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.)

Hoisin pork and oven baked sweet potato fries

I let Samantha choose tonight’s dinner and was not surprised when she picked these two favorites.  She likes the hoisin pork because it’s delicious.  I like it because you can make it ahead and it’s easy (I also like that it’s delicious).  The sweet potato fries will go well.

Grilled Hoisin Pork

  • 1 jar of Hoisin sauce
  • 3 TB honey
  • 2 TB sherry
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 pork tenderloin

Combine Hoisin sauce, honey, sherry and sesame oil in a small saucepan and heat, stirring for about 5 minutes until thick.  Let cool.  Use about 1/2 of the marinade on the pork and refrigerate for 4 -6 hours (or overnight).  Grill pork about 10 minutes or until 140 on a meat thermometer.  Heat remaining sauce and serve with pork.

Oven baked sweet potato fries

  • 2 – 3 sweet potatoes cut into strips
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried chipotle pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Toss potato strips with all other ingredients and spread out on a sheet pan lined with foil.  Bake 25 – 30 minutes stirring halfway through.  NOTE: You can tweak the seasonings to suit your tastes.  I like the chipotle pepper on the sweet potatoes.

Family favorites

Last night I went with this quick version of roasted chicken.  Because it is cut in half, it cooks in less time and since the vegetables are in the same pan, it is easy to clean up too.  The chicken juices give great flavor to the apples and vegetables.

Roasted chicken with veggies

  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 chicken broiler/fryer between 3 and 4 pounds
  • 1 bunch leeks, trimmed, well rinsed, cut lengthwise and then sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 package baby kale
  • 2 – 3 Honeycrisp apples, cored and cut into inch chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, cut in 1/2 inch thick slices.
  • 5 whole shallots, peeled.
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB butter

Mix poultry seasoning and salt.  Using kitchen scissors, cut out the backbone of the chicken (put chicken breast side down).  I will admit that I thought this was going to be very difficult and require butchering skills – it was perfectly straightforward and took about 1 minute.  Then split chicken through breastbone.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.  Rub it with about 1/2 of poultry seasoning mix and butter.  (Save backbone in a freezer bag for making chicken stock!)

Put vegetables in a roasting pan and toss with remaining poultry seasoning mix and olive oil.  Put a rack over vegetables with chicken.  Roast at 450 for about 1 hour.  (After 30 minutes, stir vegetables.)

I was going to fix the shrimp and sausage pizzas that Keith likes so much but they were out of Italian turkey sausage so I switched to another one of his favorites – these quesadillas.

Chipotle shrimp and black bean quesadilla

  • 3/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined and cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1  – 2 tsp pureed chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (if you are making for the first time, start with 1 tsp until you see how much heat you like)
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 6″ flour tortillas (or 2 larger ones and then cut the whole thing in half)
  • 1 additional TB of olive oil
  • sour cream (I use reduced fat)
  • salsa
  • 1 avocado, chopped

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil, butter, garlic and pureed chipotle.  Stir to combine for 1 minute.  Add shrimp and cook until just done.  Pour in beans and combine.  Remove from heat to a bowl and stir in cheese so it partially melts.

Divide filling between tortillas.  Top each with another tortilla and brush with olive oil.  Bake at 425 for about 10 minutes until top is golden brown and crispy.  Top with a dollop each of sour cream, salsa and chopped avocado (or guacamole).  Enjoy!