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

Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Guys, this is one of my favorite side dishes of all time – and frankly I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share it here on the blog. Slow roasted garlic, butter, fresh parsley, and tender red potatoes mashed up into a delicious heap of goodness.

It’s a nice change of pace from the traditional mashed potatoes and gravy, and the flavor is just wonderful. It takes a little bit more time and forethought, as you have to roast the garlic ahead of time before mashing the potatoes – but trust me, it’s worth it! Roasting the garlic, as opposed to just using garlic powder, really mellows and deepens the flavor – so it doesn’t have that harsh bite that many garlic mashed potatoes have.

I like to add parsley, for a little pop of color and bright flavor, but it’s great with other herbs as well – I’ve used some chopped rosemary and thyme in the past, and both were wonderful. This side dish would be great on your Easter table, paired with ham or turkey. Or, it’s always my go-to side to serve with a homey traditional dish like meatloaf. It’s a favorite in my family, and I know it will be one in yours as well.

Broccoli & Cheese Soup

A good recipe for a soup that doesn’t take all day to make is a real lifesaver. Especially one as hearty and filling as this broccoli & cheese version. It takes only a few short minutes to throw together, and the flavors are just out of this world.

It’s rich and hearty, but still doesn’t weigh you down the way many dairy-based soups do. The addition of fresh broccoli really adds a freshness to the flavor, and you can never go wrong adding plenty of cheddar cheese to anything in my book.

My girlfriend came over for lunch about a month ago or so, and I made this served with some crusty bread and a salad. We both loved it, and I’ve been thinking about making it again ever since. It reheats great as well, which is always a plus. Would also be great for a last minute, easy dinner!

Source: slightly adapted from Yammie’s Noshery

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Growing up, Brussels sprouts were always one of those things that I thought I didn’t like – probably because they were usually frozen and then steamed. All in all, mushy and flavorless. A few years ago I took a recommendation I’d seen somewhere and tried roasting them. Mind blown. Wonderful rich flavor, tender yet with some bite left, not to mention they were absolutely beautiful when cooked.

At first I roasted them simply with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. But somewhere along the line I started adding a little balsamic vinegar into the mix before roasting, and I haven’t looked back since. It adds a depth of flavor and a slight tangy note that pairs so perfectly well with the veggie. Some people add it after the roasting process, but I like to add it before as the heat really mellows the flavor of the vinegar as well – mingling all those flavors together.

They’re great served with just about anything, and I’ve even been known to save leftovers to toss with a little bit of pasta with olive oil and garlic the next day. Makes a delicious and easy lunch!

So if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, definitely give this recipe a try. I promise it will be eye opening and life changing! People are always shocked when I tell them that they’re one of my little ones favorite vegetables, but when they’re this good – there is no excuse for anyone not to love them. Give them a try!