My Favorite Things - Guest Post

I'm back with another fantastic guest blogger.  Her name is Liz Swartzberg.  And I have a confession - she's my sister.  Uber talented, gorgeous and funny sister.  So without further ado, I will step out and let her take over!

Howdy! I'm Liz, and I also happen to be Catherine's favorite younger sister. I was born in Mississippi, but grew up in Wyoming – and yes I know Sarah (check out Catherine's last guest post), in fact Sarah and I grew up together and practically lived at each other's houses. Unlike Sarah, I haven't always liked the cowboy way of life that goes on in our small hometown, but I don't mind country music from time to time. I do enjoy reading, writing, playing the piano, camping, fishing, and all kinds of different things. I guess you could say that I am a pretty well rounded gal.

Cooking is not only a hobby of mine, but a joy as well. Like Catherine and Sarah, I started out learning as a young girl from my parents. The first thing I learned to cook was french toast from my dad. I felt lucky as a kid being surrounded by great cooks. I remember my dad's famous gumbo, my mom's yummy fried chicken (yes, I have an affinity for soul food), and Sarah's father's home made bread. After I grew up and realized there was more to just following recipes, I researched, asked MANY questions (and still do) of my talented and knowledgeable big sister, and experimented. Finally I fell into my own where I felt confident and pleased with my concoctions. For the most part I love baking, but since we need food to live, I had to learn how to make nutritious AND delicious food to satisfy the family at supper time.

During my second semester in college, I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia (basically it's low blood-sugar).  From that I had to retrain my body on what, how much, and how often to eat. This is actually when I really wanted to learn how to properly cook for myself. To learn how to do that, is to also learn about food itself and what goes into your meals. I had to figure out how to make a balanced meal with the right touch of carbs and protein to keep myself sustained for a longer period of time. During a hot summer in a tiny apartment without a/c (yes, my husband and I did silly tactics, like putting our underwear in the freezer before we showered to cool off), I wanted to come up with something that would not only keep me from turning on the oven ,but would feed us for days; and thus the Pesto Pasta Salad was born! It's light, has many parts of the food pyramid in it, and is so very tasty!

 One funny story I have is that in high school, I wanted to try to make some pesto chicken for my family. My family had never had pesto before (I didn't even know what it tasted like), so my mom had no idea how to make it. I went online and found a recipe and got to work. As you'll find out, the main ingredient to pesto is basil, and I always use fresh for this recipe, but my mom only had dried. Well I didn't know that the amount of fresh basil is much more than the amount that it would call for dried basil. I used the dried basil in the amount that the recipe called for fresh. Yikes! My poor family could not stomach the chicken! At least I learned about the difference between fresh and dried herbs that day hahaha! Here's to not making my same mistake: enjoy your pasta salad!

Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad


3 cups cheese tortellini, cooked
2 cups Farfalle pasta, cooked
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbs. garlic powder
2 tsp. oregano
Salt and Pepper
1 cup Italian cheese mix
2 medium ­sized tomatoes, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped (Use a variety for more color)
1 can medium black olives, drained and halved
1 can artichoke heart quarters, drained
Pesto Sauce­

Pesto Sauce
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/3 cup + 3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. sunflower seed kernels
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper


1. Season chicken with garlic powder, oregano, and salt and pepper.  Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large skillet and brown chicken on both sides, cooking chicken through.  Set aside.

2. Put pasta and vegetables in a large bowl with cheese.  Cube chicken and add to pasta. 

3. Mix pesto sauce in a food processor and put the sauce in with the pasta. Toss salad to coat. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Serves 8