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Chicken Florentine and Farfalle

For a little over two weeks the sons and the hubs and I were kicked back to the stone age while our internet was down and out. I know you’re probably thinking, and for a minute there so was I, what was I going to do without Pinterest and it’s abundance of delicious recipes to help me plan my meals? Ok, ok, not really but I wasn’t overly enthusiastic or anyhting about going off the grid for a couple of weeks. I mean I can’t keep all this awesomeness up all on my own all the time now can I? Well yes, I can, but then I start to feel like my life is as unorganized as the $5 bin at Walmart. So Internet, yeah, big help. Still, we didn’t let something like the lack thereof keep us out of the kitchen

Instead of habitually outsourcing ideas, we went back to the old days. We dug out and dusted off the family recipe box and got busy. And guess what? No internet meant no Netflix, and no online gaming. No teenagers trying to hide out in their little mini-man caves texting all afternoon. SO, not only did we rediscover some old favorites, I had lots of willing little helpers each day. And believe it or not (Sons 1 and 2 may have even been a little surprised themselves) they had fun. Good times.

So on our first day back, we’re still going to keep it pretty simple. Here’s an oldie, but a goodie from our recipe box to yours.

Chicken Florentine and Farfalle

chicken florentine and farfalle

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb box of Farfalle pasta
olive oil
1 bunch of fresh spinach, or 1 box of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and all excess water drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
4-5 oz cream cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
milk
1 jar of  Alfredo sauce
Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. For the best taste, grill the chicken, then chop it up and set it aside. The chicken can also be pan cooked and then chopped if you prefer.
2. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, and set aside.
3. In a large skillet add in 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, the garlic, and onions. Saute 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add spinach and allow it to heat through, or until wilted if it’s fresh..
4. Next, add in the cream cheese and stir in until it’s melted and evenly combined. The mixture will be thick and that’s OK.
5. Add in the alfredo sauce, again stirring to evenly incorporate. Now, add the milk, and tiny bit at a time, until the desired consistency is reached
6. Stir the chicken into the sauce, Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
7. Add the pasta to the pan and stir it into the sauce until everything’s nice and ‘saucey’, err evenly incorporated! Serve warm with shredded or grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Don’t let this meal’s fancy sounding name fool you. It’s easy enough for any weeknight and can be surprisingly flexible.

Here’s our favorite alternative version: Italian Sausage Florentine with Penne (or whatever pasta Mom happens to have on hand) Pasta.

Sausage Florentine with Penne

Looking for a vegetarian version? Swap mushrooms for the meat! All you have is spaghetti noodles? Throw em in the pot. See? Flexible.

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Sous Chef Sunday: Homemade Spaghetti & Meatballs Garlic Bread Sub

The Sons’ are at it again, bringing the masses another recipe they’ve knocked out of the park.

Garlic Bread meets Spaghetti and Meatballs meets the Meatball Sub and the result is out of this world!

Spaghetti & Meatballs Garlic Bread Subs

This recipe will leave your house smelling like a heavenly Italian restaurant and you’ll be lucky if you can keep your family from devouring it before it makes it to their plates. I think the Sons were worse than our pug that night, loitering around the kitchen and watching for any missed speck of this recipe while they waited for me to plate everything up for them.

Savory, buttery, crispy garlic bread stuffed with delicious spaghetti and meatballs… it’s a match made in heaven. How could I blame the little scroungers?!

I’m always watching the sons turn their spaghetti and garlic bread into an open faced sandwich (I’ll admit it freaked me out slightly the first few times), so I knew this would be right up their alley. And oh boy, were they sure on to something…

 son 3 helping

(The apron says it all)

Son # 2, just like his Daddy 🙂

He could easily (and quite happily) eat spaghetti and meatballs every night of the week. Which is why he nominated himself to oversee this particular meal.

 Spaghetti & Meatball Sub Sandwich

It may not be the prettiest presentation, but it delivers 100 % on flavor. All the sons and the hubs gave it two thumbs up. Just make sure you have some napkins handy, because it is messy. But man, you can’t go wrong with Garlic Bread meets Spaghetti and Meatballs meets the Meatball Sub! Enjoy!

Homemade Spaghetti & Meatballs Garlic Bread Sub

Spaghetti & Meatballs Sub Sandwich

recipe adapted from The Cards We Drew

frozen, or homemade, meatballs (we used about 1/3-1/2 of the package)
Parmesan, and/or Mozzarella cheese, to taste (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 box of spaghetti noodles
1 loaf of Italian bread
garlic butter (either store bought or homemade)
1 jar of spaghetti sauce

Directions

1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
2. Cook meatballs according to package directions.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the meatballs with the spaghetti sauce until evenly coated. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and then set the aside.
4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
5. Cut your bread loaf in half length wise, and liberally coat both sides of the inside with garlic butter.
6. Place bread in a baking dish, or on a baking sheet, with the insides facing up and bake it until the butter is melted and inside is lightly crisped.
7. Once the bread has baked, top the bottom half with the cooked spaghetti, top the spaghetti with the meatball and sauce mixture, and then sprinkle some parmesan, and/or mozzarella cheese on top.
8. Put the loaf back in the oven until the cheese is nice and melty and the sauce is heated through. Slice loaf into individual sandwiches and serve with salad for dinner.

UPDATE: The Sons’ found this gem and declared it a must share. Son # 1 putting his spaghetti on a baked potato! Bleck!!

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Welcome to my life 😉

Creamy Garlic Shells (No Packet Required!)

I’m just going to go ahead and apologize right now before I go any further. I’m sort of on a comfort food (you know, high calorie, delicious, and unhealthy food) kick right now, (maybe because the weather is getting cooler?) and there is absolutely nothing healthy about this dish. Actually, you could make it significantly healthier depending on what type of ingredients you choose to use (skim milk instead of cream, less cheese, and not over-indulging), but I’m not going to lie and tell you I made any of those choices. This is pure, delicious, evil.

There was a long (-ish) period where the hubs and I should have bought some stock in Lipton. We were investing that much money. When I was first married those little side-dish pasta packets were an automatic go-to of mine for dinner. Except in our little world, while we were figuring everything out, including learning to cook and figure out a monthly food budget, they weren’t really sides so much as a meal and, man, did we love em. Sure, one package allowed us to reach our sodium limit for a month, but I’m sure that’s what made them so tasty. After a few years went by, we had learned a few things. Those pasta sides got kicked to the curb in favor of more and more homemade versions, that we came to find tasted better and were loads cheaper, especially for a large, expanding family.

So here’s all that delicious (and still very convenient) taste, without the copious amounts of sodium, and without requiring you to purchase a pasta packet.

Creamy Garlic Shells

(no packet required!)

Creamy Garlic Shells

recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

8 oz small shells pasta
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream, or milk if going for a lighter version
salt & pepper
1/4- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons parsley flakes

Directions

1. Cook pasta in a pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain, then set aside. Let pot cool off the heat for several minutes.
2. Return pot to stove over medium heat then melt butter in olive oil. Add garlic then saute until golden brown, about 30 seconds, being very careful not to burn. Sprinkle in flour then whisk and cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk while whisking until mixture is smooth. Season with salt & pepper then switch to a spoon and stir constantly until mixture is thick and bubbly, about 4-5 minutes.
3. Take pot off the heat then stir in parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and parsley flakes until smooth then add cooked pasta and stir to combine.

Spinach Parmesan Orzo

Sometimes the simplest things taste the best. Just like I sometimes need a break from the rigmarole of everyday life, sometimes my taste buds need a break from complex flavor combinations. This orzo is just the thing for times like that. With a simple, yet creamy, low-fat sauce coating the tiny rice-shaped pasta and wilted spinach, it makes a great side dish, especially with chicken or fish, or even a light main meal.  This is the happy place where health & comfort (food) meet.

Spinach Parmesan Orzo

4 Sons 'R' Us: Spinach Parmesan Orzo

recipe adapted from Life Tastes Good

4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3-4 cups of fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat and add 1 cup orzo. Stir until the orzo is lightly browned/toasted. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the orzo is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
2. While the orzo is simmering it is a good time to prepare the spinach. In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add 10 ounces of baby spinach and a pinch of salt. Saute until wilted. Set aside until orzo is done.
3. When orzo is done add the spinach and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and mix well. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. The Parmesan will add some saltiness to the dish, so be sure to give it a taste to ensure you don’t add too much salt!

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Soup

My family loves Chicken Parmesan. I was blown away after my first taste of this soup. It totally lives up to its name and tastes just. like. chicken. parmesan. In a soup! It’s the perfect pick me up, sit down dinner during all this cold, rainy weather we’re having here.

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Soup

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Soup

recipe adapted from Foxes Love Lemons

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy!)
1 cup farfalle pasta
Chopped fresh basil or parsley and/or croutons, for garnish

Directions

1. In slow cooker, stir together garlic, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, chicken, broth, onion, 1/3 cup cheese, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook on high 4 hours or on low 8 hours. 30 minutes before end of cooking time, transfer chicken breasts to cutting boardand coarsely shred; return to slow cooker. Stir in pasta.
2. Serve garnished with extra Parmesan cheese, chopped basil or parsley, and croutons.

Creamy Garlic Pasta

 In my little Italian family we love garlic. Before meeting ( & marrying) my husband, I would have been stingy about how much I added to a dish. Now? It calls for 1 clove? It needs at least 3. It calls for olive oil & garlic? I’m also using my garlic-infused olive oil. The cardinal rule he taught me: You can never use too much garlic. No such thing. My husband eats the stuff by the spoonful. While I can’t go quite that far myself, I really love the pungent stuff. I’m also a recovering cheese addict. Garlic & Cheese, together? Now that’s a beautiful thing! This rich and creamy pasta dish is a match made in heaven. You can be enjoying this delectable pasta dish in a snap, it’s that simple to throw together. The taste is out of this world (and it gives us our garlic fix)! Feel free to top this creamy garlic pasta off with as little, or as much, extra Parmesan cheese as your taste buds desire. I won’t judge you. Besides, if anyone ever tells you you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop speaking to them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

Creamy Garlic Pasta

4 Sibs 'R' Us: Creamy Garlic Pasta

recipe adapted from The Cheese Pusher

2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
¼  tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
3 cups chicken stock
½ lb spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup half & half
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tsp dried
1 tsp chopped fresh basil (optional)

Directions

1. In a pot, bring the olive oil to medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes. Mix in the butter until melted. Add the salt, pepper and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and let it come to a boil.
2. Once it’s boiling, add the pasta and cook for as long as the box’s directions indicate. Reduce to medium heat and mix in the Parmesan until completely melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream and parsley. Serve immediately.

Lasagna Soup

I love soup. I mean, I really love soup. Most people, I’ve found, prefer soup to warm them up on a cold winter night.  I don’t just relegate soup to only winter weather advisory days, but feel it is an all-encompassing  meal, even in Summer. I could eat soup 365 days a year and be a very happy camper. That being said, I do have four hungry boys, and a hungry husband who prefer their soups to be hearty so I’m always trying to find soups that can stand alone as a satisfying meal. I’m pretty sure, when I met my husband, he was convinced a soup could never be a ‘manly’ meal, and definitely never a meal he would feel ‘stuffed’ after. I’m pretty sure that unspoken ‘I told you so’ is the elephant in the room every time he naps after eating just ‘soup.’

Given my husband’s Italian heritage, and our love of all things pasta, I figured I would give  Paula Dean’s lasagna soup recipe a try. Naturally, my guys were skeptical about any recipes’ ability to make a soup, however hearty, truly taste like one of their all time favorite pasta bakes; however, they’re always up for trying anything new that I put out on our table. Boy, were they blown away by the finished product! It really did taste like, you guessed it, lasagna. I did make a few changes to suit my tastes and make it a little less soupy, but it only enhanced the flavors and left everyone feeling all warm, fuzzy, and full afterwards.

UPDATE: Wow. It’s been 2 years and I’m finally getting around to updating this recipe’s photos. Trust me, it needed to happen. I’ve left the original posted at the bottom for your viewing enjoyment. Or not. 😉 We don’t always go the crust bread loaf route when serving this. Another favorite is pairing it with slices of Texas toast that have been toasted and then slathered with our homemade Italian garlic butter. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Lasagna Soup

Tastes Like Lasagna Soup

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper; chopped (I omitted)
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp thyme
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6-8 cups chicken broth (depending on desired consistency)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups broken lasagna, pappardelle, or egg noodles
1 & 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 loaf of ‘crusty’ bread, optional

Directions

1. In a large skillet combine ground beef, ground sausage, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef and sausage are cooked through and crumbled. Drain.
2. Transfer meat mixture to a large stew pot and add in broth, tomatoes, sauce, thyme, Italian seasoning, brown sugar, and salt.
3. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat.
4. Reduce heat, and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add in noodles and continue simmering until noodles are tender.
6. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
7. Serve soup and garnish each bowl with shredded mozzarella and a piece of warm, crusty bread.

Aaaaaand, here’s the original photo:

Lasagna Soup

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