Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta

If you are a regular on this blog, you know that we don’t eat a lot of pasta in our house.  Believe me, if I could have pasta every night I would – but since my husband is not a huge fan, I have created a special place for pasta in our house.  My husband has to travel from time to time, and my girls hate it when he goes away – they definitely love their Daddy.  So, a while ago I decided that as a treat when he is away, we have pasta for dinner.  There are no more tears when he is away now – all because of a little pasta – wow, I bet you never knew pasta could be that powerful.

Needless to say, we have a lot of pasta recipes cut out of various magazines that my daughters are waiting for me to make.  It used to be that they would only eat plain pasta – no sauce, no vegetables, no nothing.  Just noodles.  Slowly I have broken them out of this mold.  Now, remember my story about the Spinach Bites, and how I got my older daughter to eat spinach, not just eat, but LOVE spinach?  Well, it was time to try something new – and see if that carries over to other dishes.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light and figured that it was basically like a mac-n-cheese with chicken and spinach – well, not only did my older daughter devour this, my younger one ate her entire helping, and asked for more!  Success!!  I was seriously impressed – but this was a pretty delicious dinner, I had three helpings.  So – if your kids hate spinach, don’t try this first – go for the Spinach Bites.  But if you have moved past that, and are ready for something a little more risky – I have got the recipe for you.  Go on, give it a try, what’s the worst that can happen, you have to eat the chicken and spinach remnants from their bowl?  You will still thank me…

Ingredients

  • 2  (6-ounce) bone-in chicken breasts, skinned
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 ounces uncooked linguine
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves

Preparation

Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 8 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 10 minutes. Carve chicken off bones, and thinly slice.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain well; keep warm.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add flour and garlic; cook until garlic is browned (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk; bring to a simmer, and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and spinach; stir until spinach wilts. Add pasta and chicken; toss to combine.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta

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Turkey, Cheese, and Noodle Bake

Remember beefaroni?  I am not sure what gave beefaroni such a bad reputation, but I often heard it referred to as barfaroni growing up.  Now how can you like something with a name like that?  Even if it is the most delicious food you have ever eaten.

I decided that it was time to serve this retro dish to my kids – and see if it deserved the barfaroni nick-name.  Instead of making something up, I decided to dig deep into my old recipes.  I wanted to find something that was a little more like mac-n-cheese with meet and a tomato base.  I couldn’t believe it, but I found the perfect dish.  The original recipe came from Cooking Light, although I adapted it slightly below.

The girls loved it – it was creamy like mac-n-cheese with a nice tomato flavor and the ground meat gave it some bite (and a little protein).  The best part was that neither of them knew that there was shredded carrots in the sauce – which made it almost sweet tasting.  This is great for a crowd, because it made a lot.  At least a few nights worth of food in our household.  Serve this with a salad, and you have a the perfect well-balanced retro meal – and I promise no one will call it barfaroni.

Ingredients

  • 1  (8-ounce) package small elbow macaroni
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 1  cup  shredded carrot
  • 2  teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1  pound ground turkey
  • 1  cup  tomato sauce
  • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  fat-free milk
  • 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2  cups  (6 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Lightly coat pasta with cooking spray.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and carrot, and sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add ground beef; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until most of liquid evaporates.

Add pasta to beef mixture in pan, stirring to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Place milk, flour, nutmeg, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan; stir with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add 1 cup cheese, stirring until smooth. Pour cheese mixture over pasta mixture; stir. Top evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 8.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Turkey Cheese and Noodle Bake

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Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese

 

I hope that this is the first of many Mac-n-Cheese recipes on this blog.  I have certainly made my share over the years.  I am always looking for new unique Mac-n-Cheese recipes though – ones that are not just noodles and cheddar cheese.  I remember about a year ago I made a recipe for 4 kids that had 4 different types of cheese and bacon – and one of the kids (not one of mine) told me that it was the best Mac-n-Cheese he had ever had.  Now, I guess I can’t take that as a complete compliment, since my competition was probably just Annie’s – but still, it felt good. 

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light - and because I am not a fan of ranch dressing, it didn’t hit me as something I really longed to make.  My older daughter though likes to read over my shoulder – and there was another recipe right next to it that I was enthralled in…so she asked me when I was going to make the Mac-n-Cheese.  I had her look at the ingredients – and even though she is also not a huge ranch dressing fan, she wanted to try it.  I really think the bacon was clouding her judgement.  I can’t say this was my favorite recipe – but if you are looking for a different kind of Mac-n-Cheese – and you DO love ranch dressing – this is the ideal recipe for you.

Ingredients

  • 8  ounces  uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1  slice applewood-smoked bacon
  • 8  ounces  skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1  tablespoon  butter
  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2  cups  fat-free milk
  • 1/3  cup  condensed 45% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded six-cheese Italian blend (such as Sargento)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  onion powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  garlic powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) shredded colby-Jack cheese

Preparation

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Finely chop bacon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to drippings in pan; sauté 6 minutes or until done.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; sprinkle flour evenly into pan. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Combine milk and soup, stirring with a whisk; gradually add milk mixture to saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; let stand 4 minutes or until sauce cools to 155°. Add Italian cheese blend, onion powder, garlic powder, dill, and salt, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in pasta and chicken.

Preheat broiler.

Spoon mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bacon and colby-Jack cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here:  Bacon, Ranch, and Chicken Mac and Cheese

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