Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fiesta Pasta Salad

I've made about every version of pasta salad out there, but this southwestern version includes one of my favorite ingredients - avocados!  It was yummy, but has to be eaten the same day, otherwise the avocados turn brown.  Darn those (yummy, delicious) avocados!  Add them very last before serving.  

1 pkg. pasta (use your favorite type/shape)
1 can olives, sliced
1-2 small Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 can black beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can sweet corn, drained
1 ripe avocado
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup salsa, drain off extra juice
1 pkg. taco seasoning (won't use the whole thing)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Boil pasta in salted water according to pkg. directions.  Drain and cool.  Add olives, tomatoes, beans, corn, green onions and mix well.  Mix the ranch dressing, mayo and salsa.  Sprinkle in some taco seasoning (according to taste) and mix again.  Toss the dressing mix in with the salad ingredients. Stir in the shredded cheese, but save a little to garnish on top.  Finally, cut the avocado in half.  Cut one half in chunks, add to the salad and gently stir in so it doesn't get "mushed".  Cut the other half in slices and use to garnish the top of the salad.  If the salad seems like it needs more dressing, I usually just stir in more ranch dressing or mayo and sprinkle in a bit more taco seasoning.

Chocolate Oreo Mousse Cake

I am going to confess up front....this is a box mix recipe.  But I always like to post things on my blog that are yummy and worth making.  This definitely makes the cut.  
I use to buy these mixes when Korry and I were first married, but over the years I've gotten a little "snobby" and quit buying them.  
At the grocery store last week, Korry found them in the jello isle and announced he wanted me to make it for Sunday dinner...for old times sake.  He also wanted "Shake and Bake" chicken. 
When "Mr. Picky" asks for something, I don't argue.  
My kids LOVED it and I made my food-snobby-self feel better by adding whipped cream and a raspberry.  I'm going to stock up on these mixes for my food storage!  The cheesecake mixes are just as good and they cost about the same (or less) than a package of Oreos.  

2 boxes Jello brand No Bake Double Chocolate Dessert Mix
4 T. sugar
1 stick butter, melted
3 1/2 cups milk
sweetened whipped cream
fresh raspberries

Open boxed mixes.  Pour both crust mixes in a bowl.  Stir in sugar and then melted butter.  Press crust mixture in bottom of 13x9 pan.  Pour filling mixes in to a separate bowl.  Add milk and beat for 2-3 minutes until creamy and thickened.  Pour filling over crust and spread to smooth.  Refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours or longer.  Cut in squares.  To serve, dollop with whipped cream and garnish with raspberry.  

 These Jello mixes are ALL really good and are so inexpensive compared to buying all the ingredients and making something similar from scratch. There are tons of online ideas using these mixes as a base for other desserts. You find them on the top shelves in the Jello isle.

Veggie Pasta Alfredo

A couple of years ago, my boss (dear friend), Sara, and I began "sharing lunches".  We were both in the bad habit of letting busy mornings get the best of us and showing up without a lunch. This meant many "junk food" lunches or trips out for fast food.  We decided that whenever we had leftovers, we would bring what we had and share with each other. 

On days she forgets, I remember and when I forget, she remembers. Some days we both show up with something.  Her food always looks better to me and mine to her, so we swap and eat each others food.  Some days we both show up empty handed, so the occasional trip out to Wendy's remains part of the equation, but we are MUCH better than we use to be.  Which leads me to this recipe:

It's not common for me to make a main dish that doesn't include some type of meat, but this pasta is hearty enough to stand on it's own with just veggies.  It is so delicious! My kids request it at least once a month and it's one of mine and Sara's favorite leftover lunches.  

1 pkg. linguine noodles
1 head fresh broccoli, washed and cut in florets
2 medium size carrots, peeled and cut in slices
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 container button mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 small zucchini, cut in small slices
1 small yellow squash, cut in small slices
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese *high quality Parmesan will turn out better
4 T. butter & olive oil (for sauteing the veggies)

Prepare and chop all the veggies.  Try to keep things uniform in size so everything cooks evenly.  Boil a big pot of water, add a handful of salt, and cook the linguine according to pkg. directions until it is al dente.  Drain and set aside.
In a large frying pan, place 1-2 T. butter and a bit of olive oil and saute the harder veggies - carrots, broccoli, red pepper, and onion.  Saute for 5-6 minutes, then pour on to a plate to rest.  Add another 2 T. butter to the pan, drizzle in a little more olive oil and saute the softer veggies - zucchini, squash, mushrooms - until they are lightly browned and tender. Pour them out on to the plate with the other veggies to rest.  
The bottom of the pan will be a little browned but that is GOOD!
Add some more butter/olive oil to the pan and saute the onion and garlic until softened.  Pour in the chicken broth and simmer and stir until the broth reduces by about half and the browned bits from the pan are incorporated in the sauce. After broth reduces and thickens, add in the half & half and continue cooking until it thickens a bit. Add the grated Parmesan and stir until bubbly. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour all veggies and the pasta in to the pot and stir until everything is coated.  Remove from heat.  Sprinkle more Parmesan on top to serve.

Cinnamon Toast Grilled "Cream" Cheese Sandwiches.

Stop me now!  I don't know what I was thinking.  I am supposed to be eating healthy!  You see, I just got an idea.... that went something like, "instead of making grilled cheese sandwiches, I should make grilled "cream" cheese sandwiches".  My next thought was "on cinnamon toast....wouldn't that be good!"  So here it is: Cinnamon Toast Grilled "Cream" Cheese Sandwiches.  My young women loved them!

10 slices bread
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3 T. powdered sugar
*butter, cinnamon, sugar

Mix cream cheese and powered sugar. Make sandwiches by spreading cream cheese between two slices of bread and then lightly butter the top and bottom.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on each side as well.  Grill on both sides until gold brown.  Cut in triangles to serve.

Snickerdoodle Fruit Dessert

A couple of years ago I was invited to join a bunco group that had been put together by a few of the PTA moms at Westside.  This has led me to happy associations and friendships with many of the parents of the students at my school. I have come home with fun prizes, (we all win something every month) but even better are the recipes I've gathered including this dessert served by my friend Heather at a fun bunco night last spring.

  • Make your favorite snickerdoodle recipe ***see mine below***
  • Slice some strawberries and add fresh blueberries (could also add fresh raspberries)
  • Slice a lemon and squeeze fresh juice over the top of the fruit, sprinkle with a little sugar, toss
  • Whip some cream and sweeten with powdered sugar

To assemble:  Place snickerdoodle on plate, top with fresh fruit, add a dollop of whipped cream

1 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
* In a small bowl, mix 3 T. sugar with 1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs and mix well.  Combine flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt.  Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Roll dough in 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Jaxie's Dip

A restaurant opened in Spanish Fork a few years ago called Jaxie's.  They made homemade grilled panini sandwiches and healthy wraps. It was a favorite lunch spot for teachers in Nebo District and I spent many happy afternoons there reconnecting with BYU associates, family, and old friends. Each day they would serve different side dishes, but this dip with veggie chips was a hands-down favorite. We were so SAD last year when we pulled in for lunch one day and found that they had gone out of business. A friend from Spanish Fork later told me the owner had given her their dip recipe.  I was so excited!!!  I've made it MANY times since.  It tastes great with any kid of chip, cracker, or veggie, but veggie chips are THE BEST!

2 1/2 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 pkg. Knorr Vegetable Dip Mix

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Serve with veggie chips or veggie straws.  Is also good with fresh vegetables or any type of chip or cracker.  This makes a lot - can easily cut recipe in half.