Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Grilled Potato BLT Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing


As evidenced by the archives of my blog, we eat tons of salads in the summer.  I can't get enough of my chopped summer veggie grilled salad, a classic caprese, watermelon feta salad, basic caesar, and everything in between.  And now I have this amazing salad to add to the rotation.

I first made this salad over Memorial Day weekend, and I served it as a side dish to grilled New York Strips.  Wouldn't you know, I all but ignored my perfectly cooked steak, and just totally devoured this salad instead!  I continued the obsession all summer long, making this for lunches quite often, and it makes for a wonderful dinner as well.  I've never made a salad with two dressings, but the combination of the light vinaigrette and the drizzle of rich blue cheese dressing works so well.  The bracing vinaigrette is mellowed by the blue cheese, and the pungent blue cheese is sharpened by the vinaigrette.  Love all around.

I have this bad habit of "remembering" what I need for recipes I've made in the past, and instead of checking the actual source, I just buy what I think I need.  Unsurprisingly, this leaves me short of ingredients quite often, but I've gotten pretty good at improvising.  Last time I made this, I was out of sour cream and buttermilk, and I used Mexican crema and mayonnaise instead with no ill effects.  It's also forgiving for the herbs;  scallions or grated onion work well in place of the chives, or add basil or parsley to the dressing or vinaigrette as well.  You can roast the potatoes instead of grilling, and grilled zucchini is a great addition too.  Basically, this is a super forgiving and adaptable salad, so feel free to take your own liberties with the recipe/  And should you have any potatoes leftover, they are ridiculously addictive dipped into the blue cheese dressing.



Grilled Potato BLT Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
adapted from Fine Cooking, June/July 2016

There are several components to this salad, but they are all really easy and it comes together quite quickly, especially if you prep the dressing and vinaigrette ahead of time.

Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 2 oz blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, plain yogurt, or mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, creme fraiche, or crema
  • 1 tsp chopped dill
  • 1 tsp snipped fresh chives
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • dash of hot sauce
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
For the Salad
  • 2 lb fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise, or quartered if very large
  • kosher salt
  • 24 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce, quartered and very thinly sliced (or 2 romaine hearts, halved and thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 6 oz thick-sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
Prepare your grill to cook at medium-high heat.  

Make the dressing:  In a medium bowl, whisk together the blue cheese, sour cream, buttermilk, dill, chives, vinegar, and hot sauce.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and set aside.

Make the vinaigrette:  In a mason jar, combine the vinegar, shallot, and mustard.  Shake well to combine.  Add the oil and shake again, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the potatoes and make the salad:  Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water.  Season with 2 Tbs salt, and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Boil for 3 minutes, then drain the potatoes in a large colander and rinse with cool water.  

Spread the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet to completely cool and dry until you're ready to grill.  They can sit for up to 2 hours at room temperature, or up to 8 hours, covered in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, toss the cherry tomatoes with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and set aside.

Toss the potatoes with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Grill the potatoes, turning once, for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until they are tender throughout and nicely marked.  Taste and season with additional salt if needed.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce with basil and about 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette.  Divide evenly among plates and top with potatoes, tomatoes, and bacon, and drizzle with the blue cheese dressing.  Serve.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sweet Corn Waffles with Blueberry-Maple Syrup



If there's one motto for our family, it might just be "waffles are always a good idea."  They are our lunch of choice on Sundays after church, and we have them fairly often for dinner as well.  Ironically, we rarely eat them for breakfast, but that's neither here nor there.  Anyway, if we are having waffles for dinner, I like to mix up the flavors, and experiment with different combinations.  One favorite of the summer has been zucchini waffles (recipe coming soon!), and these corn waffles with blueberry syrup were a hit as well.

My only issue with having waffles or pancakes for dinner is that oftentimes you're basically just having dessert for dinner… which, I mean, I'd be lying if I said I didn't like that.  But every now and then I do try and behave like a responsible parent and feed my children nutritious meals.  These waffles are definitely a little healthier since they have very little added sugar, and you're getting a serving of corn and blueberries in each waffle as well.

Until a few years ago, I probably would have turned up my nose at the combo of blueberries and corn, but now I embrace the motto of "if it grows together, it goes together," and I'm basically just like "gimme all the corn and blueberries now."  This chicken salad is amazing, blueberry cornbread is my favorite, and these waffles are the bomb.   I like serving these with a simple fruit salad on the side, along with either bacon or chicken sausage to round it all out.   We have Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, and Thirsty Thursdays… so shall we start a trend with Waffle Wednesdays?  Make it happen!



Sweet Corn Waffles with Blueberry-Maple Syrup
adapted from How to Cook Everything Fast, by Mark Bittman
serves 4-6, depending on the size of your waffle iron

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1 Tbs baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbs melted butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, 2 tablespoons of butter, and buttermilk, whisking until well-mixed

Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon, stirring until just combined.  The batter will still be thick and lumpy.  Fold in the corn kernels.

Follow the directions on your waffle iron to cook the waffles.  As they are finished, place them in the preheated oven to keep warm as you cook the rest.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet set over medium heat.  Add the blueberries and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften and give up their juice.  Add the maple syrup and cook until heated through.  Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Serve the waffles warm, with the blueberry syrup and more butter, if desired.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jumping Back In


Let's try this again, shall we?  It's been a minute since my last post, and it's been even longer since I shared recipes on a regular basis. As I said in January, I've missed this space terribly, but it honestly just hasn't been my priority for the past year.  I just wasn't in the right mindset, and I didn't want to simply phone it in and post for the sake of posting.  I want this blog to be sincere and honest, and I want to be excited to share with you!  I'm psyched to pick it back up though; and I swear that's not just an empty promise.  I've found that I'm a better mom, wife, and person when I'm doing something I enjoy, and I really do enjoy blogging.


I already have some delicious recipes and dinner plans lined up for you, and my list of recipes and ideas  is growing by the minute -- nothing inspires me quite like summer produce!  I'm also working on a mega-post full of meal plans, menus, and recipes for summer.  Since it's been so long since I've posted, I thought a recap of some of my all-time favorites might be in order!



So as far as what we've been up to… well this summer is just flying by!  It's hard to believe that school starts back in less than two weeks, but we've already wrapped up swim team, a few camps, Vacation Bible School, and a trip to Disney World!  Not to mention dinners at the pool, s'mores at the fire pit, a fun Independence Day celebration, and just tons of summer shenanigans.  It's been a fun one, and I'm excited to share the rest of it with y'all!  xoxoxo


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Creamy Pumpkin Pizza with Truffled Gouda and Herbed Ricotta

Creamy Pumpkin Pizza with Truffled Gouda and Herbed Ricotta 

I know that title's a little crazy, but this pizza is a mouthful, both in name and flavor.  There are so many wonderful things going on here, but the creamy pumpkin sauce, truffled gouda, and herbed ricotta are the highlights and thus deserve top billing.

The first time I made this pizza I had a vague idea of what I wanted to use and the flavor profile I was hoping to achieve.  When we make homemade pizzas, oftentimes they are kind of a thrown-together mish mash of random veggies, meats, and cheeses I have on hand.  It's always good, because you know… pizza.  However, this one blew me away, and I immediately added it to my menu for the following week, being sure to take careful notes so I could share it with you guys!  And… 4 months later, here we are ;)

I started with a creamy pumpkin alfredo-type sauce -- just a standard white sauce with the addition of a little tomato paste and pumpkin puree.  That in and of itself was great, and the extra sauce made for an excellent dipping sauce for the crust.  I topped the sauce with fresh spinach and onion, then finished it off with a cheesy trio -- mozzarella, truffled gouda, and dollops of herbed ricotta.  The result was one of the best pizzas I've ever made.  I try and keep a general rule here that I don't post recipes that use specialty ingredients, so I was a little weary of sharing this one due to the truffled gouda.  But I see it pretty regularly at Whole Foods, and my Trader Joe's has a truffled Italian cheese that's akin of fontina, and that works as well (I tested it just for y'all. ;))  In a pinch, you could easily use plain gouda and then finish the pizza with a little drizzle of truffle oil.  I love to serve this pizza with my shredded brussels sprouts salad (but I leave the cheese out of the salad since there's so much on the pizza); the flavors go really well together, and it makes for a lovely and simple meal.

On an unrelated note, as we enter the new year, and I plan for my blog, I'd love to hear from you!  What kinds of posts and recipes would you love to see here?  Any specific ideas, foods, round-ups, tutorials, etc?  More or less of my kids? ;)  I'm open to any and all suggestions!

Creamy Pumpkin Pizza with Truffled Gouda and Herbed Ricotta 

Creamy Pumpkin Pizza with Truffled Gouda and Herbed Ricotta

  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbs pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbs shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb pizza dough
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 packed cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion
  • 1 cup grated truffled gouda cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour, tomato paste, and garlic, and cook, stirring continuously, for about 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook until thickened, stirring often, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from heat, fish out the garlic clove, and stir in the parmesan cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Sprinkle a large square of parchment paper with cornmeal, and roll and stretch the dough into a 14-16 inch circle, or large oval.   Brush the perimeter of the dough with olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta with the thyme, rosemary, and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border.  Scatter the spinach and onions over the sauce, then sprinkle the mozzarella and gouda over the vegetables.  Using a teaspoon, dot the top with the ricotta.  

Transfer the pizza plus parchment to the preheated stone, and cook 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven, allow to cool 10 minutes, then slice and serve.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 in Review: Our Life

DSC_3756


Wow.  So I haven't posted since October.  Sorry about that!  I felt very overwhelmed and was really busy this fall, and just needed to let something go.  So I'm sorry about the radio silence here, but it was much needed on my part.  I thought that maybe if I took a break from the blog, I could keep my house clean, get in more workouts, have more time to read and pray, and generally just get my head above water for a bit.  Well, as it turns out, my house is still messy.  I still miss more workouts than I'd like to admit.  The only books I read lately are about autism treatments and nutrition.  And I still feel like I'm barely treading water most days.  But here's the thing -- I miss this place!  I miss taking pics of my food, I miss writing, I miss hearing from you guys.  Can we try this again in 2016, pretty please?

So thankful for these four little faces. 💛💛👫👬💛💛

When I first sat down to write about 2015, I looked back at the recipes I shared with you; but to be honest, 2015 was not about the food for me.  2015 was about Henry.  I could say that a dark cloud was cast upon the year because of Henry's autism diagnosis.  It's been way too easy for me to get bogged down in the negativity, fear, and sadness associated with that diagnosis.  Believe me, I feel all of that!  But then I look at what he's accomplished and who he is.  He went from being completely nonverbal in June, to having a vocabulary of almost 100 words in December.  He is quite literally obsessed with animals, and he can tell you the sounds of almost any animal you can think of.  When he wants milk, he asks for milk, rather than throwing himself down in front of the refrigerator, screaming and crying.  He looks me in the eye.  He holds my hand.  He gives me kisses if I ask.  And he calls me mommy, Joey Daddy, and Tucker "Tuck Tuck."  He's such a special little boy, and I am constantly amazed by him.  We have some pretty tough and stressful decisions to make about his future in the next few weeks; but based on the progress he's made in the last three months, he is so ready to fly, and I can't wait to see how high he'll go.

It's nutcracker time!! Caroline the cupcake! 

Henry is not our only child though.  We had lots of adventures and fun with the other three as well.  Smith played t-ball, Tucker's personality continued to shine bright and bold, and Caroline performed in a local production of The Nutcracker.  Perfectly cast as a cupcake, she was adorable and sweet, and she's already talking about what she wants to be next year.  Spoiler alert:  the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Photo booth fun!  #besties #2016

So 2015 was tough. It tested me, it was just hard.  We went though a LOT this year.  But we started 2016 with a bang.  My girl Annie and her sweet family came to visit us over the New Year's holiday, and we rang in 2016 with Mexican food, blood orange-passion fruit margaritas, dancing, and fun.  We laughed, ate, and talked our faces off, and I could not have asked for a better time.  If that is any indication of what the new year has in store, then I am excited and blessed beyond belief!

I felt like I owed you guys an update and explanation of my absence, but have no fear:  I'll be back again this week with a roundup of the top dishes of 2015, and then I'll be jumping into new recipes!  I have so many ideas and plans for the new year, and I'm so excited to share it all with you!  xoxo


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs 

Thank you all so very much for your kind words, comments, emails, stories, messages, and support in response to my last post.  I've been trying to write this post for the last three and half weeks, but I can't ever seem to find the right words to express my gratitude. I've finally realized that all I really have to say in response is "thank you."  It means so much to me that so many of you reached out to me following Henry's autism diagnosis, and I really just cannot put my gratitude and love into words.  Our family has been so touched by the support we've received from my internet friends, and we're so humbled and thankful for the community we have here.  Truly, you guys have brought tears to my eyes, a smile to my face, and happiness to my heart.

Oftentimes when I lack the words like this, I allow food to speak for me.  Cooking and baking for others is definitely how I show my love and friendship, so I can think of nothing better to share with you now than pure comfort food -- in the form of meatloaf meatballs.  To me, meatloaf is the quintessential comfort food.  However, it's not the healthiest meal out there, and it's not very practical for a weeknight unless you prep it ahead of time.  Enter -- turkey meatloaf meatballs!

These meatballs are healthier than traditional meatloaf, since they are made with ground turkey, and they are faster to assemble and cook as well.  For some reason my kids are more likely to eat a meatball than a meat-loaf, so they were a BIG hit with the little ones as well!

For a brief moment, I considered keeping this dinner really healthy, and serving the meatballs over cauliflower puree…. but I quickly came to my senses and affirmed that mashed potatoes just aren't optional when it comes to eating meatloaf.  A side of roasted brussels sprouts rounded out this meal, and we all left the table with happy bellies and happy hearts.

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs
glaze from Cook's Illustrated

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp finely minced fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
Glaze
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with a sheet of aluminum foil.  Spray it lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, onion, garlic, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, breadcrumbs, and the egg.  Gently but thoroughly use your hands to combine the mixture and incorporate all the ingredients.

Use an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure to form meatballs, and arrange them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the meatballs for 11 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until it's thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Divide the glaze between 2 small bowls.

Using half the glaze, brush the meatballs all around.  Return them to the oven and cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze.  Serve the meatballs over mashed potatoes.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Different, not less.

DSC_2920

For months, I've been trying to figure out the best way to share this, or whether it was even appropriate to share at all.  This is part of why I've been quiet the past few months, and why the posting has been infrequent.  But especially over the past week, I've felt a strong pull to let you into our life.   I feel inauthentic by not talking about this, and I feel as though I'm faking it by pretending that everything is status quo.

For almost the past year, I've alluded to family issues, developmental delays, emotional times, and busy busy weeks.  All of those are simply euphemisms and roundabout ways to get to the point without saying the words.  The truth is -- our sweet Henry was diagnosed with autism this summer.

It wasn't a surprise; we expected this news.  He's nonverbal with a whole host of sensory, behavioral, and social issues.  Yet I still experienced pretty much every emotion under the sun when I heard those words.  I cried both tears of relief and tears of sadness.  Relief because it meant that we now had a diagnosis for what we've known all along, and we could begin to move forward with a real plan in place.  Sadness because, of course I was sad!  Since his diagnosis, I've continued to experience all sorts of conflicting emotions.  But one thing has grown stronger, and that's my love for Henry.  Yes, being diagnosed with autism is indeed life-changing news.  But it did not change our life.  We go on like we always have -- laughing and loving.


Henry has the sweetest soul you've ever known.  If you want to witness pure innocence, just look into his big brown eyes.  When he engages with you, it will melt your heart; whether its a fist bump, a high five, or the rare kiss. Henry is my hero.  Life is not easy for him, and he has a long road ahead of him.  But he wakes up smiling every morning, and he loves life in a way that I've never seen before.  His spirit is strong, and I know he's going to be okay.

Love needs no words, and I feel and see true, unadulterated love every time I look at Henry and anytime he looks at me.  Caroline already knew that Henry was different,  and that his brain works differently from ours; she knew that Henry doesn't use words, and he doesn't always "know how to make good choices."  When we explained Henry's autism to Caroline, we did so with the help of the book My Brother Charlie.  There is a page that I've since bookmarked.  As Caroline read this passage aloud, she replaced "Charlie" with "Henry," and said that this is how she feels about him.  It's how we all feel.

I've learned from Henry that love doesn't always come from what you say.  It can also come from what you do.  And so we do right by Henry.  We love him strong.  And we watch over him with the might of angels.  We have to.

DSC_2916 

Part of my initial sadness was due to the fact that he's a twin.  He's forever being compared to Tucker, and I felt like it wasn't fair to Henry to live in that comparison for his whole life.  Until I realized something: he has an advocate and protector in Tucker.  They might not be on the same path, but Henry has Tucker (and Caroline and Smith) as built in advocates for life.  I truly feel that they are a gift for us and Henry in that way.  Caroline has already assumed that role; she is fiercely protective of him, and she has made it her mission to educate her friends on autism.

I don't intend to sugar coat this.  It's not a fun road we're on.  We have some really bad moments.  He struggles every. single. day.  We garner a lot of stares and disapproving looks, and have already encountered many people who simply think we need to do a better job of disciplining him.  Some days I feel good about the hand we've been dealt, and I feel good about our plan.  But some days I count down the hours until I can crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep.  At the unfairness of it all; for us, and for the millions of other families who are going though the same thing, in this club that none of us asked to join.

We don't know what the future holds for Henry.  We are hopeful that with the intensive early interventions we are doing, he will be able to use words to communicate and grow to be independent and highly functional.  In a few weeks, he'll be starting at an autism therapy-focused preschool, so we are very excited to see the progress he will make there.  For now, we live and we love Henry, and we've adopted this song by Phillip Phillips as our anthem to him.  These are the word I wish he could understand. Because if nothing else, I want him to always know how very loved he is.

Hold on to me as you go
As we roll down these unfamiliar roads
And though this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
I'm gonna make this place your home.

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear
The trouble - it might drag you down
If you get lost you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
I'm gonna make this place your home.


 
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