Garden Fresh Pasta Salad

Garden Fresh Pasta

I haven’t always been a pasta lover.  

In times past I saw pasta only as a vehicle for a grey, pasty, congealed type of sauce with chunks of meat sprinkled in and cooked to oblivion.

And then I discovered gardening.

Garden Fresh Pasta Suddenly I had access to fresh garden tomatoes, sweet white onions, and crisp delicious peppers in every color of the rainbow, My world of pasta changed in an instant.  

Garden Fresh Pasta is one of my favorites. It is a simple meal that can be thrown together quickly. Change up the spices, throw in a few herbs and the possibilities are endless. I love spicy, so when I don’t have any homemade chili oil ready to go, I substitute cayenne pepper instead.  I love the added benefit that cayenne pepper gives to boost my immune system. It’s even better when I’m using my own cayenne peppers I have dried from the garden.

Garden Fresh Pasta Another of the things I love about this salad is the juice from the tomato makes up part of the delicious dressing. So, I pick out the juiciest looking tomatoes I can find. Usually this means a vine ripened tomato like a Beef, or Celebrity variety. A Roma or any Italian variety is usually too dry for this salad. Also, don’t worry about the seeds from the tomatoes. You will want to scrape up every bit of tomato juice for the yummy dressing to cover your pasta and you wont even notice the seeds.

Orecchiette Pasta with garden fresh veggies, feta and toasted walnuts all add up to a wonderful mouthful of delicious fresh flavor. 

Garden Fresh Pasta Salad
  • 1- 2 tbsp chili infused olive oil or substitute ½ tsp cayenne pepper with 1 -2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 links Italian sweet sausage
  • 1 lb package of Orecchiette (may substitute any shaped pasta)
  • 4 vine ripened garden fresh tomatoes chopped with liquid reserved
  • ½ cup chopped white onion
  • 1 cup chopped colorful peppers (whatever you have available)
  • ¼ cup chopped Walnuts
  • ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup chopped flat italian parsley
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
  • 1-2 tsps sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Lay walnuts on a baking sheet.
  3. Roast walnuts until they start to brown and smell toasted, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Cool.
Italian Sausage
  1. Heat saute pan to medium.
  2. Add 1 tbsp chili infused oil (or oil and cayenne pepper)and cook sausage until well browned on all sides and cooked completely through, adding additional oil as necessary.
  3. Remove from pan, cool and slice into ¼ inch rounds.
  1. Cook according to directions on package.
  2. Drain pasta in colander and rinse in cold water to stop cooking process.
  3. Pour into large bowl and place in refrigerator to chill while preparing vegetables.
  1. Place 1½ Tbsp olive oil in saute pan heated on Medium low.
  2. Add chopped basil and stir.
  3. Remove from heat after basil has wilted and turned bright green in color, about 1 minute.
  4. Cool.
Assembling your Salad
  1. Add tomatoes with their reserved liquid, peppers, onions, Italian sausage, olive oil basil mixture, parsley, garlic salt, salt, and freshly ground pepper to the chilled pasta and stir gently.
  2. Sprinkle with feta cheese and toasted walnuts.
  3. Serve immediately.
Great Tip
Prepare walnuts, Italian sausage, pasta and vegetables (with the exception of the tomatoes, because you want every dip of that juice for your dressing) earlier in the day. This way, your salad will be quick to throw together when you are ready to eat it.


Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This weekend I am heading to the mountains in Southern California for a blogging conference and a whole gamut of emotions is playing havoc with my mind…excitement, insecurity, fear; you name it. Mostly I feel inadequate.

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado The honest truth is, most days when wading into the blogging pond, I feel like a fish swimming upstream, struggling against the current, without the slightest clue of what I’m doing. I stress about whether I’m staying on task, paying enough attention to Search Engine Optimization, or where the perfect balance lies for pinning my posts on Pinterest. 

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado All the unknowns and unanswered questions can make my head spin, my heart beat faster, and leave me with an uncertainty of what to do next. My blogging thus far has been kinda like the analogy of the blind squirrel and the acorn, every once in a while I bring one home.

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado It was much different in my former career as an operating room nurse. After all, I had been in the nursing profession for 18 years. Here, I was well respected, knew my job inside and out, and on most days, didn’t suffer from any lack of self confidence whatsoever. 

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado I knew exactly what needed to be done and set about doing it…I was the one someone might come to looking for answers, not the other way around. I was good at what I did and I knew it, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took years of practice, learning and self discipline. I had to stretch myself to get over my fear of standing up to doctors when needed, and hone my skills of observation to give the very best care I could to my patients.

Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado

And so, I find it is time to stretch myself once again; re-learn how to be relaxed outside my comfort zone and acknowledge it is okay when I don’t  have all the answers. Most importantly, I need to continue putting one foot in front of the other and not get discouraged when the road gets rough. A step backwards now and again is not unusual. This is a journey, and one that I am fortunate and happy to be on. I have the privilege and opportunity to do what I love, and so I have already won! Therein lies my true success.

Today’s  recipe is all about cold and fresh.  Gazpacho is so deliciously complex with multiple flavors to tantalize the taste buds. Use only the freshest of ingredients and serve well chilled for best results. Recipe adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Jan Aaron & Georgine Sachs Salom.

4.0 from 1 reviews
Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp and Avocado
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • lemon juice from ½ lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 5 almonds, blanched
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp chili pepper oil
  • 3 Pounds ripe tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup green pepper, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large cucumber,peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups good quality tomato juice
  • ¼ cup good quality red wine vinegar
  • 2 large avocados, peeled and cut into large chunks
  1. Heat grill or broiler to 400 degrees (high heat).
  2. Place shrimp in plastic ziploc bag. add lemon juice, a few grinds of black pepper and a pinch or two of sea salt.
  3. Close bag and gently shake to allow shrimp to be well covered with marinade. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove shrimp from bag and place on skewers.
  5. Place shrimp on grill (or in broiler) for about 5 - 6 minutes, turning once about midway through cooking, until shrimp is bright pink in color. (do not overcook or shrimp may have a rubbery texture).
  6. When pink, remove shrimp from grill.Allow to cool for 5 minutes, remove from skewers. Cover and refrigerate.
  7. Meanwhile, place blanched almonds, garlic and chili oil in pestle (or on cutting board) and mash until ingredients becomes a paste.
  8. Place in the bottom of a medium sized earthenware or pottery bowl.
  9. Place tomatoes on broiler pan, and broil for 5 minutes or until tops of tomatoes begin to singe and split. Turn tomatoes and broil, doing the same as above to the other side.
  10. Remove tomatoes from broiler and allow to cool for several minutes.
  11. Peel tomatoes, and chop into large chunks, taking care not to crush the tomatoes and reserving juice from the tomato.
  12. Place all into bowl with almond and garlic paste.
  13. Add onions, peppers, cucumbers, olive oil, tomato juice and red wine vinegar.
  14. Stir gently until combined.
  15. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  16. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or for several hours to allow flavors to blend.
  17. Once soup has chilled and when ready to serve; ladle into large bowls and top with 3 or 4 large shrimp and chunks of avocado.
  18. Serve immediately.


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A Brand New Look

What’s so fascinating and frustrating and great about life is that you’re constantly starting over, all the time, and I love that. – Billy Crystal

You might have noticed it’s a little different around the website these days. I figured with all the changes going on in my life, why not add a little bit more frustration (no, actually a whole lot more frustration) and get it over with in one fell swoop! So in my typical “I need it now” fashion, I searched, I found, and I hit Apply. Presto…just like that a new look and feel with the click of a mouse. Okay this was only in my dreams (sigh), but it was a good dream while it lasted. Changing over has been a major pain in the you know what.

Spicy Southwestern Rice: Pure and Simple The change was a necessary evil and one I knew would have to be done sooner or later. When I first started out in the “Kingdom of Blog World” last August, I readily admit I had no idea what I was doing (you may attest to this statement when you peruse my earlier posts). I had vision, was eager to start and jumped in with both feet, although not sure of where I would land in the process. If you had asked me then what that might look like, my answer would be very different than what it is today. 

Spicy Southwestern Rice: Pure and Simple

And I’m okay with that. Not that it’s easy, as Billy Crystal is surely aware of, but it’s important. The previous blog theme had areas that didn’t function properly, was slow and unresponsive at times and needed more space to open it up for greater opportunities. I thought about waiting for the perfect moment to make a change; wait until all the stars aligned and Venus was in her proper orbit. Sadly, this would never have happened. If I continued to wait for the nebulous optimum conditions, opportunities would have gone wanting, frustrations would have mounted, and open spaces would have been harder and harder to find.

Kinda like life, huh?

Spicy Southwestern Rice: Pure and Simple

Spicy Southwestern Rice is a perfect accompaniment for all your South of the Border meals. Serve it up with Carne Asada Street Tacos, Black Beans made with a little Negro Modelo,  and a blended Sweet and Sour Margarita for a complete meal that will have you singing “Livin La Vida Loca” in no time flat!

Spicy Southwestern Rice 

Taming the Blue Box

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”-Virginia Woolf

I arrive home after a long 10 hour day of work and I am exhausted. It is all I can do to trudge my way up the stairs, drop whatever happens to be in my hands on the nearest surface, and flop down into my favorite chair. The last thing I want to do is to get back up again and make dinner.

Italian bread with garlic and parsley;A big bold rich Italian Tomato Sauce is not complete without a thick slice of crusty Italian Bread.  This is no mere suggestion, but a prerequisite at dinner tables everywhere.  How else is every drop of the flavorful sauce to be accounted for?

Some days I luck out. Tim will offer to cook dinner and I sing hallelujah, with a sigh of relief and don’t complain too much when out comes the blue box of macaroni and cheese.  I know it is not the healthiest, but exhaustion wins out and fast food has it’s day once again.

Taming the Blue Box - I arrive home after a long 10 hour day of work and I am exhausted. It is all I can do to trudge my way up the stairs, drop whatever happens to be in my hands on the nearest surface, and flop down into my favorite chair. The last thing I want to do is...

Fortunately this time of year my pantry is brimming full with color. Sauces, salsas, vegetables, jams and jellies are all lined up beautifully in rows.

Herbs, peppers, onions and garlic are dried, salted and mixed together in tasty concoctions. The Freezer holds cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, green beans, carrots and peppers all ready at a moments notice.

I am not sure who made the decision that a rich Italian sauce, brimming with pure food tomato flavor, tender melt in your mouth meatballs , fresh mushrooms and topped with parmesan cheese could only be placed atop spaghetti noodles. Fortunately, I didn't get the memo.  So my delicioso Italian Tomato Sauce with Meatballs is firmly fixed upon farfalle noodles. Pantry and freezer are stocked full, but if I don’t know how to put it all together, when exhaustion sets in, the blue box will be way too tempting. 

Chicken breasts seasoned to perfection, seared to seal in every ounce of juicy flavor. Paired with a savory blend of harvest grains which include Israeli style couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans and Red Quinoa.  Drizzled over all is a spicy, tart Tomatillo Verde Sauce.  Sweet Perfection.

Chicken, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes are a knockout combination, but the sauce is what makes all the difference.  Flavor assaults your senses from the moment that first forkful reaches your mouth and leaves you sheepishly looking around after the last bite, praying no one is watching so you can lick your plate clean.  Yep, it’s that good.

I have compiled a few quick and easy recipes (even Tim can master), to help tame the blue box syndrome. If you made my Italian Tomato Sauce, Tomatillo Verde Sauce, or Hot Pepper Sauce these recipes will put those sauces to good use. If not, you can use store bought. Keep in mind that salt content will most likely be higher in store bought sauces and cut down on the salt in the recipe accordingly.

Pasta With Italian Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

Chicken Tomatillo Verde and Harvest Grains

Chicken, Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes with Pasta

Italian Bread with Garlic and Parsley

This post shared with: Yesterfood: Treasure Box Tuesday