15 Minute Garlic Croutons

Have you ever passed by the marked down aisle of food at the grocery store and wondered what you could do with any of the marked down bread? So much! Yesterday I bought a bag of french loaf pieces that was marked down to 49 cents with the intentions of making croutons out of it. I’ve got a salad planned for my lunch this week, as well as a soup and croutons go well with both.

Anyone can make their own croutons with just 4 basic ingredients and an oven. Add some spices or parmesan cheese to give them a more flavorful taste to match whatever entree you have planned to incorporate them in. I promise you won’t buy store brand croutons again!

Homemade Garlic Croutons
Yields 4
You can make your own croutons with just 4 ingredients and an oven.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups of bread, cut into small cube shapes
  2. ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  3. ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  4. 1/3 cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Add bread cubes to a large bowl. Sprinkle both garlic powder and sea salt overtop, gently stirring. Next drizzle olive oil overtop and carefully fold; making sure to coat all bread.
  3. Using a cookie sheet, add bread; spreading out evenly so none overlap. Cook for 10-15 minutes depending on how quickly they brown.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes before adding to your recipe or storing in a gallon size ziplock bag.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Ham and Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole

Happy 2017! I decided to start up the new year with a more strict diet and exercise plan due to adding a few pounds on over the last year that I’m not too happy about, just like pretty much everyone else in the world. With bikini season a few months away, I know that winter time would be the best time to start focusing on tightening up my healthy lifestyle a bit, starting with what I eat.

While putting together my meal plan for the week, I decided to include a breakfast casserole that would not only taste good reheated, but hold me over until my morning snack. This previous week I enjoyed an overnight oats breakfast and while that was delicious, I was craving something more “solid.” With a breakfast casserole, not only would I be getting a good source of protein from the eggs, but I’d also be getting a good source of calcium from the dairy; something we all could use. Plus I’d feel more full after eating my portion!

A breakfast casserole can vary in ingredients but usually consist of a basic build; eggs, milk and cheese. To add taste and a better base to mine, I decided to add southern hashbrowns and ham as well. The hashbrowns would give a nice golden crust feel to the casserole while the bacon and ham would just be a bonus addition for the tastebuds. It also helps that I already had all of these things on hand.

As for my dairy; I love to purchase products that are locally made whenever opportunity arises and Reiter Dairy has over 20 dairy farms here in the state of Ohio. Our nearby grocery carries Reiter’s milk product DairyPure and after doing a little research on the brand, I decided I wanted to give it a try. 

What I love most about DairyPure is their 5-Point Purity Promise. When you purchase DairyPure milk you’re giving your family not only a product that comes from cows that are fed a healthy-diet, but also has no artificial growth hormones, has been tested for antibiotics, is continuously quality tested to ensure purity and is cold-shipped from their dairy. Hearing that, I knew that this would be a product that I can feel confident feeding to my family. 

Be sure to check out Reiter Dairy to see which of your local groceries carries their products. 

 

Ham and Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole
Serves 8
In need of a quick and delicious breakfast for brunch, "Breakfast for Dinner," or something you can reheat in the morning throughout the week? This breakfast casserole is perfect for just that and can be thrown together in just 5-10 minutes.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 16 oz diced ham, package should state that it's already fully cooked
  2. 8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  3. 8 cups frozen southern hashbrowns
  4. 4 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  5. 12 large eggs
  6. 1 cup DairyPure milk
  7. 1 teaspoon salt
  8. a pinch of ground pepper, for taste
Instructions
  1. Well grease two quiche pans or a 9x13 size casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Using a large mixing bowl, combine ham, cheese, hashbrowns and bacon well. Add to combination to casserole dish, spreading evenly.
  4. Wash out large mixing bowl and next add eggs, DairyPure milk, salt and pepper (optional) whisking well. Pour overtop ham and hashbrowns, making sure that it is evenly spread.
  5. Cook for one hour.
Notes
  1. If you'd prefer to just make a smaller serving - cut ingredients in half and use just one quiche pan.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

This is a sponsored post. All thoughts, and opinions I have expressed here are that of my own.

Pumpkin Donuts

 

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The best pumpkin donut I have ever tasted!

Baked Pumpkin Donuts
Yields 18
Krispy Kreme Pumpkin Spice Donuts will be a distant memory after you try your hand at making your own pumpkin donuts!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1½ cup puree Pumpkin
  2. 3 large eggs
  3. ½ cup vegetable oil
  4. 1½ cup granulated sugar
  5. 1¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  6. 1½ teaspoon salt
  7. 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  8. 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
Buttermilk Icing
  1. 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  2. 2 cups confectioners sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. 1 tablespoon whole milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a donut pan. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl add pumpkin, eggs, oil, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Mix well until completely combined. Slowly add flour, mixing well.
  3. Fill each donut til it is ¾ filled and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean. Remove each donut gently using a fork and place onto a cooling rack.
  4. While donuts are cooling off, add butter into a small size saucepan over med-high heat. Stir well, using a wooden spoon if able. Remove from heat when butter has melted and pour into a medium size baking bowl. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk. Stir well.
  5. If donuts are cool enough to handle, dip the top carefully into icing mix and return to the cooling rack. The glaze will harden at a generous speed.
Notes
  1. To maintain a cleaner space - place a piece of parchment paper underneath cooling rack to catch donut icing when it drips.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Slow Roasted Seasoned Tomatoes (Sauce)

A gas range is something I am still getting used to. No one quite understands the difference between an electric stove and a gas range until they actually go from having one to the other. I’ve always heard that a lot of food not only tastes different when using a gas stove (or oven), but also cooks much quicker. It’s still too early for me to validate the taste answer, but I can absolutely attest to the cooks quicker one! I learned just how quick after burning french toast.

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Since we are now officially in the new home, I can settle in more comfortably and get back into the swing of things – meaning actually cooking again; something I desperately missed both mentally and physically. I always feel so much better about myself when I know where my meals came from and who prepared them. Don’t get me wrong, eating out every once in awhile is nice but not only does it get expensive but it’s also most likely not healthy.

Tonight’s dinner was a late one due to schedules so it had to be something more on the simple side. It’s been some time since I made a marinara sauce and pasta can be both satisfying to all tastebuds and a quick clean-plater. I had most things already on hand, aside from the tomatoes which I happily walked over to Whole Foods to acquire. It’s awesome just how good even a basic marinara sauce can taste. Those tomatoes really do their job!

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Tomato? Tomahto? Marinara is a personal preference. I happen to like mine sweet so cherry tomatoes that were roasted in an oven were sure to give my marinara a sweet taste. I made sure to marinate them with some olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, italian seasoning, oregano and fresh basil leaves before I cooked them in the oven for a couple hours. And if you don’t want to get out the whisk and crush your tomatoes after they’re done roasting; you can puree them the lazy (and super smart) cook way – in a blender! Just make sure to pulse for less than a minute if you would like to have some “chunk” pieces to your sauce.

What would you add in your marinara sauce?

Healthy Banana Blueberry Bread

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I could go on and on about how blueberries seem to make everything tastes so much better, even delicious banana bread. But instead of wasting your time and trying to convince you just why; I’m going to assume you already like blueberries because you clicked on a link somewhere just for this recipe. So just right below the pictures, you’ll find a list of ingredients and instructions. Get to it!

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Healthy Banana Blueberry Bread
A delicious bread baked with fresh bananas and blueberries, healthy enough that you won't feel guilty while enjoying a slice.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  3. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  4. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. ½ cup brown sugar
  7. ¼ cup coconut oil
  8. ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  11. 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  12. 1 cup fresh blueberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl add flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix together.
  3. Next, in a large size bowl add brown sugar, coconut oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla extract. When all ingredients have been whisked well, add mashed bananas. Whisk well again. Next, gently fold in blueberries.
  4. Add dry ingredients into large bowl with banana mixture. Combine well and pour into loaf pan. Check at 55 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the middle. If toothpick comes out clean, bread is ready. If not, bake for an additional 3-5 minutes.
  5. Remove bread from oven and allow to cool down for 10 minutes before transferring to a baker's rack. Serve warm.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Parmesan Chicken Casserole

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Have you ever wanted to take the same meal you enjoy immensely, but switch it up just a little bit? Same ingredients and hopefully the same taste; it’s just prepared a little differently. That’s what this casserole reminds me of. The list of items just scream Chicken Parmesan, you’re just giving it a whole new look!

I had spotted this recipe while browsing my Pinterest feed quite some time ago and was intrigued. I’m not quite sure who came up with this fun recipe, as I quickly jotted the ingredients down and added it to my list of potential meals. I can see how this can be either a family favorite or something you bring to a potluck party at work.

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Unlike the original recipe for Chicken Parmesan, you’re using creating a base for bake (breadcrumbs) last instead of coating the chicken in it before adding the marinara sauce and cheese. It gives it a crispier outer shell, while enjoying a more moist italian taste when you bite in. I recommend using rotisserie chicken if you’ve got it, but any leftover shredded chicken will do.

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I allowed my casserole to bake for 25 minutes, but that can always vary depending on your oven. If your breadcrumb topping has begun to take on a golden brown shade, there’s a good chance it’s ready.

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Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Serves 6
Craving something hot and easy to prepare? This Chicken Parm Casserole is a great bake for when you've got leftover chicken and an extra jar of marinara sauce.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 2-4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  2. 28-ounce jar marinara sauce
  3. 1½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  4. ½ fresh parmesan cheese
  5. 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  6. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  7. 2 tablespoons italian seasoning
  8. 1 tablespoon oregano
  9. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Use cooking spray to well coat an 8x8 casserole pan. Add chicken to bottom followed by marinara sauce. Mix well, evenly spreading throughout the pan. Cover with mozzarella cheese and parmesan.
  3. Add panko bread crumbs, olive oil, italian seasoning and oregano to a medium size mixing bowl. Stir well and add a pinch of both salt and pepper. Spread bread crumb mix over-top cheese layer, covering well.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Skinny Banana Chocolate Chip Breakfast Muffins

Lately I’ve been trying to swear off bread for the most part, but I’ve been constantly running into some really yummy sounding muffin recipes on Pinterest and it made it hard to resist baking some. Breakfast has always needed to be some sort of variety for me. I could never stick to a routine bowl-of-cereal breakfast day after day, week after week. And so I am unendingly searching and testing for new recipes for breakfast. Afterall, we do dedicate our Sunday night dinner to it as well! 

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I was pretty much sold on this recipe when I saw “chocolate chips” in the title. You can pass off just about any healthy ingredient when you’re adding chocolate chips as well. So if you have some picky eaters in your home, chances are they will still enjoy these muffins. I just leave the “banana” part out at first. You never know, they may not even figure out there’s bananas in there too.

Know what else is great? Each muffin is 170 calories, easily leaving room for that much needed cup of coffee in the morning. That made going off the bread edge for just this week even more worth it!

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Not to mention how much I wish I could put into words just how delicious these muffins are. I guess the best way for you to understand would be to just bake a batch yourself. If you decide to, come back and let me know how they turned out!

Skinny Banana Chocolate Chip Breakfast Muffins
Serves 12
A healthy take on banana and chocolate muffins that are easily assembled and take as short as 20 minutes to bake. Plus kids love them!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1½ cups white whole wheat flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  3. ¼ teaspoon salt
  4. 3 ripe bananas
  5. ¼ cup raw honey
  6. 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
  8. 1 large egg
  9. ½ cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
  10. 1 tablespoon unsweetened almond milk
  11. ½ cup mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using cooking spray, grease muffin tin well.
  2. Add dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt to a medium size mixing bowl. Whisk well.
  3. Using a blender, add banana, honey, vanilla, oil, egg, yogurt, and milk. Blend on high speed for 60 seconds. Add blender mix to medium bowl with dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, combine well. Next gently fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Add batter to muffin tin evenly and filling until they are 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes, depending on your oven. Check using a toothpick to see if they are throughly cooked through. If the toothpick comes out clean after you stick in the middle of muffin; they are ready to take out of the oven.
  5. Allow muffins to cool down momentarily before moving to a cooling rack. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. Muffins freeze for up to 3 months if needed. Just add them into a ziplock baggie and heat for 30 seconds in a microwave to thaw out when ready to eat.
Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen
Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Strawberry Pickin’ and Homemade Jam

strawberrypicking

I’ve been wanting to make some homemade jam for quite some time, so I took the kids to Jacquemin Farms in Plain City to do a little bit of strawberry picking. Every year when I remember it’s strawberry picking time, that time is basically over and we have to wait for it to be apple season before we get to experience anything similar.

We got there shortly after they opened for the day (830am) and I was surprised at how many people were already out in the fields picking! Luckily there were still a  bountiful amount of strawberries still on the vines. Enough that we came home with 6 quarts of strawberries; probably triple what I actually needed. So I imagine for the next few days, there will be several strawberry-based recipes. That’s convinent even if you can’t make it out to a strawberry farm; strawberries are in season now so they’re not super expensive at the grocery store!

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Washing strawberries is the easy part. Finding somewhere to store them turned out to be a little interesting, so I ended up lining the bottom of one of the 4qt carriers with parchment paper and filled it with strawberries to put in the refrigerator.

Next comes the time consuming part –  chopping the strawberries. While there’s always the option of washing your strawberries, cutting off the tops and throwing them in the blender, I happen to like my jam chunky and so I opted to slice small and large pieces instead. This means my prep-time was well over 30 minutes.

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Now for the real fun part, cooking strawberries. This is one of the quickest ways to make your entire house smell delicious. It’s such a sweet aroma combined with the lemon and sugar; definitely something that you taste test if your impatient like me.

Your jam will eventually thicken after boiling. Because all stoves cook differently; it may before the estimated time given on the recipe card, or it may be longer. You just have to constantly check as not to overcook.

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Aren’t they cute!? I’m in the process of making some cute tags for them as well and will post those when finished.

Old-Fashioned Strawberry Jam
Yields 2
A small-batch recipe for strawberry jam made with fresh strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups of fresh strawberries, cut into small and large pieces
  2. 2 cups granulated sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Allow strawberry mixture to come to a boil while mixing frequently with a wooden spoon. Scoop up as much foam as you can and dispose in sink. (foam will be a light pink color)
  2. After removing foam, allow strawberry mixture to continue cooking for 10-15 minutes; constantly stirring. Jam should begin to thicken. If it seems watery still, let it continue to cook but be sure to watch it so that it doesn't overcook.
  3. When jam seems thick enough your likening, add to clean mason jars and allow to sit out until they are room temperature. Refrigerate after.
  4. Canned jam lasts 2-3 weeks if it remains in fridge.
Notes
  1. If you want to try a quick set test, freeze a spoon while cooking mixture. When you want to see if jam is thick enough, use spoon to scoop mixture and tilt spoon ovetop a plate. If the mixture runs off the spoon quickly, your jam isn't thick enough.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Quick and Easy Pizza Pinwheels

I know a lot may not agree with me on this, but I think pizza gets boring if you don’t do a variety. We’ve done regular pizza dough, flatbreads, pita breads, whole wheat muffins, strombolis. stromboli. Something new was needed and quick. Otherwise it was going to be a week without pizza of any sort. That just doesn’t feel right.

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Introducing Pizza Pinwheels! They’re cute, they’re small and you can eat them in many different ways other than with just strictly sauce and cheese. But for our first try, we’re going to do just that. Experience always works best in small steps, or in this case little ingredients.

If you have a small kid, or large grownup who just LOVES pepperoni pizza and wont eat anything but pepperoni pizza – tell them that unless you have mini-pepperonis on hand or they want to help cut large pepperonis into small squares; tonight they’re having just cheese.

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Assembling them was just as I’ve assembled strombolis in the past, only instead of letting them cook through and then cut; I tightly rolled up the dough and stuck it in the fridge for a good 20 minutes. This allowed the dough to harden slightly making it a little easier to cut into small “pinwheel shapes,” or “cinnamon roll pizzas.” Just make sure that when you’re adding your sauce, you use a LIGHT amount. Thick sauce will literally seep through your dough and not only will it be a mess, but it’ll make cutting your pinwheels not so easy. Been there, done that.

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So good for such an easy little recipe! I think that not only will I repeat this recipe only with more ingredients, but these would be a great after-school or summer day snack. No more frozen pizza rolls!

Pizza Pinwheels
Serves 6
Need a different try as far as pizza goes? Try this Pizza Pinwheel recipe. They're easy to create, cook fast and are family friendly. Great for an afterschool snack or appetizer side-dish at a party.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Ingredients
  1. one 11-ounce tube of refrigerated Pillsbury french loaf
  2. pizza sauce
  3. 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease and set aside.
  3. Using a sheet of parchment paper, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour overtop. Spread refrigerated french loaf using hands and a roller until dough is flat and resembles a equal-sided rectangle.
  4. Using a spoon, spread pizza sauce lightly and evenly; leaving half an inch from the ends. Set remaining sauce aside.
  5. Add shredded cheese, spreading evenly throughout dough. Once finished, begin to tightly roll dough up, lengthwise. When finished, place in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to allow to harden. In the meantime, add remaining pizza sauce to a small saucepan and simmer.
  6. When dough seems slightly hardened, slice through. Add each to well-greased baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Bake for 12 minutes. Serve with warm pizza sauce for dipping.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake

Our family has this fantastic recipe for Cajun Pasta that my Aunt will cook for parties if we’re ever so lucky. I’ve tried my hand at it but always had trouble getting the alfredo sauce to be thick enough to my liking. So whenever I think of alfredo or see a recipe that calls for a similar sauce; I contemplate just buying a jar and then feel like a failure and give up on the dish before even trying to prepare it. 

So when my husband recently brought home an already prepared Chicken Alfredo Bake from Sam’s Club that would have tasted great, had it not tasted super dry, it set off the spark, or craving if you may, for some GOOD alfredo. But before I gave the cajun pasta recipe another try, I wanted to start with something a little more simple; basic chicken alfredo.

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I noticed the ingredients for this particular alfredo were simple and the steps seemed pretty easy. Often I see heavy whipping cream or cornstarch that is used for “thickening” a sauce. This called for neither. I was caught off guard a little by the fact that it asked for chicken broth but to my amazement; I saw the sauce almost instantly start to thicken once I added it to the saute pan. Normally the pan has to sit over heat for a bit before it actually starts to thicken, but not this recipe! It was quick, making this a great idea if you’re running short on time but craving something with protein and creamy pasta.

And if you’re REALLY short on time, you don’t even have to bake this dish. You can serve immediately after combining all ingredients. It tastes just as good either way.

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Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake
Serves 6
Never made homemade alfredo sauce before? You're in luck! This version is basically foolproof and tastes better than any store bought alfredo. Combined with penne pasta, rotisserie chicken and baked with mozzarella cheese; this dish is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups rotisserie, or shredded chicken
  2. 12-ounce penne pasta
  3. ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Homemade Alfredo Sauce
  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  3. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  4. 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  5. 1 cup whole milk
  6. 2/3 cup parmesan cheese
  7. ¼ teaspoon salt
  8. 1/8 teaspoon fresh coarse black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large saucepan, cook penne pasta according to package. When fully cooked through, drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile in a large deep saute pan, heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add minced garlic and allow to saute for 1 minute. Add flour, mixing well until browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, mixing well, followed by cup of milk. Whisk often, lowering temp to simmer and thicken. Once sauce appears thick, add penne pasta and rotisserie chicken to saute pan. Stir well, combining.
  4. Using a well-greased 9x13 baking dish, add alfredo pasta. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese overtop and bake for 20 minutes.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/