At least once a month, sometimes twice, I do a “clean out the pantry/dump out the fridge” dish to always try and use up those extras to keep things fresh and so nothing goes to waste, if possible! And last night was the perfect time to do just that! The weather was threatening to rain, but held off for me just long enough to get the chicken nicely grilled. And I found plenty of goodies to work with smiling in the cupboards! Now the fridge is empty enough to wash out today, and the pantry is all ready for new treasures to play with!
It’s a good habit to get into, that actually came about many years ago when I was dirt poor. Literally. I remember counting nickels and pennies to buy a 25 cent loaf of Sunbeam bread and a package of cheap bologna. And once, I didn’t even have enough for that. All I had left was some mustard and a few slices of bread. I made what I called, “Sunshine sandwiches”. Bread and mustard. The name cheered me up, though and made me smile! But, luckily it rained cats and dogs that night, and the next morning the yard was covered with big, fat, plump earthworms. Fishing worms!! I beat the early birds and collected them, went fishing, caught a HUGE small mouth bass, and ate like a Queen that day! One of the best meals I can ever remember!
Since then, I never take for granted those weird cans on the back of the shelf, or partial bags of frozen veggies in the freezer! Everything always gets used, enjoyed and appreciated! And just because it really actually is a simple meal, doesn’t mean it can’t be special, too! Little twirls of pasta and some baby peas made us smile! Hope it makes you smile, too!
SPICY GRILLED CHICKEN ALFREDO with BACON, FRESH MOZZARELLA and BABY PEA SALSA
1 (14.5 oz.) can Hunts Stewed Tomatoes with Celery and Onions, drained, tomatoes chopped
1/8 tsp. each: salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried thyme
3 slices cooked bacon
1/3 cup fresh or frozen sweet baby peas
3 thick slices fresh mozzarella, diced
My All-Purpose Dry Rub for Chicken:
2 tsp. smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. seasoning salt, I like “Johnny’s”
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Rest of Ingredients:
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 stick real butter, melted
4 servings-worth Barilla thin spaghetti, or pasta of choice
1 (15 oz.) jar Bertolli Alfredo sauce (or other brand), or homemade
paper thin slices of parmesan cheese, optional garnish
In small saucepan over medium heat, combine drained and chopped stewed tomatoes with the celery and onions, and the herbs and spices. Bring to a simmer and simmer 5 minutes. While simmering, snip or crumble cooked bacon into salsa. Remove from heat, fold in fresh or frozen baby peas. Set aside. (*Mozzarella gets added very last just before serving.)
Next, mix dry rub spices and evenly sprinkle onto both sides of each chicken breast. Just sprinkle on, and leave it. Don’t try and rub it or you’ll have a mess. Place onto platter or into dish. Baste top sides with butter, drizzle and dab on but don’t brush it on or you’ll remove the rub. (*I like to put a pot of water on the stove to boil at this time. The water will heat up and be ready for you when the chicken is done.) Place chicken onto preheated hot grill buttered sides down, baste other sides with butter, close grill and cook 8-10 minutes depending on size and thickness of meat. Turn heat to medium and maintain grill temp at 350-375 degrees. Turn chicken and cook 8-10 minutes longer with lid closed. Remove to platter, cover with foil and set aside to rest.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, add back to pot and stir in alfredo sauce. Warm salsa back up if needed, remove from heat, fold in cut-up mozzarella.
To serve: Lay a pile of pasta onto plate, slice chicken and fan across pasta, top with salsa with a slotted spoon. Garnish with paper thin slices of fresh parmesan cheese if desired.
*To make pasta twirls, use a fork pressing against the bottom of the pot, twirl pasta around fork, lift out of pan and place onto plate.
Tip: Whenever I buy bacon, I always cook the whole pound in the oven, drain it on paper towels, and store it in the freezer for quick use any time I need it. Bake in 375 degree oven on foil-lined baking sheets for 15-20 minutes. I turn them during the last 5 minutes. (Remove sheets from oven when turning.) To reheat: Thaw, wrap in a paper towel, and nuke on high for 15 seconds or until re-sizzling.
**In a pinch, you can also try McCormick’s Grill Mates Dry Rubs. The Sweet & Smoky as well as the Applewood are both very good and as close to homemade as you’re gonna get!