Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pasta Salad

This is my kids favorite pasta salad.  The beauty of pasta salad is that you can adjust the ingredients to match your family's tastes (and what's currently in the cupboard.)


6 ounces tri-colored rotini pasta, cooked according to package directions
6 ounce jar of green olives
1 bunch broccoli
1 cup cubed summer sausage
1 cup cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
8 ounces Italian Salad Dressing

Mix all ingredients together.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Finished Pasta Salad

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Strawberry Chocolate Trifle

Desserts are fun to make and add a festive look to dinner.   We recently purchased some fun red wine glassed and I look for ways to repurpose things, so I decided to try individual trifles in the wine glasses.   

Finished Trifle...Yum!!!

I made these again in smaller cups for Kelly's birthday

1 box angel food cake mix
2 cups strawberries diced
5.1 oz. box of chocolate pudding mix
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup water
8 oz container Cool Whip
2 tablespoon dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli) melted

Make the angel food cake according to the box directions.  Allow the cake to thoroughly cool, then cut the cake into 1 inch cubes.

Mix the chocolate pudding, sweetened condensed milk, and water together until well blended.  Refrigerate for no more than 5 minutes to set.  Once set fold in most of the 8 oz Cool Whip  - I like to reserve some Cool Whip to dollop on top of the finished trifle.

Now, line up 4 wine glasses.  Add the chocolate pudding mixture to the bottom of each glass, next layer pieces of angel food cake, then layer strawberries, then repeat all layers.  Finish each trifle with a bit more chocolate pudding mixture and finally a dollop of plain Cool Whip.  I also sprinkled a few more diced strawberries on top.

Once this is done, melt the 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips  take a fork to drizzle the chocolate over the top of the dessert.  Cover the desserts and refrigerate for 2 or more hours.  Enjoy!
Ingredients ready to go

Pudding, Sweetened Condensed Milk and Water mixed

Cool Whip added to pudding mixture

Putting the first layer in the wine glasses

Adding the angel food cake and strawberry layers

Grilled Ginger-Sesame Chicken Salad

I got my inspiration for this recipe on  I updated the ingredient list based on my preferences and to tone down the saltiness of the original recipe.  For an additional short cut, use grilled rotisserie chicken rather than grilling your own


Marinade and dressing -

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 2 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (white and green parts)

  • 8 ounces cole slaw mix
  • 2 carrots, grated 
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced and cut on the diagonal
  • 2/3 cup freshly cut cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Add all dressing ingredients together except for chicken breasts.  Mix well.  Take 1/4 cup of dressing and place in a gallon zip top bag.  Add the two chicken breast and marinade for at least 30 minutes.
Grill or pan fry chicken until done, then shred into pieces.

Add all Salad ingredients to grilled chicken, toss to mix.  Pour dressing over the top and toss again.
Serve immediately.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tomato, Spinach and Cheese Swirl Bread

I've had this recipe as one of my favorites for a long time.  It's a tri-color bread, so it great to bring for get togethers with friends and family.  It tastes delicious and when it's baking, it fills the house with the wonderful aroma of fresh baked bread...yummm, nothing like getting that first piece of bread out and spreading with butter that melts on contact.  I'm really a bread person, so while this recipe takes a while to prepare, I think it's worth the time.

Typically when I make this recipe, I make a double batch because then it uses a full square of frozen spinach and a full can of tomato paste. (And makes 4 loaves).  The recipe that I've listed below is for the regular size recipe which makes 2 loaves of bread.


1 Tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105 degrees)
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup all purpose flour

Cheese Dough:

1 egg
1/2 cup warm milk (105 degrees)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 - 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Tomato Dough:

1/4 cup tomato paste
4 sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, finely chopped
1/4 cup warm water (105 degrees)
1 1/2 - 2 cups all purpose flour

Spinach Dough:

1/2 cup thawed, frozen chopped spinach
1 teaspoon leaf basil, crumbled (I use fresh basil chopped in  season)
1 1/4 - 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour


Prepare Sponge: Combine sugar and warm water in a 2 cup measuring cup.  Sprinkle yeast over the top; stir to dissolve yeast.  Let stand until foamy (approx. 10 minutes).
Transfer to a  medium size bowl.  Add salt, olive oil, and flour.  Mix until smooth.  Divide sponge into thirds (approximately 1/2 cup each)

Prepare  Cheese Dough:

Beat together one third sponge, egg, milk and Parmesan cheese and 1 cup flour until smooth in a large bowl.  Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Transfer to a floured surface and knead dough for 5-10 minutes.  Place back in bowl and cover with a towel.  Place in a draft free area and allow to rise until doubled (approximately 1 1/2 hours)

Prepare Tomato Dough:

Beat together one third sponge, tomato paste, sun dried tomatoes, warm water, and 1/2 cup flour in a large bowl.  Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough.  Transfer to a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes.  Place back in bowl and cover with a town.  Place in a draft free area and allow to rise until doubled (approximately 1 1/2 hours)

Prepare Spinach Dough:

Place remaining third sponge and spinach in a food processor.  Whirl until spinach is pureed (about 1 minute).  (For a heartier recipe, you can just mix the two by hand.)  Mix together spinach mixture with basil and 1/2 cup flour.  Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough.  Transfer to a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes.  Place back in bowl and cover with a town.  Place in a draft free area and allow to rise until doubled (approximately 1 1/2 hours)

Grease two baking sheets.

After 1 1/2 hours, punch down dough and divide each in half.

Roll out half the cheese dough into a 14 x 6 - inch rectangle
Roll out half the tomato dough into a 13.5 x 5.5 - inch rectangle.  Place on top of the cheese dough.
Roll out half the spinach dough into a 13.5 x 5.5 - inch rectangle.  Place on top of the tomato dough
Roll up doughs together from long side.  Pinch seam and ends to seal.  Place seam side down on greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled (approx. 45 minutes)

Repeat with other dough halves for the second loaf.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut several 1/4 inch deep slashes into the top of the dough with a sharp knife.  Bake loaves for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  During the last 5 minutes.  Brush with butter.
Preparing the Sponge

Tomato Dough ready to rise

Spinach Dough ready to rise

Cheese Dough doubled in size

Punched down cheese dough before dividing

Divided cheese dough into 4 pieces (remember, I doubled the recipe above) Divide yours into two balls.

Cheese Dough rolled out

Rolling out tomato dough

Tomato dough added to top of cheese dough and spinach dough rolled out

Spinach dough placed on top of tomato dough

Doughs all rolled together and slashed placed in top of dough

Butter added to top of dough

Dough doubled in size

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Caprese Quinoa Salad

In the summer, I love any recipe that allows me to use the fresh basil from my garden. I've made this recipe before and it is always delicious. I served it with the Rosemary Lemon Chicken and some strawberries.

Caprese Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups of water or chicken/vegetable broth (the broth gives the quinoa more flavor)
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella (chopped)
  • 1 carton of grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 2 tbsp of fresh basil (chopped)
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Add the quinoa and water or broth to a medium pot or skillet. Bring to a boil. Once the quinoa begins to boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Once quinoa is finished cooking, place in refrigerator to cool for 20-60 minutes. 
  3. While the quinoa is cooling, begin to chop the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. 
  4. Once the quinoa is cool, combine all of the ingredients in a medium-large bowl and mix together. 
  5. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes longer or until serving. 
The full meal: Rosemary Lemon Chicken, Caprese Quinoa Salad, and Strawberries

Rosemary Lemon Chicken

I found this recipe on a blog called The Lemon Bowl. It was pretty good; our only complaint was that the lemon flavor was so overpowering that it was hard to taste the rosemary and garlic so next time I plan to only use one lemon (instead of two) and increase the olive oil by a little bit but I will definitely be trying this one again.  I baked the chicken this time around but next time around plan on grilling it. I served this with Caprese Quinoa Salad and strawberries.

Rosemary Lemon Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 lemons (zested and juiced)
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic (or 3 cloves of fresh garlic)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  1. Zest the lemons over a small bowl.
  2. After zesting, juice the lemons over a different small bowl; scoop out any seeds that fall into the juice.
  3. Combine the lemon zest and juice in one of the small bowls.
  4. Mix in remaining ingredients with a fork or a whisk. 
  5. Put chicken breasts into a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken. 
  6. Refrigerate overnight or as long as possible for the chicken to absorb the flavor. 
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees or grill to medium-high heat. 
  8. Bake chicken for 20-25 minutes or grill chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side (check the internal temperature of the chicken - should be 165 degrees or higher or cut in half to see if it is white all the way through to make sure the chicken is fully cooked).

Finished chicken

Pairs well with Caprese Quinoa Salad and Strawberries

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin - Crock Pot

I love the taste of the glaze that is created with this recipe.  My version of the recipe doubles the amount because we like to have extra to dip the pork loin in when you're done cooking.  This meal tastes great the first day and works well as pulled pork sandwiches on another day as well.


2 2 pound boneless port tenderloin
2 teaspoons ground sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 cup beer


1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons soy sauce

Ingredients for rub and cooking

Combine sage, salt, pepper and garlic in a bowl

Rub ingredients on top of both tenderloins

Pour beer in the bottom of the crock pot and then add seasoned tenderloins.  Cook for 4-5 hours on low.  When you have only an hour left of cooking, prepare glaze  - combine all glaze ingredients in a sauce pan and heat until mixture starts to thicken.  Brush roasts with glaze 3-4 times during the last hour of cooking

Glazed Tenderloins

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dark Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Ingredients for Brownie Layer

5 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Truffle Cheesecake Layer

3 packages (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (10 ounces) Ghiradelli 60% Cacoa Bittersweet Chocolate
1/2 teaspoon shortening (do not use butter or margarine)


Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 inch springform pan.

For Brownie Layer: Stir all incredients together, blend well.   Spread in prepared pan.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until brownie layer pulls away from sides of the pan.

While brownie layer is cooking, prepare truffle layer.  Blend all ingredients except bittersweet chocolate and shortening together well.  Reserve 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips.  Take the rest of the chips and melt for 90 seconds in the microwave at 50% power.  Stir melted chocolate into the truffle layer.

Remove brownie layer from oven and immediately cover with truffle layer.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 45-50 minutes or until center is almost set.  Remove from oven to a wire rack.  With knife loosen cake from side of pan.  Cool to room temperature.  Remove from pan.

Place remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips and shortening in a small microwave safe bowl.  Microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds or until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred.  Drizzle over top of cheesecake.  Cover. Refrigerate several hours until cold.

Brownie Layer Mixed Together

Truffle Layer Before Adding Melted Chocolate

Truffle Layer after adding chocolate

Finished Cheesecake