Lighter Version – White Cheddar Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli in a creamy White Cheddar Cheese sauce – a lighter version!

White Cheddar Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli-1

I used to make a recipe similar to this using one of the flavored boxed pastas and I would add some grilled chicken and broccoli. It was delicious but I knew I could make a sauce myself that would be healthier and even tastier than what comes in the powdery mix of a box. This creamy white cheddar cheese sauce is made with skim milk. I only buy skim milk so I decided to use what I had on hand and it worked out great. It would probably be creamier if prepared with whole milk or even heavy cream, but it tasted cheesy and delicious and had a lot less calories and fat with the skim. I encourage you to try this healthy dish and you won’t be disappointed. Make the first bite count!

Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I used skim)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 pound pasta (I used Penne)
1 bunch fresh broccoli, stalks removed and chopped (about 2 cups)
2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
Freshly grated parmesan, for serving (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to remove any lumps. Cook for about a minute. While whisking, slowly stir in milk. Add nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. (The skim milk will take a little longer)

2. While the sauce is thickened, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the boiling water with salt, then add the pasta. About halfway through cooking time, add the broccoli. Stir occasionally. When finished cooking, drain and return to pot.

3. When sauce is thickened, remove from heat and add the white cheddar cheese. Stir until smooth and all the cheese has melted.

4. Add the cooked chicken and cheese sauce to the large pot with the pasta and broccoli. Stir until combined. Serve hot with freshly grated parmesan on top.


What’s for Dinner? Week of January 26, 2014


Weekly Dinner Menu Grocery List

week of 1.26.14

It is already the end of January, and I have no idea where the last month went already.  Time flies when you having fun!  And I have been having fun cooking, taking pictures and posting recipes to share with you.  I hope you have enjoyed them, as I have enjoyed creating and presenting them to you.  The menu for this week involves some old, some new, some borrowed.  The new BBQ Bacon Chicken is delicious served with the old Twice Baked Potatoes with Broccoli.  Reuse some of the leftover fresh broccoli to make a great, healthy side to the fabulous cheesy Mac n Cheese.  The leftover bacon from the BBQ Bacon Chicken can be used in the Chicken Cordon Bleu pasta.  Shredded beef tacos are done right in the crock pot and served with tortillas.  You can even use the tortillas to make Chicken Caesar wraps instead of just plain old salads.  It’s all about reusing ingredients in different ways so that nothing goes to waste.  By planning dinners this way it is also less to buy at the grocery store; you will find your list is much shorter when ingredients are reused.  So print out that Weekly Dinner Menu Grocery List above, make your list and do that shopping.  Just once per week is all you need at the grocery store if you simply take just 15 extra minutes to make a plan.  Make the first bite count!


Monday – Shredded Beef Tacos  (Cooking Classy)

TuesdayBBQ Bacon ChickenTwice Baked Potatoes with Broccoli  (Make the First Bite Count)

Wednesday – Chicken Cordon Blue Pasta  (Chef in Training)

ThursdayChicken Caesar Salads (Make the First Bite Count)

Friday – John Legend’s Mac ‘n Cheese (Martha Stewart) | Roasted Parmesan Broccoli  (Make the First Bite Count)

BBQ Bacon Chicken

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-2

BBQ, bacon and cheese… What could be better? This recipe comes from wanting to spruce up plain old BBQ chicken. And what makes anything better? Bacon and cheese, of course. By adding crunchy, crumbly bacon and gooey cheese, it brings BBQ chicken to the next level. This recipe would be even better during the heart of the summer and cooking the chicken right on the grill, but unfortunately it is 10 degrees where I live so that is just not an option. It tastes just as good in the oven though, especially if you broil it for the last few minutes and make the edges golden brown and crispy. So improve your BBQ chicken and try this recipe. Make the first bite count!

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-3

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-1

Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

3 boneless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise
2 cups BBQ sauce, divided (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
5-6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

1. Place chicken in large Ziploc bag or large dish. Cover with 1 and 1/2 cups of BBQ sauce and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375. Place foil on a large baking sheet. This makes clean-up easy. Spray foil with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Place chicken on foil-lined baking sheet. Discard any remaining BBQ sauce from marinating chicken.

3. Evenly distribute bacon over each piece of chicken. Combine the 2 types of cheeses and sprinkle over each piece of chicken.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink. The chicken will cook faster because it was cut lengthwise making them thin cutlets. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with remaining BBQ sauce for dipping.

Pulled Pork Pizza

Pulled Pork Pizza Recipe-2

In the beginning of the week I made the Pulled Pork Pockets and had leftover pulled pork. I had not made pizza in while, so I decided to make a BBQ pulled pork pizza. What a great use for any leftover meat you have, make a pizza! By adding a drizzle of extra BBQ sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese and even a drizzle of honey mustard over the top for an extra tangy flavor, you have yourself one easy pizza. And it was delicious! I have invested in a bread machine a few months ago, so I even made my own pizza dough. So easy and delicious, it took no effort at all and was so fresh tasting. I used this pizza dough recipe and it was very good. But feel free to try your own, or even just grab a can of dough from the grocery store. Either way, pizzas are a great weeknight dinner because they are easy yet still healthy. So take your leftover pulled pork, or any leftovers you have, and create this pizza for dinner tonight. Make the first bite count!

Pulled Pork Pizza Recipe-1

Total Time: 30 minutes (not including time to cook pulled pork)
Servings: 4

Pizza dough, enough for 1 pizza
2 cups BBQ pulled pork (recipe HERE)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup BBQ Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
2 Tablespoons Honey Mustard (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease baking pan or pizza pan and roll out dough to desired thickness.

2. Evenly spread pulled pork over dough, leaving space on the edges for a crust.

3. Drizzle the BBQ sauce over the pulled pork. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top. Then drizzle the honey mustard over the cheese. It gives it a nice tangy flavor, but this is optional.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Let cool a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Pulled Pork Pockets

Pulled Pork Pockets Recipe-4

My aunt and cousin had the great idea of using crescent roll dough to make little pockets, “hot pockets” if you will. They put some pulled pork in the middle, sealed them up, and baked them. I had to try it and I’m glad I did. The only thing I added was a little cheddar cheese in the middle, because everything is better with a little cheese. 🙂 The hot pockets brand definitely makes money off me and my husband, but now I can make my own and they taste just as good, if not better. What makes it really simple is if you use the seamless crescent dough that Pillsbury now has available. It is the crescent dough without the perforations for the crescents, so you don’t have to worry about pinching those parts together. Genius! I will definitely be trying more combinations of these little pockets, so look forward to some more pocket posts. They are so delicious and portable too. You will love the ease of them as well as the deliciousness. Make the first bite count!

Pulled Pork Pockets Recipe-3

Total Time: 6-8 hours (including crock pot time for pork)
Servings: 4 (2 pockets per person)

1 pound pork tenderloin
1 cup BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cans Pillsbury crescent dough (I bought the seamless)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten

1. Place pork tenderloin in the crock pot. Combine BBQ sauce, chicken broth, and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and stir. Pour over pork. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours until meat easily pulls apart with a fork.

2. When pork is done cooking, remove any fat and shred using two forks. Stir to coat shredded meat in sauce.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll each can of dough. If using crescent dough, pinch together seams. Otherwise, you simply roll the dough out and cut each one into four sections. You should have 8 total pieces.

4. Place a piece of parchment paper onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Place 8 pieces of dough onto lined baking sheet. You can hang one end of the dough over the edge if there is not enough room, as they will simply get folded over anyway.

5. Place about 2 heaping Tablespoons of pulled pork onto one end of each piece of dough. Top with 1 Tablespoon of cheddar cheese. Fold over the other half to cover the filling. Line up the edges and use a fork to crimp and seal the edges.

6. Brush each pocket with the beaten egg to give it a nice golden color. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.

What’s for Dinner? Week of January 12, 2014


I hope those resolutions are serving us all well and that we haven’t given up just yet.  If you are trying better to eat right and save some money, you have found the right place.  I have created a dinner menu for the week of delicious, healthy options and by not eating out and shopping for all your ingredients in one big grocery trip for the week, you will even save some money too.  What could be better!  I don’t know about you, but I am a planner.  I love to plan anything (menus, parties, weekend plans, what I’m wearing tomorrow), but mostly I like to plan weekly dinner menus.  I’m here to help those who don’t necessarily like to plan out anything.  I’ve done most of the planning for you.  All you have to do is grab my Weekly Dinner Menu Grocery List, fill it in with all the ingredients you will need to make this week’s dinners (minus the ingredients you have on hand and plus any additional items needed for the week) and you are on your way.  Let me tell you what I have found helpful as well:  Print out a few grocery lists and store them in a folder.  Label the folder ‘Grocery.’  I’ve said before I am no extreme couponer and I stand by that, but sometimes I come across a coupon of an item I use or I know I will buy in the near future.  Whenever you do this, just clip the coupon and place it in your ‘Grocery’ folder.  Then, once a week, I pull out the folder, plan my dinners, make my list, search through any coupons I can use and head to the store.  The whole process, from pulling out my menu to planning dinners to making the list to going to the grocery store to coming home to unpacking all the items, doesn’t take me more than about 2 hours.  Not bad for a week’s worth of delicious dinners and money saved from not eating out.

So, as you can see below, there are dinners planned for Monday through Friday.  Usually, I tend to make a little extra and the leftovers become my lunch for the next day.  Simple and easy and no extra time required.  Or, you can even use the extras you have in another meal later in the week.  This is a huge time and money saver.  This week, that is done with the Turkey Chili.  On Tuesday, you make one big batch of the Turkey Chili and perhaps serve with cornbread, and then on Friday you take the leftover chili and throw together some Nachos.  It’s a great meal to throw together on a Friday after a long week.  The other days contain meals from my website as well, some that haven’t been used in a while.  Nothing is set in stone.  I encourage you to swamp out dinners for your family favorites or take a browse on this website to see what other delicious meals there are.  Either way, make a plan and enjoy the ease throughout the week of always knowing the answer to the question, “What’s for Dinner?”  Make the first bite count!


MondayChicken Kiev with Egg Noodles | Roasted Parmesan Broccoli  (Make the First Bite Count)

TuesdayTurkey Chili  (Make the First Bite Count)

WednesdayBowtie Pasta with Chicken and Spinach  (Make the First Bite Count)

ThursdayBeef and Broccoli  (Make the First Bite Count)

FridayNacho Night!  (Make the First Bite Count)

Turkey Chili


It’s cold outside and even though we all made those resolutions to eat healthy, all we want is some comfort food. Well here is a great chili recipe that will keep you both warm and healthy and I would like to thank my sister-in-law Jenn for sharing it with me. Made with turkey instead of beef, it has less fat and calories than the typical chili recipe. It makes great game day food as well. A perfect addition to your Super Bowl Party menu you may be soon planning. And what is great about chili, you can set out small little dishes of toppings and let people make their own. They can eat it like a dip with chips or top it with cheese, onion and sour cream to enjoy with a spoon. Everyone can enjoy it they way they like it best. Try it this upcoming week, you will find it is so easy to throw together and your whole family will love it. Make the first bite count!


Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4-6

2 pounds ground turkey
2 packets of Chili Mix (I use McCormick lower sodium)
1 (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce
2 (14.5 ounce) cans of petite diced tomatoes with mild chilies
2 (16 ounce each) cans light red kidney beans
1 (16 ounce) can black beans
Toppings/Sides such as shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, jalapenos, cornbread, tortilla chips

1. Heat a large pot (I like to use my Dutch oven) to medium high heat. Add the turkey and break up with a large spoon or spatula. Stir occasionally until the turkey is browned and cooked through, about 7-8 minutes.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Simmer on medium low heat for at least 15-20 minutes. Serve warm with toppings/sides as listed above.

3. Leftovers can be placed in a Tupperware and frozen for up to 3 months.