Sunday, July 4, 2010

Gourmet is in the Eye of the Beholder

A recent phone conversation with my sister went like this:

Sister: So, what are you doin'?

Me: Just making dinner.

S: What are you making?

M: Alfredo penne pasta with chicken, broccoli, and orange and yellow peppers [sounds impressive, right??].

S: Yum, how did you make your alfredo sauce?

M: [pause] Um, it's just out of the jar. [No body really makes their own alfredo sauce for a normal, week night dinner, do they?].

S: Oh, cool, I just didn't really know you could buy it that way. So, what did you marinate or season your chicken with?

M: [another pause; this is getting ridiculous...I thought you knew me better...I can't remember the last time I seasoned, let alone marinated, chicken before I cooked it [is that bad??]]. Sister, this is not a gourmet meal--I thawed a few chicken breasts on the counter all day, cooked them in a frying pan in a little olive oil [does that count as seasoning--after all, I often cook chicken in just plain old water], dropped some penne in a pot of boiling water, cut up a few peppers, and threw a bag of frozen broccoli in the microwave [doesn't sound so impressive anymore, does it??].

S: Wait, how do you do that broccoli thing?

M: Oh, it's called Steamfresh--you just put the bag of frozen veggies right in the microwave and six minutes later you have fresh--er, frozen?--er, warm broccoli cutlets. It's great!

S: Hmm, I've never heard of that. We cook our own broccoli.

M: Well, the pasta is done...gotta run!

Minutes later my husband and I sat down to dinner. Our "alfredo penne pasta with chicken, broccoli, and orange and yellow peppers" tasted as good as it usually does...but I felt like a poser, a faker, an inexperienced benchwarmer in the world of culinary final four.

Sauce out of a jar.

Plain chicken.

Frozen, microwavable broccoli.

So many thoughts running through my head...

At least our dinner was better than a frozen dinner, right??
At least I used fresh peppers.
At least Clasico pasta sauces don't use any high fructose corn syrup!
At least I didn't risk fresh vegetables going to waste before I get a chance to use them all.
At least my husband tells me I am a good cook...

And I made the recipe up myself [maybe that's not such a bragging point...].

Ok, ok, so I am not a gourmet chef:
  • Most of what I make for dinner originates as a frozen piece of meat, a starch, a vegetable, and LOTS of cheese,
  • I leave the fresh spices out of most of my recipes,

  • Rachel Ray's "30 minute meals" take me a good hour and a half,

  • Even though my Dad made me homemade pizza every Friday night of my childhood, it is just a lot easier and faster to make DiGorno,

  • Canned and frozen vegetables are my friends.
But before you feel too sorry for my husband, know that he really does love what I make and I rarely make him eat cereal for dinner!

And when I am feeling ambitious, I do have a few more original, more gourmet meals in my all-star recipe book, like my Dad's awesome sweet and sour chicken!

Today I will share one of my favorite recipes with you. I'm not going to lie, it's our kind of meal (chicken, pasta, veggies, cheese), BUT it isn't made up by me and it doesn't require sauce out of a jar!

Try it--I think you will love it!

Pasta with Chicken, Roasted Red Pepper, and Feta


2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 jar (12 oz.) roasted red peppers, drained and finely chopped
8 ounces Farfalle (bow tie pasta)
2 packages (4 oz. each) crumbled Feta cheese with basil and tomato
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (optional)

Don't forget to cook the chicken before you get started...

  1. Cook pasta as directed on package.
  2. When pasta has a few minutes left... Cook and stir the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on medium high heat for 3 minutes.

  3. Add the chicken, red peppers, and remaning 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

  4. Cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

  5. Toss the chicken mixture with the hot pasta and Feta cheese.

  6. Sprinkle with basil [if you use fresh spices...].
A few notes:
  • You can save a few bucks by buying your roasted red peppers at the dollar store (at least in VA). OR...the last time I made this we had fresh peppers on hand, so I just threw them in with the garlic and olive oil for a few minutes to soften them up, although I like it with the jarred roasted red peppers a little better).

  • We usually buy our Feta cheese in bulk from Sam's, and unfortunately it doesn't come with the basil and tomato in it. We just do without and it tastes great, but I am sure you could also add extra basil and throw some chopped tomatoes in there.

Bon appetit!


  1. you are too funny my friend! I remember this convo, and i remember wanting to make your meal. I was still impressed:)
    I do have all the ingredients for the pasta and red pepper dish...maybe i'll make that tonight!!

  2. p.s. i want to have a recipe exchange when you come to town...we really should have done that in chicago!