Oldie but Goodie - Baked Lemon Chicken

Ok, I know my resolution was new recipes but this one is just so good I had to share it.  I've been making it for years and have served it to guests, no one guesses it's actually good for you!

The recipe is Baked Lemon Chicken.  It came included with the software I use to manage my recipes, MasterCook and even better, it's a Betty Crocker recipe!

Here's a LINK to the recipe.  It's so easy, no kidding.

The chicken breasts are cut in half, crosswise and then placed in a mixture of egg white and water for 10 minutes.  I'm not sure why this step is important.  It's sort of like velveting chicken but there is no cornstarch or oil so I'm not sure if that's it or not!  If you know fill me in!

While that's soaking, mix flour, baking soda and cayenne pepper in a bowl or plastic bag.  The recipe calls for a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne.  We like a little more heat so we add more.  If you don't want any heat (it really is very subtle) you could leave it out or add another flavor like garlic powder.

The chicken is dredged in the flour mixture and placed on a baking sheet.  I love using my stones for this recipe.  Here's the trick, the chicken is then sprayed with cooking spray!  Just enough to dampen the flour.

Throw it in the oven for 20 minutes and out pops beautifully browned, crunchy chicken with no oil!

While the chicken is baking you make the lemon sauce.  Also very easy.  Mix chicken broth, sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice (one good sized lemon will be plenty), rice vinegar, corn syrup, garlic and salt and bring it to a boil.  I know, more than 5 ingredients but pretty simple ones! 

Don't want to mess with an actual lemon?  Use bottled lemon juice and leave the peel out (I'm sure it will still be fine... I just always have lemons in the house because I prefer fresh lemon juice).  Once it's boiling you add a mixture of water and cornstarch to thicken it.  If you've never thickened with cornstarch be sure to dissolve the cornstarch in the water before you mix it with the lemon sauce.  If you don't you'll be really disappointed!

Slice the chicken and serve with the lemon sauce!  I serve it over brown rice with some water chestnuts and steamed broccoli.

It's a great healthy recipe.  Why buy frozen chicken nuggets full of additives and preservatives (and lord knows what else?)  Cut the chicken in nuggets and bake it a little less time and you'll have really good nuggets or strips.

Try it.  I think you'll like it!

Perfect Romantic Evening - Trattoria Da Vinci

We've found another great restaurant in our "neighborhood"!  Several weeks ago I bought a certificate from Restaurants.com for Trattoria Da Vinci.  It's in downtown St. Paul and we'd never been there before, oh, and I got the $25 certificate for $3.  We figured even if we really didn't like it we hadn't lost much.

Both Dave and I had read reviews at both Citysearch and Urbanspoon.  In both lists, about half of the reviews said that the food was good but the service wasn't.  So we were expecting a good meal but maybe not so good service.

We got very lucky and found a perfect parking place right next to Mears Park so we only had to walk about a half a block.  The restaurant is in the Park Square Court building along with Bin Wine Bar (another place we may have to check out).

Outside the restaurant was this very cool contraption.  We're not exactly sure what it does but Dave was impressed it had a cup holder!

Inside is a warm, inviting restaurant, despite the high ceilings.  The aromas were inviting and if the food tasted anything like what we were smelling we were in for a good dinner.

One other side note, I always bring a sweater when we go out in the summer because places tend to over air condition.  Not true here.  The temperature was perfect!

Our concerns over service never materialized into anything.  Within minutes of sitting down we had a loaf of bread with the best garlic butter I've ever had.  The bread would have been better warm, but it was still very good.  Throughout the meal our water glasses were refilled and empty dishes taken away in a very timely manner.  We had excellent service.

Our waiter, Tony, arrived and we ordered a bottle of J. Lohr Cabernet.  It was $35.  Not bad for a restaurant price.  We told him it was our first time and asked for suggestions, he gave us a few then gave us a few minutes to review the menu.

We watched people go up to their Pasta Bar, a large bar from which you can pick your own sauce, vegetable and pasta.  The servings were immense!  Easily enough for two if you can agree on what you want.  The pasta is then cooked to order and brought to your table.  We decided to try something off the menu this time.

We started with their Blue Garden salad.  We said we were going to split it.  We were both expecting them to place the salad in the middle of the table and we'd reach over to eat it.  We were very pleasantly surprised that they split it for us on two plates!  It was delicious!  It was perfectly dressed.  So many places serve a little salad with their dressing I generally order it on the side.  This one was perfect.  It was mixed greens with chopped vegetables, sliced pepperoncini and their house-made parmesan vinaigrette topped with crumbled gorgonzola cheese.  We practically licked our plates clean!

I ordered the Gnocchi Di Patate.  I love good gnocchi and it's hard to find so I thought I'd try it.  With this dish you have the option of four different sauces, tomato and basil, pesto, gorgonzola, bolognese or butter and sage.  It was a tough decision.  I love blue cheese so the gorgonzola was calling my name, then again it's the time of year for good pesto.  I wondered how their bolognese compared to mine and I love butter and sage!  I went for the butter and sage and I wasn't disappointed.  It was to die for!  I was expecting a browned butter with sage.  What I got was a delicious creamy butter and sage sauce. The gnocchi melted in my mouth.  They were perfection.  My picture doesn't do this dish justice.

Dave was curious about the bolognese as well but he opted for the Penne All'Arrabbiata with and additional meatball.  The sauce was delicious.  It had big chunks of garlic and great heat, so much so, that Dave was getting shiny by the time he finished it.  The meatball was delicious as well with great fennel flavor.  Next time he'll order two!

Neither of us finished our dishes so we have left overs!  We did, however, have to at least look at the dessert menu, right?  Looking turned into having.  We ordered the tiramisu.  Dave ordered a cup of coffee as well.

The tiramisu didn't really need the cherry on top (thought that was a bit odd) but it was delicious!  Not overly boozy and incredibly creamy.  We finished everything but the cherry!

Oh and the coffee?!  I had to have a sip.  It smelled so good and the taste didn't disappoint.  Tony told us they grind the beans just before they make every pot.  No double-strength Folgers here!

The total bill (before the certificate) was $76.  That was for a bottle of wine, salad, entrees and dessert.  We think that's really reasonable for such wonderful food!  We will definitely go back and probably have as hard a time deciding what to eat as we did this time.

As we were walking back to the car we noticed a horse-drawn carriage parked next to Mears Park.  We didn't have anywhere we had to be and the weather was actually quite nice so we decided to go for a ride.  Our driver, Mandy was great fun and our horse, Cathy, gave us a great ride.  Cathy was a beautiful horse!

It was a perfect evening only spoiled by having to get home at a reasonable hour so that Dave could get up for drill.  We'll definitely be repeating this one!

Homemade Pita Bread

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