Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken

This delicious, creamy pasta dish comes together in a flash! It’s like a grown-up broccoli & cheese casserole, pasta-fied!

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Broccoli + Chicken | thepajamachef.com

I don’t think “pasta-fied” is a word, but I want it to be. This pasta dish is one of my absolute favorite quick dinners… and you gotta make it soon! Promise? It is reminiscent of SO many other dishes that I bet you know and love… those rice/pasta packet side dishes… the ever-classic broccoli & cheese side dish… pesto pasta… mac & cheese… I could go on and on and on, but then I wouldn’t get to the goodness of this dish! Sure, it’s not the healthiest pasta dinner, but it is flavorful and has veggies, protein, and carbs so it’s pretty all-encompassing. And on nights when you have less time than you want, but still want a homemade dinner, meals like this are the BEST.

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Broccoli + Chicken | thepajamachef.com

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken is fast and flavorful. The creamy sauce is basically pesto + cream cheese + chicken broth [ooooh pesto, how I love thee! Make your own, or use some storebought pesto… it matters not]. The creamy sauce coats your pasta [duh], chicken, and broccoli to make a wonderful all-in-one meal that’s just a bit cheesy and creamy and a whole lot delicious. You can use fresh chicken for this, or even leftover chicken [rotisserie chicken would be SO  yum and SO easy I think]. I used frozen broccoli for ease, but fresh steamed broccoli would be great too. Basically, this recipe is just a guideline. The sauce makes the dish though so keep that in mind. I hope you love it as much as we do! 🙂

one year ago: Red Cabbage, Raisin, and Apple Slaw
two years ago: Healthy Crumb Topped Zucchini Bread
three years ago: Pumpkin Coconut Soup
four years ago: Chocolate Mousse
five years ago: Pumpkin Granola
six years ago: The Bestest Pizza Sauce Ever [+ Pizza How-To]


Budget Bytes

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients:

  • 8 ounce small pasta, like bow ties
  • 8 ounces frozen broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast, thinly sliced [or 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken – rotisserie chicken would be great here!]
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed [I always use 1/3 less fat]
  • Parmesan cheese, for topping, optional

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Once pasta is nearly cooked, add frozen broccoli to the water with the pasta. Cook for a minute, then drain pasta and broccoli together.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet set over medium heat, heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add sliced chicken and season with black pepper. Stir frequently, and cook for about 5-6 minutes until cooked through [no pink]. If you are using pre-cooked chicken, simply heat chicken in pan over medium-low heat until hot. You can add a little olive oil or water if you would like to keep it moist.

Then, add pesto and chicken broth to cooked chicken. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in cream cheese gradually, constantly stirring to allow the sauce to thicken. Fold in cooked and drained pasta and broccoli. Stir well to combine, and serve!

Pasta is best fresh, but heats up well. You can top it with a little Parmesan cheese too… extra cheese never hurt anyone! 🙂

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Appetizers, Recipes

Broccoli Stuffed Loaded Potato Skins with Avocado Cream

It’s January! For many people, that means a [re]commitment to healthy eating. Sticking with a healthy diet can be hard. Since I am all for moderation of all things, instead of strict denial, I like to find healthier versions of my favorite treats. These potato skins are a prime example.

Broccoli Stuffed Loaded Potato Skins | thepajamachef.com

The regular version is loaded up with tons of cheese, sour cream, and bacon. This version, à la Ellie Krieger, features broccoli, Canadian bacon, avocado, and cheese. The perfect substitute! And perhaps, even better than the original?

Broccoli Stuffed Loaded Potato Skins | thepajamachef.com

While I love the usual loaded potato skins [and ate my fair share in college], this version with broccoli and avocado is just fabulous. They’re more filling and more of a meal-appetizer than an appetizer-appetizer. Make sense? I had forgotten just how good Canadian bacon was… salty and a little more gourmet than regular bacon. Gourmet may be a bit of an overstep, but I love its juicy, smoky sweetness. It pairs SO well with that avocado cream, which MIGHT be my new favorite thing! It’s like guac, but creamy and with just a hint of lime. The only change I might make to this dish would be to chop the broccoli up a little more after steaming it, but that’s just a minor thing.

Broccoli Stuffed Loaded Potato Skins | thepajamachef.com

This app is perfect for a football party, or just a casual night at home in your cozy slippers. 🙂 Enjoy!

two years ago: Perfect Black Beans 
three years ago: Triple Chocolate Oat Cookies

Broccoli Stuffed Loaded Potato Skins with Avocado Cream [from Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 4 small russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets [4 ounces]
  • 2 ounces Canadian bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

for avocado cream

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 scallions, chopped [green and white parts separated]
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pierce potatoes with a fork 8-10 times each, then wrap in paper towels and microwave until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle, then cut in half lengthwise.

Scoop out all but an 1/8 inch of the potato flesh, reserving for another use. Brush the inside and outside of the potatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on a baking sheet and cook until crispy and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, making the filling. Steam the broccoli until crisp-tender. Add the Canadian bacon to a skillet set over medium-high heat and saute until crisp, about 4 minutes. Divide the broccoli and cheese equally amongst the potatoes

Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees and return potatoes to oven, baking for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted.

To make the avocado cream, place all ingredients except green scallions in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, top potato skins with Canadian bacon, avocado cream, and green scallions.

Time: 45 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings.

Main Dishes, Recipes, Soups

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Cheese

So, I used to post once a month on a blog called Today’s Housewife. Last fall, the group decided together to stop posting due the busyness of life and families and such. Though sad, I enjoyed being part of the group. As of early January, the blog was officially taken down. But I don’t want to lose my recipes, so periodically I will be reposting them on here. Enjoy!

~

from January 12, 2012… though it isn’t snowing here in Tennessee–far from it, I have been thinking about soup A LOT lately. I wanted to make this soup, looked for it on my blog, and realized I hadn’t yet posted it back after Today’s Housewife disbanded. So, here it is–for you and for me. Enjoy! 🙂

I love hot soup on cold nights. Though I am not the biggest fan of snowy, icy weather–that is literally just accumulating outside my door at this very moment, I am quite fond of the comfort foods that make up winter eats. Most people think that comfort food equals lots of fat, sugar, and calories. I don’t think it has to. Comfort food is all about flavors that are familiar and welcoming, and oftentimes that can be accomplished with less of the “bad” stuff when combined with the herbs and other seasonings or offset by loads of vegetables. Soups are one of my favorite ways to enjoy my favorite “comfort foods” and flavors without sacrificing nutrition. They are also a great way to warm up on cold nights. Here are links to two of my favorite soups that I have previously shared on my blog… as well as a new one for today.


Lasagna Soup… spinach, tomatoes, beef, noodles, and plenty of cheese to make things happy! This is a must make.


Turkey, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Chili… a new take on an old classic.

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Cheese | thepajamachef.com

And last but not least, Cream of Broccoli Soup with Cheese. This soup does not disappoint. It is plenty creamy and cheesy to feel indulgent, but is also filling without feeling heavy, thanks to the use of fresh broccoli, skim milk, and flavorful Swiss cheese.

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Cheese [from Rosemary Perry, Lafayette Journal and Courier]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 medium heads fresh broccoli, chopped [can also substitute 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli]
  • 1 tablespoon onion, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • generous amount coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup cubed Swiss cheese

Directions:

Place chicken broth, broccoli, onion, and bay leaf in 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until broccoli reaches desired tenderness. [I like to leave it with a little bit of bite so that the rest of the cooking doesn’t make it mushy.]

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter then stir in flour and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, always stirring. Gradually add milk, always stirring to make a smooth sauce. Remove from heat.

Remove bay leaf from broth and slowly stir sauce into broth. Add cubed cheese. Heat gently on low until cheese melts.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Chicken, Main Dishes, Recipes

Orange-Glazed Chicken Stir-Fry

So I enjoy Chinese takeout about as much as anyone else… but not as much as Ben. If he had it his way, he’d be chowing down on pseudo-Asian food every other night, with a healthy dose of meat and potatoes on the other night. Why doesn’t this happen in our house? Well, let’s see… salt, salt, MSG, salt, salt, lack of veggies, salt, salt… I think you get the picture. Oh, and I like to cook, not just get takeout. So what’s my compromise? Making takeout at home! [I bet you never saw that one coming. Ha!]

My latest attempt is a play off the ‘ole [un]authentic orange chicken. Instead of a gloopy, fake-colored sauce coating a few sad vegetables and the classic “little chicken/lots of breading,” sauted chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, and water chestnuts are tossed with a sweet-spicy orange glaze. The orange glaze is made with orange juice and [gasp!] a whole real orange. It’s amped up with fresh ginger and garlic, honey, sesame oil, soy sauce, and two kinds of pepper. Can it get any better than this?

I’m sorry, but this sweet-spicy citrus glaze has flavors that the corner Chinese place just cannot achieve! I know those places aren’t authentic, and in no way do I think my version is either. But I do know it’s good. So good in fact, that we both wanted the leftovers… a rareity in this house! Now, if only I could make brown rice as soft and pillowy as that Chinese place can…

Orange-Glazed Chicken Stir-Fry [adapted from Pretty Delicious by Candice Kumai]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
  • 1 3/4 cup orange juice, divided
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
  • zest of 1 orange + 1 orange, peel removed and fruit chopped into bite size pieces
  • 3/4 pound chicken breasts, thinly sliced into bite size pieces
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • hot cooked brown rice, for serving

Directions:

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and saute, stirring continually, for 60 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in 1 1/2 cups orange juice, honey, soy sauce, cayenne, red chile pepper flakes, and orange zest. Zest Simmer gently until sauce is thick and syrupy, approximately 20 minutes.

Next, heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil in an electric wok at 350 degrees. Add chicken and toss to stir-fry, cooking until all sides are golden, approximately 3-4 minutes total. Then add broccoli, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and orange chunks. Pour remaining 1/2 cup orange juice over everything, then cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until hot. [Alternatively, you could cook everything in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat.

Pour in orange sauce and toss to coat. Serve over hot cooked brown rice.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 4-5 servings.

Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Ham & Cheese Baked Pasta

I meant to share this recipe last week so you had a use for your leftover Easter ham… but alas, school got in the way. As Stephanie Tanner would say, “how rude!” I mean, why should school be more important than blogging? Kidding!

But despite the delay, this pasta is still as awesome as it was two weeks ago when I made it. I glazed the Easter ham this year with a mixture of 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons whole grain dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons honey, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Before brushing on the glaze, I scored the ham in diamond criss-cross pattern and stuck whole cloves in the points. After we feasted on the ham for dinner, I whipped up the leftovers into something just as fabulous.

It’s warm, comfy baked pasta dotted with savory ham, crisp broccoli, and sweet red bell pepper all wrapped up in a gooey, garlicky, cheese sauce that is utterly out of this world. Topped with some crunchy Panko bread crumbs, you’ll have a hard time saying no to seconds [or thirds!].

Hungry? Hope so!

Ham & Cheese Baked Pasta
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 9 ounces uncooked pasta, such as penne or ziti [approximately 3 cups dry]
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 8 ounces grated Colby cheese
  • heaping 1/2 tablespoon whole grain dijon mustard
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced [heaping 1/2 cup]
  • 8 ounces cooked ham, chopped
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta to al dente, adding broccoli during the last minute of cooking. Return pasta and broccoli to pan.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, approximately 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in flour slowly, cooking until bubbly. Then add milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in Colby, mustard, and a generous amount of black pepper. Stir until cheese melts, then pour cheese sauce over pasta. Add bell pepper and ham, and mix until combined.

Pour into ungreased 2 quart baking dish, top with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.

Bake, covered, for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Time: 45 minutes [20 minutes active].

Yield: 8 servings.