Tanya's Garlic Tomato Herbed Pasta & Lemon Garlic Herbed Chicken

I started cooking at a young age. My parents motto was that we'd learn how to cook by helping them out. Being cynical, even at a young age, I thought it was just a ploy for them to employ free child labor. JK. Kinda. ;o) BUT, of course, they were right. I learned how to cook from my parents and grandparents and anyone else we helped out in the kitchen.

In high school, I came up with this pasta dish. The original recipe was all butter (mainly because Mom didn't buy olive oil at that point)...and now has morphed into a more health-conscious dish that is all olive oil. In between the metamorphosis, I started using half butter/half olive oil. But, alas, heart healthy extra virgin olive oil is all I use now...which incidentally, helps your body absorb the lycopene from the tomatoes. Scizzore!

The chicken recipe I got is inspired by *gasp* Rachel Ray! This recipe is great since you can vary which flavors you'd like to have for that meal. My constant is the garlic & lemon...of course. BUT, I'll use capers or rosemary for the variants. Any herbs would be yummy with this recipe. I dredge the chicken, giving the final product a nice sauce to use. Use more wine for more sauce.

The best thing about both...SUPER SIMPLE and quick!!! Plus, you can serve both of these dishes together. If not and for some odd reason you have leftovers of the chicken, you can combine the leftovers with plain pasta to create this:

From Tanya Eats

Tan's Garlic Tomato Herbed Pasta
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
Herbs of choice (Italian, Herbs de Provence, Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, etc.)
~2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
White wine (optional)
Lemon (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
Pasta of choice (long pastas work better...I used Barilla Plus pasta for it's yumminess & healthfulness)

Boil salted water for pasta. Unless you're not good at multitasking, then this can wait till after the sauce is simmering.

In a large pan, heat oil, garlic, & herbs over medium heat. Heat until garlic is heated through, but not brown (brown garlic = icky). Turn heat up to high and add tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat. Allow to simmer until the tomatoes have disintegrated slightly. Season with salt & pepper. You may want to thin out sauce with white wine OR wait until combined with pasta and add pasta water to desire consistency.

Before tossing with pasta, add a healthy squeeze of lemon, if desired. Slicing lemons and adding to sauce work beautifully as well. Add drained pasta and toss.

Tan's Lemon Garlic Herbed Chicken

Chicken Breasts (I use boneless, skinless)
6-10 cloves garlic, smashed
1 lemon, sliced
3/4 cup white wine (or more if more sauce is desired)
Flour, for dredging
Salt & pepper
McCormick Montreal Chicken Grill Seasoning (optional...I often forget to use it)
Herbs of choice (fresh or dried)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season chicken breasts with salt & pepper. If using grill seasoning, tone down salt usage as the grill seasoning is salty. Dredge in flour and set aside.

Heat oil up on high in oven-safe frying pan. Add chicken breasts and allow to brown on each side. Add garlic & herbs. Add lemon slices, giving a few a good queeze before adding to pan. Place pan in oven.

Bake about 5 minutes. Add white wine and cook an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Spoon sauce over breasts before serving.

Serve over rice or pasta and ENJOY!


Coconutty Celebration

Mama Lee's birthday was last month and we went up to DC to celebrate her hot cougarness. I got hit by this wallop of a cold...definitely the worst one this year but not as bad as last year's flu. I also shared the love with my sister. What makes that even better is that the poor thing is 8 months preggers. I'm the world's best sister....ever.

Anyhoo...I had seen this cake on Bobby Flay's "Throwdown" show last summer and it screamed "MAMA LEE". My mom loves, loves, LOVES coconut cake!!! I totally wanted to make it for her and was really looking forward to making it...until I got hit with this cold. It was bad news bears after that.

Still...my mom only has one birthday a year...well, actually, girlfriend has TWO birthdays a year...thanks to my granddaddy not reporting her birth until the day after (I'm not sure how birth recordings work in Honduras, but my mom's legal birthday is the day AFTER her actual birth date). So, I was praying that even though I couldn't make most of it down here before heading up to DC, I still could work on it when I got there.

I was still sick...really sick. Besides the boo hoo hoo for me, I was more concern about baking a petri dish full of my germy goodness for the family and infecting them all. Luckily, I was washing and sanitizing myself all throughout and I think Kim got sick after one of the kids kissed me on the lips and then kissed her on the lips. SORRY SISTEE!!!

Anyhoo...the cake turned out fabulous despite me being out of my element. The custard could've been better...but that was my fault...hooray for tiny baby clumps! Not! I switched it up and did two layers of the coconut cream and one layer of the custard. I also did a lightly sweetened whipped cream for the frosting instead of the buttercream. My mom prefers whipped cream frostings and I knew the cake was already going to be too sweet with the buttercream.

The final product...delicate, not cavity-inducing, coconutty goodness. I'm relieved to find out my cake-making skills are getting better. Baking is so much harder than cooking...but the end results are worth it!

Click here for Bobby Flay's Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Filling and Coconut Buttercream.

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

From The Lee-Espiritu Fam