Southwest Pasta Salad

Picnic Week: Southwest Pasta Salad

Southwest Pasta Salad

There are a few things you need in order to have a totally awesome picnic. Plenty of food is a no-brainer. Also, don’t forget the wine, and/or beer, and/or cider. And bring all of your awesome friends because that makes everything perfect. Here are a few more things to check off your list.

  1. A big tablecloth for covering the possibly gross picnic table in the park, or to use as a big picnic blanket if you can’t get a table.
  2. Cups for discreet sipping of adult beverages.
  3. Matches to light the grill.
  4. A corkscrew (unless you brought screw top wine which I do all the time)
  5. Plates, napkins, and utensils. (I’ve forgotten forks before.)
  6. Condiments because that’s what makes stuff extra awesome.

Southwest Pasta Salad

You should also probably bring along this Southwest Pasta Salad. It totally rocks. It’s simple, bright, delicious, and a bit spicy. That’s where it’s at!

I love this recipe because it’s unexpected. It’s also brilliant for a picnic because it can be made ahead of time. In fact, it’s even better after it’s had a chance to sit in the fridge for a day. Black beans, corn, green onions, and bell peppers, combined with a spicy lime dressing, take this recipe above and beyond your normal every day pasta salad.

It also never hurts to have a vegetarian dish at your picnic. You never know who might stop by.

Pack your picnic basket with plenty of flavors. Trust me. It’s awesome.

Southwest Pasta Salad

Southwest Pasta Salad
Serves 6
A spicy take on pasta salad
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 1/2 pound small pasta (I used penne because it was in my pantry)
  2. zest of 2 limes
  3. 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  4. 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  5. 3 green onions, chopped (I use scissors)
  6. 1/2 cup frozen corn
  7. 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
for the dressing
  1. 6 Tbsp lime juice (I combine the juice from the fresh limes I zested with some from the squeezy lime-shaped bottle. Nigella does it, so it’s okay.)
  2. 1/4 cup cider or rice vinegar (really whatever’s in your pantry will probably work)
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1-1/2 tsp chili powder
  5. 1 tsp cumin
  6. 1/2 tsp coriander
  7. 1/2 tsp salt
  8. 2 tsp sugar
  9. 3/4 cup oil (I used olive oil)
  1. Cook your pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to the time on the package. Drain
  2. Zest your lime into the bottom of a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the black beans, bell pepper, green onion, corn, and cheese. Stir to combine.
  4. Add the pasta and stir it up.
  5. The easiest way to make the dressing is to combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Give it a good shake until the oil has mixed in.
  6. Pour the about 2/3 of the dressing over your salad and give it a stir. If you want more, add it. If not, save it for something awesome later.
  7. Allow the salad to chill in the fridge for at least an hour, but overnight is even better.
  8. Best served under puffy clouds.
Adapted from Our Best Bites
Adapted from Our Best Bites

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burger with pasta salad

Picnic Week: Burgers

burger with pasta salad

Do you love to entertain? Do you live in a tiny duplex without a dining room table? Yeah, me too. I have an easy and beautiful solution. Invite all your friends on a picnic and entertain outdoors in the park.

It really couldn’t be easier. We brought everything we needed on our two scooters. We have a small cheap gas grill that’s easy to transport. I’ve seen people at the park who seem to bring half their kitchen with them, and that’s awesome for them. I’m much too lazy for all that, and it’s certainly not necessary. Everything you need for an awesome picnic can be carried by two people in one trip.

Whatever you do, make sure you have the making of an excellent burger. There’s nothing like a cheeseburger hot off the grill. It’s probably my favorite food. We even served cheeseburgers at our wedding.


If I persuade you to do one thing, it would be to walk away from the prefab patty. Do NOT eat those things. Making your own burgers is simple and at least eight million times better then those hockey pucks in the freezer section. You can season them anyway you like and the possibilities are endless.

Here are a few tips for outstanding burger action. First, fat is your friend. Be sure to buy ground beef that’s at least 15% fat. The good news is, the 80/20 stuff is usually the cheapest. Next, don’t go light on the seasonings. Give it a couple extra shakes. It’ll be fine. Finally, go ahead and pay the extra dollar for the good buns. It’s totally worth it.

Feeding Friends

If you haven’t gone on a picnic in a while, plan one right away. It’s a great way to spend time with your friends without having to clean up your kitchen. Plus, if you’re lucky, the view can be stunning.

Queen's Beach

Serves 6
A basic burger to get your picnic going
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
  1. 1-1/3 pounds (one package) ground beef 80/20
  2. Approx 1 tsp (several shakes) of the following
  3. salt
  4. pepper
  5. onion powder
  6. garlic powder
  7. chili powder
  8. cayenne
  9. dried oregano
  10. 1 Tbsp chili sauce
  11. 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  12. 1 egg, lightly beaten
  13. 1/4 cup bread crumbs (eyeball it, enough to soak up the liquid)
  1. Combine all ingredients with your hands.
  2. Divide the mixture into 4 to 6 patties. Press them together firmly, but make sure not to pack it too tightly. Work quickly and handle the meat as little as possible to make sure it’s nice and juicy.
  3. Store your burgers in the fridge until it’s time to grill.
  4. Grill over medium high heat for about six to eight minutes a side.
  5. Top with all your favorite toppings and stuff your face.
  1. This is more of a method than a recipe. You can add your favorite seasonings and flavors, but here’s what I put in my favorite burgers.

Spicy Chicken Chili

Spicy Chicken Chili

In my experience, British people are easy to impress. All you have to do is put a bowl of spicy chicken chili in front of them, and they think you’re a genius. It’s so simple.

When my husband and I first started living together, we spent the first few weeks marveling at all the things the other had never eaten before. My husband had never had a PB&J until I made one for him one afternoon when he was sick. Can you believe that? We’ve been together three years now, and we’re still discovering cultural differences. It never gets boring.

I absolutely adore the UK, but one thing they seriously lack is Mexican food. They just don’t do Latin flavors over there. I think their only spice is curry powder. It’s been wonderful introducing my husband to the world of cayenne, jalapeno, and habanero. He’s a huge fan now.

Spicy Chicken Chili

His favorite dish is spicy chicken chili. He requests it all the time. I’ve also made it for his parents, and then for our best man and his fiance, all UK residents. Everybody asked me for the recipe. I’m spreading the chili love around the world.

This chili is full of goodness and spice, along with plenty of chicken, green chiles, and cannellini beans. I like to crunch up tortilla chips in the bottom of my bowl, then top it off with a fistful of cheese, and a cooling dollop of sour cream. My husband adds extra habanero sauce because he’s a mad man.

Next time you have guests, particularly of the British persuasion, make sure to blow them away with this simple, delicious, hearty dish. They’ll be begging for more.

Spicy Chicken Chili close

Spicy Chicken Chili
Serves 4
A hearty hot chili perfect for a crowd
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Total Time
45 min
Total Time
45 min
  1. 4 Tbsp butter
  2. 1-1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size chunks,
  3. 1/4 cup flour
  4. 1/2 onion, diced
  5. 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  6. 2 cups chicken stock
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. 2 Tbsp chili powder
  9. 1 tsp ground coriander
  10. 1 tsp ground cumin
  11. 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  12. 15 grinds black pepper (1/2 Tbsp)
  13. 1/2 Tbsp salt
  14. 2 cans cannellini beans, drained
  15. 1 7 oz can green chiles
  16. sour cream to garnish
  17. shredded cheese to garnish
  18. tortilla chips
  1. After you’ve cut up your chicken, don’t forget to season it a bit with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Sprinkle it in and give it a toss.
  2. In a large pot, melt your butter over medium high heat.
  3. Add chicken and cook until browned on all sides and just cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate to hang out while you get on with it.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour and stir it with the melted butter to make a roux, or thick paste. Sometimes the chicken gives off a lot of liquid when cooking, so you may need to add a bit more flour. If you don’t make it pasty, the sauce won’t thicken later. Cook for about one minute.
  5. Stir in the onion and pepper. Let it cook for a few minutes.
  6. Add in about half of your chicken stock and deglaze the pan. Scrape up any bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan, then add the rest of the chicken stock.
  7. Stir in the heavy cream. Allow the mixture to come back to a boil, then simmer for about five minutes to thicken.
  8. Add your spices and seasonings and make sure they’re incorporated. Don’t leave any clumps of cumin behind.
  9. Next, stir in the beans and green chiles.
  10. Add your chicken back in, give everything a good mix, and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  11. I like to crush some chips into the bottom of the bowl, then spoon over the chili, and top it with some sour cream and cheese. Get creative.
Adapted from Aaron McCargo Jr.
Adapted from Aaron McCargo Jr.

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