One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

Hey everybody!

I’m fresh off a three-day weekend and feeling great. Chris and I did almost nothing for three days. (Okay, we did run some errands, clean the apartment, go to church, hang out with some friends… but it was restful, man.) I’m expecting to have a somewhat exciting week at work as I’m training for a brand new position, so I really needed the break! I hope you and yours had a relaxing Labor Day weekend, too!

This post is the first of a few which I am going to be sort of migrating over from my old blog. This recipe is based on a pseudo-recipe I found on Pinterest and recreated a few years ago. The original MarthaStewart.com recipe was not super helpful for me at the time, because here’s a secret: as a newlywed, I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen. I was still learning how to cook, so the vague list of ingredients on Martha’s recipe made me wary. But I’ve learned a ton in the intervening years, and I now want to share the reworked recipe with you!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Yes, this is a one-pot recipe perfect for feeding two adult humans! The ingredients amounts listed here are super simple to double or halve for however many people you need to feed. Don’t like broccoli? Sick of eating chicken? Make sure to check the end of the post where I’ve shared some ideas for altering this super adaptable recipe!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Ready to dive in? Here’s what you’ll need!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

At its most basic, this recipe only calls for some protein, a veggie, a pasta, garlic, and a bit of cheese. I went with some boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a head of broccoli, some Parmesan cheese, and some whole wheat penne, because that’s what was in the pantry! Not pictured: you also need some oil (I used extra virgin olive) and salt and pepper (I used grinders because they are the best).

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Start by heating the oil over medium heat! This is your titular Pot, so make it a good one. It needs to be plenty big for cooking the pasta and veggies.

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Next, mince your garlic. Garlic and I have a thing together. “Too much garlic” in a pasta dish is a foreign concept to me. You can use one garlic clove if you want, but I used… five. Yep.

I prefer to crush fresh garlic in my garlic press, but I’ve been known to use the jarred stuff too. Use what you have lying around!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Dice your chicken breasts too! The smaller the pieces, the quicker they cook.

Toss the chicken and garlic into the pot with the hot oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and give it all a good stir…

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

…and cook the chicken all the way through.

I like my chicken to be deliciously browned, so toward the end of the cook time, I crank up the heat and stir very little!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

That is the good stuff, y’all. I could eat it all by itself. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep it warm; I threw it on a paper plate with a paper towel over it because I am very wasteful.

With the chicken set aside, you can get the water boiling in your Pot for the pasta and broccoli. Salt the water!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Give the broccoli a good chop! Broccoli is a good-lookin’ vegetable, don’t you think?

Now, while I was taking these pictures, I kind of got a little carried away and ended up cooking my broccoli a smidge too long. The best way to cook the pasta and broccoli is to throw the pasta in the boiling water, and when there’s just five minutes left in the cooking time, add the broccoli. Or else it will get mushy. Trust me.

Luckily for me, my husband likes his broccoli over-done. If you prefer broccoli with a bite to it, add it toward the end.

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

When the broccoli is bright green and the pasta is al dente, drain it all!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Try not to eat it all right there. It will be tempting while it sits there steaming.

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

I am a firm believer in using freshly-shredded cheese; the packaged stuff has anti-caking agents that prevent the cheese from melting smoothly. However, since you’re not making a sauce with this recipe, bagged cheese works fine. Freshly-shredded is always better, though.

Toss your cooked, drained pasta and broccoli back in your Pot…

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

…and add the cheese and the chicken.

Seriously, you guys. This is so good and so easy. Please try it!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta (serves: 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup of dry shaped pasta
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Dice chicken breasts. Mince or crush garlic cloves. Add chicken and garlic to pot when oil is hot; add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Cook chicken thoroughly. When chicken is almost cooked, turn heat up to medium high and brown the chicken for one minute, stirring minimally but not allowing it to burn. Remove chicken from pot and keep warm.
  3. Add water to pot and bring it to a boil. Add pasta to pot and cook according to package instructions. With five minutes left in pasta cook time, add chopped broccoli. Cook until broccoli is bright green and pasta is al dente.
  4. Drain pasta and broccoli in a colander. Add back to pot and toss with shredded cheese and cooked chicken.
  5. Enjoy!

One-Pot Chicken and Broccoli Pasta! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Like I said previously, there are so many ways you can adapt this recipe to suit your tastes!

  • Change the meat! Try it with ground turkey or even shrimp.
  • Change the veggie! This recipe works great with asparagus, cauliflower, or carrots; frozen veggies work fine! You can also make a “southwest” version with a drained can each of corn and black beans and tossing with a few spoonfuls of salsa!
  • Change the pasta! Don’t have penne on hand? Use what’s in your pantry! Shaped pasta works best because it takes a little longer to cook and that gives the broccoli (or veggie of choice) plenty of time to cook. But if you want to use angel hair pasta or something similar, just give the package instructions a glance and adapt the cook time!
  • Change the cheese! Shred your own cheddar, or add a little slice of cream cheese while everything is still hot!
  • Add a splash of lemon juice or your favorite dressing or sauce! Pair a few tablespoons of your favorite marinara or even pizza sauce with some mozzarella. Seriously. Pizza pasta.

Can you think of any other cool ways to change this recipe up?

Teaching kids about praise + free word search printable!

Hey friends! It’s been a while since my last post about my book page wreath. The last couple of weeks have been nuts, but I think things will slow down some now, so expect more frequent posts!

Today I taught my first real Sunday school lesson with our new fall curriculum to my new crew of third graders! Our children’s ministry uses Standard Publishing’s HeartShaper curriculum, which I like. However, as I looked over this year’s introductory lesson, I rather wished I had held on to last fall’s lesson book. The 2014 inaugural lesson discussed where the Bible came from and how we’ve come to have different translations. I thought it was a great lesson, and the 2015 intro leson didn’t touch on these crucial topics, instead focusing on why God is worthy of praise. Don’t get me wrong: I think this is an excellent lesson topic! But I thought last year’s focus on the inspired nature of the Bible started the year of study off right and clarified some things that middle elementary-aged students may find confusing about scripture.

When I expressed this disappointment with a coworker, it dawned on me that I could just write my own lesson. Duh! God had given me the resources to rework the provided curriculum to what I felt He wanted me to teach. (Isn’t it funny how God holds on to these obvious solutions until the right moment?)

As I said, the provided lesson focused on why God is worthy of praise. I get to my classroom around 9:00 am on Sundays, but technically our lessons don’t start until as late as 9:45, since the kids trickle in throughout the morning. Because of this, I like to have a welcome activity that the earlybirds can complete slowly or the latecomers can finish quickly. For today’s lesson, I made a quick word search full of fourteen ways kids can practically praise the Lord, such as being thankful and showing love, alongside the conventional ways such as singing and dancing.

Teach kids ways to praise

For the lesson proper, the kids and I studied the provided passages on praise (Psalm 66:1-5 and Romans 11:33-36) in their contexts of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. We discussed the figures and themes of the Old Testament (the kids shouted out phrases like “God created everything!” and “David and Goliath!” while I made a list on the left side of the board) and the structure of the New Testament and its events (“Jesus performed miracles!” and “He died and rose again!” on the right side of the board). I think the kids really enjoyed showing what they already knew about God’s word and seeing the white board fill up with their recollections.

Sing the glory of His name;
Make His praise glorious. Psalm 66:2

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

When I explained how Paul had written the letter to the Romans, one of the kids looked at me very seriously and asked me how that was possible, because they didn’t speak English. (KIDS ARE SO SMART.) God made it very clear that I was still supposed to discuss the origins of different Bible translations and versions just like last year. I was blown away.

If you’d like a copy of my word search for use in your children’s ministry classroom, I’m making it available to download totally for free! You can download the PDF on Dropbox.com (link below). You may have to create a painless and free Dropbox account to download it! Pair this word search with a devotional on praise or a full-fledged lesson from the Psalms or other passage of scripture. The 14 ideas listed here can lead to a fun discussion about what it means to praise God. Just don’t try to pass the word search off as your own or sell it in any way. 🙂

Click here to download the free Praise Word Search for Kids!

Disclaimer: the word search has words going backwards and diagonally, so some younger children may need some help finding the words! Have fun!

Teach kids ways to praise

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles

Well hey, friends!

This was a super busy weekend as I wrapped up the summer and my first course for my master’s degree! My brain was pretty tired after writing and proofreading my final project, which means it was time for a mindless but super rewarding décor craft. Are you ready for this thing?

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

GUYS. I have been eyeballing these book page wreaths since my friend Jaime made TWO: one for a baby shower (made with the pages of Little Women), and another for her home (made with a hymnal). Jaime has a lovely and sweet blog called Hatcher Homemade that you have to check out! After seeing her book page wreaths, I decided I had to have one.

As a former English major, I wanted to use a book that was meaningful to me. If you know anything about me at all, it’s probably that I love Harry Potter. I grew up reading those books; they epitomize my childhood. I’ve been to two Potter conventions and have a whole friend group – arguably my most enduring friendships – who I met due to our mutual love for the series.

Needless to say, I figured Harry Potter would be a good choice for this wreath.

Between Chris and me, we have multiple copies of the complete series of Harry Potter, but there was no chance I was going to tear up one of those. Instead, I got my hands on a used, slightly battered copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That installment is pretty significant to me because it was the first book I really anticipated. I faked sick the weekend it was being released so I wouldn’t have to go on a family camping trip; I knew if I stayed with my grandma, she’d take me when the morning came to get my brand-spanking-new copy. I toted it around summer camp that July, prideful because it was easily the fattest book I had ever read. I read and re-read it; it never gets old.

DIY Book Page Wreath made out of a Harry Potter book! // Wayward Sunflower blog

I hesitate to call this a wreath for bibliophiles because I know some would argue that, if I loved books, why would I destroy one? But let’s be real: Harry Potter books aren’t exactly an endangered species. I will admire my wreath forever.

In lieu of posting my own tutorial, since I basically synthesized directions from Restoration Beauty and Makely School for Girls, I decided to just share some pictures of the process of this lovely DIY! If you have any questions about my specific process, you can feel free to ask them in the comments.

Let’s dive right in!

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

If you want to make a Book Page Wreath like mine, you need:

  • Book
  • Wreath form (I used a 16″ one)
  • X-ACTO knife
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Mascara tube or similarly-shaped implement
  • Ribbon
  • Optional: acrylic paint and Q-tips for applying

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

I read in Restoration Beauty’s tutorial, which Jaime linked to in her blog post, that she painted the edges of her pages in order to give them an aged look. Well, she didn’t provide any instructions for this step, so I found directions on Makely Home School for Girls’s tutorial. Instead of using a paper towel, however, I used Q-tips to apply. I didn’t paint the whole book; I just estimated how many pages I would need for my wreath. (I ended up using pages 1-200, which means I needed 100 pages total. I’m happily hoarding reserving the remaining book for later projects.)

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

Then, I got to slicin’.

DIY Book Page Wreath made out of a Harry Potter book! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Okay, it was really lovely to skim these pages and remember what it was like to read them for the first time as an eleven-year-old.

DIY Book Page Wreath made out of a Harry Potter book! // Wayward Sunflower blog

DIY Book Page Wreath made out of a Harry Potter book! // Wayward Sunflower blog

My favorite tip from Restoration Beauty’s tutorial was to use a mascara tube to form the ruffles and keep your fingertips from burning off with the hot glue!

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

At this point, Chris came by to see my progress and paid some mild compliment about it looking nice. It wasn’t until later, when he got home and he saw the finished product on the wall and said, “Well that looks like a wreath!” that I learned he was worried about whether or not the project would actually turn out. Haha!

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

Alright. Are you ready for this? Because I was honestly not prepared for how gorgeous my Book Page Wreath would look on the wall above our bed.

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

DIY Book Page Wreath for Bibliophiles – Wayward Sunflower blog

And that’s all I have for you! This is a really not-too-complicated wreath to make for your home. It took me a few hours, though my progress was kind of slow because I kept stopping to take pictures. And these wreaths are even more beautiful when you pick a book that is significant to you and your family!

If you were to make a Book Page Wreath, which book would you use?

DIY Book Page Wreath made out of a Harry Potter book! // Wayward Sunflower blog

Mini Pancake Puffs

Hey friends!

This has been a really lovely week for me. I wrapped up my first year of teaching Sunday school on Sunday, had a busy and productive workweek, spent some time with Chris and some friends, reset/reorganized my Sunday school classroom on Wednesday, and today my coworkers and I curated a seriously delicious breakfast for one another to start Friday off right.

I also started a devotional plan on the She Reads Truth app. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to download the app and start studying. The “This is the Gospel” plan has rocked my week and restored my joy in my salvation (Psalm 51:12). I honestly can’t wait to read my devo each morning and sometimes I can’t resist reading a second devo later that day. Most of you are probably wondering what rock I was living under, if I’m just now discovering She Reads Truth, and I don’t know what to tell you; I’ll blame it on willful ignorance. But anyway, if you struggle to meet God each day in a personal quiet time, and you’re a lady, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out the free She Reads Truth app and starting with “This is the Gospel”!

I just really have a lot to be thankful for, y’all.

But back to that in-office breakfast! I have such an awesome work family. We pray for and encourage one another and really, really love to fellowship over food. We like to do a little thing called Fun with Food Friday wherein we make up an excuse to bring yummy food to the office and pig out. This week, we decided to do a breakfast-themed FWFF and we killed it.

IMG_0919

I wanted to make my favorite breakfast dish, pancakes, but needed a more “snack” version to make it cubicle-friendly. I thought about doing some pancake pops I saw on Pinterest but I just didn’t feel like putting forth that much effort on a Thursday night when I really should be doing some homework, especially considering this is the last week of my first subterm of classes for my master’s. It dawned on me that I could probably make adorable and yummy pancakes in a muffin tin!

After prowling around Pinterest for a bit, I couldn’t find the exact recipe I was looking for: one using “complete” pancake mix (the just-add-water kind, my favorite) and a mini muffin tin. So, I made my own.

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

For my coworkers, I made 48 mini pancake puffs with a dozen each of four varieties: plain, chocolate chip, blueberry, and strawberry. If you want to make these seriously cute and easy mini pancake puffs for yourself, here’s the way how!

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

You need three cups of complete pancake mix. This is the kind with powdered egg and milk, so that you just have to add water and hydrate the mix into a batter. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Preheat your oven to 350° and prepare two 24-count mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Baker’s Joy is my jam. This is your fair warning that these pancake puffs will stick to the pan if you don’t liberally spray your muffin tins!

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Add two cups of water to three cups of complete pancake mix, blend out all the lumps until smooth, and you’re already halfway there.

Once you have your seriously too easy batter, divide it into four equal portions. This is optional, of course, but I wanted to have a variety of puff flavors to take to the office.

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Go ahead and add ¼ cup of mini chocolate chips to one bowl and give it a good stir.

If you haven’t already, chop your fruit. I used frozen whole blueberries and strawberries because I’m cheap; I chopped them in my Pampered Chef food chopper because I’m lazy. Make sure you give them a fairly coarse chop; you don’t want to pulverize them.

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Blend the blueberries into one portion of the batter and the strawberries in another. Don’t stir too much; just incorporate the fruit and leave it at that. Too much stirring and your batter will turn perfectly blue or pink and look less-than-pancakey (another reason to not obliterate your fruits while chopping).

With all your batters blended in their separate bowls, start pouring (or, in my case, scooping with a cookie scoop) the batter into the mini muffin tins. You should be able to fill twelve muffin tin cavities about ¾ full with each portion of batter.

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Pop ’em in the oven for just ten minutes!

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

When they’re done, give them a few minutes to cool before gently working them out with a spoon. If you didn’t grease your muffin tins well enough, this will be the moment of reckoning. Let them cool on a cooling rack and try not to eat all the chocolate chip ones while the chocolate is still melty.

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

I packaged mine up in a Tupperware container to tote them to work the next morning, but I highly recommend serving them warm with your syrup of choice. Ridiculous.

Mini Pancake Puffs - Wayward Sunflower blog

Honestly, how cute are these?!

Mini Pancake Puffs (yield: 48 mini muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups complete pancake mix
  • 2 cups of water
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped blueberries (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped strawberries (optional)
  • syrup for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 24-count mini muffin tins.
  2. Combine complete pancake mix and water. Blend until smooth.
  3. Optional step: Divide pancake batter into four even portions. Stir mini chocolate chips into the first portion, blueberries into the second, and strawberries into the third. Leave the fourth portion plain.
  4. Pour pancake batter into mini muffin tins; fill each cavity approximately ¾ full.
  5. Bake 10 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Carefully each puff with a spoon and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
  6. Serve warm with syrup.

A Goodbye Letter to My First Sunday School Class

This year, I taught my very first Sunday school class. I had a class of third graders, averaging about 12-15 kids per week. Most of the roster were boys, though the girls in the class were outspoken enough to even out the demographics. Each of them was challenging, and clever, and surprising.

Today was the final Sunday with this class before they are promoted to fourth grade classes next week. My co-teacher taught the final lesson, so I was able to sit back and observe and reflect on the year. Here is my goodbye letter to the kids who God used to reveal His guiding plan for my life.

Dear Third Grade B,

Today was our last Sunday together! I’ll still see you at Awana and in the halls on the way to children’s church, and hopefully some of you will be in my VBS class next summer. But this year in Sunday school will always be my favorite.

Thank you for always being willing to help, for each time you eagerly asked to be the one to pass out the pencils, and for collecting the markers with fervor.

Thank you for obligingly reciting the memory verses (I fully acknowledge you mostly did it for the candy). Thank you for loving my Reward Board idea and not destroying it (much) as the year wore on. Thank you for not complaining (much) when you didn’t get the exact piece of candy you wanted. Thank you for all the jokes and puns you shared.

Thank you for the cards you made for me when I had to miss a Sunday for my grandmother’s funeral. Thank you for your prayer requests for your sisters and brothers and parents and grandparents and friends at school; you have compassion and no trouble believing that prayer works.

Thank you for excitedly telling me about what you did last week, each week. I know more about Minecraft, Frozen, and Pokemon than I ever wanted to, including the fact that kids still care about Pokemon for some reason.

Thank you for the times that you misbehaved and taught me to be patient and go with the flow.

Thank you for building my confidence in teaching God’s word to you by being attentive and showing excitement when I went “off-book” and presented you with a new activity or craft idea. Thank you for being enthusiastic to find and read Bible verses. Thank you for showing me the value of teaching elementary-age kids about Jesus by growing in your faith; I could tell, even if you didn’t realize it, that you were learning and understanding about salvation and grace.

Thank you for the spontaneous hugs at the end of class today.

I’ll miss you, but you probably won’t miss me, because fourth grade is going to be even more awesome. Don’t lose your enthusiasm for the Bible. I pray that each of you truly meets Jesus as your savior, and that my class was only a stop along the way.

I’m sorry in advance if your new teachers only give you the cheap candy. You can always drop back by our blue-painted classroom for a Jolly Rancher or Pixy Stix.

Love, Mrs. Ashley

A Goodbye Letter to My First Sunday School Class