Friday, September 25, 2009

Basil Chicken Scallopine - Inspired by Giada De Laurentis (picture from

Due to the crazy season, it's been a couple weeks since my last post - sorry! But believe me, this recipe is worth the wait. In spite of it's complex sounding title, it's fairly simple to make and tastes oh SO yummy =)

I originally saw a recipe similar to this one on the food network. One of the things I love most about this recipe is the simplicity and the freshness of the sauce. Served over warm pasta, it is the perfect example of a simple & classic tomato sauce. With chunks of tomato in every bite, and the fresh flavor from the basil, this dish is a great way for a pauper to eat with the palate of a prince ;)

Giada made a Sage & Fontina Chicken Scallopine - which I've also made and it's just as good as this one, but last night, I didn't have those ingredients on hand, not mention, I don't cook with sage very often, so buying it seems to always be somewhat of a waste. If you'd like to check her recipe out, here's is the link for her

And here is my version =) I hope you enjoy this rich and rustic Italian dish.

Basil Chicken Scallopine


2 chicken breasts, pounded thin (to about 1/4")
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (to season chx.)
8 basil leaves
6 Tbsp. finely shredded Italian blend cheese (I like to use a mixture of Romano, Parmesan & Mozzarella)
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, halved and smashed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (with juice)
8-10 chiffonade basil leaves
1/2 cup diced sweet yellow onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Special Equipment: toothpicks


Place the chicken breasts on a clean work surface, narrow end facing you. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 4 basil leaves crosswise on each of the pieces of chicken. Sprinkle each of the pieces of chicken with about 3 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Roll up the chicken tightly carefully making sure to keep cheese and basil tucked in, and seal with one or two toothpicks.(I usually use 2 or 3 just to be sure it's sealed nice and tight)

Warm the olive oil, onions and halved garlic cloves in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and remove and discard the garlic. Add butter and simmer for about a minute while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Once butter is melted and onions are evenly coated, add canned tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan. Simmer the chicken in the tomato sauce for about 10 - 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pan. Spoon the tomato sauce onto serving plates or a serving platter. Remove the toothpicks. Place the chicken over the sauce and serve immediately with your favorite pasta! (There should be plenty of sauce to go around =)

Serves 2 as an entree

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monthly Meal Planning Tips

After so many people asking me what I do to plan meals for the month, I thought it might be worth while to share what my process is in planning out our meals, and if it's helpful to anyone out there, then great =)

So Here Goes =)

1. I try to stay under $250/month. (this includes all of Jace's needs - diapers, wipes, etc)

2. Because of our busy schedule we certainly don't eat every night, but we also try not to eat out more than 2-3 a month (this includes fast food)

3. For each month I try to plan 5 cheap/quick meals, and about 12 normal, but hopefully quick =) meals (I'll give you some examples in a second)

4. I limit myself to trying only 2 new/more extensive recipes a month. I do that because many times, new recipes always require a few ingredients that I don't typically keep on hand = extra cost.

5. Once I have all my favorite cookbooks/recipes in front of me, I sit down and go through them, and based off of what I already have in my pantry, I try to pick recipes that won't require me having to buy ALL of the ingredients needed. Now this obviously takes some time, but I try to mentally get myself geared up on my day off, and then knock it out during one of Jace's naps. Once it's done, it's such a relief because then throughout the month I'm not scrambling to figure out the night before what to make the next day. The one day of planning really pays off=)

6. I list out each of my meals for the month and post it on the fridge for quick reference.

7. As I select meals I'm going to make that month, I have a separate list I'm compiling of all the ingredients I'll need to purchase, hopefully some of them I already have on hand =)

8. Once I've finished my meal list - my separate list is now my grocery list for the month =)

9. I always have a paper on the fridge for ingredients I run out of throughout the month. I take this list and my new grocery list and put them together, just to be sure I don't forget anything.

10. To stay organized, I like to type up my grocery list in a word document and then separate ingredients by category. For instance: Dairy, Meat, Frozen, Produce, etc. It's an extra step, but again, when I'm getting groceries for the entire month, it really helps me to take the extra 10 minutes & helps make my grocery trip go much faster when I can get everything from one section of the store all at once.

11. Once I have all my groceries and I'm making making meals, I try to be mindful of my most perishable ingredients and incorporate those meals into the beginning of the month. One of the biggest wastes of money, in my opinion, is buying tons of yummy produce and then throwing it away before you can even use it :/

12. Try to go under budget because even though you'll be able to get most of your groceries for the month, there are a few things you'll want to pick up throughout the month as well, i.e. fruit, milk, and anything extra you either forgot or run short on. Its a nice thought to think you can get absolutely everything for the month all at once, but milk just doesn't stay good for that long =) a long with a few other things :P

13. Here are some examples of what I meant when I said, "cheap/quick" meals:
a. Taco's (using the $3 taco kits from the store)
b. Chicken Ceasar Salads (I buy the $3 salad kits then add my own grilled chicken)
c. Sausage Jambalaya (entire meal costs around $7. all you need: Zataran's jambalaya box rice mix and Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage. So easy and Chris loves it!)
d. Breakfast for dinner (i.e. Biscuits and sausage gravy. Usually costs me around $5. or you can do Pancakes and bacon, again only about $5-7 for the meal)
e. We do a lot of grilled chicken with different marinades. I usually serve it with a side of veggies. (Takes 15 - 20 minutes to make and usually only costs about $8 for the chx and veggies put together)
f. Frozen Pizza - definitely low on glam =), but on a Wednesday night after a long day and youth service, who wants to cook?! Spend $6 on a more expensive brand that you really like, and you've got a quick, cheap, and tasty dinner for two =)

14. Here's one last tip, once I've got my grocery list in hand, I shop at Aldi's first. They don't have a huge selection, but what they do have is much cheaper than even Walmart's prices. I get whatever I can from there, and whatever else I can't get, I either get from Sam's or Walmart.

15. Don't be opposed to going to a few stores. Convenience doesn't always = savings. I always do Aldi's first, and then Walmart, but many times I'll also go to Target. I'm not a fan of going to Target for groceries because I feel like they're mostly over priced, but their diapers are my favorite. They're only $13 a box and they fit Jace just as good as Huggies, w/o paying $20 a box.

16. Finally, of coarse, without a doubt, cut coupons. Be mindful of what coupons you have when planning your meals. BE CAREFUL though. A lot of people make the mistake of cutting coupons and buying those items simply because they have a coupon for it. Here's a helpful hint: ONLY CUT IT, IF YOU NEED IT =)

Hope this helps =)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chicken Paprika

This recipe is straight from one of my Paula Dean cookbooks. I made a few variations, like I use boneless breasts and she uses bone in, and my cook time is much shorter because of using the boneless chicken, but the taste is nothing shy of Paula's rich flavorful style! I hope you enjoy this simply savory recipe!


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Paprika
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup water
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat and cook onion until just golden. Add garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes more or until you can begin to smell the aroma cooking off. To the skillet add the chicken breasts, and season generously on each side with salt, pepper and paprika. Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes, or until the skin turns from pink to white, turning only once. Add water to skillet and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet, and in a small bowl combine sour cream, flour, and one cup of liquid from the pan. Whisk until completely combined and transfer back into skillet. Heat it through and it should be the consistency of a light gravy. Pour over top of cooked chicken and serve over rice, noodles, or with dumplings! Enjoy!

Serves 2 as an entree