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

For more delicious recipes become a Menu Therapy subscriber, we would LOVE to have you cook with us!

Bourbon Bacon Burger with Pimento Cheese

CAUTION: Things may appear fuzzy after eating this burger…or even after just looking at this burger. It’s the bourbon! …Only kidding. The camera played a mean joke on me and not one photo of this gorgeous burger came out in focus. My apologies! 🙂

 

I have two words for you– Bacon. Jam.

Make that three words– BOURBON. BACON. JAM.

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect…

BJ dreamed up this burger last weekend as we were in the mood for something out-of-the-ordinary and fun.

“Have you ever had bacon jam?” He asked from the kitchen.

I had, and he had too, he just didn’t remember. We had bacon “marmalade” atop a tiny mason jar of pimento cheese when we dined at Hugh Achenson‘s Empire State South in Atlanta. It was a scrumptious little appetizer, as anything served in a mini mason jar usually is. I reminded BJ of that date night almost a year ago now, and then these burgers happened. He was inspired and my mouth was watering in anticipation. BJ came up with every component of these Burgers- the bourbon bacon jam, the pimento cheese, and the pretzel bun between which it would all be nestled. I helped him carry it out by flying to the nearest grocery store during the kids’ naps, then coming home and furiously grating cheese, crisping bacon, and basically completing all of the prep work so he could throw it all together. The results were AHHH-MAZING!

Bourbon Bacon Jam needs to live in your refrigerator, perhaps in a cute little jar, for the duration. Yes, you will be tempted by it on a daily basis. Yes, it’s likely definitely not the healthiest condiment in the world. But man…it’s good. As Joey Tribbiani from FRIENDS would say,

“Bacon? Good!”

“Shallots? Good!”

“Brown sugar? Good!”

“Bourbon? Goooood!”

Slather it on a cracker, a biscuit, or some toast. Use it to add some oomph to your next grilled cheese, or maybe stir it into some polenta or grits. However you eat it, you’re going to be glad you know how to make it.

On a side note, this pimento cheese recipe is no slouch either. Inspired by the recipe from Husk in Charleston, SC, this little bit of goodness took me less than 5 minutes to prep and really hit the mark. The original recipe called for bourbon as well, but I wanted it to be kid-friendly and there was already enough bourbon in the bacon jam to go around. Feel free to keep it in there if that’s your fancy.

To pull all of these components together, don’t skimp on the pretzel bun if you can help it. We found ours at Whole Foods, but I’m sure some of the other higher end mainstream stores carry them as well. The bun was almost my favorite part, probably because I just thought it was so smart of my hubby to suggest it. We’ve had a lot of fun picking out special buns for our burgers lately. It really takes a ho-hum burger to a whole other level. Even if all you can find is King’s Hawaiian Buns, it makes a huge difference!

You’re going to love this burger! It’s a winner on every level and will undoubtedly be the star of your next cookout. I’m not going to put this burger on next week’s meal plan…I think it might be too much for a weeknight dinner. However, since the recipe is posted here you can make that call for yourself! 🙂 If you need help with other dinner ideas, meal plans and shopping lists there has never been a better time to subscribe. As part of a Ladies Night Out event happening in Orange County this week, I’m running a HUGE discount on annual memberships. New members get 80% off with the coupon code “ocladiesnightout”. That’s just ten bucks for an entire year! Crazy, I know. The code is good until August 1st. Happy cooking!

Bourbon Bacon Burger with Pimento Cheese (4-5 servings)

1.5 lbs. ground beef (I use 85% fat for juicy burgers)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
salt and pepper, to taste
canola oil, for brushing
butter lettuce, leaves separated
Bourbon Bacon Jam (recipe to follow)
Pimento Cheese (recipe to follow)

  1. Using your hands, gently mix beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, salt and pepper until just combined.
  2. Divide beef into 4 or 5 equal portions and shape into patties. I like to flatten mine out as much as possible and then press a small well into the center of each to keep them from turning into burger meatballs on the grill.
  3. Brush a small amount of canola oil on each side of the burger patty and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat and oil a grill to high heat. Once it’s screaming hot, lower the heat to medium and add the burgers. Close the grill. After 4-5 minutes, flip the burgers and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Check for desired doneness and move to a top rack to finish cooking if needed.
  5. Build the burgers by topping the bottom of the pretzel bun with the patty, some butter lettuce, 2 tablespoons (AT LEAST!!) of bourbon bacon jam, and 2 tablespooons (AT LEAST!!) of pimento cheese. Serve. Swoon.

bourbon bacon jam

Bourbon Bacon Jam

1.5 lbs. good bacon
1 cup of shallots, finely chopped
2 cups sweet onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ cup bourbon
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup brown sugar

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Lay a wire rack inside a sheet pan and line the rack with the bacon. You may have to do this in batches or use two pans.
  2. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bacon is extra, extra crispy. Set aside and reserve a few tablespoons of the bacon drippings from the bottom of the pan.
  3. Once bacon has cooled, chop it up finely.
  4. Heat reserved bacon fat in a large skillet or sauté pan on medium heat. Add shallots and onion and cook until caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so longer.
  5. Carefully deglaze the pan with the bourbon, scraping up any bits that have formed along the bottom of the pan. Add the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the brown sugar, chili powder, smoked paprika and chopped bacon. Continue to cook for about ten minutes or until the mixture starts thickening up and looks like jam.
  7. Drain any excess fat off and pour into jars. Store in the refrigerator. Can be served cold or warmed up in the microwave and slathered all over anything that looks like it needs a slathering. 🙂

 

Pimento Cheese

 

Pimento Cheese

3/4 cup mayonnaise
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup jarred sliced pimiento, rinsed and finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 cups freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add all other ingredients and combine.
  2. Store in the refrigerator.

pimento cheese crackers

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.


Brussels Sprouts Pizza

I have been beyond obsessed with brussels sprouts this winter. Ob. Sessed. Luckily for me, my husband has been very supportive of this new addiction and has happily eaten every single one I’ve put in front of him. My son has too. I somehow hit the jackpot in this area. My one-year old has a more distinguished palate than many adults. He “Mmmmmms” and applauds every time he eats. It’s pretty awesome. I pat myself on the back at every meal even though I secretly know it has very little to do with me, and everything to do with the fact that he’s an awesome baby. I digress.

Brussels Sprouts. If you hate them, chances are you haven’t had them prepared correctly. I’ve recently had great success sharing many different preparations with family and friends, and everyone has raved. These pizzas might be my favorite creation to date. Super quick to throw together and yet HUGE on flavor, this would be an easy appetizer for your next get-together. We actually ate a couple of these each for dinner and it was perfect. I hope you’ll try these soon…I promise you won’t regret it!

Brussels Sprouts Pizza

Ingredients:

8 pita breads
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
extra-­‐virgin olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, cut in half
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. pound Brussels sprouts, shredded or shaved
1 leek, sliced lengthwise into quarters, then chopped (keep root intact for easy cutting)
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat butter over medium-­‐low heat. Add onions and slowly caramelize,

    careful not to burn, until onions are brown but not burnt. Set aside.

  3. Heat olive oil over medium-­‐high heat. Add leeks and Brussels sprouts and

    sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  4. Meanwhile, rub each pita bread with the cut side of a garlic clove. Drizzle

    lightly with extra-­‐virgin olive oil and a few crushed red pepper flakes.

  5. Top each pita with some of the caramelized onions and then 1⁄4 cup

    mozzarella cheese. Divide Brussels sprouts mixture evenly over the top of the 8 pitas, approximately 1⁄4 cup of mixture per pita. Add a few crumbles of goat cheese to each and top with the crumbled bacon.

  6. Bake at 425 for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve.