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What to cook? We have some ideas

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Self-isolation has led me deeper and deeper into my kitchen.

I always loved to cook before. Usually I would prepare one or two meals a week from scratch—everything from Mexican to Chinese, from the grill to the oven. Lately, as you can imagine, I’ve been experimenting more and more with the food I make. Results have varied, but I whipped up a classic Italian dish the other week that had me salivating.

Good, ole fashioned Chicken Parmesan.

I woke up that morning with the craving for high-carb Italian cuisine. I have a few easy pasta recipes in my rotation, but none of them were going to cut it that day. I wanted something new, something bursting with flavor. After a little research, I decided on chicken parmesan. Luckily for me, I already had all of the ingredients in my pantry and refrigerator. That’s a first.

The recipe I used is from cafedelites.com, but I have my own tomato sauce recipe that I opted to use instead of the one the website gave. Also, instead of chicken breasts, I had boneless, skinless chicken thighs on hand. I was in Flavor Town, USA.

For the chicken, you’ll need:

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to season

3 large chicken breasts halved horizontally to make 6 fillets

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (Italian or golden)

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon garlic or onion powder

1/2 cup olive oil for frying

My go-to tomato sauce is a riff of Marcella Hazan’s world famous recipe, with a few of my own little twists.

1 can San Marzanos peeled tomatoes (28 oz.0

A whole stick of butter (yep, you heard me)

1 medium onion, peeled and halved

3 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of your knife

Salt to taste

Throw everything into a medium pot and cook on a steady simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring from time to time and mashing any large chunks of tomato with the back of a spoon. The sauce thickens up nicely and has a rich, velvety texture thanks to the butter. The onion and garlic cooks into the sauce and provides a subtle kick (pro tip: remove the onion and eat it by itself with a little sauce on top. Delizioso!)

For the cheesy topping:

1 pack of sliced mozzarella cheese

A can of Kraft shredded parmesan cheese (or a similar product)

Chopped parsley

Now let’s start cooking!

Preheat oven 430°F | 220°C. Lightly grease an oven tray (or baking dish) with non stick cooking oil spray; set aside.

Whisk together eggs, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Add chicken into the egg, rotating to evenly coat each fillet in the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes (or overnight night if time allows for a deeper flavour).

When chicken is ready for cooking, mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder together in a separate shallow bowl. Dip chicken into the breadcrumb mixture to evenly coat.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Fry chicken until golden and crispy, (about 4-5 minutes each side).

Place chicken on prepared baking tray / dish and top each breast with about 1/3 cup of sauce. Top each chicken breast with 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese and about 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with basil or parsley.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and melted, and the chicken is completely cooked through.

I cooked some angel hair pasta to serve the chicken with.

Warning: do not prepare and consume this meal if you have important plans later in the day. Trust me. If you’re looking to go into an Italian food-induced coma, I haven’t found a better recipe. This hit the spot.

Powell Cobb Managing Editor

Staying at home can be boring and fattening. When we are bored, we think we are hungry, so we eat all day long. Add to that the fact that we now have more time to cook – really cook. We seek out those recipes we haven’t made for a while because they take too much time for the regular workweek. We also explore with new ones.

My husband enjoys cooking and does most of it. The only problem is, being Italian, almost all of his meals involve pasta in one form or another.

My biggest love is for cookies. I made a batch of Snickerdoodles last week and ate most of them. Now, I am waiting for my husband to make his famous chocolate chip cookies. There is a secret ingredient I am unable to divulge, so I cannot share the recipe; but let it be said they are to die for.

One of our favorite meals is beef, carrot, noodle casserole. It is easy, delicious and nutritious. I received the recipe from my sister many years ago and I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t like it. My children grew up eating it and when my son was in college and living in a house with three other guys, he would make it; cut it into four sections and that was supper.

Recipe Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef

1 Tbs. butter

1/4 Cup minced onion

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

2 – 8 oz. cans Tomato sauce

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 cup sour cream

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup chopped parsley (either fresh or dried)

1 cup chopped cooked carrots

8 oz.egg noodles, cooked

1 cup shredded cheese (We use cheddar)

Directions: First cut and begin cooking the carrots in a small pan, while boiling water for the noodles, which are cooked next.

For the sauce, in a large skillet saute onion and garlic in melted butter until tender. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Add tomato sauce, salt and pepper.

While sauce is simmering, drain the cooked carrots and cooked noodles. In a large bowl combine sour cream, ricotta and parsley, then add drained carrots and noodles. Mix well.

In a large 3 quart greased casserole, begin layering the meat mixture and noodle mixture, starting and ending with noodles. Top with shredded cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until nicely browned and bubbly.

You have everything in one dish – meat, dairy products, vegetables and, of course, Pasta.

Enjoy!

Now bring on the cookies.

Carolyn Iamon Lifestyle Editor

If you know me, then you probably know I’m not much of a cook.

My roommate was once running late for work and begged for some oatmeal; I followed the instructions exactly, but even that didn’t turn out right.

There is one thing I would say I have “mastered.” It’s a variation of a common get together dish.

I purchase Hawaiian sweet rolls first. However, they were out at the grocery store as of lately, so I purchased Bahamas sweet rolls, which have been equally as successful.

I then purchase Honey glazed ham. I prefer it straight from Honey Baked Ham at home, but the SE Grocers brand also suffices. Then I buy baby Swiss cheese slices, garlic powder and a stick of butter and mayo.

I take the rolls out and cut them open before lathering them in mayo (Kraft of course). I then cut up the ham slices and baby Swiss and lay them on top before slapping them together to put in the Microwave.

I usually put them in the Microwave for approximately one minute, until everything is good and melted.

While that is melting, I mix butter and garlic powder in a little bowl.

As soon as the sweet rolls are done, I pop the butter and powder in the Microwave for max 20/30 seconds and it melts instantly.

I stir it all together and then pour it on top of the bread, before I go to work on eating them up.

The garlic butter gives the top a little extra flavor. Of course, you can substitute the cheese if you don’t like Baby Swiss; my mom has suggested Muenster cheese slices instead, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Maybe, it’ll be next on my list.

The cleanup takes less time than it did to make the little sandwiches. It’s perfect for lunch or an afternoon snack.

Jill Holloway Reporter