Caprese Tortellini Salad

Tortellini Pasta Salad 3
In a few weeks, we’ll be driving to Colorado for our annual family vacation. Road trip with two kids, yay…. Really though they should do well since it’s not too far of a drive. The first night we are staying in Denver and going to Elitch Gardens Theme Park. We’ll be there on my birthday so I need some good family friendly restaurant suggestions. After our day in Denver we’re going to a little town about 45 minutes from Colorado Springs for the rest of our trip. Again, restaurant and activity suggestions are more than welcome.
Tortellini Pasta Salad 1
With the kids, we’re going to try and keep it more low key which totally goes against everything I stand for when it comes to vacation but it makes it much more enjoyable in the end. We learned that the hard way with our first family vacation after Noah was born. He was about 9 months old and we went to Chicago. I’d never been before so I wanted to see and do everything in the city. Although Noah was a really easy going baby, those kind of plans aren’t always kid friendly. He was miserable and overtired by the end of each day which in turn made us grumpy. It turned out to be a not so fun trip which was really a bummer for our first trip. I don’t know why we though we could run the way we did pre-child. And also, why we thought it would be a good idea to bring a full size stroller on the train. Seriously, we did that. I’m sure people hated us. I would have. The whole trip is funny to look back on now but man were we ticked back then.

Since we’re staying in a house in Colorado, we are going to be cooking most of our meals but not every meal. It is vacation after all! We’re planning quick, easy meals to maximize our time in the beautiful mountains. And this pasta salad is the perfect side dish for the occasion. It comes together in minutes and is even better if made the night before.
Tortellini Pasta Salad 2
For the homemade balsamic vinaigrette, simply place all ingredients in a mason jar and shake, shake, shake. Then chop the tomatoes and mozzarella. All of this can be done while cooking the tortellini. Boom. Throw some brats and veggies on the grill and dinner is served.

This would be great to serve for the 4th of July. And since it contains no mayo, you don’t have to worry about it sitting out for awhile. Quick side dish = more time to blow up stuff. That’s always a plus in my book. Speaking of fireworks, let me leave you with this little tip. Several firecrackers in a Sams Club size can of corn (opened completely of course) is always, always a good idea. Not that I speak from experience…..
Tortellini Pasta Salad 4
Did a bit of my redneck just come out?

Caprese Tortellini Salad

1 cup balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows)
12 oz. cheese tortellini, cooked according to package directions
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
3 oz. mozzarella, finely diced

For the balsamic vinaigrette:
recipe adapted from Goodness Gracious

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. kosher salt

1. For the dressing: combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Store in refrigerator.

2. Combine the tortellini, 1 cup dressing, tomatoes and mozzarella in a bowl and gently toss. For best results, make at least a few hours in advance.

 

Farro, White Bean and Broccoli Gratin

Farro, White Bean and Broccoli Gratin
My little man graduated from preschool on Saturday. And I kept it together through the whole ceremony. Mostly. Both of those facts are incredibly hard for me to believe. You know the saying, “the days are long but the years are short.” I’m pretty sure there is nothing more true. It’s seriously mind boggling how this has happened. Where did my baby go? Well, I’ll always call him my baby especially when he’s an obnoxious teenager and his friends are over.
Preschool Graduation
I noticed today that he’s getting hair on his legs. What? Slow down time.

We had lots of family and friends come to his graduation and help us celebrate. After the ceremony we went to Noah’s favorite restaurant, HuHot. I gave him the choice of me cooking whatever he wanted or going out to lunch. He chose out. Major burn for a food blogger but how can you compete with food being cooked with giant sticks? In a 4 year olds mind, you’re never going to win against that.

I did make these cute graduation hat cupcakes, roasted strawberry ice cream (with lemon Oreos mixed in) and raspberry white chocolate chunk ice cream and they were all big hits. It was a wonderful celebration with amazing family and delicious food. Which brings me to today’s post.
Graduation Cupcakes
After all that decadence this weekend, I feel the need to lighten things up. This Farro, White Bean and Broccoli Gratin is a great meal after over indulging on the weekend and the perfect Meatless Monday dish.

It comes together quickly and is really hearty and filling. I’m new to farro and this was only the 3rd time I’ve cooked it and has definitely been my favorite version. Farro has a nutty flavor that goes particularly well with the creamy parmesan sauce that it’s coated in for this dish. I mean, a cheesy sauce that’s still healthy? You’re sold right?

When cooking the farro, be careful not to let it absorb all of the liquid otherwise you won’t yield a creamy sauce. I’m speaking from experience here so trust me. The first time I made this, I wasn’t keeping a close eye on it and it got dry quickly. It was still yummy but didn’t have the smooth, sauciness that you look for in a gratin.
Farro, White Bean and Broccoli Gratin 2
The navy beans add a dose of protein to the dish and help plump it up as a main dish.

I am always looking for new ideas to add to my arsenal of meatless Monday meals and this one is definitely going into the rotation. It uses a few different ingredients than our usual meatless meals but still has that cheese to bring it home for the boys. Win, win.

Farro, White Bean and Broccoli Gratin
recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely minced
1 1/2 cups farro
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt and pepper
1 lb. broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15 ounce) can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Add one teaspoon olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the farro and cook until it’s lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in stock and water and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low heat and continue simmering, stirring often, until the remaining liquid has thickened into a creamy sauce and farro is tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan, salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, lightly steam the broccoli, about 3-4 minutes. In a skillet over medium heat, add the remaining oil (1 tablespoon) and garlic, cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the navy beans and cooked farro.

3. Pour mixture into a baking dish and top with shredded cheddar. Place under the broiler until browned and bubbly, 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes 2
I ran my first 5K on Saturday and considering I’ve run only one other time in 2015, I would consider it a success. I didn’t run the entire time but most of it and was able to beat the goal I had set for myself. Plus, it was for a cause very near and dear to my heart so I would be proud no matter what. I’m going to talk about it more on Friday so stay tuned for that.
Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes 3
Last week we were craving some comfort food so I whipped up some BBQ meatballs (recipe coming soon) and this delicious, cheesy, creamy bowl of goodness. I like potatoes in any form but these may be my new favorite. Joel thought the only thing that would make them better is bacon. Because bacon makes everything better.
Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes 5
Sharp cheddar is diced small and stirred throughout then shredded and sprinkled on top with some crispy whole wheat panko (that makes them healthy) and parsley. The crispy panko topping gives a nice crunchy texture to the smooth, creamy potatoes.
Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes 6
A little buttermilk is added to the potatoes to provide some tanginess. I’m kind of addicted to buttermilk in mashed potatoes ever since these bad boys. And adding cheese is always a good choice.
Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes 7
I know mashed potatoes are more of a winter food but if you are having the weather we have lately, rainy and dreary, these will warm and fill you up.
Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes 9
Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice 4 ounces of the cheddar into small, 1/4-inch pieces. Shred the other half. Place potatoes in a pan and cover completely with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain potatoes and return to pan.

2. Mash potatoes then add butter, buttermilk, milk, salt and pepper. Stir in the cubed cheddar. Place in a greased baking dish. In a small bowl, mix shredded cheese, panko and parsley. Sprinkle over the potatoes and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Baked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes 8

Easter Side Dish Round Up

Yesterday I brought a round up of desserts that would be perfect for Easter. Today I thought I would bring you a collection of tasty side dishes that will totally make your meal.

I have to start it out with the perfect hard boiled egg. We always make a morning of dying Easter eggs so the night before I boil a dozen eggs so we are ready to go the next day. Then when Easter rolls around, we make either deviled eggs or deviled egg macaroni salad with them.
hard boiled eggs
Hawaiian Sweet Rolls are amazing with ham so they would be perfect for Easter. The ones pictures below were made for sandwiches so I would make them smaller (you’ll get 24 out of the batch) when serving them as a side.
Hawaiian Sweet Rolls 1
I think cheesy potatoes always have a place at the dinner table, but especially with ham. If you are a classic mashed potato kind of person, these Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes would be right up your alley. If calories didn’t count, Creamy Cheesy Potatoes would be my life. If you’re looking for a chilled side dish, Loaded Baked Potato Salad would be the perfect meal accompaniment. I just want to face plant into that bowl of goodness.
Loaded Baked Potato Salad 2

Roasted vegetables have become my jam. I made these roasted green beans recently and I absolutely adore them. Another plus, they are super easy and quick to throw together. It’s always nice to have a healthy option among all the calorie laden sides. Honey Balsamic Roasted Carrots are another great, simple vegetable side dish that your guests would inhale.roasted green beans 1

I love a cucumber salad and when it comes to Easter, I finally feel like we can break out the cool salads that are just so refreshing. This Cucumber Tomato Salad is all of those things and so visually appealing. Look at the colors!
Cucumber Tomato Salad 1

There you have it. Hope you found something inspiring for Sunday’s meal.

Bacon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Bacon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans 1
Now that the weather is finally getting bearable, I have grilling and cookouts on my mind. Basically, my favorite part of summer. There’s nothing better than getting together with family and friends, throwing some burgers and corn on the grill and some cool refreshing salads. Well, baked beans make any barbeque better. These are our favorite recipe but I decided to change it up a bit and try something a little different recently.

Joel grew up on those baked beans so he was very leery of something new and I have to say he didn’t totally embrace them but I thought they were a nice change of pace. This recipe is definitely more on the smoky side of things versus the super sweet version we’re used to gobbling down. That is due to the fact that barbeque is used, in addition to other ingredients, to make the sauce. It adds some extra flavor and zing and it makes these beans customizable depending on your taste. If you’re a KC bbq fan like us, use your favorite sweet sauce (this is what we love) or if you like it spicy go that route. It’s all up to you and the sauce you choose really dictates the direction of these beans.
Bacon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans 2
I’m kind of cursing myself right now because the thing I’ve been craving the most since going vegetarian for Lent is a big, juice bacon cheeseburger. And now I can’t stop thinking about them. That would be so good right now with a side of these beans and some cucumber salad. How many more days until Easter? And is it appropriate to have a burger for breakfast that morning?

Bacon and Brown Sugar Baked Beans
recipe slightly adapted from The Recipe Girl

6 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
3/4 cup barbeque
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like things)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
3 (15 ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until slightly browned. Add the onion and cook until softened and bacon is crisp, another 4-5 minutes.

2. Place bacon and onions into crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes

Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes 3
So I’m pretty sure I have the weirdest kid in the world. He doesn’t like potatoes. POTATOES. Seriously, not mashed, baked, fried….nothing. What kid, or person really, doesn’t like fries? It’s seriously concerning and makes me question whether he’s really mine. Because this lady never met a potato she didn’t like.

I usually make these potatoes with gorgonzola (ala How Sweet It Is) but we had some leftover feta from pizza night so I gave it a try. It was definitely a good decision. I loved the creamy, saltiness the that it brought to the potatoes.
Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes 2
We had these on Fat Tuesday with our ridiculous steaks but they would be equally delicious with chicken or pork. Or roasted veggies if your torturing yourself and not eating meat. I mean, if you’re a vegetarian.
Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes 1
Buttermilk and Feta Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and chunked
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup crumbled feta

1. Place potatoes in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until fork tender.

2. Drain the potatoes and put them back in the pan. Add butter and salt and mash potatoes. Slowly add in buttermilk as you mash, adding more or less depending on your preference. Stir in crumbled feta and leave on heat for a couple minutes to allow it to melt. Serve immediately.

Tomato Mascarpone Risotto

Tomato Mascarpone Risotto
Does anyone else feel super fancy when they eat risotto or is it just me? Have I watched too many episodes of Hell’s Kitchen? I think maybe the answer is yes.
Tomato Mascarpone Risotto
I’ve made classic risotto several times with good results but when I saw this recipe, I knew it would be special. And I was so right. It’s been over a week since I made it and I haven’t stopped dreaming about it. And you know how I said earlier that risotto = fancy in my book? Well, this recipe tastes like some spaghettios got all dressed up for prom. Yep, I loved them as a kid so this totally brought me back. But in a much more sophisticated manner. So so good.
Tomato Mascarpone Risotto
I also equate fancy with romantic so this would totally be a hit for Valentine’s day. Grill a steak or some chicken that has been marinated in balsamic vinaigrette and mix up a simple side salad for a perfectly delicious and romantic meal. Because I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like, I most definitely would be won over with this starchy goodness.

Tomato Mascarpone Risotto
recipe from The Recipe Girl Cookbook

3 cups chicken stock
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, combine broth and tomato sauce and heat over low heat until just warmed, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Stir in the rice and cook until it’s glossy in appearance about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, stir and let the liquid evaporate. Stir in the salt. Add the warmed tomato broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally. When the broth has just about been completely absorbed by the rice, add another 1/2 cup. Continue to cook and stir and add broth in 1/2 cup increments until all the broth has been absorbed and the risotto is tender but still firm to the bite, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the mascarpone, basil and pepper. Serve immediately.