Classic Pasta Salad


I grew up going to family cookouts on a regular basis. We were a really close family, so close that many of us lived within walking distance of each other. We were the kind of family where everyone gathers at grandma and grandpa’s for Sunday breakfast each week. That means I spent almost every weekend with 4-6 of my eight cousins.

Now that almost all of us cousins are grown up, we actually contribute more than noise to the family cookouts. (Ok, truth told we probably contribute more noise now.) We are almost all above the age of 21, we don’t live that close together anymore, and everyone is always so busy. That means these days when we have cookouts; it’s a pretty big deal.

Recently, we were having a pig roast, and I thought pasta salad would be the easiest thing I could make. I’m not a super great chef, so I was convinced pasta salad was safe enough it would be difficult for me to screw up. After all, pasta salad is a cookout classic; if I messed it up, you can be sure someone would notice.

Thankfully, I did not screw up the pasta salad. I did accidentally leave out the tomatoes and didn’t dress it again before serving, but there weren’t any complaints from the family.


Since I was feeling innovative, I also made an alternative to this pasta salad. It was in addition to the standard pasta salad of course; you don’t want the natives to throw a fit when you show up with pasta salad, and it’s not what they were expecting. If you are a little more daring than my family, you can find the recipe for the Southwestern Pasta Salad here.

Classic Pasta Salad
This summer cookout classic is sure to be a hit at your dinner table.
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 10 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 box of pasta of your choice
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 block of sharp cheddar, cubed
  • ½ cup Italian dressing (start small and add more later)
  • 1 can black olives, halved
  • 1 large cucumber halved
  1. Cook pasta to your liking.
  2. While pasta is cooking, cut up all of your veggies and the cheese.
  3. Mix all ingredients
  4. except the dressing
  5. in a bowl.
  6. Stir until everything is well mixed.
  7. Slowly add dressing to your liking. You can always add more; you can’t take it back.
  8. Chill pasta salad for at least 30 minutes.
  9. Stir, add more dressing if necessary, and serve.

Classic Mojitos

DSC_0069In true (recent) college kid fashion, I had never actually had a mojito before. The bars I would frequent while in school didn’t really serve such fancy libations. It was more of a rum & coke, vodka cranberry, and buckets of beer kind of scene. Now that I am trying to expand my horizons a bit when it comes to the cocktails I kick back with; I thought it might be time to try some other common cocktails.

We were having A Flexible Life night in the office, and Jen was making Greek Yogurt Grilled Chicken, so I was looking for a cocktail that would pair well with dinner. Mojitos seemed to fit as well as anything else, so I made mojitos for the three of us while Jen made dinner.

Because I had never had a mojito before, I had to take my first attempt at mixing one to Jen for a taste test. She thought it hilarious that I didn’t know what it was supposed to taste like, but thought my version was spot on.

[She’s right…for someone who had never made a mojito before, she mixes a pretty fabulous one! – Jen]

Mojitos might be my new favorite drink, at least in the top 5. I hate super sweet or overly syrupy drinks; I always feel like I can feel the sugar coating my teeth as I drink it. The light sweetness paired with the slight kick of the lime and mint flavor was just right! It was perfectly refreshing and made a great cocktail to pair with our summer dinner festivities. 

Classic Mojitos
Super simple mojitos for any occasion!
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 1 drink
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • 2 oz of white rum
  • Juice of one small to medium sized lime
  • 7-10 mint leaves
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar
  • 1 c seltzer water
  1. Muddle the mint leaves. If you don’t have an official mortar and pestle, you can just rip them up and smash them with a spoon. (Tip courtesy of Johnna!)
  2. Cut and juice one lime into the shaker.
  3. Add two ounces of rum to the shaker along with the powdered sugar* and muddled mint leaves.
  4. Shake well with ice.
  5. Add to a tall glass with the seltzer water.
  6. Stir and serve.
  7. Optional: garnish with mint leave and lime slice.

* I used powdered sugar because it dissolves better in liquid and I didn’t have to make any simple syrup.