Caesar BLT Pasta Salad

August 5, 2012

Caesar BLT Pasta Salad

This is another super simple and delicious summertime pasta salad.

I don’t normally eat much pasta; but there’s something about the Summer that makes me want to experiment with different cold pasta salads. (And, I’ll admit that I’ve never really been a fan of cold pasta salads.)

We have a lot of cookouts with friends in the Summer and not only are pasta salads easy to throw together, but they also feed big crowds and are a perfect side dish for grilled chicken, fish or burgers.

Last weekend I took Bry’s favorite Angel Hair Pasta Salad to his birthday celebration with the family and several of his hungry fellow sailors. It was a hit, as usual, but we managed to save one small dish of leftovers for the birthday boy. :-)

The Seashells with basil, tomato, and garlic pasta salad that I made for our 4th of July celebration was also a huge hit with all our friends and with a lot of our readers. A big thanks to all our new readers that found us via Pinterest!

I found the original recipe for the BLT Pasta Salad on Food Network; but I adapted it, like I always do.  I don’t know why, but I just can’t follow a recipe exactly as written. I’ll read it a couple of times for inspiration and will almost always change it up.

I decided to nix the milk, sour cream and mayo in the original recipe and try some yummy Caesar dressing instead. Then I thought I might as well throw in some black olives and Parmesan to make it more like a Caesar salad.

It did not disappoint.

Caesar BLT Pasta Salad
(adapted from Food Network)

16 oz. mini farfalle (bowties)
1 lb. bacon
1 pint sugar plum tomatoes, sliced
1 c. Gardini’s Caesar dressing
1 c. sliced black olives
1/2 c. parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
Juice of one lemon
4 c. chopped romaine lettuce

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water to al dente, then drain. (I cooked mine the night before and tossed it with the olive oil and lemon juice and marinated it in the refrigerator overnight.) This keeps the pasta from sticking together.

Cut the bacon into bite size pieces and cook in a large skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard the bacon grease; leaving just a tablespoon or so in the skillet. Add the sliced tomatoes and minced garlic and toss in the skillet for just a couple of minutes to cook the garlic and soften the tomatoes. Remove from heat and let sit until cool.

Since the pasta is nice and cold from being refrigerated overnight; just mix in the Caesar dressing, bacon, tomato mixture, olives and Parmesan, then toss in the chopped lettuce at the end and it’s ready to go! Serve at room temperature.

Again; simple and delicious.

Note: I’ve made plenty of pasta salads with spinach but this is the first time that I’ve made one with lettuce; and, at first, I was a bit skeptical as to how it would turn out.  But, my hungry, meat and potato eatin’ guys raved about it and all my friends loved it.

Obviously, you want to serve this salad pretty soon after it’s made so the lettuce doesn’t get all limp and wilted; but we snacked on it hours later and it was still very good.

I really hope you’ll try this one. Enjoy!

BigSis’ Vegan Twist:  Adios to the bacon and parmesan for starters. I wouldn’t sub a faux bacon, since most that I’ve tried wouldn’t stay crispy in a moist salad. Many aren’t vegan anyway. To replace the salty flavors from the bacon and cheese, I’d use a really flavorful kalamata olive, some capers, and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

We also need to cut the Caesar dressing since anchovies are part of the traditional recipe. We definitely want the Caesar flavors in this recipe but without the fishies, so we can make our own dressing or buy one. I think this recipe for vegan Caesar salad dressing sounds awesome. Follow Your Heart makes a vegan Caesar salad dressing if you don’t want to make your own. That should do it!


Summer is in full swing so don’t forget your sunscreen!

July 15, 2011

photo credit: mommamia on flickr


Summer has been my favorite season for about as long as I can remember, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a sun worshiper, or anything that extreme. I just enjoy any time that I have where I can get out in the sun, even if it’s just for a walk, a bike ride, or sitting outside reading for an hour. And, I always feel a little more cheerful after spending any amount of time out in the sunshine! :-)

Not that it’s likely it’ll happen anytime soon, but, if I ever did have a lazy Summer day where I had no responsibilities and could do whatever I wanted; I would spend the entire day in a lounge chair with a good book and my iPod; either at the beach or poolside.

Photo credit:

As much as I would love to slather myself in red label Hawaiian Tropic Coconut Oil because it reminds me of those long-gone, carefree, teenage days with friends at the lake or by the pool, I do keep sunscreen on at all times.

We’ve got Native American Indian in our blood, so I’m lucky that I tan easy and rarely burn. I’ve also never have had any type of skin cancer, which is pretty amazing considering that when I was younger, I would lay out for the entire day covered in tanning oil!

And, yes, I’ll admit it, my friends and I did try the baby oil and iodine combo. My only excuse for that is that we didn’t know any better and back in those days no one even talked about sun damage from ultraviolet rays. Now that we do know better, we just need to make sure that our kids don’t fry themselves like some of us used to do on a regular basis.

A lot of people, including my hubby, haven’t been as lucky when it comes to sun damage and skin cancers. His family has the Irish skin with fair complexions that freckles and burns easily. When he was young, they spent a lot of time of the lake and he would get so sunburned that his skin would blister. Most doctors agree that the skin cancers we have now were caused by sun damage we experienced when we were younger. A lot of my hubby’s relatives, like him, have experienced serious cases of skin cancer, including melanoma.

We’ve talked quite a bit about sun damage and sunscreens here on BigSisLilSis since both BigSis and I are passionate about the issue. I have to stay on top of my hubby and my son every single day to make sure that they have on their sunscreen. Since HayHay surfs for hours at a time, it’s crucial for him to wear the best sunscreen that we can find.

Summer is in full swing now that we’re in mid-July so I thought this would be a good time to do a recap of some of our previous posts about sunscreen and sun damage.

  • The very best waterproof sunscreen that we’ve found is Vertra, which is what HayHay wears now when surfing. I talked about Vertra and some other great Summer products in this Top 15 Summer Beauty Products post.
  • My hubby used to wear the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch but now his favorite is the Neutrogena Sport Face, which doesn’t sweat off and burn his eyes. I mentioned both of these and a few others when I talked about Skin cancer and sunscreen.

We hope everyone is having a great Summer so far; but whatever you do, please don’t forget your sunscreen! :-)




Lazy Days of Summer

August 2, 2010

Have you been able to enjoy any lazy days this Summer?

Do you ever have the pleasure of waking up in the morning and knowing that you have absolutely nothing that you have to do that day?


Me neither.

Not in my world.

I can’t even remember the last time I had a day like that.

It was probably three years ago, which was our last vacation.

I was daydreaming about what I’d love to do given just one day with no responsibilities.

It might go something like this.

First, no alarm clock would be set. (It would be so nice to start off the day by awaking naturally and not panicking if it’s past six o’clock.)

After a nice, leisurely breakfast, I would probably go for a walk and then I would hop on my Beach Cruiser and go for a long bike ride without thinking about where I’m going or when I have to be home.

I’d love to spend a few hours at the beach with good friends, a picnic lunch, some cold beverages and a stack of magazines.

Next, I’d come home and maybe do a little gardening and then curl up on a raft with a good book and not worry about the time or what I’m cooking for dinner.

Just to prolong my lazy day, I’d probably stay up late and watch a sappy, ‘chick flick’ and call my best friend that I don’t get to talk to near enough.

And if I happen to fall asleep on the couch, the family would have strict orders not to wake me. (That’s some of the best sleep I ever have.)

One last thing; on my lazy day, the guys aren’t allowed to call me and ask where I’m at, what I’m doing, or when I will be home.

A girl can dream, right?

That would be my idea of a perfect lazy day. :-)

What would a perfect lazy Summer day be like for you?


Top 15 Summer Beauty Products

June 28, 2010

I’m back from Vay Cay in Californie (we had a wonderful time, thanks for asking), and now it’s almost July 4th already.  So, I’d say it’s WAY past time to talk about our top 15, must-have, can’t-do-without, essential summer beauty products.  These are the products that we go back to summer after summer, and we can’t recommend each one of them highly enough.  Let’s jump right in!

  • Hair Mask: Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask

  • Hair remover for body (arms): Sally Hansen Sensitive Skin Spray-On Shower-Off Hair Hair Remover

  • Shaver: Schick Quattro for Women

  • Sunscreen for Body: Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Body Mist Sunblock SPF 45

  • Sunscreen for a Super-Active/Water Sports Face & Lips: Vertra Face Stick SPF 50 and Hawaiian Tropic Ozone Sport Sunblock

  • Moisturizer for Body: L’Occitane Almond Supple Skin Oil

There you have it! Our Top 15 list of can’t-do-without products for summer.  Now, how about yours?  Is there a summer essential beauty product that we’ve missed?

Flickr Photo credit: Zellaby


Top Four Sunscreens According to Consumer Reports

June 1, 2010

Hope everyone had a relaxing, enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

We had beautiful weather all weekend so we spent the majority of our time outside. We love being out in the sun but are never without our sunscreen. Here in California, we have to wear sunscreen year round and since HayHay surfs just about every day and SirHoney has a long history of skin cancer, we are always on the lookout for the best of the best when it comes to sunscreen.

One of my friends was just telling me about this recent article in Consumer Reports Magazine where they run down their top Top Four Sunscreens.

Top Four Sunscreens according to Consumer ReportsThey tested twelve products and found four to be slightly better than the rest. The top four include Up & Up’s Sport Continuous SPF 30, Walgreens’ Sport Continuous SPF 50, Banana Boat’s Sport Performance Continuous SPF 30, and Aveeno’s Continuous Protection SPF 50.

I’ve been pretty loyal to my Neutrogena sunscreen sprays, but maybe it’s time for a change.

I’ve never even heard of Up & Up but I will definitely be giving that one a try, as well as the Walgreens’ Sport since they made the top two.  My guys have tried the Banana Boat Sport and they didn’t like it because it ran into their eyes.

We still use these types of sprays for the rest of the body, but we’ve finally found the perfect sunblock for HayHay’s face that’s made by Vertra that doesn’t sting or run into his eyes while surfing or golfing for hours. I’ll be talking more about that product in an upcoming post.

Later this week, BigSis and I will be doing our own rundown of our Top Ten favorite essential Summer products.


Summer Recipe Roundup

August 27, 2009

Have you noticed that we’ve talked quite a bit about tomatoes lately? To us, great locally-grown tomatoes are a huge part of Summer. And while we’re talking about it, we thought that this would be a perfect time to do a roundup of some of our  ‘previously posted’ Summer recipes. In no particular order, here are some of our favorites!

Insalata ala Caprese

Insalata ala Caprese

My absolute all-time favorite appetizer to serve with the ‘cream of the crop’ summer tomatoes is Insalata ala Caprese.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad

This Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette was simple to make and turned out beautifully. It’s perfect to take to an “End of Summer” or Labor Day Party.

Sun Dried Tomato Cream Potato Salad

Sun Dried Tomato Cream Potato Salad

BigSis got a ton of emails when she posted the recipe for this awesome Sun Dried Tomato Cream Potato Salad. It’s a new favorite!

Angel Hair Pasta Salad

Angel Hair Pasta Salad

We’ve been making different versions of this Angel Hair Pasta Salad for years! It’s one of those recipes that you modify to suit your own taste. It’s a great salad to take to a cookout and is even better when made a day ahead.

Healthy Hummus

Healthy Hummus

And, we can’t forget about this easy, healthy Hummus recipe that’s great served with either raw veggies or pita chips.

Homemade Pita Chips

Homemade Pita Chips

This recipe for Homemade Pita Chips is so easy and puts store bought pita chips to shame.

Simple Guacamole

Simple Guacamole

This Simple Guacamole is also great with the pita chips!

Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro, and Green Chile

Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro, and Green Chile

Another really, really simple salad that turns out great is this Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro, and Green Chile.

Simple Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

And, what’s a Summer cookout without Deviled Eggs?

Fried Tomato Sandwich with Pesto and Goat Cheese

Fried Tomato Sandwich with Pesto and Goat Cheese

Even though BigSis just posted this Fried Tomato Sandwich with Pesto and Goat Cheese recipe this week, I couldn’t leave it out of this Summer Recipe Roundup.

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Portobello

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Portobello

Here’s another favorite with tomato! This Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Portobello can also be done on the grill and is a great addition to any Summer cookout.

Summertime Fruit Salad

Summertime Fruit Salad

We started off almost every morning this Summer with a Summertime Fruit Salad like this one.

Mexican Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats

Mexican Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats

These Mexican Chocolate Rice Krispie Treats will satisfy any sweet tooth.

Paradise Pie

Paradise Pie

And last, but not least, this frozen Paradise Pie is a perfect dessert to serve or take to a Summer Barbecue.


100 degrees in the shade!

August 4, 2009


I know that there are people all over the country experiencing hotter temperatures than 100 degrees, but this was before noon in the shade! I know, I know, I’ve been told that I am now officially a ‘wimp’ when it comes to weather because of living in Southern California for the past seven years. I’m heading back to CA in the morning and hopefully will get back some of the energy that this heat has literally sucked from my body.

For those who didn’t read last week, we spent the weekend at Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas to celebrate our mom’s birthday. We really had a fantastic weekend despite the temperatures.  These are a couple of photos that show the views we had from the home where we were staying. It was absolutely beautiful!

Lake view

We did exactly as we had planned: boating, eating, and relaxing. And, LOTS of laughing!


We also managed to catch a couple of unexpected incidents on video, so as time allows we hope to share a couple of really fun videos with you real soon!


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No-Sweat Summer Fun

July 17, 2009

flickr photo by paulotavio

flickr photo by paulotavio

Well, LilSis, the horse races sound like a lot of fun.  Unless of course, you’re here in Texas where it’s AFRICA HOT!  We have horse races here too, but there’s no ding dang way I’m going to the track when it’s 104 degrees like it has been this week.  Sure, you can watch the horses from the air-conditioned indoor area, but where’s the fun in that?  I like to be down on the rail where you can feel the dirt flying and hear the horses breathing.

Surely, surely, there is no-sweat summer fun to be had in Texas (and other sizzling places) that won’t involve a call to the paramedics and a trip to the hospital for heat stroke!  Surely!  You can only sit in the house playing Wii and watching the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” for so long.

Here’s what I came up with.  If you have other ideas, please share them!  We’re desperate out here, folks!

  • Check out one of the blockbuster summer movies.
  • Hang out at the pool IN the water, not just near it.
  • Spend the day at a water park.  Don’t forget the sunscreen!
  • Go to the mall and shop the summer sales.  Don’t go in any store that has winter clothes displayed already!
  • Investigate your local museums – besides art, you may have a science and history museum or something else interesting that you never think of visiting.
  • Whip out the Slip N Slide.
  • Play in the sprinkler – do kids even do that any more?
  • Make homemade ice cream.  We used to love homemade banana and homemade coke ice cream.  And vanilla, of course, with chocolate syrup.
  • If your car has working a/c, drive to Starbuck’s and get a frappucino.
  • Go to a restaurant where you aren’t sad to not be dining al fresco.  Have a cold beer or an iced tea with a cool salad, and some sherbet.
  • Visit the library…you remember the library, right?  That’s what we had before Barnes & Noble and Amazon hit the scene.
  • Shop at the farmer’s market for all of the season’s bounty…but go early, early, early before it gets hot, hot, hot!
  • Make a big bowl of guacamole and eat it with the crispiest chips you can find and the iciest margarita you can blend up.
  • Watch movies with lots of snow.  How about “Snow Dogs”?
  • Get a frosty fruit smoothie for breakfast from your local smoothie shop.  What the heck; have one for lunch!

That’s it for me.  If you’ve got a cool idea, let me know.  We’re melting out here!


Grill your sauce on a stick

June 7, 2009

If you’re like us, we grill outside almost every single day in the summer. Actually, here in CA, we use our grill year round. If I have the choice of whether to cook inside or do something up outside on the grill, I’m always outside.

I love this idea! I haven’t tried it yet, but it makes perfect sense.  You simply thread your veggies on a skewer, brush lightly with oil and cook alongside the meat. While the meat rests, you puree the sauce ingredients in a blender.


Veggies for Creamy Green Chile and Avocado Sauce

These three sauces were the ones shown in the June 2009 Food & Wine issue.

Creamy Green Chile and Avocado Sauce

Creamy Green Chile and Avocado Sauce

Creamy Green Chile and Avocado Sauce

1 firm Hass avocado—quartered, pitted and skin left on for grilling; remove skin when blending
1 small onion, quartered
2 tomatillos—husked, cored and halved
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 jalapeño—stemmed, seeded and quartered
1 poblano chile—stemmed, seeded and quartered
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup water 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Thread the avocado, onion, tomatillos, garlic, jalapeño and chile onto skewers. Brush the kebabs with oil and grill over high heat, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are charred in spots, about 15 minutes; let cool slightly. Remove the ingredients from the skewers and transfer them to a blender.

Add the cilantro, water, and lime juice. Puree until smooth and season with salt.

Recommended to serve with grilled chicken.

Pineapple and Red Chile Salsa

Pineapple and Red Chile Salsa

Pineapple and Red Chile Salsa

1/2 pound plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 pound fresh pineapple, cut into 8 pieces
1 red bell pepper—stemmed, seeded and quartered
1 fresh long red chile, such as a cayenne or Holland chile—stemmed, seeded and quartered
12 mint leaves
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Thread the ingredients onto skewers. Brush the kebabs with oil and grill over high heat, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are charred in spots, about 15 minutes; let cool slightly. Remove the ingredients from the skewers and transfer them to a blender.

Add the mint leaves, water, and lime juice and puree until smooth. Season with salt.

Recommended to serve with grilled pork chops.

Smoky Steak Sauce

Smoky Steak Sauce

Smoky Steak Sauce

2 thick slices of bacon, halved crosswise and rolled into cylinders
1 small onion, quartered
1 portobello mushroom, stemmed and cap quartered
2 plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise
4 pitted prunes
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 large supple ancho chile, seeded and quartered
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup water

Thread the ingredients onto skewers. Brush the kebabs with oil and grill over high heat, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are charred in spots, about 15 minutes; let cool slightly. Remove the ingredients from the skewers and transfer them to a blender.

Add the wine vinegar, light brown sugar, and water and puree until smooth. Season with salt.

Recommended to serve with grilled steak.

I can’t wait to try some of these sauces. When you think about it, the possibilities are endless. Happy grilling!  :-)


Bikini time…it’s here!

May 29, 2009

Yikes!  Swimsuit season has snuck up on us again?  Wasn’t it just Christmas??  I know I keep saying that, but seriously, didn’t 2009 just begin, like 5 minutes ago?

Flickr photo by Glorius

Flickr photo by Glorius

Whether I’m ready for it or not, swimsuit season is here.  And when it comes to my health and fitness level, I’m having some of the same challenges as you, LilSis.   I’ve got stress in my world and we know that triggers the nasty little hormone called cortisol, which does it’s darndest to make you fat.  I also have the “getting older” factor which means hormonal stuff and slowing metabolism, on top of my thyroid issues.  Plus I love spicy and salty foods, so I’m always trying to dodge a mexican food or pizza or chip ‘n’ dip disaster!

In spite of all that, I’m determined to be as healthy as possible, and to not use any of these real challenges as excuses for slacking off.  I’m up to 8 or 10 hard workouts a week, and I’m trying to be extra-careful about my eating.  I still feel as though I’m barely maintaining though, and that my body is really wanting to pack on some extra pounds.  It’s frustrating that I used to get by with 3 or 4 workouts a week and ate much more, but was in better physical condition.  I guess that’s the reality that we women all have to face, right?  We may as well accept it and try to find some solutions that work for us.  Here are some things that help me.  None of them are magic bullets (wish they were) but after decades of trying to be healthy, I know these are the tips that work for me.

  • Eat intentionally, thinking of food as fuel for the things I have to do physically and mentally.  I have enough calories to spend on fuel, and none to waste on junk.
  • Drink lots of water.  So important!
  • Fruit only til noon on some days to give my system a rest.  Never skip breakfast!
  • No sugar or other white stuff…white pasta, white rice, crackers, white bread, potatoes.
  • Small meals keep the metabolism going and the fuel burning.
  • Since I’ve been vegetarian for almost 15 years, I make sure to include protein at lunch and dinner, if not at breakfast. I also have a boiled egg, low fat string cheese or a small protein bar as a snack in the afternoon.
  • Make dinner the smallest meal of the day, and ideally with no starches at all.
  • No soft drinks and no caffeine.
  • Limit alcohol.  Talk about empty calories!
  • Watch the salt, especially at night.
  • Take the supplements that your body and lifestyle demand.
  • Cardio, cardio, cardio!
  • Strength training.  Great for your bones, your posture, and your physique.
  • Don’t forget facial sunscreen every day, whether you’re planning to be in the sun or not.  I like Neutrogena Dry Touch and Skinceuticals.  Neither breaks me out, which is saying a lot.  If you like color on your body but avoid the sun, Loreal Sublime Bronze self-tanner is awesome!

So those are the rules I set for myself, and try to follow (sometimes more successfully than others!).  Having said all that, I do allow myself a treat from time to time!

Oh, and before I go, how about an update on Jillian Michaels’ attempt to kill me via her “30 Day Shred” DVD?  I did Level 1 eight times and then moved up to Level 2, which I’ve done three times so far.  Can I tell you this is hard stuff?  So hard but so great!  I love it.  So far my heart rate on the treadmill is already down.  I’m feeling stronger, with better posture and a tighter core.  As long as I skip a day in-between Shredding, my knees can tolerate it.  I also bought two other of Jillian’s videos: “Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism” and “No More Trouble Zones”.  I haven’t done them yet, but can’t wait to give them a try!

Now let’s get out there, ladies, and enjoy our summer whether we’re in the shape we want to be in yet or not!  Today is all we have, so let’s celebrate it!