Monday, September 6, 2010

"What can I bring????" - fast & easy recipes.

This Labor Day I've been invited to two picnic/cookouts.  One near noon, with my children and grands, one early this evening with another big group.  The problem is that I have been going straight out all weekend. No time to cook, shop, etc.

Dessert is easy.  I count on my well worn copy of The Cake Doctor.  (Yes, I can bake some wonderful cakes from scratch. Just ask my children. I baked both of my daughter's wedding cakes. But that takes time and energy that I sometimes lack.  So I count on recipes from The Cake Doctor and folks think I have done it all from scratch.)  My big KitchenAid stand mixer will hold TWO batches of cake mix with all the add ins... so last night after I came home, two fancied up sheet cakes went in the oven.   A quick pineapple/coconut glaze, and dessert was ready.

This morning I needed two Salads... time for my trusty "Instant Calico Pasta"... A secret a friend who was a caterer in a past life shared.  The part that takes the longest is boiling the water.

Have on hand:
  • 1 Box Salad pasta: rotini, Bow Ties, your choice
  • 1 bag/package Frozen Mixed Italian Vegetables (The brand I buy has carrots, zucchini, Italian flat green beans, cauliflower, I forget what else.)
  • A amall bag of frozen mixed color sweet peppers and onions is nice to have, but not essential.
  • Some sort of liquid Salad dressing.  Could be French or Italian, but those are more equally recognized, and the goal is to have people think you slaved.  I like Store Brand "Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette" but a "Roasted Red Pepper with Parmesan" has worked well.  
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water as long as the box says.  Toss into your biggest drainer or colander.  Add the FROZEN vegetables to the scalding hot pasta and toss like mad.  The frozen veggies will cool the pasta; the steaming pasta will thaw and wilt the veggies, and temperature salad.  Toss with a generous amount of your chosen dressing (nothing with a mayonnaise base, the glory of this is that it can sit, safely, at room temperature on a buffet or picnic table for several hours.)

If you have time you can add whatever other goodies seem appropriate...  I halved some presliced turkey pepperoni, snipped some deli ham. If you have some sundried tomatoes, snip them and toss in.  Olives would be good if you are an olive person. (I'm not!)  The frozen slices of pepper were fairly long, so I snapped them in half or thirds before adding.  The zucchini slices were huge, so I halved them. (A big heavy butchers knife will cut frozen vegetables nicely.) Coarsely grated or finely diced cheese is a great addition...I didn't have any, and no time to dice some.

For two HUGE bowls (two parties, remember?) I used one box of small Rotini, one box of Farfalle (bowtie noodles), two packages of mixed vegetables, one package of frozen peppers, and a full 16 oz bottle of salad dressing. (Had used less, but the batch at the first party was a tad dryer than I would have chosen, so when I came home, added more dressing to the second bowl.)    Leftovers work well for lunch or dinner, although there are seldom any leftovers available.

And that's what I brought to the two Labor Day parties.


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