Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad

 

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Boneless Buffalo wings, one of the best bar snacks ever invented.  I loved them in my 20’s but sadly I no longer have the metabolism of a 20 year old and not to mention it’s bikini season.  So…. I get my buffalo chicken fix with this delicious and nutritious pasta salad.  There is all of that delicious buffalo chicken flavor but without the breading, the frying and the guilt.  And, wait for it…..there’s even fresh crumbled blue cheese!  Yep, I’ve covered all the bases with this one.  You could pack it for a poolside lunch where you can wear and rock your two-piece bathing suit.

I was able to find a bottle of all natural ranch dressing made with yogurt which was good for this recipe.  You can also use my homemade Buttermilk ranch dressing.

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Buffalo Chicken Pasta
 
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Author:
Recipe type: pasta salad, side dish, main dish
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dry whole wheat Rotini or Penne pasta
  • 2 cups of rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breast - shredded
  • 3 stalks of celery - diced
  • 4 green onions (white and green parts) - diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 8-10 ounces of all natural bottled Ranch Dressing
  • 2 Tablespoons hot sauce (or more)
  • ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta to al dente, rinse and set aside to cool thoroughly.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the ranch dressing, blue cheese and buffalo sauce.
  3. Test the spiciness of the dressing and add more hot sauce to your liking.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the cooled pasta, chicken, celery, onion and carrot together.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir with a spatula until evenly coated.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

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Roasted grape tomatoes

roasted.tomato.pasta.3Fall is officially upon us and this week brought chilly temperatures along with having to turn on the furnace for the first time!  Ok, and my space heater I’ll be honest.  Cold weather is my nemesis, my arch enemy to be certain.  I’m truly just cold most of the time, even in the summer!  I mean, it’s a real problem.  And it’s not just cold, it’s a chilled down to my very core type feeling.  So I wear sweaters, keep coats and blankets in the car for those just in case moments and cook!  Because, being in a hot kitchen is definitely good when you’re chilly.

In the spirit of Fall I was in the mood for a comfort food meal.  And surely, when I think comfort food, I think pasta!!!  I’m still growing those grape tomatoes and I wanted a way to use a large number of them in one recipe.  Enter my preferred cooking method….roasting!  Roasting tomatoes and garlic brings out a natural sweetness in them and provides such a depth of flavor to the dishes you use them in.

grape.tomato.garlic.raw.2Start by slicing the grape tomatoes lengthwise and mincing the garlic.  Mix them with olive oil, Kosher salt and black pepper and place them on a sheet pan.  I actually used a spicy harissa flavored olive oil.

They come out sweet and delicious.  You can use them over pasta, as a topping for bruschetta and stirred into rice or cous cous.  You could also just eat them right off the sheet pan, they’re that yummy!

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Roasted grape tomatoes
 
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Roasting the tomatoes and garlic brings out a natural sweetness in them. Try using a spicy flavored olive oil for added flavor.
Author:
Recipe type: roasted tomatoes and garlic
Cuisine: Vegetables, Vegetarian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 pints of grape tomatoes (I used red and yellow) - cut in ½ lengthwise
  • 4 cloves of garlic - minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil - I used 1 Tbsp of a spicy harissa flavored olive oil and 1 Tbsp plain olive oil.
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the tomatoes and garlic on a sheet pan.
  3. Drizzle them with the olive oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Mix the tomatoes with your hands until evenly coated with the oil.
  5. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until soft and juice forms on the pan.

I used the roasted tomatoes over a whole grain thin spaghetti that I coated with basil pesto.  I sautéed some peppers, onions and mushrooms that I added to the pasta as well.  An easy vegetarian meal that’s the perfect comfort food for a chilly night!roasted.tomato.pasta.2

 

 

 

 

 

5 Delicious recipes to help you love kale

Kale Collage I’ve more than made peace with kale; I’m actually enjoying it and not just because its a nutritional powerhouse but because it’s delicious.  It’s delicious in these recipes anyway! I still live by the belief that people who eat kale are beautiful.  The “kale glow” if you will. Click on the photos below for the recipes.  I hope you enjoy them and here’s to you developing a new love……for kale. kale_farro_salad swiss.chard.pasta.3 kale.pesto.crostini1 kale.pesto3 kale 1

Kale Pesto

kale.pesto1Pesto can be a whole topic on its own.  It is so versatile in the ingredients you can put in it and the dishes you can put it in.  My favorite uses for pesto are mixing it into pasta as a sauce, a sandwich spread, stirred into soups for added flavor, served on crostini as an appetizer and as a pizza sauce.

This pesto uses kale and it’s flavor is surprisingly bright and fresh with the lemon juice.  It has been very well received by the people I’ve served it to.

I welcome your comments once you’ve tried it.  And please feel free to share your uses for pesto, there’s always room for more!

Kale Pesto
 
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Recipe type: pesto, sauce
Ingredients
  • 4 cups tightly packed chopped kale (I used already cut bagged kale)
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • juice of ½ of a lemon (approximately 2-3 Tablespoons)
  • Kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Romano cheese
Instructions
  1. Toast the pine nuts in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until they begin to lightly brown (they'll begin to smell like popcorn).
  2. Place kale, pine nuts and garlic and lemon juice in the food processor. Pulse until blended.
  3. Add the salt and pepper.
  4. Turn on the food processor and stream in the olive oil. Transfer the mixture from the food processor to a bowl. Stir in the cheese. Serve.
  5. Note – if you’re not going to be serving it immediately, wait to put the cheese in until you're ready to serve it.

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Green Goddess Pasta

 

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How many nutritious greens can you get into a pasta?  I’m not sure but I’ve used two powerhouses here.  They are kale and swiss chard to be exact.  By now we’ve all heard the health benefits of kale but swiss chard is often overlooked as it’s less known than some of the other greens.

Swiss chard is most common in Mediterranean countries and an excellent source of vitamins K, A and C.  It is also full of magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber.  It’s stems come in a variety of colors making it beautiful on the plate if you steam or roast it with the stems attached.

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Summer produce lends so well to quick pasta dishes.  Forget those heavy tomato sauce laden pasta dishes.  This light summer pasta is delicious and healthy and a snap to throw together.

This one uses my kale pesto and has a bright flavor with the lemon that is added to the pesto as well as the lemon juice and zest that’s mixed through the dish.  If you’d like to add meat, try some Italian chicken sausage as I’ve done below.  You could also substitute spinach for the swiss chard.

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I think I might be overdoing the summer pasta dishes but they’re just so beautiful with all their colors.  And again, they come together so quickly.  They’re just perfect for a weeknight meal when you get home from work and don’t really feel like cooking.

Green Goddess Pasta
 
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This is a beautiful and bright summer pasta dish that packs a real nutritional punch with kale and swiss chard.
Author:
Recipe type: Main Course, What's For Dinner?
Cuisine: Pasta
Serves: 2-4
Ingredients
  • ¾ box of whole wheat spaghetti - cooked according to package directions
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large bunch of swiss chard - tough stems and ribs removed, rough chopped
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (omit if you don't like the heat)
  • ½ cup reserved pasta water
  • ⅔ cup or more kale pesto (get link to recipe in this post)
  • juice of ½ of a lemon
  • zest of 1 whole lemon
Instructions
  1. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet.
  2. Add the swiss chard and the crushed red pepper and sautee it until wilted and tender, approximately 5 - 7 minutes.
  3. Reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water.
  4. Drain and rinse the pasta with warm water.
  5. Add the pasta into the skillet with the swiss chard.
  6. Add the kale pesto and stir it gently into the pasta using tongs.
  7. Thin the pesto with the pasta water (very gradually) if needed in order to make it mix well.
  8. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and gently toss it into the pasta.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

 

Summer Tuscan Pesto Pasta

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I love summer!  I love sun, heat, being at the ballpark watching my favorite team, trips to friends cottages, longer days and just being outside.  I have a June birthday, born on the summer solstice in fact; maybe that has something to do with the fact that Summer and I get along so well!

Tonight’s dinner was fresh out of the garden and so delicious.  It came together in just a few minutes and just screamed summer with it’s bright colors and fresh flavors.  The recipe uses my Best Ever Basil Pesto recipe.  I sautéed some peppers and onions and served them over a whole grain thin spaghetti.  The sauce is the basil pesto with some grilled chicken breasts.   A delightful meal, like summer all wrapped up in a big pasta bowl.

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I found a jar of cherry peppers at Trader Joes.  They’re a sweet and hot pepper and they have a great complex flavor.  They’re more flavorful than hot, adding a warmth to the dish.  I also used a jar of roasted red and yellow peppers.  The peppers from our garden are sweet italan peppers.  Any bell pepper, banana pepper or poblano pepper would work.  The more the color the better!  Just pick what looks good at the market keeping in mind if they’re hot or sweet varieties.

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Summer Tuscan Pesto Pasta
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Pasta
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • ¾ of a 12 oz box of whole wheat thin spaghetti
  • 3 Italian sweet peppers (or any other sweet peppers) - chopped
  • ½ of a red onion - chopped
  • 1 12 oz jar of roasted red and yellow peppers - chopped
  • 6 cherry peppers - chopped
  • ½ cup kalamata olives - course chopped
  • ⅔ cup basil pesto (go to link above for my recipe)
  • grilled chicken breast tenders if desired
  • 1 cup of reserved pasta cooking water
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil to the boiling water before dropping the pasta.
  2. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water
  3. Drain and rinse the pasta
  4. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium high heat.
  5. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to the skillet.
  6. Add the Italian sweet peppers and the red onion to the skillet and sautee until crisp tender, approximately 5 minutes.
  7. Add the roasted red and yellow peppers and the cherry peppers to the skillet and heat until warmed through, approximately 2 minutes.
  8. Add the pasta to the pan and gently stir to mix the peppers through
  9. Add the basil pesto and add a little (a couple of Tablespoons) of the reserved pasta liquid in order to thin the pesto a bit, allowing it to evenly coat the pasta.
  10. *Note - you will NOT use all the reserved pasta water.
  11. Plate the dish and sprinkle it with the chopped kalamata olives and basil leaves to garnish.
  12. Serve with the grilled chicken breast tenders, if desired.

 

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Best Ever Basil Pesto…brace yourself, it’s that good!

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We all have one; that one recipe that is so good and gets you so much praise when you serve it that it secretly makes you feel like a rock star.  That one recipe for me is my basil pesto.  So much “the one” that I’ll be honest with you, I’ve really been on the fence about whether or not to share it.  Of course, I’ve come to my senses and realized that hello, I’m a food blogger and I’m passionate about sharing my recipes.  I want you to experience this holy grail of all sauces (in one blonde’s humble opinion that is).

I use this to create amazing pasta dishes, as a sauce for Panini and grilled sandwiches, as an appetizer on bread, in place of tomato sauce on pizzas and stirred into tomato soup for great added flavor!

Best Ever Basil Pesto...brace yourself, it's that good!
 
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The only basil pesto recipe you'll ever need!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • heaping ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 large cloves of garlic (more to taste)
  • ⅔ cups olive oil
  • heaping ½ cup grated Romano cheese (or Parmesan or a combination of the two)
Instructions
  1. In a small skillet toast the pine nuts over medium heat until they begin to turn a light golden brown. I can always smell when they're done as they smell like popcorn kernels cooking in oil on top of the stove.
  2. Place the basil, toasted pine nuts and garlic in the food processor and pulse until fully chopped.
  3. Stream in the olive oil while the processor is running and blend until it is fully incorporated.
  4. Transfer the pesto into a bowl and stir in the cheese.
  5. *Note - if you are going to freeze the pesto, add only ½ cup of the oil and pour the remaining oil on top of the pesto before freezing. Add the cheese AFTER you defrost it and are ready to eat it.

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Asian Pasta Salad

Asian.Pasta.Salad4I’ve really been on an Asian-inspired cuisine kick lately.  I just love the flavor profile and I think the light fresh ingredients can be combined so nicely in a variety of dishes, great for summer cooking.  My latest is an Asian Pasta salad.  I’ve used the sesame ginger dressing that I use on my cabbage slaw and it really flavors the pasta nicely.

One of my techniques for quick and easy weeknight dinners is having a repertoire of ingredients and flavors that I can combine into a variety of dishes; over greens for a salad, with pasta, rice or quinoa, in a Panini or over a chicken breast.  This is a great way to keep a few key ingredients on hand and be able to use them to make different dishes.

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Asian Pasta Salad
 
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Author:
Recipe type: pasta salad
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • For the Pasta Salad:
  • 1 box of Farfalle (bow tie) pasta noodles - or your favorite variety of pasta - cooked according to package directions
  • 1 bag of frozen shelled edamame - cooked according to package directions
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into thin strips
  • 2 cups of shredded carrots
  • 3 green onions, white and green parts - chopped
  • 1 cup chopped peanuts
  • For the dressing:
  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • Just over ½ cup sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated on the microplane
  • 1-1/2 inch round piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated on the microplane
Instructions
  1. Rinse the pasta in cold water after cooking and allow to cool.
  2. Mix the veggies into the pasta.
  3. Place all dressing ingredients into a Mason jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well combined.
  4. Add approximately ½ cup of the dressing and stir into the salad.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. When you're ready to serve the pasta salad, add an additional ¼ cup dressing or to taste.
  7. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts over the pasta and serve.

Strawberry and Spinach Pasta Salad

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I really love adding fresh fruit to a salad.  It’s a nice punch of color and sweetness and usually an unexpected ingredient.  So, I thought why not add it to another salad where it would also be unexpected; pasta salad!  I’ve made this for summer meals and even for the holidays given it’s festive colors.

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Strawberry and Spinach Pasta Salad
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Pasta Salad, Vegetarian Main, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pasta
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 box of whole grain rotini - penne, farfalle or rigatoni would also be nice
  • 1 quart strawberries - large chopped
  • 1 10 oz bag of baby spinach
  • 1 large can (or 1 cup fresh) pitted black olives - sliced in half lengthwise
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese - I used a blend of both
  • ¾ cup of bottled all natural garlic vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Rinse, drain and set the pasta aside to cool.
  3. Combine the cooled pasta with the strawberries, spinach, black olives and shredded cheese.
  4. Add the dressing, Kosher salt and white pepper and mix to thoroughly coat all ingredients.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to blend.
  6. Stir the pasta before serving.
  7. Add additional dressing if needed.

 

Asian inspired chicken with a colorful sauteed slaw and noodles in a peanut butter soy sauce

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Spring appears to have FINALLY come to our neck of the woods.  In the spirit of spring and warmer temperatures, I wanted a sunny, colorful dish to match this lovely season.  The inspiration for the flavors in this dish came from a recipe I came across for a peanut butter sauce by Claire Robinson on the Food Network.  I’ve used it here served as a sauce for whole wheat noodles.  This sauce reminds me of a Thai or Asian dish so I decided on a sesame ginger marinade for the chicken breasts with a colorful and healthy veggie slaw to garnish it.  The result was a very nice dinner with different and unexpected flavors.  My dinner guest was very impressed with me for, as she put it, “thinking outside the box and being really creative.”

That’s what it’s all about; the way to a person’s heart is ………. you know the rest!

Asian inspired chicken with a colorful sauteed slaw and noodles in a peanut butter soy sauce
 
Author:
Recipe type: What's for dinner
Cuisine: Asian
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • For the sesame ginger marinade/dressing:
  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • ¼ cup sesame oil
  • ⅓ cup peanut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and grated on the microplane
  • 1-1/2 inch round piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated on the microplane
  • For the veggie slaw:
  • 1½ Tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 jalapeno pepper - seeded, ribs removed, diced
  • 1 small orange bell pepper
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • *** I like the bags of Super Sweet mini bell peppers found in the supermarkets. They come in a bag with yellow, orange and red peppers. If they are really small then use 2 of each color pepper for this recipe.
  • ¾ cup shredded carrot
  • For the noodles with peanut butter sauce:
  • 10 ounces of whole wheat noodles (the large ones that look like wide egg noodles). The package was 12 ounces, I cooked the whole bag and used all but about 2 cups of the cooked noodles so that I had enough sauce to really coat all the noodles.
  • ½ cup natural crunchy style peanut butter
  • ½ cup seasoned rice vinegar (found at any supermarket, the seasoning provides really nice flavor)
  • 2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp hot sauce of your choice (this is optional, I used Tabasco)
  • sliced scallions - green portion (garnish)
  • chopped peanuts (garnish)
Instructions
  1. Method:
  2. Mix all dressing ingredients in a bowl with a wire whisk or shake in a Mason Jar until well combined. Marinate the chicken breasts in the sesame ginger dressing in a sealed plastic storage bag for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. I reserve some of the dressing to use as a sauce over the chicken once its cooked. Cook the chicken breasts in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the breasts. Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees minimum. You could absolutely use an all natural bottled Asian sesame dressing instead of making your own.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp olive or canola oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger, jalapeno, carrot, bell pepper and a pinch of salt and black pepper to the skillet. Sautee until crisp-tender, approximately 8 minutes.
  4. Add the peanut butter, seasoned rice vinegar, soy sauce and hot sauce to a medium bowl. Cook the noodles according to package directions and drain. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and well mixed. Pour the sauce over the noodles immediately after the noodles are cooked and gently stir to combine with tongs. Top the noodles with the sliced scallions and some chopped peanuts to garnish.
  5. Plate the chicken pouring the remainder of the sesame ginger dressing on top as a sauce. Top the chicken with the sautéed slaw. Serve with the noodles on the side.

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