Crowd Pleasing Pasta Salad

You know how there is always one salad that someone is always asked to bring to a BBQ?  for my mom, it is her potato salad.  People have tried to reproduce it, and cannot get it exactly the same.

For me, it is my pasta salad.  It is creamy decliciousness in a bowl (or plate) and so easy to make.

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Here is how I make it, and I promise, it is so easy to do, and you will get so many compliments.

Prepare your pasta according to package directions.  I like to use a curly pasta like rotini or scoobi doo, the dressing seems to stick better to it.

While the pasta is boiling cut up your veggies.  You can add whatever you have on hand.  The ones I always use are carrots, celery, cucumber, radish.  If I happen to have cherry tomatoes I will toss those in too.

Next comes cheese.  In our house it means lots and lots of cheese.  We like cheese!

All veggies shoulf be cut in bite size pieces, and I cut the cheese in to little cubes.
And now for the secret sauce: it is peppercorn ranch dressing!  Add in as much or as little as you like.  I tend to go a little saucier as my family likes it better that way.

 

See, easy peasy.  Make one of these for your next gathering and get prepared for lots of compliments!

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Mini Tortilla Pizzas

I am always on a mission to find good new lunch box items.  I am also always on a mission to use up leftovers.  So with this recipe I double scored!  I had leftover tortillas after making chicken caesar wraps for dinner and needed something to do with them.  I stumbled across this recipe and thought I would give it a try.

Well, they were a huge success, in fact I had to make more than I originally planned because they kept getting eaten right off the plate as fast as I could take them out of the oven.  They are perfect as appetizers, for a pot luck, and in lunch boxes.  You can use whatever toppings you want to, I made some pepperoni and cheese, and some just cheese for my little picky pants.

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Ingredients

tortillas

pizza sauce

grated cheese

pepperoni (I chopped mine up instead of slices)

other optional toppings.

 

You want to start by preheating your oven to 450*

While the oven is preheating dump your sauce in to another container and wash and dry your can.  You are going to use the top of it to cut your tortillas in to circles.  You will end up with this (and a little bit of waste which you can bake and dip in hummus).

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Press your tortilla rounds in to a muffin tin and bake for 4 minutes, or until slightly browned.  This will give them a nice little bit of crunch.

Once they come out of the oven, add your sauce, toppings and cheese.  Return to the oven and bake for another 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve and enjoy!

A Sandwich Bread Tutorial

I told myself that I had to sit down today and write this post since I took the pictures for it already!

Since I got my KitchenAid Mixer and got over my fear of making bread I have been making it weekly.  I am proud to say that I have not bought a single loaf of bread since Christmas!

I use a recipe that I found on hubpages.  Easy to follow directions, and the bread turns out great everytime.  I went to pull up my recipe last week, and I could not find it  Cue panic!

Luckily, I had written the recipe down, but I like to have pretty pictures to follow along with, so I thought I would do a post about it, and then I can always find my recipe and pictures.  🙂  This recipe will make two loaves.

Ingredients

1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter
2 packages active dry yeast (or 4.5 tsp of bulk yeast)
1.5 cups warm water (105*- 115*F)
5-6 cups flour (I use 5.5)

Combine your milk, sugar, salt and butter in a pot on low heat until the butter meats.  Cool to lukewarm (105-115*)  A digital thermometer is your best friend when making bread.  You can do it without, I find it much easier to use one though.

Warm your mixing bowl by swirling hot water and dumping it.  Add 1.5 cups warm water and dissolve yeast in it.  Whisk it up with a fork to help it along.  It will start to look like this pretty quickly.

Add your lukewarm milk mixture and 4.5 cups of the flour to the bowl.  Attach your dough hook and mix at the lowest speed for two minutes.
Continue mixing at the same speed while adding the rest of the flour (5.5 cups is what I use).  Add 1/2 cup at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and sticks to the hook.  Continue to knead for another 3-5 minutes after this until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Turn your dough in to a large greased bowl.  You want to actually put your dough in the bowl, turn it in a circle and then flip it.

You will cover the bowl and set it to rise for an hour. You can use either plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. It needs to be in a warm area free from drafts.  If you put it in your oven with the light on this is the best place.  This next picture is after the rise!

Punch your dough down a couple of times to release air.  Divide it in half.  You can use a kitchen scale if you want to be precise, I normally just eyeball it.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour.  One ball at a time roll out to approximately 9″x14″

Now you fold it into thirds along the long edge. Wipe off excess flour and then tightly roll dough up.  Pinch the seams and the ends.

Put in two greased loaf pans seam side down.  Cover and rise again until doubled.  This usually takes another hour.  The next two photos are before and after the rise.

Remove the pans from the oven and then heat the oven to 400*.  Bake for 30 minutes until they are golden brown.

Take the loaves out of the pans right away and cool on wire racks.  You know that your loaves are done when you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow.  Enjoy!

Bruschetta Chicken and I miss summer

I miss summer.  As I look out my window at all the snow, and feel the -23*C (-32with windchill), I can imagine the warm sun and green grass.

I am itching to get in to my gardens.  Unfortunately, we have at least another two and a half to three months of winter left to get through.

So, I decided to bring a little summer to our dinner, and make bruschetta chicken.  I had to go out and buy the tomatoes and basil instead of plucking it from the garden, but it was still good eats.

You can do your chicken however you want, grilled, roasted, pan fried.  I wanted to grill, but did not want to shovel off the BBQ, so roasting it was.  I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  The meal was finished off with some cheesy potatoes, and steamed green beans and broccoli.  It was all gobbled up.

I am not a fan of raw onions, as in if I get any in my mouth I cannot choke it down, I start gagging and have to spit it out, so my bruschetta recipe does not have onions.  If you want to know how I make the rest for bruschetta, scroll to below the photo.

Bruschetta (this makes a large batch, you can easily half the recipe)

6 or 7 ripe roma tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Start by destemming and deseeding your tomatoes, then chop in small pieces.  Some people will remove the skins, I never have, and honestly, I don’t notice much of a difference whether they are on or off.

Mix in all other ingredients and let it sit while you prepare the chicken.  The longer it sits, the more the tomatoes take up the yummy balsamic flavouring.

Salt and pepper your chicken and prepare how you like.  I baked mine covered at 350 for about a half hour.
When it is done plate it and add your bruschetta mix to the top.  And voila!

To make bruschetta:

Make your tomato mix and let it sit.
Take a loaf of small crusty bread and cut on a diagonal.  Brush olive oil on one side of the bread and put on a cookie sheet, oil side down.

Toast at 450* for 4-6 minutes, until the bottoms are a slight toasty brown.  Arrange bread on a plate toasted side up and either add toppings or keep the bowl out beside the bread for people to load themselves.

A Delicious New Cookie

I had a couple of browning bananas sitting on my counter that I needed to use, and I wanted to dry something different instead of the same old banana bread.

I thought, how about a banana cookie of some sort.  So I went searching, and found a recipe for banana chocolate chip cookies.  It didn’t look too hard, and who doesn’t like chocolate chips?

Oh my goodness, they are delicious, like little soft banana cakes!  I am not a huge sweets/dessert eater, but even I had to have more than one!

They lasted a total of three days, and I have already had a request to bake some more!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup mashed bananas (I used three in this recipe)
2 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
4 1/2 cups flour
1 12oz bag chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks dh had brought home from work and ended up using two cups)

In a large mixing bowl combine the butter and banana.  Add the brown and white sugars in and cream together.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until just mixed.  Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix well.    Add the chocolate chips and make sure they are mixed in well.

Use a small scoop to scoop on to an ungreased cookie sheet.  They should be about 2″ apart.  Warning, the batter will be sticky, if you need to use your fingers try really hard not to lick them clean!

Bake at 325* for 13-14 minutes, or until bottoms are a light brown.  Let stand on cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

If you need to stack them to store, use a piece of wax paper in between layers or they will stick together.

You have to try one of these when they are cooled down just enough to eat.  The chocolate chips are all melty and warm, so good!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Wow, I know I said it in my last post, but I have been a bad blogger!  I am going to be better, I promise!  Now that summer is over and the kids are in school I am hoping to have some more time to myself.

Oct 14th was Canadian Thanksgiving, and turkey dinner was hosted at our house.  We always do a full spread (that I forgot to take a picture of).  The day was eventful to say the least (think exploding toilet and full septic tank)  but all turned out well in the end.

Do you have canned cranberry sauce with your delicious turkey dinners?  We used to, until two years ago when I decided that I wanted to try to make it.  After looking on the back of a package of cranberries and seeing how easy it was I thought I would give it a go.  Seriously, it only takes about 15 minutes to do.

OMG, it is so much better than the canned.  You can add all sorts of different things to it, but I like mine plain and simple.  I bought organic local cranberries this year, and so did not have the recipe handy to make, so I had to go searching the internet to find one.  This is also how I found out about all the different things you can add to the sauce.

This is all you need, plus a pot.

Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cups cranberries washed

Combine your water and sugar and bring it to a boil.  Add berries and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and gently boil for ten minutes.  You will hear them popping, like Rice Krispies but cranberry style!

After ten minutes remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  After it is cooled put it in to the bowl I will be serving it in and refrigerate until it is dinner time!  I always make it the day before as well.

 

Muffin Tin Meals

Man oh man, I did not realize that it had been so long since I had posted.  Blame it on life I guess.  Hopefully now that the boys are done school for the summer and the daycare kids are gone I will have more time.

Have you ever cooked meals in your muffin tins?  I have recently discovered this novel way to make indivdual meals, and the boys love it!

The most recent thing I made was on Fathers Day, breakfast “muffins”.  My husband is a huge fan of these, I always make extras to keep in the fridge so he can pop them in the microwave and eat them for breakfast on the way to work.

I will warn you that the muffin tin is a pain to clean afterwords, I have used butter, and oil to coat the tin and it still sticks.  I might try using muffin papers next time.

They are very versatile, add in whatever fillings you want.  This time around I used bacon, jalapeno pepper, tomato, fresh basil and cheddar cheese.

You will need:
8 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
3. Whisk together eggs, milk, oil and baking powder.  Season with salt and pepper.
4. Lightly spray a 12-cupcake pan with oil. Spoon your ingredients (I used bacon, tomato, basil and jalapeno) evenly into each cupcake.

5. Ladle the egg mixture over your other ingredients.
6. Sprinkle with cheese.

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.  This is how they will look when they come out.

I have tried a couple of other meals in the tins as well, mini meatloaves, which take a lot less time to cook than a full sized loaf!  There is also this recipe for mini chicken pot pies, they are really good! Mini Chicken Pot Pie