Summer pasta salad

This chicken pasta salad is easy to make and absolutely addictive. I made it for a friend who said that she kept eating a little every time she passed the refrigerator. I made it for a work potluck (back in the days when we went to the office and had potlucks) and it has been requested for every potluck since.

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.)

chicken pasta

Vacation cooking

Last week we were in Park City for Spring Break.  We rented a house with our friends and try to keep costs down a little by cooking in.  The tricky part about cooking in rental houses is you never know what kind of kitchen supplies/utensils you will have and you don’t want to buy a whole bunch of stuff that you will need to throw away.  (Samantha had a great vocabulary word in her homework – equipage.  It was in an article about tea and the increasing popularity of tea drinking in England pre-Revolutionary War.  The article described the interest in the silver service, china cups, etc. – the equipage of tea drinking.  The definition I found indicates that it is an archaic word meaning “the equipment for a particular purpose”.  Keith and I were joking that we would have to check the kitchen equipage before we planned our meals.  Fortunately, it was sufficient for our needs.)

I tried to keep it to meals with just a few ingredients – all of which will be familiar to my blog followers.  We ate in 4 nights as follows:

  • Boursin chicken, oven roasted potatoes and salad in a bag – the Boursin chicken is only 3 ingredients (bone-in chicken with Boursin cheese and a little olive oil), I bought the Little Potato company potatoes with the seasoning packet and a delicious salad in a bag with walnuts, craisins, cheddar cheese and apple dijon vinaigrette.  Simple to fix, simple to cleanup and minimum items to purchase at the store
  • Grilled rosemary and garlic shrimp with pine nut cous cous and grilled asparagus – I marinated the shrimp in rosemary, garlic and olive oil (I did breakdown and buy a small bottle of olive oil), everyone loved the cous cous and the grilled asparagus just needed a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  I did also buy a package of wooden skewers for the grilling but they were not very expensive.
  • Salmon dijon with instant risotto and steamed broccoli – I already had mayonnaise and Dijon mustard for lunches so just bought a small bottle of horseradish and some panic.  The risotto mix is excellent and broccoli is always delicious.
  • Grilled lamb chops with horseradish mashed potatoes and salad in a bag – we bought a small bottle of Worcestershire to marinate the lamb chops and Keith used some of the leftover horseradish in the mashed potatoes

Definitely saved some money by eating in and none of these required much in the way of equipage!





Summer Sundays

If you follow blog you know that I approach sundays very differently in summer than winter.  Winter Sunday afternoons are great for cooking with a football game on.  Summer Sunday afternoons I want to spend at the pool, on the golf course or on the tennis court unless the weather rules those out.  This will be a simple dinner, allowing time for other pursuits!

Grilled flank steak and garlic potatoes

  • 1 packet McCormick Meat Marinade (fix according to packet instructions – I use olive oil for the oil and white wine vinegar)
  • 1 flank steak

Poke steak with a fork to tenderize and marinate for 1 – 4 hours.  Then grill to desired doneness.

Roasted garlic potatoes

Cook extra potatoes to have with the salad Nicoise!

  • 6 small Yukon gold or  12 small fingerling potatoes
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, cut in slices
  • 2 Tb olive oil

Scrub potatoes and toss in a bowl with remaining ingredients until all are well coated.  Preheat oven to 400.  Spread potatoes out in a ceramic baking dish and roast for 40 minutes, stirring once midway.

Quick and easy

I had a meeting tonight and knew that I wouldn’t get dinner until late.  I wanted something quick that my husband could eat at dinner time and would hold well for me to eat when I got home.  I went with one of my standbys, chicken with pesto and sundried tomatoes.  This is the perfect thing if someone has a late game or practice because it can easily be reheated in the microwave or served at room temperature.  The vegetable gratin was the perfect side.

Chicken with Pesto and Sundried Tomatoes

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 per serving)
  • Pesto (prepared or homemade)
  • Minced sundried tomatoes in a jar (packed in olive oil)
  • Pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of wax paper and pound to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Top each breast with approximately 1 TB of pesto and 2 tsps of sundried tomatoes and then roll up.  Place rolled chicken breasts in a ceramic or glass baking dish and bake 35 – 40 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  I baste them with pan juice about 5 minutes before done (it gives them a nice color.)  If you want to dress them up more, sprinkle with pine nuts.  Serve or let cool and freeze.

Vegetable gratin

This is quick and easy and very adaptable.  Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you like or have handy or customize with your choice of herbs.

  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 zucchini thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow squash thinly sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 -5 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp each oregano, basil and garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Pour half of olive oil in a ceramic baking dish.  Layer veggies with herbs (I did a layer of zucchini, a layer of red onion, herbs, yellow squash, tomatoes and then topped with zucchini.)  Drizzle with olive oil and top with Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350 for 35 – 40 minutes until hot.