Easy Peasy Pizzas: Deep South Tuna Melt Flatbread “Pizza” and Variations

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Tuna Melt Flatbread Pizza “all the way!”

 

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that a tuna melt and a pizza could truly become one, but necessity has often been the mother of invention in my kitchen. Recently, at the end of a very busy work day I was trying to talk myself out of making dinner when suddenly I spied some very thin flatbread waving at me from my fridge.

Well, pizza is always a fall back position, isn’t it? And I’ve become very fond of using thin and less caloric flatbreads to make quick and easy pizzas—but I had no sauce, no mozzarella, no pesto…none of the ingredients that I usually use for pizza.

What I did have on hand was a couple of eggs, some celery, a bit of leftover red onion, a nub of extra sharp cheddar and a can of tuna. Since mayo and sweet pickle relish are almost always in my pantry, I knew I had the makings of my “Deep South” style tuna salad and, if I used the flatbread and cheese, a tuna melt. Thus, my Deep South Tuna Melt Flatbread Pizza was born.

Now I’ll back up to say that I make this tuna salad a lot and in the past we’ve almost always eaten it as a salad. So imagine my surprise when my tuna melt pizza turned out to be so good that we’ve had it three times since then—the second time with a little baby arugula sprinkled on top to add a “green salad” component…delicious! And you know what? I like this Deep South Tuna Melt Flatbread Pizza better than a regular tuna melt on sliced bread any day. The crispy and thin flatbread is a perfect foil for this approach. It’s where tartine and pizza meet.

This makes a hearty and complete meal unto itself with one flatbread pizza per person, and any leftover tuna salad can be used for the next meal. Since there are just two of us and the tuna salad recipe makes four servings, we had the leftover tuna salad plated on a bed of arugula alongside a cup of soup for dinner the next night. Tuna salad is also wonderful stuffed inside a homegrown summer tomato.

The recipe below is for two pizzas, but to make four, simply double the pizza part of the recipe and use all of the tuna salad divided evenly between the four flatbreads. Just one of you to feed? No problem. Half the tuna salad recipe and the flatbread pizza recipe. Have your pizza one night and tuna salad plate the next!

 

Roll your cursor over each photo for captions or click on any photo for a slideshow.

For a printable recipe, click here.

Deep South Tuna Melt Flatbread Pizza
Makes 2 Flatbread Pizzas plus 2 extra servings of Tuna Salad

For the Deep South Tuna Salad:
1 – 5 oz. can water packed tuna (preferably no salt added), drained and flaked
2 – hard boiled eggs, peeled and grated on the large side of a box grater
3-4 stalks of celery, washed, trimmed and diced small (about 1 cup)
1 cup sweet red onion, diced small
1/4 cup drained sweet pickle relish (I use Wickles relish)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (I use Duke’s Mayonnaise)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
More salt and pepper to taste, if needed

For the Pizza:
1/2 recipe of Deep South Tuna Salad (about 2 cups)
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 thin flatbreads such as Flatout brand rustic white artisan thin pizza crust
Optional baby arugula for finishing

To make the tuna salad, combine all of the tuna salad ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine well, making sure the mayonnaise lightly coats all of the ingredients. You want all of the ingredients to be just moistened, but not too wet. Divide the tuna salad in half and use half of it for the pizzas below and store the remaining half in a covered bowl in the fridge to use for another meal. Leftover tuna salad will keep for up to two days in the fridge.

Preheat the oven (and a pizza stone if you use one) according to the flatbread package directions, or 375 degrees F. Even if you don’t use Flatout flatbread pizza crusts which recommend a pre-bake, I’d recommend pre-baking your flatbread before adding toppings to crisp them up a bit. Pre-bake the crusts for 3 minutes, or until they just barely start to color. I use a pizza stone and transfer the flatbread from a pizza peel to the stone, but using a cookie sheet for pre-baking and the final bake instead is fine.

Once pre-baked, remove the flatbreads from the oven with the peel (or leave them on the cookie sheet) and top each crust with half of the tuna salad, dividing it evenly between the two crusts, smoothing it out into a thin layer and leaving about a 1/4 inch border all around the edges. Divide the cheese evenly between the two pizzas, sprinkling 1/2 cup of the cheese over the tuna salad on each.

If using a preheated pizza stone and peel, transfer the topped pizzas to the pizza stone with the peel, or return the cookie sheet to the oven, and bake for about 6-7 minutes for Flatout crusts, or until the edges of the flatbread crusts are light brown and crispy and the cheese is melted and bubbling. I usually turn on the broiler for a minute or less, to finish browning my crust and to get the cheese a little more golden. Watch it very carefully if you do this and do not let the cheese or crusts burn. When the pizzas are done to your liking, remove them from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. If you’re using arugula, arrange a few leaves down the center of each pizza. Cut each pizza into four slices with a pizza cutter and serve.

Note: As an alternative or in addition to topping your pizza with arugula, you can add about 1/4 cup of chopped heirloom tomato on top of the tuna salad on each pizza, then proceed with the cheese and baking.

Quick Flatbread Pizza Variations: Use Swiss cheese instead of cheddar on your tuna melt and proceed with the rest of the recipe as written.

Pesto Veggie Pizza ready for the cheese, please.

Pesto Veggie Flatbread Pizza: Sauté one sliced sweet onion and 8 oz. of fresh, sliced mushrooms in one tablespoon of olive oil. Spread about 1 generous tablespoon of jarred basil pesto (or fresh basil pesto is even better) on each of the two flatbreads. Divide the onion and mushrooms, about one cup of quartered cherry tomatoes and 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese evenly between the two flatbreads and bake as per the tuna melt instructions. Remove from the oven and top with fresh arugula if you like, or a few torn fresh basil leaves. Cut each pizza into four pieces. (Don’t use fresh mozzarella as the water content will make the flatbreads soggy.)

The latest creation…cheeseburger goodness in flatbread pizza form…yummy!

Cheeseburger Flatbread Pizza: I do this one when we make burgers or sliders and have leftovers. Thinly spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite (I like Whole Foods Organic) jarred pizza sauce over each flatbread. Crumble one fully cooked burger patty per pizza or two slider patties per pizza over each of two flatbreads. Divide 1/2 thinly sliced onion and 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes evenly between the two pizzas. Top with 1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese evenly divided between the two pizzas. Bake per instructions for the tuna melt pizzas. Remove from oven and top with baby arugula. Slice each into four pieces.

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You say “Al Fresco” and I say Antipasto!


A few weeks back, I had a conversation with some folks about antipasto and what exactly it is as well as the when and where one eats it. We all seemed to have slightly different ideas about what it is, but one thing we could agreed on is that it’s wonderful in all its interpretations and variations.

So what exactly is it supposed to be? By definition:

an·ti·pas·to

/ˌantēˈpastō,ˌäntēˈpästō/

noun

noun: antipasto; plural noun: antipasti
  1. (in Italian cooking) an appetizer typically consisting of olives, anchovies, cheeses, and meats.
  2. : any of various typically Italian hors d’oeuvres; also a plate of these served especially as the first course of a meal

With that settled, the collective decision was that for us, a plate of antipasto—Italian inspired or otherwise—could include, meats, cheeses, fruit, vegetables, nuts, jam, condiments or a dip. And as to the when, I don’t feel that the overall concept (though perhaps the word) must be limited to an appetizer or a first course. For instance, what if it’s a combo of fruit, spiced nuts, cheese, jam, bread and a bit of chocolate, then why not have it for dessert?

Summer is my favorite time to enjoy the simply prepared or raw fresh produce of the season, and eating it al fresco—or outdoors, makes it taste all the better. Add to that my love of sitting out on my deck, enjoying a cocktail on a Friday night and not really feeling the love of cooking a big meal, and suddenly the what, when and where all comes together for me. Antipasto, it’s what’s for dinner!

An article in a recent issue of Cooking Light magazine discussed this idea – how “snack dinners” can become a meal that encourages everyone to eat more veggies and fruit by loading up on those, with only small amounts or “bites” of meat and cheese—or no meat or cheese at all. The possibilities for combinations are endless and a great thing about this approach is that outside of the raw veg ingredients (and even some of those) most of the ingredients can be purchased ready to eat and paired with a homemade dip or spread. It’s a perfect solution for dinner after a busy work day or when it’s hot and you don’t want to heat up the kitchen. We’ve enjoyed this approach so much that we do it about once every other week, trying out different dips, dressings, spreads, bread or no bread…whatever seems to work best with the ingredients on hand. Dinner has never been so much fun.

Here are a few suggestions for dinner-worthy antipasto-styled plates to enjoy al fresco or indoors, as well as some similar ideas inspired by other cultures, plus some dips and spreads to go with them. There’s also a dessert version, though I’m not suggesting it for dinner by itself. I’ve linked to recipes for dips, jam and spreads, both my own as well as to recipes I use all the time that are not mine, but are favorites. Cheers and happy eating!

Antipasto2

The antipasto platter above and in the main photo at the beginning of this post: Prosciutto, grape tomato, celery, carrot, fresh radish, blanched broccoli rabe, red grapes, sweet peppadews drained and stuffed with peppered goat cheese, greek olives, marcona almonds, spiced gouda and assorted crackers with Cooking Light’s Pesto Yogurt Dip.

another day on the deck

A revisit of the first plate above using leftover veggies, the same dip and a cheese, nut and olive plate with about 2 ounces of prosciutto. Other meats you could use are thinly sliced sopressatta, chorizo or jamon. Very small remnant pieces of cheese (those under $4 cheese remnant baskets at the market are good for these) including Humbolt Fog goat cheese, 3-year aged gouda and Red Leicester were paired with the ultra thin and light “34 Crisp” brand black pepper crackers. Any leftover pesto yogurt dip makes a nice salad dressing, also.

Veggies and roquefort

A simple plate of farmer’s market baby carrots, cucumber, red bell pepper, celery, blanched broccoli crowns and oven roasted green beans with Cooking Light’s Fancy Blue Cheese Dressing. Obviously, left over blue cheese dressing has all kinds of uses! Or for a more decadent dip, try my Caramelized Shallot and Blue Cheese Dip.

Derby Day spread2

This very casual spread for Derby Day was really nice after a long hike and while watching the horses slog through the Kentucky Derby this year. It’s a little more bread-centric than I usually go for, but delicious. The veggie plate at left is cucumber, grape tomato, blanched broccolini, carrots, celery, radish with another Cooking Light recipe, this time for Basil Parmesan Dip, which is of a more dip-like consistency than the Pesto Yogurt Dip referenced above.

In honor of Derby Day, the top center plate features Benedictine spread (known as the “pimento cheese” of the Derby) and crackers, along with rustic (because I left the crusts on!) tea sandwiches made from a seeded bread spread thinly with softened unsalted butter, thinly sliced radish, fresh arugula leaves, a tiny bit of sea salt and a sprinkle of chives. Here’s the recipe for the Benedictine spread from Serious Eats—only I didn’t use the green food coloring. Oh. My. Goodness. That Benedictine spread and those sandwiches were awesome!

Some other theme ideas:

Make it a little Mexican: Homemade or purchased guacamole, cheese dip or salsa for your dip (or a combo) paired with grape tomatoes, raw bell pepper strips or mini grilled or roasted whole mild peppers, roasted or grilled chayote, zucchini slices, jicama strips, roasted and/or spiced pepitas, plantain chips (I know, not Mexican but delicious with guacamole), corn tortillas or tortilla chips. And if you wanted to add a meat protein, some grilled shrimp with a little coriander and lime juice rub would be lovely.

Make it a little Greek: Tzatziki is the way to go for this platter in my book, but you could make a feta based dip as well. Dippers can include cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices or sticks, red and green bell pepper strips, roasted green beans, souvlaki, toasted pita, and side items can include cubes of feta, whole raw or roasted almonds and a bowl of kalamata or mixed greek olives.

Make it Dessert: Baguette, fresh figs, fig jam or Drunken Fig Jam, seedless grapes, sliced pear, a selection of 3 cheeses (I like one soft, a semi-soft and one hard such as a goat cheese or chevre, a blue cheese and a Spanish manchego, aged gouda or cheddar), spiced pecans, walnuts or these glazed red pepper and fennel almonds and a bit of really high quality and high cacao content dark chocolate.

The rest, my friends, I will leave to your imagination, outdoor spaces and creativity!

 

Peachy Keen Energy Muffins

 

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It’s summer peach season in Georgia and despite the torrential rains we’ve experienced here lately, the peaches are abundant and beautiful this year. Those we’ve enjoyed so far have leaned to the tart side, making them the perfect fruity ingredient for muffins or quick bread.

Peachy Keen Energy Muffins are just the ticket to start your morning off on the right foot before you head out for a hike, a swim, a ride or whatever your summertime day includes. Literally filled to the brim with nutritious, delicious and healthy ingredients, these very lightly sweetened muffins are super easy to make and freeze well, too. You can whip up a batch in no time and eat them warm from the oven or save some for a road trip later.

The “Energy” component of this muffin equation comes from using rolled whole oats and sliced almonds as part of the “dry” mixture instead of all flour. I also add plain Greek yogurt to the “wet” mixture for some fat and probiotic tang, and a touch of cinnamon and some vanilla to pull all the flavors together. Truly a mighty breakfast in a very small package. I tried these out before hiking 3 miles to a waterfall and they kept me going, earning their name! And while these muffins are intentionally more dense than some recipes, using the rolled oats instead of cut or quick ones allows the leavening ingredients in the recipe to do their job, keeping them airy but with a variety of toothsome textures. We’re addicted to these muffins and I keep making them over and over again. I think you’ll love them too.

Got no peaches? Not summer in your part of the world? No problem. Substitute the same amount of grated apple for the peaches and chopped walnuts for the almonds. You can also substitute mashed ripe banana for the peaches and chopped pecans for the almonds. You get the idea.

Cheers to your health and more energy!

yum

Nice crumb!

•••••

To print this recipe, click here.

Peachy Keen Energy Muffins
Makes 12 nicely-sized muffins

For the dry ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups rolled whole oats
1/2 cup brown sugar packed
1/2 cup blanched, sliced almonds
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

For the wet ingredients:
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (2% or full fat)
3 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon madagascar vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and chopped fresh peaches and their juice (if too tart, you can add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the peaches)

Directions:
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place a rack in the center of the oven.

Place flour, oats, brown sugar, sliced almonds, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine the dry ingredients well.

In a separate large bowl, beat the egg slightly, then add the milk, yogurt, butter and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the peaches and their juice and stir to combine thoroughly. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir until just combined and all ingredients are moistened. Don’t over stir or you’ll lose the air in the mixture. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups, filling them to the top of the paper cup…don’t worry, this batter doesn’t run.

Bake the muffins on the center rack for 16-18 minutes until they are lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn them out of the pan onto the rack top side up to finish cooling.

These muffins will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of days, in the fridge for about 3 days, or in the freezer for about a month. Cool completely before freezing.

freshfromtheoven

Fresh from the oven, yum!

 

What’s New? Summer Salad Days.

 

salad4

Hi there and happy first day of Summer! Okay, I realize it’s been almost a year since last I posted. It wasn’t my intention to take a year off, but you know how it goes…life. It’s really nice to be back now and I hope some of you are still with me.

So what’s been happening in my world you might ask? Work, family, celebrations, play and hiking. In fact, I have just started a new hiking blog, but more about that later. And I’m still cooking, of course!

Of late, I’ve found a lot of healthy inspiration (and fun!) in going to the summer farmer’s markets. The abundance of local fresh produce and cheeses is so enticing that the moment I step into the market, my mind starts racing with possibilities. The sights, smells and sounds make you want to dive in and purchase some of everything you see, then minimally prepare the ingredients to showcase their natural goodness. Colorful and well-composed salads are one of my favorite summer meals and the perfect way to enjoy the beginning of this season’s bounty.

On a recent trip to the farmer’s market at the Carter Center, I found beautiful rose and rainbow colored watermelon radishes, tender young fennel bulbs with the longest mane of fronds I’ve ever seen, sweet miniature butter lettuces, mild baby arugula and fresh local made goats’ chèvre with truffle. I envisioned a gorgeous, cooling salad and how delicious that would taste after a long, hot hike. I also had some ingredients at home to add to the mix – sweet red onion, Kalamata olives, Haas avocado and satsuma orange. And to pull it all together, a light and easy dressing. A little lemon, a little orange, some rice wine vinegar, shallot, a touch of local honey, salt, pepper and some of those amazing fennel fronds, et voilà! A feast for the eyes and food for the soul.

A large composed salad like this one makes a light lunch all by itself, but for dinner – and especially after a long hike – I paired it with my easy to make Tomato, Orange and Tarragon Soup served cold alongside a simple bruschetta of thinly sliced baguette and the truffled goats’ chèvre from the market. Lose the baguette and sprinkle a little of the chèvre on top of the salad or soup instead and you’ll have a fantastic low carb meal.

C’est magnifique!

*****

What else is new? Well in addition to being a year older, I hope I’m becoming wiser about feeding the mind, body and soul. To that end, my husband and I have taken up gentle versions of yoga and Tai Chi, tried to incorporate even more fresh vegetables into our daily diets and we still hike every Saturday that we possibly can. In fact, the name of my new blog is Saturday Hiker and its mission is to encourage folks of all ages, and most especially those of “middle age” who think they can’t hike, to get out there and see what nature has to offer. We are very casual hikers and hike mostly in our own area since we do it every Saturday, but our horizons are expanding and we like to hike on our vacations, too. You can check out the new blog at saturdayhiker.com and even if you aren’t in my area, I hope it will make you think about exploring and enjoying your own surroundings more fully. The site itself has pages with an ongoing list of tips and information as well as the blog.

What’s new with you? Please leave me a comment and catch me up.

*****

To print the recipe click here.

Spring into Summer Farmer’s Market Salad
2 servings

Salad:
3 cups fresh baby arugula, washed and dried
3 cups fresh butter lettuce leaves, washed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 small fennel bulb and fronds, washed, toughest outer part of the bulb removed, cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved and chopped
1/4 sweet red onion
, peeled and thinly sliced
4 small colorful radishes, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced (I used 2 watermelon and 2 breakfast radishes)
2 satsuma or mandarin oranges, peeled and segmented
1 Haas avocado, pitted and cubed or sliced into bite-sized pieces
16 Kalamata olives, quartered
1 tablespoon reserved chopped fennel fronds for garnish

Dressing:
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 Tablespoons unflavored rice wine vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon local honey, to taste
1 1/2 Tablespoons shallot, finely chopped 
1 Tablespoon fresh fennel fronds, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp. of each)

Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a mason jar, screw on the cover and shake vigorously to emulsify. Set aside until ready to dress the salad.

On two dinner-sized plates, compose the salad in layers, dividing all ingredients equally and artfully between the two. Start with the arugula and lettuce, mixing them together gently, then a layer of the fennel slices sprinkled over the lettuce, then red onion slices. Scatter the radishes so that the colors are mixed across the plate, then do the same with the oranges, avocado, and Kalamata olives. Shake the dressing to recombine, then using a table spoon, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing over each salad. Reserve the remaining dressing for another salad.

Finish each plate with a sprinkling of the reserved chopped fennel fronds and serve either alone or with goat cheese bruschetta and/or soup.

cropped dinner 1

Happy 4th of July!


To all who celebrate, may you have a safe and happy independence day!

Need some ideas for your celebration? Check out this post:
https://bitsandbreadcrumbs.com/2014/07/04/happy-4th-of-july-happy-weekend/

Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork Tenderloin and Veggies

It’s been a few years now since my husband and I last traveled abroad, but the memories and flavors of our favorite places along the Mediterranean Sea have stayed with us.

The colors, sights, sounds and tastes of the islands of Greece and specifically Crete, the farms and farmer’s markets in the south of France with their beautiful fresh-picked produce and the many small food purveyors tucked into the hillsides of Monaco, have informed my palette and influenced my cooking. The simple and inventive use of fresh herbs combined with lean proteins and colorful vegetables make Mediterranean flavors easy to replicate and always delicious to eat. A bonus is that eating a Mediterranean style diet is also very healthful.

With summer upon us, we fire up the grill more regularly, even during a busy work week. This is one of those “recipes” that is easy to pull together and is perfect for a busy week night. Just coarsely chop your herbs and mix with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic for the marinade, slice and chunk your veg, pop the pork tenderloin in one plastic freezer bag and the veg in another and divide your marinade between the two. Seal each bag and massage the marinade into the ingredients, then pop the bags into the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours. Grill and eat.

Simple. Delicious. Summer.

Right off the grill. Look at that bark!

The herb-centric marinade creates a fantastically herby bark on the pork tenderloin and adds loads of complimentary flavor to the veggies. Leftovers are wonderful, too. The pork makes great sandwiches and pairs well with cheeses of any type. Thin slices of pork topping a light spread of goat cheese and a touch of fig or onion jam on crostini make a quick and lovely appetizer. Extra veggies and pork can be served over greens with a light vinaigrette to make a savory salad. And the list goes on…

On your next busy night, try making this Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork and Veggies, pour yourself a glass of Provençal rosé or a Greek Retsina, sit back on your deck or porch with the stars and enjoy.

Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork and Veggies
Serves 4-6 (with leftovers at our house)

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. whole pork tenderloins
2 pints grape tomatoes, washed and left whole
2 large zucchini, washed, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (you can use a mixture of yellow squash and zucchini)
8-10 mixed sweet mini peppers, washed seeded and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (these usually come in a package but you can sub 2-3 multi-colored bell peppers)
1 orange or red bell pepper, washed, seeded and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
1 red onion, peeled, trimmed, halved and those halves quartered
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
3 large cloves of garlic, minced, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-gallon sized zip lock food bags
Grill basket or aluminum foil for the veggies

Place the grape tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and onion in one ziplock bag. Place the pork tenderloins into a second, separate ziplock bag from the veggies.

Place one half of the rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil into each of the two bags containing the veggies and the pork. Seal each one and then gently toss and massage in the herbs, oil and seasonings with the contents of each bag until well coated. Place the bags into the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours prior to grilling.

Heat the grill to medium high. Remove the veggies from the ziplock bag and place into a grill basket, evenly spaced, and securing the top part of the basket (if it has one) tightly so that the veg will stay secure when flipped. If your basket is an open veggie grill basket, then just place the veggies in the basket, or you can make a tray out of aluminum foil to grill the veggies in. (If using aluminum foil, make sure you use heavy duty and use two layers so that the tray can be lifted off the grill. Poke about 10 small holes into the bottom of your foil tray to allow extra moisture to drip off, otherwise your veggies will stew in their own juices instead of grilling). Place the veggies on the grill and cook until tender and slightly charred. Cooking times will vary, but it takes about 30-35 minutes on our charcoal grill alternating covered and open, and flipping the veggies once at the halfway point. If you use an open basket or a foil tray, stir the veggies frequently to help them release moisture through the holes and cook evenly until done.

Just before the halfway point of cooking your veggies, remove the pork tenderloins from the ziplock bag and place them on the grill. Grill the tenderloins until desired degree of doneness, turning occasionally, about 16-20 minutes. When done, remove the tenderloins from the grill and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing. Slice the pork into 1/4″ medallions and serve with the veggies.

 

 

 

 

Cool and Dreamy BLT-Inspired Pasta Salad

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer by the minute, the temperatures are warming up and thoughts turn to outdoor living and entertaining. It’s already quite hot here in the South—just in time for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend holiday and the unofficial start of summer. All the more reason to whip up something delicious that won’t heat up your kitchen in the process. This Cool and Dreamy BLT-Inspired Pasta Salad is chocked full of fresh ingredients, making it the perfect side dish for a large gathering, a pot luck or just served by itself for a quick lunch or weeknight dinner.

If you’re familiar with a BLT sandwich, you expect a salad by the same name to include Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato, right? But in this case, bright green baby spinach leaves are substituted for lettuce, and fresh basil and chopped spring scallions are added for an extra depth of flavor. By replacing water-filled lettuce with healthy and tasty raw spinach, the pasta is less likely to get soggy and the salad will have a longer shelf life. Most importantly, though, changing the “L” to an “S” in this salad and making some fresh additions doesn’t change the wonderful taste profile of a classic BLT. In fact, it improves it.

Once the cooked pasta and other ingredients are assembled, the salad is tossed with just enough creamy ranch dressing to bind it together and finished with a little salt and pepper, to taste. The end result is an enticing and colorfully familiar dish that’s a real crowd-pleaser for any occasion. I tested this salad at a pot luck last week and the serving bowl was scraped clean—a very good sign. Try this easy recipe for your next event and I have a feeling you’ll come home with a clean bowl, too.

I hope you have a lovely week and for those who observe it, enjoy a thoughtful, fun and safe Memorial Day holiday. Cheers and bon appétit!

Cool and Dreamy BLT-Inspired Pasta Salad
Makes about 16 servings

Notes: As written, this recipe makes enough pasta salad to feed a crowd, but it can easily be halved—or cut to a third. In this instance, I’ve used a seasoning packet to make my ranch dressing because I have yet to come up with a recipe from scratch that tastes the same, but make your ranch dressing from scratch if you prefer. Any extra salad that hasn’t been exposed to warm temps (such as sitting outside at a party for a while) will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

1 1/2 lbs. (24 ounces) dry Farfalle or bowtie pasta
1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes, washed and quartered
3 oz. fresh basil leaves, washed and cut into thin strips (chiffonade), about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (green spring onion), white and light green parts only
5 oz. baby spinach leaves, washed and coarsely chopped
12 oz. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk ranch dressing prepared from a mix packet (I use Hidden Valley Original Buttermilk Ranch Dressing mix, 1 cup mayo and 1 cup buttermilk mixed together as per the instructions on the package. You’ll have 1/2 cup dressing left after using it for this recipe.) Or, use an equal amount of your own homemade buttermilk ranch dressing. Do not use bottled dressing!
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta in boiling water according to the package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta and set it aside to cool. When the pasta is cool, place it into an extremely large mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, basil, scallions, spinach and bacon, and mix to combine. Pour over the 1 1/2 cups of ranch dressing and mix to combine thoroughly. Taste and then season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a pinch of kosher salt, stir well and taste again, adding more salt and pepper if needed. The dressing and the bacon have salt in them, so go slowly with additional salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving to allow the flavors to blend.

Part Three: Chilis, Chowders and Some Extra Ideas for Enjoying Them.

Hi there and Happy Friday! Here’s the final post of my series on Soups, Stews, Chilis and Chowders, featuring two chowders, three versions of chili, and some fun and festive ideas for making other dishes out of chili…just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

I make soups, chowder and chili year round and freeze any leftovers, as they freeze beautifully. There’s nothing like a nice bowl full of homemade chili or chowder on a rainy day, or any day. One of my most favorite things about having some extra chili on hand is being able to use it to make something different and equally delicious. Try using any one of the chilis below to make:

Homemade Nachos, decadent…yes I know, and here’s how: 1) Heat up some of any one of these three leftover chilis on your stovetop and set aside. I just eyeball the amount, but you’ll want it to be proportionate to the amount of nachos you’re making, keeping in mind that you don’t want so much chili that your nachos get soggy, but enough to get some chili in every bite. 2) Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and then make an even and single layer of your favorite tortilla chips on top of the foil. Sprinkle them with a bit of grated cheddar, jack, or a Mexican blend of cheese. 3) Pop the pan under a preheated broiler and watch it VERY carefully until the cheese just starts to melt, then pull it out before your chips start to turn brown. 4) Make another single layer of chips on top of the first layer, then distribute your chili evenly on top of the chips, using a slotted spoon to drain off any extra moisture before you put the chili on the chips. 5) Sprinkle some more cheese on top of the chili and then pop the pan back under the broiler until the cheese melts and starts to just turn golden brown, watching the whole time and removing the pan before the chips burn. 6) Customize the nachos with your favorite toppings like shredded lettuce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and finely chopped red onion, and you have amazing homemade nachos—way better than you can purchase in a restaurant. In addition to using blue corn or regular tortilla chips for this, I’ve used sweet potato tortilla chips with the Turkey chili…yum!

Another quick and easy way to repurpose chili is to make Chili Sloppy Joes. Just heat your chili and toast your favorite burger bun, onion roll, potato roll or split English muffin. Place both toasted halves side by side on your plate and top with chili. Easy-peasy! This knife and fork open-faced sandwich is great as is, or with a sprinkle of grated cheese.

Lastly, you can use your homemade chili to spice up a dip…a cheese dip, that is! Make plain cheese dip into a festive and lively Spicy Chili Cheese Dip by swirling hot, homemade chili into your favorite homemade or purchased queso dip. I suggest putting your chili on top of the warmed cheese dip in your serving bowl just before serving, and then use a table knife to swirl the chili through it decoratively…much like marbling a cake batter. You want to still be able to see streaks of the chili in between large areas of the cheese and ensure that you get both cheese and chili in every bite. Serve hot with tortilla chips for dipping. Gooey goodness gracious, just hand me a margarita and Cinco de Mayo here I come!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this recap series and most of all, I hope it’s inspired you to make one of these delicious soups, stews, a chili or a chowder for you and yours. Just click on the name link of the dish below each image to get its recipe and happy eating.

Spooktacular Beef and Italian Sausage Chili may be my best chili recipe to date, though I love them all. Spicy, hearty and oh-so-flavorful, it’s the most traditional of my three chili recipes. If you want to swirl a chili into cheese dip to make the spicy chili cheese dip suggested above, this one is perfect for that. This recipe has the added bonus of feeding a crowd and can be doubled to feed an even bigger crowd, which makes it a terrific party recipe.

A bowl full of chili love.

Vegetarian/Vegan Black Bean Chili is a thick, rich chili that harnesses lots of black bean goodness. Yes, it’s vegetarian, and it’s vegan before you add the toppings, but it sure eats like a meaty bowl and it easily holds its own against any meat-based chili.

Serve with grated extra sharp cheddar, avocado and creme fraiche to make it more decadent.

Betsy’s Holy Mole Turkey Chili is my first original chili recipe and I still love it so much. This tried and true chili which features ground turkey breast is a bit healthier than other meat-based chilis and its dark, luxurious flavor is reminiscent of a Mexican mole. Here’s a little secret about this chili: If you don’t tell anyone it’s turkey, they’ll never guess!

Ham, Potato and Cabbage Chowder makes one of the most flavorful chowders I’ve ever tasted. The marriage of the sweet and salty ham with the cabbage and potato is amplified by a good measure of fresh thyme and a splash…well okay, a good bit of cream. How could you go wrong with this one? All this chowder needs is a little crispy flatbread on the side and you have a marvelous lunch or dinner.

I could eat this every day.

Rustic Roasted Potato, Broccoli and Corn “Chowda” is my take on a classic corn chowder. Roasting the veggies first adds a boat-load of flavor to this chowder, which features the unique addition of broccoli. This meal in a bowl can only get better with a little optional crumbled bacon on top. Cheers!

*****

Next time: Some new and seasonal, quick and easy, and light and healthy recipes full of flavor are on their way, so stay tuned.

Soups, Stews, Chilis and Chowders Part Two: The Chunky

Today I’ll continue my recap of previous posts featuring some of my favorite soups, stews, chilis and chowders. There’s nothing like a nice bowl of comforting soup to take the chill off of your day and put a smile on your face! This particular group of hot soups—the chunky—seems quite timely as our winter temperatures are feeling a bit more seasonal this weekend. I hope you’ll find a bowl of goodness here that you’d like to try. Be sure to click on the name of the soup for a link to its recipe.

bowlofsoup2Moving on from the puréed world, this first soup is creamy, hearty comfort in a bowl. Chicken, Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup has a touch of comforting cream in it and really is just what the doctor ordered along with this next soup below…

Home-styled comfort from the cold...or a cold!

Home-styled comfort from the cold…or a cold!

The classic, clear broth Betsy’s Cure-All Chicken Noodle Soup is exactly what you’re looking for when you need a lift of spirit or body. If you want a great chicken noodle soup with restorative power, you can’t get much better than this one.

soup2This Black Eyed Pea and Collards Soup was created as my way to combine two of my favorite New Year’s food traditions into one dish. But don’t wait until New Year’s Day to try this one. It’s a healthy bowl that fits the bill any time, and especially when collards are at their peak.

Veddy Veggie Soup is a rustic winter vegetable soup full of fresh herbs and a warming secret spice. This is one I developed over many years and it is a perennial favorite. You can use rich, homemade chicken stock, or a vegetable stock for a pure vegetarian/vegan soup. Either way, it’s a winner that freezes beautifully, too.

Add your liquid to the veg, bring to a boil, add the pasta, the finish with meatballs and greens. Absolutely delicious and fit for a wedding of any kind!

In this slightly different take on Ina Garten’s version of this soup by the same name, Italian Wedding Soup is made with wonderfully flavorful chicken sausage meatballs, vegetables, and orzo pasta, is finished with arugula stirred in and then topped with more parmesan cheese. I made this with a dear friend while visiting her in Virginia, and I now think of it as  “Virginia Friend’s Soup.” Whatever you want to call it, it is a special soup worthy of any special occasion.

An awaiting bowl of warm happiness on a cold winter’s night.

Speaking of old friends, this soup was inspired by one. Betsy’s Split Pea Soup with Ham has a story behind it and is an interesting twist on an old favorite. If you like split pea soup, you’ll love this one! And don’t skip the crouton, which adds a lovely texture as well as taste to this rich soup.

Mmmmm. Is there anything chicken stew can’t do?

Chicken and Black Bean Stew. This is the one I make year after year and I never get tired of it. It comes together quickly so it’s perfect to make on a weeknight, it freezes beautifully and it is oh-so-satisfying. I have some in the freezer right now!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to meet a curry I didn’t like. Curries are so exotic, so transformative and so mysterious with their deep spice and depth of flavor. This Curried and Spiced Lentil Stew is my “ode” to curry. It’s a warming stew that contains a lot of my favorite ingredients from curry dishes including lentils, potatoes, tomato and spinach, and it has just a little kick of fresh ginger, too. This stew is the spice of life, I’m telling you!

 

Soups, Stews, Chilis and Chowders: Part One, The Puréed.

I find that when I’m very busy, what comes to mind most readily to cook and have on hand for quick weeknight dinners is a good bowl of soup or a stew, some chili or a chowder. Not only are these bowls truly the epitome of comfort food year round, but they’re the meal that keeps on giving by virtue of leftovers. And since most soups and their kind tend to taste even better the day after you make them, they’re a great dish to prepare ahead for company or freeze portions for later use.

Though I haven’t had time to develop any new soups, stews, chilis or chowders in these last few months, I have made several of my previously posted favorites quite recently and I’m looking forward to revisiting even more of them. All are tried and true recipes that I basically know by heart, and I think you’ll find with this and the next two posts that there’s something here for everyone, starting with puréed soups.

My complete line up features puréed, chunky and hearty varieties of in the bowl goodness. A few of these are cooled or creamed by way of dairy or coconut milk, some feature a clear broth and are mild, while others are highly spiced or curried. Several are vegetarian, some are vegan and others are strictly for the carnivores.

I hope you’ll try some of the recipes featured throughout this 3-part recap series and that one or more will be added to your list of favorites, too. Click on the link in the text below each photo to find the recipe or post for the following puréed soups. Many of these are best served hot, but several are equally good cold, where noted. Pair any one with a simple green salad and you’ll have a delightful meal.

soup3Curry, coconut milk, apple and Asian spices bring some delightful flavor to butternut squash in this elegant and Easy Curried Butternut Squash Soup.

Soup1This light, delicate and interestingly flavored soup happens to be vegan and is perfect as is, but Tomato, Orange and Tarragon Soup can be embellished with a touch of dairy or made with chicken stock instead of vegetable stock, if you so desire.

There's just something about a bowl of soup and some good bread that says

There’s just something about a bowl of soup and some good bread that says “come hither” to me.

Easy Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup just might be my most favorite vegetable soup. The roasting of the veggies caramelizes and intensifies the flavors…making this heavenly soup become so much more than its individual parts. Definitely on my “next to make again” list.

soup4Creamy Avocado Cucumber Soup is super easy to make and just the ticket for a hot summer day. It’s creamy and cooling, but has a slight kick to it as well. Just throw everything into a blender, give it a good whirr and it’s ready to slurp.

soup3BThe flavors of my favorite gratin were the inspiration for this Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup. I made this again last week and we never get tired of it…whether served hot with a parmesan crouton or served cold right out of a mug. Great stuff!

soup2Until I tried this recipe, I never would have thought I’d enjoy the pairing of sweet potatoes, red bell pepper and peanut butter so much. This slightly adapted version of Ellie Krieger’s African-inspired Spicy Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup is a real winner.

The beautiful green color of this soup just makes me happy.

The beautiful green color of this soup just makes me happy.

Lean, Mean and Green Broccoli Spinach Soup is exactly what it looks like…very healthy. But it’s also very delicious and in fact, this one is at the top of my list to make again soon.