Easy Greek Pasta Salad

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This pasta salad was born when I clipped a coupon for Marzetti dressing in the Sunday circular and didn’t know what to buy.  Summer was here and we had been itching to eat outside on our never-used screened-in porch, so a pasta salad seemed to fit the occasion.  We also had a huge (Costco-sized.  HUGE.) block of feta in the fridge to use up, so a Greek pasta salad it became!  This recipe is obviously adaptable depending on what ingredients you like.   I think it would be great with the tomato halves roasted, but Jake doesn’t like roasted tomatoes so I left them fresh.  If you try it that way, let me know how it turns out.

So, after two years of living in our house and never using the porch for anything other than storing leaf bags, we ended up using it twice in one day! And I think we actually had this pasta salad as a side for both meals.  The porch is inconveniently placed because the only access to it is through the basement (every house in Pittsburgh is on a hill), but the grill is right there, so we happily had a couple of picnics.  It’s so peaceful on the porch without the tv or any of our other distractions that we determined it’s well worth dragging everything downstairs.

Dinner was followed up with a fire in our also-underused fire pit where Lily learned that she loves s’mores as long as there aren’t any marshmallows.  Too messy.  Can you still call it a s’more if you’re just eating cold chocolate on graham crackers? I wasn’t too surprised by her aversion because she hates the way cotton candy sticks to her fingers.  Yet, somehow this distaste for messiness doesn’t translate to her playroom.  Or jumping in muddy puddles.  Or hating baths.  Can’t win ’em all.

Easy Greek Pasta Salad

1 pound short-cut pasta
1 – 1.5 cups creamy Greek/feta salad dressing (I like Marzetti and Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup  English cucumbers, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup bell peppers, diced
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh mint and/or oregano, diced, to taste

Boil the pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Drain the pasta and immediately combine with 1/2 cup of the salad dressing (this is so that the pasta absorbs the dressing).  Set aside until cool.

Add in all of the other ingredients, including half a cup of dressing, and stir to combine.  Add additional dressing as needed.

Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors develop.  Enjoy!  Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to a few days.

Source: L+K Original (I just threw it together, but there are many Greek pasta salads out there to explore)

No-Bake Brownie Batter Bites

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These brownie batter bites (I love a good alliteration) are like liking the spoon.  Dangerously so.  I won’t get into the gory details, but let’s just say that after a batch of them I felt compelled to return to the gym this week for the first time since before my spinal surgery.  In October.  8 months ago!  That’s 8 months of wasting $82 which have now come to an end.  So, really, these bites helped me to get back into shape.  I should make more of them.  Maybe I’ll feel so guilty at the end of my second batch that I’ll train for a marathon!

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I know that they aren’t made from scratch, but that’s not the point.  They’re easy, quick, and don’t require an oven on hot summer days.  Taste-wise, they remind me of the chocolate chip cookie dough brownies that I made a couple of years ago (minus the cookie dough, obviously).  And I bought the 6-pack of Ghirardelli brownie mix at Costco, so I can see more experimenting taking place soon.  Look out, gym, here I come!

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No-Bake Brownie Batter Bites

1 (18.3 ounces) bag of brownie mix (Ghirardelli is my favorite)
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
1 instant chocolate pudding mix, dry

Put the butter in a large bowl and microwave until mostly melted (about a minute).  Add in the dry brownie mix and stir until completely combined.  It will be thick and sticky.

Set aside for a few minutes and then stir in the chocolate chips once it is cool enough that they won’t melt.

Roll into bite-sized balls and immediately roll the balls into the dry chocolate pudding mix. Shake off the excess.  Most of the pudding will be absorbed into the ball, so after I finished the batch I re-rolled them in the pudding a second time.  If they are too soft then chill them for a bit.  Enjoy!

You can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week (ha! as if they will last that long!).  The fridge will make them stiff, so if you do this let them sit out for a minute before eating.

Source: Chelsea’s Messy Apron

Also, look who I caught sneaking a treat!

xbrowniebites

 

French Onion Soup Tartines

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I’m BACK.  But no, I didn’t go anywhere (well, I went to D.C. this past weekend, but that doesn’t account for weeks of silence).  I just took a little 3-week vacation in my own mind and really didn’t get into the kitchen very much.  I couldn’t be bothered.  And I have the take-out bills to prove it, so I’m glad I got that out of my system!  I hope I’m not alone in this needed break.  Maybe it’s because it got hot so quickly.  Or just the idea of summer makes me want to laze about.  Or the thought of putting pen to paper and writing up a post just made me want to take a nap.  It could be a hundred things.  But I’m feeling more normal now, and after my weekend full of fancy D.C. meals (with desserts and everything!), I am ready to kick myself back into the kitchen.

I actually made this recipe about a month ago.  It’s a French onion soup reinvented for the spring.  The weather is getting too warm to leave a pot full of onions simmering on the stove for hours on end (though this is about an hour, so prepare yourself), but I love onion soup so much that I couldn’t part with it for the summer yet.  These tartines are a great combo: hearty, but still a fairly light entree.  And with several varieties of onions, the flavor has a good depth to it.  I definitely recommend giving it a try.

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French Onion Soup Tartines

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, quartered and sliced
1 medium red onion, quartered and sliced
3 small yellow onions, peeled and cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices
2 Tbsp. dry white wine
1.5 – 2 cups vegetable broth
½ tsp. honey
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 slices of French or Italian bread
4 sandwich-sized slices of Swiss or Gruyère cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sweet onion and red onion, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until onions begin to brown.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add yellow onion slices (keeping all of the rings in tact), and cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a paper towel to let it drain. Set aside the 8 prettiest yellow onion slices, and chop the remaining yellow onions.

Add the chopped yellow onions to the sweet and red onions. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until all onions are browned. Add wine, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until most liquid has evaporated. Stir in the broth, honey, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Partially cover and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until most liquid has evaporated.

Preheat the oven to broil.  Lightly toast the bread and then place the slices on baking sheet. Spread 1/4 cup of the cooked onion mixture on each slice. Lay two of the reserved sautéed onion slices on top of each tartine. Top with a slice of cheese. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.

Source: Adapted very slightly from Vegetarian Times

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Aioli

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This asparagus with lemon aioli was our whole dinner the other night.  Even for Lily.  She had frozen yogurt and snacks with my dad before her music class, so she wasn’t too hungry.  In fact, once she saw the asparagus she decided that she wasn’t hungry AT ALL.  But I bribed her to try it and she actually liked it!  She didn’t eat a lot, but I still count it as a serving of vegetables.  Jake loved it and said that it was “restaurant quality” (haha – I guess that’s a good thing, depending on the restaurant he want comparing it to).  So, we polished off the plate and called it a night.

The nice thing about this aioli is that it would be good on a lot of vegetables.  I would eat it on green beans, broccoli, or even roasted carrots or cauliflower.  And it was a snap to throw together.  Plus, I cooked the asparagus at 350, but it can go up or down a little from there as long as you keep a close eye on it, so if you have other food you need to cook, you can throw them in together.

 

Lemon Aioli

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Roasted Asparagus

1-2 pounds of fresh asparagus
Drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350º.  Rinse the asparagus under water and snap the bottoms off (hold both ends and bend – it will naturally snap off).  Spread the spears out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.   Roll around so that the spears are fully coated and arrange them in a single layer on the pan.

Roast the asparagus, rolling around/flipping over about halfway through, for 10-15 minutes.  The thicker the asparagus, the longer it will need, so keep an eye on it.  You definitely don’t want to overcook it!

Drizzle on the lemon aioli and serve warm.

Source: Aioli adapted from Food Network

Soy Chorizo and Queso Fundido

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The biggest day of the year is upon us.  Not Christmas or a birthday.  Not even Halloween with all of its candy and treats.  It’s Cinco de Mayo!  I’m not 100% on the origins of the holiday besides what Wikipedia tells me, but there is still no better reason to celebrate with Mexican food and one too many margaritas.  Actually, Jake and I spent our birthdays eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas, so I guess my point it moot, but still.  Cinco de Mayo!  Party time!  Also definitely worth trying this weekend: chiles rellenos, tomato tortilla soup, roasted corn guacamole, and creamy corn and pepper taquitos.  You could have a feast.   Or you can make like my daughter and just eat plain tortilla chips.  She’s a trooper and tried salsa once, but Mommy and Daddy didn’t realize that it wasn’t mild and she thought that her mouth was on fire (literally).  So, once the PTSD wears off we’ll ease her into more diverse Mexican foods again.

Since this recipe makes a whole pie plate and Jake and I aren’t complete ogres, there was a good amount left over.  We ate it the next day on top of baked potatoes with fresh avocado chunks and it was just as good as with tortilla chips.  I would also eat it as a topping on hot dogs or burgers (especially black bean burgers), or as a taco filling.  And I made it after work one day, so it’s a n easy weeknight meal.  But I wouldn’t recommend pairing it with too many margaritas if you have a big meeting at work the next day.  Not that I’ve learned the hard way. :)

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 Soy Chorizo and Queso Fundido

1/2 pound block of Monterey Jack cheese (not shredded)
1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella (not shredded)
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
12 oz soy chorizo (I buy the package from Trader Joe’s)
1 can of tomatoes with green chiles (e.g. Rotel)
Tomatoes, onions, avocado, sour cream, etc. for topping

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Break the two cheeses up into big chunks and put them in a food processor.  Process until they are completely ground up and blended and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil up and add the onion.  Cook until it is soft and starting to be translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, and then add the chorizo and Rotel.  Keep on the heat until everything is warmed through.

In a pie dish, spread about half of the cheese onto the bottom.  Cover with the chorizo mixture and then top with the rest of the cheese in an even layer.

Cover and bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and melted.  If you would like to, finish up with a quick broil to brown the cheese.

Top with the garnishes and serve warm with tortilla chips.

Source: I did a lot of research and didn’t find exactly what I wanted, so I created this combination with the influence of many recipes.