Italian Pasta Salad

This is definitely one of my "gold-star" recipes when I'm reaching for something to bring to a party or potluck!  I aquired this recipe from my cousin Jodie - her recipes are ALWAYS incredible and tasty!  I've made this so many times and just love all the flavor it has.  I know so many who love the "other" Italian salad (you know the one, with pepperoni and spiral noodles?!), this will trump it any day - I promise!  I've often prepped everything at home and then mixed it all together when we've been away camping.  Tip: if making this the night before serving, leave out tomatoes until shortly before serving as they tend to make the salad a little runny.


Italian Pasta Salad

1 lb Medium Shells, cooked according to package instructions

1 Cup Mayonnaise
3/4 Cup Italian Dressing
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tsp Pepper

1 Cup Celery, diced (I like mine small)
6 oz Black Olives, sliced
8 oz Feta Cheese, crumbled
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan
2 Large Tomatoes, diced

Make pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse with cold water.  In medium bowl, mix mayonnaise, Italian dressing, oregano, and pepper.  In large tupperware bowl (what I usually serve mine in, but no need to mess up another bowl mixing when you can do it all in one!), fold together celery, black olives, cheese, and tomatoes.  Fold in noodles and sauce until well coated.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.


Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

I'm a lover of pretty much anything that involves cinnamon, then throw in a "cake" that I can justify eating for breakfast and I'm pretty darn excited!


Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Streusel Topping:
1 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/4 Tsp Sale (if you use unsalted butter)
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
6 Tbsp Butter, melted

1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Cocoa Powder

3/4 Cup Butter
1 Tsp Salt (1 1/4 Tsp if using unsalted butter)
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
2 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
2 Tsp Vanilla
3 Large Eggs
3/4 Cup Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt
1 1/4 Cups Milk
3 3/4 Cups Flour

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 9"x13" pan or two 9" round cake pans.

Make the topping by whisking together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon.  Add the melted butter, stirring until well combined.  Set topping aside.

Make the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.  (Note: the cocoa powder is used strictly for color, not flavor, leave it out if you like.)  Set aside.

For the cake: in a large bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream/yogurt and milk till well combined (the lumps do not need to be whisked out).  Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk/sour cream mixture, beating gently to combine.

Pour/spread half the batter into the prepared pan, spreading all the way to the edges.  Sprinkle the filing evenly atop the batter.  Spread the remaining batter atop the filing.  Use a table knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter (like making a marble cake - don't get too carried away).  Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.

Bake the cake until it's a dark golden brown around the edges and a toothpick/cake tester in the center comes out clean.  When the center is pressed it should spring back.  Approximately 55-60 minutes for a 9"x13" and 50-55 minutes for the 9" round pans.

Allow to cool 20 minutes after removing from oven before serving.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Can we all say... "mmmmmmmmm!"

My rhubarb grows and grows and grows!  I'm always trying to use up its delicious goodness and this pie is one of the perfect ways.  I hope to get a few more rhubarb recipes up, but we'll see how busy the kids keep me around here! :)  This recipe makes 1 pie - serves 8 or maybe more if you share better than I do!


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pie Crust:
1/2 Cup (1 Stick) VERY Cold Butter
1 Cup Flour
1/8 Cup Sugar
1/8 Tsp Salt
1/8 Cup Cold Water, plus additional Tbsp or so if needed

2 3/4 Cups Rhubarb, Sliced (about 5-6 stalks)
2 Cups Sliced Strawberries
2/3 Cup Sugar
3 Tbsp Corn Starch

Streusel Topping:
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Cold Butter

Crust: In a food processor or in a large bowl, if mixing the dough by hand, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix for a second or two to blend. Add the butter and, on low speed or by hand with two knives or a pastry cutter, work the mixture until it is crumbly and the largest pieces of butter are no bigger than a pea. The butter should remain cold and firm. If the butter is becoming too soft, refrigerate the mixture for a 10-15 before continuing. Once the butter/flour mixture resembles large coarse crumbs, on low speed or tossing with a fork, if mixing by hand, sprinkle the cold water evenly over the flour mixture, and mix just until it pulls together in a shaggy mass. Add a tablespoon of cold water additionally at a time if the dough isn’t pulling together well. The object isn’t to have a smooth, tight ball of dough – the dough should still have loose pieces of flour here and there but should just start coming together when the water is mixed in.  Dump the dough out onto a work surface. Using your hands, pull the dough together and gently press it into a large ball. It should start joining more cohesively and forming more of a dough-like consistency.  Using a lightly floured work surface, begin rolling from the center of the dough outward. Stop the pressure 1/4 inch from the edge of the dough. Lift the dough and turn by a quarter and repeat the rolling until the dough is at least 12 inches in diameter. The lifting and turning is important because this will let you know if the dough is sticking and if more flour is needed on your work surface.  Carefully fold the dough into quarters and place in the pie dish.  Ease the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pie dish without stretching (if the dough is stretched to fit the pie plate, it will shrink while baking). Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, trim the excess dough around the edge of the pie plate so that there is still about 1/4 to 1/2-inch hanging over the edge of the pie plate. Fold this excess under the edge of the pie to form an extra thick edge on top of the pie plate rim. Flute the edges with your fingers. Cover the pie plate loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to overnight before filling and baking.

Filling:  In a medium-large bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and cornstarch. Mix well. The mixture should be thick and syrupy after being stirred well.  Pour the strawberry/rhubarb mixture in the crust, using a large spoon to fill evenly. 

Streusel:  In a small bowl, combine the flour and brown sugar. Cut the butter into pieces and using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter to the flour/sugar mixture until it has the consistency of coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the top of the pie.

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes, covering the pie crust edges halfway with foil to prevent over-browning.

Let the pie cool completely before cutting into pieces. Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, if desired.


Grilled Island Chicken

This recipe came via My Kitchen Cafe and it did not disappoint!  Incredibly tender and oh so flavorful!  I marinated three chicken breasts, but I think the marinade would easily do more.


Grilled Island Chicken

1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed is best)
1 1/2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 Tsp Dried Oregano
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Ground Pepper
2-4 Chicken Breasts

Combine all ingredients in gallon Ziploc bag.  Shake well until the marinade is well mixed.  Add chicken to bag - press out all air from bag and seal tightly.  Refrigerate and let marinate for up to 10 hours (3 hours at minimum).

Preheat grill.  Cook on grill for approximately 7 minutes each side or until center is no longer pink (approximately 165 degrees internal temp).  Remove from grill and tent with foil for about 5 minutes before serving.


"More Than Ordinary" Banana Bread

This is my "go-to" banana bread recipe.  When I look at my counter and see overly ripe banana's - I either make these bars or a batch of this bread.  I use my own canned applesauce to lessen the calories (which is why my bread is a bit darker), but if you don't have applesauce on hand, use equal parts oil.  If you don't wish to have coconut flecks in your bread, banana instant pudding works well (or really whatever you happen to have in the cupboard for instant pudding). Recipe yields 2 large loaves.


Banana Bread

5 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Applesauce
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Mashed Bananas (approximately 4-5 bananas)
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 Tsp Salt
1 Heaping Tsp Baking Soda
1 Heaping Tsp Cinnamon
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 Pkg Instant Coconut Puddin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix eggs, applesauce, sugar, bananas, and vanilla together until blended.  Add dry ingredients until moistened, then beat for a couple minutes until well combined - batter will remain a little lumpy.  Pour into prepared (greased and floured) bread pans and bake for 45-60 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.