Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad

It has been really hot here lately.  Like 80+ degrees and humid.  I love summer.  Love being outside in the sunshine with bare feet in the grass.  But this year the mosquitos have been so awful.  End times swarming awful.  Pretty sure it’s due to the massive flooding we had this spring.  Supposedly their life cycle is almost up, for which I am grateful.  Even though the doctor says its safe, I feel bad practically drowning my daughter in DEET!  And we just haven’t been able to enjoy the outdoors as much as we’d like to.  With that being said, we have still pretty much switched over to grilling.


It’s a summer miracle.  For this month’s meal planning, I pretty much have stuck with marinated meats for the grill and easy side dishes.  Its cheap and efficient.  And it also convinces my husband to do a lot more of the cooking!  😉  I do still spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen.  It’s not so bad though, since my company is cute.

Kitchen Helper | Jersey Up!
Mama, I found your secret stash!

I’m in love with pasta salads lately.  They’re so versatile, easy to whip up on a moment’s notice for a party or dinner off the grill, and you can sneak in a lot of veggies without too much notice.  My husband is obsessed with balsamic vinegar and so this pasta salad screamed at me off the Pinterest page.  You could easily switch up the veggies to whatever is on hand or coming up fresh from the garden.  Or change to whatever pasta is on hand.  But I love me some tortellini!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad | Jersey Up!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad
Adapted from: Newman’s Own

1 pkg frozen tortellini (or pasta of your choice)
2 handfuls fresh spinach
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 chicken breasts
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup creamy balsamic salad dressing

1. Marinate chicken breasts overnight with balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard.  You can just marinade while you thaw your chicken breasts, or have them prepped in the freezer beforehand.  Do whatever works best for you!
2. Prepare pasta according to package directions, and set aside.
3. Grill chicken breasts.  While they’re cooking, chop up your tomatoes and spinach.  Or whatever other veggies you decide to add.
4. Cut up grilled chicken and toss with pasta, veggies and salad dressing.
5. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour and serve.

The balsamic gives the salad a really nice bite.  I personally love meals that are all-in-one.  I don’t need a side salad or a side veggie.  It’s just all in one bowl.  Less dishes!  Less mess!  Simply the best.  Leftovers are even better, too.


Sausage, Potato & Pepper Packet (Say it 10 times fast!)

So, my husband and I got into an argument yesterday.  Over meaningless things.  Which is how it always starts right?  I am, against my better judgment, going to share a snippet of our conversation.

Scene begins as my husband goes into freezer to eat delicious chocolate chip raspberry muffin for dessert.  (Side note: We have other more breakfasty and less desserty muffins in the fridge.  In my own mind, freezer stuff is for LATER.  I am also personally offended by the fact that he eats breakfast muffins for dessert.  After dinner.  When it’s dark.)

Me (apparently witchy): You are not supposed to eat those muffins yet.  Eat the ones in the fridge first.
Husband: The ones in the fridge are not desserty.  And you aren’t my mother.

Oh, no he didn’t!

I continue to rant about muffins, the freezer, salad dressing, menus, schedules, and sauteed mushrooms.  Apparently, throwing my water bottle at him escalated things.  Minor detail.  Anyway, the water bottle bounced off the couch (luckily, instead of his head) and landed in the kitchen.  I understand you probably don’t know the layout of my house, but take my word for it that it’s aerodynamically improbable.  The laughter that ensued did wonders for my overall attitude, but not so much for the victory I was planning.  People, the secret to marriage is putting your pride on the shelf.

Sausage Potato and Pepper Packets | Jersey Up!
I meant to take a cool photo on the grill, but flames are scary!

Now that it’s basically (though not officially) summer, we are doing a bunch of grilling this month.  I grocery shop, plan and prepare meals monthly to save our family money since we are on a single salary kinda budget.  Summer is my favorite time of year so far for the monthly meal planning.  It’s so easy!  Marinated chicken breasts, burgers and dogs, and these versatile packets.  It can be a fun tongue twister, too!

Sausage, Potato & Pepper Packet

1 lb. smoked turkey sausage
3 bell peppers (whatever colors you like)
1 onion (white or red will do just fine)
4 medium potatoes
1/2 tsp Lawrys
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to your preferred level of spiciness)
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop up sausage, veggies, and potatoes.  (Aren’t potatoes veggies?)
2. Sprinkle seasonings on top.
3. Fold up ingredients in a foil packet.
4. Place on your grill and heat for about 30 minutes.  You’ll hear everything sizzling.
Tip: Use oven mitts to transfer the tinfoil packet onto a tray or cookie sheet before serving or bringing inside.

This is perfect for camping.  You can of course vary the seasonings and veggies to whatever you like – really anything would work perfect.  You could also make several while you’re already chopping and freeze the packets to use later.  If you’re afraid of your gas grill like I am, you could also dump everything into the crockpot, or bake it in the oven.  Options are endless!


BBQ Chicken Pizza (Spring Break Edition)

BBQ Chicken Pizza | Jersey Up!
We had to make two. Don’t judge us.

My brother and his girlfriend came to visit for their spring break. Michigan is not exactly a springy destination when you want to escape the snow…ahem…but we were excited to host them nonetheless! Because it was their spring break, my husband made us do a different shot every night. Some of them were normal (ie tequila) and others were strange like mind erasers. I haven’t even HEARD the words mind eraser in probably 10 years. Maybe I shouldn’t admit I’m that uncool…

Anyway, their visit was a perfect excuse to try some new recipes. Particularly junk food/snacks. Before I give you the recipe for this pizza, I must admit to you that I’m a pizza purist. What does that mean? Plain. For you non-Jersey folks, that’s sauce and cheese and crust. The end. No crazy toppings. Ick. And pizza WITHOUT tomato sauce?! You’re kidding right? At least it has cheese.

Dare I admit that this pizza was GOOD. So good in fact we decide to make a second pizza….

BBQ Chicken Pizza
Adapted from Marshalls Abroad
Her pictures are so much better, so use those to entice you to make this recipe!

1 lb pizza dough (if you aren’t making homemade I definitely recommend frozen)
2 chicken breasts, pre-cooked and shredded or diced
1/4 red onion, diced
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (dare I say I use what’s on sale?)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Fresh cilantro for garnish
1. If you are using a pizza stone, preheat your oven or grill (don’t you grill pizza, too?) with the stone inside to 500˚.
2. Toss your chicken with BBQ sauce and set aside. (I recommend marinating it for awhile beforehand in the fridge but it’s not necessary.)
3. Roll out your dough on a well floured surface into the shape and thickness you prefer (or to what your skills allow).
4. Sprinkle some cornmeal on your heated pizza stone (good pizza secret!) and lay out your dough.
5. Drizzle dough with olive oil. Top with chicken, cheese, garlic, onions and extra BBQ sauce.
6. Bake in the oven or on your grill for 10-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
7. Wait a few minutes (if you can!) for the pizza to cool before cutting it to avoid losing all your cheese and dose up some cilantro.

If you’re doing monthly meals, you can make the chicken ahead of time and have the rest of your ingredients chopped and ready to go to thaw in the freezer. A lot of times I will cook several pounds of chicken breasts at once, shred or dice, and freeze in batches to use in other recipes. Or if I have a plan for the chicken already, I can add it to a bag of veggies and sauce, or some lunch tacos, or whatever. Chicken, as I’m sure you know, is very versatile. We use it all the time.