Pasta, Recipes, Sides

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

This is not your classic macaroni salad… and in my opinion, that’s okay. It’s even BETTER! This macaroni salad is sweet and creamy and has a nice, satisfying crunch to it. There’s fruit and vegetables and all sorts of yummy things! I know that sounds odd, but don’t turn away!

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad | thepajamachef.com

I’ve never made a “real” macaroni salad before because I don’t really like pickles or relish and it seems like every macaroni salad calls for that. I’m not going to buy a jar for just one recipe [but spices on the other hand…]! So when I saw this recipe, I was sold. I don’t really know what made the original recipe “Hawaiian” because to me, you need pineapple to make a recipe Hawaiian. [BTW I know that is SO NOT TRUE but that’s where my mind goes!] So I added some. Duh.

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad | thepajamachef.com

And I also added some mint for good measure. This addicting salad was just calling for some. Seriously. This is a great dish to make for summer picnics and BBQs, or just an ordinary dinner at home. Ben doesn’t even like mayo-based salads but he willingly ate [and enjoyed] several bowls of this. How’s that for rave reviews? Enjoy!

one year ago: Thai Tofu Ramen
two years ago: Strawberry Coconut Baked Oatmeal
three years ago: Margarita Cupcakes

Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

  • Servings: 8
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adapted from A Cozy Kitchen
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad | thepajamachef.com
Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup carrots, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook and drain macaroni to al dente according to package directions.

Stir together hot macaroni, mayo, carrots, celery, and vinegar. Combine sugar, pepper, and onion powder, add to macaroni, and stir well. Fold in pineapple and mint, then season with pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours to set, overnight if possible. Add a little more mayo before serving if desired. Enjoy!

Author: Sarah K. @ thepajamachef.com

Linked up with Weekend Potluck.

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Bars, Desserts, Recipes

Fudgy Fresh Mint Brownies

Every summer, I grow lots of herbs on my balcony. I can’t wait for the day I have a yard so I can have a garden! But until then, I’m content with my low-maintenance substitute. My choice of herbs varies from year to year, but this year I have Thai basil, Greek oregano, catnip, and peppermint growing happily on my balcony. I always grow mint but never really do much with it aside from making copious batches of mint water, mint iced tea, etc. Sometimes I make fruit salad with mint dressing or a vinaigrette with mint, but more often than not, my mint kind of goes to waste. Except for the smell. I just LOVE the smell of fresh mint. Don’t you?

Fudgy Fresh Mint Brownies | thepajamachef.com

One thing I’ve always wanted to do is make a chocolate dessert with fresh mint, and last weekend, I finally got around to it! These brownies are not overwhelmingly minty–nothing like those over the top, ooey gooey Andes Mint Brownies that are super popular. I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about! Those are good, but these are something extra special. There’s nothing artificial tasting here! Just fudgy, frosted cocoa brownies with a hint of mint. They’re refreshing and super tasty!

Fudgy Fresh Mint Brownies | thepajamachef.com

But enough about the mint… the brownies deserve some love too, right? I’ve tried quite a few homemade brownie recipes. They’ve either been too cakey, too dry, too complicated, too expensive [as in: half a pound of butter, half a pound of chocolate, etc. etc. etc.]. I don’t mind spending money on a recipe if it’s going to be good, but if it’s gonna flop…? Ugh, I might as well buy a box! But these… these brownies are perfect every time! I’ve made these fudgy cocoa brownies with frosting several times and always have been impressed with their chewy texture and consistency. Most people are shocked to hear that they’re just made with cocoa and not chocolate chips or bars… or a box! For the brownie AND the frosting. They’re just the best–and I know I’m not eating a bunch of chemicals! Win win! No one will be able to resist them!

Fudgy Fresh Mint Brownies | thepajamachef.com

For this batch of Fudgy Fresh Mint Brownies, I changed Jen’s base recipe just a tad to use coffee instead of milk in the frosting. I also added some coffee to the brownie batter to add some extra moisture since I threw in a bunch of fresh mint leaves. Speaking of the mint leaves… I chopped them up veryyy finely and baked ’em right in. You can hardly tell, unless you cut into one on the edges. If the thought of that bothers you, you could a) blend the batter with a blender or b) let the mint steep in the melted butter for awhile to infuse it, then drain it out through a fine sieve. I actually tried to do that second option, but made the mistake of also adding the sugar and found it was too thick to efficiently strain out. No matter your method, the end result is fabulous. I think these would make some pretty terrific brownie sundaes! Oh, and btw… these brownies are so fudgy and moist that they aren’t dried out, even a week later, if they’re kept tightly covered. I mean, they probably won’t last that long, but for the record it’s good to know! Enjoy! 🙂

Fudgy Fresh Mint Brownies | thepajamachef.com

Fudgy Fresh Mint Brownies

  • Servings: 12
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adapted from Yummy Healthy Easy

Ingredients:

for the brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, finely minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon strongly brewed coffee, optional
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

for the frosting

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon strongly brewed coffee [or milk]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 pan with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a saucepan set over low heat. Add sugar and mint and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Mix in eggs, vanilla, and coffee, then add in cocoa powder, flour, and baking powder. Spoon into prepared pan.

Bake for about 25 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool. Do not overbake!

Make frosting by stirring together butter, honey, coffee, and vanilla. Slowly whisk in cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Spread on brownies while they are still warm–I like to wait about 10 minutes so they aren’t super hot. Cool completely to set frosting, then cut into bars to serve.

Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Fettuccine with Pistachio-Mint Pesto + Summer Vegetables

I’ve tried so many non-basil pestos this summer. It has been absolutely great! Though I love love love this kale pesto, I think I have found a new favorite… and it’s really fun. This pesto is made from two of my favorite herbs and my favorite nut. Already sounds like a winner, huh?

Fettuccine with Pistachio-Mint Pesto + Summer Vegetables | thepajamachef.com

Mint, parsley, and pistachio. YUM! It’s pretty much the most awesome combination ever. Though I can’t take credit for it [Cooking Light wins here], I can take credit for the addition of some fun summer vegetables. Tossing tomatoes, zucchini, and red bell peppers in with a herby, nutty pesto make this dish SO filling and incredibly flavorful. Mint is an herb that I love to use in iced tea and the occasional fruit salad, but I loved how it worked in this fresh, savory pasta.

Fettuccine with Pistachio-Mint Pesto + Summer Vegetables | thepajamachef.com

Topping everything off with some asiago cheese is highly recommended too, but I won’t cry if you use Parmesan instead. Asiago is just my ultimate cheese pick though! Normally I have a 50/50 track record with “topping” dishes off with whatever suggestion a recipe makes, but it’s essential to this dish since the pesto doesn’t include cheese. I almost added some but decided not to once I gave it a taste. Totally unnecessary with all the fresh flavor in that pesto. Hope you try this pasta out before the summer’s up. I know I’ll be making it again soon!

one year ago… Peaches and Cream Pancakes
two years ago… Roasted Tomato Sauce

three years ago… Cran-Oat Muffins

Fettuccine with Pistachio-Mint Pesto + Summer Vegetables [adapted from Cooking Light]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, shelled dry-roast pistachios, plus 4 teaspoons for sprinkling [divided]
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 ounces dried fettuccine [or 9 ounces fresh fettuccine]
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced [about 1 cup]
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 ounce freshly shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

In a food processor, combine mint, parsley, 1/4 cup pistachios, salt, pepper, and garlic. Pulse several times to combine, then stream in 3 tablespoons olive oil, scraping the sides if necessary.

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add zucchini and peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes until soft. Add tomatoes and heat until pasta is ready.

When pasta is fully cooked, return to pot and toss with pesto. Add vegetables and toss again, then serve with cheese and pistachios.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings.

Linked up with: Tuesday Talent Show.

Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes

Creamy Shells and Yogurt

A few years ago, I made Avocado Soup. It was a cold, gazpacho-esque soup made with yogurt, avocados, and seasonings. Hardly any liquid and served cold, it has gone down in history as one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever served for dinner. Nowadays I would have revamped it as a dip or a sauce, but four years ago it just went in the trash. And with it, my desire to use yogurt as anything more than something to eat with granola or occasionally in baking.

Creamy Shells and Yogurt | thepajamachef.com

With that history of yogurt as a dinner ingredient, it came as a surprise to me when I saw this Creamy Shells and Yogurt recipe online and decided to make it. I know warm yogurt sounds weird, but hear me out. This is totally not what you think. Here, Greek yogurt makes a surprisingly delicious rich pasta sauce when combined with eggs and cheese.

Creamy Shells and Yogurt | thepajamachef.com

As the sauce comes together, it is almost reminiscent of a rich macaroni and cheese. It is truly one of those dishes that you just have to taste to truly understand.

Creamy Shells and Yogurt | thepajamachef.com

The eggs, cheese, and yogurt come together to make a tangy sauce that tastes rich while being actually pretty light, but the true star of the sauce are fresh herbs and lots of lemon zest. I used lemon thyme and mint for my herbs, but you could use whatever you have on hand. I think parsley, basil, oregano, or any of the usual suspects would work perfectly–but do try the minty lemon combo if you can. It is divine! For a little extra something-something I added some kale to the mix. You know how I love my kale!

Creamy Shells and Yogurt | thepajamachef.com

Everything about this dish screams summer, and even though I only made this pasta a couple weeks ago, I’m craving it so badly now and am wondering if I can justify dirtying up the {clean} kitchen at 10:30 pm just for a small bedtime snack. Of yogurt pasta. And this after making Pumpkin Soup for dinner and telling Ben how I just cannot WAIT for apple picking, apple cider, pumpkin chocolate chip mini muffins, and all the joys of fall [which do NOT include football, thankyouverymuch. That’s Ben’s department.]. I am so seasonally confused. I want it all, summer and fall. But most of all, I want a big bowl of Creamy Shells and Yogurt. It is totally a bright and cheery summer comfort food. I am sooo glad to have tried this pasta–hope you will too!

a year ago… Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread
two years ago… Chorizo and Potato Tacos
three years ago… Taco Casserole

Creamy Shells and Yogurt [adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces shell pasta
  • 8 ounces plain Greek yogurt [whole or 2%]
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped + more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon thyme, chopped
  • 3 green onions
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 ounce Mozzarella, shredded or cubed + more for serving
  • 1 large handful kale [~1.5 cups]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • salt

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil, then add shells and cook to al dente.

Meanwhile, whisk together yogurt, eggs, mint, lemon thyme, green onions, lemon zest, and Mozzarella. Wash kale, remove thick stems, and tear into small pieces.

When pasta is ready, drain and reserve ~ 1/2 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot and stir in kale. Then add 6 tablespoons water to yogurt sauce and whisk well to temper egg. Pour yogurt sauce over pasta and kale and stir vigorously to coat. Keep stirring until Mozzarella melts, then season to taste with peppers and salt as desired. Serve with additional mint and cheese as desired.

Time: 20 minutes.

Yield: 3-4 servings.

Linked up with: What’s Cookin’ Wednesday.

Beverages, Recipes

Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup

It’s finally here!! I am so excited… and here’s why!

The Jenna in question here is the writer of Jenna’s Everything Blog. She and her husband, Adam, live in Chicago and are expecting their first baby, Alice, quite soon. When Veronica of Veronica’s Cornucopia emailed me a few months ago to ask if I wanted to be part of a virtual baby shower for Jenna, I didn’t have to think twice!

I’ve been reading Jenna’s blog for quite some time… delighting in her tasty recipes [like these no-bake peanut butter cup bars that I blogged about last summer], eating up her awesome book reviews [she loves the Christy Miller books, which I adored growing up], loving her amazing photography skills [like these Chicago photos], and exploring all the other areas of the “everything” portion of her blog. Including the little fact that Jenna and her husband graduated from Indiana University, where I currently am a graduate student! Woohoo! Anyways, even though I’ve never met Jenna in real life, I am convinced that she and her husband will be awesome parents. They love the Lord and will raise their daughter well… and we are all excited to be able to honor her today!

For the occasion, I decided to make Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup. I normally don’t take the time to make “special drinks,” but showers are the perfect time to deviate from the norm.

Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup | thepajamachef.comThis Ginger-Mint Iced Tea is a simple, subtle, elegant drink that is a perfect compliment to any party, occasion, or plain ‘ole everyday refreshment. I made it by infusing a basic simple syrup with lots of fresh mint and ginger… a painless process that I can see myself doing time and time again to flavor my iced tea [or even lemonade] on a regular basis.

Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup | thepajamachef.comThe advantage to sweetening tea with syrup rather than straight-up sugar is that liquid dissolves more easily in liquid… who knew? It’s a breeze to stir this syrup into iced tea to your taste preference [I used 1/4 cup for a quart]. Speaking of preferences, I typically make iced tea with cold brew tea, but feel free to use whatever method you prefer. That’s the beauty of beverage recipes… they are super flexible and hard to mess up. Always a good thing, if you ask me. 🙂 And speaking of good things, don’t let this recipe be the only stop at the virtual baby shower. Be sure to check out the other recipes from Jenna’s other wonderful blog friends, posted below the recipe. 🙂 Enjoy!

Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup

  • Servings: 6-8 servings tea, ~ 1 1/3 cup simple syrup
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Ingredients:

  • 1 quart + 1 cup water, divided [filtered if your town’s tap water is as icky-tasting as mine is]
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped mint, packed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 large “family-size” cold brew iced tea bags [or the equivalent of regular tea bags if you prefer iced tea made some other way… I like cold brew iced tea cause it’s easy]

Directions:

In a small pot, combine 1 cup water, sugar, mint, and ginger over medium-high heat. Stir continually until sugar dissolves–about 4-5 minutes for me until sugar was really dissolved, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes.

While simple syrup is steeping, prepare iced tea. Combine 1 quart water and tea bags in a large pitcher [mine is probably ~1 1/4 quarts] and let steep for 8-10 minutes, or until tea is brewed to desired preference. Place in refrigerator to chill.

After syrup has steeped 20 minutes, pour syrup through a fine strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl. Refrigerate syrup, strainer and all [to catch any last lingering drops of syrup caught up in the mint and ginger].

After tea and syrup have chilled, stir in syrup to taste. I used a generous 1/4 cup and found that plenty sweet for me, but it was nowhere near Southern sweet tea so if that’s your thing, use more. Store extra syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Be sure to continue the virtual baby shower love for Jenna by checking out these wonderful posts too:
A Little Lunch (Eufaula, OK): Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice Scones
City Songbird (Greensboro, NC): Merry Christmas, Alice!
Eats Well With Others (New York, NY): Peanut Butter and Honey Ice Cream
Hunting for Bliss (Bozeman, MT): Garam Masala Deviled Eggs
Pinking Shears & Broccoli Spears (Newark, DE): Making Food Good For Your Baby
Sydney Shares (Eugene, OR): Baby BLTs 
That’s Some Good Cookin’ (Salt Lake City, UT): Cheesecake Cookie Bars
The Pajama Chef (Bloomington, IN): Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup
Two Dogs In The Kitchen (Sterling, MI): Spicy Asian Meatballs
Veronica’s Cornucopia (Wichita, KS): Raspberry Almond Fudge Cookies
Very Culinary (Sacramento, CA): Toasted Orzo and Chickpea Salad
Words on Wendhurst: A Gift For Jenna and Alice