Easy Appetizers

Sometimes dinner is not an issue, especially when you’re heading over to someone else’s house for a meal.  We regularly have Family Dinner at my Dad’s to celebrate that month’s birthdays and holidays.  Yesterday, we celebrated my niece’s sixth birthday.  It’s nice that I get a night off from cooking dinner, but I can’t show up empty-handed!  In my opinion, there’s nothing better than a yummy appetizer that’s easy to make. 
Two weeks ago, I alluded to a favorite appetizer recipe of mine that’s made on the grill, called Warm Italiano Spread.  Since several of you asked for that recipe, I’ll gladly share it here today.  I love making this in the summer with my husband’s home grown tomatoes, which are amazing!  The nice thing is that there are only five ingredients.  And there’s usually enough pesto left over to make my favorite Pesto Chicken with Pasta the following day.  (Lucky you – two recipes for the price of one this week!)  You may want to get two bricks of cream cheese… I usually make two batches of this for my family gatherings.  It disappears fast!
So, what is on the Meal Plan for the Luken family this week?
Monday ~ Pesto Chicken with Pasta & Salad (using leftover pesto from the Warm Italiano Spread)
Tuesday ~ Marinated Turkey Breasts, Au Gratin Potatoes, & Mixed Veggies
Wednesday ~ FFY (Fend For Yourself) Night
Thursday ~ Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese
Friday ~ Chicken Bruschetta on the Grill
Saturday ~ Dinner Out
Sunday ~ Homemade Chicken Soup
Warm Italiano Spread (From Kraft.com)
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese
1/4 cup pesto
1 plum tomato, chopped
1/4 cup KRAFT Finely Shredded Italian Five Cheese Blend
TRISCUIT Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Crackers
Heat grill to medium heat.
Unwrap the cream cheese (but leave it sitting on its foil wrapper) and place on an 8-inch square sheet of heavy-duty foil; top with pesto, tomatoes and shredded cheese.
Place foil on grill; cover with lid. Grill 8 to 10 min. or until shredded cheese is melted and Neufchatel is softened, but still holding its shape.
Transfer foil to platter. Serve spread with crackers.
(How to Prepare in Your Oven–I have even used my toaster oven!  Prepare this recipe year-round, by baking in a 375ºF oven 12 to 14 min. or until shredded cheese is melted and Neufchatel is softened, but still holding its shape.)
Pesto Chicken with Pasta
1 large boneless chicken breast
2 tablespoons of pesto
3 ounces dry whole wheat thin spaghetti
1 – 2 teaspoons of olive oil
Shredded parmesan cheese
Cook spaghetti according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Brown the chicken on both sides, ensuring there’s no pink in the middle.  Remove the chicken from the pan and slice crosswise into bite-sized pieces.  Drain the spaghetti and reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water.  Return the chicken to the skillet with the pesto, drained spaghetti, adding enough of the cooking water to allow the pesto to spread evenly.  Top with parmesan cheese.  (This recipe is for two people, and easily doubles or triples to feed four or six.)  I typically serve this with a green salad and nice glass of wine.  Enjoy!