That Vinaigrette

Salads made wonderful accompaniments to our dishes the other week. Remember them? The Asian Salad with Chicken, the Goat Cheese Tartlets, and the Thyme, Pork Chop, and Pineapple Skillet Dinner.

I made one batch of a Citrus White Wine Vinaigrette and it lasted for all the salads! It came off the back label of the Harris Teeter brand White Vinegar bottle. Here's the recipe!

Officially called Sweet French Vinaigrette
1/4 cup H.T. Traders White Whine Vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
3/4 cup H.T. Trader Mild Olive Oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey

More Magic Cake!

Patrick and I fell in love with that little instant chocolate cake that premiered on the blog April Fool's Day. It's the perfect portion size and can be made with items in the baking cupboard--flour, sugar, cocoa powder, milk, egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Revisit the post here for specific amounts directions. Chocolate shavings and mini chips are wonderful additions which we discovered the first time. In our subsequent bakings Patrick began incorporated one of his favorite things... freshly ground coffee! This addition takes the cake to a whole new level and now we love it even more!

On this particular evening we had extra raspberries and frozen yogurt around.

Have you tried this? Any additions or other suggestions?
What a wonderful night!

Bay Scallop Gratin

Scallops are one of our favorite occasional seafood indulgences. In the past, we've mostly seared them, but Whitney spotted this gratin recipe from Ina Garten for us to try. We enjoyed the chance to use our mixer and ramekins. I didn't know what a gratin was, but it turned out great! (Just looked it up - it's an ingredient topped with a browned crust.)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 medium shallots, minced
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma, minced
4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons Pernod (we substituted some more white wine here)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 cup panko
6 tablespoons dry white wine
2 pound fresh bay scallops
Lemon, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place 6 (6-inch round) gratin dishes on a sheet pan.

To make the topping, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). With the mixer on low speed, add the garlic, shallot, prosciutto, parsley, lemon juice, Pernod, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the olive oil slowly as though making mayonnaise, until combined. Fold the panko in with a rubber spatula and set aside.

Preheat the broiler, if it's separate from your oven.

Place 1 tablespoon of the wine in the bottom of each gratin dish. With a small sharp knife, remove the white muscle and membrane from the side of each scallop and discard. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and distribute them among the 3 dishes (we soaked them in lemon water first, like with the seared scallops). Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the top of the scallops. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the topping is golden and sizzling and the scallops are barely done. If you want the top crustier, place the dishes under the broiler for 2 minutes, until browned. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley and serve immediately with crusty French bread (we'll have to do this next time!).

Scallops ready for their topping
Mixing up the topping
All done, with some broccoli to offset the decadent gratin

Freezing Extra Basil & Oregano

The herbs have certainly been growing this summer. We've had fun experimenting with them. This herb experiment featured here isn't an herb cooking experiment *yet* but it certainly will be! I decided to try freezing them. I browsed google and found lots of different options. I didn't find one recipe to follow so this is what I did. This particular method is best for "soft" herbs such as oregano and basil. Other "hard" herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, need another method... that might be an experiment for another day.

Thoroughly wash herbs. Then remove all leaves from the stems.
This is the oregano.

Once leaves have been removed, let them dry. A salad spinner will come in handy here. 
This is the basil.

The herb leaves can then be chopped in a mini food processor/chopper with a few tablespoons of evoo. We probably could have used a bit more oil but just make sure the herbs will be able to hold their shape. I formed the herbs into small little chips** on a cookie sheet and froze for four hours. Once the chips are frozen I placed them into a small ziploc bag which is now stored in the freezer and ready for some winter cooking!

**Other options I researched were to use ice cube forms or freeze the herbs in one block and break off small amounts whenever you need it. I don't have an ice cube form so I thought these small chips would be a great substitute.

Thyme, Pork Chop, & Pineapple Skillet Supper

Here's another recipe from our July/August EatingWell magazine. I had such fun browsing this issue! I chose this recipe because it featured thyme and we've got an abundance of thyme growing in our little herb pots. For more tips and information browse the recipe online here.

I promise there's a pork chop under the pineapple!

3 tbsp pineapple or apricot preserves or jam or orange marmalade
     We used orange marmalade
3 tbsp orange juice, plus more if needed
2 tsp stone-ground or Dijon mustard  We used Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp curry powder  We left this out
4 fresh or canned pineapple rings (1/2 inch thick), cut in half, any juice reserved
     We used sliced fresh pineapple
2 tsp butter
4 4- to 5-ounce boneless pork loin chops (1/2 inch thick), trimmed
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, divided
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper, divided

If the preserves are chunky, chop any large pieces. Combine preserves (or jam or marmalade), 3 tablespoons orange juice, mustard, ginger and curry powder in a small bowl; set aside. Pour pineapple juice into a measuring cup; if necessary, add enough orange juice to equal 1/3 cup total. Set aside. (Since we used the fresh pineapple I did not have a lot of juice so I pretty much used 1/3 cup of orange juice.)
Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork chops, sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Immediately turn them over and sprinkle with another 1/2 tablespoon thyme and the remaining salt and pepper. (Before placing the chops in the skillet I rubbed both sides with the thyme, salt and pepper.) Cook the chops, turning occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the reserved juice to the pan. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until the chops are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.
Add pineapple, the reserved sauce and the remaining 1 tablespoon thyme to the pan. Cook, stirring, until hot and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. To serve, spoon the sauce onto the chops and pineapple.

We served the pork chops with sauteed green beans (inspired from the website photo) and a salad. This salad also featured the citrus white wine vinaigrette!

Goat Cheese Tartlets + A Sweet Surprise

As I mentioned in a previous post Patrick bought some goat cheese for fun i.e. without a menu plan. This recipe is from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa television show on Food Network. I had actually put it on the dvr since she was featuring goat cheese and the recipe did not let me down. If you'd like you can actually watch the video of her making it here or just read the recipe online here.

1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
Good olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine (I left this out)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (I used regular)
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices

  • 3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
  • Directions
        Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use. I just cut the pastry in two squares for our two servings. The round cut pastry seemed a little unnecessary and an extra step that I avoided.
        Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
        Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
       Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.
       Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.
       Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.
I served the goat cheese tartlets with some roasted eggplant on top. I sliced a Japanese eggplant and roasted it in the oven before I put the tartlets in for 15-20 minutes. A mixed greens salad with yellow roma tomatoes and cucumbers made a wonderful side dish.

Wondering what to do with the extra pastry?
Turn them into a yummy sweet surprise. With the remaining pastry (I did not want goat cheese tartlet leftovers) I made a sweet croissant. I sliced the pastry into long strips about 1" wide and 8" long. Then tied them into small knots. To melted butter I added a splash of vanilla and basted the unbaked pastry knots; Then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Baked this in that same oven until golden brown.

Asian Salad with Chicken

Patrick took a little trip to Trader Joe's one night and came back with a few exciting items and one was goat cheese! (Patrick highly recommends the cheese section at Trader Joe's for its variety and reasonable prices.) It's one of our newly found and favorite ingredients... remember the chicken with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes? or the pasta with zucchini and goat cheese? and the asparagus-goat cheese souffles that were a bit of an experiment? also our pesto pizza? and don't forget those fried green tomatoes.

Well with this goat cheese we had to work backwards a little bit. The goat cheese came first and not the recipe! Patrick suggested a fun salad. The cranberries from our recent Crispy Potluck dish in Natalie's Crisp Cucumber Salad with Apples and Cranberries left me craving more and inspired me to go with Asian!

The chicken breast was marinated in an Asian marinade from Harris Teeter for 2 hours and then baked in a 350F oven for 25 minutes. While the chicken bakes prepare your salad. To a bed of mixed greens add mandarin oranges, yellow roma tomatoes (a delicious find from our CSA; red will be fine), dried cranberries, crumbled goat cheese, and crispy noodles. Once the chicken has baked, slice and serve with the salad. Drizzle the salad with a citrus white wine vinaigrette.
Be on the lookout for the vinaigrette--recipe coming soon!

{Spicy} Ranch Burgers

I've been wanting to make some Ranch burgers for awhile now. My first memory of these burgers, I believe, is from Granny. I was just so amazed at how that one little dry Ranch packet could be transformed into something so delicious. Back in the spring I was going to fix them for Patrick. Before I introduced the idea of a Ranch burger I simply asked him if he wanted hamburgers for supper. Well his eyes lit up and he was so excited to make Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions that I had to forego my Ranch burgers. So finally I've been able to make Ranch burgers and with some tasty ideas from Patrick they were better than I anticipated.

Mix together
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 ranch seasoning packet
dash of cayenne pepper
Form patties and cook. We grilled these on the George Foreman. Serve on a toasted cheese bun with tomatoes and avocados.
For all you spicy lovers, add a condiment for the burger by mixing some mayonnaise and a squirt of Sriracha together! This, of course, was a Patrick idea.

We made a small bowl of Granny's Tomatoes and Cucumbers as our side for the hamburger. This meal was also made in less than 30 minutes!


This recipe is from our July/August Eating Well magazine. I shared this with Mom before I actually tried it and she raved about it so much I decided I couldn't wait any longer to try it! For further tips and information you can view the recipe online here.

2 medium 2-inch-wide zucchini
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, divided
1 tbsp evoo
1 tbsp white-wine vinegar
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
1/2 cup diced mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil

1. Trim both ends off zucchini; cut in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the backs so each half sits flat. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Finely chop the pulp; set aside.
2. Place the zucchini halves in a microwave safe dish. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Cover and microwave on High until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, steam in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large skillet or pot.)
3. Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot and the remaining 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, cheese, basil and the reserved zucchini pulp; toss to combine. Divide the filling among the zu-canoes.

I served the Zu-Canoes as a side for scrambled hamburger
with onions, mushrooms, and topped with provolone cheese.

Afternoon Mocktail

Get your blenders ready for a fun Labor Day concoction such as this Frozen Strawberry Mojito.

Place one No Worries Brand Frozen Mojito cocktail mix into a blender and fill with ice. Add some cut strawberries and blend! This easy! I garnished with a small twig of basil and a strawberry.

Obviously you can choose whatever frozen cocktail mix flavor is your favorite and add whatever fruit would complement that. Add some alcohol at your discretion!

Watermelon Sherbet

This is a fun summer dessert concoction but don't be fooled... it's somewhat of a day project. And be sure to get a seedless watermelon! I found this recipe in my August 2011 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

Turn this...
5 cups cubed, seeded watermelon
1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup cranberry juice
1. Place watermelon cubes in a blender or food processor. Cover and blend or process until smooth. (You should have about 3 cups of pureed watermelon.) Stir in sugar.

2. In a small saucepan combine the gelatin and cranberry juice. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Stir mixture over low heat until gelatin is dissolved.
3. Stir the gelatin mixture into the pureed melon. Pour into an 8x8x2-inch baking pan. Cover and freeze about 2 hours or until firm.
4. Break up frozen sherbet and place in a chilled mixer bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium to high speed until sherbet is fluffy. Return to pan. Cover and freeze about 6 hours or until firm.
5. To serve, let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before scooping. 

Makes 8 (1/2-cup) servings.

...Into this!!