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

Bean & Cheese Enchiladas

If I had to choose a favorite cuisine, it would be Mexican. It’s something that I really came around to during my first pregnancy, and it definitely stuck with me. Sadly, our only local Mexican restaurant closed it’s doors a few months ago – which means we have to drive 40 minutes north or south to go out…and that’s really sucked this time around as far as pregnancy cravings are concerned.

I already have a few really good enchilada recipes up my sleeve, but sometimes you just need something super-quick and easy. That’s where these bean and cheese enchiladas come in. I almost always have all the ingredients on hand to make them, they come together quickly, and they’re filling and delicious.

If you’re worried about spice, don’t be – they aren’t spicy. The green chilies are very mild, but add a nice bite of flavor. I wrote the recipe using canned pinto beans, but I’ve been soaking my own beans lately and doing it the “old-fashioned” way. If you’re down with that – you’ll need about 3 cups of dried beans. I’ll cook them with a smoked ham hock, ham base, or some bacon for a little extra flavor. But,  rest assured they’re great with canned beans too! Also, take a few minutes and make your own enchilada sauce. It literally takes less than 5 minutes to throw together, and the results are so much more delicious (and economical!) than the stuff from the can. Just saying…

They’re gooey and delicious with the use of flour tortillas and plenty of cheese. We all really loved them, Andrew declaring that they’re his second favorite enchiladas – right behind the beef. Which is really saying something considering that my chicken version was the favorite meal in the house for quite a few years!

Chipotle Honey Lime Pork Tenderloin

There are so many things to love about pork tenderloins – they’re relatively lean and healthy, the cook quickly, and they really absorb whatever flavors you decide to throw at them. I’ve made quite a few versions in the past, but I think this one is definitely in the running as my new favorite!

I’m a huge fan of anything chipotle-flavored anyways, but I’d never think to add honey to the mix. Plus with the addition of tart lime juice and zest and fresh cilantro it really made for a combination that was out of this world. You make a large batch of the marinade, then reserve half to drizzle over the tenderloins right before serving. I also think it would be a fabulous salad dressing!

I went ahead and doubled the marinade recipe  as I was using two pork tenderloins. The leftovers were great on Cuban sandwiches and quesadillas – so I’m glad that I went ahead and cooked two. This is one we’ll be coming back to again and again in our home, as everyone really enjoyed it!

Source: slightly adapted from Alton Brown

Brazilian Black Bean & Pork Stew

We had a considerable amount of snow over the course of the past two weeks, probably the most that the Eastern Shore has seen in quite a few years. Both little ones were home with me, cooped up in the house, for a majority of those days.   Needless to say, comfort food was in order.

I’d had this recipe bookmarked to try since I bought my copy of Slow Cooker Revolution, and would add it to our weekly menu – but it just kept getting pushed back for one reason or another. I finally decided that it would make a great snow day meal, so it finally came together in my crockpot last week – and I’m kicking myself for not getting around to it sooner. I assumed that I wouldn’t really like it…I’m not the biggest kielbasa fan, and it seemed really meaty. Not that I dislike meat, quite the contrary. But, on initial inspection it just didn’t seem like my cup of tea. But, I knew all the little carnivores in this house would adore it. I was right on that count at least, but was wrong in assuming that I wouldn’t love it too!

The flavors were out of this world. Everything blended together perfectly when cooked, creating a symphony of meaty goodness in one pot. The pork and kielbasa were tender, but still retained their shape and texture. And the beans – oh my word, those beans! Absolutely perfectly cooked – nice and creamy, just the way I like them. I served over a bed of cilantro-lime rice, and topped with some sliced avocado and the Brazilian hot sauce they suggest in the book. It kind of reminded me of pico de gallo…but with the addition of green bell pepper, white wine vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil – it definitely added more layers of complexity.

It made a large batch, so we enjoyed it for dinner one night – and I stuck the other half in the freezer for a quick meal one night when I’m not feeling like cooking. Which, I must admit – is getting more and more often as the due date for baby boy #3 approaches. It’s good to know that such a hearty and comforting meal is just a thaw out and re-heat away!

Source: adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution