Spinach Artichoke Baked Pasta

As the days grow colder, I am craving comfort foods and my Spinach Artichoke Baked Pasta definitely hits the spot. Think spinach artichoke dip and baked pasta combined-so good! All the yummy cheese makes it indulgent for sure but the addition of lemon juice and zest brightens it up and balances everything so well. This totally tastes fancy like you’ve made so much effort but it is not hard to make at all. I love meals like this! Minimal effort but BIG taste!

This is my go-to meal when I want to make my family a meatless meal. However, if you wanted to make it heartier and stretch it further, you could definitely add chicken. Rotisserie would be perfect! This dish also makes a great freezer meal! If you have 4 or less people to feed, you could easily split this into two casserole dishes and freeze one. You might notice that red onions are pictured but they were all I had when I needed to take pictures. Yellow onions are definitely preferred! Food blogger probs-ha!

This is one of those dinners that you’ll keep coming back to and will become a family favorite!

This is a sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale the week of November 5-11: cream cheese, Parmesan, frozen spinach, artichokes, mozzarella, olive oil, pasta

Spinach Artichoke Baked Pasta

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

16 oz short pasta (mini shells, orecchiette, penne)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sour cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened (room temp)
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated and divided
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
10 oz frozen spinach (thawed, excess water squeezed out)
14 oz can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1 ½ cups mozzarella, shredded and divided
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/3 cup pasta water before draining. Prepare 3-quart casserole dish by spraying with cooking spray.

Heat a skillet to medium and add oil and onions. Cook until onions are translucent and slightly browned. Add garlic and cook for one minute.

In a large bowl combine sour cream, cream cheese, ¾ cup Parmesan, ¾ cup mozzarella, lemon juice and zest, spinach, artichokes, onions, and garlic.

Add pasta, reserved pasta water, salt and pepper then stir to combine well.
Add pasta mixture to prepared pan. Top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.

Cook uncovered for 10-15 or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Sweet Bacon Chili

This post is going to make a lot of people very happy. Why? Because this chili has been winning church cook-offs for 7 years and I’m FINALLY getting it on the blog! Seriously, half of the congregation at my church is ticked when I bring it because they want their chili to win and the other half would be super ticked if I didn’t bring it! Ha! I also made it for one of my cooking demonstrations at the Utah State Fair last month and promised everyone that I’d get it on the blog soon. Sorry it took so long!

This chili is also the “recipe that started it all” with my TV cooking. Three years ago this month I happened to be watching Good Things Utah when they announced a chili contest that they were doing. I thought, “My chili is awesome and always wins the church cook-off, why not?” I submitted my recipe and 2 weeks later got a call from the producer telling me that I was a finalist. I thought, “What in the world have I gotten myself into???” I had never cooked on TV or done any kind of public cooking demonstration. I was so nervous but as soon as I walked in to the television studio, my nerves melted away and I felt so excited. I rocked my demonstration and it felt like I was fulfilling a dream that I didn’t even know was possible. It was amazing!

Cooking on TV is a dream that was DEEP in my heart for years. Being able to do it regularly now is so awesome and I’m so grateful that I get to do it! Having this opportunity has lead to so many other things and I’m having the BEST time. I feel like I’m finally becoming the person that I was meant to be and honestly fulfilling my destiny (as cheesy as that sounds).

Ok, back to the chili! Crispy bacon. That’s a major thing that sets this apart. And I know what you’re thinking, “You’re a Texan and you put beans in your chili???” Ha! Yes I certainly do! That’s why I say my recipes have a ‘Texas twist” because they’re not all perfectly authentic. I really like the texture that the beans add to it. This is such a simple chili but the technique makes it AMAZING. You crisp the bacon first then cook the onions, jalapeno, and garlic in the bacon drippings. It adds so much flavor! The rest is pretty simple! My Sweet Bacon Chili will be your new “go to” chili recipe and if you take it to any chili cook-offs, expect to win! (Just give me the credit! Ha!) Here’s a really important tip too…ALWAYS double this recipe! Trust me.
(Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace)

Items on sale at Lee’s October 15-21: ground beef (organic), bacon, onions, chili beans, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce

Sweet Bacon Chili

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 lb lean ground beef
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
4-5 slices bacon, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 can mild chili beans (15 oz)
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 can stewed tomatoes, *chopped (15 oz)
2/3 C ketchup
1/4 C brown sugar
1 TB Worcestershire sauce
1 TB chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions

Cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from pan and set aside to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Drain bacon grease from pan leaving about 1 TB. Add onion and jalapeño then cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain excess grease from pan.

Add all remaining ingredients including bacon. Stir together then let simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Taste and add more cayenne and salt if needed. Just a pinch at a time.

**Note: Use kitchen scissors to “chop” stewed tomatoes while they’re still in the can.

Loaded Pumpkin Blondies

Move over pumpkin cookies because I’ve got something even better. Loaded Pumpkin Blondies. My favorite! I really wanted to make a pumpkin recipe this week for Lee’s Marketplace and am so glad I chose this one. 13 out of 17 ingredients are on sale! Now don’t freak out over the 17 ingredients! They are called “loaded” for a reason and are so easy to throw together. Need to clean out all of your baking chips? This recipe is for you! They are “loaded” with white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, toffee pieces and caramel. If you like nuts you could totally add those too! They turn out so ooey gooey and have been known to turn pumpkin haters into lovers. You have to add these to your fall baking list! (Sponsored post for Lee’s)

Items on sale at Lee’s October 8-14: flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, evaporated milk

Loaded Pumpkin Blondies

  • Servings: 12+
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

2 1/2 C flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C butter, melted
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin purée
1/2 C white chocolate chips
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C toffee pieces
1 bag (11 oz) caramels, unwrapped
1/3 C evaporated milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 9×13 pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and both sugars. Add egg, vanilla, then pumpkin. Add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the white and semi-sweet chips and toffee pieces.

Pour 2/3 mixture into prepared pan. Use a spatula to spread thick mixture to the edges. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine caramels and evaporated milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until caramels melt and mixture is smooth.

Pour caramel sauce over the blondies (that have baked for 10 minutes) then add remaining batter to the top by spoonfuls. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until cooked through. Let cool before serving.

**Note: You can replace caramels and evaporated milk with your favorite caramel sauce. You’ll need about 3/4-1 cup.

Butternut Squash & Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese

I was just thinking about this mac ‘n’ cheese that I created last year and realized that it wasn’t on my blog yet. Yikes! I developed the recipe last year for a Good Things Utah segment and it is one of my favorite segments to date. Watch me make it here!

Getting ready on the set of ABC4’s Good Things Utah!

So many of my friends have made this and loved it. You could definitely say its “grown-up” or “fancy” mac ‘n’ cheese. It requires a bit of effort but is sooooo worth it! The combo of roasted butternut squash, crispy bacon, creamy gruyere, and fresh rosemary is perfection! This is amazing alongside roasted chicken or pork and is the perfect side dish to take to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. You will definitely impress your family and guests with this elevated take on classic mac ‘n’ cheese! If you make it (or any of my recipes) please comment on my blog and share my recipes on social media. It will help me grow!

Butternut Squash & Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

1 butternut squash – peeled, de-seeded, and cubed (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup shallots, finely diced
1 stick (8 TB) butter, divided
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk (1%, 2%, or whole)
2 cups grated gruyere cheese, divided
2 cups grated sharp cheddar, divided
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
16 oz cavatappi pasta
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated parmesan
Kosher salt
Black pepper, freshly ground

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a 9×13 baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Heat a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta.
2. Place cubed squash on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in oven to roast for 20 minutes or until pieces are fork tender. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash half of the pieces (doesn’t have to be completely smooth). Leave on tray and set aside.
3. When water boils for pasta, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the water then cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
4. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and place on a towel-lined plate to drain. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the skillet.
5. Turn the heat for the skillet to medium then add diced shallots. Cook until translucent.
6. Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the shallots. Once melted, whisk in 4 tablespoons of flour. Cook for about 1 minute or until the flour starts to brown. Whisk in milk with a slow, steady stream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
7. Once the sauce thickens (coats the back of a spoon), add 1 ½ cups of gruyere and 1 ½ cups of cheddar. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and about ½ teaspoon of pepper. Stir until cheese is melted then turn off the heat.
8. Add rosemary, bacon, butternut squash and drained pasta to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish.
9. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a bowl. Add panko and parmesan and stir to combine.
10. Add remaining gruyere and cheddar to the pasta then sprinkle the panko mixture on top.
11. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until topping starts to brown.
The GTU crew devoured my mac ‘n’ cheese after the show wrapped! Love these people!

Skillet Pork Chops with Apples & Onions

Who loves a one-pan dinner? I sure do! Skillet Pork Chops with Apples & Onions is one of my favorite, weeknight meals this time of year. This week, Lee’s Marketplace is having a great pork sale on their “3 Meal Deal” that includes boneless chops, country style ribs and a loin roast for only $1.69/lb. I love when they do this because my freezer gets stocked!

This delicious meal is loaded with big flavor but has simple ingredients. It tastes like you’ve spent hours but it honestly takes about 30 minutes total. Pork and apples are a classic pairing and are SO perfect together! The onions balance the sweetness of the apples and the fresh herbs are the superstar finish. Seriously, do not skip the fresh herbs! The brightness of the rosemary and thyme make the dish in my opinion and it just wouldn’t be the same or as good without them. Also, anytime you’re cooking pork you NEED an internal meat thermometer. Overcooked pork is going to ruin your dinner and nobody has time for that! Serve this up with a side of mashed potatoes and you will have the perfect dinner. (Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace)

Items on sale at Lee’s Oct 1-7: pork chops, apples, dried sage (Badia brand), and apple cider

Skillet Pork Chops with Apples & Onions

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

6 boneless, skinless pork chops (about 2 ½ lbs)
3 large red apples, cored and sliced
2 yellow onions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons salt
Black pepper, to taste
1 ½ teaspoons dried sage
¾ cup apple cider
1 tablespoon “Better Than Bouillon” chicken base
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1-2 tablespoons canola oil

Directions

Season both sides of pork chops by sprinkling 1 ½ teaspoons salt, black pepper, and dried sage. Heat a large, deep skillet to medium-high. Add 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil. Add pork chops to skillet and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Remove and set on a plate.

Add apples and onions to skillet. (Add a little more oil if pan seems dry)
Continue cooking on medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes or until softened.
Add apple cider, chicken base, and ½ teaspoon salt then stir to combine. Add pork chops back to skillet and nestle into apples and onions. Continue cooking (no lid) until internal temperature of pork reaches 145 degrees (might only take a few minutes).

Sprinkle rosemary and thyme over the top and serve immediately.

**Notes:
1. Bone-in pork chops can be used instead.
2. Gala apples were used in this recipe but any red apple will do
3. Goes really well with mashed potatoes!
4. Do not replace chicken base with bouillon cubes. You need the thickness and flavor from the chicken base.

The Best Lasagna

My dilemma when writing this recipe…what do I call it? Classic lasagna? Traditional lasagna? Perfect lasagna? I finally settled on “The Best Lasagna” because that’s what we proclaim over and over every time we eat it. It’s simply the BEST!

This is a very close version to a recipe I printed back in 2009 for “World’s Best Lasagna” from the Allrecipes site. Yes I’ve been making it for TEN years! It’s one of those recipes that you make for something classic like lasagna and it’s so amazing you never try another recipe. Tried and true! Over the years I’ve made a few tweaks to make it my own. The ingredients are basically the same but the measurements are different. I mean, of course I increased the garlic and cheeses! Ha! I also switched to “oven-ready” lasagna because it’s amazing and it saves a lot of time not having to boil the pasta first.

Make sure to read the notes after the directions! This is not a hard recipe at all but does take some time. Like, 2 1/2-3 hours to be exact, so be prepared. It’s totally 100% worth the effort though because it is simply the best homemade lasagna you’ll ever make. You’ll feel like a rock star when your family “oohs and ahhs” over this at the dinner table!

It’s been forever since I’ve done a recipe for Lee’s Marketplace! I’ve been so busy with the fair but now I’m back to my weekly recipes and am so happy. I love doing them! This one worked out so perfectly because out of 19 total ingredients, 12 of them are on sale this week at Lee’s! Woohoo!

***Here’s what’s on sale Sept 23-30: Italian sausage, ground beef, yellow onion, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, lasagna, ricotta, eggs, mozzarella, Parmesan (sponsored post)

The Best Lasagna

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 pound lean ground beef
3/4 cup yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
12 oz tomato paste
16 oz tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
9 oz package “Oven-Ready” lasagna
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
16 oz mozzarella, shredded
1 cup Parmesan, shredded

Directions

In a large, deep skillet cook ground beef, sausage, and onion until browned. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water, then stir. Add sugar, Italian seasoning, basil, fennel, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley, then stir. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium-sized bowl, combine egg, ricotta, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons parsley.

To assemble, spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray then ladle in enough sauce to cover bottom of pan. Add 4-6 pieces of lasagna over sauce (it’s ok if they overlap a little). Add 1/3 of ricotta mixture and carefully spread across pasta. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella, and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times.

Cover tightly with nonstick foil (or spray regular foil with cooking spray). Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 20-25 additional minutes. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. Garnish with remaining parsley.

Notes:
1. Give yourself PLENTY of time to make this. You need about 2 1/2-3 hours from start to finish.
2. If you don’t have enough pasta for the final layer, it’s ok. Just place what you have on it!
3. Freezes perfectly! Can easily be made in two smaller pans so that you can stash one in the freezer for later. (Freeze before baking!)
4. If you choose to use traditional lasagna, follow package instructions for boiling before assembling.

Those crispy edges are my favorite!