Hard Cider and Brown Sugar Chicken

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You guys, this was SO good! I mean REALLY good! There was so much flavorful, rich, sticky, yummy goodness. The best part? It’s so ridiculously easy to prep that you will have it all ready to go within in minutes. Bonus, it cooks quickly too so you’ll have dinner on the table in no time! I served the chicken with my Easy Peasy Seasoned Rice and steamed green beans.

I absolutely LOVE the New England region of this country so it’s no surprise that one of my most favorite cookbooks is from a true New England girl, Jessica Robinson. This recipe comes right from her cookbook entitled: New England Farmgirl: Recipes & Stories from a Farmer’s Daughter. It’s a really awesome cookbook filled with easy to make comfort food. I followed the recipe exactly however, instead of slicing the chicken into strips I chose to slice my chicken breasts and pound them thin. To cook them all evenly and at the same time I used my Presto 06852 16-Inch Electric Skillet with Glass CoverThis inexpensive skillet is worth having in your kitchen, click here , to read more about why I consider this appliance a kitchen “must-have”. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup hard apple cider
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbs molasses
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil

Instructions

Place the cider, brown sugar, molasses, salt, pepper, mustard and paprika into a large bowl or Ziploc® bag and mix until well combined. Add the chicken and allow to marinate for 2-4 hours.

Warm the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and discard any remaining marinade. Cook the chicken for about 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from the pan and allow to rest on a plate for a few minutes. Drizzle with any remaining glaze from the pan. Serve hot.

 

Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Grilled Summer Veggies

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Pasta salads are the perfect light, easy, summer meal. They come together quickly, make a nice dinner or side dish, and they are a great way to use up all of the delicious vegetables that are growing in your garden. For this recipe I used a mix of zucchini, red bell peppers, corn on the cob, and green onions but you can substitute any or all of these with whatever favorite vegetables you have on hand. Pasta salads are extremely versatile in that you can add in whatever meat, cheese, dressing, and veggie that you like and it will always turn out delicious.

Because I had a nice amount of basil growing in my yard I decided to make a quick and easy fresh basil pesto . It takes only minutes to pull together and it’s the perfect “sauce” for both the pasta and to season the chicken that I added into the salad. The fresh grilled vegetables are really what amps up this salad to awesome, they impart such a nice, sweet element to the dish. I happen to love fresh mozzarella, preferably from my local Italian deli, but in a pinch I do use pre-packaged “fresh mozzarella” from BJ’s. For this recipe I threw in some of the fresh mozzarella pearls, teeny tiny little balls, from Bel Gioioso. They aren’t as amazing as true fresh mozzarella but in this dish where they are tossed together with pesto, chicken, pasta, and fresh veggies they work just fine.

If you don’t have time to make everything for this dish all at once you easily make much of it in advance. The pesto will keep for 5-7 days in the fridge, the vegetables can be grilled and diced ahead of time as well as the chicken. When you’re ready for dinner just boil the pasta and toss everything together. Super easy!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ thick slices
  • 2 ears of fresh corn on the cob
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into sixths
  • 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh mozzarella pearls (or torn up fresh mozzarella)
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cubed and cooked
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 3/4 cup pesto

Instructions

Heat the grill to medium-high. Toss vegetables in the olive oil with a little bit of salt and pepper. Grill corn, turning periodically, for about 10 minutes or until slightly charred in spots. Grill the pepper and zucchini slices for about 4-6 minutes, turning once. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbs of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the cubed chicken and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until slightly browned and cooked through. Towards the end of the cooking, add in 2-3 tbs of the pesto sauce and stir to combine. Set the chicken aside on a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool off the pasta just a bit, you don’t want it steaming hot.

Combine the cooked pasta, chicken, mozzarella balls, green onion, and grilled veggies. Toss gently with the pesto until well combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm, at room temp, or cold.

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Garlic Oil Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage

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This is my go to dinner when I need something quick and easy. It’s absolutely delicious, very versatile, and even my kids love it! The key to this dish is in the garlic preparation, you don’t want to just chop up raw garlic and toss it in or ((GASP)) use something like garlic powder. I always use fresh garlic and I cook it until is softens which allows it to take on a nice, mellow flavor that really enhances the flavor of the meal.

For every pound of pasta I use a full head of garlic however, if you like a more subtle or even stronger garlic flavor feel free to use less or more depending on your taste. You can also switch out the sausage for thinly sliced chicken or even mini meatballs.  Don’t like broccoli? Use spinach, zucchini, kale, or whatever produce you prefer.  I happen to love penne pasta but you can make this recipe with angel hair, spaghetti, rigatoni or any other pasta that suits you. You can really experiment and make this dish your own.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta, any
  • 1 lb sausage links (I like sweet sausage with fennel)
  • 1 head of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 – 3/4 extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bag of broccoli florets (I like the Bird’s Eye Steam Bags)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves

Instructions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente.

In the meantime, smash the garlic cloves with the back of a knife, give them a rough chop and add them to a small saucepan. Cover the garlic with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and turn the stove to medium high heat. Once the oil starts to bubble bring the heat down to low and let the garlic cook until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the garlic infuse into the warmed oil.

Thinly slice the sausage or remove from the casings all together. Heat up a small pan on medium heat and drizzle a little olive oil in. Add the sausage and cook until nicely browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Set aside and reserve the cooking oil.

Remove the garlic from the oil and using kitchen sheers, mince up the softened garlic. Add the garlic back into the oil and then prepare the broccoli. Allow the broccoli to cool for a minute and then chop the stems and discard.

Drain the pasta and add to a large bowl. Tear a handful of basil leaves and toss them in along with the sausage, broccoli, grated cheese, and a pinch of red pepper. Drizzle in some of the oil from the sausage pan along with all of the garlic infused oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss until everything is evenly coated and combined. Adjust your seasonings, sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese, and serve hot.

**Note** – I always keep fresh basil on hand in my freezer. Buy a bunch of basil, tear off the leaves, wash, allow them to dry in between paper towels, and then toss them into a Ziploc bag and freeze. Whenever a recipe calls for fresh basil just grab what you need and crumble it right into whatever you’re cooking.

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