Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring Pesto Salad

I'm at it again. My love for creating salads continues, especially ones that I can pack for lunch. I get bored with my food easily and like to change things up. I'll often make a batch of my favorite salads on Sunday to take for lunch throughout the week. In addition to any leftovers we might have on hand, it's a great way for me to avoid that sandwich rut...and painless on my pocket book too!

I had some of my garlic scape pesto in the freezer that I made last summer.  It was the perfect addition to this simple pasta salad. I love how it made for a nice dressing but still so light, not heavy at all. You can certainly use your own favorite homemade pesto or any store bought version. Farmers markets are opening up really soon, you should easily be able to spot garlic scapes there. Try making a batch of this flavorful pesto.

As far as the salad itself goes, feel free to use any of your favorite veggies. I stuck with a simple spinach, tomato and pepper mixture. Whatever you chose, it's bound to be good.

Spring Pesto Salad

8 oz. tri-color pasta
1/4 cup garlic scape pesto (or any pesto)
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh spinach
1/4 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes

In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse in cold water when done and dump into a medium bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and toss together until salad is well coated in pesto. Cover and store in fridge until ready to serve. Makes enough for 4-6 servings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Pudding

Do your kiddos love chocolate pudding? How about yourself? Well, I've got a treat for you today. A healthy one too!

I was feeling a little sneaky when I made this. You see, I had two overripe avocados on my counter, just waiting to be used up. I actually had been meaning to use them in this pudding but time got away and by Sunday evening, it just had to be done. While supper was cooking, I quickly threw this all together. That way I could surprise the girls after dinner.

I let them think they were getting a rich, decadent dessert. But really, it was a healthy, good for you treat. Of course, I told them afterwards. They were shocked, because you really cannot taste the avocado and believe me, we're still working on liking them with the little ones.

I can feel good about them enjoying this pudding and it's so simple to make, next time I'll put them in charge. You can certainly try experimenting with natural sugars like honey or maple syrup, but really I think the brown sugar works best. It's such a small amount too, I don't think it will hurt. Oh and serve with fresh whipped cream, you won't regret it.

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Pudding

2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar

Halve avocados and remove the pits. Using a spoon, scoop the fruit out. Place into a food processor or blender and puree.

Add in remaining ingredients and process for about two minutes, until smooth and creamy.

Scoop into a bowl, cover and chill in fridge for at least 15-20 minutes. Serve with whipped cream and fresh fruit, if desired. Makes enough for 4 small servings.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Parmesan-Ranch Munchie Mix

I made this easy snack mix last week for an evening class I'm currently taking for work. We've been working on some nutrition and meal plans and were to bring in a snack to share with our class. I quickly put this together, just to be informed the campus was without power and class was cancelled.

Of course I was a little disappointed, it's not every night we get to have a mini potluck! But I did surprise a couple co-workers with their own bag the next morning. It sure didn't last long in my house either.

Over the years I've made several varieties of mixes like this one, some with different seasonings or ingredients.  That's what is so fun about snacks mixes, you can always change it up.

In fact, I like it so much I think I'll be making another batch tomorrow for class again. Let's hope nothing gets cancelled this time,  I don't want to have to eat it all myself!

Parmesan-Ranch Munchie Mix

4 cups air-popped popcorn
3 cups mini pretzels
1 cup fish-shaped cheese crackers
1 cup lightly salted peanuts
1 oz. pkg ranch dressing mix
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup canola oil

In a large bowl, combine popcorn,  pretzels,  crackers and peanuts.  In another small bowl, whisk together ranch seasoning, Parmesan cheese and oil.

Add oil mixture to the mix and toss all together. Microwave for two minutes, stirring halfway. Spread mixture out onto parchment paper to let set.

You may serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container. Will keep for a few days.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cheesy Rotini Skillet

First off, thank you so much for the thoughts and kind words. I am feeling pretty good this week so hopefully the worst is over and I won't ever have to deal with kidney stones again.

During those couple weeks I obviously didn't feel like doing much, let alone cook for my family. Our meals were very simple and probably even a little pitiful at times. It made me wish my freezer would have been better stocked.

At the end of last week though I was feeling good and ready to get back in the kitchen. This was our first meal, something pretty easy and comforting. Pasta is always a nice go-to meal and this certainly did not disappoint!

Not only was this dish delicious but it made for some pretty good leftovers. My lunches mainly consist of those so I always appreciate when a meal reheats nicely.  Add this one to your menu for a speedy weeknight meal!

Cheesy Rotini Skillet

8 oz. rotini pasta
3/4 lb. ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions, cooked al dente.

Meanwhile,  brown ground beef in a large skillet with garlic until meat is no longer pink. Drain grease and return meat back to skillet.  Add in tomatoes, water and seasonings. Mix well to combine.

Once pasta is done, drain and add to the skillet.  Let cook on low for about 10 minutes, just to heat through. Remove from heat and stir in mozzarella cheese. Let dish set for a few minutes and then serve. Serve with salad and a good piece of crusty bread.

* Note: Since the majority of our ground beef comes in 1.5 pound packages, I typically divide them in two for recipes like this. You can certainly use 1 lb. of meat in this dish and maybe increase the amount of pasta and water as well.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Life Lately

Ever have those weeks where everything seems to be working against you? That's how life in general has felt these past few weeks. Nothing too terrible,  just minor annoyances.

It started with a virus being passed around the family after spring break. Mainly fevers in the kids so nothing too severe. Then I was so lucky (insert sarcasm) to have gotten kidney stones. I've been dealing with these for the past two weeks. Something I hope to never experience again for sure!

I spent most of my day on Monday between appointments and prepping for surgery. After waiting four hours in the hospital to be taken back for the operation, they decided to do another CT scan. It was determined the stone had dropped and likely could pass on its own but another bigger stone is on the right side. Doctor thought it might be dangerous to operate and I gladly opted to just go home at that point, simply because the pain had really eased up.

So here we are, still waiting for those darn stones to pass but thankfully not in much pain. I've spent much of my time outside of work resting as much as possible and therefore, not in the kitchen. I hope to get a couple new posts out to you next week, so I thank you for your patience. I enjoy writing just as much as I hope you enjoy reading them!

But we certainly have had a few happy moments, Easter was definitely a nice day. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed the day surrounded by loved ones.

I also received a new cookbook just in time for Easter. These always put me in a better mood ha! I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet, but hopefully this weekend.

Last, but not least. Before my appointments on Monday, I was feeling pretty good so I drove to pick up our yearly purchase of pork. We have half of a steer coming shortly and then our freezer will be well stocked again. I have a post in the works on the benefits of purchasing meat in bulk like this. I hope it's one you'll enjoy.

For now I am going to be taking it easy but I plan to be back to regular posting next week. Enjoy the rest of your week friends!

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