Chicken BLT Mac and Cheese

Chicken BLT Pasta

More pasta to talk about, and this is a really good one. Anything with bacon usually is. And cheese. And leeks. Yum! This is the kind of thing I crave on a gloomy, rainy day, so it’s a good thing I live where it almost never rains or I would be eating this far too often. But guess what? Yesterday it rained! I had been promising Kellan for weeks months that the next time it rained we would go outside and play in it, so we did just that. We splashed around in puddles, got soaking wet, and pretty much had the best morning ever. So fun! If you see rain often, you might not think to go outside and enjoy it. But Kellan has been waiting for a while, (tough life, kid), so you would have thought he hit the lottery or something. I love the simple fun a three year old can have; if only all adults were so easily elated!

After about an hour of soggy fun, we came inside, dried off, and starting looking for lunch. Luckily, I had seen the forecast so this Chicken BLT Pasta was already made and hanging out in the fridge. I reheated the whole thing and we dug right in. Best move ever! This one-pot-wonder is pasta perfection. It smells so insane while you’re cooking it, and even better once the whole thing comes out of the screaming hot broiler. Of course, bacon can again take a lot of the credit for that, because there are few smells better than bacon. I’ll admit, sautéing leeks in bacon fat is an easy second. We have that here as well. Ahhhhhhh!!

blt-pasta-3

blt-pasta-zoomed

Put this on your list for the next time the weather takes a crappy turn. It will make the sun come out in your kitchen, for sure!

BLT Pasta with Arugula

Chicken BLT Mac and Cheese

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
8 slices of bacon, chopped
3 T tomato paste
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 cups pasta cooking water, reserved
2, 3 oz. bricks cream cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Toss chopped bacon in and slowly render fat (cook!) until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon. Reserve.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions and reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid.
  3. Add leeks to the pan with the bacon fat and sauté until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add crushed red pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute. Stir in the cream cheese until melted. Stir in half of the grated parmesan, then the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create a sauce.
  4. Add the pasta and shredded chicken to the sauce and toss until well coated. Stir in diced tomatoes and crispy bacon. Top with remaining parmesan cheese and bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until browned on top.
  5. Enjoy!

BLT Pasta

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Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

Yay for Fall!!! Cooler weather, cuter outfits, and a wonderful excuse to start eating heartier dinners. I was all about the salad this summer, and honestly, I’ve been eating the Chopped Thai Salad at least 3 nights a week since I posted it on the blog. It was too hot to really cook this summer and I credit this salad with helping me bounce back to pre-baby weight. Yippee! But now it’s Fall and I’m my normal self, so I can start cooking and eating like my normal self. That means one word. Pasta. I’ve said it before, but pasta is without question my favorite thing to cook and eat. It’s so much more than spaghetti and meatballs. Pasta is a blank canvas for whatever you’re in the mood for. It can be light, rich, loaded with veggies, loaded with cheese, full of protein or completely meatless. It’s basically the best. I love that you can easily find whole-wheat AND gluten-free pastas in your regular grocery store, so it’s not too difficult to amp up the health factor when you want to. I really love whole-wheat pasta. It’s rich and nutty and holds up really well against bold flavors, and this Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne is a great example of that.

There are a lot of bold, fall flavors in this pasta. Mushrooms are a quintessential fall ingredient. I love their earthiness and the perfect umami they bring to things. Balsamic vinegar, heavy cream and parmesan cheese melt into an unbelievable sauce that soaks into the ridges of the penne pasta. Throw in some butter-caramlized leeks and shallots and you have yourself a delicious plate of autumnal comfort. If you’re anything like me, you’re breaking out the fall decor this weekend.  This pasta would go great with that! Grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte in the morning, grab a few pumpkins at the farmer’s market, plant some mums in the front yard, take a stroll through a park showcasing the changing leaves, burn a cinnamon candle or twelve, and whip this up as the finale. That sounds like one pretty amazing day to me. Let me know how it goes! 🙂

Happy fall y’all! …And happy cooking!

bite-of-pasta

Balsamic Mushroom and Leek Penne Pasta

16 oz. whole wheat penne pasta (can use regular if you prefer)
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, trimmed, washed and sliced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Reserve.
2. Heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat until butter is melted. Add leeks and shallot and sauté until beginning to caramelize, about 4 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, about 4 more minutes.
4. To the mushroom mixture, add balsamic vinegar and heavy cream. Stir until combine and simmer over low heat as it thickens, about 2 minutes.
5. Toss in parmesan cheese and stir. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley.
6. Serve.

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Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna

cheesy Mexican lasagna

Can I appoint myself Loryn the Lasagna Queen, or is that bad form? I really love making lasagna! The more I make it, the easier I find it to be.  Make a sauce of some kind, layer it with no-boil noodles and cheese, and bake until it’s bubbly. Simple. No-boil noodles are the secret. They remove an annoying step from the whole process, and I don’t think anyone can tell the difference. You just have to make sure the sauce you are using has enough liquid to cook the noodles, and make sure you take that sauce all the way out to the edges so you don’t end up with a crispy, uber-al dente edge. That would just be a pity. I’ve made several delicious lasagnas using this method, and they are always crowd-pleasers. Check them out on the blog if you haven’t already…Tuscan Lasagna, Buffalo-Ranch Chicken Lasagna, and Mega-Meaty Pizza Lasagna. Today I took my love for lasagna in a new direction and tried my first Mexican version. It was incredible. Cheesy, spicy, and tangy…all of the flavor profiles you expect from Mexican food, but all wrapped up in a lasagna. So fun!

mexican lasagna

This Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna could not have been easier to throw together. It really took me only 20-25 minutes to have the whole thing in the oven. You can’t beat that when it comes to homemade lasagna!

whole-mexican-lasagna

I boiled three chicken breasts until they were cooked through, and then shredded them up. Combined the chicken with a jar of salsa verde, fire-roasted green chiles, queso quesadilla cheese, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Then I layered that Mexicany-goodness with the no-boil noodles, Crema Mexicana, more queso quesadilla cheese, and Monterrey jack cheese. Repeat, repeat, and keep repeating until you run out of the chicken mixture. Then top the whole thing with all of the remaining cheese and bake. Now you can call yourself the Lasagna Queen…or King. Serve this next time you have a hankering for Mexican but are over tacos and burritos. It has all of the flavors of your favorite Mexican restaurant, but with an unexpected twist. You’ll love it!

Happy cooking!

mexican lasagna slice

Cheesy Chicken Mexican Lasagna

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of ickiness
1 jar of salsa verde
10 oz. can fire roasted chiles (could substitute Rotel if you want some tomatoes too)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper
no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded Cacique Queso Quesadilla, shredded
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
15 oz container Cacique Crema Mexicana

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×9 baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and boil until cooked through. Shred.
  3. In a bowl, season shredded chicken with cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir in fire roasted green chilies, salsa verde and one cup of the Queso Quesadilla and 1/2 cup of jack cheese. Combine well.
  4. In the bottom of a baking dish, spread a small amount of the chili-chicken mixture.
  5. Top with layer of lasagna noodles. Spread with another layer of the chicken mixture, making sure to go all the way to the edge with the liquid. Pour Crema Mexicana over the entire layer, again paying close attention to the edges. Top with a layer of shredded jack and Queso Quesadilla.
  6. Continue building casserole alternating between layers of lasagna noodles, green chili-chicken mixture, Crema Mexicana and shredded cheeses.
  7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 375(F) oven for 30 minutes. It’s a good idea to spray the bottom side of the foil with nonstick spray so that the cheese doesn’t stick to it.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking another 5-10 minutes until cheese on top has melted and the entire casserole is bubbling and hot.
  9. Allow the casserole to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve alongside sliced avocados and a sprinkle of cilantro.

 

What else can I do with this ricotta?

So now that you have a nice batch of homemade ricotta in your fridge, let’s figure out how to use it! I’m assuming you have some left over after making the roasted cherry tomato bruschetta, and that’s a bold assumption because I definitely didn’t. But good news– even if you’re out, you now know how  easy it is to make more.

Like I said, I ran out post-parent picnic, but I had already brainstormed all of these wonderful ways to cook with it so I’m seriously making more tomorrow. Good thing I have a steady supply of cheesecloth in my pantry. So here are my thoughts and some useful links that will help you get the most out of that creamy, wonderful goodness just lying in wait in the refrigerator. Let me know which ones you use and always let me know if you come up with something totally awesome that I haven’t thought of…I would LOVE to try it!

(More) Uses for Homemade Ricotta Cheese 

  1. Pancakes
  2. Stuffed Shells
  3. Summer Vegetable Tart
  4. Scones
  5. Muffins
  6. Cheesecake!! duh
  7. Pizza- See my “weird pizza” OR this one!
  8. Gnocchi!!!!!!! (I’m excited about this one!)
  9. Cookies
  10. Stuffed and Fried Squash Blossoms

Need a few more dinner ideas? Check out this Food 52 article that will inspire you to squeeze 6 dinners out of one batch of ricotta. Or if you’re ready to move on from our cheesy friend but still need some dinner ideas, become a Menu Therapy subscriber for just $5. We will plan your dinners, write your grocery lists and help you become a superstar in your kitchen. 🙂

Mega Meaty Pizza Lasagna

A few weeks ago my mother-in-law celebrated her 50th Birthday in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. It was an awesome week with my husband’s family. We rented a super cool beach house and kept it very low key. We ate in every night, played board games and celebrated 50 years of a very special lady. Really good times. For me, part of the fun was being the family chef for the week. As long as I’ve been in the family, I’ve never had the opportunity to really cook for them night after night. Sure, there have been meals here and there, but this was the first time I was able to hold them captive in the kitchen for an entire week. It was awesome!! We had burgers made with a combination of beef and bacon, biscuits with homemade sausage gravy, a good old fashioned low-country boil, steamed King Crab legs with drawn butter, a GIGANTIC mexican fiesta, and last but not least, my Mega Meaty Pizza Lasagna.

I have a few different lasagna recipes in my repertoire. One recipe I was given while visiting Italy and another that has become a huge hit on Pinterest, my Buffalo Ranch Chicken Lasagna. Both are great, but I knew neither would cut it as our first dinner at the beach. I needed to kick things up a notch to make sure this hungry bunch of meat-eaters left the table feeling satisfied. That’s when I recalled a lasagna recipe I’d seen from a cookbook my mother-in-law gave me that included ground beef, ground sausage and pepperoni. PEPPERONI! IN LASAGNA!! Yes, please! Taking that concept I added some ideas of my own and hit a serious home run. My family loved it and couldn’t get enough. I made it again a few days ago for some friends and heard more than once that it was the best lasagna they had ever tasted. I credit the pepperoni, it really does the job.

I wanted to share this easy recipe with you because if you’re anything like me, you would love to be known for your amazing, meaty, decadent, cheesy, pepperoni-laced lasagna. Is there anything better to be known for? Enjoy!!

mega meaty lasanga

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage (mild)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. pepperoni, roughly chopped
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
12 oz. can tomato paste
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
1⁄4 teaspoon all-spice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
16 oz. box no-­‐boil lasagna noodles
1 lb. mozzarella cheese
16 oz. ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large, heavy skillet, lightly brown ground beef, sausage, onion and garlic in the oil.  Add pepperoni, tomatoes, tomato paste, water, salt, pepper and oregano, all-spice and Worcestershire. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  3. In a 13 x 9-inch pan, spread 1 cup of the prepared sauce. Alternate layers of noodles, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, ending with sauce, mozzarella and parmesan.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbling.
  5. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.


Roasted Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Since I’ve already confessed my love of pasta to you guys, I figured it would be helpful to also share my favorite pasta sauce. You can cover pasta in almost anything…tomato sauce, meat sauce, cream sauce, cheese sauce, a light olive oil based sauce…or even a combination of a few of these. Anything goes! However, my personal favorite thing to douse my noodles in, is pesto.

Pesto is an herbaceous green sauce traditionally made up of basil, toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. Throw all of those ingredients into a food processor and pulse away. YUM! Some people take one look at anything green and think it can’t possibly taste good. Not true, my friend. My dad is actually the perfect example of such a person. I made some pesto to go over a beef dish we had the other night and he was really unenthused about trying it. Green sauce? On beef? Pass the steak sauce, please. Luckly, one bite in he became a believer. I think I even saw him attempt to lick his plate clean…sorry Dad.

I love pesto because it makes me feel like I’m eating super light even when good old carbs are hiding out under all of that herby goodness. So what? At least I’m getting my veggies.

My latest pesto creation is even more exciting because it actually takes some veggies that are REALLY good for you and yet REALLY boring, and turns them into a flavorful and super healthy pasta topping. Yay for “healthy” and “pasta” to be found in the same sentence!

Roasted Broccoli Pesto Pasta is an awesome way to sneak veggies into a meal for a picky eater, but it’s also just a really fun way to enjoy your broccoli a little bit more than usual. Roasting makes anything taste better, but it has an especially awesome effect on broccoli. The crispy little brown bits give your pesto a deep, nutty flavor that you can’t achieve with simple pine nuts. The rest of the pesto recipe remains true to tradition, and is combined with a hearty whole-wheat penne pasta and cherry tomatoes. Serve as-is or top with pan-seared chicken breast. Enjoy!

broccolipesto

Ingredients:

1 package fresh broccoli florets
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
lemon, zested
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting
1⁄2 cup basil
1⁄2 cup pine nuts (toast them quickly in a dry sauté pan if you have time) 1⁄2 cup freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste
1 package whole wheat penne pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes

  1. Spread broccoli and garlic out on rimmed cookie sheet or roasting pan. Drizzle with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  2. Roast broccoli 20 to 25 minutes at 425.
  3. Remove broccoli from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Put roasted broccoli, basil, pine nuts, parmesan and lemon zest in a food

    processor. Turn on and slowly drizzle in extra virgin olive oil until pesto forms. You want the pesto to be thin enough to cover pasta like a sauce, but not so thinned out that it gets oily. Add more EVOO if needed to achieve this consistency.

  5. Season pesto with salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Toss pesto with cooked pasta and cherry tomatoes. Serve.


BLT Pasta Bake

Everyone has their own version of comfort food. For some, it’s a dish they grew up eating at their grandma’s house. For others, it’s a quick run through their favorite fast food chain. Either way, we all love to indulge in our own brand of comfort from time to time. Comfort food transports us from the busyness and stress of our day to a place of fond memories, peace and happy thoughts. That’s what pasta does for me. I love a good pasta dish. Although my waistline would not be very forgiving, I could literally eat pasta every single day. I don’t…but I could. I try to include one pasta dish in each week’s meal plan. Some times those dishes are actually on the lighter side, showcasing whole wheat pasta and fresh veggies. Still delicious and still my own brand of comfort. But other times I like to go all out, and that’s what BLT Pasta Bake is all about.

What makes this pasta bake so fun is that the individual ingredients are all awesome in their own right. Leeks? Yes please! Bacon? Obviously. Cream cheese, asiago cheese AND parmesan cheese? Perfection.

If you’re looking for a little bit of comfort today, look no further. BLT Pasta Bake is where it’s at. Enjoy!!

BLTpasta

 

 

Ingredients:

1 lb. package rigatoni
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced
¼ cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon, crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 3 oz. bricks cream cheese
1 ½ cups asiago cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
½ pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Cook rigatoni according to package directions. RESERVE 1 CUP OF PASTA WATER!!
  2. Heat oven to 500 degrees.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof braising pan or skillet. Add bacon and cook until crispy.
  4. Add leek, garlic and red pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze pan with white wine, scraping up brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Stir in tomato paste, half of asiago cheese and all of  the cream cheese. Add reserved pasta water and stir until cheese is melted and everything is combined. It will be sticky.
  6. Stir in rigatoni and half of the cherry tomatoes. Top with remaining tomatoes, asiago and parmesan.
  7. Cook in oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t brown too quickly.
  8. Serve.


Buffalo Ranch Chicken Lasagna

It’s Super Bowl time! You have the perfect excuse to scroll through your pins on Pinterest and choose a few super unhealthy, extremely decadent dishes to serve to family and friends during the big game. Hooray!! Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. A few years ago when Pinterest first hit the scene I had a Super Bowl spread that you could gain five pounds just looking at. It was intense…and delicious. This year I was thinking about trying to replicate my mother-in-law’s hot wings, but I just can’t bring myself to go through the whole deep-frying ordeal. Such a mess. Then I remembered something I actually saw on Pinterest myself a few days ago- Buffalo Chicken Lasagna.

Interesting.

I read the recipe and it actually sounded pretty good…hot sauce, blue cheese, white cheddar, pasta…what’s not to love? I made some changes and additions and came up with what I think it a pretty amazing combo. I personally love dipping my hot wings in ranch dressing, not blue cheese, so I added some “ranchy” herbs and spices to the sauce to really drive home my favorite hot wing flavors. If you want to mix up your game this year, give this one a shot. It’s a crowd pleaser and it won’t leave your kitchen with a layer of oil coating your appliances and countertops. Or if you must, go for the gold and put all those pins of yours to good use. At least you have a good excuse. 🙂

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olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large carrot, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1, 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 , 12 oz. bottle Louisiana brand buffalo wing sauce 1 tablespoon dried parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder
1⁄2 teaspoon dried dill weed
salt and pepper, to taste
no-­‐boil lasagna noodles
15 oz. ricotta cheese
4 oz. blue cheese
1⁄2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
12 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  2. Add the can of diced tomatoes, bottle of wing sauce, dried parsley, dried dill, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir in chicken and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking for 20 minutes or up to an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine beaten egg, ricotta cheese and blue cheese. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove lid from Dutch oven and check seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Begin the lasagna layering process. Spread 1 cup sauce into a greased 13-­‐in. x 9-­‐in. baking dish. Layer with three noodles, 1-­‐1/2 cups sauce, 2/3 cup ricotta mixture, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 2/3 cup cheddar cheese. Repeat this process 2 more times for a total of three layers.
  6. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees with 20 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.