chicken enchilada casserole

I have an unabashed love for Mexican food. But who doesn’t?

For the hubs and I, we get our Mexican fix from several different local joints around town – we have a place for excellent margaritas and good food, a place for good margaritas and amazing food, and a place for amazing margaritas and amazing fish tacos. Depending on our hunger {or thirst} cues, one of said places often makes the cut.

But what does one do when you’re craving enchilada casserole?

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I can’t remember what struck that particular chord in me not long ago, but I had such an intense craving for an enchilada-style casserole that I just could not shake it. So imagine my surprise when this recipe found its way, seemingly right into my hands, not long ago! I immediately bookmarked it and knew that it would make a dinner appearance as soon as I could make it happen.

Luckily, a week-long deluge of rain {followed by an equally rainy weekend} presented the perfect opportunity. A wet Sunday afternoon set the tone for dinner, and yes…it was time for me to make this. I rolled up my sleeves and set to work, happily bumping around my tiny kitchen, working away and rolling tortillas up with delicious filling.

The beauty of this dish is multifold…it requires few pieces of equipment, utilizes ingredients most of us have on hand, comes together in no time, and can be made to fit anyone’s taste buds. I stuck pretty closely to the original recipe, but as I sit here typing, my mind wanders to the idea of using shredded pork instead of chicken, crumbled queso fresco instead of shredded Mexican blend cheese, mixing pico de gallo in with the enchilada sauce, incorporating other vegetables into the topping…you see where I’m going with this.

It’s dishes like this that keep me coming back for more, both seconds at dinnertime and into my repertoire of favorite recipes. Enjoy! And do share any variations you might come up with when you prepare it – I’d love to hear from you!

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Chicken Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from The Kitchn}

Easy enough to throw together even on the busiest of nights, this chicken enchilada casserole will leave you feeling satisfied and happy! Can be customized to fit any taste buds, or particular diet {sugar-, dairy-, gluten-free, etc.}. Leftovers freeze beautifully, or can be prepared and frozen in advance.

Ingredients:

1 {15-ounce can} red enchilada sauce *whatever brand you prefer is fine!

10-15 corn tortillas, set out to room temperature

1 lb. cooked shredded chicken* {can be from a rotisserie chicken; 2-3 cooked chicken breasts; or pressure-cooker chicken}

1 {4-ounce can} diced green chiles

1 to 1-1/2 cups Mexican style shredded cheese

1 medium red pepper, sliced into strips

1 onion, sliced into strips

optional toppings: sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, pico de gallo, salsa, sliced avocado, guacamole, shredded lettuce, etc.

*I prefer to toss the chicken with a bit of seasonings, done to taste – here, I used: salt and pepper, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, and cumin. Feel free to do so according to your preference! 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Ladle enough of the enchilada sauce into the dish to barely cover the bottom in a thin layer of sauce – about 1/4 cup or so. Set dish aside, but within reaching distance.

On a covered work surface, begin assembling the enchiladas. Lay one tortilla out, and spread down the center {no more than 2-3 Tbsp.} the shredded chicken. Top with a small scoop of the diced green chili. Gently roll the enchilada up and place it seam side down in the casserole dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling mixtures, until you cannot fit any more into the dish.

One the casserole dish is full, sprinkle on the sliced onion and red pepper. Cover completely with remaining enchilada sauce, ensuring that all the surface area is covered. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Portion out and assemble with desired toppings. Enjoy!

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philly mac n’ cheese

From a culinary standpoint, birthday celebrations are a big deal in our house. I look forward to them every year {more so the hub’s birthday than my own} because not only are they are good reason to pull out a good bottle of wine, but because we tend to go over the top in terms of dinner.

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We celebrated the hub’s birthday not long ago, and we spent quite some time trying to figure out what kind of meal to prepare. Every year, I let him decide on exactly what it is he wants. No limits, no rules – his dinner wish {and dessert!} is my command. It’s pretty much a win-win for both of us; he gets a meal of his own creation, and I get to have fun whipping it up in the kitchen!

When he settled on the more traditional mac n’ cheese, I asked him to come up with some sort of twist on it, sort of a way to spice it up a bit. We bounced ideas back and forth…flavor combinations, dishes that he likes, we we somehow steered the conversation to sandwiches.

“What about a philly?”  I asked him. His eyes lit up, and I knew we had found the dish of the year. The end result? – a combination of a few staple dishes in my repertoire, with some funky additions that make it perfect for him. It’s an indulgent dish, and you bet that we will be bringing this out again once the cooler autumn months come around.

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Enjoy!

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Philly Mac n’ Cheese {recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma}

Definitely one of the more creative birthday dishes we’ve dreamed up over the past few years, this mac n’ cheese hits all the notes of a classic cheese steak sandwich: perfectly loaded with cheese, traditional vegetable add-ons, and of course…oh-so indulgent. 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. dried pasta, such as cavatappi

non-stick cooking spray

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup milk of choice

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

3/4 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup freshly shredded champagne cheddar cheese {if not available, feel free to swap out with extra sharp cheddar}

1 package frozen spinach {cooked, drained, and cooled}

2 cups baby portabella mushrooms

2 cups chicken {cooked, cooled, and shredded}

1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 cup Panko {Japanese bread crumbs}

olive oil, for sauteeing the mushrooms

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl, and set aside.

In a small nonstick skillet, cook the mushrooms with a splash of olive oil until lightly sauteed, about 5-7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and melt he butter. Add the cornstarch and cook, stirring well, until the cornstarch is thoroughly incorporated, about 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, chicken stock, and an generous pinch of salt; bring to a boil. Simmer, whisking frequently to smooth out any lumps, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add a pinch of pepper and stir to incorporate. Slowly add in both the Gruyere and champagne cheddar cheese, making to sure combine thoroughly.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir well. Next, fold in the spinach, mushrooms, and chicken. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the Parmesan and Panko. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side of roasted vegetables {we opted for asparagus!}.

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Vegas.com – A Challenge!

Awhile back, y’all might remember that my friends over at vegas.com provided me with an opportunity…a “challenge” if you will. I was asked to pick a dish from one of the famous Las Vegas hotels, and put my own unique twist on it. In typical Alicia fashion, I dove in head first, excited to stretch my culinary legs and see what I could come up with!

for those of you who might want to peak back, here’s my dish!

So I couldn’t be more excited to announce today that I was offered the opportunity to do it again! This time, we had a different list of restaurants to choose from. Immediately, a ‘roast chicken’ dish caught my eye. Something so simple, but offers endless possibilities. My brain started working and, after a few days of rolling ideas around, I finally got the light bulb – shepherd’s pie!

Now, before I go any further; this was no ordinary roast chicken dish. We’re talking gorgeous sauces, fine mushrooms, season vegetables. The whole nine yards. I mean, it’s Vegas after all! So I thought it would be a lot of fun to make the ingredients from the Vegas dish mimic the appearance of an actual shepherd’s pie. Fun, right?

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Perfectly seasoned ground chicken replaces the traditional beef.

Diced asparagus looks a lot like peas!

Mushrooms and onions add an earthy note to the dish, which pairs oh-so-nicely with the white wine that we’re incorporating into the base of the dish.

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And of course, no shepherd’s pie is complete without a generous spread of mashed potatoes..but I went rogue and used my smashed cauliflower! Delicious.

This is one dish you’ll want to recreate over and over, I promise. After the first bite, the hubs proclaimed it “one of the best casseroles he’s ever had.” The proof is in the pudding…er, casserole.

Here we go!

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Vegas-Style Shepherd’s Pie

Never one to turn down a challenge, I decided on making some fun modifications to one of Vegas’ most famous restaurants; I took their classic roast chicken recipe and made it my own! 

Ingredients:

smashed cauliflower {here’s my go-to recipe…so quick and simple!}

1 lb. ground chicken {I used extra lean, because it was what I had on hand}

1 large onion, finely diced

1 box of baby portabello mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 lb. asparagus, washed and sliced into medallions

1/4 cup white wine {you can use chicken stock, for an alcohol-free version}

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil for coating the pan

1/2 – 1 cup of cheese {your preference; this will be used for the topping}

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass 8″ x 8″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside for later.

Add a drizzle of olive oil into the bottom of a large nonstick saute pan. Bring up to medium heat; once the olive oil is sizzling, and in the ground chicken. Use a wooden spoon to break into pieces, and cook until done. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Without cleaning the pan, add in the diced onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add in the garlic powder. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent and beginning to soften slightly, about 7-10 minutes. Add in the white wine and bring the heat up to high {this will help cook off the alcohol, as well as reduce the liquid}. Add in the asparagus, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Lastly, add in the mushrooms and cook only until they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.

Prepare the casserole: place the cooked chicken into the bottom of your prepared baking dish. Next, top with the onion/asparagus/mushroom mixture. Evenly dollop the smashed cauliflower on top, making sure to seal in the edges. Lastly, top with the desired amount and type of cheese.

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Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and the top is beginning to brown slightly. For additional crunch, turn the broiler on and let it go an additional 1-2 minutes.

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Enjoy!

butternut squash mac & cheese

Vegetables never cease to amaze me. Did you ever imagine that something so simple can be elevated into, quite possibly, one of the smoothest and creamiest sauces you’ve ever tasted?

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I had no idea, before tasting this dish, that butternut squash could be easily whipped up into the base for creamy mac and cheese. In fact, to say I was surprised is an understatement. But I think that that is what makes cooking so fun! You can find new and unusual uses for items that would traditionally not work. This recipe proves that butternut squash can go above and beyond simply being roasted as a side dish; it becomes the star.

We’re taking a tried and true mac and cheese recipe today and elevating it not only flavor-wise, but packing it full of healthy goodness. The use of pureed squash replaces several cups of cheddar cheese typically found in such a dish. Tangy, rich blue cheese {in a much less amount} will pack in flavor and just the right amount of fat, making it perfectly balanced. Cubed pieces of roasted squash and halved tomatoes are folded into the casserole, letting us reduce the amount of pasta {and carbs} that would normally be used. A hefty dose of spices – sage, chili flake, pepper – satisfies our taste buds. This is a perfectly balanced dish, and comes together in no time. Grab your fork and let’s dive in, shall we?

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Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese {recipe adpated, minimally, from Daily Unadventures in Cooking}

An unusually healthy twist on a classic dish, this mac and cheese recipe is sure to please even the most old-fashioned palate. Butternut squash puree makes up the body of the cheese sauce, with creamy blue cheese elevating its flavor to an even higher level. Additionally, folding in more vegetables reduces the amount of pasta needed, making this a dish you can enjoy without all the guilt. 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. chili flakes

1 tbsp. flour

2-1/4 cups milk {I used 1%}

2 cups butternut squash puree

2 cups roasted butternut squash, diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

6 ounces blue cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Put a big pot of water on to boil, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In the meantime, start your sauce.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the onions, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Sweat out over low heat until sweet and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, sage and chili flakes and continue sweating until garlic is softened, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the flour on top of the garlic and onion mixture and stir it in. Cook the mixture over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk 1/4 cup at a time, waiting until it starts simmering before stirring in the next back. Whisk in the squash, then lastly, fold in the blue cheese. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, undercooking slightly. Drain. Fold the pasta together with the sauce, and add in the halved tomatoes and cubed butternut squash. Transfer to a greased casserole dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve hot, atop a bed of fresh greens.

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butternut squash enchilada casserole

This is a rainbow of colors, flavors, and deliciousness…all layered up into one glorious casserole.

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For me, it’s simply impossible to not get excited about a dish when it has so many colors, flavors and textures. I happened upon a large stash of butternut squash not too long ago, and rather than going my usual course of roasting {for a side dish} or pureeing {soup style}, I knew I had to try something different. In the past, I’ve had great success incorporating it into mac-&-cheese recipes, but it just didn’t feel right. With unseasonably warm weather, I was craving something hearty but not heavy, light but full of flavor.

I set about searching for the perfect casserole, and when I stumbled upon the recipe for what I’m sharing today, I knew I had found a winner. This casserole is the perfect one to start for your season of autumnal flavors – you’re still using fresh produce {corn, tomatoes, peppers, and onions} but starting to introduce the flavors of fall; creamy beans, luscious squash and bolder spices.

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This dish is more or less a one-pot wonder; very little preparation is required, too! I like to roast the squash ahead of time {say, the night before I plan on making it} so that it is ready and waiting for me and not the other way around. Simply prep, assemble, bake and voila! – dinner is served.

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Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from Making Thyme for Health}

An unusual but delicious option to use up an overabundance of butternut squash, this casserole is a dream for any lover of Mexican-style cuisine! Not to mention, it’s a great way to pack in a vegetable punch.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 onion, sliced

1/2 a large red pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small can of diced green chilis

1 {15-ounce} can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups of corn

2 cups salsa

6 large tortillas, quartered

1-1/2 cups shredded cheese {optional}

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the diced butternut squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin until evenly distributed. Roast for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until squash is tender. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large non-stick skillet, drizzle in olive oil. Add in onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add in the corn and red pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until slightly tender. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder and oregano. Transfer to bowl and set aside, allowing to cool slightly.

Into the same bowl as your sauteed vegetables, add in the diced green chilis, drained black beans, and one cup of the salsa. Toss gently to combine.

Spray a glass baking dish, and begin to assemble the casserole. Spread 1/3 cup of the remaining salsa along the bottom, then cover with a layer of tortillas. Tops with 1/3 of the roasted vegetables and then 1/2 cup of cheese.

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Layer two more tortillas on top of the vegetables, then top with 1/3 cup of salsa, then another 1/3 of the roasted vegetables, then 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Lastly, layer two more tortillas, the last 1/3 cup of salsa and the last 1/3 of the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve. Top with sliced avocado, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream. Enjoy!

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**don’t feel limited to the ingredients listed out here – use what you have on hand! It doesn’t get much easier than that. I also think that, should it fancy you, a bit of seasoned taco meat {be it chicken, beef, bison, etc.} would make a wonderful addition**

summer vegetable lasagna

This recipe I’m sharing today is a fresh and healthy twist on a classic, tried and true favorite – the lasagna.

Now, before all you pasta purists rise up against me, hear me out. Because, don’t think for one second that I don’t love lasagna…I do, I really do! In fact, this is probably one of the classic dishes that as I child I absolutely loathed {ricotta cheese? that was beyond my taste buds then…things have changed now!}. I don’t know what transformed it over the years, but now it’s a total comfort dish, perfect for chilly fall evenings and those blustery winter nights that practically scream “you know you want to make and devour some lasagna!”

But here I go, digressing from the above-mentioned recipe. Getting back on track, y’all; it’s the end of summer, it’s still HOT, and honestly, I’m okay with turning on my oven. But, here’s where it gets a bit tricky – a big, heavy, carb-y pasta dish does not sound that appealing. So I do what I always do….poke around in the kitchen until I find something to make it work. And here enters my plethora of vegetables.

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I know that vegetable lasagna is really nothing new; in fact, if you Google it, so many hits will come up that your head will start to spin. So as I mentioned, I nixed the recipe-searching and came up with my own. We’re basically taking some of the more well-known concepts for building a veggie lasagna, but incorporating a few of my staples into it.

And we’re making it healthy and light! Noodles are replaced with thinly sliced zucchini and eggplant. Canned tomatoes are replaced with hearty slices of garden-ripened fresh tomatoes. And the cheese sauce? We’re using my favorite: my tofu sauce, with some tweaks! Once all baked together, in its bubbly and satisfying glory, it’s divine. So much so that I wish I had doubled the recipe for some freezer meals, because…yeah…we ate the whole pan. In one night.

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Summer Vegetable Lasagna {original recipe, serves 4}

An updated healthy twist on an old favorite! By swapping out noodles for veggies and tofu for cheese {or the majority of it}, we’re basically baking up a vitamin and protein packed entree! Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste buds; I think some hot pepper flakes would be wonderful. 

Ingredients {for the “noodles”}:

1 large zucchini

1 large yellow squash

4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes

kosher salt

*special equipment: mandolin {if you don’t have one, simply make thin slices using a sharp chef’s knife}, baker’s sheet lined with paper towels, 9″ x 9″ glass baking dish, food processor 

Ingredients {for the sauce}:

1 block tofu, coarsely chopped

1 large white onion

1 egg, slightly beaten

2-3 cloves garlic

1 tsp. basil

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. rosemary

3 to 4 tbsp. nutritional yeast

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Toppings:

nutritional yeast

fresh grated cheese {optional}

bread crumbs

extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the “Noodles”:

Using a mandolin set on the 1/4″ thickness of the flat blade, slice both the zucchini and the yellow squash, making sure to stop before reaching the center seed pods. Lay all the slices on the paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.

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Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and slice into thin strips. Lay on the paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.

The goal of salting the vegetables while prepping the other ingredients is to draw out the moisture. After about 10 minutes, blot the first side very well with another towel, making sure to remove any additional salt. Flip the vegetables over, salt the other side, and leave to sit for another 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat the process of blotting and removing additional salt. Set aside. 

*because we are being more liberal with salt than usual {not all of it will be removed when blotting}, I opted to omit the salt from the sauce we’ll be making. Feel free to adjust to your taste buds as needed, though! 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and spray a 9″ x 9″ glass baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

Prepare the Sauce:

Add a few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil into a medium saucepan. Once the oil is hot, coarsely chop the onion and garlic, and add into the pan. Cook until the onions are translucent and they are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add in the herbs and cook for another few minutes, allowing the flavors to marry. Remove from heat.

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In the bowl of your food processor, add in the block of tofu. Top with the cooked vegetables, and puree for 5 minutes, taking care to scrape down the sides to make sure all chunks are eliminated – you’re looking for a consistency similar to ricotta cheese. Add in the nutritional yeast, and blend for another minute. The longer it processes, the smoother it gets; this also helps it cool down quickly!

Once all blended, add the sauce into a mixing bowl. Fold in the egg, making sure it’s fully incorporated.

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Prepare the Lasagna:

In the baking dish, ladle in a small amount of sauce.

Add in the first layer of squash “noodles”, then top with slices of tomato. Ladle on sauce in an even layer. Repeat until you have done about 2-3 layers…you want to finish with the sauce on top.

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Sprinkle with bread crumbs and nutritional yeast {and cheese, if using}, then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then increase the heat to 400 degrees for the last 15 minutes.  You’ll want the top to be a nice golden brown, and you’ll notice how bubbly the sides of the dish are.

Remove from heat and allow to cool about 5 to 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

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Let’s Discuss: Do you have any funky twists on lasagna, or other classic pasta dishes? If so, please share!

lightened up buffalo chicken dip

Please & Thank You.

Peas & Carrots.

Romeo & Juliet.

…the list goes on and on, and on and on. I could sit here for hours on end, thinking of the perfect marriage between different fun phrases, historical couples, and other random trivia notes, but there’s always one pair that jumps to my mind when I sit and think on “what does pair so well together??”

The answer, my dears, is plain and simple – buffalo chicken and blue cheese.

I could tell you that there was a time, back when I was just a young thing, and I could not even tolerate the mere thought of blue cheese. My dad {sidenote: can categorize basically his entire life using his salad dressing preference} is a huge, huge fan of the stuff, and I have vivid memories of him adding it on to just about every salad at dinnertime. I couldn’t even do it.

As I got older, my tolerance for creamier things began to develop, and I even allowed myself to like love Ranch dressing, especially when paired “late night” style with some delivery pizza. Wings and veggies got the same treatment. I would always reach for the Ranch.

But then, one day, it all changed.

I think that I had gotten so used to the flavor of this classic American dressing that I no longer even liked it. Clearly, my tastes had changed, yet again, and in doing so I thought to myself “what the heck – let’s try this blue cheese again.” And then I fell in love. Blue Cheese on everything! – from pizza crusts to salads, wings to French fries, crumbled on top of pizzas, you name it, I’m game. And then when I saw this recipe I’m sharing with you today, I knew that this was a long-term love affair.

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The best part about this dish is that it’s been slightly lightened up! As we all know, traditional blue cheese dressing is made with gobs of sour cream and mayonnaise. Once you fold in the crumbled cheese, you’re basically looking at a calorie bomb. Same with casseroles and dips made with this beloved culinary treasure. But that’s why were here, right! I distinctly remember stumbling upon this recipe last year, right before the Super Bowl, and it was if Heaven shone a golden light down onto my screen. You can have your blue cheese, and eat it, and enjoy it, too!

We’re replacing the typical mayo/cream cheese/sour cream base of this baked and bubbly dip with one of my favorite ingredients – Greek yogurt! I vary slightly from Cassie’s original recipe, because I opt for 0% plain Greek yogurt, and a blended cream cheese-yogurt mix, but feel free to use whatever you like!

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This is a fantastic dip to take for tailgating, to casual dinner parties…or if you’re really craving it, whip it up for dinner one night! Served alongside some crostini and a big, colorful salad, you’ll be fully satisfied, and not left with a guilty conscience heavy tummy!

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Lightened Up Buffalo Chicken Dip {recipe adapted, slightly, from Back to her Roots}

serves 12, at 1/2 cup per serving

Ingredients:

4 ounces softened Greek Yogurt-Cream Cheese blend*

1/2 cup crumbed Blue Cheese

1 cup plain, 0% Greek yogurt

2 cups of cooked, shredded chicken breast

1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce {you can add more if you prefer a bit more heat! – this yields a more mellow flavor}

2 T. fresh, chopped parsley

1/2 tsp. dried dill

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

2 green onions, sliced thin

*this is sold at my local Kroger…it’s a cream cheese and yogurt blend, and I think tastier than regular or low-fat cream cheese. If you can’t find it, no worries! Either regular or low-fat cream cheese will work just fine.

Optional Toppings:

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup panko

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the softened cream cheese, crumbled blue cheese, Greek yogurt, shredded chicken, buffalo sauce, parsley, dill, garlic powder, salt and pepper until well combined.

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Pour mixture into an ungreased one quart casserole dish. If desired, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and panko.

Bake in preheated oven until golden and bubbly, at least 30 minutes. I like to, at the very last second, turn the broiler on for 1-2 minutes to get that topping nice and crispy.

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Serve with desired scoopables {pita chips, tortilla chips, etc.} and hearty sliced veggies. Enjoy!

 

chicken divan

First and foremost, wishing the happiest of Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers out there – and especially to my own Momma : ) It goes without saying that I wouldn’t be here today, doing {& cooking!} what I love, if it wasn’t for her constant encouragement!

With that being said, I thought it would be most appropriate to dedicate a recipe, albeit a favorite one of my mom’s, here in honor of her.

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Chicken Divan is one of those meals that, for me at least, holds wonderful memories of my childhood. We were allowed on our birthday, each year, to pick out whatever meal and dessert that we wanted, and my mom would whip it up for dinner. It was fabulous – and I always, without a doubt, chose this meal. I kid you not when I say that I requested this at least 5 or 6 years in a row…it’s just that good. Because honestly, is there a better combination of chicken/brocooli/cheese/cream sauce that you can think of? I should think not, especially when it’s made just for you.

Flash forward some 15 odd years or so later; this meal is still one of my favorites. It always seemed so labor intensive when I was younger, but with several years of copious kitchen time under my belt, this particular meal is actually fairly easy to throw together. A “one dish” casserole meal, if you prefer.

But, because it’s me, I’ve made it a little bit more laborious than its traditional counterpart {but only by a few minutes or so, I promise!}. This is still easy to make after a long day of work, even if you choose to make the sauce I’ve dictated out below. We all know by now that I love a good and healthy tofu-based sauce, so I’ve gone ahead and replaced the traditional sauce {condensed soup, sour cream, and milk} with a thick and creamy sauce of tofu, sauteed onions/garlic, and bountiful herbs. With its luxurious mouth feel, it beautifully coats each piece of chicken and broccoli in this casserole, and blends so delightfully with the bed of rice you serve this atop of.

Go ahead and give this dish a try – not to toot my own horn here, dears….but this is definitely a “winner winner, chicken dinner.”

xx

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Chicken Divan

Ingredients:

1 lb. organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts {fully cooked and shredded}

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large head of broccoli, blanched {or keep it easy and use a steamer bag – I adore these}

14 oz. firm tofu*

1/4 to 1/2 C. low sodium chicken stock

1 C. bread crumbs

grated cheese, to suit your taste {I go between 1 to 1-1/2 cups}

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

dried herbs…such as rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, etc. {optional}

Rice, or your pasta of choice, for serving

 

To Prepare:

Precook the chicken

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum {to ensure easy clean up} and place chicken atop. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn to the other side, and with clean hands, season the other side. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. Set aside to cool, then shred using your hands or forks when it is cool enough to handle. Set aside.

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Keep oven temperature at 375 degrees.

Prepare the sauce

Set a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drizzle with a turn or two of olive oil, and when hot enough {the oil will ripple and spatter slightly} add in the garlic and onions. Season with salt and pepper  and cook until the onions become translucent and the garlic has rendered out some of its spicy notes.

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Drain and cube up your firm tofu, and place into the base of a large food processor {I have a 14 cup…talk about a great wedding present!}. Add in the sauteed onion/garlic mixture, chicken stock {starting with a 1/4 cup and adding in more only as necessary} and begin to process. Let it initially go for 3-5 minutes, then remove the lid and scrape down the sides. Taste and adjust for seasoning – salt and pepper is a must, and sometimes I like to crush up some dried herbs and add in for another layer of flavor. Let the mixture process together for another 3-5 minutes. You want your resulting sauce to be extremely creamy and free of lumps.

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Build the casserole

Spray a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of the white sauce on the bottom of the dish, then layer in the chicken and broccoli. Add in the remaining sauce {feel free to give it a good swirl in the dish, allowing for the sauce to coat all sides of the chicken and broccoli, and get into the nooks and crannies}. Sprinkle with cheese and bread crumbs, then drizzle with olive oil to help it crisp up.

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Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges begin to bubble and the top is a beautiful golden brown.

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Serve atop rice or your favorite pasta alternative! I’ve had great success using my trusty spaghetti squash “pasta” as well.

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*next time, I may double the amount of tofu, so that there is a bit more of the sauce throughout the casserole. Feel free to adjust, suiting to your taste and preference!

boozy baked french toast

We all know by now that I love putting a funky twist on an old classic. This is definitely one of those recipes.

Brunch and I go way back. A favorite American past time, brunch is one of those things that we all relish and enjoy when we get to take part. Whether over a special holiday weekend, or {my favorite} a random Sunday with nothing but the promise of a leisurely day ahead, this fun meal is a great way to start the day.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve certainly found that my taste buds have changed when it comes to this particular meal. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a super sweet, stuffed French toast or classic Nutella crepes on occasion, but typically I find myself leaning more towards slightly savory dishes, with just a hint of sweetness.

Enter this delectable breakfast casserole. I’ve had this tasty nugget of a recipe in my arsenal for several years now {in fact, the first time I ever made it was when the hubs returned from a 6 week stint in Beijing, right after our honeymoon, no less!}. I first stumbled upon it on one of blogs I read on a regular basis, and I’ve never gone back. It is by far my favorite go-to recipe for feeding a crowd. 

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What makes it so special? one might ask before scrolling down to review the recipe. When I tell people the secret behind this breakfast bombshell, I typically get an audible gasp.

Are you ready?! The secret ingredient is…

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TOFU!

I get so much pleasure and enjoyment out of catching friends and family in what I like to call a “funky food situation”. Every time I’ve used tofu, whether it’s in sweet or savory dishes, no one has ever been able to figure it out. In fact, I recently made this for breakfast when friends came down for a beer festival – after inhaling his dish, I mentioned the secret ingredient and he totally did a double take :) I love it.

As I’ve mentioned, this is a great recipe to make for a large crowd, because it is so easily doubled or tripled. It can be made ahead, wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator, until you’re ready to set it out and bake it. And my particular favorite reason? – it’s a great, balanced way to start the day, especially if you know it’s going to be particularly indulgent…whether it’s a day for a beer festival or just lounging with friends and drinks, I promise you will not be disappointed.

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Boozy Baked French Toast {recipe adapted from this Chocolate-Covered Katie recipe}

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

8 cups cubed white bread, slightly stale {I like to use a good sourdough French bread that I make in my bread machine, but any good bakery-style bread will work great}

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 heaping tsp. cinnamon

6 tbsp. pure maple syrup

1-1/4 cups milk

1 pack of silken tofu

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 ounces amaretto liqueur, plus additional for drizzling {optional}

1/2 – 1 cup raisins

 

To Make:

Grease a large baking dish.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the cubed bread and raisins, into the bowl of your food processor and puree until extremely smooth {I let it go, untouched, for at least 2-3 minutes, then give it a scrape, then let it go for another 2-3 minutes}.

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Place the cubed bread into a very large bowl, then toss in the raisins. Pour the smooth puree over the cubed bread and raisin mixture, and fold until combined, making sure to thoroughly coat each cube of bread.

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Drizzle additional amaretto over the top of the casserole to your preference {I find that a generous amount makes for a wonderful end result}. Tightly wrap the entire dish, either with saran wrap or a lid, and refrigerate overnight.

When Ready to Bake:

30 minutes before ready to set the oven, place the casserole on the countertop to help take the chill off. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until the top edges of the bread cubes begin to brown slightly.

Top with maple syrup or your favorite French Toast toppings – we like to set out a toppings bar with an assortment of items…chocolate chips, butter, nuts, whipped cream, etc.

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Brunch on, my dears!

loaded up brie mac & cheese

Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food.

If you’re anything like me, there is nothing better than settling into your kitchen after a long day at work, tying on your apron, and setting to work preparing dinner. Call me crazy, but sometimes the more involved the recipe is, the more soothing it is for me. You see, the kitchen is my safe haven, my place of calm, where I like to unwind. There are days when the stresses of work and everyday life just get to me, and all I can think about is making it to 5:00 and getting home to cook dinner. Call me crazy, and people certainly have, but to each their own, right?

The hubs and I have been on a bit of a Brie kick lately. This was one cheese I was never particularly fond of, or at least I thought that. Typically, the stinkier the cheese is, the more I like it. Pass me over a wedge of tangy Blue Cheese, perhaps a cube (or three!) of briny Feta, or some shavings of tart Romano cheese, and I’m a happy girl. It’s never been about the texture for me, but I’ve just always been drawn to bold flavors. Brie never really fit the bill.

Until one day last November, that is. For a “Friendsgiving” party a girlfriend of mine threw, I was tasked with some appetizers and a few side dishes. I’ll save the recipe for another time, but my dears, the Brie was the star. And it totally opened my eyes to the vast possibilities of cooking with it.

Flash forward to this week. One day not too long ago after work, I knew it was going to be one of those nights. A long, unwinding time in the kitchen, grating cheese, chopping veggies, the whole deal. Perhaps a glass of wine, if I may be so bold. I had been mulling over this particular mac & cheese recipe for some time, waiting for the perfect opportunity. And then inspiration struck me – let’s jazz it up, because why not? A quick glance in the refrigerator was all I needed; roasted vegetables could only make this even better, right? And toss in some salty prosciutto….now we’re getting somewhere.

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This does take a little bit of time to prepare, but the result is well worth the time (and the resulting dishes). Creamy Brie marries wonderfully with the sharp Cheddar and nutty Parmesan, and the roasted vegetables provide textural contrast to the smooth mouth feel of the dish. And if you’re willing to part with half of the dish (I only cook for two, so I do this quite often), immediately transfer half of the recipe into a freezer-safe dish for another time. All the perks of two rich, homemade meals….but only the work of one kitchen round. I think we can all get behind this, yes?

Enjoy!

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Loaded Up Brie Mac & Cheese {adapted slightly from Half Baked Harvest}

1 bag of Brussels sprouts, washed and removed of any unsightly leaves, and cut in half from top to bottom

1/2 head of cauliflower, washed and trimmed to the size of the Brussels sprouts

1 package of good prosciutto, cut into cubes

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 box of DeLallo pasta (I used a whole wheat shell)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 onion, finely diced

1/4 C. all purpose flour

2 C. milk (I used 1%)

1 C. low sodium chicken stock

7 ounces Brie cheese (I opted to leave the rind on, as I enjoy the flavor of it…but feel free to remove)

3 ounces sharp white Cheddar cheese

4 ounces Parmesan cheese

heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 – 1 C. panko bread crumbs

To make:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and spread the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower in an even layer. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast until browned and crispy, tossing once, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once a boil is achieved, generously salt the water. Add in the pasta, and cook until al dente (you want it to have a bit of bite to it still, as it will finish cooking in the oven). Drain well and set aside.

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While the pasta boils, add 3 tbsp. of your butter to a medium skillet and melt. Add in the garlic and onion, and saute for several minutes. You want the onions to be slightly soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper, then whisk in the flour. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the flour cook in with the butter/garlic/onion mixture for one minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and stock, raising the heat up to medium-high. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently until the sauce has thickened, about 3-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in all of the cheese, Dijon mustard, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the cheese is fully melted. Stir until the cheese is fully melted, and then fold in the roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, and cubed prosciutto.

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Transfer to a prepared baking dish, and sprinkle the top with panko bread crumbs.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the panko is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. Let sit for 5 minutes, then dig in!

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