Fresh Summer Greek Pasta Salad

Fresh Summer Greek Salad // www.mesacookingco.com

It was about a year ago around this time when I really started digging into cooking and baking. I had a lot of time on my hands and I started trying lots of new recipes with new techniques. Instead of sticking with what I knew, I attempted recipes that really scared me! I learned so much from the cookbooks I have and from tons of amazing food bloggers. The wealth of information about cooking online is so helpful!

One of my favorite things about this time was learning how to develop recipes of my own. I didn’t really know it at the time – but by learning how and why we do the things we do while cooking, I was able to start coming up with my own ideas of foods to put together. I loved the beginning stages of learning it because I felt like I gained so much ownership and confidence in my kitchen. I could tweak recipes without fear, because I knew the principles of cooking, I knew my tweaks would probably work. And when I wanted to try to make something completely new, I knew the basics that would help my recipe be successful.

Recipes like this Fresh Summer Greek Pasta Salad were the type of recipes I first began feeling comfortable throwing together. I started with simple ingredients I knew go together well, because I had seen them in so many variations in other dishes. Then, I added a simple olive oil dressing based on what I know about dressing (after making many, many dressings over time). So yes, simple recipe, simple ingredients. But having the confidence to put together ingredients and drizzling a little of this, a little of that, is so fun!

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Gluten-Free Gnocchi “Mac” and Cheese

A fun, kid-friendly, gluten-free dinner

Gluten-Free Gnocchi "Mac" and Cheese // www.mesacookingco.com

My latest obsession is gnocchi.

Pronunciation lesson to avoid future embarrassment: Nyawk-kee is the correct, authentic, Italian pronunciation, but the English pronunciation is nok-ee. And we can get away with that, I guess. But I’ve mistakenly been pronouncing it no-chee for a loooong time, which is apparently not at all a pronunciation option and totally wrong. And, yes, this expert advice came from 2.4 seconds of google searching. And now we all know how to say it right – yay!

Gnocchi (trying so hard to read it nyawk-kee in my head right now) are like little puffs of potato – seriously, potatoes are so stinking versatile – they’re amazing! These little guys cook just like pasta, in a pot of boiling water. Then, you can mix them with lots of different types of sauces or throw them in a soup. They’re soft, pillow-y, and are somehow 76 times more fun than plain old pasta.

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Chicken Stir Fry with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce

A quick dinner full of spicy, Thai flavor and filled with the best vegetables!

Chicken Stir Fry with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce // A quick dinner full of spicy, Thai flavor and filled with the best vegetables! // www.mesacookingco.com

A few weeks ago, I visited a dear friend in British Columbia for a fun girls’ week. Natalie is one of my absolute for besties – for life, I’m convinced. She and I were roommates in Costa Rica for a semester. She flew across the continent to be a bridesmaid in my wedding. And she’s always worked hard to keep in touch. Yep, Natalie’s a keeper.

Natalie and her family are also foodies! They’re adorable as they all work in the kitchen to put together a dinner. Her family provided me an abundance of food inspiration over the week – it was awesome! This is one of the dishes they made for me and, oh boy, what a tasty dish!! I immediately was asking for the recipe and planned on making it as soon as I got home.

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Whole Grain Tuscan Fresca

A savory dish inspired by my favorite order at Noodles & Company

Whole Grain Tuscan Fresca // A savory dish inspired by my favorite order at Noodles & Company // www.mesacookingco.com

Do you ever eat at Noodles & Company? It is one of my favorite places to grab an inexpensive, quick, and tasty bite! I love their Indonesian Peanut Sauté and their Pesto Cavatappi, but my go-to order is their Whole Grain Tuscan Fresca.

Whole Grain Tuscan Fresca // A savory dish inspired by my favorite order at Noodles & Company // www.mesacookingco.com

It’s full of flavor with sautéed red onions and roma tomatoes. You can pick feta or parmesan to top and both add so much to the shove-all-this-pasta-in-my-mouth urge. Devouring this dish one day at Noodles, I realized I could make a decent recreation in my own kitchen. Simple ingredients, simple steps – yes, a copycat recipe was instantly in the works!

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