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Friday, September 19, 2014

Apple-Bacon-Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I think this is the most perfect salad ever.  

I'll give you five ingredients why.  In no particular order:

1. Balsamic vinaigrette.  My most favorite dressing ever.
2. Grilled chicken.  Turns a salad into a meal.
3. Apple.  Love the sweet crunch it adds.
4. Toasted almonds. Love the nutty crunch it adds.
5. Bacon.  Because it's bacon.  'Nuff said.

Today's Playlist
  • "Soul To Squeeze"...Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • "That Time Is Gone"...The dB's
  • "She's A Genius"...Jet
  • "Fell In Love With A Girl"...The White Stripes
  • "Let It Die"...Foo Fighters
  • "Semi-Charmed Life"...Third Eye Blind
  • "It Goes On And On"...The Avett Brothers

Apple/Bacon/Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette (4 to 6 servings)

Printable Recipe

For the salad:
  • 8 cups assorted salad greens ( I used spinach and romaine)
  • 2 large grilled chicken breasts
  • 1 to 2 honey crisp apples
  • 6 thick-cut bacon slices
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
For the dressing:
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Gather your ingredients.

Prep all your ingredients.

Cut the bacon into pieces approximately 3/4".

Heat a medium-sized skillet or pot over medium heat.  Put the slivered almonds in to toast.  This only takes a few minutes.  Stir them a bit...

you will know they are done as soon as they start to get some color.  Remove them from the pan and set aside to cool.

Add the bacon pieces into the same pan.  Cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are crisp.

While you're waiting for the bacon to cook, assemble the salad and prepare the dressing.

Place the greens into a bowl.  I like to use a combo of spinach and romaine, but you should use whichever type of greens you like best.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.  1/3 cup olive oil...

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar...

1 tablespoon dijon mustard...

and one clove of garlic, crushed directly into the bowl.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and whisk to combine.  Set aside.

Your bacon should be finished now.

Remove the bacon from the pan and onto a paper towel to drain.

Continue with your salad assembly.

Slice the grilled chicken.

You can prepare the chicken in advance using your favorite grilling method.  If you need grilling instructions, here is my favorite grilling method:

-Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1 lime and 1 tablespoon grilling spice (I used McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning---yeah, I know, STEAK seasoning for chicken, but it's my all-time favorite grilling spice)
-Marinate the chicken breasts for 10 minutes, then grill over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until thoroughly cooked

Arrange the grilled chicken slices on top of the salad greens.

Slice your apple.
I simply slice off the 4 sides, throw away the core...

and roughly slice the 4 sides into bite-sized pieces.

Throw the apples on top of the salad.

Sprinkle the bacon on as well.

Then add the toasted almonds.

And finally, drizzle about half of the dressing on top.  Serve the rest of the dressing on the side.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Apple Crisp with Sea Salt Caramel

Now that we're more than halfway through September, I'm finally accepting the end of summer.

I won't say that I'm happy about summer ending, but now I'm looking forward to apple-picking season!

Also known as fall.

I baked my first apple crisp of the season this week.  Since I'm still in the mood to smother everything I make in salted caramel, I decided it would be a good idea to coat the apples in sea salt caramel instead of cinnamon and sugar.

It did not disappoint!

Today's Playlist
  • "Sunday Morning Coming Down"...Me First & The Gimme Gimmes
  • "Hate To Say I Told You So"...The Hives
  • "Icky Thump"...The White Stripes
  • "Scar Tissue"...Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • "Brain Stew"...Green Day
  • "Sweet Child O' Mine"...Guns N' Roses

Apple Crisp with Sea Salt Caramel
Printable Recipe

Caramel Ingredients:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Topping Ingredients:
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
Apple filling:
  • 4 large granny smith apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced

Gather your ingredients.

Totally disregard the lemon in this picture.  I'm such slow photographer that I figured I would have to sprinkle the sliced apples with lemon juice (to prevent them from turning brown), but there was no need.

Get started on the caramel.   Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Whisk constantly as the sugar melts.

Whisk in the sea salt and the heavy cream.  I couldn't take a picture of this step because as you can see the mixture starts to foam and bubble.  If I stopped whisking to take a photo, it would have boiled right over.  Continue to whisk and it will calm down.

Stir in the butter and vanilla.

Whisk until the caramel is smooth.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

I decided to go with granulated sugar for this caramel because I wasn't sure how my usual thick caramel with brown sugar would bake with the apples.  I had visions of very thick, sticky apple crisp if I were to use brown sugar--not good.

For the topping:  melt the butter in your microwave in a medium bowl for 30 seconds on HIGH.  It's okay if the butter is not completely melted. 

Stir in the remaining topping ingredients--the flour, brown sugar and white sugar.  It will resemble coarse crumbs.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Core, peel and thinly slice your apples.

Arrange half of the apples in the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish.

Reserve about 1/2 cup of the caramel sauce for drizzling over your apple crisp after it has baked.

Pour half of the remaining caramel sauce over the sliced apples that you just arranged in your baking pan.

Top with the remaining apple slices.

And pour the remaining caramel sauce over the apples.

I was going for an action shot here.  I almost got more action than I bargained for when my left wrist gave out on me as I was trying to hold the heavy cast-iron saucepan so I could snap a picture.

I yelped as I almost dropped the pan.

My yelp got the attention of my two sidekicks.  For some reason, I decided to explain to them about the action shot.

All they picked up on was my saying "Action!"

Me: "Action!"
Clyde: Immediately goes into downward dog, tail wagging furiously.
Gus: *Yawn*

And now back to our recipe.

Spread the crumb topping evenly over the top of the apples.

Another action shot.  I'm just glad that the bowl that the topping was in was much, much easier to steady for this shot than the cast-iron saucepan was.

Bake the apple crisp in your preheated 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

When it's done the top of the apple crisp will be all crunchy and bubbly, and the apples should be soft and easy to pierce with a toothpick.

To serve, drizzle with the reserved caramel sauce and top it with whipped cream.  Or ice cream!

Enjoy it while it's warm!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sparkling Rose and Limoncello Sangria

I realize that summer is coming to an end, but I just had to come up with one last fruity drink recipe.

It has wine and fruit, it must be sangria.  You know how I love sangria.

I added some Limoncello and it became my favorite sangria ever.

Today's Playlist
  • "Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine"...The White Stripes
  • "Last Night"...The Strokes
  • "Level"...The Raconteurs

Sparkling Rose and Limoncello Sangria
Printable Recipe
  • 1 bottle sparkling rose wine, chilled
  • 3/4 cup Limoncello
  • 12 oz. lemon lime soda (i.e. Sprite)
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 8 to 10 large strawberries, sliced 
extra lemon slices and strawberry slices for garnish

Gather your ingredients.

There is no (Sprite) soda in this picture.  It wasn't until I had made the sangria and tasted it that I realized adding Sprite would be a good idea.

In fact, it was a must.  The sangria went down much too quickly and easily and needed something non-alcoholic added to it; so, I topped our drinks off with a few splashes of Sprite.  From now on I will add it at the beginning.

Okay, let's continue.

Wash and slice the lemons and strawberries.  Remove the seeds from the lemon slices.

Place the fruit into a pitcher.  I also used a few slices of fruit to garnish the glasses.

Pour the wine into the pitcher.

Add the Limoncello.

This would also be the time to pour in the Sprite.

Add ice and serve.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cooking Show- Lasagna Bolognese, Roasted Asparagus, Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad & White Chocolate Mousse

We filmed another episode of the cooking show.  Nick Iandolo from Nick's Sci-Fi Corner cooked with me, and since we both share Italian heritage, we prepared a main dish to pay tribute to our roots!

Lasagna Bolognese with Bechemel .  Click on the link to be taken to the recipe.

Ooey, gooey, cheesy, meaty, yummy.

We prepared roasted asparagus to go alongside the lasagna.  I don't have a link to the recipe, it is so simple, all you need to do is:

-Wash and trim 2 lbs. of asparagus.
-Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil (a tablespoon or two).  Season with salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of each).
-Roast for 10 to 12 minutes at 425 degrees.

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

Again, no link for this because it was a last-minute addition to the show.  I was shopping at the farmers market before the taping, and the heirloom tomatoes looked so amazing that I just had to figure out a way to get them onto the show.

So we sliced up a few tomatoes, added some slices of fresh mozzarella, drizzled it with a quick balsamic vinaigrette (whisk to combine 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard), and topped it with some fresh shredded basil.

And finally, we finished with White Chocolate Mousse, which we topped with fresh blueberries and golden raspberries.

These pictures just don't do justice to this perfect dessert!  How can you not love making a dessert that only has two ingredients?

I chose the asparagus, Caprese salad and mousse for this show because they are so quick and easy to prepare.

Unlike the lasagna, which needs to take its own sweet time.

But it was worth the wait!

I'm glad I remembered to take a few photos, because it all disappeared quickly!