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Pasta Salad

7 Feb

When I worked for a large primary care physician group in east TN we had a co-worker who every once in a while would bring in a dish to share with us.  One time she brought in a taco soup with all the trimmings and then another time she brought in a pasta salad.  I adore pasta but pasta salads didn’t do much for me until this one.  I asked for her recipe and she told me it was nothing but cooked pasta, chopped tomatoes, green peppers, onions and cucumbers with italian dressing.  Simple but delicious, perfect for bbqs as a side or even a main dish.  Mariya loves this pasta salad.  Whenever I make this and friends are coming over I have to make sure to set aside extra for her.  This is like her cream cheese pound cake, I always have to have extra just for her.  There is never a problem with throwing away uneaten portions.  Never a problem if I make too much.  I use Good Seasons italian seasoning packet. I usually use a packet and a half because I like the extra flavor. Once in a pinch I used a regular bottled dressing, it’s not the same.  Do not substitute the Good Seasons!  I buy the box with 4 packets because I do this dish often especially in the summer. Since this is Mariya’s favorite dish and while it’s not french but it will be made and served for her wedding, provided she doesn’t eat it all!

Pasta Salad

  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 to 1/1/2 packets of Good Seasons Italian Salad dressing made as per directions for 1 packet
  • 1 lb box of angel hair pasta, cooked and cooled

Chop all vegetables and place into a large serving bowl. 

Add the italian dressing to bowl.

Mix in the cooked pasta.  Best served after an hour so that the dressing can meld into the pasta and veggies.


Vegetable Paella

2 Jan

Some years ago I googled a list of key ingredients and came across a recipe for a chicken and sausage paella.  The family enjoyed this dish and while the ingredient list looks somewhat intimidating it is an easy recipe.  When my husband and I traveled to Spain a couple of years back we always ate one meal per day while we were out.  One beautiful day we went to old Malaga, we were walking along some side streets and decided to lunch at a cafe and had a pitcher of sangria and vegetable paella.  It inspired me to use the chicken and sausage paella recipe but make it vegetarian.  While we were in Spain I bought some saffron there.  It is so much cheaper than what you pay here.  I decided to make this dish for Christmas eve.  I used the last bit of my spanish saffron and I had about a cup left of a white dry sherry that I used instead of the white wine.  The spices are light and makes for a good paella.  I also included the directions for roasting the peppers and onions at the bottom of the recipe.

Inspired by Lindsay Olives Seville Chicken, Sausage & Olive Paella

Vegetable Paella

makes 10 servings

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 6 *frozen artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • 6 medium scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
  • ‘4 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, heated
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sweet Spanish smoked paprika or the smoked hot
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups Arborio short-grain rice
  • kosher or sea salt
  • 1 large onion, roasted
  • 31/2 cup stuffed Manzanilla Olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup snap peas or snow peas, strings removed
  • 3 red peppers, roasted, 1 sliced lengthwise for garnish, 2 are chopped

Preheat oven to 400F.  Combine wine and saffron threads in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat the oil in a paella pan measuring 17-18 inches at its widest point ( I use a large cast iron that measured 13″ diameter), over 2 burners if necessary.  Add the zucchini, *frozen artichokes (if using the marinated artichokes from a jar then add to paella in the end with the veggies right before putting in the oven to bake), peas and scallions and saute about 3 minutes over high heat, until the vegetables are slightly softened.  Stir in the tomato, garlic, paprika, and cumin, and cook 2 minutes more.  Add the rice and coat well with the pan mixture.

Pour in 1/2 of the broth and the wine and bring to a boil.  Taste for salt and continue to boil about 5 minutes, stirring and rotating pan occasionally, until the rice is no longer soupy but sufficient liquid remains.  Pour in the remaining broth.  Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the snap peas, roasted onion, 2 chopped peppers and olives.

Arrange the roasted red pepper slices decoratively on the top (a “spokes of the wheel” arrangement is traditional) and transfer to the oven.  Cover; bake 40 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Remove from oven; let stand covered for 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Peppers

Preheat oven to low broil setting.  Place peppers in a pan and place under broiler.  Watch peppers and as they char turn peppers and continue til all sides are charred.  Put in bowl and cover with plastic wrap for at least 10 minutes.  Peel off the skin and remove top and seeds.

Roasted Onions

Preheat oven to 350F.  Slice onions about 1 inch thick.  Brush both sides with olive oil and place in pan.  Roast each side til browned about 20 minutes per side.  Cool onions and chop.

Corn Casserole

27 Nov

I came across this recipe from the Southern Living magazine back in the mid 90’s.  I made this for a holiday dinner and it has been a part of all holiday dinners ever since.  This is a family and friends favorite with the exception of Mariya who is not crazy about it but that’s ok, more for the rest of us!  I rarely deviate from the holiday meals as those dishes are typically only made at those times.  Sometimes I will make 2 of these casseroles if I have a big turkey for all those fabulous leftovers because there never seems to be enough and this holiday proved to be the same.  I actually prefer this using a cornbread mix versus straight cornmeal.  I think it’s moister and I prefer the texture but I provided both options.

Adapted from Southern Living magazine

Corn Casserole

Makes 8 side dish servings

  • 1 15 1/4 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 14 1/4 can cream-style corn
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 stick margarine or butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal or cornbread mix

In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients and stir until moistened.

Pour corn mixture into a 2 quart greased casserole.  Bake in a 350F oven for 50-60 minutes or til lightly browned and set in the center.

Cheese Stuffed Chilis

19 Oct

I think my favorite food of all time is mexican.  There’s nothing better than eating it straight from the source.  I came up with this dish on our prior trip to Mexico.  It was so yummy that I made it again on this trip.  This time however I tried roasting the peppers 1st and the results are better.  I enjoy this served with tortilla chips and of course a glass of sangria.  Sitting out on the patio overlooking the gardens and hammocks, there is nothing better!

Cheese Stuffed Chilis

  • 6 poblano chili peppers
  • enough cheese to stuff peppers
  • 1 jar Hunts 4 cheese spaghetti sauce
  • tortilla chips

In a 350F oven roast the peppers for 15 minutes turning peppers as needed.

Cut the tops off and remove the seeds.  Save the tops but cut away the seed pod from the top.

Fill pepper with cheese to about 1/2″ from the top.

Place in pan and cover generously with the spaghetti sauce.  Cook for about 15 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Watermelon Salad with Whipped Cream Mayonnaise

10 Sep

I read cookbooks like people might read a book of fiction and if it has pictures that’s even better.  I had belonged to a cookbook club back in the late 80’s and this particular cookbook also featured poems, stories and anecdotes.   Langiappe of cookbooks.  A term I learned while living in New Orleans, something extra.  This was an old fashioned type cookbook and the few recipes I did try were delicious.  This recipe intrigued me because of the combination.  I like those little twists and something different approaches.  This is a very refreshing and enjoyable recipe great for summer time since it uses watermelon perfect for those hot summer days.

Adapted from Jane Watson Hopping, The Country Mothers Cookbook.

Watermelon Salad with Whipped Cream Mayonnaise

  • 1 medium ripe watermelon
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 12 oz bottle ginger beer

Either use a melon ball scoop or slice watermelon into bite-size pieces.  Place into large bowl and sprinkle with sugar.   Pour ginger beer over top and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Drain liquid and reserve 2 tablespoons for whipped cream mayonaise.  Serve watermelon with with a dollop of the cream.

Whipped Cream Mayonnaise

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons watermelon juice, reserved from above recipe
  • generous dash of paprika

In a small bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks forms.  Stir in sugar.  in a separate bowl, mix mayonnaise with the watermelon juice and paprika.  Fold in whipped cream.

Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella, Grape Tomatoes and Basil

22 Aug

I love fresh basil!  I love it so much every year I plant several so that I can have fresh basil throughout the summer.  And with all this basil I need some great recipes.  I came across this recipe a few years back when Mariya and I decided to try a vegetarian diet.  It actually gave us an opportunity to be more creative in cooking and we found many recipes to work with.  These days however Mariya has given up the veggie diet and I have for the most part continued to remain vegeterian but have brought chicken and fish back in.  However every once in a great while (Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day) I have to have one of my stuffed burgers, stay tuned for Labor Day for that recipe. 

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella, Grape Tomatoes and Basil

Yield 6 servings


  • 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 5 cups fat free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup halved green tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 5 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced

Place vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook until syrupy and reduced to 2 tablespoons.  Set aside

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan, add green onions and cook over medium heat until tender about 3 minutes.  Add rice; cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly.  Stir in wine and cook until absorbed about 1 minute also stirring constantly.

Stir in 1 cup of the broth cooking 5 minutes or until almost absorbed.  Add remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly until absorbed before adding more liquid.  This will take about 25 minutes total cooking time.  Stir in the half and half, salt and pepper cooking about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stire in the tomatoes, basil and cheese.

To serve, place about 1 cup in bowl, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic syrup.