Creamy Cajun Pasta with Smoked Sausage

Delicious.  Quick.  Easy.  My three favorite words to describe a weeknight dinner.  The husband is a fan of anything with the words “cajun” and “pasta” in the title, so when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it soon.  I’ve tried several different recipes for a cajun pasta before, but this one is the clear-cut winner!  The husband and I both loved this, and it will hit my dinner rotation frequently.  I did not have onions or garlic in the house (crazy, right?), so I omitted those and add a bit of garlic powder with the other seasonings.  I will definitely make sure I add the garlic and onion next time as it would make this dish even better.

Creamy Cajun Pasta with Smoked Sausage

1 box of penne pasta
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons of your favorite Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped parsley (I forgot to add this at the end!)
Parmesan cheese
1 (16-ounce) package turkey kielbasa, cut into bite-size pieces

In a large pot, boil water for pasta.

Brown kielbasa over medium heat in a large skillet. Once browned, transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

In the same large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute for approximately 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds or until fragrant. Meanwhile, boil pasta and cook until al dente.

Add white wine or chicken broth to skillet and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom. Let wine or broth reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in Cajun seasoning, paprika, pepper, salt, and tomato paste.

Add half and half and heat to almost bubbling, then reduce heat to low. Allow the cream mixture to reduce by half, approximately 5 minutes.

Drain pasta and add to skillet. Add browned sausage and parsley, toss. Top with parmesan cheese.

Source:  Adapted from Southern Pink Lemonade, who got it from Cooks Like a Champion, originally adapted from Steamy Kitchen

BWD: Brownie Buttons

First, happy one year anniversary to the Baking with Dorie group!  I’ve been a member since June, and I’ve really enjoyed all of the baking challenges thus far, especially because most of the recipes I’ve done are things I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise.  A big thank you to everyone in our little group for continuing to challenge me in the kitchen!  The entire group chose this recipe to celebrate the one year anniversary of our group.  Our founder, Grapefruit over at Needful Things, has the recipe posted on her blog.  You can also find it on pages 106-107 of Dorie’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Second, I’m so glad to be back in the kitchen with BWD and baking some goodies!  I think the boys have definitely missed having sweet treats around the house.  These little bite size brownies were so easy to make, and so easy for them to snack on throughout the day.  They both loved them!  Unfortunately, sweets and I have not gotten along at all since the morning sickenss stareted, so I didn’t try these, but I will definitely make them again once I’m feeling better.

Up next, we’re making Honey Nut Scones.  Can’t wait to try that one!

Bacon Pierogi Bake

I made this almost 2 months ago, and forgot all about it until I was going through some pictures on my camera!  We are big pierogi fans in this house, so when I saw this recipe in my December 2010 Cooking Light magazine, it quickly made my must try list.  I am so glad we tried this…absolutely delicious!  And let’s face it, everything is better with bacon!  The cream cheese sauce was the perfect complement to the pierogies, and the bacon was a great contrasting texture.  Next time I will add the tomatoes as well…we didn’t have any in the house when I made this.  This will make our menu plan frequently, especially since it’s so easy, and relatively healthy!

Bacon Pierogi Bake

1  (16-ounce) package frozen potato and cheddar cheese pierogies (such as Mrs. T’s)
Cooking spray
2  center-cut bacon slices, chopped
2  garlic cloves, minced
1/3  cup  (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2  cup  (2 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange the pierogies in an 11 x 7-inch glass baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cook bacon in a saucepan over medium heat until crisp; remove from pan. Set aside.

Add garlic to drippings in pan, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese to pan, and cook for 1 minute or until cream cheese begins to melt, stirring frequently. Gradually add chicken broth to pan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over pierogies. Top evenly with 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until bubbly and thoroughly heated. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with bacon and pepper.

Source:  Adapted from Cooking Light December 2010

Chicken Parmesan

I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to be back in my kitchen tonight cooking something new!  I’m hoping I continue to feel this good and can keep it up.  I’ve really missed cooking and blogging!

The husband is a big fan of chicken parmesan, but the two times I’ve made it, it hasn’t been that great.  When I saw this recipe on Annie’s Eats, it looked promising, and since she loved it and it was from Cooks Illustrated, I had a feeling we’d love it.  This is the best chicken parmesan I’ve ever had!  It was very easy to make and, even better, it is a lighter recipe since the chicken is baked and not fried.  The husband enjoyed this as well.  My quest for the perfect chicken parm has ended! 

Chicken Parmesan
Source: From Annie’s Eats, adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Cooks Illustrated October 2006

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper
3 large egg whites
1 tbsp. water
vegetable cooking spray
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut into halves (4 pieces total)
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
about 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp. minced fresh basil


Adjust an oven rack to the middle position.  Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.  Combine the breadcrumbs and oil in a 12-inch skillet and toast over medium heat until golden, stirring often, about 10 minutes.  Spread the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and allow to cool slightly; when cool, stir in the Parmesan.

In a second shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper together.  In a third shallow dish whisk together the egg whites and water.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with vegetable oil spray.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge each chicken piece in the flour to coat completely, shaking off the excess.  Then dip into the egg whites and finally coat with the breadcrumb mixture.  Press on the breadcrumbs to make sure they adhere.  Place the chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until the chicken is no longer pink and feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 15 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the oven.  Spoon 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce over the top of each piece of chicken and top with 2 tablespoons of the shredded mozzarella.  Return the chicken to the oven and continue to bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the fresh basil and serve as desired, with extra Parmesan and marinara sauce.