Pinterest-free week, day four: Chicken Tetrazzini

I’ve been wanting to make Chicken Tetrazzini (sans mushrooms) for some time now.  Last night, I pulled chicken out to thaw so I could make it tonight.  Then, on somewhat short notice, it was decided that my mom would be joining my fiance and me for dinner.

Cue the suspenseful music.

I fretted about it all day.  I thought at least a dozen times of making something else, something I’d be less likely to ruin.  Finally, I settled on making the Chicken Tetrazzini and I promised my mom I’d buy her a hamburger if it didn’t turn out well.

When she arrived at my house, she was horribly stoked that I was cooking her dinner.  In case you’re wondering, yes, my mother reads my blog.  She knew what she was getting herself into.

Anyhow, this is how things started:  two minutes after my mom arrived, she watched me dump a tenth of a box of pasta directly onto the floor.  Ten minutes later, as I juggled the tasks of stirring the pasta, cooking the chicken, and whisking the sauce, from the dining room she heard nothing but me mumbling, “Okay, it’s okay, this is still salvageable.”  This was uttered when I discovered, after nearly burning my green onions and butter, that I had been sauteeing them on high heat instead of medium.

There were a few more little hiccups along the way, but I finally got the pan in the oven so it could bake for 15 minutes.  This is where I got REALLY nervous.  After all, my last attempt at baking long pasta was a big flop.  Knowing that my mom, a truly GREAT cook, was going to be eating this Chicken Tetrazzini, I was superbly anxious to see how it turned out.

Fifteen minutes later:

To my great relief, when we dished it up, it was nice and gooey, just like a creamy pasta dish should be.

The best part (oooooo, I’m going to squeal just thinking about it):  my mom, my fiance, and I all thought it was delicious!  Ohmygod it was so stinking good.  So good, in fact, that I had to take this picture:

Here’s the thing with Chicken Tetrazzini.  I’d held off on making it in the past because I was looking at recipes online and on Pinterest, and they all made it seem more complicated than it really is.  None of the online recipes I read made it look like something I could pull off.  What encouraged me to make it was the recipe I found in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook (they should really start paying me to market that sucker).  I couldn’t believe how easy it was to follow.  And look what it got me?  THREE CLEAN PLATES!

Pinterest-free week day two: Things ruined

I’m pouting right now.  I mean, I am really pouting.

I had a pretty rough day.  When I stepped into the kitchen to start cooking dinner, I took a deep breath and thought:  You’re going to cook an awesome meal, and it’s going to make you forget about all of the stupid parts of today.  But no, dinner tonight simply became another stupid part of today.

Since potatoes haven’t really been my forté lately, I wanted to make another attempt.  Because, you know, I’m not smart enough to throw in the towel yet.  I read a Cooking Light recipe for potatoes that are cubed, then boiled, and then sauteed.  Their photo of the end result was of a pile of crisp, polished cubes of potato.  Cube, boil, and saute?  Pssshh, I can do that!  I brought the potatoes to a boil and simmered them, and then I got to work on the chicken.

Though I’ve used my fair share of bread crumbs, I have never cooked with panko.  I finally purchased a big bag of it in bulk at the grocery store.  Tonight, I mixed it with a “Southwoods” seasoning consisting of cracked pepper, salt, garlic, and dried flakes of a few different peppers.  Then I dipped some raw chicken tenders into a beaten egg and coated them with the seasoned panko.  It was much cleaner than using regular breadcrumbs.  See how nice they looked?

While the chicken tenders baked, I drained the potatoes.  The recipe had suggested 20 minutes, with a note that you didn’t want to over boil the potatoes, and I drained mine after about 17 minutes.  When I tossed them into a pan with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, I damn near cried when they crumbled at the softest touch of the spoon.  I knew then that we’d be having nearly mashed potatoes with dinner.  On the bright side, I did (for once) make sure to add enough salt.

I also used up some leftover lettuce for a salad.  I shredded a carrot for the first time.  It took about a year and I don’t think I did it “correctly,” but I got the job done.

So, after I checked on the chicken tenders a couple of times, they looked done and I took the temperature of each one, which exceeded 180 degrees.  I cut into a couple and they were nice and white.  The normal drill for chicken.  Yes, there is a point to this blabber.

First, here’s a picture of my dinner plate:

And a close-up of my unintended mostly-mashed potatoes:

And finally, the chicken tenders I was certain would be prize-worthy:

The potatoes, though not what I’d wanted, were decent.  But the chicken tenders.

Arrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhh, the chicken tenders.

Something wasn’t right with them.  Though they weren’t the least bit pink, and though they’d measured at 180+ degrees, their texture was still that of raw chicken.  Their taste was that of raw chicken.  They were raw chicken tenders disguised as thoroughly-cooked chicken tenders.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  They were so cooked in appearance that I felt cooking them longer would simply burn the outsides (which had already turned a nice crispy brown).  But the bottom line is, neither my fiance nor I trusted them.  Neither one of us ate them.  As I write this, I am waiting for the vomiting to begin because I’d eaten a few bites as I tried to determine what was wrong with the chicken tenders.

Long story short:  I made a reasonably good lettuce-and-carrot salad tonight.

Night o’ Fails

Confidence is low tonight.  Really low.  I messed up my stuffed chicken, I burned myself on a hot pan, and the potato side dish I made for dinner never even made it to the table.

I was inspired by this recipe I found for “Nacho-Rific Stuffed Chicken.”  I flattened some chicken breasts (this is getting easier, finally) and filled them with a mixture of shredded cheddar cheese, refried beans, and sour cream.  However, when I folded the top half of each breast over the half that was topped with the mixture, I didn’t do anything to secure the halves together.  I figured the mixture would act as a glue, in a way.  Into the oven they went.  I set the timer and checked on them about 10 minutes later.  One of them had come undone and half of the cheese and bean mixture had oozed onto the baking sheet.  I quickly stabbed the other breast with toothpicks to make sure it stayed intact, but when I tried to do the same with the one that had unfolded, it had already cooked enough that I could hardly get it to bend.  I had no choice but to bake the breast as it was, half of it covered in a cheesy bean mixture and the other half completely naked.

Innnnnn the meantime, I was also baking some potatoes I had cut up and coated in a honey-chili powder glaze.  They looked and smelled delicious, and I’m sure they would have been–had I actually been able to try them, that is.  I followed a recipe I used once before that called for the chunks of potato to be roasted at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Tonight, I started at 375 and roasted the potatoes for 20 minutes.  At that point, they had just barely begun to soften, so I upped the temperature to 400 and let them roast for 15 minutes more.  I took a test bite and my heart sunk when it became clear the potatoes were nowhere near done.  I didn’t want to call it quits, but…my fiance and I were both terribly hungry, I’d had a long day, and I just couldn’t fathom waiting all night for those damn potatoes.  I’m sure I didn’t cut them into small enough chunks.  I’m so stinking handicapped when it comes to potatoes.  POTATOES.  I live in Idaho, the land of freaking potatoes.  A month’s supply of potatoes costs a dollar.  How on earth are they such a challenge for me?

So, this was my dumb dinner:

Sweet Maui Onion potato chips and a half-bare, half-cheesy chicken breast.  At this rate, I’ll be the next Food Network star in no time……..

First broil and 20-calorie cookies

In 26 years, I have never turned on the broiler in the oven.  Until now.

That first statement makes me feel silly–especially because I recently purchased a brand spanking new range–so I found a recipe for some broiled Dijon chicken.  The finished product had nice flavor, and it was edible, but it wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be.  The chicken came out, as Anne Burrell would say, “Duh-rye!”  Any dryer and I may as well have made chicken jerky for dinner.  All in all, this is what I learned about broiling chicken:  it’s just like baking chicken, but requires more work and poses a bigger risk of dryness.  When I discussed this with my mom, she suggested I use the broiler to make cheesy garlic bread or steak.  Lesson learned.

I also whipped up some mashed potatoes as a side dish.  With a wedding on the horizon, I’m choosing healthy alternatives whenever possible–so in this case, I mashed them with some low-sodium chicken broth, minced garlic, low fat sour cream, and pepper.  They were good, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t longing for some country gravy to spill all over them.

Speaking of healthy, I stumbled upon a recipe for 20-calorie cookies.  I typically pass on “healthy” dessert recipes because more often than not, they use Splenda (which I refuse to consume) or Stevia (which I’m too nervous to use).  But this one contained neither Splenda nor Stevia, so I gave it a try!  These banana-oatmeal cookies are flavored with vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, with the option of adding butterscotch chips.  I didn’t have butterscotch chips on hand, but I did have some semisweet baking chocolate, so I shaved about 1/4 ounce into the batter.

I absolutely LOVE these cookies!  They’re no chocolate chip cookies, but they’ll do the trick for a dessert-craving lady who needs to fit into her wedding dress this summer.  Bonus:  they were so easy, I don’t think I could have screwed them up even if I tried.

Creamy Spicy Chicken Pitas

It’s been an eventful week for this lil’ chef!  I made blackened chicken for the first time, which nearly caused my fiance and I to suffocate from smoke inhalation (this isn’t normal, is it?).  I also cooked–and tasted–quinoa for the first time and LOVED it.  I attempted to make lemon-honey chicken, but the honey all dripped off in the oven and we ended up, once again, dipping plain chicken breast into barbecue sauce.  I watched a video on how to cut a mango and failed to replicate anything the video showed me.  And on top of it all, I was finishing up my final projects for the end of the spring semester.  Now that I have a 3-month break from school, I’m hoping I can really spend some time focusing on my cooking.

I hadn’t planned anything for dinner tonight and around 5 o’clock, I was feeling really indecisive about what to make.  I ended up at the grocery store with a vision in my head of some sort of Mexican chicken pitas.  I had no recipe–just an idea that I went with as I wandered the aisles of the supermarket.  What I didn’t expect was how good they actually tasted!  In fact, they were so good I feel confident in sharing the recipe.

Creamy Spicy Chicken Pita

Creamy Spicy Chicken Pitas (Serves 2)

2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons poblano pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
3 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons avocado
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 pita pockets
Water (for the taco seasoning)

1)  Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, pepper, and cilantro and saute for about 1-2 minutes.
2)  While the vegetables are cooking, mix together the avocado and sour cream in a small bowl.  Set aside.
3)  Add chicken to skillet and cook until no longer pink.  Add taco seasoning and 2 tablespoons of water and continue to cook until thickened.
4)  Spread the avocado-sour cream mixture inside a pita half.  Sprinkle with your desired amount of cheddar cheese.  Add the chicken mixture and enjoy!