Chicken, Spinach, and Artichoke Pasta Bake

Even when the weather is warm, sometimes I still find myself craving a big bowl of comforting baked pasta. But, it’s nice to switch it up from the standard red sauce and ricotta cheese variety. When I came across a recipe a couple of months ago in a recent issue of Taste of Home, I thought I’d give it a try.

I did end up changing it a bit, mainly by adding chicken as well as a dose of homemade Alfredo sauce to the pasta bake. I loved all the flavors together, almost reminiscent of a spinach-artichoke dip. It was pretty easy to bring together too, as it doesn’t require all the layering that something like a traditional lasagna would.

I had leftover roasted chicken from the night before, so I just used that – but a store-bought rotisserie chicken would be ideal for this application. Or you could certainly use boneless skinless chicken breasts that you roasted or sauteed as well. Whatever works best for you!

I kept it simple and just served it with a salad topped with a light lemon vinaigrette. Everyone really enjoyed it, and with most baked pastas the leftovers were even better the next day for lunch.

Source: adapted from Taste of Home Magazine, February/March 2014

Bourbon Chicken

I know I’ve been on a Mardi Gras recipe rampage this past week here on the site, but I have just one more to share with you guys. And this one is wonderful any time of year! I remember getting Bourbon Chicken in the mall food court in Annapolis when I was growing up – at a place called The Big Easy. Even though my teenage heart was prone to Sbarro, I couldn’t resist the tender chicken in the rich sauce over a bed of rice once I’d tried it. They liked to suck you in with samples as you walked by!

I got to thinking about those days a few weeks ago, and tried my hand at making it at home. I’ve tried to make it once or twice before, but the recipes I’d used always fell short. Mainly due to the fact that none of them contained bourbon, I’d imagine. Now, from what I understand – the dish is named after the street in New Orleans…not the liquor. But, knowing those crazy Cajuns – why wouldn’t they use bourbon given the chance?

So I threw some of that in the sauce, changed a few of the ingredient ratios to get it where I wanted it – and I’m happy to report that this recipe is a winner! I only had chicken breasts, but am really looking forward to trying it with thighs next time – because they really are more tender and juicy. But, it was still great with the boobs. We all enjoyed it, and have already had a request or two since I made it a few weeks ago. So it will definitely be on the menu again soon! If you’re looking for something relatively quick and easy to make tomorrow night to celebrate Mardi Gras and New Orleans – add this to the menu!

Source: adapted from Food.com

Chicken Bryan

Can you guys believe that Valentine’s Day is this week?  We usually don’t do anything big. We open up our Valentine’s box with goodies for everyone inside, I make a heart-shaped meatloaf, and then we’ll enjoy a special dessert that I’ve made. It’s small, but it’s our tradition, and we all love and look forward to it. Valentine’s Day is so overpriced and crowded, the folks who can go out can have it – I’d much rather be at home with the people that I love the most.

So, if you’re on board with that – but want to make something fancier than say…a heart-shaped meatloaf for instance, take a look at this Chicken Bryan copycat recipe from Carrabba’s. I’ve never actually been to the restaurant, which I should remedy that situation, because I think there’s one in Ocean City…but I hear this dish is one of their signatures, and for good reason – because it’s absolutely delicious!

A grilled chicken breast, topped with sliced goat cheese and a delicious sauce comprised of sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, lemon, white wine, and butter. What’s not to love in that equation? It was quick, easy, and all of us really loved it. I was thinking the little ones might not be that into it, but again they proved me wrong – gobbling it right up. If you don’t want to grill the chicken outside, you could certainly do it on a grill pan inside, or even just roast it in the oven. I served with a fun pasta shape that I tossed with my super-easy quick marinara sauce, which I added a bit of heavy cream to. I also had about 1/3 of the goat cheese log left, so I crumbled that into the tomato sauce as well. Let me just say that the pasta was so delicious, it could have easily been a meal on it’s own. And probably will in the near future!

Add a salad and a glass of wine onto the meal, and it’s easily something that anyone could make at home for their Valentine – and not have to shell out and arm and a leg, nor fight through the throngs of the masses for…

Which leaves you more time to enjoy each other’s company, which is really what it’s all about, right? I’ll have some more ideas for Valentine’s Day coming up this week, so be sure to check back!

Crispy Chicken Sandwich

We rarely eat fast food, once in a Blue Moon. But, I have to admit that I have a soft-spot for a good crispy chicken sandwich. Juicy flavorful chicken covered in a crunchy coating…it’s tough to beat. So, when my latest issue of Cook’s Country came in the mail last week and I saw their homemade version while flipping through the pages – it immediately went on the menu for the week.

I made them on Tuesday night and just couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you guys. It was absolutely amazing. The breading on the chicken was absolutely spot on, and such an easy technique – I’ll definitely be using it for more than these sandwiches in the future. A simple mixture of flour and various spices is combined with just a bit of water to form a crumbly coating. Then, that mixture is pressed onto the chicken breasts and fried – leading to a breading that is thick and crunchy. I just know it would be wonderful on chicken tenders, fried chicken, and even a fish filet.

The other star of the sandwich was the dill pickle mayonnaise. A quick “special sauce” composted of mayo, mustard, chopped pickles, and a splash of pickle brine – I found myself eating the leftovers with a spoon after dinner was finished. It was so good! I topped them with a but of shredded iceburg lettuce for a cool crunch, but I’d imagine a slice of tomato would be pretty delicious on there as well…that is, when you can get your hands on a good tomato again!

While I pretty much despise deep frying, this is one that I know I’ll come back to again – just because we all really loved it. I served with some french fries (hey, I already had the oil out and heated up) and it made for a great crave-worthy dinner that I didn’t have to feel so bad about feeding my family, because I knew precisely what went into it. Homemade is always better, folks!

Source: barely adapted from Cook’s Country, February/March 2014