Veggie & Feta Pasta Salad

I cannot believe Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone. It’s almost time for summer fruits and veggies again.

That being said this pasta salad is perfect for the warm weather.  There’s a ton of veggies, a bit of cheese and a great light vinaigrette. It can be made in advance and kept in the fridge too.  You can feel free to add other veggies too-maybe some red or yellow peppers, onions etc….

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Veggie & Feta Pasta Salad

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb gemelli pasta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped kalamata olives (pitted obviously)
  • 1 cucumber cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 large clove of garlic, put through press or mashed to a paste
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, drain and rinse with cold water.  Shake out as much of the water as possible.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine all of the salad ingredients above and mix well to combine.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients except the olive oil until evenly combined. Then, while whisking, add the olive oil and continue to whisk until emulsified.
  4. Pour dressing over salad, mix to evenly distribute the dressing, and serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.
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Vidalia Onion Pie

It’s Vidalia season again!! I picked up two of those beauties at my grocery store a few days ago and have been wondering what to make. While I did find a roasted Vidalia onion salad that sounded promising I wanted to somehow incorporate this month’s What’s Baking theme of Puff Pastry into it too. So I searched and searched and found a delicious sounding Vidalia Onion Pie recipe from Paula Deen. I haven’t ever made anything of hers but it looked like exactly what I was hoping for. A nice pie with crumbly bacon topping, sweet browned onions and (my idea) a flaky crispy crust-not the pie crust that Paula’s recipe called for.

Truth be told I was secretly thinking that the crust wouldn’t ever work right and I’d have to throw everything out. I’ve never switched out a puff pastry for a pie dough before but I thought if I pre-bake it that it will be just fine. And it was. It was glorious!! And surprisingly easy to make too!

It’s not a deep pie-only about an inch since I used a tart pan. It’s a very light custard type of filling-surprisingly light and the onions–OH THE ONIONS!!-beautifully sweet just like they should be.

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Vidalia Onion Pie

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups thinly sliced Vidalia onions (I used about 1 & 1/2 onions)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (thawed if frozen-I like Pepperidge Farm)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp AP flour plus more for rolling out dough
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 & 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked to crispy and crumbled (4 for pie, 1 for dog 🙂

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. Roll out the pastry until it’s thin enough to cover entire inside, sides and have a small amount hang over sides of tart pan.
  3. Lay pastry in pan and press all around to fill evenly. Using a fork poke holes in the dough on the base of the pan and in the edges around the outside. Cover the edges with 1 layer of foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. While the pastry is baking prepare the onions. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat melt the butter and then add the onions. cook them until they’re lightly browned. Then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. In a small bowl beat the eggs and then add the flour and whisk to combine. Then add the milk sour cream, and salt. Whisk to combine.
  6. When the pastry is done spread the onions over the bottom of the pan and then pour the egg mixture over it. Sprinkle the bacon on top and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Serve right away.

I only had about 1& 1/4 cups of sour cream. I subbed a new Greek Yogurt/Cream cheese mix that I had for the remaining 1/4 cup. It worked out fine.

It will help you a lot if you put the tart pan onto a cookie sheet for the duration of the recipe so you don’t run the risk of messing up the edges of the dough getting it in and out of the oven.

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Cara from The Boys Made Me Do It was the host of this month’s challenge. Check out all of the other dishes made here!

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Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joes

Yes I know I thought the same thing when I read the name of the dish–YUM!! Putting 2 classics together-that’s genius! I’ve seen a few different recipes for this floating around the internet and blog world for a while but never got around to making one. For this month’s blog swap I was given http://www.tasteofhomecooking.blogspot.com/ and it took me a while to decide to make this dish-Sarah’s got a ton of great sounding recipes on her blog.

I really did enjoy eating these yummy sandwiches. The recipe makes about 4-6 sloppy joes depending on how much you can load into the bun. I toasted the roll with a slice of provolone on each side and then put the beef mixture in the middle. I stuck to her recipe pretty closely with this one-the only changes being that I added a bit of worstershire sauce and used less onion and upped the steak sauce amount and then let it reduce for a while. I think the green pepper added a great depth of flavor too. Next time I make this I will use the leanest ground beef that I can find to cut down on the fat. The beef mixture also reheated extremely well.

 

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Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped small
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 4 tbsp A1 Steak Sauce (or similar)
  • 3 tbsp Lea & Perrins Worstershire Sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4-6 kaiser rolls
  • Provolone cheese-sliced thin

Instructions:

  1. Add the olive oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. when the oil is hot add the onion and geen pepper and cook until starting to brown and slightly soft. Remove the onions and peppers from the pan and set aside for later.
  2. To the same hot pan add the ground beef and brown, cooking through thoroughly. Drian any fat, add the peppers, onions and stir to combine. Then add the steak sauce, worcestershire sauce, beef stock. Bring it to a boil and then reduce heat and let it simmer about 10 minutes until most of the liquid is gone. Add salt and pepper if necessary to season.
  3. Cut the rolls in half, place one piece of provolone on each side and toast.
  4. Mound up the beef onto the rolls and either eat open face or as a sandwich.

Check out the other May blog swap recipies here. Thanks for hosting Sarah!!



Smashed & Baked Parmesan Potato

I really do like a good baked potato but they get pretty routine so I thought I’d change it up a bit.   I LOVE freshly grated  Parmesan cheese and put it on a lot of things-roasted broccoli, freshly popped pop corn-the list is endless. I always have a block in the fridge to use for whatever.  That ‘whatever’ happened to be the potato that night.  And it was absolutely delicious!! The soft inside of the potato, some crunchy outside bits from the baking and then the salty nutty Parmesan makes one awesome potato.  I would also consider topping with bacon pieces, chives etc..

Since it was just me eating dinner that night I only made one but you could make as many of these as you need.

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Smashed & Baked Parmesan Potato

Ingredients:

  • 1 russet potato
  • 3-5 pats butter (to taste/size)
  • 3-6 tbsp parmesan cheese, freshly grated (to taste/size)
  • salt & pepper

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven with broiler.
  2. With a fork poke holes all over the potato and nuke in microwave for 5-8 minutes until fork tender.
  3. Place the potato in a small, foil-lined baking pan.  Smash it with a masher or meat tenderizer-flattening it but leaving it rugged and airy. 
  4. Place the pats of butter on top and then sprinkle with the Parmesan.
  5. Place under boiler, watching carefully, until cheese melts and the ends of the potato get crispy.
  6. Serve with additional grated cheese if desired.

Note: use a microplane to grate the cheese if you have one. If not use the grater that will give you the finest grate.

My Taco Seasoning

The packet stuff is ok but I made my own.  Adjust to your own taste and use as much or as little as you’d like.

  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried minced onion
  • 1/8 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp Adobo seasoning

This makes enough to use to season 2 lbs. of meat.

Beef Burritos in the slow cooker (with make ahead and freeze instructions)

I must have 3 trillion lists that I’ve found on Pinterest and all over the internet from super savvy ladies who make these mountains of meals and stockpile them in their freezer. Seriously they could feed their entire town for a year if they needed to. It makes me feel very inadequate considering I only having frozen berries and ice cream in mine. So I decided to try one and see how it worked out. All in all it was a great success.  It was easy to just pull the ziplock bag out of the freezer, thaw it for a bit and then just pour everything into my slow cooker. I honestly didn’t see it saving any time. The thawing time was far more than it would have taken me to chop the onion and measure out a few ingredients but it was nice to have it there and ready to go.  I cooked it on Sunday all day and then put it in a container in the fridge with other toppings to eat during the week.

A few weeks ago my supermarket had top round roasts on sale. I bought one, took it home, put it in the ziplock with a bunch of ingredients, zipped it up and put it in the freezer.  Easy. I wrote the instructions for cooking with a sharpie on the bag before I put the ingredients in so that I wouldn’t smudge it and I wouldn’t have to write with meat/tomato sauce to lean on.  I did add some of this seasoning to the slow cooker too. The best part-the beef was DELICIOUS!! It also didn’t make too much-I’d say enough for between 5-7 burritos depending on how much you put in each.

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Beef Burritos in the slow cooker

Ingredients:

  • 2lb top round roast
  • 2 8oz cans tomato sauce
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • taco seasoning to taste
  • 1 small can green chilies, drained

Optional Ingredients (to taste):

  • sour cream
  • grated cheese (don’t use pregrated-that stuff doesn’t melt nearly as well due to preservatives and anti-sticking additives–YUCK!!)
  • sliced avocado
  • salsa
  • burritos
  • refried beans 

Instructions:

  1. Write all cooking instructions on a large freezer bag and make sure it won’t smudge.
  2. Add all ingredients through and including the cider vinegar to the ziplock bag, remove all of the air from the bag and seal. Place in freezer flat to freeze.
  3. When you’re ready to cook it thaw the bag in some water until no longer frozen. Place contents of bag in the slow cooker and add the taco seasoning and chilies. Cook on low for 7 hours.
  4. After 7 hours carefully remove the meat and place on a board. Remove any fat and discard it.
  5. Pour the liquid through a strainer into a bowl, discard the contents of the strainer. 
  6. Add the beef back into the cooker and shred with 2 forks.  Pour enough of the strained liquid over the beef to cover it half way and cook on low for an additional 30 minutes.

Then make a burrito how you like it. This time I used beef, beans, a sprinkle of white cheddar and monterey jack, sliced avocado and sour cream. I put the burrito on my panini press to heat it up and melt the cheese and to give the burrito that nice crispy crunch.

Cowgirl Chicken Sandwich

There’s that saying ‘even the best laid plans’……..well that’s what happened last night. I was all set to go home after work and grill chicken, slice avocado, slap some bacon and pesto and cheese on a delicious toasted roll and enjoy a great sandwich for dinner. Not so much. My supermarket didn’t have any more of the rolls I wanted, my avocado had passed it’s ‘edible’ stage and I screwed up the pesto. So that sandwich never happened. It sill sounds really good so I will make it sometime.

What I ended up with instead was DELICIOUS!! Grilled chicken, melty white cheddar, tangy BBQ sauce, crispy bacon and delicious toasted french bread. Really simple yes but really YUM!!!!  After one bite I wasn’t sorry the other sandwich hadn’t worked out. BBQ sauce always reminds me of the west for some reason-like John Wayne riding into the sunset shooting his rifle into the sky as he goes. So that’s why I named this sandwhich what I did. Enjoy!!

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Cowgirl Chicken Sandwich 

Ingredients (for 2 sandwiches):

  • 1 large chicken breast (boneless, skinless) about 1/2 lb cut into 2 even 1/4 pieces (give or take with the weight)
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 6 pieces cooked bacon (2 &1/2 for each sandwich, 1 for the dog 🙂 
  • white cheddar cheese sliced thin-as much as you want
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce-as much as you want
  • Pieces of french bread cut in half length-wise or kaiser rolls

Instructions:

  1. Preheat grill pan or grill or panini press or whatever you’ll use to cook the chicken.
  2. Season the chicken on both sides with S&P and set aside until the cooking vessel is ready.
  3. Cook the bacon and set aside (and give that one piece to your dog 🙂
  4. Cook until about 30 seconds from being done then top with the bbq sauce and then the cheese. Since I used my panini press I closed the lid but let it just hover over the chicken to melt the cheese and heat the sauce.
  5. Put a little sauce on the bottom piece of bread, top with chicken, place the bacon on top of the chicken, add a little more sauce if you want, and then put the top piece of bread.
  6. Eat it!

Creme au Chocolat Meringuee (frozen chocolate mousse made with meringue)

This recipe comes from Simone ‘Simca’ Beck (you know her-she’s the lady who co-authored Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Julia Child).  Simca’s cookbook named Simca’s Cuisine is a book full of great menus for different occasions and this recipe comes from ‘A menu for all seasons’ which also includes pork braised with bourbon, timbales of lettuce pureed with shallots and cream, sauteed broccoli and a green salad with vinaigrette.  Perhaps next time I will make the other dishes from the menu but I only made the frozen chocolate this time.

 My Grandmother gave me this book (it was hers and it’s a First Edition!!) for Christmas this past year and while reading through it I saw this recipe and have kept it in mind since then for Mom. You see this past weekend was Mother’s Day weekend and my Mom LOVES chocolate mousse.  I mean loves-it’s her favorite dessert-so it was only fitting.

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I’ll be honest. It was intimidating making a recipe from this book. There are no photos (which like to have), some of the other dishes seemed so rare/unheard of/dishes from back in the day (timbales of lettuce?! say what?!) and it’s by Simca. But once I took time to read and understand the recipe, measure out everything before I started and carefully follow her instructions it was really pretty easy.  It also didn’t take long at all to put together.  I did not include the optional Nougatine but I would imagine it adds a nice crunch (see bottom of post for recipe).

This mousse is RICH. Super rich. It’s not overly sweet at all because of the coffee added but rich none-the-less.  I must admit I’m not a huge chocolate fan-but I like this-a lot.  It’s not the typical lighter chocolate mousse infused with air.  It’s a dark, very dark chocolatey velvety textured concoction.  I imagine that fresh whipped cream on top would really be delicious as well.

We served it with a pot of tea and grilled pineapple as you can see in the photo below. The somewhat tart somewhat sweet warm pineapple went really well with the rich chocolate.  By the way if you’ve never grilled pineapple you’re really missing out.  We also drizzled some of  this caramel sauce onto it. Yummy!!!

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Creme au Chocolat Meringuee (frozen chocolate mousse made with meringue)

Ingredients:

  • 1&1/2 tbsp powdered instant coffee (I used 3 envelopes of Starbucks Via Colombia)
  • 7 ozs German’s sweet chocolate (cut into small pieces)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 7 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp confectioners sugar

Instructions:

  1. Set a double boiler on the stove and heat to a simmer.  Add the coffee and 1.5 tbsp boiling water and stir to dissolve.  Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl beat the yolks and granulated sugar with a hand-held mixer until they are pale and creamy yellow.  Place the double boiler with chocolate back over the heat and stir in the egg yolk mixture. Stir until it almost reaches a boil then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer beat the egg whites with the salt until they are white and frothy-about 2 minutes. Then add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat for about 5 minutes longer until the whites have increased in volume and the meringue is firm and very white ( look for a peak at the end of a finger dragged through).
  4. Gently fold the meringue into the tepid chocolate mixture (rewarm if necessary) being careful to incorporate all of the chocolate and meringue without breaking the egg whites.
  5. Pour into containers and place in freezer.

Nougatine (optional)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts or other nuts
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Put the walnuts into the oven to warm but not brown.
  3. Oil a metal baking sheet.
  4. Put 3 tbsp of water with the sugar into an enameled sauce pan and boil to form a light caramel sauce. Immediately add the warmed walnuts, stir to distribute the walnuts, and pour the nougatine onto the baking sheet and spread it into an even layer.
  5. Set it aside to cool and harden and then chop into rough pieces.

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Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

I really don’t have all that much to write about today. I found the original recipe for this on Pinterest and improved upon it a great deal. It came out great, the chicken was nice and juicy, the honey mustard reduction at the end made a delicious sauce-it was sweet and mustardy with just a hint of the rosemary and white wine. The shallot added a nice level of flavor as well. It’s also a one-pan dish which is a plus in my book.  The prep for this is pretty non-existent aside of dicing a shallot so it’s very quick to put together.  When the chicken is initially finished cooking the sauce is pretty liquid so I thought reducing it would be a great idea! It wouldn’t be good to just leave all of that yummy flavor in the pan. I was right. The reduction is so so so tasty. 

I’ll certainly be making this again. I imagine the chicken would be amazing sliced up on a sandwich or over rice if there are left overs.

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Baked Honey Mustard Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced small
  • 1 & 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into even pieces (my package contained 2 pieces so I ended up with 5 smaller portions).
  • 2-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil plus 2 more tsp for honey mustard sauce
  • 4 tbsp white wine
  • 1/4 cup grainy mustard
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp butter

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400F.
  2. In a dutch oven (or other stove and oven safe vessel with a lid)  large enough to hold the chicken in one even layer add 2 tsp of the olive oil and heat over medium heat. When hot add the shallot and sautee until translucent-about 5-7 minutes. Then add the garlic and sautee for another minute or so.  If you need more oil add extra little by little but you want to get some bits on the bottom of the pan so don’t add too much.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the wine and scrape up the bits. Let the wine reduce a bit. Be careful-the steam is hot.
  4. Place the chicken pieces into the pan on top of the onion and garlic.
  5. In a small separate bowl mix together the mustards, honey and additional 2 tsp olive oil.  Pour the mixture over the chicken and move the chicken around to be sure all are coated. Place the rosemary sprigs into the sauce.
  6. Put the lid on the pan and bake for 20 minutes then remove the lid, baste the chicken with the liquid and return the chicken to the oven and cook another 25-30 minutes until it reaches a safe consumption temperature and has browned slightly around the edges.
  7. Place chicken pieces on a plate, tent with foil and set aside.
  8. Over medium heat cook the sauce remaining in the pan until it has reduced to half and is thick. Add the butter and mix it through.
  9. To serve spoon the reduced sauce over the chicken pieces.

Greatly adapted from this recipe at goodlifeeats.com.

Roasted Strawberry Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Dressing

I know, I know.  You’re thinking “Ah the ubiquitous strawberry salad”. You’re thinking of those sad restaurant ones that every chain place has that are so sad-a few strawberries, a bit of spinach, sweetened up nuts, maybe a little cheese and a vinaigrette.  It’s insulting to the strawberries if you ask me.  Those are NOT this salad. I wanted better.  I wanted it to be more my way.  After roasting rhubarb for (this recipe) dessert a while ago I got to thinking-why not roast strawberries for the salad? Why not have both roasted and fresh strawberries in the salad? 2 different versions. Yum!  Feel free to up or less as you please-the amounts below are just how much I used. You like more cheese? Be my guest! I’ll never think badly of  anyone who wants to add more cheese. Dont’ like nuts? Perhaps some carrot or celery or crisp apple to replace the crunch. So I hope you love it. It certainly put a new spin on this for me.

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Roasted Strawberry Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Dressing

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, patted dry, tops removed, cut in halves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • sprinkle freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups walnut halves, toasted
  • 1 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 3 cups baby spinach, washed and patted dry

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup whole fresh raspberries, washed and gently patted dry
  • 4 strawberry halves
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp honey (to taste)
  • a pinch or 2 of sugar if needed

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Take half of the strawberries and lay them on half of the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar.  With your hands move them around a bit to make sure they’re all olive oiled.
  3. On the other half of the baking sheet place the walnuts.
  4. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Let them cool.
  5. While they are cooling make the dressing. Add all ingredients above to a bowl and use a stick blender to combine. Add more or less honey depending on the tartness of the raspberries and strawberries. If it’s still too tart a sprinkle of sugar should be added.
  6. Assemble the salad starting with the spinach then half of the roasted and fresh strawberries, half of the walnuts, half of the cheese and dressing as desired.

Makes 2 servings.

See? The walnuts and strawberries are happy to roast together.

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