Friday, March 23, 2007

Creamy Chicken Pasta

I used to be like, "Spinach? What am I, Popeye?" And then last year there was the whole E. Coli scare with Spinach, effectively proving all my internal suspicions about the leaf as real and well-founded. But the sad, sad truth is that spinach is super good for you. Tragically, we're not eating enough of it. So I tweaked up this old recipe to hide spinach in. You pump enough flavor into anything, it'll taste pretty good. (Notice I said "flavor" and not "fat"...) This dish tastes like comfort food, because of the pasta and creaminess, but it's only posessed of 230 calories per serving -- and the servings end up being enormous. For real. PLUS you can feel good about eating your spinach.

Creamy Chicken Pasta

First things first: the spinach. Gah. You can use fresh if you're a spinach conoisseur (read: freak of nature), but I like the frozen kind, thawed and then squeezed dry, that you can buy in a 10 oz. package for like a dollar at the Teet. But get that thawed and squoze before you start.

Also, cook up some small pasta (i.e. macaroni, mini-shells, penne, or ziti). I like to use whole-wheat because I use every opportunity to get in my fiber. But you can use regular and not affect the calories (230) above. Cook up enough for 4 C. to use later. Keep it warm.

1 tsp. olive oil (will someone explain to me why Rachel Ray is incapable of saying the words, "extra virgin?" That girl has some serious hangups.)
2 C. sliced mushrooms (depending on what's on sale at the Teet, I will use either fresh white shiitakes OR the jars of the pre-sliced portobellas in water. Delicious either way)
1 Chopped bunch of scallions
2 minced garlic cloves (2 t. from the jar)
1 T. regular flour
1 C. reduced-fat milk (skim milk, while technically better for you, makes me want to ook, with it's skimmy, transluscent ways. Milk should be opaque. I don't care what the health nuts say.)
1/2 C. chicken broth (I use lower-sodium because of my tendency towards high blood pressure and because I think there are less calories, just like with low-sodium soy sauce)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms, scallions and garlic, sauteing until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. This is when the kitchen starts to really smell good. I love the smell of any onion in a hot pan, and I've grown to really love the scent of warm, cooking mushrooms. My husband, like most normal men, loves coming home to a warm, good-smelling kitchen. The act of sauteing is code for love in our house. Anyway. Add the flour and get it well-mixed in (about 1 min) and then add the milk and broth in slowly, letting it boil up a little as you go. Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens (about 2 --3 min.) and then stir in 2 C. of chicken (you can use chopped breast meat, canned or pre-packaged. Go nuts!), the spinach and some freshly ground pepper. Return to a boil and stir. Then reduce heat, simmer, and cover, letting the chicken cook through (about 8 min). When it's done, toss it with the pasta and sprinkle with a few T. of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This mound of food technically makes 4 servings, but be aware that they are pretty hefty servings. So come hungry. I serve this just with a nice crusty bread or dinner rolls.

Songs to Spinach with:
(This is a mild, homey dish, but big. So you want BIG songs)

"Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight
"Baby Got Back" by Sir Mixalot (HAH. Not for long, you don't, if you keep cooking like this!)
"Big Girls Don't Cry" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (damn straight they don't cry. They get themselves into the kitchen and make themselves smokin' hot with their cooking of delicious chicken and spinach.)

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