Saturday, June 16, 2012

Black Bean Fiesta Pasta Salad

Last night we camped in the backyard with the kids for the very first time.  We tried last summer when Little Brother was only one and it resulted in lots of grumbling on the part of the parents and fussing on the part of the kids.  We ended up sleeping in our beds that night.

Last night was amazing though!  We slept in our hobbitat tent, which we love because it has an amazing celing that lets you see all the stars.  We sang twinkle twinkle, and Big Sister learned the "Star Light, Star Bright" poem.  We shared our wishes and read lots of books.  It took a bit of time before Little Brother finally settled down, but we slept well and the kids actually slept in later than they do in their dark bedroom! 

Before we snuggled into our sleeping bags I made us a light supper of grilled chicken and this pasta salad.  For our chicken I just used a sundried tomato vinaigrette dressing as a marinade; letting it sit for most of the day in the fridge soaking up all those good flavors.   This pasta salad is nice and light, with bright flavors.  The kids weren't huge fans, being picky as ever, but my husband and I sure liked it! 

2 c. shell pasta, or shape of your choice
4 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1/3 c. red onion, diced
1/2 c. yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed adn drained
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lime juice
1 tsp. salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 c. asiago cheese, grated

Cook pasta following package directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water.  In a large bowl ently combine your vegetables, making sure not to smoosh up the avocado too much.  In a small bowl whisk together the cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.  You can add some cayenne or hot sauce here if you'd like a little heat.  Gently toss pasta with vegetables and dressing until coated.  Chill for 4 hours.  Top with asiago cheese just before serving.  Serves 6.

Friday, June 15, 2012

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

My friend Katie made these cookies the other day when we got our kids together for a play date.  Now, I've never liked peanut butter cookies.  They always seemed dry and almost a bit burnt tasting to me.  I always want them to be creamy and rich- like peanut butter is!  These cookies, however, are nothing like those dry cardboard cookies I remember.  They are soft, chewy, silky smooth and peanutty.  I asked her for the recipe and was so surprised at how easy they are!  Only 3 ingredients!! I made a batch at home and they only lasted a couple of days.  I simply could not stop eating them!  I'm pretty sure you could make them with any nut butter, and next time I'm going to try it with Nutella.  I'm sure they'll be TO DIE FOR!

1 c. peanut butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix ingredients together in a bowl.  Roll into 1-2 inch balls.  Place balls on a cookie sheet and use a fork to press a criss-cross pattern in the center of each cookie, flattening them into disks.  Bake for 8-10 mins watching them carefully!  They burn easily and there is a very fine line between raw, done, and overdone.  IMPORTANT:  Leave them on the cookie sheet a full 10 mins. before removing to let them cool or you will have peanut butter crumbs.  Once they are cool, eat with reckless abandon. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Herbed Potato and Green Bean Salad

I served this yummy twist on potato salad at my daughter's birthday party.  It was a big hit.  We kept the menu simple with burgers for the grown ups and hot dogs for the kids, with all the fixings, including lettuce from my girlfriend Katie's garden.  I had 3 salads:  fruit salad, a zesty black bean salad, and this one.  We also had salsa and guac with chips, and friend Tara brought a yummy veggie tray with the best radishes!

The original recipe for this salad comes from Taste of Home and I twisted it a bit to give it a bit more color and fresher flavor. Don't skimp on the fresh herbs in this recipe if you can help it.  It really makes a difference in flavor and the look of the final dish. I hope you give it a try at your next summer get together!

1-1/2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
2 cups cut fresh green beans (1-1/2-inch pieces)
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Tarragon Dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 garlic cloved, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1-1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. creole or cajun seasoning

In a saucepan, cook potatoes and garlic in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Add beans; cook 10-14 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Drain; discard garlic. Place vegetables in a bowl.

The original recipe says to warm the broth; pour over beans and potatoes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, stirring several times.  I found that this made the green beans taste canned and gave them that yucky brown flavor.  So, I would suggest separating the beans from the potatoes and chilling them separately.  Definitely soak the potatoes in the broth though.  It gives them tons of flavor and keeps them from soaking up all of the dressing later.

In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar and seasonings; mix well. Drain potatoes.  Add the green beans and tomatoes to the bowl.  Add dressing and toss to coat. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Birthday

Hi!  I'm back! Man, what a crazy crazy start to summer it's been around here.  We've had guest after guest from all corners of the country, the end of the school year, internships, projects, swimming lessons, summer reading, 5ks,  etc, etc, etc.  But, I am attempting to get back to my blog, as hard as it is to be inside on the computer when it's sunny out :)

The biggest event of the past few weeks was my daughter's 4th birthday party.  Her special day fell on Memorial Day this year, so we had a combo party and bbq.  It was a lot of fun!  We set up the badminton net, had good eats and brews and even some yummy girly drinks courtesy of my friend Tara!  Thanks Tara!  And Tara, my next post will have that potato salad recipe, just for you!

My beautiful birthday girl!

She got some new wheels!

Here's a pic of Big Sister's "My Little Pony" cake. This was the easiest birthday cake I've created so far and she loved it! It was chocolate strawberry and we just barely had enough for everyone! Phew!

It was so simple to make.  I took a basic chocolate cake recipe, or you could use a cake mix, and cooked it in two round cake pans.  Once they were totally cooled I spread the bottom layer with strawberry jam before adding the top layer.  I like doing this with layered cakes rather than using frosting.  It cuts the sweetness a bit and gives it an extra little something.  Then I frosted with strawberry flavored frosting in a can, which my daughter begged for!  Then I sprinkled the entire cake with pink sugar crystals and decorated with these adorable 3d edible butterflies and flowers that I found at a craft store (Hobby Lobby??)  Then we added her favorite pony, "Rainbow Dash" (favorite because she's a PEGASUS!!!) and finished it off with candles.  I tell you what, making a themed cake this way by sticking a toy on top is soooo much easier than the purple dinosaur and green alligator with babies I made last year for their birthdays:

You can find directions for the crocodile cakes at here.  To make the cupcakes we just frosted them with the same green frosting, cut the apple rings in half and added smaller versions of the marshmallow eyes.
I love making fun cakes for my kids' birthdays.  They are fun, creative, challenging at times, and best part-the kids love them.  I love that something as simple as a birthday cake can be such a labor of love, a real gift from the heart.  Making food that makes people smile and creates memories is why I love to cook!

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