Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad.

Hi, I was thinking the other day, where would we be, in our busy lives, without Pasta? There are so many dishes you can make using Pasta and today I have Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad to share with you.

Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad - delicious, nutritious and so easy to make!
Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad – delicious, nutritious and so easy to make!

 

This dish takes no more than 30 minutes to make from start to finish! It’s full of lean chicken and crammed with crunchy veggies. In fact if you left the chicken out you could easily make this as a vegetarian dish.

Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad - crammed full of crunchy veg!
Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad – crammed full of crunchy veg!

 

Everything about this dish makes it perfect for a quick, easy, mid-week meal, or you can make it ahead, keep it in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to three days. So it’s got to be one of the easiest meals ever, prepare in advance when you have a bit of time, or cook from scratch and have it on the table in 30 minutes!

Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad - perfect for mid-week mealtimes!
Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad – perfect for mid-week mealtimes!

 

Recipe : feeds 4-6 hungry people!

500g/1lb Packet Dried Pasta – I used fusilli

500g/1lb Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts

1  Jar ready made Pesto Sauce

150g/5oz Sugar Snap Peas

1 Small Red Onion

1 Yellow Bell Pepper

225g/8oz Cherry Tomatoes

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Optional – Fresh Basil Leaves

Method :

Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Add salt and the pasta and cook according to package instructions.

In a separate pan place the chicken breasts – if very large cut in half first. Add cold water to just cover the chicken. Bring to a gentle simmer and poach for 15-20 minutes until cooked through. I take the largest piece out, cut through the thickest part with a knife and if the chicken is white – not pink, I know it is cooked.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and tip into a large bowl.

Immediately drizzle over the Olive oil and toss the pasta so that it doesn't clump together.
Immediately drizzle over the Olive oil and toss the pasta so that it doesn’t clump together.
Add the jar of pesto sauce and mix thoroughly, ensuring all the warm pasta is coated.
Add the jar of pesto sauce and mix thoroughly, ensuring all the warm pasta is coated.

 

Remove the poached chicken breasts, once cooked and place on a plate to cool slightly.

Into a pan of boiling water add the sugar snap peas and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under a cold tap to halt the cooking process.

Chop the cherry tomatoes in half, dice the red onion and yellow pepper.

Add all the veggies to the pasta.
Add all the veggies to the pasta.

 

When the chicken is cool enough to handle chop into bite sized pieces.

Add the chicken and then mix well. You now have .......
Add the chicken and then mix well. You now have …….
Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad - delicious, nutritious and so easy to make!
Chicken Pasta Pesto Salad – easy and delicious!

 

Sprinkle over fresh Basil leaves and then serve warm as is, or refrigerate for a delicious cool Summer salad on a hot day!

This salad is very versatile, you can add whatever veggies you have on hand and as I’ve said, omit the chicken and you have a delightful, vegetarian dish!

If you make this I’d love to hear how it turns out?

Does Pasta make your mealtimes easier?

Sammie x

 

 

 

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Easy Tex Mex Chicken

 

Hi, have I got the easiest, quickest meal for you? Yep, I have – Easy Tex Mex Chicken!

Easy Tex Mex Chicken tipped into a pan, ready for the oven.
Easy Tex Mex Chicken tipped into a pan, ready for the oven.

I am talking 5 minutes prep in the morning. Leave in the fridge all day and then throw in the oven for 45 mins before you want to eat. I told you it was Easy!! This delicious dish is fab served in Tortilla Wraps Fajita style, or alternatively, as I have, with potato wedges – well if you’ve got the oven already on…..

Oh my, this Easy Tex Mex Chicken served with wedges - delish!
Oh my, this Easy Tex Mex Chicken served with wedges – delish!

 

Recipe : Easy Tex Mex Chicken serves 5-6

750g/1.5lb Boned Chicken Breasts (approx 5)

1 Large Spanish Onion

3 Peppers – the colours are up to you!

1 Packet Fajita Seasoning

2 tbs Olive Oil

Method :

Pat dry the chicken breasts using kitchen paper.

Drying the chicken makes a real difference to the cooked dish.
Drying the chicken makes a real difference to the cooked dish.

 

Cut up the chicken into bite sized chunks (I used scissors) and place in a large, freezer bag.

With these 3 ingredients Easy Tex Mex Chicken is just that, EASY!
With these 3 ingredients Easy Tex Mex Chicken is just that, EASY!

 

Pour a couple of glugs of Olive Oil over the diced chicken then tip in the contents of a Fajita mix.

Massage the seasoning into the chicken.
Massage the seasoning into the chicken.

Next it’s time to get chopping!

Ooh so pretty. Choose whichever colour peppers are your favourite and...
Ooh so pretty. Choose whichever colour peppers are your favourite and…

 

Chop the Peppers and Onion so they are about the same size.
Chop the Peppers and Onion so they are about the same size.

Pop the chopped veggies into the freezer bag with the seasoned chicken and smoosh about a bit so they are covered in the spicy oil.

Easy Tex Mex Chicken in a bag!!
Easy Tex Mex Chicken in a bag!!

 

I prepared the Easy Tex Mex Chicken in the morning and then stashed it in the fridge until dinner time.

To cook, tip the contents of the freezer bag into a shallow oven proof dish. Place in a preheated oven 200C/185C fan and cook for 45 minutes.

Easy Tex Mex Chicken with softened peppers and caramelised onions - delish!
Easy Tex Mex Chicken with softened peppers and caramelised onions – delish!

 

To serve either warm some soft tortillas and load up fajita style, or, as I did tonight homemade potato wedges – simply cut 1 jacket potato per person, in half and then into long wedges, toss in Olive oil and season with salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet, put in the oven 15 mins before the Easy Tex Mex Chicken.

Well that’s dinner sorted!!

Enjoy how easy this feast is!

Sammie x

 

 

 

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Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne

Hello, I really hope you enjoy this post – Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne.  It’s extremely easy to make, there’s no need to precook the lasagne sheets.  This lasagne is also a lighter version than the traditional beef lasagne.  If you wanted to really cheat you could buy good cheese sauce, but it’s not a complicated process to whip up your own!

Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne - delish!
Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne – delish!

This is a perfect make ahead meal as it only gets better the longer the lasagne sits. It will keep, unbaked, in the fridge for 4 days and double wrapped in cling film, again unbaked, it can be frozen for up to 3 months.  It is also the perfect, portable meal.  Ideal for delivery to a new mum, a family going through tough times or a bring and share meal with friends.  Truly an all-in-one feasting dish!!!

A perfect, portable meal for sharing with others.
A perfect, portable meal for sharing with others.

By substituting the beef, usually used in Lasagne, with minced Chicken, the resulting baked Lasagne becomes a lighter dish. Not lighter in calories, with the delicious four cheese sauce – but not as heavy on the stomach and a delicious change from the norm!  The four cheese sauce was simply me raiding the fridge for leftover Christmas cheese!!!

The Four Cheese Sauce tops of this lasagne perfectly!!
The Four Cheese Sauce tops of this lasagne perfectly!!

I realise that minced Chicken is not  available everywhere, minced Turkey is a great substitute.  Otherwise processing skinless chicken breasts, thighs or a combination in a food processor would be another way to make your own chicken mince.  Alternatively, chopping up chicken with a sharp knife would work and give the lasagne added texture.

Recipe : Serves 6-8 portions.

Chicken Lasagne Sauce

450g/1lb  Chicken Mince

1  Large White Onion

2tbsp  Olive Oil

2  Celery Stalks (the larger outside stalks)

1  Green Pepper (washed, deseeded and finely diced)

2-3  Carrots (peeled and finely diced)

3  Garlic Cloves – minced

3 x 400g  Chopped Tinned Tomatoes

2tbsp  Tomato Puree

1tsp  Dried Mixed Herbs (or fresh basil/oregano/parsley/thyme – to taste)

1tsp  Sugar

Salt and Ground Black Pepper – to taste

Cheese Sauce :

3tbsp  Butter

3tbsp  Plain White Flour

750-800ml. Whole Milk

6oz  Hard Cheese (I used a 50/50 mixture of Mature Cheddar and Swiss Cheese)

125g  Riccota

250g. Mozzarella (drained)

1 tsp  Nutmeg – freshly grated if poss

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste.

Butter – For Greasing the Lasagne Dish

1 packet Dried Egg Lasagne Sheets 375g – NO NEED TO PRECOOK!!!

Method: Chicken Lasagne Sauce

Finely chop/dice the onion/celery/green pepper and carrots.  Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes over a medium heat until the onions just start to turn translucent.  Add the diced celery to the pan and continue to sauté for a couple more minutes, just until the celery starts to soften.  Push the onions and celery to one side of the pan and add the Chicken mince to the other side (if you don’t have a large sauté pan, remove the onions and celery, into a separate dish and then add the Chicken to the pan).  Cook the chicken, using a wooden spatula to break up the mince so big clumps of meat don’t form.

Having a large sauté pan means you can cook all the ingredients in one go!!!
Having a large sauté pan means you can cook all the ingredients in one go!!!

Unlike beef mince, the Chicken mince will get lighter as it cooks. I don’t cook the Chicken until it is browned, just until it is cooked through (lighter colour).  Now add the carrots/green pepper and also the minced garlic (I use a garlic press!!).

Mix all the veggies and garlic with the Chicken mince. Inhale the gorgeous aroma!
Mix all the veggies and garlic with the Chicken mince. Inhale the gorgeous aroma!

When all the veggies and garlic are well mixed add the tomatoes (rinse each can out with water, fill the can almost to the top and add that to the pan as well), tomato purée, dried or fresh chopped herbs. Give everything a good stir add the sugar and add salt 1/2tsp and a good grinding of black pepper.  Turn the heat to medium/low and leave to gently bubble away on the stove for an hour, stirring occasionally.

This gorgeous Chicken, vegetable and tomato sauce just bubbles away happily on the stove! Pop the kettle on for a cuppa!!!!
This gorgeous Chicken, vegetable and tomato sauce just bubbles away happily on the stove! Pop the kettle on for a cuppa!!!!

Method: Four Cheese Sauce

Into a medium heavy based pan add the butter. Over a medium heat melt the butter until just sizzling. Add the flour and keep stirring as the two become a paste. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes, this removes any floury taste.

This is what the butter and flour should look like.
This is what the butter and flour should look like.

Now gradually start adding the milk, approx 50mls at first and stir vigorously. The milk will become incorporated into the flour/butter paste making it a thicker past. Keep adding small amounts of milk, stirring continuously.

The sauce will become very thick. DON'T WORRY!!!!
The sauce will become very thick. DON’T WORRY!!!!

Now you can add larger amounts of milk, keep stirring, lumps will form, if you want to you can switch to a whisk at this stage (I do!). Keep stirring and adding the milk until all the milk has been added and you have a beautiful, lump free white sauce. The sauce should be thick enough to cover the back of a spoon.

No lumps here - if you squint!!!!!!
No lumps here – if you squint!!!!!!

Remove the pan from the heat and add the Ricotta and all the other cheese (except the mozzarella), which if you are a patient person you certainly may grate. I almost never bother to grate, I just chop the cheese into smallish (1/2″) cubes and the sauce turns out fine.

The Ricotta gets dumped in and then add the hard cheeses.
The Ricotta gets dumped in and then add the hard cheeses.

Stir vigorously. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. The Ricotta cheese will give the Four Cheese Sauce a slightly grainy texture – DON’T WORRY – that’s normal! If you’ve grated the cheeses they will melt into the sauce easily. With the cubed cheese the sauce will almost never become completely smooth – but that’s ok as it will when it’s baked in the oven later! Also the addition of freshly ground nutmeg not only elevates the flavour above and beyond, but please, if you can, grate your own nutmeg. I know I was lazy with the cheese but, freshly grated nutmeg is a million times better than pre-ground nutmeg, trust me.

Assembly :

You will need an oven proof rectangular dish.  Mine is  12″ x 8″ x 3.5″(deep) – measurements were taken from the top.  But you can always use an oval dish and break the lasagne sheets to fit the curves – I have made many lasagne dishes this way, or alternatively split between 2 small dishes. As long as the dish is ovenproof, this really is an adaptable recipe!!!

I always butter my lasagne dish, it makes the cooked lasagne much easier to dish up!
I always butter my lasagne dish, it makes the cooked lasagne much easier to dish up!

I’ve found, after making more than a gazillion – slight over exaggeration – lasagnes, that buttering the dish before hand not only helps when serving the cooked lasagne, but also, it doesn’t require 3 days soaking to get the stuck bits off of the dish!! It’s the little things you know???

These are dried lasagne sheets. Any brand will do!
These are dried lasagne sheets. Any brand will do!

I REALLY WASN’T JOKING, when I said that you don’t have to precook the lasagne sheets. I’ve used lots of different makes, some with ruffled edges, green spinach lasagne sheets, egg vs plain AND this works with ALL TYPES – I guess you could even use fresh lasagne sheets, you would need to cook the Chicken lasagne sauce for longer so that it was thicker – otherwise I can’t see it being an issue. If you try it please let me know how you get on?

Once you have buttered/oiled your dish place a layer of HOT Chicken lasagne sauce (check the seasoning and adjust if necessary) into the bottom of the dish, so that it is completely covered.

The first layer is down, time to start building!!!
The first layer is down, time to start building!!!

Next place enough lasagne sheets to cover the bottom layer – I got luck and this dish takes 4 exactly. I like the layers to meet or very slightly overlap.

If your lasagne sheets don't fit exactly, just snap bits off to adjust them.
If your lasagne sheets don’t fit exactly, just snap bits off to adjust them.

Repeat the sauce/lasagne sheet layering twice more finishing with a sheet layer.

All the bits and pieces of the lasagne sheets will be covered by the Four Cheese Sauce.
All the bits and pieces of the lasagne sheets will be covered by the Four Cheese Sauce.

Now pour the cooled cheese sauce all over the top of the lasagne sheets. I gently tap the dish to ensure any trapped air bubble rise to the surface.

Ooh this is going to be sooooo good - look at that yummy cheese sauce layer!
Ooh this is going to be sooooo good – look at that yummy cheese sauce layer!

This baby is still not finished!  Drain and slice the mozzarella.

The final gooey, stringy, adornment for this fab lasagne dish!
The final gooey, stringy, adornment for this fab lasagne dish!

And now arrange the mozzarella slice on top of the cheese sauce.

The Four Cheese Sauce tops off this lasagne perfectly!!
The Four Cheese Sauce tops off this lasagne perfectly!!

The Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne should be left, ideally for 4 hours, to allow the dried lasagne slices time to absorb moisture from both sauces. This dish can also be made 1-2 days in advance, wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge.

When ready to bake preheat the oven to 180C (165C fan oven). Place the lasagne dish onto a slightly larger baking tray; this dish can bubble up and over – it’s much easier to clean a baking sheet rather than scrub out the bottom of your oven!!!!!

Cook the lasagne for 1 1/2 hours until piping hot all the way through and gorgeously, golden brown.

Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne - delish!
Delicious, cheese sauce topped, chicken lasagne – delish!

Remove from the oven 10-15 minutes before serving. This allows the lasagne to cool slightly and hold it’s shape when being served.

This Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne is delicious on it’s own, served with a salad or garlic bread. It can be frozen at the pre-bake stage or in individual portions, wrapped tightly in foil and popped into the freezer. Or why not double the quantities and make an extra meal for the freezer?

If you try this recipe please let me know how you get on. Do you have alternative lasagne combinations that are scrumptious? If you do please share them.

But most of all if you know a new mum, or someone who has been ill for a while, or just a very busy family that you would like to bless, then this is THE perfect, portable, all in one meal for sharing!

As ever, remember food always tastes better when it’s shared. Happy Feasting.

Sammie x

 

 

 

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