Creamy Chicken, Broccoli & Mushroom Alfredo

This is my weekend off. Which means I have time to cook a new recipe and take pictures!

I’ve spent a lot of time looking for the perfect Chicken Alfredo recipe online. Unfortunately most Alfredo recipes are either too plain for my taste, or else try to keep it light by cutting heavy cream or using low fat cheese. Heh.

I LOVE this alfredo dish. I was inspired by The Pioneer Woman’s Bowtie Chicken Alfredo, but as I tend to do with recipes, I changed it up quite a bit. I don’t know why, but I always have an urge to change a recipe I find on the internet. Maybe it’s because I like making it my own in some way.

Creamy Chicken, Broccoli & Mushroom Alfredo

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Ingredients

  • 300 grams of Penne Pasta (1/3 bag)
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup White Wine (we had Brazos De Los Andes Blend)
  • 3/4 cup Cream (18% M.F. is what I usually have on hand for cooking)
  • 140 grams Parmesan Cheese (I used Zerto’s mixed cheese with Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, and Asiago)
  • 1 Broccoli crown, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup mushrooms (I used a mix of Cremini, Shiitake, Portabella, and Oyster)
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • Chicken Broth, for thinning

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook until deep golden brown on both sides and done in the middle. Remove and slice into strips. Set aside.

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Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to pan and minced garlic. Stir continuously for one minute and add the mushrooms. Cook for another minute and add the wine.

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Let it bubble and reduce for the next 2-3 minutes. Add cream and broccoli florets.

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Allow to heat and thicken for a few minutes. Add the cheese, leaving a few tablespoons in the container for topping later, and stir. Add the chicken and continue tossing until combined. Add salt and pepper as desired, and chicken broth it you feel it needs thinning. Mine did need thinning, but I just added a bit more cream… *cough*.

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Top with some remaining cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy with a glass of wine ;).

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Things Loved This Week

It’s been an eventful, stressful, and busy couple of weeks. After being sick with the flu for more than a week, I was finally feeling better but completely out of the habit of cooking. This was followed by a particularly stressful week at work & home (so much happening!) and as such our eating habits suffered. We ate out more than I care to admit and when we did eat at home it consisted largely of cereal and different kinds of eggs.

I’m happy to report that we’re seemingly back on track! I made a really delicious curried chicken and wild rice soup this week, which we ate up fairly quickly. I also I made some healthy and delicious Banana Breakfast Muffins, which turned out fantastic.

So here are my things loved this week!
1) Healthy Banana Breakfast Muffins

Mini MuffinsI kind of used the recipe linked in the heading as a guideline, but I mostly made it up as I went along. While it could’ve ended in disaster, I will say they turned out rather scrumptious! I made 36 mini-muffins.

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of oats
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ brown sugar
  • 2 very ripe bananas, peeled (the riper they are the sweeter they’ll be)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp flax seed
  • ¾ cup vanilla Greek yoghurt
  • Dark chocolate chips*
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper or silicone liners and set aside.
  2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the oats until they’re largely broken up.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, oats, flax, baking soda, salt and baking powder.
  4. Make a well (hole) in the center of the flour mixture and drop in the eggs, melted butter, syrup, and yoghurt. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined.
  5. In a small bowl mash the two bananas together with the back of a fork. Carefully fold the bananas, walnuts, and dark chocolate chips into the muffin batter and distribute evenly into muffin cups. Bake until they begin to brown on top and a toothpick comes clean when inserted in the center, which took about 15-18 minutes for my mini-muffins.

* I don’t usually use a measuring cup when I add chocolate chips to recipes. I start with a handful and add more until I’m satisfied with the batter. This time around I added 2 small handfuls.

2) Panera Bread

When I was sick with the flu, David took me out to Panera Bread. It was delicious. Their soups are really tasty! Although they can be expensive, we enjoyed eating there when I was sick. I particularly liked their Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice soup (can you tell I’m really into rice in soup?!).

3) itFit Bands

Pictures taken from itFit website.

Pictures taken from itFit website.

I don’t usually pay attention to Facebook ads, but recently there was an ad for itFit bands. They had a deal – buy 3 get one free, free shipping, and 25% off. So I ordered 3 headbands and I’ve worn them pretty regularly since they’ve arrived! They fit really well, come in a range of patterns and colours AND they’re made in Canada!

4) Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

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I’ve done Family Story Time 4 times at the library in the last ten days and have used this book at all of them. The kids (and parents!) always laugh at the pictures and story. The text rhymes which means it’s fun and easy to read and flows very well. It’s funny, witty, and cute! It’s quickly become a favourite!

Pig was a Pug

and I’m sorry to say,

he was greedy and selfish

in most every way …

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And with that, we’re on to another week!

Farms & Forks Review

Recently I’ve been trying out different grocery stores in an effort to eat healthier and save money. I’ve tried Loblaws, No Frills, Food Basics, and Freshco. My regular grocery day is Tuesday, and every single time I shopped at one of these stores, at least one food item (usually meat or tomatoes) went rotten in less than 24 hours. I put a pack of chicken legs in the fridge FOR THE NEXT DAY and they were gone rancid before I could cook them. In one day. Seriously frustrating. Especially when the food that hasn’t gone bad doesn’t look that appetizing to begin with (which is always the case with tomatoes).

David and I shopped at Loblaws a couple of times. The last time was particularly bad (we haven’t gone back since!). We wanted to pick up a few fresh food items – bread, broccoli, tomatoes, bananas and some meat. We didn’t make it past the broccoli. I picked up one head of broccoli and the entire underside of the broccoli was slimy and really stank. I was so disgusted we didn’t buy anything and drove to a nearby Longos (the only grocery store I’ll actually buy anything at now) to pick up our few groceries.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends from church recommended Farms & Forks. I also heard about it on my workplace’s intranet page and decided to give them a try.

There’s a great selection of food online and it was a lot of fun to sit on the couch and pick out my groceries! I was a little dismayed at the prices, but for organic local food, and after reading their food criteria, this is simply the price you pay for organic and higher quality food anywhere. It makes me a little sad that good food costs so much more money, but I was ready to try something a little different!

Our first food delivery was a bit rocky. Despite my instructions, our food box was delivered to our landlords who promptly dug into the food. They told David later that they thought it was a promotion. Oh the joys of living in a basement apartment!

I personally think any rational person with tenants living downstairs would look at the box first and see if there’s a name, so I didn’t blame Farms & Forks entirely, but obviously it wouldn’t have happened had the instructions been followed.

I wrote to the Farms & Forks team, and they replied with sincere apologies, spoke to the driver to find out what happened (there was a plow coming by and he was in a rush to get out of the way), and reimbursed me for the food that had been eaten. They later gave me a call as a follow-up to our e-mail exchange to see if there was anything else they could do. That’s good customer service!

So, after all that, I decided to give it another shot. And yesterday was my second food delivery! The driver was extremely apologetic and arrived promptly during the delivery time hours. He came right to the back and delivered a Christmas card to us in addition to our grocery box. Who knew groceries could be so exciting!

All the food is packaged in a sturdy box, which they then collect at your next delivery. And the food looked (and tasted!) glorious!

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For this food delivery I ordered a container of baby spring mix & spinach, broccoli, 2 lbs of grapes, 2 lbs of clementines, 1 lb of bananas, 2 lbs of sweet potatoes, 2 lbs of yellow potatoes, 2 yellow onions, 3 pears and a loaf of bread! I had ordered meat and milk with my last order, but didn’t need to purchase any this time around.

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I love food pictures.

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The food looked, smelled, and tasted delicious. I am super pleased! I must admit, there is actually a noticeable difference in taste with the bananas. While I wouldn’t say the bananas at the grocery store taste bad, the organic bananas delivered by Farms & Forks were creamier and sweeter.

While I don’t think Farms & Forks will be my sole grocery provider (I’ve started buying several items from Longos), I can definitely see purchasing produce boxes regularly from them, and I really like how their meat is packaged. It’s already vacuum-sealed for the freezer!

It’s also a solid choice if you’re looking to get some groceries on a busy schedule, or want to stay holed up during the cold winter months. It’s always worth trying if you, like me, are a little exasperated by the big grocery stores.

And my philosophy is, if there’s anything worth spending your money on, it’s good food!

Summertime Guacamole!

One of my favourite snacks during the summer is guacamole. It’s no secret that I absolutely love avocado. I eat it all the time, usually with a little rice vinegar. You can’t beat the creamy texture of avocado! Occasionally, however, I make guacamole.

I found a great recipe for guacamole online many years ago, before I left home for university, but I’ve never been able to find it. So, I’ve had to re-create the recipe from memory, and I think it tastes just as good, if not better, than I remember it!

Summertime Guacamole

Ingredients

2 ripe avocado, mashed
1 tomato
the juice from 1 lime, freshly squeezed.
1/8 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander (you can also use fresh cilantro)
salt and pepper, to taste

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Very simply, add all the ingredients to a bowl and stir together!

I like to use half the lime first, adding the juice from the other half at the end after tasting it.

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I also like using my mortar and pestle for the cumin – I find when you grind it yourself, it has a more distinct flavour. Plus, you know, it’s just darn fun to use!

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Here’s what it looks like with all the ingredients added, without having stirred it altogether.IMG_4756Yummy! That’ll be all gone in one evening…IMG_4757 Do you like guacamole? How does your recipe differ from mine?

Light Wheat Bread

Food is expensive. This week I’ve been attempting to cook with cheaper ingredients (i.e. less meat) and cut costs at the grocery store. We can’t change how much we spend on rent and bills, but we can change how much we spend on food.

With this in mind, I made several recipes from Budget Bytes this week. Including Italian Wonderpot, Chunky Lentil and Vegetable Soup, Cajun Chicken Pasta and Tomato Herb Soup. So far I’ve made the first two recipes and will cook up the latter two by Sunday.

And so far so good! We’ve had plenty of leftovers, the recipes were cheap to make and tasted great!

But I also wanted to try my hand at breadmaking. I buy Villaggio bread at the grocery store, which costs more than $3.00 a loaf!

I’ve made Apple and Honey Challah before, and it was quite good, but I could never bring myself to make bread regularly because it seemed to go bad so quickly.

Then I found the perfect recipe and decided to try making bread regularly, rather than buying in the store. Let’s face it, homemade bread tastes so much better than store-bought! It’s cheaper, too :). I also learned that using milk (or dairy in general) can increase the shelf-life of bread.* Who knew?

Here’s the recipe I used, adapted from Smitten Kitchen‘s Light Wheat Bread recipe.

Light Wheat Bread

Makes one loaf

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warmed milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) of active-dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (not too hot!)
1 tsp granulated sugar

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I forgot to include the salt and honey in this picture (oops!) but don’t forget them when making your bread!

1. Add the yeast to a bowl and stir in warm water. Add sugar and allow yeast to foam and double in size. It is now active. You can also do this according to the packet directions, if you bought a packet and not a container of yeast.

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2. Stir together the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Add softened (or slightly melted) butter, honey, yeast mixture and slowly add milk. Stir to combine until dough comes together. It should be soft, not tough.

I ended up adding a mixture of water and milk when I made my dough. I added a cup of warmed milk and needed some more liquid so added a bit of water.

3. Sprinkle flour on the counter and knead your dough for about 8-10 minutes. The dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky! Add more flour if sticky.

4. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or cover with a towel.

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5. Allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until dough doubles in size.

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6. Remove the dough from the bowl, shape into a rectangle and roll up the length of the dough into a log. Place the roll in a lightly oiled bread pan, ensuring that the ends of the loaf touch the ends of the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.

7. Allow dough to rise for a second time for approximately 60 – 90 minutes.

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8. Preheat oven to 350 F with oven rack in middle.

9. Place bread in oven for 25-30 minutes and then rotate and bake for another 15 minutes. Baking times depend on the oven. However, the finished loaf  will be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

10. When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour (or if you’re like me, try to make it to the 30 minute mark…) before slicing or serving.

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Enjoy!

*Milk adds to the shelf-life of bread according to a few commentators here. With my own experimentation, however, I found this to be true as well. I’ve made bread with only water and it lasted two days. I’m now on the fourth day with the above loaf and it still tastes great and hasn’t gotten stale!

 
Also, here’s an interesting link about using liquids in breads.

Spicy Sausage and Veggie Tortiglioni

I love tomatoes. I love sausage. I love vegetables. But most of all, I love pasta. If I had to choose my last meal on earth, without hesitation it would be spaghetti and meatballs, some cheesy garlic bread and a glass of wine. Pasta sauces are just so full of flavour!

Recently I found a new pasta in the grocery store that I’d never seen before: bocconcini. I’ve had penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, linguine, fettucine, spaghettini, fusili, …the list goes on. But bocconcini? Doesn’t that term refer to a mozzarella cheese?

It reminded me of a cross between rigatoni and penne rigate. Upon further investigation, I learned that it’s also (and pretty much always) referred to as “tortiglioni.” How strange. From now on I’ll refer to it as tortiglioni, despite the packaging.

I also had some spicy sausage in my freezer and leftover spinach from an earlier meal. The wheels started turning and I came up with this recipe! My husband looked at me after his first bite and said “Hon, this is a win.”

So, using up some ingredients from my fridge, I made this!

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Spicy Sausage and Veggie Tortiglioni
Serves: 6

4 sausages, hot, casings removed
1 red onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 large zucchini
2 tsp basil, dried
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Italian seasoning, dried
3 handfuls of spinach
500g of tortiglioni pasta
1/2 cup red wine
1 can whole tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsps oil
Parmesan cheese

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Add oil to wok or large pan and heat. Add onion and after 2 minutes add garlic. After another 2 minutes add peppers, mushrooms, basil and Italian seasoning.

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Saute for 5 minutes and add sausage. Allow the sausage to brown before adding tomatoes, wine and sugar. Let simmer, covered, for at least 2 hours.

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Meanwhile, near the end of cooking time, cook the pasta according to package instructions and add the spinach to the sauce once the pasta is added to the boiling water. Remove the lid to the sauce and allow to simmer for the next 15 minutes, uncovered.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot.

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Spoon sauce over pasta until it has reached your desired sauce/noodle ratio. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

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Notes:

1) You can use mild or hot sausage, or a combination of the two.
2) Rigatoni or another large noodle would also work well in this dish.
4) I bought a 900g bag of tortiglioni pasta and used a little more than half. I spooned most of the sauce – except about 1 cup or so – over the pasta.
5) I’ve made sauces similar to this before and it freezes well. I almost always have sauce leftover so I freeze the sauce and cook up fresh pasta for a future meal. Any leftover sauce and pasta already mixed together I save for meals during the week.
6) I used Inniskillin’s Cabernet Franc (Inniskillin is a great Canadian wine maker!) and enjoyed a glass with my meal :). Red wine and tomato sauce are meant for each other.

Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Rice Florentine

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I made this for supper a few weeks ago and it was delicious. It’s also a great way to use leftover chicken, and it’s a pretty fast meal to make. I found this recipe while I was browsing the Food and Drink section at the library. It’s from Better Homes and Gardens’ The Ultimate Soups and Stews Book, though I made a few adjustments.

Creamy Chicken and Rice Florentine

Ingredients:

2 tbsp of oil to brown and cook the chicken
2 cups of shredded chicken (I used one breast and three thighs)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped mixed mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini, brown, portobello and shitake)
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup of long-grain rice, uncooked
2 cups of chicken stock or broth (I used Campbell’s Chicken Broth)
1 cup water
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cans of evaporated milk (I used the full-fat, but you can easily substitute fat-free)
2 tbsp all purpose flour
4 cups of packed fresh spinach
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Salt to taste

Directions:

In a Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat and add chicken; cook for 12-15 minutes or until no longer pink and browned on the outside. Transfer to a plate and when cool, coarsely shred the chicken.

Once the chicken has been put on a plate to cool, scrape up any brown bits on the bottom and add onion, mushrooms, carrot, and garlic. Stir occasionally. Stir in rice and let cook for 1 minute or so. Add broth, water, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Bring to boiling and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl stir together 1 can of evaporated milk and flour; stir into mixture in Dutch oven. Slowly stir in remaining evaporated milk. Cook and stir until bubbly.

Stir in spinach and the shredded chicken. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes (it will thicken upon standing). Stir in lemon zest and sprinkle with black pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with warm crusty bread and enjoy!

Notes:

I didn’t add salt until the very end, I find you control your salt intake better this way. When I add salt at the beginning of cooking, I always end up adding more anyway. Also, depending on the stock you use, it might be salty enough.

If you find your soup too thick, you can add some chicken stock at the end. We wanted ours thick and creamy, but if you reheat the leftovers, you’ll want to add some stock.

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