Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Making Something Simple, Pretty

I feel like I say this a lot, but it has been a while.  I hope to one day get back on track with the whole blogging thing since it is an aspect of my life that I truly enjoy and gives me a few moments alone with myself...usually...where I talk about the things I'm passionate about.  One day I will get back to doing it daily...or at least weekly.  Maybe after my oldest starts kindergarten in the fall or when my youngest can entertain herself without needing mommy's attention every five minutes.  Like I said...one day.  And sadly, that one day will probably happen before I am ready for it to.  So for know, dear readers, I hope that you can be satisfied with my scattered communications!

Now for the juicy stuff...

In the culinary world, chef's have an expression.  "You eat with your eyes first."  I'm not sure who the first person to coin this phrase was, but I do know there have been more than a few times I have looked at food (mine or someone else's) and thought, "I'm not eating that, it looks awful!"  I grew up in the days of t.v. dinners, casseroles and good 'ole SPAM.  How can you make some of those things "look" good even if some of the MAY taste good? 

As much as some of you may want me to, I'm not here to elevate the likes of the everyday casserole.  It is a rich, creamy, gooy, wonderful in every way and meant to look like a lunch lady slapped it on your plate...except DELISIOUS!!  I'm also not going anywhere close to SPAM.  My mom used to try to elevate SPAM by scoring it like ham and sticking in little cloves for decoration, trust me, it doesn't work, it's gross.  What I would like to put up for your consideration is a little elevation of the classic t.v. dinner that, while does take more than 4-5 minutes on high in your microwave, won't have you spending all night in the kitchen either.

So what made up t.v. dinners anyway?  There was always some sort of "main course," protein usually, a starch, a vegetable and (if you were lucky) a little sweet treat at the end.  My sister and I would have these whenever my parents went out for the evening.  I remember liking very few of them and trying on more than one occasion to throw them in the trash can.  I wasn't very good at covering up the evidence though, so I got in trouble a lot for that particular hijinks.  But I digress.  At the heart of them, it really is what most families are looking for when looking for dinner.  Protein, vegetable, starch...and if you eat good...dessert.  And this week, I think I found the perfect alternative.

I give to you this weeks "t.v. dinner"!  Chicken Thighs in Mushroom Cream Sauce with Mashed Potatoes at Green Beans.  I'm going to go ahead and fess up to two secrets here. 

1 - I didn't make the mashed potatoes myself.  I can, but that's a long process.  I have fallen in love with Simply Potatoes Garlic Mashed Potatoes, so that's my go to when I know I don't have the time to make them from scratch.  And let's be honest, who has time for that anyway?!?

2 - Those ARE fresh green beans...BUT...I bought them in a nice little one pound bag already cleaned and prepped and ready to go.  I could have even steamed them in the bag they came in, but since my microwave was taken up by heating the potatoes, I threw them in some salted boiling water and 7 minutes later, they were done!  *Side note - Sometimes I like to throw a cube of chicken bouillon in with my green beans to give a little more flavor, this time I just forgot! *

Side dishes down, I turned to the main course.  I found this recipe on Pinterest, because where else does one find recipes nowadays.  With a few minor tweaks, this recipe was golden.  AND 30 minutes, start to eating.  SCORE!!  So next time your planning your dinner, just remember that you don't have to feel guilty when you can't produce a four course meal worthy of a fine dining restaurant for your family.  Just make the simple stuff work for you!!

Chicken Thighs in Mushroom Cream Sauce recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Makes 4 servings

4 chicken thighs; skin on
salt and pepper
4 T fresh rosemary; chopped
4 T fresh thyme; chopped
1 T olive oil
6 oz cremini mushrooms; sliced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms; sliced
1 T flour
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c white wine (or more chicken broth) *The alcohol does cook off*
2 T grainy mustard

1 - Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2 - Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.  Mix together rosemary and thyme.  1 T of mixture on the skin side of each chicken thigh.
3 - Heat the olive oil in a skillet big enough to hold all thighs at once.  Add chicken, skin side down, to the hot oil and cook 5-7 minutes until well browned.  Transfer to a sheet tray and put in the oven.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
4 - Meanwhile, add mushrooms to the same skillet and cook until they begin to soften.  Add flour and stir to coat the mushrooms.  Add broth, wine, mustard and remaining herbs to the skillet.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and bubbly.  The beauty is this will happen about the same time your chicken is done.  SCORE!
5 - Serve your chicken covered in sauce accompanied by green beans and mashed potatoes (no shame if you don't make them yourself).  Any extra sauce is lovely stirred into to those hot potatoes!