Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ciabatta Bread Salad

Another recipe curtesy of my good friend, Melissa (check out her blog - Harper Street Treats). I feel super healthy eating this veggie packed, fiber rich salad! And I LOVE how the ciabatta bread soaks up the dressing! My husband and I ate this whole recipe between the two of us (but, it was our entire dinner). It will easily serve four people if you make this as a side dish. This salad is lovely to the eye (full of color!) and has much flavor!

2 cups of fresh ciabatta, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite sized pieces
1 c. shredded red cabbage (gives great color!)
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced
2T capers
2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach
10 basil leaves, chopped

3T red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all dressing ingredients in a tupperware container with a tight fitting lid. Shake shake shake until well combined.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Let stand 10 minutes before serving (so the bread can soak up the dressing). Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pear & Blue Cheese Salad

There's something about adding sauteed pears to a salad that makes it seem quite fancy (so go ahead and serve this at your next dinner party!). But, truth be told, this salad is really simple to make (so go ahead and serve this to your husband on a weeknight)! Something really yummy happens when pears, blue cheese & walnuts are combined! This combination also makes a great sandwich- but, I'll save that for another post! :)

Dressing (you do not need to use all the dressing at once- just use what you need and save the rest for another salad):
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3 c. white wine vinegar
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1 Tbl fresh thyme, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1 head of butter leaf lettuce, trimmed, rinsed and cut up into bite sized pieces
1 Tbl. olive oil
1 large ripe Anjou pear, thinly sliced
1/2 c. chopped walnuts OR sliced almond (your pick your nut- I think they both taste great)
2 to 4 Tbl crumbled blue cheese (use as much or as little as you like!)

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together in a small tupperware with a tight fitting lid. Shake shake shake till all the ingredients are nicely combined. Set aside.

Put 1 Tbl olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute sliced pears in olive oil for approx. 4 to 5 minutes on each side.**

In a large mixing bowl combine chopped butter lettuce and nuts. Dress with dressing and plate the salad. Evenly top each salad with pears and blue cheese. This makes two large salads. Enjoy the fanciness!

**Of course, if you are pressed for time, just use thinly sliced RAW pear (keep the skins on!)- still tastes great and gives an extra crunch!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pulled Pork Tacos

This meal is always a hit when we have people over! It feeds four nicely (as long as you serve it with a side salad). If you are feeding a large group or a lot of men, you can easily double or triple the recipe. I have made it before with a 4lb piece of pork butt and it turned out great! Please use only pork shoulder or pork butt- they shred better than any other cuts. And also note, both these cuts of pork are super inexpensive! The night I made the 4lb pork butt, I spent $12 on the whole chunk of meat and $18 on two containers of pre-made guacamole! Go figure!!

My husband and I prefer the pork with corn tortillas, but, flour taste fine if that's all you can find. Please do try to use tomatillo (verde) salsa- the meat is sweet and this type of salsa cuts the sweet perfectly!

1 Tbl chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 to 2 1/2 lbs boneless pork butt or shoulder, trim off all the thick fat
1/4 to 1/2 c apricot jam or preserves (the more you use, the sweeter the pork will be)
2 to 4 Tbl brown sugar (again, the more you use, the sweeter the meat)
2 Tbl squeezed orange juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh jalapenos, sliced into rings and seeded (if you want it spicer, keep the seeds)
2 red onions, sliced into rings
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, stems removed
8 small corn or flour tortillas, warmed right before serving (we like to double up on the corn tortillas so that they don't break when you are eating the tacos- if you double up, you will need more than 8!)
Tomatillo Salsa

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place a large sheet of aluminum foil in a large baking dish. Mix the chili powder, cumin, salt & pepper in a bowl. Place the pork in center of foil and rub meat with spice mixture.

Whisk together jam, sugar, orange juice and garlic in saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until brown sugar is melted and sauce is slightly thickened. Spoon jam mixture over pork, turning to coat. Add jalapenos, onions & cilantro to the top of the pork. Wrap everything with another sheet of foil.

Cook for about 4 hours until fork tender. If you are not ready to serve the pork, you can decrease the oven to 250F and cook for another two hours. You can't really over cook it (especially at this low temperature)- it just gets more and more tender.

Remove pork from the oven and carefully unwrap. Remove the jalapenos, onions and cilantro and place them in a serving dish. Drain excess juice off of pork (but keep some so that the pork is moist, but not dripping). Use two forks to shred the pork, discarding any fatty pieces.

Let your guests serve themselves. Don't forget the tortillas, guacamole and tomatillo salsa! Make sure you have plenty of chips and extra salsa for dipping, too! Bueno!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fruit Salad with Mint Sugar

My good friend, Melissa, made this delicious fruit salad for my family the last time we were invited over for dinner. The added sugar brings out the fruit's sweetness and the mint is so refreshing! Try this fruit salad at your next BBQ! And please check out my friend, Melissa's, blog, Harper Street Treats! She makes the most amazing cake pops, cookies and sweets!

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint
3 tablespoons sugar
1 carton of blueberries
1 carton of strawberries
1 1/2 c. seedless red grapes
(The amount of fruit and the types of fruits are just suggestions...if you want to use more, do so! If you want to try other types of fruits, go for it!)

Pulse mint and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Sprinkle mint sugar over fruit in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Symphony Brownies

You all know I'm a huge baker and that I like to make everything from scratch...well, almost everything...I really do believe that boxed brownies are just so delicious, why bother with homemade? Almost all of my baker-friends agree with me on the whole "don't-bother-baking-brownies-from-scratch" thing, including my sister-in-law, Stefanie. However, Stef has done one better than the plain ol' box...drum roll, please...Symphony Brownies! Brownie box mix plus two chocolate bars filled with toffee bits & almonds equals easy AND oh so scrumptious!! Thank you for the fantastic idea, Stef!

2 boxes brownie mix (I like Ghiradelli the best)
2 4oz Symphony chocolate bars

Make brownies according to the directions on the box. Pour half of the brownie batter into a greased 8X8 pan. Place both chocolate bars on top of the batter. Pour remaining batter on top of the chocolate bars. Cook according to the directions on the box.

Let the brownies cool for an hour in the pan. To get nice clean cuts, slide a butter knife all around the edges of the pan. Invert pan onto a cutting board and give it a nice hard thump. If you greased the pan well enough, the cooked brownies should drop right out. Now you can use a sharp cutting knife to cleanly cut the brownies into 2X2 squares. Enjoy!