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Weekday dinner inspirations: Chicken Penne With Artichokes, Tomatoes and Pesto Cream, and more

Mon | Shiny new penne

Chicken Penne With Artichokes, Tomatoes and Pesto Cream (recipe below) melds convenience products into a dinner that eats like a weekend splurge. Canned artichokes and tomatoes plus prepared pesto give you a head start. Serve a green salad on the side.

Tues | Bean me up

A big bowl of black bean soup is our meatless meal this week. Get takeout from a favorite Cuban restaurant or open a few cans, unless of course you've got the time to dig out a favorite recipe. Serve it over a scoop of rice (make enough so you have leftovers for Wednesday's meal) and garnish with chopped green onions and sour cream. Accompany the soup with buttery, toasted Cuban bread for dipping and a refreshing salad of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions with an herby vinaigrette.

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

A skillet — or wok if you've got one — is the place to start your BBQ Chicken Stir-Fry. Shred the cooked chicken and set aside. Put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in the hot pan and add 2 cups of chopped frozen veggies. We like a blend that has corn and green beans in it. Heat through, then add the chicken and a few tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce. Serve over rice.

Thurs | For dipping

Make Seafood Taquitos the centerpiece of a finger food meal. In a bowl, combine canned shrimp or crab with sour cream, shredded cheese and a bit of chili powder and ground cumin. Roll the mixture into corn tortillas, secure with a toothpick, and fry in vegetable oil until golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve salsa and guacamole for dunking. Alongside: jicama, melon and watermelon slices.

Fri | Not-so-suffering succotash

Dress up frozen succotash for a comforting Ham and Veggie Bowl. In a large skillet, saute diced onion in vegetable oil. Add a half pound of cubed ham and heat through, then dump in a bag of frozen lima beans and corn and 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh). Season with pepper (it probably doesn't need salt because of the ham) and a splash of wine vinegar. Pile it in a big bowl and kiss the workweek goodbye. Corn muffins on the side.

Read Stir Crazy online at www.blogs.tampabay.com/food. Submit your ideas for quick weeknight meals to jkeeler@sptimes.com.

>>easy

Chicken Penne With Artichokes, Tomatoes and Pesto Cream

12 ounces penne pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cubed

1 (14-ounce) can artichokes hearts, drained and halved

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 cup heavy cream, or more as necessary

1/2 cup prepared basil pesto

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Add the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cream and pesto and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink on the inside.

Fold in the cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese and cook for 1 minute to heat through, adding more cream or a little water if necessary to create a thinner sauce. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Source: Robin Rescues Dinner by Robin Miller (Clarkson Potter, 2009)

Weekday dinner inspirations: Chicken Penne With Artichokes, Tomatoes and Pesto Cream, and more 07/07/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 5:30am]

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