Italian Chicken Pasta Salad


Tonight’s dinner is one of those super simple dishes that can be thrown together with little effort and very little actual cooking as well, which makes it the perfect weeknight meal.  It also makes great leftovers for lunch the following days.  This is yet another recipe that takes advantage of the ever-convenient and delicious rotisserie chicken…. one of my favorite cheats!  I suppose you could make your own chicken if you wanted, but last I checked there were no awards being handed out for causing yourself unnecessary hassle and making it from scratch lol.

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The concept of this dish is pretty basic, with many of the usual Italian ingredients… and that’s ok.  Sometimes you just don’t need to mess with a good thing.  I really enjoyed this salad, and would definitely make it as is over and over again with complete satisfaction.  I can also see room for embellishments too if you wanted to mix things up from time to time.  Perhaps some crispy proscuitto, maybe some parsley or lemon… or whatever other Italian ingredients you like.  The only change I made to the original recipe was to use half kalamata olives just because they are my favorite and I happened to have some of both in the fridge I needed to use up.  Another area of versatility is in the dressing.  With so many options out there this could easily take on a lot of different flavors.  I used some Olive Garden Italian dressing I had on hand which I really love because it’s so creamy and cheesy.  You can also use whatever type of pasta you prefer.  I used some orecchiette, which is great for catching the dressing in the little bowl shaped centers.  The only downside is that they tend to stack up in there.

I cut the recipe in half and still had LOTS of food, so take that into consideration.  This would feed a lot of people, but like I said it can also make good leftovers.  I actually made mine earlier in the day and let it hang out in the fridge for a few hours before I served it.  I did sneak a taste right away before putting it in there, and I gotta say I really liked it with slightly warm pasta.  However, it’s still very good totally chilled.  It’s not a bad idea to reserve a bit of dressing to mix in later on just in case it seems a bit dry after sitting so long.

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Italian Chicken Pasta Salad

Ingredients :

  • 1 pkg. (16 oz) pasta
  • 3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, diced
  • 1 can (6 oz) sliced black olives
  • 1 tub (8 oz) mozzarella pearls
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup torn or julienned basil
  • 1 cup shaved parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 bottle (16 oz) Italian salad dressing, divided

Directions :

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Rinse under cold water and drain well.  Pour pasta into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, reserving about 1/2 cup of the dressing.  Mix to combine.
  3. Serve or refrigerate until ready to use.  (Pasta may dry out upon standing. Add reserved dressing if needed)

Recipe from In Good Flavor

Thai Quesadillas With Grilled Chicken


You know the feeling…. the one where you made the effort to plan well thought out meals for the week, made your grocery list and then find out the grocery store doesn’t have one of the ingredients you so desperately needed for that new recipe!  This happens to me fairly often actually.  Living in Portland, OR I could likely find whatever ingredient I needed by going to one of the many choices I have for markets around here.  However, as a busy mom, that is not always practical, so like most of the world I just make do and find a substitute if I can.

Tonight’s recipe called for red chili peppers.  I’ve seen them, and even bought them before, but apparently it wasn’t at my main store.  In the past I have just substituted serranos or even jalapenos, but I just felt like it wasn’t enough for some reason.  Maybe I just wanted more color… forgetting that it would be blended up anyway.  Anyway, for some reason unbeknownst to me I grabbed some habaneros….. if you know much about peppers you know they are HOT.  I apparently wasn’t think about that, and was surprised to find out they are more like doubling up on your jalapenos.  OOPS.  Too late, I decided to just go with them, and use less than the recipe called for.  Like a good chef I tested a piece before I put it in there…. yep, definitely hot lol.  It worked out though, as the rest of the ingredients in the sauce mellowed it out nicely and it really wasn’t hot at all.  My husband would have liked it hotter, but I like it where you can taste the heat at certain points but not be overwhelmed by it so it was great for me.

The dish in it’s entirety was AWESOME!  Great Thai flavors for sure, and a nice combination of textures with the bit of crunch from the peanuts and carrots.  Everything comes together very quickly, and even more so if, like me, you opt to use rotisserie chicken.  Why not take a shortcut when you can?!  I did taste my sauce after first mixing it and decided to add a bit more of the more acidic ingredients (vinegar and lime juice) because it was almost too peanut buttery still.  I also threw in some lime zest…. no sense in wasting it!  I used about 1.5 T of the sriracha.

Having a child with peanut allergies (obviously  he doesn’t eat things like this lol), means extra work.  I am not a minimalist cook, and use a lot of dishes/surfaces to create my masterpieces.  Especially if I am blogging the dish and want it to look as good as it tastes as there are sometimes extra steps to ensure that.  This means peanuts of some form likely touch MANY surfaces in my kitchen before I am done.  That means EXTRA cleaning up after it’s all done, and definitely not being able to take the lazy approach and swear to myself I will get it later.  But a great Thai dish with a peanut sauce is ALWAYS worth it for me!  Such a fantastic blend of flavors!  If you have never tried it, I suggest you dive right in and make this dish ASAP!

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Thai Quesadillas With Grilled Chicken

Ingredients :

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (I used about 8oz shredded rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 T. cilantro, chopped
  • 2 T. peanuts, crushed
  • 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used about like 6 oz)
  • 4 (10″) flour tortillas
  • 1/3 cup + peanut sauce (below)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking spray
  • cilantro for garnish

Sauce Ingredients :

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili peppers, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
  • 1/2 T. olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lime (throw in zest too optional)
  • 2 T. water
  • 1-2 T. sriracha

Directions :

  1. To make chicken, preheat an indoor grill over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper and place on the hot grill. Grill each side until cooked through and the juices run clear, about 4 minutes per side. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest.
  2. While the chicken is resting, prepare the peanut sauce. Add all of the ingredients to a blender and pulse until smooth. Add additional Sriracha for a spicier sauce. Set aside.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with a little cooking spray and add the onions. Cook until the onions start to soften, then add the carrots.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for an additional minute, then remove from heat. Set aside.
  4. Cut the chicken into strips against the grain. Toss the strips with about ¼ to ⅓ cup of peanut sauce. Reserve the remaining sauce for drizzling.
  5. Assemble the quesadillas by topping a tortilla with half of the chicken in peanut sauce, onions, carrots, cilantro, and cheese. Top with a second tortilla. Place the tortilla on a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Once the quesadilla is golden on the first side, carefully flip the quesadilla over. Cook until the cheese has completely melted and the second side is golden brown. Repeat with remaining tortillas and fillings.  * a tip for flipping it is to slide it out of the skillet onto a flat surface so you can better get a spatula and hand under it without burning yourself.  This way you can also respray your skillet to ensure better browning on the second side, then just flip it carefully in.
  6. Top the quesadillas with cilantro, crushed peanuts, and a drizzle of the remaining peanut sauce. Serve immediately.

Recipe from That Oven Feelin’

Tex-Mex Taco Pasta


If you’re like most people you probably find a recipe you like and then make it over and over until you eventually know it like the back of your hand.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  As some would say, why fix it if it’s not broken?!  I, however, look at things a little differently and rarely do I make the same recipe twice unless it was just so amazing that there is no question in my mind of whether a different version could ever top it… and even then I still might try.  Because of this, I have found that though a recipe can essentially have the same ingredients and even be prepared similarly, it only takes a small change to sometimes make a more substantial difference in flavor.  This allows me to not only find “better” (or sometimes worse) versions of a dish, but I guess i get to enjoy many good versions of a good dish without it ever seeming too familiar or boring.

This dish is one of those dishes.  I have made plenty of taco inspired pastas or casseroles, and they use basically the same things, but each is a little different from the other.  Some are more punchy or spicy in flavor, some more cheesy and indulgent, textures vary, etc.  I would consider this version a family friendly version which we really enjoyed, with all the great flavors you would expect but somehow in a mild form if that makes sense.  This one is also quite simple to prepare, which I guess most are, but this one especially so, making it a perfect weeknight meal.  There was enough for us to have this two nights which is always a bonus during a busy week!  Even my picky child…. ok BEYOND picky…  said he didn’t totally hate this.  Which actually means he kind of liked it and just won’t admit it and eat new foods.

My only issues with the recipe were minor things.  The first being the rotel tomatoes… it called for 15 oz, and I could only find 10 oz cans.  No biggie, I just went with 2 and I think that worked out perfectly.  The second issue was during the step where it says to season the browned meat with the taco seasoning.  I have seen recipes that go both ways, and this one did NOT state whether I should use the water as directed on the packet.  However, it did say to simmer, which I imagine couldn’t happen very well without the water so I decided to go with it and I am glad I did.  Whether or not it was intended it worked out great that way and I would suggest for sure using it as directed on the packet.  The last small thing was that the recipe said to add the beans, corn, and rotel at the end of simmering the meat and turn off heat.  I wanted to be sure everything was heated through so I just left the burner on medium-low and kept it stirred until my pasta was done.

I used an organic 85/15 beef, and a taco blend of Mexican cheeses.  I also opted for the original rotel tomatoes, which I am sure has a lot to do with my mild flavors, but if your family is all ok with some heat feel free to use a spicier version. Of course I could add various things to this to make it better, or different at least to better suite our tastes…. but that would be a new recipe… and perhaps one I will come across later on!

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Tex-Mex Taco Pasta

Ingredients :

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 packet low sodium taco seasoning (plus water suggested on packet)
  • 12 oz. farfalle (bow tie) pasta
  • 15 oz rotel tomatoes (or 20 oz in my case), drained of excess liquid
  • 15 oz can sweet corn, drained
  • 15 oz. can black beans (low sodium), rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups Mexican blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • cilantro

Directions :

  1. Cook farfalle according to package directions in salted water.
  2. Meanwhile brown your beef in a high-rimmed skillet over medium-high heat.  Drain the excess grease off.  Add taco seasoning (and water) and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add rotel tomatoes, corn, and black beans.  Reduce heat to a medium-low or low and stir occasionally to keep things heated through until the pasta is done.
  4. Drain pasta, and put back into pot.  Add the meat mixture, cheese, and heavy cream.  Stir until cheese has melted in. 
  5. Serve with chopped cilantro to garnish.

Recipe from catz in the kitchen

Published in: on January 9, 2015 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Healthy One Pot Chili Mac


Look at me, two days in a row cooking… lol.

Anyway, if you can’t tell, I am ready for cooler weather and the kind of foods that warm your belly.  What originally drew me in to this recipe was the “one pot” promise.  Even though in our house the dishes fall mainly on my husband as a sort of way to show his appreciation for all the wonderful meals I make, it’s always nice to have LESS dishes, and especially on a weeknight.  This particular dish also comes together easily and quickly making it perfect for a busy work day.

You could definitely use beef in this recipe, the turkey just goes along with the “healthy” claim.  I didn’t plug the numbers or anything, but I imagine it’s not too bad, though I definitely added more cheese than it called for so that made it slightly less healthy.  Another change I had to make was to use a Serrano pepper because believe it or not my grocery store was completely out of jalapenos the other day.  I am not sure it really makes much difference though.

Chilis vary so greatly from person to person, and what is good to some may not be to others.  So with this in mind I will say I really liked this chili.  For me it had the right amount of chili powder and spices.  I also felt the additions were well balanced in this.  I did use 1.25 lbs of turkey, only because that’s what the package came as and I didn’t want to put .25 lbs back in the freezer.  I realize that the addition of macaroni to chili is probably a strange concept to some, but I grew up with my mom making something quite similar actually (though it was more of a soup) so it wasn’t new to me at all.

One note I would make…. the recipe says to use a large pot, and it shows them using a large saute pan…. I imagine things would be hard to fit in there without making a mess.  I used my dutch oven and it worked perfectly for this.

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Healthy One Pot Chili Mac

Ingredients :

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (I used a Serrano)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 1/2 Cups water
  • 1 1/2 Cups macaroni noodles
  • 1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions :

  1. In a large pot (or dutch oven) over medium heat, add oil and saute the onion, garlic, green pepper, and jalapeno until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add turkey to the pot and break up, cooking until browned.
  3. Add the seasonings, tomatoes, beans, water and macaroni, stir to combine and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer until macaroni is soft, about 12 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add the shredded cheese.
  5. Serve with additional cheese on top if desired.

Recipe from Oh, Sweet Basil

Marsala Mushroom, Spinach & Hazelnut Orzo


First things first… some of you may have noticed I took a rather long hiatus from this blog.  There were multiple reasons, it was just basically something I needed to do, but I am ready to get back into things…. I hope lol.  Life is a bit chaotic right now as I am adjusting to new schedules with my baby finally in preschool 3 days a week, but I have been having that urge to not only start meal planning and trying new recipes again, but to blog them as well.  The rest of you, maybe didn’t notice at all, and that’s ok too lol.  I hope in my absence everyone still enjoyed the many wonderful recipes already posted on my blog.

Now for the recipe…

This was definitely a winner in my book.  Such wonderful flavor and a great blend of textures.  I especially liked the crunch and nuttiness of the hazelnuts along side the mushrooms.  This does make a lot, so I am hoping the leftovers are just as good, which I think they will be.

I actually have never cooked with marsala wine before, and it was kind of funny… I was searching all over the wine section for it, when I had to look it up on my phone and realized it would be near the vinegars.  So there, I have saved you that bit of embarrassment if you have never purchased it before.  Anyway, I love a good mushroom dish and this is exactly that.  It called for 3 cups of mushrooms, but I honestly don’t know how you can measure mushrooms by the cup… so I just grabbed like 12-14 and eyeballed it.  I cut them fairly thick so they would stand up to the cooking and retain a bit of meatiness to them and that worked out well.  I actually simmered everything for about 9 minutes, instead of the 5, because I had a late start getting my orzo into the boiling water.  Everything came together very easily, and dinner was ready in a short time which is always a plus on those busy weeknights.

I tried something a little different from my norm, which is just taking a shot at the end… and attempted to get some ingredient shots and even some cooking shots, but it wasn’t hard to realize that’s not my forte!  Not only is the light in my kitchen not very conducive to that sort of thing, but I just don’t have the time while cooking to fiddle with it.  I am usually always doing SOMETHING, and more often than not I am a sweaty, frazzled mess and the last thing I want to do is take pictures lol.  I might try from time to time, but I can’t promise anything.

Because I was in a rush when copying the recipe down I forgot one of the ingredients (which I did put in the dish since I added it in the steps), so it didn’t make it in the picture.  Any guesses as to what it was?  I will give you a hint… it’s not the salt and pepper (though also not pictured) and it’s one of my FAVORITE and most used ingredients…..

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 Marsala Mushroom, Spinach & Hazelnut Orzo

Ingredients :

  • 2 C. uncooked orzo
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 C. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 C. vegetable stock
  • 3/4  C. marsala cooking wine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 C. fresh spinach
  • 1/2 C. marscapone
  • 1/4 C. pecorino, or an Italian blend like parmesan and romano like I used
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2/3 C. toasted hazelnuts

Directions :

  1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile saute shallot in oil over medium heat until softened (about 2 min.).  Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds or so until fragrant.
  3. Add mushrooms, cook until they begin to brown and soften.  This takes about 3-4 minutes.  Stir often.
  4. Add Vegetable stock, marsala, salt and pepper, making sure to deglaze the pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer at least 5 minutes (or longer if you are waiting on your orzo like I was).  Stir often and make sure not to overcook your mushrooms.
  5. Add mushroom mixture to drained orzo, then add your spinach, marscapone, and Italian cheese, stirring until cheeses are melted and spinach is wilted in.
  6. Stir in lemon juice and hazelnuts and serve immediately.

Note : it calls for toasted hazelnuts.  I find it best to do this BEFORE I start cooking so I don’t totally forget about them and end up burning them.  There are two ways to do this…. some people like to do it in the oven, or you can do it like I do, in a skillet over medium heat stirring almost constantly and watching closely.  Once they start to toast they will burn quickly if you aren’t careful.  I prefer the skillet method because I am not only watching them the entire time and not likely to forget them, but I find they cook less evenly when just left on a sheet in the oven and some will still burn in there.

Enjoy!

Recipe from Orchard Street Kitchen