5 Simple Summer Salad Recipes

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Who wants to eat a heavy, greasy meal during the hot, humid summer months? During the warmer days, I find myself craving light and airy salads. Don't you? Whether it's on the side or the main attraction, a crisp salad filled with summer fruits and vegetables is the perfect way to indulge and be comforted.

Here are five of my favorite summer salad recipes ...

What's not to love about chicken, beans, and cheese? If that sounds like a winning combination, then you will love this salad (pictured above).

From tomatoes to feta, this salad (pictured above) has it all. Plus, it's light and airy which makes it the perfect salad to enjoy on a hot summer day.

Combining pasta with tomatoes, goat cheese, and lettuce has never been easier ... or tastier. This combination is one of my all-time favorite dishes to enjoy on a warm day. Fire up the grill and serve this dish (pictured above) as a side.

Who doesn't love strawberries during the summer? The dried fruit mixed with the fresh fruit makes this salad (pictured above) full of summer flavor.

I'm back at it with another strawberry salad recipe ... why? Because I love strawberries, especially in a summer salad dish. This salad (pictured above) is a great one to enjoy for lunch on a hot day.

What's your favorite summer salad?

Blueberry Tips and Recipes

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A few months ago, we started introducing solid foods to our son. He started with avocado, then moved onto bananas, peas, green beans, apples, squash, mangoes, and chicken. The other week, I picked up a container of plump blueberries from the store and couldn't wait to whip up a batch of homemade blueberry baby food.

My grandpa loved blueberries, my Dad loves blueberries, and I was crossing my fingers in the hopes of having my son love blueberries as well. According to my grandpa, the best blueberries are the ones that snap when you bite into them ... and I couldn't agree more.

After mixing the baby food, I sat down to give my son spoonfuls of the blueberry goodness and, just as I figured, he loved the food. Mixing it with his absolute favorite food, bananas, has been a great mixture to add into the rotation.

Since I've been buying this super food more often than usual lately, I figured it would be helpful to share tips and tricks on how to buy, store, handle, and prepare blueberries. Plus, blueberries are in their peak June through August so there's no time like the present to get up-to-speed on how to enjoy blueberries.

How To: Purchase Blueberries

  • Pick blueberries that are blue (not red), dent-free, and plump. Blueberries do not continue to ripen after harvesting.
  • Avoid blueberries that are juicy. You want the blueberries to be unblemished and fresh-looking. Stained or juicy containers reveal that the berries are past their prime.
  • Select blueberries that have the shimmery, silver coating since that coating naturally protects the berry.

How To: Store Blueberries

  • Avoid washing blueberries until you're ready to eat them.
  • Place blueberries in a shallow container and cover with plastic wrap. Store the container in the refrigerator.

How To: Use Blueberries

What's your favorite blueberry recipe?

Tomato Tips and Recipes

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sweet, juicy tomatoes can be the star of any summer menu. From soups to salads, appetizers to main dishes, tomatoes can be used in any number of ways to enhance the flavor of a dish.

If you're like me, then you go through countless tomatoes, especially during the summer months. If you have a garden with tomato plants, then you might be starting to get overwhelmed by the crop that you have. If you go to the store or farmer's market, then you will see the shelves and tables overflowing with gorgeous tomatoes.

So, for all of you who love tomatoes just as much as we do in our house, here are tips and tricks to help you enjoy the summer's showstopping vegetable ... errr ... I mean fruit.

How To: Purchase Tomatoes

  • Buy local (if/when possible) because the less the tomatoes have to travel, the more likely they were picked when ripe.
  • Select tomatoes that actually smell like the garden aroma of the plant. If the tomato smells fresh and, well, like a tomato, then the more flavorful that it will be.
  • Choose tomatoes that are firm, glossy, smooth, plump, and free of bruises.

How To: Store Tomatoes

  • Avoid refrigerating fresh tomatoes since the refrigerator lessens the flavor.
  • Make a green tomato ripe by placing it in a paper bag in a dark spot for three to four days. 

How To: Cut Tomatoes

  • Use a serrated knife when cutting tomatoes in order to avoid bruises and damages to the skin.

How To: Use Tomatoes

  • Eat a tomato like an apple. That's right, just bite right into it. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper to enhance the flavor. Also, don't forget to have napkins handy to wipe the juices off of your chin.
  • Make a fresh tomato salsa by coming chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and any other flavors that you enjoy in a salsa.
  • Make a homemade tomato pasta sauce. All that you need to do is add basil, onion, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and maybe a few splashes of wine. Allow the flavors to marry by simmering the sauce in a pot for a while.
  • Toss tomatoes into a salad or create a Caprese salad.
  • Create a Bruschetta appetizer by combining chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, chopped basil, chopped, salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl and allowing to marinate. Take bread slices, brush both slices with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle on garlic salt and dried basil. Toast the bread slices until lightly brown. Top the slices with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle the tops with mozzarella cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is melted.
  • Add tomatoes to any pasta dish to add freshness and flavor.
  • Add tomato slices to a deli or panini sandwich.
What's your favorite tomato dish?

Lemon Ginger Blueberry Muffins

Monday, July 21, 2014

From laughs to smiles, giggles to cries, this parenting thing is one heck of a journey. Yes, I have an almost seven month old. Seriously, where did the time go? It feels like just yesterday we were racing to the hospital getting ready to welcome our bundle of joy into the world.

Where's the slow motion button?

Why not pause?

Because watching him change day in and day out is pretty much my favorite thing ever. This kid is awesome and he gets even better with each passing day.

Our lives are filled with teaching, watching, and experiencing him. My ears hear every laugh and cry. My mind is constantly thinking about ways to teach him. My heart pains for him when he's not happy. My hands love to hold him and play with him. My feet love to take him on daily walks around the neighborhood.

My whole being is full of so much love for this kiddo.

Each day, it's incredible to witness all that he's learning. With his attentive eyes, he takes in every last ounce that the world offers to him. He's like a sponge ... soaking up all of the sights, sounds, and smells that encompass his world.

In these seven months, he has learned and has taught us so much. From honesty to patience, happiness to understanding, this parenting thing is one heck of an adventure.

Click here for the recipe.

Muffaletta-Style Sandwich

Monday, June 2, 2014

Disclaimer: Farmer's Garden by Vlasic compensated me for this sponsored post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

What was one of the hardest things to avoid while I was pregnant? A deli sandwich. I was so terrified about listeria that I wouldn't touch deli meat with a 10-foot pole. When my husband made a sandwich for lunch, I always broke out the disinfectant spray (all natural, of course ... fumes and pregnancy don't mix) and paper towels and scrubbed down the kitchen like a mad woman. It took us quite a while to get pregnant and I wasn't going to let a little listeria get in the way of us welcoming a baby into the world.

Fast forward through the months of pregnancy to when we were finally at the hospital. My parents were in town to help us transition into parenthood. When they asked what I wanted after the baby arrived, my answer was simple, "A turkey sandwich and a cup of coffee." Yes, I avoided caffeine as well. I don't know how I did it (as I sip on my second cup of coffee of the day).

I am all about sandwiches. From turkey to roast beef, salami to veggie, I cannot get enough of sandwiches ... so much so that hardly a day goes by where I don't sink my teeth into a sandwich during lunchtime. Just thinking about a deli-style sandwich, a pickle, and handful of kettle-cooked chips is making my mouth water.

Brunch Bloody Mary

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Disclaimer: Farmer's Garden by Vlasic compensated me for this sponsored post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

What is a weekend brunch must-have? A spicy Bloody Mary, of course. Whenever my husband and I enjoy brunch, it's very rare that we pass up the opportunity to sip on this tomato-filled beverage. I can't even begin to tell you just how much we love a good Bloody Mary.

Let's just say that while I was editing these photos a few weeks ago, we were around family members and I was showing them the photos to get feedback. The next thing you know a craving started, a trip to the store was made and within minutes, we were sipping on this flavorful, spicy beverage. Yes, we love this drink. A lot.

What is one of my favorite parts of this drink? The garnish. It's all about the garnish. During a vacation that we took a few years ago, in true brunch form, a Bloody Mary was delivered to the table and his jaw just about hit the floor when he saw the garnish. From meats to cheeses, olives to pickles ... the garnish was basically heaven on a stick to him.

Ever since that Bloody Mary experience, we've been trying to see if we can find a garnish that rivals the jaw-dropping garnish. There have been many that have come close but I don't think anything will compare to what he experienced.

Strawberry & Walnut Salad

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Disclaimer: Farmer's Garden by Vlasic compensated me for this sponsored post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Is that the warm sun? Is that a higher temperature on the thermometer? Do I really smell freshly cut grass?

With the sun finally shining and the temps on the rise, grills are firing up, boats are being put in the water, and people are spending more time in the great outdoors. There's nothing like waking up to a warm, sunny day ... I feel like I have the world at my fingertips. Don't you?

Blame it on the warm weather, blame it on swimsuit season, blame it on hibernation ... one thing is for certain, a salad on a sunny, hot day is the perfect meal to enjoy. Instead of eating something that will weigh you down, why not opt for a crisp, green, leafy salad full of fruit, nuts, and cheese?
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