Homemade Yogurt Smoothie

yogurt smoothie

My kids love yogurt smoothies but I hate all of the sugar and additives in the store-bought ones so I decided to make my own version at home. All you need is some milk, yogurt, sweetener (optional) and fresh fruit of your choosing. I used a little bit of honey to sweeten the smoothies but you can use maple syrup, granulated sugar, Truvia® or just leave it out all together. Another nice way to add additional flavor is through the use of extracts. Some good ones to try are vanilla, coconut, almond or even chocolate! Try combining different fruits as well for even more yummy flavor.

Some are my favorite smoothie concoctions are fresh pineapple with a little shredded coconut, apples with warm spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and fresh strawberries with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Turn these smoothies into a frosty treat by adding crushed ice and blending OR by freezing them into popsicles!

Store the smoothies in a clean, airtight bottle. I like to use large, clear glass bottles which are readily available at craft stores. Mason jars also make great vessels for storage as well as super cute drinking glasses. The yogurt smoothies will keep for about 5-7 days in the refrigerator. Shake well before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup plain or vanilla flavored yogurt
  • 1 cup chopped fruit
  • 2 tbs sweetener such as maple syrup or honey (optional)

Instructions

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on medium-low until well combined and smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Shake well before serving.

“How-To” Baking/Cooking – Measuring Dry and Wet Ingredients

It is extremely important in both baking and cooking to measure your ingredients accurately and the only way to do that is to use the correct vessel. Using the wrong vessel for measuring can drastically alter the accuracy of the measurement. While cooking can be a little more forgiving, it is essential in baking to be as accurate as possible.

For dry ingredientsALWAYS measure dry ingredients using DRY measuring cups or spoons. The most accurate method is to lightly spoon the ingredients into the measuring cup and then sweep off the excess with a flat utensil. This will ensure that not too much of the ingredient gets packed down into the cup. The ONLY exception to this method is brown sugar which, unless otherwise noted, is measured by packing it down into the measuring cup.

measuring cups

For wet ingredientsALWAYS measure liquids using either a glass or plastic WET measuring cup. The most accurate method is to place the vessel on a flat surface then pour in the liquid in until it reaches the desired marking. Check for accuracy by bending down so you’re at eye level.

measure cup plastic

Please note, the most accurate way to measure ANY ingredient is by using a digital food scale. They are very inexpensive but absolutely invaluable in the kitchen, especially for baking.

Etekcity Digital Kitchen Scale Multifunction Food Scale, 11 lb 5 kg, Silver, Stainless Steel (Batteries Included)

Crock-Pot Ribs with Homemade BBQ Sauce

ribs

Who doesn’t love a good, charred, meaty rib slathered in rich BBQ sauce? I know I do and these ribs are so delicious and absolutely perfect for your next summer BBQ! Unlike traditional rib recipes which can be time-consuming this recipe is as easy as 1-2-3 and produces a perfectly tender and super yummy piece of meat. The recipe comes from one of my most favorite cookbooks, The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook 10th Anniversary Edition: Every Recipe and Every Review From All Ten Seasons .

Aside from the recipe being foolproof, the BBQ sauce is divine! You’ll never go back to a bottled version again. You can make a batch of this BBQ sauce anytime and use it on chicken, burgers or any other grilled meat. Save yourself time when making the sauce (and the ribs!) by mixing together a batch of the spice rub ahead of time. Triple the recipe and store it in a small spice jar in your cabinet. Anytime that you need a flavorful spice rub or you want to make homemade BBQ sauce you’ll have the mixed spices already on hand.

This recipe calls for St.-Louis style ribs however, when I was in the store they were out so I went ahead and used bone-in country-style ribs instead. They were nice and meaty and worked really well in this recipe. As a bonus, since they come individually cut there was no need to trim the ribs beforehand or separate them after cooking.

Lastly, to finish the ribs the recipe has you using your boiler which is perfectly fine and simple however, I chose to finish them off on the grill. Follow the same steps as if you were broiling the ribs only instead of putting them under the broiler, put them on the grill for a few minutes until nice and charred. The ribs had the amazing smoky flavor of the grill as if they had been cooking on there for hours but with the simplicity of having being cooked in the slow cooker. This meal was a HUGE hit in my house. Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the ribs

  • 2 tbs paprika
  • 1 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbs Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 3 lbs of St. Louis style ribs (each rack cut in half)  OR bone-in country-style ribs

For the BBQ sauce

  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 6 tbs apple juice
  • 2 tbs molasses
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke

Instructions

For the ribs – Combine the paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic in a bowl. Reserve 1 tbs of the spice rub for later use in the BBQ sauce. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and coat all over with the spice rub.

Arrange the ribs vertically with the thick ends pointing down and the meaty side against the interior of the slow cooker. It is fine if the ribs overlap. Cover and cook until ribs are just tender. Low setting, 6-7 hours OR high setting, 5-6 hours.

For the BBQ sauce – In a medium saucepan, whisk together the ketchup, apple juice, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pepper, liquid smoke and the reserved 1 tbs of spice rub. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced down to a cup, about 10 minutes.

To finish the ribs – Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack in the pan. Using tongs, transfer the ribs, meaty side up, to the rack. Let the ribs sit for about 10 minutes to allow the surface to dry out.

Adjust the oven rack 3″ from the broiler and heat. Liberally brush the ribs with about 1/2 cup of sauce and broil until bubbling and beginning to char, about 4 minutes. Remove the ribs from the oven, brush with the remaining 1/2 cup of sauce, tent with foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

**Tip – The BBQ sauce can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.**

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.