Beans, Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna… this epic (vegetarian) meal is weeknight-friendly, pantry-friendly, and oh so tasty! I definitely need to make this dish more often. Enjoy!

Mexican Lasagna... this epic (vegetarian) meal is weeknight-friendly, pantry-friendly, and oh so tasty! I definitely need to make this dish more often. Enjoy!

Lasagna… one of my favorite dinners of all times. I don’t get people who say it’s complicated. Sure, it’s a little more involved than tossing together sauce and noodles, but all it takes is a little layering and baking and then you have an amazing cheesy comfort dish that pretty much everyone loves. Right?? Right.

Normally, I’m a regular lasagna girl. I have several lasagna recipes on my site but my go-to is my Mom’s (and Grandma’s) lasagna. I made it on Friday, actually, with a fussy baby (who didn’t sleep the night before) attached to my leg. Fun times. But sometimes you want something a little different. You still want the lasagna experience, but with a new palate of flavors. (Yes, I totally think in those terms. Please let me know I’m not alone.) Enter… MEXICAN Lasagna. All the goodness of lasagna mixed with all the goodness of taco night!

Mexican Lasagna... this epic (vegetarian) meal is weeknight-friendly, pantry-friendly, and oh so tasty! I definitely need to make this dish more often. Enjoy!

This is an epic fusion dish that I do not make often enough. The recipe, as is written, is vegetarian–but if that’s not your thing, add some meat. Chicken, beef, chorizo… they’d all work I think! I usually have most of the ingredients in the pantry and fridge, so even though it’s (gasp) lasagna, it’s totally possible as a weeknight “what do I make for dinner” recipe. Busy weeknight WIN! Enjoy!

one year ago: Awesome Kale Salad
two years ago: Cheesy Veggie Pasta
three years ago: Chocolate Cream Filled Cupcakes
four years ago: Double Chocolate Banana Muffins
five years ago: Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
six years ago: Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken
seven years ago: Potato Soup

Mexican Lasagna

  • Servings: 6
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from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed — I usually cook my black beans from scratch and use 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels — fresh (usually about 3 ears) or frozen
  • 4-5 green onions, green and white parts sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro + more to serve
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • black pepper
  • 1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 9 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 8 ounce shredded Mexican blend cheese — I’ve also used sharp cheddar, pepper jack, or monterey jack

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9×9 inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, toss together black beans, corn, green onions, cilantro, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, and pepper.

Spread 1/4 of the crushed tomatoes on the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with 3 lasagna noodles. If necessary, break them to fit the pan. Spoon 1/3 of the black bean mixture over noodles, then spread with tomatoes and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat to use up remaining ingredients: noodles, beans, tomatoes, cheese, noodles, beans, tomatoes, cheese.

Cover pan with foil, then bake for 35-45 minutes until noodles are fully cooked. Remove foil and bake for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melty and golden brown.

Allow lasagna to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Note: I’ve also used 12 lasagna noodles and made this in a large oval serving dish. I’m sure a 9×13 dish would work as well.

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Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Lentil Veggie Macaroni and Cheese

Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? This version is fancied up with some lentils and veggies for a more complete version of a childhood favorite.

Who doesn't love mac and cheese? This version is fancied up with some lentils and veggies for a more complete version of a childhood favorite.

When it comes to macaroni and cheese, I usually gravitate towards the baked variety. Don’t get me wrong, a box of Kraft or Annie’s is pretty much always in our pantry for those desperate nights… but when I REALLY want mac and cheese, this is what I’m talking about. Ben and I can make our way through a pan of that stuff in just a few days… it’s crazy good. And now that #BabyVolde is eating more and more of my regular cooking, heaven help us. When I made that mac and cheese a few weeks ago, he gobbled it up.

While that mac and cheese will always always always be my favorite, sometimes I want mac and cheese… but with a little less cheese and a little more nutrition. Yeahhh… especially since I have a pretty non-picky-baby eater right now and I want to keep it that way. So that’s when I bring in Lentil Veggie Macaroni and Cheese. You still have your cheese and pasta… but with a little extra protein (helllllllooooo lentils) and some extra veggie power. I won’t say the lentils and veggies aren’t noticeable, but they do make this dish a bit heartier and a little healthier. I can’t wait to make it again soon–it’s absolutely delicious!

Who doesn't love mac and cheese? This version is fancied up with some lentils and veggies for a more complete version of a childhood favorite.

One last thing before I go… I did make this recipe into a baked mac and cheese cause that’s my favorite. #crispynoodlesforlife But if that’s not your thing, or you’re in a time crunch, you can omit the panko topping and the baking step, no problemo! Enjoy!

one year ago: Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Bars
two years ago: Butternut Squash and Mushroom Tart
three years ago: Oatmeal Fudge Bars
four years ago: Neely’s Lemon Pasta Salad
five years ago: Pineapple-Apricot Teriyaki Chicken
six years ago: Sweet and Tangy Pork Chops with Pineapple over Coconut Toasted Rice

Lentil Veggie Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 8
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slightly adapted from The Lean Green Bean

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces dry pasta
  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 cups mixed vegetables, diced – can be fresh or frozen, or a combination
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted – or 3 handfuls fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a large baking dish – 9×13 inches or similar and set aside.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Prepare lentils according to package directions.

While pasta and lentils are cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant, then stir in mixed vegetables and spinach. Saute for 5-10 minutes until softened – less for frozen vegetables and more for fresh. Sprinkle with flour, paprika, and cayenne, then stir to coat. Add milk and cheese, stirring until well combined.

Carefully fold in pasta and lentils, then transfer mixture into greased baking dish.

In a small bowl, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave. Toss with panko, then sprinkle panko mixture over the macaroni mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly. Enjoy!

Note: If baked pasta isn’t your thing or you’re in a time crunch, just omit the panko and baking steps. It’ll be just fine without it. 🙂

Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Orzo

This easy, creamy pasta-based dish has all the makings of a cravable, comforting fall dinner. Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Orzo may not look like much, but it tastes like a million bucks!

This easy, creamy pasta-based dish has all the makings of a cravable, comforting fall dinner. Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Orzo may not look like much, but it tastes like a million bucks!

Eeek, I don’t want to tell you  how long ago I made this recipe! It’s embarrassing. But I wanted to wait until fall to share this gem of a meatless meal with you. This easy, creamy pasta-based dish has all the makings of a cravable, comforting fall dinner. Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Orzo may not look like much [and my indoor photos don’t help it… alas], but it tastes like a million bucks!

This easy, creamy pasta-based dish has all the makings of a cravable, comforting fall dinner. Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Orzo may not look like much, but it tastes like a million bucks!

Despite this dish’s less-than-steller appearance, it is so unbelievably good, whether prepared fresh or reheated for lunches later in the week. Mmm! The star of this meatless sensation is absolutely the creamy, sweet potato-based sauce. It’s just a little cheesy [thanks ricotta!] and somewhat reminiscent of summer since the flava flava comes from none other than pesto! So you can reminisce about warm days while cozying up with a warm bowl of this goodness. 🙂 Of course, you can’t just have the sauce… you gotta add some extra deliciousness to it! This time I added kale, sun-dried tomatoes, and orzo to the mix, but you can absolutely use other veggies or even some meat. I think bacon would be great here too… but can you ever go wrong with bacon? No matter how you mix it, this dinner is great! The slight crunch of the kale, the sweet essence of sweet potatoes [sorry that sounds weird but it was just speaking to me today–haha!], and the fun add in pasta shape of orzo makes this a dish that I know you’ll love! Enjoy! 🙂

one year ago: Cantucci (Almond Biscotti)
two years ago: Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
three years ago: Autumnal Muffins
four years ago: Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup
five years ago: Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad
six years ago: Spaghetti + Meatballs=Love

Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Orzo

  • Servings: 8-10
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adapted from The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 16 ounces orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 cups kale, tightly packed [about 2/3 of a large bunch–washed, thoroughly dried, stems removed, and chopped into bite sized pieces]
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes [dry packed or drained and patted dry if water/oil packed]

Directions:

Wash and dry sweet potatoes, then pierce with a fork all over and place in a microwave safe container. Microwave on high for 6 minutes, then flip and microwave for another 4-5 minutes or until potatoes are cooked all the way through. Set aside to cool in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes, then peel and chop into chunks. Discard skin.

Meanwhile, cook orzo to al dente according to package directions.

In a separate pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute, for about 4-5 minutes until onion is tender. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds until fragrant. Season generously with pepper. Add milk and broth, then bring to a boil, being careful to not let it boil over. Reduce heat to low.

Add sweet potato chunks, ricotta, pesto, and crushed red pepper to broth mixture. Whisk constantly until all has been incorporated. Break up the sweet potato chunks as you go, and if desired, use an immersion blender to completely smooth the sauce. Next, add kale and sundried tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes until kale has reduced in volume. Stir in orzo and serve immediately.

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! 🙂

Main Dishes, Recipes, Soups

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup reminds me of chicken noodle soup, hold the chicken and add the meatballs. This version has tiny turkey meatballs and is SO tasty!

Italian Wedding Soup | thepajamachef.com

I feel like every other recipe I’m making and sharing this winter has been soup! But it’s just so good this time of year so I can’t resist. 🙂 Before making this Italian Wedding Soup, I’m not sure I had ever really had it before. I just saw the recipe in a magazine and thought it would be good! Guess what? It was! Ha. Big surprise there, right?

Italian Wedding Soup | thepajamachef.com

Since I don’t have a family version or favorite restaurant version to compare this to, I can’t really say that this is the best Italian Wedding Soup of all time or anything like that. But I can say it’s incredible! And why wouldn’t it be? It really does remind me of a twist on chicken noodle soup. You have the same basic base: chicken broth, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, pasta… and then you add in some cute ‘n tiny meatballs [with a twist of lemon for some extra tasty oomp!] and some spinach. Then BOOM! You’ve got a tasty and interesting soup, hearty enough to eat alone, with some crusty bread and a side salad or a tasty sandwich. Enjoy! 🙂

one year ago: Falafel, Tzatziki, and Greek Lemon Rice
two years ago: Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
three years ago: Red Velvet Marshmallow Bites
four years ago: Sunrise Muffins
five years ago: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes

Italian Wedding Soup

  • Servings: 10-12
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from September/October 2014 Taste of Home

Ingredients:

for meatballs

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey

for soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 small or 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups small pasta [like acini di pepe, orzo, or ditalini]
  • 2 – 10 ounce packages fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • additional Parmesan, for serving

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the meatballs. Mix well–your hands are going to work best! Roll into small, 1 inch meatballs and place on a baking sheet and pop in the fridge to chill for a few minutes.

Next, begin on the soup. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add carrots and onion and cook until almost tender, about 6 minutes. Add celery and cook another 2 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Pour in chicken broth and season with pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Gently drop in meatballs. Allow to cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Add pasta and allow to cook for another 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until meatballs and pasta are fully cooked. Stir in spinach, then serve, topped with more Parmesan. Enjoy!