Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

This is great comfort food! I don't think winter is ever leaving, so we might as well enjoy another cold weather dish! When I made this, I realized that the 2 of us would be eating it for a month, so I shared with my daughter's family. They are the ones with the new baby, so it was definitely appreciated ( along with the fact that I delivered it and stayed for a few days to help out! )

Pasta with Spinach and Chicken

10 ounces pasta ( ziti, rotini, bow tie, etc) cooked and drained
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. fresh sliced mushrooms
4 ounces cream cheese
1 (8-oz) carton ricotta
1 cup milk, heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups cooked chicken (cubed or shredded)
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
Fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.
 Heat butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes to slightly soften veggies. Do not brown. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are soft.
Stir in cream cheese until melted.  Reduce heat to low. Stir in ricotta, milk, Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir until everything is well-combined and melted. Turn off heat.
Combine the pasta, chicken, spinach and tomatoes in a large bowl.
Add in the sauce and gently stir to coat.
Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining mozzarella.
Bake uncovered for about 20 -25 minutes ... or until casserole is bubbly and beginning to brown. Top with basil or parsley for garnish.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Throw Back Thursday Salad/Dessert Recipes

Those of you who are on Facebook know that Thursdays are TBT -throw back Thursdays -where folks post pictures from the past. Today I was looking through a church cookbook and came across a couple of recipes that are also in the "throw back" category! They were quite popular "in their day" and still taste good! You might enjoy a recipe throw back! ( And, yes, I am aware that some of my readers are young enough that they've never heard of these recipes! )

The first one could be served as a dessert or a salad. Many years ago, salads were loaded with fruit and mayonnaise, cream cheese and/or Cool Whip.  They were heavy and sweet and by today's standards are better suited as dessert. I remember eating pineapple salads that consisted of a piece of lettuce on a plate topped with a slice of canned pineapple topped with a dollop of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. One local restaurant where we occasionally ate Sunday dinner served the same salad but tinted the mayonnaise so that it was a gosh awful color between pink and purple! Those were the days!!

Dump Salad or Dessert
1 (20-oz.) can cherry pie filling
1 (20-oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 (10-oz.) carton Cool Whip
1 cup chopped pecans

Dump everything in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Cover and chill for 4 or 5 hours.

Confession: I could eat this stuff with a spoon!

Here is the famous pretzel crust strawberry salad/dessert. If you ever went to Rock Eagle 4-H Camp in Georgia, you've eaten this salad! I used to call it the lunchroom ladies' special because they were the only ones who could make it. Someone gave me a cookbook compiled by lunchroom ladies and it contains some great recipes. Here is the recipe, see if you can make it as good as theirs!

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
2 cups crushed pretzels
1/4 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz) container Cool Whip
1 small pkg strawberry Jello
2 cups boiling water
2 (10-oz) pkgs frozen strawberries, thawed

Combine pretzels, sugar and butter. Press into a 9x13-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and Cool Whip. Pour over crust and refrigerate.
Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Add thawed strawberries. Refrigerate mixture until consistency of egg whites, slightly congealed. Pour over cream cheese layer. Chill until set ( several hours or overnight).

Tip: You can make this without the strawberries.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The tiny couscous that comes in a box is just too hard to eat! I hate hemming it up on a fork and I feel like a kid eating it with a spoon. A couple of years ago I was introduced to pearl or Israeli couscous
( probably by Ina Garten ) and have been converted every since. Tonight I just wanted something different.  We've eaten our fill of potatoes, rice and beans. A quick inventory of the refrigerator sent me scurrying for the big saucepan and this side dish emerged. It was a hit at our dinner table along with oven roasted fresh asparagus ( from Costco ) and chicken tenders dipped in egg then rolled in Panko and baked. Yuuuuuum! Full tummies here tonight!

Veggie Pearl Couscous
1tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1cup pearl ( Israeli ) couscous
2 small or 1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 1/4 cup chicken broth ( or water )
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add garlic and onion, sautéing until soft, but not brown.  Add couscous and stir until lightly browned. Add zucchini, red pepper and chicken broth. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Honey Brushed Chicken and the Cutest Chickies Around

Have I really missed an entire month? Wow! You must be starving! Ha! Ha! As most of you know, we have a new grandson, Hudson Riley Statham, who was born Feb. 4 in Atlanta. My daughter had a scheduled c-section and I stayed with them for 2 1/2 weeks. Everyone is doing great although a bit sleep deprived at the moment. Of course, he is THE most adorable baby EVER born! Just in case you've missed pictures of him, here's a cutie. He has a 3 1/2 yr old sister, Emmie who simply adores him (except when he cries!). They belong to my daughter and son-in-law. My son and daughter-in-law have 3 children. So, this makes number 5 Grand for us! For someone who grew up as an only child, this is a crowd! I love every one of them and every minute I get to spend with them!

Ok, now that you're up to date with my family, let's get back to the kitchen! Since I'm always on the lookout for QUICK recipes, this one was an instant winner with me. I like the combination of spices and since it has been too cold, snowy, rainy, yucky to grill out, this comes close to the same taste! The recipe calls for chicken thighs. I used boneless, skinless thighs. I think chicken legs or wings or even (my favorite) tenders would be equally as good.  

Honey Brushed Chicken 
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika ( if you have smoked paprika, use half regular and half smoked)
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper ( I backed off of this a little as we are not fans of HOT)
8 skinless chicken thighs
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat broiler. Spray broiler pan WELL with Pam. Line bottom of pan with foil.
Combine garlic powder, chili powder, salt, cumin and paprika in a large bowl (or zip loc bag). Add chicken to bowl and toss to coat. Place chicken on broiler rack. Broil 5 minutes on each side. 
Combine honey and vinegar. Remove chicken from oven. Brush half of the honey mixture over chicken and return to the oven. Broil for 2 minutes. Turn chicken and brush with remaining mixture. Broil an additional 2 minutes or until chicken is done. (Total cooking time: 14 - 18 minutes).