Monday, September 1, 2014

Feeding My Family: School Lunches

school lunches


It's September second.  While Caroline has been in school for three weeks now, I know many parts of the country don't start until this week.  And my boys start preschool this week (cue meltdown about time moving way too quickly).  So whether you are sending your kid off to their first day of school, or you've been back in the game for a few weeks now, the struggle of the school lunch is still the same.  Lunch from the school oftentimes leaves a lot to be desired, and it seems like packing a lunch is the best option.  But your kids get bored quickly with the same old pb and j or turkey and cheese.  Those get old, and fast.  Plus, with the way school is nowadays, lunch is one of the few "fun" times the kids have left.  So I want to pack something that I know Caroline will enjoy, and it has to keep her full and ready to face the rest of the school day.

I've been compiling lunch ideas for almost a full year now, and I'm ready to share.  I also have a few general rules and guidelines that I follow when I'm lacking inspiration or want to pack something fun and festive.  I've broken these lunches down into categories, but obviously some could fit under more than one.  And I don't always remember to snap a picture, so I'll also just be listing some other ideas that we've done in the past.  

So here are the general rules that I follow when packing Caroline's lunch:
  1. I only pack things that I know she'll eat.  Caroline is a very good eater, but she has her preferences just like any other kid.  She doesn't care for sharp cheddar cheese or raw onion, so I'm not going to pack that in her lunch and then be upset when she doesn't eat it.  If your child doesn't like turkey, don't pack a turkey sandwich.  If they don't like carrots, don't pack them.  Send foods that you know they will eat and enjoy.  They don't have someone standing there telling them what to eat, and you want them to get maximum nutrition and satiety from their lunch, so don't take risks here.  Save it for the dinner table.
  2. Be cognizant of allergies.  Last year, Caroline had a few classmates with nut allergies, so I avoided nut butters.  Sunflower butter is a great substitute, so we've used that a lot.  Some schools are totally nut free these days anyway, but in general it's not a bad idea to just save nut products for snacks and meals at home.  Note:  There are not allergies in Caroline's class this year, so I have been sending nut products in her lunches.
  3. Pack a good variety of foods.  I try to be sure to pack Caroline at least one source of protein, plus at least one veggie, at least one fruit, and some sort of carbohydrate or starch.  Last year she went through a phase where she only asked for "super healthy" foods, i.e. fruits and veggies, but she was coming home famished.  So I had to make a point to send in items with protein and good fats.
  4. Involve your child.  This goes back to #1, but ask them what they want in their lunch.  I usually pack at least one item that she asks for, then decide on the rest myself.  If you have a child that's more picky, rather than just asking what they want, ask "Which fruit would you like?"  Let's be honest, if I could eat anything I wanted for lunch, I'm sure it would involve Reese's pb cups and chips ;)  But letting them have a say in what healthy options you pack for them gives them a sense of control and responsibility - which is huge for young kids (and I'll touch on this again in my post about picky eaters!).
  5. Always pack a sweet treat!  It doesn't have to be a big cookie or brownie or whatever.  Just a small item for dessert to make their lunch feel special and fun.  Sometimes I just pack fruit, but lately I've been sending chocolate covered sunflower seeds, dried fruit, trail mix, or a small baked good.  We don't always have dessert at home, so it's a fun way for her to end her lunch.  I of course just assume that she saves it for last… but who knows ;)
  6. Keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge.  I always try and keep a good variety or fruits, veggies, dried fruits, snack foods, cheeses, meats, etc.  It makes it much easier to put together a healthy and filling lunch than when I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel.  
I'll share more tips along the way, but for now I'm going to share a bunch of lunches from the past year.  I've broken them down into a few categories, so next time you're feeling uninspired, just pick a category and go from there!

Keep it Simple with a Sandwich

School Lunches - Sandwiches

You don't have to reinvent the wheel every day.  Sandwiches are a lunch staple, and they are always a safe bet.  But just because you're packing a sandwich, it doesn't make it boring.  There are lots of ways you can mix them up, from cutting them into fun shapes (cookie cutters are great for this!), skewering the ingredients (more on this later), going global, or making sandwich "sushi," the sky's the limit here.

Clockwise from top left:
  • PB and J on wheat, cut into strips, orange slices, carrots, apple chips, and a granola truffle.
  • turkey, cheese, and pretzel bread skewers, bell peppers and carrots, zucchini tots, fresh berries, and yogurt-covered raisins
  • turkey and hummus "sushi," (flatten a piece of bread, spread with hummus, top with a few slices of turkey, then roll it up and slice with a sharp knife), cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper strips, and a granola truffle
  • mini croissant sandwiches with ham, brie, and raspberry jam, berries, bell peppers, cucumbers, and an applesauce pouch.
Other ideas:  tortillas with bananas and peanut butter, folded into a quesadilla and cut into wedges, bagel sandwiches, cream cheese and veggies on wheat bread, cream cheese + fruit on wheat bread, bean and cheese panini, apple butter + ham

Reinvent Leftovers.  

School Lunches - Leftovers

A lot of leftovers are perfectly suited to be eaten at room temperature, so I use dinner as inspiration for the next day's lunch.  

  • mini pizza with broccoli pesto, cheese, and tomatoes (I just tore off a small piece of pizza dough before I rolled out the big one for dinner, then used the same toppings for a baby pizza for Caroline the next day)
  • cheese and pineapple quesadilla, corn wheels (simply corn on the cut cut into smaller pieces).  This was inspired by our dinner of fish tacos with grilled pineapple salsa.  I don't typically send fish with Caroline, so I just used the pineapple salsa and some cheese to make a quesailla on a homemade corn tortilla.  I always grill a few extra ears of corn to use for lunches and salads, so this was a really easy lunch to put together.  
  • spinach-artichoke stuffed mushrooms.  These were leftover from our Frozen dinner party, and Caroline loved eating "troll" mushrooms the next day.  
Other ideas:  make a salad with leftover rice, quinoa, couscous, or pasta.  Many pastas can be eaten chilled or at room temperature.  One of our favorites is to make a quick pasta salad. I just save a bit of the pasta when I cook it at dinner, then toss with with a little salad dressing, some cheese, maybe some meat, and whatever veggies I have on hand.  Super easy, healthy, and quick.

Go Seasonal

School Lunches - Go Seasonal

This is kind of an overarching theme for all of my cooking and meals, but when you're lacking inspiration, it's a good place to start.  What's in season?  Look to the farmer's market, a CSA, or just see what's on sale at your grocery store.  Fill up your lunchbox with fresh, seasonal produce, and you'll have a happy, healthy kid.
  • Avocado, Mozzarella, and Tomato Stacks.  I just layered everything, seasoned with some salt and pepper, and drizzled with a bit of olive oil.  Also featured:  fresh berries, bell peppers, pita chips, and chocolate-covered sunflower seeds.
  • Cantaloupe wrapped with ham (a play on proscuitto-wrapped cantaloupe), cucumber spears, strawberries, and crackers
  • butterbean hummus (any hummus or bean dip would work well here) with lots of goodies for dipping:  pita, turkey rolls, carrots, bell peppers, and some dried apricots for dessert
  • Turkey and bell pepper roll-ups, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cantaloupe, apple chips, and sunflower seeds.
More ideas:  caprese skewers. grilled veggies… really just anything in season, supplemented with protein and healthy fats!

Skewer it!
School Lunches - Skewer It
It's a proven fact that food is more fun when eaten off a stick.  So when in doubt, just skewer it!  I use regular bamboo skewers from the grocery store, then snip off the sharp points and cut the sticks down to size using my kitchen shears.   Easy peasy.
  • ham, turkey, and cheddar skewers, zucchini tots, peppers, carrorts, and yogurt-covered raisins
  • tropical fruit skewers (mango, pinapple, kiwi), turkey rolls, carrots, cucumbers, and a homemade trail mix with coconut cashews and roasted coconut chips
Other ideas:  caprese skewers, chicken satay, grilled veggie skewers, and really anything you'd normally eat on a sandwich or in a salad.  Just layer it on a skewer.

Be Festive and Celebrate Holidays!

School Lunches - Holidays

Like most kids, Caroline absolutely loves any and all holidays.  So I use that as inspiration for her lunches.  Pack festive foods, use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches, cheese, and fruit into fun shapes, or like I did above, you can even use Easter eggs for the lunch itself!  
  • Cinco de Mayo:  cheese quesadilla, black beans, tomatoes, watermelon, guacamole, and chips.  
  • Easter:  Easter eggs filled with fruit, crackers, cheese cubes, etc.
Other ideas:  Turkey and cranberry sandwich for Thanksgiving, snack-o-lantern fruit cups for Halloween, spinach wraps on St. Patrick's Day, an all-red and pink lunch for Valentine's Day, etc.

More Ideas:

Breakfast for lunch:  french toast skewers, yogurt + fruit and granola, or a biscuit + sausage and fruit
Deconstructed Pizza:  pepperoni, crackers, cheese, and bell pepper strips, with a small cup of marinara for dipping.  Caroline really loves this lunch
Antipasta:  salami or proscuitto, red bell peppers, marinated tomatoes, mozzarella, crackers, and grapes
Bento Box:  vegetrain sushi (like a California roll), edamame, sliced cucumbers, rice crackers, and fruit
Homemade Lunchables:  crackers, cheese slices, turkey or ham slices, and fruit

Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments, and I'll update this section!

So as you may have noticed in the pictures above, some of the lunches are packed in a stainless steel bento-style lunchbox.  In the past, I've packed Caroline's lunch in reusable containers with a few ziploc bags mixed in.  But washing all those containers became quite cumbersome.  We always manage to lose the lid or the cup, so I acquired quite a collection of mismatched containers. I'd been eyeing the bento style lunchbox from Pottery Barn Kids for over a year, and finally pulled the trigger last month.  And while it is pricey, I feel like it's already paid for itself.  

To be honest, I find it much easier to pack lunches using this.  I just fill the compartments!  No need to stress about having the right size container, or losing parts, etc.  Just simply fill it up.  And in Caroline's words, "it's so fun to open my lunchbox and see my whole lunch, right there!" Planet Box also has a similar lunch box, but I had points to use at Pottery Barn Kids, so the decision was an easy one.  Bonus points:  the PB Kids lunch box is now on sale!

Ahem.  And if you're considering buying one, then maybe wait a few days?  And maybe check back here tomorrow?  It will be worth your while, I promise.

And finally, when all else fails, look around the web for inspiration.  These are some of my favorite resources for getting new ideas:
Annie's Eat's instagram feed (#anniesschoolunches)

I hope this was helpful for some of you, and I hope you enjoyed getting a peak into Caroline's school lunches. What's your favorite thing to pack for your kids?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hatch Chile Huevos Rancheros

Hatch Chile Huevos Rancheros


I have a pretty epic story involving huevos rancheros, my sister, and an ill-timed 5K, but it's not what I'd call "blog appropriate."  Maybe I'll share it the day after never. ;)

Instead, I want to talk about college football!  So if you don't live in the south, you may like college football.  You might even think you love it.  But until you go to a college football game in the south, you definitely haven't lived it.  There's something magical about the first game of the season, and it's accompanying tailgate.  The very first subtle smells of fall in the air.  But it's still gloriously sunny and warm.  The energy and spirit from all the tailgates.  The seersucker.  The frat boys in bow ties.  The girls in cute sundresses.  Little kids with their faces painted.  The smell of the grill.  The judgment-free flow of mimosas and drinks before noon.  And the food.  The food at a tailgate is vital to the success of the tailgate.

When we were young and responsibility free, our Saturdays in the fall were spent on campus at Georgia Tech.  We had a pretty amazing tailgate group.  Every week was themed, and there was even a spreadsheet.  We took our tailgates seriously, like good southern kids.

So what does all this have to do with huevos rancheros?  Well, I loved having breakfast at our tailgates - it gave me an excuse to drink a mimosa ;).  And I think this would be a pretty fabulous dish to take to a tailgate.  Or if you can't go to a tailgate, then it's definitely a pretty fabulous dish to enjoy at home.

If huevos rancheros is on a brunch menu, there's a really good chance I'm ordering it.  But I've yet to master a homemade version.  Until now, that is.  This version has it all, and it even has a make-ahead option.

The method is a bit unorthodox, and it does take a while, but almost all of it is inactive.  And the extra time is definitely worth it because the flavors of the vegetables are so beautiful and intense, and balance so well with the spiciness from the peppers.  The cheese and runny eggs just put it over the top, and a big plate of these served with fresh corn tortillas is pretty much my idea of perfection.  Especially when I can wash it down with a mimosa.

Hatch Chile Huevos Rancheros

Hatch Chile Huevos Rancheros
adapted from Cook's Country, August/September 2014
serves 4-6

Hatch chiles are in season right now, so I used them in place of poblanos here.  If you can't find them, using a poblano is more than okay.  I also procured some Hatch chile cheddar, which was really great here.  

  • 1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
  • 1 Tbs packed brown sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs chile powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced (or 1 poblano pepper)
  • 1 cup shredded Hatch chile cheddar (or Pepperjack cheese)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and drain the tomatoes, pressing with a rubber spatula to extract as much liquid as possible.  Transfer to a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and reserve 1 3/4 cups of the tomato juice, discarding the rest.  Whisk in the sugar and lime juice and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the onion, olive oil, chile powder, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Spread the mixture into an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Roast 35 to 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.  

Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees.

Transfer the roasted tomato mixture to a 9x13 inch baking dish, and stir in the tomato juice mixture and hatch chiles.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with cheese, then use the back of a ladle to form 8 small "wells"in the tomato mixture.*

Carefully crack an egg into each well, then sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper.

Bake until the whites are just beginning to set but still have some movement, 13 to 15 minutes.  

Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and cover with foil.  Let the eggs sit for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle cilantro over the top, and serve.

*If you are making this ahead, at this point cover the baking dish and refrigerate until you're ready to cook and serve.  If you're traveling with this to a tailgate, I would prepare it up to this step in a grill-safe aluminum foil pan, then cook the eggs on the grill as you would in the oven.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Green Monster Popsicles

Green Monster Smoothie Popsicles


Do you or your kids have any weird phobias?  Our kids are full of them, but I definitely think Henry and Tucker take the cake.  Ready?  Up until last week, they were afraid of popsicles.  Yes, the dessert.  They love ice cream, they love fruit… but not popsicles.  There's an awesome popsicle stand at our farmer's market, and our big tradition is to let Caroline and Smith pick out fun flavors while we're there.  The first time we did this, we asked them to share with their brothers.  They willingly did, but both Tucker and Henry turned away, screaming their heads off in terror.  Everyone there just loves our family.

Somehow they managed to overcome their fears though, and now they are all about popsicles.  I don't know what changed, but I'm glad that they don't live in fear of frozen treats any longer.

Especially when said frozen treats are healthy and full of fruits and veggies.  I've been busy making them, and the kids have been busy eating them.  For the most part, I keep them really healthy, just pureeing fruits and freezing.  Every now and then I'll treat the kids with something like these though, just to be nice.

My kids also love smoothies in all colors, combos, and flavors, so the next logical step for our popsicle obsession was combining it with our smoothie obsession.  And my kids are legitimately obsessed with these green smoothie popsicles.  All I did was make a big blender full of green smoothies, then poured it into popsicle molds.  You can do this with any smoothie your heart desires!

I know that everyone has their favorite green smoothie "recipe," so feel free to use your own.  I'm including the general recipe that I use here just for reference, but consider this post to be an "idea" versus a concrete recipe.

A popsicle I can eat for breakfast?  I'm sold.

Green Monster Smoothie Popsicles 

Green Monster Popsicles
  • 1 cup chopped mango
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped peaches
  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled and broken into pieces
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 cup milk, water, or juice (plus more as needed)
Combine all the ingredients in the blender and puree until smooth, adding more liquid as needed to get a pourable consistency.

Pour the mixture into popsicle molds, and freeze for several hours, or until frozen through, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Peach Chutney + A Killer Burger

peach chutney

A few weeks ago, I got a babysitter for the babies, and took Caroline and Smith out for a day of fun.  We went to the natural history muesem (dinosaurs!  whales! dolphins! fossils!), then went out for lunch at a great burger place nearby.  I'm always a sucker for a fancy burger, so I ordered the Georgia On My Mind:  a grass-fed patty, topped with local goat cheese, arugula, and a sweet and spicy peach chutney.  It absolutely blew my mind, and after the first bite I was planning to recreate it in my own kitchen ASAP.

I'd never made peach chutney, but let me tell you - it's so easy, makes enough to freeze (or can), and it goes just swimmingly with pretty much anything.  It's got that killer combination of sweet-spicy-sour that I find utterly addictive.  I served it with goat cheese over a burger here, but this week I am planning to serve it with grilled pork tenderloin.  I'm positive that it would be great with any number of grilled proteins, as a topping for bruschetta, or even over some goat cheese or cream cheese as an appetizer.  Oh!  Or over baked brie, kind of like this sweet and spicy baked brie I posted earlier this summer!  Like I said, it's amazingly versatile, lasts for a few weeks in the fridge, freezes well… basically it's just an all-around great thing to have on hand.

And should you find yourself with some peach chutney on hand, I beg of you:  pretty please make this burger?  I promise you'll love it!

Peach Chutney

Peach Chutney
adapted from
makes 2-3 cups

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1 small jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 lbs firm but ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped
In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar and sugars over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and add the bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, raisins, garlic, ginger, and salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Add the peaches and any accumulated juices, and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened and the peaches are soft and tender, but still retain their shape.

Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Serve as desired, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Biscuits & Peach Jam-Buttermilk Ice Cream

Biscuits and Peach Jam-Buttermilk Ice Cream

If you're looking for the ultimate southern ice cream, I think this is it.  Made by a midwesterner no less ;).  But it's got the southern trifecta:  biscuits, peaches, and buttermilk.  Swirls of peach jam and crispy, buttery, slightly salty biscuit crumbles are mixed into a tangy buttermilk base, creating a great flavor profile of sweet-salty-tangy-creamy.   It's good stuff, right here.

I was admittedly a little apprehensive about biscuits being mixed into ice cream - it seems like it could have been a textural disaster - but I crumbled my biscuits into really small pieces, so it was just a nice little crispy and salty contrast to the creamy ice cream and sweet jam.

In short, I Joey Tribbiani'ed my love for peaches, biscuits, and ice cream, and "put my hands together." I urge you to do the same.

Biscuits and Peach Jam-Buttermilk Ice Cream

Biscuits and Peach Jam-Buttermilk Ice Cream
barely adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts
makes about 1 quart

  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 3 oz (6 Tbs) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs light corn syrup
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup crumbled sweet cream shortcakes (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup Peach jam, chilled (recipe follows)
Whisk about 1/4 cup of the cream with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.  Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.  

Combine the remaining cup of cream, the sugar, and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes, stirring periodically.  

Remove from heat and gradually whisk the corn starch mixture into the cream mixture.  Return the pot to the heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat.

Slowly whisk the hot cream mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.  Whisk in the buttermilk.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours, or overnight.

Assemble your ice cream maker and pour the ice cream base into the maker.  Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.  Use a rubber spatula to mix the crumbled biscuits into the ice cream, then layer into a storage container, alternating layers of ice cream and jam.  Press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface of the ice cream and seal with an airtight lid.  Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Sweet Cream Shortcakes
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (only White Lily will do)
  • 2 Tbs cold unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Butter a 9x9 inch baking dish.  

Put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse 15 times.  Add the cream and pulse until the dough comes together into a shaggy mass.  

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to bring it together.  Fold the dough in half, then fold it over itself two or three times.  Press the dough into the prepared pan.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. 

Once it's cool, crumble enough of the biscuits to make 1/2 cup of crumbs.  Spread them in an even layer on a parchment-lined plate and freeze until needed.

Peach Jam
  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into large chunks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
Puree the peaches and measure out 1 cup of the puree for the jam.  Reserve any remaining puree for another use (recommended:  bellinis).  

Combine the peach puree, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 8 minutes (or until it is thickened slightly).  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Ultimate Summer Menu Planner

Hi, friends!  Long time no post.  I took a bit of an unplanned break from the blog over the past few weeks to spend more time with the family, wind down summer vacation, try (and failed) to get my house organized, and get Caroline ready to start the first grade (how is the possible).  I missed posting, but I have to admit - it was a nice respite for me, and it gave me the much-needed time to clear my head, then immediately fill it back up with ideas for future posts, recipes, and all things Pink Parsley!  So in the next few weeks, I have a lot to share:  a quick recap of a weekend trip we took to the mountains, the rebirth of my "Feeding my Family" series with a post all about school lunches, and several great recipes that you will definitely want to make before summer's end.

So speaking of summer's end, I've been thinking of all the things I still want to make before it's too late. And that got me thinking about all the delicious meals I've made over the course of the past few years.  And THAT led me to putting together this post for you all.  I'm featuring five menus that you should definitely make before Labor Day.  I'm including drinks, apps, and desserts within each menu, but if you're just looking for a quick and easy weeknight meal, feel free to tone it down a bit (or not!).


The Summer Meal of 2014

The Ultimate Summer Meal

I have made this exact menu three different times this summer for entertaining.  In fact, my mother-in-law even requested it for her Bible Study group this weekend.  This summer salad has become a classic with me and several of my friends and blog readers, and I beg you to at the very least, make the salad for dinner one night this week!  And the ice cream…. I haven't blogged it, but that's purely because I can't keep it it around long enough to photograph it.  It is the best ice cream I've ever made, and one that I will be making every year for the rest of my life.  If you don't have an ice cream maker, this ice cream is the perfect reason to buy one.  Just simply amazing.

Fresh Peach Wine Coolers
Cheesy Baked Vidalia Onion Dip (Bakin' and Eggs)
Grilled Summer Vegetable Chopped Salad
Tomato-Basil Bruschetta
Sweet Corn & Black Raspberry Ice Cream (Annie's Eats)

Low Country Love

Low Country Summer Menu

This is another meal that I've made several times.  When we go to the beach with our friends, each family is in charge of dinner one night out of the week, and this has become our go-to dinner.  Now I make it semi-frequently at home as well, and it's another great meal for entertaining.

Strawberry Rosé Sangria
Low-Country Grill
Garlic Cheddar Biscuits (add one cup of cheddar and a few cloves of minced garlic to my buttermilk drop biscuits)
Sliced Watermelon
Peach Cobbler

Summer Fiesta

Summer Fiesta Menu

You know I couldn't make a menu compilation without including Mexican food, right?  I'm pushing my spicy citrus-grilled shrimp tacos, but feel free to use your favorite taco here instead if you want something else (chicken, ground beef, beer-battered fish, etc).  

Summer Margaritas
Bacon-Chipotle Guacamole
Spicy Citrus Grilled Shrimp Tacos
Mexican Grilled-Corn Salad
Blackberry Pie Bars

The Ultimate Southern Summer Dinner

Southern Summer Menu

You are also probably unsurprised that I'm including a southern menu, right?  This southern feast will leave everyone full and happy!  It's reminiscent of the "Sunday dinners" that we used to have after church, but with updated recipes (and Bourbon!).

Blackberry Lemonade (spike with bourbon for an adult beverage!)
Pimento Cheese
BBQ Chicken Kabobs
Cornmeal-Crusted Okra
Summer Corn Pudding
Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Peach Pie

Summer Classics, Reinvented

summer classic, reinvented menu

This menu takes summer classics, and turns them on their head for a fun new spin.  This is great for casual entertaining, or just a weeknight dinner with your family.  Who doesn't like pizza and rice krispie treats?

Summer Shandy (1/4 cup lemonade + 3/4 cup Hefeweizen beer, served chilled)
Black Eyed Pea Hummus
BLT Pizza
Watermelon-Cherry Tomato Salad
S'Mores Rice Krispie Treats

I hope you found something you are just dying to make this week.  I'll be back later this week with some more dinner ideas, plus an ice cream that you definitely don't want to miss out on!  Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

BBQ Turkey Meatballs over Cheddar-Corn Quinoa

BBQ Turkey Meatballs over Cheddar-Corn Quinoa


I've had meal-planning ADD lately.  I sit down to plan my menu, write it all out, make my grocery list, then decide I hate everything on it and start over.  I'm pretty certain that last week I created three separate menus before finally settling on the final version.  And I have to say, I'm glad I floundered the way I did, because last week's meals were pretty spectacular!  I must do my best work under pressure.  
Leading the way was this last-minute addition, and ironically, it was just kind of thrown together on a whim.  I didn't have it in me to drag all the kids to the grocery store that day, so I needed to figure something out based on what was in the fridge.

The meatballs are an adaptation of my BBQ chicken burgers, and they were a smash hit.  Everyone in my family just devoured these.  To keep this dinner on the light side, I threw together a grilled corn and cheddar quinoa salad, and the pairing of the meatballs with the quinoa was just fantastic (though I think the meatballs would be fabulous over cheesy grits as well).  These would be a great addition to a party spread or tailgate as well, just served as-is.  Or topped with melted cheese and turned into a bbq meatball sub.  Um, yes please.

This was a filling and satisfying summer meal, but it was nice and light as well.  The perfect balance between my desire for healthy dinners, and wanting to serve something hearty and filling for the kids.  It's a winner all-around.

BBQ Turkey Meatballs over Cheddar-Corn Quinoa

BBQ Turkey Meatballs over Cheddar-Corn Quinoa

BBQ Turkey Meatballs
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • pinch cayenne
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 5 Tbs bbq sauce, divided
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, panko, scallion, cilantro, paprika, garlic, mustard, salt, cayenne, brown sugar,  and 2 tablespoons of the bbq sauce.  Lightly but thoroughly mix with your hands to incorporate all the ingredients.  Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup, form the mixture into balls, and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of bbq sauce to a small bowl.

Bake the meatballs 11 to 12 minutes, then brush with the reserved bbq sauce.  Return to the oven and bake an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are cooked through (160 in the center).  

Cheddar-Corn Quinoa
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 ears of corn, grilled, roasted, or boiled, kernels cut from cobs
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced into thin rings and rinsed under cold water
  • 3 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 3/4 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Bring the quinoa, broth, and a big pinch of salt to a boil in medium saucepan.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked through.

Remove the quinoa from heat, and add to a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the corn, onion, cilantro, scallion, and cheese.

In small bowl, whisk together the oil, pepper flakes, garlic, and vinegar.  Pour over the quinoa and gently mix to combine.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Serve the meatballs over the quinoa.