The BEST you’ll ever have… My Signature Macaroni Salad

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I wish that macaroni  salad was a food group.

And, of course, you’d get to have 4-6 servings to meet your daily servings requirements.

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If that was the case, I’d be SUPER healthy in the summer.

Ugh! I just love macaroni salad so much. I make it and eat it too often when the days are nice and hot. Sure, I can eat it year round but it’s just one of the things that is seasonal to me.

Speaking of seasonal items- hey Starbucks, I love PSL’s A LOT but debuting them for the season in August is too soon. TOO SOON!!!!!

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You know the book “When you give a Mouse a Cookie”? Well, I have my own version.

>When you give Nicole a nice day, she will want to grill.

>When she’s grilling, she will want some steak.

>When she’s eating her steak, she will want some macaroni salad.

>When she’s eating macaroni salad, she will want a beer…

Ugh, I’m annoying. Just make this macaroni salad.

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I just can’t get over the flavors of this macaroni salad since it’s not like typical ones that have all that tang from pickles. It’s mellow, sweet from the carrots and sugar but there is a follow through bite from the vinegar and onion. You really don’t need much onion either to get it. Start off with a bit and add from there as you taste it.

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Besides tasting great, it’s great to serve at parties as you can prepare it a day in advance so you’re not rushing around the day of your party. Plus the flavors are even better once they have mingled a bit so making it in advance is a real win!

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I use a zester to grate my carrots and onion. I’m sure there is a fine enough garter on one of the surfaces of a box grater, it’s just that I don’t have one so I use a zester. The most important thing is that the carrot and onion are teeny tiny specs, so don’t try to short cut this by chopping it. It’s worth the tiny bit of elbow grease you need to put into it to grate it up.

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Hurry up and make this as the unofficial end to summer is in 2 weeks. EEEKKK!! At least the real end of summer is further on in September so you will still have plenty of time to until then. Yum!!!

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 My Signature Macaroni Salad

Makes 12 servings (unless you are me and then it’s 3, maybe 4…jk!)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 cup of finely grated carrots, about 2-3 carrots
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of finely grated yellow onion
  • 1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper

Process

  1. Cook the macaroni until it’s just ‘al dente’ according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss in ice cubes to chill the pasta as well.
  2. Combine the grated carrot, onion, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Remove the ice once the pasta is cold. Mix the pasta into the mayonnaise mixture. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Chill the macaroni salad for at least 1 hour prior to serving. Store in an air tight container for up to 3 days.

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Butternut Squash-Apple Soup- SRC

Butternut Squash-Apple Soup

How is October wrapping up this week?

Halloween is Thursday night. I really wanted to have a costume this year since I could have fun and dress up the baby bump but I’m not having much luck coming up with a costume. We’ll see what I can come up with quickly so that I can get dressed up to hand out some candy. Oh yeah, and we can’t forget to get a costume for Kemper. ha!

Since October is wrapping up it means it’s time to post this month’s recipe for my Secret Recipe Club post. This month I received the blog called The Wimpy Vegetarian. Susan’s blog is full of great recipes that feature fresh ingredients and vibrant flavors.

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As usual, Price picked the recipe for me to make for this month’s SRC post. He was thinking fall when he picked the Butternut Squash-Apple Soup. I’m so glad that he did because we had a monster of a butternut squash sitting on our counter just waiting to be used. I had been staring at it wondering what to do since it was so big. Seriously, it was about from my finger tips to my elbow. A little intimidating to say the least. But this soup ended up being the perfect fit for it.

We loved this soup! It felt so rich without being indulgent. Can’t beat a healthy soup that is quick to make. It would be the perfect fit to make on a weekend or just after work.

Even the dog liked the soup! It’s vegetarian so I just mixed a bit into his food and he loved it. I’m always trying to give him extra fruits and veggies as treats instead of processed treats so I figured I’d just give this a try as well and he LOVED it.

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I highly suggest making this amazing Butternut Squash-Apple Soup when you are craving a delicious soup that is simple to make and that will fill you up on fresh fall flavors.

Butternut Squash-Apple Soup

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium butternut squash
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oils
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon salt, to taste

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Peel and then slice off the top and bottom of each squash. Slice in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and pulp with a spoon and then chop the squash into 1″ cubes.
  3. Toss the squash with a little olive oil, lightly salt, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast until very, very soft and lightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.
  4. In a very large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat and cook until lightly browned. Lower the heat and add the remaining olive oil and the onion. Saute for about 20 minutes or until the onion begins to caramelize.
  5. Add the squash, vegetable stock, apple cider, and salt to the pot, and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. In small batches, pour the soup into a blender and puree to a smooth.
  7. Season to taste prior to serving.

Adapted from The Whimpy Vegetarian

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Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake- SRC

Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake 

I do this every year to myself. Well, a group of us do. I think we’re brilliant morons.

I think this process is like giving birth. Or at least I am going to compare it to that for this analogy. Just go along…

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This is now the 3rd year that I’ve worked on my office’s submission for the fashion show for New England’s chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). In 2011 and 2012 we won (!!) awards for our costumes. Well, now we’re that week of hell before the fashion show (Thursday night) when you want to scream because you’ve burned your fingers with hot glue for the millionth time as you make wigs- something you can just buy but really you HAVE TO make out of chair mesh fabric because, well, just because it really matters. Everyone is on edge because we have work (including deadlines) and real life to juggle as we also try to create costumes for the big day. Of course everyone is super tired and cranky so sometimes there is unnecessary drama about the dumbest stuff. duh.

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So, my point is that we experience the most annoying, stressful, painful time before the show where we want to pull our own hair out (and maybe someone else’s) but we magically forget it all in an instant once we see all of our months and months of work come to completion.

I’m assuming that this feeling is sorta like child birth. You just magically forget the shit you went through. And you do it over and over again when you have more kids because you’re either insane or… well just insane. 😛

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Either way, this week when I am not busy burning my fingers with hot glue, Price and I will be enjoying this Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake that he picked out for this month’s Secret Recipe Club. This ahhhhh-mazing recipe is from Mom’s Test Kitchen

We had condsidered a lot of Jaime’s recipes for this month’s post (including her S’mores monkey bread… yum!!) but in the end we narrowed it down to some great dinner options. Price picked this one and I am so glad he did. I’m all about trying something new that is easy and really flavorful and this Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake is just that. It took about 20 minutes for it all to come together and was really flavorful from the marinated artichokes and the 2 kinds of cheese used.

I decided to double up the recipe that Jaime posted because I knew this week would be insane so I figured I’d do myself a favor and take the time to make this once and then we could enjoy leftovers when I was too crazed to cook. I highly suggest that you do the same because it is such a great dinner option. Plus it’s perfect for a Meatless Monday dish!

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Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

For the Pasta

  • 12 ounces farfalle pasta
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and then chopped
  • 2 packages (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and then chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

For the Topping

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 8 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain.
  3. In a skillet saute the onion and garlic in the butter over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat to cool.
  4. In a very large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and Italian seasoning.
  5. Stir in the pasta and cooked onion mixture with the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Transfer to the baking dish. Cover then bake for 20 minutes.
  7. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the topping. Sprinkle the mixture over the pasta.
  8. Return the baking dish, uncovered, to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until golden. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Slightly adapted from Mom’s Test Kitchen

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Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Recently I’ve been craving sweets. So unlike me. Typically I’d rather have chips but I can’t get chocolate chip cookies or brownies OR a brownie sandwiched by 2 chocolate chip cookies with a glass of chocolate milk. Instead I eat fruit- let’s not talk about the # of peaches I’ve eaten this week. ha

But bringing me back into my salty carb loving self were these  Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches. Fresh shaved steak, sautéed pepper and onions, and melty cheese on a soft sub roll… perfect! Plus then I couldn’t resist serving them up with some curly fries. Umm you just can’t have salad with a cheesesteak. nope.

This Cheesesteak is quick to whip up and would be great to serve this weekend while you watch the Pocono Race! A race in the great state of Pennsylvania, so I figured a cheesesteak was just what was needed for this week’s edition of Sprint Cup Snacks. Nestled in the Poconos, Long Pond is only 2 hours away from Philly so I couldn’t resist making a cheesesteak. At least I’m not dragging Gino’s and Pat’s fans into this since you get to make your own at home and don’t have to pick which dueling cheesesteak institution is the best.

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Enjoy a cheesesteak and the race this weekend!!

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Makes 4 subs

Ingredients

  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound shaved steak
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 sub rolls
  • 8 slices of provolone cheese

Process

  1. Slice the peppers and oil into long thin strips. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons in a  large skillet over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the pepper and onion strips and the garlic. Sautee the vegetables until  soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Return the skillet to the cook-top over medium-high heat and add the meat and Worcestershire sauce. Stir the meat to mix and evenly cook throughout. Once the meat is done, add the cooked vegetables back to the skillet to combine.
  4. Place 2 slices of cheese on every roll, then evenly top with the meat.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

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There has been so much going on lately. I love being busy but it typically means that something slips. Most often it is what we eat or laundry. oh well. But Kemper is keeping us busy with nice nights out playing around and some design reports that Price and I are working on for our city for some downtown redevelopment. Very different things but both enjoyable and fulfilling.

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Since we have been so busy I have been relying on some super simple meals or take out to keep our nights moving along. One of the cookbooks that I have been turning to is The Ultimate Casseroles Book: More than 400 Heartwarming Dishes from Dips to Desserts. I love the idea of assembling a casserole  leaving it be to bake and then having leftovers for another meal. Among the over 400 recipes (oh my!) the Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole jumped out to me one night so I whipped it up and we loved it so much. So, so much.

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This took about 30 minutes for assemble and then another 35 to bake up. I cooked up some chicken breasts but you can easily shredded some rotisserie chicken instead. The dish is so flavorful and so cheesy. I can’t not love a cheesy dish. It’s really hearty so it can be stretched from 4 servings to 6 with a side of veggies or a side salad.

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I only made one change to the original Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole recipe from The Ultimate Casseroles Book: More than 400 Heartwarming Dishes from Dips to Desserts. The original recipe called for Cream of Chicken Soup but 1) I didn’t have it 2) it sounds really gross, which would be why I didn’t have it. So instead I used Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom Soup since it didn’t have ‘mechanically separated chicken’ or ‘chicken fat’ in it. If you happen to make your own Cream of Chicken or Mushroom soup instead of using canned, then I suggest you do that. It’s sure to only make this wonderful casserole even better.

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Dig in. You know you want to.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Makes 4 hearty servings

Ingredients

  • 1 6-ounce package long grain and wild rice mix
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped (approx 1/2 cup)
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped (approx 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 10.5-ounce or 10.75-ounce can of cream of mushroom condensed soup
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine or low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed basil
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Process

  1. While preparing the rice according to the package, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the onion and celery until tender.
  3. Sir in the soup, light sour cream, wine, and basil until evenly combined. Add the shredded chicken and rice and mix until just combined.
  4. Transfer mixture to a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, or until heated through.