Saturday, May 31, 2014

Watermelon Salad with Balsalmic Vinaigrette

Summer Salad Series
Recipe 2
Watermelon Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I had my doubts about this recipe (Adapted from here) but boy was I wrong. I would never think to throw onion in with watermelon, soak with balsamic vinegar and it would be as good as this salad is. It is perfectly balanced in every way. The onion cuts through the sweetness of the watermelon, and the mint balances the bite of the onion. The dressing pulls it all together. Now that I think about it, I don't know of any salad recipe with balsamic vinegar that I don't like.

 To make the dressing, here's what I did. It's a little bit different from the original and I cut the whole thing in half (mainly because we had already eaten half our watermelon).

Mix the following ingredients together:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. spicy brown mustard
2 tsp. honey

Mix well and store until salad is prepared

To prepare the salad, cut 1/2 a seedless watermelon into bite sized pieces.

Add in 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped, and 1/3 cup (give or take) diced red onions.

Mix it all together.

 And stir in the dressing. Coat well.

And top with feta cheese before serving.

This would be a good side for any summer entrĂ©e, or just a snack, or a super light breakfast or lunch. I hope you try this one. The hardest part is cutting the watermelon (which you will probably be doing at some point this summer anyway), and the rest can be thrown together in 5 minutes. The results are worth it.

Other Recipes in my Summer Salad Series
Grilled Corn Salad with Basil Dressing

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer Bucket List

School's out for the summer (Cue Alice Cooper music). Can I get a Whoo Whoo?? Oh my my. This is the first summer since my oldest son was born that I have not taught summer school. I'm about to have 9 straight weeks off with my boys - the longest time I have ever spent with them without working. I'm almost beside myself. Summer (and not working) has a tendency to slow life way, way down for me. Lazy mornings, sitting in the sun, spending hours perusing cookbooks and Pinterest...I love summer.

I do try to keep a little structure to our routine during the summer because well, we all need it. Eli still naps and Lex has quiet time for several hours in the afternoon, but I like to make sure we are doing something constructive at least some of the time in the morning. For that reason, I have put together a little list of things I would like to do over the summer with the boys.

1. Build a camp fire
2. Make s'mores
3. Build crystal sun catchers
4. Go camping
5. Catch fireflies
6. Build sand castles
7. Run through sprinkler (done!)
8. Have dessert for dinner
9. Make a picnic
10. Water paint outside
11. Make root beer floats
12. Make a bird feeder
13. Make homemade lemonade
14. Participate in library's summer reading program
15. Go to a Nature Center
16. Visit a new park
17. Go fishing
18. Hike a new trail
19. Swim in a creek

20. And finally, the big one. So big, in fact, that I'm scared to put it on here. As Eli approaches his 3rd birthday (July), I am desperately hoping that we can master potty training this summer. He has shown lots of interest and success at preschool, but very little at home (of course, I have yet to show interest either). His preschool would like him to move up to an older class when he returns in the fall, but he has to be potty trained to do that. I am ready for him to graduate from diapers. I am ready to graduate from changing diapers!

And that's my summer bucket list! What are your plans?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Burgers with Chipotle Sauce and Carmelized Onions

 Burger with a Twist

I love a good burger, but especially appreciate a burger with a twist. I love playing around with condiments, breads and seasonings to create a burger masterpiece. For Memorial Day, I tried out this chipotle sauce (adapted), and was eager to sass up a burger with lots of other yummy toppings. Adobo sauce has a smoky paprika flavor and the chipotles add some heat. It was a great reason to use up our last few pounds of deer meat for a fantastic venison burger.

Chipotle Sauce
I used the following ingredients for the sauce:

1 small container Greek yogurt (6 ounces or around 1/2 cup)
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped
2 T. lime juice (just drizzle it on until the consistency seems right)
1 T. adobo sauce from the can of peppers (more if you like heat, less if you don't like heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. cumin

Stir together  yogurt, garlic, cumin, lime, and adobo sauce.

To chop up the chipotle pepper, use a fork and a knife to slice it open, then scrape out the seeds. Finely chop the pepper. You will want to wash your hands really well if you happen to touch the pepper. It can burn!

Stir it all together. The creaminess of the yogurt is a perfect balance to the smoky pepper. By the way, this is also a great dip for crackers, chips, or vegetables (assuming you like some heat in your dip).
So now on to one of my other burger toppings, caramelized onions. I love how onions get a sweet kind of flavor when you cook them down long enough. For this recipe, I used a large Vidalia onion. I sliced the whole thing into larger chunks (they shrink way down).  

Cover the bottom of a pan with olive oil, and heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onions and stir frequently, until the onions become golden brown. This whole process takes a while. Up to or around 20 minutes.

When they get to this golden color, they are done. Topping #2 complete.
So let's build a burger, shall we?
On a grilled bun (we used onion buns), I spread chipotle sauce on one side, and mashed avocado on the other side.

Then I finished off with the burger, caramelized onions and some feta cheese.

And there is my sassed up venison burger. Mix and match your favorite toppings for your own twist on a burger.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Kickoff to Summer

Our Memorial Day weekend served as our family's unofficial kickoff to summer. It's one of the few weekends out of the year that Jeremy and I both get off for 3 full days. Our weekend was full of cookouts with friends, yard work, and lots of play time outside! The weather was a perfect combination of hot sun, which we needed for it to feel like "summer," and rain, which our garden desperately needs. Even though the boys and I still have 2 1/2 days of school/preschool left before summer vacation officially begins, we definitely feel geared up for hot weather to get here and stay!
Here's a peek at how we kicked off summer over Memorial Day weekend.
First, I decided that the front door needed a touch of summer so I dug in the closet to find this...

And turned it into this...

 Total cost = $6 because I already had the wreath and the fake flowers were $3 each at Walmart. I just cut them apart and stuck them in the wreath. Total time = less than 15 minutes.

We broke out the sprinkler for the first time this year. The boys have been asking for it ever since we let them outside without jackets 2 months ago. The time has finally arrived. They spent about an hour each on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday playing in the sprinkler.
The next set of pictures may look like other pictures I've taken of Lex on the swing, but it's actually a photo documentation of a milestone - Lex learned how to pump his legs and swing by himself! We've been working on that for about a year, and on Saturday, Jeremy called me over to the window to see Lex pumping and swinging just as hard as he could. It was so sweet. He had the biggest smile on his face. It's bittersweet. Sweet because he's growing up and doesn't need us to push him anymore :) - Bitter because he's growing up and doesn't need us to push him anymore:(

So proud...

The boys also had fun playing in a pile of dirt that we have in our driveway right now to add to garden beds around the yard. Good thing we had the sprinkler going to wash them off before they came in the house!

The peonies are in bloom!

Lex had his first corn on the cob of the season.

And there were lots of popsicles! 

And that wraps up our Memorial Day weekend. We had tons of good food and I'll soon be posting about some super yummy burgers we had as part of our festivities.
Thank you so much to all of our Veterans, including my hubby, my dad, lots of cousins, uncles, and friends! We won't forget your sacrifice. I encourage you to look at if you'd like to share your thoughts, prayers, or condolences with a family who has lost a service member. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Grilled Corn Salad with Basil Dressing

Grilled Corn Salad 

My summer menu is made up of the following:
1. Anything that can be thrown on a grill, and
2. Salads.

Just like I associate soups and casseroles with fall and winter, summer is all about the salads in my house. I've been collecting a list of "want to try" salad recipes since the first signs of spring many weeks ago. Now, on this unofficial opening weekend to summer, I bring you the first salad in what I'm calling my "Summer Salad Series." I'll be trying out new salad recipes and sharing them with you here.

This first recipe, adapted from a Bobby Flay recipe, easily soared to the top of my go-to salad recipes. I'll be bringing this one to picnics and barbeques for the rest of the summer. It's that good. The combination of grilled corn and an herb dressing make this the perfect summer side dish.

So let's start with the dressing, shall we?

Mix the following ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
8-10 basil leaves
1 t. sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

I used my immersion blender because it's so easy for this type of recipe. If you don't have one, just put the ingredients in a blender. By the way, it doesn't have to be a completely consistent mixture - a few chunks of basil is fine. 

Doesn't the color just look like a refreshing summer dressing?

The dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use. That's what I did. Also, this is such a refreshing dressing that I think it would be perfect on a pasta salad as well. Just an idea.

Now for the grilled corn. If you have a go-to method for grilling corn on the cob, then by all means use your way. Here's how I did mine.

I always do all my corn cleaning in the sink. When it's all done, I just remove the husks to the trash can. With all the silk and husks, it seems to make a mess if I do it anywhere else. I peeled back the husks (without removing them) and cleaned off the silk from the corn. I took off the outer layers of husk, but left on enough that would cover the corn back up.

When I finished cleaning the 8 ears of corn, I put the husks back over the corn and soaked them in a pan of water for about 15 minutes. This process helps prevent the husks from catching on fire once they are on the grill.

Once they are on the grill, turn them every 5 minutes until the kernels are tender when pierced with a fork. On low heat, these took about 20 minutes total. 

It's okay if some kernels are showing and it's okay if they get a little blackened. Color equals flavor when it comes to grilled corn. You don't want it to be completely charred, but a little bit is fine.

Here are my 8 yummy grilled corn on the cobs. I could have stopped here, spread on some herb butter and just eaten corn for dinner, but I really wanted to try the dressing out on this salad.

Cut the corn off the cob and put it in a large serving bowl. Leaving the chunks  of corn in tact gives it a more rustic look I think.

Quarter a pint of cherry tomatoes and add them to the salad.

Add some onion for flavor. Depending on your taste, you may want to choose a different type of onion, but I really like red onions in salad. I only used a couple of tablespoons of finely diced onions, because the taste goes a long way in a marinated salad.

Pour on the dressing, mix well, and serve cold.

Top with feta cheese and serve as a side to anything grilled.

Topping variations: This would be amazing with some diced Anaheim peppers, bacon, or avocado. Just a suggestion.

Final Thoughts: This is not a "throw together" salad. It takes some time and planning ahead. We've eaten leftovers of this salad, and it tastes just as delicious the second day. Yum! So happy kickoff to summer and I hope you are enjoying some great summer food wherever you are!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Salami Roll Ups

My department at school is having an "End of Year" party tomorrow and my building was assigned savory snacks. I thought I would whip together this super easy appetizer for my contribution.
Here are the ingredients:
1 pound salami, sliced fairly thin
1/2 bunch green onions
1 package Philadelphia cream cheese
2 T. Ranch dressing mix (this can be omitted but does add a kick)
Let the cream cheese get to room temperature and then mix together with the seasoning.

Slice the onions to the size of the diameter of the salami. You may want to cut some of the onions in half lengthwise as well to avoid a really overpowering oniony taste.

Smear some cream cheese spread on the salami and place the onion on one end.

And roll it up!

After they are all done, I like to slice them in half which gave me about 50 appetizers. I think I almost could have gotten away with cutting them in thirds but opted for the bigger bite over the bigger quantity.

Bon Appetite!