Monday, July 15, 2024

30 Minute Meal: Italian Chicken Cutlet Paninis

Crunchy chicken cutlets surrounded by juicy tomatoes and gooey mozzarella are doused with a basil mayo and tucked into toasted sourdough bread.  I call this panini heaven!



 

Italian Chicken Cutlet Paninis


This heatwave is never going to end!  What do you do when it's too hot to grill, but you still need to feed the crew a nutritious and scrumptious dinner?  Make paninis!  Right now I'm all for keeping my dinners light and simple.  I don't want to heat up the house by cooking all evening.  That's why this sandwich fits the bill.  It takes just 30 minutes, one skillet, and a few ingredients to pull together but, the flavor is out of this world.  

These Italian Chicken Cutlet Paninis are made with chicken breasts that have been cut in half horizontally and pounded thinly.  You could also used thin sliced chicken breasts from the store but I find even those are really thick these days.  Either will do, but I would still pound them to about 1/3 inch thickness.  Then we bread them and cook them in a skillet until crispy.  The only thing left to do is build your sandwich, smear on some of this wonderful quick-made basil mayo throw the whole sandwich back in the skillet to melt the cheese and create a toasted panini.  No panini press needed!  The result is a very flavorful meal that took no time to make and very little cleanup.  I a one pan meal that is done in 30 minutes and requires only 8 ingredients.  Gotta love that in the summertime.  

Enjoy!





What Ingredients do I need?

  • boneless skinless chicken breasts - I used breasts and cut them in half horizontally to make cutlets.  You can also buy thin sliced chicken breasts.
  • mayo
  • fresh basil - fresh will give you a great flavor.  I don't recommend dried basil.
  • eggs
  • plain breadcrumbs - you could also used Italian style or panko.
  • sourdough bread - this provides great flavor.
  • tomatoes
  • fresh mozzarella - I use the ball of mozzarella that comes in a package with water.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Bread:  Use your favorite.  Keep in mind you want them large enough to cover a chicken breast.
  • Add some greens:  Spinach or romaine would be a good addition.
  • Change the flavor profile:  This is an Italian sandwich, try Southwestern by swapping chili powder for the basil, jack cheese for the mozzarella and sauteed bell peppers for the tomato.



Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Bread Choices:  Make sure your bread is large enough to cover the chicken breast.
  • Toast the bread after the sandwich is assembled (like making a grilled cheese) in a skillet and use a lid so the cheese melts)
  • Pound your chicken breasts to about 1/3 inch thin.  This allows them to cook quickly and evenly.


Serve this with:

Asparagus Salad with Oranges and Feta

Green Bean, Tomato, and Avocado Salad

Easy Greek Pasta Salad

Red White and Blueberry Salad



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Italian Chicken Cutlet Paninis


serves 4



2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut in half horizontally to make 4 cutlets
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon olive oil
8 slices of sourdough bread
2 tomatoes sliced
8 slices of fresh mozzarella

Place cut chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound to 1/3 inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Repeat for the remaining chicken. Set aside.

In a small bowl mix together the basil and mayo. Set aside. Set up your breading station by using two pie plates or breading dishes. Add the beaten eggs to one and the breadcrumbs to the other.

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt. Dip each breast in the egg mixture then coat with the breadcrumbs. Over medium heat place a large skillet adding the olive oil, allowing to heat. Add cutlets (may need to cook in batches depending on the skillet size) to the skillet and cook about 4 minutes per side. Breadcrumbs should be golden brown. Flip and cook the other side ensuring chicken is cooked all the way through. Repeat with the remaining breasts if necessary.

Spread one side of each slice of bread with the basil mayo. Top 4 of them (mayo side up) with tomatoes, chicken, and cheese. Top with the other 4 bread slices mayo side down to close the sandwich.

Add cooking spray to the same skillet and add the sandwiches back to the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook flipping once until lightly browned and the cheese has melted. Cut sandwiches in half and serve.












Thursday, July 11, 2024

Asparagus Salad with Oranges and Feta

The perfect light and refreshing, go with everything summer side dish!


 

Asparagus Salad with Oranges and Feta


I love changing up my side dishes during the summer.   I always have a cold salad dish that I  can serve with any grilled protein or burger, or even sandwiches.   This salad has nothing to do with lettuce but has everything to do with crispy green veggies.  Asparagus to be exact. 

Raw Asparagus is the star of the show. It remains crunchy by cutting it thinly on the bias and then is doused in a mint basil pesto and tossed with oranges and feta for some tang and sweetness.  My husband said I knocked it out of the park on this one! (Sounds like a keeper).

Pull this together in under 30 minutes and bring this Mediterranean style salad into your summer menu rotation. 

Enjoy! 




What Ingredients do I need?

  • fresh mint - you want that bright flavor you get from fresh herbs
  • fresh basil - again fresh herbs should be used in this dish
  • Romano cheese
  • fresh lemon - you will use if for the zest and the juice
  • fresh garlic
  • Olive oil - extra virgin is best. You want one that you enjoy the flavor of since it will be prominent in the dish.
  • 2 bunches of asparagus - I used the thin stocks but you can use the regular if you like.
  • naval oranges
  • feta cheese - I always by the block of cheese and then crumble off what I need.


Substitutions and Variations

  • Crunchy additions: try adding chopped hazelnuts, pine nuts, or chopped almonds
  • Cheeses:  This is a part of the pesto which binds it.  Try parmesan cheese instead.




Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Asparagus - You can use thin or regular sized asparagus in this dish.  The key is how you slice it.  Slice it on the bias to keep the stocks crunchy instead of being woody.  To do this slice on an deep angle in 2 inch pieces.  Make sure to cut off the woody part of the stock toward the bottom first.
  • Segmenting an orange - The easiest way to do this is to cut across the bottom so the orange will lie flat on your board.  Then cut off the top and start going down the side cutting away the peel and the white pith below.  You will be left with just orange flesh.  Hold the orange in your hand over the serving bowl to catch any juices. This will add some sweet flavor to the pesto sauce. Slice along the side of the membrane on each side of the segment and release the segment.  Do this, rotating the orange until all segments are free.


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Asparagus Salad with Oranges and Feta


serves 6


Pesto:
2 Cups fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup Romano cheese
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin Olive oil

Salad:
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
2 naval oranges
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper


In a food processor add basil, cheese, lemon zest and juice, garlic, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.   Process until finally chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Transfer to a large bowl and add in oil, whisking to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the woody ends of the asparagus.  Cut asparagus tips from the stocks into 3/4 inch long pieces.  Slice the remaining stocks on the bias thinly into 2 inch lengths.  Cut away the peel and the pith from the oranges holding the fruit over the bowl and using a pairing knife to slice between the membranes to release the orange segments. Add The asparagus tips, stocks, orange segments, and feta to the pesto and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Either serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator until serving.


adapted from America's Test Kitchen - The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook











Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Summer Side Dishes: Green Bean, Tomato, & Avocado Salad

Fresh green beans, juicy tomatoes, buttery avocado, and salty feta folded together and doused with a Dijon vinaigrette for the ultimate summer salad!




 

Green Bean, Tomato, & Avocado Salad


Getting ready for the 4th of July bash and need a great, yet easy, side dish?  This healthy salad made with fresh French style green beans that can be whipped up in no time.  

I love a great summer side dish and using fresh in season produce is a perfect way to:

  • eat healthy
  • keep it simple 
  • compliment any main dish
  • try something new

My Green Bean, Tomato, & Avocado Salad is the perfect salad for your upcoming holiday or a side dish to any summer meal.  Only 4 ingredients plus a tasty homemade dressing which stars Dijon mustard and lemon juice and you have one heck of a salad!

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • French style green beans: Fresh green beans are a must! I like the French style aka Haricots Verts, as they are a bit smaller since they are harvested earlier, plus they seem to be more tender and flavorful. Although regular greens will do just fine. In season during the summer months you should be able to pick some up in your local grocery store.
  • Avocado: The buttery texture of the avocado adds a nice creaminess to the crunchy green beans.
  • Tomatoes: Use grape or cherry tomatoes. I used 1/2 red tomatoes and 1/2 yellow tomatoes for color. You can use all of one color is you wish.
  • Feta cheese: I like to buy a block of feta cheese (some are sold as a block floating in a brine) and crumble the cheese myself. Fresher is better! The tang from the feta cheese is a great finish to the salad.
  • Lemon: Use fresh lemon for that bright flavor.
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil: Get the best you can afford for great flavor.
  • Dijon mustard: used as an emulsifier in the dressing and adds loads of flavor.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Add protein: Shredded or thinly sliced chicken breast would be a great addition. As would flaked tuna or pieces of salmon.
  • Add pasta: A short pasta would be a great addition and turn this quickly in to a pasta salad.
  • Additional veggies: Peas, cucumber, red onion, and radish, are a few recommendations.
  • Try asparagus: You can cut them on the bias in 1-2 inch pieces and blanch them or leave them raw.



Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Store leftovers: In the refrigerator in a sealed container for 3-4 days.
  • Make ahead: Prep all the veggies and the dressing separately with the exception of the avocado and the feta. Add those just be serving along with the dressing.

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Green Bean, Tomato, & Avocado Salad


serves 6 


1 pound French green beans
1/2 pint small red cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 pint small yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
2 avocados, peeled and cubed
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
kosher salt & black pepper
juice of 1 lemon


Put on a medium pot filled with water over high heat allowing the water to boil.  Meanwhile prep your vegetables by slicing your tomatoes in half or in 1/4ths if large, cut the green beans in to 1-2 inch pieces.  Cube the avocados. 

When the water is boiling drop the cut green beans into the pot and blanch them for about 2 minutes until bright green but still crunchy.  Drain green beans and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  After 2 minutes drain the water.

Place the tomatoes, green beans, and avocado in a large bowl.  Add in the crumbled feta cheese.

In a small bowl or jar add the Dijon mustard, juice of one lemon, olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste.  Whisk to combine.  Add the dressing over the salad items and toss to coat.  Serve or refrigerate until serving.  











Friday, June 21, 2024

Bakery Style Cinnamon Chip Muffins - Small Batch

The smell of cinnamon will waft through your house calling everyone to the kitchen as you just made Bakery Style Cinnamon Chip Muffins!




 

Bakery Style Cinnamon Chip Muffins - Small Batch


Is there anything more enticing than the smell of cinnamon coming from the kitchen?  This brings back all kinds of comfort feels for me.  I don't care what time of year the scent of warm cinnamon baking in something delicious will pull me in every time.  

So let's create some bakery style muffins that are filled with cinnamon chips, and if that isn't enough we are going to sprinkle cinnamon sugar all over the tops!  I use my basic muffin recipe which provides a high domed muffin that is tender on the inside.  To that we are adding cinnamon chips that you can find in your local grocery store.  If not you can find them here.  

These are the perfect Sunday breakfast item, snack during the week, or perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.  You will not be able to resist these wonderful muffins bursting with cinnamon.  It will be hard to eat just one and guaranteed to be a hit with the entire family.




What Ingredients do I need?

  • eggs
  • milk
  • canola oil
  • all purpose flour
  • sugar or sugar substitute
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • cinnamon chips
  • cinnamon


Substitutions and Variations

  • Use white whole wheat flour in place of the all purpose flour
  • Make mini muffins or small loaves instead

  • Doing a Keto diet or want lower carb? Use an alternative sugar of you choice as a substitute. I like King Arthur's sugar alternative.




Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • 1st rule of thumb when making muffins is "do not overmix" the batter.  You want it batter to just come together.  Little spots of flour is okay.
  • To get high muffin tops turn your oven up to 400 degrees.
  • Make sure you are using fresh baking powder.  To test put 1/2 teaspoon into 1/4 cup of boiling water.  If it bubbles, you are good.
  • Double the recipe for 12 muffins.
  • Muffins can be frozen individually and kept for 3 months.
  • Fill the muffin tin almost to the top for nice big domed muffins.





More Muffins Recipes

Bakery Style Strawberry Banana Chunk Muffins

Lemon Poppyseed Double Berry Muffins

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

Honey Nectarine Muffins

Orange Poppyseed Muffins

Bakery Style Banana Nut Muffins

Simple Blueberry Muffins





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Bakery Style Cinnamon Chip Muffins


Makes 6


1 egg
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cinnamon chips
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 sugar 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 6 well muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. 

In a large bowl add the egg, milk, and oil. Mix together using a whisk.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.   Stir just until combined.  Do not over mix.  Take 1/2 cup blueberries and smash them until chunky (not totally smashed to pulp) with the back of a spoon.  Add this to the batter and gently fold in.  Add cinnamon chips to the batter and fold in gently.  

To make the cinnamon sugar mixture combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and mix well.  

Using a cookie scoop, add batter to a muffin tin to make 6 muffins.  Sprinkle some of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of each muffin.  Bake 18-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes in the tin. Remove from the pan and serve.



















Monday, June 17, 2024

Grilled Tuscan Chicken with Green Beans and Tomatoes

Get ready for the flavors of Italy in this 30 minute summer grilling menu.




 

Grilled Tuscan Chicken with Green Beans and Tomatoes


Time for some grilling action.  This is so quick and easy you can easily pull this off on a weekday.  30 minutes of cooking time along with 30 minutes to marinate the chicken for full flavor and you are ready to have a meal with 2 sides dishes on the table.  

Chicken breasts are marinated with Italian dressing and some dried basil and oregano to give it a full-bodied Tuscan flavor then grilled to perfection.  Along side you will find the easiest side dishes of steamed green beans, and juicy cherry tomatoes dressed with Italian flavors.    One easy and quick meal that tastes like you spent hours perfecting the flavors.

Enjoy!







What Ingredients do I need?

  • Italian dressing
  • dried Oregano
  • dried Basil
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • bag of ready to steam green beans
  • pint of cherry tomatoes


Substitutions and Variations


  • Protein:  Use chicken thighs or pork chops 
  • Tomatoes:  Use grape tomatoes, or cut up vine ripened or Campari tomatoes
  • Green Beans: try grilling them in a grill basket along side the chicken, or sauteing them in a skillet.
  • Vegetables: try substituting zucchini (either grilled or sauted) yellow squash, or Japanese eggplant for the green beans
  • Garnish:  Top with chopped fresh herbs such as oregano or basil
  • Marinade: used rosemary instead of the basil and oregano in the marinade. 



Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Side Dish:  Serve with some crusty bread.
  • Create a salad:  Instead of placing the tomatoes on the green beans you can toss them with some chopped romaine lettuce and a little dressing for a simple salad.
  • Leftovers can be combined with lettuce for a main dish salad.
  • Use an indoor grill pan instead of an outdoor grill.  This will even cut down on time!



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Grilled Tuscan Chicken with Green Beans and Tomatoes


serves 4


3/4 cup Italian dressing, divided
1 1/2 Tablespoon dried Oregano
1 1/2 Tablespoon dried Basil
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 12oz. bag ready to steam green beans
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved


Heat grill to medium high heat.  Combine 1/2 cup of dressing along with the oregano and basil in a container or sealed bag.  Add pepper to taste to the marinade.  Remove 1/4 cup to a bowl to use for basting.  Add chicken to the marinade tossing to coat.  Allow to marinate 30 minutes.

Remove chicken from the marinade and discard used marinade.  Grill chicken 10 minutes turning once or until chicken reaches 160 degrees basting with reserved 1/4 cup of marinade.  Remove chicken and allow to rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile cook green beans according to package directions.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a bowl toss tomatoes with 1/4 cup of Italian dressing.  

To serve, place chicken breasts on a platter and surround them with steamed green beans topped with dressed tomatoes.  












Friday, June 14, 2024

Easy Greek Pasta Salad

My Easy Greek Pasta Salad is loaded with fresh veggies, tangy feta, and yummy pasta, all doused with a wonderful Greek vinaigrette.  The perfect summer side salad!



 

Easy Greek Pasta Salad


Summer is made for pasta salads.  They are great for backyard BBQ, picnics, potlucks, concerts in the park, you name it!  I love a good pasta salad, but I really enjoy that they are soooo easy to make.  Today I'm feeling Greek flavors.  Greek salad is a favorite so it is just natural to add those flavors to some pasta.  

This dish comes together in about 30 minutes and is easy to throw together.  Twirls of pasta is mixed with cool cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, red onion, and tangy feta.  Top this with a quick Greek vinaigrette and you have one heck of a tasty dish!  The result is a fresh, light, pasta salad that is full of flavor.  This will easily feed six and this basic recipe can be enhanced as you wish.  I'll leave some suggestions below.  

Enjoy!




What Ingredients do I need?

  • rotini pasta
  • English cucumber
  • Roma tomatoes
  • feta cheese
  • medium red onion
  • red bell pepper
  • parsley
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • lemon
  • dried oregano




Substitutions and Variations

  • Olives: Add green or black olives
  • Beans:  Add garbanzo beans or gigante beans
  • Tomatoes:  ripe and fresh are best.  Use what is in season. Cherry or grape tomatoes are always a good choice.
  • Pasta: Use your favorite shape, even spaghetti will work




Kitchen Tips and Notes

  • Cook your pasta first:  you will want the pasta to cool down before adding it to the other ingredients and this will take a little time.
  • Rinse your pasta after cooking?  There are 2 schools of thought on this.  One side says to rinse to stop the cooking process which helps keep the pasta al dente. Also it reduces the temperature of the pasta quickly, plus it removes some of the starch.  The other side says that pasta that is not rinsed will hold the sauce better.  I've done it both ways.  I will say rinsing is faster and since you are using an oil based dressing the ingredients get coated just as well.
  • Tools:  I use this handy veggie chopper when I have to chop a gang of veggies.  It is so helpful and I love that the container catches and holds all the product.  Great for salads!




  • I also have a set of melamine mixing bowls that I use ALL THE TIME!  The best part is you can mix in it then pop of the lid to store it in the frig, AND serve from it.  They are beautiful and practical.  Check them out.





More Pasta Salads to enjoy:









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Easy Greek Pasta Salad


serves 6



1/2 pound rotini pasta
1 English cucumber, small dice
3 Roma tomatoes, small dice
1/3 - 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 medium red onion, small dice
1/2 red bell pepper, small dice
1/3 cup parsley, chopped

Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil on the stove.  Add the pasta and cook according to the package direction until al dente.  Drain the pasta in a colander and allow to cool.  

In a large mixing bowl add all the vegetables, the cooled pasta, and the crumbled feta cheese.

In a small bowl or jar whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice oregano and salt and pepper.  Pour dressing over the salad and toss to coat all the ingredients.  Salad may be served immediately but I suggest chilling the salad for 30 minutes to allow all the flavors to blend together.


















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