Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer Tortellini Salad

This recipe is from Pampered Chef's "All The Best" cookbook. I highly recommend it! Everything I've made from it has turned out well. This salad is made with cheese tortellini, ranch, and veggies! It makes a fairly good amount, about 8 cups.

You may use either store bought or homemade dressing.  Here's a link to an easy ranch dressing that I like.

Summer Tortellini Salad
Printable version here
1 package (19 ounces) frozen cheese tortellini (or 2 small packages refrigerated tortellini)
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced (I sliced a handful of baby carrots)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 green onions with tops, thinly sliced
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
2/3 cup ranch dressing (approx.)
2 tbsp. grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain, then rinse with cold water. Place in large bowl.

2. Prepare vegetables and add to the tortellini. Pour ranch over salad, add cheese, then mix gently. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Tip: To make your cutting board not slide across the counter (which is annoying & can be unsafe), here's a little tip- put a rubber jar opener underneath your cutting board. That's what I do (when I'm not using my Pampered Chef cutting board with rubbery edges), and it helps a ton!

Why I love it? It tastes good, has a healthy serving of vegetables in it, and it's especially good for a summer potluck. It tastes nice & fresh, and it doesn't heat up the kitchen too much!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


A coworker of my husband's shared this recipe with us recently. She had brought this salsa to a work potluck, and my husband loved it & asked for the recipe. I've made it twice now. It is so fresh & yummy!! As soon as my tomatoes ripen, I'll figure out how to make this with fresh tomatoes- but for now, here's the recipe as written (with canned tomatoes).

*This recipe calls for poblano peppers, roasted & diced- here's a website that talks about how to do that. It's an extra step, but it's not too hard, and the taste is wonderful!! Basically, you rub the peppers with a little oil, broil them, put them in something to steam for a few minutes (like a closed paper bag), remove the skin, and dice. You can use this method for other peppers, too!

(Photo courtesy of

Printable version here

3 small cans diced tomatoes with chiles (like Ro*Tel)
1 small onion, diced
2 poblano peppers, roasted & diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 leaves Italian parsley, slivered
2 tsp. sugar
Cilantro (if desired)
Salt to taste (about 1 tsp.)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in a covered container in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce

Mmm... This was our dinner tonight. Guiltless Alfredo Sauce from, noodles, sauteed chicken, and steamed broccoli. The sauce is not quite guiltless, but it is a ton healthier than other alfredo recipes. There is only 1 tablespoon of butter, and fat-free milk instead of cream. It's pretty versatile, too. I've only served it with noodles, but you could also use it as a white sauce on pizza, among other things.

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce
Printable version here

2 cups low-fat (or fat-free) milk
3 oz. low-fat cream cheese
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup FRESHLY grated Parmesan cheese*

1. Puree the milk, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a blender. Set aside.

2. In a non-stick sauce pan (at least 2 quarts), melt butter on medium heat and add garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds, then add milk mixture to the pan. Stir frequently for about 3-4 minutes or until it just comes to a simmer. Keep stirring and let it cook for a few more minutes, until it starts to thicken.

3. Remove pan from heat. Add the cheese, stir, then cover. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before using. It will continue to thicken upon standing. Add salt & pepper to taste. This made enough sauce for our family of 5, plus a little extra.

Note- if you have leftovers in the fridge, the sauce will become very thick. Just reheat and add a little milk and it will be back to normal.

*Cheese- I didn't use quite a full cup. You could use a combination of hard cheeses, such as Parmesan & Asiago, if you'd like. ***I've also learned, courtesy of my sister, that this recipe only works with cheese that you grate yourself. It will turn out grainy if you use pre-grated cheese. That's because pre-grated cheese has added ingredients so that it doesn't clump together in the package- which unfortunately also makes it not come together when in a sauce. Just a head's up!

Why I love it? It tastes fantastic, it's nice & creamy, tastes better than jarred sauce (and is more natural), and is not too unhealthy. This recipe is definitely one I'll make again & again!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mexican Pizza

Another inexpensive, fairly healthy meal that we all love is Mexican Pizza. With making the beans & pizza crust from scratch, this pizza cost me about $2 to make! I don't measure any of the ingredients, but here's generally what I do.

Topped with sour cream, fresh salsa & cilantro

Mexican Pizza

Printable version here

Pizza crust (such as this one)
Refried beans (about 1 can's worth, or about 2 cups of homemade beans)
Taco sauce
Grated cheese
Pampered Chef Southwest Seasoning
Cooked taco meat or diced chicken, optional
Taco toppings- such as sour cream, salsa, green onions, etc.

1. Partially bake the crust (I bake my crust for 10 minutes on a pizza stone)

2. Spread a layer of refried beans on the crust, followed by a thin layer of taco sauce. (Try to cover all of the bean layer, because any of the beans that don't have sauce on them will get dried out by the oven.) Then add whatever else you're using, such as meat, cheese, & seasoning. If you add meat, be sure to cover it with some of the cheese, so it doesn't get too dry.

3. Bake about 8 more minutes, or until cheese is melted & crust is done. Remove from oven, slice, & serve with desired toppings.

Ready to finish baking

Topped with just sour cream

Tip: To make the sour cream easier to use, and for a nicer presentation, put it in a ziploc bag, snip one of the corners, push the sour cream into that corner, then twist the bag. Squeeze it as desired.

Why I love it? It's a great way to use leftover beans (if you have any!), delicious, cheap, pretty healthy, and it's just different. :) Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pasta with White Bean Sauce

I saw this recipe on a blog recently, and made it for dinner. The kids and I liked it, but my husband, not so much. But if you like beans, you might like this! It has a consistency similar to a thick mac & cheese sauce. I found this recipe here- there are many other good-looking recipes there, too.

Pasta with White Bean Sauce
Printable version here

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons chicken base or 2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups cooked white beans (such as Great Northern) or one 15-ounce can, drained and mashed*
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mozzarella or Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
Shredded Parmesan and/or fresh parsley, optional
8 ounces pasta, cooked according to package instructions

1. In a medium-large stock pot over medium heat, saute onion, cayenne, and black pepper in butter, until onion is soft. Add garlic and stir. Add the flour and stir to coat, until flour is bubbly.

2. Add the milk, water, and chicken base while whisking briskly. Continue to whisk and heat until mixture bubbles and thickens slightly.

3. Reduce heat and stir in beans, heating through. (See additional notes about blending the sauce for a smooth sauce.) Add cheese and stir until melted. Add salt to taste (we like about 1 teaspoon, but you may need less, especially if you started with canned beans!).

Serve hot sauce over freshly cooked pasta. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese or fresh parsley for garnish, if desired.

*You can leave the beans whole if you prefer a chunkier sauce, mash them with a potato masher prior to adding to the sauce, or puree the whole sauce with an immersion or regular blender. I did the immersion blender, and it worked wonderfully.

Why I love it? It was not too hard to make, I liked the taste, plus it was healthy & cheap! I think those are all my criteria for a recipe! :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Peanut Butter Energy Bites

I cut this recipe out of a magazine years ago, it was published by Skippy peanut butter, and yesterday I finally got around to making them. I was looking for something a little different than our normal granola bar snack. These are delicious!! They're pretty sugary though, so they're not something I would serve all the time. They're good as a once-in-a-while treat though! :)

(Nutritional information for these found here)

PB Energy Bites
Printable version here

1 1/2 cups O's cereal
1 1/2 cups granola
3/4 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar

1. In a medium bowl, combine cereal, granola, and cranberries.

2. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Microwave for 30-45 seconds, or until peanut butter is melted and the ingredients can be whisked together smoothly.

3. Pour peanut butter mixture over the cereal mixture & stir to combine. Pour mixture into a greased 8-inch square pan and press firmly. Cool completely, then cut into 16 squares. Keep in a covered container (or cover pan with plastic wrap).

Why I love it? They're really easy and kids can help make them. They're also pretty cheap, since I took advantage of the bulk section at my local grocery store. My only critique of them is that they are a bit sugary (next time I'll try cutting down the sugar and seeing if that works), but there are at least some redeeming qualities in them, as opposed to something like Rice Krispie treats.