Roasted Broccoli and Chicken Alfredo

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I think that I have a relationship with chicken and broccoli casseroles that no one will ever fully understand. I love them and when I make them at home I expect hubby to declare it the best thing EVER. But he just shrugs and says “it’s okay”, terribly confused I wonder, “isn’t this the best chicken and broccolli casserole ever, haven’t I made this better than any other chicken and broccoli casserole on the planet”.

The truth is that even if I made the most divine version of this dish and perfected it completely it is still only a chicken and broccoli casserole and it’s star may just never burn as bright as say a steak.20131026-204500.jpg

My love of chicken and broccoli had humble beginnings as Chicken Divan, a combination of chicken thighs, broccoli and cream soups, plus some cheese and either noodles and rice. It was creamy and pretty tasty and I’m sure a saviour for a lot of moms. It is inexpensive and includes green vegetables in a way that most kids still ate them. My mom made it occasionally and we all loved it.

But I remember a fateful birthday where it took on a new meaning for me. My parents were struggling and still trying to make sure that everything was as normal as possible. My sister and I knew and in our awkward ways attempted to make things a little easier. Then came my birthday, in January of course when things were already at their tightest and my mom asked what I wanted for my birthday dinner. I remember thinking of all the things I could ask for and knowing that they would make it happen but I just couldn’t do it. So I asked for humble chicken divan.20131026-204511.jpg

My mom just stared at me wondering and asked if I was sure, and I was. It had become my absolute favourite thing to eat in that moment and it was what I wanted.

And since then I have happily included it in my cooking repetoire, updating it occasionally and trying to bring new life to a dish that is so special to me. I’ve done a good job I think but I have to say this pasta may be a new pinnacle. From lowly roots I think I have created something really delicious and I will probably ask for it on my birthday.

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One of the things I always hated about broccoli in a casserole is how mushy it gets. My new version roasts the broccoli and by doing this the broccoli stays crisp and is super flavourful. Roasted food just tastes better.

In the recipe I’ve written it as cooked chicken for ease of preparation. For my dish I quickly broiled some chicken tenders but a rotisserie chicken or leftovers would make this a really easy meal. You could even replace the chicken with ham or leave the meat out entirely and increase the amount of broccoli for a really tasty vegetarian version.

Plus a home made Alfredo is just AMAZING. If you have never tried a real Alfredo prepare to be let down for ever more by the cream cheese or flour and milk versions. Don’t get me wrong, I like to watch what I eat so I use the cream cheese trick to still have creamy pasta but nothing compares to the real thing.

A proper Alfredo sauce calls for a 1:1:1 ratio of 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), to 1 pint cream (2 cups), to 1 cup parmesan. I didn’t need this much so I went with a reduced version but now if you ever need an amazing Alfredo you know what to do.

And since this recipe goes all in with butter, whipping cream and parmesan cheese go with the good stuff. I buy a block of parmesan and grate my own and I think it’s well worth it. It’s not low fat or particularly healthy but really neither was the original so just go for a walk after you eat…

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Roasted Broccoli and Chicken Alfredo

2-3 heads of broccoli cut into florets (about 5-6 cups)
1-2 Tbsps olive oil 
Salt and Pepper
2 cups cooked chicken
1 500g package of penne
About a tsp of lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400F

Lay the broccoli on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 15-20 minutes looking for the tops to brown slightly

Once this is in the oven I would get the water ready for the pasta and cook it to package instructions for al dente

Alfredo sauce

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
2 cloves crushed garlic

In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and allow to it to cook for about a minute taking care not to let it brown. Pour in the whipping cream and stir with a whisk. Once bubbles begin to form add the parmesan and continue regularly stirring. Allow the sauce to bubble but not boil reducing the heat to medium low if needed. Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened and is able to coat the back of your spoon.

Season with pepper. I personally find parmesan salty enough but season to your taste

Once the sauce is ready, the broccoli is out of the oven and the pasta is cooked its just a matter of combining all this goodness

Layer the pasta into a large serving dish. Top with the chicken and broccoli than pour over the Alfredo sauce. Toss together and finish with the lemon zest and a touch more parmesan

Serve immediately

I hope your family and friends enjoy this dish as much as I do. I may have a soft spot for the original casserole but I think everyone can share in my love of this one,

If you’d like to see how my family eats every night and join some of the conversations check out my Facebook page @ www.facebook.com/myweeklydish

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Beet and Pear Tart with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

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Our wonderful sweet daughter is such a horrible sleeper that it’s a constant challenge for me and hubby. She did just have five teeth come in so I have some sympathy for the little beast but man am I one sleepy momma.

We were alternating nights getting up with her but hubby just started a new job that has the potential for serious injury if he’s not awake. Being the wonderful wife I am I’ve taken over so that he can eek out that little bit more sleep and hopefully come home with all of his fingers and toes.

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I Just Wanted to Say Thanks

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The Canadian version of Thanksgiving doesn’t quite have the same spectacle that it does to our Southern neighbours. Yes, we have our turkeys and pies, plus a few good football games. But there are no pilgrims, large rocks or bowls and the best history I can find is that explorers had a heck of a time not dying while wandering around Canada so they ate a lot and were thankful. (I could be very wrong so please don’t quote me).

We do have our own traditions though and one is that during supper someone always asks those at the table to say what they are thankful for. Unfortunately, this is usually after stuffing myself into oblivion and even though I have lots to say  it never quite makes it out. I give the usual response of family or friends and if its been an especially good year maybe a new job or a something like that. It would seem too long winded and take too much work to say what’s really rattling around in my head.

But I really do want to share what I’m thankful for and since I’m lacking in a spectacular Thanksgiving recipe this seems like the perfect chance.

What I am so very grateful for is the second chances and sometimes third or fourth ones that the people around me freely give.

I’ll give my most recent example. This last week I was sick, Not bed ridden, the plague has arisen sick, but definitely sniffly and miserable. It seemed to linger on and on and with two small children I just couldn’t get the sleep I needed to kick it. Finally my body gave up and I took a day off just to catch up. I slept most of the day and still passed out at 9. I woke up in the morning feeling kinda icky but more alert than I have in a week.

With this alertness came a kind of saddening reality. That whole past week I had been absolutely short tempered with my lovely son. He has entered the “why” phase of childhood and my cold addled self just couldn’t answer his increasingly frustrating whys, (no I’m not going to pretend they’re not exhausting). So instead I was a little yelly and a little impatient and really the poor kid got the short end of the stick.

So today after picking him up from daycare and on the drive home I apologized. I explained that mommy realized she’d been angry this week and that I was terribly sorry for not listening better and for being upset a lot. He dropped his little head and agreed that I had been cranky and that he was sad about it. My heart broke and I thanked him for being so wonderful and told him that mommy would try to remember not to  be a jerk.

And that was it, we moved on and he was back to his exuberant little self, full of  new and wondering “whys”, except this time I harnessed all my energy and answered every last one, even if it was with “hmmmm, maybe dadddy knows”.

So that’s what I’m truly thankful for, the opportunities to fix mistakes, apologize and carry on. The space to be human and hope that even when I hurt those around me I can repair the damage done. Knowing that I can never take advantage of these chances because then maybe then they wouldn’t be given so freely.

Because the gods know I’m far from perfect and this will not be my last apology but most likely one of many that I will have to make.

So if you happen to be at the table with me when I say “I’m thankful for friends and family”, then see me shove more pie in my mouth, know that there is a lot more behind those words and that I am grateful for the chances you all give me throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving all and may your long weekend be filled with pie and love!

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Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

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Every time my husband meets a vegetarian he asks if they eat bacon. The man is convinced that even vegetarians can’t resist it and that they all obviously cheat. I honestly think he struggles to believe that a person could happily choose to not eat meat. It’s terribly embarrassing and thankfully my vegetarian friends have been submitted to sillier questions so they  laugh it off.

I’m not really surprised though. When I met his family and told them that I was a past vegetarian  they had a hard time imagining a person living on carrots and potatoes. Meat was central to family dinners and hubby just came to expect to see it on his plate.

I didn’t help much either, at least at first. When we first started dating I  adapted my mostly veggie ways and made meals more to his tastes and preferences. I guess I believed the saying “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. Over time this started to drive me a little batty, (shocking), and since he isn’t the cook in the house I decided to cook the way I prefer. I dropped the meat-ccentric meals and slowly shifted our diet to the veggie focused way I ate before he came around

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More recently I’ve managed to get us eating  three vegetarian meals a week, (our budget is thrilled). It’s taken some finessing and finagling to keep a meat eater happy with all veggies for dinner, but other than the odd request for an entire ham for supper I think he’s adapted well. One of the tricks I’ve learnt is to give him something that’s familiar like pizza or a burrito. He already knows he likes them so he’s willing to try a veggie version.

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These burritos are a great example. The combination of sweet potatoes, beans and cheese provide not only all the nutrients you need but come in a familiar package. Plus they are filling and hearty enough to satisfy hubby. The kids loved them and I get my way, which of course always makes me happy.20131024-183631.jpg

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup diced onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 clove crushed garlic
2 cups small cubed sweet potato
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 can black beans
1 cup diced red pepper (about 1 pepper)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup veggie stock
2 Tbsps lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tsp honey
salt to taste

2 cups of grated cheese
6 tortillas

In a large skillet melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to become translucent. Stir in the garlic, cumin and chili powder cooking another 30 seconds or so then add the sweet potato. Continue cooking for about 5-10 minutes or until they are fork tender.

In a separate bowl combine the stock, honey and lime juice.

Stir the beans and peppers in with the sweet potatoes and pour the stock mixture over top. Cover the pan and leave for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and most of the sauce has been absorbed. Season with salt and sprinkle in the cilantro

Lay out the tortillas and place about a half cup of the mixture near one edge of the tortilla and sprinkle in a layer of cheese.

Roll and place in a clean skillet.

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Place a heavy pot or another pan over top and cook over medium low heat for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.

Serve with salsa and plain yogurt:)

I hope these burritos make your family as happy as ours and that they satisfy even your most carnivorous members. Enjoy and have a yummy week!

This is my first time including a video. I’d love to know what you think! I also share dinner ideas on my Facebook page @ www.facebook.com/myweeklydish