The Perfect Tailgate Pasta Salad

Last week, my good friend Raquel told me about a fundraiser that her daughter’s school was having so that they could afford to go on their first class trip. In order to raise the money, the Katzenbach School for the Deaf is selling pasta! But, this is no ordinary pasta! No, no, it’s FUN pasta! And when Raquel told me that they had Seminole pasta, I HAD to buy it!

How fun is that?! I am totally loving these little Chief Osceola heads!

The school is not only selling collegiate-themed pastas, but they also have fun holiday pastas and other hobbies (like dance, golf, cats, dogs, oh my!). The pasta is so fun and affordable and would make GREAT holiday stocking stuffers and gifts for your loved ones! Please see the link, along with a note from Raquel below about the fundraiser:

The Early Childhood Program at The New Jersey School for the Deaf is raising money so that their little ones can finally go on a trip this year! The school earns 40% of all online sales. This is my daughter’s 2nd year enrolled in the program and because funds have been tight, she and her classmates haven’t been able to go on a field trip.
For more information on the Early Childhood program, please visit this link! Thank you!
Raquel Parker

If you are interested in buying some of this awesome pasta for a great cause, CLICK HERE! Then click the yellow button at the top that says “Shop Now”. The deadline for orders is November 14th.

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Now, onto this pasta salad. The pasta actually came with it’s own seasoning packet, but I wanted to share my favorite pasta salad recipe with you all so I am going to save the packet for another time. This pasta salad recipe is light and lower in fat compared to pasta salads that use mayo. I guess you can say this is an Italian style pasta salad! Just some EVOO and vinegars is all you really need! This pasta salad is perfect for tailgating because it is so easy to make and it does not require any refrigeration (though, if you plan to leave it out for an extended period of time, you may want to leave out the cheese and meat). I threw in some black olives, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese into mine, but you could use any of your favorite ingredients for this recipe!

The Perfect Tailgate Pasta Salad

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for the pasta:

– 1 lb. pasta, rinsed and drained (you can use any pasta for this!)

– 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced

– 2 cups mozzarella cheese, diced into small cubes

– 2 cups black olives, sliced

– 2 tbs. parsley, chopped

– Optional: Diced pepperoni and/or salami

Ingredients for the dressing:

– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

– 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

– 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar

– 1 tbs. lemon juice

– salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, tomatoes, olives, cheese, and parsley. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Pour over the pasta and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours (or overnight).

Shrimp and Bulgur Salad

This weekend, we drove down to Orlando to spend the weekend with my mom, stepdad, and little brother. Although Thanksgiving is going to be here soon, I haven’t made a visit home since early September and I just needed some family time NOW! My mom told me about this recipe last week and she wanted to make it again this weekend so I could share it with all of you!

This salad is refreshing and really easy to make! It’s more of a summer dish, but I live in Florida, so I think we can still get away with some lighter dishes! My mom and I ate this for lunch, but it would also make a great side dish! If you aren’t a fan of shrimp, I bet this would also be good with some shredded rotisserie chicken!

Shrimp and Bulgur Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

– 1 cup bulgur

– 2 cups cooked baby shrimp (thaw if frozen)

– 4 tbs. pitted green olives (or kalamata olives)

– 6-8 grape tomatoes, sliced and diced

– 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

– 4 tbs. Italian parsley, minced

– 4 tsp. white wine vinegar

– 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

– salt and pepper to taste

– Optional: 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Directions:

1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add in the bulgur. Cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let stand for about 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is chewy. Add to a medium-sized bowl and let cool.

2. Add shrimp, olives, tomatoes, scallions, and the parsley to the bowl and mix everything together. Combine the olive oil (and cumin) with the salad and season with salt and pepper.

Lightened Up Bang Bang Shrimp

Ah, Bang Bang Shrimp. If you have ever been to Bonefish Grill, then you know what I am talking about. I know this because I guarantee you that when you walk into a Bonefish Grill, you will see a plate of Bang Bang Shrimp sitting on everyone’s table. It is that good. For those of you who have never been to Bonefish Grill and don’t know what the heck I am talking about, Bang Bang Shrimp is this amazing appetizer that they serve. Delicious, crispy shrimp that is covered in a creamy and spicy sauce. SO good! The Hubs and I never order appetizers when we go out to eat, but rest assured, when we go to Bonefish, we order this shrimp.

I’ve been wanting to make it at home for some time. So, I hit up the interwebz in search of a good copycat recipe. I found a few that claimed they were the best and closet recipe to the original. Even before looking at the recipes, I knew that there are two major problems with Bang Bang Shrimp: 1. It’s fried, and 2. It’s covered in full-fat mayo. Both of these things had to go. So I took a recipe I found and attempted to lighten it up by baking the shrimp in the oven to avoid the frying process and I also used reduced-fat mayo made with olive oil.

So, is this recipe a perfect copycat? No. Don’t get me wrong, it was good. Hubs loved it. But, I didn’t think the sauce tasted exactly like the Bonefish version. It was close, but not exact. This could be because of the low-fat mayo I used or the brand of the other ingredients that I used. I’ll make it again though! If you are going to eat this as a meal, I recommend serving it with veggies and/or steamed rice!

Lightened Up Bang Bang Shrimp

Serves 2-4

Adapted from CDKitchen

Ingredients:

– 1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp

– 1 1/2 cups cornstarch

– 1 cup panko bread crumbs

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– 2 eggs + a splash of skim milk

– 1/2 cup reduced fat mayo (I used the kind made with olive oil)

– 1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce

– 3 drops Sriracha hot chili sauce (or to taste)

– Optional: Chopped scallions for garnishing

Directions:

1. Combine the mayo and Thai sweet chili sauce in a large bowl. Add the sriracha to taste. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tails off of the shrimp. Combine the eggs and milk in a bowl, whisk together. Combine the panko, cornstarch, and salt in another bowl. Spray a oven-safe baking rack with non-stick spray. Dip each piece of shrimp into the egg and milk mixture and then dredge in the panko and cornstarch. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer on the baking rack. Spray the top of the shrimp with non-stick spray. Bake for about 10 minutes. Gently flip the shrimp over and spray the other side with non-stick spray. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the breading has turned golden brown on both sides. Add the shrimp to the bowl with the sauce and stir in until the shrimp is evenly covered in the sauce. Be careful not to knock off all the breading. Serve!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Two Ways


I was a little hesitant to post these recipes since now that Halloween is over and most of you are probably done digging into pumpkins, but you know what? Pumpkin season is not over! So, for those of you who are still planning on cutting into pumpkins (or butternut squash!) for your cooking and baking needs, this is for you!

After carving our massive pumpkins, I had a good 4 cups worth of pumpkin seeds. Since we already had enough sweets in our house, I didn’t want to make these sweet, so I hit up my spice cabinet to see what I had. Since I had so many pumpkin seeds, I figured it would nice to try more than one recipe, so I made two different kinds: Rosemary Garlic and then Spicy! For both recipes, I recommend that after rinsing them, lay them in a single layer on a towel to dry over night.

Rosemary Garlic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Recipe From The Edible Perspective
Ingredients:

– 2 cups rinsed and dried pumpkin seeds

– 1 tbs. olive oil

– 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

– 1 tsp. sea salt

– 1 tbs. rosemary (you can use dried or fresh, but fresh would be better. Sadly, I only had dried at the time…)

– pinch of pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, add the pumpkin seeds and then all of the other ingredients. Stir ingredients together until the pumpkin seeds are well-coated. Spread onto an even layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring the seeds with a spatula every 15 minutes.

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients:

– 2 cups rinsed and dried pumpkin seeds

– 1 tbs. olive oil

– 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

– 1 tsp. sea salt

– 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

– 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

– Optional: 1/8-1/4 tsp. chili powder

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, add the pumpkin seeds and then all of the other ingredients. Stir ingredients together until the pumpkin seeds are well-coated. Spread onto an even layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring the seeds with a spatula every 15 minutes.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies


Happy Halloween!! I hate when Halloween falls on a weekday, especially a Monday! Even though I have to go to work, I am looking forward to a evening of fondue, handing out candy, and watching the Ghost Hunters live investigation. The Hubs and I carved our pumpkins this weekend. We try to do more elaborate patterns every year. I think we really outdid ourselves this year. Not surprisingly, I did an owl and Hubs did one of his favorite actors, Vincent Price. Here’s a picture!

Aren’t they cool?! I also wanted to do one other thing this weekend: Make these sugar cookies! Yeah, sure, I wanted the cookie cuz, well, it’s a cookie, but what I really have been wanting to do is try my hand at royal icing. It was a little time consuming as I had to pipe one thing, wait, come back, pipe more, wait for that to dry, etc. But, it wasn’t has hard as I thought it would be. I still have a long way to go with my decorating skills. These were actually supposed to be jack-o-lanterns, but after trying to pipe and paint a face (even Hubs tried!), it looked like a 5 year-old decorated them so I decided to leave the rest as just plain ol’ pumpkins! Working with royal icing is a little tricky and it requires some time, patience, and some baking tools you may not already have in your kitchen (small piping tips, piping bags, etc.). If you are short on time or don’t want to using royal icing, feel free to whip up some buttercream frosting or you can always use store-bought frosting and decorations!

While you may be over pumpkin-shaped things, this sugar cookie recipe is a great basic sugar cookie recipe to have in your arsenal for any occasion!

Sugar Cookies

Makes approximately 3-4 dozen depending on your cookie cutters

Cookie recipe from Allrecipes

Ingredients for the cookies:

– 1 1/2 cups butter, softened

– 2 cups white sugar

– 4 eggs

– 1 tsp. vanilla extract

– 5 cups all-purpose flour

– 2 tsp. baking powder

– 1 tsp. salt

Directions:

1. Cream together the sugar and butter in a large bowl until smooth. Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut your dough into shapes using the cookie cutters of your choosing. Bake on a lined or non-stick cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 6 minutes or until cookies start to turn a light golden brown on the edges (bake longer for a crispier cookie). Let cool for at least 15 minutes before frosting.

Ingredients for the royal icing:

– 4 cups powdered sugar

– 2 tbs. meringue powder

– 6 tbs. water

– Optional: almond extract (I added a couple of tsp. of this to mine to give it a better flavor).

If you have never worked with royal icing before, I highly recommend that you all check out Brown Eyed Baker’s tutorial on how to work with royal icing. I got both the recipe and directions from Michelle’s site. Her step-by-step tutorial was extremely helpful!

I’m not going to provide specific directions as they will vary depending on the cookie you are trying to decorate. But, to make my pumpkin cookies, I made a large batch of the royal icing, reserving about a cup to be used as the stem and vine. The rest I dyed orange using gel food coloring. While the icing was still thick, I scooped some into my piping bag (and also reserved about 1/2 cup for the lines on the pumpkins) and using a #3 tip from Wilton, I outlined my pumpkin cookies. I let that dry for a few minutes. Then, I added a few more tablespoons of water to my icing to thin it out for flooding. Following Michelle’s instructions, I then flooded each pumpkin with the orange icing and let them dry for a few hours. Then, I just piped on the lines and the stem. Let them dry for another hour before eating.

Notes:
– You can find meringue powder at craft stores in the baking section.

Herb-Scalloped Potatoes

It’s Friday AND it’s Halloween weekend! It is bittersweet for me. On the one hand, it means that it is time to carve pumpkins, hand out candy, eat candy, and watch the Ghost Hunters Live investigation. And on the other hand, it means that after Monday, I have to take down the Halloween decorations. Where did October go?!!

Today I bring you another great recipe from my bridal shower book! This recipe for herb-scalloped potatoes comes to you from my B.F.F., Crystal! Crystal and I have been friends since we were freshmen in high school. She was my maid-of-honor and I am so excited because she is getting married in January and I get to be her matron-of-honor! I don’t eat potatoes very often because of the carbs, but these potatoes sounded too good to pass up! They are a little time consuming to put together (it took me almost 30 minutes to prepare), so if you are going to make them, make sure to plan ahead! These scalloped potatoes are really flavorful with all of the herbs and are much healthier than their cheesy cousin!

Herb-Scalloped Potatoes

Serves 4-6

Ingredient:

– 3 average-sized potatoes (I used Idaho), scrubbed and sliced into 1/8-inch disks

– 1 can chicken or vegetable broth

– 1/2 cup skim milk

– 1-2 tbs. olive oil

– 3 garlic cloves, minced

– 3 tbs. flour

– 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

– 1/2 tsp. dried basil

– 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary

– 1/4 tsp. paprika

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– several pinches of black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease (or spray with non-stick spray) a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Layer the potatoes in the pan, allowing them to slightly overlap. Lay them across the short way first overlapping them a little less than half of each potato slice. In each subsequent row, overlap the potatoes by about one-quarter of each potato slice.

2. Pour about 3/4 of a cup of the broth over the potatoes, reserving the rest for later. Pour the milk and drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes, making sure to coat each one (I think I needed 1 1/2 tbs. of the oil).

3. Scatter the minced garlic over everything and then sprinkle 2 tbs. of the flour over all of the potatoes. Drizzle as much of the remaining broth as you need in order to moisten all of the flour (avoid washing away the flour when you pour the broth). Sprinkle the last tbs. of flour, the herbs, paprika, salt and pepper. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Notes:
– To make these potatoes vegan-friendly, use vegetable broth and unsweetened soy milk.
– If you aren’t too worried about salt, you may want to add just a pinch more than a 1/2 tsp. I don’t usually like for things to be too salty, but I needed just a tiny pinch more salt :)