Fourth of July Celebrations!

Well I hope everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day. If you prepared my Sea Bass with Strawberry Orange Salsa, I’m hoping that it was a huge success and those that you prepared it for loved it.

Independence Day is just 12 days away. When my kids were younger we use to take them to the riverfront and watch the fireworks. Of course the crowds were so enormous that oftentimes we opted to stay closer to home and go to a nearby golf course that always had spectacular fireworks with quick access home to use our own potty. Much better than the Port-O-Potty that we’d have to use at the riverfront especially in the scorching heat. Yuck! My kids hated that and of course I didn’t love it either.

Hopefully this 4th of July won’t be too hot and we can all sit back, relax and enjoy the holiday with some cool summer breezes, great food, wonderful company and bright, sizzling fireworks.

Whether it’s hot or cool, I have some great recipes that I’m going to share with you in the coming days to serve for the holiday. Of course you can make them anytime of the year but they’re perfect for a BBQ or picnic gathering in your backyard.

The first recipe I’d like to share is a recipe that I put together 13 years ago and actually won a contest for. The recipe contest was to create a main dish summer salad. I entered mine which was a Smoked Chicken Pasta Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

I came up with this recipe because I was on the run so much that I found myself stopping into “Gourmet to Go” a fast food gourmet carryout almost daily and getting their grilled chicken pasta salad. Realizing how easy this would be to make I came up with my version of the recipe. Of course, with my kids only 6 and 9 years old at the time I had to make it kid friendly. The recipe below was my original recipe. Now that my kids are 19 and 22 they don’t mind if I add other ingredients. Of course you can modify it to your tastes.

This salad is perfect for a picnic, bbq, lunch, dinner or side dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Of course the salad dressing can be used on a million things.

Smoked Chicken Pasta Salad
Serves 6

1 (12-ounce) package tricolor pasta ( I like the bowtie)
1 red pepper, sliced
3 green onions, sliced (tops included)
6 smoked chicken breast halves (see note)
¾ cup frozen peas
Pepperoncini, optional
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6-8 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/8 teaspoon sweetener (artificial, sugar or honey)
1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Additional optional ingredients and whatever else you can think of:
Sundried tomatoes
Artichoke hearts

Prepare pasta according to package directions. When pasta is done, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process; drain.

In large bowl, combine pasta, red pepper and onions.

Peel skin away from the chicken. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Add chicken meat, peas and pepperoncini to bowl.

In separate bowl, whisk balsamic vinegar and oil together adding in mustard and sweetener. Pour dressing over salad; toss. Add cheese and black pepper; toss and serve.

Note: You can find packages of smoked chicken at Schnucks in the meat department or at The Smoke House in Chesterfield. Grilled chicken or other meat could be substituted.

This recipe doubles easily. If doubling use 1 red and 1 yellow pepper for color.

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