Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake

This is pretty easy stuff. Yes, it uses a jarred sauce. I try not to do that very often, but I like the taste.

1 pound shortcut pasta (whole wheat penne is what I had), cooked VERY al-dente
1 pound cooked chicken breast, diced
2 c. broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
2 c. shredded mozzarella
1 jar store-bought alfredo sauce (regular or low fat)
2 c. milk or half and half (at least 2%) (I had half and half leftover from having guests at the weekend, but I’ve made it both ways and it’s fine either way)
3/4 c. panko
1/4 c. grated parmesan
Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray. Add the broccoli, chicken, and pasta. Combine the alfredo sauce, milk, and cheese, pour over and stir around to coat. Combine panko and parmesan and sprinkle over everything.

Bake 30 min at 375* or until heated through and bubbly.

Better-For-You Pasta Bake

Minna and I are doing Weight Watchers. I’ve been trying to make over our more indulgent dinners so that we can still have them without blowing the day’s points+ value.

Last night, I revamped baked pasta. It was good. Not as good as the full-fat version, but still tasty nonetheless.

BudgetFoodie’s Better For You Pasta Bake

1 box whole wheat rotini, penne, or ziti
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound lean ground chicken
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 sweet onion, seeded and diced
2 28 oz jars of pasta sauce or 6 c. homemade
1 15 oz container skim milk ricotta
8 oz shredded part-skim mozzarella
2 c. loosely packed spinach, chopped
1 egg
salt, pepper, garlic to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta and cook just until al dente. Don’t want it getting soggy.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add chicken, onion, garlic, and red pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink and onions and peppers are soft and delicious.

Combine ricotta, spinach, egg, mozzarella, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray, and put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Dump in the pasta, sauce, chicken, and cheese and mix it all together. Go on, get happy. Make sure the ricotta mixture is spread throughout the entire casserole dish.

Bake at 350 for about an hour.

This makes 12 servings at 6 points+ each. Feel free to halve it if you don’t need to feed four adults and two kids, like we do here. We had a nice salad alongside, with fruit for dessert.

Seitan Gyro

Originally from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health cookbook – made a few changes for our family’s tastes.

1 c. diced tomatoes
1 c. diced cucumbers
1 c. diced green or red pepper
1 c. diced seitan (which I can never get here, even at our health food store – I usually do 4 oz of lean steak)
1/2 c. cubed/crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c. diced avocado
2 tbsp diced red onions

Yogurt Tahini Dressing

2 tbsp plain nonfat yogurt
2 tbsp tahini (I usually use hummous)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano

Combine veggies and protein in large bowl, whisk dressing together, pour over, and toss. Serve in pitas or rolled in large lettuce leaves.

Takeout Style Beef and Broccoli

I loooooooove Chinese takeout. Unfortunately, our budget doesn’t lend itself to eating out, so like many restaurant style dishes, I’ve learned to make many of our favorites at home.

This beef and broccoli is mouth-watering, tender, and delicious. I hope you’ll give it a try very soon. I’m still trying to get used to taking a picture at every step, so there are a few missing. The next time we have this, I’ll make sure to remedy that.

First, gather your ingredients. My picture here is incomplete, so make sure you read the recipe.

(you’ll also need some rice wine, rice vinegar, and sugar)

Slice up your beef against the grain and put it in a bowl with the marinade you’ll be making. If you pop it in the freezer for about half an hour, it’ll be a lot easier to cut. You want very thin slices, about 3/8 of an inch, or thinner if your knife skills allow. I wanted to make sure you had a visual of this!

Mama Foodie’s Beef and Broccoli

for the beef:
1 1/2 pounds top round steak
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
a few grinds of black pepper
1 tbsp oil

for the broccoli
2 medium heads of broccoli, cut up
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp oil
1/2 c. water

for the sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar

Combine soy, ginger, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a bowl large enough to hold the beef. Slice beef thinly across the grain, toss with marinade, and let sit at least ten minutes at room temperature or an hour in the fridge.

Chop broccoli and toss with garlic, salt and sugar.

Preheat a wok or large skillet and add 1 tsp oil. Stir fry beef to desired doneness, 2-3 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside, covered with foil.

Add other 1 tsp of oil and add broccoli. Stir fry 2 min, then add water, cover, and steam 5 min. Meanwhile, stir together soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sugar, and cornstarch.

When broccoli is cooked to your liking, add beef back in and pour sauce on. Cook 2-3 min until sauce clarifies and thickens. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Roast Chicken Supper

Mmmm. One of my favorite things to make is a roasted chicken. It fills the house with a delicious smell and it’s so versatile!

Today, I put two quartered lemons in the cavity and sprinkled the skin with
lemon pepper seasoning. Bake for about 2 hours at 350*F for a 4-5 pound bird.
It should look something like this:

Side dishes tonight are honey carrots, minted peas, and jasmine rice. Nothing too fancy, just tasty and homemade.

Mama Foodie’s Honey Carrots

4 large carrots or 6-8 smaller carrots, sliced into thin half-moons
1/2 stick of butter, cubed
1/4 c. raw honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c. water

Combine all ingredients in a medium skillet or microwave safe 2 quart dish. Cook over medium heat 15-20 min or until carrots are done to your liking. If using the microwave (sometimes we have to save space), cook 13 min on high.

Minted Peas

1 pound bag of frozen small peas or one pound fresh shelled peas
6-7 mint leaves, chiffonade cut
2 tsp olive oil or butter
1/2 tsp salt

Cook peas in a skillet. When almost done, add mint and stir to saute 2 min.

Everybody loves roast chicken night here, from Bumpa to Miss M. I have two very happy little ladies with bellies full of chicken enjoying after-dinner Yummy Earth lollipops after three helpings of chicken each!

Meatballs

I’m guessing a lot of people have their Italian nonna’s recipe for meatballs.

I don’t have an Italian nonna (since I’m not Italian), and Minna never made meatballs when I was young. She just put ground beef or turkey in the sauce – which is tasty, don’t get me wrong – which is pretty basic. That’s Minna’s cooking – basic, but tasty.

I made meatballs for the first time about a year ago. I didn’t look for a recipe, I just threw some things together, and it was AWESOME. You want to make these meatballs. They are killer.

Do I have a picture? No, I do not. We didn’t eat til late last night and I was too hungry to bother with pictures!

Mama Foodie’s Meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound pork sausage
1/2 c. panko
1 egg
1 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
3/4 c. parmesan cheese

Throw it all into a bowl and mix with your hands, like meatloaf. Go on, get dirty. It’s good for you. Roll into 1.5″ diameter balls for pasta (makes about 36) and 3″ diameter balls for meatball subs (makes about 15) and bake 20/30 min at 400* on a sprayed baking sheet.

Masala Gosht (Beef in spicy tomato gravy)

My house is the best Indian restaurant in town.

Well, it’s the ONLY Indian restaurant in town. If you want takeout, it’s about 45 miles to the nearest place, over in the closest large city. Plus, it’s about $17 an entrée. Yikes!  I have a serious love for Indian food, so I make it at least twice a month.

Originally from Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking, I’ve done a little tweaking for our personal tastes. Classic Indian Cooking, written for the American cook and kitchen (with American measurements, ingredients, etc), includes great chapters on equipment, ingredients, spices, and techniques.

No progress shots – Miss F had a playmate over and I was lucky I managed to get this made at all, much less keep three kids out of the cayenne pepper while I played around with the camera.

Masala Gosht

2 pounds cubed chuck (buy a roast and cut it yourself. Cheaper, and you’ll get better meat)
2 cups finely chopped onions
6 tbsp oil
8 green cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 c. tomato sauce
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp chopped or microplaned fresh ginger
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 c. beef broth

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown beef in batches in 2 tbsp of the oil and put into a heavy-bottomed casserole dish or dutch oven.

Add the remaining 4 tbsp of oil and the onions, and cook on medium-low heat until soft and brown (brown-frying onions is a foundational technique of Indian cooking, and adds rich flavor and thickness to many gravies), about 20 minutes. This is very similar to caramelizing onions. While it cooks, combine the tomato sauce, garlic, ginger, and yogurt and set aside.

Add the cardamom pods, cloves, cumin, cayenne, and salt and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato mixture and cook 5 min, until it thickens and the oil separates from the paste. Add this paste to the beef in the casserole dish.

Return the pan to the heat and add the beef broth to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the bits. Add to casserole. Bake for 2 hours at 325* F. Serve with rice or naan.

This picture gives you an idea of the rich color of this dish – leftovers Hubby had for lunch today.

Beef, Bean, and Chorizo Chili

Chili is one of those staples. Just about everybody knows how to make it, and just about everybody’s is different. I grew up eating “sweet” chili – lots of tomatoes, and I think Minna even put tomato soup in it – and the first time I had beefy, spicy chili, it was like a whole new world of chili-tastic flavor.

I picked up four plump links of chorizo on sale at my butcher a couple of weeks ago, and as I was pulling out the ground beef to thaw yesterday, I grabbed those, too. To be honest, I haven’t put chorizo in chili before, so this is just as much an experiment for you as it is for me. I bet it’ll be very tasty.

First, the basics. Dice a medium sweet onion and a pepper. What sort of pepper is up to you. Pretend there is a pepper here. Someone did something with my poblano that was hiding in the fridge, and I am pepper-less today.

Now some garlic. I’m lazy and I like to buy the big jar of pre-chopped garlic in water. It’s $4, it lasts me as many months, and it’s a time-saver. Heat up a dutch oven or other heavy pot on the stove over medium heat, drizzle a little olive oil in, and add the onion, garlic, (and pepper).

Once they get soft, add the ground beef and the chorizo, removed from it’s casings if you have links, like I do.

Stir that around and let it get all brown and delicious. At this point, you may be tempted to drain the grease. All right, if you must. I just accept that chili night is not going to be low-calorie and adjust accordingly.

Now, you need to add your spices. If you want to taste them, you have to cook them. Add 1 tbsp of ground cumin, 1 tsp chipotle, 1 tsp oregano, and 1 tsp black pepper.

Turn the heat down to low and add a 29 oz can of tomato sauce, a 29 oz can of petite diced tomatoes, and two cans of beans. Rinse those in a colander first to get the excess bean slime and salt off. I’m using a can of black beans and a can of red beans. Like something different? Knock yourself out.

Stir to combine, put the lid on the pot, and simmer for at least half an hour. Or all day. However much time you have is fine. Stir every once in a while. Serve with cornbread, tortilla chips, or corn chips, a sprinkle of cheese, and a little sour cream. Well, if you’re like Miss F and Miss M, a whole lot of cheese and sour cream.

Beef, Bean, and Chorizo Chili

1 large sweet onion
1-2 peppers of choice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound chorizo
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chipotle
1 29 oz can tomato sauce
1 29 oz can petite diced tomatoes
2 cans beans of choice

Dice onion, pepper, and garlic. Cook in olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat until softened. Add beef and chorizo, cook until browned. Add cumin, oregano, chipotle and black pepper, cook 2-3 min. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, and beans. Simmer on low for at least 30 min, preferably longer, stirring occasionally.

Chicken Pot Pie

I don’t know about you, but to me, there is nothing better than a bubbly, hearty, delicious one-dish dinner on a dreary, grey day.

We’re transitioning from winter to spring here in the upper Midwest, and it’s been raining and snowing off and on today. It’s a perfect day for a big dish of chicken pot pie.

Miss F was a big help on this one. She’s learning knife basics. I sliced the potatoes into flat discs, scored them with my knife, and then she cut along the scores with her baby santoku. She was very proud.

Chicken Pot Pie (serves 8-10)

4 cups cooked, chopped chicken (a rotisserie bird is great, I just used IQF breasts)
1 16 oz bag frozen mixed vegetables (no lima beans here)
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped in 1/2″ cubes and cooked until fork tender (I use the microwave)
1/2 c butter
1/2 c flour
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper
4 c chicken stock or broth (one carton)
double batch of your favorite biscuit dough (bisquik/jiffy mix is just fine!)

If you cooked your chicken right before assembling your pie, set that saute pan aside.

Spray a large casserole dish with pam. Pour the frozen veggies, chicken, and potatoes into the dish.

If you have that skillet handy, go ahead and pour a little of the chicken stock or some white wine in, turn the heat back on, and let it bubble so you can scrape up all the fond (that’s the delicious little browned bits) on the bottom of the pan.

Add your stick of butter and let it melt over medium heat, then add the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add flour (you’re making a roux! go you!), stir to combine, and let the flour brown a little. Add the remaining chicken stock slowly (now you made a veloute!). Cook 5-10 min or until thick and bubbly. Pour over the stuff in the casserole dish.

Crumble the biscuit dough on top. Bake at 400* for about 45 min or until the biscuit is brown and the casserole is bubbly.

In the dish:

Chicken Pot Pie

On the plate:

Crispy Lemon Fusion Chicken

Oh. My. God. Y’all.

I’ve had the Ainsley Harriot Gourmet Express 2 cookbook for the past three years.  I am totally kicking myself that we never tried this recipe until now.  It is KILLER.  We decided to go French with the rest of the menu, mashed redskin potatoes and green beans with garlic.  There is no added fat in this recipe, just what you get from the chicken.  Trust me, it works.

Crispy Lemon Fusion Chicken
from Gourmet Express 2

8 boneless chicken thighs, with skin on
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tbsp dijon mustard
rind and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. chicken stock
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves plus 4 stalks
3 tbsp corn starch
salt and pepper

Mix garlic, mustard, lemon rind and thyme.  Pull back the chicken skin and spread this mixture underneath, then stretch chicken skin back over.  Combine corn starch with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Roll chicken thighs in corn starch and put into a nonstick skillet on low heat., skin side down.  Cook 20 min or until skin is golden brown and crispy, and chicken almost cooked through.  Turn chicken over, turn heat on high.  Add wine and let bubble for 3-4 minutes, then add chicken stock, lemon juice, and thyme.  Cook 2-3 min more or until sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through.  Serve warm.

The sauce is so good, and really yummy spooned over your mashed potatoes, too.

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