Do you think it’s safe to say the weather has finally come around to this idea of it being spring…finally?! I feel like yesterday our moods were lifted and neighbors were out and about once again after being dormant for the past week with all the cold, windy, and rainy weather we’ve been having. But now…now the weather is warmer, the sun is shining, and I sense cool evenings on our porch, sipping on wine and socializing with our neighbors, are in our near future. Watch, next week is back to 40 degree weather…
Whichever way the temperature wants to go, whether it be cold or hot, life has gotten busy! Well, it always has been busy, I suppose, but for some reason our busyness has been kicked up a notch over the past few weeks.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I’m passionate about meal planning (find out more here and here). It’s definitely not always easy and straight forward, especially when you work late at least one night during the week, have small group another night, and still want to fit in some swimming in the evenings before your triathlon that’s coming up in a month (Eek! I should probably get that bike down from the garage, huh?).
Meal planning has become almost like a puzzle (and to be honest, I kind of like it in some bizarre way). If we want to eat grilled chicken and Cherry-Almond Farro Salad on Wednesday, I need to have the time to prep the salad on Tuesday night. If we have an event to go to on Friday with no time for meal prep, whatever I make on Thursday needs to make enough leftovers for Friday…and this is just the start of my weekly dilemmas. I honestly understand why people don’t meal plan and resort to going out to eat.
Although prepping meals the night before or counting on leftovers are very useful, sometimes it’s nice to have a healthy, balanced meal that comes together in just a half hour with only a couple of pans to clean up — no advanced, in-depth planning needed. Cajun Chicken Pasta is just that and is light enough to enjoy on a (hopefully) warm spring or summer evening.
It comes together so quickly, in fact, I’d recommend having the chicken and veggies cut and ready to go before you start the cooking. The best part, though? The flavor! This recipe can easily be spiced up or down, depending on your heat tolerance. The way it’s written has a little bit of heat, but definitely not overpowering.
Plus, all of the veggies makes this a refreshing and colorful meal. Not to mention, you have almost all of your food groups right in one meal. Add some fresh fruit as a side and you have your meal all ready to go in 30 minutes.
Have I convinced you enough? Skip the take-out or drive-through and make this pasta dish. You’ll feel good about what you’re eating, and, with any luck, you’ll still have time to relax at the end of the day. Enjoy!
Cajun Chicken Pasta
Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 3 teaspoons Cajun spice mix, more to taste
- 1 pound whole-grain spaghetti or fettuccine
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 whole green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 1 whole red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- ½ whole large red onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced or 3 whole Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup low-sodium or no-salt-added chicken broth
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or white wine)
- 1 cup milk (preferably 1% or greater)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley, optional
- Cook pasta according to package directions in large saucepan. Drain when pasta is still al dente (not completely cooked).
- Once all the vegetables and chicken are chopped, begin the cooking process (things move quickly once you start!). Sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons Cajun spice over chicken pieces; toss to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink and is cooked through. Remove chicken onto a clean plate with a slotted spoon; set aside.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. When oil is heated, add the peppers, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle on the remaining Cajun spice (more if desired). Cook vegetables until tender, about 5—8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove all vegetables from the pan and add to the plate of chicken.
- With the pan over medium-high heat, pour in the vinegar and chicken broth. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze (if using a stainless steal or cast iron pan). Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in the milk, stirring/whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until the milk starts to slightly thicken the mixture (it won’t thicken too much unless you used whole milk or heavy cream). Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and/or salt to taste.
- Finally, add the chicken and vegetables back into the pan with sauce. Don’t forget to include the juices that drained onto the plate! Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is hot.
- Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine. Top with chopped fresh parsley before serving.