Spring Time Pasta Salad

I just signed up for a weekly co-op package in the community where we live and it’s making my gleefully excited.

I used to do a delivered co-op years and years ago when we were in Boston. It was so great since it was all organic and it helped us get creative with meals when things like kale, watermelon radishes, pea shoots, etc. The variety was nice and it helped us be creative with our meals as we tried out new recipes to use the fruits and veggies we received.

A neighbor told me about the co-op that is hosted on FB so I checked it out and immediately signed up. It’s affordable at $20 for a small box and $30 for a larger one. But they aren’t small to begin with, you get plenty of things! You can swap things out and even add things on. It’s great.

I think it will help save us money since this box is really affordable (not everything is organic) and will help us eat more fruits and vegetables throughout the week. This week the box I purchased included: 3 Beefsteak Tomatoes, Mangoes, 1 Hydro Bib lettuce,  Miniolas (Honeybells), 5+ Yellow Squash, Gala Apples, 1 bunch Asparagus, 2 Avocados,1 bag of Mini Carrots, a bunch of Bananas, 1 Red Onion, and 1 Yellow Onion. A total deal for $20A As well, they had a 1 ounce bag of microgreens from a local farm as a bonus that was added to the box. There are always add-ons you can select but I stuck with the standard box for now, but I know I’ll be checking them out too in the future.

 

The pickup for our community is on Tuesday nights and we already have been using up the goods. Apples sliced up at breakfast, avocados added to turkey tacos, and the bunny and I split a tomato.

I was really excited about the bunch of tender asparagus since and I just knew what do with it… Pasta Salad!!

I whipped up this pasta in no time to serve along with some chicken. It was such a great side dish for some chicken that we were having for dinner. I certainly could have just steamed the asparagus and squeezed some lemon on it, and it would have been great, but I really wanted something extra fun as a side dish.

The rotini is a great shape for pasta salads, but if you don’t have that on hand then grab a box of penne or bow ties. I almost used a box of whole wheat rotini but I didn’t think it would be as pretty. ha!!!

There is a lot of shallot in this recipe. It is not a mistake. Trust me. It cooks down and gets nice and mellow in flavor. It gives it a great complex oniony flavor without you just tossing in some red onion (which is delish, by the way) or garlic.

I used a sun-dried tomato basil seasoned one from Aldi, but a plain goat cheese would be just as awesome. Just make sure the pasta salad is nice and cool before you add it in or it’s just gonna melt through as you mix it in. Not a bad situation, but I think the little chunks of goat cheese as you take a bite gives it such a good pop in flavor.

Now, grab a blanket, some fried chicken, chilled rose, and this pasta salad to enjoy a picnic in the gorgeous spring weather!

Spring Time Pasta Salad

Makes 10-12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rotini pasta, or pasta with a similar shape
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 Cup diced shallot
  • 1 pound thin stalked asparagus, cut into pieces similar in size to the pasta (approx 1″)
  • 2-3 ounces of sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 8 ounces of crumbled goat cheese

For the dressing

  • 3/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flake
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Process

  1. Cook the pasta in well salted water until it is al dente, according to the pasta’s instructions. Drain and rinse well, let cool in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat, saute the shallots until translucent and tender, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Add the asparagus to the shallots. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the asparagus is bright in color and soft, but still crisp.
  4. While the asparagus is cooking, mix together all of the dressing ingredients.
  5. Add the cooked shallots and asparagus to the cooled pasta. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and dressing. Mix well.
  6. Chill for 30 minutes prior to adding the goat cheese, mix well again. Enjoy!
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Honey Roasted Carrots- SRC

Honey Roasted Carrots

Hello, Monday. We meet again…

It’s the 3rd Monday of the Month so it’s time for my monthly Secret Recipe Club post. Yes!

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It’s crazy how quickly the month goes by from posts to posts. It goes by extra super duper quick when you’re super busy with work travel, deadlines, a sick kid, being sick yourself, and a little someone turning 2. Sob!!!

But here we go again.

I think I picked an awesome recipe this month too!!

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It was hard work narrowing down to a few recipes from Sue’s blog, Palateble Pastime. I enjoyed going through years of recipes. She really has a wondeful arsenal of recipes! Her Chile-Bourbon Steak Marinade, Apple Spice Dump Cake, and Sweet Potato Biscuits were a few of the recipes that I stared to consider making.

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The Honey Roasted Carrots were an easy choice from me when I picked up a BIG jar of Raw Wildflower Honey from Boston Honey Company when I went to Boston Public Market this past weekend. As soon as I picked it up I knew I had to make the carrots I was toying around with. Yes Yes!

Tender roasted carrots with a kiss of honey. Side dish perfection.

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The recipe was so simple and good that I only made 1 change to it. I do enjoy rosemary but I like thyme like 100x more so I used that instead. I’m sure that the carrots would have been awesome with the rosemary that Sue used, but I have to say my thyme infused carrots were da-bomb.

You’ll want to add these to your Thanksgiving dinner. Shoot any dinner will be better with these Honey Roasted Carrots!

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Honey Roasted Carrots

Makes 4 servings*

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound of carrots
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons honey

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
  2. Peel then cut the carrots into 1/4″ thick slices on an angle.
  3. Coat the carrots with the oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves.
  4. Place on a baking sheet.
  5. Roast carrots for 30-35 minutes or until almost as tender as you like.
  6. Drizzle with honey. Roast again for about another 3-5 minutes. Serve hot.

*This can very easily be doubled or tripled to make a greater serving for a crowd for your holiday hosting needs

Adapted from Palatable Pastime

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Check out all the other great Secret Recipe Club posts this month!

And be sure to check out my 4 years of Secret Recipe Club posts!!!!

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Thanks for visiting. Please leave me a comment to provide some feedback. I appreciate all the comments I receive.

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin

This week Amanda and I are taking a break from our Thirsty Thursday’s posts so we each can bring you some different posts. Amanda has a giveaway on her blog and I have a post for the brand new Pass the Cook Book Club. Awesome right? But don’t you worry as we have some fantastic posts planned for March. 🙂

Kita of Pass The Sushi has organized this great group where she picks a few recipes from a cookbook for everyone to make. It’s a fantastic way of dusting off and cracking open all of those cookbooks we all own. I am so bad about buying new books to fill them up with post-it’s and then not doing anything with them. So I was really excited when I heard about the PTCBC because it would encourage us to cook from what we own. Anyway, the first book is The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Dummond. Perfect since, as usual, I had that filled with post-its bookmarking recipes I wanted to try. 

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From three options we had, I decided on making the Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin. I remember my parents making it when I was young so I wanted to try it myself. I’m glad I tried it myself since it was super easy and made a great side for our dinner. It is a great side dish and I like that it has the possibility to take on a lot of different flavors so I can make a lot of varieties.

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When Ree says it will be garlickly she is not joking! 3 cloves of garlic!!! I love garlic so it was perfect for me and went really well with the pork cutlets I made with it. The potatoes are soft and flavorful from the creamy sauce and the cheese on top was so good. This is going to be making a regular appearance on our dinner table.

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I only made a few changes to the dish’s ingredients and cooking process. First I didn’t serve the side with the green onions just because I forgot them in the store. duh! I swapped the black pepper for white pepper because I love white pepper with creamy sauces. I increased the amount of milk because when I put the sauce mixture in the dish it didn’t cover my potatoes. Also, since it is 8 servings I knew we would eat the leftovers over a few days so I didn’t want the dish to dry out either. Lastly, I popped it under the broiler for a minute so the cheese would get browned and crunchy- which I love, so if you don’t want it to browned then just bake it and don’t broil it.

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Be sure to check out what everyone else made!

If you love cooking then you should join Pass the Cook Book Club for some monthly cooking inspiration.

Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs butter, softened
  • 4 large russets, scrubbed clean
  • 1/2 to 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • white pepper or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a 3 quart baking dish by buttering the bottom and sides. 
  2. Slice the potatoes into sticks, then into a small dice. Place the potatoes in the baking dish.
  3. In a bowl, combine the milk, cream, flour, garlic, salt, and pepper; whisk to combine. Pour over the potatoes.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle with cheese and bake for another 3-5 minutes to make the cheese melted and bubbly.
  5. Serve hot and garnish with green onions, optional.

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Extra Cheesy Brussels Sprout Gratin

I was recently going through old cooking magazines to organize them into a usefully system. System is still getting tweaked but at least I can more easily find some fun things to try. I dug up recipes from December ’11 from Martha Stewart Living and one of the things that jumped out of me was the Smokey Brussels Sprout Gratin. Cheese! Brussels Sprouts! More Cheese! Winner!!!!

 

 

I made some adjustments to the original recipe to better suit our tastes. It called for smoked Gouda to be used in the Bechamel, but I don’t like smoked cheeses. I don’t like very smoky things and a smoked cheese is pretty low on my list. So I just used regular Gouda in the Bechamel instead. You can also use Gruyere and fontina in the Bechamel and top it off with a coarsely grated Parmesan. Just work with what you have and like. Also, I doubled the amount of cheese. What!?! I wanted cheesy Brussels sprouts so I made CHEESY Brussels sprouts. I really like love Brussels sprouts so this was not about masking their flavor but making a really cheesy dish.

 

 

 

The end result is a pretty quick dish that you can whip together. Some things took more or less time than the original recipe and I think that all depends on how you cook and the ingredients you have on hand. For example, it said the Brussels sprouts would take 3-4 minutes to cook but mine took double. No fault to the recipe, I might have just had really big Brussels spouts. Let’s blame the Brussels sprouts! Aside from paying attention to things like that it was super easy.

Make it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any dinner. It can actually be prepped in advance with the Bechamel being made 4 days in advances and stored in a airtight container in the refrigerator. The Brussels sprouts can be blanched ahead, allowed to cool and be refrigerated for up to 1 day. The assembled gratin can be refrigerated overnight as well. Bring the gratin to room temperature before baking.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces of freshly grated Gouda, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 8 cup (8×12) baking dish.
  2. Rinse and cut the bottoms off all the brussels sprouts. Depending on the size of the brussels sprout halve or quarter it. Set aside.
  3. To make the Bechamel, in a skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to blend the butter and flour together while the mixtures start to bubbles slightly but has not started to brown, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and the salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking often. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally. Cook until the Bechamel is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add the cheese and stir until incorporated.
  4. While the Bechamel is cooking, cook the brussels spouts in a pot of boiling salted water. Cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain and put into the baking dish.
  5. To assemble the gratin, gently mix the Bechamel and brussels sprouts together. Top off with the rest of the cheese and an extra sprinkling of salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling and golden, about 25-30 minutes.

Orange Cranberry Sauce

When I was younger I wasn’t a huge fan of the cranberry side at Thanksgiving. My mom loved the classic canned jellied cranberry sauce. She loved the ridges on it and how it would pop out of the can. I love that this is a staple on our table for her. I just didn’t really love the texture of it. Plus cranberries were so tart to me back then. I think things all changed when I was working in the South End of Boston by a place called Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe.  You see, Charlie’s would sell oatmeal with a cranberry compote that I would get if I as a treat for suffering through retail on the weekends. I loved the warm oatmeal in the winter and the compote really added a lot of flavor to an otherwise pretty plan breakfast.

 

And then I met this amazing guy who just loved homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. So now when we’ve gone back to my mom’s to celebrate Thanksgiving there have been 2 kinds of cranberry sauce on the table. It’s great to have cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving but really I believe you can have it at any point in the fall. It works hot with oatmeal or cold with yogurt if you can’t get enough of it and want to enjoy it for breakfast as well.

 

No matter if you call this a sauce, chutney, salsa, compote, or a relish, you will call this a new family favorite. I love the orange and cranberry combination so much. It helps highlight the natural flavors of the cranberry while adding some sweetness at the same time. I often throw a vanilla bean that I’ve been using in my homemade vanilla extract to add a bit more flavor. I just give it an extra scrape and throw it into the pot. You can add a bit of vanilla extract instead or even substitute the sugar for vanilla sugar, or skip it all together. If you feel you might light a scrape of nutmeg or to throw a star anise in there then give it a try as this is all about finding the right flavors so this will be a family favorite.

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2- 12oz bags of fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • zest from 1 orange
  • vanilla bean, optional

Process

  1. Rinse the cranberries and pick through to remove bruised berries and to remove any stray stems on the berries.
  2. Mix and combine all of the ingredients in a medium size pot and cook on medium low until you have a slow simmer. The berries will be popping during this process, stir often. Turn down to low to allow the sauce to continue cooking until the desired amount of berries have opened up.
  3. Can be served warm or cold. Store in an air tight container.