As I shared with you, when I attended college I lived on junk & convenience food and I had the inevitable “Freshman 15,” to prove it from my bad eating habits throughout the year. I only wish I knew how great I would have felt and how much better I would have performed if I had stocked my fridge with healthy options.
Now I know that there are healthy ideas for stocking your refrigerator – whether it’s a dorm sized mini-fridge, your first apartment fridge, or the huge family-sized fridge many of us graduate to – and I’m making sure that my kids do know that the foods that are good for your body are easy to keep on hand, too. In this healthy fridge makeover, I’m sharing easy ways to keep good-for-you foods within reach along with a recipe for a quick to make no-bake energy bite that you can mix up in a bowl for easy snacks on-the-go that both kids and adults love.
Eggs- Eggs are the perfect food for starting your day out right or for a healthy late night snack. Did you know that you can prepare an egg easily in the microwave with no special equipment at all? Simply spray or grease a bowl to prepare it and crack two eggs in it with a tablespoon of milk and whisk well with a fork. Place your bowl of eggs in the microwave and cook for one minute. Give it another little scramble with your fork and then cook for thirty second intervals, until your eggs reach the desired consistency. That’s it! Don’t forget that you can add your own fun add-ins to this versatile food like chopped up veggies, cheeses, or meats.
Berries- Berries are a great item to keep on hand to eat as a side, to grab by the handful for a quick snack, mixed in with a cup of Greek yogurt, or as a topper to a bowl of instant oatmeal in the morning. Cut berries can also be added to a water bottle and then allowed to steep overnight to create a healthy & inexpensive infused water.
Veggies- Cut veggies are the perfect item to have on hand for a quick and healthy snack. Some of my favorites for snacking are peppers (in every color), carrot sticks, celery sticks, & cauliflower. Pair these veggies with your favorite dips like a nut butter with celery or dip them in hummus for an easy snack.
Nut Butters & Nuts- Nothing is quicker or easier than keeping a package of nuts on hand for snacking. Did you know that you can even freeze nuts? Grab an extra package and store it in your freezer, up to six months, to make sure they don’t go rancid. Try a new variety like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, or cashews for a little variety. These can also be added to bowls of instant oatmeal in the morning or mixed into a salad for a crunch topping.
Nut butters are great for an accompaniment to celery or cut apples. My own favorite nighttime snack is peanut butter on a slice of whole grain toast with a glass of almond milk before I go to bed. It’s a satisfying and inexpensive snack!
Hummus- There are many different flavors and varities now of hummus and it is the perfect snack or spread to add to pitas or even smeared as a topping for your favorite sandwich. My favorite variety is the Red Pepper Hummus with sliced cucumbers or pita for an effortless snack.
Energy Bites- No-bake energy bites are a fun snack to have on hand when you are craving a treat with a little sweetness. We all adore these at my house! The best part is that they don’t require an oven or mixer, making these an easy treat to make…and to eat! Did I mention it tastes an awful like cookie dough too? Yum!
It’s become an embarrassing pattern of mine to make a resolution every year to be better about eating breakfast. Each time, I start on the path towards healthy eating. However, as life becomes fuller and mornings more hectic, I find that eating a good breakfast often gets pushed to the side.
This year, I discovered how invaluable my slow cooker was in creating a beautiful, hot breakfast for my entire family that I could serve in the morning and enjoy for mornings to come. I could also serve it as a midday pick-me-up or as a healthy late- night snack. The discovery might seem a bit old-fashioned, but a batch of oatmeal is a great way to start the day. This isn’t just any old oatmeal though—this oatmeal is made from delicious steel cut oats.
Today I am sharing a trick to get the creamiest oats ever that will transform your mornings and your life. Did I mention that you don’t even have to clean the slow cooker after you make them? YOU MUST READ THIS!
We have come to the age of slumber parties and epic sleepovers in our home. If you were anything like me when I was a child, you just couldn’t wait to wake up and find out what would be for breakfast. Making a breakfast bar can be a fun way to serve a large group whether it is your child’s birthday or simply an easy way to entertain guests for the morning. I am partnering with Walmart today to show off a cute display for creating a breakfast bar in your home.
My favorite sleepover when I was a kid involved a huge display of toppings for our waffles and pancakes. I remember as a child delighting in all of the options and I still have that delight even as an adult. Now as mom, I love creating a self-service bar of choices for our meals where everyone can customize their own meals to their own tastes.
Breakfast, in particular, as a buffet is a great idea so that guests can sleep in and then come and create their breakfast whenever they are ready, eliminating the need for you to all be around the table at the same exact time.
Even on busy school mornings, I find that this option would work beautifully since we all arrive at the table at different times. By prepping the toppings ahead, you can save time in the morning and really enjoy that cup of coffee.
Here are some of my suggestions for creating a beautiful and easy breakfast bar spread!
Make Serving Easy With Scoops & Trifle Bowls
Ditch the cereal boxes for an elegant display utilizing clear glass trifle bowls and an inexpensive all-purpose scoop. Give your guests choices by providing more than one selection of cereal.
Create a Simple Toppings Bar
I love to provide a variety of toppings so everyone can make their bowl their own. Fresh strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries can be a wonderful fresh topper. Dried fruits, slivered almonds, or crunchy walnuts can also add variety to your toppings bar. Make an easy batch of granola (I love this vanilla-scented granola or this easy honey nut granola) and add this to the mix for another crunchy layer. Remember to take advantage of what fruits are in-season to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
Add a Gluten-Free Option
As someone who is gluten-free, I love when there are options for me. Yogurt can be a delicious option and give your guests a chance to also create their own bowl utilizing the delicious toppings you have provided for your breakfast buffet. I like to keep small bowls handy to pour the yogurt out into and giving me room to really layer on the fruit, nut, and granola toppings, just as I would do with cereal. Make sure that you are using gluten-free oats if making your own granola or purchase gluten-free prepared granola if purchasing them.
Make a Pretty Display
If there is one investment that I am glad I have made over the years, it has been in classic white dishes. Display your toppings in pretty bowls and add an inexpensive bouquet of flowers to the center of your breakfast bar. Even if the ingredients are not all homemade, you can still make things feel pretty and upscale with a few inexpensive additions and beautiful plating.
I hope these ideas inspired you for your breakfast. Whether it is a weekday rush or a leisurely morning with out-of-town guests, the breakfast bar can be an easy way to serve a meal!
This tomato soup and grilled cheese combo gets an update in the form of golden brown roasted cauliflower florets. It’s just the right combination of classic and new just in time for fall.
I’m giving in, but not without a bit of stomping my feet and audible sighing. Autumn is here, and with it there is a crispness to the air that didn’t accompany my summer evenings. I find myself continually reaching for my sweaters, and although they’re still kicking out a few tomatoes, the production in my garden is slowing mightily.
I even wore boots last week, pulling them from the closet where they sat all summer as I ran around in sandals and low profile tennis shoes, skipping along the pavement in the sunshine. I zipped them up over my jeans and stared in the mirror at my sweatered reflection before heading to the market. There I grabbed as many tomatoes as I could find, hauling them to my car and then home where I rinsed them and diced them and stewed them in a large pot, trying to preserve the flavors of summer for the winter that is just around the corner.
At the end of the session, several pots of tomatoes later, I let the final batch cook down a bit longer, added a sautéed onion and some herbs, and then blended it together as the oven warmed the house right as the sun started to fade. I suppose fall isn’t so bad when it means the return of oven-warmed rooms and the smells that come with baking and roasting.
This soup gets a bit of a twist by placing the roasted cauliflower right on top. Cut your cauliflower into tiny florets so that they can suspend themselves right at the top of the bowl, just getting a bit of a dunk in the thick tomato broth.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for5 minutes until translucent. Stir in the garlic.
Add the stewed tomatoes and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and and simmer for 25 minutes.
While the tomatoes are simmering, preheat oven to 425ºF. In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower, olive oil, oregano, honey, salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through, stirring once.
When the tomatoes have simmered for 25 minutes, remove from heat and blend in a blender until smooth. Pour back into the pot and heat over medium-low heat, stirring in the milk, basil, and salt. Cook until hot, but do not boil.
Serve with cauliflower sprinkled over the tops of the soup bowls.
I am so excited that my book club was chosen to participate in a This Is Where I Leave You book club before the film hits the big screen on September 19th. When I was asked to participate, I had heard of Jonathan Tropper, but had never read one of his books before. I can honestly say that if you are wanting to add a little sparkle and hilarity to your book club discussion, This Is Where I Leave You is the book for you.
I read this book in a record two days and my husband kept finding me with it in some state of crying-laughing almost every moment I read it. Although he isn’t much of a reader, I handed it to him and said, “You must read it.” Each night when I crawl into bed, I hear random laughing and snorting on his side of the bed. It is that kind of book that you finish and hand off to someone else so you can laugh about it together.
When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide—driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.
In this story, each of the siblings are told that it is their father’s dying wish for them to sit shiva together as a family. The irony is that their father is an atheist who made it known he didn’t believe in religion, but with their mother’s persuasion, she manages to get their family together under one roof for one week. With no escaping each other and a lot of time to reflect on life and the choices they have made, it really makes for some hilarious moments of family dysfunction at its best. What I loved about this story more than anything is the message that even when they drive us crazy, we will always love our family.
I love it in the way that I loved the movie Bridesmaids- so wrong and so right. Raunchy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, and so perfectly pitched. I would highly recommend this one for fans of Arrested Development as it reads just like my favorite episodes of the early seasons of the Bluth family. The crazy family dramas are always my favorites and this family does not disappoint in the craziness department. For better or worse, they are family, with all that history and messiness and love.
Love stories told from male authors sometimes fall short for me, but that was not the case in this one. Tropper does such a fantastic job of sharing what a failing marriage looks like, what it would feel like to lose the love of your life (interweaving old stories of the couple and new), and how one can find love again. Even in the darkest of moments of this marriage, Tropper finds a way to bring the hilarity into even the depressing situations of losing your life partner.
Since the movie will be hitting the big screen on September 19th, I hosted our book club to read the book and then we plan to make an outing to see the book on the big screen. Sometimes it is difficult to find a book that we all like, but this one fit the bill perfectly for our group and we used the time to have a delicious brunch together and celebrate the kids heading back-to-school.
After seeing the trailer, I already know that this is going to be one of my favorite movies this year. I have to say that after reading the book, the film could not have been more perfectly cast and I kept seeing these actors in these roles even as I read the book. Many times the movies just don’t live up to the books, but I can already tell that this one won’t be the case.
TIWILY Boozy Brunch Ideas
Here are some delicious brunch options for a fun morning with your girlfriends that are some of my favorite when I am entertaining. I am selecting these because they can be made before everyone arrives so that you can really enjoy book club with your friends. You will also find a fun drink I have created just for your book club that you can sip while chatting about the book.
In the theme of the book and all the food that is brought to the family as they sit shiva, you could also make your friends bring you brunch dishes potluck style in excessive abundance, taking the pressure off of you as the hostess.
Perhaps you could even pass some of these recipes on to them and ask them to make them for you.
It just seems like something awkward that the Foxman family might try in the book.
What is a book club without a good discussion? LAME. Here are some of my favorite book club questions that I gathered for our discussion together!
TIWILY Book Club Questions
1. What was your first impression of Judd’s wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd’s perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or without a baby girl to raise?
2. Discuss Judd’s mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?
3. Most of the characters in this novel struggle against living up to an ideal established either by themselves or by a friend, family member, or spouse. Judd fails to be the perfect husband, brother, and son; Jen fails to be the perfect wife; Wendy fails to be the perfect mother and Alice fails to become a mother at all. Mort and Hillary Foxman, it turns out, fail their children spectacularly in some ways while succeeding in others. What do the lives of these characters reveal to us about perfectionism, ideals, and our expectations for ourselves and others?
4. For all of their faults, is the Foxman clan a likeable group of people? What makes them an endearing group of people? Who did you like the most, and who did you find the least appealing, and why? Were there any characters you would have liked to see developed further?
5. Clearly, Judd is an adult, yet this book can also be seen as a delayed coming-of-age story. What does Judd learn in the end about himself and his role in helping to create the world in which he finds himself?
6. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel’s protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife’s infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?
7. What comment is Tropper making about the role of trauma and tragedy in our lives? Almost every character in this book suffers or has suffered: Phillip from his neglected/overindulged childhood; Judd from his wife’s infidelity; Horry from his brain damage; Paul from the Rottweiler attack; Wendy from her unhappy marriage; and Alice from her infertility. What does their unhappiness, and the way each person copes with that unhappiness, teach us?
Be sure to head to the theaters to see This Is Where I Leave You on September 19th!
Share your own book club and hashtag it with #TIWILY #TIWILYbookclub
In honor of the movie, I am hosting a giveaway today for one (1) $50 Visa gift card and a copy of the book so you can enjoy reading the book and then catch the film in theaters September 19th! Please follow instructions in the Rafflecopter below to enter to win by September 12th! One winner will be chosen at random! a Rafflecopter giveaway
I don’t know if I ever devoted an entire post to grapes in over a decade of running this site, but perhaps this showcases how underappreciated this fruit is. It is a staple around here as a side to round out our sandwiches, it’s an effortless appetizer paired with wine and cheese, and it spends its freshly rinsed self at the pool with us as a snack that can withstand the heat and temperatures. We are definitely fans of the humble grape and I am sure you are too.
Unlike some of the more difficult fruits I have featured, it is quite easy to spot a good batch of grapes. Did you know premium grape season is actually September and October? It really is the best time to buy a big bag of grapes for your family. It is advised to select grapes based on the color of them. For green grapes, they should have a slightly yellowish, translucent hue rather than a true, opaque green. Red grape varieties should be mostly red and have a rich, crimson tone.
One other way to check for a good grape is to look at the stem of the grapes. A dry and brittle stem indicates that the grapes might not be as fresh and seeing a little peek of green on the stem is a good indicator of a fresh batch. The shape of the grape should not be misshapen or wrinkled, but plump and juicy. Of course, you can always bring them back to Walmart if they aren’t perfect thanks to their 100% money back guarantee so selecting great grapes is foolproof.
I decided to incorporate these grapes into a gluten-free pasta salad to take to a cookout. This salad was hearty and filling for someone who is often unsure if she will be able to eat at social events (ahem). Not only is this just the kind of creamy pasta dish I love, but it incorporates the smoky saltiness of turkey bacon and chopped toasted pecans for a protein punch that really fills you up. The smokiness is balanced with the sweetness of the grapes making for an interesting flavor combination and perfect for showcasing the beautiful in-season grapes.
Oh, grape, you certainly are a wonderful fruit and I’m sorry we haven’t loved on you more over the years! I promise to do better!
A gluten-free pasta salad laced with pecans, bacon, and sweet grapes.
1 bag of gluten-free pasta (any variety)- 16 ounces
1 lb. fresh broccoli
½ cup light mayonnaise
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 packets Stevia
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt
2 cups seedless red grapes
10 cooked turkey bacon slices, crumbled
½ cup pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan for about 6 minutes until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Once done cooking, rinse well before assembling.
Meanwhile, cut broccoli florets from stems and separate into small pieces using a paring knife. In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, yogurt, Stevia, red wine vinegar and salt and toss with broccoli, hot cooked pasta (that has been rinsed) and grapes. Stir to coat.
Cover and chill for up to 3 hours. Stir in bacon and toasted pecans just before serving.
Note- The sauce on this can be doubled if you desire a more creamy pasta.
Back-to-School requires a lot of planning and getting back on track with a healthy breakfast is one thing I want to work on this year. Today I wanted to show you a recipe for Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos that can be made ahead and also created for your gluten-free or dairy-free family members. One batch of these freezer breakfast burritos can yield 15-18 burritos, depending on how you stuff ‘em, and they are filled with everything your kids need to start their day on the right foot. I am partnering with Walmart on this back-to-school idea today so you can snag all the supplies you need right at their store.
What I love about these burritos is that they are not only filled with fresh whole foods, but also that they are inexpensive to create. With kitchen staples like eggs, cheese, potatoes, and tortillas, it is likely you already have a few things on hand for this back-to-school breakfast. Create an assembly line of ingredients in the kitchen and have your kids jump in on the fun.
The potatoes are tossed in paprika and garlic powder for a tasty topping to the eggs. I love a little Italian turkey sausage, red peppers, and cheddar or colby cheese for these burritos. You can create your own flavor combinations or consider clearing out items from the fridge and making a unique combination all your own.
Be careful to not overstuff the burritos so they can be wrapped easily and place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to place in the freezer until frozen. Once these are frozen you can tuck them in a freezer bag and just grab them when you need them. Do you know how to wrap a burrito? If not, I love this tutorial for perfectly wrapped breakfast burritos!
With one kid in middle school (GASP!) and a daughter who prefers not to eat in the morning, I am hoping that these burritos will be the perfect way to get them motivated to eat a healthy breakfast. Just grab one from the freezer and wrap it in a dampened paper towel for the microwave for three minutes (flip it halfway through). Wrap in foil and let them eat them on the way to the bus or in route to school. These also make a great after school snack, after sports activities, or an impromptu dinner with their pals while doing homework.
To make them dairy-free substitute the cream with almond milk (which is what we did) and add a vegan cheese to them or leave them cheeseless. For a gluten-free burritos, Walmart offers this option in their stores.
We hope you love this delicious breakfast as much as we did. We have already started raiding our make-ahead breakfast burritos for quick lunches this week. I am shocked how beautifully these reheat and taste. There are no excuses why you can’t tackle a healthy breakfast. Be sure to check out my recipe for Slow Cooked Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal for another fun breakfast treat!
A make-ahead breakfast burrito that you can tuck in your freezer for a healthy breakfast, snack or meal.
2 tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
salt & pepper
1 lb Italian Turkey Sausage
1 dozen eggs
2 tablespoons cream (or milk substitute)
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
½ pound cheese of your choice (or vegan cheese)
18 tortillas, soft-taco size (8-inch), whole-wheat, flour, or gluten-free tortillas
To roast potatoes, preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle diced potatoes with oil and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Toss the potatoes together to evenly coat in oil and seasonings, and spread out into a single layer on the parchment. Roast until browned on the bottom and tender, about 20-25 minutes.
Brown your sausage. Once it is cooked through, set aside in a large bowl, leaving about a 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pan for the eggs.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the cream (or milk substitute) and pour into the sausage skillet. Cook over medium heat until just set, stirring as needed. season with salt and pepper and stir to combine, and transfer to the bowl with sausage.
In the same skillet, cook your red peppers over medium heat until fragrant and softened, about 10 minutes.
Make an assembly line- tortilla, cheese, followed by a small handful of potatoes and a scoop of the egg/sausage mixture. Roll the tortilla up.
For freezing, place burritos on a wax- or parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm, at least an hour. Transfer to large freezer bags and keep frozen for up to one month.
For reheating, place a frozen burrito in a dampened paper towel and microwave for three minutes, turning halfway through.
*This post is sponsored by McCormick Spice in partnership with the One2One Network.
One of my late night past times is staying up to take ridiculous quizzes like, “What 80’s Boyfriend Should You Have?,” and “What OITNB Character Would You Be?” and one of my favorites, “What Country Should You Live In,” as though these quizzes will hold the deep meaning to life.
In case you are wondering, I am Piper, Lloyd Dobbler from Say Anything should be my boyfriend, & I belong in Paris. All completely accurate & true.
Well, if you are a quiz junkie like, me you will love the new FlavorPrint tool from MCcormick Spice that is a lot like those quizzes you love, but actually will be useful because you can plan your family’s meal around the answers you provide. For someone who is stumped for fresh ideas in the summer and who has found herself gravitating towards the same three dishes for ease, I couldn’t wait to take the quiz and figure out what options would fit our family’s needs.
McCormick has found that each person has a unique flavor “fingerprint” that is conveyed through a distinct visual mark, which has 33 “spikes” to represent different flavors in your personal flavor profile. The bigger the spike, the more prominent the flavor. Through this quiz, it can identify your own personal tastes and provide delicious options that fit that unique profile for your dinner hour.
The quiz takes about two minutes of answering questions like, “Do you like mint?” and then “How about onions?” Once you have completed the quiz, it will provide meal options for you that you can try. If you like the options, you can dive in deeper and give them a thumbs up, answer more questions about your personal taste, share what you always have on hand in your pantry, and even tell them what type of equipment you have or don’t have in your kitchen. It will continue to share more and more personalized meal options as you completely more answers. For quiz junkies like me, it was a little slice of heaven.
For families that suffer from food allergies or sensitivities, you can also share what you need to avoid. I love that Wheat was an option on this so that the recipes that were shown for our family were gluten-free meal options, helping us really have useful choices for us. The last thing I want to see is all the wheaty goodness I can’t indulge in. Thanks, FlavorPrint, for making me feel like I actually have food choices.
After answering the questions, these were the flavors that rose to the top. Based on this information, FlavorPrint offered some meal ideas for us. After I picked a meal to try, I answered more questions on the quiz and got more meal ideas. Here are three meal ideas that FlavorPrint suggested for me.
The first dish it recommended for me was a Edamame and Corn Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette. I can see exactly why it would recommend this for me because I LOVE edamame and I love corn. Since sourness is something I love, the acidic dressing just makes sense for me. This salad had fresh corn, red bell peppers, parsley, and edamame in it. This would be a great dish to take to a cookout and I have been eating the leftovers as a side dish for my lunch.
Playing on my love for all things cheesy, the next recommendation that was made was this Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Risotto made from an easy boxed rice mix. Although I wouldn’t say that this would be in our regular rotation, I know that on a busy weeknight of activities, this would be a fun side to add with a little grilled meat and is much easier to create than babysitting a pot of homemade risotto.
Let’s be honest…ain’t nobody got time for that.
My kids really loved this dish and I found it comforting & satisfying. We called this another dinner win!
The last dish recommended was a Grilled Chicken Caprese which could not have fit our family more perfectly. You may recall, I had just shared a 5-ingredient Caprese Pork Chop recipe that our family loved. This mimicked those same flavors, but did not require marinating the chicken, but utilized Lawry’s Roasted Garlic Salt with Oregano & Basil instead and a grilled tomato that was sprinkled with the same. My family absolutely loved this dinner option and my only regret was not making a double batch of these. It paired well with the risotto and would be a perfect summer meal to entertain with.
As you can see, we got some great dinner ideas using the FlavorPrint tool and we can’t wait to continue quiz-taking to find more meal ideas for our family. I highly recommend you take the quiz too and get some fresh ideas for your dinner hour. In the meantime, I have created three pinnable images (below) for the meals that we tried, in case your FlavorProfile looks anything like ours!
Cheers to summertime meal ease & quizzes that give us actually useful information for our families… although wouldn’t you be sad if you didn’t know your destiny resides in Paris? I hope you love it as much as we did!
*This post is sponsored by McCormick Spice in partnership with the One2One Network.
Summer was made for salads. This month I want to share with you some new salad flavor combinations we have been trying for our family dinners. Today I am sharing a delicious Berry Pecan Salad that is perfect for sharing around the picnic table or at your next cookout. It is my new favorite salad and what makes this salad standout is the homemade raspberry vinaigrette dressing, pecans, and the combination of berries. When I took an enormously large bowl of this to our last cookout, I brought home an empty bowl and a promise to share the recipe.
Since going gluten-free, I have become really diligent about package reading and making sure that I am not eating anything that can make me sick. Many of the bottled dressings are not anything that I can eat or even pronounce. Unfortunately, not all the items I need to create beautiful flavor combinations are necessarily on the grocery store shelves where I shop.
For this dressing recipe, you will need Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar. I went to two grocery stores and wasn’t able to find it so I headed to The Olive Branch, a locally-owned shop that sells olive oils and vinegars. I spent the morning tasting all of these rich balsamic vinegars and learning more about the different flavor notes in each one. I took home a bottle of their Red Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar and couldn’t wait to put it to work in this salad. You can certainly substitute this homemade version with a bottled dressing, but I promise you that it will lack the depth of flavor and the richness that I was able to achieve with my homemade dressing. Because the dressing is so rich, a small drizzle is all you need to dress your salad bowl.
Have you ever candied nuts before? It is ridiculously easy and you can make a large quantity at one time for your salads. This recipe calls for just Candied Pecans, but you can add any variety of nuts into your salad that you prefer. Pictured above are my Sugar & Spice Nuts that are always a fun gift to give (and to eat!). They also are a delicious topper to oatmeal or even bowls of warm quinoa.
For the chicken, I use this technique for cooking chicken in bulk. If you are pressed for time, you can certainly substitute with a rotisserie chicken from your grocer.
To keep this salad vegan, ditch the chicken and replace the egg white in the nut recipe with two to three tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of flax to coat the candied nuts.
To enjoy this salad all week long, prepare it all for the week and consider creating your own DIY Salad Bar in the fridge for easy summer meals after a long day with the kids. Everyone can customize their own salad bowls and you can enjoy that prep work all week long!
I hope this salad inspires you to get creative with your summer salad and I look forward to sharing more fun salad combinations in the upcoming weeks!
Editor’s Note- Our recipe software is not working this week and we have submitted a support ticket. Please accept our apologies!
A berry pecan salad that is perfect for celebrating the berry season. Enjoy this one at your next potluck or cookout!
Pecan Berry Salad
1 bag of spinach
1 pint of strawberries, sliced
1 pint of blueberries, rinsed
1 pound roast chicken (see technique above or use a rotisserie chicken), sliced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of Salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg white (see above for vegan substitution)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons white sugar (to taste, you may not even need it depending upon the quality of your balsamic vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, salt, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg in a plastic bag, seal the bag, and shake to mix.
Put the egg white and vanilla in a bowl, and beat until slightly foamy.
Add the pecans and stir to coat them well. Using a slotted spoon, lift the pecans out the bowl and transfer them to the bag of sugar and spices. Shake, making sure the pecans are well coated with the seasoning. Spread the pecans out on the prepared baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet.
Assemble the salad: spinach, sliced strawberries, blueberries, roast chicken, and then top with cooled candied pecans. In a mason jar, add the oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper, mustard, and sugar. Shake well. Serve on the side for your salad, shaking well before using.
If there is one thing I love, it is creating a restaurant experience in the comfort of my own home with a price tag that fits our budget. Father’s Day is just around the corner one way you can really wow those amazing dads in your life is by creating this restaurant style steak recipe for an amazing culinary experience at home.
Walmart wanted me to showcase a fun recipe you could create for Father’s Day and I immediately thought of making Dad a delicious steak dinner. What says I love you more than a delicious New York Strip Steak or a beautiful Filet Mignon?
Today’s post is less recipe and more technique. The truth is, if you have a beautiful cut of meat, the last thing you want to do is mask that delicious flavor. A beautiful steak needs only to be dressed simply with a little oil, salt, pepper, and a butter finish to be more than worthy of your taste buds.
I had hoped to have a beautiful picture tutorial for you, but this steak cooks so quickly that I am going to type out my tips instead. Even with the tomatoes and roasted asparagus as our sides, we still will have dinner ready in about fifteen minutes! That will be even less time than it would take to haul everyone in the car for a meal out, not to mention the incredible savings you will experience by dining at home.
Here are my personal recommendations for creating that perfect steak for Dad!
Pick the Right Type of Pan
Since we are need to sear the steak and then finish it in the oven, you want to make sure that you have a pan that can do this task well. I love a good heavy-bottom skillet that does not have a plastic handle or a cast iron skillet for this job. I bought one of these Lodge Logic 12″ cast iron skillets a couple of winters ago and it has been so good to me over the years. This is definitely a work horse in my kitchen and it is also a great tool to use when outdoor grilling for delicate meats or when mixing up a big batch of fresh veggies so you don’t have to cook in a hot kitchen in the summer. It has truly been the best $20 I have ever spent and I know that you will feel the same way especially after cooking your steaks on it.
Let Your Meat Rest At Room Temperature
It is really important that you don’t put cold meat into your hot pan. I like to pull my steaks out about thirty minutes before I plan to cook them and leave them on my counter. This helps to heat your steak more evenly and helps prevent the risk of your meat drying out before you have finished cooking it.
Get Your Pan Screaming Hot…Hotter Then You Think
If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need to be sure that your skillet is hot enough to add that beautiful caramelization on your meat. Turn your heat up to high with nothing in the pan for at least five minutes. When you place your meat in the pan it should stick and you should hear a nice sizzle on the outside. That’s exactly what you want to hear and see happening to your meat.
Dry & Season Your Meat Well
One of the best tools in your arsenal for creating the perfect steak is a paper towel. If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need the meat to be dry and not wet, otherwise you risk just having your meat steam in its own juices rather than sear. Dry the meat with a heavy-duty paper towel and then brush the steak with oil. I love canola oil and then season your meat simply with salt and pepper. Once your pan has to come to that screaming hot phase, drop your seasoned meat into the pan and let it sear for two minutes on each side.
Don’t Move Your Steak
Once you have dropped it in, the first thing I know I want to do is to shift the meat and take a peek at it. Just don’t. Let the meat get the golden sear it needs for two minutes on each side, giving it a beautiful crust on the outside, and keeping your meat perfectly pink on the inside.
Butter Makes Everything Better
A butter finish makes all dishes a little more beautiful, don’t you think? A dab of butter is a beautiful finishing touch to the steak before sliding it into the oven to finish cooking.
A meat thermometer is your best friend. I still rely on mine for my steaks. I love my steak to be medium rare, but cook it to the consistence that you love the most. Keep in mind that Rare is 120 degrees, Medium is 125 degrees, and Medium Well is 130 degrees.
Always Let Your Meat Rest
If you cut into your meat right when you take it off the pan, chances are that all the juiciness will just pour out on your cutting board or plate. Cover your steak with a little tin foil and let it rest for ten minutes before diving in. I promise you will have a much more flavorful bite if you just wait the recommended amount of time.
I hope these steak tips help you and a great accompaniment to this steak is my Simple Roasted Asparagus. You can slide this in at the same time and temperature as your steaks and it should be ready in 10-12 minutes. I also added a side of the warmed tomatoes from this tomato appetizer we created last week!
A beautiful restaurant-style steak, perfect for celebrating any occasion. Once you follow the tips & techniques for a perfect steak, you will save a bundle on special occasion meals out.
2 (10-ounce) filet mignon (you can double this recipe, just make sure you have a large skillet so all the steaks have room)
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt & Pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with canola oil. Combine the salt and pepper on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.
When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.
Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you're actually testing the middle of the steak. Mine took 4-5 minutes to come to medium rare)
Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.