Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Birthday Love

I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday this month. (Ha!) My husband and children sure made my birthday a special one this year. They'd been asking for weeks what I wanted to do this year to celebrate. I was gifted with roses, perfume and my favorite bottle of Prosecco (can I get an amen ) on the morning of my actual birthday. But, they wanted to take me out to do something fun, too.

I'm pretty easy to please.

Get me outta this town ... let's do some shopping and get some good grub.
 
We live in a very small county in Michigan. We're about an hour and fifteen minutes away from one of my favorite places to visit in Michigan - Ann Arbor. It is such a lovely, fun place. When we're there, I hit up some of my favorites stores - Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Lush, World Market and a few others. Ann Arbor is, also, home to the best place I know to find one of my favorite foods on the planet - falafels (fried chickpea fritters). They've, also, got a Williams-Sonoma (did you see my recent post about my very first visit there when I was shopping out of state a couple of weeks ago?), so a return visit was on the definitely on the agenda.

I'm a city girl at heart, but have lived in a small, rural area for the last twelve years. There aren't many shopping, dining or entertainment options locally for us, so we so enjoy getting outside of our area for a day out on the town.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sonoma Chicken Salad {A Whole Foods Copycat Recipe}

I recently fell in love with the Sonoma Chicken Salad from the deli at Whole Foods. I brought a container of it home - along with a round loaf of their sourdough bread - and was so sad when I finished up my last sandwich. I have been craving it ever since - big time.


My nearest Whole Foods is well over an hour away, so I don't get there as often as I'd like. In an attempt to satisfy my yearning for their chicken salad, I went in search online for a copycat recipe. I figured I might find one or two on a food blog out there. Instead, the top search result was the exact recipe itself provided directly on the Whole Foods' website.

Could it be ? Could it really be the real thing ?

Off to the kitchen I went to try out the recipe. Holy moly, friends, this is it. It's the real deal.

Not only will I get to enjoy this chicken salad more often, but it will save me a bundle. (I believe I paid around $12.00 a pound for it at Whole Foods.)


I have made a lot of chicken salad recipes throughout the years. My typical version is loaded with grapes, apples, nuts, seeds, onions, celery and fresh herbs. What I adore about this version is the simplicity of it. I was totally over-complicating things before. This blows any of my versions out of the water.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Refreshing Citrus Quinoa Salad

As the temps begin to rise for much of the country, summery salads will be making appearances on many of our menus. This Refreshing Citrus Quinoa Salad may just become a new favorite.


This is a great salad to serve at your summer grilling parties and potlucks. I enjoy it, too, to have on hand for a few days in the fridge for myself for lunch. (If not serving it all at once within 24 hours, I would recommend keeping the vinaigrette separate. Each time you dish out a little of the quinoa salad, drizzle on or combine in some vinaigrette shortly before eating.)

The options for add-ins in this salad are limited only by your imagination. Other veggies, nuts, seeds, a handful of fresh spinach or even avocado could be added in. I adore the Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (recipe recently posted) used to dress this salad. It can be used on so many things - regular salads, roasted veggies and even grilled chicken.


Yields 4 - 6 servings.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Foodie Favorites - April 25

Leftover Peeps from the kids' Easter baskets, Prosecco and Talenti Gelato Pops are just a few of the things I'm diggin' this week.


1. We buy a lot of Bolthouse Farms juices. One of our favorites (especially loved by my children) is their C-Boost. It's a blend of cherries, mangos and pears. And, it gives ya 1,200% of your daily Vitamin C.

2. Chobani Flip Almond Coco Loco yogurt is a true favorite of mine. It has dark chocolate pieces and sliced almonds that you stir into the coconut yogurt. Just the perfect amount of crunch, creaminess and coconut flavor.

3. As a Michigander, I was thrilled when Smucker's came out with Michigan Red Tart Cherry Preserves in their Orchard's Finest line of products. This jam is divine on scones, biscuits and toasted English muffins.

4. My husband recently bought me a bottle of Prosecco for my birthday. Lunetta brand is my favorite of all that I've tried. It's a crisp, bright sparkling wine bursting with peach and apple flavors.

5. Yes, I've been sneaking some Peeps from the kids' Easter baskets this week. What? They're just sitting there calling my name as I walk by.

6. I have been making summery pasta and grain-based salads a lot in the past couple of weeks. My Wheat Berry Salad using Bob's Red Mill Wheat Berries is one of my favorites. It's loaded with nuts, dried cherries, fresh herbs and scallions. It's dressed with a light lemon and olive oil dressing. It makes a great lunch all throughout the week for me.

7. Have you guys tried these Talenti Sea salt Caramel Gelato Pops? OMG. Imagine a rich, golden Argentine caramel gelato brought to life with Fleur De Sel sea salt and dipped in dark chocolate. You WILL NOT want to share these, so I suggest hiding the box in the back of your freezer, friends.

8. You can often find me curled up on the couch late at night sipping a cup of hot Sleepytime Herbal Tea from Celestial Seasonings. So relaxing and great at promoting a good night's rest. It's made from a soothing blend of chamomile, spearmint and lemongrass.

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Thursday, 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.

Wednesday, 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!

Monday, 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.


Friday, 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!

Thursday, 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.

Wednesday, 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.
 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ham and Bean Soup

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 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 that my Kentucky-born Grandmother did. I start with just basic ingredients, then taste and "doctor" as needed towards the end of cooking time. (Salt should only be added once the soup is about done - if needed - since you never know how salty your 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 6 servings.

Monday, 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.)

Friday, 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.


Thursday, 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."

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Top Ten Essential Ingredients I Always Have on Hand

I thought I'd share a top-ten list of the ingredients that I find essential to have on hand in my Joyously Domestic kitchen these days.  If you are a long-time reader of the blog (love your guts!) or a new reader who plans to stick around (that would be fabulous!), these are ingredients that you are apt to find in many recipes that I share here.
 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Get Ready for Grilling Seasoning: 3 Homemade Seasoning Blends

Spring has sprung. Grilling season is just around the corner and I couldn't be more thrilled. I love to grill just about anything - steak, chicken, burgers, fish and even veggies. For my monthly contributor Kitchen Made Simple  post on Teal and Lime, I shared three super simple homemade seasoning blends that I use often throughout grilling season.
 
 
My Basic Grill Seasoning Blend works perfectly on most any meat, fish or veggies. My Seasoning Blend for Fajitas is a favorite in our household for grilled skirt steak, chicken or shrimp that can be used in fajitas, taco salads or Mexican rice bowls. (It's, also, the spice blend that I used in a recent post here on Joyously Domestic, Slow Cooker Kickin' Mexican Pulled Pork.) Lastly, my Seafood Seasoning Blend is fabulous on fish or shrimp.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Cheesy Hot Corn Dip

This dip is to die for. It's almost dangerous because it is so incredibly simple to whip up and uses ingredients that I seem to always have on hand. I could probably eat the entire dish - it is that good! {Well, not the dish itself - the dip IN the dish!} It makes a great hot dip for parties, game day or just for snacking during movie night.


 
The recipe call for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. These can be found usually in the Mexican foods aisle. They are inexpensive and come in small cans. They are essentially smoked jalapenos in a tomato and vinegar sauce.


They are potent - beware. The recipe only calls for using one pepper {use half of a pepper if you have a super sensitive palette and your peppers are on the larger side of the spectrum}. Do not use the whole can. {A lady actually wrote me recently to inform me that she had accidentally used an entire can in my Chipotle Chicken and Corn Chowder recipe. It was supposed to be one PEPPER and not one CAN. Can you believe that she and her hubby actually choked their way through the chowder? Bless her heart.} If you don't desire to use the chipotle peppers, you could sub in a teaspoon or so of ground cumin. I highly recommend using the chipotle peppers, but cumin will bring some great flavor and smokiness to the dip, too.

TIP: I freeze the leftover peppers in little freezer baggies - one or two per bag - for later use.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Blogger Spotlight with Tux from Brooklyn Homemaker

Last month I started a new monthly series here on the blog - Blogger Spotlight.  In last month's post, I introduced you to Lori from Foxes Love Lemons.  This month, I'm featuring Tux from Brooklyn Homemaker. I was first introduced to his cooking, homemaking and lifestyle blog while I was checking out the finalists for The Homies on The Kitchn. I started following BH's Facebook page and have enjoyed what I've seen so far. Tux seems like a pretty fun, charming guy with lots of creativity and personality. His home decorating style is super inspiring and his recipes are ones that I think will inspire you in the kitchen.

 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

S'mores Overload Brownie Bars

 
Like most kids, my children love s'mores.  Since we live in the country, we have regular bonfires throughout the summer.  And, at our house, a bonfire means s'mores.  I had promised them I'd make brownies while they were at school recently.  They were expecting a run-of-the-mill version, but I ended up surprising them with these over-the-top s'mores brownies.

This is definitely a knife-and-fork treat.  They are messy and gooey - following in true s'mores fashion.  I took a shortcut and used two box brownie mixes, but you could easily make s'mores brownies following a from-scratch brownie recipe.

The best part of this yummy dessert is the way the toppings get all toasty. You really get the same sensation as eating an actual s'more, but with the added bonus of a brownie as the base!

Yields 12 servings.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Slow Cooker Kickin' Mexican Pulled Pork

I cannot urge you enough to make this pork! Seriously. I think this is perhaps the tastiest, most-succulent Mexican pulled pork I've ever made. And, I must give credit where credit is due. I adapted the recipe from Elise over at Simply Recipes. I had been searching for a new pulled pork recipe to use in tacos and other Mexican-themed dishes for quite some time. I have a couple of my own recipes that I use - one favorite in our house is my Green Chile and Lime Pulled Pork. But, I wanted something different and with some real depth of flavor ... I wanted perfectly-spiced pork perfection!


I now realize that I never quite took the plunge and went all the way with the spices I was using in previous attempts at Mexican pulled pork. I just wasn't heavy-handed enough. I'd sprinkle just a pinch of this and that on the meat, but never really committed to seasoning the pork the way it needed to be seasoned. That all changed with this recipe.

The result is pure perfection. Besides the magnificent medley of spices, there are a few other important components to this recipe. The overnight dry rub step is crucial. Searing the pork very well before starting it in the slow cooker is a must. And, cooking this low and slow is vital. The pulled pork can be used for tacos, enchiladas, tostadas or Mexican pizza.

Yields 6 - 8 servings.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

March Recap

It's April! How glorious! I have been so overly ready for spring. I'm praying that the decent weather we've had this past weekend here in Michigan is here to stay! (Fingers crossed.)

In spite of lots and lots of sickness making its way through our household all throughout the month of March, I did manage to post a handful of new recipes and share some other non-recipe posts this past month. The flu took hold of us one-by-one and knocked each of us on our butts for almost a week at time during March! I've had my fridge, freezer and pantry loaded with ingredients to make so many new recipes, but it's been a month of doctor visits, make-up homework and caring for my sick young ones (and myself). I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things and bringing you some yummy, new recipes in April. In the meantime, here's a look back at March.

March Recipe Posts