Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"The Way To A Man's Heart Is Through His Stomach"

Kdub and I have always celebrated Valentines Day at home.....going to a packed restaurant just isn't what we consider romantic. I do love how restaurants make their dishes look "fancy." SO I have asked my coworker (a woman that rivals Martha Stewart) to share some of her "impressive but not so hard to make" recipes! (here's a hint....print this out and hand it to your honey.....tell him you'll be in the tub while HE cooks YOU dinner.)
Happy Valentines Day, y'all!

Hearts of Romaine Antipasti With Marinated Artichoke Hearts and Balsamic Vinagarette
Serves 2-4

One bag of precut Romaine lettuce, buy the ready to serve kind so you don’t have to wash it :)
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
½ cup pitted black olives (optional)
1 6oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts, preferably Cara Mia brand
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup of Parmesan cheese, Kraft shaker kind works great

Empty hearts of Romaine into your salad bowl. Sprinkle with cherry tomato quarters and black olives. Cover with a damp paper towel and keep in the fridge. This part can be done up to two hours before serving.
To make the dressing: Drain the marinated artichoke hearts, and reserve the liquid. Scatter Artichoke hearts over the salad, and pour liquid back into the jar the artichokes came in. Add the Dijon, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to the ‘choke juice, screw the lid on tightly, and shake the living daylights out of it. Pour over the prepared salad just before serving, and top with parmesan cheese.
Estimated prep time from beginning to end: 10 minutes or less

Chicken Parmigiano
Serves 2

(Tara tip: If you are REALLY pressed for time....you can make this with frozen breaded chicken patties. Cook them as the package instructs and then top with the sauce and cheese and put them in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup Italian-style bread crumbs *DO NOT TRY TO SUBSTITUTE PLAIN*
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon season salt
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 ¾ cups pasta sauce, I like Barilla Tomato Basil, but any high quality sauce will work
1 package of sliced mozzarella cheese, the kind for sandwiches

Preheat the oven to 425°

For the chicken: Using a rolling pin or an empty wine bottle, pound the chicken breasts to a uniform thickness of about ¾ of an inch.
In a dinner plate, mix the season salt with the bread crumbs, spread them evenly over the surface of the plate, and set aside.
In a small bowl, beat the egg and milk together until throughly combined. Pour into another dinner plate.
On the stove, preheat a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat with the tablespoon of oil.
One piece at a time, coat the chicken in the egg mixture, shake to remove any excess egg, and coat in breadcrumbs, flipping each piece in the breadcrumbs to coat evenly.
Cook the chicken breasts, one at a time, until the bread crumbs brown evenly, about 4-5 minutes each side. You don’t have to worry about cooking the chicken all the way through, as they will finish cooking in the oven.
Place the cooked chicken in a 9”x13” glass baking dish, and spoon the sauce evenly over the two pieces, but don’t completely coat the top with sauce.
Pop the pan in the oven, and set a timer for 15 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, take two pieces of mozzarella and using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut two hearts out of the cheese. You could also cut several small hearts, or use more than one large heart on each piece. Get creative!
After 15 minutes, top the chicken with the cheese hearts. Bake for another 5 minutes.
Allow the chicken to rest in the pan for 5 minutes, and serve!

Estimated prep time from beginning to end: 45 minutes

Serves 2-4
This totally easy version of the classic Italian dessert can be prepared a day in advance, and it’s actually better if you do!

1 package of ladyfingers, usually found in the cookie aisle
1 cup of STRONG cold coffee
3 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup of amaretto liquor *optional, but I HIGHLY recommend using it*
1 package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup of sweetened cocoa powder, found in the baking aisle
butter for coating baking dish

Prep: Lightly grease an 8”x8” glass baking dish with butter. Reserve for later.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon until smooth. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. We’re looking for Cool Whip consistency here, folks. You can use an electric mixer for both this and the cream cheese mixture if you wish, just make sure you rinse the beaters in between or the cream won’t whip properly
Scrape the beaten whip cream into the bowl containing the cream cheese mixture. VERY GENTLY fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, and reserve in the fridge for later.
In another bowl, whisk the cold coffee, sugar, and amaretto liquor together. Dip the ladyfingers, very quickly, and one at a time, into the coffee mixture. Do not let the ladyfingers get too soggy, just the outside should soften
Line the bottom of the 8”x8” pan with the soaked ladyfingers, making sure they fit snuggly against each other.
Spread half of the cream cheese mixture over the ladyfingers, and dust with half of the sweetened cocoa powder. Repeat the process once more, so you have two layers of ladyfingers and two layers of cream cheese mixture. Dust the top with remaining cocoa powder, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve, and cut into squares to serve.

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