Friday, March 19, 2010

Birthday Dinner! Italian Mac n Cheese and Fried Onion Chicken Fingers

My baby girl turned 4 today. I cannot believe it!!! To celebrate, we had both sets of grandparents over for dinner. I decided to make a kid friendly meal that appealed to the adults as well.
First was Italian Mac n Cheese. I've been dying to try this Rachael Ray recipe and thought this was a perfect opportunity.

Italian Mac n Cheese
Recipe by
Rachael Ray


1 pound ziti rigate, penne rigate or cavatappi (ribbed, hollow corkscrews)
1 pound Italian bulk sweet sausage
(I used turkey sausage)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
12 crimini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 (10-ounce) sack, 2 1/2 cups, shredded Italian 4 cheese blend, available on dairy aisle
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well
1 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco), optional
1/2 cup Parmesan, a couple of handfuls


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta to a chewy al dente, about 8 minutes.

In a nonstick skillet, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain cooked crumbles on paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, butter, garlic and mushrooms. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Saute 3 to 5 minutes, until mushrooms are lightly golden.

Preheat broiler to high.

To mushrooms, add flour and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then stir in cream. Bring cream to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of 4 cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired.

Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to baking dish, casserole or oven safe serving platter. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of 4 cheese blend and the grated Parmesan over the top and brown under hot broiler.

Next was a twist on one of Cecily's favorite, chicken fingers. We recently discovered that she loves French's Fried Onions. I remembered making chicken breasts breaded with them a long time ago and loving it. It did not disappoint!

French's Fried Onion Chicken Tenders


2 lbs chicken tenders
3 eggs
2 cans French's Fried Onions


Preheat the oven to 400.
Beat eggs and place in a shallow bowl. Place fried onions in a ziplock bag and crush (I used a rolling pin). Put broken up onions in another shallow bowl. Coat tenders in egg, then the onions. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 mins.
Serve with honey mustard.


I also served a spinach salad. I had this at Allison's house last Saturday and it was so good. I used 2 bags of baby spinach, 1/2 lbs turkey bacon, sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced red onion and balsamic vinaigrette.


It was a great birthday dinner! We had a wonderful night celebrating!


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