Tag Archives: easy

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.

Nutella Pots de Créme

FINALLY! Nutella Pots de Créme are here, and just in time for Valentine’s Day. Pot de créme is just a fancy word for cup-full-of-love (technically, cup of cream. whatever.). It’s a decadent dessert with a texture somewhere between a créme brulée and a chocolate mousse. Make these for your sweetie and he or she will fall into a deep sugar coma of amorous bliss.

2/3 cup milknutella pot de creme recipe

1 egg

dash of salt

1 cup milk or semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup Nutella

whipped cream

finely chopped, roasted hazelnuts for garnish (see note below)

Put egg, salt, chocolate, liqueur, and Nutella in a blender. Pulse to combine. Meanwhile, bring milk just to a boil in a small saucepan. Add hot milk to blender and mix until completely smooth. The hot milk should be enough to melt the chocolate and cook the egg. Done!

Pour mixture evenly into 4 glasses or soufflé cups. I think wine glasses give a romantic touch. Servings will be small, but this stuff is decadent. Let sit at room temperature for a few minutes so that the larger bubbles pop. Cover each glass with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly.

When ready to serve, top each serving with whipped cream and sprinkle with hazelnuts. These go well with a bubble bath.

nutella recipe

Note: Two things here. One, roasting nuts is easy peasy. Throw your nuts in a dry (NO oil or butter) skillet over medium heat. Swirl them around until they start to turn brown/smell delicious. Remove from heat. This takes no time at all but will make a HUGE difference in flavor. Two, always buy expensive items in bulk! This tip will SAVE YOU as a college student. Special ingredients like nuts or exotic spices or basmati rice can cost a lot when pre-packaged. Luckily, most regular grocery stores nowadays have bulk aisles just like the health food store. If you get your fancy dry ingredients  here, you’ll pay pennies. Trust me.

I <3 Martha

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write every day and post more often. Today I’ve just got a quick tip for belated holiday baking. I learned this from Martha Stewart’s original TV show ages ago. Yes, I still love her.

After softening your butter, use the wrapper to grease the pan or cookie sheet. Saves effort and makes using actual butter for greasing a breeze!

Mom’s Easy Latkes

Hanukkah is a traditional Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Holy Temple after the Maccabees revolted against Syrian-Greek oppressors. The amount of holy oil left in the temple was only enough for one night, but burned for eight (the length of time required for new oil to be made and consecrated). So, we light candles and eat food fried in oil for eight delicious days.

Latkes are probably the most well-known Hanukkah dish and recipes abound. Everyone thinks their recipe is the best, but this one TOTALLY IS!  Traditional latkes use shredded or grated potatoes, but these are the latkes of my childhood and will always be my favorite. Traditional or no, they are appropriately fried in oil and they are very very tasty. They are also much easier than their hand-grated cousins.

You Need:

4 cups cubed raw potatoes

2 eggs

1/4 cup flour or matzoh meal

1 small onion, quartered

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

dash pepper

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Using a serving spoon, drop spoonfuls of mixture into a large skillet with 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch hot oil. Fry until deep golden brown, turning once.

Serve with sour cream and applesauce. Ponder miracles and triumph over oppression.

Thanks Mom!