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easy–peasy pasta salad 

first of all, thank you for your kind words and messages yesterday ☺️

tis the season for cookouts, barbecues ( <—–did I ever mention that I don’t like that word?  I lost my 5th grade spelling bee to this word.  There is not a ‘Q’ in barbecue)
Le sigh…  
Anyway.. where you find cookouts, you find fun side dishes!  Our family always had a slaw, potato salad, detox salad or pasta salad in the fridge this time of year. 

A favorite is my Mom’s pasta salad. Nothing fancy, just amazing. 

Recently I made this version of a pasta salad..   And while it can be tweaked to whomever is eating it, this is how I did it.  I have a lot of readers who are adjusting to cooking on their own. I’m going to try to share some easy, inexpensive ideas for y’all. 
This came out a bit on the spicy side. But we love heat around here.  I’ll put the non spicy version in parentheses.

Vinegarette-based pasta salad 

1 pound pasta of choice (we love farafalle for this) 

Sea salt

1 /2 red onion chopped 

1/2 cup pepperoni, quartered 

1/2 block pepperjack cheese ( use Monterey Jack or cheddar for less spice) chopped 

Cherry tomatoes *see tip below for easy cutting *

1/4 cup chopped olives

1/4 cup pepperincinis,sliced 

1/3-1/2 cup of premade Italian dressing ( I like Newman’s for this, use what you like)

1/4 cup herbed feta ( not pictured) 

Broccoli florets go great in this but I didn’t have any

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add sea salt. Cook pasta according to box and drain ( don’t rinse) 

Add about a tablespoon of dressing to warm pasta and toss.  Let come to room temp, tossing every once in awhile.

Add toppings

Then top with dressing and toss!

If using the red pepper flakes, sprinkle a few on top. 
I made this last week and my family devoured it. It’s so simple, yet so tasty.  It has just the right mixture of texture and flavor 
Some more of our family favorite side dishes 

Blistered tomato salad with feta and arugula 

 Spinach fennel salad with blood orange and arugula

Prosciutto cantaloupe salad

***. Easy way to halve a bunch of cherry tomatoes. ***


Take 2 deli- style lids 
Lay tomatoes single file on one lid 


Top with other lid upside down 


Use a serrated knife.  Apply gentle pressure to top lid and slowly cut between the 2 lids 

Bada bing!


The hubs and I have been playing words with friends again.  He’s terribly competitive 🙄. And I never win a match with him 😂😂😂
Anyone else have super competitive family members???

Off to hear about him winning again..

Until next time…
Ciao bellas!

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….spicy tomato-ginger jam 

I forget where I first tasted tomato jam, but I can tell you that I instantly fell in love with it!
I’ve been searching for a recipe for a few years, and the few times I attempted to make it, it did not come out well🙁
I’ve been doing a lot of research ove the last few weeks, giving that I have SO many tomatoes! (You can see just how tall my tomatoes a in my previous post) 

I played around with a recipe yesterday and I have a winner!  I based it on This recipe, but made a few changes.
 I didn’t take too many photos because honestly, I wasn’t too optimistic after my previous failed attempts. 
It’s not a quick recipe.. but it is super easy.  
And the flavors..
Oh.

My.

Goodness!

spicy tomato-ginger jam 

4 pounds tomatoes, cored and peeled ( for details on how to do this see This post)

3 cups sugar 

1/2 cup lemon juice 

1 jalapeño, halved and seeded

3 pieces of crystallized ginger 

2 cloves

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 

1 tsp cinnamon 

Sea salt

Ground pepper 


Place all ingredients in food processor of high-speed blender and pulse until chopped up to the point just before puréed 


Add mixture to heavy non-reactive pan.  Bring to a boil and the reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally. 


It’s starts out pretty soupy, but slowly thickens. It took my batch close to 5 hours! 



As it gets close to the end, it will start getting glossy looking and thick.  You have to stir more often as it gets close to being done.  Essentially, you’ve condensed the sugars and don’t want it to burn. 



You can store it in a jar in the fridge, or you can process it, like I did 

It’s amazeballs on crackers with cream cheese… ( these are my favorite crackers, btw… they are amped right here in Denver, they are super thin, tasty and figure-friendly!) 

It would be incredible on bruschetta with a thin later of ricotta.. and maybe some prosciutto on top.. 

And it’s a good thing that I don’t have bread right now, because this would make a most excellent grilled cheese with white cheddar cheese 😍
Maybe I’ll treat myself later this week…
The jam has what I’d call a ‘sweet heat’. Think jalapeño pepper jelly ( which I made and processed last week) 
It’s elegant enough to have on a special occasion/ holiday.
I’m going to make another batch and process from holiday gifts.  I think it’s that good! 
On another note… I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but I’d like to introduce you to our newest family member 

Meet my Jersey Girl 🐾😍❤️️

one-pot creamy pasta

Happy Friday, friends. 
The recipe I’m sharing today is not my own.  It was in Martha Stewart’s magazine a few years back.  It was one of those pull-out recipe cards. 

I must admit, I didn’t think much of it when I saw the recipe, but a snowy afternoon with limited ingredients in the house led me to try it.
Holy cow batman!  Is at as good as fettuccini alfredo?  Nope.  Pasta, cream, cheese butter garlic..  not much can compare with that. 

Was it amazing? YES!

Was it easy?  YES!  Easier than making a box of kraft mac and cheese ( which, btw.. it also kind of amazing it it’s fake orange cheese nostalgic way ☺️) 
Here’s the original recipe for One pot orecchiette, chickpeas and olives

Admittedly, I’ve followed her recipe to a tee… but I’ve also used it as a guideline to play a little. 
Here’s her original recipe, just subbing the kind of pasta I used 

12 ounce dry pasta ( I had bow ties, so I used bow ties) 

* note..  many companies make ‘no bake’ pasta these days.  For this recipe, just use your regular pasta.  I haven’t tried it with GF pasta, but I’d imagine it would work, just keep an eye on it and add more water if  needed) 

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted ( you can buy them pitted.. don’t fret )

3 cloves garlic, smashed ( or 1 tsp garlic powder ( make sure not garlic salt) 

Sprig of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried

3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 

2 TBSP tomato paste ( buy the tomato paste in the tube.  It’s in the canned tomato isle.  Believe it or not. Whole Foods has one of the least expensive tomato paste tubes.  I believe Trader Joe’s also has one) don’t pay more than 3 bucks for it

( optional.. but I always use in any soup or stew.. small piece of Parmesan rind) 

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Sea salt

Ground pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese ( I also added a bit on cheddar ends that I had in the fridge )

2 cups baby greens 
Place everything up to cheese in a stockpot. 

Add 5 cups of water 
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, stirring occcasionally. Check pasta in 12-15 minutes ( thicker pasta will require longer.  Check at 15 min to see). It should be mostly cooked, with just a slight bite to it. 

Turn off heat, but leave pan on burner 

Add the cheese, replace cover for 5 min so the cheese can melt. After 5 min, stir and if cheese still needs longer to melt, cover for additional 5 min.  Discard rosemary sprig, if used. If sauce seems a bit thick, stir in a bit more water until you get a creamy consistency 


Serve with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes 


Please try this!  I have a lot of friends who are just learning to cook.. a lot of girls just on their own, either senior year in college or just out on their own.  This is a great recipe to start to learn to cook 

You can assemble in the morning and add water and cook when you get home from work
You can play with the ingredients…sub out broccoli crowns and cooked chicken for the chickpeas and olives

Or chopped red pepper and cooked sausage for the chickpeas and olives

Or ground beef and onion,  and pepper jack cheese for a Tex-mex flair

Or you can eliminate the cheese to make this vegan. 
Full credit of this recipe goes to Martha Stewart.  I just wanted to share it because it is insanely easy and tastes like it took a lot longer than it did to make. Try it! 
Enjoy!
Ps…. happy birthday to my long-time friend, Laurie! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🍷🍰😘

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