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Tangy Pasta Salad

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This was the first recipe I ever pinned from Gina’s blog, At Home My Way, and that was years ago.  I’m so glad I finally got around to making it because it’s mega delicious, easy, and perfect for summer potlucks!  I’ve already made it for two of them in as many weeks and might have traded a few meals to enjoy an extra big bowl of it. LOL!  It’s really good stuff – not the typical dressing with oil or mayo (which means it won’t go bad in the heat!), but nice and tangy and fresh.  Love it!

Tangy Pasta Salad

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1 (16 oz) package tricolor spiral pasta
1 medium red onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced
1 medium green pepper (or red or yellow or orange, or some of each!)
1/2 red or white (sweet) onion, finely sliced and the rings cut into 1/4ths

Dressing
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup white or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Cook the pasta according to package instructions to al dente. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water until the pasta is cool to the touch. Add to a large bowl along with remaining salad ingredients.

In a small saucepan, mix together the sugar, ground mustard, salt, and garlic powder. Mix in the vinegar and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, 2-5 minutes. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2-6 hours; serve cold with a slotted spoon.

Veronica’s notes: you can use a smaller package of pasta – I used both 12 and 14 oz packages and both salads turned out fine. Unfortunately the leftovers aren’t great so this is best eaten between 2-6 hours after making it. The pasta is fine the next day, but something happens to the vegetables and they just aren’t’ as good – the salt probably draws a lot of water out of them, and they just don’t seem as fresh or tasty.

Recipe source: At Home My Way

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Neiman Marcus Dip

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I was perusing Minda’s Cooking after a long hiatus and I pinned everything I saw and then made it within a week.  OK, so it was three things, but that’s kind of epic for me. I pin tons of things (seriously, I’m almost at 8,000 pins), but rarely make them, let alone all at once. Minda’s blog was speaking my language, though.  First it was the  Frito Salad. Then it was this dip.  Then it was the Crockpot Chicken & Stuffing. Bring on the easy-to-make comfort food.

OK so we’ve already established that dip is my thing.  Dip is like majorly my thing.  If dip were a man, I would marry him and then eat all our dip babies. OK, maybe that’s going a little too far, but not by much.  And this dip is so, so good.  Totally meets my dip standards because it’s fat, plus more fat, plus some more x 2, with onions, which means it’s delicious. Can’t go wrong with quadruple fat plus onions.

All kidding aside, this dip is some serious goodness.  It’s creamy, crunchety, bacony goodness.  Make it, and you’ll be a superstar at your next potluck, game day, or to yourself as you spend some quality alone-time with it.

Neiman Marcus Dip

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5-6 green onions, sliced (both white and green parts)
1 (8 oz) package cheddar cheese, shredded
1 (3 oz) package real bacon bits
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted & cooled completely
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

Stir all ingredients together well in a mixing bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe source: Minda’s Cooking

Biscoff Butter Bars

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This month my Secret Recipe Club assignment was Annie’s Noms and I was in heaven. A baking blog with the majority of recipes given with grams instead of cups!  Be still my beating heart. :) While I enjoyed scouring through her recipes to find the one, I actually found it in the first thirty seconds but just had to keep looking because, hello. A baking blog. I love you and all your desserts, Annie!

I knew before I even saw the recipe that her Biscoff Butter Bars were exactly what I wanted to make. Hello. Biscoff and butter? Gimme gimme. If you haven’t had Biscoff yet, it’s cookie butter – smooth and creamy like peanut butter but made with lightly spiced cookies instead of peanuts.  Yes, seriously, cookie butter really is a thing, and it’s so good.  I encourage you to try it.  Most supermarkets, including Walmart, sell it now, and can be found by the peanut butter usually. Annie likes to eat it on croissants and that sounds like heaven!! Personally, I try not to buy it too often because it inevitably gets eaten spoonful by spoonful until I’ve devoured the entire jar in a shamefully short amount of time. But adding it to a butter-laden recipe, while perhaps even more sinful, makes it a lot easier to share with others and keep it off my own hips.

Unfortunately, I ended up eating more than my fair share anyway. Although I over-baked them a bit (something I previously considered an unforgivable culinary sin until I had a child and realized that over-baking is sometimes unavoidable), they were so good it was hard to stop eating them. Butter makes everything better, even something as perfect as Biscoff.

Please stop by Annie’s blog to see how beautiful these bars are when baked perfectly, and check out her other yummy desserts!

Biscoff Butter Bars

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½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
½ cup (3 ½ oz / 100 g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (3 oz / 84 g) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups (8 ½ oz / 242 g) all-purpose flour
1 (14.1 oz) jar Biscoff Spread

Preheat the oven to 325F and grease a 9×9 in pan. Place the butter and sugars into a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes on med-high speed. Add the vanilla extract and flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Press half the dough into the greased pan (wrap remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate) and bake for 12-14 minutes, until puffy and ever so slightly firm to the touch. It will not look done.

Allow the base to cool for 15 minutes. Once cooled, spread the Biscoff over the base, leaving a 1/4 inch gap around the edge. Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the Biscoff and bake for 20-25 minutes, until puffy, very lightly golden and slightly firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan. Slice into 12-15 bars.

Recipe source: slightly adapted from Annie’s Noms.

My baby is turning into a little boy!

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Joshua has been developing and growing so much since I posted when he was a wee five months. Now he’s a big 6 1/2 months and this is what he’s accomplished in the last month and a half…

He’s fallen in love with Jessie!  This photo was during a week-long stay at Grandma & Grandpa Miller’s and is the only one I have of them together, though it doesn’t reflect his love for her.  Every time she goes past him now, he gets a huge smile on his face and reaches for her.  She doesn’t like to be touched by him yet (he’s a bit grabby) but will allow it if I’m there to help make sure he’s gentle.  She rarely licks us but she licks him every chance she can get so on some level, she must like him…or at least likes the way he tastes. :)  Here’s a video of the first time he pet her (sorry it’s dark), and you can also see her taking advantage of his nearness by giving him a tongue bath lol:

He started rolling over from back to tummy while we were on vacation there, and is now sleeping not only without a swaddle, but on his side or belly because he refuses to be on his back any more and rolls immediately when put in his crib.  When I took the above picture, I felt a little catch in my heart because it was the first time I really felt like I was already losing my baby.  He looks like such a little boy in his shorts and T-shirt, rolled onto his side without his arms in the straight-jacket look of a swaddle.

He found his feet and loves to hold on to them while he’s drinking his bottle, or laying on the floor, or the bed, basically he holds them a lot. It’s pretty cute. :)

He’s become interested in other kids, including himself!  He loves looking at his reflection and smiles like this every time.  Whenever a child five or under is in his vicinity, he is mesmerized.  It’s about time to start having baby play dates. Here’s a video of his first baby lunch date:

He learned to read! OK, maybe not, but I had to include this pic of him checking out my Taste of Home magazine. He’s my little foodie baby.

Speaking of my foodie baby, here he is taking his first spoonful of real food (rice cereal).  He was ready for it!  When he saw it coming he grabbed it and insisted on feeding himself.  LOL!  This was before we even had baby spoons and his high chair was still in the box.  We are doing a combination of pureed/mushed foods and soft foods like peas, zucchini microwaved and sliced into coins, and banana chunks.

This way of feeding a baby is called Baby Led Weaning, which I discovered through other blogging mothers and they had such success with it I thought I’d give it a try.  I have to say, he and I both prefer when he can hold his own food and feed himself.  It’s less messy (so far, I’ve heard in the end it’s about the same) and less work, and I don’t have to fight him to get him to eat.  He seems to enjoy it much more when he’s in charge.  He doesn’t want to take food from a spoon much any more. Here’s a video of him chewing on a bread stick -he didn’t eat it but he sure had fun using it as a teether! lol

 

While I’m not ready for him to be a little boy, I have to say he’s more and more fun the older he gets. I don’t want him to grow up too fast, but I’m looking forward to all the fun we’re going to have along the way.

Frito Salad

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I have an internal maniacal laugh every time I say or even think, “Frito Salad.” Saying the words “Frito” and “Salad” in the same recipe title just makes me giddy with hilarity. Reminds me of one of my favorite eCards…

This “salad” is basically my two favorite things combined. Chips and dip (and one of my all-time favorite dips at that). And it’s called a salad. WINNING! :D  To be fair, it’s a little healthier than regular chips and dip because of all the corn (and some peppers & and onion), but let’s just get honest here.  This ain’t my Momma’s kinda salad.  But it sure is mine. >:)

This salad is downright delicious and would be great to bring to any potluck you might be attending in the near or distant future. I know I will be!

Frito Salad

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3 (14.5 oz) cans of whole kernel corn, drained
1 green pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 of a small red onion, finely diced
1 cup (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1 (9.25 oz) bag of Chili Cheese Fritos

Stir the corn, green pepper, onion, cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, mix in Fritos, reserving a handful to lay on top as a garnish. Serve immediately.

Veronica’s Notes: The original recipe called for red pepper along with the green, so feel free to sub in half of the green for red to make it prettier. Also, if you know you will have leftovers, add the chips to the individual servings rather than all at once, because the chips will get soggy and gross.

Recipe source: adapted from Minda’s Cooking

Mom’s Goulash

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I never learned to make goulash – I just knew it had noodles, ground beef, and tomatoey stuff going on in it, according to my Mom’s memories of what her mother made. But she never made it so I just came up with my own way of making it which was sort of like the same way I made spaghetti with meat sauce, but just with macaroni noodles instead.  I have my favorite version of my own version posted here.

I finally had real (real as in the Americanized real, not the Hungarian real) goulash at my in-law’s house.  I’d been wanting to get my MIL’s recipe for a long time, because although Dennis never says “this isn’t like Mom used to make,” I’ve always wanted to cook his favorite meals that he grew up eating and goulash topped that list.  His Mom’s goulash is really, really good!  After enjoying it on Easter, I asked her exactly what she put in it so I could recreate it at home.  I’ve never turned out better goulash and Den’s favorite is now one of my absolute favorites as well. We could eat this almost every week!

Mom’s Goulash

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1/2 lb macaroni
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, diced
garlic salt, pepper, chili powder, & hot sauce to taste
2 (14.5 oz) cans whole stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons ketchup
Tomato juice as needed

Cook the macaroni to al dente according to package directions. While it’s cooking, brown the ground beef and onion together in an extra-large skillet or in a dutch oven. Drain and season with spices to taste. In a large bowl, mash tomatoes with potato masher and add to beef along with the ketchup. Drain macaroni and add to the beef mixture, stirring well. Taste and add additional seasoning as needed. I didn’t need to add any tomato juice to mine, but if you like yours very juicy you can add as much tomato juice as you like. Phyllis adds it to her leftovers, which I would also recommend, because the noodles tend to soak up all the juice with time.

Recipe source: Phyllis Miller

P.S. Happy anniversary to my hubby! These have been the best 14 years of my life.

Microwave Peanut Butter Cookies

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For some reason I’ve never had the urge to make one of those quick and easy chocolate mug cakes that are done in the microwave.  I’ve saved recipes for them, thinking it sounds like a fun idea, but I guess it seems like too much work to mix up the ingredients for such a small cake. Especially since I know I’d have to do it at least twice in a row to satisfy my sweet tooth-lol.

But a microwave cookie?  I had to try that.  (Don’t forget my second favorite food group is “Cookies,” with “Dip” being the first-haha.)  The original recipe was for a single cookie but I don’t keep a carton of Egg Beaters on hand and didn’t want to measure out a single tablespoon of egg white from a real egg, so I just multiplied the recipe by four to use a whole real egg (I’ve got mad baking mathematical skillz and knew that a whole egg = 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons, just like I know how many ounces is in a cup of flour & sugar so that I don’t have to use measuring cups!).  This yielded four cookies, which is totally preferable to one cookie in my world.  :D

Dennis and I split the cookies and both loved them!  They are soft and chewy and totally hit the sweet spot. So simple and you don’t even have to turn on the oven.  Now that’s a summer dessert I can get behind. Extra bonus for those with food allergies: these are naturally gluten and dairy free!

Microwave Peanut Butter Cookies

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½ cup (4 ¾ oz) creamy peanut butter
¼ cup (2 oz) brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg

Use a fork to mix the peanut butter and brown sugar together in a small bowl. Stir in the baking powder until completely incorporated. Mix in the egg until batter is uniform, thick & smooth. Remove ¼ – 1/3 of the batter and place on a small microwave-safe plate. Press into a thick cookie shape about 2″ in diameter and microwave 1 minute. Allow to cool while repeating with remaining batter. I preferred these when just a little warm.

Makes 3-4 large cookies.

Recipe source: adapted from Carrot’s ‘n Cake

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