Blog about my thoughts, feelings, interests and my life

Pesto Pasta Salad with Spinach and Peas

Where is the best place to sample yummy recipes you have never made before? You got it!…Church!! I sampled this recipe during VBS at our church a couple of summers ago. It was so delicious; I just had to get the recipe. Interesting enough, this recipe belongs to Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa. Her recipe is called Pasta, Pesto and Pea Salad, but I love the fact that it has spinach in it so I decided to rearrange the recipe name a little for my own sake.

I had a family reunion this past weekend and decided to pull out my recipe and make this again. I have been on this “salad” kick this summer – anything like chichen salad, cole slaw, pasta salad, potato salad. I am not sure what is wrong with me, but I guess it is better than being on a cake or cookie baking kick, right?


3/4 pound fussilli pasta

3/4 pound bow tie pasta

1/4 good olive oil

1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or made fresh

1 – 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry

3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted

1/3 cup pine nuts

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Cook fussilli and bow tie pastas separately in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain the pastas and place into a big bowl with the olive oil. Stir around to coat well. This will help keep the pasta from sticking together. Cool to room temperature.

2. In a food processor, puree the pesto, spinach and lemon juice.

3. Add in the mayonnaise and puree until well blended.

4. Add the pesto-mayo mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmeson, peas, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Mix well, season to taste and serve at room temperature.

Notes: I encourage anyone making pasta dishes to please go the extra mile to purchase good olive oil. Also, my husband loves Parmesan cheese so it doesn’t bother me to add more cheese than the recipes directs.

Recipe Source: Ina Garten, aka Barefoot Contessa

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Fresh Cole Slaw

Nothing like a cool, fresh “salad” on a hot summer day served with burgers, grilled sandwiches, pulled pork or simply by itself. This fresh cole slaw recipe is one my mother-in-law makes and it always turns out so good. I have been making this alot more lately simply because I love eating fresh veggies like cabbage, carrots, green peppers, and green onions. I hope you enjoy this recipe, too.


1 bag of Dole cole claw

1 green pepper, diced

4 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup salad dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the contents of the bag of cole slaw, pepper and onions. Toss around until well combined.

2. In a separate mixing bowl, mix together salad dressing, mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Using a whisk, thoroughly mix the ingredients together.

3. Pour dressing over the cole slaw mixture. Stir dressing into the cole slaw until the dressing is well combined and evenly covering the cole slaw.

4. Serve, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: My mother-in-law, Susan J.

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Nick’s Grilled Mahi with Pineapple Chutney

Nick and his lovely wife, Lisa, on their wedding day.Nick is cool.

Nick is handsome.

Nick is kinda quiet and shy.

Nick is a chef, a really good chef.

Nick is my cousin and we are both Leo’s.

Nick is very artistic.

Nick shared this awesome and flavorful recipe with me.

Nick, I wuv you! Thanks for sharing .

Nick knows I like to grill so when I told him I wanted to try to improve on grilling fish, he graciously sent me some of his yummy recipes. And believe me, this recipe is yummy! I made it for myself on Mother’s Day, plus my daughter had been begging me to grill her some mahi. She loves to eat fish, and I am so relieved. I am trying very hard to incorporate more fish into our meals at home. But I am sure by looking at this blog you will notice I have not posted lately. Well, that is because I have been sitting at soccer fields for literally days at a time in the cold, sleet and when I am lucky, some heat and sunshine. Because I am a soccer mom, my nights in the kitchen have been pretty scarce. I miss my grill but I was able to use it this weekend for Mother’s Day!



1/4 cup good olive oil

2 Tablespoons orange juice

2 Tablespoons lime juice

2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

2 Tablespoons garlic, minced or pressed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

Pinch of cayenne pepper, (you gauge the heat)


*1 Tablespoon olive oil (see step 3)

1 Pineapple (fresh) or 2 large cans diced

1 Red Onion, chopped

4 Jalepenos, diced

2 Tablespoons ground ginger (1 Tablespoon if using dried)

1 Tablespoon cumin

1/2 cup rum, or 1/4 cup of coconut juice

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


1. In a large ziploc bag, mix together the ingredients for the marinade: olive oil, orange and lime juice, cilantro, garlic, cayenne, and salt & pepper. Add in the fish. Toss around to coat the fish well. Store in the refrigerator until ready to grill. Only marinate for 1 hour.

2. While the fish is marinating, begin to prepare the chutney by chopping the pineapple, onions, and peppers. Set aside.

3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onions, ginger, jalepenos, and cumin for 6 minutes. *I added 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the saute to keep it from sticking to the pan.

4. Add rum, or coconut juice, and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated. While you are waiting for the rum to evaporate, take this time to fire up the grill.

5. Add pineapple, lemon juice and sugar to the saute mixture. Bring it to a simmer and then remove from heat. Add in cilantro, salt and pepper, to taste.

6. Remove fish from marinade and place in an well-oiled grilling fish basket. Place fish on a hot grill. Grill fish for 5 minutes per side. The fish is done with it flakes with a fork. Remove fish from the hot grill and transfer to a plate, then top with the pineapple chutney and serve with rice and a veggie of your choice (I used fresh steamed broccoli).

Nick’s side suggestions: Rice and Asparagus or Fresh Green Beans (boiled).

Leftovers? You can use any fish leftover for fish tacos. Simply top with black bean salsa, pineapple salsa (or chutney), lettuce and more.

Source: Nick P., of course.

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Triangle Pose

True or False? There are three points and three sides of a triangle?


Keep that in mind as you practice the triangle pose.

For me, as I practice yoga, I try to think about how many triangles my body can make as I hold this pose. Sometimes I focus on one triangle (both feet and hips), and other times I feel ready to take on more than one triangle from the two hands and back foot and so on.

Triangle Pose

First, let me explain that the Triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana, pronounced oo-TEE-tah trik-cone-AHS-anna) is a standing, TWISTING pose which means one will engage the core area. Any twisting poses in yoga will require the use of your abdominals. Beginning from a Warrior II position, I straighten my front knee, pushing the front foot’s weight into the back hip. Both feet are still planted firmly into the ground, pressing through all four corners of each foot (Four corners being big toe, pinky toe, and back two corners of the heel).

Next I reach out through my front hand and arm to the wall in front of me as well as the back hand reaching back leaving an open chest. As I press off my front foot towards the back hip, I reach with my front hand whileI fold sideways toward the front leg. My arm continues to reach out while my feet are very strong and grounded. I land where the pose takes me…meaning my reaching hand (supporting or grounding hand) places itself in the most comfortable, free position. For me personally, my reach takes me to the floor (as shown in the pic above) or sometimes it takes me to my front shin. Do not force yourself to go beyond what your body tells you. You still want to keep proper, healthy alignment throughout your transitions and in the pose itself.

Not only are you moving into your feet and hips in this pose, but you will remember I mentioned this pose is a “twisting pose”. That is true. I want to build my pose from the ground up. Once I get good positioning and a strong stance for me, I can focus on the core (the “twisting”). To do this I simply want to twist my torso using my abdominals. I like to use my two lower ribs to help me open the twist more. In order to twist, I pull my belly button towards my lower spine as to protect my lower back. Keeping the belly pulled in, I take my bottom two ribs and twist open my waist so I can allow my shoulders to stack over one another. If my top shoulder wants to fall outward or inward from the pose, then I listen to my body and it tells me my supporting hand is too far down. If that is the case all I simply need to do is walk my hand up my front leg (shin area) until my shoulders become stacked one right over the other.

When building my pose from the ground up and I get to the section of the arms, I like to think of the wings of an airplane. When a jet or airplane is flying in the sky, the wings of the aircraft are side by side; one cannot move lower or higher than the other. They both are stationary. My arms should be the same. If my arms are not stacked or straight, the problem likes lies more in my forward fold and I have to walk my supporting hand up the leg until I know I am straight and strong in the arms.

Once I build the arms portion of my pose I am ready to continue building the pose upward from the ground. First it was feet, then hips, then waist, shoulders then arms. Next it is the neck and head. As my shoulders and arms align correctly I am ready to press the shoulder blades down my spine towards my hips and away from my ears keeping the spine very long. The crown of the head begins to reach out away from the shoulders.

Finally, breathe deep for 6-12 breathes. Inhaling and exhaling only through my nasal passage. Standing full in the triangle pose, I take the time to reach into all 3 corners of whichever triangle the mind leads me to. It could be what I call the “base” triangle of both my feet and the hips, or it could be my head, hips and front leg, or it could be a right triangle of both hands and my back leg. No matter which triangle I focus on, I want to generate power in those three points creating strength.

As I begin to be full into the pose I can then open my heart and let go of judgment, competition and expectation. Awww. Peace.

Note: As I practice and become ready, I can lift my torso weight from the supporting or grounding hand and simply balance using the power and strength in my base triangle found within my feet and hips.

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Jen’s Kid-Friendly Homemade Mac ‘N Cheese

Homemade Mac ‘N Cheese is one of my kids’ favorite side dishes. My mother is very well-known at family get-togethers for her macaroni and cheese. When my kids were younger, I use to only fix the Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese for them. But now that they are older and simply because they have eaten my mothers so many times, I now have to make this recipe. Once again, simple ingredients – nothing fancy and it still tastes yummy!


1/2 box macaroni pasta

1/2 stick butter

1/4 cup milk, heavy cream or half and half (your choice, any will do)

1/3 block Velveta cheese (big block)

Salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large sauce pan, bring about 6-8 cups of water to a boil. Sprinkle salt into the water.

2. Once the water has begun to boil, drop in the pasta. Cook as directed on the box, probably around 9-10 minutes until al dente. Strain water from the pasta.

3. Drop pasta back into the warm sauce pan and add butter, milk, Velveta cheese, salt and paper. Stir.

4. Stir several times until the butter and cheese have melted covering the pasta. Serve when everything is well combined.

Note: If you like your mac n cheese more on the cheesy side, add extra Velveta. I like mine more on a creamier side, so I try not to add too much extra cheese (if my kids let me by with it). I like to use only Velveta cheese…you can never go wrong with Velveta!

Source: Mom

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Simple and Easy Broccoli Casserole

Simple is more. In the world of cooking, sometimes just being simple tastes better then having 10 items in your recipe when you only need about 4 or 5 items. For me, broccoli casserole is one of those dishes. Just give me broccoli, butter, milk, Velveta and Town House crackers and I am good to go.

I am usually always asked to fix Broccoli Casserole at family gatherings. You see, in my family if you fix something everyone likes, you are pretty much stuck with fixing that dish for the rest of your life. So being asked to fix this at every family gathering must mean I cooked it really well one time.

If you are young  or a beginner cook or even newly married, I encourage every young lady to make Broccoli Casserole as their first dish to take to a family gathering or pot luck. Why? Well, broccoli casserole is one of those dishes that is hard to screw up, so you can play it safe yet still impress. Plus anything with Velveta in it is good, right? (Advice: Do not buy imitation Velveta, it will not taste the same. I promise you this.)

Another tip is to use only broccoli florets, no broccoli cuts. You can use fresh or frozen broccoli for your casserole. I love plunging a spoon into a fresh baked broccoli casserole only to pull out a spoonful of bright green broccoli partnered with a creamy cheese sauce.


2 frozen bags of broccoli florest (I refuse to use broccoli cuts)

1/3 – 1/2 block of Velveta cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks (the big block)

1 stick butter, melted

2 splashes of milk (or heavy cream)

1 sleeve Town House crackers, crushed in hands

salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large pan of boiling water add both bags of broccoli florets. Cook as directed on the package. You want your broccoli to remain dark in color to hold the vegetable’s nutritional value. If your broccoli cooks too long it will appear light green, almost gray. Please try to avoid from cooking too long.

2. Once the broccoli has cooked, drain water using a colander. Place broccoli back in the pan.

3. Add chunks of Velveta cheese into the broccoli while the pan is still warm so it can help melt the cheese quicker. Add in milk, or heavy cream (I use whatever I have on hand). Stir often to help mix in the cheese.

4. Add pinch of salt and dash of pepper. Stir.

5. Once cheese has melted, pour broccoli into a 9×13 baking dish. Spread out into the pan creating a flat surface.

6. Pour the melted butter on top of the broccoli-cheese mixture.

7. With your hands crumble up the crackers and spread out on top of the butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and brown on top.

Source: Yogijen

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Jen’s Everyday Side Salad

Steamed broccoli is usually my #1 “go to” greens I serve with dinner. It can be challenging sometimes to rotate green veggies in our dinner every night, but I want my kids to enjoy eating healthy whenever possible. I serve steamed broccoli alot for dinner with chicken, fish, and rice. However, I don’t want to overkill serving broccoli either, so I try to mix up the options a little.

I rotate the following veggies: broccoli, asparagus, green beans and this salad. I call it my “Everyday Salad” because it has become a staple around our house. My husband loves it, as do the kids. So that is a win, win for me. In the evening, I cut up a big bowl of this salad and then my husband and I eat on it for lunch and sometimes dinner the following night if we have some left over.

The dressing I use on this salad is Ranch. I make the dressing myself, and we have come to only eat this dressing on our salads at home. No more bottled dressing for us. Freshness from the dressing to the salad ingredients…you can never go wrong with this combination.

For a main course meal, just add a piece of grilled chicken, steak or fish.


2 Romaine hearts, chopped

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped

1 large tomato (or 2 small), diced

1/2 large cucumber, diced

3 eggs, boiled and coursely chopped

1/4 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup carrots, shredded

Bacon pieces

Potato sticks

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Ranch dressing, or dressing of your choice


1. In a large serving bowl, throw in chopped greens/lettuce. Toss around to mix. I like to tear my lettuces using my hands, it helps the greens last longer.

2. Add in tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, red onions, and eggs. Toss around the mix with the greens.

3. Serve in individual bowls. Top with Bacon pieces, potato sticks and Ranch dressing, or dressing of your choice.

Source: yogijen

Note: You can serve with any other veggies or toppings you like. The possibilities are endless. This pic does not have the potato sticks, bacon pieces or Parmesan cheese…I got a little too excited before I had it all finished.)

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Frozen Butterfinger Pie

Do you like peanut butter?

Do you like chocolate?

Do you like Butterfingers?

Do you like creamy, peanut buttery, chocolatey, chunky Butterfingery goodness?


If you like peanut butter pies, then you are bound to love this frozen dessert. It is no bake and so very easy to put together.


Chocolate wafer crust

8 oz. block cream cheese, softened

7 ounces sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

8 oz. tub Cool Whip, thawed

8 fun-size Butterfinger candy bars, chopped


1. In a a bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese, condensed milk, peanut butter and powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed until the mixture becomes smooth, creamy and completely combined.

2. Fold in the Cool Whip by using a rubber spatula. Do not use the mixer. Gently fold in the chopped candy bars.

3. Pour mixture into the pie crust. Cover and freeze until firm.

Source: Adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

Note: I buy the fun-size candy bars since I can get a package for $1.00 at the grocery vs. paying around $3 for 3 regular sized candy bars.

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Jen’s Roast Beef & Swiss Hoagies

March Madness. I love this time of year. College basketball, NCAA tournament, (and soccer) is just another reason for me to get excited about spring, and cooking. This quick and easy sandwich right here is one of my husband’s favorites. It is so, so easy to put together. Toppings for this hoagie take longer than any other part. So, if you are ready to watch some NCAA games this weekend, and you need something in a hurry, try this out!


3/4 – 1 pound sliced roast beef (I just get from deli)

4 long slices of Swiss cheese

2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 large onion, sliced

1 package of mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 – 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon A1 or steak sauce of your choice (optional)

2-4 shakes of hot sauce (more if you like the extra heat0

Salt and Pepper, to taste

4 hoagie rolls



1. On a broiler or cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, measure out slices of roast beef. Top with Swiss cheese.


2. In a skillet, heat butter. When melted and ready, throw in onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat. Then, add in mushrooms, garlic and salt and pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.

3. Once veggies begin to cook down, add in Worcestershire, steak and hot sauces. Cook for about 2 minutes until well blended. When done, turn heat to low.


(Note: Yes, I purposely placed that Pittsburgh Steelers salt shaker in the background.)

4. Set the roast beef and cheese portions under a broiler (set on High) in the oven. You can also microwave this if you are in a big hurry. Broil for 6-8 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and place on hoagie buns.

I like to use these:


5. Open the hoagie bun, place roast beef and swiss, and then top with onions and mushroom mixture. Add any extra sauce that you want. Close the hoagie and slice in half for a better grip and easier way to eat.

His and Her sandwiches…


HIS – This is how my husband likes his – lots and lots of mushrooms on top.



HERS – This is how I like mine – lots and lots of onions on top.

Now, enjoy the madness as you watch your favorite team advance in the NCAA Finals!!

 Serves: 4


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Spicy Whiskey BBQ Sliders (by PW)

Oh, boy! These little boogers are amazing! Spicy and sweet all at the same time. I can’t help but chalk this up as another recipe I think my dad would enjoy! I came across this recipe on Pioneer Woman’s blog as I was searching for Super Bowl recipes. If you look really close you can see that big lumpy jalepeno hiding in the sauce. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm.


1 pound ground beef, patted into burgers

4 Tablespoons butter

1 large onion, diced

1/4 cup jarred jalepenos, sliced

1 cup barbeque sauce (I used Baby Ray’s)

1/2 cup whiskey

salt and pepper, to taste

4 slices Swiss cheese

4 slices bacon, fried and halved

4 buns, toasted


1. Pat out hamburgers into patties (size of your choice). Salt and pepper both sides of patties.

2. In a skillet, melt butter until bubbly.

3. When ready, add in hamburgers. Brown for 5 minutes per side.

4. Remove burgers from skillet and drain butter/grease into a small bowl.

5. Measure 2 Tbsp. of butter mix and return to the skillet.

6. Dump in the onions and cook until transluscent, about 4 minutes.

7. When onions are ready, pour in the whiskey slowly. Cook until the whiskey is reduced by half.

8. Dump in the jalepenos. Cook for 2 minutes.

9. Pour in barbeque sauce and reserved butter mix. Stir until well combined with peppers and onions.

10. Place hamburgers back into the skillet, turning once to coat each side of hamburgers with sauce. Reduce heat to low simmer and allow the burgers to finish cooking in the sauce.

11. While hamburgers are simmering, toast the hamburger buns.

12. When buns finish toasting, immediately add Swiss cheese and two half slices of bacon (equals one whole piece of bacon per hamburger).

13. Place hamburger patty with sauce onto the bun. Open mouth and insert! Delicious!

Note: a) If you love heat, add more peppers. If you don’t like alot of heat, just reduce the measurement of jalepenos in this recipe. b) I added the Swiss cheese and bacon to this recipe.

Adapted Source: Pioneer Woman

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