Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad

Yesterday, I was hungry. (Surprise!) At approximately the same time, I found out that while my kitchen is fully stocked to make any kind of cake or cookie imaginable, it is sorely lacking in the “real food” department.

In desperation, I turned to an old, familiar friend: pasta. Before college, pasta played a pretty significant role in my life, especially on random school days off. I would sleep until 1 or 2 pm, stumble out into the kitchen, peruse my food options, and then, without fail, make some pasta. My favorite dish (no judgment) was rotini under cream of chicken soup, with shredded sharp cheddar cheese melted on top.

Somewhere along the way, I started to love pasta salad – usually with tri-colored rotini, olives, ham, you know, the classic. Yesterday, though, when the pasta salad craving hit (hard), I had zero of the above ingredients. No rotini. No olives. No ham.

Thus, I improvised. And while this is called kitchen sink pasta salad, it should really probably be called “refrigerator” pasta salad . . . because everything from my refrigerator went right into the bowl. I was feeling way too lazy to search out herbs to make a real dressing, so I just put in rice vinegar, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. It. was. delicious.

So, if you want some pasta salad and don’t have any of the “classic” ingredients or even any dried herbs for dressing, have no fear. Pasta salad is super adaptable. Just take any kind of pasta you have, all the veggies/meat in your fridge, and bam! Perfect pasta salad. I’ve posted two recipes below – one for the specific pasta I made, and a general recipe with proportions for any ingredients you want to use. Happy Fridge Cleanout Friday! Continue reading

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Lightened Up Mac & Cheese Bites

My first experiences with macaroni & cheese took place at the Ryan’s Buffet in Wichita, Kansas. Although this haven of all-you-can-eat steak is now closed down (eliciting great distress from my dad), I still remember my plan of attack at the buffet spread: First, a spoonful of mac & cheese – with the baked cheese crust on top.

Next, a visit to the mashed potatoes diagonally across from the mac & cheese. I would put a dollop of mashed potatoes on my plate, then – most importantly – brown gravy on top of both the potatoes and the mac & cheese. Thus, it was of utmost importance to visit the mac & cheese pan before sojourning to the mashed potatoes. Let’s not even talk about what happened if all the baked cheese crust had already been taken from the mac & cheese pan. Sob city.

My mac & cheese passions fluctuated over the next decade or so (gah how old am I??). The summer before high school, when I was exhausted and absolutely ravenous from the full days of summer P.E. class (ughhhh), I actually melted sour cream with cheese, then poured it over pasta. Never. again. In college, though, I was more a fan of Kraft Easy Mac Cups. Now those, those I could talk about for days. Three and a half minutes to cheesy pasta heaven.

Recently, I’ve been craving mac & cheese again. This craving happened to coincide with my hosting a (small) Halloween party this past weekend. Basically, it was an excuse for me to make a lot of food, eat, and decorate…which are three of my favorite activities in the entire world. Though, really, I can’t take credit for the decorations. My best friend Hannah (who I’ve known since basically the womb) visited me this past weekend (yayyy!), and worked some serious crepe paper magic.

In terms of food, though, I really wanted to make mac & cheese. I mean, who doesn’t like mounds of cheese heaped on pasta (AmIright? Crayola even named a crayon after it!). But, I wanted an option that didn’t require all sorts of fork/plate/mouth/napkin/messy shenanigans. So when I saw this recipe for mac & cheese bites – baked in a cupcake tin!!! – I knew I’d found a winner. Buttt. Since I also wanted a recipe that I could eat at least five of and not feel guilty about, I looked around for a “healthy” mac & cheese option as well.

These mac & cheese bites are a product of both of these recipes, plus some of my craziness/perpetual messing around with recipes. I also baked them in a mini cupcake tin to perfectly fit in the palm of your hand! But I do need to highlight one thing: Greek yogurt, people. Say it with me: GREEK YOGURT! I’ve used it before to substitute for butter in baking, and man oh man. Who knew it was so perfect in mac & cheese as well? Now you know. No excuses.

So, tell me, am I a crazy person? Or do you, too, go through mac & cheese phases/cravings/recipes galore? Hit me up with your mac & cheese recipes!

P.S. I now have a twitter – @3PastriesaDay. Follow me for delicious blog updates and drool-worthy pics!

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