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

Pulled Pork Tacos with Pineapple Pico De Gallo

pulled-pork-taco-2Everyday is taco day in my house. But how about a little sweet and spicy kick?  Tex Mex meets Hawaiian and this is the end result. The slow cooker does most of the work, you get all the credit. Can’t beat that!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice (3 limes)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks or fresh if available
  • 1 small white or red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 20  small corn tortillas

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a 6 quart slow cooker add pork shoulder.
  2. In a large bowl, add barbecue sauce, brown sugar, lime juice (reserve 1 tablespoon for the pineapple pico de gallo), cayenne pepper, chili powder and garlic powder. Mix together to form a paste and spread evenly over pork shoulder.
  3. Cook on low for 8 to 9 hours; or you can cook on high for 5 to 6 hours. Shred when done cooking. pulled-pork-in-crockpot
  4. When your pork is ready, assemble the pineapple pico de gallo.
  5. Slice the pineapple chunks into smaller pieces and place in large bowl. Add the diced onions, jalapeno pepper, tomatoes, cilantro and reserved 1 tablespoon of lime juice. If you can handle the extra heat, add the crushed red peppers to the bowl. pineapple-salsa
  6. Top your tortillas with pulled pork, pineapple pico de gallo and shredded cabbage.
  7. Garnish with lime wedges. pulled-pork-taco-1

You can also change this recipe into pulled pork sliders by substituting Hawaiian bread rolls for the corn tortillas. pulled-pork-slider

Frijoles Charros (Mexican Cowboy Beans)

frijoles-charrosI’ve been on a Mexican food kick lately. Whenever I eat something at any restaurant, I always think to myself, “I wonder what they used to make this?” I’ve had these beans numerous times at my favorite Mexican restaurant. And I finally decided to try to recreate their recipe, but of course make it as easy and simple as possible. They turned out delicious! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. For my vegetarian friends, substitute with seitan bacon or use a few drops of liquid smoke and use vegetable broth instead of beef broth.

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 4-5 slices of bacon, chopped into small strips
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Over medium high heat, add bacon pieces to large saucepan. Stir bacon pieces 2-3 minutes until mostly cooked. Drain excess fat from pan.
  2. Add diced onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and tomatoes to bacon in pan. Stir until combined.
  3. Next add pinto beans and beef broth. Stir well and bring liquid to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.
  5. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve as either the main course or a side dish.

frijoles-charros-pot

 

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