Chicken Scampi

Chicken Scampi 1Good food is very important to Austinites. There are trendy new restaurants opening nearly every week, and sometimes it seems like people work in Austin solely to frequent their favorite places. There are hardly any chain restaurants here, but we all have those certain dishes that take you back to being a teenager, and we will always love them.

I love the chicken scampi from the Olive Garden. There. I said it.

Most of the time, I like to make dinner at home. I like to control the quality of ingredients and it’s always less expensive to cook for a family than it is to eat out. Plus, I like to save our nights out to try some of the fabulous local eateries that Austin is so famous for. So, without further ado, here is my Chicken Scampi. The peppers, onions, garlic and white wine give this sauce a great flavor, and it would be easy to substitute chicken for shrimp or fish if you wanted to change it up. When cooking with wine, it’s best to use a wine that is drinkable, but won’t break the bank! If you wouldn’t want to drink it, why would you want that flavor in your food? At $6.99/bottle, Costco puts out some very commendable wines under their Kirkland brand that fit the bill perfectly. Their Pinot Grigio is dry, crisp, and since this recipe only calls for a cup, there is plenty left over for sipping. Drink up!

Ingredients (serves 4):

Chicken Scampi 2For the chicken tenders:
1 lb. chicken tenders
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp Italian seasoning

For the scampi sauce:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
½ red onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. butter
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp Italian seasoning
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
10 oz. angel hair pasta, prepared al dente according to package

In a medium bowl, mix flour, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper and ¼ tsp. Italian seasoning. Dip chicken tenders in milk, then in flour mixture. Set aside.

Chicken Scampi 3Using a large skillet (I love my Le Creuset 5 Quart Covered Braiser) heat olive oil over medium heat and brown chicken tenders, 3 minutes a side. Remove chicken from pan, add peppers, onions and garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes until beginning to soften, but not mushy. Remove from pan. Add white wine and let deglaze for 2 minutes. Add butter, crushed red pepper and remaining salt, pepper and Italian seasoning and stir until butter is melted. Turn to low, add heavy cream, stirring until heated. Fold in pepper mixture and cooked pasta until evenly coated. Top with chicken tenders and garnish with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Enjoy!

Wine Pairings
Rosa dell Olmo Barbera d’Asti 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 1Tacos are a way of life in Austin. You can get tacos for any meal, any time of day, with nearly anything on them. A stormy weekend followed by a cold front inspired a spicy mixture of chicken, onions and peppers simmering away in my slow cooker. The end result is tender chicken, loaded with flavor, and piled high with shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheese (like any good taco should be!) The mixture of spices could easily be substituted for a taco seasoning packet, but it’s cheaper to make your own (plus no mystery ingredients!).

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 3Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 2Ingredients:
2 bone in chicken breasts
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 4Place chicken in slow cooker. Top with diced tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, crush red pepper, salt and pepper and cook on low for 3 hours. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno to slow cooker for 1 hour more. Remove chicken and shred, discarding bones and skin, and return to slow cooker to heat thoroughly. Serve with tortillas, shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa and your favorite taco toppings. Enjoy!

Chocolate Swirl Banana Walnut Bread

Chocolate Swirl Banana Walnut BreadBanana bread is one of those foods that can be eaten any time of the day. Dessert… sure! Breakfast… why not?  This classic recipe gets a sweet upgrade with the addition of a rich, velvety, chocolate swirl.  A good banana bread recipe really lets the bananas shine; there is only ¼ cup of sugar added, so most of the sweetness comes from the over-ripe bananas.  The key to making banana bread is to use bananas that are more brown on the outside than not, they are much sweeter and more mash-able than less ripe bananas. I like walnuts in my banana bread, but that can be easily substituted for any kind of chopped nuts, raisins, chocolate or even peanut butter chips.

Chocolate Swirl Banana Walnut Bread 2Ingredients:
3 over-ripe bananas
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
200 grams all-purpose flour (approximately 1½ cups)
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 4×8 loaf pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mash over-ripe bananas with a fork until smooth. Stir in melted butter, baking soda, salt, sugar, vanilla and beaten egg until well combined. Fold in flour and walnuts with a stiff spatula, until walnuts are evenly distributed.

Chocolate Swirl Banana Walnut Bread 3In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips for 20 second increments, stirring in between, until fully melted.  Add 1 cup of banana batter to the bowl of melted chocolate, mixing thoroughly. Add half of the plain batter to the prepared loaf pan, then half of the chocolate batter, running a fork through the pan to lightly swirl the two together. Repeat with the second half of plain and chocolate batter, and bake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees, until toothpick tested in center comes out clean. Transfer from pan to cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.
Enjoy!

Half Roasted Chicken

Half Roasted ChickenI was really excited when Whole Foods started carrying half chickens. Roasted chicken is so delicious, but it can be notoriously difficult to get the skin perfectly crispy, while getting the chicken evenly cooked and juicy. My Bundt Pan Roasted Chicken is a great way to get deliciously crispy skin while roasting a whole chicken, but making a half chicken is my favorite for a few reasons. 1- Since there is skin on only one side, roasting it skin side up gets beautifully browned skin all over; 2- It’s more uniform in size, so cooks more evenly and is less likely to dry out; and 3- a half chicken is the perfect size for a meal for 2, and since it’s already cut from the backbone, you aren’t paying for parts you don’t need. The backbone is great for making stock, but otherwise it is a fairly heavy part of the chicken that gets thrown away. When is the last time you got dinner for 2 people from Whole Foods for about $3.00? Since they don’t always carry them, I grabbed a few to stick in the freezer to cook at a later time. They come out Just. That. Good.

Half Roasted Chicken 2Ingredients:
Half chicken
1 tsp. olive oil
Seasonings of your choice, here are some favorites:
Lemon pepper seasoning, salt, pepper
Rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper
Garlic, paprika, salt pepper

 

Half Roasted Chicken 3Preheat oven to 425. Place chicken on a cookie sheet, skin side up and brush skin with olive oil. Add seasonings of your choice and bake for 40-45 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let rest for 5 minutes before carving.

That’s it! Couldn’t be any easier and pairs perfectly with some Roasted Broccoli or potatoes. Enjoy!

 

Wine Pairings:
Averaen Pinot Noir 2015