Sunday, October 4, 2015

How I pick the perfect ripe avocado

I like to buy unripe green avocados and let them ripen at home before the've been handled, squeezed and bruised by shoppers but, there are those times I need an avocado right away.  Here is how I find a perfect ripened avocado every time. First, I like to get my avocados at Brennan's Market or a smaller market where the avocados are handled with care instead of the mega grocery stores where they are piled in a large bin, squeezed and bruised.  Second, I look for a purple/black colored skin with no signs of being squeezed.  Then I flick the dry stem off.  
If I see a brown patch under the stem it's going to be brown inside but if I see a nice yellow-green patch you have a perfectly ripe avocado.
Now that's a perfect avocado!

I'm using two of these right away in my Black Bean Avocado Dip  and the other two I'll refrigerate and use them throughout the week.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Broccoli Salad with Bacon, Cranberries and Sunflower Seeds

I have been making this salad for years and it's my go to salad to bring to cookouts.  Everyone loves
it and if by chance there is any leftover, it's good the next day.  There are a lot of different recipes out there for this salad and I've settled on this one because it's not overdressed and is a perfect balance of crunchy, sweet and salty.

2-3 broccoli crowns (about 6 cups), cut into small florets 
10 bacon slices, crisp-cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Combine broccoli, bacon, onion, sunflower seeds and cranberries in a large bowl.
2.  In a small bowl whisk mayo, vinegar sugar, salt and pepper.  Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.
3.  Cover and refrigerate (at least an hour) until ready to serve.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Crispy Fried Goat Cheese Salad

  A few weeks ago I went to the Schoolhouse Cafe in Paoli, Wisconsin with a couple friends for lunch.  Paoli is a tiny little town with a few shops and this wonderful cafe.  The schoolhouse was built in 1854 and became a cafe in 2008.  I've been there a few times and each time I've really enjoyed the food along with the atmosphere.    
I had the Goat Cheese Salad (mixed greens, pecan encrusted goat cheese, pears, strawberries, grapes, blueberries with a balsamic vinaigrette).  It was so good, especially the fried goat cheese!  I don't know when I'll get back to the Schoolhouse so I had to try and recreate this salad at home.  I didn't have any pecans so I used seasoned bread crumbs and it turned out great!   
 The first thing you want to do is put the goat cheese in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm it up so it’s easier to slice.  I used 4oz log of goat cheese but it’s easy to scale up or down, depending on how many people you’re feeding.
After slicing put a little flour and slice of cheese in your hand
and flatten.
Next coat cheese with flour, then dip in egg
and then coat with the bread crumb mixture.
At this point you can fry or put in refrigerator until ready to use.
Goat cheese is rich so one slice was enough for the salad as a little goes a long way.

Fried Goat Cheese:

4 oz. goat cheese log
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of freshly ground pepper
pinch of kosher salt
1 eggs, beaten
1/8 cup of flour
olive oil

Salad: (This is what I used but any fresh fruit would work)

Mixed greens
(Beets would also be a good addition as they go so well with goat cheese)
Candied walnuts 
Serve with a balsamic vinaigrette

1.  Put goat cheese the in freezer for about 15 minutes so it firms up for better slicing. 

2.  While cheese is chilling,  put the panko in a bowl.  Add the parsley, thyme,  garlic powder, pepper, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Set aside. 

3.  Beat the egg in another bowl.  Put the flour in a small bowl.  Remove cheese from the freezer.  Using a sharp knife, slice it into 4 pieces.  Flatten each piece using a little flour in the palm of your hand.  Put the cheese in the flour.  Flip it to coat on both sides.  Place the floured cheese into the beaten egg.  Flip it to coat with egg on both sides. Lastly, put it into the seasoned panko breadcrumbs.  Flip it to coat on both sides.  Put it on parchment lined  plate. Repeat with the rest of the cheese. This may be done ahead of time and kept chilling in the refrigerator until ready to sauté.  

4.  Coat the bottom of a shallow pan with olive oil. Set it on the stove over medium high heat. When the oil is heated, set the cheese down gently in the oil.  Repeat with the rest of the cheese.  Sauté until golden brown on both sides.  Remove it from the pan and transfer to a paper towel.

Serve warm on top of salad.
Yields about 4 pieces of fried goat cheese.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Favorite Potato Salad

It has been awhile since I posted a new recipe.  This recipe for potato salad isn't new but an all time favorite.  I've been making it for years and I'm surprised I've never posted it.  Today we are having a cookout and this potato salad is always requested.  It's a basic recipe and turns out perfect every time.


2 eggs
2 lbs. new red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces (about 7 cups when cut up)
1/3 cup celery, diced
1/3 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I only use Real Hellmann's Mayo)
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1.  Place cut potatoes in a large saucepan; add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain well.  
  • 2.  Meanwhile, place egg in small saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer about 15 minutes. Immediately drain; run cold water over egg to stop cooking. Peel egg; chop.
  • 3. Place cooked potatoes, chopped eggs, celery and onion in large bowl. 
  • 4.  In small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, salt and pepper; blend well. Add dressing to potato mixture; mix gently to coat. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hours or until serving time.
    Serves 6

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

EASY Crock Pot Chicken Taco Meat

It doesn't get any easier using a crock pot and only 3 ingredient to make this chicken taco recipe.  We love Mexican food and this chicken is great for tacos, nachos and even on a salad.

2 lbs chicken breasts (if frozen, make sure they are thawed) 
1 packet taco seasoning
16oz jar salsa (I like to use Medium Restaurant Style Tomtits Salsa, it's thick and flavorful)
Taco toppings: tomato, lettuce, avocado , cheese, sour cream, cilantro, etc


Sprinkle chicken breast on all sides with taco seasoning.  Lay breasts in bottom of crock pot then pour in salsa.  Cook on low for 4 hours, or high for 2 hours, or until chicken breasts are tender. Shred chicken and mix with some or all of the cooking liquid and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.
Serve on taco shells or tortillas with all your favorite toppings.

Serves 6-8

Monday, March 16, 2015

Blueberry Baked Steel Cut Oatmeal

This was my first attempt at making baked oatmeal and if I had known how good this was I would of been making it all winter long!  I don't usually eat oatmeal once the spring weather appears but this oatmeal will continue to make an appearance.  I really like that it can be made the night before and baked in the morning.  The nuts rise to the top for a crispy topping with the creamy oats underneath and the sweet blueberries throughout.  If there are any leftovers it warms up wonderfully in the microwave.

I found this great recipe on Alexandra Cooks blog.  Check out her blog.  

I'm looking forward to making this again.  I want to try it with dried cherries and pecans or apples and walnuts but this blueberry and walnut combo is a keeper.     

2 cups 2% or whole milk
1/3 cup PURE maple syrup (don't use flavored maple pancake syrup)
1 large egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup Steel Cut Oatmeal (don't use rolled oats)
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 - 1 cup blueberries

1.   In a bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, egg, butter, and vanilla.   Add oats, nuts, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Stir to combine and store mixture in fridge overnight. 
2.   Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Give mixture a good stir.  Scatter berries into an 8-inch square baking dish.  Pour milk-oat mixture over the berries. 
4. Bake for 40 minutes, turn oven down to 350 degrees and continue to bake 20 more minutes or until the top is golden brown and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Yield: about 6 servings