Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

Modified Chicken Caprese January 7, 2011

Filed under: chicken,dinner — freerangenurse @ 1:12 pm

Chicken Caprese
The other day while surfing cooking blogs, I came across a recipe on Steamy Kitchen that intrigued me.  It was basically a Caprese salad on top of a chicken breast.  Unfortunately for me, the tomatoes at the grocery store were more orange than red and were probably not going to have the delicious, juicy sweetness of a ripe summer tomato.  I did pick up a carton of grape tomatoes and those are almost always tasty and sweet.

I modified the recipe a little by brining the chicken for a few hours.  For those of you who don’t have to watch your sodium intake, brining is a wonderful way to enrich the juiciness and flavor of a boneless, skinless chicken breast.  I have the details of how to do it here.  After brining, rinse the chicken in cold water to remove the excess brine.  If you don’t brine, that’s fine (I made a rhyme!) too, just omit that step.  I really should be watching my sodium, but for goodness sakes, I can only take so many changes at a time.

The Weight Watchers point count is 10, but that can vary depending on your chicken size.  The chicken breasts I bought were huge, with one almost weighing in at a pound!  I took a puny one and cut it down to 7 ounces and that was plenty.

What you’ll need:

  • A chicken breast, brined if you can afford the sodium intake
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 ounce fresh mozzarella
  • sliced tomato or grape/cherry tomatoes sliced
  • basil, but in my case, I used sauteed spinach and red pepper
  • minced garlic
  • pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.  Rinse brined chicken in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Season chicken with pepper, it shouldn’t need any more salt.  In an oven safe skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil on medium high heat until it shimmers.  Place chicken breast smooth side down and leave it alone for 3 minutes, once it gets nice and brown, turn it over and sear the other side.  Rub the smooth side of the chicken with minced garlic, then cover the skillet and place in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes to finish cooking.  My chicken took the full 20 minutes (there were two 13 ounce breasts along with mine).  Remove the chicken from the oven and uncover.  Pour out juices and reserve for other use, if you like.  Top the chicken with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella slice and place under a broiler for a minute or so until the cheese melts slightly.  You can then drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on the top, if you like.  Serve with the vegetable of your choice or a small salad.  Thanks for visiting!


Crispy Tender Salmon With Vegetables January 6, 2011

Filed under: dinner,seafood — freerangenurse @ 12:16 pm

Broiled Salmon with wilted spinach

Now you know, I am taking steps toward healthy living.  I had to start pulling things from my regular cooking repertoire that could be considered healthy.  One of my favorites is broiled salmon.  I love broiling almost anything.  It seems to lock in the juices and form a crisp, seared texture to the meat.  I think the fat content in salmon particularly lends itself to broiling.  The resulting dish is filling, quick and easy to prepare, high in good fat and cholesterol, vitamins and nutrients and has a relatively low points value for weight watchers like me.

What you’ll need:

  • 5 ounce fillet of salmon, pin bones removed
  • 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of baby spinach, washed thoroughly, excess water removed
  • 1/4 cup of red sweet pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp McCormick vegetable supreme seasoning

Turn oven on to broil.  Place salmon on a broiler safe pan and brush lightly with olive oil (you should still have the majority of the oil left over).  Sprinkle generously with Old Bay seasoning and a grind or two of pepper.  Place under the broiler with the oven rack as close to the heating element as it will go (the fish should be nearly touching the heating element).  Keep the door of the oven slightly ajar (most ovens have a built in stop for this), or you will have a house full of smoke.  Meanwhile, add the remaining olive oil to the saute pan and heat over medium high heat until the oil starts to ripple.  Saute the diced red pepper first for about 1 – 2 minutes, then add the garlic slices, vegetable seasoning and spinach.  Using tongs, turn and move the vegetables frequently until all the spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat and sprinkle a little sea salt on it.  Next, check your salmon.  It should have a nice crisp exterior, but be moist on the inside.  It only takes about 6 or 7 minutes in my oven, so watch it closely.  Enjoy your delicious lunch or dinner and if you are a weight watcher, this entire meal is 11 points.


Resolutions January 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 9:13 pm

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Time to make resolutions to lose weight, improve health, exercise more. I am among those trying to set out on a new journey to a better, healthier tomorrow.  My 40th birthday is coming up in a little over six months and it’s time for me to start taking care of the body that has been taking care of me.  I have joined Weight Watchers and Gold’s Gym for the new year and together with some dear friends of mine, I am determined to learn what, really, I have known all along – how to make and eat healthy food and incorporate physical activity in my everyday life.

Will this affect this blog?  Well, of course.  I blog foods that I cook, so if I am making healthier foods, they will be reflected here.  I will probably still do some desserts because I take those treats up to work.  I hope you’ll stick around and try some of the new things posted here.  I promise to make food that is tasty, even if it isn’t loaded with cream and cheese.  I may occasionally cook up something decadent, because part of re-learning healthy eating is knowing that the occasional rich dish is not forbidden, but can be enjoyed in moderation.

Cheers to all of you and to a healthy new year!


Delia, the Free Range Nurse


Chicken Pot Pie January 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — freerangenurse @ 10:38 am

Chicken Pot Pie

I love chicken pot pie!  I mean, what’s not to love (other than the quality cellulite you’ll have after eating it)?  Creamy sauce, tender veggies, pastry…during dinner!  Sign me up!  As much as I love a good chicken pot pie, I really only make them once a year and before this year, I always used Campbell’s cream of chicken and mushroom soup for the sauce.  Now that I try to make things from scratch, even if only to see how it’s done, I don’t know that I’ll go back to the old way.  Home cooking from scratch really does taste better, in my opinion.  Now, sometimes I don’t have time for “from scratch” cooking, and I’ll bet you don’t either.  In that case, certainly you could use cream of chicken, or cream of chicken and mushroom soup, add vegetables and cooked chicken and use a store bought pie crust.  Just promise me that at some point you’ll try it this way.

Chicken Pot Pie

adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onions, diced (2 medium onions)
  • 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots, washed
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced thick

For the pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice cold water
  • 1 egg beated with 1 tablespoon heavy cream (or water), for egg wash
  • flaked sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 35-40 minutes until cooked through.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.  Remove the meat from the bone and cut into large cubes.  You should have about 4-6 cups.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock.  In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions and carrots over medium-low heat, until the onions are translucent.  Add the flour and cook over low heat for 1 minute more, stirring until thick.  Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce.  Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring until thick.  Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and heavy cream.  Add the cubed chicken and the rest of the vegetables.  Mix well.  Turn off heat and set aside.

For the pastry, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.  Cut in cold butter using a pastry cutter until the butter is about the size of small peas.  Add ice water, starting with 1/2 cup and using your hands, bring the dough together, trying to handle it as little as possible, so the butter stays cold.  If necessary, add more water, a little at a time, just until the dough comes mostly together.  Dump the dough onto a clean, floured counter and knead, quickly, into a ball.  Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling among 6 ovenproof bowls (I used soup tureens, but you could use large ramekins or any oven-safe bowl).  Ina says this recipe makes 4 servings, but we very easily made 6 large servings.  Divide the dough into six equal portions and roll each piece into a circle large enough to cover your bowl.  Brush the outside edge of the bowl with egg wash, then place the dough on top.  Trim the circle to 1/2 inch larger than the top of the bowl.  Press the dough onto the edges to make it stick, then cut three slits into the dough to allow steam to vent.  Brush egg wash over the dough and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  You could also sprinkle some parsley flakes for color, if you want to get a little fancy.  Place pies on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.  Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  Enjoy!