Summer Garden Salad with Bleu Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

I want to share a simple recipe for a summer veggie salad I made last week that is a perfect side dish for whatever you’re grilling this Memorial Day – and it requires minimal effort.

Ok, well the chopping requires a little bit of effort if you aren’t a lunatic like me who thoroughly enjoys chopping.

In that case, you could use a chopper. Or something like that.

In my fridge I had some vegetables that were on the road to going bad, and I was having an intense bleu cheese craving. This beautiful salad is the outcome of those circumstances.

And, thank you Sunny of And Love It Too! for giving me such a fantastic name!

You all had fantastic names, by the way, but I was drawn to this one…

Summer Garden Salad with Bleu Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Salad

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 yellow squash, diced

1 16 oz can petite diced tomatoes

1 cup crumbled bleu cheese

Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp seasoned salt

Combine the veggies in a large bowl. Drizzle the dressing a little at a time, tasting along the way until you’re content. Add cheese and toss.

Kisses

~Dixie Chik~

 

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Jalapeno Jack and Potato Mini Muffins

I had such a good Mother’s Day. We relaxed, cooked, and (yay!) my sister came down from Nashville for a visit. On Saturday, my husband and kids wanted to celebrate early because:

1.   My husband has no patience.

2.   My family is the sweetest ever.

3.   My husband has no patience.

My sweet husband has a history when it comes to gifts. If he gets me something he’s excited about he absolutely cannot wait, therefore he has a hard time surprising me. Let me give you my favorite example.

Our second Christmas together, we were in the mall shopping for gifts and decided to split up for a little while. After about an hour or so he ran up to me and handed me a box – he had a look on his face like he was five years old – he said “open it, this is your Christmas gift.”

I said, “Mark, it’s not Christmas.”

He said, “I know. Open it.”

I said, “Are you sure, I mean Christmas is two weeks away?”

“OPEN IT!”

My God, that man has no patience to save his life.

It was a stunning necklace that I would have never expected. If there’s one thing Mark has, it’s the ability to score when he’s trying.

This year for Mother’s Day, they gave me fun stuff for my camera (score), and my daughter gave me a fabulous bracelet (another score). She has such good taste. They also told me that on Sunday I could stay in the kitchen and play until my heart was content; they had the laundry, the grocery shopping, etc. What a gift.

I love my family.

But, I just wondered….aren’t they aware that I’m in the kitchen cooking every Sunday anyway? Were they just trying to give me a guilt-free day? That had to be the case – and of course it’s much more fun when there are no obligations getting in the way of my kitchen play.

So, keeping with tradition, my sister and I did our normal routine during her visits….cooked, talked, cooked, had wine, cooked, etc. You get the picture.

Saturday night we decided to make comfort food… Salisbury Steak and mashed potatoes. Ok, saying that we went a bit overboard with the amount of potatoes we made is an understatement. I had two pyrex bowls full of them when we cleaned up. Hey – it’s the Southern way – you cook like you’re going to feed the entire freakin’ neighborhood. I have no idea why, that’s just what our mothers raised us to do.

So…what does a girl do with a Sunday free to do whatever she wants and an ass load of leftover mashed potatoes?

She makes Potato Mini Muffins. With pepper jack cheese, of course.

Monterey Jack and Potato Mini Muffins

Makes 24 mini muffins

1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 stick butter, softened

1 cup whole milk

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400° and spray a mini muffin pan with baking spray. I used two pans that yield 12 muffins each.

In a stand mixer on low, combine all ingredients until completely incorporated. Spoon evenly into muffin tins and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly brown. You may want to set the timer for 10 and watch them since all of our ovens cook differently!

They are so moist – butter is so optional.

Now you’ll rethink throwing out those leftover mashed potatoes.

xoxo

~Dixie Chik~

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Crab-Mango Pico de Gallo

Would you be interested in the difference in salsa and pico?

Salsa is wet. It happens to be the Spanish word for “sauce”, from what I’ve learned. I’m always wanting to be schooled.

Tell that to my mother who will remind me of my grades from high school. But hey, I made it through nursing school….15 years later, but I did it! With stellar grades, by the way. I was on the Dean’s list until those nasty nursing classes!

Anyway, Pico is a bit more dry. Well…can be dry. I like mine with a good bit of lime juice. And lots of heat.

Here’s a tidbit I found today:

Pico de Gallo [pronounced Pee’ Koh de Gah” Yoh] means “rooster’s beak”.  According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, the name may refer to eating Pico de Gallo by picking it out of the bowl with thumb and fingers.  While Pico de Gallo may be made using similar ingredients to salsa, it may also include cucumbers, tropical fruits including mango or pineapple, corn, or other ingredients not typically found in other salsas.  While it may be considered a form of salsa, Pico de Gallo may also be drier than cooked or fresh salsa.

Last Sunday was one of those days spent in the kitchen. When I say the day was spent in the kitchen….I’m not kidding. I woke up at 4 am (it’s that internal clock thing because I go to work very early during the week). So, since I was up and all obviously the first thing I did was go to the kitchen for my caffeine. Then I realized the biga for my ciabbata was ready. Yes, biga. If you don’t know what that is, then click

With the caffeine from my Coke Zero setting in, I made ciabatta. We had plans for family to come over and grill out later that day, so the bread was followed by potato salad, a marinade for grilled chicken, homemade pancakes (might be a post soon – these were fantastic), with scrambled eggs and bacon. At this point it was about 9 am – the family decided to get up and join me.

The last thing I made was this pico.

I have to tell you; I was a bit hesitant about the crab in this but at the same time really curious about what the taste combination would be. I made a batch of pico sans crab, then threw a little in a bowl and mixed the two together.

Success. I had to high-five myself because the kids were texting/playing video games and Mark was mowing the grass.

Not sure why I was surprised; it’s always those spur of the moment recipes that are thrown together at the last minute that are the best. There have been so many times when I do that throw-together-thing and turns out sooooo good, but then I can’t remember what ingredients I used!!

Sooo…

I finally got smart.

I got a little notebook that stays in one of my island drawers that I pull out every single time I start cooking.

Wanna see??

Isn’t she pretty? Snagged her at Publix for $2.79.

Onto the Pico.

Crab-Mango Pico de Gallo

Serves about 4

Crabmeat – 4 oz from a pack of 8 oz -keep in mind I used imitation, but I’m sure real crabmeat would be even better.

1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed in a collander

1 medium sized yellow onion, diced

1 whole jalapeno pepper, washed, seeds removed and diced (use two if you want heat)

1/4 cucumber, washed and diced

1 mango, diced – for a tutorial on how to cut these click here

2 tbsp dried cilantro (I really wanted to use fresh but my Publix had none. Damnit, Cinco de Mayo)

Juice of 1 lime (use your judgement here, you may want more or less)

Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients.

Dip with tortilla chips, pita chips…whatever you can get your hands on.

Enjoy!

xoxo

Dixie Chik

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Feta Dip

There are so many aspects of Greek food to love. Want some history? Click here. Feta cheese is my favorite part.

Now…what’s not to love about feta. Good Lord…. the soft, crumbly texture and salty, sharp taste is absolutely irresistible.

I’m convinced it’s crumbled up crack rock. We just haven’t been officially made aware yet. Maybe when the elections are over we’ll be told.

So, my history with Greek food stems from early on with my father. He always made this salad that he called “Indian Salad”, and over time my brother changed the name to “Leafless Salad”. This consists of diced tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, olives, feta cheese and a random whisking of a vinaigrette similar to Italian dressing that we tend to change around a little bit here and there. It’s really always been a staple.

Now onto hummus. That’s my stuff…one of my very favorite things in the world to eat since I was 20 yrs old. Wow – long time ago…am I really 35? Jesus.

Funny thing, though, I cannot ever seem to make it just right. I’ve tried several times, but I just cannot get the consistency the way I want it. I know exactly what I’m trying to achieve, but I just cannot get there. If y’all have any advice, let a girl know. This kitchen has been through a ton of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, garlic, etc……

Let’s talk tabbouleh. Ok, wait, maybe this is my stuff. I absolutely, definitely, hungrily will say that this is my favorite. Pita chips dipped in hummus, then double dipped in well-made tabbouleh. Lots of fresh lemon.

THEN topped with a big fat black olive.

*sigh* Is it dinnertime yet?

Oh, wait I just ate.

Anyway, this dip is my version of feta cheese Heaven.

If you’re a feta lover, this will definitely make you happy.

Feta Dip

1 6 oz container good Feta cheese

1/4 tomato, diced – the smaller the better

1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, diced

1/4 cup kalamata olives, diced

1 tsp garlic, minced (jarred)

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

Mix everything together and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. You may want to play with the ingredients depending on your taste. I was craving feta and needed to make an appetizer for a party, so I threw this together based on what I imagined would be good. I absolutely loved it, as did the guests. Pita chips were perfect for this, but I’m sure regular pita bread or flatbread crackers would be great too.

I would love to hear your Greek food stories!

XOXO

~Dixie Chik~

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Pickled Shrimp

Did you know that shrimp cocktail can go from OK to straight up fantastic by pickling your shrimp? I didn’t until now. I have gone my entire adult life boiling plain ass shrimp and serving it as Shrimp Cocktail!

Where have I been? All this time I’ve been thinking that the quality of the shrimp I get makes the only difference.

Who likes plain ass shrimp? Not me. As a matter of fact, if you know anything about me, I don’t like plain ass anything.

Now, don’t get me wrong, you definitely don’t want to go to your regular ol’ grocery and grab a pound of shrimp not knowing how fresh it is, because you can’t. Freshness definitely counts. Do not get nasty old shrimp.

BUT.

The.Following.Makes.Such.A.Difference.

This is a recipe for pickled shrimp given to me by my brother-in-law, who has been an executive chef for many years here in Alabama.  There’s a certain trust you have about someone who works in the kitchen daily and enjoys it. He loves to cook at home, so there’s the trust for me.

Actually, I can’t imagine someone choosing that profession and not liking it. Who wouldn’t like doing that for a living??

Wish I could.

So, so wish I could. But, I would so miss my work peeps.

We had my brother-in-law over a couple of weeks ago and I cooked dinner for him – a tad intimidating to say the least. He’s a professional; I’m a wannabe. Nevertheless, I jump at the chance to cook for anybody because for whatever reason I just love feeding people. I love the process from making food to watching people eat and seeing a reaction on their face. Even if it’s a look on their face like this-tastes-like-crap-but-I-don’t-know-how-to-tell-you, I still appreciate it. Playing with food is my absolute passion, and if I don’t get real feedback I can’t fix what isn’t right about what I’m making.

Anyway, this is SOOO easy and makes your shrimpies taste so good, even before it takes a dip in cocktail sauce.

Pickled Shrimp

Adapted from my brother-in-law 

2 lbs shrimp, deveined if possible, but leave shells on

1/2 gallon water

1 tbsp salt

4 tbsp pickling spice

1/2 onion, halved

1/2 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2 lemon

Ice and water in a large bowl

Bring water through lemon to a boil for two minutes, add shrimp and boil for an additional two minutes. Immediately pour shrimp into an ice water bath.

Peel (except for tails) and serve with cocktail sauce. Makes about 4 appetizer servings.

Happy Hump Day!

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