Friday, January 13, 2012

A Nostalgic Bit of Writing

     After my last, rather whiny post I have returned to the sunny side of life.  Not two days after the last post I received a letter from an old friend of mine.  This friend and I were inseparable from fifth grade until she moved away after our Sophomore year in high school.  Even after she moved, we still kept in touch for a little while by writing letters.  As the years past, we mainly "kept in touch" via Facebook.  I use the terms "kept in touch" loosely b/c it's so easy to read a couple of Facebook statues and assume you know what a person has going on in their life.  Unless you actively engage that person in conversations from time to time, it's hard to say you truly know them still.

     It's been good to receive her letters, not just because of the sender, but also it feel right to me to be writing again.  No, I don't mean like what I do here on this blog, I mean the actual act of putting pen to paper is refreshing.  I know that a lot of people don't bother with the actual mail these days, what with the internet and automatic payments and such, but for me the instant gratification of sending and receiving multiple emails in one day can't make up for the loss of that sense of accomplishment that I feel when I take the time to write out each letter of a long, personal letter to a friend.  The anticipation of waiting for that next installment, that next response, is like waiting for the sequel to a really good book.  It's rather nice.  And slightly nostalgic, and let's face it, I'm more than a little susceptible to bouts of nostalgia.

    Speaking of nostalgia, I made a simple, well-known, yet slightly over-looked dessert the other night.  I've never made a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake before, and it's been years since I've eaten one, so I don't know what got a hold of me, but I just started gettin' this craving for one.  The recipe I used was from the Betty Crocker website, and it came out very yummy!  J and I wiped out the entire cake in a matter of three days.  It's a good thing I didn't make any of those pesky New Year's Resolutions about losing weight.  ;-)

     That night I also made One of my favorite Paula Deen recipes: Quick Chicken Marsala with Asparagus and Mozzarella.  This dish is so simple and yummy, but it tastes like heaven.  I didn't realize that in my quest for sampling new foods J had not gotten the pleasure of this particular entree since he's been home.  That was why I didn't understand why his reaction to his first bite was so intense.  Needless to say, he requested seconds.  :-)

So here's what you need:

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 3/4 lb chicken cutlets (about 8)
1/4 cup butter, divided
1/2 cup marsala cooking wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
16 asparagus spears, trimmed and blanched
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

So here's what you do:

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9x13" baking dish with non-stick spray. (Paula doesn't call for this, but I like to go ahead a beat the chicken breast with a meat mallet, just so they're extra tender.)  In large, shallow dish combine flour, salt, and pepper.  Dredge cutlets in flour mixture to coat, shaking off excess flour.  In large skillet, melt 2 TBS butter over medium-high heat.  Add half of cutlets, and cook 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Place in prepared baking dish.  Repeat procedure with remaining 2 TBS butter and remaining cutlets.  Add wine to skillet, and cook for 2-3 minutes, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.  (This is called de-glazing the pan.)  Add broth, and cook for 2 minutes.  Pour mixture over chicken breasts.  Top each evenly with asparagus spears and mozzarella.  Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

     Ta-DA!!!  This recipe probably takes about 30 minutes.  I usually do a side of mashed potatoes with it to sop up the juices.  Oh, and for those of you who don't know how to blanch asparagus, I've done the googling for you. :-)  Here are some tips on how to blanch asparagus, as well as a link on how to pick asparagus at the store.

     Well, I'll see you folks again soon.  Now that the hectic holidays have left, and J will be leaving for a couple of months of training I have a feeling I'll be back.  Did you read that in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice?  'Cause that's how I typed it :-P

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