The Army, in her wisdom, has seen fit to send my family to warm climates more often than not, in our married lives. Having grown up predominantly in the Pacific Northwest, I am used to four seasons, and it has been a struggle for me, during the holiday season, to really get into the spirit of the holidays without white stuff (a.k.a snow) on the ground.
Each year, I make fudge to assist in trying to bring holiday spirit into my home. Last year, I gave a printable recipe to my blog followers for my super-easy, super-quick, kid-friendly-help recipe. Don’t miss this, especially if you have little helpers in your home, ready to assist in this baking project: beautiful-camouflage-recipes!
This year, I was in charge of hosting a Catholic Women of the Chapel Christmas party. Since our large group meets once a month, and we won’t meet again as a large group until after the New Year, we celebrated in style before Advent even kicked off.
Coming off days in the upper-60s and mid-70s, I was hitting my head against a wall, trying to determine what I could contribute to the meeting. We had a 12 foot sub sandwich from Subway on order, and the theme was more of a “Death by Chocolate” dessert party. So, my fudge was on that menu. But, I wanted to also provide a side.
I dug out a recipe which I haven’t seen since prior to my son’s birth. The recipe was given to me from a fellow Army wife, as I had been given a pre-set recipe for a work event for my husband. It was a bare-bones recipe, but we haven’t made it in the home, since my husband dislikes the majority of ingredients. The recipe, as I have it, reads:
Chicken Pasta Salad
“It is mostly a Paula Dean recipe which is always a big hit. I substituted the mushrooms for red pepper and added the grilled chicken. The chicken can be grilled the night before. Or it can be baked or done stove top, however you want. Here’s what I plan on supplying:
3 pounds of mini bow tie pasta
4 chicken breasts
3 red peppers
1.5 cups olives
4 cups cherry tomatoes
I did some sleuthing (a.k.a. Googling) and found a similar Paula Deen Recipe over at Food Network. Between what was in my recipe box and the internet, I was able to create a fantastic Chicken Pasta Salad that will now be my go-to recipe for holiday parties in the south.
Because, simply, the beginning of the process looks like fresh Christmas in a bowl:
While chopping and dicing the green and red peppers, and cherry tomatoes, I boiled the pasta. I made too much pasta, and for a small gathering (or family dinner), I would only recommend the Paula Deen amount of bow-tie noodles (1 box). As the noodles cooled, I made the dressing and set it aside in the fridge. (I just realized as I typed this that I forgot the sugar. It was not missed whatsoever; and, I’m pretty sure the mayo could be substituted with Greek Yogurt for a healthier dish. However, I don’t like to purposefully make too many tweaks from recipes during one of my first attempts at a recipe):
I had recalled when I made this particular recipe years back, instead of providing me with chicken breasts, the wife who provided the bare minimum recipe gave me a rotisserie chicken. Given the hectic nature of my life, I bought two rotisserie chickens to save me some time. Those pre-cooked chickens were a huge help to me, although they added to the sodium content (which I try to keep limited). Therefore, no extra sodium was added to this dish – I omitted the rest of the recipe’s call for salt:
I abhor olives, but I stayed true to the recipes as written in regard to that ingredient, and then added the noodles. The olives were hardly noticeable in the end dish – perhaps because I bought the sliced ones:
I then added the dressing and stirred things up nicely – while under the watchful eye of Furry Kid #2:
I forgot about the sun-dried tomatoes and the parmesan until the salad had begun cooling. I quickly whipped out the last two ingredients, and got those added:
The dishes were placed in the fridge overnight, to allow the flavors optimum time to fully meld together.
The final product was less-Christmasy, but the dishes ended up being a huge hit! Of the two casserole dishes taken, I had half of one leftover for me to eat the following couple days.
So, if you are in the mood for a relatively easy dish – it took me longer than the Food Network recipe predicts – don’t forget to consider this dish. Given all the reds and greens, I found myself slightly more in the holiday spirit.
And, I can’t let this post end without acknowledging my little helper, who used the scraps to make her “own dish” – as she indulged in some extra tomatoes for herself. She stood next to me the entire time, telling me no, when I offered her ingredients she felt were unnecessary to whatever dish she was making:
Then, as we set up for the party, she proved she truly is my daughter. Between the tomatoes and pepper consumption she had while “cooking,” she also made a beeline for the fudge, and ensured she didn’t have an empty paw the entire party:
What are some of your favorite holiday recipes?
How do you infuse Christmas in your culinary adventures, when the weather outside does not feel wintry at all?
Let me know in the comments!