Antipasto Pasta Salad

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So yeah...I kind of vanished from the food blogging radar once again.  I'll spare you the details of a nasty fall that I had at the end of May. It left me pretty banged up and bruised from my knees down. And by bruised, I mean a severe bone contusion in my right knee that left me immobile for a couple weeks until I had to push through the pain and gimp around The University of Missouri on crutches for Jack's freshman orientation.  Less than two weeks later, I was hobbling around the streets of Nashville to visit Vanderbilt University for Emma.  Since then,  I've been home, resting and recovering as much as I can before I have to leave for another road trip tomorrow.  Mabelle's U13 soccer team won their Midwest Regional soccer tournament and we are off to Indianapolis to watch them compete for The National Cup⚽️🏆. Woohoo! So as you can read, it has been a painful, but proud two months of not blogging.  Ok, that was a couple of details😉.

On to the food...pasta salad.  It's the quintessential summer bowl of goodness that can be made in advance to feed a large crowd all at once or to feed a busy family in shifts because everyone is constantly coming and going.  I swear one these days I am going to have revolving doors installed in the front and back of the house! Like most pasta salad recipes, the ingredients are flexible.  For instance, the original recipe called for 8-ounces each of sopressata and hot capicola (actually they called for salami, but we prefer hot capicola), however I only use 4-ounces of each because I think that is enough cured meat flavor.  I also dial back on the sharp provolone, but then toss in some fresh mozzarella pearls because my family loves that creamy texture. I even add quartered artichoke hearts and a little oregano to bulk up the finished product and flavor.  But the one step in the recipe that is definitely a keeper and really makes it stand out is when the mushrooms are sautéed in part of the vinaigrette.  They become tender and deeply marinated in those antipasto flavors.  Having said that, "Make it for you, make it your own."  Happy cooking!


Sunday Dinner

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Shrimp Cocktail

White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Mousse with Raspberries

I needed a relatively easy-one-pot-main-dish Sunday dinner tonight.  You see, I am in a huge undertaking of transforming my garage and cooking for my son's high school graduation BBQ party that is being held next Sunday!  And by cooking, I am talking about 45 pounds of Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork, several quarts of Western Carolina Sauce and Mustard Sauce,  a massive amount of Stove-Top Baked Beans, and a bucket load of Classic Creamy Coleslaw for the main event.  Then there are the appetizers-- veggies and Ranch Dressing, Pimento Cheese, Sweet Onion Cheddar Spread And I can't leave out the sweet ending of 6 dozen of my super-duper awesome cupcakes (that's a whole 'nother story that some of you may or may not know about)!  I won't mention the yard work, house cleaning, decorating and Memorial Day soccer tournament.  I just collapsed on my laptop thinking about it.  So yeah, back to the easy Sunday dinner.  

Shrimp cocktail-- cooked tail-on shrimp and jazzed up ketchup. Easy peasy, right? Well, it can be if you buy the shrimp already cooked, but I like to take it one step further and cook the shrimp in a court bouillon (a.k.a fancy word for flavored water).  Taking that little extra step really adds a depth of flavor to the shrimp and the bonus is that it can be done the night before.  The sauce can also be made a week in advance.  That's perfect for me tonight!  

Apparently there is a BBQ theme going on this time of year or me😂!


Quick Beef and Barley Soup

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My son and I were huddled up in my big comfy chair the other night watching Netflix when I  turned to him and asked the daily question..."Any dinner druthers for tomorrow night?"  Usually I get a smart response like--"Food" from him 🙄.  But this time he quickly responded, "Beef and barley soup would be nice."  Me--🤔

Normally, I would serve this soup in late October when the skies are grey and the air temperature is cool and crisp.  Well, guess what...the skies have been grey and the air temperature has been cool and crisp lately; not to mention the rain.  So it was the perfect time to pull out this recipe.  It's easy and I know everyone LOVES it!

The original recipe called for chicken broth--???, this is a beef soup, so I like to use a mixture of mainly beef broth and a little chicken broth.  I also add garlic because everything is better with garlic.  I use a slurry of a bit more chicken broth and cornstarch at the end of cooking to give the soup a little body.  Then I finish the soup with Worcestershire sauce for a deeper flavor, and red wine vinegar and fresh parsley to give it a bright and fresh taste.
Serve it with some warm baked Brown Soda Bread, and this is a soup you will enjoy all year long.


Sunday Dinner

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(I really need to retake a picture of my roast chicken)

This is one of those Sunday's that I do not have a new recipe to share.  In fact, I have shared each and everyone of the recipes on our dinner menu tonight.  The menu is a variation of one of our favorite Sunday meals; chicken, potatoes, and a green salad.  The only thing that changes seasonally is the appetizer and dessert.  Although I don't have a new recipe to share, I do have something quite beautiful to share that I captured with my camera just a little bit ago.

My next door neighbor texted me that there was a Robin's nest in the peach tree in my fruit and vegetable garden.  I called to my children, grabbed my camera and flew up the stairs to my son's bedroom window.  We spotted the nest immediately and waited for to see if Momma bird came. Moments later, the most beautiful thing happened--a momma feeding her babies ❤️. Happy Spring Sunday!


Cinco de Mayo Eats

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I apologize for the last minute round-up of Cinco de Mayo fare, but I think it is safe to say that many of you might need some last minute ideas, will be celebrating through out the weekend, or need some recipe inspirations to use up the leftovers.  All those good eats can be found below!

To Start Your Day (or the next morning😉)
To Start Your Evening

A Few Snacks and Condiments

Soups and Salad

The Main Event

(I can't find the picture so, just click on the link above to see the post)

Complimentary Sides
Homemade Flour Tortillas


Piña Colada Cake

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Can't get to a tropical beach for an island getaway and a glass of the popular drink made with frozen pineapple, pineapple juice, coconut, cream, and rum?  Then... MAKE THIS CAKE! I already know how good this cake tastes, but boy oh boy, is the picture making me drool as I type and it's bringing back fond memories of taking that first bite this past Sunday (cue the ocean breeze).  However, you are going to probably take one look at the recipe and say, "Nope, not happening."  It is a long recipe that requires serval parts and steps, but I guarantee that It comes together fairly easily.

The filling is a cooked combination of pureed pineapple and rum (the alcohol is cooked out) that is thickened with cornstarch.  It can be made up to a day ahead (easy prep work).  The cake itself is a simple yellow cake that is made in a rather unconventional way.  Instead of creaming the butter and sugar first, the butter, sugar, and flour are blended together before adding the wet ingredients.  The frosting is a traditional confectioners' sugar buttercream flavored with a little more coconut.  The assembled cake is garnished with toasted coconut and thin slices of pineapple (that I did dry on paper towels so they would slide around on the top of the cake and make the frosting wet).

I just have one warning before you read the recipe.  There is a copious amount of butter in the cake and the frosting!  But, you are only eating a sliver or a slice (ok maybe two).  Just try not to think about it, don't tell you guests, and wait to feel the island breeze when you take that first bite.

Now, if upon reading the recipe and you still don't want to tackle it, here are some other tasty sweets for your Cinco de Mayo Fiesta!


Grilled Steak Fajita Sheet Pan Pizza

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When you're working for the day and all you have is take-out pizza on the brain for dinner, but you're kind of craving Mexican food and you still have a leftover grilled strip steak in the refrigerator that you don't want to go to waste...what do you do?  You come home on break, do a quick search on one of your favorite cooking sites and then become inspired to make Grilled Steak Fajita Sheet Pan Pizza, of course! Doesn't everyone think like that??

The original recipe technique required pulling out the grill and grilling the steak, vegetables and the pizza.  But my steak was already cooked and I have several mouths that I need to feed, so I broke out my Sheet Pan Pizza recipe and got down to business.  While the dough was rising, I made the sauce. Oh my, the sauce is so good!  It's a South of the border adaptation to my traditional pizza sauce.  Just make sure you use chipotle chili powder and not regular chili powder for a nice smokey flavor. Instead of vinegar to brighten the sauce, I used pickled jalapeño juice that comes from a jar of jalapeño nacho slices. 

While the dough was still rising, I decided to broil the peppers and onion instead of dragging out the grill for a nice charred flavor.  Then I had my daughter, Mabelle, grate a mixture of Cheddar, Chihuahua, and Monterey Jack cheese for me before she went to soccer practice ⚽️ (she's such a good helper in the kitchen).  The only thing left was to chop some cilantro, stick my head in the oven 😉 and throw it all together!  

OMG y'all--this was mind blowing! It was like, stuff-your-face good! Or like, I can't-wait-to-have-leftover-steak-to-make-this-again good.  So, if you are celebrating Cinco de Mayo this week...make this pizza!! It has all Mexican-American flavors covered.


Sunday Dinner

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Avocado-Dressed Shrimp a la Mexicana

Pork Carnitas

Piña Colada Cake

How many of you actually celebrate the independence of Mexico from French forces on May 5th? Yeah, I don't either.  But I find it a very good reason to celebrate the Mexican-American culture through food and festivities (emphasis on the food).  Since Cinco de Mayo is only days away (how is it almost May already?!?), this Sunday dinner menu was easily inspired.

Like many recent recipes that I have shared, I have lost count how many times I have had this on a Sunday dinner menu.  So, it is time that the Avocado-Dressed Shrimp a la Mexican makes a solo debut.

If you like pico de gallo, guacamole, and sweet shrimp, you are gonna love this! The original recipe used this mixture as a topping for tostadas, but I adapted it so it is a more scoopable appetizer/dish/salsa to begin our meals or have as a light snack.  I added a bit of garlic for more flavor and also added an extra diced avocado for a nice balance of textures and because I love avocados.  The recipe can be made a few hours in advance (bonus when you are a food blogger taking pictures on a Sunday before a big meal).  Just make sure you press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture to avoid oxidation of the avocados. Bring to room temperature before serving, then grab some tortilla chips and dig in. 


Sunday Dinner

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Shrimp Cocktail

Steak Salad with Creamy Horseradish Dressing
Cheesy Garlic Bread

Fluffer-Nutter Treats

With quite a bit of steak leftover from dinner last night, I am composing it into a simple salad for dinner tonight.   Not only do I have leftover steaks, but I also have half a pan of these yummy treats.  Cue the easy Sunday dinner for me!

These treats are the love child of a traditional Rice Krispies treat and the classic New England sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff.  There's the obvious sticky, gooey, crunchy texture of the traditional recipe, but then there is the salty and nutty flavor from the trio of peanut butter chips, peanut butter, and chopped peanuts.  

The recipe calls for an 8-inch square pan, but you can easily double the recipe and press the mixture into a 9-x13-inch rectangular pan, as I did last night.


Goo Goo Cluster Cupcakes

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If you've been following me through my posts or on Facebook the last few weeks, you'll remember that my husband I recently took a road trip to Nashville, TN.  And...I have found my new home!  It was my first time there and I immediately fell in love.  Even my Midwestern-born and raised husband said, "I could get use to this."  

After a 7 1/2 hour car ride down I-65 (ugh-I really don't like that stretch of road through Indiana), we were famished.  So, we headed straight to the The Southern for a few good eats and beverages.  The fried shrimp BLT and the oysters did not disappoint. Then, we walked across the Cumberland Pedestrian Bridge and back which was quite the accomplishment for someone who is deathly-- and I mean deathly, afraid of heights🙋🏼.  

Next up was a walk down 2nd Ave.  There was a painted brick wall to my left that said-- go get a Goo Goo. I looked to my husband and asked, "What's a Goo Goo?".  He then preceded to tell me about the political "Goo-Goos" or government guys in Chicago.  I politely listened (as I usually do) and then turned the corner to investigate The Nashville Goo Goo.  

Goo Goos are historical Nashville confections.  They consist of a marshmallow nougat candy, topped with caramel, salted peanuts and chocolate.  Jaws are cracking. When you have all those flavors and textures in one treat, what is not more to love? Well, a recipe combining said flavors with a simple warm baked good and a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Can't get to Nashville for a Goo Goo?  They are sold at your local Bed Bath and Beyond, as well as Cracker Barrel (I looked it up).  If you are ever in Nashville for a Goo Goo or a night out on the town, head to the Grand Ole Opry.  We had a great time!


Hawaiian Fried Rice

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You've read my ramblings about how my Southern heritage and my husband's Midwest background has brought a lot of love into my kitchen.  But one thing that I don't write much about is my love for the foods of the Pacific Islands (Oahu to be specific) where I spent a few years when I was little.  I can still remember our visits to the Dole Plantation. There was an employee there that would make origami cranes out of Dole packaging paper.  I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
But the best part of the Dole visit was walking through the pineapple farms.  It was like walking through a row-field of giant tropical thistles. The sweet pineapple tasting at the end of the tours was a highlight, as well.  Needless to say, that is where my love of pineapples came from.  

Another Hawaiian favorite is Spam...cue the screeching sound of culinary brakes.  Seriously, I'm not going there.  Encased meats--yes!  Canned meats--no!  How is it that something that is manufactured in Minnesota, is a staple in the Pacific grocery isle🤔? I'll save that one for later. But when hearing the word Spam, I can't help think of ham.  And I think it is safe to say that at this time of the year, the majority of us all have a little bit of leftover ham in the refrigerator.  

Ok, time to get to the "Hawaiian" recipe.  
Sweet & Savory✓
One skillet✓
Easy for entertaining✓

Many recipes for Hawaiian Fried Rice like to simply add the fresh cut pineapple to the fried rice, but like my Hawaiian Pizza, I like to take it one step further and caramelize the pineapple.  It really brings out a deep, almost smokey flavor to the pineapple, as well as reducing the moisture to the rice dish, which would make a gummy mess if you have any leftovers.  *Note--there will not be any leftovers, so make two batches😉.  

The real beauty of this one-skillet dish is the versatility.  Allergic to eggs? Leave them out. Don't have red bell pepper? Use shredded carrots and peas.  Cutting back carbs? Try cauliflower "rice" and tell me how it works out!! I love cauliflower.  Don't like onion? What's wrong with you?? I can't promise that it'll taste the same as the one pictured and devoured, but...

Make it for you, make it your own!


Shrimp Salad Cups

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Thank you to the few of you who took part in the "What should I post next?"--Shrimp Salad Cups vs. Goo Goo Cakes election on TGG Facebook page!  Five votes were casted and counted, as well as a recipe request.  It was a 3 v. 3 draw.  Both candidates were excellent choices, but due to the neighbor/family electoral college the savory candidate came out victorious.  If you were wanting the recipe for the Goo Goo Cakes, next time get out and vote because every vote counts😉.

Culinary politics aside, these are some tasty little bites.  They remind me of something that would have been served at one of my grandmother's large Southern buffet spreads or something served at one of her Garden Club luncheons.  The "cups" are actually rounds of white bread that are pressed into mini-muffin tins and toasted until golden and crisp.  I recommend using a fresh bakery-style white bread or homemade white bread.  They serve as the perfect vehicle for a simple shrimp salad that is packed with flavor.  

The real beauty of this recipe is that the toast cups can be made up to a week in advance and the shrimp salad can be made a few hours before serving.  So, these hand held appetizers/snacks are perfect for holiday parties, buffets, or any get together when you need a little work done before your guests arrive.  Serve these accompanied with a glass of sweet tea or a cocktail and I assure you that there won't be one left.


Sunday Dinner

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Shrimp Salad Cups

Habanero-Honey Glazed Chickens
Pimento Cheese Potato Gratin
Southern Style Green Beans

Goo Goo Cupcakes
Vanilla Ice Cream

Oh, how my stomach is loving this menu tonight!  Long time followers might recall that my roots run deep below the Mason-Dixon Line.  So, after a road trip to Nashville this past week and a few introductions to some new Southern culinary treats, this menu was born.  What is not new to many of my Southern Sunday dinner menus are green beans, a.k.a snap beans or pole beans.  I still love sitting in the back yard (or the kitchen counter when it's freezing outside) snapping beans with my children just like I did countless times as a child on my grandparent's back patio. There's just something therapeutic about it.

Southern style green beans accompany everything from fried chicken, roast pork, smothered pork chops, baked ham to Thanksgiving turkey and many more.  I've been known to have just a plate of beans with a side of buttered cornbread for dinner--guilty pleasure.  Heck, I even eat them cold for breakfast--weird, I know.  They are slowly simmered in a bath of chicken broth, that is infused with bacon (cuz bacon makes everything better) and onion, until they have reached their desired tenderness.  And by tender, I mean blah-green tender.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good green bean sauté or salad that is crisp and bright green.  But when it comes to Southern style beans, low and slow is the way to go.

This recipe is very, and I mean very, flexible.  In my younger years, I watched my Mom-mom and my mother prepare them and it was a little different each time.  Don't have bacon?  You can use salt pork or fat back or just omit it.  Don't have an onion? You can use a shallot or leave that out too.  Sometimes I simply simmer the beans in chicken broth and season to taste. Vegetarian?  Use vegetable broth (but I can't promise it'll taste the same).  I haven't said this in a while, but "make it for you, make it your own." As far as what to do with the bacon and onion when ready to serve the beans...sometimes I chop up the onion and mix it in with the beans and the bacon...well, there is always a two or four legged warm body around to snack on the bacon.


Sunday Dinner

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 Antipasto Mushrooms

Cannoli Tart

I'm not that thrilled about heading down south on I-65 again tomorrow morning (it's such a blah stretch of road). But, I am super excited to get my boots to Nashville for a couple of days! Scotty McCreery at the Grand Ole Opry-- here I come🤠!!

Since I am busy packing (not to mention taking pictures and blogging today), I needed a Sunday dinner menu that could be mostly made in advance.  I've already shared the recipes for Spuma di Tonno, Sunday Sugo, and the Country Bread (links are above).  Like the glazed carrots, I have lost count how many times I have had marinated Antipasto Mushrooms on an "Italian" menu.  So, it's time they, too, have their own little page in my recipe caché (and I've never made the tart before).

It might seem odd that the mushrooms are boiled for a few minutes, but this ensures that they are  cooked to retain their moisture before marinating in a bath of savory flavors like, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, shallot, thyme and oregano.  Kick up the flavor with a dash of crushed red pepper and...💥flavor explosion!  But don't relegate these mushrooms to the usual antipasto platter.  You can use them in salads, sliced in a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, topped on a juicy burger, or just a little something extra on the side-- which is how we are enjoying them tonight.  Happy Sunday!


B-52 Cake

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I'm posting again!  But be warned because I'm headed to Cincinnati tomorrow for a weekend soccer tournament. So Sunday Dinner this week...will be a no show.  These days, if I'm not working, I'm visiting colleges or on the soccer fields somewhere in the Midwest.  And I thought blogging was going to be easier when my children were older.  Not!

I knew what a B-52 bomber was and I even knew of the band.  But a cake??  Had to do a little homework on that one.  Turns out there was a bartender that created a cocktail with these flavors after his favorite band (that iconic band whose name comes from the beehive hairdo that resembled the nose of said aircraft).  I don't know his reasoning behind layering Kahlúa, Irish Cream, and Grand Marnier, but let's just say he hit it on the nose!  And the cake??  It's the BOMB!  Ok, I'll stop with the puns and let you enjoy the recipe.  

*Note- the alcohol in the recipe is cooked out.  If you don't keep these liqueurs around, just pick up a few mini bottles at the store.


Sunday Dinner

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Glazed Carrots

B-52 Cake

I've been absent for quite sometime, but the last three Sundays I have felt like a Phoenix rising from the ashes--cue the dramatic visual of regeneration! Since then, I have shared recipes for a savory salad, briny pickles, and now...a bowl or carrots??  I know, I know. I promise that the sugar is coming soon. But glazed carrots have made an appearance on countless Sunday menus and it is high time time for them to make their debut.  

These carrots are simple to prepare and can be made a couple of hours in advance and held at room temperature before reheating and serving.  Feel free to change up the herbs or seasoning according to your taste.  I love to use fresh thyme, but a fresh sprig of rosemary is an excellent essence when the carrots are served with roast pork or beef.  They are a sweet and tender companion to just about main dish.

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