Thursday, September 22, 2011

Faster Foods and Lemon-Feta Chicken Breasts

Inspirational recipes came in many forms yesterday while browsing through the magazines scattered about the doctor’s office waiting room while my husband’s lengthy medical procedure was on my mind, yet nothing registered.
When the hunger bug finally struck, I found myself wandering the Wal-Mart food aisles in search of a quick meal while his prescription was being filled. I realized it was impossible to bake off the Lemon-Feta Chicken Breasts featured in the pilfered copy of “People Magazine” opened and folded to page 89, securely in my purse. The magazines “Getting Healthy in America” article called out to me so strongly earlier, while I struggled though a cold McDonald’s double cheeseburger with added tomato. That was the lunch we were advised to bring to the office for the undetermined time it would take to remove a suspicious lesion on my husband’s temple.
          My thoughts were scattered about then, but I was still aware that I was without a respectable kitchen to enjoy food preparation and have no oven available for baking, since my beloved, circa 1980’s- Sharp Brand, Convection Oven/Microwave died in late July. But our budget wouldn’t stretch for a meal out and my man wasn’t feeling so strong; our favorite cheap pizza worker wasn’t on duty to make up the “Hot & Fresh” the way we like it so …
          I am a Convertible Cook after all, so I had the idea to indulge in what I’ll affectionately call, Quick Consumables; my newest and best friends while living in our 1880’s Craftsman renovation. The easy dinner of bagged salads, corn on the cob; silk-less and micro-waved for 8 minutes in the husk, and a meat or fish portion grilled or fried on our little Presto Griddle wouldn’t do. They’d been the staple of the average night’s meal for so long, that I responded differently when opportunity spoke.
          Wandering those crowded aisles while looking for inspiration, I’d
managed to pick up the chicken breasts and scallions and was headed for the feta cheese when I was drawn down the frozen entrée aisle by some unknown force.
Perhaps it was those crowds of other hungry people that pushed me into it, but I was able to gaze upon those expensive and complete, frozen skillet dinners with hungry eyes. But as our budget ruled our stomachs and our favorite TV shows were about to premier, I broke down and indulged in 3 prepared meals.
Marie Callender’s, TM, “Creamy Chicken & Shrimp Parmesan,” boasting chicken and shrimp with linguine, yellow zucchini and broccoli in parmesan Alfredo sauce for me. I’m an Alfredo Sauce junkie but my spouse has never liked cheese, always preferring  a marinara product, so I switched up and over to a Boston Market TM Brand “Beef Steak & Noodles” for him and another Boston Market entrée, “Pot Roast with Vegetables & Mashed Potatoes” for our daughter.
          I called home to ask her to steam up some fresh broccoli as we drove in and I chopped fresh cucumbers to serve with a light drizzle of cider vinegar for salads while the micro-wave churned out our simple and quick dinners. Each of us enjoyed our new/ old favorite upon completion.
Mine was a meal of 420 calories and tasted great with an additional sprinkle of parmesan cheese on my streamed broccoli. My poor, pain-ailing husband found comfort in an old friend of a meal that he used to fix when he was a chef way-back-when, and topped my calorie count at 490 calories, but we weren’t counting then, just enjoying the simplicity of a fast meal at under $10.00 that served three.
I wouldn’t hesitate to pick these up again if I’m pinched for time. I am seldom too exhausted to cook, but with limited supplies, and a space too lacking to call a kitchen, these were great in the pinch. I promised myself we’d eat better when my new kitchen is set up and complete, and I’ll be freezing the chicken breasts for now to grill over the weekend where we’ll be enjoying the feta cheese on a green salad too.
But for this next meal, I’ll reprint Chef Hayden Hall’s recipe to eat up with my eyes and mind. It still sounds like the best meal to recover from our simply delicious over-indulgences. 
Serves 4
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
4 (8oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
4 tsp. chopped scallions
1. In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken breasts and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
2. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Remove chicken from marinate and sear in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
3. Place chicken in a 13”x 9” glass baking dish. Top each breast with 2 Tbsp. of feta cheese and 1 tsp. scallions.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until juices run clear.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Hayden Hall of Oxbow Restaurant, Clarksdale, Mississippi and reprinted from People Magazine August 22, 2011 edition

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