Summery Pasta Salad with Bush’s Best Chickpeas

This post is sponsored by Bush’s Best Beans in conjunction with The Women Bloggers. I am proud to partner with them in sharing this post because Bush’s is a brand that I love and use to feed my family and friends. As always, all content and opinions are mine. Check out #MyBestWithBushBeans for more great bean recipes.
Summery Pasta Salad with Bush's Best Chickpeas | erniebufflo.com
One of my favorite things to throw together for a last minute gathering or picnic is a pasta salad. I almost always have dried pasta and canned beans in my pantry, and I add whatever veggies, meats, cheeses, and herbs I have on hand. The result is almost always delicious and colorful, and when friends and family try it, they always ask for the recipe. That’s when I’m forced to admit I never really had one, I just threw a bunch of stuff together that I thought would work.

Summery Pasta Salad with Bush's Best Chickpeas | erniebufflo.com

Canned beans are a staple of my pantry, and come in handy for throwing together summer salads and meatless meals.

That’s how this Summery Pasta Salad with Bush’s Best Chickpeas got its start. We decided to take a last-minute day-trip to the mountains with my family and my sister and her husband, and I needed to pack up a quick lunch. Peeking in my fridge, I found cherry tomatoes, a couple odd ears of corn, and some cubed pancetta. I knew these ingredients would work great in a pasta salad with the Bush’s Best Beans I bought at Walmart, and a delicious salad was born. We all practically licked the bowl clean. That’s when I knew this thrown-together summer salad was a keeper, and I decided to recreate it and share the recipe here.

Summery Pasta Salad with Bush's Best Chickpeas | erniebufflo.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pasta such as bowtie, rotini, or penne
  • 4 oz. cubed pancetta (you can sub chopped thick-cut bacon here if you can’t find pancetta)
  • 2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut from cob (canned corn would also work, and is a great pantry staple)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. Cavender’s Greek Seasoning (or spice blend of your choice, lemon pepper would also be great here)
  • 1 can Bush’s Best Chickpeas, rinsed and drained (If chickpeas aren’t your jam, Bush’s Best Cannellini Beans would also be a great choice here.)
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. ciliegine mozzarella (These are little balls of fresh mozzarella the size of grape tomatoes, usually in a tub of brine. You could also use 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut into bite-sized pieces.)
  • Handful fresh basil, sliced thinly
  • Zest and juice of one large or two small lemons
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil (or salad oil of your choice, like avocado or grapeseed)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, and don’t forget to generously salt your pasta cooking water.
  2. In a skillet over medium high heat, cook your cubed pancetta (or bacon), stirring occasionally until it starts to render its fat and brown slightly.
  3. Add corn and green onion to skillet with pancetta and season with 1 teaspoon Cavender’s Greek Seasoning (or spice blend of your choice). Cook, stirring occasionally until the corn and onions start to brown.
  4. Add Bush’s Best Chickpeas to skillet with pancetta, corn, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally about one minute more.
  5. Remove skillet from heat and set aside to cool.
  6. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Normally, you don’t want to rinse your pasta, but it’s necessary for a pasta salad.
  7. In a large bowl, combine the cooled corn/pancetta/chickpea mix with pasta and all remaining ingredients, and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and your spice mix to taste.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

This dish is not just good for gatherings and picnics, either. I like to make a big batch of pasta salad at the beginning of the week for my kids and I to enjoy for lunch. Pasta salads also pack great, and I sent this salad with my kids to day camp. The dishes returned empty!

Great for kids and grownups alike-2

Got any great summer pasta salads that you frequently throw together with pantry staples? Please share them in the comments!

And in the spirit of sharing, here are a few of our other tried-and-true, favorite recipes that make great use of Bush’s Best Beans:

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because you will probably need a drink this thanksgiving

Because I need to think about something other than my overwhelming sense of dread that continues following the election, and because you will need something to sip every time one of your family members brings up the election at Thanksgiving, I thought I’d be servicey and provide some suggestions for your Thanksgiving drinking pleasure.

Last year, I created a fall cocktail for my hometown company Mountain Valley Spring Water. I can’t find the post on their site anymore, so I thought I’d share my recipe here, instead.

The Pomegranate Bourbon Fizz is a sweet-tart cocktail that incorporates pomegranate in two ways, getting flavor and its namesake fizz from Blackberry Pomegranate Mountain Valley Sparkling Essences, and an additional punch of pomegranate from a homemade grenadine that imbues it with a gorgeous color, too. (You may sub in any pomegranate sparkling water here if you can’t find the Mountain Valley. You could even use regular club soda, since the pomegranate grenadine is so flavorful.) Making grenadine may seem intimidating, but this easy two-ingredient syrup will wow your palate, especially if the only grenadine you’ve ever known is a red-dyed, sickly-sweet concoction most famous for giving a Shirley Temple its something special. Grenadine was originally a pomegranate syrup, not a cherry-flavored corn syrup. Here it returns to its roots as a true grownup cocktail ingredient, not just something suited for curly-headed tap-dancing kiddos. Plus, one batch will enable many Pomegranate Bourbon Fizzes this season, and you better believe you’ll be craving more than one.

mountain-valley-pomegranate-bourbon-fizz-with-text

Pomegranate Bourbon Fizz

2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. homemade pomegranate grenadine (recipe follows)
.75 oz. lemon juice (about half a lemon)
2 dashes orange bitters
Mountain Valley Sparkling Essences in Blackberry Pomegranate
sprig of rosemary to garnish

In a shaker filled halfway with ice, shake together bourbon, grenadine, lemon juice, and orange bitters. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Top with Mountain Valley Sparkling Essences. Garnish and stir with a sprig of rosemary. Enjoy!

Homemade Grenadine
1 cup unsweetened 100% pomegranate juice
1 cup sugar

Combine both ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until all sugar is dissolved and mixture is slightly thickened. Allow to cool. This syrup can be kept in a jar in the fridge for up to a month.

Other ideas

If the Pomegranate Bourbon Fizz isn’t your thing, I have some other recommendations. First up, I made this Tangy Cranberry Black Peppercorn Shrub cocktail last year and may make it again this year. If you have any non-drinkers who would like a mocktail, the shrub is also excellent with club soda or tonic.

In a similar vein, the Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler would be a great choice. It’s a twist on one of my favorite festive drinks, the French 75. Like the previous shrub cocktail, you can make the mixer ahead of time, so it’s easy to batch up and serve to guests when you’re busy with other Thanksgiving duties.

And lastly, a Rosemary Pear Mule is a fallish, festive drink. It’ll seem extra fancy if you serve it in mule mugs, but just as tasty in a regular glass if you don’t have any mule mugs. (Tip: Target usually has mule mugs for $9ish each this time of year, so it’s a great time to scoop some up).

denver food reviews: brider

I love food, as you may have guessed from my plate-heavy Instagram feed. As we explore Denver one bite at a time, I thought it would be fun to post short reviews of the places we check out. Many food blogs do similar things, but how many are dragging two four-year-olds along for their culinary adventures? While I’ll occasionally be able to get a sitter and check out a cool joint sans kids, most of these reviews will be places we’ve taken our very well-behaved foodie four-year-olds.

Saturday night we headed to LoHi to check out Brider. We enjoyed great food in a somewhat incongruously casual (but hip) atmosphere, which is often described as “fast casual.” To me, “fast casual” conjures images of places like Pei Wei and Chipotle, and the food and vibe at Brider is definitely nicer than either of those.

We were there for dinner which features rotisserie chicken, porchetta, and lamb served four different ways each. We had the lamb with kale and potatoes and the chicken with fried rice and kimchi (which was my favorite of the two). The chicken was juicy with crispy, flavorful skin (if you don’t eat chicken skin, you’re missing the best part), and I loved dipping bites in the sesame soy sauce that accompanied my plate. Unfortunately, my lovely sunny-side-up egg was stolen by fried-egg-lover Etta. I cleaned my plate. If I hadn’t tried the chicken first, I would have also loved the lamb with kale and potatoes, however after the kimchi/sesame/soy flavor explosion going on with my chicken, it tasted just a bit bland by comparison. The lamb was juicy and tender, and the kale and potatoes were tasty, but I felt they needed just a hit of something special to take it to the next level. Next time I might try their madras curry or feta/harissa/taziki take on the lamb. The kale and potatoes might be better with a slightly more flavorful meat like their porchetta.

Denver Restaurant Reviews: Brider | erniebufflo.com

They have a kids menu and high chairs, and the girls both enjoyed meatballs over polenta, as well as bites from our plates. They use counter service, which is part of why it felt oddly casual, since the $18 plate of chicken was as nice as I’ve had in any white tablecloth restaurant. This is actually a perk! I love finding a place where my kids are welcome and I can still enjoy a great meal. We were pretty hungry, but the rotisserie dishes could likely be shared along with an appetizer and a dessert. Brider also features a coffee bar, a selection of pastries, a large sandwich menu, and beer and wine on tap as well as cocktails (and a happy hour every day from 3-6). They are open all day, and serve breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal in the mornings, along with coffees and house-made kombucha.

After our meal, we enjoyed strolling along the river, and both girls ended up IN the river. We will be back. Next time, I’ll pack the kids a change of clothes for the post-dinner water play, and I hope it will be cool enough to enjoy their awesome patio.

Denver Restaurant Reviews: Brider | erniebufflo.com

we tried hello fresh and blue apron. the winner is?

I mentioned a while back that we were considering trying some meal delivery services so Jon could cook dinner once a week or so. He’s a good cook, but busy ER docs don’t have a ton of time to research recipes, grocery shop, and prep. Services that send all the ingredients and recipe all ready to go sounded really ideal. I got a Hello Fresh coupon included in a box of stuff I ordered from Zulily, and a friend sent me a code for a free box of Blue Apron, so we decided to give them each a shot and see which one we preferred. I should note that this is not a sponsored post– Zulily frequently includes coupons and samples when they ship orders, and both services let users send friends discounts and free meals to try the services.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh was up first. One thing I didn’t like right off the bat was there was no plan that fit our diet preferences perfectly. We’re mostly vegetarian, but not entirely– we eat meat about once a week, and also enjoy eating seafood. Hello Fresh offers a Classic Box, a Veggie Box, and a Family Box. My ideal box would have a pescatarian option to get vegetarian and seafood recipes, but that’s not an option. So we did one week with a Family Box and one week with a Veggie Box. With a Veggie Box, you HAVE to get 3 meals per week, but the Family Box lets you choose 2 or 3 meals a week.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

Things we liked about Hello Fresh:

  • The recipes were delicious, easy to execute, and full of variety. Out of six meals, there was only one dish I didn’t care for, a portobello and orechiette primavera that kind of had a muddy flavor to this not-exactly-a-mushroom lover (I don’t hate them, but I don’t love them either).
  • The organization of the boxes. Each meal’s ingredients, minus meat or seafood, comes in its own individual box within the shipping box. It’s super easy to just stash the meal boxes in the fridge, and pull one out at mealtime. This prevents having to hunt for the various ingredients and gather them together. You just pull out the box and get cooking.
  • Jamie Oliver contributes some of the recipes. One of his recipes, a Brazillian black bean and rice bowl, was one of my favorites out of the six meals we tried.
  • All of the meals were balanced, healthy, fresh, and about 550-800 calories per plate. Every meal was enough for our family of 4, plus leftovers.
  • They sent us locally-raised meat!

Things we didn’t like about Hello Fresh:

  • Lack of a great option for our family’s diet, which is somewhere in between Veggie Box and Family Box. The Family Box was too meat-heavy for us, and we’d like to get vegetarian and seafood recipes.
  • Lack of a 2-meals-per-week option on the Veggie Box. I am a proficient cook, read a lot of food blogs and cookbooks, and enjoy cooking. I would prefer to just get 2 meals per week, one for Jon to cook, and one for me to cook, and leave me to my own devices the rest of the week.
  • Most of the recipes seemed to dirty a lot more dishes than our average meals. Multiple pans and bowls were often required, which makes cleanup a bummer.
  • Most meals take longer to cook than the estimated time.

Overall, our experience with Hello Fresh was super positive, and we enjoyed the meals we got from them.

Blue Apron

Next we tried Blue Apron. Blue Apron offers 2 basic plans, the Two Person Plan and the Family Plan. With each plan, you can choose 2 or 4 meals per week. Pricing is the same as Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh’s Family Box meals are $8.75 per serving, Blue Apron’s are $8.74. Also: we had leftovers with both services, lowering the actual price per serving further. One major perk to both of Blue Apron’s plans is the ability to choose your actual meals from a set of options. Another perk is the ability to input dietary preferences. I was able to select no beef, pork, or lamb, so our default options are vegetarian, seafood, or poultry, and I am able to further choose from among a few of those options for the 2 we are delivered. This way, we’ve managed to get entirely vegetarian or seafood meals, with no poultry.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

If I were basing my opinion solely on the first meal we cooked from Blue Apron, it would have been a total failure. We were sent a Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon with Brown Rice, Bell Pepper, and Cucumber. How was it? I don’t know, because we ended up getting fast food after a failure. To start with, a small bottle of sesame oil had leaked all over our box, and I was missing the bell pepper somehow. Then, they expected me to somehow cook brown rice on the stovetop in 30 minutes. After that allotted time, the rice was still crunchy and I was wishing I had thrown it into my Instant Pot instead of dutifully following the recipe. Finally, I was cooking the salmon in a skillet at medium-high heat as directed, added the teriyaki sauce as directed, and immediately the sauce smoked up to the point that my smoke alarm went off. And that’s when we decided to give up on that meal. I emailed customer service about the leaky sesame oil and missing pepper, and they gave me $10 off my next box to make up for it.

All of the other 5 meals we tried, however, went off without a hitch, so I’m ready to call our first meal-fail a fluke.

Things we liked about Blue Apron:

  • Customization of the plans to suit our family’s diet, as well as to choose recipes from among several choices each week.
  • The option of 2 meals per week on every plan.
  • The meals were all delicious, and with one exception, easy to execute.
  • The meals were all balanced and healthy, mostly in the 500-600 calories per serving range, with one pizza night in the 800 calories per serving range.
  • Every meal was enough food for all four of us with some leftovers.
  • Jon and I enjoyed cooking some of the meals together, which was really fun.
  • All of the seafood they send is certified sustainable by Seafood Watch.
  • Responsive customer service when we had an issue.

Things we didn’t like about Blue Apron:

  • One meal was a total failure, though I’m willing to call it a fluke.
  • The packaging is slightly less convenient than Hello Fresh’s system– you have to hunt for all the ingredients that you’ve put away and gather them together to cook instead of just pulling one box out of the fridge.
  • Most of the time the meals take slightly longer to cook than estimated.

You may be able to guess that Blue Apron was the winner for our family, and we are continuing with their service. It just suits our individual needs the best. However, if you don’t have specific dietary needs, I don’t think you could go wrong with Hello Fresh, either.

Have you tried a meal delivery service, or are you interested in trying one? Is there another one you love that you think I might like better?

menu planning monday

Well, after last week’s big announcement about our upcoming move to Denver, we have worked our butts off to spruce up our house and it is officially on the market! So far we’ve had five showings in two days, so we’re hoping things go smoothly. If you know anyone looking for a great house in one of Little Rock’s cutest neighborhoods, let us know!

Also last week, I made one of our favorite dishes that I first fell in love with on our 5th anniversary trip to Costa Rica, gallo pinto, and I must say it was totally worth ordering Salsa Lizano on the internet, because it totally scratched my pura vida itch.

Also last week, I had a rare dinner flop. The Tandoori Quinoa. I think it turned out fine, I just didn’t like it. I admit I pitched the leftovers because I couldn’t face eating it again. It’s ok to have a cooking flop once in a while– comes with the territory if you’re trying new things.

It’s also nice to diverge from the meal plan once in a while. I had planned on tuna cakes with sides of grits and zucchini, but we ended up having salmon with baked potatoes and zucchini instead, because I had some potatoes I needed to use:

This was supposed to be tuna cakes, grits, and zucchini. Instead it became salmon filets, baked potatoes and zucchini. The tuna will keep in the pantry for another day.

This was supposed to be tuna cakes, grits, and zucchini. Instead it became salmon filets, baked potatoes and zucchini. The tuna will keep in the pantry for another day.

As far as what we’ll be eating this week, here’s what we have planned:

We haven’t had a pizza night in a while, and this one from Annie’s Eats looks particularly veggieriffic:

I have sweet potatoes and tortillas chilling in the pantry, and 3/4 of us are obsessed with fried eggs, so these sweet potato huevos rancheros sound amazing:

I love a one-pot pasta meal, so this one-pot zucchini mushroom pasta sounds great:

My one upgrade to these spinach and bean burritos is to grill them in my panini pan:

And for a seafood meal, this lemony shrimp and couscous sounds good (and is a recipe from the binder of recipes I made for Jon):

What’s cooking with you lately? Got any Easter treats planned? I’m going to be making these little nests for my girls:

 

menu planning monday

I promise eventually my life will slow down enough (more on that eventually) to do more than post menu plans, but today is not that day. We spent the week getting our den ready for new carpet to be installed (thanks, tax refund!), and spring cleaning in general, so not many deep thoughts were thought, which isn’t very conducive to writing. Even when I’m not writing, though, we gotta eat. Thus, Menu Planning Monday.

Meal Planning Monday | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Last week’s meals.

While spring cleaning, I found under our guest bed four giant binders of recipes I had torn out of magazines in the pre-Pinterest era. Now that my husband wants to get into cooking, I realized the hardest part for him will be deciding what to cook. He’s not a Pinterest-er, and he doesn’t read food blogs or peruse cookbooks. When I found those binders, though, I realized I could basically make him/us an analog Pinterest binder of vegetarian and seafood recipes that take less than 30 minutes. And since most of the recipes were from my old Real Simple and Rachael Ray subscriptions, they’re all pretty fast/healthy/easy, too. I went through all the binders and pulled out all the best-looking recipes, and now we can flip through them anytime. I can see it being useful to have the girls flip through and pick out some things they would like to eat every now and then, too.

Here’s what we’ll be making this week (reminder: if you’re reading via an RSS feed, you may need to click through to see the embedded pins):

The first recipe Jon picked out of the recipe binder:

One pot always wins me over:

Will likely serve these tuna cakes with cheesy grits and sautéed zucchini:

I have a bunch of kale that needs to be used before it disintegrates, so this tried-and-true recipe will take care of it, and it’s another one pot recipe:

And because I have a craving for some Costa Rican deliciousness, gallo pinto:

What about you? What’s on your menu this week? Made anything tasty lately?

menu planning monday

Back by popular demand, our next few dinners on deck. My favorite thing we ate last week? The spinach and mushroom lasagna. I even made my own noodles with the pasta maker I got for my birthday, and they turned out amazing. The spring vegetable paella also turned out fabulous, even though I didn’t remember to get pimientos and threw in some saffron for extra flavor. We ate it with fried eggs, and Claire had like 3 helpings! We still haven’t eaten all the meals I planned last week, so we’ll be having the cauliflower and chickpea tacos this week for sure.

Other things we’ll be eating this week (note, if you’re viewing this in an RSS reader, you may need to click through to see embedded images and be able to click through to recipes):

We’ll likely have this potato tortilla with a side of salad and some olives and cheese, pretend we’re in Spain:

Recently our girls have been liking roasted brussels sprouts, so I think this is worth a try:

Might make a bean and corn salad to serve on the side with these tostadas:

We’re also hosting a Friday Night Meatballs this week (with eggplant based “meatballs” since we gave up meat for Lent–I may even try to write up my recipe for these, so look for it next week) and planning to go to our friends’ house for dinner another night, so that’s it for this week’s plans!

In other food news, my love for Michael Pollan is well-documented, so you won’t be shocked to learn that I love his docu-series “Cooked” on Netflix. On the night we watched the third episode, I immediately got up and mixed up some bread dough because I was so inspired! Check it out, for sure!

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