April 24, 2014

Slow Cooker Bacon Scalloped Potatoes

If you're anything like me, you utilize your slow cooker year-round. In the cooler months, there's nothing more comforting than knowing a from-scratch meal is cooking away in the slow cooker. And, it helps busy parents get a good meal on the table on hectic days. During the warmer months, it's just so dang lovely to not have to heat up the house by turning on the oven. But, sometimes it's hard to find the time to do all the prep needed for slow cooker recipes in the morning before heading out for a busy day.

I've been working on a scalloped potatoes recipe for the slow cooker that is quick to get going in the morning and one that requires little work. My first suggestion to make the morning work a breeze when making this dish is to peel and slice all of your potatoes the evening before. I keep them submerged in water in a large bowl in the fridge overnight. Secondly, I cook off the bacon the evening before, allow it to cool and store it in the fridge, as well.

Come morning, I just drain off the water from the potatoes, warm up the milk and combine everything together in the slow cooker. I'm in and out of the kitchen in no time.

The result is pure classic scalloped potatoes heaven. The bacon is added to the top toward the end of cooking, so it stays nice and crisp. It's utter comfort food with minimal work in the morning.

Yields 6 - 8 servings.

April 23, 2014

Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

This is my go-to homemade lemon vinaigrette that I make when I want to dress a salad simply. It is, also, fabulous on grilled or oven-roasted veggies.  And, it is absolutely luscious brushed over grilled chicken or fish. I've even been known to toss it with some leftover pasta and sun-dried tomatoes for a refreshing and easy cold pasta salad for my lunch. It's full of bright flavors that really amp up whatever you use it in or upon.

I have an amazing Refreshing Citrus Quinoa Salad coming up on the blog soon that utilizes this dressing, as well. So, stay tuned.

Another option for a light, summery lunch is to combine diced, cooked chicken with this dressing to make a lightened up version of chicken salad. Add in some dried fruit and nuts ... maybe a few halved grapes. Serve in lettuce wraps or over a bed of greens. Yum!

April 21, 2014

Tips for Storing and Grilling Asparagus

It's asparagus season! And, if you've ever grilled a big bunch of asparagus on an outdoor grill, you know that it can be difficult to keep the stalks from falling through the grates. I've got a simple solution that will solve that exact problem. This post isn't necessarily a recipe, but rather a post about my technique for grilling asparagus and how I store fresh asparagus once I bring it home.

April 18, 2014

Friday Foodie Favorites - April 18

Homemade Seasoning Blends, Sargento Pepper Jack String Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes are just a few of the things I'm diggin' this week.

1. I've mentioned here on the blog before that I could just sit and eat sun-dried tomatoes as if they were candy. My favorite is Bella Sun Luci brand in a resealable pouch. (They can easily be found at most grocery stores.) I use them in so many dishes, but my favorite is probably my "Veggie Overload" Pasta Salad - a perfect summertime side dish.

2. I usually drink water and iced tea throughout the day. But, when I'm craving something sweet, I turn to Vitaminwater Squeezed Lemonade. It's super refreshing and not overly sweet.

3. I buy this Private Selection Traditional Hummus on a weekly basis from my local Kroger store. What I love so much about it is that it has whole chickpeas, the perfect amount of olive oil and lots of sesame seeds layered right into the hummus. It is one of the best brands of hummus that I've tried and I adore it with fresh pita that I pick up at a local deli.

4. I shared my Grilled Asparagus with Parmesan & Garlic Aioli Dip this week here on the blog. I just can't get enough of this dip. I've been using it with fresh veggies and as a dip for homemade oven fries. It is magical.

5. This Bean and Chorizo Dip from my blogger friend, Lori, over at Foxes Love Lemons has become one of my favorite party dips. It takes just five ingredients and is awesome for parties.

6. We are major cheese lovers in our house. My favorite? Sargento's Natural Pepper Jack Cheese Snacks. Just the perfect amount of zing!

7. I don't think I could live without my Microplane Zester/Grater. I use it just about everyday to zest citrus, grate chocolate and grate Parmesan.

8. I'm over the moon that it is almost grilling season. I recently shared my Three Homemade Seasoning Blends on the blog - Basic Grill Seasoning Blend, Seasoning Blend for Fajitas and Seafood Seasoning Blend. Get ready - it's almost time to fire up the grill and enjoy some amazing summertime fare!

April 17, 2014

Homemade Cornbread Muffins

I recently made a big pot of Ham and Bean Soup. Of course, nothing pairs better with ham and beans than cornbread. I grew up eating ham and bean soup with cornbread at my Kentucky-born grandmother's house. She'd make a big pot of the soup and a large pan of cornbread. We'd eat the leftovers for days.

This cornbread recipe is a simple one. I love that actual corn is added to the mix. I use a minimal amount of sugar because I don't care for overly-sweet cornbread. But, if you do - feel free to use a little more sugar than is called for.

I often make this in a cast iron skillet, but love making the recipe into muffins sometimes, too. The kids seem to enjoy it more this way and I don't have to mess with cutting the cornbread into pieces.

Yields 12 muffins.

April 16, 2014

Sea Salt Nutella Pistachio Puppy Chow

I often browse other recipe blogs in my (not so) spare time. One such blog - Layers of Happiness - has quickly become a favorite. Their photos are stunning and their recipes all sound amazing.
Recently, I was inspired by LOH to make the most-delicious puppy chow I've ever put in my mouth! When I came across their post for this insanely tasty treat, I could not look away. There on my computer screen was the most amazing looking puppy chow I had ever laid eyes upon. It was everything I never knew I wanted in puppy chow and somehow more.

April 15, 2014

Ham and Bean Soup

Yes, spring has arrived. Soup and stew recipes will soon be tucked away for the summer for most of us. But, I wanted to get one last winter recipe hoorah  in during a recent cold spell last week. I grew up eating A LOT of Ham and Bean Soup. It was always served with a big pan of cornbread. It's pure comfort food for me - one that takes me back to my childhood and one that I love still to this day.

This recipe is, also, an excellent one to make to use up leftover holiday ham. (A leftover ham bone can be used, too - see note at bottom of post.)

I tend to prepare this the way my Kentucky-born Granny did. I start with just basic ingredients, then taste and "doctor" as needed towards the end of cooking time. (Salt should be added once the soup is about done since you never know how salty the ham is.) The recipe requires only a short list of ingredients, but the amounts may vary depending on your preference. For example, I like a strong vinegar taste in my bean soup, but you may prefer only a faint vinegar taste.

Yields 8 - 10 servings.

April 14, 2014

Grilled Asparagus with Parmesan & Garlic Aioli Dip

If you're an asparagus lover, this is a must-try recipe! And, if you've been tentative about asparagus in the past, this just may be the recipe that will convert you into an asparagus lover.

Grilling asparagus brings out its sweetness and depth of flavor. The stalks cook up crisp-tender and are simply amazing paired with this creamy dip enhanced with the flavors of Parmesan cheese, garlic and lemon.

(P.S. This dip is, also, amazing with fresh veggies or served for dipping with oven-roasted fries.)

April 11, 2014

Friday Foodie Favorites - April 11

Salty Date and Almond Crisps, Coconut Oil Biscuits and in-season asparagus are just a few of the things that I'm totally diggin' this week.

1. I am insanely in love with Raincoast Crisps from the Lesley Stowe company. (You can read all about my love affair with these lovely crackers in my recent First Trip to Williams-Sonoma  post.)

2. I'm currently having a lot of fun working on some asparagus recipes for the blog. One of my favorite veggies!

3. My hubby and I have fallen head over heels for these KIND bars. Our favorite is the Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt variety.

4. I just made a batch of Gimme Some Oven's 3-Ingredient Coconut Oil Biscuits. To die for!

5. I am loving the Kale-ribbean Breeze Smoothie at Jamba Juice. It's a blend of passion fruit, mango, kale, nonfat Greek yogurt and chia seeds. It powered me through a four-hour trip to the mall with the family recently. Super yum!

6. I've made two batches of my Veggie Overload Pasta Salad in the last week. It makes me feel all summer-y and ready for flip flop season.

April 10, 2014

My First Visit to Williams-Sonoma

I visited a Williams-Sonoma store in person for the first time last Sunday. I've browsed their website several times in the past, but had never stepped foot into an actual store.
While we were recently shopping at a mall out of state, I about died when I spotted the store. (Thank you to my hubby and kids for allowing me to drag them through the store for almost an hour.) It was  seriously way more amazing than I ever imagined. (Wow - could you be any more overly dramatic, Angela ?)
I tried to explain to my eleven-year old son, Zayne, that me visiting WS was the equivalent of him visiting a Lego store. I was a kid in a candy store, so-to-speak. I'm sure I embarrassed my children slightly when I, literally, sang a line from The Little Mermaid to them while holding a Garlic Press in one hand and a Double Mezzaluna in the other hand ... they've got "gadgets and gizmos aplenty."