Categories
Main Dish Salad Side Dish

Customizable pasta dish is worth every ‘penne’

Greek Pasta Salad
Greek pasta salad is extremely customizable for all kinds of diets and preferences, with lots of fresh vegetables and a light, flavorful dressing.

I’ve written before that I have some random, mostly mild food allergies that make certain recipes difficult for me.

Specifically, tomatoes cause me trouble, and I have to limit how often I include them in my diet, no matter how much I love them.

Because of that, I’m sympathetic to readers who sometimes email me and ask if I’d be willing to throw something gluten free or dairy free into the paper so they can try a new recipe, too. I definitely sympathize with people who have much more serious food intolerances than I do; it’s tough to keep food interesting.

With that said, the recipe I included this week can easily be made gluten free, dairy free and vegan, if you so desire. You’ll only need to do a few quick swaps or deletions to make it happen, and it’s all ingredients that you can easily find in your local grocery store.

This comes from the blog “Strength and Sunshine” by Rebecca Pytell. You can find the original post at https://strengthandsunshine.com/gluten-free-greek-pasta-salad-vegan/. I changed up the ingredients and proportions a bit and added extra garlic, too.

Greek Pasta Salad
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Greek Pasta Salad

Greek pasta salad is extremely customizable for all kinds of diets and preferences, with lots of fresh vegetables and a light, flavorful dressing.
Course Salad
Keyword black olives, English cucumber, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, gluten-free, green bell pepper, Kalamata olives, mozzarella, oregano, penne pasta, red bell pepper, red onion, red wine vinegar, vegan, vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 English cucumber cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces black or Kalamata olives halved
  • 16 ounces mozzarella cheese cubed
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Prepare all of the vegetables and cheese and add to a very large serving bowl.
  • While you prepare the veggies, boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain it and run cold water over the pasta.
  • Add the cold, drained pasta to the bowl and stir to combine the ingredients.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, garlic and salt and pepper with a fork, and then pour it over top of the pasta mixture.
  • Toss to evenly coat all of the ingredients with the oil mixture, cover, and let the salad marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  • Serve cold or at room temperature, and store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

If you go to the original recipe author for this, you’ll notice that I left a pint of tomatoes out of my version (for obvious reasons). I also decided to use whole grain pasta in mine, which made me feel like it was a bit healthier, too.

This was a great lunch, and it makes a ton of food. I’ve been eating on this salad all week long for lunch, and it’s been fabulous. It is lightly dressed and has lots of different flavors with all the vegetables.

I also hope it fits the bill for something new for those of you who have some food intolerances. With the weather warming up, a good pasta salad is a great recipe to have on hand, and nobody should have to miss out on a good lunch.

This piece first appeared in print on April 14, 2022.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Main Dish Salad Side Dish

Making a cold version of tacos isn’t mission im’pasta’ble

Taco pasta salad has lots of taco flavors—from fresh spinach and tomatoes to cheese and salsa—while being versatile enough to be served cold, warm or hot.

I was unloading some groceries a few evenings ago, and Joey came to inspect what I was pulling out of the bags.

Noting that there was a salsa I don’t normally buy, a container of tomatoes and a box of pasta, he immediately asked what new recipe I was trying for dinner.

After being the guinea pig for this column for eight years, he knows an experiment when he sees one.

“It’s a pasta salad,” I told him.

His eyebrows raised. The word “salad” generally comes with things he hates—mostly raw onions and mayonnaise.

“No. This is a taco pasta salad,” I quickly amended.

His eyebrows did not go down. He was not convinced, but he said he’d trust me on this one and waited, eying me suspiciously from the dining room, while I put together my new concoction.

I found this idea when I was looking for a good summer dinner dish, and this recipe is actually a combination of two others, one from Beth Pierce over at “Small Town Woman” and another from Rebekah Garcia at “Amanda’s Cookin’.” And then I added in my own ideas to make one, delicious pasta salad. You can find the two inspiration recipes at https://www.smalltownwoman.com/easy-taco-pasta-salad/ and https://amandascookin.com/taco-pasta-salad/.

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Taco Pasta Salad

Taco pasta salad has lots of taco flavors—from fresh spinach and tomatoes to cheese and salsa—while being versatile enough to be served cold, warm or hot.
Course Main Course, Salad
Keyword cheese, ground beef, pasta, salsa, summer, tacos, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces rotini pasta or another small pasta, like macaroni
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces pepper jack cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 15 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves cut into ribbons
  • 10-14 ounces mild guacamole salsa or your favorite kind

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain it, rinse it, and set it aside.
  • In a saute pan, cook the ground beef over medium heat until it is cooked through, breaking it apart as you go. Thoroughly drain all the grease from the pan.
  • Add the halved tomatoes to the hamburger, stirring regularly, until they begin to release their juices slightly—about three to five minutes—and stir in the taco seasoning and salt and pepper. Once the seasonings are well combined with the meat and tomatoes, remove the mixture from heat and let it cool a bit as you prepare your other ingredients.
  • In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, beef mixture, cheese cubes, beans and spinach, along with about 10 ounces of salsa. Stir until the salsa coats everything well, and give it a taste. If it seems too dry or needs more flavor, add more salsa until you get your desired consistency and flavor.
  • Serve immediately at room temperature, serve cold out of the fridge, or heat the mixture in the microwave to serve warm.

On our initial eating of this, we had it at about room temperature—basically the temperature it was when I finally finished mixing it all together.

For leftovers, I ate it cold and loved it. Joey warmed his up and also thought it was pretty good. It would also be delicious to serve it with some avocado cubed up in it, but I think that might be best for serving it cold or room temperature rather than heating it up.

I don’t think I totally sold Joey on the notion of taco pasta salad, but I’m going to vouch for it being pretty darn good. It had some great taco flavor but was also a cool, summer dish, which was really nice for a hot day.

I also thought this would be a nice one to use for a barbecue or picnic, since it doesn’t matter too much if the dish stays cold or gets warm.

I probably should be a little insulted that Joey doesn’t fully trust me after all of these years, but after some of my recipe fails throughout our relationship, I can’t say that I blame him. I think I’d be inspecting any grocery bags coming into the house, too.

This piece first appeared in print on June 25, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Dessert Salad Side Dish

Recipe traditions can provide a ‘berry’ Christmas

This simple combination of ingredients is a beautiful addition to the family table for the holidays.

This is the first year of major holidays our family will celebrate without my maternal grandparents. Thanksgiving was a tough transition to the new normal, and I know Christmas will be even more difficult.

When my paternal grandmother passed away several years ago, I began taking solace in using her pie pans every holiday season. Bringing them out of my cupboard always makes me feel close to her.

I employed the same strategy this Thanksgiving, baking pies in her pans, and then pulling out the handwritten recipe for cranberry sauce I asked my maternal grandma for only a year before.

In typical Grandma fashion, there were no measurements—although, to her credit, she wrote it down for me from memory while we sat chatting after dinner—but as I tentatively walked the aisles of my grocery store, wondering if I’d be able to decipher what she meant by a “tuna-sized” can of crushed pineapple, I discovered that her instructions were perfect.

She had given me just what I needed to recreate the cranberry sauce that graced her Thanksgiving and Christmas tables alike throughout my childhood.

So I wanted to share it with you this week. I added the measurements for the ingredients now that I have them figured out.

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Lola’s Cranberry Sauce

This simple combination of ingredients is a beautiful addition to the family table for the holidays.
Course Dessert, Salad, Side Dish
Keyword Christmas, cranberry, pineapple, Thanksgiving

Ingredients

  • 6- ounce package cherry gelatin
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple
  • 14 ounces jellied cranberry
  • 1 cup diced celery

Instructions

  • Prepare the cherry gelatin according to package instructions. Once it is set up, proceed with the next step.
  • Drain the crushed pineapple well.
  • In a serving bowl, stir together all the ingredients. (It’s kind of fun to mess up a whole batch of perfectly set gelatin.)
  • Once everything is well-combined, serve or refrigerate covered overnight.

This has always been one of my favorite side dishes at our family get togethers. It’s certainly nothing fancy, and I don’t think it would win any culinary awards, unlike many of my grandma’s other recipes, but it tastes like the holidays to me.

My favorite way to eat it growing up (and I confess I may still employ this strategy), was to put a spoonful into the middle of a dinner roll and enjoy it like jelly.

I will warn you that the gelatin and jellied cranberry break down pretty quickly if you leave this sitting in the refrigerator for a few days, so it’s best to either stir it up the same day you plan to enjoy it or the night before.

I chopped my celery and mixed up the gelatin the night before so it was simple to throw together right before our meal.

And if you get some especially green celery, you’ll get perfect Christmas colors to add to the holiday table.

I’m still working on perfecting recipes from both of my grandmothers without the benefit of their help these days. It always makes me feel connected to them, even if I’m not always the best at recreating each dish.

Celebrating the holidays without loved ones is tough, but just like my grandma’s handwritten notes for cranberry sauce, the people we’ve lost often give us just what we need to keep going—whether we realize it or not.

This piece first appeared in print on Dec. 12, 2019.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Salad Side Dish

Sometimes even salad can be comfort food

Oriental salad uses cabbage and ramen to create a great, crunchy side dish.

When I close my eyes and picture my grandpa, I see his mischievous smile—one that went clear up to his eyes—and I can hear his laugh. I see his large hands, calloused from years of hard work, which were always willing to help anyone who needed him. And I’ll never see a pair of suspenders, stretched over a plaid shirt, without thinking of him, too.

We lost my grandfather, Bill Franklin, this past week. He was the epitome of a Kansas farmer, constantly working and fixing, even long after he “retired” from planting grain and milking cows.

He was an imposing figure at over 6 feet tall with a wide frame, and he was strong beyond his 83 years. No one would ever mistake Grandpa for a frail old man.

But he was also gentle and kind. He could create some of the most delicate woodworking I’ve ever seen and was always quick to scoop up a great grand-baby.

And although he probably would have argued with me, he was a life-long learner, too, mastering new technology and doing tons of research on his family tree.

What I admired him for most of all, though, was the love he showed my grandma. They knew each other for practically their entire lives, and they never got tired of each other. He loved to tease her, and she loved to pretend she was shocked by whatever it was he said. They walked hand-in-hand wherever they went, and the look he gave her in their wedding photos was the same one he gave her over 60 years later.

He also liked to eat, and while he had a lot of favorites, the one dish that pops into my head is a salad my mom and I took turns bringing to family meals just because we knew he loved it, so in honor of him, I’m sharing that recipe with you. I don’t have an original source for it. It’s one of those recipes that gets passed around families and loses its origin.

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Oriental Salad

Oriental salad uses cabbage and ramen to create a great, crunchy side dish.
Course Salad, Side Dish
Keyword ramen, red cabbage, sunflower seeds

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces shredded cabbage I buy the bagged coleslaw mix with carrots
  • 1 bunch green onion chopped
  • 1 package ramen noodles I use beef flavored
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup oil I use canola
  • Flavor packet from the ramen
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar I use apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • In a large salad bowl, combine the cabbage and onions.
  • Place the uncooked noodles into a small plastic zippered bag. Zip the bag and crush the noodles (I normally use the handle of a kitchen knife, but a rolling pin or the smooth side of a meat mallet would also work well.). Break them up into about 1/2-inch pieces. Dump the sunflower seeds into the bag and set it aside.
  • In another small bowl, combine the oil, flavor packet, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Just before serving the salad, pour the noodles, sunflower seeds and oil mixture over top of the cabbage and mix well.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers.

As we gathered this week to share stories of Grandpa in the days leading to his funeral, this salad graced the table with tons of other food from the wonderful people in our family’s life. Grandma’s fridge won’t be empty for quite awhile.

And while the love we all have for each other will keep us going, there will continue to be a piece missing from our get-togethers.

The hole a man like my grandpa leaves is large and a tough one to fill.

This piece first appeared in print on March 28, 2019.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

Categories
Salad Side Dish

Make garlic pasta salad to be the ‘roast’ of the town

Roasted garlic pasta salad has some amazing flavors that meld into the perfect summer side dish.

A few weekends ago, Joey and his best friend decided to fire up our smoker in the backyard and fill it with everything from several racks of ribs to a pork loin.

They tended the fire all day, hanging out in the garage with a set of washer boards to get out of the sun.

Parts of the house still smell a little smoky, and I can definitely tell which clothes I had up to dry while the smoking was going on when I pull them out of the dresser in the morning, but it was very much worth it.

As they wound down their cooking and we prepared to feast for dinner, I decided to whip up a side dish to complement smoked meats and found a delicious one that was even better the next day out of the fridge.

The recipe I made comes from the blog “Budget Bytes.” You can find the post at https://www.budgetbytes.com/roasted-garlic-pasta-salad/. I didn’t feel the need to add anything to this recipe other than suggesting getting a large head of garlic.

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Roasted Garlic Pasta Salad

Roasted garlic pasta salad has some amazing flavors that meld into the perfect summer side dish.
Course Salad, Side Dish
Keyword garlic, parmesan, pasta, ricotta, spinach, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound small pasta I used tri-color spirals
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Chop the top half inch off the head of garlic and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Drizzle the top with olive oil and cover the bowl. Microwave on high, one minute at a time, until the garlic cloves are soft (poke them with a fork to save burning yourself).
  • Remove the garlic from the microwave and set aside to cool.
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, but save 1/2 cup of the cooking water and put the pasta back into the pot with the burner now off.
  • While cooking the pasta, squeeze the garlic cloves, and they’ll pop easily out of the skin. Mince the garlic and place it into a mixing bowl.
  • Add the ricotta, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup pasta water to the mixing bowl and stir until smooth.
  • In the warm pot you cooked the pasta in, add the spinach, ricotta sauce and cherry tomato halves to the pasta and stir so that everything is coated well and the spinach starts to wilt.
  • Add the parmesan cheese and more salt and pepper if needed.
  • You can serve this warm or cold.

This was a great pairing with the guys’ smoked smorgasbord, and I liked that it was a salad that didn’t use eggs or mayonnaise, so it would be perfect to take to an outdoor party where you may not have refrigeration readily available.

When I make this again, I’ll roast two heads of garlic instead of just one to really amp up the flavor, but it had all the stuff I really like—cheese, garlic, fresh veggies and pasta.

And I was thankful for the guys taking their Saturday to prepare lots of food to fill the refrigerator for awhile. Barbecue leftovers are some of the best kind.

This piece first appeared in print on June 14, 2018.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

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