Summertime Pasta

I just love pasta, pretty much any day of the year. However, as pasta typically serves to be a comfort food for me, so I have many warm and cheesy recipes for cold winter nights. In the summertime, I struggle to find pasta recipes beyond the typical antipasto or macaroni salad - delicious, yes, but so boring. So if you're looking to add some pizazz to your summer pasta options, here are a few creative options.

Matchless Macaroni Salad
An old standby of my mother's - from the Colorado Cache cookbook 
1/2 cups seedless green grapes
8 oz shell macaroni or bowties
8 oz pitted ripe black olives, drained + halved
3/4 cup chopped green onions
3 oz blue cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 t. garlic powder
3 T. lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain. Combine hot macaroni with grapes, olives, onion, cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Mix together lemon juice and mayonnaise until smooth. Combine macaroni and mayonnaise until evenly mixed. Refrigerate covered several hours or overnight. Add more mayonnaise if desired, before serving. Serves 8-12.

Nouveau Macaroni Salad
From www.101cookbooks.com, one of my favorite healthy cooking sites. 
Unique and refreshing!
1 pound elbow macaroni
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced green onions
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
salt/pepper to taste
zest and juice of one lemon
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
4 big handfuls arugula (or spinach)
1 large apple, diced

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of well-salted water per package instructions. Set aside at least 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Then drain pasta and set aside.  In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Add most of the green onions, all of the garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions soften, and the garlic begins to take on some color, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple minutes.

Use a hand blender or food processor to puree the green onion mixture along with 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, zest of the lemon, half the lemon juice, and the reserved pasta water. Puree and taste. The green onion flavor should be assertive. Stir in the Parmesan.

Combine the macaroni with the green onion sauce in a large bowl. Toss well. Add the arugula and most of the apple and toss again. Taste, and add more pepper, salt, or lemon juice if needed. Serve topped with the remaining apple and green onion. Makes enough for a crowd or potluck.

Fresh Corn, Zucchini, and Cream Pasta
I threw all of these ingredients together one night and discovered a quick and delicious summertime dish. Other add-ins would be great with this, too - like spinach, asparagus, or cherry tomatoes. 
2 cups cooked pasta (fettuccine or penne would be great; or cheese ravioli for added decadence)
1 T. olive oil
1 cup fresh summer corn
1 cup diced zucchini or summer squash
1/4 cup real bacon bits (or just real bacon, cooked and crumbled)
1 T. fresh basil, chopped
1/3 cup sliced green onion
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup half and half
shredded Parmesan for sprinkling

Place a large saute pan over medium high heat and add oil. Toss in corn, zucchini, and bacon bits and saute for several minutes until vegetables are lightly browned. Add basil, onion, and salt/pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook for a few more minutes. Finish off with half and half, allowing the liquid to bubble and coat the vegetable mixture. Toss in pasta and split into bowls. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Serves 2.


Identity crisis averted, [no] thanks to a sans-pants bear

Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that I dislike Winnie the Pooh. I never really got into the cartoon as a kid; something about Pooh's slow voice and obsession with honey was really annoying. Not to mention the weirdness of his name altogether. And really, let's think about this: Pooh doesn't wear pants...and he plays with little boys. It's all very wrong. 

So this evening, my sister and I were discussing personality traits and their relation to the Pooh characters. Summer is very intelligent and aware of the trends in pop culture, and I will admit I was intrigued. Which Pooh character was I? The only characters we could remember were Eeyore (depressed), Piglet (follower), Tigger (hyperactive), and, of course, Pooh (obsessed/perverted). Surely there must be other character traits to choose from in life! 

I went online and googled "Which Winnie the Pooh Character Are You?" and found a plethora to choose from. This one seemed reputable, if only for its name: "The Deep and Meaningful Winnie the Pooh Character Test" (http://www.okcupid.com/tests/7755608336260521742/Deep-and-Meaningful- Winnie-The-Pooh-Character). After answering about 30 interesting and semi-thought-provoking questions, I clicked the "finish" button and waited apprehensively. Who would I be? Strange little Piglet? Surely not Tigger - he's too wild. Please, please, please...not Pooh. I can't be Pooh! 

My result: Rabbit. Well, hey there! Here's a character I didn't even know about...and what do you know, the description seems fairly accurate:
ABOUT RABBIT: Rabbit is generally considered clever by his many friends and relations. He is actually a much better reader and writer than Owl, but he doesn't consider it worth mentioning. Instead, Rabbit's real talent lies in organizing plans. He organizes rescue parties, makes schemes to reduce Tigger's bounciness, and goes on missions to find out what Christopher Robin does when he's not at the Hundred Acre Woods. Sometimes, however, his plans do not always go as planned.
WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are smart, practical and you plan ahead. People sometimes think that you don't stress or worry, but this is not the case. You are the kind of person who worries in a practical way. You think a) What are my anxieties about and b)what can be done about them? No useless fretting for you. You don't see the point in sitting around and waiting for things to work out, when you could actually work them out today and save yourself a lot of time and worry. Your friends tend to rely on you, because they know that they can trust you help them work things out. You sometimes tend to be impatient with people who are less practical in their ways. You don't have much patience for idiots who moan about things but never actually DO anything about them. You have high expectations of everyone, including yourself. When you don't succeed at something, or when something goes wrong despite your best efforts to prevent it, you can get quite hard on yourself. You need to cut yourself some slack and accept that everyone has their faults, even you. Let yourself be faulty, every now and then, for the sake of your own sanity.
So there you have it...I'm a Rabbit. I suppose I'll sleep better tonight with this knowledge :) But in all seriousness, I did read an article recently on how the longevity of these Winnie the Pooh characters can be attributed to the fact that they are realistic and representative of most personalities in life. Think about it - I'm sure you know a Tigger, an Eeyore, or an Owl. And I'm sure some of us can even think of a few Poohs in our lives. So, who are you?

p.s. This post is a result of too much free time, neither of which is a bad thing.

p.p.s. If you happen to take this quiz and score a Pooh, I won't hate you (or question your motives around children). Promise.