Summer Salads!

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I love salads but especially in the summer.  I have fond memories of my Mom and I making big salads to share for lunch while we were home in the summer months and we always ended up putting Lemon Pepper on it for seasoning! Ah, fun memories.

I pulled this pasta salad recipe out of Food Network Magazine from 2012 but finally made it recently!  (five years….yes, I know that is a long time)  But it was worth having it kick around for that long as it is a keeper in my recipe book!  I did everything the recipe called for except the toasted pine nuts/slivered almonds.  I do love toasted nuts but I didn’t want to turn on the oven and also knew that my girls wouldn’t eat them.  First you make the dressing (while your pasta is being prepared) then you put the salad together.

Garden Pasta Salad with Bocconcini

Pasta Prep:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Then add

  • 4 cups of fusilli or campanelle pasta

Cook until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the label directs)

Drain and rinse under cool water; shake off the excess and transfer to a bowl to toss with the dressing.

Dressing:

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add to the water

  • 1 clove of garlic (make sure to take the peel off)

Boil for 2 minutes.

Remove the garlic and place in a blender (I only have a broken smootie machine…but it does the trick!)

Add to the blender:

  • 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes…mixed colors is preferable (I used red and yellow)
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil

Puree until smooth.  Then with the motor running add in a slow steady stream until blended well:

  • 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

Season with kosher salt and ground pepper.

Toss the dressing with the cooked pasta.

Salad:

Shave with a vegetable peeler or mandolin

  • 1 small zucchini

Then halve the strips crosswise and add to the pasta.

Add to the pasta:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup halved bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds toasted (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper and a bit of Kosher salt to taste.

Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 6 hours (Bring to room temperature before serving)

I served this alongside some fresh cut peaches and  chili-honey rubbed chicken Brad grilled.  It was a winner of a meal!

 

So kick back and relax with this winner of a meal too!

One-skillet dinner!!! Spanish Chicken and Rice

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Recently I made this dish and my handsome fella declared that it was “the best chicken dish” he has had in a while!  So naturally I knew I needed to share it on this blog.  I found this recipe in the USA Weekend from May 13-15, 2001.  It is from ThreeManyCooks by Pam Anderson.  I of course love that it only messes up on dish and by the time the dinner is finished on the stove, I have cleaned up the kitchen.

I found the recipe when we lived in Pennsylvania and finding chorizo was a tough task….living in Texas now I have my pick of chorizo at ANY store I walk into.  I purchased chorizo that had no casing, so rather than cut it into slices, I just crumbled it into the dish and cooked it well.  I liked this better.

Spanish Chicken & Rice

Combine together:

  • 1 T of olive oil
  • 1 tsp each of paprika, garlic powder and dried oregano
  • sprinkling of salt and pepper

Toss into the rub mixture

  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Heat a large, deep skilled over medium-high heat.

Add to the skillet the chicken and saute, turning once until it is well browned, about 6 minutes.

Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add to the skillet and cook until browned (about 3 minutes or so)

  • 1 T of olive oil
  • 1/2 pound of crumbled chorizo

Add to the browned chorizo and cook until tender (about 4 minutes)

  • 1 medium onion, cut into a medium dice
  • 1/2 red bell pepper cut into a medium dice

Stir in:

  • 1 1/2 cups of rice (I used Uncle Ben’s long grain rice)
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric

Stir everything to coat the rice and turmeric with oil

Add to the pan:

  • 2 1/2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 can of petite-diced tomatoes
  • The browned chicken

Bring everything to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to low, cover adn cook until liquid has absorbed and rice is tender (about 20-25 minutes)

Stir in:

  • 3/4 cup frozen peas

Cover, turn off heat and wait a few minutes before serving.

This picture has nothing to do with Spanish Chicken and Rice! But if you want to pin the recipe…you need an image 🙂

Lights and Dust

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This morning I was able to get up before the rest of my family for some rare time to myself.  I made coffee, I cleaned up some dishes left soaking from the night before, and I spent some time with the Lord.  Then I decided to open the blinds to let the sun shine in and sit down to quietly play some Christmas carols on the piano.

As I sat down, I noticed dust on the top of the piano.  Dust!???  I had recently dusted.  I had checked the house over before we hosted a gathering the night before and I had not seen dust.  Where had the dust come from?  The dust had been there but now  the light was shining in.

God then reminded me that He shines light in the darkness and reveals our sins and weaknesses.  Those sins and weaknesses are there, within us.  Many times we live life, day to day, without ever acknowledging them or even realizing how they are hurting us.  Then God sends the light to reveal what the darkness has hidden.

Acts 26:18

to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’
I was reminded how we have to daily open the blinds and  then dust.  I have to daily take time with the Lord to ask him to reveal what is keeping me from knowing Him better.  Then I have to ask forgiveness and change my behavior.
I am so thankful for The Light.  This time of year the entire world loves looking at lights…..Christmas lights on trees and those decorating yards.  I pray that as you take in the seasonal lights that you remember The Light that we are actually celebrating.  God sent his son, The Light, as a baby to deliver us from our darkness of sin that separates us from Him.

Isaiah 9:2

The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.
So get out the dust rag and get rid of the dust that the light reveals.
Let the light reveal the dust and then get rid of the dust!

Let the light reveal the dust and then get rid of the dust!

School-year Swing!

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School started this last Monday for us and we are in full swing at this point.  As most of you know, eating as a family is very important to me.  I like to gather my family around the dinner table and talk about our day and not think about homework, lesson plans, etc for a few minutes.  However, after re-entering the full-time work force two years ago, getting dinner made is harder than it was for many years.  Tonight I prepped this dish for my high schooler to start in the slow cooker once she gets home on Monday and I made breakfast tacos to zap in the mornings for a little sturdier breakfast for each of us.

How did I find time tonight to do all this?  Well, I cooked a roast in the slow cooker for Sunday lunch and told everyone they were on their own for dinner!  Then tonight I was able to spend about an hour in the kitchen getting these two separate things ready.  So this is my plan for the “School-year Swing”– to try to prepare ahead of time so that I can enjoy my time at home with my family more and not be standing in the kitchen too often on weeknights.

And now, I’m going to sit with my feet up for a bit before the second week of school gets underway!

Take it Easy

 

Summer Suppers! New Recipe 1…

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Summer is here and I am ready!  As a family of educators we endure the crazy schedule during school year knowing that summer is coming.  It is amazing how much one can accomplish when there are no papers to grade, concerts to plan/conduct, and of course all the parenting things that go along with having kids in school too!  I already have one of my summer projects done with all this “extra” time I have now…cleaning and reorganizing the pantry!

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I am happy to be enjoying preparing family dinner again now that I have more time.  I love sitting around the table with my family (it is one of the reasons I have this blog!) but honestly as the school year progressed, I dreaded making dinner.  I was becoming the queen of “throw down dinners”.  You know, the ones you buy in the freezer section and throw into a skillet and about 10 minutes later, dinner is served!  We actually enjoyed many of these dinners. The prep and clean-up were easy enough to where I didn’t have to spend an hour or more in the kitchen after teaching all day.

Tonight I made “Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta” and it earned four smiley faces!  It will definitely make it into our “school-schedule” friendly recipes too as it was quick and easy to put together.  I plan to have my girls make it with me the next time so they can learn to make dinner during the school year. It would be easy to double if you need more than 4 servings.  Here is how I made the recipe for my family:

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add:

  • 2 cups of penne pasta

Cook until tender and then drain the pasta.  While the pasta is cooking:

  • dice 1 small onion
  • mince 2 cloves of garlic

In a large skillet heat

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Add to the heated oil the diced onion and minced garlic and cook over medium-low heat until softened and transparent.

Add to the skillet and stir to combine:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground pepper, to taste

Now add to the skillet and stir to combine:

  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of water

Turn the heat down to low and add:

  • 2 Tablespoons of cream cheese

Blend the cream cheese into the sauce and then add

  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup of grated Parmesan

Stir until the Parmesan is melted.  Then add

  •  4-5 ounces of fresh spinach

Stir the spinach gently into the sauce until it has wilted.

Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated in the sauce.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

I served it with a fruit salad and we all loved it.

It took me about 30 minutes to make the dish and was easy to clean up after dinner.

I’m looking forward to many relaxing and enjoyable dinners this summer!

Quick Dinner: Tex-Mex Rice and Black-eyed Peas

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Since I’m back in the classroom teaching full-time for the second year now (after 14 years of doing other things), I’m all about finding quick, easy and tasty recipes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have near the time to share recipes with y’all now that I’m working full-time.  But I just had to take a few minutes tonight to share this one that I pulled out of a November 2011 Food Network Magazine.  It has the tag of “Weeknight Cooking” and “Done in 30 minutes” and this time the tags really do apply!  I made this dish tonight in no time at all.  I was worried that the girls would not like it so I switched it on our menu.  Brad was home tonight for dinner but will not be home on Wednesday.  I didn’t want to attempt it just on the girls.

But I’m happy to say that Heather deemed it a “four smiley face meal”.  So now I can add another meatless option to our meal planning!  It reminded us of something from Chipotle or Qdoba  but without all the spice.

Tex-Mex Rice and Black-eyed peas

Serves 4

Cook as label directs:

  • 1 cup white rice

Meanwhile heat in a medium saucepan (2 qt) over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes to soften:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh salsa (I used mild pico from HEB Grocery)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Add

  • 1 can of black-eyed peas undrained
  • 1 can of black-eyed peas which has been drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup water

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are creamy and tender- about 12-14 minutes.  I put the lid on the saucepan while this was happening.

Fluff the rice and divide it among bowls.

To the black-eyed pea mixture add and stir until wilted: (about 1 minute)

  • 4 cups of baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I had a wee bit more than 1/4 cup)

Spoon the black-eyed pea mixture over the rice and top each serving with:

  • Avocado slices
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour Cream- if desired.
Easy, Quick, and Healthy!

Easy, Quick, and Healthy!

 

Enjoy!

A Bit of Fall: Baked Apple Cider “Donut holes”

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One of the places we miss from Pennsylvania is Linvilla Orchards– so many good memories at this orchard that was along our daily route.  This weekend is their Apple Festival so we decided to have some fun of our own here in Texas and try a recipe that we were praying would be similar to Linvilla’s fabulous Apple Cider Donuts.

We will still have to work on the recipe to get it to be as good as Linvilla’s but they aren’t bad!

I think I found the recipe on pinterest, but thankfully it has the recipe on the bottom of the pirnt-out!: http://www.littlespicejar.com/baked-apple-cider-donut-holes/

Next time I will add some apple spice to the batter to give it a bit more punch of apple flavor- however, no one seems to mind too much as they aren’t lasting long around here!

Fresh from the oven! Apple goodness

Fresh from the oven! Apple goodness

A quick butter bath and some cinnamon/sugar dusting---ready to eat!

A quick butter bath and some cinnamon/sugar dusting—ready to eat!

 

Enjoy!