Monday Meals: Chicken Spaghetti

Last year I signed up to be a part of this SAHM group here in KC. Now, it’s rare that I’m actually able to make any of the meetups, but there is one thing I can always be a part of that counts as my participation for the month and therefore saves me from getting kicked out. (Which is awesome, because you do NOT want to be ostracized from a mommy group.)

Each time someone in the group has a new baby, we all sign up for a day on the calendar to bring them a meal. I bring the same thing every time – this chicken spaghetti – and it never fails that I get an email the next day asking for the recipe.

This is a great dish to feed a crowd, it can be made using those wonderful rotisserie chickens and you can even make most of it in the microwave.

Chicken Spaghetti

1 lb spaghetti noodles
3 cooked & shredded boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 1
deboned, skinned and chopped rotisserie chicken (Speeds things
up!)
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Rotel
1 lb Velveeta, cut into cubes
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 tsp celery seed (Sometimes I add chopped celery in with the onion & garlic if I have it)
salt & pepper to taste

Boil noodles in a large pot of salted water.

While noodles are cooking, in a large saucepan, sauté onion and
garlic in butter. Add soups, Rotel, Velveeta, celery seed, salt and pepper.
Continue cooking until Velveeta is melted. Stir in chopped
chicken. (This can all be done in a microwave safe dish as well!)

Drain noodles, combine with sauce. Pour into greased 13 x 9 in
dish, sprinkle cheddar over the top. Bake @ 350 degrees until
the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.

But what about the consonants?

*This was originally posted on my anniversary earlier this year. I edited it a bit to share again with Lovelinks. Click here for a chance to win a slot in The Bloggess sidebar for a month sponsored by freefringes.com. I’m also linking it with Theresa’s Wednesday Words of Wisdom at A Mountain Momma. 

I knew someone once who used to talk about how seriously she took her “marriage vowels.”

Now, I was pretty serious about my vows, but I never really contemplated my vowels.

After much thought, I figured it was important to take the AEIOU-and-sometimes-Ys pretty seriously.

Acceptance: What starts out as flutters in your chest at the mere sight of your loved one in the beginning will eventually turn into eye-rolls of annoyance later on. You don’t share a bed, a bathroom, or children with someone and not want to smack them occasionally. But if you accept one another for the beautifully flawed creatures you are, and understand that you’re no prize catch either, it’s easier to forgive when your spouse forgets to pay a bill on time, take the trash out, or farts on your leg in bed.

Empathy: Recognizing and sharing your spouse’s feelings leads to compassion. Much of the time, we get caught up in what we want, what we need, and forget to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Sometimes I actually have to sit down and concentrate very hard to see things from my husband’s perspective. I tell him it’s difficult because I have a hard time shoving my head that far up my ass, but he knows I’m kidding and that I’m really making an effort to understand what’s he’s dealing with.

Intimacy: Yeah, I’m talking about sex in this case. I’m gonna go ahead and say that it’s important to make the beast with two backs as much as humanly possible. I don’t think that people were meant to get freaky only for the sake of bearing children. If you’re not burning a hole through the bed on a regular basis, you’re missing out. Any time my husband and I are not getting along, I can always correlate our spats with a dry spell. And although many would say correlation does not imply causation, I’d say in this case, the more often you’re sharing your body with your spouse, be it in tip-top physical condition or flabby, fuzzy and dimpled, the happier you guys are going to be. (It’s really hard to stay mad at someone if you’ve recently seen their “O” face.)

Originality: You and your spouse are an original creation. There is no one else like the two of you. So don’t get caught up in the trap of “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s easy to go from being a free-thinking person to being a lemming. You don’t need a Lexus, a McMansion and a yearly trip to Necker Island to be happy. Having the latest and greatest when it comes to stuff is definitely fun for awhile, but it’s not going to make you happy, especially when you realize you only bought it because you saw someone else had it. You’ll eventually see yourselves working so hard to fit into the mold of what an American couple should be that you could miss out on what the two of you really want out of life.

Union: You’ve been (hopefully) voluntarily joined. No one frog-marched you down that aisle into the arms of your spouse. You held some sort of ceremony to mark your intentions of becoming a single unit. Remember that when you’re upset with your partner and you want to vent to others. You wouldn’t betray yourself, so be careful not to betray your other half. Nothing is more pathetic than a grown up who still runs to their parents every time their spouse pisses them off. People are going to talk, so even though you think you’re speaking in confidence, you’re not, and what you thought was a private look into the innermost workings of your union is going to be public. I personally know way too much about others’ marriages, and you can’t “unknow” something. It’s really difficult to sit across the table from someone and not think, “That dude needs Viagra,” or “He’s a big fat liar.” Guard your marriage. Be careful what you share with others.

And sometimes, Yield: Even if you don’t want to. Even if you think you’re completely, totally justified and holding all the cards – give in. Because as a wise man once said: “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be married?”

If you’re so inclined, you can vote for this post here until Friday. Thanks! (Update: We made it into the top 10% again. Thanks!)

Wednesday

Monday Meals: Cheesy Chicken & Spinach Lasagna

Sometimes, I only prepare a meal as a means of a cheese delivery system.

This is one of those times.

Sure, there’s some chicken in here, and some spinach so we can call it “healthy.” But let’s be honest. This dish is all about the three cheeses that make every bite a rich, calorie-laden, scrumdiddlyumptious mouthgasm.

The original, adapted from an old Better Homes cookbook, can take awhile to prep, so I’ve included a few tips on how to make this a little easier at the bottom.

You will need:

9 lasagna noodles
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

*I usually make my own broth when I’m boiling the chicken because it’s less salty than the store bought cartons. Since I had some left over after the dish I just poured it into ice cube trays, froze it and then popped it into bags to store.


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. Boil, drain and rinse the noodles.


Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the flour and salt, and simmer until bubbly.

Mix in the broth and milk, and boil, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Stir in half the mozzarella and parmesan. Season with the basil, oregano, and ground black pepper. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Spread a little of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer with 3 of the noodles, half the ricotta, half of the chicken, and half of the spinach. Pour about 1/3 of the sauce over the top.


Arrange 3 more of the noodles over the chicken, and layer with the rest of the ricotta, chicken and spinach. Pour another 1/3 of the sauce over the top.

Place the last three noodles over that, pour on the rest of the sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Top with the parsely.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Let it rest for several minutes on the countertop to set.

To make this easier: Buy a rotisserie chicken from the deli. Use a jarred sauce.

To make this meatless: Skip the chicken and replace with sliced mushrooms. No need to sauté them first. Just layer them in.

Monday Meals: Breakfast in America

I put a lot of time and effort into planning my dinner menu each week, but it seems like when it comes to breakfast or lunch, I usually end up winging it.

After co-hosting the “Morning Routines and Breakfast in America” live talk at The Motherhood with several moms across the country last Thursday, I ended up with some great tips and tricks on making the most of the morning meal.

Since I like you, I’ll share them.

During the talk, led via live video feed by Sarah Woodside, MS, RD and Nutrition Business Partner at Kellogg, we learned that according to the Kellogg-sponsored Breakfast In America survey, nearly all toddlers and preschool children eat breakfast.

(I’m betting this is probably because they’re awake and alert early, don’t have to spend lots of time primping in front of the mirror, and are probably unconcerned about the day ahead of them.)

For those kiddos, a simple breakfast of grains and protein does the trick.

My buddy Rach from Life With Baby Donut goes a step further in her breakfast prep.

In my own kitchen in the early hours, variety is key. My 14-month-old has his favorites, but he’s pretty open to new things. We’ve done toast with egg, or cottage cheese, even hummus. Perhaps I’ll cut up a chunk of cheese and some fruit, then throw in some graham crackers. And of course, he’s always excited for pancakes.

 

The survey also shows that the percentage of kids getting their grub on in the morning drops significantly by the time they hit middle school (50%) and even worse by the time they’re in high school (36%).

For these kids, it’s all about preparedness and portability.

“Be prepared,” Lori at La Vida Lori said. “Have foods on hand for breakfast that are quick and easy to prepare, make sure the kitchen is clean the night before so you don’t have to deal with it when you’re trying to get breakfast together, and make lunches the night before.”

Of course, no matter how much work you’ve done in the kitchen before knocking off for the night, if it’s not a one-handed nosh, your older kids might not care to bring it along on the ride to school.

It’s also important that you are tuned into your family’s needs and habits in order to cross nutrition of your morning to-do list.

Hey, if fancy hotels serving hundreds of hungry guests can do it, it seems like it would work for your family as well!

Don’t forget about yourself – the survey indicated that only a third of adults eat breakfast.

And for those times when you’re bored with breakfast, don’t be afraid to change it up a little.

“Cereal and milk are convenient, ready-to-serve/ready-to-eat breakfast options that people of all ages enjoy,” Ms. Woodside said. “Other breakfast choices might include hard-boiled eggs with whole grain toast and a glass of milk; whole grain crackers with peanut butter and a yogurt; a wedge of cantaloupe with cottage cheese and slice of whole grain cinnamon raisin toast.”

Thanks again to the great co-hosts for sharing their tips, The Motherhood for hosting this talk to raise awareness about the importance of eating a health breakfast, and Sarah Woodside for sharing the results of the Kellogg’s survey.

If you have anything you’d like to add and you missed the talk, feel free to share. Also, if you’ve got some great breakfast recipes, leave your link!

I received compensation for participating in the Live Talk and for blogging about the experience. All opinions are my own. As if you doubted that.

Monday Meals: Marie Callender’s, you can cook for me any time

When I woke up this morning, it smelled like autumn. I gleefully thumbed the thermostat into the off position, threw open the windows and began making mental notes to pick up mums, cider, and assorted pieces of décor in rich fall colors.

Then I sat down and pulled out all my “cold weather” recipes. My cooking style lends itself well to the cooler months: Gumbo, soups, rich layered pasta dishes, and I’m looking forward to breezy afternoons in the kitchen.

Unfortunately it warmed up quickly by the afternoon, and that combined with my still-sore knees completely deflated my desire to hang out in front of the stove.

Enter Marie Callender’s Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna.

Nestled neatly in the freezer, it promised “three Italian-style meats (sausage, ground beef and pepperoni), layered with four different cheeses (Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano), in a hearty marinara sauce.”

Now, I’ve never served a frozen lasagna before. Growing up, my mom said it was against our religion.

My husband, on the other hand, was raised on them, and enlightened me on what to expect.

“It’s just jarred spaghetti sauce and noodles,” he said. “And the noodles are kind of squishy, and heavy. But I’ll eat it.”

I could see how my mom would have a religious objection to this.

Anyway, I followed the directions on the box, preheated the oven (although the box does boast an innovative baking tray that produces an evenly cooked meal after 19 minutes in the microwave – a lifesaver if you don’t have an hour or so to bake it) and popped it in.

My stomach began an anticipatory grumble about 30 minutes later as the smell of several spices and layered cheesy-meaty goodness began to waft out of the kitchen.

Hubs walked in right as I pulled the lasagna out of the oven another half hour later with the salad he’d picked up at our favorite local grocery store and we sat down to eat.

I was very pleased with the layers of flavor in the dish. It definitely did not taste like jarred sauce. The noodles were light and fluffy, the sauce had a robust, meaty texture and there was plenty of cheese in each bite.

(Also? Less time layering up lasagna = more time for Twitter.)

Hubs said he’d definitely eat it again, and Monkey, well…

 

The price is certainly right at $5.75 for a four-serving dish, and my only complaint is that I’d like to see it offered in a larger size, as a serving of lasagna to my husband ended up being two thirds of the pan!

Marie Callender’s offers a money-back taste guarantee on this and their other frozen pasta entrees, so I think we’ll give the other varieties a try as well.

Also, Con Agra Foods, the company that produces the Marie Callender’s brand, along with other large corporate sponsors, is sponsoring No Kid Hungry, a movement to end childhood hunger in America by 2015.

Since I had some extra time that was saved by not being in the kitchen, I checked out the site and took the No Kid Hungry pledge to learn more about how I can help end childhood hunger here in my country.

I encourage you to check it out as well!

I was provided compensation and free product by Marie Callender’s and The Motherhood to sample and review this product. All opinions are genuinely my own. As if you doubted that.