Chili Tortellini

Chili Tortellini

I love Halloween. Not the super scary, gory side of things, but more the “oh look how cute the kids are!” side of things. I love watching my boys get so excited to pick out costumes, and the anticipation of trick-or-treating. This year my oldest settled on Iron Man (after an excruciating 20 minute debate in Target) and my youngest excitedly and quickly chose Cookie Monster. They were spoiled this year in that they got to go trick-or-treating three times. Our last trick-or-treating adventure was on Halloween and, as luck would have it, while the weather was unusually warm, it was also terribly rainy and windy. The husband took our oldest around the neighborhood with some friends, but I hung back with the youngest and my mother-in-law to stay dry (he’s 2…he had more fun handing out candy in his Cookie Monster costume!).

While the husband took our oldest around the neighborhood, I whipped up this FANTASTIC chili tortellini. I’ve made this several times before, and I knew it would be the perfect comfort food after a wet trick-or-treating mission. As usual, all three of my guys gobbled this up, and I did too! This recipe makes a large amount, which makes it great for feeding a crowd, or feeding your family for several days. As with most chili and soup recipes, the leftovers are even better! I suspect we’ll be eating this a lot this fall and winter.

1 pound dry tortellini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
32 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth
two 15 ounce cans beans, I used black and red beans, whatever you prefer
15 ounce can Rotel diced tomatoes MILD version
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Cook tortellini according to package directions.  Heat olive oil into a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes then brown beef until browned.  Drain if necessary.  Add broth, tomatoes, beans, cumin, chili powder and cilantro.  Add cooked tortellini and heat for 10 minutes or until hot.  Reduce heat to a low simmer until ready to serve.

Source:  Picky Palate

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Chicken Piccata with Orzo

chicken piccata w orzo

I married a red meat lover. If the husband had his choice, we would eat steak/roast/hamburgers every single night of the week. While I appreciate and enjoy red meat, and often order steak when we go out for dinner, I prefer to cook chicken at home. Generally it’s much healthier (we only do white meat here), and is almost always cheaper. I always laugh at his reaction when I tell him we’re having chicken for dinner as it usually involves a heavy sigh, or a complaint about us not eating enough red meat. The boys, on the other hand, love chicken and are always happy to have it for dinner. In fact, baby boy (who doesn’t really talk much yet), kicks his feet excitedly as I cut up his chicken and will start crying if I don’t get it on his high chair tray fast enough!

Suffice it to say, we eat A LOT of chicken, so I am constantly on the lookout for fast, healthy and delicious ways to jazz up our chicken dinners.  When I found this recipe on Pinterest, I instantly added it to our weekly meal plan.  I love chicken piccata and orzo, so this was the perfect combination!  The only change I made was cooking the orzo as done here as I think it adds more flavor and creaminess.  Everyone, including our resident red meat lover, enjoyed this to the point of complaining that there wasn’t more!  A healthy dinner loved by the whole family and on the table in 20 minutes?  Fantastic!

1 cup uncooked orzo
1 tablespoon butter
1 (14.5 ounce) can low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
4 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chilled butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used 2 tsp dried parsley)

Melt butter in pan over medium heat.  Add orzo and stir 2-3 minutes to lightly toast.  Add broth; bring to a boil for 1 minute.  Turn heat to low, cover, and cook 15 minutes or until broth is almost absorbed and orzo is soft.  Stir in rind.

While orzo cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add broth and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat; add butter, stirring until butter melts. Stir in parsley. Serve over orzo.

Source:  Slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Peasant Pasta – Crazy Cooking Challenge #7

Now that I’m back to blogging more regularly, I wanted to find some kind of cooking challenge to join up with again, but one that didn’t require a huge time committment and allowed me some flexibility on recipe selection since I live with some picky eaters.  I was very excited to find the Crazy Cooking Challenge over on Mom’s Crazy Cooking!  Each month, she chooses a theme, and everyone in the group cooks/bakes a recipe that fits in that theme, and that recipe must come from another food blog.  Considering I follow at least 80 food blogs in my Google Reader, I knew this would be a challenge that I would really enjoy!

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This month’s theme was Spaghetti with Red Sauce.  We are a big pasta loving household, so I was very excited with this month’s theme!  My search for the perfect recipe took me to the blog Good Eats n’ Sweet Treats and this fantastic Peasant Pasta.  Pasta + sausage + red sauce = the happiest boys in the world in this house.  Both the husband and toddler man LOVE sausage and pasta, so I knew I had to make this.  We were not disappointed!  Even I, the one who really rather dislikes sausage, loved it!  The leftovers are just as good the next day.  This is orginally a Rachael Ray recipe from her show 30-Minute Meals.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried any of her recipes, but they very rarely only take me 30 minutes.  Usually by the time it’s said and done, I’ve spent AT LEAST 45 minutes dealing with it.  This was an hoenst-to-God under 30 minute meal, and I will be making this again very, very soon!  Make sure you check out Jaime’s blog…there are a ton of fabulous recipes over there!

Peasant Pasta

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, available in bulk at butcher counter or, 2 links, casings removed
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, available in bulk at butcher counter or, 4 links, casings removed
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup half and half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 leaves fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced
1 pound thin spaghetti, cooked to al dente
Grated Italian cheese, for passing

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan.

Add sausage meat. Crumble sausage meat as it browns. Add chopped garlic to the pan. When all of the crumbles have browned evenly, deglaze the pan drippings using chicken or vegetable broth.

Stir in crushed tomatoes and bring the sauce up to a bubble, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir cream into your sauce, this will blush the color and cut the acidity of the tomatoes.

Season with salt and pepper. Stir basil into your sauce to combine. Toss hot drained spaghetti in pan with the sauce, then transfer pasta to serving bowl.

Source:  Slightly adapted from Good Eats n’ Sweet Treats, originally from Rachael Ray

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Crispy Chicken with Creamy Italian Sauce and Bowtie Pasta

Have I mentioned my love of Pinterest?  I am seriously addicted and have found so many amazing recipes that I want to try.  This is one of the first recipes I “pinned”, but hadn’t gotten around to making until recently when I saw it on one of my favorite food blogs, A Taste of Home Cooking.  She made a few changes to the original recipe, so I opted to follow her adapted version as it looked more up my alley.  She used panko for the chicken rather than corn flakes, which made for a crispy and delicious crust.  The sauce for the pasta was creamy and had great Italian flavors from the Philadelphia Cooking Cream and the garlic.  I really wanted to top this with the tomatoes and fresh parsley as she did, but as I mentioned in a previous post, most of my produce in the drawer met an unfortunate demise.  I will definitely be adding those next time around.  All three of us gobbled this up and I will certainly be making this again very soon.  Even the leftovers were delicious!

Crispy Chicken with Creamy Italian Sauce and Bowtie Pasta

3 large chicken breasts
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups Panko
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 10 oz container Philadelphia Cooking Cream (Italian Cheese and Herb Flavor)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh tomato, chopped
1 box bowties (farfalle), cooked according to package directions

Place chicken breasts in a gallon sized Ziploc bag and seal the top. Pound the chicken flat with a meat mallet. Add flour and salt to the bag and reseal. Put the bag in the freezer for about 5 minutes.

Place the Panko and milk each into separate pans. Remove the chicken from the freezer and dredge each piece in the milk and then immediately into the Panko. Add the olive oil to a hot non-stick skillet. Carefully lay each chicken piece into the hot oil. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper. Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until the underside of each piece is nice and golden brown. Turn the pieces over and cook another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate and tent loosely with foil.

Add the minced garlic into the same pan. Cook for about a minute, until fragrant. Pour in the chicken broth, Philly Cooking Crème, cream of chicken soup and milk. Whisk the sauce around and let it get all warm and bubbly. Should only take about 3 minutes.

Slice the chicken into strips and serve over cooked pasta and sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and tomato.

Source:  A Taste of Home Cooking, originally adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up!

Parmesan Orzo

This side dish makes an appearance on our dinner table at least once every couple of weeks, and I realized I didn’t have this on my blog!  I love orzo and am always looking for ways to incorporate it into our dinners.  This comes together in about 20 minutes and is an excellent complement to any main dish.  I cannot remember where I got this recipe…I’ve been making this for at least 5 years now and have it memorized at this point.

Parmesan Orzo

1 cup orzo, uncooked
1 Tbsp butter
1 can chicken brother (14.5 ounces)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes

Melt butter in pan over medium heat.  Add orzo and stir 2-3 minutes to lightly toast.  Add broth; bring to a boil for 1 minute.  Turn heat to low, cover, and cook 15 minutes or until broth is almost absorbed and orzo is soft.  add cheese and parsley; stir.

Spinach and Chicken Stuffed Shells

I am not a fan of stuffed, layered or baked pastas, mostly because I hate ricotta cheese.  We had a late Christmas dinner back in early February at my brother’s house (dad was in town), and my sister-in-law made stuffed shells.  I gobbled them up at a time when food itself didn’t sound good at all, and have been craving them ever since.  When I saw this recipe for stuffed shells with spinach and chicken, I knew I had to try them!  They were a huge hit with all of us, and we only had a few leftover.  The only thing I will change next time is to use a different sauce (probably my homemade marinara if I ever get around to making another batch!) as we weren’t huge fans of the jarred sauce I bought.  I will definitely make these again soon, and have already added this to my freezer meal plan for after baby gets here!

Spinach and Chicken Stuffed Shells

15 large shells, boiled and drained
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded chicken breast
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated
1/2 cup part skim mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinara sauce – homemade or store-bought

Cook shells according to package directions. Be careful not to overcook them or they will tear easily when trying to fill them. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, ricotta, spinach, parmesan cheese, and the egg. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into shells.

*Tip: For easier filling, fill a gallon ziplock bag with the filling and snip a quarter size hole off the corner of the bag. Then you can just pipe the filling into the shells.

Spread half of marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Arrange shells over sauce; top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Bake, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake for 5 to 10 more minutes. Serve alongside additional marinara sauce.

Source: From Cooking with Chrissy

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese

I love, love, love homemade macaroni and cheese and am continually on the lookout for the perfect recipe.  When I saw this one from Alton Brown, I had a feeling my quest for the perfect recipe would be over.  This mac and cheese, to me, was perfect…rich and creamy and delicious.  Unfortunatly, the husband and toddler still have a preference for the blue box!!  The toddler said it was “too tangy mommy” and the husband said he wasn’t a fan of the sharp cheddar flavor (even though he LOVES sharp cheddar cheese…go figure).  So, the next time I make this, I may use half mild cheddar and half sharp to see if that makes a difference.

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

Source: From Alton Brown on Food Network’s Website