modernized tetrazzini

Some people love leftovers while others cringe at the very idea. I happen to be a leftover lover. A delicious meal with a fraction of the work, um yes please! In my mind what’s even better than a no hassle dinner of leftovers is turning those leftovers into something entirely new and delicious. Think shepherd’s pie with leftover mashed potatoes (remind me to give you that recipe, it’s one of my families favorites), pea soup with leftover glazed ham or ice cream with leftover egg nog. Yum!

I’ve already told you that one of my all-time favorite meals is roasted chicken, but with warm weather (finally) upon us I’d much rather crank up the grill than the oven. Thankfully my husband received a “beer can chicken” rack last Father’s Day and has recently started putting it to good use. Have you ever cooked chicken this way? It’s ridiculously good and strikingly easy, especially if you have a rack. Anyway back to the leftovers— we made and enjoyed a beer can chicken last Sunday and ended up with a container of leftover meat after dinner. Chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken a la king… nope Chicken Tetrazzini.

Chicken tetrazzini seems to be one of those classic dishes that has gone the way of tuna noodle casserole (complete with crushed potato chips sprinkled on top) and sloppy joe’s. It’s typically made with some diced chicken and mushrooms, tossed with spaghetti, smothered in a heavy butter/cream sauce and baked until the cheese on top is bubbly and toasted. Tasty I’m sure, but not exactly a 2013 idea of nutritious. But if you make a few lower fat substitutions and really punch up the flavor with a bit of onion and spices, hello perfectly acceptable and surprisingly kid-friendly modern day dinner!

Sometimes those oldies really are the goodies. Perhaps next week I’ll try to modernize franks n’ beans…

Welcome to the Future Chicken Tetrazzini
This recipe is great with either leftover chicken or turkey. I typically use fusilli pasta or rotini, but you could also use spaghetti if you prefer.


1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
a pinch cayenne pepper
8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup brandy
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup set aside
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
8 ounces thin pasta (fusilli, spaghetti), broken in thirds
3 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced large
plain panko, for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, black pepper, salt, thyme, garlic, cayenne and mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add the brandy and cook 2 more minutes.
  2. Add the broth to the pan and gradually add flour. Use a whisk to incorporate the flour into the liquid and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until cream cheese melts.
  3. Remove from heat and add the pasta and chicken and stir until blended. Grease a medium high-sided ceramic baking dish and pour in the tetrazzini mixture.
  4. In a small bowl mix together the panko crumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the pasta and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and bubbly. Remove casserole from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

*adapted from cooking light


Chocolate on my Mind

I love chocolate. Let me rephrase that—I love dark chocolate. If it’s in the house (which it usually is) I will eat it everyday. In fact when I was pregnant with my son I read about a Finnish study that said pregnant women who ate chocolate daily had happier babies. That was all the reason this momma-to-be needed!

Anyway, back to the chocolate… I love it, have I mentioned that? Not so long ago my husband and I went out to dinner and for dessert I ordered the chocolate lava cake. It was just the intense chocolate experience I had hoped for, and it got me to thinking. What if I could recreate this delicious dessert but on a less “special occasion” kind of scale. Maybe something like chocolate lava cupcakes! I thought about this a bit and quickly decided that not only was this a divine idea, but it should also be fairly simple to execute.

First things first, I believe in boxed cake mix—there I said it. Sure you can make your cake from scratch and it will no doubt be fantastic, but the people at Duncan Hines make a pretty fine product so why not save yourself a few steps. Okay, so that takes care of the cake, now for the lava part. A dark chocolate ganache is almost effortless to make and could serve nicely as the lava center. Throw in a few mini chips to up the slow-melt ante and we’re in business. Okay, cake…check! Lava…check! But now what should these delightful little cupcakes be topped with, hmmmmm. Traditionally a lava cake would be served with a simple dollop of whipped cream and some fresh berries, but my little creations called for something different. Something like… Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting with shredded coconut on top. Sounds decadent, doesn’t it. Oh, it is! It’s almost like a Chocolate Lava Cake and an Almond Joy had a love child—a sweet, sweet love child…

Chocolate Lava Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
These babies will be at their peak of deliciousness and their most lava-like just after you bake them. However even once the cake has absorbed some of the melted ganache they are still fantastic and ridiculously decadent!

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 11.5 oz bag of Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bittersweet chips
1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 8 oz. block of cream cheese
3 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 bag shredded coconut, for topping

These cupcakes sound complicated but really only require four steps: 1. Make the ganache. 2. While the ganache is chilling make the cupcake batter. 3. While the cupcakes are baking make the frosting. 4. Cool, frost and indulge!

  1. For the ganache: In a medium saucepan heat the whipping cream until it’s hot, but not boiling. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate chips and stir until the mixture is smooth. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes, until the ganache is the consistency of thick pudding. Stir in 1 cup of mini chocolate chips and see step two.
  2. For the cake: While the ganache is chilling, mix up the batter following the box instructions. Once your ganache is ready, line your muffin pan with cupcake papers and fill each cup half way with batter. Place 1 tablespoon of the cold chocolate mixture in the center of each cup. (It will just sit there on top of the batter looking luscious, but not to worry, as the cake bakes the ganache will work it’s way into the center). Bake the cupcakes according to the box directions.
  3. For the frosting: In a large bowl blend together the butter and cream cheese until it’s fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and salt. Start mixing on low, until most of the powdered sugar is incorporated and then on high for about a minute. Add the vanilla and coconut extracts and give the frosting a final mix. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate.
  4. For the enjoying: When the cupcakes are cool (about 30 minutes or so) apply a liberal amount of frosting and then top with the shredded coconut. Now sit back, relax and indulge.