Chicken and Noodles

Chicken and Noodles

A few years ago my mom and Darlene were visiting from Tennessee and we popped over to Amish country in Pennsylvania. We often take day trips when they are here and Amish country is one of my favorite places to go! It’s quaint, beautiful and you can see a lot of handmade crafts and treasures, including quilts, which I’m particularity fond of.

On this trip we decided to eat at a family style restaurant where you sit with other people and pass dishes just as you would at home. Sadly I don’t remember the name of this place, or it’s exact location, but they served a chicken and noodle dish that was very satisfying and late last fall (Still working through that backlog!) I decided I wanted to make something similar.

This dish is the very epitome of comfort food. It’s simple, quick, hearty and delicious. You can serve it plain or top it with shredded Parmesan, but anyway you have it it’s quite enjoyable!

What You’ll Need:
1/2 a package of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
2-3 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of cooked chicken, chopped (Note: A good way to use left over chicken!)
1 cup of half and half
A pinch of sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/4 cup of potato flour
Grated Parmesan to top if desired

Cook egg noodles according to package directions and set aside.

In a large pot add chicken broth, chicken, salt and pepper and stir to mix. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

Whisk together the half & half and the potato flour until smooth. Pour mixture in to the pot and cook stirring often until the mixtures thickens slightly.

Once mixture is slightly thick stir in noodles and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes before serving. Top with shredded Parmesan if desired.

Chicken and Noodles: Sprinkled With Parmesan

Notes: You can make additions to this dish, like adding peas and/or carrots. Or how about some sauteed mushrooms? I think some toasted bread crumbs would also be a good addition. This is a very versatile and forgiving dish. There are no wrong answers.

Creamy Egg Noodles with Vegetables

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies

Jamison and Alexis are big fans of pasta, lasagna and spaghetti to be exact, and to be honest while I like both, I get bored with eating the same thing over and over and over and over….Well you get the idea! So sometimes when they are eating one of those two I go out on a limb myself and make some sort of pasta. It’s easy to make a vegetable topping to go with any kind of pasta and it’s so much better than you standard fare!

The fun thing about this dish is that there are no wrong answers. You can add whatever appeals to you, you can switch around the herbs, you can use fresh vegetables, or even frozen, you can use egg noodles, spaghetti, penne, bow ties, etc. Did I mention there are no wrong answers with this? It’s the ultimate mix and match sort of dish!

Another fun thing about this is that you control what goes in to the dish even more than mentioned above. You don’t have to worry about preservatives, or weird chemicals that sometimes are present in prepared sauces. It’s a win, win all around!

What You’ll Need:
1/2 a package of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions and set aside
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1-2 cups of zucchini
1-2 cups of yellow squash
1 cup of baby Portabella or button mushrooms, sliced
1 onion chopped
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
A generous pinch of sea salt
Finely ground black pepper
1/4 a cup of heavy cream or half and half

Cook your egg noodles, drain and set aside:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Egg Noodles

While your egg noodles are cooking begin preparing your vegetables. I like to cut/chop the vegetables all at the same time and put them in a bowl.

First slice your tomatoes in half:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Tomatoes

Next chop your zucchini and squash and add them to the tomatoes:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Zucchini and Squash

Then slice your mushrooms and add them to the veggie mixture:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Mushrooms

And finally chop your onion and add to the bowl:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Onions

Once all the veggies are chopped get ready to add everything to a large pan:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Veggies, Herbs, Sea Salt and Pepper Ready to Go in the Pan

Add a thin layer of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat.

Then add the vegetables, herbs, salt and pepper:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Veggies Beginning to Cook

Cook the mixture, stirring often, until tomatoes start to fall apart and vegetables are just tender:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Ready for Cream

Next add heavy cream or half and half and cook for an additional five minutes:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Ready for Noodles

And then add the noodles and toss to coat and distribute the vegetables:

Creamy Egg Noodles With Veggies: Ready to Serve

The vegetables tend to stay on the bottom no matter how much you toss, so when serving make sure to “dig deep” with the spoon to make sure each serving has plenty of veggies.

Serve with a side salad and/or garlic bread. And if you’re really feeling crazy why not top it with a bit of shredded Parmesan cheese? ;oP

Notes: Sometimes I like to use rosemary and thyme. Red onions or shallots are particularly good in this sort of thing, but I was out of both when I made this. Peas are also a good addition. Like I said, mix and match it! That’s what dishes like this are all about!

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

I first had eggplant in college. Being a poor college student, when I went out with friends and they chose Olive Garden, I would often order the Eggplant Parmesan because at the time it was the cheapest main course on their menu. I wasn’t sure what I thought about eggplant at first and I never actually bought one and tried other things with them until a few years ago. I didn’t know what I was missing!

Eggplant is a really versatile little fruit, which most people call a vegetable, and is a very good source of fiber. You can use it in soups, in casseroles, in salads, pretty much any way you can think of. Eggplant Parmesan isn’t exactly an every day food, but it’s a really great treat from time to time!

Eggplant Parmesan does take a bit to put together, but it’s worth it and it isn’t difficult at all. You basically set up an assembly line and go! Plus it isn’t an exact science. You can use as much of the things that are in the dish as you want. You can make a big dish, or a small dish. It all depends on how many you’re feeding. Alexis loves helping with these sorts of things, so it’s a good dish to get the kids in the kitchen too and that’s always a good thing!

What You’ll Need:
1-2 large eggplants, sliced
2 cups of Panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of dried basil
3 eggs, beaten
Extra virgin olive oil
Marinara sauce (Note: I like Organic Newman’s Own Marinara sauce, but you could make your own if you wanted.)
Shredded mozzarella
Shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Slice the eggplant into rounds and set aside:

Eggplant Parmesan: Eggplant

Next put the bread crumbs, salt, herbs and spices in a pie dish and stir to mix:

Eggplant Parmesan: Breading

Then add eggs to a separate pie dish and beat until mixed. Once the eggs are beaten set up your assemble line:

Eggplant Parmesan: Assembly Line Set Up and Ready to Go

Once the assembly line is set up you’re ready to bread!

First place a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet and turn heat to medium. Let the oil heat up as you’re breading your eggplant.

Next take a slice of eggplant and dip both sides in to your beaten eggs:

Eggplant Parmesan: Egging

Now it’s time to dip the the egg covered eggplant into the breading mixture:

Eggplant Parmesan: Breading

Make sure both sides of the eggplant are covered with the breading mixture like this:

Eggplant Parmesan: Breaded and Ready to Fry

Now it’s time to start frying!

Continue breading your eggplant slices as the other slices that are ready are fried and repeat the process of breading until you run out of eggplant.

Place the eggplant slices in the skillet:

Eggplant Parmesan: Frying

And then brown both sides:

Eggplant Parmesan: Eggplant frying

Once browned on both sides remove from the skillet and drain on a few paper towels:

Eggplant Parmesan: Eggplant Draining

Continue frying until all of the eggplant is browned.

Now you’re ready to assemble the Eggplant Parmesan! I usually start doing this as the eggplants have drained, while I’m still frying the other pieces to speed the process along.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray or brush it with olive oil. Choose a baking dish based off of the amount of eggplant you’ve prepared. I used a medium sized dish for this batch.

Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom of the dish:

Eggplant Parmesan: First Layer

It’s OK to cut the eggplant in half to fill the corners if you need to.

Next a a little marinara:

Eggplant Parmesan: Middle Layer

Again it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure most of the eggplant is covered.

Now you add a layer of Parmesan Cheese:

Eggplant Parmesan: First Layer

Continue this process until you get to the top of your dish:

Eggplant Parmesan: Last Layer

The top layer will be topped a bit differently. Add Parmesan AND mozzarella cheese:

Eggplant Parmesan: Ready to Bake

Place Eggplant Parmesan on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Remove foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.

Eggplant Parmesan: Baked

Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.

This is just perfect with a side salad and a slice of garlic bread.

Notes: I have wanted to try this process with Portabella mushrooms, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Remember you can make this as big or as small as you like.

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Last year I lost 40 pounds. I didn’t talk about that here much, but slowly but surely I’ve been trying to be more healthy. I sort of bottomed out at the end of the year with the holidays and such and then the drudgery that January always seems to be, but it’s time to get back on track.

In the past I’ve gone to Weight Watchers time and time again. To be honest while they have some good ideas I get fed up with the “cheating” to eat things route by eating things that aren’t real and aren’t good for you. Their products, which granted you don’t have to buy, have artificial sweeteners in them, which aren’t good for you, not to mention high fructose corn syrup and if you’ve read this blog for a while you know how I feel about that. The “Oh you can take a diet soda and put it in a cake mix and bake it and you can have cake!” stuff annoys me. You can still have cake. Just eat one slice, not two or three. It’s all about moderation. Or how about “You can spray this ‘butter’ on a potato and it’s just like real butter!” No it’s not. Again moderation. Who wants to eat some weird chemical in place of real, whole foods? Not me!

Anyway…….

I’ve also tried various other “diets” over the years including many of the fad “diets” that came along and the thing about “diets” is they don’t work. Do you know when I started losing weight? I stopped trying! Weight has been an issue for me since childhood. I was tired of being defined by it, but instead of deciding to lose weight, which I had done time and time again, only to lose weight and then gain it back, I simply decided to be healthy. As they say perception is reality and I decided to change my perception.

I started out slow. I started exercising here and there, and I’ll be honest with you, I’m not an exercise fan in the least. I’ve never understood this buzz everyone talks about that you get after you exercise. It just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve even used a trainer back in the day and still nothing! I love to swim, but given our rural location the nearest pools to us are 16 and 18 miles respectively and given the price of gas, despite the fact I drive a hybrid, that’s not possible to do on a regular basis.

I started playing more with Alexis. We’d kick around the soccer ball in the yard, or go down to the park and walk, or play Wii sports, or play catch, but never every day. I do Wii Fit some days. Nothing fancy, nothing scheduled, just here and there.

The next thing I did was start to focus on serving sizes. Instead of eating all of something I wanted, I’d eat just the listed serving size. If I was still hungry I’d grab some fruit or a vegetable, which to me are “free foods”. I also started eating less processed stuff, which is really gross when you think about it! Just read the label. What the heck is half of that stuff? I’d rather eat real food than some chemical laden something that might have been something once, but has lost it’s nutritional value by being too processed! And I started focusing on adding more fruits and vegetables, which I’ve always eaten a lot of, but perhaps not quite enough of. I’ve also started listening to my body and I stop eating when I’m full. It’s amazing how much all of this helps!

So what now?

To jump back in to this little project I decided to go vegetarian for the month of February. If you follow me on Twitter or the Dianne’s Dishes page on FaceBook you saw this little tidbit yesterday. You’ll most likely see various vegetarian recipes as the month goes along and afterwards too depending on how in to this I get. I’ve gone veg for a month’s time in the past too, but I’ve never stayed with it. In all honesty I most likely won’t this time either, but the goal is to jump start myself back in to eating right and then eat less meat in general after the month ends.

Last night I wanted Red Beans & Rice and decided to bring this dish to the slow cooker. I put it on in plenty of time for dinner, but of course that only works IF you actually turn on the slow cooker! I realized around 3 that I had plugged the slow cooker up, but I hadn’t turned it on. Oh well. It ended up being done around 7:30, but we eat dinner much earlier than that so guess what I’m having for lunch today?

This is really simple to put together and then you just walk away and forget about it until it’s time to eat. It’s delicious, filling, chock full of nutritious ingredients and just perfect for these cold winter nights!

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of long grain brown rice (Note: You could use white rice if you wanted to, but brown is much healthier.)
2 cups of dried red kidney beans that have been soaked overnight
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup of chives, chopped (Note: I used dried chives this go around, but you can use fresh as well.)
1-2 tablespoons Cajun or Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon of sea salt (Note: Omit this if your seasoning contains salt.)
4 cups of water

In the bottom of your slow cooker spread the rice out in an even layer.

Next add the kidney beans on top of the rice.

After the kidney beans add the red onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic and chives.

Sprinkle the seasoning, smoked paprika and salt evenly over the vegetables and rice and then cover with the water. (Remember to omit the salt if your seasoning already has salt in it.)

Cook on high for 4-5 hours until rice is done and beans are tender.

Serve with hot sauce if desired. A nice side dish for this is Spicy Baked Chard. A slice of sour dough bread might be nice as well.

Notes: This recipe is Vegan as written. The possibilities with this recipe are endless. You can substitute black or pinto beans in place of the red. Sometimes I like to add in other vegetables to up the nutritional punch. Zucchini, squash and/or carrots are really great in this mix. If you really want to spice things up add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper on top of the Cajun or Creole seasoning, which I do often. Also you could add a vegetarian sausage if you prefer, but I like to use the smoked paprika for that sausage taste as I’ve never been a fan of the sausages used in Red Beans and Rice.