Tag Archives: pasta

One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese—kind of


This week is Thanksgiving Break in our district and I am enjoying the unstructured schedule!  With the extra time I have been trying some new recipes.  The one I’m sharing with you today is not technically new to my family as I’ve made it once before.  But I want to share it as for one it has pumpkin in it so it fits the Thanksgiving theme.  However, one would never know it has pumpkin unless you were helping in the kitchen.  This mac ‘n’ cheese is light on the cheese…just about a cup of cheese to go with 10 ounces of cooked elbow macaroni.  The look of cheese comes from the pumpkin.

My family really does like this dish but my handsome fella tells me to not remind him that there is hardly any cheese!

This is a good supper for after the big Thanksgiving meal day as it is easy to prepare and relatively healthy.  (I got the recipe from the September 2015 Cooking Light Magazine)

One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat add

  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

Cook until bacon is crisp, stirring occasionally.  Remove bacon from the pan but leave the bacon drippings.

Add to the drippings in the pan and saute for 30 seconds

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

Add to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally:

  • 1 can of pure pumpkin
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of milk (we use 1%)

Now add

  • 10 ounces of uncooked large elbow macaroni

Cover the pan and reduce heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in:

  • 3 cups of chopped broccoli florets (I buy a bag of broccoli in the produce department to make it faster!)

Cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.

Stir in:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 ounces of cheese (about a cup)

Sprinkle on top:

  • bacon
  • remaining cheese (about 1/4 cup)

Cover and let stand 1 minute.


The recipe said that it only costs about $8.15 for six servings.  I make my own chicken broth so it probably costs a bit less for us!  Totally worth it as it is healthy and economical.

OH, but don’t tell your family it is pumpkin until AFTER they have eaten it all up 🙂



Summer Suppers! New Recipe 1…


Summer is here and I am ready!  As a family of educators we endure the crazy schedule during school year knowing that summer is coming.  It is amazing how much one can accomplish when there are no papers to grade, concerts to plan/conduct, and of course all the parenting things that go along with having kids in school too!  I already have one of my summer projects done with all this “extra” time I have now…cleaning and reorganizing the pantry!


I am happy to be enjoying preparing family dinner again now that I have more time.  I love sitting around the table with my family (it is one of the reasons I have this blog!) but honestly as the school year progressed, I dreaded making dinner.  I was becoming the queen of “throw down dinners”.  You know, the ones you buy in the freezer section and throw into a skillet and about 10 minutes later, dinner is served!  We actually enjoyed many of these dinners. The prep and clean-up were easy enough to where I didn’t have to spend an hour or more in the kitchen after teaching all day.

Tonight I made “Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta” and it earned four smiley faces!  It will definitely make it into our “school-schedule” friendly recipes too as it was quick and easy to put together.  I plan to have my girls make it with me the next time so they can learn to make dinner during the school year. It would be easy to double if you need more than 4 servings.  Here is how I made the recipe for my family:

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add:

  • 2 cups of penne pasta

Cook until tender and then drain the pasta.  While the pasta is cooking:

  • dice 1 small onion
  • mince 2 cloves of garlic

In a large skillet heat

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Add to the heated oil the diced onion and minced garlic and cook over medium-low heat until softened and transparent.

Add to the skillet and stir to combine:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground pepper, to taste

Now add to the skillet and stir to combine:

  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of water

Turn the heat down to low and add:

  • 2 Tablespoons of cream cheese

Blend the cream cheese into the sauce and then add

  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup of grated Parmesan

Stir until the Parmesan is melted.  Then add

  •  4-5 ounces of fresh spinach

Stir the spinach gently into the sauce until it has wilted.

Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated in the sauce.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

I served it with a fruit salad and we all loved it.

It took me about 30 minutes to make the dish and was easy to clean up after dinner.

I’m looking forward to many relaxing and enjoyable dinners this summer!

Summer Salads- Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Lemony Dressing


Summer…nothing better than the lazy days of summer on an educator’s schedule.  We have had a great summer of just relaxing and enjoying each other.  It has been a few years since we have been able to do that with the house on the market back in 2013 and then our move last summer from PA to TX.  Add to that a full year of working crazy long hours as teachers with our schedules being set by others and you can imagine how we have taken great pleasure in having a very loose schedule and hardly any “hours” to keep during the summer of 2015.

Summer 2015!

Summer 2015!

Summer has also allowed me to be in the kitchen again and try some new recipes.  Those that know us, know that the girls and I make frequent trips to the library in the summer.  Recently I picked up some cook books.  This recipe is from The Make-Ahead Cook.  One could prep it in advance and then store it up to 2 days…but I made it for my family to each for lunch today!

Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Lemony Dressing

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

  • Add 1 pound of thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into about 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon salt

Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes or so.  While the asparagus boils, prepare a large bowl halfway with ice and water.

Once the asparagus is crisp-tender, remove it with a slotted spoon- transferring it to the ice water and let it cool for about 2 minutes.

Remove the asparagus from the ice water and then pat it dry with paper towels.  (If making this ahead now you would put the asparagus in a storage container and cover it…but if making to eat immediately just leave it out on the counter like I did!)

Return the pot of water to boil and cook according to directions on package:

  • 12-16 ounces of dried cheese tortellini

Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water- in case you need it later.

Drain tortellini and rinse it with cold water and drain it again.  You want to leave the tortellini slightly wet.

While the tortellini cooks…

Whisk together in a large bowl

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I used lemon juice out of a bottle but you can use fresh—you will need about 2 lemons for the entire recipe)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup of yellow onion minced

While whisking the above mixture together constantly, drizzle in:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Remove 1/4 cup of the dressing to a small bowl and stir in:

  • 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

Cover the extra dressing if you are saving it for later.

Now add the tortellini to the large bowl with the dressing

Toss the dressing and tortellini to combine.  Add reserved pasta cooking water as needed to adjust consistency (I didn’t use any when I made it but I’m leaving the step in just in case!)

Cover the tortellini if you are saving it for later.

To store the salad:

Refrigerate the asparagus, tortellini mixture and dressing separately for up to 2 days.

When ready to serve it get the items out and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  You can stir in some boiling water to the tortellini to loosen it up and whisk the dressing to recombine it.

Last Steps:

Drizzle the dressing over the tortellini

Stir in the asparagus.


  • 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 -1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
  • 3/4 cup of fresh basil  (you can try mint or parsley too if you don’t have basil)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted (I threw mine in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350° for about 10 minutes)

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.  I sliced and apple and made some iced tea (sweet of course, is there any other way!)

Serves 4-6



Tortellini and Ground Beef…who knew?


We tried a new recipe at our house this week and it was a winner.  It has the two characteristics of a recipe that I love: fast and easy!  Then it has two more loves for us…tortellini AND ground beef, I never would have thought to put them together.

Our life here in the Smith house has been going a little fast too….not so much easy but not too difficult.  I have had many thoughts of blog entries to write and share with you, but things just are moving too fast to sit down and write at this point.  Meals at our house have not been to creative either as my schedule has been very full.  But I did finally try something new this week and since everyone liked it at our table, I thought I would share it with you.

I first found the recipe and pinned it to  Pinterest and then when we made it had to change a few things to fit the ingredients we had in the house.   So here is my version:

Baked Tortellini Casserole

In a large skillet or chicken fryer pan:

  • Brown 1 lb of lean ground beef

Add to the beef before it is totally browned:

  • 1 small, onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • pepper to taste

While the beef is browning, prepare according to package instructions:

  • 1 large (12 oz) bag of dried tortellini (We had cheese and spinach tortellini in the pantry.  I cooked it on the shortest end of the cooking time so that the tortellini would finish cooking in the oven.)

tortellini bag

Once the beef is thoroughly cooked through and drained, stir in:

  • 2, 14-oz cans of diced or petite diced tomatoes (could use crushed tomatoes too)
  • 1, 8-oz can of tomato sauce

Stir into the beef mixture:

  • prepared tortellini
  • 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese (we mixed mozzarella and Parmesan)

Transfer to a casserole dish and bake at 350° for about 20-30 minutes

Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of Italian cheese of your choice over the top and serve!








Grilled Chicken and Pesto Farfalle


Yum!  This one was fairly quick to throw together and each of my family members enjoyed it….ding! ding! ding!  Another winner!!!!

Now, it says “grilled chicken”.  Yes, you can actually turn on the grill and grill it OR you can dump it out of a freezer bag and warm it up in the microwave!  I love having a bag of Tyson’s grilled chicken in the freezer for quick quesadillas or even just as an entree for the girls on a night when I’m headed out for dinner.  So tonight as the storms rolled in once again near dinner time, I opted to not send anyone out to grill but to use the freezer bag of grilled goodness.

Grilled Chicken and Pesto Farfalle

Cook pasta according to directions: (When finished drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid)

  • 16-20 ounces of farfalle (bow tie pasta)

In a large saute pan (or saucepan), heat over medium heat:

  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Add to the pan and stir occasionally:

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

Combine in a small bowl and stir with a whisk

  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 2 Tablespoons flour

Add milk mixture to the pan and stir constantly with a whisk

Stir into the pan:

  • 1/3 cup of a commercial pesto (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)

Gradually add and stir constantly:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half

Cook 8 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, warm

  • 1 3/4 pounds of grilled chicken (You can grill you own if you want…but I used the Tyson frozen pieces)

Add to the pan:

  • 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded.

Stir until the cheese melts

Add to the pesto mixture:

  • Chicken (warmed and in bite-sized pieces)
  • 4 cups of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 of the cooked pasta

Toss gently.

Pour over the rest of the pasta and toss gently

Add 1 more cup of Parmesan cheese if desired (I forgot to do this and everyone still enjoyed it!)


This would be a good one to do the day after grilling chicken for a meal.  Simply grill 2 pounds more and cut it up and set it aside for this dish to make the next night.

St. Patrick’s Day 2013


Even though we have absolutely no Irish blood in our family…it is fun to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!  Today for lunch we had a green lunch.  I found a recipe on the wonderful recipe blog of “Two Peas & Their Pod” called Creamy Avocado Pasta.  It looked easy to throw together so I planned to make that once we got home from church.  It was good but a tad dry, so when I make it again I will add some olive oil to the avocado sauce prior to mixing it with the spaghetti.

Then we had kiwis, green grapes, broccoli and a green salad.  I wanted to make some green kool-aid but there were some problems: no green kool-aid in the house and no more than 2 Tablespoons of sugar left in the sugar canister.  So we opted for green milk—-yellow and blue makes green!

St. Patrick's Day Lunch_beckinpa.wordpress.com










After lunch I made a creamy avocado dip that we are enjoying this afternoon.  But I can’t wait until later tonight when we take another tip from Two Peas & Their Pod and make some chocolate mint shakes.

This green lunch didn’t take too much time nor too much planning but my girls loved it and thought it was fun.  Making Memories!!!



Chicken Noodle Yum!


That is the name my girls gave to the dish I created tonight…..yes….I actually made something without any recipe—miracles DO still happen.

I am not one that likes to go-it-alone in the kitchen without a recipe because I HATE to mess up and I HATE to waste food (and messed up food is a waste!).  But tonight I was stuck.  Thursday nights are often quesadillas or burritos for us (Dad isn’t home for dinner).  Both of those options require tortillas and I was low on tortillas.  The other Thursday night option is often pancakes and I just wasn’t in the mood.  So I hit the freezer.  There I found some of my favorite grilled chicken strips from Tyson’s.

Tysons chicken


But what could I do with them?



Egg Noodles_Great Value Brand copy


Ahhh…..some noodles….but what else?







Good ole “Cream of” to the rescue….I could mix that in with some milk to thin it out.








Chicken Noodle Yum!

Boil water to prepare 3 cups of medium egg noodles.

2 cups of  Tyson’s Grilled and Ready chicken

  • warm the chicken in a non-stick skillet for 3 minutes

Add to chicken

  • one can of cream of chicken soup
  • milk…probably 1/4 cup????  The purpose was to thin out the soup- I didn’t measure as I dumped the soup in a 2 cup measuring cup and then poured milk over it until the milk was even with the dumped out soup.
  • stir and pour over the chicken warming in the skillet

By this time your noodles should be done.

Drain the noodles and add to the chicken and soup mixture.

Then I seasoned with salt and pepper.

I also had some spices from Christmas from my MIL.  I sprinkled the Pasta Sprinkle from Penzeys Spices over everything.  Basically this is just basil, oregano, garlic and tyme in a jar!

Serve warm.

Both of my girls ate it right up and I loved that we had a warm meal quickly after a busy afternoon.