Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Tasty Summer Pasta Salad

The heat of summer and the increased opportunity for casual outdoor eating begs for a pasta salad. Most people I know have their go-to favorite. Mine is this Italian Pasta Salad made with tri-color pasta. I love how colorful this pasta salad is to start. It is a feast for the eyes. Taste it and you'll realize your eyes did not deceive you. The flavors in this salad are a feast for your taste buds.  No boring salads are allowed on my table!

My Italian Pasta Salad with Tri-Color Rotini

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Italian Pasta Salad
A Summer Pasta Salad Packed with Flavor


I always make this Italian Pasta Salad with tri-color pasta because it adds to the visual appeal. You don't have to choose tri-color, but choose a pasta with some substance. I like rotini or bowtie pasta. You want a pasta with a surface that will absorb the flavor of the dressing.

Choose colorful vegetables.  For today's pasta, I used red bell pepper, English cucumber, grape tomatoes, red onion, and black olives.  Some blanched asparagus would be nice.  Some yellow and orange bell peppers would be nice.  Choose a combination of colors that appeal to you.
An Italian Pasta Salad Packed with Flavor

I like to add a little spiciness with either pepperoni or Genoa salami. Today I chose pepperoni. I also like to add some cheese.  For this salad, I chose mozzarella cheese, but chunks of provolone would also be nice.

Your dressing is important. You want to choose an Italian dressing that is packed with flavor. You can make your own, but I always choose a preferred brand of bottled Italian dressing. This is an easy summer salad and there really is no need to add an extra step.

Add some fresh herbs if you have them.  This time of year I have parsley and basil growing in pots on my deck.  I also have some chives in my garden.  Chop up a little of whatever you have for some fresh from the garden flavor.

Finally, make this salad a day ahead of serving.  You want to give it time for the flavors to distribute throughout the salad.




Donna's Italian Pasta Salad


Printer Friendly Recipe

The Colorful Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients
Colorful Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients


Directions

A day before you plan to serve the salad, cook your pasta as directed on the package in boiling, salted water.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare the vegetables.

Drain the pasta and pour it into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing, while the pasta is still hot, tossing to distribute well. Set aside to cool.

Mixing the Italian Pasta Salad
Combine the Ingredients Well

When the pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the rest of the ingredients and 1/4 cup of Italian dressing. Reserve the rest of the dressing for just before you serve the pasta salad. Toss well, making sure everything is well coated with the dressing and all the ingredients are well distributed throughout the salad. Cover and chill.

Before serving, stir the salad and taste.  Does it need more dressing?  If yes, add the remaining 1/4 cup of Italian dressing and stir to combine.  I like to serve this salad in a glass bowl because it is so colorful.  Garnish with some fresh herbs.

Essential Tools


Get more salad ideas from my Salads Pinterest Board.


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Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

How to Turn Store-Bought Potato Salad from Blah to Amazing

When you need a quick potato salad, that ordinary store-bought potato salad you have in your refrigerator can go from blah to amazing in just a few minutes with just a few ingredients.

There's no judgment here.

We don't always have the time to make a potato salad from scratch. Sometimes it is just easier to stop by your local grocery store to pick up a container of the store-made potato salad.

It's good.

It's predictable.  It will do.  All it needs is a little doctoring.

How to Make Store-Bought Potato Salad Better

Amazing Semi-Homemade Potato Salad
Take Your Potato Salad from Blah to AH-Mazing!
Jazz Up Your Store-Bought Potato Salad

What should you do if you want that store-bought potato salad to have a little more flavor?
You're going to a potluck picnic or you are having people over for an impromptu barbecue and you'd like your potato salad to be a little special.

There is no need to fret.  A quick trip to the grocery store will get you started. Just buy a few additional ingredients that will kick up the potato salad's flavor.


Jazz Up Store-Bought Potato Salad
The first step in your journey from blah to amazing is to taste the store potato salad. You need to know what flavors you are starting with.  The best store-bought potato salad is the one you like best.
  


When buying from the deli counter ask for a taste before you buy.  How does it taste?  Does it need a little more salt and fresh ground pepper? 

Consider a little celery seed or some fresh dill. Both add wonderful flavor to a potato salad.


Next, you'll want some add-in ingredients.  
You'll want to add a little color, some crunch, and little seasoning.  Here is my standard recipe for doctoring up a store-bought potato salad.

Donna's Quick Potato Salad

Add celery, chives and red onion to potato salad
The Potato Salad Ingredients
  • 1-quart store-bought potato salad
  • 1 stalk celery with leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1-handful chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


Directions

Taste the potato salad to know your starting point.

Add the celery, onion, and chives.  Stir to combine.

Taste and add salt and pepper.  Cover and chill for at least an hour to allow the flavors to combine.

Isn't that easy?  Remember it is important to taste the potato salad again before you serve it to make sure the flavors are what you want them to be.

You can add a little more of whatever the potato salad needs before you serve it.  Serve this kicked up store-bought potato salad proudly.

You've made it your own in a semi-homemade kind of way.  Your family and friends will love it.


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Enjoy!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Swordfish Puttanesca Pasta Bowl

Pasta Puttanesca is one of those dishes that you either like or don't like. That's because the flavors are robust and in your face. I'm hoping you're a fan of big flavors. 

For today's recipe, I'm making a pasta bowl with swordfish and green beans. This is a combination that is healthy and satisfying. If you make it, please post a picture on my Just One Donna Facebook page.

Swordfish Puttanesca Pasta Bowl


A robust swordfish Puttanesca pasta bowl that will tickle your taste buds.
A Robust Swordfish Puttanesca Pasta Bowl

Do you love olives?  This recipe is for you. You'll want to use a mix of flavorful olives like you can get from the deli at your grocery store.  I love a mixture of robust green and kalamata olives
This swordfish Puttanesca Bowl is full of BIG flavors!

Do you love capers? This recipe is for you.

Do you love a little heat in your food?  It's in here.  If you don't like heat leave the crushed red pepper out, or add a little more if you want more heat.

Do you love swordfish?  Yep, it's in here, but if not, add shrimp or chicken.

Finally, I've added fresh, French green beans.  They are the skinny ones.  Just toss them into the pasta pot to cook with the pasta.  They'll be bright green and crisp.  It's a lovely addition to this bowl.

This is a quick meal to make.  From putting the pasta on to boil to serving your pasta bowl is 20 minutes.  It's a great meal for a quick weeknight dinner.

Are you ready to make a swordfish Puttanesca bowl?

Swordfish Puttanesca Pasta Bowl

Swordfish Puttanesca cooking in the pan.Serves 4

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 -1 1/2 lbs swordfish steak
1 lb pasta of choice, linguini preferred
4 handfuls of French green beans, trimmed
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped flavorful olives
1-2 Tablespoons capers, drained
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups prepared, Italian tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Fill a large pot with water. Add about 2 Tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and green beans and bring to a boil.  Cook until the pasta is al dente and the beans are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes.

While the pasta and beans are cooking, add the olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat.  Salt and pepper the swordfish.  Add the swordfish to the hot pan, cooking for two minutes on each side.  Set aside.

Add the onion and cook for two minutes.  Add the garlic, crushed red pepper, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  Stir to combine.  Add the olives and capers.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Cut the swordfish into one-inch chunks and add to the sauce. Drain the pasta and beans and add to the sauce.  Toss so everything is well coated. Cook for a minute or two to let the flavors combine.  

Serve with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Two Make Ahead Freezer Recipes

You might think from all the recipes you see posted on Just One Donna that cooking is my favorite thing to do.  I like to cook when I have the time to devote to my favorite recipes, but I have a lot going on in my life, and time to cook is often sacrificed. When I'm pressed for time, cooking frustrates me. Does this sound like you?

I am committed to preparing as much of what we eat myself.  I believe that you should know what goes into the food you put in your body. That means that we seldom eat prepared foods and restaurant meals are only occasional.  This means that when I am pressed for time, I turn to my freezer.  The two meals you will always find in my freezer, ready to heat and serve, are my Italian Stuffed Peppers and my Easy Freezer Chicken Parmesan.

Two Make Ahead Meals Your Family will Love

Our Two Favorite Freezer Dinners
Our Two Favorite Freezer Dinners

Get the Italian Stuffed Peppers Recipe:  Italian Stuffed Peppers
Get the Chicken Parmesan Recipe:  Freezer Chicken Parmesan



How to Prepare Freezer Dinners

We've all seen the recommendations that tell us to make ahead our dinners on the weekend.  Well, that's a good idea if you want to spend your weekends in the kitchen.  I do not.  Instead, I plan to cook each of these meals in a big batch quantity periodically.  For the stuffed peppers, that means I'll make a batch of approximately twenty stuffed peppers once every three or four months.  The chicken Parmesan gets cooked approximately once every six weeks, making enough for four meals.
Save Time with Freezer Dinners

Here are the steps to make this work for you:

1.  Decide how many meals you want to have on hand, first making sure you have enough room available in your freezer.

2.  Plan when it will fit in your schedule to make these meals in a batch.  I always plan to make my big batch on the same day I'll be serving one of these meals for dinner.  That way, I'll only be adding a little extra time to my normal preparation time for dinner.  I usually plan for double the usual preparation time, including the wrapping for freezing.

3.  It's smart to include another family member in your freezer meals preparation.  Hubby and I usually work together when we make the stuffed peppers.  This helps to make the chopping step go faster and filling the peppers with the stuffing mixture a breeze.  This is also a great time to teach kids basic cooking skills.

4.  Shop in advance for the ingredients and freezer supplies.  You do not want to make a grocery store run during batch cooking sessions.

5.  Congratulate yourself for your time-saving meal preparation every time you reach into your freezer for one of your meals.

I wrap each of the stuffed peppers individually in plastic wrap and then put them all together into a plastic freezer bag. That way I can take out as many as needed for dinner.  I freeze the chicken Parmesan in baking dishes that can go from the freezer to the oven.  I usually try to defrost both the stuffed peppers and chicken Parmesan before baking, but I have been known to cook them straight from the freezer.  They'll just take a little longer to cook.

Both of these recipes are family favorites.  I hope you'll try them.  You can either eat them for dinner or freeze them. How great is that?

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Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Best Turkey Meatloaf

Meatloaf is definitely on my list of comfort foods and turkey meatloaf is no exception.

For the longest time, I thought turkey meatloaf would be bland.  I was wrong. Give this turkey meatloaf recipe a try and I think you'll agree with me.

My Favorite Turkey Meatloaf Recipe


My Favorite Turkey Meatloaf
My Favorite Turkey Meatloaf
My criteria for a perfect meatloaf recipe are:
#1 The meatloaf must be easy to make.  This recipe is very easy to assemble.
#2 The meatloaf must be moist and tender.  This recipe delivers.
#3 The meatloaf must be good in a sandwich the next day. Yes, this recipe makes a yummy sandwich.

The Best Turkey Meatloaf
In my mind, the keys to this meatloaf recipe's yumminess are the chopped onion, red pepper, and seasoned stuffing mix. There are other flavor enhancers, too, but the onion, pepper, and stuffing mix take the meatloaf over the top for flavor. I like to use Pepperidge Farm seasoned stuffing mix in a bag.


Turkey Meatloaf

Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 4


    Quick and Easy Turkey Meatloaf
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup seasoned stuffing mix
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper


Directions

Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Saute the onion and red pepper together until soft.  Add the minced garlic and cook for one minute.  Set the mixture aside to cool.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the ground turkey in a medium bowl. Add the cooled onion and pepper mixture and all the other ingredients to the bowl.

Using your clean hands, squeeze the ingredients together through your fingers until combined.  Don't overdo it, or the meatloaf will be too dense.

Place the mixture in a loaf pan.  Cook for approximately one hour, until the top of the meatloaf is nicely browned.  I like to cook my meatloaf until the internal temperature is 175-180 degrees F.

Let the meatloaf rest for about ten minutes before slicing.

Enjoy!

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