Broccoli & Snap Pea Salad

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Looking for a perfect side dish to bring to your family cook out? Having some friends over for some football and BBQ? Whatever the occasion, this side dish pairs perfectly with everything on a hot summer night! I had brought this to my in laws birthday dinner, they grilled some brats, steaks, and salmon and had some corn on the cob and amazing hash brown casserole (I am getting that recipe!). This cool and crisp salad was the perfect accompaniment with the hot off the grill meats and casserole. The dressing is light and doesn’t give you that “I just ate a bowl of fat” feeling most summer salad dishes tend to give you. The best thing about this dish is it takes no time at all to make! The longest time spent making this was cooking the bacon!

I derived this recipe from multiple google search results and combined a few of my favorite ones and added my own touches and substitutions. Feel free to add or remove anything, it’s fun to be creative!

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Let’s get started! Take your favorite pan for cooking bacon (you know you have one) and fry up your bacon. I cooked mine well done, the crispier the better! While your bacon is frying, go ahead and cut up your broccoli. I call the tops “trees”. You want to cut all of the way up the stem to the trees and even cut some of those to make small bite size trees. Place in a large bowl. Cut up your onion into bite size pieces and place in the bowl. Add your craisins, cashews, and snap peas. I broke my snap peas into smaller pieces, most were torn into two to three pieces per pod. Once your bacon is done, place on a plate lined in paper towels to soak up excess grease. Once cooled, crumble that crispy bacon into bacon bits and add to your bowl, you can try to resist eating some, but it won’t work. Mix well, add more cashews or craisins if needed. I am big on ratio’s and I like everything to be evenly placed in the salad, so I ended up adding a little more of each.

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I used a special vinegar that I purchased at a small shop in Sanibel Island, FL. White Jalapeño Lime Balsamic Vinegar… fancy I know. It gave the dressing a little more flavor and turned out really good! You can buy these online and they come in all different flavors and sizes. If you don’t have any special vinegar, just use all white wine vinegar. Take a bowl and mix up your mayo, vinegar and spices. Taste before mixing with your dry ingredients to make sure it’s to your liking. I ended up adding a little more vinegar and salt to my dressing. Once your dressing is acceptable pour in a little at a time and mix evenly. If you want a lighter dressed salad you don’t need to use all of the dressing. I ended up leaving a little bit out.

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Cool in the fridge for a few hours to get a little more flavor! Serve cold and enjoy!

What you’ll need:
For the salad:
1lb bacon, fried extra crispy and crumbled (center cut is good)
4 heads of broccoli, cut into small bite sized trees
2 cups of sugar snap peas, broken into 2-3 pieces per pod
1/2 red onion, diced
1-1½ cups cashews ( I used salted and halved)
1 cup dried cranberries (I added a little more for ratio purposes)
For the dressing:
1 cup olive oil based mayo
3 tbsp white jalapeño lime balsamic vinegar (if you don’t have anything similar, just use white wine vinegar)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

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Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta

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Now, before you get all “ew brussel sprouts” on me, just give them a try! I know they aren’t for everyone, but if you’ve never had them roasted you need to try it! I know a number of people who don’t like brussels when they are steamed, but love them roasted. This recipe kicks it up a few notches and adds balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, and pancetta. Because brussels can taste a bit bitter, the balsamic cuts through the bitterness and really brings out all of it’s wonderful flavors.

If you’ve never had pancetta before, it’s a lot like bacon, but thicker and has a peppery taste. It also tends to have less fat. I decided to add goat cheese crumbles to subside the saltiness of the pancetta and add a creamy touch to the dish. If you don’t like goat cheese, feel free to substitute your favorite kind of cheese, or no cheese at all!

To get started, preheat your oven to 450°. Take your brussels and using a perry knife, cut the buds off of the ends. Then peel away a few of the outer leafy layers until there are no holes or broken leaves. I like to place mine in a colander when I am finished. Once you are finished, rinse the brussels with cold water. Shake to rid any excess water. Then, cut them horizontally in half.

Take a baking sheet and drizzle the bottom with olive oil. Place your cut brussels on the sheet. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar and a little more olive oil and cracked pepper over top and take a spoon or spatula and toss them to evenly coat. Cut your pancetta into thick squares and place them on the sheet mixing them in with the brussels. Before placing your sheet in the oven, make sure your brussels are laying evenly and flat.

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Bake until brussels are slightly browned and crispy as pictured above, usually about 30 minutes. You want to take your baking sheet out every 10-15 minutes to mix up the brussels in order to evenly cook and brown all sides.

Once the brussels are roasted to your desired crispiness, place your roasted brussels and pancetta in a bowl and add your crumbled goat cheese, serve and devour!

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This dish will pair perfectly with some burgers off the grill or a nice steak. What I love most about roasted brussel sprouts are that they pair well with everything, even seafood! This recipe is good all by itself, so you be the judge!  You will never think the same about brussels once you give this a try!

What you’ll need:
1 bunch of brussel sprouts, buds cut, washed and cut lengthwise
6 thick slices of pancetta at your local deli counter, cut into square pieces
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Pepper
Goat cheese (I used garlic & herb), or your favorite cheese substitute

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Tzatziki Sauce

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Tzatziki sauce…. tzatziki… tza.. how do you even start pronouncing this word?! Truth be told, I don’t even know if I say it correctly, but who cares?? This stuff is good! If you’ve ever had a gyro, (pronounced yuro; I know, the Greek’s really like to make words difficult!) the creamy sauce that comes on one is tzatziki sauce and I’m going to show you how to make it. It’s super simple and yet it has so much flavor! The garlic and dill pair perfect with yogurt, but you may want to have a piece of gum handy after this one ya’ll, your breathe gets a bit stinky. (Totally worth it)

This will literally take you 10 minutes or less to make once you’ve dehydrated the cucumbers. The best part about this sauce is you can put it on many different things, it doesn’t have to just be gyros! Use it as a dip with a veggie tray, or put it on some salmon! Endless possibilities and such good results!

To get started, take a cucumber and wash well, peel it and take all of the seeds out. Chop into chunks and place in a coriander in the sink with salt sprinkled over top. Let sit for 30 minutes, then pat dry with a towel to soak up any excess moisture (this prevents the sauce from becoming runny and watery). 

While your cucumber dehydrates mince your dill, and grate your garlic. Once the cucumber is done, chop into small pieces (unless you want a chunkier sauce). Add this plus the garlic, dill,  a little salt and pepper, and lemon juice to 1 cup of yogurt. Mix well. Taste to make sure flavors add up, add more lemon juice, or yogurt to balance the flavors. Sit in the fridge for at least two hours before serving to really get a nice flavor. Serve.

Simple as that! Now go on Google Translate and figure out how to pronounce tzatziki sauce so when your friends and family members ask you what this delicious sauce you’re serving is you won’t look like an idiot! Just kidding… (no seriously, that is a direct link for you!)

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What you’ll need:
1 cucumber, washed, peeled, and seeds removed

1 clove of garlic, grated small
1-1½ sprigs of dill, minced
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 cup plain greek yogurt (I like Chobani)
Salt and pepper to taste

Holy Guacamole!

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Guacamole, you either love it or hate it… in my case, I love it! I think for most people it’s a consistency thing. I personally like to add diced tomatoes in mine to give it some texture. Guac is good with so many foods, chips, tacos, burgers, salads, the list could go on and on. Some say it has no flavor to it, but I guarantee this recipe will have lots of flavor! Give it a try, you will be surprised how your taste buds will react 😉

Take a medium sized bowl. Grip the avocado gently on one side with one hand. With a large, sharp knife in the other hand, cut the avocado lengthwise around the seed. Open the two halves to expose the pit. Take a spoon and scoop out the pit. Then scoop inside of the skin with your spoon and place into the bowl. Mash with a fork. Mince the following: garlic, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro. Dice up your tomatoes. Add the lime juice, green chilies, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Mix well. Serve!

What you’ll need:
4-5 ripe avocados

1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 onion, minced
1/2-1 jalapeño, seeded and minced well (1/2 for less spicy)
1/2 tomato diced 
1/3 cup (or handful) of cilantro, minced
Juice of half a lime
2 tbsp canned mild green chilies
Salt & pepper

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Twice Baked Potatoes

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Twice baked potatoes.. what are those?!

They are simply amazing.

You not only bake the potato in the oven for an hour, but after that you scoop out the inside and mix anything you like in your potato and stuff it back inside, then you bake it again! The extra baked potato gives you this crunchy top and not to mention a crunchy skin, simply amazing!!!

If you are on a diet, you can make this with sweet potato, or simply use little amount of ingredients such as light sour cream, chives, and no butter.

Me however, I just can’t fathom eating a baked potato without the works! I added gorgonzola cheese, some real bacon bits, light sour cream, light cream cheese, garlic salt, pepper, and onion powder. I substituted the gorgonzola in RJ’s potato with shredded cheddar cheese.

To get started, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll each potato in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay aluminum foil on a baking sheet and place the potatoes on the foil. Pierce several holes in the potatoes with a fork. Place in the oven for 1 hour.

Take out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes. You will need an oven mit or glove and hold the potato and shred the skin off of the top of the potatoes. Then, take a spoon and gently scoop out the center of the potatoes making sure to leave the bottom skin in tact by leaving a little potato left on the bottom and on all sides. Place the potato insides into a bowl.

Mix your sour cream, cream cheese, gorgonzola (or other cheese), bacon bits, garlic salt, pepper, and onion powder. And anything or everything you can think of! Take a masher and mash this to mix together evenly. Once smooth and mashed, stuff the potato mix inside the shells. Place back into the oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on how hungry you are! If you want your stuffing mix to be crispy on the top, you should leave it in the full 30 minutes.

The best part about this side is that it tastes great with so many meals! It is a great pair with steak, seafood, pork, even by itself! And what I love most about these potatoes is that you can mix and match so many ingredients! You can go creative with southwest flavors, like pico de gallo, shredded chicken, southwest ranch!

So many ideas, so many ways to make this great side!!! I hope you enjoy 🙂

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Fresh Green Beans with Lemon Butter Sauce & Sun Dried Tomatoes

 I love vegetables! I think one of the easiest and best fresh-tasting veggies out there are green beans. Nothing beats that satisfying crunch when you bite into a crisp beautifully green bean. You may think it’s easier to just buy a can and pop it in the microwave, but I can guarantee that it will take you almost just as much time when making them fresh! And it tastes 100% better! Not to mention you don’t skimp out on those vitamins and minerals you may be missing out with the canned version.

I made this particular recipe with my Steak Involtini (ahhhmazing!) and I thought it went perfectly together!! But, you don’t have to make these with just Italian dishes, it would taste good with almost any dish! The lemon butter sauce really brings out that green bean flavor and the sun dried tomatoes give it that extra bite! I promise you will not be disappointed with this side dish!

First you want to rinse off all of your green beans well. Then, snap off the ends of each bean, almost like you would the ends of asparagus. Then, add salt to some water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a light boil. Add your green beans, being sure to stir often, and lightly boil for 4-5 minutes. (If you like your green beans on the softer side, just boil for an extra 2-3 minutes) Once it’s done, you will see that they turned a bright green color. Drain the green beans then place in a bowl of ice water, or run ice cold water over the beans for a few minutes. This is called blanching and it basically keeps the green beans bright color and also keeps it crisp

In the same saucepan, melt about 2 tbsp of butter on medium heat. Once melted, turn your heat down slightly (to med-low) and add your green beans, lemon zest, sun dried tomatoes, salt & pepper, and stir. Once stirred, add lemon juice. Stir constantly for about 1-2 minutes, or until the sauce is well mixed and the sun dried tomatoes are warm. Serve and enjoy!!

What you’ll need:
1 lb fresh green beans (or less depending on how many people you’re feeding)
2 tbsp butter
Zest of half of a lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes (about a hand full)
Salt & pepper to taste