Category Archives: Quick Meals

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

Here’s my version of an old Italian classic. This is a quick version that uses mostly ingredients that are not too perishable and that you’re likely to have on hand (if you’re like us and have garlic available at all times) so if you have unexpected company for dinner this is an easy and impressive meal to throw together at a 1/2 hour or hour notice.


  • 4 Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 14 oz. Can Low-Sodium Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine
  • 1/2 – 1 Bulb Garlic
  • 1 Can Quartered Artichokes
  • 1/2 Red Pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. Capers
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Juice of 1 Large Lemon
  • Salt/Pepper to Taste
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Pasta-Spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp. Flour

For Breading:

  • 3 Tbsp. Flour
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Pepper

Serves 4

For this meal I used some homemade chicken stock and simmered it down, but you can use canned chicken stock and simmer it to reduce by 1/2. This meal is all about intense flavors. Use low-sodium stock since you’re concentrating it. It’s a good idea to start simmering the stock first since it will take around 1/2 hour to reduce it.

Dice up the red peppers very thin (most Chicken Piccata recipes don’t use red pepper, but I added a little here for vitamins and color). Dice up the garlic very fine, or use a garlic press. I like garlic so I use nearly a whole bulb of garlic, but you might want to just use a few cloves.

Butterfly the chicken breasts so they are the same thickness throughout (that means cutting into the thick part of the breast from the center, so you can fold it open like a book). It’s also a good idea to pound the chicken thinner so it cooks through quickly. You can put the chicken between two pieces of clear wrap and roll or pound it thin with a soup can or just about anything handy. I just used my fist, caveman-style.

heat up some butter or smart balance, and olive oil in a pan, and while that’s heating up, mix the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder together, spread it out on a plate and cover the chicken breasts.

Heat up a skillet with the butter and olive oil, and brown the chicken on both sides. When it’s nicely browned on the outside, take it out and put it in the oven at 350 degrees to finish cooking. Add the red pepper and garlic to the pan and cook until it’s softened up. Pour the white wine into the pan to deglaze it, scraping the browned stuff off the pan. Add the chicken stock, artichokes, and capers and simmer a little longer.

Mix the 2 tbsp. flour with a little water to make a paste and stir it into the chicken stock mixture to thicken up. Mix in lemon juice.

Take chicken out of oven and add to plate with cooked spaghetti. Cover all with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Tomato-Basil Rice

Tomato-Basil Rice

Tomato-Basil Rice

I came up with this recipe years ago, late one summer when I was getting tired of using the tomatoes and basil from my garden in pasta-based recipes. So I came up with this rice dish instead, and it turned out great! This is a great side for barbecued chicken and seafood. It’s another crowd-pleaser- everybody loves it.

I used hearts of palm in this recipe– Kristina found big jars of it cheap at Costco, so I added it to the recipe. It goes good in this recipe…hearts of palm taste similar to artichoke hearts. If you can’t find hearts of palm, don’t worry about it– I made this for years without adding that particular ingredient.


  • 14 oz. rice (Basmati works well for this)
  • 2 medium size tomatoes, diced, or 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2-1 green pepper, diced
  • Any other peppers from your garden if you want it spicy, diced
  • 28 oz. chicken stock, or 28 oz. total with liquid from tomatoes (total volume of liquid should be twice vol. of rice)
  • Hearts of palm, diced up (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper

Serves 3-4

Heat olive oil in a pot. Add onions, peppers and garlic and saute until they’re kinda softened up. Add chicken stock, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and chopped basil leaves and get it boiling. Throw rice in, turn down to low and cover.

Rice will take about 20 minutes to cook. When rice has about 5 minutes left to cook, stir in the hearts of palm (if you’re adding them) and the parmesan cheese (this is not optional). Turn heat off and let it sit covered for 10 minutes for rice to finish absorbing liquid and for all flavors to combine. Enjoy!

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Wow, it’s been almost two months since I’ve posted. It’s been a busy summer! But it’s the great comments to this blog that made me realize I need to get back to it. Like Mr. Cialis, who had some nice things to say, as well as offering a helpful link to great deals on cheap generic prescription drugs that I’m sure would be hard to find anywhere else on the internet. And who could forget iqquagnsufpk, who memorably said and I quote,  “TSw4mS xwpxpjepzcux”. Not quite sure what he or she was getting at, but I’m sure it was well-intentioned and profound. Makes me almost want to turn commenting back on.

Anyway, it’s late July, and if you’re growing tomatoes and basil in the midwest like me, that means big beautiful basil bushes but probably just a couple ripe tomatoes so far. Especially with the late start we got this spring, with all the cold and the rain. So it’s a perfect time to make pesto. And with the hot humid 90+ weather we’ve had for like the entire month of July, who wants to cook. The only thing you need to heat up for this is water to boil the pasta.

Pesto is really good– for us it’s a real taste of summer. It works great by itself as a vegetarian meal, or you can thaw some pre-cooked cocktail-style shrimp and throw it in. Or serve it as a side dish with some barbecued chicken.

Usually you use pine nuts in pesto, but I had a big bag of shelled pistachios hanging around, and I knew from past experience pistachios work great in pesto. But traditional pine nuts are good too.


  • 2 Cups basil leaves
  • 1/4-1/2 Cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 2-3 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Cup pistachios (or pine nuts)
  • Coarse-ground pepper to taste

Special utensils:

  • Food processor

Serves 2-4

Wash basil leaves and separate the leaves that are in good condition from the stems and the damaged leaves. Chop the garlic coarsely and add all ingredients except tomato to the food processor. Set processor to chop, and chop the pesto ingredients in short pulses, stopping frequently to take a spatula to fold the unchopped stuff along the outside toward the bottom to get everything evenly chopped. Don’t overprocess it– Pesto should be coarsely chopped.

Mix the pesto into the boiled pasta of your choice. I usually use thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta. Chop up tomato and add it to the mix. Enjoy.


Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Shirmp Kebabs

Shrimply Delicious (sorry)

Memorial Day was blazin’ hot, 90+ degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Finally some real summer weather! We spent the afternoon at the beach, so we needed something quick and simple to grill when we got back. Shrimp kebabs are the ticket for quick and simple. The marinating takes a little prep, but it’s easy to get ready, throw the marinating ingredients in the refrigerator and spend the afternoon at the beach.


  • 40 jumbo shrimp
  • Any combination of red, yellow, orange, green bell peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 Finely diced Garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Juice from one lemon or lime

Special Utensils:

  • Some type of skewer

Serves 4

Marinating kebabs

Marinating kebabs

Mix up marinating ingredients. Chop peppers and onions into kebab-sized pieces. A tip on marinating kebabs: marinate before skewering- put the pieces in a plastic bag and pour the marinade in. Marinate for a few hours. Put the kebabs together after. It’s a lot easier that way.

After the shrimp and veggies marinate, assemble them on the skewer, 8 kebabs, 5 shrimp to a kebab, and throw them on a hot grill. Turn over after 3-4 minutes on each side, and they’re ready to eat! Serve with your favorite sides- I made some rice and grilled asparagus, Enjoy!


Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon

Medium Rare Filet Mignon

Seared outside, perfectly pink inside

Yeah, that’s right, you read the title correctly. This is serious stuff, so there’s no room for false modesty here. I’m going to show you how to grill filet mignon cuts of steak perfectly, every time.


  • 4 Filet Mignon cut steaks
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh coarse-ground pepper
  • Soaked Hickory Chips (optional)

Special Utensils:

  • Barbeque Grill
  • Meat thermometer

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Serves 4

Get the charcoal started if you’re using a charcoal grill. While the coals are getting ready, take the steaks out of the refrigerator and sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper. Filet mignon cuts of steak are so good I like to keep it real simple with the seasoning. The steaks should sit out at room temp for up to a half hour before they go on the grill (but meat shouldn’t be left at room temp for any more time than that).

Charcoal Grill

Coals on one side only!

If you want nice branded grill marks, make sure the grill has been well-heated over the coals. When the coals are ready spread them out in a one-coal deep layer one one side of the grill only- this is important. Using a gas grill? I highly recommend charcoal, but if you MUST use a gas grill you’ll just fire up and preheat the burners on one side then.

Filet Migons on the grill

Searing up nicely

Now put the steaks on directly over the coals (or the hot side if you’re using a gas grill). Cover but leave all the grill vents open. We want a lot of heat. Turn the steaks over after a few minutes. Turn twice each side on diagonals if you want that “steakhouse commercial” grill mark look.  We want to get a good sear on the outside of the steaks.  We don’t want to burn the outside, just give it a good dark-brown sear. Why is a good sear so important? It’s not to seal in the juices, as some people think. It creates flavor . . .

Science Alert: Searing the steaks causes a process called the “Maillard Reaction”, a chemical reaction between sugars and amino acids in the meat when exposed to high heat. This creates dozens, maybe hundreds of delicious flavor compounds. THAT’s why a good sear is so important.

Once the outside has a good sear, close the grill vents halfway. move the steaks to the cooler side of the grill, and cover up again. Cooking quickly on the hot side and letting the steak finish more slowly on the cooler side is what’s going to give you the perfect seared outside and pink medium-rare throughout inside. Insert a meat thermometer in one of the steaks. If these were thinner cuts we could just test the doneness by touch, but with thick filet cuts a meat thermometer will make sure they’re just right. And “just right” for me is medium rare. I used to say the rarer the better, but these days I think medium rare makes for the best flavor and texture. And as I said in the Steak Au Poivre post, anything more than medium rare is just a crime against the steak.  I like to throw a handful of hickory chips that I soaked in water for a half hour onto the coals at this point. Not necessary if you don’t want to, but it gives the steaks a nice added smoky flavor.

So when the meat thermometer is EXACTLY at 125 degrees (140-150 degrees for medium/medium well if you really have to) take the steaks off the heat and let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Resting the steak is important because it allows the meat juices to reabsorb back into the muscle fibers of the steak so it stays nice and juicy. If you start cutting the steak up too soon those juices will just run out onto your plate.

Serve with your favorite vegetable and side (I did grilled asparagus from the applewood smoked chicken post and simple baked potatoes). Enjoy your perfectly grilled steak!