Bacon and Green Bean Salad

I need to catch up to my life!

Bacon and Green Bean Salad

Maybe that isn’t a real thing. I made this salad a week ago for a Pig Roast that we attended and I am just now getting around to blogging it…

Our friends Rick and Rita (I love saying their names out loud) own a farm outside of Pittsburgh and every year they host a Pig Roast. I should take a moment to mention that Rick and Rita’s farm, Laurel Vista, generates some great produce and canned yummies. If you live in Pittsburgh you might have even seen their products in the stores. One of the favorites is the dilly beans which are pickled green beans. Basically everything they make is fresh and delicious! Stay tuned to the blog for a recipes featuring some of their amazing products.

Rick and the Pig

Rick and the Pig

 

This was our second year going out to the farm and we even brought the pups along to get some fresh air. The pup likes nature but likes sitting on my lap more so he spent a good amount of time taking in the sites from the comfort of my lap, it was kind of embarrassing. When Rick and Rita’s dog showed up he finally remembered that he was a dog and started to run around. Thankfully that ensured that he got all tuckered out for the ride home.

Let’s take in the beauty of nature for a second…

Sky

Farm Lake

 

Lake #2

Not only was the view breathtaking, but the spread also took our breath away.

Dinner Spread

Dessert Table

Since this was our second year I knew that we should probably bring something green. Last year I brought the yummy Strawberry and Spinach Salad  which I think went over well with all the guests. This year I wanted to bring a salad that was a bit different so I decided on using green beans instead of any sort of greens.

Bacon!!

I also found it appropriate to use bacon because when you are having pork you should probably have more pork, right? Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this salad and maybe you should eat it while sitting next to a lake on the most perfect summer day!

Green Beans and Bacon

Bacon and Green Bean Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1 Lb. Green Beans trimmed
1/2 Lb. Thick Cut Bacon diced
6 Summer Sweet Tomatoes halved
2 Tsp. Shallot diced
3 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper

Instructions:
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. In a medium bowl add 12 ice cubes, cover with water and set aside. Add your trimmed green beans to the boiling water and allow them to cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove the green beans and place them in the ice water which will stop the cooking. Drain the water and ice and set the green beans aside.

In a medium saute pan cook your diced bacon over medium heat until fully cooked and crisp. Remove your cooked bacon and place on a paper towel to drain the excess fat. Drain your pan of the bacon grease leaving a teaspoon in the pan. Heat the pan and add the diced shallot and cook until crisp, remove shallots and place on paper towel to drain off any excess fat. In a small bowl combine your cider vinegar, sugar, vegetable oil and shallots. Season the vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss your green beans with the vinaigrette and then sprinkle the bacon and tomatoes on top. Allow the salad to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

 

Easy Peasy Ice Cream Sandwiches

Summer is almost over, how can that be?

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I don’t think I am prepared for September to start because that means no more long days. Speaking of long days…where have I been?!?!?! I am sure you are all wondering where I have been and what I have been up to. I want to say I was being lazy at the beach but the truth is I was working a lot and longing for my bed instead of longing for my computer. In between all of that working and sleeping I got to spend some time with the cutest kids around!

Cookies

My older brother came to visit and brought the family which means I got to be the awesome auntie who likes to make cupcakes and watch Disney movies (psst, this is me every day). I decided that my time with them was best spent making ice cream sandwiches and pretending I knew how to hula hoop. Guess what? I don’t remember how to hula hoop…I guess that is not terribly surprising.

Sprinkles!

I love coming up with food related activities that I can do with the kiddos because cooking is always more fun with little ones!

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Making ice cream sandwiches is all about the sprinkles (or jimmies) and I learned a lot about the art of applying sprinkles to your ice cream sandwich. My nephew knew from the very first instant that he was going put all the sprinkles on his cookie and dubbed it the “Ray Special”.

Ray, Making the Ray Special

He took it upon himself to also make a “Ray Special” for anyone else who requested a sandwich. He was so proud of his masterpiece that he wanted to open up a restaurant that only served ice cream sandwiches. Were it not for the fact that he is only in 1st grade, I may have dropped everything I was doing to help him open his restaurant.

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Now I am sure I have tempted you enough and hopefully brought a smile to your face with pictures of all of these cuties making ice cream sammiches. You better make one before summer is over!

Ice Cream Sammich!

EASY PEASY Ice Cream Sandwiches 

Yields 9 Sandwiches

Ingredients:
18 Large Chocolate Chip Cookies*
1.5 Quarts Ice Cream (any flavor will do)
Sprinkles – the more the merrier

*I used a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe found on most chocolate chip bags.

Instructions:
Let your ice cream sit at room temperature until it softens and is easy to spread. Apply a large scoop of ice cream to the bottom side of a cookie and spread out slightly. Top with a cookie similar in size and lightly push down, using a knife spread the ice cream around the cookies to even out. Sprinkle all the sprinkles and enjoy immediately or place back in the freezer to allow the ice cream to harden.

 

An Evening in Provence

Dinner Table #1

Before the summer began I was determined to have a fancy dinner party for my birthday. I expressed my idea several times to my family and was generally given a “yeah, sure…” response. Eventually I wore everyone down and made them see the greatness that was my idea of having a classy summer dinner party.

The only catch was it couldn’t just be a party for my birthday (wah wah) and instead had to be a combination of our annual Bastille Day party and my  fancy dinner party. No problem with me! I was so excited to get started on the planning. We spent a few family meetings coming up with the perfect guest list and trying to focus in on a French inspired menu. The task proved to be challenging from the start, picking a guest list of interesting and inspiring folks was the easy part, it was the menu that proved to take much longer to commit to.

Olive Mix

We wanted to focus on seasonal food but at the same time try to highlight some of the dishes or flavors that have come to represent the Provence region of France. I found myself visiting websites and flipping through several French cookbooks in order to find the dishes that had to be on the menu. What was I thinking?!?! I am not a French trained chef and I wouldn’t say I spend most of my time making French inspired dishes. I was starting to feel some pressure.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Thankfully I had my mom by my side in the kitchen and she was the best sous chef a girl could ask for. She assured me that everything would work out and we even did a few test runs just to make sure the food would not disappoint. A big thanks to the hubby and dad for eating those dishes and giving honest feedback.

So the night was finally upon us. The food was coming together in the kitchen and the house was starting to fill with the intoxicating smells of France. We were getting closer to show time and then the sky opened up and decided to pour buckets of rain. AGH! Even though we had a tent (a tent of epic proportions) there was still the whole idea of sitting in a rain storm trying to enjoy a summer meal.  We decided to plow through and pray that skies would clear and the rain would cease. With some minor adjustments to the cocktail hour, we were able to hold out for the rain to subside.

As it rained our guests were able to enjoy a wide variety of French wines (price of admission for our guests, hehe) and bites including my French Onion Tarts, Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus, and an assortment of pates and cheese. The rest of the meal flowed beautifully and we hope everyone enjoyed eating as much as we enjoyed making.

1st Course – Beet Salad on Baby Arugula with candied Walnuts, Goat Cheese (not pictured) and a Honey Vinaigrette

Beet Salad

 

Main Course – Provencal Potatoes, Stuffed Flounder with a bread crumb topping, herbed Lamb Chops, and our version of Ratatouille (not pictured because I am an idiot).

Provencal Potatoes

Herb Stuffed Flounder

Lamb Chops

We finished the meal in true French fashion with a beautiful cheese board accompanied by fruits, nuts and fresh local honey. Unfortunately by this point in the meal I had enough wine and spirits to completely forget about taking a picture to capture the moment, you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was wonderful!

The night was exactly what we hoped for and rain aside, it still turned out the way we hoped it would. I want to personally thank all of our friends and family who helped make the night perfect and for sticking it out through the wind in the rain in order to get a little taste of France in our backyard.

Table Set #2

French Onion Tarts

Bonjour Mon’Amie!

French Onion Tarts

I hope I didn’t fool you in to thinking I know French because I don’t. I spent 10+ years of my life speaking Spanish and I wish I could tell you I was fluent but I am not. When it comes to French I can basically say “hello”, “yes”, “no” and “goodbye”. I have been to France and still no better at speaking French but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate all things France.

Red Onions

Not only do I love the French but I decided it would be an awesome idea to have a French themed dinner party. Yikes! I thought maybe we would invite folks to our dinner party and then they wouldn’t come and so we could just make a French dinner for the family but alas, everyone likes the sound of a French themed dinner party so it looks like we’ll just have to make it happen.

Sauteed Onions and Brown Sugar

Stay tuned because in a few more days the dinner party will be here and I’ll have to show you how it all turns out. Today I decided to give you a sneak peek. I wanted to create an appetizer that is pretty common but I wanted it to taste like French Onion Soup and not just some caramelized onions on puff pastry. I decided that the best way to accomplish this goal was to add Sherry to the onions because I am in this “add booze to everything” phase.

Caramelized Onions

My mom makes a pretty amazing French Onion Soup and every time she makes it we can immediately tell when we walk in the door and smell the sweet smell of caramelized onions. I love onions, I think they are the best ingredient to use because they work in almost anything. I especially LOVE onions when they have been caramelized. They fill the room with an aroma that is hard to resist. I could literally have taken that little bowl of onions and spread them on some toast and called it a day. I don’t think the hubs would like it too much if I ate onions all day long. I guess there is a reason why that diet craze hasn’t happened.

Puff Pastry and Onions

Now when you combine these delectable onions with flaky puff pastry and cheese you have an appetizer that rocks my socks! Do people still say ridiculous things like “rock my socks”? Anyhow, enjoy this sneak peek and pray that the rain stays at bay this weekend as we try to transport our friends to France for one night and I will not attempt to speak any French because that would be an epic disaster.

French Onion Tart #2

French Onion Tarts 

Yields 9 Individual Tarts

Ingredients:

1 Frozen Puff Pastry Sheet
2 Large Red Onions
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 Tsp. Light Brown Sugar
2 Tsp. Sherry
2 Tsp.Worcestershire
1/2 Cup Shredded Gruyère Cheese
1/4 Cup Shredded Asiago Cheese
Olive Oil
Pepper

Instructions:
Pre heat the oven to 425. Follow the instructions for thawing your puff pastry on the counter, don’t let it sit out for more than 40 minutes. Thinly slice your red onions from pole to pole, this will prevent the onions from getting stringy.

In a skillet over medium heat add 2 tbsp. olive oil with 2 tbsp. butter and melt. Add your sliced onions and brown sugar to the skillet and saute over medium heat for 20 minutes, continue to stir allowing the onions to soften. Once your onions have started to brown you can reduce the heat and add the sherry and Worcestershire and continue to let the onions cook on low heat an additional 5 minutes. Once heated set aside to cool.

To prepare your puff pastry cut the pastry in to 9 equal sized squares. Working on a lightly floured board roll each square out to form a rectangle. Pinch the sides of the puff pastry to create a scalloped edge (use your index finger and thumb to create edge). Place your pastry on a non-stick baking sheet or tray and place in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes. Remove pastry shells from fridge and pierce the pastry multiple times with a fork.

Brush each tart with olive oil and then sprinkle the Gruyère and Asiago cheese on each tart. Spoon the cooled onion mixture on to each tart making sure to leave some room around the edge. Sprinkle pepper over each tart to taste before placing the baking sheet in the oven to bake for 10-15 minutes or until the puff pastry starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle the tarts with fresh thyme and enjoy.

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

I just celebrated my 28th birthday!

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

Wow, another year has passed and I have to admit that 27 felt kind of insignificant as a number. Actually, ever since 25 came and went it has all seemed pretty insignificant in terms of what the number means. The real significance is that I am in fact getting older and hopefully that means I am getting wiser. It also means that 30 is creeping closer which tells me all of those things I am supposed to do by 30 have to get done in the next two years (whew, feeling the pressure). The truth is though… I LOVE BIRTHDAYS! I love having them (duh) and I love getting older even if it does mean I am in fact getting older. I love that I have a birthday in the summer that aligns with blockbuster movie releases, firework shows, BBQs, S’Mores and much more…

Fresh Blueberries

When you are born during the summer I think you enjoy celebrating more than others since you have so many options of things to do. The downside is you don’t get to celebrate your birthday in school and sometimes all of your friends are on vacation when you are having your birthday party (true story). I still manage to enjoy the day and this year it was just as good as any other, perhaps even better since I was able to celebrate this birthday in Pittsburgh and I look forward to celebrating many more Pittsburgh birthdays!

Grated Lemon Zest

Speaking of Pittsburgh, we got a wonderful basket in our CSA this past week. We are getting a wonderful assortment of fruits and veggies from Penns Corner which is a Farm Alliance. I get an email telling me what delicious items to expect and the minute I saw that we were getting blueberries I knew that I was going to make a pound cake. I am not really sure why it needed to be a pound cake but maybe it was the summer heat getting to me.

Coated Blueberries

I also decided that this pound cake had to be covered in a blueberry syrup so the fresh blueberries really got their moment to shine. I just love using fresh fruit when baking and I can’t wait for the next box to come, hoping for peaches!!

Pound Cake Side View

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated 

Yields 1 Pound Cake

16 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter Melted
1 1/2 Cup Cake Flour
1 Tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 1/4 Cups Sugar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Zest
2 Tsp. Lemon Juice
4 Eggs at room temperature
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
Blueberry Syrup (see below)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 bread pan and coat in flour.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Take 1/3 cup of flour mixture and coat blueberries and set aside. In a blender or food processor pulse your sugar and lemon zest to combine. Add lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla and pulse until combined. While blender is running slowly pour in the melted butter making sure to pour in a steady stream. Pour batter in to a large bowl.

Sift flour mixture in to batter in three batches, whisk after each addition to combine. Add flour coated blueberries to batter and lightly mix to combine. Pour batter in to prepared bread pan and bake in the over for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes reduce oven temperature to 325 and continue baking for 35 minutes or until the cake is golden brown. Allow the cake to cool before drizzling warm blueberry syrup.

Note: If you have lemon zest remaining combine with a teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle on top of cake.

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Blueberry Syrup 

Ingredients:
1/2 Cup Blueberries
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
1 Tsp. Lemon Zest

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil and reduce the temperature to low. Allow the syrup to simmer until a syrup forms stirring frequently to ensure the mixture is not burning. To test the consistency of the syrup insert a spoon and if the syrup leaves a thin coat on the spoon it is done. Allow syrup to cool slightly before applying to cake.

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