Creamy Tomato & Spinach Pasta

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I adore simple recipes. And I love them even more, on days that my daughter doesn’t nap. BudgetBytes has been a lifesaver over the past few weeks.

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
freshly cracked pepper to taste
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ lb. penne pasta ( i used almost a full box, minus around 15 pieces)
½ (9 oz.) bag fresh spinach ( I used 6 ounces)

Directions
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender (7-10) minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander.

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While waiting for the pasta to cook, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cook both in a large skillet with the olive oil over medium-low heat until softened and transparent (about 5 minutes).
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Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to the skillet with the onions and garlic. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and a ½ cup of water to the skillet and stir until the tomato paste is dissolved into the sauce.

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Turn the heat down to low. Cut the cream cheese into a few pieces and then add them to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Use a whisk to stir the sauce until the cream cheese has fully melted in and the sauce is creamy. Add half of the Parmesan to the skillet and whisk until it is melted in. Add the remainder of the parmesan and whisk until melted in again.

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20140318-212758.jpgAdd the fresh spinach and gently stir it into the sauce until it has wilted (3-5 minutes). Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated in the creamy tomato sauce. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm. Reagan ate around the spinach…but she ate;)

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Chicken Taco Bowl

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From start to finish, this dish couldn’t be easier. My crockpot cooks at odd temperatures, so you may not want to follow my cooking time. The original recipe calls for the dish to be cooked on low for 8 hours. My pot cooked this dish in under two hours on the low setting. BudgetBytes always offers up delicious and wallet friendly dishes!

Ingredients
1½ lbs. chicken breasts
1 (16 oz.) jar salsa
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained
½ lb. (8 oz.) frozen corn
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp cumin
½ Tbsp minced garlic
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp salt
to taste cracked pepper
2 cups dry rice
8 oz. shredded cheddar
½ bunch cilantro (optional)

Directions
Add everything except the rice, cheese, and cilantro to the slow cooker along with ¼ cup of water (for good measure). Give everything a good stir and make sure the chicken is covered in the mixture.

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Secure the lid on your slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hrs. Near the end of the cooking time, cook the two cups of rice according to the package directions.
After 8 hours, or however long your crockpot normally takes to cook chicken, carefully remove the lid of the slow cooker. Using two forks shred the chicken (it should be super tender and will shred easily). Build the taco bowls by placing rice on the bottom, then the taco chicken mix, shredded cheese and fresh cilantro.

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Enjoy! Thanks again, Budget Bytes!

Buffalo Chicken Baked Shells

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I’ve been pinning various recipes lately, in hopes to find meals that all three family members will enjoy. When I came across these Buffalo Chicken Baked Shells on Baked by Rachel, I was sure I found a winner. I added an extra chicken breast and mushrooms to the recipe. I made 22 shells, 12 I baked the night that I prepared the meal, 10 I froze to be cooked at another date.

Ingredients

1 chicken breast ( I used 2 )
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
3/8 tsp pepper, divided
3/8 tsp celery seed, divided ( I didn’t have any, so it was left out)
1/4 cup buffalo sauce, plus additional for topping ( I used Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce)
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
12-15 jumbo shells
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup mushrooms

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

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20140218-212209.jpgIn a slow cooker, add chicken and broth. Cook for two hours on high, then shred meat. My slow cooker has issues, so I cooked my frozen chicken for 1.5 hours on high. Discard liquid. Shred chicken and chop onion, celery and mushrooms. Season shredded meat with 1/4 tsp celery seed and 1/4 pepper and salt. Toss with buffalo sauce until meat is coated. Set aside.
In a large pasta pot bring water to a boil, add 12-15 jumbo shells to the water. Cook 9-12 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Drain and let cool on a baking sheet or nonstick surface.

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In a small skillet over medium heat, add onion, mushrooms, celery and butter or olive oil. Sauté until tender and onions are translucent.

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In a large bowl, mix ricotta cheese, parmesan, egg, 1/8 tsp pepper, 1/8 tsp celery seed, blue cheese crumbles and vegetables. Add chicken mixture and stir well.

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Prepare baking dish with a light coating of olive oil and a few spoonfuls of buffalo sauce. Fill one shell at a time with spoonfuls of chicken and cheese mixture. Carefully arrange in prepared baking dish. Drizzle with spoonfuls of buffalo sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Baked for 20-25 minutes. I wrapped the tin tray tightly in plastic wrap and then closed in freezer friendly bag for use at a later date.

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Totally yummy! Thanks Baked by Rachel !

Better-for-You Baked Mac

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This months issue of Parents Magazine couldn’t have come at a better time. Parents Magazine offered up 21 Twists on Mac ‘n’ Cheese. From a Greek Style to a Protein Boost; there’s a Mac ‘n’ Cheese for everyone!

We started with the basic Better-for-You Baked Mac recipe and added some chopped broccoli. The dish was super easy to make and was a hit with the little one!

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray

3 cups dried fusilli (or pasta of your choosing)

1/4 cup light butter with canola oil (we used regular salted stick butter)

3 Tbs. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp.salt

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. low fat milk

1/3lb. fontina cheese, 1.5 cups shredded ( we used 1/2 lb. of fontina cheese)

1/2 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs.

Medium head of broccoli

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 2-qt square baking dish (or what ever shape you have in at least the 2 quart range) with nonstick spray; set aside.

2. Chop broccoli, place in medium sauce pan with a small amount of water and a pinch of salt. Simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally until broccoli reaches desired tenderness.

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3. Cook pasta as directed on package; drain and keep warm.

4. While pasta cooks, melt butter in medium saucepan. Add flour and salt; stir for 1 minute.

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5. Add milk and stir until thick and bubbly.

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6. Remove from heat; stir in cheese until melted.

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7. Toss together pasta, broccoli and cheese sauce. Transfer to prepared dish and sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through.

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Thank you Parents Magazine for 21 twists to my daughters favorite meal!

Are You Ready for Some…Chili?

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Chili has been a staple at my parents Super Bowl party for as long as I can remember. My mom makes a killer chili; thanks to a little help from Danny Wegman;) Everyone’s taste buds are definitely unique, there’s no question there. Finding the perfect chili that will leave each and every one of your guests raving to their friends…is highly unlikely. However, attempting to accommodate your guests by making what you think or know that they will enjoy makes all the difference! My mom makes two different batches of chili to accommodate her gluten-free friends. It’s the little things, like making a gluten-free chili, that makes you that extra special SuperBowl host.

I’ve pulled recipes from several friends with varying tastes and limitations and want to share with you what your vegan, gluten-free, non bean eating friends may LOVE! No worries though, I’ve added the beef filled recipe that my mom serves too!

Top Row: Beef Chili / Vegetarian / Turkey and Veggie

Middle Row: White Bean and Chicken / No Bean / Chicken and Corn

Bottom Row: Gluten Free

Enjoy!