Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gryffindor Pasta...with Leftovers!

What's that picture? It's so rare in our house that I had to take a picture. It's...leftovers!!! When I first met Terry, he hadn't worked out in something like a year, but you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at him. Now that he works out regularly, though, he eats a LOT. I try to provide lots of snacks so he doesn't come home starving, but he always, always, ALWAYS eats second (and sometimes third) helpings of dinner. So tonight's feat - actually having three containers of leftovers - felt like a miracle.

Terry's post-workout ritual: Chocolate milk

My post-workout ritual: Cuddle with Scout

In other miraculous news, I learned that red and yellow together doesn't always have to be a bad combination. As a Bruin, I've learned to reject anything related to USC, to the point where Terry and I have agreed that we wouldn't take a red car if it was free. I deliberately avoid wearing red and yellow together, and I'm seriously disappointed that J.K. Rowling, an otherwise sensational writer, chose the absolute worst color combination for the Gryffindor house. But still, tonight I found myself with all yellow and red ingredients, at least for the main dish. And I think I finally found something that makes yellow and red work together beautifully!

Gryffindor Pasta (I'm trying to be more creative with my recipe names)

Gryffindor Pasta with Cheesy Garlic Bread
  • 3 large tomatoes (firm but ripe) – I used two red and one yellow heirloom
  • 2 large bell peppers, one yellow, one red, roughly diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast cutlets
  • 1 cup red wine
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 leaves fresh basil
  • 1 pound whole-wheat penne

*Special equipment: Food processor

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bell peppers and sauté about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes and puree in your food processor until blended but textured. Add the tomatoes to the bell peppers, along with the spices, and bring to a boil. Add about the wine, return to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the water ¼ cup at a time and allowing it to reduce.

As the sauce simmers, heat a small pan over medium heat. If you have a Misto (for spraying olive oil), here’s a great use – cooking chicken! For a little extra flavor, sprinkle the raw chicken with a little extra pepper and oregano. Then spray the pan with your Misto, add the chicken, spice-side down, to the pan, and sprinkle the opposite side with the same spices. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, then cut into one-inch cubes and add to the sauce. Allow to simmer for an additional 10 minutes so the chicken can finish cooking. Add the basil right before serving.

Boil a large pot of boiling water and follow the pasta’s directions for al dente cooking. Drain, then add the pasta to the sauce. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

This recipe turned out great! I’ve always been nervous to actually make my own pasta sauce from scratch, but it was far easier than I expected. Once I got the tomatoes to the right consistency in the food processor, they served as the perfect base for my sauce. I was a little worried about the bell peppers getting soggy, but I only sautéed them for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, so I think that kept them a little crunchy throughout the cooking process. In the end, the acidity of the tomatoes was perfectly balanced with the sweet bell peppers, and the whole sauce worked great with the chicken. If you try it, let me know what you think!

To accompany our pasta, I served a simple salad with romaine lettuce, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, a crisp and fresh complement to the warm pasta. I was also craving garlic bread, but you know how some restaurants serve “cheesy garlic bread” and it’s delicious but super high in calories? Well, I figured there must be a healthier version of it, and here’s my attempt.

Cheesy Garlic Bread
Serves 2

  • 2 slices whole wheat sourdough bread
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 thin slices fresh mozzarella

Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 450 degrees. Lightly butter each piece of bread, then sprinkle the garlic powder over each piece. Tear the mozzarella and spread out over the bread slices. Place the bread on a cookie sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, until the cheese is barely melted and the bread is golden brown.

It’s just as delicious as cheesy garlic bread at a restaurant, but I’m sure it’s about a quarter of the calories and actually holds some nutritional value. It made a great side dish for our yummy pasta, too!

Tonight our cable went out. I’m bummed because it’s Biggest Loser night, and I’m missing it! I watch exactly two reality competition shows: Biggest Loser and So You Think You Can Dance. The latter is because I used to be a dancer and love to watch such phenomenal athletes get some national attention. I love Biggest Loser because it truly changes people’s lives. The transformations absolutely overwhelm me, and I cry almost every week. I love the trainers’ don’t-make-excuses attitudes, and I generally find the contestants to be interesting and entertaining. I disagree a little with the built-in advertising, where the contestants awkwardly hold a conversation about how “delicious” their power bar or protein shake or microwave breakfast tastes. I understand that shows need to make money, but I’m disappointed to see that a show that should be directing people toward healthier living advocates such processed foods. Still, at least it’s better (at least in portion size?) than whatever these folks were eating before!

Tonight’s Workout:

  • Tandy Gutierrez’s Pilates Abs video (OnDemand through Time Warner Cable)
  • 2.4 mile run

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