Panzanella Salad

July 27, 2016

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I had the most amazing lunch today! It was so delicious that I knew immediately I had to share it with you guys ASAP! Part of the fun was picking the tomatoes, cucumbers and basil fresh from my vegetable garden (warm from the sun, mind you). But this salad would be just as good if you get your ingredients from the farmer’s market or your local grocery store — just try to buy the freshest vegetables you can find. The idea for this salad all started because I had half a leftover baguette from dinner last night and as I was grilling up the bread to make homemade croutons, the Panzanella Salad idea came to mind! Every bite was a sigh of yuuummmm….so much so I’m making it again tomorrow!!

Start by making the vinaigrette dressing: see my recipe under the Salads and Dressings category. Once made, set aside. Next it’s time to make the crusty bread. See my recipe for Homemade Croutons under the Condiments section for instructions. (How useful is this blog?) When the bread is grilled to perfection, set aside. Lastly, slice and dice your vegetables and basil and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the crusty croutons and give everything a good stir.

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Slowly pour the vinaigrette dressing over the salad and toss. Let the salad sit for a few minutes before serving so the bread soaks up some of that delicious vinaigrette dressing you just made.

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Serve individual plates garnished with basil sprigs for a nice added touch!!

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[As a side — I like to add fresh mozzarella to this salad. It’s not a traditional Panzanella but so what!! Other interesting ideas you can add to this salad are capers, red or green peppers, feta cheese, or olives.]

Ingredients:

2 cups or so crusty croutons (see my recipe for Homemade Croutons in  Condiments category)
20-25 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
½ cup fresh basil chiffonade (more as a garnish if desired)
½ English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup vinaigrette dressing (see my recipe for Vinaigrette Dressing in Salads and Dressings section)

Optional: fresh baby mozzarella balls, sliced in half (or any other add in you desire)

Makes roughly four servings 

Roasted Radishes

July 19, 2016

 

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I know, I know. I have been quite slacking these past many months….but I am back!! I have accumulated many new recipes that I can’t wait to share with you all!! Not that you need to hear any excuses for the lack of posts, but I have been busy working on an exciting new project (I’ll share details when I can) and building my social media presence (something bloggers have to do supposedly…). Now that I am back, I want to share a very easy yet totally cool new recipe: Roasted Radishes. It’s summer and there is an abundance of radishes either in your garden or at the farmer’s markets. And while radishes are great added to salads or used with dips, have you ever thought about roasting them? They kind of look like new potatoes but their flavor is uniquely their own. Roasting totally transforms their crunchy, peppery flavor turning them soft and almost sweet. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Take your bunch of radishes and trim the tops and bottoms. Give them a good scrubbing so they are nice and clean. Slice each one in half putting them in a single layer in a roasting pan. Generously add olive oil stirring to coat each radish half. Next, sprinkle the them with salt, pepper and thyme. Roast at 375º for 15-20 minutes (they are done when you can easily pierce with a knife). Remove from oven and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over. Top with parsley and serve immediately. What a unique side dish you just created!!

Ingredients:

One bunch of radishes
1 tbsp olive oil (more if needed)
1-2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
2-3 tsp fresh thyme
Juice from one half of a lemon
1-2 teaspoon parsley (fresh or dried)

Chicken Pot Pie

January 22, 2016

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Talk about an easy dinner!  One pot to clean up and very little prep time to get this Chicken Pot Pie on the dinner table. To me, it’s the perfect solution to a quick, delicious homemade dinner. Some of you may remember the days when you would put a frozen pot pie in the oven and wait for what seemed like hours only to take that first bite and scorch your tongue….well, this is not that pot pie!! A couple of things make this a quick go to dinner: first, I use a store cooked rotisserie chicken and second, I use a pre-made, refrigerated pie crust. Judge me if you want but sometimes you need shortcuts in life!!

In a large stock pot, melt the butter and saute the carrots, celery, onion, garlic and spices. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften. Add the  frozen peas, cooked chicken, mushroom soup and water and stir to blend. Cook over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a pie plate letting it cool for a few minutes (helps if the filling is not piping hot when putting the uncooked pie crust on top).  Fold the pie crust over the filling and crimp the edges. Poke a few holes in the crust to vent and brush the egg wash over entire crust. Place the pot pie on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375º oven for 30 minutes (or until crust is golden brown). Now dig in!! I promise you won’t scorch your tongue.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter
½ cup carrots, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup yellow onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ cup frozen peas
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 pie crust
egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 tbsp water)

Serves six

Carrot Ginger Soup

November 17, 2015

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It’s almost Thanksgiving. To me that means it’s time to scour food magazines, pinterest, instagram — anywhere I can get new, fresh ideas for such a traditional meal. I love the basics but with a twist. So here’s one for you…instead of the traditional butternut squash soup, why not try my Carrot Ginger Soup! It has the same creamy texture (with no cream mind you) and it’s such a healthy, flavorful soup. It makes the perfect Thanksgiving lunch if you’re like me and want something super light yet satisfying before the big dinner. However, it also makes a lovely first course if you enjoy serving soup to begin your Thanksgiving meal. I like to top my soup with fresh, crispy sage leaves* — they are so incredibly delicious on their own but when paired with this soup…WOW! You could also top the soup with toasted pine nuts, garlic croutons, or even something as simple as snippets of fresh parsley. If you’re artistic, try a dollop of plain greek yogurt swirled in a fancy design (an image of a turkey comes to mind).

Begin by sauteing the shallots in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for roughly 2-3 minutes. Next, add the diced carrots, stirring often as they cook. When the carrots start to soften, add the minced ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat for an additional 5 minutes, being careful not to let the ginger or garlic burn. Add your broth, cumin and paprika and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Lastly, turn off the heat and using an immersion blender puree the soup until creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Ingredients:

2-3 shallots, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb mini carrots, diced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
4 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika

Makes roughly 4 servings.

* To make the crispy sage, brown 2 tbsp of salted butter in a skillet. When the butter is nicely browned and bubbly add the fresh sage leaves and cook until crispy (5 minutes max). Tastes so good, you’ll eat them like candy!!

A study in orange shadows…

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Lighter Chicken Salad Dressing

July 31, 2015

 

FullSizeRenderSummertime for me is picnics on the beach, lunch al fresco and light dinners under the stars. My go to dish for any and all of these meals is chicken salad. It’s so versatile, going from a bountiful summer salad, to a grab and go sandwich, to a snack atop a cracker! Its only major complaint: the fattening mayonnaise… Trying to be as healthy as I can, I fix this problem in two ways: first, I use a healthy alternative “mayonnaise” (check out Just Mayo — trust me, I love real mayo and this stuff tastes just like it but it’s a whole lot healthier!); second, I use half the amount of mayonnaise substituting plain greek yogurt (which we all know is good for you). This combo makes for a tangy, lighter version of traditional chicken salad!!

To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together to blend well. Refrigerate until ready to dress your chicken salad. You will need 2 to 2 ½ cups cooked, chopped chicken to go with your salad dressing. When ready, make your chicken salad like you always do — for me, it’s definitely a mixture of minced red onions and walnuts!! What are your secret ingredients?

Ingredients:

½ cup Just Mayo (or if you must use mayonnaise use a light version)
½ cup plain greek yogurt
2 tsp. grainy mustard
½ tsp. garlic salt
¼ tsp. cracked black pepper
1 tsp. fresh or dried parsley
½ tsp. onion powder
A dash or two of Worcestershire sauce

Makes roughly 1 cup of dressing.

Makes a delicious chicken salad to accompany all your freshly picked garden vegetables!

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Or, perhaps a sandwich on the patio?

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Summertime Iced Coffee

June 3, 2015

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I’m adding a new category today — Drinks!! Yea, this will be fun. There are so many options out there: cold drinks for the dog days of summer, warm drinks to soothe your numb fingers, and flirty cocktails for any festivity! Please pass along any requests or ideas, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I decided to add this cold brew coffee recipe as a post (even though it is so incredibly simple) because even the most basic recipes need posting sometimes. For the longest time I was making iced coffee by brewing a pot of coffee then letting it chill. It was ok, but just ok. The cold brew process is so simple, as all it really demands is time for “brewing” in the refrigerator, and produces such delicious flavors.

In a large pitcher, add 1 cup ground coffee (if you’re grinding it yourself, make it coarse) to 4 cups water. Filtered water is preferred but not required. Give it a quick stir and then set in refrigerator for at least 12 hours. When ready, pour the liquid through a strainer or cheese cloth into a bowl to remove the coffee grounds. I repeat this process a few times to make sure I remove all the gritty coffee grounds. When the coffee is clean of the grounds, pour the reserved liquid into a pitcher. Your coffee is now ready to use! Taste the coffee and adjust with additional water if too strong for your liking. The coffee will keep for up to 4 weeks if refrigerated.

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Add whatever fixings you like to your drink then get outside and enjoy your delicious
glass of refreshing Summertime Iced Coffee!!

Ingredients:

1 cup ground coffee
4 cups cold (preferably filtered) water

Makes 4+ cups of Iced Coffee

Petite Pepper Poppers

April 14, 2015

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This recipe is a shout out to my buddy Katie who turned me on to these adorable mini tricolored peppers. At a recent stay at her house, we ate these peppers with scrambled in eggs for breakfast, for an extra crunch in a wrap for lunch, and as a grilled side dish with salmon for dinner. I fell head over heels for these little buggers! Upon my return home, I immediately bought a bag of peppers and started putting the mini guys in everything. Only problem, there were so many! Seeing as there are only two of us at home right now, I had a lot of peppers to use! Hence, this recipe was born. My husband and I were heading off to watch a Blackhawks game at a friend’s house so I decided to bring along this newly created appetizer to see how it would be received….they got two thumbs up!! So, Katie, next time you are serving margaritas by the pool please serve these Petite Pepper Poppers too…they would make a great pair!!

Begin by slicing each pepper from stem to bottom and scape out the seeds and any large ribs you can get at. Wash out and place on a towel to dry off. Meanwhile, put the goat cheese in a small bowl and bring to room temperature. If using plain goat cheese, you may want to spice it up with fresh herbs — think thyme, parsley, garlic to name just a few options. Just make sure if you add your own spices to finely mince the herbs. Next, crumble the bacon into the cheese and stir to blend well. Now the fun part — using your hands (tried a spoon — didn’t work) stuff each pepper with the cheese mixture and place in a Pyrex dish. Drizzle each pepper with a little olive oil and bake at 375º for 15-20 minutes (until peppers are softened). Place on serving platter and sprinkle with chopped chives.

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 Serve with a napkin as these poppers are a little juicy!!

 

Ingredients:
12 mini peppers, 4 of each color
1 log goat cheese (herbed or plain)
3 pieces bacon, cooked very crispy
Olive oil
Chives for garnish, finely chopped

Makes 12 Petite Pepper Poppers

Shucking Good Corn Bread

March 18, 2015

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Some things in life are just as easy making from scratch as it is making from a box — corn bread is just that thing. With simply eight ingredients, you can’t tell me this is hard to make! Corn bread is an amazing treat for breakfast, a delicious afternoon snack or the perfect side dish at dinner. And by using coarse corn meal and raw sugar, the texture is amazing!! Add a dab of butter and drizzle of honey and you have a shucking good thing!

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In a large mixing bowl, add the corn meal, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Mix well. Next, add the milk, oil and egg and stir to blend completely. Meanwhile, butter the muffin cups, loaf pan or baking dish with a generous amount of butter (tastes great with corn bread so don’t be shy). Ladle mixture into muffins cups, loaf pan or 8×8 baking dish (I mix it up depending on why I’m making corn bread — muffins for breakfast, mini loaves for a side dish at dinner). Bake at 375º for 20-25 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Cool muffins on a wire rack.

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Serve warm and watch the butter melt into the crannies….perfection!

Ingredients:

1¼ cup coarse grind corn meal
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup raw sugar
Dash of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk (I use skim)
1 egg

Makes one 8×8 baking dish, 20 mini muffins or 12 muffins.

Blueberry Hand Pies

February 9, 2015

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Like most things I bake, these Blueberry Hand Pies are SO easy!!! If you need a quick, easy to make, homemade dessert that everyone will love, make these hand pies! You can add a little fancy vanilla ice cream if you feel they need to be dressed up, but really, they can stand on their own two feet….just look at how pretty they are. They kind of remind me of the Hostess fruit pies we had as kids way back when….but so much better!!

Begin by mixing in a large bowl the blueberries, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Stir to combine and set aside. On a floured surface, roll out your pie crust. Using a cereal bowl (because I don’t have a 6″ cookie cutter), cut the pie crust into circles. You should end up with 6-8 circles.

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Put the pie crust circles on a parchment lined cookie sheet and fill each half of the circles with a few tablespoons of the blueberry mixture. Fold the crust over to form a half circle. Using a fork, crimp the ends.

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Brush the top of each hand pie with an egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Vent each hand pie with a knife and bake at 375º for 30 minutes, or until perfectly browned. There you have it!! That’s it. Told you it was easy!

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Ingredients:

1 pie crust (I use refrigerated ready to use pie crust)
1½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with a teaspoon of cold water)
Raw sugar to dust the tops of the pies

Makes 6-8 hand pies

 

 

 

 

 

Tots Gone Wild

January 31, 2015

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I hear you. It’s Super Bowl Sunday and you have no idea what to bring to the big party. Let me just say this: tater tots; BBQ sauce; bacon. Oh yeah, bleu cheese dip. Read on fans.

On a large tin foil lined cookie sheet, arrange your frozen tater tots in neat little rows (hey, I’m OCD). Wrap each tot with a strip of cut bacon and place on cookie sheet seem side down. Repeat until all tater tots have a piece of bacon wrapped snuggly around them. Bake in a 400º oven for 20 minutes, or until the bacon starts to crisp. Remove from oven and liberally brush on the BBQ sauce on each tater tot. I’m serious — be generous with the sauce!! It adds great flavor. Cook another 10 minutes until sauce is sizzling with yumminess. Arrange the tots in neat little rows on a platter and serve with a bowl of bleu cheese dressing (btw, I have an amazing recipe for bleu cheese dressing right here on this blog!). Use your fingers when dipping — I tried using cute little forks but the tots fall apart. Plus, BBQ sauce is always finger licking good!!

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Ingredients:

1 bag frozen Tater Tots
1 lb bacon, cut into 3 inch strips
1 bottle your favorite BBQ sauce
Bleu cheese dressing (see my recipe for Creamy Bleu Cheese Dressing in Salads and Dressings category)

Makes a whole lot of Tots Gone Wild if you use entire bag!