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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Carmel? Caramel?

Tonight we had chicken alfredo pasta with steamed carrots and caramelized brussels sprouts. I realized I say "carmel-ized" when properly it is spelled "caramel-ized". But I have seriously never heard anyone say anything but "carmel". do people say, caramelized?? But I digress! The pasta was good. I used a bottle of alfredo sauce my husband bought. Frankly since I figured out how easy it is to make alfredo sauce I haven't used a bottle or a mix, but he saw it and wanted to use it, so it was fine. A good little time saver. We sauteed the lightly seasoned chicken tenderloins in a grill pan and then threw the jar of sauce over it to warm, easy-peasy.

The real treat was the brussels sprouts! First I chopped off the tough stems and removed a few of the outer leaves. Then I put them in a glass bowl and steamed them in the microwave for 3 minutes, just enough time for them to get slightly soft, but keep the bright green color. While they were cooking I started about half of a medium onion, sliced, cooking in a pan with some olive oil. To truly caramelize onions you need to cook them on low heat for about 20 minutes. I was running short on time, so I added a bit of kosher salt to soften the onions and kept them on medium. I also added about a teaspoon of brown sugar to hurry things along. Then I threw the sprouts in then pan too and let them get a good sear while the onions continued to cook. At the end of the cooking time I added several splashes of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and add a bit more sweetness. Then I put the pan in the oven with the oven light on to stay warm while I finished dinner.

I chopped some baby carrots into rounds; this is totally unnecessary. Baby carrots steam just fine the way they are, however my kids sometimes like their food in itty bitty pieces, so this was a kid-friendly concession. Plus, small pieces cook faster, so it was also a time saver. To the carrots I added a sprinkle of kosher salt, 1/2 tsp of sugar and a splash of olive oil. I covered the carrots and cooked them for 6 minutes in the microwave, checking on them and giving them a stir after 3 minutes. You could also add an herb at that point like some fresh dill for instance or perhaps some ginger, but I left them plain.

When they were done the pasta was also done and ready to be strained. The kids loved it. They didn't eat the brussels sprouts (of course) but they each tried a bite, and that is all I ever ask them to do. They each wanted seconds on the carrots and the pasta. All in all a good night. Tomorrow is a busy day, after church I peruse the sales circulars for our local stores and clip any coupons I deem necessary. I am not a coupon queen by any stretch, but on things I know we use all the time, I feel like its silly not to at least grab those. Then I go through and make a really quick menu for the week, trying (though often failing) to keep in mind the eccentricities of our schedule for the following week. Dance class and basketball and PTO nights and all the same stuff that seems to slip my mind more and more thee days. I have to say "Using the calendar" was at the top of my New Year's Resolutions this year. I hate to flake on something just because I didn't plan ahead. But then again, "planning ahead" goes against my very nature... ah, the drama. :)

My husband played in a softball tournament today and the way he is moving I may need to plan a menu of things that are easy to pick up and chew. He went from being a fairly healthy man in his mid-30's to Methuselah in the course of a double-header! He is walking like the Tin Man pre-oil can and is complaining about aches and pains in a way that one expects to hear from an old folk's home. Weekend-Warrior's menu.... hmmm. (I kid because I love! Lord knows you didn't see ME out there chasing down balls and sliding into second base!)

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