Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Trick or Treat? Both please, thank you. It’s macaroni and cheese, but with a trick – the squash. You wouldn’t take a bite and say “ew, squash in my mac n’ cheese.” Instead you say “delicious, this is amazing and say what? It has whole wheat pasta and butternut squash? I think I will have two helpings and feel no guilt.” The treat is you can.
I am not here to convince, however, merely tell you the tale of the best fall macaroni and cheese. It starts with a simple onion saute, goes on to cozy up with butternut squash and is topped with a blanket of melty cheese. It takes no time to prepare and even less time to bake. And, it’s delicious – seriously delicious.
If you are still reading instead of gathering the ingredients, I have tricked you into thinking there was anything more to say.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound macaroni noodles, can use whole wheat
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen diced butternut squash
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano blend, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded muenster cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
How To:

Bring water to a boil, season with salt and cook macaroni to according to package directions, leaving the macaroni with a slight bite (al dente). Heat butternut squash in microwave according to package directions (or use stove top). Set aside. Squash should be very soft – turn into a puree with the back of a spoon.

Preheat broiler and place rack in middle of the oven.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 6 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour, then add stock and milk. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add to onions and garlic. Stir to combine. Add butternut squash, mix and reduce heat. When sauce comes to a bubble, stir in 3/4 cup parmigiano and muenster cheeses. Combine the sauce and macaroni, transfer to a casserole dish and top with remaining parmigiano-reggiano, shredded cheddar and paprika. Brown the macaroni under broiler, about 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and deliciously brown.

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Chicken Broccoli Bake

My mother had two go-to recipes when I was growing up: chicken tetrazzini and a chicken broccoli bake. I find myself craving this staple of chicken and broccoli at those times when I need a plate of comfort. It’s so delicious, it might make it into your weeknight rotation.

Layers of diced chicken, broccoli, creamy chicken soup and curry are the main flavors. Hints of fresh lemon and tangy mayonnaise pull it together along with a cheesy, crunchy top. It’s easy and can be made ahead of time, so all you need to do is pop it in a preheated oven. And no canned soup in this version – below is a simple recipe to make up a batch of cream of chicken soup with items in your pantry.

Ingredients:

for the soup

  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash of paprika
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup flour

for the bake

  • 16 ounces frozen broccoli
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 4 cups cooked chicken breast, diced (I sometime cheat and use a rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 cups cream of chicken soup (recipe above)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

How To:

In a medium saucepan bring the chicken broth, 1/2 cup of milk, and all the seasonings to a boil for about two minutes.

Whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour in a bowl. Add to the boiling mixture and turn down heat slightly. Continue whisking briskly until mixture thickens. Test to see if it needs more salt and pepper, adding more if necessary. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook broccoli in boiling water until bright green. Transfer to a colander in the sink and spray with cold water; drain. Arrange broccoli in a greased or non-stick sprayed 12 X 9 inch baking dish. Put cooked chicken over the broccoli.

In a separate bowl, combine soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and curry powder. Pour mixture over the chicken layer. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with bread crumbs and dot with butter. At this point you can refrigerate until ready to use, or place in the oven for 3o minutes until crumbs are golden and cheese is bubbly.

Serves 6-8.

Chicken Milanese

I’ve been wanting to use marscapone for a long time – an Italian cheese similar to cream cheese, but more decadent and luxurious. In order to use mascarpone, I needed to find a recipe ridiculously delicious in order to justify eating it. After all, it is the definition of rich. Enter Chicken Milanese.

The recipe came from Giada De Laurentiis, whose prior recipes have come out less than stellar for me. While that element alone made me skeptical, the dish sounded so easy and so tasty…I couldn’t resist. I’m so glad I could not, and hopefully you can’t too. I substituted onions for fennel because I realized I am not a huge fan of fennel. The onions really complement the mascarpone and grape tomatoes and if you use the sweet variety like I did, it will further help make this dish both sweet and savory. Need an entertaining-worthy dish? I think you’ve found it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless and skinless chicken cutlets
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (can use plain or whole wheat)
  • 2/3 cup grated fresh parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • pinch garlic powder
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • coarse salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (can also use 1 tablespoon fresh basil)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

How To:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Create a dipping station to bread the chicken: take three shallow bowls or plates. Add the flour to one, the eggs to another and the bread crumbs to a third. Combine the Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, and garlic powder with the bread crumbs. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Next, dredge the chicken first in the flour to coat lightly, then dip into the beaten eggs. Allow any excess egg to drip off before coating in the bread crumb mixture.  Press lightly to adhere if any crumbs are not sticking.

Place chicken cutlets on baking sheets and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Bake for 15 minutes, flipping once after 8 minutes. Check to make sure chicken is opaque throughout.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cherry or grape tomatoes, salt, garlic and dried basil. If using fresh basil add at the end. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender. Remove the pan from heat and add the mascarpone cheese. Stir until mixture is creamy and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place chicken on serving dishes and top with tomato mascarpone sauce. Enjoy immensely.


Buffalo Chicken Sliders

Haven’t had enough buffalo sauce in the past few days (i.e. Superbowl mania)? Is there such a thing as enough buffalo sauce? I didn’t think so. I made buffalo chicken sliders because I’m not a fan of wings, and the bones, and the hard work involved. I like eating full bites and wasting no sauce. Let’s be honest, re-invention is fun and sometimes necessary. These sliders are no exception.
Putting the sliders on mini pretzel rolls is quite possibly what took these from a 10 to an 11.  Topped with thin dill pickle slices and a dollop of ranch sauce, and you have the most delicious bite; no bones about it. Really, no bones and they taste like buffalo wings. We also stepped up the ranch sauce by making it thicker than just a dressing. It stuck to the sliders and had a creaminess that goes so well with spice.
Play with the slider mix – you can add blue cheese or gorgonzola, take out the bread crumbs, or add some more spice. Make up your own toppings – coleslaw, blue cheese dressing, cheese…I think I need to make these again, now.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast (you can also use ground chicken thigh or a mix of both)
  • 1/2 onion, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Lawry’s seasoning salt, salt and black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup Frank’s redhot sauce or buffalo sauce, divided
  • pickles, preferably dill, sliced very thin and into 1 inch pieces
  • slider rolls – you can use dinner rolls or pretzel rolls (found at Whole Foods by Pretzilla)
  • cucumber slices, celery and carrot sticks for dipping in additional sauce

for the ranch sauce

  • low-fat or regular ranch dressing
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise

How To:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, grated onion, garlic, parsley, panko, worcestershire sauce, cayenne, paprika, and 1/4 cup Frank’s Redhot Sauce. Season with Lawry’s salt, salt and black pepper. Taking about lime size portions of meat, flatten into patties and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. You should have about 12-14 sliders. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until sliders are cooked through, about 12 minutes.

While the sliders are baking, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the rest of the Frank’s redhot sauce (1/2 cup) and stir until combined. For the ranch sauce, combine the ranch dressing, sour cream and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Set aside. Place cooked sliders in the skillet and flip to get them completely covered. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Split rolls and place sliders on bottom half of each. Top with 2 pickle slices and smooth 1 teaspoon of ranch sauce on top buns. Assemble sliders and serve with cucumber slices, carrot sticks and celery, and additional ranch sauce for dipping.

Chicken Meatball Sandwich

I opened a restaurant menu at lunch the other day to see “chicken meatball sandwich” and instead of doing the normal thing when seeing something I want to order, I instead made a mental note [“make for dinner”] and ordered a salad. Sure, part of it was I wanted to share this amazing sandwich with my husband, and part was I wanted to try my hand at making a meatball sandwich, but the bottom line? I wanted to have the leftovers in my fridge at my immediate disposal for the next few days.

I know you are thinking “it’s just a meatball sandwich,” but is there is anything more satisfying? It’s meaty, hearty, and super tasty. Put simply, amazing. I feel like I could eat one every day. Obviously I won’t do that, but it may appear that way for the next few days.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (fresh is best)
  • garlic powder
  • 1 jar spicy marinara sauce, or sauce of your choice
  • provolone cheese slices
  • hoagie rolls

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. With clean hands, mix ground chicken, bread crumbs, onions, milk, egg, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, salt, pepper, oregano, and parmesan cheese in a medium bowl, ensuring all ingredients are incorporated. Form into 2 inch round meatballs (makes about 12) and place on cookie sheets. Sprinkle lightly with garlic powder. Bake for about 20 minutes, cutting one open to make sure they are cooked through (no pink).

Heat marinara sauce in a dutch oven or large pan. Add meatballs and let simmer for 20 minutes, or longer. When ready to serve, place 1 to 2 slices provolone cheese on a hoagie roll. Top with three meatballs. Toast in convection oven for 3-5 minutes, or microwave for 20 seconds. Cheese should be melted and bread should be warm. Makes about 4 servings. Enjoy!

Swedish Meatballs with Egg Noodles

Swedish meatballs is one of those things I completely forget about until I get an intense craving and its crazy because they are so easy. I should be making them weekly, or freezing and saving them for that day I’m running around everywhere and get home at 7pm. They can be an instant dinner.

I make my version with egg noodles. Traditionally I believe they are served with potatoes. But like beef stroganoff, swedish meatballs are super tasty with wide noodles that sop up all the delicious gravy. I add soy sauce to the gravy not only to give it a richer color (I use chicken broth, which tends to make a very light gravy), but also to give it depth of flavor. Finally, I add shredded carrots – they bump up the vegetable ratio.

I highly recommend Swedish meatballs on a winter night after trudging through snow that leaves you feeling like a Viking.

Ingredients: makes about 20 meatballs

  • 1/2 large sweet onion, peeled, grated (a cheese grater works great)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground bison, turkey, chicken, pork, or beef
  • 3 tablespoons shredded carrots
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 pound egg noodles
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 quart (4 cups) broth of your choice (I used chicken)
  • soy sauce, about 3-4 tablespoons
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup sour cream

How To:

Sauté the grated onion in the butter over medium heat until it turns translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once onions are cool, mix with breadcrumbs, egg, ground meat, carrots, salt, nutmeg, cardamom, and pepper. Use your hands to get ingredients fully mixed. Take tablespoonfuls of meat and roll into meatballs. Place on baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over meatballs, lightly coating each one. Bake for 20 minutes or test for doneness by cutting one open. It should be brown throughout.

Boil six cups water for egg noodles. Cook and drain noodles according to package directions while working on the sauce. For the sauce, heat the 5 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted,  slowly whisk in the flour. It should look like a medium beige. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, 1 cup at a time, letting the gravy thicken before adding more liquid. Continue to whisk constantly; you want a smooth and silky gravy. Turn heat to low and add sour cream. Next add meatballs.

To serve, create a bed of egg noodles in each bowl. Add 4-5 meatballs and sauce to each.

Meatballs and sauce can be frozen. Use a glass container so you can pop it in the microwave to defrost for several minutes until both sauce and meatballs can be removed, then place in a skillet to heat through.


Chicken Noodle Casserole

After days and days of overcast skies that turn dark at 3:30pm, comfort food again topped my list of things to make me happy…er second to family…third to friends. But it’s up there on the list. 

I set out to make tuna noodle casserole only to find I had no tuna. What I did have in the pantry was canned chicken. It’s simply chicken breast diced and in a can, much like tuna. I cringe when I say chicken from a can because I am well aware the idea of canned chicken is not palatable (to put it nicely). But, if you have not tried it I recommend you do and get back to me. It is very tasty and makes a great buffalo sauce dip and chicken salad. I had some cans in waiting and this was their opportunity because I was not going to haul my cookies out to get tuna.

It took me about 30 minutes to whip this together and another 30 until it was on the table, hot and bubbly out of the oven.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Noodle Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Sherry
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large can (12-ounce) chicken, drained
  • 6 ounces dried curly egg noodles or whole wheat pasta, or regular pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (I used the canister kind…)
  • 4 ounces coarsely grated cheddar (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

How To:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Cook onion in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a large skillet  over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high, cooking until slightly carmelized but take care to not burn.  Add frozen peas and soy sauce. Add Sherry and boil mixture, stirring occasionally until liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2 to 3 quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and whisk in flour, creating a roux. Whisk for about 2 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking and bring to a boil. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally for 5 minutes. Stir in onioin and pea mixture, lemon juice, and salt. Flake chicken into sauce and stir gently. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook noodles in about 4 -5 quarts of boiling, salted water until al dente (or the noodles have barely a bite). Drain noodles and return them to the pot. Add sauce and stire gently to combine. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading evenly.  

Toss bread crumbs and cheese together in a bowl. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over crumbs and cheese and toss again.  Sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.