Grilled Caesar Salad

grilled salad

I’ve never had a grilled salad before but now that I have, I am sold! This Grilled Casesar Salad was OUT OF THIS WORLD!! It retained the cool crispness you’d expect from a salad but with a slightly warm and deliciously charred taste from the grill. It was perfect in every way. The grilled baguette slices took this salad right over the top! This amazing recipe comes straight out of the The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook 10th Anniversary Edition: Every Recipe and Every Review From All Ten Seasons which is chock full of incredible, easy to make recipes. If you’re interested in expanding your cookbook collection, this one is a must!

This salad relies on hearty toasted bread slices instead of small croutons which are extra yummy and super easy to make however, I didn’t want to waste time oiling the bread at the grill and then rubbing each slice with a garlic clove. Instead, I decided to prepare an garlic infused olive oil that imparts a more intense garlic flavor which I love.

To make garlic infused olive oil – In a small saucepan, pour in some extra-virgin olive oil (I used more than what was called for in the recipe) and toss in a few smashed garlic cloves. Add a little Kosher salt and ground black pepper to the pan. Over medium-high heat bring the oil to sizzling and then remove the pan from the burner and set aside. Allow the garlic to sit in the oil and steep.

When you’re ready to use the garlic oil simply remove the browned garlic pieces and using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the bread slices with the garlic oil. Set aside until you are ready to grill. The bread will toast up beautifully and full of flavor! Just watch it closely once you place it on the grill as it browns quickly.

The only other small change that I made was to use an anchovy paste instead of the fillets. As it’s not an ingredient I use often, the paste is easier to use being that it’s in a tube and it can be stored in the refrigerator for later use. I didn’t measure out the paste, I just used a small squeeze. The flavor of the dressing was perfect, thick and creamy and absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the dressing

  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed OR small squeeze of anchovy paste
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad

  • 1 (12″ long) baguette, cut on a bias into 1/2″ thick slices
  • 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 3 romaine lettuce hearts, halved lengthwise through cores
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

For the dressing – Combine lemon juice and garlic in a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Process the mayonnaise, grated cheese, lemon-garlic mixture, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, Kosher salt and pepper in a blender for about 30 seconds. With the blender running, slowly add in the oil. Blend until well combined. Set aside 6 tbs of the dressing to use later on the romaine lettuce.

For the salad – Brush the bread with oil and grill uncovered until browned, about a minute on each side. Transfer to a plate and rub each side with the garlic clove. Set aside.

Brush the cut sides of the romaine lettuce with the reserved dressing. Place the romaine, cut side down, on the grill. Grill uncovered until lightly charred, about 1-2 minutes. Place on a platter, drizzle with remaining dressing and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Serve immediately alongside the grilled bread slices.

Crock-Pot Pulled Chicken

pulled chicken

Pulled chicken is one of my favorite summer meals because it’s not only delicious but it’s super easy to make, especially in the Crock-Pot! You don’t need to heat up your oven and have it on for hours and you don’t even need to keep an eye on it as it cooks. The best part? It’ll come out perfect EVERY time!

I usually like to make my own BBQ sauce for this meal but it isn’t necessary so feel free to choose your favorite bottled BBQ sauce and run with it! The chicken will take about 6-7 hours on low, depending how thick your meat is. You will know it’s ready when it shreds easily with two forks. Also, you can substitute the chicken for pork however, you will need to increase the cooking time as the cut of pork is much bigger and thicker than a few chicken breasts. For pulled pork, I like to use a Boston butt which you can find in most grocery or warehouse stores. BJ’s® usually sells them for under $2/lb and you can easily feed a crowd.

I like to have the chicken cook in the BBQ sauce and I don’t add any additional water to the pot because the meat releases enough of its own juices. With the pulled chicken, you won’t need to drain any of the liquid however, the pork does release a ton of water and fat. When I make the Boston butt, I usually hold off on adding the BBQ sauce until the end. When it’s done cooking I pull the meat out, drain most of the liquid, place the meat back into the pot and then I add the BBQ sauce.

Serve on hearty rolls with a side of homemade coleslaw and you have a perfect summer meal that is sure to please everyone. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 – 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce, store-bought OR homemade

Instructions

Place the cleaned chicken breasts in the bottom of the Crock-Pot. Cover with the diced onion and season with salt and pepper. Add about half a bottle of BBQ sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or until chicken shreds easily with a fork.

Remove the chicken from the pot. If the sauce is too thin, turn the Crock Pot up to high and let it simmer a little until it thickens. Shred the chicken and return it to the pot. Add additional BBQ sauce as needed. Serve hot.

Bruschetta Chicken

bruschetta chicken

Two of my most favorite foods are fresh basil pesto and fresh bruschetta. They are both light, flavorful and SCREAM summer!! Pair them with a nice piece of grilled chicken, a thick slab of fresh mozzarella and a crusty slice of oiled bread and you have yourself the perfect meal.

The inspiration for this dish came from a meal I had at a cute local restaurant by my house called “Pasta, Pasta“. After having it just once, I was craving it for days so I decided to come up with my own version which turned out fantastic. The key to this meal is fresh ingredients, well cooked chicken and a nice sturdy, crusty bread. I served it alongside pesto pasta which I know might be a tad bit of carb overload but sometimes you just need a little pasta!

This is a nice quick meal to pull together, especially if you already have your pesto prepared ahead of time. I always like to make a big batch of pesto and then freeze it in an ice cube tray. When you’re ready to use it, just pop a few cubes out and warm them up. As for Italian bread, I always buy extra when I am in the store so I can wrap and freeze a few loaves. Just take the bread out a little before you plan on eating dinner and allow it to defrost, it can be easily grilled (as I did in this recipe) or warmed in the oven. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast, pounded thin
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Italian bread, sliced thick and brushed with olive oil
  • Bruschetta
  • Basil Pesto
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

If not made ahead of time, prepare the basil pesto and bruschetta.

In a large skillet, warm up 2-3 tbs of olive oil over medium heat. Portion out a few teaspoons of the basil pesto and rub it all over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Gently place the chicken into the hot oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes, flip the chicken and cook until done, about 4 minutes depending on thickness. You may need to cook the chicken in batches depending on the size of your skillet. Keep the cooked chicken warm on a plate and bring the oil back up to heat before cooking the next batch. Once all of the chicken is cooked, set aside and cover.

Discard the oil and wipe out the pan OR use a raised griddle pan and warm over medium heat. Brush each side of the sliced bread with a little oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the slices face down into the pan and grill until browned and crusty, flip and toast the other side.

Set oven broiler. In a 9X13 pan place the slices of toasted bread and layer with a piece of grilled chicken and a thick slice of fresh mozzarella. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is melted and very slightly browned. Remove from the oven.

On a plate, place a portion of the bread/chicken/cheese combo, top with a heaping spoonful of fresh bruschetta and a little bit of basil pesto. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Serve warm.

 

Fresh Homemade Bruschetta

bruschetta

There is nothing I love more in the summertime than fresh homemade bruschetta. It’s light, healthy, flavorful and goes great with so many different foods such as chicken, crusty crostini, fresh mozzarella and more! It’s also one of the easiest things to make and doesn’t require any hard and fast measurements. Everything is done to taste and you really cannot get this wrong, I promise!

The key to really good bruschetta is to start with fresh, perfectly ripe ingredients. You want to choose beautifully ripened, juicy, red tomatoes as well as crisp red onions and fresh, bright basil. The better the ingredients, the better the bruschetta! Once you have your veggies the only other ingredients you’ll need are Kosher salt, ground black pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar. That’s it! Super simple, super delicious. If I have it on hand, I will sometimes stir in a few teaspoons of homemade pesto too!

I LOVE to eat bruschetta on top of a good, crusty crostini brushed with olive oil and fresh garlic. It is so good and flavorful and a great summer appetizer! I also love it on top of grilled chicken or on thick slices of fresh mozzarella. It’s even delicious tossed with a little fresh pasta and served chilled. Bruschetta is the perfect accompaniment to so many of your summer dishes, it’ll really brighten almost any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ripened tomatoes, any variety 
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • handful of fresh basil, torn
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • few teaspoons of fresh pesto, optional

Instructions

Dice the fresh tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Add the diced red onion and torn basil. Add Kosher salt, ground black pepper, a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Gently toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

**Tip – The longer you let the bruschetta sit, the more the flavors will come together resulting in a more flavorful bite.**

See You Real Soon!

bon voyage

To all of my loyal and wonderful followers, I wanted to let you know that beginning tomorrow, May 11th I will be away on vacation with my family. As my internet access will be limited I will be taking a break from my blog to spend some much needed quality time with my husband and children. I will return on Monday, May 21st with all new tips, tricks, recipes, and information. As always, thank you for supporting my blog and I look forward to getting back to cooking and blogging when I return.

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

oatmeal

A delicious, warm bowl of oatmeal is a great and hearty way to start your day but the ingredients that are in those instant packets aren’t always the best. Instead of grabbing a commercially prepared packet of oatmeal, grab a jar of your own homemade version! It’s super easy to prep and you can control the amount of sugar you use as well as choose your favorite add-ins. If you’re concerned about your sugar intake you can use less sugar or even replace it altogether with stevia, the Truvia® brand is my favorite.

For the batch pictured above, I used brown sugar, cinnamon and reduced sugar Craisins® however, you can change up the spices and use any other add-in you would like. Try out dried fruits, chocolate chips, or even chopped nuts. You can store your individual serving size oatmeal in cute Mason jars or small resealable bags. Make a few batches at a time, it only takes minutes to pull together and you’ll have a delicious breakfast ready to go each morning. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or 1-minute oats
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs packed brown sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 tbs mix-ins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.

Instructions

To prepare – Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in a small resealable bag or Mason jar. Makes 1 serving.

To cook – Empty the oatmeal into a small bowl or cook right in the Mason jar. Add 2/3 cup boiling water and stir. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir again and serve hot.

Chicken Florentine

chicken florentine

Chicken Florentine is an easy and fairly quick meal to pull together for your family or even a small dinner party. It’s mostly cooked on the stovetop which is great for those warm days where you don’t want something baking in the oven for a long time. Meals that are prepared “florentine” style are served on or with a bed of spinach. If you aren’t a huge fan of spinach you can either use less in this recipe or even try it with your own favorite wilted greens.

This recipe is from an excellent cookbook entitled, The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook 10th Anniversary Edition: Every Recipe and Every Review From All Ten Seasons . It’s filled with really delicious recipes and step-by-step instructions for every meal! I highly recommend adding this one to your collection, especially if you feel that you need a little more guidance and help in the kitchen.

This meal was so a big hit in my house so it’s a keeper! The chicken was very moist and well seasoned and I loved all of the melted cheese throughout. I served it alongside roasted potatoes which was the perfect accompaniment, you can’t go wrong with potatoes! When making this dish, be sure to drain the spinach as indicated to avoid a very wet, soggy mess and be sure to take the time to reduce down the sauce. Don’t sweat it if the sauce takes a little longer than 10 minutes to thicken and come together, not all stoves are created equal so give yours the time it needs. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 12 oz baby spinach
  • 4 (6 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1 /4 cups water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Instructions

Adjust oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat broiler.

Heat 1 tbs of vegetable oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally until wilted, 1-2 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a colander that is set over a bowl and press the spinach with a spoon to release the excess liquid. Discard liquid.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Wipe out the pan and heat remaining 1 tbs of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook the chicken on both sides until golden, about 4-6 minutes. Add shallot and garlic to skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the stock, water and cream and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with aluminum foil. Continue to simmer the sauce until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Off of the heat, stir in 4 tbs of Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Cut the chicken crosswise into 1/2″ thick slices and arrange on a broiler safe platter. Scatter the drained spinach over the chicken and then cover in the sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and broil until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Serve.

Venezuelan Polvorosa Cookies

Vene Polvorosa Cookie_n

These cookies are SOOOOO good!!! I can’t believe I didn’t discover them until just recently but now that I am “in the know“, these easy cookies have been added to my cookie rotation. A little while back I was asked to do a cooking lesson with my friend’s Girl Scout troop and the focus was, “Snacks From Other Cultures“, and I thought these would be a nice treat to bring in for the girls. They are a traditional Venezuelan cookie that is typically made around the Christmas holiday but truth be told, they are a wonderful treat anytime of the year!

I came across this recipe online at the “Mommy’s Home Cooking” blog site, you can find the original recipe right here . It is such a super easy recipe to make and the ingredients are things that most everyone should have on hand. The recipe calls for pure vanilla extract as a flavoring but since this is a very “vanilla forward” cookie, I decided to amp up the flavor by using vanilla paste (I love all of the flecking in the cookies!!) and my homemade vanilla sugar instead of plain granulated sugar. It was absolutely delicious with these two additions however, they aren’t necessary to use in order to make a delicious cookie. The cookies are still excellent even if you’re using plain granulated sugar and vanilla extract.

This cookie is a crumbly, sandy cookie which I found to be delicious but it’s important to NOT over-bake them or they will really dry out and have an unappealing texture. Watch them carefully towards the end of the baking time, you’re looking for a light colored cookie with just very slight browning on the sides. I didn’t let mine go past the 25 minute mark and they were absolutely perfect. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, for coating 

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix shortening on medium speed until creamy, about 20 seconds. Blend in sugar and salt and mix to combine. Add in vanilla and cinnamon.

With the mixer set on low speed, slowly add in the flour and mix just until combined.

Roll balls of dough, about 1 tablespoons of dough per cookie. Arrange the balls on a large baking sheet, spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Press fork into the tops to flatten them a little.

Bake for 20 -25 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the sides. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cookies are cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

EASTER SUGAR COOKIES

I love ALL things vanilla! It’s my most favorite flavor and smell and when made right, nothing beats a good vanilla sugar cookie. This recipe comes from an amazing cookbook that I picked up a few months back entitled, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever. If you love vanilla this is one cookbook you’ll want to add to your collection. It’s filled with delicious recipes for cookies, cakes, puddings and even candy!

I followed this recipe as is however, instead of just using pure vanilla extract I also used vanilla paste because I really wanted to bring out and highlight the vanilla flavor of this cookie. I used two teaspoons of vanilla paste and one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in the cookie dough. I did have to restrain myself from throwing the whole bottle in! The combination of vanilla paste and extract really made for an exceptionally flavored cookie! I highly recommend investing in a bottle of vanilla paste if you haven’t already done so. It is a little pricey nowadays but in desserts that are very vanilla forward such as these cookies, it’s really worth using.

While most cookies are incredible when they come right out of the oven, I have found that these cookies actually improve in flavor as they cool and “age“. As they cool the vanilla notes really pop and the texture becomes that perfect combination of sandy, chewy and crispy. I thought that the next day, they were even better and more perfect. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar*
  • colored sanding sugar

*If you do not have vanilla sugar, plain granulated sugar is also fine to use.*

Instructions

Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Preheat to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the oil and egg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, confectioners sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale in color, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the oil/egg mixture until smooth. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed until smooth. The dough will be soft.

Roll dough into balls, about 1 tbs in size and place them about 2″ apart on the baking sheets. Pour the vanilla sugar onto a plate and dip a flat bottom glass into the sugar to coat, press into each ball to flatten to about 1/4″ thickness. Re-sugar the glass after every cookie. Sprinkle the cookies with colored sanding sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are pale golden and just beginning to lightly brown at the edges. Rotate the cookies sheets from top to bottom and from front to back about halfway through baking. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for about 2 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

**Tip** – Make vanilla sugar by taking used, scraped vanilla beans and submerging them in granulated sugar. Store in a tightly sealed container and within a few weeks you will have vanilla sugar which is perfect to use in all baking applications.

Toasted Marshmallow S’mores Cake

Toasted Marshmallow Cake

If you love S’mores than this is your cake! It’s a rich dark chocolate cake filled with crushed graham crackers and marshmallow meringue frosting and then covered in even more marshmallow meringue frosting and browned until nice and toasty. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD! I made this for my son’s 5th birthday the other day and it was a huge hit! My birthday boy and all of the guests loved it and the best part? It might look fancy but it is super easy to make.

I started with the recipe for my Dark Chocolate Cake which is both easy and foolproof.  The Marshmallow Meringue Frosting was taken from the cookbook,Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats which you can pick up on Amazon if interested. The frosting is also super easy to make but make sure your cakes are cooled and ready to go as you should frost them right after making the frosting. The frosting will be glossy and fluffy like melted marshmallows and although it will be sticky, it will go on the cake nicely as long as you move quickly. After toasting, it will take on a nice, slightly dry outer coating which is simply delicious.

You can toast the marshmallow meringue frosting one of two ways, either in the oven or with a basic kitchen torch. I happen to have a kitchen torch however, as luck would have it I was out of butane the day I made this. So I did what any good cook does when faced with a challenge in the kitchen, I improvised! First I toasted the cake in the oven at 375ºF for about 4 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the cake as it can toast quickly and you don’t want it to burn. Then, using an Aim n’ Flame®, I toasted the outside edges. It took longer than using a kitchen torch and it didn’t toast quite as evenly but it still gave me the desired result and the frosting came out browned and toasty.

Finish off the cake by spreading a little extra marshmallow frosting on top and covering with crushed graham crackers and broken up Hershey® bar pieces. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 oz) brewed coffee, cold
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp white vinegar

For the marshmallow meringue frosting

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs light corn syrup
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • large pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the assembled cake

  • 1 sleeve of graham cracker, crushed
  • 1 large Hershey® bar, broken into pieces

Instructions

For the cake – Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9″ round baking pans. Place a round of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan for even easier release.

Combine all of the dry ingredients and mix well. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add all of the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth, batter will be very thin. Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.

Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes then loosen the cake from the pan and turn out onto the wire rack. Cool completely.

For the marshmallow frosting – In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, corn syrup, sugar and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk the mixture as it heats and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high-speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract and mix until just incorporated. Frost cake immediately.

To assemble the cake – Cover the bottom layer of cake with a thick coating of the marshmallow meringue frosting. Cover with half of the crushed graham crackers. Place the second layer on top and completely frost the cake. To toast the frosting, either place the cake in a 375ºF oven for 4 minutes OR use a kitchen torch. Once the frosting is toasted and dry to the touch, add some more of the marshmallow meringue frosting on top and cover with the remaining crushed graham crackers and broken pieces of Hershey® bar.