Thursday, April 22, 2010

Baked Chicken Penne

This was a great pasta dish we made a couple weeks ago. It came together pretty easily and made a TON. I didn't even have to double it for Dinner Group. Because it makes so much, it's a great freezer meal, or dish to bring in to someone. Plus, I like good pasta "bases" that I can add different vegetables to, and still get a great dish. It's the sauce that makes this one so good.  I ended up combining two pasta dishes to get it the way I like it. 

Recipe Source: Our Best Bites
Serves: A lot! (at least 10)

Salt and Pepper
1 lb. Penne
1 tsp. Olive oil
2 chicken breasts
6 T. butter
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. flour
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
6 cups whole milk
10 oz. mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone (6 oz.) (If you can't find shredded Provolone, just use an Italian cheese blend)
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan (6 oz.)
1 package bacon, cooked and chopped (12 oz.)
1 14 oz. jar artichoke hearts, chopped (I prepare the non-marinated kind)
1/2 - 1 cup finely chopped green onions

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease 2 shallow 2 quart baking dishes.

2. In a large pot, bring a pot of water to boil and cook Penne just 3 minutes short of al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. While the pasta is cooking, add some olive oil to a large, separate saucepan. Salt and pepper your chicken and add to saucepan. Cook until cooked through and set aside. Once it's cooled, halve your chicken breasts horizontally, and then slice them into strips.

4. Now add the mushrooms and any other desired vegetables to that same saucepan, and saute them just short of being done. Add a little olive oil if necessary. Set them aside once you've sauteed them for a few minutes.

5. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. (I just used the same pot I used for my pasta. I'm all about getting as few dishes dirty as possible.) Add flour and garlic, whisking for about a minute. Cooking the flour for a few minutes helps get rid of the "floury" taste. While whisking, gradually add milk, and bring to a simmer. Keep whisking the sauce as it begins to thicken, about a minute.

6. Add your mushrooms and artichokes and cook for another couple minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Provolone and 1/2 cup of the grated Parmesan. Add the chicken, bacon, green onions, and pasta and season with salt and pepper. I found it needed a LOT of salt and pepper at this point.

7. Divide the pasta evenly between your baking dishes and top with remaining Parmesan cheese. (If you're planning on freezing one pan, don't top it with the Parmesan cheese. Instead, put it in a small baggie and freeze it with the Penne.)

8. Bake uncovered, until hot and bubbly, about 25 minutes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

April Fool's Cupcakes-- Mock Spaghetti and Meatballs

This is the other fake-out cupcake we decided to make for April Fool's Day. I've already shared the mock TV dinner cupcakes. I thought this spaghetti and meatballs platter turned out pretty fun, as well. It was far simpler to put together than it looks and I have to admit, the meatballs looked so realistic, it was almost gross! The added bonus of this recipe was that the cupcakes tasted so good with the extra strawberry jam. They looked and tasted great!

Recipe Source: Hello, Cupcake!

Supplies needed:
10 vanilla cupcakes, baked in white liners
1 can vanilla frosting
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
3 drops yellow food coloring
11 Ferrero Rocher chocolates, unwrapped
3/4 cup strawberry preserves (preferably the low sugar kind... it has a better, brighter red color)
2 Tbsp. grated white chocolate, plus a chunk of white chocolate for garnishing, if desired

1. Tint the vanilla frosting with the cocoa powder and yellow food coloring. You're going for a pale yellow, almost cream color. I actually added just a touch more cocoa powder for mine

2. Frost the cupcakes and arrange on a platter so they're touching.

3. Spoon the remaining frosting into a freezer duty Ziploc bag and snip off a small corner from the bag. Be sure to snip a very small opening. I found this to be the trickiest part of the whole cupcake. Somehow, I didn't snip my corner off just right and my noodles ended up being just a tad "flat." They looked more like Ramen noodles. Be sure to snip a nice clean, small corner, about 1/8 inch.
4. Pipe the frosting over the cupcakes, piling it slightly higher in the center of the platter, creating a mound of noodles. Be sure to allow some to hang over the edges. This part was really fun. The messier you pipe and the more you pipe, the better it looks. You want to cover as much of the cupcake surface as possible.

5. Place the chocolates in a small bowl and coat with some of the strawberry jam. Spoon some of the preserves onto the cupcakes. Then top each cupcake with a strawberry jam coated chocolate. It's cute if you leave one "meatball" to fall on the plate. Then spoon any remaining preserves over the chocolates and cupcakes.

6. Sprinkle the entire platter with the grated white chocolate. If you want, place a small chunk of white chocolate on a separate plate and serve it alongside the "spaghetti and meatballs" along with a cheese grater.