Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Weekend Successes--aka The Longest Post Ever

I am actually putting off writing a fitness-y health kick type post, which isn’t so much “health kick” as it is “I need to be cured of this acid reflux once and for all and that means avoiding my triggers for 3 to 6 months to give my whateverthehell time to heal”. If I don’t write it, I don’t have to do it, right? Not really, but I need another day to collect my thoughts on the topic. So there’s that.

This past weekend I had 2 successes in the kitchen. The first was the amazing pasta dish I threw together on Saturday. I was reading Food Lush last week and came across this post. Cheese, chicken, bacon, pasta, and ranch. It sounded good, but I wasn’t sure that Hub would be on board. He can be weird about flavors melding together. I pitched it though, and he was all for it. When it came time to cook , I didn’t have my mini laptop handy and for some reason, I couldn’t get to the recipe on my phone, so I decided to wing it. Everyone knows I never actually follow the recipe anyway. I did, after tasting the finished product, make a note of what I did though so I could replicate it in the future. It was so delicious! I ate it with gusto. (I’ll add the recipe to the end of this post)

On Sunday, we made cutout cookies. Cutouts stress me out more that decorating the tree. There are children doing what they are not supposed to be doing. There is a mess. My dough never works. It is a trifecta of error. We’re working on being more calm around here though, so I approached the cookies calmly, even though I started them later than I had wanted to and Hub was griping that the basement was never going to get clean. The first thing I did was look up a new cookie dough recipe. The one I use from my Betty Crocker cook book calls for both powdered and granulated sugar. The cookies are always very sweet, and I think the powdered sugar is what makes the dough crumbly. I did a little bit of searching and ended up going with the simplest recipe that got the best reviews from All Recipes. This is the one. I don’t know if it is because of the 4 eggs, or what the deal was, but these cookies were so easy to put together. And when it came time to roll, after chilling for a few hours, I had no issues. The dough rolled like a dream and cut well. I was in awe.

And here is what else I did to east my stress. Rather than sitting 3 kids down at the table and making it a cookie cutter grabbing free for all, I rolled and cut cookies with each of the kids separately. It was delightful. There was no fighting. It was perfect. I enjoyed spending the time with them! I followed suit with the decorating, though Bud and Lucy were able to do theirs together and mostly on their own while I made dinner. I have never been more relaxed during a holiday activity.

There are no photos of the actual rolling process, but here are some from decorating. You can see that Liv really had a thing for eating the frosting and not so much decorating. Hub took the ones at the end, and even though I look like…well like I was baking all day, I like them. I love when I can make things work for our family.

(These were all taken with my phone which is why the lighting looks a bit wonky)










Finally, here is my recipe for the chicken bacon ranch pasta bake. This made enough to feed my family of 5 with leftovers for 3 lunch portions. Even my super picky eater declared that he "liked the pasta and even the chicken was good"! (He picked out all the bacon. Because he is not my son.) We served it with steamed broccoli and garlic bread.

1lb rotini noodles, cooked and drained
½ lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2-3 cups dairy liquid of your choice. (I used a mix of milk and half and half)
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp ranch powder
1 tbsp Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic (this is my secret ingredient in EVERYTHING)
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra cheese for sprinkling on top

1. Melt butter in a large sauce pan. Add flour and stir, cooking until bubbly.
2. Add in 2 cups of your dairy liquid. Stir with a whisk constantly until it comes to a teeny boil and thickens.
3. Add the ranch powder (I noticed that the ranch powder thickened the sauce a bit, which is why I say 2-3 cups of dairy—you may need to add some more in this step)
4. Remove from heat and stir in cheese a little bit at a time until all melted and combined
5. Stir in the Garlic Garlic, salt and pepper
6. In a large bowl, or in your noodle pot if you are me, combine noodles, cheese mixture, bacon and chicken. Stir until all noodles are coated
7. Transfer to a baking dish and top with extra cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until it is good and bubbly.

Make this. Your life will be changed.

9 comments:

Pickles and Dimes said...

Thank you for your recipe! I am going to make it this weekend!

LOVE the photos of the kids decorating - so cute!

Misty said...

Oh, I am in awe of you and your cutouts. I have cutout performance anxiety. They never come out like my aunt's cookies, which are the best in the universe. Kind of like a firmer version of those yummy cookies in the supermarket with a ton of colored frosting on top? They are Litehouse brand here. Yum-o.

My cut outs are always too thick or too thin or uneven/underdone/overbaked. But I love to decorate these. Why don't you bake them for me and I will be the kid putting on the icing and M&Ms.

Nowheymama said...

That sounds so good! It reminds me of this crockpot bacon cheeseburger chicken that we love. (We use dairy-free ranch and set K's aside before adding the cheese.):
http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/06/crockpot-bacon-and-cheese-chicken.html

CAQuincy said...

I wonder if that recipe would work around here. I can tell you right off that only 2/3 would even try it as the eldest refuses to eat anything with melted cheese on it. And she's not a big fan of bacon. No, she's not my kid.

Now I'm hungry.

I've noticed a big difference between the cut-out recipe I got from my mother and the one in my cookie cookbook. My mother's rolls much smoother. I think it's because hers doesn't take real butter.

Speaking of butter, I did try the "One cookie, Six ways" recipe in Parenting magazine this month (it takes 2 sticks!), and only had problems rolling out the batch that I let chill overnight.

Tess said...

Health kick poooooost! I am so excited for health kick season. I can't even.

Also, I loved "liquid dairy of your choice". Heh.

Nik-Nak said...

Put off the health kick post. It'll make me feel better, ha!

I Recipe sounds awesome!!

Mrs. Irritation said...

At first I think "how can anyone NOT like bacon?" then I think "more for me!!"

Doing My Best said...

Mmm, I need to get some Ranch powder!!

StephLove said...

Congrats on your cookie success. It sounds like a change of recipe and the innovation of kid turning-taking did the trick!

I'm hoping to make gingerbread some time before Christmas but I'm not sure when we'll manage it.