Summer Tortellini Salad

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I love a really good tortellini salad. Not only are they flavorful and delicious but they are so easy to make as well. There is an Italian deli by me that makes a great tortellini salad but at $7/lb it’s a little pricey for my taste. Instead, I make my own which is just as yummy and way more wallet friendly. Plus, it feeds a crowd!

This is one of those recipes where you just need to eyeball everything and adjust to your liking. You really do not need to measure AT ALL which is why this recipe is a cinch to make. Plus, you can add in or take out anything you wish. Don’t love olives? Drop them! Like a lot of onion? Add more in! Prefer a drier salad? Use less oil! There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this tortellini salad, just go with your gut and play around with the flavors until you’re happy with how it tastes.

I really love this salad as a side dish to my BBQ meals in the summer but it also makes an awesome light lunch as well. You can even throw in a little grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella and now you have an easy summer dinner or picnic lunch. You can serve it cold or at room temperature however, I prefer it somewhere in between. When the salad is too cold, you lose some of the flavor. Allowing it to sit at room temperature for just a bit before serving really allows all of the flavors to pop. Keep a little extra oil on hand as it tends to dry up just a bit in the fridge, add some oil and toss just before serving. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs cheese tortellini, cooked al dente and cooled
  • 1 can of large black olives, sliced thick
  • 1/2 lb Sicilian cracked olives, pits removed and roughly torn
  • Oil from the Sicilian cracked olives
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, sliced
  • Handful of fresh torn parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

In a large bowl, add the cheese tortellini, black olives, Sicilian olives, red onion, red pepper and torn parsley. Drizzle the reserved oil from the Sicilian olives all over the salad. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and a healthy amount of ground black pepper. Toss gently to combine.

Adjust seasonings as needed and allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes prior to serving so that the flavors can come together. Serve cold or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.

**Tip – If you do not like Sicilian cracked olives, use plain extra virgin olive oil on the salad. Alternatively, you can also toss the salad with a homemade or store-bought vinaigrette or Italian dressing.**

 

Fresh Homemade Bruschetta

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There is nothing I love more in the summertime than fresh homemade bruschetta. It’s light, healthy, flavorful and goes great with so many different foods such as chicken, crusty crostini, fresh mozzarella and more! It’s also one of the easiest things to make and doesn’t require any hard and fast measurements. Everything is done to taste and you really cannot get this wrong, I promise!

The key to really good bruschetta is to start with fresh, perfectly ripe ingredients. You want to choose beautifully ripened, juicy, red tomatoes as well as crisp red onions and fresh, bright basil. The better the ingredients, the better the bruschetta! Once you have your veggies the only other ingredients you’ll need are Kosher salt, ground black pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar. That’s it! Super simple, super delicious. If I have it on hand, I will sometimes stir in a few teaspoons of homemade pesto too!

I LOVE to eat bruschetta on top of a good, crusty crostini brushed with olive oil and fresh garlic. It is so good and flavorful and a great summer appetizer! I also love it on top of grilled chicken or on thick slices of fresh mozzarella. It’s even delicious tossed with a little fresh pasta and served chilled. Bruschetta is the perfect accompaniment to so many of your summer dishes, it’ll really brighten almost any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ripened tomatoes, any variety 
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • handful of fresh basil, torn
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • few teaspoons of fresh pesto, optional

Instructions

Dice the fresh tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Add the diced red onion and torn basil. Add Kosher salt, ground black pepper, a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Gently toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

**Tip – The longer you let the bruschetta sit, the more the flavors will come together resulting in a more flavorful bite.**

Marinated Chicken Shish Kabobs with Grilled Veggies and Pineapple

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This dish is the ultimate summer meal, it’s light, easy, and has all of the best flavors of summer including grilled meat, summer veggies and pineapple. So delish! I like to make this when I don’t have a ton of time for prepping because it only takes a few minutes to pull everything together. You can prep the ingredients in the morning (or even the night before) and it’ll be ready to toss right on the grill at dinnertime. This meal is as delicious as it is healthy and I like being able to serve up something to my family that is good for them. Granted my kids pick at the veggies but they do devour the chicken, pineapple, and rice!

Traditionally shish kabobs are prepared by skewering both the meat and the veggies together however, I find that when you do that inevitably the meat cooks before the veggies and gets dry and as the veggies become tender they have a tendency to fall off of the sticks. So to solve these issues I’ve stopped putting the two together and instead, I skewer the chicken separately and I use a grill basket for the veggies and fruit. Doing this allows me to start the vegetables earlier on the grill so that they have more time to cook and then I’m able to put the chicken on later so it stays nice and juicy. Both come out perfect every time and your prepping is significantly less since you don’t have skewer the veggies.

Whenever you’re making shish kabobs and using wood skewers, always allow the wood skewers to soak in water for about 10-15 minutes before you use them. Doing this will prevent the skewers from charring and disintegrating during the grilling process. To avoid this step, you can use metal skewers however, it’s just more thing to clean after dinner. For that reason I always have wood skewers on hand, they are dirt cheap and they are an easy cleanup.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of chicken breast cut into strips
  • herb marinade (you can use your own mix of oil and spices OR a packaged mix such as McCormick Grill Mates Zesty Herb Marinade, 1.06 oz (Case of 12))
  • 1 red bell pepper, largely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, largely diced
  • 2 sweet or red onions, largely diced
  • 1 can of pineapple chunks in their own juice or half of a fresh pineapple cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • seasoned rice (recipe listed below)

Instructions

Marinate the chicken strips in a bowl and the prepared veggies and pineapple in another bowl for at least 30 minutes, the longer the better. Skewer the chicken strips making sure to place enough chicken on each shish kabob to fill up the entire stick but without crowding it. Set aside in the fridge.

Heat up your grill to a medium heat. Place the grill basket on the grates and allow it to warm up for a few minutes. Pour the marinated veggies and pineapple into the basket, close the lid, and allow them to cook until tender. Stir every few minutes during cooking. The veggies should be tender and nicely grilled within about 40-45 minutes.

About 10-15 minutes before the veggies and pineapple are done, add the chicken kabobs to the grill. Turn them every so often so that they cook evenly. The chicken is ready to turn when it releases easily from the grill, don’t force it or the chicken will tear. The chicken will be ready in about 10 minutes or when the juices run clear. Depending on thickness of the chicken and placement on the grill the cooking time might vary slightly.

To make the seasoned rice, sauté a finely diced onion in 2 tbs of butter until softened. Then follow the cooking instructions on the long grain rice bag substituting chicken stock (I like the Kitchen Basics brand) for the water. Season with salt, pepper, and parsley. Cook until light and fluffy.

 

 

 

Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Grilled Summer Veggies

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Pasta salads are the perfect light, easy, summer meal. They come together quickly, make a nice dinner or side dish, and they are a great way to use up all of the delicious vegetables that are growing in your garden. For this recipe I used a mix of zucchini, red bell peppers, corn on the cob, and green onions but you can substitute any or all of these with whatever favorite vegetables you have on hand. Pasta salads are extremely versatile in that you can add in whatever meat, cheese, dressing, and veggie that you like and it will always turn out delicious.

Because I had a nice amount of basil growing in my yard I decided to make a quick and easy fresh basil pesto . It takes only minutes to pull together and it’s the perfect “sauce” for both the pasta and to season the chicken that I added into the salad. The fresh grilled vegetables are really what amps up this salad to awesome, they impart such a nice, sweet element to the dish. I happen to love fresh mozzarella, preferably from my local Italian deli, but in a pinch I do use pre-packaged “fresh mozzarella” from BJ’s. For this recipe I threw in some of the fresh mozzarella pearls, teeny tiny little balls, from Bel Gioioso. They aren’t as amazing as true fresh mozzarella but in this dish where they are tossed together with pesto, chicken, pasta, and fresh veggies they work just fine.

If you don’t have time to make everything for this dish all at once you easily make much of it in advance. The pesto will keep for 5-7 days in the fridge, the vegetables can be grilled and diced ahead of time as well as the chicken. When you’re ready for dinner just boil the pasta and toss everything together. Super easy!

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ thick slices
  • 2 ears of fresh corn on the cob
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into sixths
  • 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 4 tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh mozzarella pearls (or torn up fresh mozzarella)
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cubed and cooked
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, for garnish
  • 3/4 cup pesto

Instructions

Heat the grill to medium-high. Toss vegetables in the olive oil with a little bit of salt and pepper. Grill corn, turning periodically, for about 10 minutes or until slightly charred in spots. Grill the pepper and zucchini slices for about 4-6 minutes, turning once. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbs of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the cubed chicken and season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until slightly browned and cooked through. Towards the end of the cooking, add in 2-3 tbs of the pesto sauce and stir to combine. Set the chicken aside on a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool off the pasta just a bit, you don’t want it steaming hot.

Combine the cooked pasta, chicken, mozzarella balls, green onion, and grilled veggies. Toss gently with the pesto until well combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm, at room temp, or cold.

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