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.

 

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

Roasted Green Beans

I’m a parent to a picky four year old. He used to eat everything I put in front of him but as he’s gotten older, he’s gotten more and more selective. This is all very unfortunate as I have branched out since starting up this little blog and make a lot of unique meals that are not so common here in the Midwest. My palate has really increased and I am way less picky than I used to be. Of course there are still things I don’t enjoy but I’m pretty proud of some of the things I make these days.
roasted green beans 2
Green beans are a veggie I have had a hard time supporting. They just aren’t appealing to me but since I have a child to set an example for, I choke them down so that he can see that I was eating them “to make me healthy and strong.” That line works sometimes. He likes muscles.

Last week I decided to roast them in hopes that they would be a bit more bearable to consume. I love the transformation of veggies when they are roasted, especially cauliflower. They get all brown and crispy and all their natural sweetness comes out. I figured it could only up the green beans game. It doesn’t just make them bearable but really tasty! Seriously, I actually enjoyed them and went back for seconds. Pretty sure this is the only way green beans will be prepared in my house going forward. And an added bonus, they are so easy for a weeknight meal.
roasted green beans 1
Roasted Green Beans

12 oz. fresh green beans
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp. roasted garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Flip, then roast another 10-15 minutes.

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.

Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes

Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes 2
Need a quick, last minute sweet potato recipe for Thursday? Well, I have the perfect recipe for you. These are so unbelievably good and really easy too. It’s always nice to have something simple to throw together when you have a million other things going on.

Another added bonus, I always have all these ingredients on hand so they would be a great side dish on a busy weeknight too. Make them. Enjoy them.
Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes 1
Butter Pecan Sweet Potatoes
recipe from Martha Stewart

8 medium sweet potatoes (5 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/3 cup pecan pieces

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel sweet potatoes and slice  into 1/2-inch thick coins then cut each in half. Toss with olive oil and salt and lay in single layer on two baking sheets.

2. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven then sprinkle each pan evenly with the butter, brown sugar and pecans. Return to the oven and bake for 8 minutes.

 

Broccoli Mashed Potatoes

Broccoli Mashed Potatoes
You know what’s weird? Having to tell your child that he’s eating mashed broccoli because if he knew there was potatoes involved he would have nothing to do with them. Yep, a four year old that doesn’t eat potatoes…not even fries. Sometimes I wonder if he’s really my child.
Broccoli Mashed Potatoes
These broccoli mashed potatoes are light yet flavorful. The sour cream adds a nice tang and the onions bring flavor to a dish that would otherwise be bland. I added a bit of parmesan to help sell these to the oldest member of the family, yes the almost 30 year old.
Broccoli Mashed Potatoes

I served these alongside some crispy baked pork chops (I’ll share that recipe later this week) for the perfect, healthy fall meal.

Broccoli Mashed Potatoes
recipe adapted from Everyday Light Meals

1 1/2 lbs. small red potatoes, skin on and cubed
2 1/2 cups fresh broccoli
1/2 onion, shredded
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan, freshly grated
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat then cover and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop broccoli florets and some stem into small pieces. After 10 minutes, add broccoli to potatoes and cook another 10 minutes.

2. In a saute pan, melt butter and cook onion until soft and slightly browned. Drain potatoes and broccoli then put back in the pan. Add onions, sour cream, parmesan, salt and pepper and mash together until smooth.

Thai Sweet Chili Broccoli

Easter with my loves
Did you all have a wonderful Easter? We spent the weekend with my parents enjoying the gorgeous weather, partaking in Easter egg hunts, church and a big dinner with some of our favorite people.
Excited about her basket

He was most excited about the $1 jump rope…figures.
A $1 jump rope? Yesss!

Me and my favorite boy.
Easter Egg Hunt with my boy

Sweet little chickie in her Easter basket.
Hannah in her basket.
Because Easter marks the end of Lent, that meant I got to feast on all kinds of naughty things that I haven’t had in months. Like peanut butter bars, cucumber dip, mac-n-cheese, corn casserole and a cherry coke or two. Needless to say, I felt very sick afterward.

During my 40 days of eating clean, I found that I had more energy and generally felt so much better. So, the plan going forward is to eat clean 5 days a week and the other two to still eat healthy but not so restrictive. Since starting a healthier lifestyle at the New Year, I’ve lost 30 pounds and would love to continue on that path.
Stir-Fried Broccoli
The only problem with healthy eating is that there aren’t a ton of vegetables that I love so the routine can get old kind of fast. I’m pretty sure I’ve professed before that broccoli is one of my favorite foods and I eat it several times a week. Joel doesn’t enjoy it as much as me so I have been on the hunt for different ways to prepare it rather than just serving it steamed as I usually do. When I came across this recipe at Mel’s Kitchen Café I knew it would be a hit with everyone.

Tender crisp, charred broccoli tossed in a slightly thickened sweet Thai chili sauce is the perfect side dish to grilled chicken and a bit of brown rice. You have to try this! It’s quickly become a staple in our dinner routine.

Thai Sweet Chili Broccoli
recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

1 Tbsp. olive oil
3-4 cups broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

For the sauce:
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
4 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
1 Tbsp. Thai sweet chili sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. cornstarch

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the broccoli and cook until the broccoli starts to brown in spots and turns bright green, making sure to stir often (about 7-9 minutes). Meanwhile, stir together the sauce ingredients.

2. Add garlic to skillet and cook an additional minute. Pour in the sauce and cook an additional minute or two until it thickens and the broccoli is coated.