Corn & Black Bean Salad with Grilled Pork

As we have already discussed, colorful food is pretty much always the best. Nutrition experts say that in order to ensure you’re getting the best range of nutrients, you should try to eat every color of the rainbow in your foods. We Americans really don’t have a lot of dishes we can take credit for that are incredibly colorful and good for you… we pretty much can boast hot dogs and fried chicken, neither of which are exceptionally high on the “eat this because it helps your health” meter. As I mentioned in my Greek Salad recipe, the Greeks are super well-known for being ultra health conscious in their food. However, today we are traveling to Mexico with a very classic Mexican dish known as corn salad. The cool thing about this is that it can be eaten hot, or cooked and then chilled and served cold, so it makes an awesome cookout side dish if you serve it without the meat.

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There are a lot of elements to this that actually work well on their own, so I’ll separate it out that way. Check the recipe at the bottom if you’re unsure about how to time it so it all comes out at the same time. For the pork, I used boneless pork chops. This is so easy guys, I mean really. All you do is rub both sides of the pork chops with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, and ground cayenne. (The cayenne is what adds the heat, so bear that in mind when seasoning. If you don’t really like your food spicy, leave it out altogether.) Then, just put them on a grill over medium heat and grill for about 6-7 minutes per side, or until the internal temp reaches 160 degrees. This recipe serves 4 people, so use 4 pork chops.

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To really make this fresh and delicious, I used fresh corn on the cob for the corn base for the salad. This recipe for grilled corn is so super good, so feel free to steal it from this recipe and just make this bangin’ corn on the cob for your next barbecue! The key is seasoning the corn and then grilling it, instead of just boiling it in a pot of water. The real magic is in a seasoned butter – soften about 3 tablespoons of butter and add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro. (If you’re making the corn on the cob on its own, feel free to sub in whatever herbs you like!) Mix the seasonings into the butter and then slather it on 3 ears of corn. I have found that it’s easier to spread it on one side (as shown in the photo) and then use your hands to rub it around the whole ear.

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Once they are rubbed with the herb butter, wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and grill for about 15-20 minutes, over indirect heat, turning occasionally. Once it’s done, take it out of the foil and then cut it off the cob and set aside. The base of the salad gets made on the stove, not on the grill, so get a large skillet with about 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. To the heated pan, add a diced bell pepper and either one diced yellow onion or one diced red onion. (The red onion gives more powerful flavor and more color!) Once these have sweated (about 2 minutes), add in 3 cloves of minced garlic, a drained can of black beans, and 4 diced Roma tomatoes. (If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, use a can of diced tomatoes, drained.)

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Stir this together and add two teaspoons of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of dried cilantro, and a half teaspoon of cayenne. (Use more or less depending on your preferred heat level!) Let simmer for about two minutes and then add your reserved corn. Give it a final stir and then plate it, topping each plate with a sliced pork chop. Top with freshly chopped cilantro!

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This is a total crowd pleaser and a great way to shake up dinner in the middle of the week! The whole thing can also be made inside on a griddle or on the stove, so it works for all seasons, but it’s really a great summer dish!

Full Recipe:

Mexican Corn & Black Bean Salad with Grilled Pork

Yield: 4 servings (8 if you are making it as a side and not a main dish.)

Ingredients:

3 ears of fresh corn, husked
3 tablespoons softened butter
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro (to taste)

4 boneless pork chops
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, and cayenne (to taste)

2 tbsp canola oil
1 bell pepper, diced
1 yellow or red onion, diced
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, cilantro, and cayenne (to taste)

Process:

1) Heat half of your grill to medium heat.

2) Combine softened butter and spices and spread over ears of corn. Wrap corn in aluminum foil and place over indirect heat on your grill. (Remember to turn every few minutes. Corn should be done after about 15-20 minutes.)

3) Rub pork chops with spices on both sides. Spray heated half of grill with cooking spray and then place pork chops on heated side. (Cook for approximately 6-7 minutes per side, or until internal temp reaches 160 degrees.)

4) In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil and add diced pepper and onion. Let sweat for two minutes, then add the garlic, beans, and tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, cilantro, and cayenne, to taste.

5) While salad is simmering, take corn off the grill and cut the corn off the cobs. Once it’s all cut, add into the salad, give it a final stir, and then turn off the heat.

6) Plate the corn salad and put a sliced pork chop on top of each plate. Serve immediately.

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Summer is coming! I can feel it! And for me, summer means one thing: GRILLING!

There is no more classic grilled food, in my humble opinion, than the good old beef burger. This one will seriously tingle your taste buds, because it puts all the good stuff INSIDE the burger, instead of piled on top.

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

You’ll want to start by dicing 1/4 of a medium sweet onion (very small dice!) and cooking up 4 slices of bacon. Once the bacon is cooked and cooled, break it into small pieces.

Then, in a medium bowl, add a little over a pound of ground beef. (Generally, I see them in the store packed in 1.25-1.40 pound packages.) Personally, I like to use 93% lean beef. It’s a bit more expensive, but the burgers don’t shrink as much! If you use 85% or 73%, just bear in mind that there will be a fair bit of shrinkage to your patties once they start cooking!

To the ground beef, add your cooked bacon pieces, the diced onion, 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce, and hefty sprinklings of the following: salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger, and if you’ve got it, your favorite dry steak seasoning. (I use Montreal Style Steak, which is made by McCormick.) If you’d like a little heat, sprinkle in either some chili powder or some cayenne.

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Combine it all together with your hands. DON’T OVERWORK THE MEAT. Work it until everything is well distributed, and then stop! If you work it too much, the burgers will be tough – no bueno! Once it’s well combined, make it into four patties. They’ll be pretty big – that’s okay! Remember they will shrink!

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

To prep your grill, spray with with cooking spray and turn the heat to medium high. (Or equivalent process for a charcoal grill. Mine is gas – I know, I cheat!) Let it warm up for a few minutes, then put the burgers on! They should sizzle when they hit the grates. Cook to your desired level of done-ness, flipping halfway through. I like my burger pink inside because it’s super tender and juicy that way, so that should be about 5 minutes per side for burgers of this size. If desired, after you’ve flipped them and they are almost done, top with mozzarella cheese! Serve them on a toasted bun with whatever condiments you prefer. I LOVE barbecue sauce on my burgers. If you’ve never tried it, you should. It’s especially good with these!

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

I made a salad ahead of time to serve with the burgers – the freshness of the veggies in the salad is a great compliment to the savory burgers! (Plus it’s far better for you than a side of fries or chips!) Full Recipe:

Teriyaki Bacon Burgers

Yield: 4 burgers

Ingredients:

4 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 sweet onion, small dice
1 & 1/3 (ish) pounds lean ground beef
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
To taste: salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger, steak seasoning, cayenne (optional)

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (if desired)

4 hamburger buns, plus condiments, for serving.

Process:

1) In medium bowl, combine ground beef with cooked bacon, diced onion, teriyaki sauce, and spices. Work with your hands until just combined. DO NOT OVERWORK MEAT.

2) Form into four equal size patties.

3) Spray grill with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Place burgers directly on grates and let cook for 4-5 minutes per side (medium), or until desired temperature is reached.

4) When only a minute or so of cooking time remains, top with mozzarella cheese, allow to melt, and then serve burgers as desired. (Try them with barbecue sauce!)

Spinach & Mozzarella Chicken Roll Ups

We’re gettin’ fancy over here today, folks! Rolling up a delicious filling inside a thin piece of meat has long been a trick of restaurants to make a dish look polished and expensive. Truth is, you can do it right at home! This was super delicious and didn’t take much effort to get a restaurant-quality plate.

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Now, I pulled a bit of a multi-tasking trick here. I knew I planned on making Parmesan rice with this (find the recipe here!) so I made more “filling” than I needed so that I could stir it into the rice. I highly recommend you do the same, because it makes the rice even better! The measurements I give allow for you to have that extra amount of filling.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then saute half a diced sweet onion and two cups of chopped frozen spinach. (Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil while cooking.) When the onions start to become translucent, add 2 large cloves of minced garlic, toss, and then remove from the heat.

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For your chicken, take two large breasts and cut them in half so you have four thin slices. Salt and pepper each half, then sprinkle mozzarella cheese on the wider end of each. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of your filling on top of the cheese, then carefully roll up from the wider end to the thinner end. Place in a greased baking dish seam side down and then top with lemon zest, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

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Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with Parmesan rice (don’t forget to stir in the extra filling!) and sauteed green beans.

(For the green beans: melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute 1/4 finely diced onion or shallots for two minutes, then add 8 ounces frozen green beans, salt & pepper, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until green beans are cooked with a little crunch left to them.)

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Wow your family or entertain dinner guests with this fabulously fancy (and deceptively easy) dish! Serve with a mild white wine like Pinot Grigio if you’re feeling extra fancy. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Spinach and Mozzarella Chicken Roll Ups

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 cups chopped frozen spinach
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt, pepper, and basil, to taste
2 large chicken breasts, each cut in half into thin slices
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2) Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet, then saute onions and spinach with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil until onions become translucent. Add garlic, toss, and remove from heat.

3) Salt and pepper each piece of chicken, then evenly divide mozzarella cheese on the wider end of each piece. Top cheese with 2 tablespoons of spinach filling, then carefully roll up each piece of chicken and place seam side down into greased baking dish.

4) Sprinkle lemon zest, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese on top of chicken, and then bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

5) Serve with Parmesan rice – stir extra filling into rice for added body and flavor.

No more excuses! Three quick and easy vegetarian breakfast ideas!

I know, you’ve all heard it before. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”

But you just don’t have time, or energy, or skill, or food, or WHATEVER ELSE you might think you need in the morning to actually eat breakfast. So you go on through your life living on that convenience store coffee and donut (or worse, nothing at all) and somehow survive until lunchtime when you then gorge yourself because well, you feel like you’re starving.

Well, NO MORE, my friends! If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember my Four Super Simple and Portable Breakfast Ideas from a long ways back. Those are still totally A-game breakfast ideas, but I decided it’s time for some fresh new ones. So, this post is dedicated to three more really easy, really quick, and totally meatless breakfast dishes that are oh-so-much better for you than that glazed Krispy Kreme donut.

Quick Breakfast #1: Fruit, Yogurt, & Granola Parfait

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No joke, it’s just three ingredients! How easy is that?

Just get yourself a nice pretty glass (because that makes eating breakfast more worthwhile) and layer it with your choice of yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola.

I used regular vanilla yogurt and strawberries, but the combinations here are literally endless. Little tip, if you plan on making this fairly frequently, you can buy yogurt in 38oz containers, so you can just spoon out however much you need.

Also, granola is typically found in the cereal aisle of your grocery store. They make several different kinds, but the store brand is always cheapest and totally fine.

Health bonuses: You get protein from the yogurt and fiber from the granola. These will help you to feel fuller, longer!

Total prep time: 3 minutes (or less).

Quick Breakfast #2: Spinach & Veggie Omelet

DSC_1459Yes, this one actually requires the stove, but if you’ve got ten extra minutes, it’s worth it! Just saute 1/4 of a red onion, 1/4 of a green pepper, and about a 1/4 cup of frozen spinach with olive oil for about five minutes. Remove that from the pan, coat it with about a 1/2 tablespoon of butter, and then add two beaten eggs to the pan on a medium-low heat.

Let the eggs cook slowly until they are almost cooked through, then add a handful of shredded cheese and your veggies to one side. Let it cook another minute or so, fold it in half, and then plate it!

If you’re not watching your fat intake, this would be totally amazing with sour cream on top, but otherwise, it’s great with just some salt and pepper!

Health bonuses: eggs are packed with protein and the spinach is full of vitamins!

Total prep time: 10 minutes.

Quick Breakfast #3: Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal

DSC_1463“Ew, oatmeal??”

I can almost hear the groan of distaste. I know, most people think oatmeal is for little kids or the elderly, and that it’s a mealy, gross, nasty bowl of lukewarm nothingness. I get it. But this oatmeal will change that.

Quick-oatmeal can be made right in the microwave. I use 3/4 cup of quick 1-minute oats and 1/2 cup of milk – microwave that for 60 seconds and then take it out and stir.

Meanwhile, roughly chop about 1/4 cup of pecans. When the oatmeal is done, add the pecans, 1/4 cup of dried cranberries, a few tablespoons of granola (for additional crunch) and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Stir and enjoy!

Health bonuses: you get fiber from the oatmeal and granola and protein from the pecans. Plus, the cranberries give you a nice serving of fruit!

Total prep time: 2 minutes.

So, no more excuses! Including the linked back post, here are seven total breakfast ideas that are good for you, filling, and super quick and easy. I promise, it will make SUCH a difference in your life if you start eating a decent breakfast every day!

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Holy wow you guys. I sort of… accidentally made this one day for lunch. (Yes, really, “accidentally.”) It turned out so awesome that I tweaked it a bit and adjusted the recipe to serve four people. This is a fabulous quick and easy dinner or lunch idea, and is definitely versatile!

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For a lighter dish, this would be good without any meat at all. However, to make it a little heartier, saute up your choice of protein to go into the pasta. I chose kielbasa, which everyone knows is my favorite, but any smoked sausage would do. You could also use chicken (2 large breasts cut into bite size pieces), or even ground turkey (about a pound). The main point is just that the meat is fully cooked before anything else goes into the pan.

In my case, since I used kielbasa, my meat was already cooked through. I just browned it in the pan with some olive oil for a few minutes, then added 1 diced sweet onion. (Sweet onions are pretty small, so using a whole one shouldn’t be overpowering.)

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Let those sweat on medium-high for about two minutes, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer for one more minute.

Then, keeping the heat fairly high, add in the juice and zest of a large lemon, 3/4 cup of half & half, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Quickly stir this together so it combines and the cheese starts to melt, and then let it reduce for about two minutes.

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While it’s reducing, add in two teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper, and then salt and basil to taste. (I didn’t need as much salt since I used a cured meat – it’s to your taste!) Once the sauce has thickened, add 1 pint of halved cherry tomatoes. Stir these in and then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the sauce to cooked pasta of your choice, top with more shredded Parmesan, and serve! I used penne pasta for mine.

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I’m of the opinion that anything with a lemon-pepper flair is amazing, but I’m telling you, this pasta is shockingly good! And it’s totally fancy enough to entertain with. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 package of kielbasa, cut into coins (or enough of your choice of meat to serve 4)
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
Salt & Basil, to taste
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Process:

1) Brown kielbasa with olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add sweet onion and saute for another two minutes. Finish off with garlic and let simmer for one final minute.

2) Keeping pan over medium-high heat, add juice and zest of the lemon, half & half, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and let reduce for about 2 minutes.

3) While sauce is reducing, add pepper, salt, and basil, and stir in.

4) Once sauce has thickened, stir in cherry tomatoes and remove from the heat.

5) Toss a cooked pasta of your choice with the sauce, plate, and top with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Pirate’s Cape Cocktail (Copy-Cat of Royal Caribbean International)

If you’re anything like me, you love the Caribbean and all the wonders it has to offer. Personally, I adore cruising. I think it’s one of the most wonderful ways to vacation. I happen to be a loyal cruiser of Royal Caribbean International. For those who have been on their Caribbean cruises before, you’re probably familiar with their “Drink of the Day” special. Each day, they will offer a specific cocktail and a specific shooter for $7.75.

Me being me, I made a point to save the description of the “drink of the day” that was offered each of the ten days of my last cruise this past January. One of those drinks was called a Pirate’s Cape, and I believe I have successfully recreated it, and wish to pass this amazingly delicious drink on to you!

Pirate's Cape (RCCL Copy)

The best part about this drink is that it’s super easy – just throw everything into a cocktail shaker with ice, then shake, strain, and serve! It’s 2 ounces of Captain Morgan, 1 ounce of blackberry brandy, 2 ounces each of orange juice and pineapple juice, and 1 ounce of grenadine.

Serve in a highball glass filled with ice and, if you’re feeling fancy, garnish with orange or pineapple. 🙂

Pirate's Cape (RCCL copy)

And, just for some added atmosphere, here’s a photo from my recent trip to St. Thomas – of a cape which likely housed pirates a couple of centuries ago!

St Thomas Cape

Hopefully you enjoy this cocktail as much as I did – come on summer, you’re almost here! 🙂

No-Bake Deconstructed Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

You guys, I am so very excited about this. It’s definitely not healthy at all, but if you need a nice delectable dessert for a dinner party… or to eat all by yourself… this is where it’s at. At least, as long as you like chocolate and peanut butter and cheesecake.

Best part? It’s EASY. Traditional cheesecake is normally pretty tricky (having to bake it in a water bath and getting all those air bubbles out and having it just the right consistency… it’s tedious business!) but this one is NO BAKE and NO STRESS!

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

You’ll use the same cheesecake base for both flavors, so you can make that all in one batch. Using a stand mixer, beat together 1 cup of sour cream and 16 ounces (that’s two 8 oz blocks) of softened cream cheese until they are beginning to stick together, then add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla. Beat this on high speed until it’s well combined and there are very few lumps left. Turn the mixer down to medium-high and then slowly pour in one (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula routinely throughout the mixing process!

Once this is all mixed together, ta-da, you have a basic vanilla cheesecake batter!

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

Now comes the fun part. Pour half of the batter out into a medium mixing bowl and set that aside. Then, to the batter remaining in the stand mixer bowl, mix in 3/4 cup of creamy peanut butter to make the peanut butter flavored half of the batter.

Then, melt a cup and a half of milk chocolate chips (I usually do 30 seconds in the microwave, stir them, and then an additional 30 seconds) and then fold the melted chocolate into the reserved batter in the other bowl to make your chocolate half of the batter.

Using a table spoon, evenly divide the peanut butter batter between 8 single serving dessert dishes.

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

Then, on top, evenly divide the chocolate batter. Use your spoon to smooth it out to the edges.

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

Cover, and put in the fridge to set for at least 2 to 3 hours.

When you’re ready to serve them, you can make the graham cracker topping! Just melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small bowl, and then add 5 sheets of crushed graham crackers (that’s 10 squares) and a table spoon of sugar. Stir it all together before topping the cheesecakes.

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Crushing them by hand is best, because then you’ll get a lot of different sized pieces!

Once the cheesecakes are topped, serve & enjoy them right away!

No Bake PB Cup Cheesecake

This dessert is sure to please all tastes and ages! It’s classy enough for adults, but sweet and fun enough for kids. Honestly, the kind of dish you serve it in is really all you need to determine how fancy (or not!) this is!

Full Recipe:

No-Bake Deconstructed Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream
16 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 & 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips, melted

5 sheets (10 squares) graham crackers, crumbled by hand
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp white sugar

Process:

1) In a stand mixer, combine sour cream and cream cheese until just starting to combine together, then turn mixer up to high and add in sugar and vanilla. Mix until well blended, with almost no lumps left. (Make sure to scrape down sides of bowl occasionally.)

2) Turn mixer down to medium-high and slowly pour in condensed milk. Allow to mix until fully combined.

3) Pour half the batter into a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

4) Add peanut butter to batter still in stand-mixer bowl and beat in until combined. Evenly divide peanut butter batter between 8 dessert dishes.

5) Fold in melted chocolate to reserved batter, and then divide on top of the peanut butter batter in the dishes.

6) Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to set.

7) When ready to serve, combine melted butter, graham cracker crumbles, and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle graham cracker topping on top of each mini cheesecake before serving.

Banana Nutella Waffles

We are back to breakfast in the rotation today! Much like my Perfect French Toast recipe, these waffles are delectable and definitely not the healthiest of breakfast options… but when it’s a lazy weekend morning, who cares about diets anyway, right?

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This recipe is for two. There’s a few tips and tricks here, so bear with me!

Start by cracking an egg into a medium mixing bowl and whisking it vigorously until it’s bubbly and sort of fluffy. (Hat tip to Betty Crocker for this little tidbit of info!)

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To this, whisk in one cup of flour, half a teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda, a tablespoon of canola oil, a teaspoon of vanilla, and 3/4 of a cup of buttermilk. (Buttermilk really makes all the difference, but if you don’t have buttermilk, regular milk will do. You can find buttermilk in any grocery store in the dairy section!)

Whisk it until just combined. It should still look a little lumpy.

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Finally, fold in one mashed banana and 1/4 cup of Nutella to the batter. (It will help if the banana you use is fairly ripe and spotted – it will mash a lot easier!) This should turn the batter a nice chocolate color.

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Carefully pour the batter into a heated and greased waffle iron. I did about 3/4 cup of batter for one waffle in a Belgian-style waffle iron and that turned out to make two full waffles. Cook according to the instructions for your particular waffle iron, then serve topped with powdered sugar and sliced bananas!

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This is perfect for a romantic breakfast for two, or you can double it to feed four! 🙂 Enjoy with a chocolate hazelnut coffee, if that’s your style. 😉

Full Recipe:

Banana Nutella Waffles

Yield: 2 Belgian-size waffles

Ingredients:

1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp powder
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Nutella spread
1 banana, mashed
1 banana, sliced (for topping)

Process:

1) Spray a waffle iron with cooking spray and turn on to preheat.

2) In a medium mixing bowl, whisk egg until it becomes bubbly and fluffy.

3) To egg, whisk in flour, baking soda, baking powder, buttermilk, canola oil, and vanilla until just combined. (Batter should still be a bit lumpy.)

4) Fold in mashed banana and Nutella spread until combined and batter is a chocolate color.

5) Pour 3/4 cup of batter into Belgian waffle iron and cook according to waffle iron directions until batter is used up.

6) Serve topped with powdered sugar and sliced bananas!

Slow Cooker Pork Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

I’m still in a Greek mood over here at SS&N (check out my last post, Warm Greek Salad with Chicken, if you missed it!) so I’m continuing the theme with another very much Greek-inspired dish!

Gyros are one of the most well-known parts of Greek cuisine. You’re probably familiar with them – a grilled pita filled with either chicken, pork, or veal, along with various condiments and veggies. Traditionally, the meat is roasted slowly on a spit over a constant heat. I’ve deviated a bit from tradition here, mainly due to my lack of a vertical turning spit for meat, and decided to do mine in the slow cooker. One of my most popular posts was my Apple Pulled Pork, and this definitely gives a nod to that method, but I’ve switched up the spices and cooking liquid a bit to make the dish definitely Greek.

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Start by dicing 1/2 a red onion and 2 stalks of celery and put them in the bottom of your slow cooker, to create a bed for the pork. Next comes the ever-important spice rub, which as always, starts with brown sugar. To the brown sugar, add 1 tbsp sat, 2 tsp of pepper, and about a teaspoon each of garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, and dill weed. Rub this liberally all over your cut of pork. For mine, I used a 2 pound pork loin, and it turned out SO tender! If you’re needing to serve more than 4 people, you can use a pork butt (also called a pork shoulder) like I did in my original pulled pork recipe. If you get one that’s 4 pounds it should easily serve 8 people. (Obviously, double the quantities of everything listed if you go that route!)

Carefully place your pork on top of the bed of celery and onion.

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The last thing you’ll need before you set this thing a-cooking is your braising liquid. It’s so simple, you almost won’t believe it. Just combine the zest and juice of one lemon, 1 cup of dry white wine, and 1/2 a cup of balsamic vinegar. Pour that around your pork, put the lid on, and cook on high for 4 hours (or low for 7-8).

After the pork is cooked through, take it out of the slow cooker and use two forks to shred the meat, then return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and let simmer on low for another 15-30 minutes… essentially as long as it takes to do the rest of the prep for the meal!

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To make the tzatziki sauce, dice 1/2 a cucumber, salt liberally (perhaps 2 teaspoons or so), and then add them to a blender or food processor, along with 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, and a teaspoon each of pepper, dill weed, and mint. Blend until smooth and then dish out into a small bowl.

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Finally, no gyro is complete without vegetables! Julienne 1/2 a red onion and 1 green pepper and saute with olive oil over medium high heat for about 3-5 minutes, or until they become tender and pliable. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, saute for one additional minute, and then remove from the heat.

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Once everything is done, use a slotted spoon to dish the pork out of the slow cooker, ensuring that you let most of the liquid drain off. Serve the pork, sauce, veggies, and some feta cheese in warmed pita bread. Pita bread comes with a handy little pocket for filling, but for the pictures, I just piled all my filling on top! 🙂

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Enjoy with a glass of dry white wine. Cheers!

Full Recipe:

Slow Cooker Pork Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Yield: 4 hearty servings

Ingredients:

Pork:
1/2 red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp each garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, dill weed
2-pound pork loin
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Tzatziki Sauce:
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 tsp salt
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 lemon (juice and zest)
1 tsp each pepper, dill weed, mint

Gyro Assembly:
4-6 pieces pita bread
1 tbsp olive oil
1 green pepper, julienned
1/2 red onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
Feta cheese, for topping

Process:

1) Make a spice rub for the pork. Combine brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano, celery seed, and dill weed in a small dish. Rub liberally all over the sides of the pork.

2) Place diced onion and celery in bottom of slow cooker. Carefully lay rubbed pork on top.

3) Combine lemon zest and juice, white wine, and balsamic vinegar, and then pour around the pork. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours.

4) Once pork is finished cooking, remove from slow-cooker and use two forks to shred the meat. Return the meat to the slow cooker and let simmer on low for another 15-30 minutes.

5) To make the tzatziki sauce, salt the cucumbers with the 2 tsp of salt and add to a blender or food processor. Also add the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, pepper, dill, and mint. Blend until smooth and pour into a small dish for serving.

6) Saute julienned green pepper and onions in olive oil over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes or until beginning to become soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute for one additional minute, then remove from heat.

7) Warm the pita bread and then cut open and fill with sauce, pork, and veggies. Top with feta cheese and enjoy!

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

I’m pretty convinced that everything good in the world comes from the Mediterranean region. As my loyal readers know, Tuscany is probably my favorite place on the planet, as I illustrated in my most pinned and most popular blog post ever, Tuscan Pasta in Lemon Blush Sauce. (Guys, it’s been pinned 142 times as of today. That’s a LOT for a small town girl like me!)

But I digress.

A place I have yet to visit in the world (but is TOTALLY on my bucket list!) is Greece. Not only is that a country steeped to the bursting in history and rich culture, but their food is known for being natural and wholesome. The Greeks are not at all fans of processed food – most McDonald’s that have tried to open there have ended up closing. Because of this, it’s naturally the ideal kind of cuisine for someone like me.

So, I’m sure a lot of you frequently visit Panera or some other establishment that serves a “Greek Salad.” Usually, it’s mixed greens with some olives, peppers, and feta tossed on top. Now don’t get me wrong – I will tear up a Greek salad from Panera Bread if I’m waiting to meet a client there. But did you know, the classic “Greek” salad actually has no lettuce at all?

Yup, that’s right. It’s a tomato and cucumber based salad, tossed with red onion, green pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, and dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette.

Mouth watering yet? Yeah, mine too.

Read on my for my take on the classic Greek salad – warmed up with sautéed chicken!

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Mise en place – French for “everything in its place,” or doing all of your prepwork before you start cooking – is so important for this dish! The only thing you have to cook is the chicken, and that goes so fast that you’ll need to have everything else ready beforehand!

So, get yourself your favorite large cutting board (my father made mine for me, crafty gentleman that he is) and prep the following:

One pint cherry tomatoes, halved.

One cucumber, large dice.

One green pepper, small dice.

Half a red onion, small dice.

About 40 (ish) kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped.

Three cloves garlic, minced.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Kalamata olives typically come with the pits still in them. To get them out, crush the olive under the side of a chef’s knife (sort of like how you’d smash a clove of garlic to peel it) until it smashes down and the skin breaks, then pull the pit out with your fingers. It’s a little tedious, but once you get a rhythm, it’s not so bad.

Once this is all done, cube two large chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and once the pan is hot, add the chicken and season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss to coat and let simmer for five minutes or so, tossing occasionally. When it’s just about done, add your minced garlic, toss to combine, and cook for one additional minute.

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While the chicken is cooking, make your dressing by whisking together the zest and juice of one lemon, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the really good stuff!), 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but I promise, you only want a light coating of dressing!

Once the dressing is done, add your prepped veggies to a large bowl and pour the dressing overtop. As soon as the chicken/garlic is finished cooking, get it off the heat and immediately into the bowl. Toss it all together so the heat from the chicken warms up the vegetables a bit, and then dish it out and top with crumbled feta cheese!

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We eat with our eyes before we ever taste with our tongues, and I have to say, the colors in this dish make it look SO appetizing – and the flavors packed into it don’t disappoint!

Alternatively, you could of course make this into a vegetarian dish by removing the chicken. (Removing the chicken also turns it into a super awesome side dish, especially for summer!)

Full Recipe:

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, large dice
1 green pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
Approx 40 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large chicken breasts, cubed into bite size pieces
Zest + juice of one lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for sautéing chicken)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, to taste

Process:

1) Prep all vegetables first (tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and olives), putting them into a large bowl as you finish each one.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Add to vegetables.

3) Cube chicken and add to a heated skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss occasionally and allow to cook for about five minutes, or until cooked through. Just before chicken is done, add minced garlic and toss to combine, allowing to cook for one additional minute.

4) Remove chicken from heat and immediately add to the vegetables. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with feta cheese after serving.