Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pesto chicken and pasta in artichoke sauce (plus other updates)

Hello Internet. Long time, no chat. How are you?

I made this for dinner last night:

It was scrumptious. If you'd like to cook this tonight, here's how.

Basil pesto chicken

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Lay down some pesto sauce in a casserole dish (I use square Pyrex). I just bought some basil pesto at the deli section of Target. You could also make your own, but pine nuts are really expensive in our area. I find it's a lot easier and more cost effective to just buy some pre-made stuff.
  • Put thawed chicken breasts on top of layer of pesto sauce. Lightly salt and pepper.
  • Add another layer of pesto on top of the chicken.
  • Cover in aluminum foil (important!)
  • Cook for 25 minutes (adjust time accordingly if they are really thick or thin pieces). You don't want it cooked all the way through at this step, but almost.
  • Pull out the chicken and layer some grated Parmesan cheese on top. Cook five more minutes.

I shouldn't even give instructions for the pasta because it's so easy, but I will anyway.

  • Cook noodles according to box instructions (I used two different types because we had 2 open boxes of pasta and I was trying to clean out the cabinet).
  • In the meantime, heat your sauce. This is really key to this dish. I hate red pasta sauce with one exception:

    This stuff is amazing. You really can taste the artichokes in it!
  • Now it's time to get some veggies in there. In a wok, heat up a little butter and garlic. Throw in a bunch of broccoli (I just use frozen broccoli but I thaw it in the microwave first) and a can of artichoke hearts. You cook them in the wok for around 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the veggies to the pasta and stir in some sauce.


Other updates
In other news, we bought a home gym.

Rob and I have both been pretty good about working out the last few months, so we felt justified in buying some more home equipment. This set-up sells new for around $1400, but Rob bought it on craigslist for $140. He's such a good craigslist hustler. It's not completely assembled yet because our basement is still torn up. However this purchase has motivated some basement work.

In the past week, Rob (and a friend) ripped out all the old electrical, much of which was not up to code, and re-wired the basement. They also installed 18 can lights. They are all dimmable. I'm amazed at the amount of light this has added.

Next steps: some much-needed clean-up and then dry wall.

In case you are wondering, here's the tentative floor plan for the basement.

Here are some points to note about the floorplan above:

  • The little area in the upper right-hand corner is a storage closet. You access this room through the laundry room (there's a large doorway under the stairs).
  • The table on the far left is Rob's work bench.
  • The box in the upper left corner is a utility closet.
  • The weird contraptions in the lower left corner are our treadmill and home gym.

What else?

We had a clogged shower drain. So we fixed it. I highly recommend buying one of those plumbing snakes that attach to a drill. Lifesaver.

Our car didn't start for a few days. We replaced the battery. We also needed to buy a few new tires. In case you were keeping track, our Ford Escape (purchased last July) has also been in the shop twice; once it was a broken transmission band and another time an exhaust leak. Lesson learned - newer cars still have problems.

Do you have bad luck with cars? Please comment. Please tell me we aren't the only ones.

Oh, and we also put carpet in another room in our house. It matches the carpet in our dining room. I owe you all some photos of that, but it will have to wait until we have time to clean.

I take the bus to work, and it's the perfect time to get some reading in. I read 13 books in 4 months after discovering the Kindle app on my iPhone. For any family members reading this, Kindle gift cards make a great birthday gift. :) You can download a free Kindle reading app here.

Finally and probably most importantly, I bought a new camera. Ok, I actually bought two new cameras. But in my defense, I sold one of my old ones! And one of them was very inexpensive. First, the little guy I bought is a Canon Elph 300. It was on sale around Christmas time. I love Canon pocket cameras, and this is my third one (it's on the right):

I think Canons make the best compact cameras, in terms of image quality. Some other lines may have more features, but I really only care about a sharp image.

My other new camera is a Sony D-SLR, but I will save it for an updated camera gear post that I'm planning. Incidentally I toyed with the idea of getting a superzoom bridge camera. I even tested a Panasonic FZ47 for two weeks. It was nice, but I just can't deal with the lack of lenses. But if you are looking for a great quality all-in-one and easy-to-use camera, I would recommend it.Note that is was on sale for $199 around Christmas, but now it's listed at $299. Definitely watch those sales.

P.S. - I highly recommend buying your next camera from B&H. They are not only reputable, but they understand that sometimes you need to use a camera a while before knowing whether or not it's right for you. So they have a no-hassle return policy as long as you have not taken more than 200 shots with the camera you bought. I bought and returned the Panasonic to them.

I hope you enjoyed this wonky and somewhat rambling blog post. Also:


Sara @ Russet Street Reno January 29, 2012 at 11:23 AM  

I love purchasing camera equipment from B&H, they have great prices and customer service!

That sucks about the car expenses, I put about $1500 into my Neon last year, so I hear ya. My car is 8 years old, though. Cars are just a money suck.

Sarah (Mrs. Ruffled Flats) January 29, 2012 at 12:41 PM  

Wow, what a jam-packed post! Thanks for the update.

That's an AMAZING deal on a home gym - love the layout of the basement. It seems like it will work really well as a multipurpose room.

The pesto chicken looks incredible - I'm hungry right now and should go heat up the beer cheese soup for lunch. Thanks for reminding me to eat lunch, haha, I sometimes forget on the weekends.

I always love me some camera updates! I've been using my iphone like crazy as a compact point-and-shoot since all I have are my bulky DSLRs now.

I hope you keep the updates coming! :)

Cindy @The Flipping Couple January 29, 2012 at 7:06 PM  

Nick's truck isn't running right now, so....yeah. We feel you on the cars. He spent a good chunk of the weekend on repairs but no luck yet. So frustrating!

Vonda January 30, 2012 at 11:32 AM  

Good to see a post! I'm gonna try the chicken this week - it sounds awesome.
Sorry about the car issues. I have a love/hate relationship with my car, probably like everyone: love it when it's running, hate it when it breaks!

Danielle February 3, 2012 at 10:16 AM  

I've missed your posts! And no, you're not alone on the car front - we've had a few lemons - both new, and our friends have the same car and no problems! Frustrating. Good luck with the basement - looking forward to seeing it come together. Happy weekend!

ashley @ February 22, 2012 at 1:43 PM  

I completely have "bad luck" with cars. I have a 2006 VW Jetta that I bought in 2010. It had only 1 owner before me so I thought it was a good grab. Boy, was I wrong. I've had nothing but problems with my car. From the air bag chasis malfunctioning 3+ times, to my trunk latch breaking, to my emissions going wacko (current problem), to them selling the car to me with bald tires ... I've spent more time at the service shop than anything. My warranty was up about 5,000 miles ago so I've been crap outta luck on some of my recent repairs. And, I still owe $9,000 on that puppy. UGH.

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