Pasta Salad Goes Bowl-Less

Pasta salad is just an easy, versatile and well-liked food. Personally, I like the oil based pasta salads over those that are based in mayonnaise. Pasta salad would be such a fun thing to make for party, but the delivery of it is such a hassle. You either need a bowl or a plate and a fork. You basically have to be sitting at a table or the pressure of the fork on the plate while its being supported by only one had can end up in a disaster on the entertainer’s floor.

As I was shopping at Costco, I found another “must share” deal: Three pounds of dry cheese tortellini for $5.99!!!

What a steal!

I knew I had to have it. Lottie eats it for dinner with butter and parmesan, and I love it in a salad. After buying this great deal, I was determined to find a way to make tortellini pasta salad easy and accessible for a party or a tennis match.

I decided to go with Antipasto Salad Kebabs; easy to eat, simple to prepare, inexpensive to make and taste wonderful! Happy Eating!

Antipasto Salad Kebabs

Makes: 30 kebabs

Antipasto Salad Kebabs

Ingredients

-½ lb uncooked cheese tortellini

– 30 large green and/or black olives

– 1 block of your choice of cheese, cubed

– 1 cup of your favorite Italian salad dressing

– 1 package of hard salami cut into fourths and folded in half

Directions

  1. Cook pasta as recommended on package.
  2. Add ingredient in any order to the bamboo skewer
  3. Coat in Italian dressing for 30 minutes
  4. Chill in refrigerator and serve

If You Roll It, They Will Eat

Lottie ate anything I put in front of her until the day she turned two. I think a lot of it is her developing the cognitive skills she needs to make a decision based on taste. She will still eat some broccoli and she is ok with beans, but that is about it as far as healthy goes. We do make her mac ‘n cheese home-made with wheat pasta and parmesan, but I am still not putting that in the healthy category.

My best friend’s nieces are the cutest things in the world. Their mama, Janice Hudgins, is always making them these wholesome, food pyramid meals that they actually eat. Every time Lottie plays with them, she scores one of these meals, and she does eat them.  The one component of the meal that I loved was Janice’s rice balls.

Rice is a healthy grain, and Lottie really likes it. Here is the problem: My OCD and rice don’t mix. It sticks to everything and when Lottie ate it, she was covered head to toe in it. Then I discovered…the rice ball. Now I like to add a few fun and healthy surprises in her rice balls, and we are good to go. Making them into small balls makes them fun to eat and mess free!

Rice Balls

Serves one toddler for 5 meals

Rice that Kids Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

–          1 cup of rice

–          1 cup of water

–          1 tsp salt

–          1 tsp soy sauce (optional)

–          Anything you want to add to the balls

Directions

  1. Cook rice in rice cooker as directed (sushi rice works best)
  2. Make a bowl of warm salt water.
  3. Dip hands in warm salt water.
  4. Grab a little rice, roll it into a ball.
  5. Put on plate and top with soy sauce and anything else you want to try.

 

Money Saving Tip: Buy rice in bulk. It lasts forever. Go to an Asian market and get a big bag so you always have it!

 

Once Upon a Time in Mexico…

Going to a Mexican restaurant is always something I have done for Blake. I don’t like the smell of the frying tortilla chips, margaritas or the taste of melted cheese. I don’t mind cheese slices or cheese platters, I just don’t like it melted. The hard part is I love Mexican ingredients, tomatoes, beans, cilantro, cumin, corn, etc.; I just don’t like the saucy and cheesy execution.

The last time I was “taking one for the team” at a Mexican restaurant, Blake and I were waiting at the bar for our table. In this particular restaurant, the kitchen door was right next to the bar. Blake and I were engaged in a conversation when something caught my eye. I noticed one of the employees carrying a 5 gallon paint bucket. As he walked behind the bar to grab a dish cloth, he set down the bucket. Guess what was in the bucket? LARD, 5 gallons of it. Needless to say, we didn’t wait for our table, and we left determined to use the amazing ingredients that Mexican food offers in a lardless way.

The cool thing about this dish is it’s versatility. You can top it with avocado

Disclaimer: I do love seeing all of the new trendy, fresh Mexican restaurants popping up all over the place. They are a whole different ball game.

Black Bean and Chicken Casserole

Serves 6

Black Bean Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced (more if you are an onion fan)
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1-1/2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1-1/2 cans black bean, drained
  • 3 ounces green chile peppers, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or 1 tbsp dried cilantro
  • 1 ½ tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 cup uncooked instant rice
  • ¾ cup frozen corn (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Stir in onions, and cook until soft and translucent.
  4. Stir in chicken; cook until golden on all sides. (this may take two rounds in the pan)
  5. Pour onions and chicken into a casserole dish.
  6. Stir in tomatoes, black beans, corn, chile peppers, cilantro, cumin, and rice.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.
  8. Allow 10 minutes to cool and enjoy
  9. Serve with sour cream.

Sales used in this recipe: Black beans- buy one get one free- Kroger, cilantro free from the garden, chicken from Costco.

Dress Me Up and Take Me Out

Anyone else in the grilled meat, fresh vegetable, no creativity, summer cooking slump? I absolutely love summer food, but the meat choices are becoming boring to me. I was looking for a way to dress up my steak, without losing it’s flavor.

Until recently, I have been a salad-dressing -mariander. The idea of making my own marinade had never crossed my mind. Blake headed out to work the other day and took some filets out of the freezer. As he was walking out the door he said, “steaks on the grill OK, babe?” “Sure” I replied dropping my shoulders and thinking about the monotony of another grilled steak dinner.

Right then, I knew it was time to give my steak a boost, and I got to work.  I have always liked the flavors in a Chimichurri Marinade, but I never knew how easy it could be. I got the meat marinating, threw a little cilantro spin on our potatoes and took the corn off the cob and added black beans. Soon, we had a transformed dinner packed with flavor and ready to hit the grill.

Chimichurri Marinade

(We used on Filet Mignon, but would also be delicious and tenderizing on skirt steak, flank steak, hangar steak, London broil, lamb blade or lamb chop)

Makes 2 cups- MUST use fresh herbs, not dried!

Chimichurri Marinated Steak

Ingredients

– ½ cup red wine vinegar

– 1 tsp coarse sea salt

– 4 cloves of garlic sliced thin (if you don’t have a mandolin, try using the long side of a cheese grater)

– 1 shallot chopped finely

– 1 red jalapeno, finely chopped

– 2 cups of minced fresh cilantro (use a food processor if you have one)

– 1 cup of minced flat leaf parsley

– 1/3 cup chopped oregano

– ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Combine vinegar, shallots, garlic and jalapeno in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in FRESH herbs.
  4. Whisk in olive oil using a fork.
  5. Remove ½ cup of marinade and put aside as a sauce.
  6. Put meat in a glass dish and cover with remaining marinade.
  7. Allow to sit in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight for more tenderness.
  8. Remove meat, pat dry and grill as usual.
  9. Top meat with reserved sauce.

Curry in a Hurry

I rarely cook. Typically, I buy the groceries and bring them home for Blake to use. He is just a million times better than me at cooking. He is the “a little of this a little of that” type of chef. I am the OCD type that reads the entire recipe, measures everything out and puts in into little bowls, prechops everything and THEN I start cooking. It’s definitely an ordeal.

The other night I was flipping through Cooking Light when I found a healthy and fast Indian Curry dish. It said 20 minutes. I begged to differ knowing my cooking style. I made a few changes to suit our tastes, and believe it or not, had it done in 27 minutes flat!

Be warned, it is pretty spicy, but you can alter the amount of crushed red pepper that you choose to add. Blake loves it miserable-hot, so I took one for the team. Happy Eating!

Bombay Indian Curry with Shrimp and Filet Mignon

Serves 4
Total Cost- $8.80
Total Cost per person- $2.20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales used in this recipe-

Spices from Big Lots, Filet at Costco, frozen shrimp from Costco, Frozen veggies $0.50 off

Ingredients

–  1/4 cup Canola oil

–  1/2 lb peeled a deveined shrimp

–  1/2 lb steak- cubed

–  3/4 tsp salt

–  1/4 tsp black pepper

–  1 1/2 small onion chopped (buy prechopped to save time)

–  1 1/2 tbsp curry powder

–  1 tbsp mustard seed

– 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (don’t overdo this)

– 1/8 tsp ground red pepper (more or less to heat liking)

– 1 1/3 cup hot water

– 1 cup frozen mixed veggies

Directions:

1. Heat 2 tsp canola oil in Dutch at medium high heat.

2. Salt and pepper shrimp and cook on both sides until just underdone.

3. Remove from pan and repeat process with steak. Remove from pan.

4. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining oil.

5. Add onion and cook until translucent.

6. Add remaining salt, curry powder, cinnamon, mustard seeds and red pepper. Cook one minute. Stir constantly.

7. Add hot water and frozen veggies and bring to a boil.

8. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 4 minutes.

9. Add shrimp and steak back to pan and cook one minute.

10. Enjoy!

*** Serve with rice***

FUN TIP: When you cook your rice, replace some of the liquid with light coconut milk for a more authentic Indian flavor.

Put a Little SPICE is Your Night

I wish I liked  margaritas. I think they are so fun to make and so fun to drink. I have just never just found a liking for the flavor of the sour mix. Even when I add orange juice, it still just doesn’t do much for me. I decided that I was going to find a way to take the idea of a margarita and tweak it a bit more to my liking.

I read a magazine article about a restaurant owner in Mexico who spiced up his tequila with peppers and used other juices to make margaritas. I decided to swipe his idea. Swiper no swiping.

Be prepared: they are spicy!!! If you are not a big fan of spicy, be sure to reduce pepper steeping time or dilute tequila with more juice.

Spicy Grapefruit Margarita
Serves 8

Ingredients

– 2 cups of tequila (I buy cheap for this drink because it is diluted anyway)
-1-2 Habanero peppers, halved (the more you use, the spicier the tequila gets)
– 2 tbsp sweetened lime juice
– juice of one lime
– 5 cups grapefruit juice
– 1 cup of sour mix
– Sea salt

Directions

1.Combine tequila and Habanero peppers in a pitcher and allow to steep for 2-4 hours depending on spice desire (this can be done up to one month ahead).
2. Rub the rim of each glass with a lime to moisten it.
3. Pour sea salt onto a plate and dip rims of the glass into it to coat the rims.
4. Combine remaining ingredients and mix with tequila. Stir.
5. Serve on the rocks and have fun!

Just a little tip… Take it or leave it

I have never been a big advocate of Walmart. The one by my old house was typically filled with people with far too many children who seems to cough constantly. I know how much money I could save by going there, but not having to go there was worth the $10 extra I paid in groceries per week. There is nothing worse fighting my way through the people who think no one else exists and park their carts perpendicular in the aisle just enough that no one can move through, being coughed a gazillion times, and then seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, only to be discouraged by a 17 minute check out time with all of the same people that irritated you along the way.

I will admit now that it is not all Walmarts, just the one by my old house. Since we moved to Suwanee, I have been going to the Walmart quite frequently. In fact, I think it is going to be where I do my grocery shopping. The Kroger by me is far to hard to get out of. It requires waiting for an opening to get across three lanes to the turning lane just to be able to make a U-turn to go in the direction of my home. The Publix by me is nice, but quite a hike. I will likely go there once a week because the mail out $5 off of $30 every week. I will not pass that up, but the rest of my grocery shopping will be in Walmart.

Anyway, I promised a tip, and here is it: WALMART MATCH ANY COUPON OR ADVERTISED PRICE. I thought I would see if they would match my Super H coupon book prices on the produce which is incredibly cheap. They did!!! I got cucumbers for $0.29/lb, Horizon Organic whole milk for $2.99, broccoli for $0.39/lb, Sriracha for $1.79 for the big bottle, and Morton salt three for $0.99. They had no problem matching the prices. So grab a Super H coupon book or just the flier from the paper and shop away!

Great Prices!

Sincerely,

New Walmart Shopper

Showing Off

Well, I did it again. I decided I was going to cook for the family. I guess the summer thing is leaving with me too much time on my hands and too many food magazines for inspiration. I am initially inspired by home grown produce in the summer, then by magazine recipes. I absolutely love the concept of fruit and fish.

When my father in law visits, he typically brings us something fresh from a road side stand from his drive down. The last visit came with peaches. I could smell a ripe peach for hours. It is definitely on my top 10 list of favorite smells, toward the bottom, but still on it.

I knew I wanted salmon, and I knew I wanted peaches, but I had to figure out how to combine them. I went with salmon with a peach salsa. We had two home grown tomatoes, some fresh basil, a perfectly ripe avocado and red sea salt I picked up on sale the other day. In about 25 minutes, I had dish that was gorgeous. I will admit, I was showing off a bit with this one.

Salmon with Peach Salsa

Serves 4
Total Cost- $19.90
Total per person- $4.98

Salmon with Peach Salsa

Sales used in this recipe- Free peaches, free tomatoes, free basil, red sea salt on clearance at William Sonoma, salmon from Costco, buy one get one free olive oil at Publix

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients-

– 4 filets of salmon
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 ripe avocado, cubed
– one tomato, seeded and cubed
– one ripe peach, peeled and cubed
– 3 tbsp chopped basil
– 1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeded (if desired)
– 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
– 1 tsp lemon juice
– 1 tsp coarse sea salt
– 1 tsp cracked pepper

Directions-

Peach Salsa
1. Combine avacado, tomato, peach, basil, lime and lemon juice, jalapeno, salt and pepper and a tbsp of olive oil in a bowl.
2. Put int he refrigerator for. 10 minutes at least

Salmon
1. Pat the salmon filets dry and allow them to reach room temperature.
2. Rub them on both sides with olive oil.
3. Sprinkle with a good sea salt and cracked pepper.
4. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice.
5. Turn grill to medium high heat and spray grill grids generously with butter spray.
6. Cook salmon for 5 minutes on each side or to your liking.
7. Top with peach salsa and enjoy.

***We ran out of propane, so we broiled the salmon for 7 minutes on each side, and it was good this way as well. I just like to grill in the summer, so that was my first choice in preparation.

Grill Envy

Jones Bridge pool is one of my favorite places within the Georgia state lines.  I became a member when I was a baby, and spent approximately 50 hours there a week until I was 16. Last year, Blake and I were looking for a community pool to join so that we could establish some new friends with kids for Lottie as she was getting a little bored of watching Blake play video games and grocery shopping with me. I knew that Jones Bridge was going to be place we were going to join. From the second I made the decision, it was as if my Barracuda fins instantly grew back in.

The coolest thing about this pool is that you don’t know a stranger there. Everyone talks to everyone whether they have been introduced or not. In fact, I have met several friends there that I was never introduced to…we just started talking. It just feels like home when I walk into the gate.

This summer Blake and I have been grilling out a lot. The other night we decided to grill at the pool. We ran through our options…steak, chicken, fish, veggies…. I was simply bored with the choices. Blake decided that pizzas would be fun. Instantly, I thought pizza stone, rolling dough, expensive, hassle….

Blake proved me wrong. He headed out to Ingles where he found Naan, an Indian flat bread, on sale for about a dollar each. He picked up six of them and we were ready to go. We pulled out all of the cheeses and toppings we could find in the fridge, and created an awesome meal that was quite impressive. Of course, we made enough to share with our friends at the pool and a little more for those we hadn’t yet met.

Grilled Pizzas

-Naan, Indian bread

-Olive oil

-Pizza sauce

-Cheese (be creative)

– Toppings (be creative)

Directions

1. Brush a bit of olive oil on the Naan bread.

2. Top with pizza sauce of choice, olive oil, pesto, or whatever sounds good.

3. Apply toppings and cheese of choice.  These can be made ahead of time and wrapped in aluminum foil to make at a later time or assembled right at the grill.

4. Preheat grill to medium-low heat

5. Place pizzas on grill and leave on until crust is at desired crispness and the  cheese is melted/browned. (about 8-12 minutes)

6. Leave lid down as much as possible.

Pizza Ideas

-Bacon, ham, jalapeno, pineapple, mozzerella cheese and pizza sauce

-Caramelized onion, goat cheese and Gruyere, arugula, and olive oil (Thanks Jenny!)

-Buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, tomatoes with olive oil

-Grilled onion, mushroom, red and green pepper (slice them up really small) and Gruyere or mozzarella

-Traditional sausage and pepperoni

– Pulled pork, cole slaw, BBQ sauce

– Hot sausage, Granny Smith apples, reduced Balsamic vinegar, blue cheese, mozzarella and olive oil

– Shrimp with buffalo sauce, diced celery, blue cheese, mozzarella cheese

– The list keeps going on and on….. this is an amazing meal to get rid of leftovers or have fun with whatever is in the fridge.

The Not So Ordinary Chicken Sandwich

There are few things worse than really craving a Chick-fil-A sandwich on Sunday afternoon. Sure, other restaurants have fried chicken sandwiches, and you could always add a dill pickle, but everyone who has ever had a Chick-fil-A sandwich knows that other chicken sandwiches don’t pale in comparison.

Blake saw an article once on trying to replicate this extraordinary edible masterpiece.  We tried it by the recipe one time, and neither of us could talk because the salt content had truly absorbed every ounce of saliva we had. Blake tried another route for a second time. They were perfect, and I truly think with the exception of the perfect pickle duplicate (we are still trying to find this), one would not be able to differentiate between Blake-fil-A’s Not So Original chicken sandwich and Chick-fil-A’s Original Chicken Sandwich.

Go ahead…try for yourself!

Blake-fil-A’s Not So Original Chicken Sandwich

Serves 4-6

Total Price- $6.50

Price per Person- $1.08

Average Retail Price- $20.94

Total Savings-$14.44

 

Ingredients

-4 Chicken Breasts cut into “chick fil a-sized” cutlets

– 2 Cups Milk

– 2 Eggs

– 2 tsp Sugar

– Pinch of Pepper

– Pinch of Salt

– 1 1/2 Cup Flour

– 4 1/2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar

– 1 1/2 Tbsp salt

– 1 tsp paprika

– 1 tsp garlic salt

– 3 1/2 cups Peanut oil (Canola or Vegetable are ok)

– 8 Plain, Cheap Hamburger Buns

– 1 tbsp butter

Directions

1. Mix milk, eggs, 2 tsp sugar, pinch of pepper, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl

2. Soak Chicken Breast cutlets in milk mixture

3. Mix flour, powdered sugar, salt, paprika, garlic salt in a large bowl

4. Heat Oil over high heat in a pressure cooker with the lid off

5. Dip the chicken cutlets in the flour mixture, coating thoroughly, and setting aside one at a time.  Let the milk mixture drip off before dipping.

6. Dip the floured cutlets back into the milk mixture, and then re-dip the cutlets into the flour and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

7. Once oil is heated to 350-375 degrees (it should fry vigorously if a tip of a cutlet is dipped in), place the chicken cutlets into the oil quickly and close the lid of the pressure cooker.

8. Cook for 3 minutes once it starts to steam steadily.

9. Quickly cool and relieve the pressure in the cooker (cold water in the sink cools it fast if dipped, and cool water ran over the lid)

10. Remove the chicken and set aside

11. Serve with lightly butter toasted hamburger buns and 2-3 pickle slices

12. Smash bun down with your hand to make it more Chick-fil-Aish