Tag Archive: vegetables

A Heat Wave Recipe! Pasta Salad

It is hot here in this dusty west Texas border town.  (That sounds like the beginning of a song!)  All I can think of is iced tea and very cool salads to eat.  No oven right now in the Tumbleweed Contessa’s kitchen.  I use the outside grill some.  Most of the time I spend watering the flowers and veggies in the garden just to keep them from burning up.  This will pass soon and the famed “monsoon” season will be upon us.  We might get an inch of rain!

When I think about a summertime meal one of my favorites is pasta salad.  I can eat it all by itself or I like to serve it with a piece of roasted chicken (from the deli) or cold fried chicken (from the Colonel), but I like it served best as a side with a cold ham sandwich the second day.  It is great to take on a picnic or to a church pot luck supper too.

I had never eaten a pasta salad until I moved to El Paso.  Hank had moved here before our family did. He found a deli near one of his construction projects on the eastside of town.  Once we got here he raved about this pasta salad.  He even brought it home once or twice for us to try and for me to figure out how to make.  I gave it a try or two, but couldn’t make it taste like the deli’s version.  So, I gave up.  Later on, Jan, a teacher at the SEE School (where I worked)  had a pasta salad everyone liked.  I ask her for her recipe and she told me she got it from the same deli as Hank used to get his supply from.  Finally, that deli opened in a grocery store on the west side (my side of town) and I got to be a regular there to try to figure out how it was made.  It was the dressing or marinade that was the secret.  Finally I tried a different oil and everyone loved it!  I use the Good Season’s Spicy Italian salad dressing mix.  Two packets, one made with olive oil and white wine vinegar and one with vegetable oil and white distilled vinegar. The longer it can marinate in the frig before serving, the better it tastes.

Pasta Salad

  • 1 package (16 ounces) uncooked pasta
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup broccoli cuts
  • ½ small red onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 small carrots peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts cut in quarters, not drained too well
  • 1/2 cup green olives, sliced
  • ½ cup black olives, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 cup slice white mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Italian salad dressing mix (2 packets)
  • Olive oil (according to package directions)
  • Vegetable oil (according to package directions)
  • White wine vinegar (according to package directions)
  • White distilled vinegar (according to package directions)

Cook the pasta as directed on package, adding the broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking time.  Drain; rinse under cold running water.  Drain very well; place in a large bowl to mix.( I use a bowl with a lid to seal well to marinate.)

Add the remaining veggies and toss well with dressing.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight, stirring a few times.   Taste before serving to add more dressing or salt and pepper.

I serve the salad lightly drained in a separate bowl with the excess dressing reserved to store leftovers.

Out of Flour? Buy Corn Instead

Last Thursday night I decided to make some cookies to take to work because we had all survived the hardest of weeks – a short week. That’s when you enjoy your long weekend and then make up for taking a day off by doing as much work in 4 days as you would normally have to do in 5 days!   The TWC didn’t have any flour in the canister!  Can you believe that?  I checked the pantry twice and even the freezer in case I bought some ahead and stored it.  Nothing!  Walmart is just about 5 blocks from my house but by the time I got home from Walmart, I would be out of the mood to bake.  So, sorry guys, no cookies this week.

Late in the afternoon before I left work Thursday, Mike was telling me about a dish he made by wrapping quail in bacon and cooking it in wine.  I didn’t have any quail either (and am not sure I would ever have any.)  But I have chicken – always have chicken.  After work on Friday I went to Walmart to stock up on flour, eggs, and mini chocolate chips. (They were out of flour too!)  There must be a run on chocolate chip cookies due to the last week of school!

I decided to try the bacon/chicken/wine dish.  I got some lower sodium bacon, a new bottle of wine (just in case). Then I was looking for a cool vegetable idea and came upon the fresh corn. It looked tempting so nothing would do but I got 2 ears of fresh yellow corn and that is how I came up with this salad.


  • 2 ears corn cleaned
  • A pot of boiling water, salted
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro


  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste



Clean the corn and boil for about 4-5 minutes in the salted water.  While it is cooking, prepare an ice water bath to dip the corn in to cool it off and stop the cooking.  Drain on paper towel.

Once it is cool enough to handle cut the corn from the husk.  I do this by laying it on its side and cutting all around the cob.  This avoids corn flying all over the kitchen.    Seed and dice the jalapeno and dice the onion.  Chop the cilantro and mix all these together lightly.

Mix up the dressing and toss with the corn.  I put this in the frig while the chicken cooked.  The chicken was ok, but this salad was fresh, crisp and just right!

This would be great with grilled burgers.  It is easy to take on a picnic.  I think it would be good served at room temperature.  Mine was a little chilled, but not icy cold.  It took no time to make.  A little left over with a sandwich was good too.

Give it a try. Add you own favorite herbs.  You can even mix up the vinegars for a new taste.  I think the light olive oil and white wine vinegar was light and fresh.  But try your combo and let me know how it comes out!

I still have no flour and have to bake for church.  I better get going to the store.  It may take all day to find a lonely 5 pound bag of all-purpose flour! The quest is on!

Chop Chop!

Confetti Salad 1

Chop, chop and chop some more for this great salad recipe!

As it gets warmer I always go back to summers in Kansas.  Homemade ice cream, banana salad, banana bread, homemade chicken and noodles, fresh country eggs and cream.  And the best salads.  I love marinated sweet and sour salads that are cut up in small pieces.  They make a sandwich taste so good.  I’m sure I got this from my grandmother.  She had recipes for 3 Bean Salad, Carrot Salad, and Pickled Beets.  She had small dishes of these on the cutting board along with cold sliced ham, pickles and bread and butter for sandwiches for lunch.

I spent 2 weeks each year in Meade, a little Kansas community, with my parents and brother and sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncle, and cousins.  I had a great time every year.  We had the best meals.   Many of those recipes are still some of my favorites.  But the memories that food conjures up are very special to me.  My grandmother had a little fold out of the wall table in her kitchen.  Lots of times the 3 cousins (Pam, Pat and me) got to eat in the kitchen at that little table.  There were more cousins, but we were the oldest and most important.  When I went back for a visit as an adult I was disappointed to find she had removed the table.

Of course, as a kid I never realized or understood how much energy it took to produce all those meals.  I do know how many dishes there were to wash and how hot it was in my grandmother’s kitchen.  Pam, Pat and I did an assembly line to try to get them done faster.  Aunt Betty and momma would pitch in too, and we would step out onto the back porch as we dried a plate just for a cool breath of air.  I believe the stove in her kitchen could have heated the entire house in the winter.  We would never have complained though.  She would have shooed us out of the kitchen and done them all herself (and we would have been in deep trouble with our mothers!)  Today, I would suggest we go out to eat!  But I would love to do it all over again – just one time in that same tiny kitchen with ALL those wonderful people in my life!

I use Con’ Olio olive oil in this recipe.  It is a great olive oil store in Austin.  Here is the link:  http://www.conolios.com/index.htm  They’ll ship!

Confetti Veggie Salad

  • 2 fresh zucchini
  • 3 fresh carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 can corn (drained)
  • 1 can cut green beans
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I used about a third of a yellow, orange and red pepper)
  • 1 small package frozen baby peas


  • 1/2 cup light olive oil (I used Basil Olive Oil from Con Olio in Austin)
  • 1 cup vinegar (I used my homemade Basil Vinegar)
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic granules

Cut all the vegetables the size of the corn (or about that small). It took me about an hour to chop everything.  I was in no particular hurry so I’m sure it wouldn’t take a super chef that long.



Combine all dressing ingredients in a  jar.  Shake well until the sugar is dissolved and pour over the vegetables to marinade at least 2-4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.  Stir occasionally to give all the vegetables a good coating.  If after marinating overnight it appears to be a little dry, I have been known to make another half recipe of the dressing and add that.  Your option.

When I serve this, I transfer the salad to a chilled bowl and don’t serve it with all the dressing.  Again, your option.

Start off with your largest bowl.  I graduated through three before finding one large enough to be able to toss it with the dressing.  My kitchen looked like my grandmother’s by the time I finished chopping and dressing this salad!  Bowls everywhere!

I have taken some liberty with this recipe and adapted it to my taste.  This wasn’t my grandmother’s recipe. Rather a girl at work brought this salad to a pot luck lunch one time.  Denise was very generous and shared this recipe with me.    I sent a bowl of this with my son to an office pot luck and they loved it too.  So I think it might be worth a try.


Cool and Savory Chicken Salad

Cool and Creamy Chicken Salad

I’ve been growing herbs forever.  Do I use them like I should?  No.  But a new resolution has been made to snip them and add them to salads, soups and vegetables this summer.  I’m into growing the plants to see how lush and full they get.  But you know what I’ve found?  If I snip them they actually get fuller!  Not only that, but they are much less expensive from my pots than that plastic package at the store!  Shock!  I have a new Bay Laurel bush that has put on a couple of new leaves already.  Wouldn’t that be fun to have my own fresh bay leaves for chicken soup?  I’d love it.  Stay tuned.

I roasted some chicken for soup and decided I needed a salad too.  I wanted to keep it simple.  Not too many ingredients.  (I’ve been under the weather and I think my system said fresh greens were needed.)  I have this lettuce and spinach growing in the garden.  I don’t know why I was hesitating to pick it and use it.  It was remarkably fresh and crisp.  I picked basil, mint, chives, leaf lettuce and spinach and chilled it all in the frig after a rinse.  Made the frig smell great.  Basil and mint – love it.

Chicken Salad

  • 1 small chicken breast (skinless)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk celery
  • ½ cup green grapes (halved)
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 3 cups fresh greens (your choice)  I used spinach and lettuce
  • 1 diced tomato or halved cherry tomatoes

Prepare the chicken by drying it well and coating it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast the chicken on a baking sheet for 30 minutes at 400°.  When cooled dice into small pieces.  Add the chives, celery and grapes to the chicken and toss with the mayonnaise and a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Set in the refrigerator to chill until time to serve.  I added a bit of salt and pepper to this.

Prepare a bed of greens.  I used leaf lettuce, spinach, fresh basil and mint.  Place the chicken in the center and surround with tomato pieces.  I could have even served some grapes on the side.  I served some crispy pretzel crackers with mine.  I just like a little salty crisp with a salad.

It was cool, fresh and tasty for a Saturday night supper.

Cinco de Mayo Vegetables

Here is a fast and easy way to add some spice to your garden vegetables.  I can’t wait  ‘til I have armfuls and don’t know what to do with them.  In the meantime, local farmer’s markets are a great way to get inspired with fruits and vegetables.

Salsa Squash

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ small onion diced
  • 1 small jalapeno seeded and diced
  • 2 small yellow squash sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon Mrs. Dash Southwest Seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons salsa

In a non-stick pan heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and jalapeno and saute until tender.  Add sliced squash and spices.  Continue to cook until squash is tender.  Stir frequently with tongs.  Add salsa and stir once more before serving.

Fancy Dinner-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

What to cook when I want a nice Sunday dinner but I don’t have the big crowd that a BIG MEAL would require?   A pork tenderloin is a nice size for just one or two and the leftovers are perfect for lunch on Monday.  Tenderloin is also the perfect sponge for any flavors you might want to add.  There is a spice shop in Austin at the Arboretum called the Savory Spice Shop.  They have the most interesting spices and spice blends and their prices are the same as the grocery store.  Not only that,  the flavors are potent!  On even the basics I can use just a small measure and taste the full flavor. I panic when I run out of cumin and have to buy it at the grocery.   I go there whenever I go to visit my daughter in Austin.  It is our favorite shopping spot and just around the parking lot is The Cheesecake Factory in time for lunch!  Click Here for their Facebook Page.  They always have interesting events going on in the store and Alicia and Michelle are always there to show you around and give you good suggestions for what you need.

One Sunday I was in the mood for spicy-sweet.  I rubbed down my tenderloin after church and cooked it up for dinner.  I added some roasted potatoes, asparagus and a salad for the perfect post-gardening dinner.

Spicy-Sweet Pork Tenderloin

Prepare the tenderloin by trimming all the fat and patting dry.  Then rub the spice mix into the meat (rub recipe below).  Put in the refrigerator for at least an hour, overnight if you think of it. 

Pre-heat the oven to 400°



When you are ready to bake, pre-heat a medium pan that is oven safe over medium high heat.  Depending on how your tenderloin trims up it will be square or triangle shaped.  Sear the tenderloin on all sides until brown about 4 minutes a side.  Place the pan in the oven and let cook until a meat thermometer registers 150°.  Remove from oven, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

For lunch the next day slice the left over pieces into thin strips and serve over salad or with a cup of brown rice.

For the rub:

  • 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Hungarian Sweet-Spicy Paprika (Savory Spice Shop)
  • 2 tablespoons of Black Canyon Chili Powder (Savory Spice Shop)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice
  • Salt and Pepper

A Tasty Asparagus Snack

I continue to be surprised by my friend Kathy. She claimed not to cook when I first met her. (16 years ago)  Since then she has remodeled her kitchen and has a grandson who eats a lot, so she claims to have reformed.  We had a little gathering of the coven at her house last week. (I’ll tell you about this little group at a later time. We are entirely harmless.)  She produced a very tasty appetizer that I have told everybody I meet about.  I can’t get it out of my mind, so it will now become an addition to holiday menus because I can’t eat the entire batch by myself, or at least I shouldn’t try.  She tells me they are excellent warmed up too.

Asparagus Roll Ups

  • 1 package 8” flour tortillas
  • 1 package bacon crumbles
  • 1 can asparagus, drained or fresh spears trimmed of the woody pulp
  • 1 small tub spreadable cream cheese
  • Parkay spray margarine
  • Parmesan cheese


Spread a generous layer of cream cheese on the tortillas.  Place asparagus and bacon bits down the middle of the tortilla.  Roll up like a log, and place seam-side-down in a baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray.  Spray with Parkay (or brush with butter) and sprinkle with parmesan.  Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes (till lightly browned)….yum!

Cut them in half and serve warm or at room temperature.  These are great with a good glass of wine. What isn’t?  Right?


EGGciting Crudite

Melon Final

One staple of our Easter menu is the crudite.  Veggies and dip. Boring, right?  So this year, I decided to make it EGGciting.  Check it out!  This is so simple even I, Middlesister, can do it.  As far as I know, I invented it. Luckily my youngest brought home this cute little bunny egg to decorate my tray.  Enjoy!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 Egg shaped Honeydew Melon
  • 1 Bag Skewers
  • 1 Small Container Non Fat Plain Yogurt
  • 1 Bag Green Onion or Green Chile Dry Dip
  • 1 Bag Baby carrots
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 1 Can Black Olives
  • 1 Jar Green Olives
  • 5-10 Scallions or Long Green Onions
  • 3 Bellpeppers
  • 1 Yellow Squash
  • 1 Bag Cherry Tomatoes

First, cut a small slice off the bottom of the Honeydew to make it sit flat.  Next, carve a hole in the middle of your honeydew, just big enough for a ramekin to fit in.  Place your honeydew on your serving tray, if desired.  Clean and cut all the vegetables.  You can use any vegetables you like, but I have chosen these.  Make sure to keep them thick enough so that they can handle the skewering.  Skewer the vegetables.  Poke holes with an empty skewer around the honeydew and then place your skewered vegetables into the holes.  I sprinkled the carrots around because they were difficult to skewer, but are a necessary on our crudite.

For the dip, follow the package directions.  I used non-fat plain yogurt since I am dieting this year, but you can use cream cheese or sour cream with most packaged dips.  Hope you enjoy your EGGciting crudite!


Waiting on Good Stuff from the Garden….

I have been doing a lot of garden work lately.  No time to cook!  I am imagining one of the best dinners I have had fresh from the garden. It is so much fun to get some basic flavors and add what is growing right in your own dirt. The plants inspire me. This is simple and so tasty.  Summer veggies are so good and good for you too.

Veggie Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 2 red bell peppers cut in half through the stems
  • 16 cherry tomatoes yellow and red
  • 1/4 cup black olives chopped
  • 5-6 small peppers and chiles red, yellow and green
  • 2 tablespoon capers with the juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1-2 cloves sliced fresh garlic
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons EVOO
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 slices bacon


Halve the tomatoes. Thinly slice the peppers and chiles (remove some of the seeds) and garlic. Mix all the ingredients except the bacon. With your hands squeeze all the filling to make a little juice.

Sprinkle the inside of the cleaned bell pepper halves with a little kosher salt. Fill each half with the pepper/tomato filling. Drape a slice of bacon over each half. Pour any remaining juice over the peppers. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 30 minutes at 350° to steam the peppers, then uncover and continue baking to crisp up the bacon.

Meanwhile grill a baguette that has been sliced lengthwise until crisp. Rub with a peeled clove of garlic. Serve each pepper half on a slice of toasted bread and drizzle any remaining juices over the peppers.  With a sharp knife pierce through the pepper half to allow some of the juices to soak into the bread.

I served this with fresh sliced tomato and basil leaves and a small chicken breast grilled. (This is when I toasted the bread.)



A Cold Winter’s Night….Soup!

Soup PotI made a tasty crock pot soup yesterday.  1 chopped leek, 2 chopped carrots, 2 sliced zuchinni, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut in small pieces), 1 box low sodium chicken broth, 1 cup water and as much chopped kale (stems removed) as would fit in the crockpot.  I used about 4 large leaves. I cooked it on high for about 4 hours and 1 hour on low.  Nice and warm – and healthy.  Give it a try.