Pasta, Rice, and Grains

Cheesy Chipotle Chicken and Rice Casserole

There’s also some broccoli in there, too. All the food groups represent: cheese, carbs, leftover protein, and green stuff. If that doesn’t scream balance, then I do not know if there’s help for you.

Cheesy Chipotle Chicken and Rice Casserole

With the coldest night since April on tap for us tonight – 44F, BRRRRR! – I wanted something warm and not-chili for dinner. I took the house – and Thanksgiving favorite – Cheesy Broccoli and Quinoa Casserole and grabbed a can of chipotles and that leftover shredded chicken in the fridge that needed to be eaten, like, yesterday.

Cheesy Chipotle Chicken and Rice Casserole

It’s still all the things you love about the traditional broccoli, cheese, and rice casserole: one baking dish, cheesy, gooey, not-very-pretty comfort food. But this version, it gets a little added kick from stirring a few tablespoons of minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce into the cheese sauce.

Cheesy Chipotle Chicken and Rice Casserole

It’s a little spicy. It’s still super cheesy. And insanely comforting.

Cheesy Chipotle Chicken and Rice Casserole

The cheesy comfort food favorite gets a spicy kick from chipotle peppers.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups uncooked white rice (or enough to yield 3 cups cooked, check your package instructions)
  • 16 oz frozen chopped broccoli
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp minced chipotles in adobo sauce*
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups leftover shredded chicken
  • *I put the entire can into a mini-chopper and mince and then save the leftovers in the fridge. Or freezer.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, cook the rice in water with a generous pinch of salt, according to package, directions and then set aside.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter.
  4. Whisk in the flour, onion, garlic, 2-3 tablespoons of minced chipotles (if you're sensitive to heat, start with 2), a generous pinch of salt and black pepper.
  5. Let cook 1-2 minutes and then slowly add the milk, whisking until the sauce is smooth.
  6. Let the sauce simmer, reducing the heat if necessary, about 5 minutes until thickened and bubbling.
  7. Remove from heat, whisk in the cheddar a handful at a time until completely melted.
  8. Taste for spice/seasoning and add additional chipotles, salt, and pepper to taste.
  9. Add broccoli, rice, and chicken to the pot and mix well.
  10. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish and bake ~35 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.

Notes

Yields: 8-12 servings

Adapted from Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa

Estimated time: 1 hour

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Cheesecake Factory Chicken Bellagio Copycat

This is the greatest restaurant ever, momma.

There are some points you just can’t argue against.

Cheesecake Factory Chicken Bellagio Copycat

Last week, Landry & I took a Mommy-Daughter day. A field-trip with her preschool class to a local farm, flu shots (because I am the epitome of fun), half-marathon packet pickup, and a trip to the Lego Store was capped off with a super late lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.

Side note: The look of wonder on a sweet 4-year-old’s face after she discovers what’s hiding inside the fried mac & cheese far surpasses the magic of any five Christmas mornings.

Cheesecake Factory Chicken Bellagio Copycat

My very very favorite dish is the Chicken Bellagio. It is a wonderfully delicious calorie- and sodium-bomb of perfection. You have a half pound (or more) of pesto spaghetti topped with fried chicken cutlets, topped with prosciutto, topped with a simple arugula salad.

For $15, it feeds us 2 bigs and 1 little twice. But you can shave the calories and sodium and price down quite a bit at home without a lot of effort.

And you don’t have to put on pants or mascara to do it (though I do recommend wearing pants while cooking the chicken). (You know.) (Because splatters.)

Cheesecake Factory Chicken Bellagio Copycat

You have three components here: the pasta, the chicken, and the salad. Put the pasta into the boiling water at the same time as you start cooking the chicken and with the exception of quickly tossing some salad greens with some olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan, everything should finish up at the same time.

Copycat Chicken Bellagio

A copycat recipe for the Cheesecake Factory's Chicken Bellagio. Make it at home and skimp on the calories, not the flavor.

Ingredients

  • For the pasta:
  • 8 oz uncooked thin spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup pesto
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup cream, optional*
  • For the chicken:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • For the salad:
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • Your favorite dark salad greens (I had a baby spinach-kale mix on hand)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon wedges
  • Parmesan
  • *I was looking to lighten the dish and didn't want anything as heavy as cream in the recipe. The restaurant obviously uses a cream-based sauce - so if you want to go big, stir in a bit of heavy cream.

Instructions

  1. Bring water to boil in a large pot.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  3. Whisk egg with 1 Tbsp water and pour into a plate or small pan (I used an 8-inch sq baking dish).
  4. Mix together the panko, Italian seasoning, a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and cheese in another plate or small pan (I used a dinner plate).
  5. Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally and place in a large zipper bag (or between sheets of plastic wrap) and lightly pound a few times to even and thin them out (thin enough so that they cook quickly but not thin enough that you can see through them).
  6. Add flour to the zipper bag and shake to coat the chicken.
  7. Shake off the excess flour and dip the chicken into the egg mixture, flipping to coat.
  8. Press the chicken into the panko mixture and flip and press again. Transfer to another plate or pan and set aside, repeat for the remaining 3 pieces of chicken.
  9. Put the pasta into the boiling water at the same time you start the first two pieces of chicken in the frying pan.
  10. Cook the chicken two pieces at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side, decreasing the heat a little if it browns too quickly.
  11. Before draining the pasta, pull out ~1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.
  12. Drain the pasta and return to the pan with half of the pasta water and the pesto. Toss until a creamy sauce forms, adding additional pasta water, as necessary.
  13. Divide the pasta between 4 plates and top with the chicken cutlets as they come out of the pan. Season with additional salt and pepper.
  14. Top each piece of chicken with a slice of prosciutto.
  15. In a medium bowl, toss 4 handfuls of salad greens with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt, a squeeze of 2 lemon wedges, and a small handful of grated parmesan.
  16. Divide between the 4 plates and enjoy. Without mascara. Pants also optional.

Notes

Yields: 4 generous servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 45 minutes

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Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake

You are looking at the greatest thing to ever happen to eggplant since pizza crust and goat cheese.

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake

The eggplant tree in my garden still thinks it’s summer. And frankly, with highs still in the low 90s, it IS still summer.

While I was out of town last weekend, Jason sent me a picture of the three soccer ball-sized fruits he picked from the “tree.” All bigger than my 4-year-old’s head. When I got back, I took one of those soccer balls (just one – and I had leftover slices!) and turned it into the most amazing version of Eggplant Parmesan.

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake

The dish comes together pretty easily – assuming you don’t find out at the last minute that what you thought was a jar of marinara turns out to be calorie-bomb vodka sauce and then thank all the baby Jesuses for those two cans of crushed tomatoes buried behind the year-old can of pumpkin.

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake

You roast sliced eggplant for ~30 minutes to remove excess water and concentrate the flavors and then you layer it in a dish on top of half-cooked pasta with marinara (or “improvinara”), mozzarella, and parmesan. Another 30 minute spin through the oven and you have a golden brown, bubbling dish of Eggplant Parmesan perfection.

And your house doesn’t stink like yesterday’s fried foods the next morning.

Eggplant Parmesan Pasta Bake

Not all comfort food is terrible for you. This version of Eggplant Parmesan is lighter on fat, heavy on flavor.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 331.8 | Fat: 10.4g | Fiber 8.9g | Protein 12.9g | Carbs 49.5g

Ingredients

  • 8 oz dry pasta (I used whole wheat)
  • Olive oil
  • ~3 lbs eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch slices
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups marinara sauce, divided
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz) shredded Parmesan
  • Basil leaves

Instructions

  1. Lightly grease a casserole dish and a baking sheet (two sheets, if your eggplant is soccer ball-sized).
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Cook the pasta for half the time suggested on the package and then drain.
  4. Add the pasta to the casserole dish along with 3/4 cup of marinara sauce, stirring to mix. Top with another 3/4 cup marinara
  5. Brush each side of the eggplant rounds with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Roast for 15 minutes, flip and roast for 15 minutes more.
  7. Place half of the eggplant rounds over the pasta and top with half the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Spread the remaining 3/4 cup marinara over top, followed by the remaining eggplant, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
  9. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is brown and bubbling.
  10. Serve topped with basil, if desired.

Notes

Yields: ~6 servings

Adapted from Feast, via Annie's Eats

Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes

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Green Tomato and Chipotle Mac & Cheese

Hello, summer. With your abundance of tangy green tomatoes, your abundance of soul-melting heat, and your abundance of why-waste-my-time-flat-ironing-my-hair-when-it’s-just-going-to-look-like-crap-in-11-seconds-anyway humidity.

I can only help you with one of those things. The other two can typically be fixed by drinking any one of these.

Green Tomato and Chipotle Mac & Cheese

This summery mac & cheese is spiked with minced chipotles in adobo and layered in a baking dish – and then topped – with thinly-sliced green tomatoes. The tangy tomatoes help cut the richness of the cheesy dish while the chipotles give you just enough heat to justify cooling off with that Fudge Bomb for dessert.

You know, if you’re still looking for an excuse.

Green Tomato and Chipotle Mac & Cheese

Green Tomato and Chipotle Mac & Cheese

A summery mac & cheese topped with tangy green tomatoes and spiked with spicy, smokey chipotle peppers.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb macaroni pasta
  • Salt
  • 16 oz grated cheese (I used half sharp cheddar, half colby jack)
  • 6 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • Pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp deli-style mustard (I use Creole)
  • 1-2 Tbsp minced chipotles in adobo (2 Tbsp for a spicier mac)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (2 slices of bread sent through a mini processor works perfectly)
  • 3 large green tomatoes, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Bring salted water to boil and cook pasta for half the time suggested on the package.
  4. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking.
  5. Leave the pasta draining in the sink and return the empty pasta pot to the cooktop over medium heat.
  6. Melt 4 Tbsp butter and whisk in 3 Tbsp flour.
  7. Let cook ~3 minutes, whisking occasionally.
  8. Add the garlic and whisk, cooking 1 minute more.
  9. Add the mustard, chipotles, and then slowly stream in the milk while whisking.
  10. Add a generous pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper, and let the sauce cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture beings to bubble.
  11. Add the cheese and stir until it is completely melted.
  12. Turn off the heat and add the pasta back to the pot, stirring until evenly coated.
  13. Transfer half of the pasta to the baking dish and then layer half of the green tomatoes on top.
  14. Top with the remaining pasta and the remaining green tomato slices.
  15. Melt 2 Tbsp of butter and stir into the bread crumbs.
  16. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the dish.
  17. Bake for ~30 minutes, until the breadcrumbs have crisped to a golden brown and the pasta is bubbling.

Notes

Yields: 8-12 servings

Adapted from The Pastry Queen Parties

Estimated time: 1 hour

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