Antipasto Spinach Pasta Salad

Hello all– What is the easiest, freshest, yummiest way to have friends in for dinner in the summer??  A big bunch of Bible study friends came couple weeks ago for a salad/dessert pot luck.  As they trickled in the door, brimming bowls of chicken salad and fresh fruit and Asian slaw… lined up in the kitchen.  Plus pies– beautiful pies!

We sat down with plates full and settled into easy conversation that you have with old friends.  Love a summer evening with these ladies.

And this was my salad contribution– so much flavor from the sun dried tomatoes and garlicky salami, played against chewy pasta and creamy fresh mozzarella.  I think it would be good on your summer able too.

8 oz. Cellentani pasta (or your favorite pasta)*
3 cups spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/3 cup red onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 cup cured olives
1 cup fresh mozzarella balls (or cubed)
4 oz. salami, cut to pieces
14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup parmesan romano cheese, grated
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package (mine was 11 minutes in boiling water).  Drain, rinse and cool the pasta to room temperature in a large bowl.

Add in the spinach, red, pepper, red onion, dried tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, salami and garbanzo beans.

To make the dressing, put the olive oil, white balsamic, cheese and salt & pepper into a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well until it’s all blended.  Pour over the salad and mix to coat all the ingredients with dressing.

Stick it into the fridge until you’re ready to serve it up!

*I used Barilla Cellentani in the blue box– nice and chewing and soaks up the dressing.


Italian Chopped Salad



Hello all-  Took this salad to dinner with a table full of friends on Valentines Day.  A big Italian feast.  Jill made us all wear large heart name tags (ala Julia Child) and Tim was ready with the go ’round questions after dinner–
What’s the most romantic things your spouse has ever done??
What about you, most annoys your husband/wife??
If your spouse were famous, what would he/she be known for??

It was a a delightful evening, 12 old friends, most of us married around 40 years, and I appreciated my Larry all the more by the time the evening was over.

And– we had this bright salad–full of a lot of my favorite tastes.  It’s hearty enough to be dinner on its own– or just part of a big festive dinner with friends!


6 cups chopped green leaf lettuce*
1/4 pound hard salami, thickly sliced & chopped
3 oz. feta with herbs, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup bell pepper, chopped
14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup good mixed cured olives

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. white balsamic**
1 tsp. honey
3 tab. parmesan romano
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste


Spread the greens in a large salad bowl and top with the other salad ingredients.

In a container with a closed lid, shake together the dressing ingredients until they are thoroughly blended.  Pour over the salad just before you are ready to serve and do just a bit of tossing to coat all the salad.  (This amount makes 6 servings)  Enjoy!


Citrus Chili Chicken


Hello all– It’s been been fun to sit down to dinner this week.  My sis, Luanne and her husband are staying with us for a couple weeks, on their summer home from Kosovo.  Mostly we’ve been cooking together and working on a couple sewing projects and watching a whole lot of the Olympics.

So here was dinner a couple nights back.  Citrus flavor with a bit of spice glazing the chicken, and toasty roasted potatoes rounding out the plate.  Add a bright salad and a couple congenial houseguests.  Just great.

12 red potatoes, cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. garlic salt
6 chicken thighs
1 lime
1 orange
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
25 good olives
1 cup chicken broth
1 tab. cornstarch

Cut the potatoes into wedges.  Put them in a glass bowl with an inch of water and cook for 5 minutes in the microwave.  Drain the water from the potatoes and spread them on a baking sheet.  Drizzle on the olive oil and sprinkle the garlic salt over the top.

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs (You can leave it on if you don’t mind the fat).  Set them in a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Juice the lime and pour the juice over the chicken thighs.

Grate the peel from the orange and save.  Juice the orange and then in a mixing bowl stir together the orange juice, orange peel, smoked paprika, chili powder and salt.  Pour the mixture over the chicken.

Pop the chicken in the baking dish and the baking sheet of potatoes into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Take out the chicken and baste the chicken with the juices in the baking dish.  Cook the potatoes and chicken 20 minutes more.

When they are done, lift the chicken thighs  and potatoes onto a platter.  Sprinkle the olives over the top. Cover to keep warm.

Pour the juices from the chicken baking dish into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  In a container with a tight fitting lid shake together the chopped cilantro, chicken broth and cornstarch until it is all well blended.  Pour into the sauce pan with the juice and stir until the sauce thickens.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve it up warm with a crispy salad and a chunk of sturdy bread.  Enjoy!


Tomato Rosemary Chicken with Polenta


Hello there– Have you ever cooked up something and thought–“why did I wait so long to try this?”  I’ve had polenta eating out, but never stirred it up at home.  And guess what– It’s so easy and (if you love corn like I do) it’s super delicious!

This little Sunday lunch was packed with flavor from the comforting homey polenta to the tender chicken, the savory tomatoes and the briny olives.  With a bright fresh salad–perfect.  I’m imagining who we could invite in for supper to make this dish again…

1/2 cup polenta
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup parmesan romano
4 chicken thighs**
2 tab. olive oil
freshly ground pepper
sprig of rosemary
sprig of thyme
(plus more rosemary & time for garnish)
1 small onion, chopped finely”
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz. can petit cut tomatoes with garlic & herbs
1/3 cup well brined olives

Start the polenta cooking according to the package directions (mine called for 2 cups of water, 1/2 tsp. salt).  When it’s done cooking, sir in the parmesan.

While that’s cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Salt and pepper the chicken thighs and drop them in the oil meat side down to brown for about 8 minutes.  Then remove them from the pan.

In that same skillet, drop in the the chopped onion and sauté 2 or 3 minutes until it starts to brown.  Add in the garlic and cook a minute more.  Then stir in the tomatoes, rosemary and thyme.

Put the chicken back into the pan with the tomatoes and simmer it on low for 12 minutes more until it is cooked through.  Stir in the olives.

At last, spoon the polenta* from the pot onto a platter and top it with the chicken and spoonfuls of the tomato sauce.  Garnish with sprigs of rosemary and thyme and set it hot on the table.

*If the polenta seems a bit thick, stir in a few spoonfuls of hot water before you serve it up.
** The recipe I worked from said to cook the chicken thighs with the skin on, but I removed it and it was just fine.


White Bean Antipasto Salad

IMG_1998Hello there– It’s summer and if you want a fast, cool, savory summer meal, here it is.  Just a few ingredients and a bit a cooking and chopping and it’s on the table– I like to make it ahead and cool it in the fridge.  Serve it up with a chunk of sturdy bread to dredge up the dressing on the bottom of the plate and it’s dinner.

2 14oz. cans cannellini beans (small white beans)
2 Italian sausages, mild or hot (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped fine
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped fine
2 tab. basil or marjoram, chopped*
2/3 cup assorted olives
4 small tomatoes, cut in quarters

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. white balsamic vinegar**
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the beans in a sieve and shake dry.

Remove the sausage from it’s casing and crumble it into a pan.  Cook  4 or 5 minutes until it’s well browned.  (If you are not using a nonstick pan, add a few drops of olive oil)

To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and salt & pepper in a small container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake it enthusiastically until it’s thoroughly blended.

Then combine the beans, sausage, red & green pepper, basil and olives.  Toss this with the dressing and spread it on a nice platter.  Top with the cut tomatoes.  That’s it!  So easy.


Lemon Chicken with Olives

IMG_3437Hi all–  Last week at school, Teri brought in a bag of brilliant beautiful lemons, picked right from her tree.  They were pretty irresistible, so I scooped up an armful and carried them home to the bowl on my kitchen counter (Thank you Teri!).  So when I ran across this recipe, I knew how those big old lemons were meant to be used!

The whole plate has a bright, fresh flavor.  Add a scoop of mixed rice and a crispy salad.  It’s a great week night dinner (but really nice enough to share with friends for a Sunday supper).

2 tab. flour
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt & pepper
1 tab. fresh lemon juice
lemon slices
2 chicken breasts, cut into 4 or 6 filets
4 tab. olive oil, divided
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup green olives
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine


Mix the flour, lemon peel, cumin and a few shakes of salt and freshly ground pepper in a shallow bowl.

Cut the chicken breasts, lengthwise the flat way to make 2 or 3 filets each.  Then dredge them in the flour mixture.

Heat 2 tab. of the oil in a skillet.  When it’s hot, drop in the chicken filets, cooking them 2 to 3 minutes on each side until they are nicely browned.  Take them out onto a plate.

Throw the lemon slices into the hot pan and brown them on both sides, just a minute or two. Remove them too.

Wipe out the skillet.  Heat the remaining oil and cook the onion until tender, about 5 minutes.  Then add in the olives, wine and lemon juice and bring to a low simmer.  Nestle the chicken breasts into the pan and cover.  Cook 5 or 6 minutes until the filets are cooked through.  Sprinkle on the chopped parsley and transfer it all to a pretty platter, add in the browned lemon slices and set it on the table.

P.S. This photo is just half of this recipe– used just one chicken breast.  Just enough for Larry and me home alone.

Browned Eggplant with Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

IMG_2050Hi there– I found this recipe in a magazine while I was sitting waiting at the ophthalmologist’s office for an eye exam.  (I guess a good recipe is some small compensation for a trip to the doctor!!)  Tempted as I was to tear out the page with the instructions, I took my waiting to time to commit it to memory (more of less) and here it is!

We’ve still got summer tomatoes at the market and who can resist a happy purple eggplant?  Made it up for dinner with some grilled talpia and a seedy chunk of bread.  Just about right for a warm end of the summer evening…

1 plump purple eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
1 green heirloom tomato
1 red heirloom tomato
1/2 cup feta with herbs & garlic, cut in chunks
1/2 cup mixed olives
a splash more olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (cut if large)
salt & freshly ground pepper

IMG_2032Cut the eggplant into 1/4″ slices and set them on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.  Put it under the broiler on medium heat for 5 minutes and then flip the pieces of eggplant and broil for 5 minutes more.  (I had the rack about 10″ below the broiling unit– keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn!)

While the eggplant is cooking, slice the tomatoes into pretty thin slices.

When he eggplant is done, brush both sides with the 1/4 cup olive oil and arrange the slices on a plate with the tomatoes.  Scatter the olives, feta and basil over the top of it all and give it a good splash of olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt & pepper.

Makes plenty for 4 people (maybe 6).

Brussel Sprout Salad with Feta, Olives and Salami

IMG_7599Hello friends–  The years we lived in Seville we attended a small church near the center of town.  When we’d come out into the bright Seville sunshine on a Sunday at noon, there on the sidewalk would be a small cart manned by our friendly olive vendor– We’d peer into the tubs of olives, all shapes and hues– seasoned with garlic or herbs, lemon or red pepper…  We’d buy a plastic sleeve of our favorites and munch them on the way home to lunch.  I’m such an olive fan– and they were the best.  I’m wishing we could visit our olive man again.

So here’s a salad where the olives shine– against the gentle flavor of the Brussel sprouts, the saltiness of the cheese and that garlicky salami.  With a nice chunk of sturdy bread, it makes a flavorful dinner.


10 Brussel sprouts
2 oz. dry salami, cut to bits
1/3 cup mixed cured olives
1/3 cup feta with herbs, cut in cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. white balsamic vinegar
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. dried basil

Cut the Brussel sprouts into shreds and sprinkle them on a serviceable  platter.  Layer on the salami, olives and feta.

Then in a container with a tight lid, put together the oil, balsamic, salt and pepper to taste and the basil.  Shake it while you anticipate the beautiful salad– until it’s thoroughly blended and pour it over the plate.  Time to eat…

Beef Tenderloin with Apricot & Olives

IMG_7678Hi all– A few days before Christmas the Fed Ex man came to my door with a huge white styrofoam box.  What on earth?  Did Larry order something mysterious?  I slit it open and it turned out to be packed goodies from a steak/meat company– A Christmas gift to us from my mom!  You have to admit she’s great at imagining gifts we’d love.

So I tucked it all in my freezer and have been doling out this luscious meat a bit at a time.  This week I tried a new recipe that I’ve had in my file forever, just waiting to test it out.  And it turned out to be just right with the tender, juicy Christmas gift tenderloin–the briny olives and sweet sauce that begged to be sopped up with a sturdy chunk of bread. Delish!

1 cup white rice
1/4 cilantro, chopped (or your favorite herb)
1 pound beef tenderloin, cut in friendly chunks
splash of olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tab. tarragon vinegar (or whatever vinegar you have on hand)
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup mixed good olives*
6 oz. bag of baby spinach

Cook the rice according the instructions on the bag.  Set aside in the pot to keep it warm.

While that’s cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet and then drop in the chunks of beef. As  it’s browning liberally salt and pepper the meat.  Cook on high for just about 5 minutes until the pieces are browned but still medium inside (please don’t overcook the meat like I usually do!).  Remove the steak from the pan.

In the meat juices cook the garlic a minute or two.  Then add the vinegar and preserves.  Cook about 3 minutes more.  Then add in the meat, olives and and spinach.  Stir on the heat just until the spinach starts to wilt and the meat is warmed though– only a minute or two.

Stir the cilantro into the cooked rice and serve of the rice an meat on the same platter– Be sure to scrape all the lovely apricot sauce out of the pan!  Makes 4 polite servings.

*I have to admit I’m a bit of an olive snob (blame it on all those olive filled years we lived in Spain!).  I don’t mind buying store brand products or shopping at the most affordable store in town.  But when it comes to olives, splurge!  Please don’t buy those salty hard ones in the jar.  Thank you.

Linguine with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

IMG_4342Hello all–  We’re finally into the hot days of summer here.  And there are tomatoes out there ripening on the vine as I write. It’s lovely to pick them out in the side yard and carry them right in to use at dinner time.  We’ve been taking brown bags of tomatoes to family–wish I could send off a bagful to you…

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tab. olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
4 oz. dry salami, cut to bits
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup pitted dark olives
1 tab. capers, minced
1/2 cup basil or marjoram, chopped
8 oz. linguine

IMG_4331Cut the tomatoes in half and in a bow, toss them with 2 tab. of the olive oil and a good spinkling of salt and pepper.  Spread them on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until they look roasty (but not yet mushy!)

While they are cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add in the salami bits and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes until the meat starts to crisp a bit.  Remove the salami from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil.  To the same skilllet add the wine and simmer until it reduces, about 3 or 4 minutes.  Then stir in the tomatoes, capers and olives and toss them in the wine and oil in the pan.  Stir in the salami and basil (or marjoram).

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Drain it and spoon the warm tomato mixture over the linguine.

Serves 4 a delicious warming supper.


Italian Lunch Salad

IMG_1836Hello all–  We have friends who have set out for 3 weeks in Italy with all their kids and a grand-baby in tow.  I’m trying, really, to not be too jealous as their photos along Venice’ canals slide down my facebook page.  I think they are having a grand time there together! I can imagine them sampling fried zucchini blossoms or saltimbocca or my favorite “Crema del Doge” gelato.  So for lunch, to summon up a little bit of Italy for us at home, I put together an Italian-ish salad—

4 slices turkey ham, cut to small bits
1/2 head leaf lettuce
1 14 oz. can cannellini beans
Mixed olives
1/4 cup chopped read bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil
peperoncini peppers
2 tab. grated parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. white balsamic vinegar
garlic salt & fresh pepper to taste

In a nonstick pan, grill up the bits of ham.  While that’s cooking layer the lettuce, cannellini beans, olives, pepper, basil, crispy ham, pepperonici and top with a sprinkle of parmesan.  Then in a container with a tight lid shake together the oil, vinegar and salt & pepper.  Drizzle it over the salad just before you set it on the table.

Serve it up with a substantial loaf of bread and some lovely gelato for dessert.
Buon Apetito!

Tamale Pie

IMG_8071Hi everyone– I’ve been eating this tamale pie for as long as I can remember.  It was a staple in my mother’s kitchen.  Since I’m too busy (lazy?) to make Christmas tamales, I whipped out this recipe when the Monday night friends came for dinner this week.  I love this stuff.  Not sure if it’s just the nostalgia of good old tamale pie or if it jus tastes so warm, savory, spicy great!  Anyway here’s the recipe ( a version of the 1950’s favorite)


1 pound ground beef
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can corn
1 14 oz. can small black olives
1 package Lawry’s taco seasoning

Brown the ground beef in a deep pan.  Strain off all of the fat that’s rendered.  Then mix in the tomato sauce, corn, olives and taco seasoning.  Simmer on low, low heat while you make the topping.

Cornbread topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 egg
2 tab. canola oil
1 1/2 cups milk

Mix the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ones.  This will be thinner than regular cornbread batter.  Pour the meat mixture into a 9″ square pan and then drizzle the cornbread batter over the top.  Bake it all at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the cornbread is golden and the filling is bubbly around the edges.

sour cream
green onions
chunks of avocado
cortijo cheese
grated cheddar

Pick the garnishes you like best and pile them on your tamale pie when it’s steaming hot ready to eat on your plate.  It’s just good old fashioned good food.


Roasted Chicken with Rosemary and Olives

Here’s dinner a couple nights ago, just the two of us.  But it was so simple and with that garlicky sauce and those savory olives, I’m thinking it would be perfect to make for a big table of friends.  It roasts away on it’s own while you make the salad, warm the bread…

2 Chicken breasts, filleted into 4 pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. thyme, chopped
1 tsp. rosemary, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
a small pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
4 cloves mince garlic
2 slices of bacon, cut to small bits
1 cup dry white wine
24 cured black olives
1 tab. cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a bowl toss the chicken filets with the oil, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, pepper flakes and garlic.  Arrange chicken in a baking dish sprayed with Pam.  Sprinkle the uncooked bacon over the chicken.  Roast in the oven until the chicken begins to brown (about 20 minutes).  Then pour over the wine and bake 20 minutes more.  Throw in the olives for the last 5 minutes or so.  Remove the chicken to a platter and cover to keep warm.  Pour the sauce from the baking dish into a pot and bring to a boil on the stove.  Shake the cornstarch in a little container with 1/2 cup water until it is all mixed and then stir it into the sauce until it thickens (about 2 minutes).  Serve the chicken over a bed or brown rice or couscous or roasted potatoes and top with the sauce.

I made this with chicken breasts this time.  I think next time I’ll try thighs and just cook it a bit longer.  The red pepper flakes made it good and spicy so be careful not to over do them.  Hope you enjoy this too!