Chopped: Mystery Dinner

So today was a very busy day.  One of the tradiations in my family for Christmas is to spend a day together baking cookies, so first thing this morning my sweet Alice and I were picked up by my dad (Andrew had to work, so he came over later to pick us up).  We spent all day at my parents house baking and decorating cookies (I will do another post on that later!)  Silly me basically forgot to plan dinner for tonight.  We got home it was late and I had to throw something together, and this is what came of it.


1lb ground beef-we had some left over from a 3lb package we used part of to make meatloaf

one onion-diced

garlic diced

broccili-I used a frozen bag we had

italian seasoning-I used dressing mix, but any seasoning will work

1 lb pasta-I used whole grain this time bc that was the box I found first!

white wine

mozz cheese

bread crumb


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Melt the margerine, add enough bread crumbs to make a crumbly mixture

Cook the broccoli in the microwave

Cook the pasta to not quite al dente

In a satuee pan, satuee the onion, garlic, ground beef and broccoli, add in the seasoning and then deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine

mix ground beef mixture with pasta, add in a few handfuls of mozz cheese, then dump into a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with Pam.

Top with your bread crumb mixture and bake for 20 or so min

And that is it..dinner from thin air!…now who wants to help me name the recipe!!!!


Adventures In Soup-The Beginning

So.  I will admit.  As weird as this sounds I don’t like soup.  When it comes to meals, I don’t think of soup as an option.  That being said-I LOVE making soup, I love the IDEA of soup…and I am pretty good at making it.  Being that I don’t really like soup I am always on a quest to find new soup recipes.  One of the GREAT things about soup is that even a small recipe will make enough for dinner and leftovers.  It is generally an inexpensive thing to make, and when done correctly is hearty and something that makes both my other half and my mini me happy :-).  When it comes to soup I personally like thicker soups-purees or creamy type of my favorites is a corn chowder I make-but that is a recipe for another day!

Today I am tackling chicken soup.  Everyone knows the story-you’re a kid you stay home sick from school and your mom gives you chicken noodle soup. Be it homeade or Campbells-its often the same a broth based soup with chicken, noodles, carrots-there are always variations-my mom likes to put peas in hers.  This was never one of my favorites-I am not a fan of broth soups…so I decided to find a recipe for creamy chicken soup.  And this is what I found.  As always my personal notes are in bold type 🙂

**NOTE: this soup is not “friendly” it has meat, dairy gluten etc..and it is wonderful! LOL**

Creamy Chicken Penne Soup

3/4 cup Carrots

3/4 cup Celery

2 tbsp Fresh Parsley

4 springs fresh thyme

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup onion

6oz. Boneless Chicken tenders

2 Tbsp Unsalter butter (I used salted bc I didnt have unsalted on hand)

2 cups Heavy Cream

1 1/2 cups Penne (I recommend measuring this out right away..I’ll expain why later!)

2 cups Chicken Stock (I always make sure to keep extra on hand just in case)

2/3 cup frozen peas

1/2 teaspoon Dried Sage

2 Tbsp Flour

2Tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 cup Dry White Wine (I used a Savingion Blanc-it is the best bet if a recipe called for a dry white)

Salt and Pepper


  1. Cut an onion into 1/4 inch dice to measure the indicated amount.
  2. Peel carrots and cut into 1/4 inch pieces to measure the indicated amount. (I will admit I used some shredded carrots I had on hand) Add to the onions.
  3. Cut celery into 1/4 inch dice to measure the indicated amount. Add to carrots and onions.
  4. Smash the garlic under the side of your chef’s knife to remove the peel. Mince the garlic, then add to celery, carrots and onions.
  5. Trim parsley leaves from the stems and finely chop to measure the indicated amount

(I put all of this except the parsley into a big bowl so it was already mixed together)

Cook Steps

  1. Cut chicken into 1/2 inch diced pieces, then season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and warm.
  3. Once oil is warm, add the chicken. Oil should sizzle when you add the chicken. Sear until golden brown and nicely caramelized, stirring as it cooks to brown evenly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate. Save the pot.
  4. Place the chicken pot back over medium heat. There should be enough oil to cover bottom of pot. If not, add more olive oil and warm.
  5. Once oil is warm, add garlic, onions, carrots, celery and dried sage. Crush the sage between your fingertips as you add it to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until vegetables are tender and onions are translucent. Stir often.
  6. Once onions are translucent, add butter and let melt. Then, add flour and cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
  7. Pour in white wine and use a spoon to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot. Add thyme sprigs, dried bay leaves, heavy cream and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
  8. Place chicken back into the pot along with pasta  (Make sure to measure your pasta-I am a dope and dumped a whole box in-this meant I needed extra liquid so my soup was thin..then I had to make extra roux on the side, and add extra chicken stock and thicken the soup back up, then it was a bit to thick so I needed more stock to make it soup again…Just measure your pasta!!!!). Bring back to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook until pasta noodles are tender and chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Continue to stir often.
  9. Once pasta noodles are tender and chicken is cooked through, remove thyme sprigs and dried bay leaves. Check final seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary. Stir in parsley and peas. Place back over medium heat and simmer for another 3-5 minutes until peas are cooked through.
  10. Ladle creamy chicken pasta soup into bowls and serve warm!

I have been known to add just a pinch of sugar to a big pot of soup to help bring out the sweetness and counter act the salt and help give it an all around smoother and more developed flavor..


Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese.  One of the simpliest dishes ever.  It is something that pretty much everyone I have ever met loves, and also has an opinion on it.  I will be honest:

With all of my culinary expereince, and all the foods I have tried since I was a child Kraft blue box Mac and Cheese dinner has been my number one go-to comfort food.  

Until recently.

One day not to long after I had my daughter, I was feeling down and needed some comfort food, I debated for awhile-do I need the calories, is it worth it etc. and then decided YES.  I was entitled to the occassional treat and made up my mind. Out came the pan, the butter, the milk-pasta boiled slightly less then the time on the box (I like my pasta firm-perhaps even a bit firmer then al dente..) Mixed in the yellow cheese powder-a little extra milk to make it just a tad looser and saucier..into the bowl it went-a quick sprinkle with black pepper and then. Nothing.  I took one bite and my heart dropped. What had I done wrong-I had made it the exact same way I’ve been doing it for more years then I can remeber. And yet…something fell short.  It just wasn’t what I remember or wanted.  I remember thinking at that moment: “Oh My God. I think I’ve out grown Kraft. I must be OLD.”  

It is funny how something as simple as a box of Kraft Dinner can impact you.  I was CRUSHED.  What was I going to DO without my Kraft?!?!?!?  I lived in denial for sometime, then come another day I was in need of my go-to comfort food.  We still had a box or two left in the cabinet (my parents house while I still lived there, and my apartment once I moved always had some Kraft on hand!) So I pulled one out-I followed my process again paying extra attention to make sure it was perfect…and yet again NOTHING.  It fell short.  There was no longer any denying it.  I had out grown Kraft.

Since then I have lived in avoidance of the fact that my go to comfort food was gone.  As dramatic as it sounds-it left a void in my life!  There were periods where I ate a box of Kraft every few days-mostly on summer vacations when I was alone and that was all I really was allowed to cook when I was alone.  Then one day I was flipping through a recipe page on Facebook and came across a recipe for homemade mac and cheese-something I had perviously turned my nose up at (yes I honestly PREFERRED Kraft to homemade!) and decided to give it a try.  I made some adjustments (of course) and gave it a try-and it came out AWESOME.  Andrew loved it.  Alice loved it.  And so did I.

So here it is.  

The Better Than Kraft Mac and Cheese

(Bolded sections are my changes/notes!)

1 stick of butter

1/3 cup of flour

4 cups of milk

1 lb of macaroni noodles, cooked and drained

1 (9 oz) bag of fresh spinach, chopped

2-3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups chopped cooked chicken (Once a week or so I take a pacakge of thin sliced chicken breasts marinate them over night in dressing then grill them off-we use them for sandwiches, meals etc. through the week-I had a few of them left in the fridge and I just used those-they gave awesome flavor profile.)

One Package Italian Dressing mix (optional)

2 medium yellow onions-caramelized

1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled

salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Cook your bacon.  I reccomend doing 2/3 of it extra crunchy, and the last 3rd a bit less crunchy since it gets crisped up in the oven.

Caramelize the onions.

In large saucepan, over medium heat, melt stick of butter.
Once butter is melted, turn heat up to medium high and slowly stir in flour to make a roux.
Slowly add the milk 1 cup at a time and stir continuously.
Once the consistency is thickened up a bit and more sauce-like, slowly stir in the cheddar cheese (I ended up using all 3 cups).
Turn off heat and stir in the chicken, 2/3 of the bacon crumbles (reserving a bit for topping), dressing mix, onions and fresh chopped spinach.
Once well mixed, season with salt and pepper to taste.
After sauce is seasoned, mix in the macaroni noodles and stir until well combined.

(**The pan I used for the sauce was to small for everything, so I took a bowl and put the chicken, bacon, spinach in that-then mixed in some sauce.  After that I put sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, added some pasta then the chicken-bacon-spinach mix-stirred and finsihed by added the last of the pasta and then the sauce and a fina good stir-this was a PAIN and made more dishes-I reccommend using a one big pot for the sauce so you can mix everything in there!!**)
Once mixture is combined well, add into a greased 9×13 baking dish.
Sprinkle remaining bacon crumbles on top (I added a little extra cheddar on top as well!).

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.


It comes out of the oven beautiful cheesey and deliclious!

Hope you find this recipe as satifying and comforting as I do.