Tag Archives: meatless

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!

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!

Summer Salads- Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Lemony Dressing

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Summer…nothing better than the lazy days of summer on an educator’s schedule.  We have had a great summer of just relaxing and enjoying each other.  It has been a few years since we have been able to do that with the house on the market back in 2013 and then our move last summer from PA to TX.  Add to that a full year of working crazy long hours as teachers with our schedules being set by others and you can imagine how we have taken great pleasure in having a very loose schedule and hardly any “hours” to keep during the summer of 2015.

Summer 2015!

Summer 2015!

Summer has also allowed me to be in the kitchen again and try some new recipes.  Those that know us, know that the girls and I make frequent trips to the library in the summer.  Recently I picked up some cook books.  This recipe is from The Make-Ahead Cook.  One could prep it in advance and then store it up to 2 days…but I made it for my family to each for lunch today!

Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Lemony Dressing

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

  • Add 1 pound of thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into about 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon salt

Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes or so.  While the asparagus boils, prepare a large bowl halfway with ice and water.

Once the asparagus is crisp-tender, remove it with a slotted spoon- transferring it to the ice water and let it cool for about 2 minutes.

Remove the asparagus from the ice water and then pat it dry with paper towels.  (If making this ahead now you would put the asparagus in a storage container and cover it…but if making to eat immediately just leave it out on the counter like I did!)

Return the pot of water to boil and cook according to directions on package:

  • 12-16 ounces of dried cheese tortellini

Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water- in case you need it later.

Drain tortellini and rinse it with cold water and drain it again.  You want to leave the tortellini slightly wet.

While the tortellini cooks…

Whisk together in a large bowl

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I used lemon juice out of a bottle but you can use fresh—you will need about 2 lemons for the entire recipe)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup of yellow onion minced

While whisking the above mixture together constantly, drizzle in:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Remove 1/4 cup of the dressing to a small bowl and stir in:

  • 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

Cover the extra dressing if you are saving it for later.

Now add the tortellini to the large bowl with the dressing

Toss the dressing and tortellini to combine.  Add reserved pasta cooking water as needed to adjust consistency (I didn’t use any when I made it but I’m leaving the step in just in case!)

Cover the tortellini if you are saving it for later.

To store the salad:

Refrigerate the asparagus, tortellini mixture and dressing separately for up to 2 days.

When ready to serve it get the items out and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  You can stir in some boiling water to the tortellini to loosen it up and whisk the dressing to recombine it.

Last Steps:

Drizzle the dressing over the tortellini

Stir in the asparagus.

Add:

  • 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 -1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
  • 3/4 cup of fresh basil  (you can try mint or parsley too if you don’t have basil)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted (I threw mine in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350° for about 10 minutes)

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.  I sliced and apple and made some iced tea (sweet of course, is there any other way!)

Serves 4-6

 

Enjoy!

Ratatouille—Vegetables after the Carb Fest!

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We have had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Texas.  It was wonderful to drive to be with our Giese family.  Thanksgiving is the only time of year that the entire clan (close to 40 of us) plan to get together.  This year we were just outside of San Antonio and next year I get to host!!! (And yes, the spreadsheet is already forming in my head and I’ve determined where furniture will be placed too!)  Then on Friday we drove over to see Brad’s parents and had another wonderful feast.  Needless to say, we need some vegetables without butter and brown sugar all over them!

I just finished prepping this Ratatouille recipe that I found last winter in “Slow Cooker Revolution”.  I served our dish with some Rigatoni Pasta to help my kids be a bit more receptive to this vegetable focused meal.  It does take a bit of time to prepare (30 minutes) but then you have 4 to 6 hours to clean up the kitchen and know that later your family will have a warm, healthy meal without any butter 🙂

Ratatouille

Cut into 1-inch chunks:

  • 2 eggplants (2 pounds)
  • 3 zucchini (1 1/2 pounds)

Heat in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat:

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Brown in the heated oil for about 5-7 minutes:

  • 1/2 of the eggplant; turning it to brown on all sides.  (I pepper mine a bit)

Transfer browned eggplant to your slow cooker.

Repeat process with 1 Tablespoon more of oil and remaining eggplant.

Then, work in two batches again, to brown the zucchini (adding 1 Tablespoon of oil before each batch.)

Put the browned zucchini in the slow cooker.

Heat 2 more Tablespoons of oil in the skillet.  Add to the shimmering oil:

  • 2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme (could use 2 teaspoons of fresh if you have some)

Cook the vegetables for 8 to 10  minutes until softened and lightly browned.

While the vegetables brown, drain but reserve the drained juice

  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

Once the vegetables are browned, Stir into them and cook for 1 minute:

  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

Slowly whisk into the skillet, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out lumps:

  • the reserved tomato juice

Transfer everything to the slow cooker.

Stir  into the slow cooker:

  • The drained, diced tomatoes

Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low until the vegetables are tender.

Prepare your desired pasta just before the vegetables are finished

Stir into the vegetables:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Enjoy!

St. Patrick’s Day 2013

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Even though we have absolutely no Irish blood in our family…it is fun to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!  Today for lunch we had a green lunch.  I found a recipe on the wonderful recipe blog of “Two Peas & Their Pod” called Creamy Avocado Pasta.  It looked easy to throw together so I planned to make that once we got home from church.  It was good but a tad dry, so when I make it again I will add some olive oil to the avocado sauce prior to mixing it with the spaghetti.

Then we had kiwis, green grapes, broccoli and a green salad.  I wanted to make some green kool-aid but there were some problems: no green kool-aid in the house and no more than 2 Tablespoons of sugar left in the sugar canister.  So we opted for green milk—-yellow and blue makes green!

St. Patrick's Day Lunch_beckinpa.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch I made a creamy avocado dip that we are enjoying this afternoon.  But I can’t wait until later tonight when we take another tip from Two Peas & Their Pod and make some chocolate mint shakes.

This green lunch didn’t take too much time nor too much planning but my girls loved it and thought it was fun.  Making Memories!!!

Enjoy!

 

Enchilada Casserole- Slow Cooker

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Here is another “near” magic pot recipe that we tried tonight.  It is a vegetarian dish that also earned 4 smiley faces from our family of four.  It is intended to be prepared in a smaller slow cooker ( 3 1/2 quart) but it worked fine in my big slow cooker.  If I have more than four mouths at my table it would be easy to double this one.  I made this exactly like the recipe out of the Southern Living Ultimate Quick and Easy Cookbook except that I used a 15 oz can of corn rather than an 11 oz can of mexi-corn.  I just hate to pay more for that!

Enchilada Casserole

Stir together in your slow cooker:

  • 2 Tablespoons chopped green chiles
  • 3/4 cup chunky salsa (I used Pace’s mild version)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can yellow corn
  • 1 10 oz can of enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso’s Green Enchilada sauce)

Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours

Stir together in a bowl:

  • 1 Tablespoon green chiles
  • 1 package corn muffin mix (8.5 oz box version)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped roasted red bell peppers

Spoon the batter evenly over the bean mixture in the slow cooker (well, mine was more like glop it on top of the enchilada mix)

Cover and cook on Low for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until cornbread is done.

Sprinkle over the cornbread:

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or mexican blend as I did….hmmmm….maybe I didn’t follow the recipe exactly)

Cover and allow the cheese to melt

Serve with sour cream if desired.

Obviously the spicier your salsa the spicier the dish.  I was cooking for mild-mouths so we made it more tame.  I served it with Ranch Style Beans, a green salad and apple slices.

Enjoy!