Strawberry-Spinach Penne Pasta Salad 

Strawberry Spinach Pasta salad 1

This pretty salad is cool and tangy-sweet, and the perfect side to your grilled chicken or fish. I like to use Marzetti’s Simply Dressed Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing, but you can choose your favorite brand or make it from scratch if you prefer. Double the recipe if you need additional servings.

Strawberry-Spinach Penne Pasta Salad 

with Strawberry Poppyseed Vinaigrette

Serves 4

5 ounces penne pasta

1 cup packed fresh baby spinach leaves

1 generous cup sliced strawberries

1 cup pineapple chunks

1/4 feta crumbled feta cheese

Strawberry Poppyseed Vinaigrette

Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and cool slightly. Transfer to a large bowl and add in spinach, strawberries and pineapple. Toss to combine. Add about 3 ounces of the vinaigrette according to your taste preference. Sprinkle with feta and give it a toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, Cover and chill at least one hour before serving.

Strawberry Spinach Pasta Salad2

Potato Salad

potato salad 2

If there is one dish a southern girl needs in her repertoire, it’s potato salad. It’s just a must have; right up there with cornbread dressing and pecan pie. Growing up in a small southern town in the 60’s and 70’s, potato salad was always homemade. Why, that would be a sin to buy it from a deli, and honestly, I don’t believe delicatessens existed in Fairhope, Alabama back in those days. It’s a staple at picnics, barbecues and church luncheons. And when you move up north with that potato salad recipe, why you become the hit at every summer party. It will be that one dish everyone wants to you bring to pass. And they just can’t believe you actually made that potato salad. Why would you go to all that trouble when you are surrounded by delis just full of potato salad? And then they taste it and wish they had that recipe, because, well, deli potato salad just doesn’t measure up – and never will for this southern girl.

Now, southern potato salad is not an exact science. I’ve never actually written down a recipe until now. It’s one of those things that’s just in your head. You tweak it as you go; add a little more of this and that, until it tastes just right.  But since I wanted to share this phenomenon with you all, I mean, with y’all,  I just had to take the time to measure and take notes. Because after all, it is just more fun to share.  Now say good bye to that nasty deli salad and get a taste of the real thing. Enjoy!

Potato Salad

Serves 8-10


8-9 medium yukon gold potatoes

3/4 cup diced celery

3/4 cup diced white or sweet onion

3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

1 1/4 cup mayonaise

1/4 cup yellow mustard

1 teaspoon Dill

Kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper



Try to choose potatoes that are equal in size so they cook evenly. Scrub potatoes well. Add potatoes to a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Potatoes should be barely tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove the pan from heat, leave covered and let potatoes continue to cook in the hot water for another 10 minutes. Test again for doneness and remove from pot when tender. The smaller potatoes will cook faster, so remove those that are tender and leave the larger potatoes for another 5 minutes or until done. Let potatoes cool until warm and easier to handle. (The potatoes will absorb the mayo and mustard better if warm).

Carefully peel potatoes; the skin on Yukons is thin, so you should be able to scrap it off easily. Cut into quarters, then slice into 1 inch pieces. In a large mixing bowl, add potatoes, celery, onion and eggs. Carefully fold to combine. Add mayo and mustard and and stir until mixed well. If not moist enough to your liking, add more mayo. Add dill weed, salt and pepper to taste. Move salad to a nice serving bowl, sprinkle with paprika, cover and chill for a couple of hours before serving.


Creamy Summer Pasta Salad

Creamy Summer Pasta Salad blog

What are three of my favorite pastimes? Summertime, grilling time, pasta salad time. This creamy pasta salad is reminiscent of that old time classic macaroni salad, with the flavors kicked up. Great with ribs, chicken, burgers or fish.

Creamy Summer Pasta Salad

adapted from Barefeet in the Kitchen

Yield: 6 servings

For the salad you will need:

8 ounces Tubetti or any short tube pasta
1 cup broccoli florets cut into very small pieces
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup small diced red pepper
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup very thinly sliced green onion or chopped red onion

 For the Dressing you will need:

1/2 cup light real mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Penzeys Fox Point Seasoning (optional)

This recipe only yields 6 servings, so if you are feeding a big crowd you will want to double the recipe.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a 3 quart saucepan. Add Tubetti with one tablespoon kosher salt and cook as directed on the package.

Add broccoli to the pasta for the last 30 seconds of cooking. Remove from heat and drain in a colander.  Rinse well with cold water to stop the broccoli from cooking.

To a large mixing bowl, add your dressing ingredients and whisk vigorously. Pour the cooked pasta and vegetables over the prepared dressing and toss well to combine. Adjust seasonings as desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Note: Fox Point Seasoning is a mixture of salt, dried shallots, chives, garlic onion and green peppercorns that adds delightful flavor to vegetables, poultry, fish and salads. If you don’t have a Penzeys store near you, you can find it at

Roasted Red Pepper Rotini Caesar

Spinach and rotini salad

Fast, fresh and delicious. The perfect summer salad for your Memorial Day celebration.

Roasted Red Pepper Rotini Caesar Salad
(recipe from Ronzoni Pasta)


1 12 oz. box Rotini pasta

1 (12 oz.) jar of roasted red peppers, sliced

4 cups of fresh baby spinach

1 cup of your favorite creamy Caesar dressing or creamy Peppercorn dressing

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground pepper

Kosher salt


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander.
In a large mixing bowl, toss rotini, dressing, red peppers and spinach until well combined.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Add parmesan before serving.

Shrimp with Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Shrimp and Bow Tie Pasta

We’ve had a relatively cool summer here in the Midwest this year, but today the heat is on with temperatures soaring into the 90’s. Warm temperatures are more than welcome after the winter we had, and on days like these, there is nothing better at mealtime than a cold pasta salad. This kicked-up shrimp salad is both spicy and refreshing and perfect for lunch or dinner on a hot summer day. Serve it with cold melon and a tall glass of ice tea for a true southern experience.

Shrimp with Bow Tie Pasta Salad

adapted from

Ingredients for the Salad:

  • 1/2 pound of dry farfelle (bow tie) pasta
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Vidalia, or other sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup of sliced celery
  • 3/4 cup of sliced black olives
  • 1 pound of  seasoned boiled shrimp  
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite Cajun or seafood seasoning to taste  (I used Old Bay)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt, or to taste.
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered.
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley. You can use dried parsley if you do not have fresh on hand.

Ingredients for the Dressing:

  • 2/3 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of spicy mustard
  • 1/4 cup of milk

If using frozen shrimp, thaw and boil according to Crab and Shrimp Boil package directions. (I used Zatarain’s) After cooking, drain and run under cold water to stop from cooking further. Peel cooled shrimp and if using jumbo shrimp, cut in half.

Following package directions, cook pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and add a splash of olive oil, tossing to coat and prevent sticking. Set aside to cool.  Prepare onion, bell pepper, tomatoes and celery.

When pasta has cooled, transfer to a large mixing bowl.  To the pasta, add the shrimp, chopped vegetables, parsley and black olives. Toss to combine. Add seasonings, taste and adjust if needed. 

Prepare the dressing. In a small mixing bowl or 2 cup sized measuring cup, add the mayonnaise, olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Whisk until well blended. Add in the milk and continue to whisk until smooth. Pour over the pasta and blend well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Basil Pesto Cavatappi with Broccoli and Peas

Pesto is a very versatile, healthy dressing/sauce that is wonderful on pizza, sandwiches, wraps, vegetables, and of course, pasta.  I love to make it fresh with basil from my garden, but since my plants just went in, I opted for the store bought version to make this dish. 

Basil Pesto Cavatappi

Basil Pesto Cavatappi with Broccoli and Peas

1/2 box (8 ounces) Cavatappi pasta.  (I use De Cecco #87)

4 ounces store bought or homemade Pesto

2 cups broccoli florets

1 cup frozen thawed petite green peas

1 5.3  ounce container plain greek yogurt

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan


Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside to cool. Do not rinse.

Prepare broccoli and tomatoes and finely grate cheese in a mini food processor.

In a large mixing bowl, combine pasta with pesto and yogurt. Add vegetables and toss. Add parmesan and toss again.

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.


Spring Mix with Fresh Fruit and Grilled Chicken

A cool, refreshing and healthy summer salad perfect on a hot day for lunch or as a light dinner and a great way to use up left over grilled chicken.

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Fruit Salad

Spring Mix with Fresh Fruit and Grilled Chicken

(makes 4 servings)

1- 5 ounce package Half and Half salad mix, which is 1/2 Spring Mix and 1/2 Baby Spinach

8 ounces sliced fresh strawberries

1/2 pint fresh blueberries

8 ounce container fresh or canned pineapple chunks, drained

8 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

2 large grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces

4 ounces gorgonzola, crumbled or any cheese you prefer in bite size cubes. (White cheddar, mozzarella, jack)

Raspberry Vinaigrette ( I used Ken’s Steakhouse LITE Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette)

Pecans or Walnuts (optional)

Divide greens among 4 large salad bowls or plates. Evenly distribute the chicken, fruit and cheese over greens and top with desired amount of vinaigrette. Sprinkle with a few nuts for an added crunch. Serve with warm focaccia bread.



Tortellini Salad with Asparagus


One of my favorite things about cooking and entertaining in the summer are the summer salads. There are so many to choose from and I want to try them all.  This salad is the perfect side for BBQ ribs or chicken and is substantial enough as a main course for lunch or dinner.

Tortellini Salad with Asparagus 

Adapted from Cook’s Country

Serves 8 to 10

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 shallot , minced

1 clove garlic, minced

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black  pepper

1/2 cup chopped basil leaves

1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed and sliced thin on the bias

2 (9-ounce) packages fresh cheese tortellini

1 pint grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, basil, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil and cook asparagus until tender, about 3 minutes.  Do not discard the boiling water. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the asparagus to the mixing bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.

Add the tortellini to the boiling water, and cook using the package instructions. Drain and toss with the asparagus and dressing. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes. Just before serving, add tomatoes and toss with the parmesan cheese.

Creamy Bow-Tie Salad

Creamy Bow-Tie Salad

For the first time in what seems forever, the temps hit the high 70’s here in Chicagoland. It’s just a spring teaser with a colder week on the way, so we’re soaking up all the warmth we can today and pulling out the grill for steaks and pairing them up with a summer pasta salad.

Summer pasta salads are wonderful because you can make them any way you want with whatever you have on hand and they go great with just about anything you grill or BBQ.

Creamy Bow-Tie Salad


1/2 pound bow-tie pasta (Farfalle)
1/2 large red bell pepper cut into bite size pieces
1 cup broccoli florets
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 large stalk celery halved lengthwise and sliced into bite size pieces
3/4 cup sharp white cheddar cubed
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
Fresh or dried dill
Salt and pepper
Ranch dressing


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander and set aside to cool. Toss a few times; do not rinse.
Cut up vegetables and cheese. Add cooled pasta and vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Start with about a 1/2 cup of the ranch dressing and toss well. Add dijon and more ranch dressing if needed until the pasta is well coated and a creamy consistency. Add a 1/2 teaspoon dill and add salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese and stir in. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour. Serve as a side or main dish.