Everyone has a few tried and true favorite BBQ dishes they cook up for a party or bring to share. My tortellini salad is one of my Barbecue staples.
Before I share the recipe, I want to discuss pasta salad fails. These are, in my opinion, common pasta salad mistakes:
- Pasta is way too al dente. It’s one thing if it’s being served hot and will cook to perfection once sauce is added. It’s a whole other story to under cook. Hint: Pasta should not be crunchy.
- Pasta is too soft: Pasta shouldn’t be mushy, it should be firm. When boiling pasta remove when it just starts floating to the surface. For a pasta salad, rinse with cold water to stop cooking. It should never bloat to three times its original size.
- Using cheap pasta: I’m a frugal gal, but I also believe we get what we pay for. Cheap pasta yields cheap results. If using tortelli or ravioli take care to buy a premium brand. Fresh pasta is the best.
- Mayonnaise: Mixing pasta with mayonnaise does not a pasta salad make. It’s just fattening, artery clogging, mayonaisy pasta that you’ll have to throw away after an hour of leaving out anyway. Use your imagination and stop mixing stuff with mayo and calling it salad.
So, keeping this in mind, let’s move along to the recipe. Note that I don’t have amounts listed – that’s because it’s a matter of preference. Some folks like more veg and less tortellini and some want subtlety. In any event, it’s in the eye of the beholder.
- Tortellini – For this one I used a mushroom tortellini which added a whole other level of yumminess.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Avocado – Cubed
- Artichoke hearts
- Black Olives
- Chopped garlic
- Mozzarella – If you didn’t splurge for the premium mozzarella, then you may as well just use Velveeta. Fresh, homemade is the best.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cook pasta and toss with EVOO so it doesn’t stick together. Add the rest of the good stuff and salt and pepper to taste. Chill, baby, chill.
Will you be trying this recipe? Tell us what you think – especially let us know what kind of modifications you made.
Eggs are a lovely protein, don’t you think? We often turn to eggs when we want something quick and delicious for breakfast or dinner. I made this frittata the other day using eggs, farm market veggies and a vegetarian burger(okay, it’s a Luna Burger – anything tastes good with a Luna Burger in it) crumbled up, plus some cheese. My husband took a bite and told me it wasn’t right, because his eggs don’t taste this good, and aren’t this filling when he makes them. The end of summer is bittersweet because the fresh locally grown veggie supply starts to wane, but at the same time they have their best flavor. Get’em while their fresh.
- 5 eggs
- 1 small onion
- 1 small green pepper
- 2 baby eggplant
- ¼ cup crookneck squash
- vegetarian or grain sausage patty
- 4 small cherry tomatoes
- shredded cheddar
- 4 oz goat cheese
- Scramble eggs with 1 tbs water, and set aside.
- Dice and saute in warm pan with olive oil – onions and green pepper.
- I used baby eggplant but didn’t peel, just sliced little circles.
- The squash was peeled and sliced to about the same size.
- When the onion is almost translucent and soft, add the squash and eggplant to the onion and pepper.
- When the eggplant starts to soften, place the veggies in a bowl and set aside temporarily.
- Add a little oil to the pan and warm the vegetarian burger. Remove, break into a little smaller than bite size pieces and set aside.
- Swish lightly with oil, pour the eggs into the pan, let start to cook.
- Add in the sauteed veggies, and the tomatoes.
- Dollop the goat cheese into the eggs and place the pieces of vegetarian sausage in under the egg.
- Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
- Place pan in oven under a low broil until egg is firm and cheese is melted.
- Serve slices on plate and grate a little more cheese over top.
Are you a seasonal cook – trying to use the fresh ingredients in the season in which they are their best? Summer is such a great fresh vegetable season and the farm markets are full of great local vegetables that ripened on the vine or stalk and were picked at the right stage for freshness. I try to stay local and seasonal when there are fresh ingredients being grown nearby to take advantage of, and it’s so easy to come up with great dishes. I made this roasted lasagna in a smaller portion for my husband an son, and then made a bigger version to bring to my mother in law’s for a family gathering. It’s deceitful, you think there’s meat and pasta, but there isn’t. The eggplant replaces the pasta, holding up really well and the crumbled goat cheese mixed with herbs almost give you the texture of crumbled meat and the creaminess of ricotta (which you could use instead) at the same time. Filling in with roasted tomatoes, onions and red peppers in between the layers bumps up the flavor.
Everything in this dish came from either the farm market, or the Market Bag that we get once a week. Even the sauce is local, because it’s my homemade sauce from last years farm market vegetables. I have a couple of jars left over from last year that we didn’t use up ( I hate emptying jars that I just put up, it feels as though my efforts to stock up were in vain when they disappear to early). I will warn you that the dish isn’t pretty when you cut into it because eggplant turns a brown color when heated. Eggplant can take the place of meat almost like a mushroom is able to or tofu can. It is very mild in taste and can take on the flavor of whatever you cook it in (or with).
When I was cooking in the square glass pan, I slice the eggplant across the width, but when I used a long ceramic pan, I sliced the eggplant down the length. Both times I scraped the skin off, because eggplant skin can be tough compared to the meat of the vegetable and I used a mandolin in order to get slices of uniform length and width. I brushed the eggplant slices with olive oil and placed on a cookie sheet to roast. I also sliced cherry tomatoes and other small tomatoes in half , de-seeded red peppers and threw slices of onion on other cookie sheets, brushed with oil and roasted them. Fresh herbs and garlic scapes were mixed together with fresh chevre and sprinkled on top, the cheese layer also had fresh mozzarella. You can use any sauce you like, but use lightly because veggies add a lot of liquid. If after you get the layers assembled you notice too much liquid around the edges, hold the layers in the pan and tip to let some out. That happened to me when I didn’t roast the veggies long enough, but didn’t harm the lasagna at all. Roasting the vegetables and then draining them before putting them in the lasagna pan will help.
So, no meat, no pasta, no frying – but pretty darn tasty. I received compliments and an empty pan as thanks for a good grub.
- 1 large eggplant or two smaller – peeled
- 2 large red peppers
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 16 oz chevre
- 1 tbs minced parsley
- 1 tbs minced basil
- 1 tbs minced garlic scapes
- 8 – 12 oz fresh mozzarella
- Spaghetti sauce
- Grated Parmesan
- Using a mandolin – slice wide strips down the length of the eggplant. Layer on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, flip over and brush the other side.
- Core the red peppers and slice open so that it lays flat. Brush both sides with olive oil and lay flat on another baking sheet.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and lay on baking sheet. Slice the onion and throw it on to the same pan with the tomatoes to roast.
- Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and roast in a 250 oven until they seem tender and golden.
- Combine the herbs and cheese together evenly.
- Peel the skin off the pepper and slice the pepper into strips. Drain the tomatoes.
- Eggplant slices
- Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions in an even layer together
- Sprinkle the Herbed Chevre and a layer of Mozzarella.
- Grated Parmesan
- Repeat. (if you have enough ingredients repeat twice)
- The last layer should be:
- Roasted Veggies
- Herbed Chevre and Mozzarella
- Grate Parmesan over the top.
- Bake @375 for 20 -30 min pulling it out of the oven when it’s hot and bubbling with a nice melted cheese crust on top.
So many spherical things, what to do, what to do, spherical ingredient, or spherical dish?… I had to decide quickly because the month was winding down for this month’s Culinary Smackdown – Battle Spherical. Rutabaga, mango, oranges. Are oranges too round to be spherical? Is a lime more spherical? Looking up sphere – it has to be perfectly round, well, then mango isn’t spherical, or lime, but the rutabaga was pretty darn round (Drat – now I remember that I forgot a photo of a rutabaga before so that you could see how round it was.
My son’s friend was over and asked what I was peeling and I told him it was a rutabaga – similar in taste to a turnip. It is a swede turnip, or a yellow turnip and a cross between a turnip and cabbage. The skin is thin, but difficult to peel because it’s so big and round. I just used a big knife to skin it. Then I sliced it thinly and cut the slices into pieces. Since this is a play on another classic – potatoes au gratin, think of the slices to be similar in size to that. Instead of onion, I thinly sliced a leek plus chopped up fresh sage from the herb bed outside.
I made a cheese sauce and threw in different types of ends of cheeses but also shredded some in between layers of rutabaga and cheese. One of my favorite things to do with the ends of cheeses is to throw it into a cheese sauce or into a grilled cheese panini .
This is my entry to Battle spherical and if it helps Destiny – the friend’s girlfriend who also stayed for dinner thought I was the clear winner ( though she wasn’t considering any of the other great entries). This Culinary Smackdown thing is challenging but fun.
- 1 large rutabaga
- 1 large leek
- 2 large handfuls of sage
- 2 tbs butter
- 2 tbs flour
- 1½ cup milk
- 1 cup shredded cheese for sauce
- ½ cup shredded cheese for layers
- Thinly slice rutabaga and leek.
- Chop sage to flake size.
- Butter glass pan or casserole dish.
- Layer rutabaga, leeks, sage, grated cheese, salt and pepper
- Then a second and third layer.
- In a separate saucepan, melt butter, whisk in 2 tbs flour and keep whisking until incorporated.
- Whisk in a half a cup of cold milk and thicken over heat slowly while whisking.
- Add the other cup of milk and whisk and heat slowly to let thicken.
- Grate ¼ of a whole nutmeg into sauce.
- Slowly add cheese while whisking to create a smooth cheese sauce.
- Pour over top of Rutabaga layers, grate cheese over top.
- Put into oven at 350 for about 30 minutes covered with foil, then another 5 – 10 to brown cheese on top.
Here’s a Chocolate Mousse recipe that’s so quick, easy, delicious and perfect for Valentine’s Day. For the Superbowl I made vegan cupcakes that were delish. I thought the glaze tasted like pudding, but it was thick and sweet. I took that recipe and changed it into a mousse. This dessert is pretty fast and easy to make.
The microwave was used to melt the chocolate and goat cheese together before putting it into the magic bullet to combine it and add air (to moussify). That’s really all it takes, pour the mousse red raspberries and sliced strawberries in ramekins and then decoratively top with one of each and refrigerate. This is a dessert you can make after work and cool while dinner is being devoured. I loved it and so did my husband. One for us tonight, and another for tomorrow (no kids, oh well).
- 8 ounces silken tofu
- 4 ounces semi sweet chocolate
- 2 tsp chevre (goat cheese – plain)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp agave
- 4 strawberries
- 12 raspberries
Use a paper towel or cloth to drain and pat dry the tofu – blend it until smooth. In a microwave, melt the semi-sweet chocolate for a minute, stir, place back in for another thirty seconds, stir. Crumble in goat cheese, stir to make smooth, then place in microwave for another thirty seconds.
Pour chocolate mixture, in with the tofu, add the agave and vanilla and blend until smooth. I used a magic bullet because it will do small amounts. A blender would work, but may be too big for the job.
Place a couple of red raspberries on the bottom of 4 ramekins and slice one half of a strawberry for the bottom of the ramekin also. Pour the mousse over top of the berries and place the second half of the strawberry on top along with a red raspberry. Cool in fridge.
Simple, Easy, Fast Delicious.Diana
Quick Quinoa Burgers is from The 150 Healthiest 15-Minute Recipes on Earth by Jonny Bowden and Jeannette Bessinger. When Deb, Desiree and I were younger, my dad tried the meatless burger thing. He used birdseed – or rather millet, but they were dry and not very tasty. I tried this meatless burger thinking it would end on the same note, but I really was surprised at how good they were. No, they don’t taste like burgers, not at all, but they are packed with flavor. Where the recipe said to use a quality salsa – I used my canned salsa. Where it said to use canned kidney beans, I substituted pinto beans that I made up earlier in the week, and it had a little garlic flavoring in it. I also topped the burger and sauce with chopped avocado. Deb are you listening – this meal had quinoa, avocado and salsa in it, you will like it.
- 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans
- 1/4 cup quick cooking rolled oats
- 2 oz grated or crumbled cheese (or 1/4 cup nutritional yeast for a vegan option)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup cooked heirloom quinoa ( I used red)
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 cup prepared salsa
- 2 tbs low fat plain yogurt
- 1 tbs lime juice
- 1 tsp maple syrup or agave nectar
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
Place the beans, oats, cheese and salt in a food processor in that order and pulse until combined and holding together but still chunky, about ten quick pulses (I think I probably over pulsed, but it came out nicely). Turn the bean mixture out into a medium bowl, add the quinoa, and mix, with your hands just until it holds together well.
Heat the oil on a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat (or just below medium in a regular skillet to prevent sticking), and form the quinoa mixture into four patties.
Place the burgers in the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side in until heated through. Patties will be soft, so handle gently.
While the burgers are cooking, place the salsa, yogurt, lime juice, syrup, cumin, and chili powder into a blender (or a small bowl, and use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth. Serve burgers with a generous helping of the dressing.Diana
This recipe is for my son’s friend Ben. At the tender age of 18, he and another friend are living on their own. Ben is a vegetarian and head chef – which is a good way to keep track of what is going on in the kitchen. So for his vegetarian Thanksgiving, I’m offering this Vegetarian Tofu Pumpkin Pie. Use the firm tofu for this recipe that I found online at House America.
1 pkg(14 oz)House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Firm
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 can (16 oz) cooked pumpkin
1 prepared graham cracker pie crust
Preheat oven to 350°
In a blender or food processor, add all ingredients and blend thoroughly. Pour mixture into pie crust; bake in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes or until set. Serve chilled.
Note Cooking tips:
Remove moisture from Tofu by microwaving it for about a minute; pour off water and blot well with paper towel before using. Be careful, Tofu will be hot!
And to go along with it .. an Orange Mango Smoothie, mmmmm.
Makes Two Servings (three cups)
Prep time: 5 Minutes
1/2 package (7oz) House Premium Tofu Extra Soft or House Organic Tofu – Soft
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups frozen mango chunks
3 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup soy milk (optional)
Place all ingredients in a blender.
Blend until smooth.
Divide between 2 glasses and serve.
Guava juice, banana and frozen raspberries.
Orange juice and frozen blueberries.
Note If you don’t have frozen fruit, use 1 cup fresh fruit and 1/2 cup ice cubes.Diana
We knew there were going to be vegetarians at my son’s graduation party. I’ve been feeding his vegetarian friends whenever they came to visit. I don’t like picky eaters, people who don’t eat because something looks funny, or because it isn’t made the same way as their mom makes it. However, I do believe in accomodating dietary restrictions, and choices. These kids are not problem children and will find a way to help make things work, but for my son’s party I wanted there to food they would love, because I wanted them to know that they are always welcome and that I was thinking specifically of them. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a hardship, this dish is really an easy to make no fuss dish. I quadrupled and changed up a recipe I found in Cooking Light – Kitchen Secrets for Quick and Easy Meals. This booklet ( thicker than a magazine) is packed with plenty of great tasting and looking dishes. I love the dill, green onion and feta combination, it’s fantastically delicious and fresh.
Wild Rice Salad with Chickpeas, Dill and Lemon
- 2 cups cooked wild rice
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1(19 oz) can of chickpeas (garbanzos)
- 3 tbs fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbs cold water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
Combine rice, onions, feta, dill and chickpeas in large bowl tossing gently to combine.
Combine juice, olive oil, and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle juice mixture over rice mixture; toss gently to coat.Diana
This delicious idea comes from The Heart Smart Diabetes Kitchen recipe book, that I received to review. This is the first time I made lentils, and I am pleased to say I enjoy them a lot. My daughter isn’t so sure, my son and husband both liked it too. My mother is a fan of lentils (though we’d have to leave out the onions for her) so we may have it again this weekend. This dish was easy to prepare and took less than 45 minutes total to come together. Cumin’d Lentils and Carrots were a great side dish along with our NuWave Rosemary Chicken for dinner on Sunday.
- 1 1/2 tbs canola oil
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced onions
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/3 cup dried lentils
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin, divided
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook carrots and onions 8 minutes or until richly browned, stirring frequently. Add water, lentils and 1/4 tsp cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover tightly and simmer 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients.
A plus from the recipe book – you get all the cool stats along with the recipe
Calories 130 – from fat 55
Total fat 6.0g
Trans fat 0
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 315 mg
Total carbohydrates 17g
Dietary Fiber 5 g
Sugars 4 g
Protein 5 g
Exchanges per serving: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 fatDiana
Tonight’s dinner was inspired by a store bought frozen lunch I had today. It had beans, whole grain orzo, dried cranberries, spinach and a little bit of cheese. I enjoyed it quite a bit and thought I would use it as inspiration to create my own big bowl of whole grainy goodness. Even though the barley and quinoa stuck to his braces, my son thought it was delicious. My husband also liked it a lot too. I know my daughter would have enjoyed it, and that she would have grabbed the leftovers thrown salad dressing over top and had it cold for lunch the next day. One thing I would have changed would have been to add in more chard. I dug through the snow to find what chard I could from the raised beds in the garden. I found some small leaves, only about 7 or 8, but it was enough to give it a little color and flavor. I just wish I had more. It’s so cool to go dig through the snow for chard in the middle of winter, but your fingers get awfully cold and you have to be careful that they don’t stick to the door knob when you try to get back into the house. Maybe gloves would be a good idea. No gloves needed to eat it though, just a fork.
- 1/2 cup black quinoa
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1/2 cup barley
- 1/2 onion diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 1 bag dried cranberries and spiced apple (I think they were dole)
- 1 can garbanzo beans
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup Carr Valley Apple Smoked Cheddar diced
Cook the quinoa, bulgur, orzo and barley according to package directions using vegetable broth instead of water. I took turns with two different small pots on the stove. In a separate medium size pot, pour in the rest of the vegetable broth. Simmer the onions, and celery in a shallow amount of vegetable broth. When they start to become translucent, add in the rest of the broth, the cranberries and spiced apple, the beans and chopped up chard. Heat up and add in the grains, and the herbs and spices. If it seems too dry, add a little extra liquid (water) when heating. Serve in bowls and sprinkle the cubed cheese on top.
Note: To make it vegan, leave out the cheese.
The dried fruit gives it a fruity flavor, with the smoky cheese to help balance it out. The whole meal is delicious, and very quickly comes together.