Creamy Pesto-Chicken Lasagna

24 03 2015

Traditional lasagna can be time-consuming, but in this version you can save time by using store-bought or pre-made pesto, and no-boil lasagna sheets. Just because you’re saving on time though, doesn’t mean you’re skimping on the flavor. Trust me, this lasagna is totally decadent! You can make this two days in advance if you want, just store covered in the fridge and bring to room temperature before baking.

I made this for a family Sunday supper and was feeding a crowd, so I doubled the recipe. If you end up having some leftover ricotta filling like me, you can toss it with some whole wheat pasta and a little of the pasta water for another great meal or side!

Creamy Pesto-Chicken Lasagna

The following makes 10-12 servings (adapted from Cuisine at Home):

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup basil pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb cooked ground chicken
  • 1 package (15 oz) whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 box flat, no-boil lasagna sheets
  • 4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350.

For the bechamel, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and nutmeg, bring to a simmer, and cook 2 more minutes. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup pesto; season with salt and pepper. Stir in cooked chicken (simply season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic and saute in a little olive oil until cooked through) and set aside.

For the lasagna, stir together the ricotta, parmesan, and 1/2 cup pesto; season with salt and pepper.

To build, spread 2/3 cup bechamel in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Using a rubber spatula, spread some of the ricotta mixture on 3 lasagna sheets making sure they’re fully covered, then lay them side by side in the baking dish. Top lasagna with more bechamel, making sure to cover the noodles. Next top with 3/4 cup mozzarella. Repeat laying three times or until your ingredients run out, making sure that the ingredients are evenly dispersed. Top the final layer with 1 and 1/2 cups mozzarella.

Cover lasagna with foil and bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake lasagna 15 more minutes, then broil on high until golden, 2-3 minutes. Let lasagna rest 15 minutes before serving.





Italian Chicken and Veggie Cobbler

17 03 2015

This is a savory and fun take on a fruit cobbler, made with chicken and veggies. The original version topped this with cornmeal dumplings, but I substituted with polenta. You could switch out different veggies for what you have on hand, or could also use Italian sausage in place of the chicken, making this a versatile dish.

Italian Chicken and Veggie Cobbler

The following serves 4-6 (adapted from Cuisine at Home):

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • Granulated garlic
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can cannellini beans (15.5 oz) drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 8 oz of fresh spinach
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk (unsweetened almond milk or skim milk)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400.

Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add chicken, season with a little Italian seasoning, salt and granulated garlic. Saute until just beginning to brown, then transfer to a plate.

Add onions, broccoli and bell peppers to the skillet; cook 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste and cook 1 minute.

Deglaze the pan with wine, scrapping up any brown bits, and reduce until nearly evaporated. Stir in beans, 1 tsp Italian seasoning and the cooked chicken. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.

Whisk together 1 cup of broth with the cornstarch and add to the skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thickened, 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted and cooked down. Season lightly with salt to taste. Remove from the heat and make the polenta.

In a small-medium saucepan, heat the water, milk and remaining cup of broth over medium-high. Bring to a slow boil, then whisk in the cornmeal. Whisk well and bring to a boil. Lower heat and stir with a wooden spoon, constantly until thick, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parmesan cheese, mixing well, then remove from heat.

Pour the polenta evenly all over the chicken and veggie mixture, smoothing out if needed. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove cobbler from the oven and allow to stand 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley before serving.





Minestrone

21 02 2015

This is a healthy and comforting Italian soup, sure to wrap you in warmth even on the coldest of winter days! It’s loaded with veggies and is a great option for meatless Mondays, or to enjoy during Lent. Mangia!

Minestrone

The following serves 6 (adapted from Food Network Magazine):

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large or 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups low-sodium, reduced-fat chicken broth
  • 1 (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes – if you don’t have crushed on hand, puree a can of diced tomatoes in a high-speed blender until smooth
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, or fresh diced tomatoes
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of green beans cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup dry ditalini pasta
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Add celery and carrot and cook until they begin to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add tomato paste, dry herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring around, for about a minute. Deglaze the pan with wine and cook until nearly evaporated.

Next add the chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in green beans and cannellini beans and cook for 5 minutes. Finally, add the pasta and cook 10 minutes more. Season with salt to taste.

Serve with lots of cheese and parsley for garnish.





Baked Crab Mac-n-Cheese With Peas

18 02 2015

I love the decadence of crab mac-n-cheese! This recipe offers that rich, comforting flavor, but with a few healthier ingredients. In a meal like this, you can easily swap things like coconut oil in place of butter and whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour, as well as sneak in a veggie like peas. And if you’re an observer of Lent, this is a great dinner to dig into on Fridays!

Baked Crab Mac-n-Cheese With Peas

The following serves 3-4 (adapted from Will Cook For Smiles):

  • 2 cups dry whole wheat penne
  • 1 cup (8 oz) crab meat
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 3/4 – 1 cup white sharp cheddar cheese, grated from the block
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup panko
  • Chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350. Spray casserole dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Cook to al dente, then drain well and add back to pot. Add the crab meat and frozen peas to the pasta and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt coconut oil over medium heat and add shallot. Saute a minute or two until beginning to soften. Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds to a minute. Slowly pour in the milk and constantly whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the grated cheddar and salt and pepper to taste. Keep whisking, slowly, until the cheese is melted. Off heat, stir in half of the parmesan.

Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta, crab and peas and stir well to combine. Transfer to prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with the panko and the rest of the parmesan.

Bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove cover and finish baking another 5-10 minutes to help brown the top (you may want to up the heat or turn on the broiler). Allow to rest a few minutes before serving, then garnish with chopped parsley.





Harissa Lentils and Cauliflower

10 02 2015

This meatless lentil and cauliflower dinner is loaded with good nutrients and offers a unique middle eastern flavor. The homemade harissa is a little spicy, but not overpowering. By using chipotles in adobo rather than other chili peppers, you actually get a smokey flavor.

Harissa Lentils and Cauliflower

The following serves 2-3 (adapted from Naturally Ella):

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 and 1/2 cups small cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup reduced-fat, low sodium chicken stock, plus more as needed

For the Harissa:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime (reserve the zest and toss with cooked rice)
  • 1 red bell pepper, roasted/charred, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, along with a little of the sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup cilantro

Add all the harissa ingredients to a high-powered blender in the order listed. Turn on high and pulse until well combined. Remove from blender and set aside.

Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for a minute or so until beginning to soften. Add the cauliflower and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils and toast for a few minutes. Next, add the tomatoes, harissa and 1 cup of broth. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Check often to make sure the liquid hasn’t evaporated too much. If it looks like it needs more liquid, add a little more broth. Taste and season with salt.

Serve over brown rice and garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.





Sweet and Spicy Chorizo Chili

26 01 2015

Tonight’s dinner paired zesty chorizo with sweeter veggies like carrots and corn, along with ginger beer, creating a unique chili recipe that offers a sweet beginning with a spicy finish. I’m betting this will be equally delicious, if not better tomorrow after it’s had time to sit!

Sweet and Spicy Chorizo Chili

The following serves 4 (compliments of This Girl’s Gotta Eat):

  • 1 cup dried red kidney beans
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 lb bulk chorizo
  • 1 bottle (12 oz) ginger beer (I used a low-calorie option)
  • 1 pint chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup reduced-fat, low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • Lime wedges
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded Mexican cheese blend

Rinse the beans well, then add to a large bowl with 3 cups of water. Let the beans soak for 6-8 hours, or overnight. Drain the beans, rinse and add to a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low, cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally. Strain the beans and discard the bay leaf, and set the beans aside until later.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften. Season lightly with salt. Then add the garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook for another minute, stirring to toast the spices. Deglaze the pan with a little of the ginger beer, one good turn of the pan, and cook for a minute or two. Reserve the rest of the beer for later. Next, add the chorizo and brown, breaking up with a wooden spoon into small pieces. Once the chorizo is cooked through, add the tomatoes, cooked beans, the rest of the beer and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and cover. Cook chili for 1 to 1 and a half hours, stirring occasionally. During the last 20 minutes, add the corn and remove the lid. Let the chili stand for 5 minutes or so off the heat before serving.

Garnish with lime wedges, sour cream and cheese. If you like it spicier, just serve with some hot sauce as well.





Risotto-Style Couscous With Asparagus

25 01 2015

The style of cooking risotto can be applied to other similar “miniature pearl” starches, such as couscous. The technique is all about adding warm stock in stages to allow it to cook gradually and absorb the liquid. By using a large skillet like I do here, it will take less time too. Serve with quick cooking scallops and asparagus for a special meal that won’t take hours!

Risotto-Style Couscous With Asparagus

The following serves 4 (adapted from The Italian Table):

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium, reduced-fat chicken stock, warmed
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous or couscous medley with orzo, peas and lentils
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and 1/4 – 1/2 of the bunch cut into thirds
  • 1-2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 1 minute. Season with salt to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Next, add the couscous and cook, stirring until lightly toasted, a few minutes. Add the wine, stir well and cook until the wine evaporates.

Meanwhile, heat chicken stock in a saucepan until warmed.

Add 1 cup of warmed chicken stock to the couscous and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the stock is absorbed. Add another cup of warmed stock and continue to cook, stirring often and until absorbed. Finally, add the remaining cup of stock and cook couscous, stirring until tender. This process will take about 15 minutes. Just be sure not to walk away and don’t forget to stir.

Fold in the chopped asparagus, butter and cheese, stirring constantly until butter is melted and everything is fully incorporated and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the risotto is cooking, you can roast the rest of the asparagus and quickly sear scallops to round out the meal.





Sausage and Lentil Soup

17 01 2015

This hearty Italian soup, packed with protein, is a great addition to your winter recipe lineup! I didn’t grow up with lentils like a lot of Italians, but my Mom did….eating them all the time. Which is likely why she left them out of her meal plans, she was over them.

But I’m a lentil convert now, thanks to this soup (and maybe my Ma will be again when she sees this)! Don’t be intimidated by the amount of ingredients. They basically all go into a large pot and time will do the rest. I recommend making this over the weekend so you can enjoy it throughout the week – the longer it sits the better it gets.

Sausage and Lentil Soup

The following serves 6 (adapted from Food.com and The Italian Table):

  • 1 lb bulk mild chicken sausage – if using sausage that’s in a casing, just remove the casing first
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 1 pint fresh, diced tomatoes or a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups of water or low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)
  • Grated parmesan cheese for serving

In a large dutch oven, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and saute until the veggies begin to softened, 3-5 minutes. Season lightly with salt. Next, add the sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is cooked through and broken up in little pieces.

Next, add all the spices (parsley, oregano, basil, salt, thyme, pepper flakes and pepper) – stir to combine well and toast for a minute until the spices become fragrant. Add the dried lentils, stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until the lentils are lightly toasted.

Add the tomatoes and all their juices, mix well and scrape up any bits that formed on the bottom of the pan. Finally, add the water or stock, stir to combine and bring to a slow boil. If using water, you can also add a few chicken bouillon cubes for extra flavor (1 cube for each cup of water).

Lower heat, cover and simmer for 1 – 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. The longer you let it cook, the thicker the soup will become on its own.

Turn off heat, stir in vinegar if desired and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Allow the soup to sit for 5 minutes. Serve with parmesan cheese.





Creamy Squash Mac-n-Cheese With Chicken and Kale

8 01 2015

This comfy casserole will help keep you warm on a bitter cold night. There’s no flour, butter or excess cheese, so you can feel good about diving into this healthy take on mac-n-cheese!

Creamy Squash Mac-n-Cheese With Chicken and Kale

The following serves 4-6 (adapted from Food52):

  • 1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cubed, about 4 cups cubed
  • 1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk (or skim milk)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 small box (13 oz) whole wheat penne
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • Garlic powder
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 4 oz plain goat cheese
  • 1 cup grated parmesan, plus more for topping
  • Panko breadcrumbs

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, stock and garlic cloves to a simmer. Add cubed squash and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer until squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.

Cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil. Season chicken with a little salt, garlic powder and red pepper flakes to taste. Add to skillet and cook until just browned. Remove the chicken from the pan and add to bowl with pasta. Bake in the skillet, add 2-3 cups of chopped kale – add a little at a time, wilting slightly as you go. Remove sautéed kale from skillet and add to the bowl with pasta.

When the squash is tender, remove from the heat and transfer (carefully) to a high-powered blender. Puree until smooth.

Add the puree, a little at a time, to the bowl with the pasta, along with the goat cheese and parmesan cheese. Mix everything until well combined and the cheese melts. I added a little puree at a time as I didn’t need to use it all, and will save some for another sauce. You want everything to look really creamy with a little extra sauce mixed in as it will thicken in the oven.

Pour mixture into a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Top with panko and more grated parmesan.

Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest for a few minutes before serving.





Chicken Cutlets With Braised Purple Cabbage

25 11 2014

Cooked cabbage was never a favorite of mine. But I’ve come to enjoy it, especially in a braised preparation. This is a fairly easy dinner, packed with delicious fall flavor and better yet, it’s oh so pretty to look at!

Chicken Cutlets With Braised Purple Cabbage

The following serves 2 (compliments of This Girl’s Gotta Eat with inspiration from Food Network Magazine):

  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 medium head purple cabbage, sliced
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar
  • Fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded into thin cutlets
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Granulated garlic
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon

Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, a few minutes. Season with salt to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes (use more if you’d like it a little on the spicy side). Add the sliced cabbage, chicken broth, vinegar, agave and a few sprigs of chopped thyme. Season with salt to taste. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30-45 minutes. Cabbage should be tender and the liquid should be mostly evaporated.

Meanwhile, pound out the chicken breasts with a meat mallet until thin. Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a couple of Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Beat the egg in a medium bowl. To a large plate, add some panko, parm cheese, chopped thyme and granulated garlic and stir to combine. Dredge the chicken in the egg on both sides, followed by the panko mixture. Add the coated chicken to the hot skillet with the olive oil. Saute for 3-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown all over and chicken is cooked through.

Before serving, add the zest of half a lemon and a few Tbsp of chopped parsley to the cabbage. Stir to combine and season with salt to taste. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the chicken and serve along with the cabbage.