I went to a picnic yesterday. At first, it was begrudgingly…because I really did not want to go to this picnic. I had no reason that I didn’t want to go…except that maybe I’m getting burned out of summer weekends.
We try to pack so much into this short amount of space, don’t we?
The only ray of sunshine that I had going into this, was that my bff Cindy was going to be there.
She texted me just as I was getting ready to go. “Are you on your way?” she asked me… “Ain’t wanna” was my reply.
I’m glad I went. It was the perfect summer day. I don’t think there was an ounce of humidity in the air, the temp was in the 70’s, a perfect breeze, and a beautiful view of the upper Niagara River. The song “Groovin’…on a Sunday afternoon…” by The Young Rascals went through my head all day..and it is still stuck there as I’m typing.. and that’s okay, because I’m still groovin’ even though it’s Monday now.
We sat under this massive shade tree…and you know, it’s funny… because I never really looked to see what kind of tree it was. I always pay attention to the trees and flowers around me.
I think my comfort level must have been at an all-time high, because as we were sitting there… little baby spiders and ants would fall out of the tree, and land around us, and on us.
Yes. You read it right. Little baby spiders and ants were falling out of the tree. Again.. our comfort level must have been at an all-time high, because not once did we even discuss the possibility of moving to another spot. I don’t even think it was a thought that crossed any of our minds.
Instead, as we sat there talking, I’d pick an ant out of Cindy’s hair here and there, or a baby spider off her face.
Kind of like chimpanzees.
A couple of monkeys looking for bugs.
It’s funny how comfort can keep a person calm in what could have been an otherwise freak out session with spiders. But there was none of that.
It was simply comfort…good friends…and laughter.
And I know that we tend to place more emphasis on comfort foods in the winter…but here is the perfect comfort food for summer… Cajun chicken and gnocchi with summer vegetables.
The possibilities are endless with a summer harvest, aren’t they? Don’t ever be afraid to pair different vegetables with each other, because they all hang together just like me and Cindy. They complement each other, and are just plain happy to be together.
Of course, I think it’s the little bit of cream and pepper jack cheese that bring the comfort element to it, but the corn, tomatoes, spinach, and peppers give it that fresh from the garden flavor that we yearn for all year round. Blistering the tomatoes just brings out those delightful sweet sugars that blend so well with the deep and spicy flavors of Cajun.
This is just one of those perfect “throw together” meals that you can have on the table in less than an hour! Seriously, it looks like a lot of steps, but there really isn’t much to throwing this together… And honestly? Your family will love it! Except for the fussy ones who don’t like vegetables…and to that, I say “Give them cereal, and eat their portion!”
Life is good. It’s a “Groovin’…on a Sunday afternoon… We’ll keep on spending sunny days this way…We’re gonna talk and laugh our time away…(The Young Rascals)” kind of good.
- 2 ears corn, blackened and cut off cob (see notes)
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 boneless chicken breast, cut into 1" cubes
- 3 tsp Cajun seasoning
- 4 small tomatoes on the vine
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- ½ small sweet red pepper, thinly sliced and cut into 1" pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 oz baby spinach, stems cut off
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tbsp. white pepper
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- ½ to 1 tsp salt (depending on your desired saltiness)
- 1 16 oz pkg frozen gnocchi (or your favorite prepared gnocchi)
- ½ cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
- Prepare a large pot of salted water for cooking the gnocchi. Once it comes to a boil, let simmer until ready to cook the gnocchi.
- Blacken the corn on the cob (see notes), and cut from cob. Set aside until ready to use.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken, and sprinkle with the Cajun seasoning. Sauté the chicken until it is fully cooked, and has a "blackened" color (about five minutes). Remove the chicken from the pan to a plate, and set aside until ready to add back to the skillet, reserving the butter and olive oil in the skillet.
- Add the tomatoes to that same skillet, and carefully stir so that all sides are evenly blistered and popped open, letting some of their juices blend with the butter and olive oil. Carefully remove the tomatoes from the pan and set on a plate until ready to add back to the skillet.
- Add the onion and sweet red pepper to the skillet. Sauté until browned (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and spinach, and sauté for another two minutes, or until the spinach has wilted.
- Add the heavy cream, white pepper, black pepper, and salt to the skillet of onions, peppers, spinach, and garlic. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. The cream will bubble up. Let it do that. It will become thick and creamy!
- After the cream has simmered for 10 minutes, remove from heat. Let sit for about 2 minutes.
- Add the gnocchi to the pot of boiling water. Cook according to directions on the package, which should be about three minutes, or until the gnocchi pop up to the top of the water.
- While the gnocchi are cooking, stir the pepper jack cheese into the heavy cream mixture. The reason you let the heavy cream sit for a couple of minutes off the heat, is so that the cheese doesn't turn gritty when you add it to the skillet. Instead, it will blend in nice and creamy.
- Drain the gnocchi after it has fully cooked.
- Place the skillet back on low flame, and gently fold in the chicken, corn, and gnocchi. Let simmer on low for a few minutes, until it has heated through.
- Top with blistered tomatoes.
- Serve hot...delicious with a crusty bread!