Monday, July 26, 2010

Italian Enchiladas

Italian Enchiladas: In the words of Steve and Doug Butabi from the 1998 blockbuster, A Night at the Roxbury (flop to others, loved by me...), - "Como, what?!"

Mr. Max loves his pasta Arrabbiata whenever we go out to Italian places, so when I stumbled upon a recipe for a homemade Arrabbiata sauce, I marked it. Today, I pulled it up again to see that it involves large stuffed pasta shells and I became intrigued. I took this recipe and changed the sauce components which originally instructed to use a store-bought tomato or marinara sauce like Ragu or Prego. Instead I added my own homemade sauce with the additions to make it "arrabiatta". I also decided to stuff the pasta shells with chicken instead of ground turkey, adding fresh chopped spinach with the ricotta cheese and Italian herbs. Whole Foods didn't carry the over-sized pasta shells so I got whole wheat manicotti shells instead. While making it, I was reminded a bit of enchiladas, therefore, I present to you - Italian Enchiladas!

Arrabiata means "angry style" in Italian - the flavor of the sauce rings true to it's origin by the use of the heat and flakes of spicy red peppers. Tonight, I decided to go with a bit of a rap mix - I figured that was the only "angry" music I had on my iTunes. Rihanna and Eminem kick us off tonight with "Love the Way You Lie," followed by my favorite mean song right now, Jerron's "Pray for You".

Prep time is about 20 minutes, cook time about 20 minutes. Let's get started shall we?

Grocery List:
Stuffed Pasta
- 1 box of manicotti shells (or jumbo pasta shells)
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- about 1 lb. chopped chicken
- Salt
- Pepper
- Fresh spinach leaves
- 1 container of part skim ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For Sauce
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 6 ounces of sliced pancetta, coarsley chopped
- 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1/2 can evaporated milk
- 1/4 cup onion
- Fresh basil and parsley to taste

Additional Needs:
Large skillet
Large pot
Sauce pan
Aluminum foil
Oven safe dish
Non-stick spray

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Take your boiling pot and fill 1/2 way with water, then add your manicotti shells - I added 8. Cook for 7 minutes on high then check the noodles to see if they are soft, yet still firm enough to hold shape.

Drain in a colander. Place a sheet of aluminum foil in your oven safe dish and spray with non-stick spray. Next, place these shells spread out on the aluminum sheet so they do not stick together.

There is quite a but of chopping to do, let's start with the onions. Cut an onion in half, then begin slicing lengthwise....

...switch directions and cut horizontally.

At this point I had to stop because the onion-tears were flowing. I'm going to wear Mr. Max's swim goggles next time to see if that would prevent this.

After you have about 1 cup of onions, set aside and start chopping your chicken, then the pancetta.

I piled the thin pieces of pancetta and rolled them to cut.

Chopped chicken bits and pancetta. I minced the chicken very small so they would fit well into the manicotti shells.

Take your spinach and cut the leaves in half, I used about 2 handfuls of spinach this time.

Now that you are all chopped up, take your skillet, add some olive oil and throw in your onions and garlic to begin sauteing

Once those get a bit browned, add your chicken.

Let it simmer and cook for about 15 minutes...

Then add your spinach bits...

Continue to saute the chicken, spinach, onions and garlic together until chicken is cooked through and spinach is nice and wilty, then pour into a large mixing bowl. Add 3/4 cup of the ricotta cheese (I started with 1/2 cup, then added another 1/4 cup when I determined I needed a bit more)

Next, add about 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan,

Then the fresh basil and parsley...

Mix it all up and you have your filling! Set this aside until it's time to stuff the shells.

Now it's Arrabbiata sauce time! Take your sauce pan, add a tad of olive oil, then throw the pancetta bits in there. Get a nice little flavor started...

Let it brown and add the garlic...

Add the tomato paste....

Next add in a handful of onions...

Stir in about 1/2 can of the evaporated milk (remember, 1 can of this is 1 tablespoon worth of calories in the heavy whipping cream! That's 40 calories, friends)

Add some fresh basil and 1 tablespoon of the red pepper flakes - more if you want it spicier - then let sit on the stove and blend flavors as you start to stuff the manicotti shells.

Take a smaller sized spoon and begin stuffing the shells from one end, push it down about 1/2 way then switch ends to do the same. This will help prevent the softened noodle from tearing.

Repeat process until all of your shells are stuffed! We had the perfect amount of filling for the 8 shells.

Next, top your stuffed shells with the Arrabbiata sauce.....

and sprinkle on your mozzarella cheese. Now do you see why I thought of enchiladas while making this?

Pop these in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let cool for 5 minutes and you are ready to serve!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I have no need for Pei Wei ever again. Those are strong words, can I back it up? Yes.

This is how much I loved not only the finished product, but making them. These little babies are 430 calories and no carbs, if you skip on the rice! The original recipe called for the use of fish sauce, a thai chili, lime zest and shitake mushrooms but I said "uh-uh cook book, I don't think so"... and adapted it slightly also adding ginger, hoisin and soy sauce. Below you will find my version.

Grocery List:
1 lb of ground chicken
Sesame Oil
Tamari (Soy Sauce)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 small can of water chestnuts, chopped
3 scallions, chopped (green onion)
3 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon of Red Chili Sauce (my answer to the thai chili pepper)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar
3 slices of fresh squeezed lime
1 head of Bibb or Butter lettuce
Brown Rice (I remain committed to my 90 second, Uncle Ben's whole grain brown rice)

Additional Needs:
Wok or Skillet (I've mentioned my Wok love affair, alas it is packed away so I used the skillet)
Small mixing bowl
Knife, cutting board

First, take your sesame oil and add about 2 tablespoons to the skillet, followed by 3 shakes of the soy sauce. It will look like an expanded version of balsamic and oil you are served to dip bread in at Italian restaurants.

Next, add your ground chicken and cook over medium-high heat, using your spatula to break it up into small chicken chunks.

In a small bowl, squeeze your lemon, add your brown sugar, then about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (this was the amount of fish sauce recommended, I just replaced it with the Tamari), 2 tablespoons of the Thai Red Chili sauce, 3 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce, the cornstarch and ginger. Mix it together and taste your sauce - use your taste bud instincts to add whatever you want more of.

Next, mince up your garlic via food processor or other blade method of choice.

When your chicken is cooked through, add the minced garlic, chopped scallions and water chestnuts. I think my can opener was lost in the move, so this was our answer:

Max-man's resourceful techniques of using the sharpest knife, a screw driver and pliers to open this thing.

Added together!

Cook for about 5 minutes more, then add your sauce to the skillet and mix together. At this point, I added more Thai Red Chili and Hoisin sauce - just a light drizzle/pour atop the skillet.

Let this blend together while you wash your lettuce.

Stick your Uncle Ben's rice in the microwave for 90 seconds. Pat lettuce dry with a paper towel, break apart your leaves and you are ready to serve! Add the rice first, top with the minced chicken mix and indulge.

This received five MMM-mmm's.

Moroccan Sweet Potato Crisps

Another part of Monday night's meal! Coming in at only 220 calories, a new spin on preparing this orange little tater, I give you Moroccan Sweet Potato Crisps!

This was incredibly simple to make: prep time took all of 10 minutes, cook time between 15 - 20 minutes. It paired fabulously with the lemon green beans and a store bought garlic and herb pork tenderloin.
Grocery Needs:
2 sweet potatoes (long and thin, easier to slice and most equal in size)
Vegetable oil spray
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon of coriander
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon (or All Spice - I thought I had cinnamon but didn't)
1/4 teaspoon of tumeric
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Additional Needs:
Knife and cutting board
Potato peeler
Aluminum foil
Cookie sheet
Small mixing bowl
Spoon or pastry brush

First, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees - or, go outside at 5:00 pm and the sidewalk should do the trick in this Texas heat...

Next, take cookie sheet and cover it in aluminum foil, then spray a light coat of vegetable oil across to prevent your future taters from sticking.

Go ahead and skin the potatoes so all you see is orange. Wash and then begin chopping them to 1/4 - 1/2 an inch thick, but dispose of the ends.

Take the butter and set it in your small mixing bowl, heat in the microwave for about 10 seconds - another 10 if it hasn't melted after the first attempt. Add your brown sugar, then ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric then cinnamon (or All Spice) to the butter. Mix it all together and taste - at this time, I added a bit more ginger.

Arrange your sweet potato slices on the foil...

...and apply your Moroccan spice mixture to the tops of the sweet potatoes. I used my pastry brush to do this, but very accustomed to spooning it on as well.

Once you have slathered the goodness over top each slice, go ahead add another sheet of aluminum foil to cover, so they crisp and cook faster.

Pop these suckers in the oven for 15 minutes. The original recipe said 30 minutes, I was hungry and the rest of my food was ready so checked it after 15 and they were tender and crisp to me! Do not be alarmed if the bottoms are slightly "burnt" looking, they aren't really and add the crisp aspect.

After this, I don't think I'll make regular roasted potatoes again! These are healthier for you and taste amazing.

The finished product of Monday's dinner!
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