A “Cheesy” New Years Tradition

While Luke and I were dating we went to two fondue places and love it both times. But fondue can be expensive and our closest fondue place is in Rochester, an hour and forty-five minutes away. So last year for New Years Eve we decided to start a new tradition: making fondue at home.

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We bought a basic bottle of white and red wine then went to Wegmans to get nicer cheeses and chocolate to melt. Because we had the day to ourselves, we took our time prepping goodies to dip . For our creamy  white wine cheesy fondue we cut up  tart apples, grapes, mushrooms, broccoli, pita bread, pumpernickel bread, and celery.

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This year’s fondue cheeses
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2014’s fondue dipped goods

After making the fondue last year we decided the breads were too crumby for the hot cheese and that I am not a fan of raw broccoli but everything else tasted great. So this year we used heartier crackers, cut cubes from our own homemade bread, and exchanged green peppers for broccoli.

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Last year for our  rich red wine chocolate fondue we used marshmallows, strawberries, bananas, shortbread cookie pieces, and cheesecake bites.

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After making the chocolate fondue last year we decided the shortbread cookies was too soft and melted and that Luke is not a fan of marshmallows. Last year I had made cheesecake for Christmas /New Years day dessert so I  cut up the leftovers from the freezer.

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This year I made cheesecake balls coated in graham cracker crumbs. I dipped some in white chocolate for the New Years Eve party then froze the rest for fondue.  We didn’t use bananas this year but we did keep the  marshmallows for me, which just meant more cheesecake for Luke.

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We do not own a fondue set but we have a double boiler. Last year we put hot water in the bottom pan of the double boiler and melted our cheese/chocolate in the top pan. This worked pretty well except for one issue: if we removed the cheese fondue from the stove heat then it would begin to harden almost immediately. So we ended up eating our fondue on stools huddled around the stove top of the oven.

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This year Luke dipped into his camping gear to find a burner we could put on the table to use with our double boiler. It’s another temporary solution but it’s better than last year. And let’s just say we already have a item on our Christmas list for 2014: a nice fondue set.

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And what else did we do for our holiday other than eat food? Play Luke’s favorite Christmas present Firefly: the board game yes . . . it’s complicated and nerdy and. . . it’s a lot of fun.

Hope you all had a fun New Year’s Day!!

Gluten-Free Low Cal. Chicken Marsala


Luke loves mushrooms and I can’t say I dislike them either so awhile back I decided to try to make chicken marsala at home. If you don’t know chicken marsala is a typical Italian dish in which the chicken is parmesan crusted and pan-fried served over angel hair pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce (usually made with Marsala Wine) poured over it.

The first time around I attempted to adapt a few recipes I had seen online. It was the middle of summer and humid-I was sweating in the kitchen trying to balance hot pans of boiling water and popping oil. The final dish was not bad but it was extremely carb. heavy. Not a light easy summer meal.

Still I was determined to try again. This time I needed to make some major adjustments. I took out the pasta and made the dish gluten-free and much lower in calories by using zucchini instead. After a few trial runs of substituting this and a few other items I finally fine-tuned a recipe both of us were happy with. Now this low calorie gluten-free chicken marsala is a common under 600 Calorie chicken-night dinner.

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Ingredients

  2 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts

1 tsp of: salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic (depending how much garlic you like) and Italian seasoning

1/4 C Parmesan cheese

(if you want to cut calories you can take out the Parmesan cheese but it is a great gluten-free substitute for flour or bread crumbs)

½ cup olive oil

8 ounces container of mushroom, sliced and cleaned

2 tablespoons butter  (I use I can’t believe it’s not butter light)

¼-1/2 cup chicken stock

¼ cup sherry or dry white wine (I use cooking sherry which can easily be found at any grocery store)

2 medium to large zucchini’s or yellow squash (you can instead make the pasta alternative of spaghetti squash)

Instructions

1. Split (Butterfly) each chicken breast into two pieces.

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2. Place plastic wrap over them or place them in gallon size bag. Pound each one with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin until about a quarter inch thick.

IMG_14123. Combine dry ingredients, mixing the Italian Seasoning, Garlic, Salt and Pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Place the mixture in a pie tin or on plate with a good edge.

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4. Pour 1/4 C olive oil into another pie tin or plate. Dip each piece of chicken on both sides in the olive oil then transfer it into the dry ingredients tin, coating both sides.

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5. Meanwhile cut up the zucchini or yellow squash into rounds. Steam the veggies on a low heat so they will done the same time as the rest of dinner.

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6. Heat the other 1/4 C of olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium sized pan. When the oil is hot place each piece of coated chicken in the pan. Allow the pieces to cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. (It is always good to play it safe and cut into the thickest piece to double check that it is done.)

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7. Remove the chicken and place them on a plate covered in tin foil (to keep the chicken warm) and a paper towel (to absorb extra oil). Then cover the plate with another plate or pot lid.

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8. In the same pan used to pan-fry the chicken brown the butter then add the clean and cut mushrooms to the pan.

9. Saute mushrooms for about 4-5 minutes seasoning with a little salt and pepper.

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Then add cooking sherry, or white wine and chicken stock, allowing the liquids to reduce slightly, about another 3 minutes.

When it is time to serve the steamed zucchini  is layered on the bottom.

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Then a crispy piece or two of the pan-fried chicken.

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Then last of all the mushroom sauce.

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Then you are ready to enjoy!

What is your favorite veggie? Way to cook chicken?

Food on the Run

Wednesday nights we have been going to a budget class at church. It has been helpful to get Luke and I on the same page about where/how we spend, save, and invest. But the class starts at 6:30pm and Luke often doesn’t get off work until 6:00pm if he is lucky.

In an effort to save money, and our health, on these busy weeknights I make a one dish dinner. So as Luke drives home from work I quickly put together the meal so by the time he comes in the door I’m ready to grab the lunchpail and head to class.

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There are several meals I can make from home quickly. One of them is mushroom and spinach white cheddar pasta.

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For this meal I actually use a box of Annie’s shells and white cheddar.

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 I don’t often use boxes, but with simple ingredients like this, how can I go wrong? Annie’s has many organic products. They also have gluten-free rice white cheddar shells that are just as tasty!

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After cooking the pasta I add the packaged sauce, a little milk, parmesan, and melt in some mozzarella cheese.

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Once the cheese has melted, I add in the mushrooms to cook until tender, then last of all the spinach.

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Once it is all cooked and warm it goes into the tupperware containers (Luke is the bigger one). Then I fill up a bottle of water to share, thrown in some napkins, forks and dinner is ready on the go.

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Plus when I get home there isn’t a huge mess to clean up. Just one pot and our tupperware. Sometimes it is fun to make challenging new recipes other times you have to do what is easy, simple, and fast.

Some of the other meals for these Wednesday nights are: teriyaki bowls and burrito bowls. Maybe sometime soon I’ll write about those too. 🙂

Happy Wednesday everyone!