Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Smoked Mozzarella

I love entertaining although it doesn’t happen too often — I think everyones busy lives often get in the way of get togethers. Bummer eh?? Anyway, I’ve been a bit of a kitchen slave I mean, er chef the past two days ;) Lasagna yesterday and today I whipped up this Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Smoked Mozzarella for a dear friend and her girls that are visiting from out of state. Due to another mid day function, I made it earlier so all I have to do is put it in the oven and viola, it’s ready to go for dinner tonight. That with a simple side salad that has a zingy homemade lemon vinaigrette. The original recipe seems to come from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe but their site appears to be down so I can’t do a link back at the moment. Boo! Anyway, check them out — I always want to give credit where credit is due!

Baked Penne

Baked Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Smoked Mozzarella

 

INGREDIENTS

TOPPING:

  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs (store-bought or make your own) ** see notes below
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

FILLING:

  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds), stalks cut off, florets trimmed into 1-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3), trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 ounces smoked mozzarella, shredded
  • 8 ounce jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped into pieces

DIRECTIONS

1. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and butter and set aside. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish and set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and make sure the oven rack is placed in the middle of the oven. In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta to a boil. Stir in one tablespoon salt and the broccoli. The broccoli cooks quickly so stay close! Cook the broccoli for 1 minute, until it is bright green. Quickly remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a plate. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1-2 minutes less than how you would eat it normally (it will cook a bit more in the oven while baking). Drain the pasta in a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Leave it in the colander and set it aside.
3. Wipe the pot dry. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the flour, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and cream; bring to a simmer, whisking often. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella.
4. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli to the sauce; stir to combine. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the bread crumb topping. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and the crumbs are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
This smells and looks divine. I typically don’t share recipes until I’ve tried them just in case they aren’t as good as they looked precooking BUT this one has so many delicious ingredients, I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s going to be fabulous!
** I made homemade breadcrumbs by throwing a few pieces of wheat bread and the melted butter in a food processor. 

Little Quinoa Patties

Hello friends!! I’m still knee deep in tax season and although most people in the office are working 10-12 hour days, I’m only putting in 8 but 8 is a lot for a recent stay at home mama. That being said 1) you full time mamas rock and 2) I can’t wait till the 15th when I can gain a few more ‘me hours’. I also have to say, as far as jobs go – I think I have a pretty good thing going. OK moving on ..

I found this recipe earlier this week and it seemed like a must try. I finally finished making them at 8pm. My fault. I got caught up in homework and throwing together tomorrows crock pot dinner. Tonights dinner would have been a bit faster but I had to make the quinoa and then cool it off. A bit of a process. So going forward, I think I would make this ahead of time and save myself the ‘night of work’. A few other things I’d do differently? I’d add more chives. I have decided that I am in love with chives so a recipe could always use more. I also think it would be good with some type of sauce. Maybe a Tzatziki or some type of yogurt dip?

Enough talking, let me share these tasty morsels with you now. Yes, my side was a bit lazy but come on, it’s an 8pm dinner and I had to cut corners somewhere.

Little Quinoa Patties

Little Quinoa Patties

Recipe adapted from Whole Living

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup whole-grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, cheese, and garlic. Add the bread crumbs, stir, and let stand for a few minutes. Form mixture into twelve 1-inch thick patties. (Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet; add water if too dry.) Mixture can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  2. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Working in batches, add patties, cover, and cook until bottoms are deeply browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium if there is no browning after 10 minutes and continue to cook until patties are browned. Flip patties with a spatula and cook the second sides until golden, about 7 minutes. Remove from skillet and cool on a wire rack. Repeat with remaining patties.

I’d love to hear your opinions, reviews, revisions, etc.

Healthy Black Bean & Chicken Tostadas

Howdy! Guess what I have? Yep — another food recipe. These are the blog posts that I can whip out the fastest these days. Plus I love sharing recipes that our family enjoys. This one is a super easy and fast recipe that I have made a couple of times now. The recipe came from The Comfort of Cooking.

Baked-Mexican-Tostadas[8]

Source – The Comfort of Cooking

BAKED MEXICAN TOSTADAS

YIELD: Serves 4 (1 tostada each)

INGREDIENTS:

4 (7 to 8-inch) flour or multigrain tortillas

Nonstick cooking spray

Chili powder

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed

2 cups shredded, cooked chicken {I used rotisseri chicken}

3/4 cups diced roasted red peppers

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1 cup Sargento® Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Light sour cream and/or guacamole, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place tortillas on a foil-lined baking sheet and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle each with a pinch of chili powder. Bake 9 to 10 minutes, or until crisp.

In a small bowl, microwave beans for 30-45 seconds, or until softened. Mash with a fork and set aside.

Leaving tortillas on baking sheet, top each equally with beans, chicken, red peppers, green onions and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Return to oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Top with light sour cream and/or guacamole and serve.

Coming soon I’ll be sharing my backyard dreaming with you. You know, the stuff I want but can’t have?  ;) So stay tuned!

Chicken and Avocado Enchiladas

Sundays are the day that I have a little extra time to be, er gourmet. So of course I took to my recipe binder also known as Pinterest and found this recipe for chicken and avocado enchiladas at Gimme Some Oven. They were a little time consuming but share worthy for sure!.

chicken-and-avocado-enchiladas-2

 

 

source

 

Ingredients

Enchilada Ingredients:
    • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 2 poblano peppers, stemmed and thinly sliced {also called Pasilla Peppers}
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced (remove seeds for less heat)
    • 8-10 (6-inch) flour tortillas
    • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
    • 2-3 cups Monterrey Jack cheese
    • optional garnish: fresh cilantro, sour cream, and/or shredded cheese
Avocado Cream Sauce Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 California avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • juice of one lime

Directions

To Make The Enchiladas:

Prepare the “Avocado Cream Sauce” as listed below. Preheat the oven to 375? F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, poblano and jalapeno, and saute for 5-6 minutes until the onions are cooked and translucent. Remove from heat.

To assemble the enchiladas, place a tortilla on a flat surface. Spread a tablespoon or two of the avocado sauce down the middle of the tortilla. Then layer on some of the vegetable mixture, shredded chicken and cheese. Carefully roll the tortilla and place it seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Drizzle the top with about half of the remaining avocado cream sauce, then cover the dish with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until tortillas are heated through and begin to harden.

Remove from the oven, then serve individual enchiladas drizzled with the remainder of the avocado cream sauce. You can also garnish with additional cilantro, cheese, and/or sour cream.

To Make Avocado Cream Sauce:

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the flour, whisking until golden and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk the broth into the flour mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, cumin, salt, garlic powder and pepper, whisking if necessary to remove any lumps. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a blender or food processor. Add avocados, cilantro and lime juice, and pulse until smooth and well-blended. (Be very careful blending hot liquids — the heat will expand! So be sure to remove the lid occasionally so that the heat can escape.) Season with additional salt or pepper if needed.

My own notes and tips: I forgot cilantro which I’m sure would have made this recipe pop, I did use rotisserie chicken, the avocado sauce was a lot – I think next time I would have poured less over the top of the enchiladas and the avocado sauce was the perfect compliment to the hot peppers.

Voila — dinner is served!!

Red Bean, Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

So crock-pot recipes, I’m a total fan!! I am working close to full time right now so it’s important to have a yummy dinner that requires less work. Viola — hello crock-pot! I found this recipe on BH&G. My personal food critic sister was a little worried at the addition of peanut butter. She said it sounded like the episode of Friends where Rachel made a trifle and it was awful {because the ingredients were totally mixed up!} I do love Friends but I did not pull a Rachel – nope, the recipe really called for PB!!

If you want a laugh, I’ve posted the link to the Friends video. In case you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx5Wpqf4-OM/

So the reviews for this recipe? It was awesome! I’d totally make it again. Another bonus, it was super filling and it’s considered a skinny recipe at 366 calories per person. WINNER! The peanut butter gave it a curry type flavor.

 

red bean chicken stew

 

Photo Source – BH&G

 

Red Bean, Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew – BH&G

Ingredients

  • 2 15 ounce can no-salt-added red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups peeled, cubed sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 8 ounces boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 8 ounces boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped green sweet peppers (2 large)
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 10 ounce can tomatoes and chopped green chile’s, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • Snipped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped peanuts (optional)
Directions
1. In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker combine beans, sweet potatoes, chicken, broth, sweet peppers, diced tomatoes, tomatoes and green chile’s, Cajun seasoning, and garlic.2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10 to 12 hours or on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours.

3. Remove 1 cup hot liquid from cooker. Whisk in peanut butter. Stir into mixture in cooker.

4. Serve topped with cilantro and, if desired, peanuts.

Of course as always, I changed a few things based on what I had. I used only chicken breasts and no thighs. I also used two cans diced tomatoes and neither had green chilies. I was also short a can of beans. Regardless of these changes – it was a hearty, filling and very flavorful stew. I am looking forward to having it tomorrow at lunch.

 

Valentine’s Day Goodies

I have a serious sweet tooth and I am afraid my pants have proven that since Christmas. Yikes. So instead of eating my way through Valentine’s, I’m going to pass along my finds for YOU to make and eat. I know, so very sweet of me eh? ;) You’re welcome!

This deliciousness over at Glorious Treats has some sweet and salty which is a very dangerous combo!

Valentines-Snack-Mix

How about some corny Valentine’s sweetness? Shaken Together Life used a Mason jar to put together this treat.

corny little Valentine

 

I always love the M&M, pretzel and Kiss recipe but this one is different. What’s Cooking Love used Raspberry Kisses. Yum!

Chocolate Raspberry Pretzel Bites4

Iowa Girl Eats made these Brownie Mix Truffles. OMG!!!

BrownieMixTruffles_01_mini

 

Of course you need some pink milk to wash it all down. Lil Luna has a fun Valentine’s party going on including printables to pull it all together.

pink milk

 

Wishing you a Valentine’s Day full of sweet treats and zero calories.

 

Super Bowl Yummies

Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner and for us Northern California folks, it’s a big one! I don’t watch much sports but I am a wee bit excited that the Niners made it. I love the energy that comes about when local teams make it to the play offs, etc. It’s a happy contagious kinda energy. Plus I enjoy the parties that bring people together and provide endless amounts of food and drink ;) I’m pretty simple like that!

That being said there will be a lot of Super Bowl parties. Whether you are hosting or heading to a party, here are a few appetizers that look too good to pass up.

Appetizer collage

1} Baked Fontina by Smells Like Home

2} Meatball Stuffed Biscuits by Recipe by Photo

3} Mini Mexican Pizzas by Dashing Dish

4} Baked Chicken Taquitos at Chef in Training

Of course I must share some sweet treats as well.

Desert collage

1} Loaded Cookie bars by Pip and Ebby

2} Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Balls at Baby Gizmo

3} Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites by Two Tiny Kitchens

4} Cookie Dough Millionaire Bars at Bake or Break

 

All of the above recipes came from my Foodie Love Board over at Pinterest {yes, I do pretty much rule my world through Pinterest these days. Don’t we all? ;)} I do however have a few favorite recipe sites that I visit quite often and I wanted to share those sites for you as reference. You know, just in case you ever feel like looking at amazing recipes and drooling all over your keyboard. Or meal planning, they are also good for that! I adore Picky Palate, Smitten Kitchen, Food Network, All Recipes and of course a constant source of inspiration for just about everything is Better Homes and Gardens.

Whatcha doing for Superbowl? Do you have any special treats that you make for this big sporting event?

 

Tortellini Soup

Over the holidays I had my brother, sis in law and adorable nephew staying with us. One evening after returning from her mom’s, they brought home some leftover Tortellini soup and said it was a must try. Well a couple of days went by and they went home. The soup remained. I ended up having neighbors over for impromptu leftover soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It was so awesome that I had to get the recipe. We enjoyed this hearty soup for several days and I even shared it with a friend who happened to be here as I was cooking it for dinner one night. She enjoyed it so much that she has since made it for her family. So what I am saying is TRY IT. It’s hearty, yummy and easy. Three great qualities in a meal if you ask me ;) Now, she did leave this recipe on my answering machine {yes, I still have one of those!} so a few details may be mixed up from the original but it’s good regardless!

Tortellini Soup

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp each dried basil and oregano
  • 10 oz tortellini
  • 8 cups beef broth {I used 4 plus water}
  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 1 cup green beans {I used canned cause it’s what I had}
  • 2 8 0z cans stewed tomatoes
  • 2 pealed and cubed potatoes
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 carrots, diced

Directions

Saute onion and garlic in butter. Add spices. I used a dutch oven. Place in a bowl after translucent. Add meat to pan and brown.  Add broth, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, potatoes and carrots. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add green beans, tortellini and zucchini. Simmer another 10 minutes.

Serve with some fresh parmesan and either a nice green salad and crusty french bread or a grilled cheese sandwich. What a great weeknight dinner to warm your belly.

Chicken Salsa Soup

This was an oh so tasty soup I made a couple of weeks back and yes, I will be making it again. I made a few adjustments that made this a quick meal. Perfect for busy nights. #1 – I used jar salsa and #2 – I used rotisserie chicken. I’m including the original recipe in case you’d like to take the long route but I just added the salsa and chicken at the end and let it simmer till it was warm.

 

Chicken Salsa Soup – Recipe adapted by Rachel Ray Magazine

ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, cloves finely chopped
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 32 ounce container  (4 cups) chicken broth
  • Salt
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic; cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken thighs and broth, bring to a boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup salsa, cover and remove from the heat. Let stand until the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred.
  2. Return the broth to a simmer; season with salt. Divide the chicken among 4 soup bowls and top with the avocado slices. Ladle the broth into the bowls and top each portion with the cilantro, sour cream and remaining salsa.

 

Citrus Salt Gifts

Tis the season for baking but sometimes there are so many sweets {is there such a thing really?} Anyway, if you want to give something that can be used for months to come and it isn’t going to pack on the pounds, try this gift. I made several of these for the yard duties, admin staff and librarian at my kids school. They looked like I worked super hard on them were super easy.

A couple of tips, I used sea salt as the ‘flake salt’ was not available at any of my local markets. I also ordered the cute little wooden spoons from here. I picked up the 4 oz jars at WalMart. Sunset Magazine has the printables. Just print on plain printer paper, cut down and use a pretty ribbon to attach it to the jar. Done — just like that you have something pretty and that will last beyond a few days. I had some leftover and used in a pasta dish the other night. Delish!

 source

Citrus Salt with lemon zest

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flake salt, such as Maldon, or coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons citrus zest (any kind)

Preparation

  1. Mix salt and zest in a bowl; work zest into salt with your fingers to release oils and flavor. Spread on a baking tray. Air-dry until dried completely, 8 hours to overnight.
  2. Note: Zest’s color will fade over time, but this won’t affect taste.
  3. Make ahead: 2 months, kept airtight at room temperature.
  4. Bottle it: 4-oz. jam glass jar