Monday, February 7, 2011

Thinking outside the box.

As I’ve posted previously, I don’t like the idea of labeling, boxing and filing away…people that is. The same goes for ideas and techniques; just because something is done the same way all the time, doesn’t mean change is impossible. Think outside the box; the possibilities could be endless.

Take, for example, changing your hair color; products are a lot safer now than they used to be. Instead of harsh, stinky ammonia; now you have the choice of not using it. Sure, the coloring doesn’t last as long, but your hair will last on your head a lot longer. Natural ingredients are being added to help keep the hair healthy; and colors are no longer a standard black, brown, red or blonde…there are shades to please anyone. So who says you have to keep what you were born with, and not change it…it’s your hair, isn’t it?

So, let’s get to cooking, and thinking outside the box. Fettuccine Alfredo is a classic Italian pasta dish made with primarily three ingredients: fettuccine, butter and Parmesan cheese. As the cheese melts, it combines with the butter and makes a thicker sauce which coats the pasta. Simple and easy; purists don’t like to mess with the original.

I’m far from being a purist, so let’s expand on the recipe; add cream to make it richer, chicken or shrimp for an added protein; how about peas or broccoli…you now have a complete meal of dairy, starch, protein and vegetable. We won’t talk about the fat, just keep it between us, ok?
When I go out of the box, I go all out, so here’s my expanded recipe on an original idea, and it’s awesomely good!!! Never said I was humble.

Four Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake


4 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 (10 ¾ oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (4 oz) can or jar sliced mushrooms, cut mushrooms in half
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
½ cup each of shredded parmesan, mozzarella and Swiss cheese
1 cup each heavy whipping cream and warmed milk
¼ tsp each ground black pepper and nutmeg
2 cups cooked chicken breast ( ½” cubes)
½ lb cooked penne, ziti or small rigatoni
½ cup Italian seasoned dried bread crumbs
3 Tbsp melted butter


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 2 qt casserole dish with nonstick spray.
In a small skillet, on medium heat, sauté onion in butter till softened; add garlic and cook for 5 minutes more.

In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the soup, mushrooms, all cheeses, cream, milk, black pepper, nutmeg, chicken, pasta and the onion-garlic mix. Spread evenly into the casserole dish.

In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and butter completely; spread over the mixture in casserole dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, covered with aluminum foil. Uncover and bake for additional 15 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour
February 7, 2011