Saturday, March 17, 2012

Cajun Eats and Sweet Treats

I have a few more yummy recipes to share today. The past two nights we have enjoyed some Cajun-inspired dinners and I also finally got around to baking some cookies that I have been wanting to test.

The first recipe is for Cajun Chicken Pasta. You can find the pin here. The recipe originated from Though I wasn't looking for "lighter" recipes when I was pinning, that is just an added bonus to this meal! This was an excellent pasta dish. So excellent, that I would pay money for it at a restaurant. Yep, it was that good. It's packed with so many yummy veggies and with the right spices, it packs the perfect amount of heat.

  • 8 ounces uncooked linguine (I used Barilla's whole grain)
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used Baby Bella mushrooms)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp light cream cheese (I used Philadelphia's 1/3 less fat)
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cooking spray

Prep all of your vegetables. In a small blender, make a slurry by combining milk, flour and cream cheese. (I didn't use a blender, but instead mixed them in a bowl, heating the mixture in the microwave at 50% power to melt the cream cheese, so that it would mix easier). Set this mixture aside.

Season the chicken generously with Cajun seasoning, garlic powder and salt. Prepare the pasta in salted water according to the package directions. Heat a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the chicken. Saute the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes or until done.

Set the chicken aside on a plate. Add olive oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Add the bell peppers, onions, and garlic to the skillet and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and saute for 3 to 4 more minutes or until vegetables are tender. (I also went ahead and added the scallions too at this point instead of leaving them just as a garnish). Season with 1/4 tsp salt, garlic powder and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the chicken broth and pour in the slurry, stirring about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet.

Adjust the salt and Cajun seasoning to taste, cook another minute or two until hot, then add linguine. Toss well to coat. Enjoy!

I definitely think that the Cajun seasoning that you use for this dish could either make or break it. I had one in my spice cabinet that I decided not to use because I wasn't a huge fan of it. I bought another (Cajun Blackening Seasoning) while I was at the Fresh Market (it was in a baggie with their fresh spices). It was awesome! It has the perfect amount of heat and it gives this dish a nice kick. Perfect!

I made a loaf of French Bread in the bread machine to serve with this dish. I am so glad that I did because it was the perfect addition. We used it to help soak up the tasty sauce that was left in the bowl after we had eaten everything else! Delicious.

The next dish is Cajun Stuffed Peppers. You can find the pin here. This recipe originated from the Food Network. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical of this one as I was cooking it, but the end result was quite tasty. I do wish I had read the reviews of this one before I made it though, as I would have altered a few things. I like that this dish uses two grains instead of just rice; it is a nice change from my usual stuffed peppers recipe. The addition of the kale helps add more nutrients to the stuffing as well.

  • 1 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 large green bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded (I used 3 peppers)
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 pound andouille sausage, finely chopped (I used one link, it was 1/3 pound)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped (I used 4 cloves)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • Large pinch of allspice (optional) - I did not use this ingredient
  • Kosher salt
  • 1-14 oz can low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 small bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for topping (optional) - I did not use this ingredient

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the brown rice and boil for 10 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and cook until both grains are tender, about 15 more minutes. (I wish they had given an amount of water here. I did not use enough initially and had to continue to add water to the saucepan as both grains were cooking because the water was being absorbed too quickly. I ended up using probably ~3 cups total I think?). Drain well and set aside.

Meanwhile, drizzle the bell peppers with 1 tablespoon of water in a microwave-safe bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 10 minutes. (Had I read the reviews, I would not have nuked the peppers this long. They may have needed just 5 minutes, max. They definitely were pretty mushy after an entire 10 minutes. As one other reviewer suggested, I will probably broil them for a bit too next time I make this dish).

Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan (I used a large skillet) over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the sausage, garlic, thyme, allspice and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the sausage is brown and crisp, about 3 more minutes.

Add the tomatoes and 1 cup water to the pan.

Pile the kale on top, cover and cook until the kale wilts, about 2 minutes. (Unfortunately, I didn't know what a "small bunch of kale" was, and I felt that the bunch I had bought was pretty big, so I just used 2 stems from the bunch. After seeing how much it cooked down, I probably would have cooked at least 2 more stems too).

Stir the kale into the sauce and bring to a simmer. Arrange the bell peppers on top, cover and simmer until the kale is just tender, about 8 minutes. Divide the peppers among plates. Stir the grains into the kale mixture and season with salt.

Spoon into the peppers. Top with parsley if you would like. We also found it tasty to sprinkle a little Cajun seasoning on top too. :)

I was excited because Ethan did a great job with eating this dish! He loved the rice and the "broccoli," as he called the kale. Haha! This was a great nutrient-dense dish that I will make again. I loved the idea of using the sausage instead of just ground beef, which is what I usually use for my stuffed peppers. As I mentioned before, I liked using both the rice and quinoa too. As another reviewer mentioned, it did take quite a bit longer to prepare and cook this dish than they say it will, but I think it was worth it in the end. I now have quite a bit of leftover kale, so I am going to try my hand at making some kale chips this weekend, as I have been wanting to do that for awhile now anyway. I'll let you know how that goes! :)

Update: The next time I made this dish, I used red peppers instead of green. I like the flavor of them better. I also increased the meat content by using 1/2 pound lean ground beef in addition to the 1/3 pound andouille sausage. With 3 hungry guys to feed, the increased meat was nice. :) I also used an additional can of tomatoes too. We were very happy with the results.

One more recipe tonight to satisfy your sweet tooth. This one is for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies. This recipe originated from No worries guys, this recipe does not contain breast milk, as my husband first feared when he heard what they were called. And I'm pretty sure they aren't going to make you start lactating (haha), but due to the yeast, they are said to help breastfeeding moms increase or keep up their milk supply! So, for Noah's benefit, I thought I would give them a try. ;)

  • 1 cup butter (I used Blue Bonnet Light)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp flax seed meal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (next time I want to try 1/2 whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used 2 cups of Toll House semi-sweet chips)
  • 2-4 Tbsp brewer's yeast (I used 3 Tbsp, but will use 4 next time)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flaxseed meal and water and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. 

Beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar well. 

Add the eggs and mix well. 

Add the flaxseed mix and vanilla and beat well. 

Sift together the flour, brewer's yeast, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mix. (I actually just added these right to the bowl instead of sifting them first). 

Stir in the oats and chips. 

Scoop (I use a small cookie scoop to try to keep them uniform in size) onto a baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper to keep the sheets clean and easy to use over and over). 

Bake for 12 minutes. Let set for a couple of minutes, then remove from the tray. Yuuuummmm...

This recipe makes a TON of cookies! I would consider halving it next time because, unfortunately, I don't really need that many cookies hanging out just waiting for me to eat them. :( Again, I do wish I had read the reviews before making these as instructed. As others found, the dough really spread out when baked, even using small amounts for each cookie, and the cookies ran into each other.

Since I just made them for us, it wasn't a big deal, but I would keep that in mind for the future if making them for someone else. Although the dough spread out so much like it was too moist/runny, the cookies themselves kind of fell apart easily and were a bit dry from all of the oats once baked. They may have also turned out kind of flat for me since I wasn't using a fresh box of baking soda. I need to start remembering to buy a fresh box before baking something! Next time, I would consider using less oats (maybe just 2 cups) and maybe substituting raisins for the chocolate chips and also adding some cinnamon. I think those would be tasty and a little "healthier," if that's possible with a cookie. ;)

So, although they don't look perfect, they are still a pretty tasty little cookie. Hubby wasn't a huge fan of them due to the texture of the oatmeal, which is odd given I am usually the one with texture issues. I like them and my cute little helper really does too! :)

I think that making up a mix of these for new moms would be a wonderful gift idea and something I would like to start doing. I've only been eating them for one day, so I can't attest to whether they are successful or not yet, but I am hoping that they are. :)

As always, enjoy, and let me know what you think if you try any of these recipes!

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