Chicken and Spinach Pasta Casserole


My close friend, Cris, gave me this exceptional, savory, and yummy recipe.  The textures and flavors melt together so well.  It’s one of our favorites – and I’m not an extreme fan of casseroles, but this one is top notch.  One of the keys is getting the spinach quite dry.  I’m pretty confident you and your family will love this recipe.  It works well with plain cream cheese (even Neuchatel) or the flavored chive & onion variety.  Enjoy!

**A can of Hunt’s basil, garlic, and oregano diced tomatoes work very well here.  


  • 8 oz. uncooked rigatoni (use whole wheat, if you wish)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (or use onion powder like I do)
  • 1 (10 oz.) pack frozen spinach, thawed
  • 3 cups cubed, cooked chicken breasts
  • 1 (14 oz.) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained**
  • 1 (8 oz.) container Philadelphia chive & onion cream cheese (or use plain or Neuchatel).
  • 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Prepare rigatoni according to package directions.
  2. Spread oil on bottom of 11×7″ baking dish.  I used a 9×13″ pan; I like a roomy dish.
  3. Add onion in a single layer.  Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes or just until tender.  Transfer onion to large bowl, set aside.
  4. Drain chopped spinach well, pressing between towels.
  5. Stir in rigatoni, spinach, chicken, and next four ingredients into onion in bowl – OR add your onion powder here.
  6. Spoon mixture into dish and sprinkle evenly with shredded mozzarella cheese.
  7. Bake covered at 375 F for 30 minutes.
  8. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until bubbly.


Decadent-Tasting, Light Fettuccine Alfredo

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This is a killer recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo!  I found it via a Cooking Light recipe.  It’s on the lighter side.  As we all know, Fettuccine Alfredo is really mouth-watering but can be a full day’s worth of calories if you’re not concerned about portion control or ingredients.  This was a wonderful balance of creaminess and fat content versus calories.  We will make this regularly!
Don’t substitute the official Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese!  It’s expensive but makes the dish!

Note: Best eaten that day as the pasta sucks up the sauce within hours.  



  • 1 tablespoon butter (next time I will use 1.5-2 T.; it needed a little more butter).
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups 2% milk
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 oz.) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons 1/3-less-fat Neufchatel cream cheese – (I used 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups hot cooked fettuccine (8 oz. uncooked pasta)
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in flour.
  4. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk.
  5. Cook 6 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly.
  6. Add 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream cheese, and salt, stirring with a whisk until cheeses melt.
  7. Toss sauce with hot pasta.
  8. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped parsley.
  9. Garnish with black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

A Simple Roast Chicken in the Slow Cooker

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I love this recipe because there is barely any work involved and you have a flavorful chicken with the right texture in just a few hours.  I opt for the low setting of 6.5 to 8 hours, and I use an instant read thermometer to ensure the chicken has reached 165 degrees F to be safe.

This isn’t an exact science: you can use the mixture of spices you like, but this is a general recommendation.  Regarding paprika, I like to use mostly if not all SMOKED paprika.  It lends so much unique aroma it’s unbelievable.

Don’t skip for a second on the aluminum foil balls.  Yes, it does use a good amount of foil but it’s worth it and the result will definitely not be the same without those balls to raise the big chicken up.

**I also like to add onion powder, dried oregano, and smoked paprika.  Don’t add liquids.

Pair with brown rice and a salad, as pictured.



  • 1 (4 LB.) whole chicken, insides removed and patted dry with a paper towel
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika (try the smoked paprika!)
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose seasoning (Like Archer Farms House Blend, or make your own like I did)
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • (Optional add onion powder and/or dried oregano per your tastes.)



  1. Mix together paprika, all purpose seasoning, garlic powder, and salt.  (Add any other optional spices here like onion powder or dried oregano).
  2. Ball up 4 medium-sized balls made from aluminum foil.  Place in bottom of your slow cooker.  These four balls act as a stand for your chicken to keep it from drying out.
  3. Rub seasoning from step #1 over your entire chicken (including pouring some of the seasoning inside the chicken’s cavity).
  4. Place the chicken on top of the foil balls.  Cover and cook on high for 4 – 4 1/2 hours, or on the low setting for 6.5 to 8 hours.
  5. Always check the temperature with a thermometer to make sure it gets to 165* F for food safety.
  6. Let rest 15-20 minutes to seal in the juices before carving.

Black Bean Burgers via — (They actually taste good, I swear).


After the blended mixture came out of the food processor, it’s mixed with bread crumbs, and the other can of drained and rinsed black beans.  Then salt and pepper is added.


Grilled on grill pan or grilled outside.  The left two burgers were overdone, but fine, since I had to run to get the door.



The burgers do well on bread or on just lettuce too.  Either way is delicious.

These black bean burgers from, courtesy of Sandra Lee, are really good!  I’m not just saying that to healthify my cooking blog; they really are good.  I also love that when you go to clean your grill pan, there isn’t globs of beef fat that you have to scoop up.  Just a soapy sponge takes care of it all.  We had to omit the egg because of an egg allergy, but I added 1 tsp. of vegetable oil to help it all stick together.  I used fresh garlic but replaced the onion with onion powder and it turned out fine.

The picture shows the burger on bread but the next day I had another black bean burger plain, without bread, and enjoyed it more!  Bread can get too ‘bready’ and ruin a burger for me.

Makes 5-6 burgers.  Prep time 15 mins, cook time 12 mins, total time 27 mins.


  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped (or onion powder)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, divided —(I only use low sodium)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 hamburger rolls


  • Optional Toppings:
    1 tomato, sliced
    4 small Romaine lettuce leaves, or any other type you have on hand
    1/4 cup ketchup


  1. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-low heat.
  2. In a food processor, pulse onion and garlic until finely chopped. Add 1 can black beans, cilantro, parsley, egg, and red pepper flakes and pulse to combine.
  3. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl, add the remaining can of black beans and the bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and mix until well combined.
  4. Divide remaining mixture into 5-6 portions and form into patties. Place on hot oiled grill over medium-low heat and cook about 6 minutes a side or until heated through. Toast hamburger buns on a grill. Place a burger on the bottom of each bun. Top with lettuce, tomato and ketchup, if desired. Cover the burgers with the top of the bun and serve.

Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs from


**Photo by SharonChen above.  My photos weren’t great this time and I forgot a photo of the finished product – I probably was too hungry!

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Okay, these photos won’t show how amazing this dish is.  There’s no way to explain just how good these beef ribs turned out.  The red wine vinegar tenderized them to perfection.  It’s so good just remembering this dish I want to make it again!

Well, I had to make changes to this dish but it turned out A+.  I used onion powder instead of the chopped onion and omitted the chili sauce because I can’t have it.  It was still wonderful!


  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 1/2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs (this part can range in price from $12-20)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. chili powder


  1. Put flour, salt, and pepper in a bag.
  2. Add ribs and shake to coat.
  3. Brown ribs in butter in large skillet.
  4. Put browned ribs in slow cooker.
  5. In same skillet, combine remaining ingredients.
  6. Bring to a boil, stirring, then pour over ribs.
  7. Cover lid and cook on low for approximately 9 hours.

Delicious Won Ton Soup



We are huge fans of won ton soup and have purchased too many containers of it from take out, so I wanted to learn how to make it myself.  I have been making this a few years now.  It fills your home with a wonderful aroma of simmering broth, sesame oil (a must!), and authentic Chinese flavors.  This recipe is from’s Chinese cooking section, by Rhonda Parkinson.

**I usually double this recipe because it goes so quickly.** 


    • 18 – 24 won ton wrappers


    • 1/2 pound boneless lean pork, chopped finely (I used ground pork for ease)
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
    • a few drops sesame oil
    • 1 teaspoon sherry
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 green onion, finely minced
    • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
    • 2 dashes of white pepper


    • Water for boiling won tons
    • 4 1/2 – 5 cups chicken stock
    • green onion, thinly sliced, as desired
    • a few drops sesame oil
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes

Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Lay one won ton skin in front of you. Cover the remaining won ton skins with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.
Filling the won tons: Moisten all the edges of the won ton wrapper with water. Place a heaping teaspoon of won ton filling in the center. (My tip:  Don’t overfill wonton or it’ll burst).  If these directions are too confusing, look at the graphic on the won ton package on how to fill and seal.
Fold the won ton wrapper in half lengthwise, making sure the ends meet. Press down firmly on the ends to seal.

Use thumbs to push down on the edges of the filling to center it. Keeping thumbs in place, fold over the won ton wrapper one more time. Push the corners up and hold in place between your thumb and index finger. Wet the corners with your fingers. Bring the two ends together so that they overlap. Press to seal. The finished product should resemble a nurse’s cap. Repeat with remaining won tons.

Alternate method: Place the teaspoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper and twist to seal. The final result should resemble a money bag or drawstring purse.

Boiling the won tons: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the won tons, making sure there is enough room for them to move about freely. Let the won tons boil for 5 – 8 minutes, until they rise to the top and the filling is cooked through. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.

To make the soup: bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the won tons and bring the soup back to a boil. Add the green onion, remove the pot from the heat and add the sesame oil, stirring.

My tip:  To save effort I’ve boiled the won tons in the actual chicken stock, but to each his/her own.

Ladle into soup bowls, allowing 6 won tons per person.

Crock Pot Cannellini Minestrone Soup

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

This recipe came out of a Crock Pot branded book.  It was fantastic and very healthy.  Don’t be scared of using the escarole.  It looks like lettuce; just rinse and dry it well (or use a salad spinner), and cut into ribbon strips as directed.  It really adds a lot to the appearance and provides healthy vitamins and nutrients.  Make sure you cook on low for at least 6 hours+ as you’re using hard beans.  If you don’t want to do that, get a can of the beans, drain, rinse, put in fridge.  Then add in the 30 mins to one hour of cooking.

Makes 6-8 servings, depending on serving size.


  • 4 cups chicken broth*
  • *(If not homemade broth, make sure the first ingredient is chicken, not salt!  If not making it myself, I buy “Better Than Bouillon”) 
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (12 oz) tomato-vegetable juice *****
  • 2 cups escarole, cut into ribbons
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped potatoes
  • 1/4 cup dried cannellini beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (I used dried)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 ounces uncooked ditalini pasta

*****I didn’t buy the tomato-veg. juice; I used a 1/2 can of 14 oz. tomato sauce and added 1 cup vegetable broth.


  1. Place all ingredients except pasta into slow cooker.
  2. Stir well to combine.
  3. Cover, cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-6 hours.
  4. Stir in pasta.  Cover, cook 20 minutes or until pasta is tender.


ATK Beginner’s Pulled Pork (Slow Cooker)


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This is a great entree from America’s Test Kitchen via the slow cooker.  It is quick to assemble, but it’s just a waiting game in two stages.  First the spice and refrigerate overnight waiting game and then the slow cooker wait.  Pay attention to trim and quarter the roast.  I bought two 2.5 lb. roasts and halved them, but you can purchase a 5 lb. roast and quarter it – if you can find it.  We could only find 2.5 lb-ers and 8 lb-ers.  I omitted the cayenne pepper and it was just fine.  Enjoy!

To un-carb-ify it, I didn’t opt for a bun.  It would have looked better in the photo, but it is what it is.

–Honestly, I didn’t go through the braising liquid step.  Maybe next time!  I was tired and didn’t want another step.  It was just fine without doing that process, but next time I’ll try it.    


  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, plus extra as needed
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • One 5LB. boneless pork butt roast, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce, (plus extra for serving if desired)
  • Cider vinegar


  1. Combine brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a bowl.
  2. Using fork, prick pork all over.  Rub sugar mixture over pork, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.
  3. Unwrap pork and place in slow cooker.
  4. Spread BBQ sauce evenly over pork, cover, and cook until pork is tender 9-11 hours on low OR 5-7 hours on high.  (Mine took about 8 hours on low in my Crock Pot).
  5. Transfer pork to large bowl, let cool slightly, then shred into bite size pieces, discarding excess fat.  Cover to keep warm.
  6. Let braising liquid settle for 5 mins, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.  Season with salt, pepper, sugar, and vinegar to taste (if desired).
  7. Toss shredded pork with one cup of the braising liquid, add more liquid as needed to keep meat moist.  Serve with BBQ sauce.


Zucchini & Turkey Lasagna


This is a wonderful, healthy recipe I took a chance on.  I had never made lasagna without the standard lasagna pasta noodles, ground beef, and multiple cheeses.  The downside of the typical lasagna it can be excessively heavy and greasy.  This healthier version was lighter, filling, and tasty, and packed a good vegetable punch.  We weren’t sure how it would turn out, so we added pasta layers to every other layer.  It was just fine without the pasta layer!

Even though the directions look lengthy, it actually was one of the easiest lasagnas I’ve ever made!


  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (I used onion powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 (28 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes (Plain or Italian-flavored, if you desire)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (I used dried this time)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (I used 2%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil.
  3. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up any large pieces with the back of a spoon, until brown throughout, 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until it thickens, about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in the oregano and salt.  Let cool.
  7. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into thin strips (about 1/8″ thick).
  8. Put 5-6 zucchini slices, overlapping slightly, in the bottom of a 8×8″ baking dish.
  9. Top with 1 cup of the sauce/meat mixture.
  10. Dot with 1/4 cup of the ricotta.
  11. Repeat the layers twice, alternating the direction of the zucchini  (I didn’t find the alternation especially pertinent).
  12. Top with the remaining zucchini and brush the top with the remaining 1/4 tsp. oil.
  13. Dot with the remaining 1/4 cup ricotta and season with the black pepper.  Top with Parmesan cheese.
  14. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling and the top is brown.
  15. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Mahogany Chicken with Pan Roasted Broccoli Side Dish

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Above: Non-peeled fresh ginger.  Fresh ginger’s a unique art form by itself.  I prefer the smell of ginger freshly sliced than any fake room freshener out there (especially since I can’t even be around those artificial room fresheners).


Hot New Glaze! It’s called Mahogany.  It’s usually a mix of soy and honey that gives a dish’s glaze its rich color and caramelized flavor.  It works on pork tenderloin as well, the recipe states.

Next time the only change I’ll make is using bone-in chicken breasts and doubling the entire sauce mixture to cover to bigger breasts.  We are more white-meat people for stand-alone chicken dishes.  But we will definitely make this again and again!


  • 2 T. lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 tsp. grated and peeled fresh ginger (see photo above)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs, fat trimmed – (or chicken breasts if you prefer)
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths

Optional Side Dish Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/8 tsp. salt


  1. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with heavy duty foil.
  2. In large bowl, whisk 2 T. lower-sodium soy sauce, 2 T. honey, 2 cloves pressed garlic, and 2 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger.
  3. Add 1.5 lbs. chicken thighs (fat trimmed) and 1 bunch green onions (cut into 2″ lengths).  Toss to coat.
  4. Arrange chicken, skin side up, and greens onions on 1 prepared baking sheet.
  5. If making side dish: On other baking sheet, toss 1 lb. broccoli florets with 2 T. vegetable oil and 1/8th tsp salt.  Arrange in single layer.
  6. Roast chicken and broccoli in 450 degree F oven 30 mins or until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F) and broccoli is tender.