Thursday, May 23, 2013

Salt & Vinegar Potato Salad!

Plan on having a barbeque party this summer? Attending one? Eating a meal outside? Memorial Day is quickly approaching... that means summer is here! Summertime in Tennessee is, despite the crazy heat & humidity, one of the times of year that I look most forward to.

I love getting my grill out and getting creative with all the different variations of marinades and sauces. One problem I often run into, however, is what sides are "outdoor-worthy." When you think of bbq, you think pasta salad, beans, potato salad. The problem with potato salad is this: mayo. Nobody wants a side that has been souring in its mayo bath all day. That's just yucky.

For an outdoor potato salad solution, try this vinegar-based dish.

Salt & Vinegar Potato Salad
slightly adapted from Gourmet by Maggie Ruggiero

1 batch Pickled Onions
5 lbs yukon gold potatoes, skin removed and cut into 1/2-inch wide wedges
2 tsps Old Bay seasoning
2 tsps granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Cover potatoes with salted cold water in a 5 qt pot, simmering uncovered about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water.
2. Whisk together Old Bay with sugar, salt, and vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. Combine potatoes and pickled onions in a large bowl. Drizzle with Old Bay mixture. Let marinate at least 1 hour.
4. Before serving, stir in olive oil. Serve cold or at room temperature.

*Note:  I made the pickled onions the day before serving and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight. I also boiled the potatoes and added Old Bay mixture to them the day before and let them marinate overnight as well. Right before serving, I stirred in the pickled onions and olive oil.

**Note: I think this would be wonderful with bacon bits added in as well.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Steak Gyros with Tzatziki & Pickled Onions!!

Having a moment of nostalgia. Four years ago on this day, I was perusing the streets of Greece with two of my best friends. I knew my Grecian get-away was going to be an affair to remember, and I was soooooo right. We spent two weeks touring by land and by sea, reveling at the ancient beauties and delicious dishes at each location. The freshest, thickest yogurt, the sweetest, juiciest fruits, & the stickiest, most golden honey I'd ever seen...  The view was gorgeous and the food was divine. There wasn't a single meal I had while in Greece that was mediocre. Since those days, I have tried to create a few of my favorites. The gyro is one of them, of course!

The first gyro I had was in Nafplio. Nafplio is a seaport town in the South of Greece. Even though this was a beautiful little town, I'll be honest, the memory that sticks out most for me in this town was the gyro I ordered at a seaside restaurant. While other travelers in our tour group hiked their way up a massive hill to see an ancient castle - turned prison for some famous ancient Greek General (my history is lacking, I know), my pals and I went after some lunch on the promenade. We spotted a sign that said "gyro" and we were in.

Courtyard in Nafplio

Who knew that when you ordered a side of fries they wouldn't actually be served on the side, but wrapped up with the meat & all inside the gyro! Apparently this was quite customary as the man behind the counter acted like I was the weirdo when I peeked into my to-go bag and told him he forgot my side of fries. Silly American.

In Santorini

This steak gyro doesn't quite compare to its Grecian lamb counterpart, but it will suffice for nights when I want to be taken back to the Aegean coast!

Steak Gyro
recipe slightly adapted from Damn Delicious

2 tbsps minced garlic
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsps red wine vinegar
3 tbsps olive oil, divided
2 tbsps Greek yogurt (I use Fage Total, 0%)
1 tbsp oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1.5 lbs flank steak, cut in strips
toasted pita or flatbread, for serving
black olives
feta cheese
shredded lettuce

Tzatziki Sauce

6 oz Greek yogurt (used Fage Total, 0%)
1 small cucumber, peeled & grated*
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsps chopped fresh dill
salt & pepper to taste

Pickled Onions

1 large red onion, sliced thin
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
for another use for pickled onions, check out this recipe!

1. In a large bowl, combine these gyro ingredients: minced garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, Greek yogurt, oregano, salt & pepper. Add steak to marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 1 hour.
2. In a small bowl, combined all tzatziki sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 4 days.
3. In a small bowl, combine pickled onion ingredients.Cover & let marinate at room temperature, tossing occasionally, for at least 1 hour.
4. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook steak about 5 minutes on each side.
5. To assemble gyros, spread a tablespoon or so of tzatziki on the center of a toasted pita or flatbread. Add pickled onions and any additional toppings you would like. Add steak. Roll sides of pita or flatbread up and secure with a toothpick.


*Squeeze excess liquid out of the grated cucumber by wrapping it in a clean kitchen towel or sturdy paper towels.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Strawberry Trefoil Trifle!

It's that time of the year again. You know what I'm talking about. Girl Scout Cookie time. I bought my first round (you heard that right, FIRST) of cookies from a lady at work. Her niece was selling them. I love how family comes together to help a Girl Scout out. She had a photocopied, black & white order form. I remember my days as a Girl Scout, EVERYONE participated in the selling process!

Last year, you may remember that I gave you this recipe for a Thin Mint Bundt cake. It is defintely an excuse to go out and buy yourself some Thin Mints (right... as if you needed an excuse). While you are at it, go ahead and pick up a box of Trefoils for this recipe! I made this as my dessert for February's Family Dinner. It's an eye-catcher and it tastes pretty awesome too!!

Strawberry Trefoil Trifle
slightly adapted from Jo Cooks


1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced
1 1/2 cups cold whole milk
1 package (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz mascarpone cheese **
2 cups coffee, room temperature (separated)
1 package Trefoils Girl Scout Cookies
6 oz bittersweet chocolate


1. Set aside one strawberry and two crushed Trefoils for garnish.
2. In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding together for two minutes. Refrigerate for 2 minutes.
3. In a chilled bowl (just chill in freezer about 10 minutes), beat heavy whipping cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract continuously for about 5 minutes or until whipped cream is formed. Do not overbeat.
3. In a a third mixing bowl, beat mascarpone cheese until smooth. Beat in 2 tbsp of cold coffee. Beat in pudding. Fold in whipped cream.
4. Dip Trefoils in cold coffee one at a time. Do not more than one at a time or they will become too soggy. Line the bottome of a 3qt trifle dish with 1/3 of the cookies. Top with 1/3 of the sliced strawberries. Grate some of the bitterweet chocolate over top of the strawberries, creating a thin coating. Top chocolate gratings with 1/3 of the mascarpone/pudding/whipped cream mixture.
5. Repeat, creating 3 layers of each. Finish off with the mascarpone on top. Sprinkle crushed Trefoils on topand garnish with a dollop of the mascarpone mixture and a strawberry. I also grated a bit more chocolate on top to finish off.
6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Enjoy!

**Note - You can sub cream cheese for mascarpone if you like.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Corn, Avocado, & Red Pepper Salad!

Once a month my friends and I get together for what we like to call "Family Dinner." This started back a few years ago after Thanksgiving break. For some reason, we just hadn't had our share of Thanksgiving food so we planned a dinner night. Everyone brought a dish or two. We kicked back, relaxed, and just enjoyed our time together. Since then, this evening has turned into an avenue for me to try new recipes and for other folks who didn't fancy themselves much of a cook to begin experimenting in the kitchen. they have also become a night when we don't have to worry about making elaborate plans to meet up somewhere for dinner, or try to find a place that can accomodate 14 or 15 of us... It's just a carefree night full of good company.  I have to admit, these Family Dinners have turned into something I look forward to EVERY month!

For the month of February, we decided on an all out Mexican night, complete with margaritas and a pinata full of candy (courtesy of Sam)! Nick made taco meat with fresh, ground deer. It was good y'all. And Lauren made the most fab cheese enchiladas. So good, in fact, that I went home and made them myself the next night. Courtney brought along all the ingredients for margaritas... we decided after we sat with full bellies that we should probably open up a Mexican restaurant! Haha, well, maybe not but it was a for sure good meal!

I was in charge of bringing all the toppings for the tacos/enchiladas. I got to use this super cute serving platter that my mom gave me back last summer.

I also made a dessert, black beans, and this corn salad. Now, this salad has some diversity. You can use it as a relish atop burgers or salads, you can eat it like salsa with tortilla chips, you can spoon it into a taco shell or sit it pretty on top of your enchiladas, or you can just serve it as a side dish. I have done all of those above at some point. This dish really adds lots of pizzaz to anything that it touches and it is super easy to throw together!

Corn, Avocado, & Red Pepper Salad


1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & finely chopped (more or less depending on how much heat you want)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups corn, cooked & chilled
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 tsp ground chili powder
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 hass avocado
juice from 1 lime
salt & pepper to taste


1. Saute the yellow onion, red pepper, jalapeno, and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until just softened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Once the onion & pepper saute has cooled, combined it with the corn, green onion, chili powder, paprika, and cumin. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.
3. Once you are ready to serve, cut avocado flesh into small cubes. This video is an excellent tutorial for cutting an avocado. Gently fold avocado bits into the corn mixture. Sprinkle salad with the juice from 1 lime. Salt & pepper to taste.
4. This salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days but note that the avocado will eventually start to become a bit mushy and brown after a few days.

The corn salad also makes a wonderful relish atop a grilled chicken salad.


 And remember those cheese enchiladas I was telling you about? Well, I decided to make some at home with this corn salad baked right on top! To make the enchiladas, pour about a cup of enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl, dip tortillas into enchilada sauce, coating both sides. Sprinkle a bit of cheese (about 2 tbsp) onto the enchilada-sauce coated tortilla and then roll it up. Place in a baking dish and continue process with any remaining tortillas/cheese. Sprinkle as much corn salad as you want on top of the enchiladas, cover with a bit more sauce and cheese, and bake for about 15-10 minutes at 350 or until cheese is melted. Voila, awesome dinner!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Bundt Cake!

I made this cake as a birthday cake for a friend a few weeks ago. I knew when I decided to make a cake that I didn't want to make a "traditional" birthday cake. It was an extremely cold, snowy weekend and for some reason a warm cake sounded perfect. What's better served warm than a coffee cake!?

This cake really hit the spot. The descriptions I heard from guests ranged from, "the perfect amount of moist & dry in one cake...", "the best cake I have ever eaten", and "can I take some home with me?" I'd say that makes this recipe a winner.

The best part about it is that it is fairly easy to throw together. I made it as I was rushing to finish getting our soup in the pot so that I could shower before our guests arrived. The cake baked in the oven while I was showering & getting ready... When guests arrived the house smelled like buttery, cinnamony goodness and the cake was sitting pretty on its stand.

I got this recipe from The Candid Appetite. The cake was made exactly as directed, the only thing I did differently was to add a cinnamon glaze that was drizzled over the warm cake. Note, if you don't have a bundt pan you can make this in a 9x13 rectangle pan, two 9-ich circular pans, or 24 cupcakes.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Bundt Cake
Recipe from The Candid Appetite
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
2/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp milk (more as needed to reach desired consistency)
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a bundt pan. Set aside.
2. To make steusel filling and topping: in a small bowl combine streusel ingredients. Using a fork (or your hands, in my case) mix until crumbly. Set aside while you make batter.
3.To make batter: in a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and granulated sugar on  medium low speed until creamy, around 8 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
5. Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches alternatively with the buttermilk. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Blend until smooth.
6. Pour half of the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly half of the streusel over the batter. Cover with the remaining batter and top with the remaining streusel.
7. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 minutes to an hour. Let cool for 10 minutes then turn out of the pan.
8. To make glaze: whisk glaze ingredients until incorporated. Add more milk as needed to reach desired consistency. Drizzle glaze over warm cake.
9. Store in airtight container at room temperature for 3 days or freeze for up to a month.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cookies & Cream Popcorn!

Cookies & Cream Popcorn AKA Secret Crack. No kidding. This stuff is addictive. The first time I made it, I made a large batch for a post-Christmas/pre-New Year's Eve party. I ate it, and ate it, and ate it. I just couldn't stop!! It was a holiday party though, we get a pass for non-stop eating during the holidays, right?

The second time around, I knew I needed to make a smaller batch or I would be in trouble. I've included the recipe for both size batches, just in case you doubt your self control as much as I do!

I saw the idea for this while browsing Pinterest. I never looked up the recipe, I just decided to go with it and see what would happen. The result is, what I consider, the perfect amounts of each ingredient. It is a proven accompaniment for a successful movie night!

Cookies & Cream Popcorn


(Small Batch)
1 bag popped popcorn
1 sleeve Oreo cookies, crushed (12 cookies)
1 cup white chocolate chips, melted according to package directions

(Large Batch)
3 bags popped popcorn
1 (14.3 oz) package Oreo cookies, crushed
1 (12 oz) package white chocolate chips, melted according to package directions


1. In a large bowl, combined popcorn and crushed Oreos. Drizzle melted chocolate over popcorn mixture.
2. Mix thoroughly using a large spatula until chocolate is distributed throughout.
3. Let sit for about 20 minutes or until chocolate has hardened. Give it another stir to break pieces up.
4. Store in airtight container or ziploc bags up to a week. It will start to get stale after this time period.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cinnamon Oat Streusel Breadsticks!

 I always have a very organized menu of all of the dishes I plan on making for the multiple events that I attend over the holidays, I truly enjoy the planning that goes into it all, but this year I felt a little bit overwhelmed. I started off with good intentions:

I had a list of 9 cookies I had every intention of making - not a single cookie hit the oven.

I planned on trying out a fabulous peppermint bark cheesecake recipe that I had been saving since last year - left my springform pan in Nashville.

I wanted to make my loving little brother, who donated his living room floor to my air mattress for 2 weeks, a delicious, inspired dinner after a long day of work - ended up buying Burger King instead.

I even took on the task of the Christmas turkey for my mother's side, although it was a bit of an obstacle after remembering that my mother's oven was broken, my brother hated the smell of turkey baking, and every other oven in my hometown was already being utilized - luckily an available oven was obtained and Mr. Turkey made it on time to his Christmas dinner appointment.

 Needless to say, by the time our day-after-Christmas brunch with my dad's side rolled around, I was defeated. This recipe was created on a whim when I woke up and realized that I had not prepared a single thing for the meal, so VERY unlike me! Not to mention every single store in my hometown was closed, minus a quick stop or two. Luckily, I had a bag full of baking items that had made t
he journey from my pantry in Nashville (and was untouched up until this day, by the way), and a pizza crust left over from those good dinner intentions I had with my brother.... The Cinnamon Oat Streusel Breadstick was born. Joy to the world.

Cinnamon Oat Streusel Breadsticks


1 tube Pillsbury Pizza Crust
1 stick butter, separated & softened
1/2 cup sugar + 2 tbsp
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
4 tbsp ground cinnamon, separated

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk (more if needed)


1. Preheat oven to 400. Spread pizza crust onto a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake about 7 minutes or until crust is just golden.
2. In a microwave proof bowl, melt 2 tbsp butter. Set aside. In another small bowl, mix 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp ground cinnamon. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix remaining sugar, flour, oats, and remaining cinnamon. Cut the remaining butter into pieces. Using hands, mix butter pieces into oat mixture until crumbly. Set aside.
3. Remove pizza crust from oven and pour melted butter over, spreading as evenly as possible. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.
4. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over crust.
5. Bake another 7 minutes or until golden brown.
7. For glaze, add milk to powdered sugar and mix. Add more milk until desired consistency is reached.
8. Drizzle some of the glaze over warm streusel. Using a pizza cutter, cut into breadsticks. Serve remaining glaze on the side. (Our little one's like to dip their breadsticks in the glaze.)