halloween weekend.

I had big plans this weekend that involved cleaning and running and painting and costume wearing and only a very, very small percentage of that actually was accomplished. Because Friday night, as the rain poured down and D and I stood in a tiny high school football stadium in the middle of nowhere (for work), I couldn’t stop sneezing. Like, really couldn’t stop.

So, guess who already has their Halloween costumes ready for next year? This couple.

pumpkin

I’ve always heard that home cooked meals – and laughter – were the best medicine. And while we’ve got laughter down in spades, we definitely focused on the home cooked meals over the past few days.

Friday night before the rain came, we cooked some pasta and brownies for dinner. Here’s what we had going on.

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients

3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 small jar (3-4 oz) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, or use 3-4 oz fat-free sun dried tomatoes
1 lb chicken breast tenders
salt
paprika
1 cup half and half
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz penne pasta
1 tablespoon basil
1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt, to taste

Directions
1. Note: if using sun-dried tomatoes in oil (in a jar), make sure to drain sun-dried tomatoes from oil, before using them. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this drained oil for sauteing as described below.
2. In a large pan, on high heat, saute garlic and sun-dried tomatoes (drained from oil) in 2 tablespoons of oil (reserved from the sun-dried tomatoes jar – see note above) for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant. Remove sun-dried tomatoes from the pan, leaving the oil, and add chicken tenders, salted and lightly covered in paprika (for color) and cook on high heat for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat.
3. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve some cooked pasta water. Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water (to stop cooking).
4. Slice sun-dried tomatoes into smaller bits and add them back to the skillet with chicken. Add half and half and cheese to the skillet, too, and bring to boil. Immediately reduce to simmer and cook, constantly stirring, until all cheese melts and creamy sauce forms. If the sauce is too thick – don’t worry – you’ll be adding some cooked pasta water soon. Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the creamy sauce, and stir to combine. Add basil, stir to combine.
5. Add about 1/2 cup reserved cooked pasta water because the creamy sauce will be too thick (do not add all water at once – you might need less or more of it). This will water down the thickness of the cheese sauce and make it creamier. Immediately, season the pasta with salt and more red pepper flakes, to taste, if needed. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes for flavors to combine.
6. Note: Make sure to salt the dish just enough to bring out of the flavors of basil and sun-dried tomatoes.

pasta

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

Ingredients

Filling:

1 package (3 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 egg
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Brownies:

1 box Betty Crocker Premium Brownies Ultimate Fudge
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
1 egg

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 9-inch square pan with shortening or cooking spray. In small bowl, beat all filling ingredients with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Set aside.
2. Make brownie batter as directed on box, using 1/4 cup oil, 2 tablespoons water and the egg. Spread 3/4 of the batter in pan. Spoon filling by tablespoonfuls evenly over batter. Spoon remaining brownie batter over filling. Cut through batter several times with knife for marbled design.
3. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted 1 inch from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely. Store covered in refrigerator.

brownie

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