Weeknight Dinner Challenge: Super Easy Chicken & Pasta With Butter Sauce

Even though I no longer keep a conventional Monday through Friday, slave-every-evening-until-5-or-much-later work schedule, my weekdays are still all about routine and responsibilities.

That all too familiar week night time crunch is very much a reality in our household.  Dinner time rolls around and I’m a complete mess.  I hate to plan meals and I’m always freaking exhausted.  I’m not exactly jazzed about working my butt off in the kitchen after a long day of housework, errands, writing, resting and whatever else I need to do.  Yep, us health challenged people need to schedule down time.  We all should.

Granted, there are two of us in this equation.  But Husband works a lot harder than I do, so I feel like the dinner job should be mine.  And frankly he deserves better than some gross frozen lasagna, hot dogs, or something similar every night (nothing against frozen lasagna or hot dogs, but you know what I mean).

I want to be a sophisticated, highfalutin foodie.  I really do.  I want to sit around with fancy friends and talk about the merits of truffle oil and red wine reductions, and sound like I actually have a brain in my head.  But I just don’t think I have it in me.  I know it’s ridiculous.  I mean, come on.  It’s food.  Not flipping quantum physics.

What I really need to do is suck it up, focus on simple and accessible ingredients, give it my best shot and hope for a delicious end result.

One of my favorite blogs is Dancing Branflakes.  It’s lovely.  Tiffany, aka “Mrs. Branflake” , loves to wax poetic about dancing, food, marriage, beauty and whatever else inspires her (please check it out, she won’t disappoint).   I have something really cool in common with her, we both live in the Sacramento area (which makes me enjoy her posts even more, she often talks about local spots and interests).   Not long ago she posted this totally delish looking chicken and pasta recipe with a very simple homemade butter type sauce.   And it seemed easy.  Exactly what I need.  I saved the post for future reference, knowing I would want to try something similar if I ever had one of those all too common dinner crises.

Mrs. Branflake’s timing could not have been better.  Last Thursday was one of those evenings.  Even on a really good week, by the end of it I’m toast.  Husband got home from work early and he went right to work outside, doing whatever manly tasks he does out there.  Shit.  He was going to be ravenous by the time he came in.  This meant only one thing: I would have to get my inner domestic goddess goin’ on and come up with something good for dinner.  Then I remembered.  Mrs. Branflake’s awesome chicken and pasta recipe!  Perfect!  I had everything I needed, too.  I set out to put my own spin on it.

I know I have talked about my vegetarian tendencies in the past, so chicken normally isn’t my thing.  But for health and energy reasons I have had to experiment with my diet lately.  I am finding that animal protein does help with my energy levels a bit, but sometimes I get tired of fish.  I have been introducing small portions of chicken into my diet here and there.

On this night, with Husband outside doing God know’s what, I poured myself a tall glass of iced Pellegrino and cherry juice and put on a Little House On The Prairie rerun to watch while I worked.  Don’t laugh.  Little House reruns take me back to my childhood, when life was a lot less complicated.   I need those memories sometimes.

Here are my ingredients:

2 large organic chicken breasts

1/3 cup chicken broth (not really sure why I decided to use this, but it worked beautifully)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & pepper (to taste)

Assorted herbs & spices (To your liking.  I actually found a jar of Herbes de Provence in my spice cabinet!  One of Husband’s stocking stuffers from Mom.  You can see who she has confidence in when it comes to cooking.  I used a pinch, along with a few random others, just to feel extra fancy.)

About 1 & 1/2 cups sliced white mushrooms

About 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 cup whole milk (I don’t mess around, full fat all the way)

3 tablespoons salted sweet cream butter

About 1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese (we are cheese freaks, you may want to use less and then add more gradually if you feel the need)

Spaghetti (darn it, I was out of angel hair.  I made about six servings of pasta because Husband always eats more than he should {okay, I do too}, and besides it never hurts to have leftovers)

Fresh steamed broccoli (as a healthy side veggie)


Level of difficulty:  Easy, even for a food idiot like me.

I put the olive oil, broth and chicken in my grooved grilling pan, seasoned with my salt, pepper, herbs and spices and set on medium low heat.  I cooked the chicken, turning consistently for about twenty five minutes until almost completely cooked through.  While my chicken was cooking, I chopped my broccoli and mushrooms, and cooked my pasta.

When the chicken was almost done, I removed it from the pan and set it aside.  I raised the burner to a medium temperature and deglazed the pan with my one cup of milk, stirring consistently until all the delicious brown chicken bits and juices were blended.  I then added my butter, garlic and sliced mushrooms.  When the butter was almost completely melted, I then added my pecorino romano, a bit more pepper and herbs and stirred my sauce until the cheese was melted and all ingredients were well blended.  I adjusted the burner to low heat, returned the chicken to the pan and covered for about five minutes.

The chicken turned out perfect and juicy.  I placed each breast on a bed of pasta and generously poured the sauce over it.  Being the cheese nuts that we are, I sprinkled more pecorino romano over the chicken, and even some more on the side dish of fresh steamed broccoli.

It was delicious.  Husband was pleased and impressed with my mad skills.  I was so happy to create a super yummy and balanced dinner, and I didn’t have to work too hard on it.  Thanks for the inspiration, Mrs. Branflake!

As a side note, for those of you out there who like to write about and/or photograph your food, there is a really cool app available for iPhone called Snapdish.  Sometimes it is hard to photograph food correctly-lighting has to be just right, etc.  Snapdish can help you improve the quality of your images and can help you easily share your recipes online.  Something worth checking out!


For more information on Tiffany and her awesome blog, visit: http://dancingbranflakes.blogspot.com/







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