Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chicken and Blue Cheese Pasta Salad

Another delicious and easy-to-prepare pasta salad that you can serve by itself for a light lunch or paired with something from the grill for dinner. And the dressing for this consists mainly of Ranch dressing, so that makes it even easier! Although I suppose if you love blue cheese as much as I do you could double up on the flavor and use that dressing as well.

If you are serving this in several different installments, make sure to only add the spinach to the part you will be eating. It wilts rather fast in the dressing so add only a half hour or so before serving. Enjoy!

Chicken and Blue Cheese Pasta Salad
slightly adapted from Big City Cooking
Makes about 8 side dish servings

8 ounces medium pasta shells
2 medium chicken breast (about 1 pound), cooked and shredded
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, or 1/2 cup REAL Bacon Bits
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup (light) ranch dressing
2 tablespoons mayo
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled

Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain and rinse with cool water.

In large bowl, mix together pasta, chicken, bacon, and tomatoes. Pour dressing over mixture, add mayo and toss until coated. Fold in cheese. Cover and refrigerate 4-24 hours. Gently toss in spinach about a half hour before serving.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tomatoes stuffed with Roasted Corn Salad

This was a delicious, summery side dish. The great flavors of summer corn mixed with salty bacon and feta cheese, all stuffed into a ripe, juicy tomato. Make this now before some of the ingredients are out of season!
If you are making this out of corn season, you can saute some frozen corn with a little bit of olive oil on the stovetop. Heat the oil on high heat and add the corn right out of the freezer (and some minced garlic too, if you want) and let cook until the kernels start turning brown on the edges. And if you don't have time to fry up bacon, Real Bacon Bits can be used as a substitute.

Grilled shrimp and sliced avocado went nicely with this dish. I didn't change anything else from the original recipe on Macaroni and Cheesecake so here's the link!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Asian Couscous Salad

Another winning recipe from Aggie's Kitchen! Abbie has had a lot of visitors lately, and of course I like to provide everyone something to eat! We all know my love for summer salads, and this one fit the bill for a easy-to-prepare lunch. I served it alongside some chicken salad and crackers and it was a a delightful little meal.

The only change from the original recipe was to substitute sesame oil for the hoisin sauce. And if you use regular couscous instead of whole wheat; use 1 cup of water to 1 cup couscous. Otherwise, I would recommend making it exactly as you see it here (plus, her pictures are a lot prettier!):

Asian Couscous Salad

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

These bars were delicious - a chunky oatmeal layer topped with a creamy chocolate layer, and crowned with more chunks of the delicious oatmeal. And if that isn't enough, peanuts and raisins running throughout! I must warn you though that this dessert is a bit labor-intensive (I even wrote that next to the title in my cookbook). There are a lot of different steps and bowls that have to be used! So, while they are worth the effort, just make sure to save some time to make these!
Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars
Makes 32 bars

For the Oatmeal Layer:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped (I used my mini-chopper)

For the Chocolate Layer:
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup moist, plump raisins
3/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or butter a 13 x 9 inch baking pan and place on a cooking sheet.

Oatmeal Layer:
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes, then add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Stir in the oats and peanuts by hand.

Set aside 1 1/2 - 2 cups of the mixture, then turn remaining dough into the prepared pan. Gently press dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Chocolate Layer:
Set a heatproof bowl over (without touching the water) a saucepan of simmering water. Combine the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter, and salt in the bowl and stir occasionally until milk is warm and chocolate and butter are melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in vanilla, raisins, and peanuts.

Pour the warm chocolate over the oatmeal crust, the scatter remaining oatmeal over top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until topping is golden brown and chocolate layer is starting to come away from the sides of the pan. Cool for about 2 hours.

Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting. I recommend serving them chilled as well.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lemony Orzo Salad

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know I am a huge fan of making pasta salads during the summer. They are so easy to prepare in advance, and when I am serving a group of guests, I love just taking it out of the refrigerator and putting it on the table when we are ready to eat.

I love to use orzo for a nice light pasta salad - a little bit goes a long way and it can be combined with virtually everything! All amounts of the add-ins are approximate - add more or less of whatever you'd like! This particular salad has great flavors, with the lemony vinaigrette paired with fresh veggies and salty olives and feta cheese. Yum!

Lemony Orzo Salad
adapted from Cooking Light, found on Aggie's Kitchen
Makes 8+ servings

3/4 pound uncooked orzo
1 medium zucchini, diced.
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh or 1 teaspoon dried basil
6 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/3 - 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olived, sliced in half lengthwise

Cook the orzo according to package directions to al dente. Drain well and rinse with cool water.

Combine orzo, zucchini, and onion in a large bowl; toss well. In a small bowl, whisk together parsley and next 5 ingredients (through pepper).

Stir into orzo mixture; add tomato, cheese, and olives, tossing gently to coat. Refrigerate 4-24 hours.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Casual Grilling Menu and Happy 3rd Blogiversary to me!

Aaaaand we're back! I couldn't miss Cooking This and That's 3rd blogiversary so I figured today was a good day to return! Although there is a lot of this:
and this:
going on around here so I have even less time to cook than before! But I have a few saved recipes for you and I can't wait for the change in the weather so I can start cooking comfort food!

Today I have a casual menu for a lazy weekend visit from friends or family. Many of these dishes can be prepared in advance and the only real cooking you have to do is grill. So sit back, grab a drink, and enjoy these last days of summer!

Casual Grilling Menu

  • Assorted cheeses, pepperoni, and crackers
  • Olive dip with pretzels



  • Summer berry trifle
  • Assorted cookie platter

Happy grilling!