Category Archives: Tasty Things

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Summer Pasta Salad

For me, pasta salad is a comfort food. Everyone’s mom has a family recipe, probably because cold pasta salads are a tasty way of cleaning out the fridge. Cook whatever pasta you have in the back of the cupboard, throw in some cooked meats and veggies, add a random assortment of herbs, some sort of dressing, and BAM! A quick lunch or pretty contribution to your next potluck.

The recipe below is pretty vague… that’s kind of the point. Pasta salads are very forgiving, and you can use pretty much anything.

I made one this morning with my favorite stinky foods. Stinky is a harsh word… let’s call them “pungent.” I mixed some penne noodles with tuna, feta cheese, tomato, celery, dill, and a big splash of caesar dressing. Very tasty, but keep some mints on hand!

So, here’s a basic guideline for creating your own salad.

You Need:

8 oz (half of an average-sized box) small pasta (think rotini, penne, macaroni, farfalle, wagon wheels…)

1/2 to 1 cup chopped protein (I used one can of tuna, drained. Try leftover chicken, cubed tofu, cooked shrimp, canned beans, whatever.)

something sweet or salty (Here’s where you can go nuts. Cold pasta salads are a fast way to experiment with different flavors. Throw in a bit of crumbled feta or blue cheese, a can of mandarin orange slices or water chestnuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, baby corn, frozen edamame, leftover cooked veggies, whatever you have kicking around in your fridge or cupboard.)

2 celery ribs, minced OR one cucumber, diced

1 fresh tomato, diced

optional: spices. Curry, garlic, or onion powder, fresh basil, Italian seasoning, soy sauce, etc.

dressing: For a homestyle classic, use mayonnaise. For the health conscious, try a high quality olive oil. My personal favorite is bottled salad dressing. I think it’s a happy medium.

Cook pasta in boiling water until tender. Rinse under cold running water to remove excess starch and cut down on chilling time. Fun Fact: You should NEVER rinse pasta being served with a hot sauce. The leftover starch from cooking helps sauces and cheese stick. Pour rinsed pasta into a mixing bowl, or throw it right into some Tupperware.

Add in your meat, cheese, fruits, veggies, and spices. Give it a good toss. Now, stir in dressing to your taste: a spoonful of mayonnaise, a splash of salad dressing, or a drizzle of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. If using bottled dressing and/or salty cheeses, you won’t need much salt. If using mayonnaise, you can afford to go a little heavier with your spices. Mayo and curry play surprisingly well together!

Chill. Give it another good toss immediately before serving.

Some Combos to Try:

Leftover chicken with mandarin oranges and a dash of curry powder

Canned tuna with feta cheese and a generous sprinkle of dill (pictured!)

Canned black beans, rinsed and drained, with lots of fresh basil

Sliced peperoni/sausage with fresh mozzarella and oregano (I don’t eat pork, but this one’s a crowd pleaser.)

Have fun experimenting!

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White Sangria Recipe for the Broke and Fabulous

Today, I will do a magic trick. With a few simple (and cheap) ingredients, an inexpensive bottle of wine will transform into a sparkling beverage sure to make an impression at any summer party.

This experiment started the other day after work, when I picked up a party-sized bottle of Alice White Pinot Grigio. No offense to Australia, but this wine is terrible. So, I decided today would be a good time to try my hand at white sangria. We’ve all (probably) had the red variety. Sangria is essentially wine punch, and is traditionally made by adding fruit, sparkling water, and a touch of brandy or liqueur to a light red wine. A restaurant in Boulder serves a white sangria that has all the sweetness of the original, but adds a refreshing kick of champagne and uses lighter flavors like peach instead of the usual oranges and red apples. This stuff is delicious, and I highly recommend the Med’s cocktails to anyone who’s not up to making their own.

This recipe is easy, frugal, impressive, and deceptively potent in the alcohol department. Many sangrias have a lower alcohol content because of the added seltzer. This one… doesn’t. Plan accordingly! Enjoy poolside or at your next BBQ.

You Need:

white sangria ingredients

1.5 liter bottle fruity white wine I used Alice White Pinot Grigio

1 200 mL bottle of gin (lime gin would be tasty, but I couldn’t find it in a small bottle)

2 cups sparkling water

1 1/2 cups white sugar

white sangria ingredients1 cup tap/non-sparkling water

2 peaches or nectarines, cut to 1/2 inch dice

1 pink (gala, honeycrisp, or pink lady) apple, cut to 1/2 inch dice

1 fresh lime

1 fresh lemon

a large pitcher or punchbowl

ice, for serving I found an adorable fruit shaped silicone ice cube tray at Joann’s

Slice off the ends of the lemon and lime. Place ends in a small saucepan and set aside. Slice the remaining fruit in half for juicing.

Place the diced apple and peach/nectarine in the bottom of your pitcher. Add all of the wine, all of the gin, and the sparkling water. Squeeze in all of the juice from the lemon and lime. Set pitcher aside in the fridge to chill.

Meanwhile, add the sugar and 1 cup of plain water to the small saucepan holding the citrus ends. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Once boiled, remove from heat immediately and let cool completely.

When syrup is cool, remove the cooked citrus pieces. Add the syrup to the chilled wine mix. Stir and serve over ice! Add a lime wedge if you’re feeling fancy. Try topping each glass off with some champagne if you really want to sparkle.

white sangria recipe

white sangria in my sweet tea jug

The whole process takes maybe 15 minutes, plus time to chill.

Mother’s Day and Fried Mashed Potatoes

This tasty (and fast) recipe is in honor of MOTHER’S DAY! Mother’s Day is this Sunday kids, so take note. I’m sure everyone can think of a lovely lady in their life, family or not, who has nurtured you/pestered you/made you who you are today.

Fried mashed potatoes are one of those things that Momma makes that make any day a little more delicious. They are also made out of leftovers, and when one lives alone one generally does not make the kind of family-style fare that ends up as leftovers. So I only get them when I go home to Momma. And because I am in the library working on a final that is due in a few hours, I obviously have time to type out the recipe real quick.

You Need:

leftover mashed potatoes

1 egg, beaten (optional)

vegetable oil of some kind, for frying

salt and pepper

optional: grated cheese, preferably cheddar

Grab your bowl of mashed potatoes and check out the consistency. If they’re fresh and/or contain lots of butter, you can probably form them into patties without adding anything. If they are crumbly, stir in a beaten egg. Season with some extra salt/pepper/grated cheese if you’re feeling fancy, and form into patties about 1/2 inch thick.

Thickly coat the bottom of a skillet with vegetable oil. 1/4 inch or less should be plenty. We are not actually deep frying here, just giving those bad boys a crispy coating. I usually test my oil with a drop of water, but I think this is a fire hazard. The proper way is to drop in a little piece of bread and see if it sizzles.

When oil is hot, lay your patties in and fry until the bottom is golden brown. Flip once, and continue cooking until hot and tasty. Serve with ketchup and fried eggs.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mom and I in Scotland

My mom and I in Scotland on the banks of Loch Lomond. I am no doubt dreaming of fried mashed potatoes.

Happy Squash Soup

On a recent self-righteous trip to the grocery store, I decided to be healthy and came home with a giant butternut squash. Once home, I realized I have no idea what one does with such a thing.

SOUP! Eureka. Soups are a great way to try new ingredients. The slow cooking gives you loads of time to correct seasonings and mellow out weird textures, and you can always throw in something familiar to offset a funky flavor. Soups are so easy peasy that I decided to be extra adventurous and add a parsnip. Parsnips are ugly white veggies with a mild oniony flavor. They look a bit like the grizzled grandpa of the carrot, but are very very tasty in soups or other slow-cooked dishes. The sweetness of the squash and the bite of the parsnip balance out nicely, and make a super healthy winter time meal.

Don’t fret, the recipe is a lot shorter than my soup-lovin’ ramble. This stuff is BURSTING with vitamins, takes very little effort, and is an unbelievable neon orange color. Happy days.

easy squash soup recipe

You Need:

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into one inch pieces

1 small parsnip, peeled and cut into one inch pieces

1 yellow or white onion, peeled and cut into one inch pieces

::Note:: You will be pureeing the soup in a blender. The dice on these vegetables does not need to be perfect at all, just keep the pieces in a somewhat uniform size to ensure an even cooking time.

3 whole garlic cloves, peeled

broth/stock/water (You need enough to cover the veggies in a large pot. I used 4 cups of chicken broth and 4 cups of water because I like thin, sippable soups. If you like it thicker, use just enough to cover. If you use vegetable broth or water this is a completely vegan recipe.)

juice of half an orange

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

red pepper and salt, to taste

Bring the broth, squash, and parsnip to a boil in a large pot. Lower heat to a simmer and set timer for 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking time, add the onion pieces. After 30 minutes, check for doneness. Squash should pierce easily with a fork and the onions should be transparent. Turn off heat.

Throw the peeled, whole garlic in the blender. Scoop all of the vegetables from the pot and add to the blender with a few spoonfuls of cooking liquid. If you’re brave and have a big blender, feel free to pour the whole mixture in. It doesn’t matter if the broth goes into the blender or not, just do what you gotta do to get a smooth mixture.

Pour the mix back in the pot. Add the curry powder, orange juice, and salt and red pepper to taste. Return to a simmer, stir, and serve.

YUM!

Green Bean Fries with Spicy Ranch Dipping Sauce

I have the biggest salt tooth on the planet. These oven-baked green bean “fries” will satisfy any craving for something salty, crunchy, and junk food-y, but they’re secretly healthy. The breading is light, crispy, and browns in the oven without frying. This will save you from fatness and from cleaning up a hot oil explosion. Home frying is dangerous, people. But the real kicker is the dipping sauce. I can’t eat breaded foods without ranch, and thinning it out with some yogurt saves me some guilt. Plus, spicy ranch is one of the south’s Greatest Gifts.

green bean fries recipe with spicy ranch recipe

Enjoy!

for the dipping sauce:

1/4 cup prepared Ranch dressing

1/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt

1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper

1/8 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion (about one medium)

dash garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This stuff would also be divine on sandwiches.

Tip: Make the dipping sauce first so the flavors have time to develop. Also, these fries beg to be eaten immediately and you won’t want to bother with mixing up some sauce.

for the fries:

green bean fry ingredients

1 bunch fresh green beans

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup packaged bread crumbs, seasoned or plain

optional but tasty: 1 heaping tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

olive oil

Rinse your green beans and trim off the ends. If they’re fresh, you should be able to snap the ends off easily with your fingers. If you forgot about the delicious green beans lurking in your veggie crisper, use a knife. Cut any extra long beans in half. You want them to be fairly uniform in size.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and water. Spread the bread crumbs on a plate. If you are using plain bread crumbs, season generously with salt and pepper. Seasoned/Italian style bread crumbs will already be quite salty. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil, the spread generously with olive oil.

 

Dip the green beans first in the beaten egg, then dredge in bread crumbs. Arrange breaded green beans on the oiled cookie sheet. Make sure none of the green beans touch; they need space for the coating to get crispy. If they don’t fit in one layer, bake them in batches.

green bean fry recipe

Bake in a preheated 450° oven for 10 minutes. Shuffle the fries around with tongs and bake 10 minutes more, or until golden brown.

Serve hot with the spicy ranch.

FYI, these are sooo good. I just ate half a pound of green beans. Enough said.