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.

 

 

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Sliders

I can’t stop. I won’t stop. No, I’m not trying to be Miley. I don’t want to get anywhere near Robin Thicke. I would much rather make a yummy slider sandwich than twerk. Seriously, though. I can’t seem to get enough of sliders recently. I don’t know if it’s the whole ‘mini’ thing that’s got me hooked, or just a refreshing change.  I’m guessing a bit of both. In either case, I’ve pinned every new slider recipe I have found, and am on a mission to try them all. One recipe at a time of course, like the easiest cheeseburger sliders ever and our chicken and waffle sliders. This is the latest, and it lived up to it’s name. These petite, slightly varied versions, have all the tried and true flavors of Chicken Parmesan, but without all the work. These healthy sandwiches are perfect for a party, a dinner, or even for a lazy weekend lunch. They are sure to score a spot on your list of family favorite recipes.

Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Sliders

4 Sons 'R' Us: Crockpot Chicken Parmesan Sliders

recipe adapted from Plain Chicken

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (can use frozen)
1 jar(28oz) spaghetti sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp onion powder
salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
slider buns

Directions

1. Place chicken breast in the bottom of a crock pot. Top with spaghetti sauce, minced garlic, and onion powder. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or HIGH for 4. Shred chicken and stir until evenly combined with the sauce. 2. Preheat broiler. Toast buns. Top toasted buns with chicken and a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella cheese. Place chicken sandwiches under broiler to melt cheese.

Sauteed Lemon Garlic Brussel Sprouts

Up until a week ago, the sons had never taken a single bite out of a Brussel sprout. Still, they had an instinctive hatred of them, refusing to try a single bite of their side of ‘roasted’ Brussel sprouts they were served with dinner. Yet, how can I blame them? Up until this recipe last week, I too had always steered clear to them, to the point or stubborn out-right refusal of even considering to try them. Even when my mantra to the sons is try new things. Brussels sprouts probably have the worst reputation of any vegetable. As you’ve seen, they’re the classic example of the vegetable hated by both kids and adults, only eaten because they’re so good for you. However, we were able to use this awesome recipe to change our whole familiys’ minds. A lot of the issue with people who have tried Brussel sprouts and hated them, is that they are a naturally bitter vegetable. And I do mean, bitter! However, roasting them (whether in a pan as in this recipe, or even in the oven) allows the sugars to break down and caramelize, nicely balancing out and breaking down their originally bite.

Sauteed Lemon Garlic Brussel Sprouts

4 Sons 'R' Us: Sauteed Lemon Garlic Brussel Sprouts

recipe adapted from Favorite Family Recipes

1 lb Brussel Sprouts
4 Tbsp butter
5- 6 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Clean the brussel sprouts by trimming off the ends and peeling the outer layer of the sprout off. Cut each one in half.
2. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.
3. Once heated, add the halved brussel sprouts to the pan and saute for about 8-10 minutes on each side until the outer part is a caramelized brown and the inside is soft and fully cooked.
4. Add the garlic half way through the cooking.
5. Reduce the heat to low and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
6. Stir to combine and taste. Adjust seasonings if needed. Add the cheese on top and serve.

Note: So if you need to convince someone stubborn to like Brussel sprouts or it’s their first time trying them; the best way to have brussels sprouts is to roast them, and this is the only recipe you will ever need.

Creamy Taco Pasta

Better for you hamburger helper — that’s what we decided this recipe was. Reminiscent of hamburger helper, but without all the preservatives and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Creamy, cheesy, and delicious! If I haven’t sold you on it yet, where can you go wrong with a combination of two family favorites? Tacos & pasta?!  A perfect quick and easy, busy weeknight meal. Be prepared though. Dinner will be silent. Everyone will be too busy eating, or in my case, scarfing down their first helping so they can call dibs on whatever is left in the pot. 

Creamy Taco Pasta

4 Sons 'R' Us: Creamy Taco Pasta

recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 pound ground beef or turkey
8-12 ounces medium pasta shells or other small dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-2 tsp minced garlic
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, drained, or 1 cup salsa
1 packet (4 tablespoons) taco seasoning
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp dried cilantro leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the meat is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the meat is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes.
3. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit if it is still too thin.
4. Toss in the dried cilantro right before serving for some added color and flavor. Serve with a green salad.