Sunday, June 29, 2014

Curry Broccoli Salad with Bacon

Ahhhh, Sunday night….seems to be the most refreshing night of the week.  Perhaps it's because we all relax, inside the air conditioned house, eating pizza (which was delivery), watching TV and re-living the excitement of the weekend.

We started the weekend with another little adventure down to Rock Cut State Park in Loves Park, IL, just north of Rockford.  Wanted to get some hiking in during the afternoon since we were heading to Belvidere for Landon's baseball tournament anyway.

It took us a little while to find a starting point and get our bearings, but ultimately, we found a nice hiking trail and a creek, which was quite refreshing for the kids to splash around in a bit.

Before we continued on our way we had to get another picture…funny thing about these groupies, is that Landon doesn't want to get too close to Alayna, so instead, he is barely in the picture at all.

The time we spend together in nature is so precious, I am so thankful for the conversations, jokes and silliness, along with a few life lessons, that we share while alone together in the woods.  

On Saturday, we had a overdue and much-needed quiet morning, only scheduled outing was to the Janesville Farmers Market, which is a family favorite.  Then, after more baseball, we met up with some friends for the Freedom Fest fireworks…which is where today's recipe comes in.

Curry Broccoli Salad with Bacon was my dish to pass at the get together and it was a pretty big hit, if I do say so myself.

Another amazing combination of fabulous flavors and textures and with all of that broccoli, it is practically guilt-free!

This salad consists of almost all household staples, the golden raisins were the only special purchase I had to make for this salad.

Starting with about 5 cups of broccoli florets, added 1 medium onion, chopped, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup of golden raisins (could have been less, but was generous with them since I bought them especially for this recipe) and 6 slices of bacon, crumbled on top.

For the dressing, 1 generous cup of mayonnaise, 2 tsp curry power, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 tbsp apple cider all whisked together.

Pour it right over the salad. 

Stir it up and refrigerate.  

I really like the way that the broccoli starts to soften, just a little bit, and the raisins start to plump after sitting in the refrigerator for just a few hours.  



5 cups of broccoli florets
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup of golden raisins
6 slices of bacon - crumbled

1 cup of mayonnaise
2 tsp curry power
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp apple cider

Whisk up the dressing and pour it over the salad, refrigerate before serving. 

Anyway you mix it, still a great summer salad!  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Strawberry and Grilled Chicken Spinach Salad with Homemade Poppyseed Dressing (and the Cave of the Mounds)

Summer fun is in full swing and I'm taking advantage of my first summer home with my kids since maternity leave 10 years ago…

So, in addition to lots of delicious summery foods, we are also working on hitting some local attractions for our own family fun.

Last weekend was kicked off with a tour of the Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, WI.  Some place I've always wanted to go so was excited for my first visit.

We arrived around 2:20 and the 2:30 tour was already sold out, so we got our tickets for the 3:00 tour and decided to explore the grounds a bit.

Whenever there is a chance to hit a nature trail and catch some serenity while being active, I'm game.  This family groupie was taken on the shorter and more lush loop of their hiking trails.

The tour is about an hour long and included a short intro video which helps get us novice cavemen on the same page.

The sights of the cave were quite amazing, especially when considering that the cave is still alive, forming, growing, changing while we are exploring it. 

They were quick to point out the cave bacon, which was a big hit with my guys. 

The colors and textures of the formations were breathtaking, just look at the contrast!  

Even in the cave we were all still smiling!  
Probably helped that it was nice and cool in the caves too! 

The flowing water through the cave is a large reason that this cave is still alive. 

Outside of the cave and back at home, summer meals are still in full swing.  While we did eat/jam up the first 20 lbs of fresh strawberries, I went back for more!  They are just too good to pass up! 

Besides, I had yet to make my Homemade Poppyseed Dressing served over Strawberry, Spinach, Grilled Chicken Salad.

A salad like this is so refreshing and as long as there is enough chicken, it should fill the family up as well.  

Just started with a bag of spinach, I did have to bulk it up with some romaine, otherwise there wouldn't have been enough for my hungry family.  

Added my first layer of sliced strawberries.  I love the sweet contrast of strawberries in this salad, so this is just the first of a few layers. 

Next, some chopped red onion.  I am not often a huge fan of raw onion, but chopped small enough and coupled with all of the right fixings, this just seems to work! 

Salad wouldn't be complete without something crunchy.
I had some slivered almonds on hand, but other nuts or sunflower seeds are always great adds.  

This layer of feta brought the perfect creamy element to this salad as a meal.  
Feta is nice and mild, so perfect for salads.  

These grilled chicken tenders, topped with seasoning salt, chopped into bite sized chunks, were the key to this meal.  

My family was salivating as they were watching me put this together.  

And, of course, more strawberries had to be added….

For the dressing, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp grated onion, with my beloved microplane, 1/2 cup canola oil, 2 tsp poppy seeds, 1 tbsp vinegar and 1 tsp ground mustard (which is key for it's emulsifying properties….which means keeping the vinegar and oil mixed) were all whisked together and spooned over the salad before serving.  

I'm a huge fan of making my own dressing, in case you haven't noticed by now…I love knowing each and every hand picked ingredient in my dressings and I usually make just about enough for a meal anyway, so I don't have a half of a bottle sitting around for, uh, years!  



1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp grated onion
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp ground mustard

Add all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk up.  

Strawberries - sliced
Red Onions
Almonds - sliced
Feta cheese
Grilled Chicken

Layer the salad fixing in a bowl, top with dressing and toss for a fabulous summer meal!  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Italian Pork Chop Skillet

Happy Monday….and back to a week of meals for the family.

I've recently been quite thankful for the fact that I do enjoy cooking and I've thought about those of you who could come up with a million other things to do other than cook, because putting a week's worth of healthy meals on the table is quite time consuming.

As much as I'd love to explore more type of recipes, I find myself dedicating so much time to just getting my family fed that I don't get to dabble in as much variety as I'd hope.

Many of the meals that I make are planned and pre-mediated, but this Italian Pork Chop Skillet was completely just a last minute dish using a variety of things I had on hand.

I was trying to figure out how to cook the pork in the kitchen, as opposed to the grill, since it was a stormy week last week, without using the oven and heating up the whole house.

Also, I didn't know what I was serve it with…but I had corn and zucchini and I thought if I just throw that together with some tomatoes and cream cheese, I'd have a decent skillet meal.

Let me tell you, my guys were thrilled!  And while Jerry and Ryker often have seconds, Landon even got into the mix, fighting over the leftovers.

I love a dish like this where the protein, vegetables and carbs are all wrapped up into one pan, keeps the clean up to a minimum as well!

It was quick and easy and family-pleasing.

Just start by sautéing some thin cut pork chops sprinkled generously with Italian seasoning which provided a little texture as well as flavor, in a pre-heated pan with your preferred vegetable oil.

After flipping and finishing on the second side, the pork chops were set aside.

I always use my microwave as a little warming box, as it holds heat very well and keeps food warm while it waits for the next step.  

Next, into the skillet (add a bit more oil if necessary), chopped onion, zucchini and thawed corn were added to cook and soften up a bit.

For the sauce, 8 oz of low fat cream cheese and one jar of marinara were poured in and heated up.

Simmer for a few minutes to all all of the delicious flavors to combine. 

If the sauce is too sweet, this can always be balanced by salt, or in this instance some parmesan was the perfect solution.  

Add the pork back to the skillet for one last shot of heat before serving.

It was so easy and delicious, I might be making it again this week!  

Thin cut Pork Chops 
Italian seasoning
1 Onion - chopped
3 Zucchini - chopped
1 Bag of frozen Corn - thawed
8 oz of low fat Cream Cheese
1 jar of Marinara
Parmesan cheese - grated, to taste

Sautee seasoned pork in pre-heated pan with oil, flip and set aside when fully cooked. 
To the pan, add onion, zucchini and corn, sautee until softened.
Next, add the marinara sauce and cream cheese, cook until sauce is smooth. 
Add parmesan, to taste, to round out flavors. 
Return pork to pan. 

Serve it up and let your family devour. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Red, White and Blue - Stuffed Strawberries

Our week has flown by…perhaps this is just the speed of summer, with soccer, baseball and swim nearly everyday of the week, not to mention summer school, piano and guitar lessons and trying to sneak in a trip to the library.

Regardless of what we are doing, I always love to have healthy, fresh, summery treats around and thought I'd share this quick one with you, Red, White and Blue - Stuffed Strawberries.

Just start with some rinsed strawberries.  

I probably picked out some of the larger ones, more room for cool whip!  

Cored them and took a small slice off of the bottom so that they would stand up nicely.  

Just used a sandwich bag for piping after filling with cool whip and cutting off a small corner.  

I'm not much of a baker, but this piping stuff was fun!  

Then, Alayna and her friend did the honors of topping with the blueberries

I was kindly informed that they were NOT photo ready, so I had to just get their hands.  

And, just like that, the treats were ready! 

Luckily it didn't take much longer to make them than it took for them to be gobbled down!  

But, I'm not complaining, way better than lots of other things they could be eating.  

Strawberries - rinsed, cored and flat on the bottom
Whip cream 

Arrange the berries on a plate or platter, pipe in the whip cream and top with blue berries.

So easy, so fun!  
Perfect for the upcoming summer holidays! 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

Greetings and happy stormy Wednesday.

While I'm on the series of things to love about summer, let's talk about a good thunderstorm.  (Of course, barring injuries or damage)

I think it all stems from my ever-growing appreciation for Mother Nature and her awesome works.  I just love all of the seasons and the beauty that they bring, a glorious sunny summer day, a brisk, colorful day in fall, a gorgeous snowfall in winter and the fresh, new green of spring.

A good crack of lightning to light up the whole sky, followed by some serious rumbling of thunder, that you can feel in your chest ranks right up there with some of my favorite things.  (My kids would fear that I would launch into song after using that phrase…they are probably right!)

Perhaps the greatest is the reminder is how small we are in this universe and how powerful the forces of natures can be…perhaps it only helps my appreciation for all of the natural wonders to grow!

A day like this lends it itself to some comfort food and recently Jerry requested pasta and Alfredo sauce.

If you haven't gathered by now, I'm a huge fan of taste, texture, flavor and healthy meals.  So, of course, Alfredo sauce isn't really on my radar until it dawned on me to use pureed cauliflower, as that has been all of the rage lately as a healthy alternate for potatoes and creamy soups.

Let me start by saying that everyone in the family ate and enjoyed the Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce over Penne pasta with chicken and grilled asparagus.

Whenever I switch things up like this, I don't generally advertise it too much before the meal, as I prefer  to minimize any preconceived notions, just try it with an open mind.

Since my dad was in town and he isn't very subtle, (not shocking to anyone who knows him) the kids new it was Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce going into it, but they wouldn't have even guessed it.

It was creamy and delicious and almost everyone had seconds.

Now, without further ado, let me share with you the recipe and process for whipping this up yourself.

One whole head of cauliflower was steamed until quite tender for ease of blending and achieving the smooth, creaminess of sauce.  When it was drained, I kept the 1 cup of leftover cooking broth to ultimately add to the blender.

I was a bit surprised by how much liquid was required in order to really thin and smooth out the sauce, but that is my favorite part of creating recipes is going with the flow!  

Generally, I do have an initial plan in mind, even jotted down on paper, but am happy to add and adjust ingredients as necessary upon tasting…much like my days of commercial product development.  

OK, back to the blender.

In total, 1 cup of whole milk, 1/2 stick of butter, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, 1 cup of cooking broth were added to the cauliflower and it was ready to whirl! An additional cup or two of water was added as necessary to thin the sauce, but I wouldn't recommended adding it right away.  

Now, since this was my first attempt at a cauliflower-based anything, I will admit I was a bit nervous.  But, in the event of a complete failure, I did have a jar of the store bought stuff as a back up, so really…just do it!  

Let me tell you, it worked like a charm and any near nerves over this were totally unwarranted.

As you can see, the blender was pretty full, so there was more than enough sauce to feed the 6 of us.

From the blender, to the sauce pan for heating and tweaking.  

My guest taster (aka dad) thought it needed a little more body, so more Parmesan was added, equalling a cup total.  That was the final tweak and we were ready to roll!

To complete the meal, 2# of chicken tenders (certainly could have been more…it's like I forget how much my family growing family eats) and 1# of grilled asparagus were added to the sauce and served over pasta.

I also threw some fresh basil on top, but I imagine that would have been amazing in the sauce, all blended up, as well!

I'll probably add a basil/pesto twist to it the next time I make it!  



1 whole head of cauliflower - steamed
1 cup of leftover cooking broth
1 cup of whole milk
1/2 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 cup of grated Parmesan (separated)
1-2 cups of additional water - added as necessary in the blending process.  

2# of chicken tenders
1# of grilled asparagus
2# pasta (1# gluten free, 1# traditional)


Steam cauliflower in 1 cup of water, reserve water for sauce.  
To blender, add cauliflower, cooking broth, milk, butter, garlic, 1/2 cup Parmesan.  
Blend until smooth, adding additional water as necessary.  

Return to sauce pan to warm, add additional 1/2 cup Parmesan.  

Add cooked, chopped chicken and asparagus to sauce, keep warm until serving over pasta.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Refreshing Nectarine Salsa

As if we need to state more of the obvious reasons to love summer...fresh fruit and produce galore!

I love that there is an abundance in the grocery store as well as the farmers' markets, there is an abundance at home, in the fridge and on the counter and that we are actually home to serve and enjoy this abundance.

Earlier this week nectarines were on sale for a crazy good price!  I thought they were a bit firm, but couldn't pass up this opportunity.  I got home only for Jerry to devour them, despite being as firm as an apple.

So, back to the store yesterday so that there were enough nectarines for snacking as well as this beloved summer favorite refreshing Nectarine Salsa.

This mixture of fresh, juicy produce is so perfect for summer because, I don't know about you, but I'm always thirsty.  Today, did some yard and garden work before playing ball with this kids and I was so darn thirsty.  I was quite thankful to have just the perfect snack waiting in the wings.

Jerry and I nearly devoured this dip in its entirety because it satisfies all of your cravings at once!  Sweet, salty, crunchy and thirst quenching.

I'll certainly be making more...maybe tomorrow!

It is easy to make and just requires a few of the summer's freshest favorites.

Two tomatoes, two nectarines, one large red onion all chopped and added to two cups of corn.  Any of these additions can be adjusted according to your own personal likes.  It turned out to be a lot of corn, which is not a problem for this family.

Then, a healthy 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro was added to the mix.  

Topped with fresh squeezed juice from one lemon (about 1/3 cup).

Finished with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, before gently folding, refrigerating and serving with some tortilla chips.  


2 tomatoes - chopped
2 nectarines - chopped
1 large red onion - chopped
2 cups of corn
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
Fresh squeezed juice from one lemon (about 1/3 cup)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, refrigerate (for best flavor) or serve with tortilla chips immediately.  

Would probably also be amazing over some grilled chicken, pork or fish!