Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuscan Garlic Chicken

Can you define your family by a type of food?

Here are several examples.  Growing up we were a meat and potatoes kind of family.  You know the ones that have meat at every meal (that's because we raised cows and chickens) and the Idaho potato was an absolute staple at our house.  It was weird when we didn't have one of these for dinner.  When I first moved away from home I was always in a quandary of what to make for dinner because I couldn't afford to buy meat all the time and "seriously what can you make without meat?"  It took me several months to come up with yummy dinners without meat.

As a side note, to this day I always make a point of having meatless meals on my menu.  It's good for my kids and good for my husband too!

Now on the other hand you have the fruit and vegetable kind of family.  That's my sister's family.  She LOVES fruits and vegetables and was always the kid who didn't eat her main dish but ate her side dish, I mean what kid always eat the beans, broccoli, and salad like they actually enjoy it?  One of my daughters is the exact same way, takes after her aunt.  My sister was also the one with fruit stains on her clothes because she was always eating something fruity.  She is still that way today.  They eat very healthy, simple, delicious meals but with hardly any meat and lots of fruits and vegetables.

My family on the other hand is the pasta family.  We all LOVE pasta.  Sarah's favorite is spaghetti.  She asks for it constantly and she has picked it for 5 years in a row on her birthday.  Kathryn's favorite is stroganoff.  She gets very sad when we don't have it at least once every couple weeks.  Usually when I tell her we are having it for dinner, she dances around the room because she is so excited.  Luke's favorite is mac-n-cheese.  This is what he asks for everyday for lunch.  I'm not kidding.  Sometimes I purposefully run out of it and not buy anymore from the store just so he will pick something else to eat.  

So it's no surprise that we absolutely loved this pasta.  It is beautiful, delicious, and creamy.  We will definitely be making it again, plus with all the vegetables it is sort of healthy!  Some also say that it reminds them of Olive Garden's Chicken.  I  have never actually had it so I can't say but I know this version was fantastic.

Tuscan Garlic Chicken

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 T. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried oregano
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 T. finely minced garlic, 4-5 cloves
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips or chopped
1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
6 oz. fresh spinach
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 t. cornstarch
1 c. milk
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound fettuccine (or whatever pasta you have on hand)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a shallow pie plate, combine the flour, salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Dip each chicken piece in the flour mixture until both sides are well coated.  (note: if your chicken is quite thick, butterfly them so they are thinner)

2.  In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until the oil is hot and shimmering. Carefully place the chicken breasts in the pan, cooking them for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they are golden and browned but not cooked all the way through, they will finish up cooking in the oven. (note: don’t move the chicken around once you lay it in the hot oil! Let the oil work it’s magic to sear the crust on the chicken. If you get all antsy and try flipping too early and/or moving the chicken around the pan, the breading will likely fall off) Gently remove the chicken to a foil-lined, lightly greased baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside and tent with foil until ready to use.

3.  While the chicken is cooking, heat a large pot of water to a boil and add the noodles, cooking until al dente. Also, wipe out the skillet with a couple paper towels and return it to medium heat, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and bell pepper, sauteing for 2-3 minutes.

4.  Stir in one tablespoon flour and stir constantly while cooking for another minute. Add the chicken broth to the skillet and bring the mixture to a low simmer, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes. In a small liquid measure, whisk together the cornstarch and cream, and milk. Add the spinach, milk and cream mixture to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted and sauce is slightly thickened, about 2-4 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

5.  When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with half of the cheese sauce. Place some of the coated pasta on each plate. Top with a breaded chicken breast and spoon some of the sauce over the top of the chicken and pasta. Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

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