Italian Pasta Salad

It's no secret that I love pasta so it should be no surprise that I LOVE pasta salad.  Often pasta salads can get so complicated with so many ingredients. I actually came up with this mix back in college when I barely knew how to boil water, so you know it is SIMPLE. I am always craving pasta and this side dish comes in handy during the hot summer months because it is so light.  I served this with the Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches the other night and it was like a party erupted in my mouth. 

Italian Pasta Salad
Serves: 8-10
Cook time according to Rachel: 20 minutes + 1-2 hours of refrigeration
How difficult? If I could make this in college, a 10 year old could make this. 

1 box Rotini pasta
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 medium red onion
12-15 baby carrots
1 cup Mozzarella cheese
1.5 cups Italian dressing of choice
(might need more depending on preference)
(I went Newmans)
Sometimes I also add in pepperoni's, but this time around, pepperoni and Caesar sandwiches just did not go together)


Cook pasta according to directions on box. While pasta is cooking, chop up your vegetables. This is the hardest part.
Look at the colors!
Once the noodles are cooked, rinse in cold water. Then throw everything in a large bowl, mix and refrigerate for at least an hour or until chilled. Once pasta is cold, mix thoroughly again because the dressing will have settled on the bottom.  Sometimes, I do add more dressing here depending on how strong of the Italian taste I want. 


{Recipe} Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich

And I am already wanting to make this again. Chicken Caesar Salad...IN THE CROCK POT? OK! I am all for throwing a bunch of food in a pot and letting it cook on its own for hours without me having to touch it.  This was SO easy and SO delicious. The recipe makes 4 sandwiches and J and I almost polished it off in one night. Once again, I owe Six Sisters Stuff for what's going to be a new staple in our recipe rotation.

Serves: 4
Cook time according to Six Sisters: 5.5-6 hours
Cook time according to Rachel: 6 hours
How easy was this for Rachel to make? VERY!

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 cup of your fav Caesar dressing (Newmans for me)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 culs romaine lettuce
sandwich bread of your choice

(I recommend getting some type of fun bread that you wouldn't normally choose. I went to the bakery section and picked out bread I can no longer remember the name of, but it was tasty!)              


Place chicken in a 3-4 quart slow cooker with 2 cups water. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. I did season the chicken just a bit with salt and pepper and removed from the pot after 5 hours.
Looks delicious doesn't it...
Remove chicken from water and begin to shred. I started with 2 forks and ended up just using my hands to pull the chicken apart. The great thing about shredding chicken yourself is the ability to really trim out the fat.
Drain the water from the pot. Return the shredded chicken to the pot. Add in the Caesar dressing, pepper and parmesan. Mix thoroughly. Cover and cook on high heat for 30 minutes.
Now, THAT looks delicious
Spoon as much chicken as you'd like onto your bread. Top with lettuce and extra parm if needed. 

The chicken was awesome warm and it was equally as awesome the next day when we ate it cold. Yum.


Rotini with Chicken Sausage aka "Cheaters Pasta"

After all the treats from the 4th, I needed a kitchen break but still craved the taste of a home cooked meal. I came across this recipe from Real Simple for a Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Broccoli and it seemed easy enough. I ended up skipping the broccoli only because I forgot to buy it at the store. Whoops.  There was also no real sauce with this dish and many of the comments said it tasted bland. So instead of trying to make something from scratch that I just had no energy for, I bought a jar of Wolf Gang Puck's Creamy Vodka Sauce and ya know what? It tasted great. This sauce could easily be substituted with your favorite flavor sauce. Sometimes taking the easy way out (hence the name) can be just as delicious! However, it wasn't ALL easy...

Rotini with Chicken Sausage aka "Cheaters Pasta"
Serves: 4
Cook time according to Real Simple: 20 mins
Cook time according to Rachel: 40 mins 
How difficult was this for Rachel to make? After making it once and seeing my mistakes, easy!


12 ounces Rotini (or any pasta really)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 ounces chicken sausage
1 small head of broccoli cut into florets
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (I used Wolf Gang Puck's Creamy Vodka)


Cook pasta according to directions on box. While pasta is cooking, time to attack the chicken sausage.

The original directions start with the chicken sausage already fully cooked. Well, I am new to cooking with large sausages like these guys and so what did I do first?

I chopped it. After struggling to make clean slices, I googled how to cook chicken sausage. Yeah, don't chop the sausage first. Looking back now, this is just common sense. Whatever. 

Instead, throw the sausages into a skillet and cook on medium heat. These suckers took about 15 mins to cook. I don't know if that's normal, but that's how long it took for them to brown without burning.

Once browned, remove from heat. NOW is the time to slice them up. 

In the same skillet (I drained it) add olive oil and onions. Cook the onions on medium-high heat for about 3 mins until tender, but not burned. Add in chicken sausage slices. Continue cooking until sausage is completely cooked through and browned. 

What I skipped: Once sausage is browned, add in broccoli and 1 1/4 cups water and simmer covered until broccoli is tender, 5-6 mins.

Where I jumped back in: While chicken sausage is continuing to cook, in a medium sauce pan add the desired amount of pasta sauce and heat according to directions on the jar.

Once everything is cooked through, add sauce, noodles, and onion/chicken sausage and mix thoroughly. Serve with parmesan sprinkled on top. 


Guest Post! Cedar-Planked Southwestern Steak

Hi all! I am very excited about this guest post. My big sister, Jen, is known as the Betty Crocker of our family. She is always cooking up something I only dream about making, and this post is a perfect example!  Jen lives in our home state of Michigan and it's too bad because otherwise I'd be at her house ALL THE TIME for dinner! Before I let her take it away, I had to share this one picture I found from when she hosted Thanksgiving a few years ago...

Duke got plenty of turkey that night! And with that...here's Jen!

Hey, hey Khaos fans! How about a shout out from the ‘D’? I’ll be your guest blogger for the day and I present, a fire in your grill! Not only will you walk away smelling like a cedar sauna, but you’ll have a great steak to go with your aroma.

Suggestions ahead of time – you want a spray bottle filled with water and a great pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the smoke! You will need to buy your cedar plank ahead of time and soak it overnight in water. Also, you can pick up smaller planks if you want to grill some veggies alongside (we chose an onion). Kudos to “Healthy Living” on www.kraftfoods.com for today’s meal!

Cedar-Planked Southwestern Steak
Makes: 4 servings (1 1/2lb skirt steak)
Cook time according to Kraft Foods: About 1 hour and 45 minutes (not counting the overnight soaking of the plank(s))
Cook time according to Jen: Usually 1 hour and 45 minutes. Tonight, we ran out of propane!
How difficult was this for Rachel: She wouldn’t let me try it in California.
How difficult was this for Jen: Never had a problem… I love playing firefighter while cooking!

1 untreated cedar plank (14x7x1 in.) (*buy extras for veggies if you want to try that too)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp oil
3/4 cup Kraft Bulls-Eye BBQ Sauce
1 boneless beef sirloin steak (1 1/2lb) Note, we use skirt flank steak for better cut of meat, same size
Prior to grilling
Overnight or at least for 4 hours, immerse plank(s) in water.

At least 1 hour prior to grilling…
Mix brown sugar and all seasonings in a small bowl. Rub the mixture onto both sides of the steak. Then cover tightly and refrigerate at least 1 hour (no more than 2 hours).

1. Preheat grill to high heat and place water bottle nearby. Sunglasses should already be on your head.

2. Grill steak for 2 minutes on each side

3. Remove the meat from the grill

4. Remove plank from water and brush the top lightly with oil (this will be your cooking surface) and top with steak.

5. Place on the grill and cover with lid. Reduce the grill to medium heat.

6. Stay nearby. You should notice smoke coming from the grill. Every now and then grab your spray bottle and put out those fires. Aim to cut them off low down on the flame – hitting the wood directly should put them out fast!

7. Grill for 15 minutes or until medium doneness (160 degrees) and brush with ¼ c. of BBQ sauce for last 5 minutes of grilling time.

8. Continue to put out small fires. Have fun and yell, “FIRE IN THE HOLE!!”

9. Remove the steak from the grill and carefully discard plank. We soak ours on our driveway… makes a tasty treat for the nearby ants (hundreds) and safe place to leave a burned piece of wood!

10. Cover steak loosely with foil, let stand 5 minutes before cutting into thin strips. Serve with BBQ sauce.



{Recipe}Cherry Coke Cupcakes

To top off my 4th of July treats trifecta, I present Cherry Coke Cupcakes. I mean, what else can I say?! I never knew how easy it was to cook with pop (yes, I'm from the midwest and we say pop, not soda or Coke for that matter. I still don't understand why people say they want a Coke when they really want a Spirte) and if you've been following along, I have made a few things with pop in them. (New to the Khaos? Check out 7-Up Biscuits & Diet Coke Brownies) These cupcakes were super easy to make, probably because they aren't made from scratch. Oh, the horror of making something from a box! Whatever, they were still delicious. Big thanks to Susannah's Kitchen for the recipe!

Makes: 24 cupcakes
Cook time according to Susannah: She doesn't say
Cook time according to Rachel: 1 hour
How difficult was this for Rachel: Easy!

1 box of chocolate cake mix
2 eggs (not pictured)
1 can Cherry Coke (reg coke pictured)
1 jar frosting (nope, didn't make frosting either)
1 jar Marachino cherries (wrong cherries pictured)
cupcake holders

Yeah, there are a lot of things wrong with this picture. I also ended up not using the sprinkles.


Pour cake mix, eggs and coke into a large bowl and mix. Pour evenly into cupcake holders. Bake according to directions on the box. 
Once cupcakes are done, let cool at least 45 minutes until adding the frosting.
Frost and top with a cherry! That's it!


Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Do I even need to elaborate? These were beyond incredible and everyone on the 4th of July agreed. How could they not be??? Normally with anything Red Velvet, the frosting is always cream cheese based. This was an awesome change of pace.  I did not realize the frosting layer was so thick until I cut into the brownies. I was on a bit of a sugar high after eating one and recommend using less. 

The brownies were super easy to make...as long as you pay attention to the amount needed for each ingredient.  I will say it again, PAY ATTENTION TO INGREDIENT AMOUNTS. To avoid the rush on the 4th, I went to the store a few days early to stock up on baking supplies. Of course, I bought one little bottle of red food coloring thinking that would be enough. Well, turns out this recipe requires 2 little bottles of food coloring. When did I discover the error? Oh, the morning of the 4th.  This is what I get for trying to make freshly baked goods for my friends. Reluctantly, I headed to the store and of course they were completely sold out of anything red, white or blue. So I went for the 2nd best thing and bought neon pink food coloring. So the brownies came out a little brighter than normal, they still looked festive for the holiday. And really, as long as the taste isn't compromised, who cares??  

Thank you Smells Like Home for this awesome recipe. I can't wait to make these again!

Red Velvet Brownies with Buttercream Frosting
Serves: a lot
Cook time according to Smells Like Home: Doesn't say
Cook time according to Rachel: 1 hour 15 mins
How difficult was this for Rachel? Relatively easy!


For the Brownies

3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 oz red food coloring (more than pictured!!)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1.5 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

For the White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
2.5 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz white chocolate, melted (not chips!)
1-2 tbsp heavy cream



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8x8 baking  pan.

In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, & 1 tsp vanilla into a thick paste until no lumps of cocoa remain. Now, the above picture was my best attempt. It did not feel like there was enough liquid to make a paste, but it didn't matter in the end. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  I recommend using a hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer. Anyone want to buy me a stand mixer? 

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once fully mixed, mix in remaining 1 tsp vanilla.

Add in the cocoa mix then mix thoroughly until one uniform color

Add in flour & salt and mix just until combined. Be careful not to over mix, but if everything isn't fully mixed, you will see that in the final product. Make sure to scrape down the sides etc.

Pour batter into 8x8 baking pan. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies. Look at that color! Thank you pink neon food coloring.

Allow brownies to cool for 45 mins to an hour before frosting/cutting.

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

In a medium bowl, cream butter using a mixer until butter is soft and fluffy, then beat in vanilla.

With the mixer on low, slowly add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time. Allow sugar to completely mix in before adding the next 1/2 cup. 

Once all the sugar has been mixed in, beat on medium speed for 30 seconds while scraping down the side of the bowl. Add in melted white chocolate and mix until completely incorporated. With the mixer on low, add in whipping cream and beat at medium speed until frosting has reached your desired consistency. 

Frost the brownies then add blue sprinkles for that hint of patriotism. 

Cut up and serve!

P.S. Check out my awesome new signature that J created for me! Big thanks to Kennice for helping me navigate html codes!


Patriotic Strawberries

Just by looking at these, is there any doubt they are anything but AWESOME???!!! I took these to a 4th of July pool party and sadly came home with none. I almost wish I had made more. Big thanks to The Girl Who Ate Everything...though I must admit, her strawberries look a bit more professional than mine, but whatever. They still tasted great! 

Patriotic Strawberries
Serves: As many strawberries as you make!
Cook time according to Rachel: 20 minutes to make strawberries, then must refrigerate at least an hour
How difficult was this for Rachel to make? Easy!


That's it! Strawberries, white chocolate baking squares (6-8oz) & blue sanding sugar!
You will also need a cookie/baking sheet covered in wax or parchment paper


Wash & dry strawberries...which I hope you would do anyways.

In a small microwave safe bowl, microwave chocolate in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir until smooth.

Dip one strawberry at a time into white chocolate, shaking off the excess chocolate. Leave 3/4 strawberry covered in chocolate

Pour sanding sugar into a bowl. Dip chocolate covered strawberry immediately into sanding sugar covering the bottom third of the berry.

Place strawberry on wax/parchment paper to dry. Refrigerate at least an hour or until serving. 


Chicken Pesto Flatbread

Bored with chicken recipes (what else is new), but knowing I need to eat more protein (who cares if it is covered in cheese...at least it is fat free/reduced fat cheese), I found this recipe from Plain Chicken while researching Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce.  Being a big fan of pesto, but never actually cooking with it, I was excited to have it in my kitchen.

This was FANTASTIC.  Plain Chicken recommends serving with a side of pizza sauce and I do too.  J ate his with a side of ranch.  This made an awesome dinner, but would also be a great appetizer for any occasion.  OH, and it is  E-A-S-Y and took less than 30 minutes. Some would say I cheated because I bought pre-made dough, but whatever.  I also bought pre-made pesto. One day when I get adventurous, and have a lot of spare time on my hands, I will make these things from scratch. But that's like saying I'm going to make my own cheese. Highly doubtful.

Serves: 9 squares
Cook time according to Plain Chicken: Does not say
Cook time according to Rachel: Under 30 minutes!
How difficult was this for Rachel to make? Easy.

1 6-in flatbread (pizza dough works perfectly fine)    
2 Tbsp pesto
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup mild cheddar
1/2 cup jack cheese
Italian seasonings for chicken
Pizza sauce or ranch for dipping

Plain Chicken was much fancier than me & bought nicer cheeses. I went cheap (& with what we already had on hand)


Depending on the dough/flatbread you buy, prepare following directions on package.
Plain chicken also bought pre-cooked Italian seasoned chicken. I bought raw & seasoned myself with Italian seasonings.
If using raw chicken: heat very small amount of olive oil or use cooking spray in a large skillet. Chop up the chicken and sauté on medium-high heat until chicken is no longer pink. 

Insert picture of half baked dough, pesto, chicken & cheese...yeah, I forgot. I was doing laundry at the same time.

Because I used pizza dough, the directions required me to pre-bake the dough for 6-8 minutes. 
Then remove from heat and spread pesto, chicken and cheese onto the dough. Bake for an additional 6-8 minutes. 
Remove from heat when dough is golden brown and the cheese is melted. 
Of course, I ran downstairs to put my wash into the dryer and J removed the flatbread from the oven convinced it was done after 6 minutes. I probably would have cooked for another minute but it was still amazing. Slice and serve immediately.