Taco Pasta Salad

A few weeks ago the family joined together because my sister and her family were visiting from Ohio.  It was the oldest nephew’s birthday — he turned 5 years old — and he picked the menu for much of the weekend.

One of the items we ate was from my mom’s recipe collection.  I didn’t quite get where the recipe came from, but it was this great Taco Pasta Salad.  The recipe seems great for a potluck, picnic, or as a side during these hot summer months.

Taco Pasta Salad.jpg

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Iowa Pasta

I was using up leftovers from a number of meals recently and this pasta dish seemed like the perfect mixture of items.  I’m not sure Iowa Pasta is the right name for it, but since it combines pork, which in my mind is quintessentially Iowa, and cheese, which is quintessentially Wisconsin, it seems that it is a Midwest Pasta dish, if not Iowa Pasta.

Iowa Pasta

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Summer Pasta Salad with Herbs

My love for recipe books has been well-documented through this blog and as I start today’s post where I “cook the book,” I want to note that this recipe is not coming from some celebrity or must-have recipe book.  Instead, it’s coming from my favorite genre of cookbook, the church cookbook.

For years, as I have driven to Fort Collins to work on my doctoral studies, I have stopped in Kearney, Nebraska as a halfway point, where I have walked around a Target, gassed up the vehicle, or grabbed a quick bite to eat at the grocery  store.  Each and every time I make the drive, I see the sign for the Cookbook outlet.  Two years ago, I tried to stop at the outlet, but it was Memorial Day and they were closed.  This year, I decided I needed to stop and see what the cookbook outlet had in store for me.  And it was marvelous.

The cookbook outlet is at Morris Press, a small publishing company that specializes in family and church cookbooks and the outlet features overrun or extra cookbooks that they have.  These cookbooks are sorted in a number of ways, including by state.  I picked up a few cookbooks from states I had and hadn’t been to.

Well, over the weekend I was invited to a small Memorial Day party and I decided to spend a few minutes looking through a cookbook entitled After the Harvest: A Collection of Favorite Recipes.  It is from the First United Methodist Church in Columbus, Mississippi.  The first thing I noticed when paging through the book was the number of recipes that involved fish and shellfish that we don’t have access to in the midwest.  Then I started looking for something I could bring to the upcoming party and the Summer Pasta Salad with Herbs submitted by Karen Williams looked like it was a must.  Having recently planted my garden, I was excited about using some of the herbs.

Summer Pasta Salad with Herbs

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Penne, Spinach, Asparagus, and Cashew Salad

It’s been the first week of summer here on campus.  With commencement last weekend, now we are celebrating the summer by writing annual reports, cleaning our offices, and developing programs we dreamed of doing this year and are excited to have in place for next year.  Yesterday, our division had some great end-of-year celebrating by spending the afternoon doing a service project in Cedar Rapids.  After it was over, we had a potluck and as I’m doing another round of preparing to move, I planned my contribution by looking at what was left in my pantry!  I made Penne, Spinach & Asparagus Salad, a recipe I found on the Epicurious site, originally from Bon Appetit magazine.  I love asparagus, almost as much as I love other springtime flavors, so before it’s out of season, I thought I should take advantage of cooking with this spring vegetable!
Penne, Spinach, Asparagus, and Cashew Salad
1 ½ lb asparagus spears, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ lb whole wheat penne
1 Tbsp plus ½ c olive oil
¾ c sliced green onions
6 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
6 oz baby spinach
1 c salted, roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
Cook asparagus in large pot of boiled salted water until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus to small bowl.  Coo.  Add pasta to same pot and cook until just tender but still firm to bite.  Drain well.  Transfer pasta to very large bowl.  Toss with 1 Tbsp oil.  Cool.
Blend ½ c oil, green onions, vinegar and soy sauce in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Pour over pasta.  Add asparagus, spinach and cashews; toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.

Dinner for the Newts

I’ve been sharing some of my favorite pasta recipes lately, and last post I spoke of my walking in Relay for Life coming up.  As I was working with my Greek students, we spent some time brainstorming ways to inspire the fraternities and sororities to get involved with Relay.  One of the challenges which took place last fall was for each of the teams to register by a specific date.  For one of the first challenges, I cooked dinner for whichever group I drew out of a hat and was registered.  This ended up being the Newts, one of our fraternities on campus, dedicated to their five folds – academic, athletic, leadership, service, and social.  These five folds demand high expectations from the men who are a part of the group and I have been quite impressed with them as a whole.
For their meal, they requested lasagna and garlic bread.  While I happily would have been a little more fancy, with the way the semester kicked off, this seemed like a great start.  I began scouring cookbooks, searching for the perfect lasagna recipe for 14 hungry college men.  I finally landed on a recipe from one of my favorite go-to cookbooks: the Mt. Carmel Country Cookin’ Second Edition cookbook, from Easton, Minnesota.  Courtesy of Lynn Hamel, the Lazy Day Overnight Lasagna recipe made perfect sense.
Lazy Day Overnight Lasagna
1 lb mild Italian sausage or hamburger
32 oz spaghetti sauce
1 c water
15 oz ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp oregano
1 egg
8 oz uncooked lasagna noodles
16 oz sliced or shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, brown the meat and drain well.  Add spaghetti sauce and water; blend well.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese, seasonings and egg; mix well.  Spread 1 cup meat sauce in bottom of a 9×13 inch pan.  Layer half the noodles, half ricotta cheese mixture and half of Mozzarella cheese; repeat layers.  Top wth remaining meat sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Heat oven to 350.  Bake, uncovered, for 50-60 minutes.

Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine

As I have shared often times, this blog is used for a lot of different purposes.  A place to reflect, an opportunity to share, a place for me to archive and document things that are delicious, noteworthy, or just something that is important to me.  A long, long time ago, and by that, I mean about 8 years ago, I was in graduate school and a couple of my friends would come over for dinner on Sunday nights.  We would eat, watch tv, and enjoy one actual cooked meal together each week to start the week.  If things were working out well, we were done with our homework for the week.  If they were working out really well, I would have cleaned the apartment already.
One of the recipes I loved during this process, when I owned one pyrex baking dish, and was so careful, was Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine, which I found in a Cooking Light magazine.  I had forgotten about this recipe completely when last week it was emailed to me as the “Dinner Tonight” recipe from www.myrecipes.com.  So that I don’t forget it again, I thought I should post it up here and remind myself that this was another great pasta recipe which went beyond red sauce and cheese to make a casserole which is delicious.

Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
1 teaspoon olive oil
Cooking spray
3 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cups chopped fresh spinach $
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (16-ounce) carton 2% low-fat cottage cheese
4 cups hot cooked penne (about 8 ounces uncooked tube-shaped pasta)
2 cups shredded roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup, undiluted
Preheat oven to 425°.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, oregano, and black pepper; sauté 3 minutes or just until spinach wilts.
Place cottage cheese in a food processor; process until very smooth. Combine spinach mixture, cottage cheese, pasta, chicken, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, milk, and soup in a large bowl. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.
Note:
You can cook the pasta mixture in individual eight-ounce ramekins; bake for 15 minutes.