Mother’s Day Luncheon

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The older I get, the more that I realize that all of those times that Mama said: “don’t spend your money on me,” she meant it. She wanted then what she still wants, time spent together. Time is something we can never get back, and the older my mama gets, time becomes more precious to me.

In comparison to many families today, my mother’s family was a big one. She had six brothers and sisters.  Today, my mother and her sister are the only siblings that remain. I decided that my mama would like nothing better than a little family time for Mother’s Day. So on a recent visit, I invited my aunt and a couple of cousins to a luncheon at mama’s house.  I kept the menu simple with homemade chicken salad, pasta salad made with fresh vegetables and purchased Italian dressing, cucumber sandwiches, purchased cheese straws, and I bought a fruit tray, cut up and ready to eat and made a poppy seed vinaigrette dressing.  The table was elegantly set with mama’s best china and crystal and the memories we made are priceless.

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As you struggle to come up with a gift for mom this Sunday, keep in mind that time spent with you is something she will always treasure!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Simple Pasta Salad
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 2 c. cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¾ c. sliced black olives
  • sliced red onion
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • chopped bell pepper
  • 1 to 1½ c. Italian dressing
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Toss pasta, cherry tomatoes, olives, red onion, feta cheese, and bell pepper with Italian dressing.
  3. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
Notes
You may need to add a little more Italian dressing to salad just before serving.

 
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Fruit Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
 
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Ingredients
  • 4 cups fresh fruit
  • 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. poppy seeds
Instructions
  1. Wash and cut up fruit, set aside. In a small bowl whisk vinegar, oil, sugar and poppy seeds. Pour over fruit an gently toss. Serve immediately.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cucumber Sandwiches
 
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Ingredients
  • 12 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cucumber, peeled & seeds removed
  • 1 medium onion
  • dash salt
  • dash hot sauce
  • mayonnaise on bread, if desired
Instructions
  1. Grate cucumber and onion and squeeze dry. (I do this using a clean dish towel. Put in the center of a towel then roll towel and twist.) Set aside.
  2. Blend cream cheese with an electric mixer. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Store in refrigerator for 24 hours.
  3. If using mayonnaise, spread on desired bread. Top with cucumber spread and another slice of bread.

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Perfect Chicken Salad
 
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Ingredients
  • 4 lg. chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 1 to 2 c. mayonnaise, depending on how you like it
  • ½ to ¾ c. chopped celery
  • 1 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • ¼ tsp. poppy seeds
  • ½ tsp. salt
Instructions
  1. Mix shredded chicken, mayonnaise, celery, mustard, poppy seeds, and salt in a large bowl and refrigerate.

 

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Asian Beef and Broccoli Pasta Salad

Asian Beef and Broccoli Pasta Salad

 

 

I have been on an Asian kick lately. We had little Asian Sliders for dinner over the weekend. They were amazing, but my family was starving, and I didn’t get pictures. It’s a constant struggle of a blogger and their family. Getting the picture before anyone can touch the plate! That just means the sliders will be on the menu again very soon, and that’s a good thing!

This Asian pasta salad is another new recipe. I found the recipe in an old Fresh Market cookbook that I bought on a recent thrift store/treasure hunt. I’m not much of a yard sale person, but I do love finding a good thrift store! It seems that Savannah has started to enjoy it too so it’s possible that we could get into some trouble together!

Okay, I got a little off subject…back to the salad. This pasta salad is full of fresh, crisp vegetables and with the addition of beef, this salad is a complete meal! You could leave out the meat completely if you prefer or substitute shrimp, chicken, or even pork for the beef.

This salad is a simple, prepare ahead meal, that would be perfect for a weeknight dinner. Toss the pasta mix with the dressing just before serving. If you are feeding less than about ten people, toss a portion of the pasta mix with a portion of the dressing because you don’t want to store the mixed salad for very long. The vegetables will become limp, and you will loose the fresh, clean taste of the salad.

 

Asian Beef and Broccoli Pasta Salad
 
Author:
Serves: 10-12
 
Ingredients
  • Soy Ginger Dressing:
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • ⅛ c. sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, sliced thin
  • ¼ c. vegetable oil
  • Pasta Salad:
  • 2 lb. sirloin steak
  • 1 (10-oz.) bottle teriyaki sauce or marinade
  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 1 (16-oz.) pkg. rotini pasta
  • ½ lb. broccoli florets
  • 3 medium carrots, julienned
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 c. bean sprouts
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ c. cilantro, chopped
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic cloves, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, ginger, sweet chili sauce, mayonnaise, and lemongrass. Blend into a paste. With the food processor running, drizzle the vegetable oil in a slow stream until well mixed and vegetable oil has been incorporated. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. Marinate sirloin steaks in teriyaki sauce or marinade for 6 hours or overnight. Preheat grill to medium-high and oil the grates. Grill 5 to 6 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Remove and leg stand 5 minutes, the slice into think 2-inch strips and set aside.
  3. In a large pot, bring 1 gallon water and 2 tbsp. salt to a boil over high heat; add pasta and boil according to package directions, stirring frequently. Add broccoli during the last minute of cooking and remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.
  4. In a large serving bowl, combine pasta and broccoli with beef, carrots, red pepper, bean sprouts, green onions, and cilantro; chill until ready to serve.
  5. To serve, pour Soy Ginger Dressing over salad and toss to evenly coat.

 

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Confetti Pasta Salad

Confetti-Pasta-Salad

 

While writing this article, I decided to do a little research about Memorial Day.  Honestly, I am not sure I’ve ever understood the difference in Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day until now.  Memorial Day is among our oldest holidays, originally conceived in the aftermath of the Civil War.  It is a time to remember and honor those who have fallen in service to our country.    As it turns out there is quite a bit of controversy about Memorial Day.  More than I care to get into but much can be found on the internet, if you are interested.  If I could make two suggestions, the first would be to read this article by a former Navy pilot  http://observer.com/2015/05/its-perfectly-ok-to-say-happy-memorial-day/  and watch this video on the lone Marine  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTPmcp-ZGWQ.

With Memorial Day just around the corner, many will be gathering with friends and family. Anything that can be cooked on a grill will most likely be prepared that day. Many ribs, hamburgers, and hot dogs will be cooked. Potato salad and homemade ice cream will be in abundance!

Greg is typically in charge of the grilling on big cookout days at the Melton house while I am in charge of all other food, including appetizers, sides, and desserts. Doesn’t seem quite fair does it? It’s a good thing I enjoy being in the kitchen!

I am always looking for a new dish or two to throw into the mix.  This year I plan to serve this delicious Vera Stewart recipe for Confetti Pasta Salad. Made with fresh spinach and dill, grape tomatoes, and lemon juice the flavor is light and will pair great with the other dishes you will serve this Memorial Day.  Considering that many dishes will have to be prepared, the ease of this recipe is also quite appealing.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Confetti Pasta Salad
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • For the Salad:
  • 8-oz. uncooked small to medium shell pasta
  • 2 c. coarsely chopped fresh spinach
  • ¼ c. finely chopped onions
  • 1 (4-oz.) pkg. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • For the Vinaigrette:
  • ¼ c. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 lg. garlic clove, pressed
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  2. For the vinaigrette, combine lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Slowly whisk in oil until combined.
  3. Toss pasta with tomatoes and remaining ingredients, including vinaigrette. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 8 hours.

 

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Penne with Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and the Ramblings of a Sad Mother

 

 

 

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After shopping practically all summer then packing for weeks, we moved our baby girl into her dorm last Friday.  She started her freshman year of college on Monday.  She has worked hard and she is ready for this change.  That does not change the fact that she has grown up way too fast and I do not think I am ready.  Where did the time go?  Why wasn’t I warned about “mother guilt”?

My son started his third year of college, but he is living at home.  I was not prepared for these desperate feelings.  Maybe guilt isn’t the appropriate word here.  Maybe I should say sadness because time has gone so fast.  When the kids were growing up I spent all of my time with them.  I quit work to be a stay-at-home mother.  Both my mom, and Greg’s mom, stayed home when we were growing up and after examining the budget and daycare cost we felt that we could do it.  It was not always easy and I have had occasional odd jobs, but nothing that has taken me away from the house when they were home.  They were my life!  I have not made a decision in 21 years when it did not cross my mind how it would affect them.  Even my own medical exams and dental appointments were made during the school year and during the school day.  Every recipe I have made for 21 years has been a recipe that I thought they would like.  Every family vacation has been to a place they would enjoy the most.  When they were younger I spent every summer planning activities they would enjoy…crafts, putt-putt, painting pottery.  What am I to do now?  The day before we moved her out I sobbed all day.  I kept thinking that maybe I could have been a better mother.  Maybe I should have read a few more bedtime stories, rocked my babies one last time, tucked them in a few more times.  I was overcome with guilt/sadness.  Then I realized as much as motherhood is a blessing I have had these feelings on different levels throughout their lives.

Maybe these feelings are normal…maybe they are not.  However, I think mothers have always felt guilt/sadness about something.  It starts when you are pregnant.  You are comparing yourself to other mothers…natural birth vs. epidural, then breastfeeding vs. bottle, natural homemade baby food vs. jarred, stay at home mother or mother with a full-time job in an office and at home, your baby started talking before my baby (what have I done wrong), your baby started walking before my baby (what’s wrong with my baby), and the list changes as they grow but it still goes on and on.

At this point, I’ve done what I have done.  I pray it was enough.  I hope my kids are not on some talk show one day blaming their mother for everything!

I have great memories of growing up.  Times were different then.  My mom did not  plan activities for us, we didn’t go to the movies (although I do remember seeing Jungle Book at the theater), or have play dates, no pottery classes, or summer camps.  However, my childhood was perfect.  I played outside everyday with my brother and cousins.  We rode bikes, climbed trees, made mud pies, and recorded ourselves singing on an old cassette recorder.  I never had a video game.  It was enough though.  It was more than enough.  They loved me and gave me a great childhood.

Maybe that is it.  Love…maybe that’s all they need.  Lord knows I have done that.  Yes, they have made me mad occasionally but I have never stopped loving them.  It has been a blessing to have these last 21 years with my children.  I am so thankful that God chose me to be their mother.  They are wonderful kids and they have made my world complete.  How easy will it be to figure out this next phase of mothering?  Changing diapers was easy, the adolescent years were a little more challenging, adult mother/child relationship…I’m just beginning to figure out.

If you have an opinion on this I would love to hear it.  Maybe it can help me in this adjustment period.  For now, I know you didn’t visit NJSD to read the ramblings of a sad mother so I’ll tell you about this recipe…

On Savannah’s last night at home she requested her “last meal”.  A pasta dish that I cooked for the kids often in Florida, but had not prepared since we moved to Georgia, five years ago.  Pasta is not high on Greg’s list of favorites.  Over the years, if he was traveling for work, I would cook a pasta dish or order pizza.  The kids and I would throw a blanket on the living room floor, then sit on the floor for dinner and a movie.

I’m not sure why I’ve taken a five-year break because this is an incredible dish!  It is from an old Giada De Laurentiis cookbook.  The original recipe calls for two (8-oz.) packages of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, to be added with the garlic.  My kids have never cared for artichokes so I leave them out.  Also, you may notice that there are no chunks of sun-dried tomato in my photograph. If you don’t like to bite into a sun-dried tomato, which a few in my family do not, you can find sun-dried tomatoes made with crushed tomatoes.  The brand that I found near me was “Bella Sun Luci“.  It is an 8.5-oz. jar labeled Bruschetta with Italian Basil Sun-Dried Tomato and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  The extra basil will be fine in this recipe.

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Penne with Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
 
Author:
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • ¾ c. drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tbsp. of oil reserved
  • 1 lb. Italian hot sausages, casings removed
  • 2 lg. garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1¾ c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ c. dry white wine
  • salt
  • 12-oz. penne pasta
  • ½ c. freshly shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • ⅓ c. chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 8-oz. fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a large, heavy frying pan over a medium-high flame. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces with a fork, about 8 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and sauté over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces slightly, about 8 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse). Add the pasta, sausage, ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese, the basil, and parsley to the wine mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in mozzarella, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with additional Parmesan.

 

 

 

 

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Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

I would like to start my post today by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with everyone up North affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Watching the coverage on TV has stirred up many emotions and memories of the first time a hurricane actually impacted my life.  We moved to Pensacola in May of 2004 and Hurricane Ivan hit in September.  I know that actually living through a disaster is nothing like watching it on television.  My heart goes out to you.
Now, on a lighter note…if you’re like me, you think of pumpkin as an ingredient in dishes such as pies, bars, or breads.  Anything sweet, but usually not savory dishes.  Initially, I really didn’t think this dish was something I would like.  Then, I  remembered seeing a sauce at Williams-Sonoma over the weekend…Pumpkin Parmesan Pasta Sauce.  I love anything Williams-Sonoma so I took a second look at the recipe.
This is my take of a recipe I found on Better Homes and Gardens website.  After reading reviews of their recipe I came up with this.  It is quite delicious!  In fact, I liked it before I baked it too.  So, serving it simply as a pasta sauce would be great.

 

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. dried penne or elbow pasta
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 6½ oz. goat Gouda cheese, grated
  • 3 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp. snipped fresh sage
  • 2-3 tbsp. panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Sage leaves, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, set aside.
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain cooked pasta, then return to pot.
  3. For cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add whipping cream and milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in cheese, pumpkin, and snipped sage until cheese is melted. Stir cheese sauce into pasta to coat. Transfer macaroni and cheese to prepared dish.
  4. In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, oil and Parmesan; sprinkle over pasta. If desired, top with a few sage leaves. Bake, uncovered, for 15 - 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
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