One-Pan Four-Cheese Sun-Dried Tomato & Spinach Pasta Bake

Finally! A dish so incredibly delicious, and is meat-free so you can plan it for Meatless Monday!

The recipe fell into my lap courtesy of Half-Baked Harvest.  Here’s my finished result–read the recipe and scroll down for my personal tips, and then you gotta go make this yourself.

IMG_3519Tips:

1.  Skip adding the 1/2 cup of wine.  Add an extra 1/2 cup of broth, and then go drink the wine.  There is so much flavor in this dish, you don’t need the wine.

2.  If you like basil, double or triple the amount the recipe calls for

3.  I wasn’t paying attention and did the steps out of order.  The recipe suggest you combine all the dry ingredients (except pasta) and sort of mix it together and then add the rigatoni.  Instead, I dumped the pasta into my pan and then layered all the ingredients in order on top of the pasta–it worked just fine.

4.  As the recipe author points out, you can take liberties and add Italian sausage or your other pantry favorites: artichoke hearts, black olive, cannelini beans, and roasted garlic!

 

This recipe is good enough to make every week.  Try it!

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why she has hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

 

 

I <3 Garlic and You Will, Too.

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I have a love-love relationship with garlic, in that I love it fresh and I also love it roasted. I put it in nearly every dish I make and I’m about to make a case that you should, too.
Roasting garlic is not only simple to do, but roasting mellows the bite of raw garlic and adds savoriness to any dish.  Plus, garlic can also be good for you!  It’s known to boost our immune systems and contribute toward improved cardiovascular health as well as generally reducing exposure to vampires, thereby potentially extending your lifespan so that you have even more time to enjoy (what else?) garlic.
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No vampires were injured in the taking of these photos (this time).

I roast at least one head of garlic almost every Sunday for use throughout the week.  Instructions are thus:
1) Trim ends of cloves by placing head of garlic on it’s side and using a knife to slice the tips off, exposing a little bit of every clove.
2) Place head of garlic root side down in a casually formed “bowl” of tin foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.
3) Close the pouch of tin foil over the head of garlic and place in oven. Usually “low and slow” is the best strategy, but you can throw it into an already hot oven anytime there is space for it.  Perhaps 45 minutes at 450 degrees, or 90 minutes at 350 degrees F.  You’ll know it’s ready when you open the foil and the garlic cloves have a browned, roasted, almost caramelized look to the tips and the cloves squish out when you apply pressure to the outside with your fingers. Squeeze all those cloves out and use immediately or refrigerate for another day.
4) When ready to use, place on cutting board and use the flat side of your knife to smoosh your soft roasted garlic clove(s) into mush, and then chop up as finely as you need it.
Uses for your new roasted garlic skill set:
> add to homemade salsa
> add to any hot or cold dip for chips–artichoke, spinach, Lipton Onion Soup mix dip
> add to home cooked chili or stew
> add to any pasta dish, especially one with jarred red (or white) sauce
> add to your baked pasta or to any casserole
> add to your au gratin potato dish
> add to your homemade or take-and-bake pizza
> mix into your meatloaf
> roasted garlic and mushroom risotto
> as a topping on your baked potato
> roasted garlic mashed potatoes
> roasted new potatoes with garlic
> macaroni (and roasted garlic) and cheese
> caramelized onion and garlic grilled cheese
> garlic bread or cheesy garlic bread
> naan with roasted garlic
> roasted garlic fried rice
> garlic & parmesan steak fries or tater tots
> roasted garlic & parmesan chicken wings
> roasted garlic and mushroom risotto
> cheese & roasted garlic quesadillas
> roasted garlic & asparagus, whole mushrooms or any other vegetable
> stir fried roasted garlic and fresh green beans, haricot verts or other vegetable
> garlic butter, on anything and everything
Did you know there’s even such thing as garlic ice cream?  The Stinking Rose–a legendary restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach and just a ten minute walk from the Embarcadero–is known to include garlic in every single item on the menu.  This restaurant alone goes through over three thousand pounds of garlic every month!  These are my people!
Not to mention the divinity that is a good garlic festival.  They’re all over the place every summer!  The must-see garlic festival in Arizona these days is at Queen Creek Olive Mill, but attending the Gilroy Garlic Festival is on my bucket list for sure.  I am so glad this is finally a thing.

IMG_2610If you do it right, everyday is a garlic festival.

Peace. Love. Garlic.

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why she has hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

 

What to Pack: Beach Resort

I hate to check to bags. I like to have all of my things with me! When I decided to accept the invitation to attend Social Media on the Sand at Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos… the first thing that crossed my mind was- What do I pack!?

First off… this was not a sponsored trip. I paid to attend the conference and I paid for my airfare. This doesn’t take away from the fact that this was the most amazing trip I’ve ever been invited on. Amazing or not… I wasn’t about to sacrifice my carry on for a week’s worth of adorable resort wear! And this is where my obsession with capsule wardrobes began.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

It’s a small set of clothes that are able to be mixed and matched to create dozens of combinations. Perfect! This is just what I needed! I jumped on Pinterest and began some serious research. Then I did a survey of my closet and then… I shopped. Here is a representation of what I brought on my week-long, off-season trip to Beaches in the Caribbean.

what to packYou’ll need 3 easy breezy dresses, 3 basic tops (one patterned) 3 basic bottoms (one patterned). From these 9 pieces of clothing and a handful of accessories, I had the freedom to create 12 “normal” outfits. You could go crazy and start some  serious layering (as I’ve seen on many posts like this) but I’m not one to layer skirts or shirts over my dresses. You could also add the awesome scarf to everything and count that as a “new” option, but I’m trying to keep it real here.

My t-shirts are from Target. V-neck boyfriend style are the best fit for me. I can also credit Target for my uncontrollable scarf, bag and hat addiction. The beachy, jersey knit dresses in my closet are from Old Navy (mostly). I do want to make one HUGE shout out in this post to Iristocracy. They gifted conference attendees with their choice of sunglasses. I chose these polarized Ted Baker aviators. Awesome. Right?

I hope that this post has inspired you to look at how you pack a little differently. Save space. Travel light. Relax and enjoy your trip!

*Disclosure- I was not paid to write this post. I’ve given all the trip details and information on my gifted sunglasses within this post.

A Less Traditional Holiday

One of my favorite movies during the holiday season is- A Christmas Story. Remember when the dogs came through the house and ate the turkey? I love that the family then went on to celebrate their holiday dinner regardless… even if it was in a less traditional way at a Chinese restaurant! I don’t remember many untraditional holiday meals in my house growing up. My mother is an amazing cook. But I do remember a few. We ordered pizza from time to time. And now that I have my own family… I’m not as talented in the kitchen as my mom is. I love when our favorite restaurants have holiday menus. I can take the kids and celebrate without having to worry about dishes or cooking. They can start to associate the holiday season with time together around the table with me. It doesn’t really matter if it’s our table or not. The point is… we’re spending time together!

My kids love Denny’s. And I love Denny’s coffee :) Denny’s Season’s Favorites menu is now available and we’ll absolutely be creating new family memories around the table! I’m not a huge fan of Red Velvet but you might be! Be sure to try out the Red Velvet Pancake Puppies or new Red Velvet Milkshake! Do you love pumpkin? I do! There’s plenty of pumpkin in the new pumpkin pancakes! I’m most looking forward to the new Pumpkin Coffee! I’ll be sure to let you know if it’s available in the home brew varieties. You all know how much I love making Denny’s coffee at home! I’m planning on kicking off November with a nice fall holiday meal… The turkey and dressing dinner! It’s served with turkey breast, gravy, stuffing, cranberries, 2 additional sides and bread. The kids love the coziness of a turkey dinner :)

Vice President of Denny’s Marketing, John Dillon, says  “We believe that time spent at the table should be about making memories and being with your loved ones, which is why each year we strive to offer a hassle-free holiday celebration that combines the festive flavors our guests know and love, with the same value and variety that we provide every day.”

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The Season’s Favorites menu is only around for a limited time. Be sure you stop in your local Denny’s before it’s gone!

xo

Kelly

 

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s. This really excites me, because Denny’s was one of my first real jobs as a teenager! You can check out my first post in this series all about my real, authentic, love of Denny’s here. I’d never share about something I didn’t truly feel fondly about! xo -Kelly

On a Personal Note… Love is Hard

 

Very rarely do I write this openly… but it’s my blog. So. I’ll do what I want to. I firmly believe that every relationship we’re in, prepares us for the next. As someone who got married young… I never really experienced this. It wasn’t until now, in my 30′s, that I’ve began to understand what this means. And… I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful to the Universe for bringing amazing people into my life. Each of these people have taught me something valuable about being in a relationship. I’ve learned about  friendship, fighting fair, caring, supporting one another, being a cheerleader, accepting help, pain, loss, and love. I’ve been in love. And I’ve been loved. But I don’t know that it’s ever been at the same time in a healthy way… until now. I’ve met someone who I can’t imagine a day without. We’ve discussed our past relationships and it’s clear that we’ve reached an amazing place in our lives.  And still… Love is hard.

 

So… I trust. I believe. I give. I let go of what is required. And I seal it with a kiss to the Universe.

 

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Hunger in America

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I struggle with this topic. This is America. One of the world’s richest nations. How can we possibly be dealing with hunger in America? And yet… we are. Did you know that 1 out of 5 kids in America are facing hunger every day? That’s nationwide. Let’s break it down even further. I live in the state of Arizona. In Arizona, 30% of kids struggle with hunger. THIRTY PERCENT! Out of school-aged kids in Arizona, 493,000 are receiving free or reduced-price lunches and only 46% of those are getting school breakfast. Translation? Most of these students will only eat ONE meal a day. At school. What about in the summer? It’s time to stop hunger in America. I know I’m only one person… but we can all do something to help make a difference.

Kids who eat breakfast have a higher school attendance and are more likely to graduate high school. Twenty percent more likely, as a matter of fact! Those same kids are proven to go on to earn $10,000 more annually on average than their hungry counterparts. Additionally- these kids are less likely to experience hunger as adults. I suppose that we could assume that their children would also be less likely to experience hunger- stopping the cycle.

If you read along regularly… you know that I’m on the Denny’s Brand Ambassador Team. But I’m not invoicing Denny’s for this post. I’m writing it because it’s an important topic… not because it’s on my editorial calendar or because I’m being paid to do so. Denny’s is one of many brands on a mission to end childhood hunger in America. They need our help.

Every dollar we donate to No Kid Hungry is tax deductible. That dollar can feed a child up to 10 healthy meals. All proceeds go to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry, a campaign that ensures every child in America has access to free and nutritious food. Donate $3 and receive up to $9 of value (in coupons) on all your Denny’s diner favorites. Visit nokidhungry.org/dennys for more information. And tweet with us at #DennysNKH and #NoKidHungry.

Join me in doing this one small thing to make a difference.

xo

Kelly

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s, however I was not compensated for this particular post. Not that it matters… I only post about the things I authentically love. Thanks for reading! xo -Kelly