Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad for a Picnic!

Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad

Louise of Months of Edible Celebrations is hosting a virtual picnic! It’s a spin-off of the childhood favorite: the picnic game. Each blogger picks a letter and a corresponding dish to bring to the picnic.


I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing:

A: Almond Joy Pie by Marjie @ Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet 


B: Baked Beans by Kasha @ Grub and Stuff 

baked beans

C: Chocolate Cake by Janet @ Dying for Chocolate.

Chocolate Cake

D: Dutch Funnel Cake by Julie @ The Sporadic Cook

Dutch funnel cake

E: Easy Blender Chicken Pie by Juliana of Simple Recipes.

Easy Chicken Blender Pie

F: Five Bean Salad by Barbara @ Moveable Feasts 

5 Bean Salad for a picnic

G: Granola Bars from Stephanie of Fun Foods on a Budget.

Granola Bars

H: Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad, that’s me!

A picnic wouldn’t be complete without a pasta salad. This one is packed with over a cup of fresh herbs, two kinds of cheese, olives, red onion, sweet pickled cherry peppers, and grape tomatoes. I used fresh herbs right from my garden including two kinds of basil; regular and ‘Aussie’ sweet, lemon thyme and parsley. The cheeses include little cubed bites of Swiss and fresh grated Parmesan. I used a hot garlic vinaigrette to infuse flavor into the dressing, allowing it to cool before tossing with the salad. If possible make a day ahead to allow the flavors to develop.

The salad is fully customizable by using your own mix of herbs, your choice of cheese, olives and pasta shapes. A medium sized pasta works best like rotini, bow-ties or penne.

Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad

Herb & Cheese Pasta Salad
(by Reeni, Vinaigrette adapted from Bobby Flay)

8 ounces pasta (like Barila Whole-grain Medium Shells)
6-8 ounces Swiss Cheese, 1/4-inch cubes
1 – 6 ounce can Black Olives, halved
1 cup Grape Tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Pickled Sweet Cherry Peppers or Fresh Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Fresh Basil, cut into a chiffonade or chopped
1/2 cup Fresh Parsley, cut into a chiffonade or chopped
1/4 cup Fresh Sweet Aussie Basil, chopped
1/3 cup Fresh Lemon Thyme
1/2 cup Fresh Grated Parmesan
Sea Salt and Fresh Black Pepper, to taste

For Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup Olive Oil
4 large cloves Garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar or Lemon Juice
Sea Salt and Fresh Black Pepper

1. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

2. Meanwhile make the vinaigrette. In a small skillet or saute pan heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute until the garlic becomes fragrant and just begins to turn color at the edges. Remove from heat, whisk in vinegar. Allow to cool. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. In a large mixing bowl toss the Swiss cheese, olives, tomatoes, red onion, peppers and pasta together.

4. Add the herbs, Parmesan and cool vinaigrette. Toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until serving. Best made a day ahead of time.

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Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad

There’s still time to get in on the Picnic. Visit Louise to find out what letters are available. Hope to see you there!

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Caesar Salad with Parmesan Chicken

Caesar Salad with Parmesan Chicken

I call this recipe ‘mock’ Caesar salad because it doesn’t have the classic ingredients that Caesar dressing is known for. I use mayonnaise in place of egg yolks and Worcestershire or Fish sauce in place of anchovies. I’m not ‘really’ replacing the anchovies, just using a different form since fish sauce is made from them. If you don’t like/don’t have fish sauce Worcestershire will work too. It also has anchovies in it. I also like to add a little Dijon mustard for flavor. Through lots of (happy) trials and errors I finally came up with a recipe I’m happy with. It’s every bit as rich and satisfying as the genuine recipe.

I go through periods of time where I am absolutely obsessed with Caesar salad! I’ll eat them night and day for a week straight. During those times it’s nice to have this already to go in the fridge. Each batch makes 4-5 dinner sized salads depending on how much dressing and greens you use and will keep for a few days stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Just give it a serious shaking before using.

To turn Caesar salads into a dinner salad I like to add chicken. Juicy, tender, oven-baked Parmesan Chicken to be precise. It’s excellent straight out of the oven, still hot, thinly sliced or rough chopped and piled on top. The leftovers are just as good cold for lunch the next day.

Caesar Salad with Parmesan Chicken

Mock Caesar Salad Dressing
(by Reeni)
1 tablespoon Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire or Fish Sauce
2 Garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for shaving/sprinkling over top
Sea/Kosher salt and fresh Pepper
Garlic Croutons
By Hand:
1. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the Mayonnaise, Lemon Juice, Worcestershire, Garlic, and Mustard until well combined.
2. Stream in the oil while whisking and continue whisking for a minute or two.
3. Stir in Parmesan. Taste and adjust to suit your own taste by adding more Garlic, Lemon Juice, Worcestershire, or Mayonnaise for a creamier finish. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Toss with Romaine hearts, additional Parmesan, Croutons, and slices of Parmesan Chicken.
In a Food Processor:
1. To the bowl of a food processor add the Mayonnaise, Lemon Juice, Worcestershire, Garlic, and Mustard. Pulse until well creamy and well combined.
2. Stream in the oil while pulsing. Pulse until well emulsified.
3. Taste and adjust to your own tastes by adding more Lemon Juice, Worcestershire or Mayonnaise for a creamier finish.
4. Stir in Parmesan cheese, taste and season with salt and pepper.
5. Toss with Romaine hearts, additional Parmesan, croutons, and slices of Parmesan Chicken.

Caesar Salad with Parmesan Chicken

Oven-Baked Parmesan Chicken
(by Reeni)
1 and 1/2 pounds boneless Chicken Breast
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Cornflake Crumbs, Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs or Panko
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a 9×13-inch baking pan by lining it with foil and spraying it with non-stick spray.
2. Pound out the Chicken Breasts between two pieces of Saran Wrap using a meat mallet or a small skillet.
3. In a medium-sized shallow bowl beat the egg. In another shallow bowl mix the Bread Crumbs and Parmesan Cheese.
4. Dunk the Chicken Breasts one at a time into the egg and then into the bread crumbs covering all sides and patting the crumbs on
with your hands if necessary.
5. Place the Chicken Breasts in the prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes or until juices run clear and center is no longer pink.
Garlic Croutons
(by Reeni)

2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 – 2 teaspoons Olive Oil
a few slices of baguette or Italian bread, or a hard roll1. Butter both sides of the bread, and then cube as big or as little as you want.

2. To a small skillet add the olive oil, another pat of butter, the garlic and the crumbs.

3. Toast over medium-low heat turning until all sides are golden.

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Caesar Salad with Parmesan Chicken

Caesar Chicken Salad on FoodistaCaesar Chicken Salad

Chicken Souvlaki with Greek Salad and Tzatziki

Greek Souvlaki Platter

This is a recreation of my parents favorite Greek diner meal. It is the Chicken Souvlaki platter that is made up of tender, marinated chicken pieces nesteled inside soft, warm pita bread with a salad on the side. The salad is loaded with Feta cheese, red onion, tomato, cucumber and Kalamata olives. But what really makes is special according to them, is the house made dressing. My contribution to the dish is tzatziki, a sauce made with cucumber, dill, lemon and yogurt.

This is a meal of many sauces between the chicken marinade, the tzatziki and the dressing. I was a kitchen witch whipping up potions. My parents loved it and said it tasted just like the diners. Score one for me!

Greek Souvlaki Platter

Chicken Souvlaki ‘Platter’
(by Reeni)

1-2 pounds chicken breast
1/3 cup Olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Oregano
2 dried red chilies
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Metal or wooden skewers
Pita or flatbread

Pound the chicken with a mallet to tenderize and give them an even thickness. Trim away visible fat and tendons. Cut the chicken into strips crosswise about an inch wide. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together. Marinate in a large Ziploc bag or bowl in the refrigerator a couple of hours before cooking or the morning of. If using wooden skewers soak in water for a half hour or so before grilling. Skewer each piece twice lengthwise. Grill on all sides until cooked through. Serve on warm pita with tzatziki sauce and Greek dressing.

Greek Souvlaki Platter

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced small
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1 tablespoon fresh dill
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Drain your Greek yogurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel for a few hours before or overnight. Combine all the ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.

Greek Souvlaki Platter

Greek Salad

1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh-squeezed
1 tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
Romaine and mixed lettuce
Red onion
Olives, like Kalamata (or green or black if you don’t like them)
Crumbled Feta

In a food processor emulsify the first five ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the minced garlic. Serve over a salad with Romaine, chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumber, sliced red onion, Kalamata olives (or black or green), and crumbled feta. Also good drizzled over the chicken.

Printable Recipe

Greek Souvlaki Platter

Greek Salad on FoodistaGreek Salad

Blue Cheese, Cranberry and Pecan Salad with Grilled Chicken and Honey Mustard Dressing

Red, White & Bleu

This recipe is a recreation of one of my favorite salads from my favorite diner! It is packed with blue cheese, pecans, dried cranberries and topped with grilled chicken. The creamiest, most-delicious, homemade honey mustard you can imagine is drizzled over top.

The textures and different flavors in this salad make it so fun to eat. My taste buds are totally addicted to tart and sweet flavor pairs. I love dried cranberries! They take on a whole new life compared to fresh ones. They are sweeter, less tart and the contrast between them and the bite from the blue cheese is off the flavor charts. Soft, savory, sweet, smoky, salty, crunchy, chewy, creamy, crisp, tangy, tender and juicy; this salad has it all!

It is the most perfect warm weather dinner salad. You can throw the chicken on the grill and have the dressing and salad assembled in the time it takes to cook. And it is nothing short of sublime! Light yet filling and completely addicting!

100_6935 (Small)

The great thing about this salad is you can make it for one or for a crowd. You can adjust how big or how little you want the salad to be. That’s why I haven’t included measurements for the salad fixin’s. But be on the generous side. They really make the salad.

Red, White and Blue Grilled Chicken Salad
(by Reeni)

For the salad

Chicken breast, boneless, skinless
Romaine hearts, chopped
Dried Cranberries
Pecans or Walnuts
Blue Cheese, crumbled

For the dressing*

2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
3 tablespoons Honey
2 teaspoons Rice Vinegar
Salt and pepper
Mayonnaise (optional)

1. Pound out your chicken breasts between saran wrap using a mallet to your own desired thickness. Season well with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through.

2. Meanwhile toast the pecans or walnuts in a dry saute pan for about five to seven minutes on low tossing a few times.

3. In a food processor emulsify the mustard, honey and vinegar. Taste and adjust to your liking by adding more honey or more mustard. If too thick thin with a little more vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. For a creamy dressing add a teaspoon or two of mayonnaise. I save my empty honey bear bottles for storing my home-made dressings in. *For creamy honey-mustard in a pinch mix equal parts Ranch dressing and honey mustard.

4. Assemble your salad, start with the romaine and top with generous amounts of cranberries, walnuts and bleu cheese. Drizzle with honey-mustard and top with the grilled chicken.

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Red, White & Bleu Salad

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Strawberry Salad with Mozzarella Pesto Grilled Cheese

Mozzarella & Pesto Grilled Cheese with Strawberry Salad

The strawberries in the market were quite simply the most flawless, exquisite strawberries that I’ve ever seen in my life. Every single one was the deepest shade of juicy red, perfectly ripe without a bruise in sight and most were as big as the palm of my hand. Everyone was exclaiming over them. I knew I had to use them for something supremely divine. I give you this strawberry dressing.

It is so lovely I want to eat it with a spoon like a bowl of soup. It has that distinct flavor strawberries are famous for, a little sweet, a little tart with little pops of basil shining through here and there. The flavor only improves over time, like wine. Besides dressing my salads I’ve been dunking apple slices and strawberries right into it. The sweet apples play off the tartness in the dressing making for a sensational treat.

Rustic peasant bread makes the best grilled cheese. This one had the perfect amount of butter-fried crunchiness and melted, molten mozzarella oozing out the cracks speckled with the pumpkin-arugula pesto I made last week. This tasty sandwich is my creation for Tyler Florence Fridays. You know- that great group of foodies that I’m always raving about and trying to convince you to join. We heart Tyler’s recipes!

Mozzarella & Pesto Grilled Cheese

Strawberry and Basil Dressing
(by Reeni)

1 cup sliced strawberries
2/3 cup Canola oil
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh Basil, chopped
Sea Salt and Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Emulsify everything in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Keep refrigerated.

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Strawberry Salad

Smoked Mozzarella and Pesto Grilled Cheese
(adapted from Tyler Florence, Stirring the Pot, page 106)

2 slices Peasant Bread
Pesto sauce
3 ounces Mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, peeled

To assemble sandwiches smear one side of each slice of bread with Pesto sauce. Layer on the mozzarella and season with fresh cracked pepper. Put the top on. Melt half of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sandwich and butter the top side. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side until golden brown, crispy and cheese is melted. Remove from pan and rub the bread with the garlic clove.

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Toss together Romaine, apples, strawberries, and almonds. Drizzle some pink over top. Enjoy.
Strawberry Salad