Family favorite

Samantha loves this pasta dish – we all do. It is quick to fix and makes a lot. I have a friend coming for lunch on Wednesday and I know she loves it. I fixed for dinner tonight and we will enjoy again on Wednesday.

Blackened Cajun Chicken Pasta Salad

  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts split
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz. cajun or blackening seasoning mix (I don’t actually measure it, I just dump a bunch in a glass pie pan.  I mixed 3 different types together for this batch.)
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 – 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mayonnaise

Melt butter.  Dredge chicken breasts in melted butter and then in seasoning mix.  Sear 3 minutes per side in a heavy oven proof skillet and then cook in a 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes until done.  Chill.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Chop chicken into bite size chunks and toss all ingredients together.  (If you want spicy, you can add extra seasoning.)

Fireworks!

We had a chance to enjoy fireworks on Maryland’s Eastern Shore last night – fortunately unimpeded by rain.  The forecast for Baltimore’s fireworks tonight is not so good.  Here are some appetizers that make for a great fireworks picnic – if the rain continues you could always open a bottle of wine and enjoy them inside!

Vodka spiked cherry tomatoes

These are the ultimate grown up appetizer.  It’s like having a Bloody Mary on a stick and one of the most popular things I’ve ever put on blog.  They are easy to transport for a picnic – just stick them in a plastic container, fill another container with the salt and pepper and bring some toothpicks.  For an indoor party, they look pretty in a glass bowl.

  • 2 pts cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup good vodka
  • 3 TB white wine vinegar
  • 1 TB sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper
Make an x at stem end of each tomato.  Dunk in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then in ice water.  Remove peels.  Combine vodka, vinegar, sugar and lemon zest and soak tomatoes in vodka mixture.  Combine salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Serve tomatoes with toothpicks – spear the tomato and then dip in the salt, pepper mixture.
Crab salad in cucumber cups
These also travel well.  Put the cucumber bags in a big plastic bag and bring the crab salad in a plastic container.  Fill them as you serve them.
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into slices about 3/4 inch
  • 1 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery salt (or 1 celery stalk minced)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop center out of cucumber slices with a spoon.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery salt and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, mound about 2 tsp of crab salad in cucumber cup and eat.

Guacamole salad

  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • zest of 2 limes
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 avocados, diced

Combine tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, jalapeno and lime zest in a bowl.  Whisk together lime juice, olive oil, garlic and cayenne pepper in a separate container and pour over veggies.  Mix well.  When ready to serve, add avocados and stir to combine.

Blackened Cajun Chicken Pasta Salad
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts split
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz. cajun or blackening seasoning mix
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 – 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
Melt butter.  Dredge chicken breasts in melted butter and then in seasoning mix.  Sear 3 minutes per side in a heavy oven proof skillet and then cook in a 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes until done.  Chill.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Chop chicken into bite size chunks and toss all ingredients together.  (If you want spicy, you can add extra seasoning.)  Warning – this is addictive!
Lemon iced gingersnap sandwich cookies
This is the dessert that I created for a fireworks picnic when our friend Kevin requested something with gingersnaps.  They have since become a regular favorite.  Alternatively, you can swap the lemon zest for a few teaspoons of cocoa powder and milk to make cocoa frosting.  I like the cocoa but everyone else seems to prefer the lemon.
  •  1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Gingersnap cookies (I used Anna’s)

Combine first three ingredients together with a mixer.  Add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on purchased ginger cookies and sandwich together.  Freeze and bring to your picnic.

Happy 4th!

Pot luck

We had a pot luck pumpkin decorating lunch today.  I figured there would be hot dogs and kid friendly food.  I wanted to make something adult friendly and I always figure you might as well take something you like to a pot luck party!  There was other good food there too but the cajun chicken pasta salad is always a hit!  It is great to take on picnics too.

Blackened Cajun Chicken Pasta Salad
  • 2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts split
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz. cajun or blackening seasoning mix
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 3 – 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
Melt butter.  Dredge chicken breasts in melted butter and then in seasoning mix.  Sear 3 minutes per side in a heavy oven proof skillet and then cook in a 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes until done.  Chill.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.  Chop chicken into bite size chunks and toss all ingredients together (toss all of the good spicy mixture left in the pan in too.  If you want spicier you can add extra seasoning.)