Racing the clock against brown rice

My health has been shite for the past month, and so I’ve been relying more heavily on fast and easy recipes, and also relatively healthy.

So, I was so pleased to come across a food blogger — Chelsea’s Messy Apron — who had a sheet pan recipe that met all of my qualifications. My only qualm was it didn’t leave enough leftovers for someone as ill and lazy as me, but that was more easily remedied than my chronic ailment.

It was so easy that I decided to have some fun — at least fun for me — by racing to see whether I could get the recipe ready in less time than it would take to make the brown rice I would serve with my chicken and vegetable meal.

Sheet pan balsamic chicken ingredients.

Alas, I did not, but the delays were my own. Mostly, my damn desire to double the recipe meant the chicken crowded the sheet pan and cooked more slowly. The side benefit was the veggies had a nice crisp to them.

Still, the recipe was a treat and one I’ll return to again.

The best part was the ease at which flavor was added. Balsamic vinegar and Italian dressing combined to form a marinade, coating and dipping sauce that worked wonderfully. Another benefit is that any veggie combination would work, so it works to clip up what’s in the fridge.

Next time, maybe though, I’ll spread it onto two sheet pans so I can beat the brown rice.

Quick, healthy, and most importantly, tasty. What’s not to love?

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into strips, or chicken tenders
  • 1 c. Italian dressing
  • ⅔ c. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 (12 oz.) packages broccoli florets
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ lb. baby carrots, halved
  • ½ t. basil
  • ½ t. oregano
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large, sided sheet pan (or sheet pans).

Mix together the balsamic vinegar and dressing. Pour a third of the mixture into a Ziploc bag with the chicken and marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours. Split the remaining mixture into two bowls.

Place veggies on the sheet pan, and mix in the herbs, spices, and salt and pepper, as well as 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes while the chicken marinates.

When chicken is ready, move veggies to the side and place the strips in the center of the sheet pan. Brush a third of the marinade onto the chicken (and vegetables), and bake for another 15 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve the meal with the remaining marinade/sauce and serve over rice or another grain, if desired. Enjoy!

Impossible to fail pasta dinner

After last week’s miserable failure (twice!), I was looking for something a wee bit easier this week, so I turned to the New York Times Cooking page and found a spicy roasted broccoli pasta recipe.

It was perfect for our little family. My sweetie loves broccoli (which I like fine), and I love carbs and cheese (which he likes fine), and this dinner has plenty of all of that. Plus, it’s hearty for these cold Iowa winter nights, and it’s none too difficult to boot.

Broccoli pasta ingredients

But what really helped make this such a gem was that I completely fiddled with the recipe to make things easier on myself, and it turned out just fine. It was impossible to fail!

It was hard to judge the what the recipe meant when it called for “2 ½ lbs. broccoli, cut into bite-size florets.” Did that mean 2 ½ lbs. of broccoli, and then cut the florets from that? Did it mean I should have 2 ½ lbs. of just florets? If I didn’t have enough florets, could I skim the rough edges from the stem and chop that too? It turns out, who knows and who cares? It worked fine.

I bought two bundles of fresh broccoli (about seven pieces in total), because I couldn’t find a scale at the store and figured that *had* to be enough. Well, when I cut the florets, at home I learned with my scale I only had 1 ½ lbs. of florets. I added some pared stems, but didn’t want to overwhelm it with them so I added enough to get to nearly 2 lbs. And, it turned out, I’m sure it would have been fine either way, just depending on how much you like broccoli.

Then, I totally changed the amounts of ricotta and pasta, because I didn’t want to be left with scant-ish amounts of both. So, extra pasta and extra cheese, it all fit on the baking sheet and turned out fine.

It’s one of those great recipes where you can kind of bend it to your tastes. If you want more broccoli to carb ratio, go for it; if you love cheese, toss on a little more.

All in all, it is well worth the (limited effort) to make.

Nom nom noms. I’m hungry just looking at it again.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of broccoli, cut into bite-size florets and some stem if desired (or whatever)
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil (I estimated), plus at least as much for drizzle
  • 1 T. cumin seeds, optional (more than it called for but I love cumin)
  • ¾ t. kosher salt (again, I estimated)
  • ½ t. red pepper flakes (I’m sure I used more)
  • 16 oz. tube shaped or shell pasta (more than it called for but I wanted to use the whole box)
  • ⅓ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ c. panko bread crumbs
  • Zest from one lemon
  • ½ t. ground black pepper (I didn’t measure)
  • 15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese (more than it called for but I wanted to use the whole tub)
  • Fresh lemon juice, optional (hey, I already zested the lemon, may as well use the juice)

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees. On a 15 ½ x 12 inch sheet pan (or so) toss together the cut broccoli, the oil, the salt, red pepper flakes, and cumin, if using. Roast until tender and browned, 18 to 25 minutes, and tossing while halfway through. Remove from oven, set aside, and turn the oven up to broil.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of (salted) water to boil, and cook the pasta according to package instructions and then drain. Separately, in a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan, panko, lemon zest, and salt and black pepper.

Toss the pasta together with the broccoli, and then dollop with the ricotta. Sprinkle with the Parmesan mix, top with salt and black pepper, and drizzle with (a good amount of) oil. Broil the mixture until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with lemon juice, if desired, and enjoy!