Bitchin#039; in the Kitchen with Rebecca

by Beacon Staff • February 7, 2007

Many students probably resolved this New Year to save money, eat better and spend more time with friends and loved ones-resolutions that were likely broken as soon as classes started and they found themselves draining checking accounts on books and equipment, regularly grabbing a slice or two from NYP between classes and swapping common-room hang-outs and romantic dates for club meetings and a quick "I Love New York" viewing before bed.

With Valentine's Day coming up, what better way to take back the last month and a half of resolution-breaking than with a romantic homemade dinner? The ingredients are sure to cost less than two meals at any date-worthy restaurant, not to mention you'll be missing all those extra calories eateries love to pack into their fare. Prepare an intimate dinner for two or a feast for your single friends; either way, those who have become little more than e-mail addresses and screen names to you will appreciate the thought, as well as the food-and probably your company.

Chicken Marsala

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4" thickness

1/2 c. Marsala wine

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. basil

2 c. flour

3 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. olive oil

4 oz. (1/2 - 1 c.) chopped mushrooms

Lemon-Spinach Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4" thickness

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 c. flour

3 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. olive oil

10 oz. spinach leaves

2 lemons, halved

2 lemons, cut into thin slices

Both chicken dishes are prepared the same until after the breasts hit the pan. Combine flour, salt, pepper and basil. Coat each chicken breast with the mixture and set aside; the chicken can also be breaded, if desired. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet. Cook chicken for about two minutes until brown, then turn.

For the chicken marsala, add mushrooms and continue to cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Stir and add the marsala wine.

For the lemon-spinach chicken, toss the lemon slices and spinach into the skillet. Squeeze in the juice of the halved lemons.

In both recipes, once the last ingredient has been added, cover skillet and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, turning chicken occasionally, until chicken is done.

A variety of side dishes can be served with both of these entrees: green beans, peas, carrots, potatoes-anything you and your guest(s) like. Make an easy dinner even easier with canned veggies, which can be heated quickly in a microwave. Or go the extra mile with something like a twice-baked potato.

Twice-Baked Potato

1 large Russet potato

milk

sour cream

butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

4-5 broccoli florets, finely chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

parmesan or cheddar cheese (optional)

Bake potato for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool before handling, then slice a small portion off the top. Scoop out the guts, leaving a thin layer of potato to reinforce the skin. Mash the potato and combine with a little bit of milk, sour cream and butter (how much you use of each depends on your preference), and beat until creamy. Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the garlic and broccoli over low heat until garlic is slightly brown. Drain the excess oil and mix the garlic and broccoli into the potato. Scoop the mashed potatoes back into the skin and top with cheese. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

If a twice-baked potato sounds too time consuming, opt for simple skins-in mashed potatoes: wash potatoes thoroughly and chop, keeping skins on. Boil until slightly soft, about 15 minutes, drain, and mash. Add milk, sour cream and butter, and beat until creamy.

From-Scratch Pasta Sauce

1 can plain tomato sauce, either smooth or chunky

1 can crushed or whole, peeled tomatoes

1 lb. ground beef (optional)

2-4 links sweet or spicy Italian sausage (optional), sliced into small chunks

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 tbsp. olive oil

basil

parsley

oregano

salt

pepper

crushed red peppers

1 box pasta

Heat the oil in a skillet. Saute onion and garlic with spices for about two minutes. Add ground beef and then sausage. Cook until beef is completely browned; drain. In a large pot, combine the beef mixture with the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Use spices to flavor sauce to your preference. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, and serve with desired pasta.

Lasagna

1 lb. lasagna noodles

1 lb. ricotta cheese

1 lb. mozzarella cheese

parmesan cheese

pasta sauce (recipe above)

olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil lasagna noodles until chewy--not too soft. Oil the bottom of a lasagna pan and spread a thin layer of sauce. Place lasagna noodles along the bottom, covering the space evenly.

Layer with ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and sauce. Continue layering. Top with a final layer of noodles, sauce and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes to one hour; remove foil for the final 10-15 minutes of baking.

Both spaghetti and lasagna go well with a garden salad and warm garlic bread.

Garlic Bread

1 Loaf fresh Italian bread

1/2 - 1 stick butter

4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.

basil

parsley

oregano

garlic powder

parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Soften butter in a microwave, but do not melt completely. Stir in garlic and spices, including plenty of garlic powder. Cut bread in half as you would for a sandwich. Coat each half of the loaf with the butter mixture and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Place on a piece of foil and bake until the top of the bread is browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about five minutes before slicing (bread can also be sliced before being put in the oven).