Tag Archives: pasta

French Onion Chicken Noodle casserole and faith, love and good food

A few things here. It’s been a few months since I have posted a new recipe and for that I am apologetic. I find it hard to believe that anyone cares that much about my blathering and rambling and yet, I feel tremendous guilt when I have been away too long. I call it good ole Catholic guilt but it’s for sure a catch 22.  I admit I feel a certain level of responsibility to you all. Though I am well aware no one is basing their entire life or menu on me posting a recipe or not, I consider my readers to be my friends and I do feel responsible for my friends. So since we are friends I will apologize for being so absent lately but I will hope you allow me some grace because you know how deep we can sink into life without even knowing it. And I have been thigh deep in LIFE. Here’s a little glimpse into what we’ve been doing and that’s not the half of it…

4 kiddos means lots going on sometimes

This is just the stuff going on that you can see. That I can even verbalize. There have been other things that just come with life. I lost my aunt in April (my cousin Robin’s mom, my mom’s sister) and that was hard.

from left to right…my mom, momee, and aunt rebecca (circa 2003)

 When I sit down and consider all the things that have happened, it is a little hard to believe some of it actually is real. And I forgive myself for not sitting down to write about a recipe because I have been doing good to get supper on the table.

 But here I am, and I am going to give you a recipe that fits the bill for the ultimate comfort dish. No matter the season, no matter the day…this dish aims to please. My friend Amy from my hometown (there are lots of Aimee/Amys  from Alex…and I proudly call a bunch of them my friends.) One day she shared this recipe via Facebook and it looked so good I just had to try it. Now I could just share that recipe but I like to write about the recipes that I love on my blog and that in no way makes them my recipes. This recipe can be found here…http://www.plainchicken.com/2014/09/french-onion-chicken-noodle-casserole.html#CEeoggWZZxhI7sqZ.99

It’s a real winner my friends. I think the actual phrase is winner, winner chicken dinner! It is so good. Now I kind of tweaked it a little to make it suit our tastes but it is just the bomb. The stuff as my good friend Lisa is fond of saying. This is the stuff! You make some field peas with it and some warm buttered King’s Hawaiian rolls and you have yourself one heck of a supper. Big Daddy went bananas. He loved it and I did too. It’s one of those dishes you think about and have to make it. It’s that good. 

French Onion Chicken Noodle Casserole 

Stuff you need~

4 cups cooked chopped chicken

2 cans cream of chicken soup

12 ounces container French Onion Dip

4 ounces sour cream 

1 cup cheddar cheese (I used the Kraft triple cheddar with a touch of cream cheese) 

12 ounces egg noodles

1 cup crushed French fried onions

What to do with the stuff~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Cook your noodles until they are cooked al dente. So they are cooked but not mushy. No one wants that. 

Now stir the soup, the dip, the sour cream, your chicken (insert rotisserie chicken here), and cheese. 


Now combine this mixture with the cooked noodles. Add all of this to your 9’x 13 dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Top with French fried onions. Bake 25-30 minutes. 

creamy, filling, savory…this dish has it all!!

Most of all, I hope you all enjoy this as much as we did. I want you to know how much I appreciate you continuing to read my posts, for sharing my posts, for commenting and interacting, for waiting for me to come back around. Life is so full of lessons and I am on a journey to learn them. Difficult or not. And man some of them have been difficult here larely. I am grateful to be able to share my journey of faith, hope and good food with all of you. Much love and many good meals to you all.~AMB 

life is a journey and that is fine as long as some of it can be on a boat on the Sabine River

And because I just love our dogs…let me share what they have been up to…our pups, Roy and Idaho are a big part of our fam!! 


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Cajun chicken pasta and a happy accident 

Ok I am so excited to share this recipe with you. It was truly a happy accident for me. I am typically a control freak in most areas and like my ducks In a row in many areas of my life. Cooking is no different. I am not sure if I am this way because it is a necessity for me to have 4 kids and run a house in a semi functional way. Ok mildly functional…I’m not gonna lie. Or maybe I have always been this way. That is probably the most likely scenario. I like things a certain way, I like to be prepared, I like to know what is going to happen in advance. I would say also if I am looking at Alfred Adler’s birth order theory, I am the oldest and I have many of the traits that Adler associates with oldest children. So there you go…this is what happens when a therapist turns into a food blogger. Love love love me some counseling theories. If you want to read up on this topic a little or are just curious, here is a good one to check out…

http://www.d120.org/assets/1/staff_assets/rhalbur/Alfred_Adler_-_Birth_Order.pdf.

It says specifically oldest children are often perfectionists and can be exacting. Errr…me and me. That’s ok. I embrace it. It works well for me most of the time, but being exacting and a perfectionist is not often helpful to me when I need to be experimental in the kitchen. Improvisation is not my thing usually…mama likes a recipe to follow, dang it!!! That’s what makes the fact that this recipe happened at all a true delight. One night we had a busy schedule on the books (running meet, neighborhood association annual meeting, 4 kids worth of homework and big daddy had a life insurance appointment. Busy!) and I was trying to figure out what to feed my crew. Sweet baby Jesus what’s an overwhelmed mama to do?! So I was pondering as I tuned my bickering children in the backseat on the drive home from school. What’s for dinner? I had bought a package of Tyson’s frozen grilled sliced chicken breasts and had not used them yet. 

  
I started thinking what ingredients I had on hand. Something came to me….Cajun chicken pasta! Maybe I could find a recipe that called for what I had. That sounded so good. My sister had turned me on to Chili’s Cajun chicken pasta years ago but that was not in the budget or schedule. I googled it and found a recipe that called for ingredients I had. Well mostly. I was missing a few things and it was not exact. Usually that bothers me but that night I embraced it! I used what I had and did not give two hoots about exact. And the outcome was so very very delicious. Added bonus…those frozen grilled chicken slices worked well and this dish came together in a flash. Everyone loved it and I have made it twice since then. I am going to give you the recipe I used here, but  you can of course check out the original recipe here http://allrecipes.com/recipe/8778/cajun-chicken-pasta/. That first night I did not have grated Parmesan cheese, I only had what my kiddos call shaky cheese or that Kraft stuff in the green canister. It was even better then than the next time when I had the actual freshly grated  Parmesan cheese. Just saying….something to be said for improvising! I double the sauce recipe…when you taste it you will see why. It’s just so good. 3 cheers for happy accidents!! Enjoy! Remember I double the sauce recipe so that’s 2 cups whipping cream and double the seasoning…but that’s just me. I love a good sauce. Mmmm

Cajun chicken pasta 

Stuff you need~ 

1/2 package Tyson frozen grilled sliced chicken breasts 

Cooking oil or olive oil 

2 tablespoons Cajun pasta (I use Tony’s…what else?) 

2 tablespoons butter 

1/2 chunked up  red bell pepper

1/2 chunked up yellow bell pepper 

1 cup heavy whipping cream 

1/4 teaspoon  lemon pepper 

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/4 teaspoon dried basil (I use the stuff in the tube) 

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 

1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

1/4 cup Kraft grated Parmesan cheese (the stuff in the green canister…if you dare) 

1/2 box of linguine 

What to do with the stuff~

Bring pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Cook al dente and drain. Set aside. 

Warm the cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the frozen sliced chicken. Sprinkle liberally with the Cajun seasoning. It’s supposed to have some Cajun heat sha! 

  
Ok stir the chicken around until it is heated through…5 minutes or so. Toss the butter into the skillet. Let it melt and then toss in the veggies. 

  
Cook until slightly tender. Stir in the whipping cream and then add all the seasonings. Resist the urge to drink it with a spoon. It’s so good. 

  
Sprinkle in the cheese and let it simmer for a few minutes on low heat to let those luscious flavors mingle. Oh yes. Luscious. Flavors. Mingle. You will see. 

  

Sundried tomato basil chicken pasta and the recipes that hold us together 

It has occurred to me in the past few weeks that I have numerous friendships that many wonderful recipes have come from.  I make friends with these lovely, beautiful inside and out people, and because we share a love of cooking, and yes food, we end up sharing our favorites. They are not the reason we are friends, but the recipes become these tentpoles of our friendships.  We know their family through these recipes, even if we have never met their family.  These recipes become part of our story. The food that feeds our kids during parties, the meals that we bond over, reveal secrets over (along with a glass of wine). It’s just what friends do!! 

For example, the other day, I wanted to make my favorite quiche recipe which comes from my friend Alayna. I adore quiche and this recipe is the real deal. It comes out perfectly every time and I always feel like a brilliant chef when I am serving it up for a brunch. She wrote the recipe down for me long ago and I have sense lost it (I know!!) and has texted it to me several times as well. I texted her AGAIN to get the recipe. She texts back with one of her witty responses, followed by the recipe and then “I swear we just use one another for recipes!” Though I knew she was kidding, it gave me pause for a minute. I am a sensitive person and don’t take most things as lightly as they are intended. We go back and forth with the witty banter that makes us good friends and it is decided that we don’t see one another often enough and this is likely due to us being busy cooking. So then a few days later, she texts me about what to do with leftover cornbread and I say cornbread salad! And the circle continues. 

A week or so ago, I texted Betsy for a the recipe for her mama’s sundried tomato basil chicken pasta recipe. Again, with 8 kids and super busy schedules between us, not to mention the 3 1/2 hour travel between us, we don’t talk to or see one another nearly as often as we would like. But that doesn’t make us any less of a friend to one another. Good friends don’t need daily interaction to stay good friends. A good, quality friendship is always there, unchanging and unaffected. Sure it’s a good idea to do something to nourish those relationships and keep up best you can but a good friend is for life. Just last week, as I was about to board a flight to Honolulu (yes Honolulu…cajun mama travels albeit reluctantly) I get a text from Betsy encouraging me to have fun and not worry. Why? Because she knows me, has experienced first hand how hard it is for me to leave my kids, and break away.  And in many ways her text put me at ease. It reminded me what I am made of and also what a good friend I have in Betsy. My point here is, maybe our texts do revolve around forgotten recipes but it keeps us connected. Despite the miles, the kids, the exhalation and the busy schedules, we remain close somehow. And Alayna and Betsy are just examples. I experience this with different friends. Recipes have a way of doing that. They bond us, draw us together, and keep us connected. 
Now the recipe for Alayna’s quiche went in my column in the May issue of Red River Moms (and I will share it here soon) but today I am sharing the recipe for the Mrs. Sharon’s sundried tomato basil chicken pasta. And you will see just how insanely delicious one recipe can be after you make it. One bite and you will be SOLD!!! This is a filling pasta dish that is so flavorful and hearty, even the manliest man will appreciate it. But it is also perfectly at home on the menu for a ladies’ luncheon. 
Sundried tomato basil chicken pasta 
Stuff you need~

1 8 ounce jar sundried tomatoes, in oil (drained and reserve the oil) 
1 onion, sliced 
1 green bell pepper, sliced 
1 teaspoon garlic 
1 8 ounce package sliced mushrooms 
1 teaspoon basil (I used the stuff in the tube)
4 chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 cup whipping cream 
8 ounces bow tie pasta (about 1/2 box), cooked al dente 

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

*Betsy’s additions~Parmesan and red pepper flakes (I have told ya’ll before about her red pepper flakes addiction and she passed it on to me) 

What to do with the stuff~

Drain oil from tomatoes and reserve. Give the sundried tomatoes what PW calls a “hard chop”. Does not have to be perfect or uniform just chop them up some. 

  
Now, add some of the reserved oil to a large skillet and warm it over medium heat. Add slices of onion and bell pepper to the pot. Sauté them for a minute or two and then add garlic and mushrooms.

  
Sauté until the pepper are tender. Remove from pot and Set aside. Now, sprinkle your sliced chicken with a little kosher salt and black pepper and add to the skillet. I added a little more of the reserved oil before doing this. Cook the chicken for a few minutes on one side and then flip over and cook for a minute or two on the other side. Cook in two batches if needed to make sure the chicken gets a nice sizzle to it. If you add to much chicken at once, it takes too long for the pot to heat up and no browning goes on. And that nice lovely brown on the the chicken adds such a lovely depth to the flavor in this dish. (That is the foodiest statement I have ever made…excuse me).   Once your chicken is cooked, stir the veggies and your other batch of cooked chicken back into the pot. Now stir in the chopped sundried tomatoes and basil to this and give it a stir. Yes. That’s right. Smells good, doesn’t it? Yes. Mrs. Sharon is a wise wise woman with excellent taste. (Ask how I know? She raised a daughter who is the same way! I am not comparing one of my dearest friends to this pasta dish…but if I was, it would be a compliment!)

Ok! Now, pour in that luscious cream. Oh yeah…it’s good to be you.  

mmmmmm….good things are happening

Stir in cooked pasta and season with some good ole sal

Spicy Cajun shrimp pasta

Well I told y’all when we were on vacay that we picked up a few pounds of fresh Gulf shrimp right? Shrimp is such a luxury for us to have on hand. Somehow it is less painful to shell out the money on vacation for several pounds of big beautiful fresh Gulf shrimp than it is to go to the store and fork it over. Not sure if one is actually more cost effective than the other, but it seems so much easier the other way. Now, that being said, the recipe I am sharing today is so flipping amazing that I will go to the Brookshires or Kroger and buy some shrimp so I can make it. It certainly won’t hold me back!! This was the freshest, tastiest seafood pasta recipe I have tried in a long time. It was yummilicous! (That’s a hybrid word I am trying…cross between yummy and delicious…try it out) I found the original recipe at http://damndelicious.net/2014/01/15/spicy-parmesan-shrimp-pasta/, but I made a few changes to it to make it Cajun style. In all seriousness, this was one fantastic pasta dish and I will make it over and over. I think you will LOVE it.~AMB
Find the rest of this recipe on my new site…Spicy Cajun Shrimp Pasta | Cajun Mama Cooks
http://cajunmamacooks.com/2014/08/04/spicy-cajun-shrimp-pasta/

Roasted tomato and mozzarella pasta

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Our kitchen table on any given night.

It has been another wild week at camp cajun mama. Obviously as I am a little behind on blogging. I got the cooking bug on Monday and literally spent all day in the kitchen. Yesterday I spent the school day helping out at the kiddos’ school in the library. Their librarian is the sweetest person and it is book fair time so I figured why not. I got to interact with so many of the sweet kiddos and see their little faces. I love it when they say “hey you are so and so’s mom!” And their face lights up. Not sure I have ever seen people that happy to see me so it’s a win win. Anyway, I apologize for once again falling behind, but I am here now and plan on getting several recipes in. Sometimes the mama part of Cajun mama takes over and I have to handle up on my mommy duties. I am writing this sitting in the parking lot at their school waiting for my son’s strings performance to start. A mama’s got to do what a mama’s got to do, right?
So, on to more important things…this pasta. Oh y’all…this pasta is so delicious. Full of flavor and easy to prepare and just so filling, it is a sure fire winner. I loved knowing that it was chock full of cherry tomatoes and all of the vitamins and good stuff they contain. Also, You can add chicken to this dish or you can leave it out making it a great meatless option. I saw this recipe on Pinterest and knew I would love it and had to make it ASAP. My friend came over for a visit and I decided to throw it together. She loved it. I loved it. Big Daddy…loved it. Even 2 of my kiddos gobbled it up. Yummy noises all around my friends. So grab yourself some cherry tomatoes and pasta and get to cookin. You will be so glad and the yummy noises will be yours!!

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Look at those lovely tomatoes ready for roasting…mouth watering

Roasted tomato and mozzarella pasta (adapted from http://www.scalingbackblog.com)

Serves about 6

stuff you need~

2 pints of cherry tomatoes (I used one pint of the cherry and one pint of the sunburst tomatoes…adds color which is pretty and good for you!)
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 1/2 teaspoons of the jarred stuff)
Olive oil
Good ole kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 box of whole wheat or regular pasta (I used angel hair and loved it)
1-8 ounce package of fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil (I used the kind in the tube that most stores carry and it worked fabulously…herbs seem to go bad too quickly in my fridge and it is not as cost effective)
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces (or you can omit this and go meatless…whatever works for you)

What to do with the stuff~
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. We are going to roast us some tomatoes. (See above pic) I covered a baking sheet with foil. Now lay your washed and dried tomatoes all out on the foil. Now sing to them and let them know they are going to be so delicious roasted and they need not worry. What? You don’t talk to your food as you cook it? You are missing out! (Don’t judge me…I am tired a lot of the time and drink too much coffee). Sprinkle the little darlings generously with the Olive oil. Don’t hold back now. Now sprinkle some kosher salt and pepper then using your hands give those little tomatoes a nice rub down. Lol. Add the garlic and basil. Do the same. You just want to make sure all the tomatoes get some of that flavor. your pasta. Pop them in your preheated oven and roast them until they are literally bursting with flavor. The smell alone coming from your oven will have you salivating. About 25 minutes give or take should do you good. While the tomatoes are doing their thing, go ahead and boil your pasta. Reserve the liquid for use in the dish later as it helps to thicken up the saucy sauce. Next, season the chicken with salt and pepper. in a skillet, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until browned on both sides and cooked throughout. Add those beautifully roasted tomatoes to the chicken and cook for 2 minutes. Pour the cooked pasta into the skillet with the tomato chicken mixture and add about 1/4 cup of the reserved water and cook over low heat until sauce is thickened. Stir in more reserved water as necessary to coat all the pasta. Cut the fresh mozzarella into 1/2″ chunks. Stir into the pasta and toss around until the cheese is slightly melted. Season to taste with extra kosher salt, pepper, and extra basil. Serve the pasta up in bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese as desired. Y’all are going to flip!! This is one of my new favorite dishes. Manga!

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Heaven in a pasta bowl. It’s even good cold.

Wheezie’s easy mac and cheese

I have told ya’ll before that I am the oldest of 4 girls.  There is me, then Jenny, Lisa and Claire.  I am considerably older than all of them but as we have gotten older that has mattered less and less.  They have all grown up to be beautiful, smart, talented and great women.  For a few, all too short years, my sister Lisa aka Wheezie and her hubby lived in Shreveport.  It was during the time that I was having babies and she was in grad school, but our love of finding yummy recipes and trying them out is something that we shared.  It was a time when I didn’t have much time to cook as I was in survival mode, just trying to keep my head above water, but she would try new recipes and sometimes have us over or bring over something for me to try.  She actually started blogging long before I did.  She is a teacher but is an excellent blogger…check her out at http://www.makeitlikemomou.blogspot.com!!  This recipe I am giving you today is one of those. Though we all love Momou’s mac and cheese, Wheezie is probably the biggest fan.  She is a notorious mac and cheese fanatic.  This past Friday evening, Big Daddy was dead set on grilling steaks.  I didn’t get to the grocery store, so decided to make do with what I had.  The fantastic thing about this mac and cheese recipe is that it uses ingredients that you most likely have at home already.  Plus, this is a kid friendly recipe.  That is always a bonus.  Since now I am past the baby hanging off of me stage (consequently, Lisa is in her baby stage with a one year old.  My sweet niece CC…ahh the circle of life), I am experimenting more and unafraid to try new things.  I am out of survival mode and in thrive mode.  It feels pretty dang good!!!  I called Lisa all excited that I had dubbed this Wheezie’s mac and cheese and about the changes I had made.  I left her a message and I am sure she will hear it and think I am nuts.    Anyway, I dusted this recipe off and kind of gave it a Cajun Mama twist and boy was it good!!!  I am pretty sure ya’ll will LOVE this one.  It would be fantabulous with barbecue in the summer time and be great along side a recipe I am blogging tomorrow…grape salad.  So, if you are looking for a quick and easy mac and cheese, give this one a go!!!~AMB

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My mermaid with her Godmother…Wheezie.  Fellow mac and cheese lovers!

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She is a great cook and obviously very funny…she is cracking Pappy up!

Wheezie’s easy mac and cheese (adapted from the kitchen of Lisa Welch…www.makeitlikemomou.blogspot.com)

Stuff you need:

12 ounces farfalle pasta (that is bowtie pasta)

1 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup of mayo

1 tsp.  smoked paprika 

salt and pepper

2 cups shredded cheese blend (I used half cheddar jack blend and half italian cheese blend with cream cheese in it and it was awesome!!!)

What to do with the stuff:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 9 x 13 inch dish or 11 x 7 dish with cooking spray.  Boil your pasta according to package directions and drain.  Return pasta back to the pot.  Stir in the cream of mushroom, mayo, paprika, good ole salt and pepper to taste, and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese into the pasta.  Stir to combine.  Pour this into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese (plus a little extra..go on…I won’t tell).  Cover with foil and pop into preheated oven.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Remove foil and inhale that wonderful smell.  Spoon into a bowl and devour accordingly.  YUM!!!  Thank you Wheezie!!!

 

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Oh devilishly good concoction…please get in my belly.  Wheezie would approve!!

Linguine Casserole…

I love a nice comforting casserole.  Know what I love even more?  A comforting casserole that comes together in about an hour…from start to finish.  This one DEFINITELY falls into both categories.  I made duck gumbo for Big Daddy the other night and it was delicious.  Yesterday, I knew it was time for a lovely low maintenance casserole.  I was on Pinterest yesterday morning and came across this little beauty and knew I had found our supper for the night.  I bought the few extra ingredients I needed to make this and was all set and ready to go.  Then I went to get my hair done (not lady of leisure here my friends…it had to happen.  I had a unibrow and my hair looked insane.  I looked like I was kin to cousin It.) and rushed to do a few more errands and then to pick up my kiddos.  Of course, some days, okay more often than not, when they get in the car it is like getting a bunch of ping pong balls in a mini van that all bounce of each other and the windows.  Well you get the point.  Everyone wants to talk at once (which is a good thing, but it overwhelms me) and they have done their best to do well in school all day and be nice so they unleash their beast upon one another (and or me) and some days, honestly, I want to turn around and bring them back to school.  So I get the hungry, tired, cranky fussy things home and feed them a snack.  And oversee homework x 4.  I was ready to be done already.  I know, I know…it is wrong to feel this way.  I had missed them all day and was so happy to see their faces and hear about their day.  But those are real feelings and I did not feel like making supper.  But the little people and their daddy wanted to eat.  Somehow this keeps happening every night around 5:30.  Ha ha!!!  So, I rose to the challenge and forged ahead with making this casserole.  Even after all of that, it was so easy to put together.  And then the smell of this casserole filled the air and it drew everyone to the kitchen in anticipation of something warm to put in their bellies.  Peace was restored.  My kids were perfectly behaved and ate this with gusto.  Then I woke up from my dream.  What?  It isn’t a magic casserole people. Yeah, not exactly, but this was one heck of a wonderful meal.  My baby boy at two plates of it, but he truly will eat almost anything  Now, the others were not interested.  But Big Daddy (who is not really a cheesy pasta person) LOVED IT!!!   This is like a souped up, extra decadent mac and cheese with some ham thrown in for good measure.  Seriously guys, it is yummy all up in your tummy.  It calls for very few ingredients, but the result is rich and delicious.

Comforting Creamy Linguine Casserole (adapted from Julie’s Eats and Treats at http://www.julieseatsandtreats.com/2011/03/linguine-casserole/)

Prep Time:  15 minutes

Cook Time:  45 minutes

Serves: 6

Stuff You Need:

8 oz. of linguine, cooked (linguine is the perfect pasta for this dish and this is half of a box/package…just a little FYI)

3 cloves of garlic, minced (that is 1 1/2 tsp. of the minced garlic in a jar)

2 cups cubed, fully cooked lean ham

1 3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese, divided

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

What to do with the Stuff:

Prepare a 9 x 13 dish by spraying it with some cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook linguine according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  In a bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of the Swiss Cheese, and all other remaining ingredients together.  Stir in cooked pasta and stir to coat.   Pour into prepared casserole dish and cover with foil.  Cook for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove foil and sprinkle with remaining shredded Swiss.  Return casserole to the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and the casserole is all bubbly and you just want to grab a fork and eat it straight from the dish.  It is done.

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Comforting casserole indeed.  You will LOVE it!!! 

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Me…without the unibrow and cousin It hair…thank heavens.

Pastalaya and friendships that last

Funny thing about how friendships transpire.  Especially friendships between mommies.  You meet so many times, over and over, again.  Usually in a rush.  Frazzled.  Looking for one kid while nursing another.  Then you factor in personalities, the time it takes to develop a friendship and it is a wonder mommies ever make friends.  We see the same people all the time, yet it seems hard to establish a good friendship.  But sometimes, you get lucky.  Even after several awkward run ins and very different personalities, you get lucky enough to get a glimpse of her.  You know who I am talking about.  The woman she is.  Actually, the girl.  That person she was before she had 1,2,3,4 kids and was exhausted.  And you really like her.  And your kids just love one another.  And because you are both displaced Central and South Louisiana girls living in Shreveport, you form a close bond and form some sort of pseudo family.   That is what happened between my very dear, probably one of my best, friends, Betsy.  I won’t go in to much more of our back story, as it is long, but what you need to know is how very much I love her and that even though they now live in South Louisiana and we don’t talk as much as we used to (every day, numerous times) she is always with me in some form or fashion.  I am so grateful for our friendship and that we still remain very much a part of one another’s lives.  One thing we bonded over  was recipes.  Betsy loves to eat.  She will tell you that.  I am pretty sure she has a hollow leg, but that chick likes good food.  Her husband is a man of several talents.  Surgeon during the week and on the weekends he becomes super dad and chef extraordinaire.  I am not sure if every surgeon knows their way around a kitchen like he does and comes with awesome recipes like he does…but this guy has it.  So of course, friend wise, I hit the double jackpot.  So one day when Betsy was preggers with her fourth baby and we worked together at a local Mother’s Day Out, she brought out two Glad containers full of something so delicous I could not even stand it.  Pastalaya.  Say what?  Yes, you heard me.  Take out the rice from jambalaya and add in pasta and you have this amazing dish.  Matt had made some and she wanted to share.  I told ya’ll she is a good friend.  I wanted this recipe.  I needed it.  I was forcefully driven to get it.  Make it.  Could I?  Did I dare?  Could I recreate the deliciousness that was Pastalaya?  Well, I was dang sure going to try.  So, I did.  And it was so good.  So now, even though we are miles apart, when I want to make this dish, I pull out the food stained sheet of paper with the recipe Matt wrote for me in his handwriting.  And I feel a little closer to them.  I miss her, them, still terribly.  It is not the same but it is still there.  Good friendships never die.  They are solidified in memories and smiles and good times and if you are lucky, some really delicious recipes.  So, today I share not only a recipe for Pastalaya with you.  I share the joy, good times, and memories that come along with it.  Even still, when our two families are able to get together (that would be 8 kids and 4 adults), we enjoy good food and more love and laughter than our hearts can hold.  It took us a while to make that connection, but thank heavens, it stuck.  I hope that you make it for some people you know really well or hope to get to know better…I can’t promise it will create an Aimee/Betsy bond, but it dang sure can’t hurt.  Special friends, like really special recipes, don’t come along that often, but when they do…you should hold on to them. ~AMB

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Two of our sweet girls on Halloween 2011

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Our boys, Halloween, same year

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Our collective bunch 2013…that’s a lot of kiddos…and a lot of love

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I love her…that is all.  She is better than pastalaya.  

Matt’s Pastalaya 

Stuff you Need:

1 pack bacon

1 pack andouille sausage

1 pack boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 cans chicken broth (I use reduced sodium)

2 cans cream of mushroom

1 onion, chopped

1-2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (this can be found near the condiments usually)

a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Tony’s seasoning, to taste

12 oz. of UNCOOKED thin spaghetti

What to do with the stuff:

Cut your bacon, sausage, and chicken thighs to bite size pieces.  Cook on medium high heat in a large pot.  Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a few shakes of Tony’s while the meat is cooking.  When the meats are almost cooked, stir in chopped onion.  Let this cook for a few minutes until onions are tender and meat is completely done.  Now, stir in chicken broth.  Let this sit for 5 minutes.  Stir in a teaspoon or two of Kitchen Bouquet (Matt always says a cap full of so) to darken.  Next, stir in the cream of mushroom and let this all sit for about 5 minutes.  Now, you are going to add the uncooked pasta and let this all cook on a low fire until the noodles are tender.  I give mine a few quick stirs during the cooking process to make sure nothing is sticking.  Serve with a lovely green salad and some garlic bread.  Let the inner Cajun in you rejoice!!!

*I am making this dish this weekend, so I will take a nice photo to post for ya’ll!!!

Mammaw’s Spaghetti and Baked Meatballs

Now I am quite certain there are many of you out there who have their own tried and true spaghetti and meatball recipe.  I am also quite certain it is absolutely delicious.  This is not your traditional Italian spaghetti and meatball recipe, I wouldn’t think, as neither Big Daddy or I have any Italian roots in our family….just about everything else…just not Italian.  Growing up, my Momou made spaghetti and meatballs for Sunday lunch when we would go visit and my mama made them pretty regularly too.  It was always a big event and my daddy was always, always so excited.  We had these big ole bowls he would eat spaghetti and meatballs from and he did it just right…twirling his pasta in the spoon with his fork.  He taught me and my sisters how to do it as well.  My mama and Momou could sure enough make up some spaghetti and meatballs.  So when Big Daddy and I started dating, his Pappaw passed on Mammaw’s spaghetti and meatballs recipe to me.  I gave it a try as my Momou could never verbalize exactly how she made hers. Magic, I suppose.  🙂  She did try though and I knew there was sugar in it and I had watched my mama enough to know kind of sort of how to do it.  Remember though, I was in college.  I was 19 and needed a dang recipe.  Lol!  So I got Mammaw’s and I got to it.  Well, turns out, her recipe and Momou’s and my mom’s must have been very similar.  It definitely hit the spot.  So for the most part, when I want to do a big spaghetti and meatball dinner, this is the recipe I always use.  My kids absolutely love it, even my oldest picky child.  He nearly licked the bowl clean the other night.  So I wanted to share this recipe with ya’ll just in case you are at a loss how to recreate your mom’s or grandmother’s spaghetti and meatball recipe.  Or you need a good recipe for this in your recipe box.  I hope you enjoy this.  I have definitely shortened it and simplified it to some extent.  I don’t think Mammaw would mind me taking liberties with her recipe as she was a very sensible woman indeed.  She would be a fan of “ain’t nobody got time for that!” if she were here today.  So make up a big pot of Mammaw’s spaghetti and meatballs and share them with someone special.  Sit around the table and laugh while you twirl your spaghetti in the spoon with your fork and then pile it into your mouth.  Just don’t forget the napkins!!!

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Big Daddy, Mammaw and Pappaw making sweet memories….

Mammaw’s Spaghetti and Baked Meatballs

Ingredients

For sauce you will need…

olive oil

3 cans tomato paste

6 cans of water

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced,

sugar (about 2-3 Tablespoons depending on taste)

salt and pepper (about 2 tsp. of each give or take…I use kosher salt)

2 bay leaves

For meatballs you will need…

1 pound ground chuck

1 pound ground pork

1 tsp. each of  salt and pepper

2 tsp. dried parsley

milk

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 clove of garlic

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a big wide pot or a deep one (I use my big blue wide pot) over medium heat.  Add finely diced onion and garlic in the olive oil and saute this for about 5 minutes or until onions are tender.  Add in cans of tomato paste one by one, giving a good stir in between each one.  You want to incorporate the onions  and garlic into each can of paste.  Gradually stir in each can of water.  Add bay leave, some salt and pepper and about 1 tablespoon of sugar to start with.   You can taste it and add more if you want at this point or wait.  Now, the sauce should be bubbling a bit at this point, so turn it down to low and let it simmer.  Ok, put the lid on and let this simmer for about 2 hours.  Stir occasionally and adjust heat if needed.  Mammaw made sure to note on her recipe and Pappaw made sure to reiterate to me…”the secret is in long slow cooking!!”…to me that means two hours.  LOL!!

While sauce is simmering, you can go ahead and make your meatballs.  Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Put your meat in a large bowl.  Add in your salt, pepper, parsley, grated Parmesan,  a splash of milk and minced garlic.  Mix it up really well with your (clean) hands.  Really get in there and work that seasoning in ya’ll!  Good times!!  ha ha!!  Ok, once you have your meat well seasoned (feel free to add in more seasoning if you think you need to.  My measurements are approximate). Now, take about 1 heaping tablespoon of meat and roll it gently into a ball.  You want uniformity more than anything so that they will cook evenly.  Put the meatballs on a rack inside of a baking pan (this allows fat to drip away from the meat).  Mammaw called for pan frying the meatballs in her recipe.  I changed it up because baking the meatballs makes them more moist to me, plus it is a healthier way to make them.  Put your baking pan on the middle rack in your preheated oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes.  They don’t have to be completely done as they will cook a little while in the sauce.  You just want most of the pink gone.

Add your meatballs to your sauce one by one.  Give them a good stir and then return lid to pot and let the sauce continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Serve over cooked pasta of your choice and you are golden!!  Sunday supper for real!!!

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Big bowl of love!!

PW’s Spinach Artichoke Pasta

Now I told ya’ll that I love Pioneer Woman’s recipes.  They are scrumptious (her word) and realistic and please a crowd.  With my crew over here, we are a crowd so that is definitely important.  This recipe makes a big ole skillet full and will please your crowd (or a few hungry Cajuns as they say ha ha!!).  This is a meatless dish but you can totally add some roasted shrimp or some grilled chicken if you want to make it a full meal.  Then it becomes a one pot wonder and who doesn’t love that?  I think next time I make this I will add the shrimp and I will substitute the spinach with kale.  It is so creamy and so dreamy and just mmmm…mmmm…can’t talk because my mouth is full GOOD!  Now that Fall is here, this is a great dish to make for friends who come over to watch the game or for a girls’ night in.

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Spinach Artichoke Pasta (Adapted from the Pioneer Woman) 

Makes about 10 servings 

Ingredients

12 oz. penne pasta, cooked al dente

6 Tablespoons butter, divided

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and halved (they do carry them already halved if you want to get those)

2 bags of baby spinach (I used one of those plastic containers of baby spinach they have in the store now and that was plenty)

3 T. flour

3 cups whole milk

1/4 t. cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 ounces cream cheese (optional…but yeah…its good)

1 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth (less or more, depending on you )

1/2 seasoned panko breadcrumbs

crushed red pepper, according to taste

Instructions

Melt 2 T. of butter in a large skillet.  Over medium heat, add minced garlic and give it a good stir.  Now it is time to simply wilt your spinach.  It will seem like way too much but I promise, it cooks down quickly.  Stir it around until it is wilted or about a minute…then remove from the skillet and then set aside.

Add 2 T. butter to the same skillet and raise the heat to high.  Toss in those artichoke hearts and stir around until they get a little color to them, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove the artichokes from the skillet and set them aside.

Reduce the heat to low.  A the last 2 T. of butter to the skillet.  When it is melted, whisk the flour into the butter.  Gradually pour in milk and whisk it in.  Let this cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until it starts to thicken.  Take care to stir frequently and not let the mixture scorch.  Add the cheeses, salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Stir frequently to melt the cheeses and if it is overly thick, stir in a little chicken broth.

Add artichokes and cooked pasta, tossing gently to combine.  Gently fold in the spinach.  Sprinkle the top with those pretty red pepper flakes (use sparingly…those babies pack some heat!), plenty of Panko breadcrumbs, and an extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  Now, stop eating it out of the skillet.  Its good right?  Now, dish it up and sit down and enjoy this bowl full of pasta perfection.