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Pepperoni & Basil Tortellini Salad

Usually, I’d argue that this dish makes a perfect salad for Summer, whether it’s as a side dish or a meal itself. And it does. But when it’s unseasonably warm weather-wise on the home front and were less than two weeks away from Christmas, I’m not going to rant or rave. I mean I can’t actually do anything about it, so why not just go with it?

Tortellini & Pepperoni Pasta Salad 2

Just picture it, your favorite cheese tortellini with ripe grape tomatoes ready to burst with flavor, fresh basil, a generous helping of chopped pepperoni, and all mixed up with your favorite creamy Caesar salad dressing. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, or anybody on a diet, but if neither of those apply to you, it’s a dreamy combination.

Tortellini & Pepperoni Pasta Salad

Trust me you want in on this dish. In a month filled with warm, rich comfort foods and chaos and (if you’re a parent) kids home on break needing more lunch options than the typical brown bag variety, run headlong toward this ‘salad’. This is pasta salad, 2.0, and it’s just the change of pace we enjoy. With the roller coaster weather, us and our meals have to roll with the punches.

Pepperoni & Basil Tortellini Salad

Tortellini & Pepperoni Pasta Salad 3

1 (20 oz) pkg cheese tortellini, or about 3-4 cups frozen tortellini
1 cup pepperoni slices, chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup cubed, or shredded, mozzarella cheese
1 cup caesar dressing
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

Directions

  1. Cooked the tortellini according to package directions. Drain and transfer the tortellini to a large bowl.
    2. Stir together the dressing and the cooked tortellini. Add in the pepperoni, basil, cheese, and tomatoes and gently stir together, so that the tortellini don’t fall apart, until everything’s evenly combined.
    3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Esquites ( Mexican Corn Salad )

Do you have a Mexican food stand at your local Farmers Market? Or a local food truck claiming authentic Mexican street fare? If the answer is yes to either of these, then you’ve probably come across this dish before. If not, you’re in for a treat.

The name literally means ‘toasted’ corn.

 Etiques (Mexican Corn Salad) 2

And it’s the smokey, sweet, spicy, and tangy off the cob cousin of elote (creamy, cheese coated corn on the cob), and it’s packin all those same feisty flavors. So, it does not disappoint.

Were just loving all these de-constructed versions of things recently, aren’t you? Convenience is priceless.

Even better this corn salad can be served hot or cold, so it’s perfect for a toasty, comforting side dish in the Winter months, and also easily adaptable for a cold corn salad to bring to any Summer barbecue.

Esquites ( Mexican Corn Salad )

Etiques (Mexican Corn Salad) 3

2 tbsp butter
2 cans corn, drained or 4 ears fresh corn cut off cob
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced
2 tbsp Cojita cheese, finely crumbled (or shredded Mexican blend cheese)
1/8 tsp chili powder, to taste
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
    2. Add the corn to the pan and allow it to slightly char on the bottom of the pan, then give it a good stir and let it char one more time.
    3. Stir in the jalapeno and remove the skillet from heat.
    4. Transfer the corn mixture into a medium/large bowl and add in the mayonnaise, garlic, onions, cilantro, lime juice, cheese, chili powder and avocado.
    5. Gently stir everything together just until evenly incorporated.
    6. Serve immediately (warm) or cover and refrigerate, serving when chilled, your choice. Both ways are great.

Grilled Caesar Asparagus

I always find myself trying to keep things simple in the summer time. Maybe it’s the way everything seems to slow down, and for the most part, take a more leisurely pace. Of course, that could just be the heat. Or the fact that all the kids are home, and for people who don’t drive they sure do make a lot of plans to go all over the county, and everything takes us twice as long to get our little butts around to doing. And that we essentially throw our traditional school year schedules out the window. So yeah, summer meals. I’m in no rush, but everybody’s still got to eat.

In the evening’s, I’d much rather be sitting around outside with a good book, their play and laughter the perfect back ground music, than inside in the kitchen.

 image

That’s where asparagus enters into our meal-time picture. Grilled with a little oil, salt, and pepper, asparagus makes for a simple summer side dish. Top that beautiful grilled green bounty with your favorite caesar dressing, croutons, and some shredded Parmesan cheese, and you’ve got a perfect meatless meal that’s filling without weighing you down, and ready in a breeze. Serve stalks as is, or chop them into quarters for a more traditional, ‘tossed-salad’ type dish.

Grilled Caesar Asparagus

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
croutons
shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Toss the asparagus spears in the oil, salt and pepper them, to taste, and grill them over medium-high heat (turning once or twice) until crisp-tender and slightly charred.
2. Serve topped with the caesar dressing of your choice, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and another round of fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

Do you ever find yourself perusing Pinterest, or Facebook, or even sitting in a lobby flipping through a copy of Taste of Home only to see yet another salad ‘meal’ recipe and just keep flipping (or scrolling) because you just know either you’ll be the only one who likes it or it’s got a 50/50 shot at best? I can’t tell you how many times this has been me. If it’s been you too, then this is the salad recipe for you. This salad and dressing are packing the protein and the dressing is so yummy they’re not even gonna guess it’s got a good for em base.

 Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad With A Cool Avocado Dressing

Let the little bit of spice give ’em a kick in the pants. After all hasn’t Mom always told you to eat your greens? They’re good for you. Geez! Sorry. Seriously, sorry. Sometimes the mom in me just comes waltzing right on out and into my conversations. There’s really no stopping it. But back to topic. Healthy AND tasty.

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Cool Creamy Avocado Dressing

This is a salad for the people. The people who love salad. The people who suffer through salad. And especially the people who take one look at a salad and stick there nose up in the air because a salad can’t possibly be a satisfying meal.

Give it a try, and tell me if it doesn’t leave em asking for more 🙂 Top it with tortilla strips or a few crushed tortilla chips for that crunchy piese de résistance. And then try to hide the smirk while you politely refrain from telling them ‘I told you so’. Nope, scratch that. You can totally smirk.

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

Southwestern Pepper Jack Salad with Cool Avocado Dressing

For the Southwest Salad

1 head romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 cup of drained can corn or thawed frozen corn
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced roma tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese, or more to taste
crispy tortilla strips or tortilla chips

For the Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing

1 small avocado, peeled and sliced
1 small jalapeno, seeded, de-veined and roughly chopped, optional
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mild or medium salsa
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
juice from 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
tiniest of dashes of cayenne pepper, optional

Directions

1. Add all of the Creamy Avocado Salad Dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, scraping the sides down as needed. If using it, add in the cayenne pepper before adding additional salt and pepper to taste. If your dressing is too thick, then add in a little extra milk and stir until you’re reached the desired consistency. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Add salad ingredients to a large bowl, except for the tortilla strips/chips,  and toss to combine.
3. Toss the salad with the desired amount of dressing or drizzle dressing over individual servings, especially if you’re not planning to polish off the entire salad in one meal.
4. Garnish the salad, or servings, with tortilla strips, or tortilla chips and freshly cracked salt and pepper.

Are your hungry, hungry omnivores still looking for more protein and/or a denser dish? Serve it topped with grilled chicken strips and they’ll love it.

recipe adapted from Carlsbad Cravings

Sweet Strawberry Broccoli Salad

So it’s become apparent, undeniably apparent at this point, that the youngest son does not like dinner. We’ve verified that he likes food. He eats every other meal. He will be for food between his afternoon snack and dinner. But no matter what you put on his plate at dinner time he will insist he doesn’t like it, or that he’s full. The older sons enjoy fighting over his leftovers. While at any other meal, even if not happily or even willingly, he will eat his veggies, this whole dinner time protest thing has left me struggling to find new ways to re-present some of his A.M. Favorites.

Sweet Broccoli & Strawberry Salad

All the sons, and I do mean ALL have inherited there Daddy’s sweet tooth. Even the hubs is a picky veggie eater, but I figured if I knew him then anything, no matter how ‘good’ for you, in the guise of something sweet would be a surprising hit. And I know our little apples didn’t fall for from the paternal tree. So, this is what I came up with. Totally tasty, with some ‘tiny trees’ as they’re known around these parts tossed with some farm fresh fruit, and a sweet (but good for you!) yogurt-based ‘dressing’.

My game must still be good, because the sons all ate it, and I watched the hubs as he kept eating bite after bite, talking in between about how he doesn’t even like broccoli or strawberries, but he just couldn’t stop eating it.

Sweet Broccoli Strawberry Salad

Sweet Broccoli & Strawberry Salad

4 cups of fresh, chopped broccoli florets
2 cups of chopped fresh strawberries
¼ cup of chopped pecans
1/3 cup of goat cheese, crumbled
5 oz plain Greek yogurt
2-4 tsp maple syrup or honey, to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
salt, to taste
½ tbsp poppy seeds

Directions

1. Combine the broccoli, strawberries, cheese, and pecans in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, maple syrup or honey, and lemon juice, stirring until everything’s evenly incorporated.
3. Fold the dressing into the broccoli and strawberry mixture until all the fruit and veggies are evenly coated.
4. Add some salt and the poppy seeds and stir them in.
5. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I also like to omit the pecans and instead garnish with slivered almonds.

recipe adapted from Will Cook For Smiles

Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

If you’ve followed us for any amount of time you know that I’ve got a thing for traditions. Every holiday has its own little nuances and little things that, come hell or high water, we are going to adhere to. Another Easter just came to pass, and it’s no exception to the ‘mom is a crazy lady who is dying to make memories’ rule.

For example, every year we go to a local historical park that features a variety of animals and gorgeous gardens and views. It’s a big affair, complete with grandparents and aunts too. Each year we kick the whole shebang off with a picnic lunch. Really. Every year. Sadly though, like everything else it seems, I was pretty sure the older sons had aged out of caring this year, and I purposefully didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want to be all emotional when it was time for us to argue about it and for me to finally have to force them to go by pulling the ‘because I said so, and you’re gonna like it dammit’ card. I mean family time is family time. Right? Non-negotiable. But, to my surprise and utter delight, when I didn’t bring it up and Easter was creeping closer and closer, the older sons started to have a mild freak out.

Umm, excuse me? Of course we’re having an Easter picnic/park day. Duh. How could you doubt me? I was prepared to drag you there by the scruff even if you complained the whole way there, because tradition! But it made my heart so happy that you were that adamant about going yet again.

So, with that emotional crisis averted for all parties involved, we got back to the next most important thing. The food. After all, that’s our biggest tradition and the memories made around it one of our greatest legacies. For us no picnic lunch, especially an Easter Sunday picnic lunch, is complete without potato salad. It’s a staple. We’re not even real picky on the kind as long as it has the same style base. Potatoes, and something creamy, like mayo.

This lightened up, buffalo style version is one of our favs. Soon it’ll be one of yours too 😉

Light/Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

Light Buffalo Potato Salad

recipe adapted from The Weary Chef

2 lbs red and/or russet potatoes, diced into 1/4″ cubes
generous 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
generous 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-4 tbsp buffalo wing sauce, we prefer a mild sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced (optional)

Directions

1. In a medium sized pot, add the potatoes and add water until it just covers them. Add about 1 tsp salt, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Allow the potatoes to boil for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender. Transfer the potatoes to a colander to drain, and gently rinse with cold water for about one minute to stop the cooking process and cool them off.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, buffalo sauce, and salt and pepper. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining ingredients, stirring just until everything is evenly incorporated. 3. Serve as is, or refrigerate until chilled.

Cucumber Grape Salad with a Light Strawberry, Poppy Seed Dressing

Do you ever just need to eat something refreshing? Where each bite is a vibrant explosion of fresh flavor for your tastebuds? Every now and then I start to crave just that. Especially during the annual post-holiday over-eating guilt trip. But, I’m not always that great with the whole self-control thing in between meals, and I’ve never been able to sacrifice taste for fewer calories. Luckily, little beauties like this recipe exist so that I don’t have to.

Whether you’re looking for a yummy snack, or a healthy dessert, this is sure to do the trick.

Cucumber Grape Salad and a Light Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

 Cucumber Salad with grapes and a Light Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

recipe adapted from Oh, Sweet Basil

2 cups grapes, we prefer black but red or green should work also
2 cups baby cucumbers, sliced
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

For the Dressing

1 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup strawberry flavored Greek yogurt
1-2 tsp poppy seeds
salt to taste

Directions

1. In small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients and stir until fully incorporated. Season with salt to taste. We used a scant pinch.
2. In another, larger bowl, toss the cucumbers, grapes and tomatoes with a few drizzles of the dressing until every thing is well coated but not so much so that everything’s swimming in the dressing. Chill or serve immediately. If you’re making this for a crowd, it can be made up to a day ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

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