A Tasty Summer Dish

It isn’t often I make a dish to eat hot and decide I like it better cold. However, this pesto pasta salad with tomatoes and mozzarella chilled with some grilled chicken? I find it a delicious summer dinner! It’s also the first time I made pesto on my own (memo to me for future: your blender has a food processor attachment) which mostly went pretty well.


I only skipped the Romano cheese from the original recipe as I prefer a touch more mozzarella. I also could not find yellow cherry tomatoes at Publix so I bought an organic grape tomato medley pint and tossed in some regular grape tomatoes I had leftover in the fridge from last week’s meal. Delightful!


8 oz. uncooked whole-grain farfalle
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup tomato medley, halved (I used the orange and yellow in the mix)
3 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3/4 cup), divided


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place pasta in a large bowl.
  2. Combine basil and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth.
  3. Add basil mixture, tomatoes, and 5 oz. mozzarella to pasta; toss to combine.
  4. Top with remaining 5 ounces mozzarella to serve.
  5. You can serve hot the first night or chill the mixture once at room temperature to serve at a later time.


One Skillet Chicken & Pasta

I love one skillet meals. Less dishes usually (always a bonus) and they usually come together quickly and without a fuss. All excellent qualities in a dish. This one isn’t the fanciest dinner you’ll ever put on the table but it’s quick, easy and tasty as well as making 6 servings which for me meant dinner for a week. I love cooking up a big batch of something on Sunday; it means I don’t have to cook again until Friday (Saturday if I play the cards right and have frozen pizza on Friday night). I am a lucky person who can actually eat the same thing for 5 days in a row but I know not everyone can do that. So, make this when you’re expecting guests and want to impress without a lot of effort.


1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (I used minced as that was what I had in the fridge and it was fine)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup (1/2 pint) grape tomatoes, sliced in half
10 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil in a pot or large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken pieces and mushrooms and cook until chicken is golden and mushrooms softened, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook for one additional minute. Remove chicken mixture and place in a bowl while cooking pasta.
  3. Bring to a boil in the same pot or skillet, 4 cups of water. Add salt and pasta. Cook until al dente, approximately 9 minutes or according to the pasta instructions.
  4. Drain off most of the water, leaving about 1/2 cup in the skillet. Add to the pasta, chicken mixture, basil, pepper, parmesan cheese, and remaining olive oil, toss to combine.

Original recipe from SkinnyMs. (that’s right, it’s semi-healthy for you!)

Turkey Chili Mac

I kept seeing commercials for this dish and it sounded tasty so I put it on my list to try at some point. Then, two Sundays ago, the recipe was also in the newspaper so I gave in and made it sooner than planned. I am always wary of anything with chili in its title because 1) that usually involved beans in some fashion and I find beans gross and 2) it usually is also spicy and I don’t really do much spice. I don’t find pleasure in burning my taste buds out for some reason, call me crazy. However, I am glad I tried this dish.

In many ways, it is a lot like my Grammy’s goulash – just ground turkey instead of beef and a kick of chili powder rather than oregano. The recipe makes just as much – in fact, I didn’t make this at the best time. I was leaving for a trip to the Mouse three days after making this which meant I had to eat it for lunch and dinner for three days to make sure none went to waste. I sadly did not have room in the freezer at the time to put some in tupperware to freeze. It could be a very plain dish but I cooked some green peppers and onions up and put them in there and that added to the heartiness of the dish. I also, full disclosure did not put the full amount of chili powder, but the amount I put in was just right for me. I recommend this for a cold, damp, grey day when you just want to curl up with tea and a book.

You could also top this with sour cream – yum!

Turkey Chili Mac

1 lb. ground turkey
1 jar Ragu Old World Style Pasta Sauce
1 Tbsp. chili powder
8 oz. macaroni, cooked and drained
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil


1) Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-heat heat and cook ground turkey, stirring occasionally until done.
2) At the same time, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the green peppers and onions together until softened.
3) Once turkey and vegetables are done, stir into a single pot with pasta sauce and chili powder. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered 10 minutes. Prepare macaroni at this time.
4) Stir in drained macaroni and heat through.
5) Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Orzo with Chicken and Asiago Cheese

I really started to cook well for myself after my summer in DC. My cousin Kathy and her husband were nice enough to let me stay with them that summer while I completed an internship at the Smithsonian Institute Archives. Kathy and Scott are both doctors who have busy lives (even busier now with their son Jackson) so Kathy was very good about meal planning. It was Kath who taught me some of my favorite recipes – recipes that can last me a week if I double them or dishes that freeze well for nights when I don’t feel like cooking. This recipe is one of my all time favorites.

Orzo with Chicken and Asiago is quick and easy to make and only requires one pot to make so an easy clean-up. I also like the nice zing the spices add to this dish, making it something different from my normal fare. Also, handily, this is not a picky recipe. I haven’t been able to find straight asiago cheese where I live but a shredded Italian blend from Walmart that includes asiago does the trick. I also find this is a great summer dish as it cooks fast and doesn’t need the oven so the kitchen doesn’t have time to get hot.

Orzo with Chicken and Asiago Cheese

1 cup water
1 can (16 oz.) of chicken broth
12 oz. skinned chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 1/4 cups uncooked orzo
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup (2 oz.) grated asiago cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, basil or oregano (I prefer oregano)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1) combine water and broth in a pan over heat; bring to boil
2) Add chicken and pasta; bring to boil
3) Reduce heat; simmer 12 minutes, stirring occassionally
4) Remove from heat; stir in peas, 1/4 cheese cheese, salt, herbs and pepper
5) Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of cheese

Shells with Tomato and Basil

I am a fan of mixes. It should come as no surprise to you that one of my favorite cookbooks is Fast Fixes with Mixes. I like the convenience of mixes as a base to a recipe. It allows me to come home from work and create a meal that looks like it took me a lot longer than it actually did. So I am always on the lookout for new recipes that start from a mix.

This particular recipe is not new. In fact, I’ve had it for a long time; I think before graduate school even. My grandmother was getting rid of tons of cooking magazines so I stole them all and went through and cut out lots of recipes from them. You will not be surprised that I have rarely made any of them. But on my year long (some what stalled but getting back into it) trek through my own recipes, I decided it was time to make a few. Shells with Tomato and Basil was, I think, pilfered from a Kraft cooking magazine. I guess this only because its base mix is Velveeta Shells and Cheese – the brand is even included in the recipe.

I kind of adored this recipe actually for two reasons. One, it makes a ton of food so I had it for leftovers for three days after I originally made it. Two, it works as a main course or a side dish. The first night I had it with salad and fresh French bread. The second night I had it with baked chicken and peas. The third on its own again. A dish that I can have as leftovers but still add and subtract other dishes to keep it fresh and not repetitive is always a good thing in my book. Bonus? This dish is just…pretty. I do like it when my food is not only tasty but appetizing to look at as well!

See? Pretty and tasty!

Shells with Tomato and Basil
Serves: 6

1 package Velveeta Shells and Cheese
1 medium tomato, chopped (I also took out the seed parts)
2 Tbsp thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder


1) Prepared shells and cheese as package instructs
2) Add remaining ingredients; cook until heated through thoroughly, stirring occasionally