I've always liked to eat. But I don't think planning and preparing our next meal ever took up as much of my daily mental energy as it does now that Little Dude is eating all the same foods we do. Not just anything will do. My requirements for the dishes I prepare are:
- It must be quick, less than 60 min from minute time I step in the kitchen to the time the first bite is taken;
- It must be well-rounded, contain most of the food groups, or with a side will contain them;
- It must be chewable by someone with minimal teeth, and easy for them to feed to themselves (mostly).
I know I am not the first mom to need these requirements be met in their dinner preparation. Know how I know? Because casseroles exist. Not one to make them much prior to being a mom, they are now my best friend. Throw a bunch of ingredients together (either from cans, leftovers, or prepared in advance), stick it in the oven for a bit, and viola! Tastiness that meets all 3 of my requirements, and usually will even provide a second meal. Score!
Needless to say, I am always on the lookout for new ideas, and this is one I love. I can't take credit for it, and I can't even share my own pictures, because it literally came out of the oven last night and was scooped up on plates. Created by Nikki at Chef in Training, I cannot thank her enough for this Chicken Cordon Bleu pasta dish.
Here's the recipe, and you can get a printable version from her site here.
- 10-12 oz. penne or ziti pasta (I used whole wheat macaroni noodles, still as good.)
- 2 cups heavy cream (I'm going to try with whole milk next time)
- 1 (8 oz) block cream cheese
- ½ tsp. onion powder, more or less to taste
- ½ tsp. garlic salt, more or less to taste
- 1½ cup shredded swiss cheese, separated
- 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into strips (we do these on our Foreman grill)
- ¾ cup bacon, cooked and chopped
- ¾ cup diced ham
- bread crumbs ( I used Panko for a little lighter topping, since this is pretty rich already.)
- Optional: if you're trying to make this as well rounded as possible, you can add a chopped green veggie like asparagus or broccoli as well. A cup or more (to your liking), boiled or steamed soft then added as a layer. I quickly boiled some frozen broccoli and added for Little Dude.
- Things to do ahead of time for expediency (can be done the night before): cook/chop chicken, cook bacon, cook/cop optional veggie, grate the swiss cheese.
- Cook pasta according to its package's directions. Drain. I always add a little olive oil after I drain it and stir in around so the pasta noodles don't stick together or the pot.
- Heat cream cheese on stove over medium low heat until melted. Stir in heavy cream. Stir until completely combined. Add onion powder and garlic salt until it tastes how you would like it to. Stir 1 cup of cheese until smooth consistency.
- In a 9x13, layer noodles, chicken, bacon and ham. Pour sauce over top. Sprinkle top with ½ cup cheese and bread crumbs.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until heated through.
This recipe makes enough for at least 4 adults, especially if you have an additional side of veggie. For us it fed me, my toddler, and my husband (who usually eats enough for 2), with enough leftovers for a second meal. Enjoy! And thank you Chef in Training!