BLT Pasta Salad

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Pasta and wait… Pasta? Yes, Pasta! Meet your new Barbecue, Potluck, family favorite: BLT Pasta salad.

BLT pasta salad

I know what you’re thinking: “Why mess with a classic?” Well, its simple really. See salad is wonderful all on its own. Especially one with homemade ranch dressing. Now, BLT sandwiches have a special place in our hearts too. So we figured; why not have the best of both dishes in one!

 

Did we mention this dish is a cinch to make. You can use any small pasta you like. You can use any ranch dressing you enjoy- although we prefer our house made ranch. You can even substitute the cilantro for parsley. What you can’t do is have just one bite. Seriously, its that good. You will want more. Lots more…

 

Before you can eat, you’ve got to cook. It all starts with cooking your pasta, then rinsing in cool water. Drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta to keep it from sticking. Then, while your pasta is still cooling, cook your bacon till crispy. Keep the rendered fat. Split your cherry tomatoes in half and put in a bowl with your pasta.

BLT Pasta

Now shred some lettuce and finely chop your cilantro. Add these ingredients with the bacon to your pot.

BLT Pasta 2

Already looking good! Now, take your ranch dressing and drizzle over the pasta. Stir to make sure you’ve added enough to lightly coat the pasta. Fold in the mayonnaise to bind the ranch to the pasta. Now chill the pasta for a minimum of 30 minutes. Then enjoy!

BLT Pasta 3

Ingredients: 

2 C. Small Elbow Macaroni

1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes

2 C. Iceberg Lettuce

10 Slices Crumbled Bacon

1/4 C. Ranch Dressing

2 Tbls. Mayonnaise 

3 Tbls. Cilantro 

 

 

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Snacks to go!

Everyone needs a little pick me up in their day. Why not pick up one of these bite size caprese skewers. These super simple bite size treasures are easy to assemble and can hold in your refrigerator for a couple of days. Here’s how we love to make them:

Have on hand: fresh basil leaves, cherry tomatoes and marinated mozzarella. Thread each item alternating in between onto a toothpick. No seasoning required thanks to the marinating oil from your mozzarella. See simple! 

Caprese skewers

Shrimp and Cheese Grits

Classic, Southern style, good ol’ comfort food: Shrimp and Grits. First off, know that once you make this recipe: there’s a good chance you will find yourself putting it into your weekly meal rotation. Yes, it’s thatShrimp and Grits good! There’s nothing fussy about this recipe and it can be made in under 20 minutes. Ready to sink into some good comfort food? Let’s get cooking!

Ingredients: 

1 lb. Medium shrimp, deviened

3 Medium Roma tomatoes, diced

1 Sprig of Spring Onion, diced

1 C. Whole kernel sweet white corn

2 Tbsp. Smoked Paprika

1 tsp. Chili powder

1 C. Instant grits

2 C. Chicken Stock

1 C. Whole Milk

1/2 C. Grated Parmesan and Romano mix

4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

1 Tbsp. Flour

1 C. Dry White wine

Start by coating the shrimp liberally in the Paprika, Chili Powder and Flour. Add the shrimp to a frying pan with 1 Tbsp. of the butter. Cook until almost done 2 to 3 minutes. Add in corn and tomatoes and cook 1 minute longer. Slowly pour in the white wine, stirring frequently. Cook an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 Tbsp butter.

Meanwhile, in a wide mouth pot bring the chicken stock and milk mixture to a simmer. Whisking nearly constantly; slowly pour in grits. Keep your eye on the mixture. Once the grits reach a consistency of cream of wheat- they are done! Now add in the last 2 Tbsp of butter and the grated cheese.

Spoon the grits into a bowl and add the shrimp mixture to the top. Garnish with the fresh spring onions. That’s it- you’re done- enjoy!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

 

Warm and familiar; Chicken Tortilla Soup is a favorite. The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity. As always, fresh ingredients are the key to this rich soup. Do you have time to put ingredients in a crock pot and then walk away? Then you have time for this classic, earthy Chicken Tortilla Soup!

Ingredients: 

2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts or  5 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs

1 16 ounce can of Hominy

2 Large Haas Avocados

1 Bunch of Cilantro or Celery leaves chopped (for a more mild flavor)

5  C. Quality Chicken Stock

1 Large Sweet Onion

1 small can of Chipotle peppers

1 Tbsp Ground Cumin

2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika

Sour Cream for topping

Tortilla Chips (of course!)

Tortilla Soup Anyone?

Preparation

Ok so we lied: there is a little bit of chopping here. Start by chopping the onion. Place the onion in a large pot with a bit of butter or olive oil. Saute until slightly browned. Meanwhile, place the peppers with 2 cups of the chicken stock in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Add the sauteed onion, pepper mixture and chicken into a crock pot. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

What to do during this time? Go to work? Nah, catch up on Netflix? Sure…

Next back to the pot that you sauteed the onion in. Laddle the chicken from the crock pot and put into the large pot. At this point, the chicken should be  falling apart. Add the Hominy, Cumin, Paprika, half of the chopped Cilantro or Celery leaves and chicken stock. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve this soup with chopped avocado, cilantro, sour cream and tortilla chips. Then sit back and enjoy!

Summer in the Garden

The heat of summer can wreck havoc for a garden in desert climates. Yet, there are still wonderful vegetables that thrive in the heat. In the next few posts we will focus on recipes and gardening tips relative to summer. Starting off this series is “harvesting in the summer”…

Tomatoes and Peppers

Summer is a great time to harvest tomatoes and peppers. These gorgeous vegetables are ripened to perfection with summer when properly tended to in scorching heat. These vegetables thrive with the ambient heat of summer. However, they can burn when not properly shaded. Other risk factors include: premature ripening of fruit, burned leaves and small numbers of producing.

 

Many home improvement stores offer products to shade your plants. For those interested in more of a DIY shade structure; the process is simple.  Suggestions include non-porous stakes, such as white PVC piping. PVC bent to your desired shape (usually arched) will work well as the “base” to drape your shade fabric.  Speaking of fabric; always use landscaping shade cloth that is designed specifically for that purpose. Unfortunately, using any other type of fabric as a shade barrier can result in some very negative effects for plants.

The Start to Salsa

The Start to Salsa

What else can you do to protect your plants? Start at the roots! You should have already been using compost as a natural fertilizer, now is a good time to mix in some with the existing soil at the root base. Summer is also a good time to add mulch around the root base of your summer garden.

 

Water, Water, Water… At the right time! Avoid watering overhead during this time of the year. Droplets of water left in direct sunlight can result in sunspots on your plants. Watering during the day can also prove to be futile as the desert air dries out the soil. Watering early morning, early evening  and at night will ensure that the plant receives all the water that it needs.

 

Pruning and Harvesting! Tomatoes are ready, peppers too and those artichokes need some pruning. When is the best time to prune and harvest? Its arguable with some gardeners; however, in the desert: morning is best right after your first watering.

 Artichoke in Bloom

Here an artichoke has been left to bloom in the summer. These blooms are strikingly beautiful. However, one the plant has reached the bloom period it is not advised to harvest from the plant. Allow the plant to complete its blooming cycle. Plants such as tomatoes and peppers which also bloom, can and should be harvested when they have blooms.  The rule of thumb for pruning and harvesting applies to herbs as well. Remember: at first light, is just right!

Summer loves Peppers

Summer loves Peppers

 

 

Common Tomato Problems

You have transplanted your plant. Your tomato plant is thriving. At this point you will have probably have needed to put in a tomato cage to keep your plant stable. Then it happens: extreme weather! Scorching temperatures or frigid cold can put your plant in distress. While your plant may show signs of stress such as below: there is no need to worry.

stress tomato

Many retailers sell covers for your plants to assist your plants during climate changes. However, remember important factors during this time such as: is your plant potted and sitting on a solid surface? The root base will be absorbing the ambient temperatures. This may require relocation of the potted plant.

Tomato plants are hearty and can withstand most changes in temperature once they have matured. Should your plant experience stress, your plant will still blossom and give fruit. Once the fruit has ripened on the vine, pick your tomatoes and then prune the stressed portion of your plant.  stress fruit

Growing Tomatoes

Easy growers, tomatoes are great for first time gardeners. An example are these Roma tomatoes. Started from seed, these beauties quickly grew, bloomed and produced fruit. How to get started to end up with these?

DSC_1121

Start with nutrient rich soil. Any potting soil will do but adding broken egg shells will help add the nutrients tomatoes thrive on. Next, place contents in a well drained container. An egg carton with holes in the bottom will suit just fine. Keep in mind: if you live in an area that is very dry; then placing a thin film of clear plastic wrap over the seeds will provide the humidity that seedlings need. Simply remove the plastic wrap once your seedlings reach 1″ in height.

TRANSPLANTING

Once your seedlings reach 2″ in height they are ready for transplanting. Keep in mind they are fragile and will not tolerate climate changes early. If you live in an area where temperatures fluctuate; keep your plant in it’s original growing location: placing the plant for a couple of hours at a time at it’s new destination. This will help the plant transition.