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

Tomato and Zucchini Pasta

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When I want creamy pasta I want it to be two things, rich and delicious. To me, it’s supposed to taste a little decadent, like there could possibly be a litre of whipping cream and a pound of butter floating around in there. The problem is that I love pasta so much that if I cooked it that way I would be 5000 lbs with at least 10 heart attacks under my belt. So, instead I’ve created my own pasta template that uses cream cheese to mimic that creaminess but doesn’t have a billion calories, (only 1000’s), (actually I have no idea but I think it’s not too bad…). Continue Reading »

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Veggie Fortified Sauce

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One of my favourite meals is spaghetti and since my son is a meaballaholic this dinner is a guaranteed hit in our house. This is not a super fast dinner, even with a few short cuts so I save it for a night I have lots of time or a weekend and then freeze the leftovers for a meal later on. The sauce freezes fabulously so I divide it up into dinner size portions with the meatballs in it. I find the meatballs are slightly dry if frozen on their own so a brilliant person (my mom) suggested freezing them in the sauce, Genius!

The sauce has lots of veggies in it so it can also completely stand on its own as a vegetarian spaghetti. I start with a mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions, which is the base of any good sauce and sounds extremely cooky when you can throw it into a sentence, and then add zucchini and peppers as well. I have shortcutted the long cooking time a truly spectacular sauce needs by adding pre-made jarred sauce to the mix. This gives the sauce that ‘I’ve been making this all day’ flavour in a lot less time. I haven’t included it in this recipe but if you have any leftover red wine (leftover???) it brings a little more depth to the sauce  if you add it after the veggies and cook it for a few minutes before adding the tomato sauce.

Meatballs

400-500g ground beef
400-500g ground pork
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup shredded parm
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 cloves grated or finely diced garlic
2 tsp salt

Before beginning making the meatballs let the meat sit out for at least 15 minutes so your hands don’t freeze mixing the meat

Preheat your oven to 350

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Form into balls using your hands to form the shape. These can be browned first in a saute pan over med heat and then placed in a baking dish or if you have children running around they can be placed directly into the baking dish. Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake for 30 if browned or 45 if not. I usually “test” one to make sure they are cooked through.

 

Spaghetti Sauce with Veggies

2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 cup grated zucchini
1 diced yellow or orange bell pepper
1 large clove crushed garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 398 mL can of tomato sauce
2 cups of your favourite pasta sauce

Warm the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium low heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery and saute until the vegetables are softened and have some colour. Stir in the crushed garlic, zucchini, pepper and herbs and cook until it all smells wonderful, (about 4-5 minutes). Pour in both types of sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the meatballs and warm through. Serve over your favourite pasta and top with a little parmesan cheese.

If you have a bit more time I would suggest adding one cup chicken stock and continuing to simmer until the sauce has reduced and become thicker, about 45 minutes. The flavour will be intensified and that much better.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

 

I hope this becomes a staple in your house too. It’s not a difficult meal to make and the sauce and meatballs can be used in other dinners as well. If you would like to see how spaghetti and meatballs fits into my weekly meal plan please click here

Bacon, Chard and Tomato Pasta

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My favourite meal, hands down, is pasta. I would probably eat it almost every night if I could come up with enough ideas. Fortunately/Unfortunately hubster wasn’t raised eating the stuff and will tolerate it only if it’s bloody good. So, since this is a pasta I make on a regular basis I can promise it is bloody good. To me it satisfies all the requirements: creamy, flavourful, has vegetables and of course bacon, which makes everything wonderful. This is also a great pasta to add to. It can completely stand alone and would also be delicious topped with seafood or a grilled chicken breast.Sneaky fingers in Pasta

I like to think it’s healthy, at least mostly. I used Barilla whole grain pasta for the first time and it was surprisingly good. There is lots of fresh chard and tomatoes and only a little bit of bacon per serving. Initially I used whipping cream for the sauce and it tasted fantastic but I can get the same results by using whole milk and cream cheese and reduce the overall calories and fat of the dish without taking away any flavour. I also never have whipping cream on hand and since I don’t like buying things I won’t use, the cream cheese and milk are more practical. It’s definitely not something you should eat every night but I don’t feel a bit guilty eating a huge plate.

I find this a great one when I have tomatoes that are starting to go a little squishy.

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Update

I made this the other day but didn’t even have cream cheese on hand so I came up with a third version. Version one was the fattening reduced whipping cream version that I cannot eat unless I am committed to an hour run, but if you are wanting to try that one just omit any thickeners, cream cheese or milk and use one cup of whipping cream that you allow to cook down and thicken on its own. It will be delicious! Version three uses flour to thicken the sauce. Same recipe just without the cream cheese.

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I thought I’d share both and then if you’re like me and forget something at the grocery store or just decide you want to do the same thing a different way, you now have two options, well three if you aren’t afraid of a little whip cream 😉

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Version 1 (Cream cheese)

1 Tbsp Olive oil
6 slices bacon
1 cup diced onions, about 1 onion
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
2 cups diced tomatoes (2-3 medium sized tomatoes)
4 cups roughly chopped chard (1 bunch)
1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp cream cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 box Barilla (about 200g) whole grain spaghetti or your favourite pasta
Prepare the  following the instructions on the box

Slice the slices of bacon into 1/4 inch bits and cook over medium heat  until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside on a paper towel.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat sweat the onions. Once they have become translucent add the garlic and cook about one minute. Stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking until they are soft. Add the chard and cook until it has wilted down.

Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the milk. Melt in the cream cheese than add the parmesan. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce down until it can coat the back of a spoon. Combine with the pasta, top with the crispy bacon and serve immediately. 

Garnish with additional parmesan at the table

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Version 2 (flour and milk)

Same ingredients but you will need an additional Tablespoon of butter or olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of flour

Follow the same instructions until it’s time to add the milk,

Stir in 1 Tbsp of butter or olive oil. 

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and stir until it is completely mixed in.

Warm the 1 cup of the milk about 1 minute in the microwave and slowly add in, stirring regularly. The sauce will begin to thicken as it cooks

Add the parmesan cheese and serve once the sauce has thickened enough to coat a spoon.

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So now you have two ways of using chard and tomatoes in a yummy pasta that kids and parents will all enjoy.

I hope this becomes a favourite at your table too and I would love to hear what you thought.

If you would like more meal inspiration come check out my Facebook page. I post nightly meals and ideas for feeding your family and friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Tikka Masala Pasta

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One of my favourite ways to make an amazing pasta dinner is to play with a meal that I already love and to translate those flavours. Tikka Masala is a rich and creamy Indian dish using the spice blend Garam Masala. I’ve talked about Masala before in my Indian Spiced Sloppy Joe recipe. It’s a combination of warm fragrant spices and it instantly makes my mouth water.

Tikka Masala is generally not low calorie and uses whipping cream and butter to add richness to the dish. I’ve cut back on the cream and all the butter. By using Greek yogurt there is still richness without the heaviness. To save time I’ve used cooked chicken that I made using the Roast Chicken recipe leaving off everything but salt and pepper, a rotisserie chicken would be perfect too if you don’t have the time for making roast chicken. In a traditional recipe the chicken would have been marinated in yogurt for at least an hour. To get the tang of the yogurt without the time of marinating, the yogurt is added at the last minute. Spinach provides greens and if you like a little heat add a diced jalapeño while cooking the onions.

If pasta isn’t an obsession for you like it is for me this would be delicious over rice, quinoa or really anything, even cardboard would probably taste good with this sauce:)

Chicken Tikka Masala Pasta

2 Tbsp Canola Oil
1 cup diced onion (about 1 med onion)
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tbsp of grated fresh ginger
1 heaping tbsp garam masala
1 large can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup whipping cream
4 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
1 tsp salt if using no salt added tomatoes. Season to taste otherwise
2 cups sliced cooked chicken
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

4 cups uncooked rigatoni pasta, cooked to package instructions

Over medium heat sweat the onions until they become translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and garam masala. Allow the spices to cook for five minutes stirring regularly, then stir in the diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and add the spinach. It may need to be added in batches. It will seem like a lot but will cook down quickly. Once the spinach is wilted in mix in the whipping cream. Season with salt and lay the chicken in the sauce. Simmer for another five minutes and remove from the heat. Once the sauce has stopped bubbling fold in the yogurt and cilantro, if the sauce is still too hot the yogurt can seperate. Pour the sauce over the pasta and gently combine.

I like to grate a little parmesan on the top after serving.

Tikka Masala

To get this meal on the table in 30 minutes:

  1. Have the salted water on the stove over high heat for the pasta
  2. Once the tomatoes have been added pour the pasta into the boiling water
  3. After adding the pasta slice the chicken
  4. Once the spinach is added chop the cilantro and measure the yogurt
  5. After adding the yogurt and cilantro let the sauce rest a few minutes while you set the table, then add the pasta

Enjoy and if you’re interested in how this dinner fits into my weekly meal plan It can be found in my Weekly Meal Plan list.

Creamy Salmon Pasta with Lemon, Mushrooms and Peas

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The only thing that my husband, Sean, loves as much as his kids is fishing. The last time his dad was out visiting from Newfoundland, Sean took him fishing and they caught two 8 lb. salmon. They were beautiful, pink and just waiting to be dinner. The first one we cooked right away and ate until we were stuffed. The second we froze and saved for sharing with our family. Somehow there were leftovers, and since we had dinner plans all week, I threw the cooked salmon into the freezer to do something with later. There was no way I was wasting a single bit of that amazing Salmon.

Sean and fish

I haven’t been able to come up with anything brilliant to do with this salmon until one night when all I could think about was a delicious, creamy pasta. Thankfully I had everything on hand to make this amazing dish. It has a wonderful combination of fresh lemon with crisp peas, a creamy sauce and amazing salmon. Really, it turned out a hundred times better then I expected and I couldn’t wait to share it.

I’ve used a combination of cream cheese and milk to lower the overall fat since I’m also using butter and parmesan. If you aren’t lucky enough to have some salmon just lying around, this pasta would work with any seafood. I could see fresh shrimp, scallops or prawns on top or a fillet of your favourite fish.

This recipe will serve 4 people

Creamy Lemon, Pea and Mushroom Penne with Salmon

200 g Penne Pasta or about half a box

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp canola oil
½ diced onion
2 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
1 crushed clove garlic
1 tsp lemon zest
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 cup small frozen peas
1 tbsp cream cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 cup milk

Salt and pepper

To make this a quick meal I do any cutting, chopping, zesting and smooshing. Next, I get my water on the stove and then start the sauce. By the time the pasta is ready the sauce is too

Bring a pot salted water to a boil and add Penne, cook until al dente. Most packages give really accurate times.

Melt butter over medium heat and add oil. Sauté onions until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until they have reabsorbed any liquid the released. Stir in the garlic, lemon zest and parsley.

Add the frozen peasDSC_0859

Reduce the heat to low and melt in the cream cheese.Once the cheese has melted add the milk and parmesan. Continue to stir gently until the sauce comes together.
Season with salt and pepper.

Top with Salmon

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See, isn’t that the easiest and yummiest? I plan on making this pasta again and again and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. To see how this fits into my families weekly meal plan here’s the link to it, Meal Plan