Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Creamy Latin Pasta Salad ~ 5.20.09

This would make a great side dish for your Memorial Day picnic this weekend! It is THE OFFICIAL start of summer and I'm hoping the weather cooperates with the calendar b/c we intend to grill!

Oh how I love a grilled burger or veggies or hot dog or... anything!

I made this when I had the twin's birthday party back in March. We went for a Mexi-themed party and I served Beef and Bean chimichangas, Sweet Potato Burritos, Taco cups (for the kids) and this Creamy Latin Pasta Salad. OH and my favorite Black Bean Salsa made an appearance as well!

So Friday night, 2 days before the party... I was just, you know, looking around on the web for what I was going to make. I already knew the main course, I just needed my sides. AND I went looking to Ingrid Hoffman of Food Network fame.

This recipe doesn't disappoint. It lives up to it's creamy name and gets it's latin flavors from cilantro and lime juice. I add whatever veggies I have around the kitchen. But, the past 2 times I've made it, black and green olives and grap tomatoes have always been present!

Give this a try if you're tired of the same old Italian pasta salad and you'll be glad you did. I just wish my kids liked pasta salad- I think they can't get past the "it's pasta and it's cold" thing. their loss.

Here's what you need and how do make it!

1 lb rotini pasta --- cook to al dente in boiling salted water

Dressing (I double this!- the salad seems to be too dry without adding more dressing)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime juiced

place all the dressing ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth and creamy. toss with drained pasta and fold in your add ins....

Add ins:
choppped black olives
chopped green olives
zucchini- I cut into thin slices, stack and then cut into strips
red pepper
red onion (no thank you)
grape tomatoes- cut in half
thin sliced ham
jicama- thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas

Chill, covered, for at least 2 hours. Mix before serving and taste to see if you need to add a bit more dressing. I did. It seemed dry. As I didn't want to add too much more, I added a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to loosen it up a bit.

Makes 6-8 servings, at least. I'd say more. I only made this much and had plenty for our large group of 25 + people ('cause not everyone eats it...)!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bananas Foster French Toast Bake

oh dear.

oh dear, dear, dear.

I was afraid something like this might happen. I neglected blog #2.

Well, that's okay. I have been busy on my little menu planning project. Don't think I forgot about it. I am tweaking and it will take me a bit to do so. Just thought you might like to know.

BUT it is STILL monday and I always have these HIGH hopes that I have these thematic little posts revolving around the days of the week. Who knows if I'll ever stick to that, but in case I do, I'm calling this MAKE THIS MONDAY. As in, you seriously need to make this recipe soon. It's so yummy.

I was inspired by the chica over at Whatever to make her Baked French Toast recipe. I was so inspired that I made it way back on May 1st and have been waiting for another opportunity to make it again.

BUT this time, I put my own little spin on it. I'm getting brave like that lately. Taking a recipe and craftitizing it. ooo. that sounded fancy.

So, I was inspired by the original and came up with my Bananas Foster Baked French Toast.

Smell = heavenly and honestly, it's all you need to smell to get you in the right mind frame for the day...
Taste = sugary and french toasty
Sight = when you see the caramelized sugar glistening in the morning light when you bring this hot breakfast treat over to the table, you'll thank me.

I'm so humble.
Here's how I made this...forgive the non-recipe looking format, I'm typing this from memory...

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take a 9x13 pan and put a stick of butter in it and pop it in the oven to melt. I prefer unsalted. You can use whatever you have in the fridge.

Measure out a cup of brown sugar and 2 tsp. of ground cinnamon.

Slice up 3-4 bananas- depending on the size of the banana and your need to get rid of some over-ripe nanas (but never toss them! throw them in the freezer till you have some time to make banana bread or mexican monkey cake).

Okay, now that the butter is melted, throw in the brown sugar and the cinnamon. Shmush it all around and mix it all up and then even it out on the bottom of the dish. Now scatter your bananas on top of the sugar mixture. Here's where you can take this to the bananas foster level and add a few dashes (like 1 tsp) of rum extract or dark rum! I went without this option as I thought of it after this concoction came out of the oven. I couldn't wait till I tweaked all the ingredients before I shared it with you... so maybe I'll revise at a later date!

Take one loaf of bread- I used
a cinnamon loaf and it was great! I sliced mine thinly as you'll want to shoot for 3 layers of the bread. Lay the bread slices on top of the banana/sugar mixture- turning the bread to get a good even layering without too many holes. You can tear up a few slices to fill in the holes, too.

Now for the custard:

6 eggs
2 cups of milk
1-2 tsp vanilla
dash of salt

whisk that all together and slowly pour it over your bread. You want it to soak in and get into all the nooks and crannies.

Pop it all in the oven at 350 for 30-35 minutes. You want to make sure the custard is cooked and not goopy.

As an optional step (and this was part of the original recipe, but you can take it or leave it)- drizzle maple syrup (the real stuff) over the top of the french toast after it's baked and broil it for a few minutes. Until bubbly. Watch out though it happens FAST!

I got about 12 servings out of this-or 6 BIG servings. Perfect with fresh fruit over the top!