Monday, July 31, 2017

Easy Go-to Pasta Salads and Kitchen Command Centers

So you just found out there is going to be a potluck cook out and you don't know what to bring.... or maybe you did know but you procrastinated or got too busy with kids and gardening and LIFE but you want to WOW the other guests' stomachs with something tasty, filling and homemade.  I have just the solution!

I invented these salads years ago as I juggled 4 kids and company and found those "Suddenly Salad" boxed options just not up to par for quantity or quality.  I discovered I could spend less on ingredients that would get FAR more for my money and appetite.

These salads can be a meal in themselves and will feed even the most demanding crowds (even if that "crowd" is only 2 feet high and lives under your roof!)

Italian Pasta Salad
1 box cork screw or rainbow pasta, cooked and cooled
3-4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 package pepperoni (open package and quarter cut the slices)
1 can black olives, drained and sliced
1-2 cups Parmesan cheese (fresh or grated)
1 bottle Italian dressing

Mix first 5 ingredients together (Parmesan to taste) then add Italian dressing until pasta salad mixture is well coated.  Serve or cover and chill until ready to eat.
*Optional add-ins: sliced green pepper, sliced red onions, fresh spinach

Photo Credit
Ranch Pasta Salad
1 box wagon wheel pasta, cooked and cooled
1 small bag frozen peas
1-2 cups thinly sliced and diced carrots
1 package bacon bits or 1-2 cups diced ham
1 bottle ranch dressing

Mix first 4 ingredients together, add ranch dressing until pasta salad mixture is well coated.   Let sit 30-60 minutes so peas can thaw just a bit.  If it is really warm in your kitchen, cover and set in refrigerator during this time.
*optional add-ins: sliced red onions, small chunks of cheddar cheese

Bon Appetit!

Kitchen Command Centers...
Consequently, when it comes to tracking menu items and events (and even those pesky household chores) I have a new command center set-up!

This would work with a dry erase or chalk board as well, but I like how this particular scenario works for us since our house is, shall we say, intimate... I don't have a ton of wall space! 

The top pages are our daily chore check-list:
We've been having a hard time staying regularly on-top of our daily to-dos with hubby's new schedule and our strange summer this year.  But we really started kicking into gear this past week (finally) and put the new command center check-list setup to the test Friday with some hard core cleaning.

While I have used this checklist for almost 2 years now, I usually had it with my housekeeping notebook; not so accessible to the family at large. As we dove into the dirty work Friday, it was great to see everyone checking the list on the fridge without me even reminding them to!  We blazed through our chores in record time with the team-work this centrally located reminder prompted!

This is my new weekly overview page for our command center.  The only items entered on this sheet are ones which affect the whole family or my kiddos specifically.  I set this up in Word using the "tables" feature (same with my weekly chore lsit) and then printed it off, embellishing with Washi tape (my new favorite crafting 'tool'!)
click on image to access PDF for printing to put to personal use
The "Daily Dos" section is for special things like Bible Study class or excursions or company coming, etc.  This is different from "Chores" which I usually scribble inside of with a general reference like, "floors" or "bathrooms" and often point to our main chore list for the details of the activity.  I use the bottom section, "This Week" to field things I am not certain what day will work best but helping everyone remember they still need to get done.

The 'kids' (aka, all my offspring from teen through adult still living in the house) are really enjoying having this information readily available in our 'command center'.  The amount of "what's for dinner" and "whose day is it to do laundry" I've been asked at the most inopportune times has decreased drastically!  The girls are enjoying their alternating dish days too and I see much less complaining and forgetting as a result!

Funny how life circles around!  Years ago we kept chore charts on the fridge for my kids when they were little.  For a while, they sort of outgrew that... and now we are back to square one... with a more mature theme.

What quick fix recipes do you have?  How about chore and task wrangling?  I would love to hear from you!  Speaking of which, Monday, August 14th, I am planning to post an article along the lines of "Last Bash of Summer".  I'm looking for ideas from YOU.  Does your family have a special party... a special dinner... do anything memorable to have a last-bit-of-summer blow-out?  If so, I would love to hear about it!  Either type a blog article or (if that is not your thing) throw together an email (pictures welcome) and send your link or content to  Don't forget your name and any other track-back info you want shared (don't worry, I will NOT share your email address).  I will share ALL applicable and family friendly input in my August 14th post!  I look forward to hearing your ideas!  All entries due by midnight August 10th.

Would you like to receive a month-full of dinner ideas for FREE? 
In my NEW monthly newsletter you will receive this great FREE printable pdf feature in your in-box at the end of each month!  Some recipes and how-to's are even included!  Sign up on the side-bar and, when you do, this month's menu will be sent with your registration confirmation so you don't have to wait for the next newsletter to issue!

I pray the good Lord will guide you in all your to-dos and ta-das this week!



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