Chicken Marinara with Spinach and Mozzarella

I call my mom pretty much every day on my walk home from work. We talk about how our days went, what’s new with family, and of course, what we’re having for dinner. I love hearing what my mom is making – she’s usually just finished cooking when I’m walking home – and it often inspires me to cook up something similar.

Last week my mom mentioned she was cooking a dish I have always loved – chicken marinara with spinach and mozzarella. She makes a huge portion of it for her and my dad and they eat it as leftovers the next day. I happened to have a whole bag of spinach on hand and had planned to make a spring spinach salad, but when the weather turned cold again (brr!) I was yearning for something comforting. And this was perfect! Even B – the vegetable hater – ended up eating his with the spinach.

Chicken Marinara with Spinach and Mozzarella

Here’s what you need (serves 4):

  • 1 bag of spinach (serves 3)
  • 1/4 c flour + salt and pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (or 8 chicken tenderloins)
  • 3-5 tbs butter (hey i said it was comfort food!)
  • 1 c tomato sauce (I just make my own)
  • 4 slices mozzarella cheese

Here’s what you do:

  • First, cook the spinach. Spray a pan with Pam and cook spinach. As the spinach starts to wilt, add 1 tbs of butter and salt/pepper to flavor and soften the spinach.  After wilted, remove from heat and set aside.
  • While the spinach is cooking, pound chicken breasts until they are 1/2 – 1 inch thickness (if you’re using tenderloins, you can skip this step)
  • Coat chicken in the flour / salt / pepper combo thoroughly.
  • In a large pan that will hold all the chicken breasts, plus some extra space, melt the rest of the butter. Cook the chicken until they are brown on each side. You can add additional butter (or oil) to the pan if needed.
  • After the chicken is browned, top with the spinach. Then, top each chicken/spinach with a slice of mozzarella.
  • Pour the tomato sauce onto the pan, around each piece of chicken (not on TOP of the chicken). Cook on medium heat and then reduce to a simmer while the cheese melts.

Enjoy the cheesy/saucy goodness. If that isn’t comfort food for a chilly spring night, I don’t know what is!

I made mine with extra spinach and served with spinach and zucchini fries. B got pasta as well.

Italian Crock Pot Chicken (a.k.a Slow Cooker Chicken, Tomatoes and Olives)

One of my favorite blogs for browsing healthy slow cooker recipes is Skinnytaste.com. I’ve already pinned a bunch of recipes and even tried a few. So when I saw the photo of her Crock Pot Chicken a la Criolla, I was excited! Cilantro, chicken, tomatoes and olives? Yum! So when B went to the store, I sent him off with the grocery list, and was excited to enjoy what was sure to be a delish dish.

BUT of course B forgot a few things. Like tomato sauce. And cilantro. Though the cilantro was probably on purpose because he hates it. Determined to still have a crock pot meal, I adapted the recipe somewhat and turned it into an Italian dish – served on top of orzo, instead of rice! It was yummy and I’ll definitely be making it again, especially since B and I finished it the first night. What can I say – he’s training for a marathon and was hungry!

Italian Crock Pot Chicken (a.k.a Slow Cooker Chicken, Tomatoes and Olives)

(Adapted from Skinnytastes.com’s Crock Pot Chicken a la Criolla)

Here’s what you need:

  • 4-5 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 1 lb)
  • 1 medium sized white onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, either finely diced or crushed with garlic press
  • 1bell pepper, finely sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped into cubes
  • 6 – 8 small pitted Spanish olives + 2 tbs olive juice
  • 1 c tomato sauce (I used homemade sauce that we had on hand … B or I make it at least once a month for pasta, etc. but you probably could use a can)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Handful of fresh basil (if on hand)

Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Put chicken, onion, garlic, pepper and tomatoes in the crock pot.
  2. Add salt, cumin, basil, oregano. Stir it all up so everything is well-seasoned.
  3. Add tomato sauce, olives, 2 tbsp of the olive juice, 1/2 cup water, and bay leaves. Mix well.
  4. Set crock pot on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
  5. When done, add fresh basil and adjust spices as needed.

Serve over orzo or with a big chunk of Italian bread for dunking in the broth. Or both!

Everything in the crock pot, ready to go!

Italian Crock Pot Chicken (I need to work on my food photography skills)

Amazingness on a Plate … aka Great Lakes Brewmaster’s Dinner

You must walk … no, run … I repeat .. RUN over to Great Lakes Brewing Company immediately. Why? To purchase yourself a ticket to their next Brewmaster’s Dinner.

What’s a Brewmaster’s Dinner? And how did I get to go to one? Well, after FINALLY taking advantage of an almost-missed wedding gift (Sorry and THANK YOU Matt and Kim!), B and I finally got our dates to the Brewmaster’s Dinner on our calendar and headed over one of our favorite local breweries, Great Lakes, to see what they had in store for us. Here’s a summary of the experience.

Your night starts with an accelerated tour of the brewery. Yes, the brewery offers free tours every Saturday (and yes, I’ve been on them 2 or 3 times before … and not just for the “free” samples!), but this tour is faster AND you get to actually see the brewery when the workers are there. We walked in and immediately smelled cinnamon and nutmeg — which, if you’re a Clevelander, you know that means CHRISTMAS ALE was brewing! The tour didn’t offer the usual free samples – but that’s because the beer, and food, was yet to come.

After the tour, we were treated to an incredible, seasonal five-course meal. Ready to be jealous (and don’t judge me on the date.. yes it was almost a month ago):

AND in case you can’t read that, here’s what we ate in layman’s terms:

A crawfish ruchetta appetizer

Butternut squash soup

Arugula salad with a black pepper dressing

Beef short ribs over polenta

Burtternut squash pound cake IN A PUMPKIN

The dinner was SO good that I didn’t even take photos of everything! Honestly, everything was incredible. The crawfish was delicious and the salad dressing was so yummy – I loved the black pepper. My favorite beer? The Glockenspiel. Which, of course, you can’t just pick up from your local grocery store on a regular basis. I did stop to breathe and take a photo of the short ribs (they melted in my mouth!) and pound cake. Seriously- how could you NOT take a photo of the pound cake that was served inside a small pumpkin!?

That’s why you MUST reserve your spot for the next event ASAP. It’s not until January 10, but hurry – they book up quickly! Great Lakes is also letting you order dinner for a holiday gift for someone else! (HINT. My birthday is in January. AND the February event is Valentine’s DAY!)

 

***

The reviews and opinions here expressed are my own. I was not paid to attend the dinner (though I’d love to have been!)  or compensated in any way for this blog post. Or my tastebuds.

Reason #2413 I love my new apartment – New kitchen!

I’m LOVING our new downtown digs. One of the many reasons I’m in love with it? Our new AMAZING kitchen. AND we’ve been busy 🙂 When we’re not getting takeout or trying one of the many new awesome restaurants within walking distance, we’ve been cooking!

The meals we’ve tried out so far – with our new kitchen, new dishes and new pots and pans, are as follows (and shown below):

Chicken sausage marinara

Crab cakes (recipe here) with dijon garlic sauce

A West Side Market meal – shrimp scampi with shrimp, pasta and salad all from westside market

Chicken sausage and peppers with salad

 Salmon and asparagus

A Greek inspired meal – homemade chicken shawarma with garlic yogurt sauce and couscous salad

A perfect springtime meal – Crab cakes

The weather turned out relatively nice today, with the 5 + days of 40 degrees and rain coming to an end for a few hours, the sun coming out and 65 degree weather resulting. To celebrate, I decided to make one of my favorite summer/springtime recipes — crab cakes! I have a great, healthy recipe – modified from a Cooking Light recipe from ions ago.

The Cooking Light recipe is here:

I didn’t follow it 100%  — here’s how I changed it up:

  • It calls for green and red pepper but I just used extra red pepper.
  • I also added about the same amount (1/4 cup) thinly diced onion.
  • Also, it calls for 3 egg whites- I used 1/4 c. eggbeaters (the 1 egg equivalent).
  • Instead of Hungarian Paprika, I ended up using Cayenne Pepper 🙂 Yum!
  • I don’t know if I make small crab cakes, but when I make the recipe, it ends up with 8 (double what Cooking Light says)

Also, I broiled it a little longer- about 10 min on one side and then 6-7 min on the other side. Done!

For a dipping sauce, I mixed dijon mustard, mayo, garlic powder and tabassco sauce.

Mixing up the crab cake “batter” in our new awesome mixing bowl