Bobbing and weaving

Our schedule is off this week as we deal with some family complications. We are taking things one day at a time. I’m not really used to that. Tonight we had a pasta salad that Samantha chose from an old cookbook of mine called Cold Pasta. We tweaked it a bit – she doesn’t like tomatoes so she put chopped red bell pepper in hers. I enjoyed some fabulous heirloom tomatoes that I found at the store – some of my tomato plants have blossoms already!

Basil pasta salad

  • 3 – 4 servings pasta (we used farfalle, recipe called for radiatore, but they didn’t have that)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil (I used really good olive oil that a friend brought me from Italy)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil (I was able to get from my garden)
  • Parmesan cheese to taste (Samantha might have gone a little bit overboard)
  • chopped fresh tomatoes or vegetable of your choice
  • salt and pepper

Cook pasta until al dente. Rinse with a little cool water to reduce heat of pasta and drain. Toss with olive oil and lemon juice. Let sit for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss with basil, cheese and vegetables. Easy, light and refreshing summer dinner – can’t wait until the tomatoes are from my garden!)

Baby shower

I did the food for my friend Celia’s baby shower today.  Everything turned out well (if I do say so myself.)  I met with Celia and her daughter a few weeks ago and we planned a menu that we thought had something for everyone.  Here is what was served:

  • Chicken Salad
  • Crab salad in cucumber cups
  • Blanched asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise
  • Bloody Mary tomato salad
  • Pasta salad

Here are the recipes:

Chicken Salad

  • 1 whole bone in chicken breast with skin on (I prefer organic chicken)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup green grapes, halved
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup (or as needed) Hellmann’s mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350.  Rub chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a ceramic dish.  Roast until chicken is at 150.  Combine chicken with celery and grapes and season with thyme, garlic pwoder, Worcestershire and celery salt.  Add mayonnaise and stir well to combine.  If salad is dry, add more mayonnaise.  Chill and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Crab salad in cucumber cups
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into slices about 3/4 inch
  • 1 pound of crabmeat
  • 2 TB mayonnaise
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery salt (or 1 celery stalk minced)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Scoop center out of cucumber slices with a spoon.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Gently combine crabmeat with mayo, lemon juice, celery salt and Worcestershire.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, mound about 2 tsp of crab salad in cucumber cup and eat.  (For the baby shower I used 2 pounds of crabmeat and 5 cucumbers.  We could have used at least one more cucumber but the crab salad is good by itself.)

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste
Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)  Everyone loved this – I made 3 pounds of asparagus.)

Bloody Mary tomato salad

  • good tomatoes (I used a mix of red and yellow)
  • 1 TB horseradish
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 olive oil

Chop tomatoes.  Combine horseradish, lemon juice, celery seed, Worcestershire and pepper.  Gradually whisk in olive oil.  Toss with tomatoes.  Beautiful in the trifle bowl and I found one perfect leafy stalk of celery to garnish the bowl.

Pasta Salad

  • 1 pound tri-color fusilli pasta
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing (made according to package instructions.)  You can either use the Italian or Zesty Italian – I doubled the recipe and used one of each today.
  • 1 – 2 TB capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cool water to stop cooking.  Toss with dressing, capers and Parmesan and cover.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  You could add vegetables (blanched broccoli, sliced cherry tomatoes but I figured with everything else, we would just serve it straight.

Doesn’t the table look pretty!

Baby shower

Baby shower


Sundried tomato chicken pasta salad

A few years ago I was recovering from surgery and several kind friends brought me dinners.  My friend Ashley brought this lovely pasta salad – it is one of those versatile dishes that is delicious hot or cold, for lunch or dinner.  This would be a good thing to make for a trip to the beach or for a week where everyone’s schedule is going in a different direction.

Sundried tomato chicken pasta salad

  • 1 lb bowtie pasta
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into cubes
  • 1 jar sundried tomatoes (oil drained and reserved

Saute chicken in reserved oil from tomatoes until done.  Cook pasta according to package directions and add broccoli to the pasta and water for the last 3 minutes of cooking time.  Strain pasta and broccoli and mix all ingredients together in a large serving bowl.

If you are a vegetarian, this would be good without the chicken and you could add other vegetables – corn is good with this.




Picnic side dishes

We are hosting my daughter’s class picnic today.  We’re supplying sandwiches for the grownups and people are bringing side dishes.  Since I can tend to be a little bit of a control freak, it is hard for me to do this but it is nice that people want to contribute.  It is the time of year when there are lots of events and you  might have an opportunity to sign up for something.  Here are a few of my favorite things to bring to a picnic (or what I would make if I was doing the menu myself).

Fruit salad basket

Carving a watermelon into a basket makes a great container for fruit salad and it looks like it is a lot harder than it actually is.  Place the watermelon on its flattest side.  You’ll want about a two inch “handle” for your basket so start about 1 inch to right of center and make a straight slice about 1/2 way down the melon.  Repeat about 1 inch left of center.  From the right side, slice the melon horizontally towards the handle slice and remove the section.  Repeat on left side.  Carve out watermelon flesh from handle, leaving rind.  Scoop watermelon flesh from “basket” and use a melon baller to turn watermelon flesh into balls.  Combine watermelon with balls of honeydew, cantaloupe and sliced strawberries or fruit of your choice.  Serve fruit in basket.

Pasta salad

I have made this numerous times and people always ask for the recipe.  They are shocked when I give it to them because they think it is more homemade than it is.  This is a great last minute summer side dish and is easily doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.

  • 1 package fusilli pasta
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing mix prepared according to package instructions
  • 1 TB capers
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Toss to remove water and then toss with salad dressing.  Add capers and Parmesan cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Toss again before serving.  You could add sliced cherry tomatoes and any blanched vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower would be good) to this salad if you like.
Deviled eggs
It doesn’t matter how many deviled eggs I make, I don’t think I have ever had leftovers.  Typically you’ll hear people say “I haven’t had deviled eggs in ages” as they pop them in their mouths!
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Place eggs in a pot just big enough to hold them and add water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat to just simmering and cover for 17 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cold water and ice cubes to stop cooking.  Chill eggs in refrigerator.  Peel eggs and cut in half.  Put yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.  Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, paprika and mayonnaise.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.  Fill egg whites with filling and top with additional paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  NOTE: For fancy parties, a small bit of caviar can be added to tops of deviled eggs.
Potato Salad
There are lots of recipes for potato salad and I like most of them but once I discovered this one, it is my default.
  • Red potatoes, 3 pounds
  • scallions, 1 bunch thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • freshly ground pepper
Boil potatoes until tender.  Let cool until you can handle and then chop potatoes.  Combine mayonnaise and lemon juice (adjust to your taste) and toss over potatoes.  Add sliced scallions and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Brownies are a great thing to bring to picnics because they are easy to eat.  These are always a hit.
  • 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (I use Baker’s)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate with sugar and butter, stirring regularly.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 – 10 minutes.  Stir in eggs, flour and vanilla.  Pour into a rectangular baking pan and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit.  Cut into squares.  (For easy cleanup, line your pan with parchment paper  -you can lift the parchment out and cut the brownies and put the pan away.)
Bring any of these along and you will be a very popular picnic guest!