Enlightened Pasta Salad

Magazine purge #8! This is a healthier version of a mayo-based summer pasta salad. It had me at green olives. Rachael Ray, July/August 2013

Ingredients

  • salt & pepper
  • 10 oz short multigrain pasta, such as rigatoni or penne
  • ½ cup lightly packed whole fresh basil leaves, plus ¼ cup torn basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup halved pimiento-stuffed green olives

Directions

  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, then rinse under cold water. Transfer pasta to a serving bowl.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a food processor, puree the whole basil leaves, yogurt, mayonnaise, cheese, EVOO, lemon juice, and garlic, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour the mixture over the pasta and toss well to coat. Stir in the tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, and torn basil. Season with pepper and toss gently.
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Quick & Easy Pasta

A simple pasta to make.

A simple pasta to make.

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve been on here. Over a year! The good news is, over the past year this blog has been great for me to easily find some of my favorite recipes. I’ve also found some new ones to add as well. While we have our favorites, we try to find new dishes, too.

Here’s an easy pasta to make that is also pretty kid friendly. (Okay, my kids pick out the tomatoes, but they love the rest of the dish.) We love this as a main dish, but it would also make a great side as well.

Ingredients

  • pound of pasta (I like to use the rotini, aka corkscrew), cooked per package directions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (3/8 cup)
  • grape tomatoes, halved (I throw in a pack)
  • 1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning (or ½ cup fresh herbs)
  • salt to taste
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Optional add-ins: chopped red onion, kalamata olives, whatever strikes your fancy really.

Directions

Add all ingredients to hot pasta, and blend to combine. The cheese will melt a bit and mix with the olive oil and seasonings to create a nice dressing.

Caprese Salad

Caprese salad is an easy and delicious side, and even better when using tomatoes and basil from our garden.

My husband planted some tomatoes and basil in our garden this year. Last night he harvested some beautiful tomatoes. I happened to have bought some fresh mozzarella at the store the other day, so we picked some basil and had a lovely Caprese salad with our meal.

Ingredients

  • Tomato, sliced
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

The assembly on this is so simple; just layer a slice of tomato, a basil leaf, and a slice of mozzarella. Arrange your tomato layers on a plate, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Perfection.

Grilled Avocados

I haven’t made this yet, I grabbed this picture off of the Pinterest link. Looks great!

I have been thinking about trying grilled avocados, and I ran across this recipe on Pinterest yesterday. This would be great as a side to some grilled chicken. Or if you want it as a meatless main, what about serving it over a bed of rice with some black beans on the side?

The recipe suggests using non-fat sour cream. I’m not sure how they make non-fat sour cream, but I don’t think I’d use that.

Ingredients

Directions

Cut an avocado in half, sprinkle with olive oil and lime juice, and place face down on the grill for five minutes. Then fill with salsa and sour cream, and sprinkle on a little more lime juice.

Greek Pasta Salad

I ran across this recipe by accident last week (courtesy of the family kitchen blog) , just in time for a gathering with friends last weekend. This was delicious! No cooking required, except the pasta.

We made a big batch, it was delicious! The olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano dressing was perfect.

Now, this recipe says it serves 6 – 10 people, with only one cup of uncooked pasta. That must mean as a side. This dish has so much going it could serve as a main course.

I upped the quantity quite a bit, we had a gathering of 6 families, and of course made a minor change or two. I will put in quantities where I know them, I eyeballed a few things (which if you know me, this is a miracle of sorts).

Ingredients

  • red onion, sliced thin (you decide how much you want)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut into chunks [I used 1½ cucumbers]
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes, cut into chunks [I used grape tomatoes cut in half; almost a whole pack.]
  • 1 red, orange or yellow pepper, cored and cut into chunks [1 red, 1 yellow]
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives [eyeball, I used ½ Kalamata olives and ½ California black olives for this crowd]
  • 1/2 cup cubed or crumbled feta [eyeball this one]
  • 1 cup dry rotini or other chunky pasta shape [I cooked about 4 cups dry, almost a pound]
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped (optional) [eyeball]
  • juice of 1-2 lemons [3 lemons]
  • extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), to taste
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano, crumbled or 1/2 tsp fresh oregano, minced [eyeball]
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain well and rinse under cool water to stop it from cooking. [I tossed with some EVOO at this point, and then started cutting my vegetables and adding to the pasta, as I wasn’t sure exactly how much of each I needed.]

Combine the vegetables, olives, feta and pasta and toss well. Start dressing it with the juice of 1 fresh lemon, add a glug of olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper. Toss again, and taste to see if you need more lemon, oil or seasoning. Keep chilled until ready to serve, and toss again just before serving.

The Everyday Macaroni and Cheese

It took me a while, but I found it. A GREAT and fairly easy mac & cheese recipe. This one comes from Tillamook (I didn’t see it on their website); I clipped it out of a newspaper a while back. Of course they encourage you to use their brand of butter and cheese, I have used other brands and it still comes out great.

I follow this recipe to the T. Except the cheese – I add more cheese. You can never have too much cheese.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. dry elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk [We usually use 2% or skim]
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2½ cups (10 oz) medium shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to 350, grease baking dish.

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2½ teaspoons salt and macaroni. Cook according to package directions, stirring occasionally. Pasta is done when it is slightly chewy to the bite or al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside.

Prepare sauce while pasta is cooking. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually add milk and bring just to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking often, until sauce slightly thickens, 4 to 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and 2 cups of cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Remove pan from heat and fold in pasta. Pour into prepared baking dish, then sprinkle top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and top begins to brown. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.