Penne with Chicken and Red Peppers in Light Cream Sauce

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Where did the last whole year go??! I simply can’t believe it’s been over a year since my last post back in November 2015! Thank you for those of you that continued to pop in to refer to my old recipes! I have no sound reason or excuse for not posting here over the past year. I thought about it almost every other day, felt guilty, but didn’t quite take the time to translate that to action. But, here I am today, with a renewed enthusiasm to post again – and what better way to kickoff the new season (both the Fall season and my season 2 of blogging) than share with you a simple recipe for a comforting dish of pasta with chicken and red peppers in a light cream sauce!

This dish really does together in a snap! All you need is some cut-up boneless/skinless chicken (thighs or breast), red peppers, some light cream, pasta and basic seasonings such as Italian herb mix and garlic. You can work on the chicken and red pepper sauce while the pasta cooks, so you can just toss the pasta into the sauce as soon as it is done! What is even more appealing about this recipe, since it is super quick to make, this could easily be a weeknight dinner recipe!

So, grab the few ingredients listed below and start whipping up a comforting bowl of pasta for tonight! And, oh, if you so desire, stir in some cut up spicy chicken Andouille sausage with the chicken for an extra special treat!

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Penne with Chicken and Red Peppers in Light Cream Sauce

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 35 min
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Ingredients:
1 16-oz pkg of penne pasta (I used vegetable kind)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, cut up into bite size pieces
1 1/2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken, cut up into bite size pieces
1 cup canned fire-roasted diced tomato
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup light cream
Crushed red pepper, Salt and Pepper to taste
Extra cheese, if desired

Preparation:
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to directions.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion and garlic for a minute and add the red peppers. Stir often and cook until the peppers are a bit charred.
3. Add chicken to the pan and continue to saute till it cooked through.
4. Slowly add the tomato to the pan and season with salt, black pepper and salt to taste. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes.
5. Mix in the grated cheese and light cream. Reduce heat and simmer till everything melds together (about 3 minutes).
6. Turn off heat and toss in the cooked, drained pasta. Serve immediately.

Tip: Leftover pasta can be transferred to an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator for another meal mid-week.

Creamy Potato-Broccoli Soup

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I love creamy soups – broccoli-cheddar, baked potato and leek….But if you order them at any restaurant, you can be assured of ingesting few days’ worth of sodium and fat! So, I usually reserve these cravings for times when I can prepare these at home.

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I usually resort to a roux-based sauce made with 1% milk and a bit of light cream – if I am particularly brave! Mix in some 2% reduced fat or regular cheddar cheese and I promise you, you won’t miss the full-fat version! In fact, you might actually not even feel a tiny speck of guilt going for a second bowl! At least I didn’t! 🙂 Lastly, instead of typical chicken or vegetable broth, I used just water. With the addition of crushed dried herbs, taste was not sacrificed. Feel free to substitute this with broth if you so choose.

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Even though the title says potato-broccoli, I did amp up the veggie count by adding plenty of chopped carrots, celery and bit of red pepper. This soup was quite hearty without having to chow down on a bread roll – although go for it if you must!

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Creamy Potato-Broccoli Soup

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Time: 45 min
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Ingredients
2 cups broccoli, cut into small pieces
2 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 medium carrots, cut into small cubes
2 stalks of celery, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
3 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup light cream
1/2 cup 2% reduced fat or regular grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon powdered cheddar cheese, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
1. In a small pan, melt butter and lightly toast all-purpose flour to prepare a roux base. Remove pan from heat, let cool and stir in milk, light cream and powdered cheddar, if using. Set aside.
2. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and sauté all the vegetables except broccoli, onion and garlic for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add crushed herbs, water, salt and pepper. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20-25 minutes till all the vegetables are cooked through.
4. Add broccoli and cook for another 5 minutes.
5. Add the roux mixture and bring back to a low boil and let cook for 3 minutes or so. Stir in grated cheese.
6. Serve immediately.

Mafalde in Creamy Avocado Sauce

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If you are reading this, that means we share something in common – a love for avocados! Love as in anything with avocado in it – salads, smoothies, guacamole, desserts and whatever else.
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Going back to my childhood years, the only way I remember eating these velvety smooth fruits is in the form of an Avocado Fool – a sweetened and chilled concoction of mashed avocado, sugar and milk (or just condensed milk). Even now, I can recollect admiring the huge smooth green fruits (like the Florida type) hanging from trees waiting for someone to transform them into a Fool, the only way I think anyone there knew how to enjoy them! Fast forward to the present time and gosh only imagination is the limit!

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I love creamy pastas but cringe at the thought of consuming more than a day’s worth of fat in just a single meal. Needless to say, it is one of my kids’ favorites. Knowing that they don’t get treated to the full-fat version at home, they try their luck at restaurants and honestly, I feel like it is some sort of a dietary “abuse” every time I reluctantly allow them to order a creamy pasta dish. Now, being an aficionado of creamy sauces like alfredo, I look for ways to lighten up the recipes by substituting low fat milk for cream, less butter etc. Then I came across the idea for an avocado-based sauce at http://sweetlifebake.com. The original recipe calls for 2 ripe avocados for 4 servings but I found that just 1 worked perfectly.

Mafalde in Creamy Avocado Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 25 min
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Ingredients
1/2 pkg of 16oz Mafalde* pasta or any other pasta of your choice
1 Hass avocado
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup of chopped onions
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup of cilantro leaves
1 large Roma tomato, chopped
Salt to taste

Preparation
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sauté onions and garlic till lightly browned.
3. Transfer cooked onion and garlic to a blender.
4. Wipe the pan and add remaining tablespoon of oil.
5. Add chopped tomato to the pan the cook just until soft. Reduce heat to very low while making the sauce.
6. Scoop out pulp from the avocado and place in blender with the juice from 1/2 lemon, cilantro leaves and salt.
7. Start blending, incorporating just enough pasta liquid to make a thick sauce of desired consistency.
8. Transfer the pasta back to the pan with the tomato. Increase heat to medium.
9. Add the avocado sauce and gently stir to warm through.
7. Serve with extra sprinkling of cilantro and chopped tomato if desired.

* Mafalde pasta resembles a thinner version of lasagna pasta. It can be found in stores that carry a good variety of international ingredients. It can easily be substituted with other pasta of your choice.