An Uncomplicated Life Blog

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lemon-Thyme Pasta Salad

This zesty and fresh pasta salad works as a side or a vegetarian main dish

You know those dishes that just get better and better the longer they sit in your fridge? This is definitely one of those dishes. The more time the marinate has to soak into the fresh veggies and pasta, the tastier it gets. The lemon and thyme are perfect for spring and summer; the veggies freshen the already bright flavor and whole wheat pasta adds texture to this lemon-thyme pasta salad.

This easy to make pasta salad gets better the longer it sits! Make ahead pasta salad

No need to cook the veggies - the acid in the lemon juice softens them. I did, however, blanch the asparagus because who wants to bite into raw asparagus, right? Another key to this really easy, highly versatile dish is to use al dente pasta. That means that you under cook it. Just like the acidity will soften your veggies, it will soften your pasta too. So to avoid a mushy pasta mess, take it out of the water while it still has a little bite to it.

Bring this lemon-thyme pasta salad to cook outs. Add chicken to make it a main dish. Or keep it vegetarian with the chick peas. It can sit out since there's no mayo, and it you keep it vegetarian, there's no meat to spoil (ughhhh, just writing that grossed me out. Spoiled meat. Yuuuuuuuuck!)

Lemon-Thyme Pasta Salad
- 3/4 box of whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente
- 1 small summer squash, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 container of grape tomatoes, cut into halves
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced 
- 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 can artichoke hearts
- 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons thyme
- freshly grates Parmesan cheese to garnish

Bring a large pasta pot of water to boil; salt the water. Blanch the asparagus in the water for about 3 minutes. Drain the asparagus, set aside and cook the pasta in the same salted water, making sure to drain the pasta before it's fully cooked.

In a large bowl, add the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, zest of one lemon and juice of two lemons and whisk together. Add the vegetables and chick peas. Once the asparagus and pasta have cooled to room temperature, add to the bowl and fold together. 

You can enjoy the lemon-thyme pasta salad immediately, but it's better if it has a few hours to sit so that the lemon juice can soften the veggies and adsorb into the pasta. Better yet, make it the night before you want to serve it and let it rest overnight in the fridge! It will get better with age, and keep for several days in a sealed container refrigerated. 

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This lemon-thyme pasta salad basically tastes like summer in a bowl. It's so fresh! If you have an herb garden, it'd probably also be great with a little fresh parsley. Happy cooking!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Making Sweet Memories

Pilsbury products help make sweet family memories easy and delicious

This post is sponsored by Pillsbury on behalf of Acorn Influence. All words and pictures are my own.

Growing up, holidays were some of my favorite memories. There was always a big meal that was served around 2pm. To tide us all over, my dad would make Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in the morning. I remember my sister and I taking turns licking the excess icing out of the little round container after my dad would frost the warm rolls. We'd then be on a crazed sugar high as we put on our Easter dresses and hats (and, winter coats because I grew up in Minnesota and let's get real, most the time there was still snow on the ground for Easter). Now that I have my own family, I'm excited to share the tradition of making sweet memories with my boys.

These prepackaged Easter sugar cookies are mess free and easy to make!

I've told it to y'all once and I'll say it again: I'm a terrible baker. I hate how I have to measure everything, and if you don't get it just so, it won't turn out. I'm more of a throw everything into the pot, season it, taste it, season it again and voila! It turned out kinda cook. But you can't really taste things as you're baking them. Or errrrr, you're not supposed to after that raw egg goes in. So I'm taking a page out of my father's book (see what I did there?!) and letting Pillsbury help me make these sweet memories much easier with their Easter Bunny sugar cookies.

My kids LOVE sugar cookies. Neither one is a fan of chocolate, so chocolate chip cookies are a no go here. But sweet butter and sugar and vanilla? Oh yes! Cookies in fun shapes? Yes please!

Henry is getting really interested in what I do in the kitchen, and I hope he remains interested in learning how to cook. He pulls his stool up next to me so he can see over the counter and watches intently, asking what I'm doing, repeating what I say, and helping out on tasks he can manage. Otto, in true younger sibling fashion, doesn't want to be excluded and tries to scale the cabinets or hangs from the oven door handle in attempts to get in on the action. Can't leave that one alone for a second. He'd probably climb into the oven to get after one of these baking cookies! He's a little too short to see, so daddy had to help hold him to get in on the cookie action.

I love that the cookies are already made for us, so all we had to do was get them situated on the cookie sheet and bake them. No mess to clean up after, FTW! Don't worry, Henry still managed to sneak a few bites off a few of the cookies while my back was turned dealing with a feisty Otto.

Honestly, the hardest part of these adorable bunny sugar cookies was waiting for them to cool. The kids circled the kitchen like vultures, waiting to get their mitts on the amazing smelling baked goods. Finally, they were cool enough for the kids to shove them in their faces right by the stove. Who needs to sit down to enjoy a warm cookie?!

If you're like me and don't enjoy baking from scratch, these Pillsbury cookies are perfect. Walmart has them fully stocked in all sorts of adorable spring or Easter varieties. Get a batch and make some sweet memories with your kiddos!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Saving Money To Give Back

Direct Energy's Give Brighter 12 plan donates solar Luci light's to powerless countries when you sign up with their competitively priced energy plan

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Direct Energy. The opinions and text are all mine.

I wasn't always a blogger, working with brands for a living. In fact, I've taken a few big career turns in my life. The bulk of my "working a traditional 9-5 job" years were spent in fundraising and marketing for nonprofit organizations. It's that passion that's brought me to this post, in collaboration with Direct Energy, letting you know how you can save money to give back. But I wasn't always so happily employed - it took me a while to find my passion.

For a whopping three years I toughed it out in the marketing department of a Fortune 500 company. I watched people get thrown under the bus (that was, in all earnest, their favorite term to use after nearly every meeting - "who got thrown under the bus today?!" then they'd snicker at whomever the latest victim was), I watched people's ideas get shut down, I watched firings and layoffs. It was a glorified junior high cafeteria, that financial services marketing department. Or the corporate version of Naked and Afraid, Survivor or some other bizarre, cut throat {bad} reality TV show.

Fortunately it only took me 3 years to peace out of that bad environment and head off to grad school for nonprofit management at one of the best arts schools in the country. I learned how to run a nonprofit, fundraise, market and work in creative software because, let's face it, nonprofits rarely have the budget for a marketing department. And that's when I got passionate about my career and passionate about nonprofit causes.

As a blogger, I now get to use those design and marketing stills for my own brand. But my passion for helping others still runs deep. Anytime I can partner with a brand who wants to spread the message of how they're helping communities in need, I'm on board immediately and 100 percent.

I found out about Direct Energy's Give Brighter 12 plan and was thrilled to be able to tell y'all about it. They're partnering with MPOWERED to donate solar lights to developing nations. It's hard for us to imagine a world without power since we've had it for so long. You're probably reading this on a laptop or a mobile device that's (hopefully) fully charged, and if it's not, you're not too far from a power source to charge it. You don't even think about turning on lights, the microwave, a fan at night to keep you cool.

But not every body in every country has that luxury. In fact, many developing nations still use kerosene to light their homes and businesses at night, which is incredibly dangerous, not to mention toxic. Those fumes are intense, and these homes and businesses aren't exactly ventilated.

Enter the Luci light. It's solar powered (read: no plug in necessary) and portable. It can be used as a lantern, a table light, an emergency light - you name it. Direct Energy, in collaboration with MPOWERED, is donating one light for every person who signs up for their competitively priced Live Brighter 12 plan, a 12 month competitively priced fixed rate energy plan. And bonus - they'll send a light to you, too! Want to check out a video to learn more about this great program? Check this out.

If you're in the market for a more competitive energy plan, I hope you check out the Give Brighter 12 plan.  Direct Energy helps you use less energy with unparalleled usage insights called Direct Your Energy, which allows you to tracking your usage by appliance. You can potentially lower your energy bill, save some money and give back to developing communities in need. And who doesn't want to save money to give back to others?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Direct Energy. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.