Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Recipes: Pasta for National Noodle Month

March is National Noodle Month. I didn't know that until I looked it up. Did you? Oh well, no matter, it's a great reason for me to share some wonderful pasta recipes with you, both cold and hot!

I love pasta salad and just don't make it often enough. It makes a great lunch or even afternoon snack. You can pick at it from the fridge for days (if it lasts that long)!

Here are some wonderful cold and hot pasta recipes from Old Fashioned Living:

Pasta Salads

Cilantro Tomato Pasta Salad

1 cucumber
1 cup ripe red tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, fresh
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup dry small shell pasta, cooked and drained

Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to gently scrape away the seeds. Cut in half again lengthwise and dice the cucumber. Place cucumber, tomato, red onion, lime juice, cilantro, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl with pasta Toss gently. Transfer to a serving bowl; chill at least 15 minutes before serving.

Italian Rotini Salad

1/2 of a one pound package of Rotini Pasta
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup diced pepperoni
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 large green onions, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook Rotini according to directions, rinse and drain. Combine Rotini, mushrooms,pepperoni, cheese, and green onions. Blend oil, vinegar and spices. Toss dressing with salad. Serve immediately or chill. Makes 6-8 servings.

>> More like this Peppy Pasta Salads

Tuna Ranch Macaroni Salad

1 pound package of elbow macaroni
2 cans tuna in water, drained
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 8 ounce package shredded cheddar cheese (lowfat is okay)
1 16 ounce bottle of light ranch dressing

Cook macaroni according to directions, rinse and cool. Mix in the tuna, celery, onion, and cheese. Add the dressing and stir gently to mix.

>>More Pasta Salad Recipes

Pasta Meals

Tomato Basil Lasagna

1 box (10 ounces) no-cook lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained well
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the mozzarella, drained tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and 2/3 cups of the grated Parmesan. Set aside. Cook several noodles at a time, cooking for 2 minutes. Drain well. Coat the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish with olive oil. Line the bottom of the pan with noodles and cover with a layer of the mozzarella mixture. Repeat layers until all noodles and filling are used, ending with a layer of pasta. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and a light drizzle of olive oil. Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes, until bubbly and top is golden. Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

>> More recipes using basil

Pizza Casserole

1 pound rotelle pasta
2 cans pizza Sauce
package stick pepperoni (unsliced)
2 12-oz. pkgs. Shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 small can Mushrooms

Cook rotelle according to package directions. Drain. Dice the sticks of pepperoni. Mix mushrooms and pepperoni into the pasta. In large casserole dish or 13x19 pan place a layer of pizza sauce, a layer of pasta mixture, and a layer of cheese. Repeat until all ingredients are used up.Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serves 6

Spaghetti Casserole

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound hot Italian Sausage
1 medium diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 16-ounce can tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon basil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
6 ounces spaghetti
¼ cup melted butter
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 beaten eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown meat and drain well. Add onion and garlic; sauté until tender. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Cook spaghetti; drain. Mix in butter, Parmesan cheese and eggs with the spaghetti. Line a greased 10-inch pie plate or cake pan with spaghetti to form a crust. Spoon cottage cheese over crust. Top with meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 6-8.

>> Click here for other casseroles, with and without pasta

Bow Tie Pasta and Tomatoes

1 pound bow tie pasta, uncooked
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch dice; 4 cups.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed through press
1/2 tsp. salt
Grated Parmesan cheese

In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until firm to the bite, about 10-12 minutes. In large serving bowl, combine tomatoes, olive oil, basil, garlic and salt; set aside. Drain cooked pasta in colander; shake well. Add immediately to tomato mixture. Toss gently. Sprinkle with cheese.

Sage and Bean Pasta

8 ounces penne pasta
3/4 cups diced carrots
1 1/2 cups canned green beans, or fresh that have been cooked
2 tablespoon oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
3-4 sage leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as directed, adding carrots the last 5 minutes. Drain, and place in serving bowl to keep warm. Saute drained beans, garlic and sage in the olive oil. Cook until garlic is lightly colored and beans are hot. Add to pasta; season with salt and pepper and toss to mix. Makes 5 1/2 cups.

If that wasn't enough, here are even more pasta resources!

Annie's Pasta Recipes
Alicia's Pasta Recipes
Fabulous Foods Pasta Recipes
MomsMenu Pasta Recipes

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Frugal Cleaning

More and more people these days are looking for less expensive alternatives to everyday necessities. You can't stop cleaning your house because 409 and Windex don't fit into your budget. Instead, make some of your own cleaning solutions and supplies from items you have laying around the house. We are including these ideas for Thrifty Thursday hosted at Amanda's Cookin'.

You know the ones. Their too stained to give away to a clothing donation, but you can't bear to add it to the landfill. T-shirt make wonderful dusters. They are soft and won't scratch your wood furniture and they work great for cleaning mirrors and glass as well. Toss them in the washing machine when you are done to use them all over again!

Empty Milk Jugs
Believe it or not, these make great carry all containers. Cut off the top where the spout is but leave the handle in tact. Use it to carry your sponge, rag, cleaning products and other items. When cleaning the bathtub, empty out the jug and use it to rinse the tub. This does double duty by cleaning out your jug for you too!

Mis-matched Socks
These are perfect for dusting. Slip a sock onto your hand and simply wipe! These are great for little helpers too. Slip two mismatched socks on your child's hands and have them help you dust!

Old Towels
We have several different "categories" of towels in our house. There's of course the bath towel, then the hand towel, kitchen towel and after that they get demoted. Once they've outlived their life in one of the previous categories, they are moved down to cleaning towels. These are the tattered and torn towels that just don't look nice anymore. But just because they've lost their luster doesn't mean they've useful life is over! These tattered towels are perfect for cleaning the car and using as rags around the house.

Swiffer Imposter
I have a Swiffer Sweeper, I'll admit it. I love it! I don't love buying the pads though. If you use dryer sheets, instead of tossing that used dryer sheet from the laundry, attach it to your Swiffer for a quick floor dusting. We also use old rags, run under hot tap water and wrung out, then attached the Swiffer for quick mop jobs.

What supplies have you "created" instead of bought?

Next week I'll share homemade cleaner recipes! Meanwhile, check out these great uses for vinegar.

~ Amanda

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reader's Questions: Squirrel Problems

If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it. ~Mary Engelbreit

Every Wednesday I'll be answering reader's questions. If you have an additional tip on the topic please post them in the comments. We love reader's tips!

Squirrels are eating my house alive. Nothing I do seems to scare them. They run across my attic and have eaten holes in the side of my eaves so that they can run in and out. ~Elayne

When I lived in the city the squirrels were without mercy. They chewed holes in plastic tubs, tore up plants, ate vegetables from my small garden and caused so much damage. There are many things people recommend. None of them work ALL of the time, so it's a matter of trying different methods until one works for you.

Hot peppers and cayenne pepper are worth a try. You can melt petroleum wax or petroleum jelly with halved hot peppers, then cool it, and smear it where the squirrels are chewing. This may be a solution for parts of the house they are damaging. You can try sprinkling cayenne pepper down too. However if have cats or dogs you'll want to limit this to where they can't get to it.

Sheet metal, chicken wire or 1/4-inch wire hardware cloth can be used to cover areas they are getting into also. You should use this in the spot or spots they are getting into the attic through. Just an extra note: I used chicken wire over garden beds after planting bulbs with good success.

Moth balls placed where they are doing damage may help too, but again, you want to keep these away from kids and pets.

I need some help on how to keep squirrels away from my fruit trees.I have tried home remedies and those sacks they tie into the trees and nothing has worked. Last year I didn't get but one peach from 3 of my trees,the squirrels took them green even. I'd appreciate any help. ~Darlene

Moth balls hung in the trees in the spring before the trees start blooming may help. You'll need to replace them as the smell lessens. You can use knee high nylons tied at the top, or old nylons cutting the legs off to hold the moth balls. Hang them from the tree branches, but where they aren't touching the fruit. Make sure the moth balls are a good brand, and haven't been sitting on a shelf so long that the smell has weakened. The rain and air will weaken the odor, so replacing them will be important right up until you harvest the peaches.

Other than this you could try hanging pie plates and other noisy items in the tree, but I doubt this will deter an aggressive squirrel.

We have more tips on wildlife pests on OFL:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kitchen Tip Tuesday: Buying Fresh Fish

With the season of Lent in full swing, many people will be buying more fish and less meat for their family meals. However, just trusting that your grocery store has fresh fish isn't always the best practice. Fish is high in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, offers several vitamins and minerals, and is a valuable addition to your diet. Here are some tips for selecting and buying fish, then be sure to check out the links to recipes at the end:


Eyes: Should be clean, clear, full and bulging. Redness is not necessarily an indication that the fish is spoiled, eyes may have been bruised when the fish was caught, or during the packaging process. IF eyes are cloudy, fish has lost its freshness, don't buy it.

Gills: Should be reddish-pink or red, free from odor, slime and discoloration.

Scales: Should be slime-free, hold tightly to the skin and have a soft shine to them.

Flesh: Should not be separated from the bones. It should spring back when pressed with your finger and should be firm and elastic.

Odor: Should not have a strong "fishy" smell. Fresh fish will have a clean, fresh from the sea type smell.

The Market: If you walk into a fish market and it stinks, walk out. A quality fish market will carry only fresh fish and should not have an overbearing fishy smell.

How Much:
 When buying fish, figure about 1/3 - 1/2 lb. of fresh fish per serving. If you are serving a whole small fish, choose one weighing a pound for one serving.

Market Types

Whole or Round Fish: No preparation, other than placing on ice, you will need to clean, scale, remove entrails, etc. Be sure to note everything in the "observe" section above when selection whole fish.

Drawn or Dressed: This means the entrails have been removed for you as well as the scales, often times the head, tail and fins have been removed as well.

Sticks: These are fillets that have been cut into uniform pieces, not as common as it used to be.

Single Fillets: These are the most commonly seen in fish markets and grocery stores. Everything has been done for you, they are skinless, and often times almost boneless.

Steaks: These are usually cut from larger fish, and like the fillets, are ready to be cooked.


Grab It Last: Hit the fish section at the end of your shopping trip. It should be the last thing you put in your cart.

Grab It First: When unloading your groceries, the bag with your fish should be the first bag you take inside. Place it into the coldest part of your refrigerator, then carry on unloading the rest of your groceries.

Wrapping: Fresh fish should be wrapped in moisture-proof, air-tight material, or placed in a container and stored in the refrigerator right away. 

Freezing: if you intend to freeze your fish, it should be in moisture-vapor-proof freezer paper or container. If you are lucky enough to have a vacuum sealing system, that's perfect. 

Thawing: Once you have thawed the fish, do not refreeze it. Keep the fish in its packaging while thawing in the refrigerator. If you need to thaw it quickly, place the fish under cold running water.

Recipes and More:

Eating Light With Seafood - Brenda shares recipes for halibut, cod, snapper and other fish
Growing and Cooking With Fennel - Fennel is an excellent compliment to your fish recipes
Learning to Use Herbs and Spices - Several recipes and tips for using herbs with seafood
Grandma Dorothy's Fried Fish - Tried and True old fashioned recipe from the past
Seafood Recipes - From Annie's Recipes
Fish Recipes - From Alicia's Recipes
More Fish Recipes - From Fabulous Foods


~ Amanda

Monday, March 2, 2009

Garden Tips: Damping Off

With the first gleam of morning rays, the garden is a prism of a thousand hues refracted in tiny does of crystal dew, a dazzling quilt of millefleur colors covering the sleeping flower beds. ~Duane Michals

You've followed all the sowing instructions, waited patiently for your seeds to germinate, and then they fall over and die very quickly with no warning. This is often what people call "damping off", which means one of several fungi have infected the seeds or the seedlings and cause them to rot and die. The key to avoiding damping off is preventing the conditions that the fungi like and giving your seedlings the best chance at growth.

Follow the instructions on your seed packets exactly as to the depth you should plant the seeds. Sowing too deeply can cause problems, as can crowding the seeds together. It's important to give them enough room to grow. If you need to thin the seedlings after they germinate use a sharp pair of scissors to cut them off at the soil line instead of pulling them out.

You should follow the instructions on temperature for germination and group seeds together that need the same temperature. Some gardeners swear by placing a light coating of sand or vermiculite on top of the seed starting mix after sowing. Another thing to use is a finely ground sphagnum moss. The University of Minnesota recommends this:

"Sphagnum moss is sold in small bags in garden centers, and is not the same as the soil enhancer sold in bales. You will need to make a fine dust, so toss a handful of the moss into a blender, put the cover on, and hit puree. When the dust settles, tap it into a container for storage. After planting your seed trays, sprinkle the sphagnum over the soil surface, just enough to cover."

Even moisture, but NOT soggy conditions is also important. You don't want them to completely dry out, but you don't want to soak them either. I tend to gently drizzle water into the soil. Once the seeds germinate ALWAYS remove any top covering you
had on the container.

Another thing that is important for your seedlings is good air circulation. An oscillating fan placed near the seedlings JUST enough so they sway very slightly will be all you need. Do this for a couple of hours per day. A ceiling fan on low in the room will also work. Lastly, you can make a chamomile tea solution with 2 cups of boiling water to 1/4 cup of dried chamomile blossoms or use 4 teabags of straight chamomile tea. Cool the tea and place it in a spray bottle. This spray will be good for a week. Mist the soil and the seedlings lightly and the properties in the chamomile will help keep fungus at bay. I did this last year and it worked really well with my seedlings.

More on preventing damping off on OFL: