Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chicken Spaghetti ala Pioneer Woman

If you haven't read Ree (aka The Pioneer Woman), you really should. She's fun and quirky and has lots of recipes that sound tasty, but wow, oh wow to the photos. You'll probably start drooling and then licking the screen if you look too long. That's how good the photos are and how yummy the food sounds.

To be really honest here--and ya know, what's the point if I'm not--Chicken Spaghetti would not have been my first choice for what to make. It has cream of whatever soups in it, and cream of whatever soups are just gross. First of all, who knows what's in them, and second, I shudder just thinking about the blobby goop that come squelching out of the can. And for the record, yes I do have issues; that would be pretty much all meat and now cream of whatever soup, if you're keeping track. I'm sure you are.

Anyhow, all of my wonderful HYH ladies have great things to say about this casserole and make it regularly. That many women with generally good tastes can't be wrong, can they? So I tried it.

Here's the recipe:

And here's the tutorial and all the photos you could ever want:

Here's what I did differently:
Just used chicken breasts. Cooked them ahead and chopped. Then I cooked the spaghetti in half broth and half water. I also reduced the amount of cheese a little bit because it just seemed like a ton when I was putting it on. I don't think any of my changes made a substantial difference in the end product, so even though my husband mocks me for being unable to make a recipe as written, this one pretty much is. So there, honey!

What I liked about it:
Quick and simple casserole that's easy to freeze, but has flavor and isn't on the potluck table every time. There's a bit of chopping and assembling, but it can all be done ahead of time. Andrew, Bryn and Claire LOVED it and would probably eat it every day if I would serve it every day. It also makes enough for an army, so you can split it into two pans and use one now and freeze one for later.

What I didn't like:
Owen and Ella wouldn't eat it, but they live on crackers and air so that's not particularly unusual. It's too gloppy (see previous cream of whatever soup commentary), and I wanted a lot more veggies in there to balance this out. If I'm going to make a casserole, I don't really want to have to cook up side dishes. Maybe I'd do a salad, or some fruit, but no actual cooking beyond the casserole. Next time I'll try adding more veggies and making my own base instead of using the canned soup.

I'll let you know how that works for me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rustic Italian Sausage Soup and Pitzas

I had nothing planned for dinner today and looking through the fridge and cabinets was not inspiring.  Note to self: go grocery shopping.

Random Leftover Things Italian soup (or you can use the nice name in the title):

2/3 lb sausage
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 or so baby carrots, chopped
1 large potato, diced
2 tsp or so of Italian type spices (mostly basil and oregano with thyme, sage, and marjoram)
3 cups liquid (I did about half chicken broth, half water)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans

Throw the onion, garlic and sausage into a pan and cook until onions are mostly done.  Add in the baby carrots, potato and spices.  Stir it around a few minutes more. 

Then add the liquid, tomatoes and beans.  Bring to a boil and cook until the carrots and potatoes are done.

I used Turkey Polska Kielbasa since my kids love it and we usually have some around.  I think this would probably be better with a real sausage and no casing.  I thought it was a bit like putting hot dogs in soup (c'mon, admit it, that's what you thought when you saw that picture up above!), but everyone else liked it.  I'd also probably replace the kidney beans with white beans, but that's just me not liking the size of kidney beans even though the flavor was good. This soup was quick, cheap and everyone but Owen ate it up.  Claire was scary with how much and how fast she was eating.

We also made Pitzas.  Claire inhaled those, too as you can see.  The kids love to do these since it's so hands on and fun for them.  Just take pita bread, add some type of sauce (Ragu in our case--so fancy!) and sprinkle the cheese on top.  Sometimes we'll do these and the kids get to choose their own toppings, but tonight was just cheese.  Then throw them in the oven under the broiler until the cheese is good and melty and serve.   The soup wasn't as kid friendly for my little helpers, but the pitzas made up for that in their opinion.   I did let Owen use a plastic knife and slice the sausage.  That took all kinds of soap afterwards since ew, yuck, my baby touched meat! but he was so incredibly proud.  He even had an opinion on how to pose for a photo and which photo to put on here.  We disagree on that one, so I'm putting up thumbnails of both and you can choose your favorite.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Artichoke Chicken

I've never been good with meat.  When I was a kid, I refused to eat on the nights we had chicken with bones in it.  My brothers would tease me other nights by squeezing their strips of steak so the blood oozed out.  I felt faint, I felt sick inside, I felt like I would never ever want to eat meat.  I loved it when my parents had a date night and we were fed macaroni and cheese with carrot sticks. 

So anyhow, all that to say that meat is icky, gross, disgusting and unpleasant and I really try to avoid cooking it whenever I can.  I've figured out that it actually can taste good a lot of times, but ugh do I hate the thought of it.  When my mom visits me, she buys chicken, dices it up and freezes it for me so I can plop it into a dish later without having to touch it.  Yes, I really am that wimpy.

But tonight I was brave.  I touched chicken, I trimmed it and I am even going to try to eat it.  (Yeah, that's another problem.  If I have to prepare meat, then I'm kind of grossed out about eating it, even though I can eat just fine when someone else makes it.  Double standard?  You bet!) 

Tonight's meal is Artichoke Chicken, based on a recipe I saw in a blog that was based on a recipe from   How's that for kinda sorta giving credit where credit is due?  It pretty much sounded like artichoke dip on top of chicken, so how can that possibly be bad?

Here's the cast of characters in our case:

salt and pepper
1/4 c parmesan cheese
1/2 c italian shredded cheese
1/2 c mayo
1/4 c sour cream
1/2 tsp minced garlic
12.5 ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
5 boneless skinless chicken breasts
bread crumbs to sprinkle on top

Combine all ingredients except chicken breast in a bowl and mix.  Place chicken in a dish and top with the mix.  Sprinkle bread crumbs on top.  I did this just to add color since it looked so very white.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until juices run clear.

The big O loves to help in the kitchen and this was a great recipe for him since he could mix like crazy and then got to plop it all over.  I just made sure he didn't get contaminated by the chicken in the process.

So dinner is done.  We ate this with risotto and peas and some fruit on the side.  I'd call it successful enough to repeat again, since everyone did eat (though some of them just happened to scrape the topping off).  It would also be an easy dish for company since you can do everything ahead of time and then just pop it in the oven.

The original recipe called for parmesan, but since all the parmesan I had in the house was in the form of extra pizza packets, that's what we ended up using.  Real parmesan probably would have been better.  I'd also add a little cayenne or more garlic or something to kick it up a bit if I made it again.   And somewhere inside this recipe is a tasty casserole with rice waiting to get out.

Artichoke on Foodista