The Actor and The Scientist

A Tale of Two Sisters' Trials & Triumphs in the Kitchen (and Out)

Lighter Chicken Bellagio

One of our favorite restaurants – and by our I mean me, Paul and Tina – is the Cheesecake factory. I hadn’t been for a long time when Mom and Dad S gave us a gift card for our wedding anniversary (3 years!). Back a couple weeks ago we finally decided we needed a date night and went. Now, if you know cheesecake factory, you know that it has been named one of the least healthiest restaurants in america. Also, their menu is a book, so many choices! So, even though they have some of the worst meals, you can also find healthy options.

With all of this in mind, we get to cheesecake factory and all I could think about was my absolute favorite dish there: chicken bellagio. Now, this is one of the worst dishes on the menu with almost 2000 calories! I got it anyways, I couldn’t resist. Cmon we’ve been married for three years, time to celebrate! Even though I only ate half, between the bread, wine and cheesecake I had way too much for one evening!

Anyways, a week or so later Gina at Skinnytaste posted a recipe for Baked Chicken Milanese with arugula and tomatoes. Because of the delicious looking chicken and arugula it reminded me of the chicken bellagio. Brilliant idea! I’ll create my own healthier version!

I have never tried to recreate a dish I had in a restaurant. But this seemed simple enough and difficult to screw up. Only three parts: 1. chicken 2. sauce and 3. pasta

Now, I’m going to have to ruin the ending up front with you here. I hated how this came out, only took about 3 bites and couldn’t eat the rest I thought it was soooo gross. My easy to make meal turned into the worst thing I ever created. Now, hold on before you go anywhere. Paul thought this was delicious. Everything I didn’t eat from my plate he was eager to bring over to his. Now if you’ll follow along you’ll see that it all comes down to arugula.

1. Chicken  We’ll start with the chicken. I was originally planning on pan frying it, but again came Gina to the rescue with the idea to (what I’m calling) “oven fried” chicken. Not sure if oven frying is a real thing, but this is how I would imagine it would go. Dipped in oil then breadcrumbs and sprayed with more oil and into the oven. This chicken turned out good, but not awesome. Guess that’s what happens when you don’t really fry the chicken.

2. Sauce I made a basic basil cream sauce. I heated some milk and parmesan cheese in a saucepan while I made a homemade pesto. Then combined the two and voila basil cream sauce. Most sauces like this call for heavy cream or half and half instead of milk, but I wanted the sauce to be really light but really flavorful = milk instead of cream and tons of basil and garlic.

3. Pasta Now here is where things got interesting. I wanted to use less pasta and more greens than the cheesecake factory chicken bellagio. So, I decided I would throw arugula and spinach in with the pasta. When I took out the bag of arugula I couldn’t believe how much was in there! Holy arugula! So, originally I thought I would use half of the arugula and also use a bunch of spinach (since it has a way milder taste). But what am I going to do with all of this arugula? I don’t have the slightest of idea what else to do with it. Plus we’re going to be out of town for a couple of days and it’ll probably be bad by the time we get back. So – and this is where I went horribly wrong – in went all of the arugula and out went the spinach.

Looks so delicious! right?! I couldn’t wait to dig in! After the first bite I was so incredibly disappointed. All I could taste was the pepperyness of the arugula and I guess I really don’t like arugula that much because I thought it was gross. Paul loves the taste of arugula and couldn’t get enough!

I ate the chicken but was still hungry so I made myself a little cheese pizza and poured a (second) glass of wine. Maybe I’ll try it again one day and use WAY less arugula. At least I made my husband happy 🙂

Lighter Chicken Bellagio

Bread crumbs (prefer whole wheat)
Parmesan cheese
Dried Basil
Garlic Powder
Chicken Breasts sliced flatly lengthwise (each breast gives two thin flat pieces)
Olive oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cups fresh basil
2 cloves garlic (this is what I used but I recommend adding more)
1/3 cup olive oil
Whole wheat spaghetti
Arugula (I used a huge bowl full – next time I’ll probably try including somewhere around 2-4 cups)

Preheat oven to 450. Lightly spray pan with oil. Combine first four ingredients. Dip chicken in oil then in bread crumb mixture. Lay in pan and spray with a little more oil. Bake for 10 minutes, flip then an additional 5. Combine milk and parmesan in a saucepan and heat on medium-low. Make pesto (or could use a store bought pesto) by combining olive oil, basil, and garlic in a food processor. Mix pesto into cream. Cook pasta and once drain add the arugula and toss until wilted. Combine the sauce with the pasta/arugula mix.

Sneaky meatless monday

I have decided to give Meatless Monday a try. As you may already know, Paul and I love our meat! In our minds, if a meal doesn’t have an all-star chicken breast, burger, steak or the like then it’s not really a meal. It is hard to get out of that mindset! Due to a variety of reasons, I have decided to try Meatless Mondays.

This Monday was the beginning of the school year and there was a welcome dinner in which all graduate students were invited. Can’t pass up free food! I had planned a meatless meal but didn’t get around to making it until last night.

Paul meets sneaky meatless monday. I heard Paul say multiple times last night “this dinner is awesome”. When finally I gave in and asked him where the meat was. He looked around the table completely surprised. Sneak attack = Meatless Monday success!

I made a fresh tomato salsa that Paul gobbled up with some tortilla chips and veggie quesadillas with mashed avocado for dipping.

Fresh tomato salsa is incredibly easy! Just have to take the time to chop everything up. The important pieces to remember are 1. things that give some flavor such as onion, lime and cilantro. I LOVE cilantro so I typically put in a ton. and 2. how spicy you want it. This time I got a bag of jalepenos from my csa and I included 3 mild and 3 spicy jalepenos. I don’t like things too spicy so I tasted each one before chopping and adding it. Note to self: Do NOT touch eyes after handling spicy jalepenos.

And while you’re chopping might as well chop up a little more to put in a quesadilla.

That’s shredded sweet potato, not cheese in there. I read about this idea and had to try it. After those veggies got cookin I also added some mushrooms and spinach.

Now that’s a quesadilla filling worthy of Meatless Monday. I considered adding some beans but I didn’t have any around and I thought they might take away from the awesome veggies.

Now, we love our sour cream in this house too. I have tried substituting greek yogurt or mixing the two. It’s just not the same. I resolved to just not buy it and instead I mashed up an avocado. Need something creamy to dip the quesadilla in!

We also had some watermelon to round out our dinner. It was really good except I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t taste the sweet potato. Next time I might try something more like this sweet potato black bean quesadilla. Syndra wanted some too.

Salsa Recipe

2 slicing tomatoes (really any tomatoes will work)
3/4  red bell pepper
3/4  green bell pepper
1 onion
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1 lime
6 jalepeno peppers (can vary depending on how spicy)

Chop and combine tomatoes, peppers, onion and cilantro. Add the juice of the lime and mix. Good immediately, but better if chilled for a couple hours.

Quesadilla Recipe (makes 3 quesadillas)

1/4 green bell pepper, sliced
1/4 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 sweet potato, shredded
1/3 cup chopped mushrooms
1 handful fresh spinach
1 tsp olive oil
6 whole wheat tortillas
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Combine first 4 with olive oil and saute a few minutes. Add mushrooms, then spinach and continue to saute until spinach is wilted. In a fresh pan make quesadilla by layering tortilla, cheese, 1/3 of filling, cheese and final tortilla. After cheese has thoroughly begun to melt flip. Optional: sour cream, guacamole/avocado, salsa.

Pina Colada (Green) Smoothie

Hi all and welcome to our new blog!

Tina here and I am coming at you with our first recipe.  (Leanna and I will be switching off posting recipes, lists, general thoughts about life, etc. etc.)

I am wont to have a very regimented eating schedule.  I work from home, so if I don’t have specific times to eat, I will be noshing randomly all day long.  I usually eat at 9:00am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 4:30pm and 8:00pm. I know it sounds kind of cray, but it keeps my calorie intake for the day in check, and eating several small meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism revved.


I started eating this delish green smoothie from one of my fave food/fitness/travel blogs for my afternoon snack.  But today I found myself in a predicament – no peanut butter! I feared the worst – my smoothie actually tasting like spinach, gasp! So, I took matters into my own hands and developed what I’m calling a Pina Colada (Green) Smoothie. Before you start getting too excited and all “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” on me, I’m going to have to admit that a) there is sadly no alcohol in this little guy and 2) it does not literally taste like a pina colada, but for being a healthy smoothie with a green veggie in it, it’s pretty close.

Spinach is a great source of protein.

I like to use a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach, chop it in thirds (clearly their is no exactness to my chopping) and save two-thirds for future smoothies and use one-third in the smoothie I’m making.  Frozen spinach is cheaper than fresh (in these parts, at least), and its frozen-ness makes the smoothie have a colder, thicker texture.

For me, the trick to sneaking vegetables into your smoothies is how long you blend it.  You have got to commit to this blending.  I am, at times, beyond weird, so I like to do little exercises like these while I’m blending. But remember to keep your hand on top of the blender – let’s prevent a tragedy!

Plus, I don’t know about you, but there’s something about drinking a green juice/smoothie that makes me feel very on trend/New York-y. That’s sort of embarrassing to admit, but I have, in recent memory, ordered a green smoothie rather than a pink or yellow smoothie just because I think it looks cooler to walk around with.

Pina Colada (Green) Smoothie

Servings: 2

3-3.5 ounces frozen spinach

1 frozen banana, peeled

1 cup 0% fat Greek yogurt

1 cup Almond Breeze unsweetened almond coconut milk

1 cup 100% pineapple juice

First, put spinach and banana in blender.  Then, add yogurt, milk and juice. Blend ingredients at a low-ish speed until frozen ingredients are chopped up, about 30 seconds (you may need to stop the blender and push the frozen ingredients towards the blade with a spoon – be careful!). Liquify ingredients at a high speed until smoothie is one solid light green color with no visible chunks of spinach, about a solid 2 minutes.

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