Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Red, White, and Blue Salad

I adore the Fourth of July.  Love, love, love it.  It's my favorite holiday of the year and, in my book everything about it is perfect.  Ever since I was a little girl, I couldn't wait for the day to come around.  I loved getting up, putting on a swimsuit, helping my mom make homemade vanilla ice cream (helping means getting to lick the paddle clean!), and packing everything up to head to the lake for a day of swimming.  We'd stop on the way, pick the perfect bit of curb on Main Street, wave our flags, and watch the parade.

After a day of swimming, we'd come home, clean up, put on our patriotic best, and head to the park for fireworks.  We'd back the truck in and sit on the quilts we'd piled into the bed.  I loved the patriotic music and the magical, sparkling bursts that lit of the sky over our little park.  Even as a child, I recognized just how pure the moment was when my Pappo and all the other men in town removed their caps and respectfully held them over their hearts as our national anthem played.

These days, my July Fourths are spent in South Carolina with the greatest group of friends anyone could ever hope for.  Just like my childhood, we get up, prep the day's meal, and put on our swimsuits.  There's no lake and no Main Street parade, but the time together is priceless.  We spend the day in the water, then clean up and head down to watch the fireworks from the beach.  We bring our own music, and when the Star-Spangled Banner plays, I get chills as I say a prayer of thanks for all those who have sacrificed for our country and wish I could have just one more Independence Day to stand next to my Pappo.

We eat pretty well, too.  My friends and I all love to cook, so there's no shortage of food.  We'll usually smoke a pork butt, fix a batch of cole slaw, grab some potato chips, grill some corn on the cob, and cut up a watermelon.  It's delicious, but it's not entirely healthy.

That's where this salad comes in.  On top of dessert, it'll be my contribution to this year's spread.  It's packed with tons of fresh fruit, spinach, and lean protein.  It's easily adaptable for your preferences, so feel free to change up any of the ingredients or amounts.  Couldn't find any good strawberries?  Use raspberries or watermelon instead.  Not a fan of onion (though you really should give it a shot here)?  Leave it off.  Nut allergy?  Nix the almonds.

Just like so many of you will be on the Fourth of July, this salad is perfectly outfitted in red, white, and blue.  I hope you'll enjoy it with those you love, in good health, and with a heart full of appreciation that, despite our differences, we live in country where each of us has the inalienable right to make our voice heard for our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  

Summer strawberries, sweet blueberries, and tangy goat cheese keep your Fourth of July table colorful, patriotic, and healthy in this easily adaptable red, white, and blue salad.

Red, White, and Blue Salad
an Apple a Day original

For the dressing:
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar (the thicker the better; I used an amazing wild blueberry balsamic from Sedona Olive Oil Company)
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch of salt

For the salad:
1 (5 oz.) container baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 lb. chicken or turkey, shredded or chopped (omit for a vegetarian salad)
1 crisp red apple, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
3/4 lb. strawberries, hulled and cut in quarters or eighths 
1 pt. blueberries
3 TBSP red onion, diced
4 oz. goat cheese
1/4 c. almonds, toasted and chopped

1.  To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake to combine.  Set aside.

2.  Assemble the salad by layering ingredients in the order written.  Drizzle with dressing or serve on the side for each person to dress their own salad.

Yield: 4 entrée or 8 side servings

Monday, June 26, 2017

Fourth of July Pies Your Family Will Love

The Fourth of July is next week and, if you're anything like me, you've been counting the days and planning your menu for weeks.  You've got your red, white, and blue best picked out, your grocery list made, and your flag ready to hang.  

If you're not like me, no worries.  I've got you covered in the dessert department.  After all, what's more American than a slice of star-spangled apple pie?

If Apple pie isn't your thing, or if you're looking for something a bit different, you'll love this bumbleberry pie.  With blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apple, and rhubarb, it's the ultimate sweet-tart combination with a little bit of something for everyone.

This blackberry-blueberry pie is another solid choice to wow your family and friends.  With both fruits in peak season, there simply isn't a better time to try this recipe out.

Of course, what would a piece of Fourth of July pie be without a big scoop of homemade ice cream?  I've made plenty of ice cream, but in my book, nothing beats this Oklahoma farm-style ice cream.  It's just like the kind I made and ate with my mom, Mammo, and Pappo as a little girl in Oklahoma and just one bite is guaranteed to take me right back. 

Happy (almost) Fourth of July, readers!  Here's to family, friends, fireworks, and plenty of tasty food!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting

There are people out there who will tell you eating your feelings isn't a good thing.  Most of the time, I don't argue with this logic.  But sometimes chocolate really is the answer.  Rich, dense chocolate brownies with fluffy peanut butter frosting and a healthy sprinkling of seat salt, to be exact.  

Sorry, health gods.

I'm human and sometimes I cave.  When I do, I want it to be worth it.  I don't put sugar in my coffee, breakfast is usually plain yogurt with a dab of honey and naturally sweet fresh fruit, and I eat loads of vegetables.  I truly do have an apple nearly every day.  I couldn't tell you the last time I had a Coke (other than maybe an airplane-sized ginger ale on my spring break flight).  So when life hands me a string of difficult days, I try not to feel too guilty making fudgy brownies and topping them with the airiest whipped peanut butter frosting.

It's called balance and it's healthy.  No apologies.  No guilt.

Dense, fudgy, uber chocolatey brownies become a decadent splurge when topped with the airiest whipped peanut butter frosting and a healthy sprinkling of sea salt.

Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting
from Annie's Eats

For the brownies:
10 TBSP room-temperature unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. plus 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 c. all-purpose flour

For the frosting:
6 TBSP room-temperature unsalted butter
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. confectioners' sugar
pinch of salt

additional sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon, for sprinkling

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Line an 8x8-in. baking pan with lightly greased parchment paper. 

2.  Cut the butter into large chunks and place in a large heatproof bowl.  Add the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water to create a double boiler.  Allow the butter to melt completely, whisking occasionally until ingredients are fully combined.  Set aside and let cool until just warm to the touch.

2.  When the butter mixture is sufficiently cooled, stir in the vanilla followed by the eggs, one at a time, whisking until just smooth.  Fold in the flour until no streaks remain.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes, until just set.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

3.  To make the frosting, combine the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the confectioners' sugar and salt on low speed, then increase speed to medium-high and whip until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.          

4.  Spread the frosting in an even layer over the cooled brownies.  Sprinkle with additional sea salt, as desired.  Slice and serve.

Note: If making ahead of time, store in the refrigerator, allow to come to room temperature before serving, and sprinkle with sea salt just before cutting.  

Yield: 9 servings

Friday, June 9, 2017

Seared Salmon with Balsamic Blistered Tomatoes

I don't care what the calendar says.  Summer is here.  The sun's out, the days are longer, and I pretty much just want to eat summer produce, drink rosé Aperol spritzes, and hang out by the pool.

As much as I love cooking, I don't want to spend these perfect summer days slaving away in the kitchen.  I still want to eat well, I just don't want to miss too much fun time prepping overly complicated meals.  With recipes likes this, there's no need to. 

If you've got 15 minutes, a knife, a cast iron skillet, and a baking sheet you're good to go.  Honestly, this simple, healthy, seasonal recipe could easily adapt to the grill.  You wouldn't even have to miss out on the poolside fun.

Now that's what I call winning at summer.

A few simple ingredients, some basic kitchen tools, and just 15 minutes are all you need to get this simple, healthy seared salmon with balsamic blistered tomatoes on your summertime table.

Seared Salmon with Balsamic Blistered Tomatoes
slightly adapted from Cooking Light, June 2017

1 1/2 TBSP olive oil, divided
4 (6 oz.) salmon filets
1 tsp. Kosher salt, divided
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
2/3 c. thinly sliced shallot
3 c. cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. torn basil leaves, divided
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

1.   Preheat oven to 500° F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place in the oven while it preheats.

2.  Heat 1 TBSP oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle salmon filets evenly with half of the salt and pepper.  Add salmon to pan, skin side up, and cook 4 minutes until golden brown.  Place filets, seared side up, on the prepared baking sheet and cook 3-4 minutes more.

3.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in the same skillet.  Add shallots and sauté 1 minute.  Add remaining salt and pepper, tomatoes, and 1/3 c. basil.  Cook 3 minutes, until tomatoes begin to break down.  Stir in vinegar and cook 1 minute more.

4.  To serve, place one salmon filet on each of four plates, spoon equal amounts of the tomato mixture on top, and garnish with remaining basil leaves.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, June 2, 2017

Rosé Aperol Spritz

Every summer needs a signature drink.  And let me tell you, readers, I've got you covered this year.  From the second I saw this recipe, I knew I'd be making batch after batch.  I saw it, texted it "this is not a drill" style to my girls Annie and Josie (who had already sent it to each other), then texted it to my mom so she could stock up on ingredients for us to enjoy a cocktail or two by the pool while I was visiting her in Phoenix. 

I was prepared to mix up several pitchers of this over the course of the summer, but I sure didn't anticipate mixing up batch after batch over the course of my long weekend in Phoenix.  Six recipes worth, to be exact.  The canceled flight and the resulting extra day can only be blamed for two batches.  The rest of the blame goes to the silly "serves 4-6" part of the recipe.  

Four people?  Please.  

Four drinks.  


But as long as you're hanging out, enjoying the summer sunshine and the company of your favorite people, drinking at a leisurely pace, and not driving anywhere soon, I'd plan on each recipe serving two people.  Perhaps I'm a big ol' lush.  Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Sweet-tart passion fruit juice, bitter, herbal Aperol, and crisp, bubbly sparkling rosé--yes to the yes.  There's absolutely nothing not to love about this drink draaank.  Grab your flip flops, your pool floatie, your sunnies, your favorite tunes, and your best girls.  Cheers to summer 2017, my friends.  Live it up.  We've earned it. 

Every summer needs a signature drink and this perfectly pink sweet-tart rosé Aperol spritz is simple to make and even easier to drink.  Rosé and Aperol never tasted so good.     

Rosé Aperol Spritz
slightly adapted from Bon Appétit

3/4 c. passion fruit juice (I used Goya; Bon Appétit recommends Ceres)
1/4-1/2 c. Aperol
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
up to 4 tsp. sugar
1 750 mL bottle of sparkling rosé, chilled
ice for serving, if desired
ruby red grapefruit wedges, for garnish

1.  Take a tiny sip of the rosé (bonus!) to determine its sweetness.  Pour passion fruit juice, Aperol, lime juice, and desired amount of sugar into a pitcher and whisk to combine.  Stir in sparkling rosé.  Taste and make adjustments, as desired.

2.  Add ice to glasses, if preferred, pour drinks, and garnish.  Cheers!

yield:  4-6 drinks (allegedly)