26 June 2015

Have you been grilling a lot now that it's finally summertime?  We sure have.  It's one of my favorite things about summer.  One of my favorite food companies, fellow Hoosiers Red Gold Tomatoes is hosting their third annual Summer Grilling Giveaway now through July 22.  During this time, Red Gold is giving away a Large Big Green Egg each week, as well as 800 insulated tote bags.  Wow!  To get in all that prize-winning action, head over to their Facebook page to enter.

You may think it's odd for a canned tomato company to be hosting a grilling promotion.  Canned tomatoes on the grill?  Sounds weird, huh?  It's not!  Canned tomatoes can be used in multiple ways on the grill.  Red Gold asked me if I would like to create a recipe showing people how versatile their tomatoes are.  Of course!  I love experimenting and finding a way to use canned tomatoes on the grill was a challenge I was definitely up for.  Last summer I made Ranch BLT Grilled Chicken Burgers that had the tomatoes inside the burger.  This time I went in a totally different direction.  I threw some smoked sausage, potatoes, my family's favorite veggies, and some Red Gold diced tomatoes inside a foil pack and put it on the grill.  Everything cooks together; it's like the grill version of a one-pot meal!  The other great thing about these is that since each person has their own pack, it's completely customizable.  Awesome!  Here's how I made them.

Smoked Sausage and Veggie Foil Packs

4-6 red potatoes
8 oz. baby carrots
1 head broccoli
1 medium zucchini
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 (14 oz.) can Red Gold diced tomatoes
Your choice of seasoning
14 oz. smoked sausage
Olive oil
Fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat grill to medium heat.

First, prepare your ingredients.  Slice the smoked sausage and cut up all veggies.  Make sure the potato cubes and carrots are smaller than softer veggies like zucchini.  If you want to do it make-your-own style, lay out all ingredients on plates or in bowls.

Lay out a piece of heavy-duty foil about 18" square.  Spray with cooking spray.  Pile the veggies of your choice on one half of the foil.  Sprinkle generously with seasoning.  Lay some smoked sausage slices on top and drizzle all with olive oil.  Fold the other half of the foil over the food and crimp the three open edges.  If desired, use a Sharpie to write a name or initial on the top of the foil for easy identification after cooking.  Repeat this process with as many packs as you like.

Turn the grill down to medium-low and place the packs on it.  Close the lid and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Flip each pack over and also rotate them on the grill.  Cook another 10-15 minutes.  Open one of the packs and test a potato or a carrot for doneness.  If not quite done, cook another few minutes.  When done, remove the packs from the grill and cut them open.  You can eat them out of the foil, or transfer the contents to a serving bowl.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

These are all the veggies I used for my family, but I didn't put each veggie in each pack.  My girls don't care for mushrooms or zucchini, so I left those out of theirs and put more broccoli and carrots in.  The baby carrots I had were somewhat skinny, so I left them whole.  If you have the fatter kind, you might want to slice them length-wise.  I used paper plates because I didn't want to dirty up that many dishes!

 Since the smoked sausage is already seasoned, I put the veggies down first and seasoned them before adding the sausage.  I know it all gets jumbled up anyway, but I think this helps the seasonings stick to the veggies better.

 Smoked sausage and tomatoes go on last.  I forgot to get a pic of the packs after I assembled them, but you've probably seen a foil pack before, right?

 Fresh off the grill.  We cooked them for about half an hour and my husband's and my kids' packs were totally perfect.  Unfortunately, mine was totally overcooked.  That's why I put in the recipe to rotate the packs because mine must have been sitting over a hot spot on the grill.

This was mine.  You can see that the zucchini was total mush, but the everything else was okay, save for a few slices of sausage that burned.  It's hard cooking food you can't see!  But I think if we had rotated the packs, they all would have been perfect.

While you can certainly use any veggies you like in these packs, I do highly recommend using the canned tomatoes as well.  Not only do they provide a nice acidity to balance out the fat, but they also add moisture and keep the packs from drying out as they cook.  

So now that you know you can use canned tomatoes on the grill, head over to Red Gold's Facebook page  for your change to win a Big Green Egg in their Summer Grilling Giveaway.

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22 June 2015

My husband loves breakfast.  The bigger the better, in his mind.  But he doesn't take the time to make a big breakfast most days.  Whenever he has the chance, he will go out to breakfast with anyone who will go with him.  Since he loves breakfast so much, I like to treat him with "special breakfasts" on special occasions.  I usually make him some kind of special breakfast on his birthday.  I wanted to do that yesterday for Father's Day.  But since we are church-going people, a big breakfast on Sundays do not work.  And he had already said he wanted to go out to lunch, so I asked if he would like breakfast-for-dinner.  He was totally on board with that. I had pinned this recipe from Allrecipes recently and thought it would be absolutely perfect for Father's Day as my husband loves all things orange.  

This is not your average French toast!  The custard has orange juice and orange zest.  It is baked in the oven instead of on the stove, which I love because I am not so great at cooking French toast or pancakes evenly.  But the best part?  It self-glazes with a yummy layer of caramel and pecans.  Oh my goodness.  And it was super easy to put together too.  

Baked Orange Pecan French Toast

⅓ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
½ cup pecans, chopped
12 ¾” thick slices French bread
4 eggs
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
½ cup milk
3 tbsp sugar
½ tsp cinnamon

Coat a 9x13” baking dish with baking spray.  Set aside.

Place butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in microwave.  Add brown sugar and corn syrup. Stir well.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, spreading it evenly.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Lay the bread slices on top of the pecans, fitting them in there as best you can.

In the bowl that the brown sugar mixture was in, lightly beat the eggs.  Add the orange juice, orange zest, milk, sugar, and cinnamon.  Stir well.  Pour this egg mixture over the French bread slices, ensuring that all pieces are moistened.  Cover dish and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Remove dish from fridge and let it sit out for 20 minutes before baking.  Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  To serve, use a small server or spatula to remove a slice and flip it over on the plate, so the caramel and pecans are on top.

Makes 4 servings, 3 slices each.

Super simple.  You just put down a mixture of brown sugar, butter, and pecans in the bottom of a casserole dish, lay on the bread slices, then pour the custard over it all.  If you are making this for breakfast in the morning, you can do this the night before and refrigerate overnight.  I was making it for dinner, and, confession time: picked out the recipe not realizing it was baked.  I figured it out at about 2:00 that day.  Oops!  So I had it all put together by 2:30.  I let it sit for 2.5 hours and baked it at 5:00 and it was awesome.  So if you don't have all night, or even several hours, to make this ahead of time, don't sweat it.  It will probably still turn out well.

This is what it looks like coming out of the oven.  The bread should be a light golden brown on top and the caramel should be all bubbly in the bottom.  Flip the pieces over when you serve them to have the caramel and pecans on top.  

This stuff is just as good as it sounds!  Definitely a dessert-for-breakfast kind of thing, but that is my husband's favorite!  I would certainly only make this for special occasions; not your everyday Tuesday morning meal.  But you have to have a special treat every now and then.

My husband loved this French toast.  And bonus, my kids loved it too.  Eva wasn't crazy about the pecans, but she dealt with them.  We only ended up with one piece leftover for this morning.  

I had never made French toast in the oven before, but this was so awesome that I would love to find other (less decadent) recipes like this because it was so incredibly easy.  

Since I made this for Father's Day, I have to share a few pics of  my girls with their daddy.

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18 June 2015

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 assigned ingredients were fish and avocado.  I said that "fish" could be anything that came from the sea.  I had planned to make some kind of tuna and avocado rice bowl that I had pinned on Pinterest a while ago, but then I saw something new a couple of weeks ago that I just could not resist trying.  Salmon sliders with an avocado sauce on Rachel Schultz.  I had never thought to do salmon sliders and that avocado sauce sounded amazing.  I changed a few things; here's my adaptation.

 Grilled Salmon Sliders with Dill Avocado Sauce

8 small salmon filets
Seasoning of choice (Lemon pepper is good)
1 avocado, cubed
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup fresh dill
Salt, to taste
8 slider rolls
Tomato slices
Green leaf lettuce

Preheat grill to medium heat.  

Season the salmon however you like.  Grill salmon for a couple of minutes on each side.  (I recommend using a grill pan.)  Remove from grill and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the avocado, vinegar, honey, and dill. Blend using a small food processor or a stick blender.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if desired.

To assemble sliders: Cut slider rolls and place a salmon filet on each one.  Top with lettuce and tomato.  Slather the top bun with the avocado sauce and place on top.

Makes 4 servings, 2 sliders each.

I decided to grill the salmon because 'tis the season!  My husband has been rocking the grilled salmon lately, so that was a no-brainer for me.  If grilling is not an option for you for whatever reason, you can still certainly make these by either baking or pan-searing the salmon.  But the grilled flavor goes so well with the summery tomato and avocado that grilling would always be my preference here.  

About the seasoning: You can definitely season the salmon any way you like.  Lemon pepper would have been my first choice, but my kids don't like it (too peppery for them), so I used Penzeys Mural of Flavor and some salt.  Mural of Flavor is so great on salmon because it has lemon in it.  So yummy on all kinds of seafood.  So it worked really well here.

It's hard to measure fresh dill, so here's a pic of how much I used.  The original recipe called for lemon juice, and even though I only used half of what was called for, the lemon was way overpowering to me.  I added more honey to balance it out.  So that's why I left the lemon out of my recipe.  I think the white wine vinegar gives it all the acidity it needs.  It also called for red pepper flakes, but I left that out.

These little sandwiches were so good!  The salmon was flaky and the sauce was cool and creamy.  I can never cut even slices of tomato, so mine was a little messy because it was lopsided, but I didn't care!  Sometimes messy things taste the best.  My five-year-old was leery of the sauce because she saw me putting the dill in it and she thought it was cilantro, which she claims she doesn't like.  But my seven-year-old absolutely loved it.

I can see this avocado sauce being good and in infinite number of sandwiches.  Grilled chicken sandwiches, BLTs, hamburgers, etc.  Any sandwich that is good with fresh avocado would be even better with this sauce.  And it's really easy to whip up.  

Be sure to check out all the other great fish and avocado recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with pretzels and mustard!

12 June 2015

It's been about a month since I made these and I have been super excited to share them.  I don't even like blueberries (not at all), but I loved these bars!  They have a yummy shortbread crust that doubles as a crumbly topping.  Then in the middle is a sour cream custard filling and tons of fresh ripe blueberries.  So so good.  And being in bar form makes it so easy to cut up and serve.  I got the recipe from Hot Eats and Cool Reads.

Blueberry Crumble Bars

1½ cups + ⅓ cup flour, divided
1¾ cups sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
1½ sticks cold butter, cubed
2 eggs
½ cup sour cream
3 cups fresh blueberries (1½ pints)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat an 11x7” baking dish with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the 1½ cups flour, ¾ cup sugar, and pinch of salt.  Cut in cold butter using a pastry blender until butter is evenly distributed.  Remove 1 cup of this mixture and set it aside.  Press the rest into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, remaining ⅓ cup flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, and sour cream.  Fold in blueberries.  Pour this mixture over the cooled crust.  Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the top.  Bake for an additional 50-55 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars and serving.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 12 bars.

This is a real crowd-pleaser.  It would be perfect for any of those summertime gatherings you are invited to: backyard cookouts, church picnics, etc.  And because it's packed with fresh fruit, I think you could get by serving this in slightly breakfast-y situations like brunch or anytime you would serve coffeecake.  It's a really great recipe to have in your collection.

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