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Fresh Summer Pasta Salad

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This pasta salad is simple to make and delicious to eat. It is the perfect thing to bring to large family gatherings and keeps your costs down.  I am making a large batch for a family BBQ. Total cost to me was about $15 and this will make a large 9X13 disposable roaster as well as a 4X8 container for me to keep to myself. This is also great to make for lunches for work or school. There is nothing in this that must be refrigerated so it can stand being left in your child’s lunch bag out of a fridge.  making a large batch will last for around a week in your fridge and the best part is the more time the herbs have to sit the better this tastes.

Here is a list of what I am using. Please note you can use any vegetables you like. Some do not stand up to being in the salad for a long period of time. If you plan on using cucumber I suggest adding them last minute as they tend to get mushy after a day. Also tomatoes. It is best to use cherry tomatoes as they do not get mushy or soggy. Radishes as well tend to turn color after a day and they don’t look as nice, so adding them just before serving is best. Here is what I used.

2 packages of Fusilli pasta (you can use any pasta you like or mix different ones together)

1 stalk of celery

1 Green bell pepper

1 Red bell pepper

7 Green onion stalks

1/2  Red onion (diced)

2 heads of Broccoli

1 cup of shredded or diced carrots

2 packages of Pasta salad seasoning from Club House

1 cup Olive oil

1/2 cup of vinegar

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First thing i did was to get the water boiling for the pasta so it can cook while I prepare the vegetables. Next I washed everything as there is nothing worse than biting into dirt. You can get what is ever fresh in season and on sale. I try to use different colored vegetables to make the salad stand out and not look too boring.  Once your water is at a rolling boil cook your pasta. Remember to not over crowd your pots with the pasta as it will cause them to clump and stick together. I used 1 package of pasta per large pot.  Cook your pasta all the way through and not too al dente as you will not be cooking this again in sauce or anything but be careful to not overcook as well so it doesn’t become mushy.

Cut all the vegetables into bite sized pieces. The carrots I bought already shredded, this was to help save some time. I only used 6 pieces from the celery stalk, each cut into half then chopped was plenty for the salad.  Place them into the dish you will be using and mix them up thoroughly with your hands. Once you pasta is cooked drain and rinse them with cold water. This will rinse off the excess starch a\s well help to cool them faster and prevent them from sticking together.


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Once the pasta has cooled down and drained from all excess water, place the pasta in with the vegetables. Above you can see i have it portioned into my large one for the BBQ and the container for me to keep.  With your hands mix the pasta and vegetables together, making sure to incorporate them evenly.

Time to make the dressing. In a bowl or in a container that is easy for you to shake, mix 1 cup of Olive oil, 1/2 cup of vinegar and the 2 packages of the Club House seasonings.  Stir well or shake until they are mixed well. Make sure to taste before adding this to the pasta. Some olive oils can be heavier in taste and you may want to add a it more vinegar to cut the oily taste.  Once you have the dressing mixed pour over the salad (make sure not to forget to share between containers).  When you pour it will not look like it is enough but it is.  The last step is a bit messy but with your hands, dig in and mix it all together. The dressing will coat each piece very nicely.

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That is is. Total cook and prep time for a salad this large was about 45 minutes. It is best if you can make this at least the night before you need it as it gives the favors time to build but you can eat this right away.  The disposable roasters are great for transporting large amounts and I don’t have to worry about getting any of my containers back.

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How to Make a Minion Cake

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My son’s birthday was quickly approaching and he wanted to have a Despicable Me Minion theme. As easily as I could find all kinds of minion decorations, I couldn’t find a bakery that would make a minion cake without charging an arm and a leg. I am in no what artistic but thought I would give this a try and it was much easier than i could have thought.

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I had first went to Michael’s craft store to purchase the fondant. I was lucky as they had the yellow on sale in a clearance shelf so make sure to check the clearance shelf first. The rest of the items I purchased from The Bulk Barn.  Many of the options for the cake itself is totally up to what you would like. My son likes vanilla cake, so i made two 9X13 slabs. For the filling layer can be anything you like as well. For this I used a vanilla pudding.  Here is a list of items i used and i will give other options though out the steps.

One large Tootsie Roll

One jar of silver edible glitter

Two tubes of royal blue icing

1 tube of Wilton Black Cookie icing-dispenser, 10 Ounce

First steps is to make your cakes and let them cool. You can wrap the cakes in plastic and freeze to make them easier to handle.  You can trim the edges of the cake to make the edges a little more round if you like but i did not do that for this cake. You do need to trim the tops of the cake to make sure you have a flat, even surface.

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Next step I needed to roll out my fondant. For this size cake i did use the 2 boxes in the above picture.  The fondant is very stiff at first so you will have to knead for a couple of minutes until it becomes flexible to roll out. Use icing sugar on your counter to prevent it from sticking. Once you have it to the size and thickness you like, place it over your cake.

Other options for this step you can use vanilla icing and add some yellow food coloring. Just make sure to make a large enough batch so you will have a nice even color. you can also make your own marshmallow fondant, again making sure to make enough to have an even color.

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I then trimmed off the excess from the sides and fitted it around. I used water to hold the corner edges together. I also did a light brushing of water over the entire cake to clean off the icing sugar and give it a more polished look.

If you choose to use frosting in this step and would like a nice clean look, use an icing spatula and heat it using hot water. This will help smooth the lines in the frosting. You will need to keep rinsing and heating as the icing builds on the spatula.

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Next I began to start on the eye. You can do a variety of options here. I used a Joe Louis chocolate cake snack as it was the perfect size and I covered it in regular vanilla frosting to make it white.  Other options you can do is to make your own small cake the size you need, cookies covered in icing or you can shape rice krispie squares (rounds in this case)  and cover them in frosting and place in the top center of the cake.

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Next I trimmed out a small portion of the bottom with the blue icing.  I used a heated icing spatula to smooth out the blue. For the eye ball and the buttons I used mini Oreo cookies. For this you can use any round cookie or candy that you like or just use black icing.  Hershey’s kisses also work great, just stick the pointy end into the cake and you are left with a perfect chocolate circle.

For the goggle I used the Tootsie roll.  These are very easy to work with and can mold into any shape you need. I needed the entire large Tootsie roll to fit perfectly around the eye. The next step is where I had a bit of a fail but hopefully I can help you do it better. I then wet the Tootsie roll and then rolled it into the edible silver glitter in my attempts to make it silver. After I realized that instead of water if I had applied corn syrup or even a light maple syrup with a pastry brush on the candy first then rolled in glitter would have helped to make it stick better and the color would show more. Hopefully that can help you.  You can also use silver sugar instead of edible glitter. To do this just place some sugar in a bag with grey food coloring and give it a shake. You can also find ready made colored sugar at the Bulk Barn.

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I outlined the blue using the black icing and added a smile. The tubes of icing are great that you can just attach your icing tips directly to the tubes. You can also use black string licorice for this step. I also added the straps for the goggles and used the heated icing spatula again to smooth out the lines.  You could also add strands of hair using the licorice to stick out at the top.

Total time for me to make this from start to finish was about 4 hours. This includes the time it took me to bake and rest the cakes. When you are done just place in the fridge to keep it firm. I made this 3 days ahead of time and because of the fondant the cake inside was still very soft and fresh.

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Etekcity Instant-read Digital Temperature Gun Review

I was given a chance to try out the Digital Temperature gun with laser sight from Etekcity. I have used other products from them with great success.

My first impressions on receiving this was that it seems very straight forward and simple. That alone for me is great as I am not great with a lot of technology.  I was happy that the battery was included as i don’t normally keep 9 volt batteries on hand.  The temperature gun is very light weight  with a soft, smooth rubber feel.

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To test out the accuracy I thought to try this out on a few things that i already knew the temperatures for. My fridge has a digital reader on the outside. My fridge is set at 4 degrees and my freezer is set at -19 degrees.  I pointed the gun in and got a reading of 3 degrees for my fridge and a reading of -19 degrees for my freezer.  So far pretty accurate.

Next I was going to do some baking. I thought I would see how this worked while making my caramel sauce.  With this I have to be precise. I need the sugar to caramelize to 350 -355 degrees.  I used my candy thermometer so i wouldn’t burn it.  As I was cooking i would check the temperature with the gun to see if it matched the gun.  I checked when I hit 100 degrees and the gun said 101 degrees. I checked again at 200 degrees and 330 degrees. The gun was always the same or just 1 degree different so it worked very good. Next time I can save myself the mess of using a candy thermometer and just use the gun.

I thought to also try more solid objects. I have a meat thermometer for checking on my roasts and chicken. This less a bit let accurate and works in ranges so I tried the gun to get a more accurate reading.  For chicken, it needs to be at least 165 degrees. i aim for closer to 170. I baked my chicken and stuck my thermometer and it was in the 170 degree range. I pointed the gun at the center of the chicken and got a reading of 173 degrees. This gun is now becoming my best friend in cooking.

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So how does this thing work?  The infrared thermometer measures the temperature of surface of the area of the object it is pointed at. The lazer makes aiming and measurement more precise.  To start all you have to do is attach the battery that comes with it into the handle area, press the yellow trigger and let go.  The results will show up, lit up on the screen and it will hold it for about 5 seconds.

You can get inaccurate readings from surfaces that are shinny or polished metal surfaces.  You can cover the surface and wait a few moments for it to reach the same temperature as the item and you should get an accurate reading.

Overall I was very impressed with how accurate this was. I will be using it all the time with my baking and cooking. Let me know if you have tied this out and what you use it for.

If you are interested in purchasing this you can find it HERE on Amazon.

 

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Grilled Lavender Pepper Chicken Salad

Summer time is a great time to have a lot of cold dinners where you don’t have to turn the oven on and generate more heat in the house and few dinners are more nutritious than salads.  Combine this with a lean protein on the grill and you can make a meal that not only provides healthy nutrition for the family but tastes fantastic.

I bring you the Grilled Lavender Pepper Chicken Salad that I made the other night.

lavender chicken salad

Ingredients

  • Pelindaba Lavender Gourmet Lavender Pepper (click to buy some)
  • 1lb chicken breasts (approx 4 small breasts)
  • Baby spinach or kale pack (or chopped)
  • Iceberg lettuce (pack or chopped)
  • Red and Yellow or orange bell peppers (1 of each)
  • Carrot (sliced or strips)
  • Red Onion (1/4) chopped
  • Cucumber 1 whole (sliced into thin slices)
  • 4-6 radishes (1 per plate, sliced thin)
  • Roma tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
  • Aged Cheddar Cheese sliced into small strips

Directions

Beforehand:

4 hours before grilling, put chicken breasts in a ziplock bag or in a tray and cover with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the lavender black pepper mix.  Make sure to coat both sides of the chicken breast and let sit in fridge to marinate.

Grilling Chicken Breasts

Grilling the Chicken Breasts takes only a few minutes per side until cooked thoroughly, always make sure chicken is grilled with no pink/raw center.  Slice cooked and grilled chicken breasts into strips or smaller pieces.

Wash and chop all vegetables and arrange on plate, then place the grilled chicken strips on the plate on top of salad mix, then place the sliced cheese pieces on top of the salad as well.

Serve with dressing of your choice, some recommendations are an Asian Sesame Dressing or a light Honey Mustard.

Enjoy, this serves family of 4, just increase the amount of ingredients as appropriate.  If you want family members to have more chicken, increase the amount of chicken put on top of the salad.

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Homemade Brittle Makes a Great Gift

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Eminent Advertising for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

One reason why Brittle makes such a great gift on holiday occasions is it's transportability and nature of being able to stay fresh for longer periods of time over softer goods.  Peanut Brittle in particular is a favorite and is enjoyable any time of year for fans of all treats peanut flavored.

Making Brittle has always been a chore, but you can Buy homemade candy from Homespun Brittle and they have the largest selection of brittle I have ever seen including Cherry brittle, Pumpkin brittle, Banana Nut Brittle and so much more.  You can get a variety tin and choose 3 types of brittle to add variety that any brittle lover would enjoy.

Apple Pie Brittle

Fancy some Applie Pie Brittle?

Known for Peanut Brittle Temecula which is where they are established, Homespun brittle prides themselves on the quality of their confections.  If you are looking for a place to make a unique and original treat to send as gifts, or even have for yourself then give Homespun brittle a try and taste a homemade brittle that comes in so many distinct flavors each one will be a new experience.

You can buy online, or call to place an order with them and get some brittle today.

What flavors of brittle are you interested in trying? What unique flavors have you already had?

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