25 June 2014

It's summer!  Have you been grilling a lot?  We sure have.  I love to get creative with the grill, coming up with unique things to cook.  That's why I was super excited when Red Gold Tomatoes asked me if I would like to sample some of their products for their second annual Summer Grillin' Party.  I was also excited to work with Red Gold because they are fellow Hoosiers.  They were founded and still operate in my home state of Indiana.  All of their tomatoes come from Indiana, Ohio, and some neighboring states.  They are truly a Midwestern company!  Did you know that Red Gold consumes 95% of Indiana's tomato crop and 80% of all Midwestern tomatoes?  Wow!

Red Gold sent me this apron and six cans of their diced tomatoes.  They also sent some recipes for burgers that include their tomatoes.  Did you know you can put tomatoes inside your burgers instead of on top?  I didn't! I would have thought they would be too wet and the burger would fall apart.  Not true!  I decided to create a fun burger recipe of my own that included diced tomatoes.  I grilled them up tonight, and oh man, are they amazing!  One of my all-time favorite tomato dishes is the classic BLT.  Love BLTs!  So I decided to make a burger version.  Ground chicken, diced tomatoes, chopped bacon, and a little ranch seasoning all mixed together and grilled to perfection.  Say goodbye to boring old beef burgers!

Ranch BLT Chicken Burgers

1 lb. ground chicken
1 egg
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp dry ranch dressing mix
4 strips bacon, cooked
4 toasted hamburger buns
Green leaf lettuce
Ranch dressing

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Place the chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, and dry ranch dressing mix into a medium bowl.  Chop the bacon and add it to the bowl.  Drain the tomatoes very well and add them to the bowl.  Mix up the contents of the bowl until it is evenly distributed.

Separate chicken mixture into four patty-shaped servings.  If you have time, you can refrigerate the patties at this point to make the mixture a bit more firm.  But this step is unnecessary.

Oil the grill grates and grill patties over medium heat until completely cooked through and the middle of each patty registers at least 160°, flipping once.  

Place a patty on each hamburger bun and top with lettuce and ranch dressing.

Makes 4 servings.

Check out the gorgeous grill marks on these babies.  Beautiful.

 See how it's chock-full of juicy red tomatoes and smoky bacon?  So good!  

These burgers were a huge hit with my family.  They were quite large, so I split one in half for my daughters (ages 4 and 6).  They both wolfed down their half and asked for a second.  I love it!  

You can certainly use ground beef instead of the chicken if you prefer, but I chose the chicken because of its more mild flavor.  I didn't want the flavors of the tomato and the bacon to be overwhelmed by the beef.  And the chicken was the perfect choice.  Moist and tender, it let the tomato and bacon be the stars of the dish.  Disclaimer: Ground chicken is not as easy to work with as ground beef when it comes to burgers.  It is much softer and "squishier".  It can be difficult to form the patties, so I just kind of plopped it on the grill into a patty kind of shape.  Then it firms up as it cooks and it should be holding together just fine by the time you flip it to the other side.  They probably won't be the prettiest burgers you have ever served your family, but after one bite, you won't care one bit what they look like!

Let me know if you try these burgers and also go check out Red Gold's Facebook page.  Their Summer Grillin' Party starts today and they are giving away 1,000 Red Gold aprons (like mine above) every week until July 23.  There will also be one grand prize winner who will win a large Big Green Egg Grill.  So go enter!

24 June 2014

My youngest daughter turned four earlier this month.  How is that possible?  She's my baby!  But babies grow up, and mine is no exception.  

My big girl, Eva.

She got to take birthday treats to school twice.  She took them to her preschool class (a couple of weeks early because our last day of school was the Friday before Memorial Day) and she took some to her speech class at the public elementary school.  

When thinking about what kind of treats to make for this, I knew I wanted something easy to make, but also something that had a birthday feel to it.  Something a little more fun than just chocolate chip cookies.  I found the recipe for these cookies at Cookin' Cowgirl and knew immediately that they were perfect.  They are super easy  to make since they use a boxed cake mix, and since you use a cake mix, they really do taste just like birthday cake.  

Birthday Cake Cookies

1 (15.25 oz.) box French Vanilla cake mix
⅓ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
½ cup canola oil
½ tsp almond extract
½ cup sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry cake mix, flour, and baking powder.  Stir in the eggs, oil, and almond extract.  Stir in the sprinkles.

Take the dough by spoonfuls and roll into balls.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  Do not allow them to brown. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack or parchment paper.

Makes 28 cookies.

A couple of important things about these cookies: 1. Don't let them get brown.  They should be super soft and kind of fluffy.  If you take them out the oven before they are brown and leave them on the baking sheet for a few minutes before you transfer them to cool, they will be perfect.  2.  Keep them small.  If you make them too big, they will take longer to cook through and they will get brown on the bottom.  You don't have to roll them into balls, but I love how it makes them turn into perfect little round shapes.

These little cookies are amazing!  Soft and pillowy with a little bit of crunch from the sprinkles.  And they really do taste like cake which I think is so fun for a birthday treat.

Eva took these to her speech class and they were a big hit.  I made birthday cake blondies for her to take to her preschool class.  They are also make with cake mix, but have a completely different texture.  I'll post that recipe sometime as well.

19 June 2014

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge!

The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

This month's ingredients were berries and cream.  Classic combo.  In fact, we had done something similar a few years ago when our assigned ingredients were strawberries and cream.  I made this No-Bake Fresh Strawberry Pie.  Bad picture, but awesome pie.  I honestly didn't put too much thought into it this month.  I thought that when school got out, things would slow down around here, but quite the opposite happened!  We have been super busy ever since, so I didn't have a chance to be super creative and come up with a savory application for berries and cream.  I saw this float in the June issue of Food Network Magazine and thought it would be perfect.  

Berries & Cream Floats

Vanilla ice cream
Berries of your choice
Red soda (I used Strawberry Crush)
Whipped Cream

Layer the ice cream and berries in a glass.  Pour the red soda over all and top with whipped cream.

Makes as many as you want!

Kelsey Nixon made her own vanilla-sweetened whipped cream, but I went the lazy route and grabbed a can of Redi-Whip.  I like my desserts to be easy-peasy and this one definitely fits the bill.

I used raspberries because that's what was on sale at my grocery store.  Strawberries and blueberries would be good too.  And don't be afraid to mix them!

Desserts don't get much prettier than this one.  Perfect for summer!

Be sure to check out all the other great berries and cream recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with popcorn and peanuts.  Oh fun!


    An InLinkz Link-up

01 June 2014

It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

This month I was assigned the awesome blog Inquiring Chef, written by Jess.  Jess is an American who has been living in and loving Bangkok for the past four years.  She is also a new mommy!  She gave birth to twin baby girls just a little over a month ago.  Congrats Jess!  They are beautiful!  

I found so many recipes on Jess's blog that I marked to try.  I pinned her Chicken Marbella, which she lovingly calls "wedding chicken" because it's what was served at her wedding, her Quinoa and Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes, her Slow Cooker Mango Sriracha Pulled Chicken, and I can't wait to try her Twice Baked Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Pecans, and Parmesan when fall rolls around.  Yummy!  

I found so many yummy things on Jess's blog that I couldn't narrow it down to just one.  I made two of her recipes this month and they were both awesome.  One definitely took the cake though, so that's the one I'm sharing with you today.  Her Potato and Bleu Cheese Pizza caught my eye and then I couldn't get the thought out of my head.  It was so awesome I made it twice in one week!  The first time I made it, it was so dark and stormy that I couldn't get a decent picture to save my life.  But I was happy that I had an excuse to make it again!  

Potato and Smoked Bleu Cheese Pizza

1 tbsp cornmeal
Fresh pizza dough
1 tbsp olive oil
¾ tsp dried marjoram
1 large yellow potato, about 6-8 oz.
½ cup smoked bleu cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp heavy cream or half and half
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 425°.  Spread cornmeal on a stoneware baking sheet.  Press pizza dough out on baking sheet, about 11” across.  Brush dough with olive oil and sprinkle with marjoram.

Slice potatoes very thinly using a mandolin.  Arrange potato slices on prepared pizza dough, overlapping them slightly.  Top with bleu cheese crumbles and bake for 8-10 minutes or until bleu cheese has melted.  Drizzle the cream or half and half on the pizza and top with the freshly grated Parmesan.  Return to oven and bake another 8-10 minutes or until crust and cheese are golden brown.  Cut into 6 slices.

Makes 3 servings, 2 slices each.

Oh my gosh, this pizza is amazing!  You would not believe how good it smells while it's baking.  Unbelievable.  The smoked bleu cheese is definitely the star of this pizza, but the way the all the flavors and textures combine is what makes it amazing.  The crispy chewiness of the crust, the soft bite of the potato, the sharp tang of the blue cheese and the way the cream and Parmesan get all browned on top make it just heavenly.

I made this as our meatless meal last week, paired with a spinach salad.  I wasn't sure if my daughters would like it, so I made them a smaller simple cheese and tomato sauce pizza.  They ate that and then my six-year-old, Lena, asked to try this one.  She loved it and ate a whole piece of this one as well.  

I only made a few minor modifications to Jess's recipe.  I used my tried-and-true dough recipe, which is actually very similar to Jess's.  I lopped off about a third of it and used that for my kids' pizza and used the rest to make an 11" potato pizza.  The recipe is easily adapted for bigger or smaller pizzas.

I also used a smoked bleu cheese instead of regular.  It would be just as great with regular bleu cheese, but I loved the smoked flavor of it.  I had used smoked bleu cheese before, in my Smoky Steakhouse Grilled Cheese Sandwich, so I knew how amazing it was.  I just happened to pick this stuff up a few days before making this pizza.

So good.  Cheese this expensive is not usually in my grocery budget, but I won a gift card to this specialty Italian grocery store at a Taste of Home Cooking School event last year.  Just got around to using it!  This was the perfect item to spend it on.

I also used dried marjoram instead of fresh rosemary.  I really dislike rosemary, so I was perusing my spice cabinet to see what else I could use.  I saw a small jar of dried marjoram that I honestly don't even remember buying.  I know I had not used it before as the paper strip on the Penzey's jar was still intact.  I smelled it and thought it would pair nicely with the bleu cheese.  It was perfect.  Thyme would also work well, I think.

This pizza just blew me away.  My husband raved about it too.  And it was really super simple to make, which is important on pizza night!  

Oh, the other recipe I made from Jess' blog was her Thai Salmon Satay.

It was really good, but I managed to burn a lot of it because I walked away from the grill for too long.  Oops!  The pieces of it that I was able to salvage were great though.

I am so glad I was assigned to Jess's blog this month.  I definitely have a new favorite pizza!  Thanks for a great recipe, Jess!


    An InLinkz Link-up