Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad 1Do you need a quick and easy side dish to take to an office party or family gathering? I’m almost embarrassed to share this recipe because it’s really so simple  and all the flavor comes from a store bought pesto sauce.  But, hey you had to cook the pasta and cut up everything yourself.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound rainbow rotini pasta (or whatever shape of your choice)
  • 8 ounces cubed Colby Jack or Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 8 ounces grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 3.8 ounce can of sliced black olives, drained
  • 3/4-1 cup pesto or Italian dressing of your choice
  • 8 ounces hard salami cubes (this is optional. I didn’t have any on hand but it tastes wonderful in the salad.)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Chill in ice bath and remove once pasta is cool.
  2. While pasta is cooking, cut up cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, and salami if using.
  3. Add all ingredients into a large bowl and stir in pesto. Mix well.
  4. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight for the next day.

Pasta Salad

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Mexican Cornbread Casserole

Mexican Cornbread Casserole platedHappy Cinco de Mayo! This recipe is like a mash up of my Mexican Casserole and a tamale pie recipe I’ve tried in the past. And for my fellow home cooks who like quick recipes, the 35 minutes baking time is the longest you have to wait.  I love shortcuts, so if you do not have all the required spices in your cupboards you can also use a packet of taco seasoning. Since there is only two of us at home to eat this, I used half the meat and only one box of the Jiffy cornbread mix and an 8×8 baking pan. Otherwise I used the same amount of all the other ingredients. For my vegetarian friends, omit the ground beef and add pinto beans.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 (8.5 ounce) boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Mexican cheese blend; separated into 1/2 cup and 1 cup
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can black beans (15 ounce)
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 can (2.25 ounces) sliced black olives
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can (10 ounce) Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
  • 1 1/2 cup chunky salsa

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Meanwhile in a large bowl, prepare Jiffy cornbread mix by combining mix, eggs and milk. Stir well then add 1/2 cup grated Mexican cheese blend. Set aside. (If you like some extra spice, add a small can of diced green chilies to the cornbread mixture.)
  2. In a skillet add olive oil and cook ground beef over medium high heat until cooked through. Drain any grease. Add onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until onions are tender.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the meat mixture in skillet. Mix well and remove from heat.
  4. In a 9X13 baking pan, add meat and vegetable mixture. Top with 1 cup grated Mexican blend cheese.
  5. Add prepared cornbread mixture on top of cheese layer. Be sure to spread out evenly.
  6. Bake in oven for 33-35 minutes or until cornbread turns golden.  Enjoy with your favorite beverage.

Mexican Cornbread Casserole

One Pot Chicken and Rice

Tex Mex Chicken and RiceChicken and rice are my  favorite “go to” ingredients. There are so many ways to  prepare the two. For this recipe we are taking the fabulous bold flavors of the Southwest and going Tex Mex style. This is my kind of comfort food wrapped up in one colorful, piping hot bowl of deliciousness. And for my vegetarian friends out there, just skip the chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast, pounded thin and cut into small chunks
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 24 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 can (14 ounces) black beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Morton & Bassett Mexican Blend seasoning (cumin, garlic, onion, paprika, pepper and thyme)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add chicken pieces and cook each side for 2 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken onto a plate and set aside.
  3. Add onions, bell pepper and garlic to skillet. Cook 1-2 minutes until onions and bell pepper are softened.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, broth, corn, and black beans into skillet.
  5. Next add Mexican blend seasoning, cayenne pepper and brown sugar.
  6. Bring to a simmer and then add rice.
  7. Stir, cover with a lid and turn down heat to medium low.
  8. Cook for about 15 to 18 minutes until rice is cooked and most of liquid is absorbed.
  9. Add chicken and stir.
  10. Sprinkle with cheese and cover skillet with lid for 3 to 5 minutes for cheese to melt.
  11. Serve garnished with green onions or cilantro pieces.

Tex Mex Chicken and Rice Skillet

 

Egg Cups

Egg Cups PlatedThese were so much fun to make. If you have young children and want to introduce them to cooking I think these would be an ideal beginner’s dish. There are so many different variations you can make depending on what ingredients you like or what you have on hand. I made vegetarian ones and for my son I did a take on a Denver omelette using ham, cheese, bell pepper and green onion.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 eggs (will make 12 egg cups)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

FOR VEGETARIAN EGG CUPS:

  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 2 large shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup baby spinach, diced

Egg Cups 1

FOR HAM AND CHEESE EGG CUPS:

  • 1/2 cup diced ham
  • 12 tablespoons shredded cheese, divided (I used cheddar and mozzarella mix)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, diced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Meanwhile, generously spray muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. (For easier clean up, use baking cups instead of cooking spray.)
  2. Break eggs into a large bowl or 4 cup measuring cup. Add milk, salt and pepper. Whisk until ingredients are combined.
  3. Add equal amounts of your vegetables (or ham and cheese) into each cup of your muffin pan.
  4. Pour in egg mixture into each cup about 3/4 of the way up for each.

     

  5. Bake egg cups for 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes up clean.Egg Cups 6
  6. Let cool for a few minutes before taking egg cups out of pans.Egg Cups 7
  7. Serve with your favorite condiments or none at all.

You can keep these in an air tight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave.

Egg Cups Plated 2

Taco Cups

Taco Cup FeatureDo you need a dish to bring to a potluck? Or perhaps just want to change up taco night? Try making these taco cups. With just a few ingredients and a couple of cupcake pans you can make these gorgeous bite size wonders. This recipe yields 24 taco cups.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 package taco seasoning mix (1.25 ounces or 3 tablespoons of your own taco seasoning)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes , diced
  • 1 can diced green chilies (4 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 48 thin wonton wrappers
  • sour cream for garnish
  • green onions or cilantro for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously cover two cupcake pans in non stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Over medium high heat brown the grown beef in a skillet. Drain the excess fat when beef is done.
  3. Add taco seasoning, green chilies and 3/4 of your diced tomatoes to ground beef and stir to combine.  Turn off heat.  Reserve the rest of your diced tomatoes for garnish. Taco Cup 1
  4. Line each cup of your prepared cupcake pans with one wonton wrapper. Taco Cup 5
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of meat mixture. Taco Cup 3
  6. Add 1 tablespoon of cheese. Taco Cup 4
  7. Press down and add another layer of wonton wrapper, meat mixture and cheese. Taco Cup 6
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until cups are heated through and edges are golden. Taco Cup 7
  9. Add sour cream, reserved tomatoes and green onions or cilantro as garnish. Taco Cup Plated

 

Bacon Cheeseburger Pie

Bacon Cheeseburger Pie platedEver get in a dinner rut? I know I do. The same 5-10 dinner recipes on rotation week after week? Sometimes because they are quick and easy and other times just out of necessity.  So there I was. Staring at a pound of ground beef. What do I make? Stick to the routine or change it up? I say change is good.  Now I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this recipe on the back of a pancake batter box years ago.  But I don’t have any pancake batter mix, so I decided to make my own. But if you have some on hand, by all means feel free to substitute and save yourself a few steps.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cooked bacon slices, chopped into small pieces (optional, if you leave out then you are making cheeseburger pie)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees. Spray a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray.
  2. In a skillet, cook ground beef and onions until beef is browned and onions are translucent. 8-10 minutes. Drain fat from skillet. Add Worcestershire sauce to meat and mix.
  3. Spread ground beef and onions onto prepared pie plate.
  4. Using either a food processor or hand mixer, mix flour, sugar, salt and butter together until it forms into small pebbles of dough. (If you have pancake mix, use 1/4 cup and go to step 5.)
  5. Add milk and eggs. Mixing until combined.
  6. Pour into pie plate with meat mixture.
  7. Top with cheese and bacon pieces.
  8. Bake for 23-25 minutes. Or until inserted toothpick in center comes out clean.
  9. Serve with all your favorite cheeseburger sides.

 

Bacon Cheesburger Pie

 

 

Baked Penne Casserole

Baked PenneI was really in the mood for lasagna tonight. Then I checked my cupboard and refrigerator and soon discovered I was lacking lasagna noodles and a few ingredients. I also discovered that I was too lazy to go to the grocery store. So, I decided to make do with what I had and came up with this baked penne casserole. Don’t laugh, but I had to use provolone and mozzarella cheese slices that I normally would use in my sandwiches. I told you, I was too lazy to go to the grocery store. In the end it still worked out nicely.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 8 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 1/4 cup your favorite marinara or one 24 ounce jar pasta sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 container low fat cottage cheese (32 ounces)
  • 6 ounces provolone cheese slices (about 10 slices or enough to cover casserole)
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese slices (about 10 slices or enough to cover casserole)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, coat your 13 x 9 casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large skillet, brown your ground beef and mince it down to your desired size.
  3. Add diced onions and mushrooms to the ground beef and cook for 3-5 minutes until onions are tender.
  4. Next add the wine, sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and pepper. Stir to mix well. Sauce should be a little watery, not thick.
  5. Once the sauce is mixed and comes to a boil, turn off the heat.
  6. Add a layer of sauce to the bottom of casserole dish.
  7. Then add half your uncooked pasta to layer the casserole dish. (Yes, uncooked. Let the meat mixture you just made do the work for you.)
  8. Next layer the cottage cheese over the noodles.
  9. Now add the provolone cheese slices to cover the casserole dish.
  10. Add the rest of the penne noodles. Be sure to make an even layer.
  11. Add the rest of the sauce mixture over the penne noodles.
  12. Finally, arrange the mozzarella slices over the top of the sauce layer.
  13. Cover loosely with foil. (Tip: spray foil side that will be in direct contact with casserole with cooking spray, so the cheese does not stick.)
  14. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Baked Penne plated