Summer Pasta Salad

I love a colorful, cold, and delicious summer salad that pairs with pretty much anything. If made correctly, it is fresh, tasty and will stay that way for days. What I always try to do is balance vegetables, carbs (pasta), cheese, and the bite of salad dressing. I think I did this with this recipe. Oh yum!

Ingredients: grape tomatoes, parsley and cilantro mix, red onion, pasta (penne or a small pasta), cucumber, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, white balsamic, honey, salt, and lemon juice.

  1. I cooked the pasta (I made bunny pasta) and set it aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, I chopped a red onion (1/2 onion), cut the cucumber into quarters, cut the tomatoes (1 cup), and chopped the mozzarella cheese (1/2 cup). Then I washed a mix of parsley and cilantro and chopped that and put it in the dish. The amount is determined by the person making this dish. Some like a lot of herbs, some dont. DSCN2996 DSCN2995
  3. I mixed the cooled pasta with the veggies above.
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  5. While it was chilling for a few hours I went on to making the dressing. Now this is up to the taster. I usually like something with a bite but also sweetness. I mixed: olive oil, salt, balsamic vinegar, honey, and lemon juice.
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  7. I put a little in a separate dish and put some of the dressing onto the mix. Then yum!
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Chicken Caprese

Not sure if I have posted this before, but I am not a huge garlic fan. Obviously, because of this, pesto is not usually my favorite. I bought a little a while ago for a recipe and it was pretty delicious so I thought I might as well try cooking with it as the main flavor agent in this dish.

I also may have not mastered baking meat in the oven, but most of what I cook has been juicy and not dry (so I’m proud of myself). This was a great mix of clean protein, fresh vegetables, topped with one of my favorite things in the world: fresh mozzarella cheese. So good!

Ingredients: chicken breasts, Classico Pesto, olive oil, salt, Italian Seasoning, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella

Directions.

  1. I cleaned the chicken thoroughly then placed in a large bag. I placed a bit of olive oil on the chicken when they were in the bag. Shook the oil all around the chickens.

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  1. Then I topped with dried Italian Seasoning. I set the bag in the fridge until I was ready to cook (overnight).
  2. I sprayed a cooking dish with Cooking Spray and placed the chicken in the dish and waited about 30 minutes to warm the chickens.
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  4. Place as much pesto as you want onto each chicken and use a spatula to spread around the chicken.
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  6. Cover with Reynolds Wrap and place in a 375F oven.
  7. Cook for 30 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile I cut tomatoes into 1/3″ rounds and a little bit thicker pieces of mozzarella cheese.
  9. I placed the tomatoes on top of the chicken and topped that with the cheese and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
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    This shows chicken then cheese then tomatoes. I recommend the other way with cheese on top.

  11. I took this out of the oven and while it cooled a bit. I cooked some fettuccine and mixed in a bit of tomatoes and pesto. This paired really well with the chicken.
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Hope you enjoy this fresh recipe!

Punch Art

A new method of art I have started was Punch Art. It’s really simple, and all you need are a few supplies: cardstock, high gauge needle with a tapered point, sewing needle, cardboard, thread, and tape.

I needed something to encourage me to finish writing my dissertation recently and I had a ton of thread from all of my cross stitching projects so I thought why not put a collage up of words! I bought a set of cardstock 6″ X 6″ pieces of paper. Then I found a font that I liked: Broadway. I googled words that were encouraging and insightful: Learn, Laugh, Focus, Live, etc.

From there I printed the words out, punch their outline into the cardstock with the high gauge needle, and sewing the words together. It’s so easy, the hardest part is punching the outlines for you need to stay as similar in space to each hole as possible. Also, when you start a new piece of thread, tape the end to the back of the cardstock so it will stay and not be loose.

I used thread that faded into different colors for I didn’t want the designs to be monotone, and I also matched the shades to what I characterized the word to be. When you think of “Dream” I think of the shade of blue, etc. Now, when I look at these words framed, the colors go hand in hand with the theme of the word they are to represent.

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Let me know if you have any questions!

Death Row Stories

Obviously, by my numerous posts on Netflix documentaries, I’ve been on a recent “kick” of watching these types of programs on the internet. Mainly, I try to stick to historical docuseries so that I can learn a bit of history while sewing or doing my other art projects. Instead of watching a film about a mass murderer coming back to kill their sorority sisters (“Sorority Row” with Rumor Willis; never watched it, ahem!), I’ve found that delving into a non-fiction realm is more rewarding both intellectually and mentally (yes, there is a difference).

Last weekend I began watching the CNN series “Death Row Stories” narrated by Susan Sarandon. There are eight episodes, each chronicling a separate case. I was surprised to find that not all episodes deal with an innocent individual who didn’t commit the crime, so it was an anti-death penalty series (which I will be transparent about, I was not in the mood to watch a series that was solely about that). The episodes were 40-45 minutes and usually kept me spellbound for their entirety. All of the episodes had numerous twists and turns and the producers really knew where to pause for commercial breaks, which was great since Netflix doesn’t have any!

I’m not going to spend my time rehashing the actual cases that were presented in the series. Instead I want to delve a little deeper into the underlying themes that were interwoven throughout the series. Because I AM a scientist, I’m going to start off at the science part: DNA evidence and technological advances. A comparison that I’ve come to realize is that like the Salem Witch Trials in which women were accused of witchcraft because of environmental issues, an innocent individual who was accused of a crime say in the 1980’s did not have the scientific evidence that we have today to prove himself/herself innocent. DNA evidence and the use of genetic information really was not heavily utilized until the last few decades so many individuals were presumed guilty where evidence would have proved them innocent. Score #1 for science!

Additionally, many of the cases had tampered evidence. It wasn’t until the second round of appeals, that it took a second set of eyes for lawyers to realize that evidence that was used against their client in the first case was either not provided to the defense, or tampered with between being transported from the scene of the crime to the evidence locker at the police station. This ties into another underlying theme of many of the cases had defense attorneys who were ill-equipped to fight the defendant’s case. They overlooked evidence, they did not call witnesses they should have, or they just plain old didn’t cross-examine ANY witnesses (yes, this happened once). The most surprising thing out of all of this is that these attorneys were NOT public defenders, but were paid for by the defendant so it wasn’t like they were overworked public servants, but actually paid for their efforts.

Lastly, my father has many famous lines he loves to use, one of which: “Never get caught up in the legal system.” After watching this series, there is no way that I want to even be intermixed with such a system. Even with substantial evidence that proves the defendant’s innocence, it takes over a decade for lawyers to get their day in court and beyond that they have to jump through so many hoops and prove that the first case was unconstitutional. I’m not using the correct legal jargon, but if you watch the show the amount of time that has lapsed between when the crimes were committed and when the defendants either are set freed or in some cases are STILL in jail awaiting their third plus verdict is really quite nauseating.

This series was quite thought-provoking, yet really didn’t change my mind or shed light on the death penalty for me. If anything it provided confidence in science to prove innocence and provided a lack of confidence into the legal system. I would suggest watching this series for not all episodes show an innocent man being proven not guilty, but some really do prove a guilty man (there is one lady too, so it’s not just men who get caught up in the system). It’s also not anti-death penalty like I thought it would be, which was an apolitical way of discussing the legal and death row systems. I really enjoyed it, and if you have the time totally watch it for it will put many ideas of the legal system into a new light for you.

Orzo Pasta Salad Stuffed Tomatoes

In the summer, I thoroughly enjoy a refreshing pasta salad. This one is both baked and chilled. It was quite tasty and I hope you like it.

Ingredients: orzo, chicken stock, 3 large beef tomatoes, 1 cup of grape tomatoes, chucks of fresh mozarella, pre-made pesto, frozen corn, 1/2 onion, and cucumber quarters

Directions.

  1. In a saucepan cook the onions in a bit of olive oil, then add sliced grape tomatoes and frozen corn. Cook until well-combined.
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  3. While the above is cooking, boil the orzo pasta in chicken broth to add flavor.
  4. When both items above are done, combine into a bowl.
  5. Add pesto until all of the ingredients are well-covered. The amount depends on your taste and how much ingredients you add. I didn’t like much pesto so I added just enough to coat all of the items.
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  7. While that was chilling, I cut the mozarella balls into small chunks and the cucumber into quarters.
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  9. I also sliced a beef tomato into quarters, but retaining the shape of the tomato.
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  11. When cool, I combined the mozarella with the noodles.
  12. I stuffed the tomatoes with the above mix and baked the tomatoes in 350C for 20 minutes.
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  14. There was some leftover noodle mix and that was delish cool.

Hope you enjoy!!!!

Eggplant Parmesan Lasagna

I love a good lasagna. I also love some delicious eggplant, and I’ve never made parmesan crusted eggplant. So this is a really simple recipe that I hope you enjoy.

Ingredients: eggplant, lasagna noodles, low fat ricotta, fresh mozarella ball, jar of tomato sauce, and shredded mozarella

  1. Cook the lasagna noodles.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, cut the eggplant into slices. Put some olive oil and both sides. Then add Italian seasoning to each side of the eggplant side.
  3. Heat oven to 375 and bake eggplant for 25 min, flip the eggplant and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

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4. Remove from the oven and let cool and an extra plate.

5. Pour a bit of tomato sauce into the bottom of a pyrex lasagna dish. Place cooked lasagna noodles in dish.

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6. Add a bit of ricotta. I put a medium thick layer onto the noodles. Then added slices of eggplant on top.

7. Top that with another set of noodles and instead of ricotta, slice the mozarella thinly and add that onto the noodles then the eggplant.

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8. Top with a bit of tomato sauce and add another layer of noodles followed by a thin layer of ricotta.

9. Add the rest of the tomato sauce. Top with shredded mozarella cheese.

10. Cook in an oven at 350C for 30+ minutes.

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Hope you enjoy it!

The Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

I cannot sing the praises of Ken Follett more than he is one of the best authors in the modern age. I began his trilogy about a year or so ago and his novels are quite long (this one is 1599 pages on my Nook) so it takes a long while to get through them. However, these are well-worth the time investments to pick them up.

The Trilogy starts in the early 20th Century with families in Russia, German, Britain, and the US. Follett beautifully tracks the interaction of these four families through World War I, the high tension period between WWI and WWII, then through WWII and into the Cold War. I think the most eloquent part of these three novels are the characters’ interactions with key people in history who made the decision to go to war or who were assassinated. It provides a true fictional representation that these individuals once lived, interacted with people, and really were human.

The Edge of Eternity begins after WWII in the late fifties/early sixties. It tracks President Kennedy’s terms in office to his assassination. During this same time Follett discusses the impacts that race relations had on the Segregation movement. Half of the characters in this novel are black, and that, while important and adds an interesting perspective to the novel, neither detracts nor adds and excessive amount to the plot. What did add was the increased number of characters. All of the main characters in the first book Fall of Giants got married, had children, who also had children. Those individuals also had affairs and illegitimate children which also added to the number of characters. This allowed for Follett to expand the plot (even though it did get confusing at times).

Probably my most favorite aspect of the novel were the love stories of the characters. With Germany separated into two parts, it was really hard to read about Walli separated from Karolin, and the birth of their daughter who Walli could not see since he could never return to East Germany since he killed a German officer. Additionally, Russia was an exceptionally challenging place to live and love in the Kremlin. Dimka and Natalya’s love story was also one that I really enjoyed for I didn’t know anything about the Kremlin’s underlings.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed this series and if you think about the amount of time, all of the events, as well as making up individuals to fit into these lives is truly a talent of Follett’s. His imagination is incredible and I will miss learning from him. But hey, he has a ton of other books out there. He seems to write faster than I can read. haha. So I’d suggest to go out there and pick up any of his work, especially starting this trilogy. It’s historical, with fiction, with romance, bloody at times, and discusses the political dealing of international relations which is a challenge. I really liked it and I think you would too!