Pesto Pasta Chicken Salad

My aunt and uncle came up to visit us a few weekends ago, it was such a fun time! We went to the Boardwalk & walked along the wharf. Aunt Lizzie with Lola & I:

On their way up, I texted and asked if they wanted to grab lunch somewhere when they arrived. My uncle responded with, “What, you don’t have a gourmet meal waiting for us?” I knew he was kidding, but then realized that I had this awesome pasta salad sitting in the fridge! So we had a good laugh and ate it when they got here.

This salad tastes wonderful warmed up, or cold straight out of the fridge. I love a versatile dish!

As I was slicing the mozzarella, Ada walked up behind me and said, “Oooooohhhhhh! CHEESE! That’s good for me, right?” Right, little one. You are so completely right :)

Pesto Pasta Chicken Salad Recipe

adapted from Real Simple

1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta

4  boneless, skinless chicken thighs (3/4 pound)

1  tablespoon  olive oil

kosher salt and black pepper

1/2  cup  chopped pitted kalamata olives

1  cup  halved bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)

3/4  cup  walnut pesto

Walnut Pesto Recipe:

1 cup walnuts

1 garlic clove

1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese

2 cups fresh basil leaves

Toss walnuts, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, cheese, and basil into food processor. Pulse while adding olive oil in a stream.

Once desired consistency is achieved, taste and add salt if needed.

Pasta Salad Directions:

Cook  pasta until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain and return to pot to let cool.

Heat oven to 400° F. Rub the chicken with the oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes; shred. (You could sub any chicken

here. I took the time to cook the thighs and could taste a difference; my husband said he thought he was eating a

rotisserie chicken the whole time! So I’ll be saving myself the work and using easier chicken from now on).

Toss the pasta, shredded chicken, olives, and bocconcini with the pesto and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Top with seasonings to taste and freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy!

Endive & Spinach Salad with a Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette

My friend Damaris asked me to be a part of her blog, Kitchen Corners series: 31 days of salad. Go check it out, there are some delicious options ranging from cabbage to tri-tip salads! Yum. This was my first guest post ever and I was so honored to be a part of such a great group of posts! I hope you all enjoy this salad, it is my own re-creation and combination of two salads that I love.

Let’s start off with the correct pronunciation of endive. It’s on-DEEV, not en-DIVE. My French-speaking husband says so. Plus, doesn’t it make you feel refined? “I’ll have the ondeeeev salad, please.” So fancy.

Endive & Spinach Salad Recipe:

2 endives

2 handfuls baby spinach

1 apple or pear, thinly sliced (optional)

1 oz. walnuts, chopped

1/4 c. Craisins

1/4 c. blue cheese crumbles

In a medium bowl, toss endives, spinach, and apple. Sprinkle with walnuts, Craisins, and blue cheese crumbles.

For the Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette:

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon stone ground mustard

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine ingredients and puree using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender some thing as good as vitamix vs ninja will do just fine. Serve atop salad and enjoy!

Santa Rosa Chicken Salad Recipe

Santa Rosa Chicken Salad -

A couple of weeks ago, we had our friends over for FHE. I made this salad and this one…both delicious and filling! We love, love, LOVE this salad and it’s always a hit whenever I bring it anywhere. Hope you like it!

Santa Rosa Chicken Salad -


Santa Rosa Chicken Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • 1 box Uncle Ben's long-grain wild rice
  • Rotisserie chicken, cubed
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1 yellow or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of cooked asparagus, chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Dressing:
  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  1. Combine dressing ingredients and set aside. Cook rice according to package directions (I don't use the seasoning packet) & cool.
  2. Toss rice together with all salad ingredients and add dressing. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving to let flavors marinate. (I thought it tasted better for lunch the next day!) Serve and enjoy.

Taquitos & Mango Quinoa Salad

These taquitos are easy to make and so delicious! My mom made them for us while she was here for Lola’s birth, along with the mango quinoa salad. Thanks Mommy!! I found the recipes on Our Best Bites & made them again when we had the missionaries over for dinner this week.

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 12
  • ⅓ C (3 oz) cream cheese
  • ¼ C green salsa
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • ½ t cumin
  • 1 t chili powder
  • ½ t onion powder
  • ¼ t granulated garlic
  • 3 T chopped cilantro
  • 2 T sliced green onions
  • 2 C shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 C grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese
  • tortillas (I used whole wheat flour ones)
  • kosher salt
  • cooking spray
  1. Heat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  2. Heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds so it's soft and easy to stir. Add green salsa, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, onion powder and granulated garlic. Stir to combine and then add cilantro and green onions. Add chicken and cheese and combine well.
  3. You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep the mixture in the fridge.
  4. Place 2-3 T of chicken mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about ½ inch from the edges.
  5. Then roll it up as tight as you can.
  6. Place seam side down on the baking sheet. Lay all of the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray or an oil mister and sprinkle some kosher salt on top.
  7. Place pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.
  8. Serve with ranch dressing (my favorite dip of choice), guacamole, or salsa.

Now for the quinoa salad. It’s been floating around the internets for a while and now I see why it’s so popular. It is tasty & beautiful, look at how colorful it is. Bonus –  it’s really good for you!

2 cups cooked quinoa at room temperature, or chilled (cooking it in a saucepan with 4 c. chicken broth is perfect)
1 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium mango, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 handful chopped cilantro (or two or three…)
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Place cooked quinoa in a large bowl.  Add mango, red pepper, green onion, black beans, and cilantro.  In a small bowl combine vinegar, olive oil, and lime juice.  Whisk until smooth and pour on top of salad.  Toss to combine and add salt and pepper to taste.  Chill for at least one hour before serving. The longer the flavors meld in the fridge the better; I like it even more for lunch the next day. Enjoy!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches & Homemade Cole Slaw

We love BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and corn on the cob in the summertime! This is a different recipe than I’ve used in the past, and is delicious as well. Not as moist, but you can always add more BBQ sauce. The cole slaw (adapted from Ina Garten) is so easy to put together and tastes a million times better than store-bought in my opinion!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Serves: 12
  • Pulled Pork:
  • 3- lb. boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce
  1. Put pork in slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over pork; turn to coat.
  2. Cook covered on high for 6 hours or on low 8 to 10 hours, or until pork is tender.
  3. Shred pork with two forks, discarding any fat, and stir into juices.
  4. Butter up your buns, toast them under the broiler, and load 'er up!

Homemade Cole Slaw
Serves: 12
  • Cole Slaw:
  • 1 pound white cabbage (1/2 small head)
  • ¾ pound red cabbage (1/2 small head)
  • 5 carrots
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Fit a food processor with the thickest slicing blade. Cut the cabbages into small wedges and place horizontally into the feed tube. Process in batches. Next, fit the processor with the grating blade. Cut the carrots in half and place in the feed tube so they are lying on their sides. Process in batches and mix in a bowl with the grated cabbages.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayo, mustard, sugar, vinegar, celery seeds, garlic salt, and pepper. Pour enough of the dressing over the grated vegetables to moisten them.

Watermelon is another great side for this summertime dish!

Black Bean & Sweet Corn Quinoa

This dish smells wonderful while cooking & is so simple. I’ll be making it again, but with MUCH less cumin & cayenne pepper! My mouth was on fire while eating this, but it’s yummy. I’m just a mild girl. Thank goodness I set some beans and quinoa aside for my little one before adding the spices.

Recipe courtesy The Sisters Cafe via Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon ground cumin (I’m changing this to 1/4 t. next time)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I’ll start with a sprinkle of this & keep adding little by little until it’s good)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup frozen sweet white corn

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  When shimmering and hot, add the onions and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the garlic and stir for a minute or two until the garlic is fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the quinoa and cover with broth.  Stir in cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes (or until the liquid is absorbed).

Stir in the frozen corn and black beans.  Cover and let the pot sit off the heat until the corn and beans are heated through, about 5-6 minutes.  Stir in cilantro.  Serve warm or chilled – it is delicious both ways!

Tortellini with Spinach & Pesto

This is a Kara-made creation that is a perfect one bowl meal for busy nights. This could also be chilled and served as a cold pasta salad, adding the spinach later.

It seriously doesn’t get any easier than this! Costco tortellini (they had me at 7-cheese) & pesto…pre-washed, bagged spinach, a chopped tomato & cheese! Serve with some olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette & bread and you’ve got a complete meal that smells and tastes just like Italy.

3 cups tortellini

3 T. pesto

2 large handfulls of spinach

1 roma tomato, chopped

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Place spinach in a bowl. Remove tortellini from water and toss in bowl with pesto and spinach to coat, letting spinach wilt down just a little. (Add a spoonful or two of pasta water if pesto seems too thick). Top with tomato & cheese, season with salt and pepper as desired. Yum!

Apple Spinach Salad

Apple Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped apple
Put all ingredients into food processor or blender and run until smooth. Taste, and add more vinegar if desired.
Pour over washed spinach & enjoy! Would be great with blue cheese crumbles and nuts as well.

Lime-Marinated Broiled Salmon with Cucumber & Watercress Salad

I made this for Matt’s 23rd birthday. It was during a heat wave, so it was perfect to not have the oven on, just the broiler for a bit. It is so flavorful and fresh!

Lime-Marinated Broiled Salmon (from Cooking Light)

1/3  cup  low-sodium soy sauce

1/4  cup  fresh lime juice

1  teaspoon  minced peeled fresh ginger

1/2  teaspoon  chopped fresh thyme

2  garlic cloves, chopped

4  (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)

Cooking spray

4  lime wedges

Place first 4 ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. Pour into a large zip-top plastic bag. Add salmon, and seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning bag occasionally.

Preheat broiler.

Remove salmon from bag, discarding marinade. Place salmon on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray; broil 8 minutes. Turn, and broil an additional 4 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with lime wedges.

This salad is so light and easy…definitely a welcome break from a traditional green salad.

Cucumber & Watercress Salad (courtesy Tyler Florence)

1 large cucumber, peeled and diced

1 bunch of watercress, trimmed

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Splash of water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a bowl, combine the cucumber, watercress and parsley.

In a separate bowl, combine the honey, vinegar, water and season. Whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat.

Cafe Rio Recipes

A while back this pregnant lady was seriously craving herself some Cafe Rio! And, since Santa Cruz doesn’t have one, I pulled out these recipes I found a few years back. Sorry to whoever posted them, I don’t remember whose blog I found them on.

Oh how I LOVE this dressing! Matt and I were gobbling it up with chips while we were waiting for the pork to finish up. Mmm :)

Café Rio Dressing

1 buttermilk ranch dressing packet (make as per recipe)

2 tomatillos (tomato like vegetable with a husk around them)

½ bunch of cilantro

1 clove garlic

Juice of 1 lime

1 jalapeño (Use the seeds too if you like it spicy. You could substitute a few drops of green Tabasco for the jalapeno.)

Use a food processor to blend all the ingredients well. Refrigerate.

The pork barbacoa is my favorite! Makes sense since a can of Dr. Pepper is in it :)

Sweet Pork

3lb. Pork Roast

16-oz. Chunky Salsa

1 Can Dr. Pepper

2 Cups Brown Sugar

Put pork in crock pot and fill half way with water.

Cook 4 hours on high. Drain water, cut the pork in thirds. Mix together sauce (blend in blender) and pour on top of pork. Cook 4 more hours on low. Shred pork.

Cafe Rio Chicken

1 small bottle Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing

1 T chili powder

1 T cumin

3 cloves garlic—minced

5 lbs chicken breast

Cook all together in a crock pot for 4 hours, shred meat and cook 1 additional hour.

Café Rio Rice

4 c water

4 t chicken bouillon

4 t garlic –minced

½ bunch cilantro

1 can green chilies—or equivalent fresh

¾ t salt

1 T butter

½ onion

2 c regular white rice

Blend cilantro, green chiles and onion together in food processor. Bring water to a boil and add all ingredients, simmer covered 30 minutes. (Watch carefully to prevent scorching on bottom of pan.)

Black Beans

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/3 cup tomato juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

In a nonstick skillet, cook garlic and cumin in olive oil over medium heat until you can smell it. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving stir in the cilantro.

You need warm flour tortillas and shredded cheddar cheese (I popped the bowl in the microwave for a few seconds with the tortilla in it and the cheese in the bottom).

Then add the rice, beans, meat, romaine lettuce, pico de gallo (or just tomatoes in our case), guacamole, cheese, cilantro, tortilla strips (or chips) and dressing.

EAT and ENJOY! You’re welcome :)