Friday, March 4, 2011

Mexican Mac & Cheese

Meal planning, for me anyways, is the most challenging mothering chore. I’m not unhappy about making meals, it’s just hard to find the right balance between making something quick, healthy, satisfying and most importantly, delicious. I read food blogs all the time and therefore I have no trouble finding foods that make my mouth water but what I can’t figure out is how anyone has the time to create such elaborate meals. Tell me, how does one do it!? There’s also the fact that I’m trying to feed a family of four – each person wanting something unique to their own personal palate. If I could pop a Boboli pizza in the over every single night of the week, my problem would be solved. But even then, Alex likes turkey pepperoni, and Sammy doesn’t. I can’t win.

The other day I was in a meal planning rut, and overall frustrated with my meager mealtime arsenal. I make the same dishes each week and am starting to sense that my kids are getting bored with the foods I put in front of them. I was reading Better Homes and Gardens and found a recipe for Mexican Mac & Cheese. Perfect! We all love Mexican food AND pasta and hadn’t thought about putting the two together. I just love food mash-ups!! See more food mash-ups {here} and {here}.

There wasn’t much to the Mexican Mac & Cheese, but I knew it wouldn’t go over well with everyone in my family, so I made some changes to make it more kid friendly and came up with the following:

3 Large Boneless Chicken Thighs cut into small bite-size pieces (you can use breast, but I mistakenly bought thighs)
1 pound pasta shells
1 jar of mild picante sauce
1 package taco seasoning
2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Sliced olives
Shredded Carrots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the two cheeses and set aside. In a large skillet, brown the chicken (drain the fat) and season with your preferred amount of taco seasoning. I used less than half a package.

In prepared baking dish layer half of the cooked pasta, half the seasoned chicken, half the cheese, and half picante sauce. Repeat layers. Bake, covered, for 35 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes. Top with olives and carrots. To add spice, you can add jalapenos.

Oh, and the chicken thighs in this dish were great, I'm glad that I made this mistake.

And for something completely random, Alex tested a theory she heard from a classmate. Her theory: if you wear your jammies turned  inside-out to bed, and place a spoon under your pillow, it will snow in the morning. I'm sad to report that it didn't snow this morning. Can't blame a girl for trying.

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