Creamy Tortellini with spinach & tomatoes

So in my head I had this pegged for a meatless Monday meal post, buuuuut Monday was Memorial Day, and you totally know how it is when all those cookout invites from family & friends get in the way of reason and productivity. Tortellini Tuesday? Totally a thing (at least for today).

All star, and easy to follow, this meal was right up our alley.

Creamy Tortellini with spinach & tomatoes

4 Sons 'R' Us: Creamy Tortellini with spinach and tomatoes

recipe adapted from Bomb Shell Bling

1 lb cheese tortellini
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon onion flakes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Begin by boiling your tortellini noodles until they are al dente (aka ready). Follow the directions on the package for boiling time.
2. While the tortellini is boiling, roughly chop the spinach.
3. Heat a large skillet using medium heat and put the two minced garlic into it. Sautee it briefly until fragrant, about thirty seconds or so.
4. Add into the skillet the petite diced tomatoes (undrained), spinach, salt, pepper, dried basil, and onion flakes.
5. Cook and stir over medium high heat until the mixture begins to bubble.
6. In another bowl, combine the flour and half-and-half. Whisk until fairly smooth.
7. Add the creamy mixture into the the skillet along with the parmesan cheese.
8. Heat through and reduce the heat to medium low and continue to stir and cook until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
9. Add the drained tortellini and mix together gently.
10. Serve and enjoy!

Oven Baked Tacos

As I’m preparing for dinner the other night, I asked Son # 3 to hand me a can of black beans. He proceeds to root around through the canned bean cubby in the pantry.

Son # 3: Mom, why did you buy garbage can peas?!?!
Me: Huh?
Son # 3: (holding up a can with a look of utter disgust) Garbage. Can. Peas. 
Me: Read that again. It says garbanzo beans.
Son # 3: Oh. Well they still sound gross.

You can’t make this stuff up people!

This was a fun new twist on our regular tacos. Usually, when I make tacos I bake the taco shells separately in the oven for 10 minutes so that the shells are crispy. When you add the ground beef and beans to the picture it’s a whole new story. They’re this perfect mix of crunchy and soft in all the right places. If you want to ensure an even crunch over your entire shell surface area, let more of the liquid evaporate out of your meat mixture. I topped my tacos with chopped roma tomatoes, taco sauce, and some lettuce. Sour cream, salsa, & guacamole were served on the side, because those are Mexican must-have for us. And, of course, no Mexican night is complete for us without some yellow rice. Everybody was happy. All tacos were served toasty and everyone’s cheese was melted to perfection before adding the toppings of their choice. Don’t like pre-made hardshell tacos? That’s ok, too. You can easily sub flour, or even corn, tortillas in instead. Who knew oven-baked tacos were the way to go?!

And for those of you with an eagle eye, we can all just ignore the dirty burners. While they stay on the proverbial to-do list, I’ll be honest in saying they only get cleaned twice once a year.

Oven Baked Tacos

4 Sons 'R' Us: Oven Baked Tacos

2 lbs Ground beef, lean
1 head of lettuce
1 onion
1 tomato
1 can re-fried beans, or black beans
1 jar of salsa
6 oz tomato sauce
3 tablespoons taco seasoning
12 taco shells
cheddar cheese
sour cream

Directions

1. Brown ground beef and drain. Return to pan.
2. Add taco seasoning, beans and tomato sauce.
3. Stir to combine and then heat until the flavors have blended.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with oil.
6. Spoon taco filling into taco shells and stack them side by side in a pan.
7. When shells are filled, top each with shredded cheese and cilantro, if desired.
8. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, watching so they do not brown much.
9. Serve and top with remaining ingredients, if desired.

Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

Lentils are such an understated legume. They’re cheap, tasty, and (don’t tell the kids) healthy! Previously, my favorite way to use them had been in a delicious, good-for-you soup. Buuut, a cheesy, skinny casserole?! Move on over soup, Mama’s got a new favorite in town.

Busy day, busy afternoon/evening? This casserole will come to your rescue! Casseroles are great like that, and this one’s no exception.

This recipe delivers a true Santa Fe-style experience straight to your taste buds with lots of cumin, a nice cayenne ‘kick’, and plenty of cilantro. That, combined with the lentils (which we can’t forget were cooked in, not water, but chicken broth!), tender pieces of chicken, and the perfect amount of melted cheese, you’ve got yourself an award winning combination. I promise!

Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

4 Sons 'R' Us: Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole

recipe adapted from ifoodreal

Lentils
1 + 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed & drained
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1/8 tsp salt

Chicken
2 lbs boneless & skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Cooking spray

Vegetables
1 large onion, diced
5 large garlic cloves, crushed or 5 tsp minced garlic
2 large bell peppers, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix-Ins
14 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cups corn, frozen & unthawed
2 cups  Tex Mex or Colby Jacks cheese, shredded & divided
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 cup cilantro, chopped & divided, or 2 tbsp dried

4 Sons 'R' Us: Santa Fe Style Chicken & Lentil Casserole 2

Look at all those pretty little lentils. Can’t you just hear them calling to you. Eat meeeeeee….

Directions

1. In a medium pot, combine lentils, chicken broth and salt. Bring to a boil on high, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 35 minutes. Do not drain excess liquid. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat large skillet on high and spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and draining any liquid if necessary. Add cumin, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Return skillet to medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, bell peppers, cumin, salt and cayenne pepper and cook for 7 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
4. Transfer to the bowl with chicken along with cooked lentils, diced tomatoes, corn, 1 cup cheese, garlic powder, cumin and 1/2 cup cilantro (or 1 tbsp dried cilantro). Mix gently with spatula enough to combine. You may want to taste and adjust the spiciness/salt of the dish with extra cayenne/cumin or salt.
5. Transfer the mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish and press gently with spatula to evenly distribute. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 50 mins. Remove casserole from the oven, cover with foil and let stand for half an hour before serving. Garnish with remaining cilantro, cut into 8 slices and serve hot.

Chicken Florentine Soup

The hubs and I happened to be out to lunch a while back. Kid-less. Don’t sound so shocked! We were both over-due for an hour where we could feel and eat like adults, without wiping other peoples’ faces, and listening to lip-smacking in between chews. I happened to be idly perusing the menu, listening to some story the hubs was telling, when my eyes caught on something. Chicken Florentine…in a soup? Say whaaaat?? I mean I love Chicken Florentine. We make it all the time with pasta. Well, not all the time, that would be like the calorie equivalent of an atomic bomb, but you get my drift. And, soup itself, in any form, is a staple for my soul. I had to have it. Had to. It was a beautiful thing. It was glorious. And I just knew I had to find a way to make my own version at home because there were bound to be some intense cravings, and possible withdraws. And those don’t make for a fun Mom, and you know, when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

This here is my precious, but I don’t wanna do the whole Smeagol devolving into Gollum thing so, in the interest of self preservation, I decided I had to share it with you asap.

Chicken Florentine Soup

4 Sons 'R' Us: Chicken Florentine Soup

about 1 lb, or 2 medium, boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 tsp minced garlic
3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste
4 cups chicken broth or stock
1 cup half and half
3 cups fresh baby spinach

Feel free to round out this romantically,  rustic one-dish meal with warm crusty bread. You’ll definitely use it to soak up the every last drop of it’s richly flavored broth.

Directions

1. Cut chicken breasts into bite size pieces and season with salt & pepper. Heat olive oil in a 2-3 qt saucepan. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the same pan and add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook for 5 min or until onions are translucent. Add garlic, thyme & cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook for another 3 minutes.
3. Add flour to the vegetables, stirring to coat them all, and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the chicken stock slowly to mixture. Cook for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and soup thickens.
4. Add the Half & Half & cook and stir until thickened. Add Chicken and Spinach, cooking for another 5-10 min. Check the seasonings and add more salt, pepper, or cayenne to taste.
5. Serve with a slice of that warm, crusty bread and enjoy!

Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole (aka Cookout Casserole)

Baked Beans. Burgers. Typical cookout staples, right? Once upon a time, I never had any idea that they could be improved upon. Then a little fairy Godmother served these at a get together on a silver platter. Ah-mazing! I savored every bite. It was an intense, but brief affair. The clock struck 12, and just like that they were gone. The magic faded, but even after the party I couldn’t forget about them. It took some tracking down, but I found the maker of the magical beans, and there was no going back. This became a dinner, and cookout staple. Obviously, our family lived happily ever after in the kingdom of Beef & Beans.

Debut this cookout season in style. Be the belle of the ball by bringing these babies.

P.S. I’ve gotta tell ya, that these are great slathered on a hamburger bun too!

Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole (aka Cookout Casserole)

4 Sons 'R' Us: Ground Beef & Baked Bean Casserole

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped, about 2 cups
1 pound ground beef
2 15-ounce cans Boston-style baked beans
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped, about 1 cup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
6 slices of your favorite bacon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion; cook about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the beef; cook about 10 minutes or until brown, breaking meat up with a fork as it cooks.
3. In a large bowl, combine the beef mixture with the remaining ingredients except the bacon; mix well. Pour beef mixture into the prepared casserole; arrange the bacon slices on top. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake about 45 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Uncover dish and preheat broiler. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bacon is nice and crisp.

Tortellini Caesar Salad

 I feel like I need to spread the love and not horde this amazingly simple scrumptious creation. I may be jumping the seasonal ‘gun’ a bit, but this meal just says summer to me. Summer (noun) as in, “it is too hot, and I am too tired to cook”. This meal is freaking awesome! This salad is a delicious combination of complementary flavors. You’ll enjoy the creamy, tangy Caesar dressing in this recipe. Though calling it an actual recipe is a bit of a stretch, it’s still sure to do the trick.

Tortellini Caesar Salad

4 Sons 'R' Us: Tortellini Caesar Salad

recipe adapted from Amuse Your Bouche

2 cups tortellini (I used a spinach and ricotta flavor)
1/2 cup lettuce, roughly chopped
1/4 cup  Parmesan-style cheese, shaved
3/4-1 cup of Caesar dressing
black pepper

Directions

1. Boil the tortellini according to the instructions on the packet. Fresh tortellini takes just a couple of minutes to cook, so make sure you don’t overcook it – you want it to be slightly al dente. Once cooked, drain the tortellini and give it a rinse under cold water. Set aside to cool fully.
2. When the tortellini is cool, add it to the remaining ingredients, and mix gently to combine. Serve immediately.
3. Note: if making this salad in advance, only add the dressing when ready to serve. Also, if serving a crowd, this meal easily doubles.

 

 

Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

Although it only requires three ingredients (bread, cheese, and butter), grilled cheese is one of the most popular comfort foods in the world. The Ancient Romans were the first civilization to make a cooked bread and cheese sandwich, but many cultures have invented their own take on this ‘classic’ dish. In France, people enjoy Croque Monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) while in Switzerland it is customary to melt the cheese and toast the bread separately before combining them. The American grilled cheese sandwich emerged in the 1920s when inexpensive cheese and affordable sliced bread became available. It is now a staple in cafés, diners, and school cafeterias across the country.

Despite this noteworthy past, and it’s longevity, today, it’s a sad world for the grilled cheese sandwich. Somewhere along the way it has been demoted from a classic comfort food to the dismal realm of the kid’s menu; thus, making it ‘socially’ off limits to the older-than-15-crowd. And when you’re an adult who just wants some melted cheddar between two buttery, toasty slices of bread…that’s a sad, sad thing. Being that I have the four sons, I jsut don’t care. Social norms be damned. If I want a grilled cheese, I’m having grilled cheese. Even if the waitress looks at me funny when I place an order for not 4, but 5, kid meals.

Still, being that April is ‘grilled cheese month’ and all, and I saw that waitresses’ questioning arched eyebrow,  I thought it was time for a revival. An upgrade, if you will, to make it worthy of a place in the world of socially acceptable adult fare. I know I’ve mentioned this in several posts before. I will never be to old for grilled cheese! At it’s most basic, it’s totally awesome. At it’s fanciest adaptation? It’s still freakin’ awesome!!

This is a far cry from your typical grilled cheese sandwich. Kick things up a notch with the salsa and chiles. If you happen to have a babysitter, enjoy it out on your patio with a margarita to make it REALLY good!

Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

4 Sons 'R' Us: Tex Mex Grilled Cheese

recipe adapted from Julie’s Eats & Treats

1 lb ground beef
1 packet taco season
1/2 c. salsa
1/4 cup diced, canned green chilies (optional)
12 slices bread
1 tbsp butter
1 lb Velveeta

Directions

1. Brown ground beef in medium sized skillet. Drain fat. Mix in taco seasoning and prepare according to package directions. Add salsa & green chiles.
2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Cut Velveeta into 6 pieces.
3. In a large skillet place two pieces of bread, buttered side down. Top each piece of bread with one slice of Velveeta. On top of Velveeta spoon 1/6 of hamburger mixture. Place another piece of bread on top of beef with the buttered side up.
4. Cook over medium heat until bread is golden brown. Flip sandwich and repeat on other side. Repeat until all sandwiches have been made.

Herbed Pork Chops in Mushroom Gravy

These pork chops will melt in your mouth. They are so good and easy to prepare and assemble. They are first sauteed in butter, then baked, before being served smothered in a creamy mushroom gravy. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? My mouth’s already watering just typing up the recipe. These pan seared chops come out tender and juicy. Mmm, pork chops and gravy… it certainly doesn’t get much more southern than that. Wherever you’re from, this dish is guaranteed to ‘south’ your mouth. Serve them with some creamy mashed potatoes so you can be sure to savor every single drop of gravy, too!

Herbed Pork Chops
in a buttery, garlic, & mushroom gravy

4 Sons 'R' Us: Herbed Pork Chops in mushroom gravy

recipe adapted from A Mom’s Take

3-4 thick cut pork chops, or 6-8 thin cut, boneless pork chops
½ stick butter
3 tsp minced garlic
¼ cup all purpose flour, or cornstarch
¼ cup milk
1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp thyme
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet over medium high heat combine butter, garlic, mushrooms, salt, pepper, oregano and thyme.
2. Once butter has melted, add your pork chops and seer on each side for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.
3. Once both sides of the pork chops are a golden brown place in oven and bake for 35 minutes or until centers are no longer pink. *Time may need to be adjusted depending on the thickness of your pork chops.
4. Remove skillet from oven and remove your pork chops and sit them aside to rest.
5. Whisk flour and milk into your pan with the remaining liquids after removing the pork chops. Whisk until all lumps are removed. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
6. Serve over the top of pork chops.

 

 

Spinach Parmesan Orzo

Sometimes the simplest things taste the best. Just like I sometimes need a break from the rigmarole of everyday life, sometimes my taste buds need a break from complex flavor combinations. This orzo is just the thing for times like that. With a simple, yet creamy, low-fat sauce coating the tiny rice-shaped pasta and wilted spinach, it makes a great side dish, especially with chicken or fish, or even a light main meal.  This is the happy place where health & comfort (food) meet.

Spinach Parmesan Orzo

4 Sons 'R' Us: Spinach Parmesan Orzo

recipe adapted from Life Tastes Good

4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3-4 cups of fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat and add 1 cup orzo. Stir until the orzo is lightly browned/toasted. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the orzo is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
2. While the orzo is simmering it is a good time to prepare the spinach. In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add 10 ounces of baby spinach and a pinch of salt. Saute until wilted. Set aside until orzo is done.
3. When orzo is done add the spinach and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and mix well. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. The Parmesan will add some saltiness to the dish, so be sure to give it a taste to ensure you don’t add too much salt!