Saturday, July 7, 2012

Olive Garden on a Budget!

Many of us enjoy dining out from time to time.  Some of us dine out several times a week or even daily! As for me, however it is far and in between.  I don't miss it so much though, because it can be a costly endeavor.  Aside from cost, there is implementing the quality of the food as well as the people who prepare it.  Some leave quite a bit to be desired in the personal hygiene department and those personal short comings may manifest itself on your plates. That fact in itself is what makes me content dining out at home.  I do this by creating my own spins on popular menu items and preparing them at home. Dining out at home is formidable for many reasons.  First, being cost efficient.  By the time the meals for 4  are ordered and perhaps drinks, maybe dessert, plus tips, we find ourselves spending upwards to the sum of around $65 to $70.  The second benefit to dining at home is you can control the quality of the ingredients.  Third, we can adjust the sodium levels and added fats, and you can always handle a special order item because you already know your family's likes and dislikes beforehand.  Lastly, if you enjoy cooking as I do, it's always fun to duplicate tastes you've experienced out, at home.  By all means, get out and be treated from time to time, and let someone else worry about the prep and cleanup, you deserve it!!  If you enjoy pastas and rich, creamy cheese sauces like you may find at the Olive Garden, then give this easy recipe a try.
Chicken Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo w/ Shaved Carrot
1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cubed or cut into thin strips
1 soft chicken bouillon cube
1 lb. fresh or frozen cut broccoli or florets
1 1lb. box fettuccine
1 carrot, shaved with peeler
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 jar Alfredo sauce
Olive Oil for drizzling
 SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
In a medium bowl, place chicken, drizzle with olive oil and toss with fresh oregano.  Let stand for 5 minutes while saute pan heats up.  
Start salted  pasta water for fettuccine.  When ready add pasta and broccoli to same water and cook until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes.  Drain but do not rinse and save about 1/2 c. pasta water to adjust consistency later if needed.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle in a little olive oil and add chicken and bouillon cube.  Cook for about two minutes.  Add all veggies except broccoli and cook until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear.  The onions should be translucent as well, about 6 minutes.  
Add pasta and broccoli  to saute pan and toss together.  Add Alfredo sauce and a little of the pasta water and toss with tongs.  Cover with tight fitting lid and turn off heat.  Allow for excess liquid absorption and flavors to marry.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Serve with simple salad and garlic bread or bread sticks.
This version is served family style, but for a more refined restaurant presentation, simply use chicken tenders in place of strips or chunks,and sear on both sides until slightly golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Cook veggies until softened with 2 tbsp. butter in saute pan before adding Alfredo, pasta and broccoli.  Place 3 tenders atop  each 1 1/2 cup serving of the Fettuccine and Broccoli Alfredo. Garnish with fresh herbs and olive oil.  You may also add halved black olives to the pasta for a wonderful brininess and texture.

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