Summer Tomato Salad

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Have you ever noticed a correlation between the warm hot summer weather and not wanting to turn your oven on or cook indoors at all?  I can easily be lured by the blue skies and the 70s and above temperatures not to give a second thought to cooking and instead go the nearest deli and pick up a dinner to go that will give me a night off from dinner duty.

However, when farmers markets sell local ripe fruits and vegetables, the temptation to eat out can be tamed.  The seasons best not only showing off their beautiful exterior color, they also offer great sun-kissed flavor.

Salads offer a great meal alternative to cooking in front of an oven.  They can also be easier to make when using fresh local ingredients picked at their prime because you don’t have to do as much to them in terms of preparation.  You can just add a little salt and pepper to let them, and their flavors can speak for themselves.  Not having to do much at all is how I want it.

A tomato salad can offer all of this as well as a stunning presentation with vibrant colors.  It looks so good and is so satisfying that even carnivores may not mind taking a meal without meat off to enjoy.

The only caveat I have is the quality of each ingredient.  This is when the saying, “You get what you pay for,” really rings true. Look for the best tomatoes you can find. And if you’re not growing your own, support your local farmers market. You’ll get the best tasting tomatoes money can buy.

Enjoy the start of summer vacation with great fresh food, family, friends, and fun.

Easy Ice Cream Sandwiches

Has anyone noticed kids preferring to eat just the ice cream instead of the accompanying cake at birthday parties?  In case you’re wondering, licking the frosting off the cupcake doesn’t count as eating cake.

Last year I attended more than two dozen birthday parties and I am seeing a growing trend.  More and more kids are saying, “No cake please, just ice cream.”  Even my older daughter Abigail requested a few years ago not to have birthday cake but instead ice cream sundaes for her guests.

With the cupcake rage still dominating birthday parties, I thought I would share an easy recipe for ice cream sandwiches to provide parents a great and festive alternative to cake.  Best of all, if you decide to use store-bought cookies this dessert becomes a no-bake treat only requiring space in your freezer to store them until you’re ready to serve.

These ice cream sandwiches are a family favorite.  They are perfect for sleepovers, birthday parties, or any occasion.  Enjoy!

Red White Blue Jello

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Every 4th of July, people across America gather for patriotic parades, big BBQ and potluck gatherings, and fireworks displays. Great food is always at the center of celebrating America’s Independence Day with neighbors, friends, and family.  It is the one holiday during the summer where wearing red, white, and blue is standard along with everything than can be decorated from centerpieces to desserts.

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Tomato Watermelon Prosciutto Salad

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No one wants to cook indoors when the thermometer reads above 80 degrees outside and 95 degrees inside. Turning on the oven or stove is a no-no, which is why salads are a great option.  However, salads can be predictable and boring, like the go to one-pot casserole dishes my family prefers I don’t make.

The key to building a great salad is finding ingredients that are both bold in flavors and textures, yet work well with others.  The salads I enjoy the most typically have different flavor profiles that you wouldn’t assume would pair well, but mixed together they taste phenomenal.  I love when people tell me, “I would never have thought of that, but I like it.”

Today’s salad recipe is both a little salty (prosciutto), sweet (watermelon), tangy (tomatoes and onions), and citrus infused acidic (fresh orange vinaigrette).  Individually these ingredients are okay.  Together, it’s a party on a plate. Best of all this beautiful, healthy, and colorful salad is easy to pull together.

The best summer recipes are the ones allowing you to enjoy seasonal ingredients at their peak. Watermelon and tomatoes are ingredients you would never guess go so well together but absolutely do, and they are both in their prime during the summer.

Enjoy!

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One Hour Barbecue Ribs

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There are many paths to barbecue glory, but if I had to choose between quick and tasty or low and slow, I would definitely pick the most accelerated method there is if the outcome is the same.  For most barbecue enthusiasts the art of barbecuing requires several hours and, above all, care.  However, for home cooks who appreciate fast and tasty without sacrificing flavor and quality, cooking hacks are our ace in the hole.  As long as there are happy bellies, those saved hours are hours we can use elsewhere.

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Today I am sharing my tried and true barbecue ribs recipe.  Traditional barbecue ribs usually take several hours from start to finish.  But this cooking hack reduces that time to less than 60 minutes for tender, finger-licking good barbecue ribs.  Using a pressure cooker to cook the ribs in 35 minutes, I finish them off under the broiler for an additional 12-15 minutes to get that nice caramelization from the sauce and beautiful spotted char on the ribs.  Using your favorite barbecue sauce makes these ribs a crowd favorite, and the results are just as good as the ribs traditionally cooked for hours with low heat.

If you’re looking for a great Father’s Day meal to make this weekend, these ribs will be perfect without having to spend all afternoon on them.  Barbecue glory in under an hour is the best kind of barbecue there is! Enjoy!

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Lemon Bundt Cake

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Viral sensation Chewbacca mom, Candace Payne, became an internet celebrity overnight last month when her hilarious self-made video of her infectious laughter from purchasing a Chewbacca mask became Facebook’s most-watched live-stream ever.  Her video has been viewed over 155 million times and has been shared over 3 million times.  Her message is loud and clear: “It’s the simple joys in life…”  She says while continuously cracking herself up.

Baking cakes has always been one of my simple joys in my life; the simpler the cake, the greater the joy. Most of the cakes I bake are made from scratch.  However, there is one cake I love to make that uses a store-bought cake mix as its base.  Doctoring cake mixes isn’t a new idea.  When done correctly the end result can be just as good as baking a cake from scratch.

Today I’m sharing with you my recipe for a Lemon Bundt Cake that is perfect in every way.  Sifting white cake mix with additional flour and a small box of instant vanilla helps this cake achieve the perfect crumb.  Mixing in plain yogurt along with a little lemon extract and fresh lemon juice adds just enough citrus flavor and tang to mask the typical cake mix taste which many people find unpleasant.  The lemon-infused glaze brightens the lemon flavor up a few notches.

This cake is a simple joy we can all use a little more of.  Enjoy!lemon-cake-slice

Blueberry Cream Scones

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Coffee shop owners are smart and understand the power of impulse buying.  Why else would they merchandise their baked goods in a beautiful clear case like a gorgeous summer outfit scene displayed in a department store window?  Every time I walk by my eyes fixate on the different varieties of cookies, beautifully decorated cupcakes, seasonal pies, and other quintessential coffee shop baked goods. Most of the time I never intend on buying a little treat for myself but every once in a while I give into temptation.

My favorite baked goods are the ones I bake the least at home and have a nostalgic quality to them.  Between a nice slice of banana bread or blueberry scone, I always choose the scone.  Perhaps it’s the tender crumb that is neither cakey nor dried out like biscotti. Instead, a good scone has all the qualities of a perfect biscuit that is tender and crumbles just enough with each bite but remains mostly intact.  However, blueberry scones take regular scones to the next level of deep satisfaction.  Studded generously with ripe dark berries, when baked the blueberries become bursts of sweet berry flavor without the scones needing any additional butter, honey, or jam.  A good scone should be served naked accompanied by a great cup of coffee or tea.  No obscene amount of glazes needed.

Today I have a classic Blueberry Cream Scone recipe for you bringing the coffee house experience to your home.  Best enjoyed in silence, no impulse buying necessary.  Enjoy every bite.

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders

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In recent years I’ve noticed my kids are less picky and more enthusiastic about my home cooking.  I’m not sure when it happened, but it certainly wasn’t overnight.  I am so glad we are at this point for the sake of my sanity.

Since the time my kids were born I always wanted them to love my home cooked meals.  I wanted them to appreciate the effort I made preparing them and hoped they would develop the kind of love of food that I’ve had since I was a kid.

My oldest daughter is turning fifteen years old next month.  She was once my most finicky eater, but now is fairly open to just about any new food.  What I’ve learned from her is that you can’t force a child to like certain foods they don’t.  However, you can expose them to a variety of foods over and over again that allows them the grace to discover foods they will love and broaden their culinary palate.

Today I’m sharing a simple recipe for Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken Tenders.  The honey mustard marinade is neither overly sweet nor mustard flavored.  Instead, the marinade is the perfect subtle balance of slightly sweet but savory.  For kids (like my daughter) who do not like mustard, this recipe is a gentle way of easing her into the wonderful world of mustards.

Allowing the chicken to marinate overnight allows for a quick grilling time of approximately 6 minutes.  Not only is this recipe quick to cook, it just may help expand someone’s food horizons.

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