Chicken with Artichokes in a Smoky Cream Sauce

I'm on day seven of the South Beach Diet (or, as I like to call it, the South Beach Challenge) and I'm finding more ways to make delicious food without missing pasta.

Last night was chicken with roasted red peppers, capers and artichoke hearts in a smoky cream sauce. Ok, ok, I broke a few guidelines on this one. I used chicken thighs when the diet recommends white meat and I used half and half. The official cookbooks recommend fat-free half and half (which sounds like an oxymoron to me) but when I looked at the ingredients at the grocery store, the second ingredient was corn syrup. What the? That's why I stuck to the regular kind.

Here's how to make it.

Serves 2

olive oil
2 skinless chicken breasts (or 4 thighs), cut into large chunks
1 roasted bell pepper, sliced
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbs. capers
6 canned artichoke hearts, cut in half
1/4 cup chicken stock (eyeball it)
1/4 cup half and half or milk (eyeball it)
1/4 cup fresh or canned chopped tomatoes (eyeball it)
1 Tbs. smoked paprika
salt and pepper
handful of chopped fresh basil

Coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high. Salt and pepper the chicken. When the olive oil is just starting to smoke add the chicken. Brown both sides (about 5 minutes each side). Refrain from moving the chicken around to ensure a nice golden brown. Set chicken aside.

Add the peppers, onion, garlic, capers and artichokes and sauté till onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken back to the pan and pour in the tomatoes, stock, cream and paprika. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken it up a little. Turn down the heat and cover. Let simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done all the way through. Toss in the basil and cook uncovered another minute or so, combining everything.

Serve and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if you like.


Asian Meatballs

I'm thinking about doing the South Beach Diet. The problem is, I love pasta and noodles. I had a hankering for gyoza tonight, so I thought I'd just make the filling in the form of meatballs and ditch the noodle.

Turned out I didn't really miss the won ton wrapper after all. This meal is quick and uses common fridge ingredients. Put whatever veggies you prefer in the stir fry. I happened to find a tasty edible mushroom in my yard right before dinner, so I tossed that in at the last minute.

Ingredients (I eyeball everything):
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup panko flakes (not South Beach friendly, so omit if needs be)
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
2 green onions, finely chopped
salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbs. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. corn starch (again, not South Beach friendly)
1 Tbs. oyster sauce (optional)

Broccoli, tofu, zucchini, and other stir fry veggies

If using tofu, drain it and cover in paper towels. Place a heavy pan on top to get more liquid out. Mix together the meatball ingredients thoroughly, cover and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Form meatballs and place on a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet so the fat is allowed to drain away while they cook. Bake for 30 minutes or until they are browned and cooked all the way through. Set aside.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the tofu into cubes and cut your stir fry veggies up into bite-sized pieces. Heat 2 tsp. cooking oil in a wok over high flame until the oil shimmers. Add the tofu and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Add another teaspoon of oil to the wok and reheat. Add the veggies and half the sauce. Mix well, cover and let cook for about seven minutes or until veggies are tender.

Uncover, add the rest of the sauce, the tofu, the meatballs and toss till everything is thoroughly coated.

Serve alone or with brown rice or farro if you aren't in Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet.


French Toast on the Waffle Iron

I'm sure this isn't a new idea and that there are hundreds of other blogs out there with similar posts, but it doesn't mean this isn't a totally great idea.

What's that idea? Well, french toast on the waffle iron. It's faster than cooking it in a pan because both sides cook at the same time and it browns evenly and leaves you with a cool waffle pattern on the bread.

Here's my waffle iron French toast to contribute to blogland.

Day-old challah or French bread, sliced on the bias 1-inch thick (six slices)
3 eggs
3/4 cups whole milk (I eyeball it)
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250. Plug in waffle iron and spray with cooking spray. In a pie pan combine the milk, eggs, honey, zest and vanilla. Place two slices of bread into the pan and let soak for 30 seconds. Flip and soak another 30 seconds. Transfer these slices to a cooling rack so any excess egg mixture will drip away (place a paper towel under the rack). Sprinkle slices with cinnamon. Repeat with remaining bread slices.

Place one to two slices at a time into waffle iron and let cook for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a plate in the oven to keep warm while cooking the other slices.

Serve with butter and maple syrup.


Mini Breakfast Soufflés

I despise scrambled eggs. Something about their boogery texture makes me almost sick. Give me fried eggs over medium any day. I can take my toast and dip it into the yolk -- oh yeah, that's the best.

Well, I'm trying to eat fewer carbs lately so I have to rethink my egg preference. I recently saw a recipe in Cooks Country Magazine for muffin tin breakfast souffles. The recipe is for 12 soufflés and I'm cooking just for my lonesome self, so I decided to wing it and make my own recipe.

Sorry the photo is so bad, the only mini muffin tin I have is shamrock shaped, so they looked pretty weird. My breakfast was not only delicious but also carb free (except for that glass of OJ I drank, hehe).

Here's roughly how I made them. Keep in mind I eyeball nearly everything, so these measurements are approximations. Use your own judgement, and best of all -- add the ingredients you like!

Makes 6 mini soufflés.

4 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk or half and half
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 crimini mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup chopped, frozen spinach
2 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
goat cheese

Preheat your oven (or better yet, toaster oven) to 425 degrees. Spray your 6-muffin tin liberally with cooking spray. Thaw out your spinach and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium high. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook till onions are translucent -- about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the spinach and tomatoes and cook till heated through. Evenly distribute these ingredients in your muffin tin. Crumble in a little goat cheese.

Gently whisk together the eggs and milk and evenly distribute in muffin tin so that egg mixture is not quite reaching the top edge (they will grow in the oven). Sprinkle a little more cheese on top.

Bake for 15 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes. If you have a silicone muffin mold, just pop out the souffles gently onto a serving plate, otherwise use a knife to loosen the edges.

If the egg is still a tad runny, pop in the microwave for 30 seconds.


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