Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Impromptu Dinner Get Together

Last week I got a DM (direct message) from @LoveMyPhilly asking for my e-mail because they have a "special opportunity" for some of their followers, so of course I said sure! Soon after I responded I got an email, it contained a recipe that they would like me to try and review and in exchange they told me that I they would send me a paperback cookbook as well as coupons. (Which I already received :)) I'm a sucker for new recipes and what a great excuse to have some friends over! I had two of my girl friends who lived close by come over for dinner a couple of days later to help me critique the recipe and of course have some girl talk. Let me tell you girl talk is always fabulous when it's accompanied by good food and wine :)

As I was making the main dish which was Creamy Tomato-Basil Pasta with Chicken I served some Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus mind you this appetizer is super easy to make and is always a hit whenever I've made it. Besides, who doesn't like bacon? Everybody loves bacon! Well...except for maybe vegetarians but I bet you they loved bacon too before they decided to not eat Babe anymore ;)

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

Fresh Asparagus (amount is up to you depending on how many people you're having)
Maple Bacon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea (or rock) Salt & Pepper

•pre-heat oven to broil.
•cut the asparagus so you have about 3-4" left from the tips
•put asparagus in mixing bowl and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure every spear is coated.
•take 3-4 pieces (depending on size)of asparagus spears and wrap it in bacon. repeat till all asparagus are gone
•place bacon-wrapped asparagus in a roasting/broiling tray and broil for 10-15 mins. Ovens vary so check at about 10 mins and see how the bacon is cooking, once its golden take it out and let cool then transfer to a serving plate.

*You can use whatever kind of bacon you like. I use maple bacon because the maple flavor in the bacon gives the entire thing a nice variety in taste.

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

Ok, now let's move on to the main star of this entry! This is the recipe that Philly emailed me.

Creamy Tomato-Basil Pasta with Chicken

Prep: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

3 cups penne pasta, uncooked (I used whole wheat penne pasta for a healthy alternative)
¼ cup KRAFT sun-dried tomato dressing, divided (you can find this in the salad dressing aisle)
4 small boneless skinless Chicken Breasts
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ tsp. each garlic powder & black pepper
4 oz (1/2 package) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, cubed (which is 1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese)
2 cups grape tomatoes
½ cup KRAFT shredded parmesan cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, cut into strips

•Cook pasta as directed on package. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. dressing in large skillet on medium heat. Add chicken, cover. Cook 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until done (165ยบ F). Remove chicken from skillet, cover to keep warm. Carefully wipe out skillet with paper towel.

•Add remaining dressing, broth, and seasonings to skillet; cook 3 to 4 min. or until heated through. Add Neufchatel; cook and stir 2 to 3 min. or until Neufchatel is melted. Stir in tomatoes, cook 3 min.

•Drain pasta. Add to ingredients in skillet with Parmesan and basil, mix well. Serve topped with chicken.

*This dish was pretty easy to make. Although, I would recommend marinating the chicken in the sun-dried tomato dressing over night or at least for a few hours so that it can really soak up the flavor. I did as directed and the chicken was alright but it could have been more flavorful had I marinated it. Next time I make this dish again I would also use sun-dried tomatoes as opposed to grape tomatoes, again for additional flavor/taste. Overall, the dish was tasty and hearty. Even someone who isn't all too familiar in the kitchen can surely make this dish :)

Creamy Tomato-Basil Pasta with Chicken

Thank you to @LoveMyPhilly for giving me the opportunity to try this recipe and also for my goodies! That was very awesome of you (and swift too!)

A cupcake entry will be following this post. I promise! Really, I do!