Caprese Pasta and Artichoke Salad

A few weeks ago, I made lunch for one of my favorite non-profit organizations, Rising Star Outreach. Rising Star helps those afflicted with leprosy in India through education, micro grants and medical care.
We served three salads:  Basil Couscous Salad,  Chicken, Apple and Smoked Gouda Salad and this incredibly simple and flavor packed Caprese Pasta and Artichoke Salad.  A fruit platter, assorted rolls and cookies completed the menu.

If you are looking for a simple and fresh pasta salad, it doesn't get much easier than this, cook the fresh pasta in less than two minutes, chop a few ingredients and toss with salad dressing.  It's great for make ahead, or make at the last minute. With fresh basil and tomatoes being available year round, this is a salad you can make any time of the year!

Caprese Pasta and Artichoke Salad
A Bountiful Kitchen

16-20 oz package fresh Tortellini or Ravioli cheese filled pasta
1- .7 oz  Good Seasons Salad Dressing (dry mix) envelope
6-8 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut up
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes
3/4 to 1 cup good quality Italian salad dressing  (I used Bernstein's Cheese Fantastico)
8-12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 cup fresh basil leaves, whole or chopped
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cook Pasta according to package directions. Be careful to not overcook.  Rinse with cold water and drain well. Place pasta in a large bowl and sprinkle with dry seasoning. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible. Before serving, add the remaining ingredients.
Serve or refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
Serves about 10 as a side dish.

-You may make this salad the day before serving. Cut up the mozzarella. Cut the tomatoes in half and refrigerate each in separate Ziploc bags (if you mix the cheeses and the tomatoes and refrigerate, the cheese will become wet from the tomatoes). Toss the cooked pasta with dry dressing, refrigerate in separate bag. When ready to serve, Toss all ingredients together, add artichokes, basil leaves, salt and pepper.
-If you are making this last minute, toss the pasta with the dry dressing mix and then add remaining ingredients. It is better if the pasta can sit with the dry dressing sprinkled on top, but not necessary.
-If you are making this for a large crowd, it is not necessary to double the dry and bottled dressings.  One package of the dry dressing should be enough for a double recipe. A double recipe will also consume about 1 1/4 cups of bottled dressing. Add more bottled dressing if necessary before serving.
-If you are preparing this for a large group, and want to shop at a big box store, purchase:
double pack of the cheese filled tortellini and two grape tomato packages, one package of the fresh mozzarella (comes in double pack), And 1 large marinated artichoke hearts (use  about 1/2 jar) . This along with tripling the dressings and basil should feed approx. 50 people as a side dish.


Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins with Maple Cream Glaze

Celebrating the first week of FALL calls for something baked. And pumpkin. And apple. And spice. Combining all of those flavors into a muffin seemed like the perfect way to start the season off!  And if quick and easy is front and center in your mind when we talk baking, this is your recipe. Thirty minutes, including bake and glaze start to finish. I almost forgot, one bowl. You can't beat that for simple and homemade. Remember kids, I'm over 50 now and try now and then to cut fat when it doesn't mean I have to compromise taste.

I used my reserve of homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice (make some now and put it away so you'll have it on hand for holiday baking) in this recipe, but you can also use store bought pp spice. I had homemade applesauce on hand as well, which I used in this recipe. I'll be doing a tutorial on homemade applesauce soon. So simple and fresh and a perfect addition to my pumpkin muffins. Using 1/2 cup of applesauce allowed me to only use 1/2 cup of oil and eliminate solid fat (butter) without giving up flavor.

I know you are going to love ABK's Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins with Maple Cream Glaze. They are so simple to make and are the perfect start to a fall brunch or a kid approved after school snack.
Happy baking!

Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins with Maple Cream Glaze
A Bountiful Kitchen

3 eggs
15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) I like Libby's brand
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce, any type I used homemade
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (add an additional teaspoon if you like more spice)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Maple Cream Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (half and half or milk will also work)
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring or Mapeline or 1 teaspoon maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

Set rack in middle of oven and heat oven to 400 degrees.
Beat the eggs, oil, applesauce together in the bowl of a mixer. Add the sugar and blend well.
Add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and powder, salt. Mix gently or on low speed just until the flour disappears.
Line a muffin pan with paper liners or grease with cooking spray.
Scoop the batter (it will be thick) into each muffin cup until the cup is almost full (about 1/4 inch to the top) I use a 2 1/2 inch scoop filled. I get about 20 muffins total.
Bake at 400 for about 15-17 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, or the muffin springs back when touched lightly.
Remove and let cool.
Meanwhile, combine all glaze ingredients in a medium size bowl and whisk until smooth. Add a tablespoon of cream or milk until smooth and able to drizzle. I scoop the glaze into a small Ziplock sandwich bag and snip off a tiny bit of the end of the bag and drizzle over the top of the muffins after they are cooled a few minutes.

-If you like chocolate chips in your muffins, add the chocolate chips about 1 1/2 cups to the flour (dry) mixture. Coating the chocolate with flour and other dry ingredients will help prevent the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of the muffins!
-I like the cupcake liners shown above. They are very sturdy and do not let grease bleed through when baking. I find mine at cooking stores, Harmons, and also sometimes at discount stores such as TJ Maxx or Homegoods. You may also use standard baking liners found at all grocery stores in the baking aisle.


Fresh Peach and Coconut Cream Cake

Our Labor Day weekend started with a stop at one of my favorite breakfast spots, Left Fork Grill in SLC, a drive to our cabin for football watching, hiking, fishing, a little archery practice, swinging on the swings and of course a bit of cooking before returning home on Monday.

When at the cabin, I try to simplify and make things that we can enjoy with little time in the kitchen. I baked up this Fresh Peach and Coconut Cream Cake to celebrate the end of summer and highlight one of my favorite fruits.  This recipe is a one bowl, mix, pour and bake dessert. Really simple, fresh and delicious. If you've got  peaches sitting on your counter, this is one dessert you have to try.
Happy Baking!

Fresh Peach and Coconut Cream Cake
A Bountiful Kitchen

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups peaches, peeled and chopped (about 2 small peaches)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut sweetened, flaked (optional)

additional peaches for topping cake (3-4 more)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Add vanilla, peaches and lemon juice, beat until the peaches are broken up into small pieces, about 1-2 minutes on high. Add the buttermilk, flour, baking soda and salt. Continue beating for an additional two minutes, fold in coconut.
Generously grease a 9x13 pan or two 9 inch round cake pans or pie plates. Bake on middle rack of oven, about 30-35 minutes for 9 x 13, about 20-25 minutes for round cake pans or pie plates.
Remove and let cool.
Whip cream until stiff, add powdered sugar, whip until blended well.
Peel, pit and slice additional peaches. Slice cake and top with peach slices, top with whipped cream.
Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar or coconut.

-I baked this at a high altitude (about 6,700 ft) and used 1 cup buttermilk and 2 1/4 cups flour. Baked at 375 for 30 minutes in a 9x13 pan.