Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Asparagus

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Cutting up cooked asparagus

For this dish, I began by remaking the pesto that I had originally used in my pesto chicken melt. I decided to make this dish because I wanted to experiment more with pesto. This time when I made the pesto, I didn’t use as much parmesan cheese, because last time the cheese overpowered the basil and pinenut-y flavor.

While I was making the pesto, I began to boil the water to cook some noodles. While the water was boiling, I took my chicken out and cooked it in a pan over a medium-high heat. Once the chicken was done, I sliced it into thinner slices. Then I threw some pasta into the boiling water. I took my fresh asparagus and put it onto a grilling pan. I let the asparagus cook for about 8 minutes, and flipped them over half way through.

Then I simply combined all of my ingredients together. My mom and I both agreed that this is a great dish if you’re in a rush. Especially if the pesto is already made, this can be done in about 20 minutes, which is great for late-nights or nights when you don’t really feel like cooking.

Finished dish

Finished dish

Grades:

Health: A-. Easy on the cheese. Of course it is pasta means carbs, but as long as it’s not every day – it’s fine.

Taste: A. One of the best dishes I’ve made so far.

Cost: B+. Pine nuts in the pesto are very expensive, but besides those everything is pretty affordable.

Overall: A-. I really, really like this dish.

 

 

Cooking for My Local Shelter

Once a month, my family volunteers to cook for the local church’s shelter. Usually, I help by cutting up a store-bought baguette or making a simple package of pre-made, pre-cut cookies. Because I was inspired by all the cooking I have been doing, I decided this time was definitely going to be different!

I thought about what I could make on a large scale that would be healthy. My mom and I looked through her many cookbooks, and we decided to make a home-made chicken pot pie. The recipe was very simple. It only required vegetables, including carrots, onion and celery. It also needed potatoes. The sauce consisted of butter, flour, chicken broth and a bit of white wine. Lastly, it needed a puff pastry.

Squaring chicken

Squaring chicken

I made this dish all on my own and I am very proud of the way it came out. I began by poaching the chicken in a broth. My mom taught me how to do this, because my other experiences with chicken have all been by grilling or in an oven. I was surprised how much moisture the chicken retained. This is definitely a way I will cook chicken in the future!

After cooking the chicken, I squared them into smaller cubes. This was a pretty easy and relaxing task.

After that, I cut up the many different kinds of vegetables needed for chicken pot pie. Like cutting up the chicken, I found this very relaxing as well.

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Cutting up veggies

Then I made the sauce by combining the buttery, flour, chicken broth and white wine. This is where I think the dish went a bit awry. The sauce needed more flavor, because the dish was ultimately a bit dry. After reading this article, I realized there were some really easy ways to make dishes more flavorful. If I were to make this dish again, I would maybe add just some leeks or chives.

While this chicken pot pie was a bit bland, I was happy with the way it came out. I made a smaller version for my mother and I and we both enjoyed it. We added some pepper to our portions and it helped flavor it a bit.

One of the biggest things I want to express is the cost. Cooking for 10 to 12 people is much more costly than cooking for a family of 4. Because of this, not all of my ingredients were local or organic. Still, the ingredients used were all pretty healthy and I think this is a great meal that can served to a large group of people.

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Chicken Pot Pie

Grades:

Health: A-. Besides the butter, everything is healthy. Chicken is a great source of protein and vegetables are filling, but don’t have many calories.

Taste: B+. Good, but as noted in the full rundown, it was bland.

Price: B+. I used mostly conventionally grown ingredients, so the price was okay. If I were to use organic and/or local ingredients, I don’t think I would have been able to afford to cook this meal for 10-12 people, and the grade would probably be much lower.

Overall: B+. This was a good meal that I would definitely have again.

 

 

Chicken Pesto Panini

 

Dicing garlic

Dicing garlic

I started by making homemade pesto sauce. I used my organic basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil.

While it seems like it would be an easy task, I had to learn how to even peel garlic. Thankfully, my mom helped mentor me, because she has made pesto many times before. She taught me the technique. First I separated the heads of garlic, then I pressed the flat side of the knife into the head. This made is much easier to peel the garlic. Then I diced them, but because I was going to be using a blender, I didn’t feel like they needed to be finely diced.

Then I washed the basil and picked the leaves off the stem. I added the basil and the garlic to the blender. The blender that I use is the magic bullet. After pulsing a couple of times, my magic bullet stopped working. I had to switch to a normal blender, but it was already so thick that it was quite a headache.

Once my pesto was finally done, I started grilling the chicken. I used a grilling pan to get the line effect on the chicken. While the pieces of chicken seemed thin at first, they actually took a much longer time to cook. As I was cooking the chicken, I heated up the panini grill and took two pieces of my organic, local bread out. I spread some pesto on both sides of the bread. Once the chicken was done, I sliced it to make it into thinner slices and put the chicken slices on top. Then I sliced some mozzarella cheese and some tomatoes and added them both to the sandwich. I carefully put the twice slices together and put them into the panini grill. I put the grill on a medium heat, but looking back, I probably should have put it on a medium-high heat, because it took a long time to melt the cheese. But it was so worth it!

Homemade pesto

Homemade pesto

The panini was delicious with the cheese melted and gooey. The pesto was very tasty and I could obviously taste the nuttiness of the pine nuts as well as the parmesan cheese. This is something that I would definitely make on a regular basis and just one sandwich was more than enough for my dinner.

Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grades:

Health: B+. Almost all of the ingredients in this recipe is local or organic (chicken, basil, bread, tomatoes) and the others are Trader Joe’s brand, which they claim is completely GMO-free. All of the ingredients are non-processed.

Taste: A. Great.

Price: B+. While some of the items, especially the pine nuts, are expensive, other items were very cheap, such at the parmesan and mozzarella cheese. The amount of pesto that I made can be used in at least two or three more servings.

Overall: A-. This is definitely something I would make again.