. He came right to the back and delivered a Christmas card to us in addition to our grocery box. Who knew groceries could be so exciting!

All the food is packaged in a sturdy box, which they then collect at your next delivery. And the food looked (and tasted!) glorious!

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For this food delivery I ordered a container of baby spring mix & spinach, broccoli, 2 lbs of grapes, 2 lbs of clementines, 1 lb of bananas, 2 lbs of sweet potatoes, 2 lbs of yellow potatoes, 2 yellow onions, 3 pears and a loaf of bread! I had ordered meat and milk with my last order, but didn’t need to purchase any this time around.

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I love food pictures.

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The food looked, smelled, and tasted delicious. I am super pleased! I must admit, there is actually a noticeable difference in taste with the bananas. While I wouldn’t say the bananas at the grocery store taste bad, the organic bananas delivered by Farms & Forks were creamier and sweeter.

While I don’t think Farms & Forks will be my sole grocery provider (I’ve started buying several items from Longos), I can definitely see purchasing produce boxes regularly from them, and I really like how their meat is packaged. It’s already vacuum-sealed for the freezer!

It’s also a solid choice if you’re looking to get some groceries on a busy schedule, or want to stay holed up during the cold winter months. It’s always worth trying if you, like me, are a little exasperated by the big grocery stores.

And my philosophy is, if there’s anything worth spending your money on, it’s good food!

Five Years and Counting

What a whirlwind. Yesterday was a fantastic anniversary day!

I woke up early to curl my hair and get ready. I very rarely wear make-up and style my hair, as it takes about an hour from start to finish and most mornings I’m far too lazy to put in the effort. I’m always really happy when I do put in that extra effort, though!

We spent the first part of the morning at church, sticking around for a few minutes afterwards to chat. A couple of friends just returned after a week in the UK and it was really nice to see them again :).

After lunch David dropped me off at the library and told me he’d see me again soon, winked, and off to work I went. It was a pretty busy day at the library – I always feel like long weekends will be quiet with people being away, but they always end up being busy. Time went by quickly, though.

Before I knew it, there was David approaching the desk with flowers (five roses for the five years we’ve been married!) and a maple macchiato from Starbucks. We sat down in the staff room for my break, one of my colleagues snapped a few pictures, and David told me all about his adventures.

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He had intended to get flowers close to where I work, and after walking all along the street, all the flower shops were closed! He was pretty dismayed. He also told me he ran into a group of people dressed up as Darth Vader, a random princess (he said it definitely wasn’t Princess Leia), Kermit the Frog, and Miss Piggy.

After being unsuccessful in finding a flower shop that was open on Sundays, he decided to use the library’s Wi-Fi discreetly to find the nearest flower shop that was open… and it was 40 minutes away! He drove all that way to get me some flowers and then stopped in at a Starbucks on the way back (I LOVE Starbucks coffee). David was hoping that when he returned with the flowers he could stage a battle with Darth Vader for a picture, pretending to fight him (and win, obviously) but when he came back Darth Vader was gone. It’s still a cute story!

After work, he took me to a really lovely restaurant in Unionville, Ontario called The Old Country Inn Viennese Restaurant. The owner found us a seat in our own little alcove with stained glass surrounding us, it was quite lovely.

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The various coats of arms of the Austrian states.

We sat down to some white wine, first. We had an Austrian wine – Krems Riesling, it was a fantastic wine! David ordered their “Jäger Schnitzel” and I had their “Wiener Rostbraten.” Super delicious! We shared apple strudel for dessert :).

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All around, it was a really lovely day with lots of surprises, laughter and love. It was also a really nice day so we enjoyed a walk through scenic Unionville.

We’re looking forward to many more years together!

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Spicy Sausage and Veggie Tortiglioni

I love tomatoes. I love sausage. I love vegetables. But most of all, I love pasta. If I had to choose my last meal on earth, without hesitation it would be spaghetti and meatballs, some cheesy garlic bread and a glass of wine. Pasta sauces are just so full of flavour!

Recently I found a new pasta in the grocery store that I’d never seen before: bocconcini. I’ve had penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, linguine, fettucine, spaghettini, fusili, …the list goes on. But bocconcini? Doesn’t that term refer to a mozzarella cheese?

It reminded me of a cross between rigatoni and penne rigate. Upon further investigation, I learned that it’s also (and pretty much always) referred to as “tortiglioni.” How strange. From now on I’ll refer to it as tortiglioni, despite the packaging.

I also had some spicy sausage in my freezer and leftover spinach from an earlier meal. The wheels started turning and I came up with this recipe! My husband looked at me after his first bite and said “Hon, this is a win.”

So, using up some ingredients from my fridge, I made this!

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Spicy Sausage and Veggie Tortiglioni
Serves: 6

4 sausages, hot, casings removed
1 red onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 large zucchini
2 tsp basil, dried
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Italian seasoning, dried
3 handfuls of spinach
500g of tortiglioni pasta
1/2 cup red wine
1 can whole tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsps oil
Parmesan cheese

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Add oil to wok or large pan and heat. Add onion and after 2 minutes add garlic. After another 2 minutes add peppers, mushrooms, basil and Italian seasoning.

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Saute for 5 minutes and add sausage. Allow the sausage to brown before adding tomatoes, wine and sugar. Let simmer, covered, for at least 2 hours.

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Meanwhile, near the end of cooking time, cook the pasta according to package instructions and add the spinach to the sauce once the pasta is added to the boiling water. Remove the lid to the sauce and allow to simmer for the next 15 minutes, uncovered.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot.

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Spoon sauce over pasta until it has reached your desired sauce/noodle ratio. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

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Notes:

1) You can use mild or hot sausage, or a combination of the two.
2) Rigatoni or another large noodle would also work well in this dish.
4) I bought a 900g bag of tortiglioni pasta and used a little more than half. I spooned most of the sauce – except about 1 cup or so – over the pasta.
5) I’ve made sauces similar to this before and it freezes well. I almost always have sauce leftover so I freeze the sauce and cook up fresh pasta for a future meal. Any leftover sauce and pasta already mixed together I save for meals during the week.
6) I used Inniskillin’s Cabernet Franc (Inniskillin is a great Canadian wine maker!) and enjoyed a glass with my meal :). Red wine and tomato sauce are meant for each other.

Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Rice Florentine

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I made this for supper a few weeks ago and it was delicious. It’s also a great way to use leftover chicken, and it’s a pretty fast meal to make. I found this recipe while I was browsing the Food and Drink section at the library. It’s from Better Homes and Gardens’ The Ultimate Soups and Stews Book, though I made a few adjustments.

Creamy Chicken and Rice Florentine

Ingredients:

2 tbsp of oil to brown and cook the chicken
2 cups of shredded chicken (I used one breast and three thighs)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped mixed mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini, brown, portobello and shitake)
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup of long-grain rice, uncooked
2 cups of chicken stock or broth (I used Campbell’s Chicken Broth)
1 cup water
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cans of evaporated milk (I used the full-fat, but you can easily substitute fat-free)
2 tbsp all purpose flour
4 cups of packed fresh spinach
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Salt to taste

Directions:

In a Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat and add chicken; cook for 12-15 minutes or until no longer pink and browned on the outside. Transfer to a plate and when cool, coarsely shred the chicken.

Once the chicken has been put on a plate to cool, scrape up any brown bits on the bottom and add onion, mushrooms, carrot, and garlic. Stir occasionally. Stir in rice and let cook for 1 minute or so. Add broth, water, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Bring to boiling and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl stir together 1 can of evaporated milk and flour; stir into mixture in Dutch oven. Slowly stir in remaining evaporated milk. Cook and stir until bubbly.

Stir in spinach and the shredded chicken. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes (it will thicken upon standing). Stir in lemon zest and sprinkle with black pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with warm crusty bread and enjoy!

Notes:

I didn’t add salt until the very end, I find you control your salt intake better this way. When I add salt at the beginning of cooking, I always end up adding more anyway. Also, depending on the stock you use, it might be salty enough.

If you find your soup too thick, you can add some chicken stock at the end. We wanted ours thick and creamy, but if you reheat the leftovers, you’ll want to add some stock.

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