Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

chicken caesar pasta salad plate close up

Here is another summer salad that will be easy to pack in individual containers and bring to swim meets, picnics, or any other tailgate type event that comes up this summer. It can be made ahead and keeps in the refrigerator for a day or two as long as you do not add the lettuce until just before serving. I also tested to see if it could be stored in a Mason jar for a teacher or office lunch, and it works perfectly. I won’t lie; the fact that it looks very Martha Stewart and Pinterest-y in the Mason jar is a huge draw for me.

chicken caesar pasta salad mason jarIngredients

  • 16 oz. shell pasta, cooked and cooled
  • 2 roast chicken breasts, pulled off the bone and diced/shredded (a grocery store rotisserie chicken works too and saves time)
  • 12 oz. Caesar salad dressing (I like Marie’s brand)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced in 1/4 circles
  • ~1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 heads Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped

Directions

  • Combine cooked pasta, chicken pieces, tomato pieces, and sliced onion.
  • chicken caesar pasta salad ingredientsAdd dressing and mix gently. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing and add more if it seems too dry. You will need more dressing than you think because of the lettuce that will be added before serving.
  • chicken caesar pasta salad dressingSprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan cheese and mix again.
  • Just before serving, add the lettuce to the pasta and mix.

Notes

  •  If you are packing in a Mason jar or tupperware for a work lunch or picnic, layer the serving of pasta salad on the bottom. Place a layer of lettuce in the top. Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) until ready to eat.

chicken caesar pasta salad mason jar close

 

Family Picnic

sun dried tomato pasta salad

We attended the annual end of year family picnic for my son’s Cub Scout den. The other moms usually request my Pasta with Pesto and Peas side dish that both adults and children love, but I decided to go rogue this year and bring a sun-dried tomato pasta salad.

The recipe is a little risky because it uses black olives. Many people (meaning TheRoomMom) avoid olives. However, this recipe has just enough olives to give a salty/briny taste without actually having a super olive-y flavor. I originally got the recipe from an Ina Garten cookbook and have tweaked it a little over time. With Memorial Day picnics just around the corner, this recipe might be something to consider.

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fusili pasta (corkscrew pasta)
  • kosher salt
  • good olive oil
  • 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
  • 1/4 c. black kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 lb. fresh mozarella, medium-diced
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. basil leaves cut in chiffonade (thin ribbons)

Dressing Ingredients

  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 6 T. good olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 t. capers, drained
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 3/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for the time given in the directions on the box (about 12 minutes). Drain well. Add pasta to a large bowl, and toss with a little olive oil (~2 t.) to keep from sticking together. Let the pasta cool.

sun dried tomato tomatoes

  • While pasta is cooling, seed the tomatoes and dice. I used Roma tomatoes because they looked like they would be the reddest and tastiest of my choices in the store. If you can get really good homegrown tomatoes in another variety, use them.
  • Pit (if needed) and chop the black olives into a very small dice. Chop 6 sun-dried tomatoes. Cut the mozzarella into medium dice.

sun dried tomato ingredients

  • Add diced tomatoes, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella to the cooled pasta and toss gently.

sun dried tomato dressing

  • For the dressing, combine the dressing ingredients (sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper) in a food processor and run the food processor until the dressing is almost smooth.

sun dried tomato add dressing

  • Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss well.
  • Just before serving, add basil and Parmesan cheese and toss again.

Notes

  • Can be made ahead.
  • It is served at room temperature, so it works well for tailgates, picnics, or group meals.
  • Diced artichoke hearts are a good addition.
  • Pairs well with grilled chicken or grilled steaks.

sun dried tomato paste close

 

Easter Brunch

hashbrown casserole cooked

Aunt B will be visiting with her two boys for Easter. I have my parents in town too. That means I need to prepare food for a group, which is actually something I like to do. I am not sure why cooking for a large group is so much more appealing to me than the daily cooking for my own small(er) family, but it is (see previous post). One idea I have for Easter brunch is Hash Brown Casserole. It is easy to assemble ahead, and it includes melted cheese, which automatically gives the recipe bonus points.

There are many variations of this casserole available, but I am sharing the recipe I use. I like to serve this casserole with ham or scrambled eggs. I also think it works well with steak or hamburgers later in the day.

Ingredients

  • 1 2-lb package frozen, diced hash brown potatoes– thawed (the cubes)
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 1 10-oz. can Campbell’s cream of celery soup (could replace with cream of chicken)
  • 8-oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. chopped green onions
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (+ a little extra to sprinkle on the top before baking)
  • 1 t. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 t. pepper (or to taste)

hashbrown casserole ingredients

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Put all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until combined.

hashbrown casserole ingredients mixed

  • Spread in a 9×11 casserole dish.

hashbrown casserole

  • Sprinkle extra shredded cheddar cheese on top.
  • Cover in foil and bake for ~35 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes or so until the top is slightly golden and edges are bubbly.

hashbrown casserole closeWill you be serving anything special for Easter?

The Big Sandwich

big sandwich plate

TheRoomMomMom used to make something called The Posh Nosh Sandwich; I always referred to it as The Big Sandwich. My mom would serve it when we had friends over to swim, and everyone was starving. My mom would make it for a tailgate event and warm bricks in the oven and wrap the sandwich in foil with the warmed bricks underneath until it was time to serve. Any time people needed hearty party food, The Big Sandwich was there.

I have made The Big Sandwich when we are with friends sharing a house for the weekend and needed “man food” for the group. Last night, I made The Big Sandwich for an adult backyard birthday party. It serves a crowd, covers the melted cheese criteria for yummy party food, and is easy to assemble. It can be messy to eat, so serve with lots of napkins.

big sandwich ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1/4 to 1/2 lb. thinly sliced turkey
  • 1/4 to 1/2 lb. thinly sliced ham
  • 1/4 to 1/2 lb. thinly sliced roast beef
  • 1/4 lb. thinly sliced Genoa salami (can use hard salami)
  • thinly sliced Swiss cheese (8-10 slices)
  • thinly sliced red onion rings
  • Marie’s Thousand Island dressing
  • 1 loaf of Italian bread, unsliced

Directions

  • Cut the loaf of Italian bread in half horizontally, so the bread is divided into a top and bottom. Scoop some of the squishy bread center out from both sides, so you have a little extra space for sandwich fillings inside the bread.

big sandwich bread

  • Put a layer of Swiss cheese in the top and bottom pieces of the bread. I use ~4 slices on each side.
  • Spread a layer of Thousand Island dressing on the cheese slices on both sides.

big sandwich dressing

  • On the bottom piece of bread, layer each type of meat. I like about 4 slices of each kind of meat, but you can use more or less depending on your taste.

big sandwich meat

  • After the last meat slices are added, sprinkle a layer of red onion on the bread “lid”.

big sandwich onions

  • Place the bread “lid” on the top of the sandwich to close and wrap completely in foil.

big sandwich foil

  • Bake at 350 degrees for ~45 minutes until melty and toasty.
  • Remove from the oven, unwrap from the foil, and slice with a serrated knife into 2-inch wide wedges immediately. The meat has a tendency to slip off the bread when the cheese is really melty, so you have to cut carefully.
  • Serve hot.

big sandwich sliced

Notes

  • I get the meat sliced fresh at my grocery store deli. I ask for “very thinly sliced” and like it to be just a little thicker than shaved.
  • You can spread the Thousand Island dressing on the top and bottom pieces of bread before adding the cheese slices. I like to put the cheese slices down first if I am assembling several hours before baking, so there is a protective layer between the bread and the dressing to keep the dressing from soaking into the bread too much.

big sandwich slice sample

Grown Up Kid Food

chicken nuggets bite

TheRoomDad was reminiscing about the days when I used to prepare delicious meals most evenings. That was before we had children, and I was trying to impress him. Fast forward to today. I only get excited about preparing food for parties and school snacks. If it is bite sized food, snack food, or party dips, I am all about it. Otherwise, I don’t want to be bothered.

One recipe that I have not used in awhile is something from my childhood– a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets. They may seem like kid food at first glance, but they actually have a slightly more sophisticated taste than your average chicken nugget, and I used to make them for TheRoomDad. It is a recipe adults and kids enjoy. I was gracious enough to dust off the family cookbook and make the chicken nuggets last night. I was going to say how much healthier they are than a box of nuggets from the freezer section of the grocery store, but then I remembered that the chicken is dredged in melted butter before being coated in seasoned bread crumbs. Enjoy!

chicken nuggets ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts (or 1 pkg of chicken tenderloins, ~1 lb.)
  • 1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • 1 t. paprika
  • 1/4 t. thyme
  • 1/2 c. melted butter

Directions

  • Cut chicken into 1 1/2″ squares. If you are using the chicken tenderloins, cut each piece into 2 or 3 nugget-y pieces. The tenderloin can also be left as is to make a chicken strip.

chicken nuggets assembly

  • Mix dry ingredients in a shallow dish.

chicken nuggets coating

  • Pour melted butter in a separate shallow dish.

chicken nuggets melted butter

  • Dip chicken pieces into the melted butter and then into the dry mixture to coat.

chicken nuggets bread crumb coating

  • Arrange coated chicken pieces on a jelly roll pan (baking pan with a lip).

chicken nuggets covered

  • Bake at 400 degrees about 20 minutes or until browned and chicken is cooked through. If you are using larger chicken pieces, you may need to turn once while baking.

chicken nuggets cooked