Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

I think one of the prettiest salads you can have is the Caprese Salad.  It’s vibrant colors are so inviting, promising something creamy, fresh and delicious.

What you may ask is a Caprese Salad.  It’s an Italian salad of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil with a light vinaigrette dressing.  It’s said that Caprese Salad was originally made to honor the Italian flag which is Red, White, and Green; the same colors of the salad.

Caprese Salad is definitely a family favorite.  It’s not only delicious but it’s so easy to make.  We have it for lunch, as a panino or sandwich.  You can place the ingredients between 2 slices of bread or better yet a ciabatta roll, grill it just until the bread is toasted and the cheese melts, and you have a wonderfully simple meal!

The most important thing to remember when making Caprese Salad at home is to use the freshest ingredients you can find.  This mean unless absolutely necessary the prepacked balls of mozzarella in the supermarket’s dairy case just won’t do!

Short of bringing home fresh mozzarella from Italy (which I’ve actually done) I usually find fresh mozzarella at Costco or the deli counter.  It’s the balls of cheese that’s usually floating in the tub it’s packaged in.  You’ll know it’s fresh because it’s softer than those hard balls packed in plastic wrap.

Tomatoes of course are fresh, pick nice ripe ones.  I get mine from my garden along with the fresh basil.  If you don’t have a basil plant (and you should! it’s so easy to keep even a small one in the kitchen window) you can buy fresh basil leaves at the grocery store.

Once you have all the fresh ingredients all  you really need is some extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of Italian seasoning if  you have it, and some salt.  If you don’t have Italian seasoning you can use dried oregano, parsley, or basil or you can just use black pepper.

Caprese Salad is great for a light lunch or as a fresh addition to any meal.  It’s tasty and refreshing, the perfect summer salad!

Caprese Salad

Ingredients:

5-6 slices of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (slices should be about 1/2″ thick)

1 Firm Ripe Tomato – sliced in about 1/2″ thick rounds

3-6 Fresh Basil Leaves

1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

1 Tsp. Italian Dressing

Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice mozzarella and tomatoes into 1/2″ rounds and arrange on a plate.  Alternate tomato and cheese to make it look nice.

You can also add a basil leaf between the cheese and tomato or you can place the leaves in the center.  Place the three ingredients on the plate any way you find pleasing.

Mix together oil and vinegar.

Add 1/2 Tsp. of Italian seasoning to the oil mixture and stir well.

Drizzle over the fresh ingredients just before serving.

Sprinkle remaining Italian Seasoning over all and season with salt and pepper if desired.

 

 

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Ham & Cheese Sliders

Ham & Cheese Sliders

Looking for something fun and simple to make for lunch this summer?  Something the kids and adults will love?  How about these Ham & Cheese Sliders?

These Ham & Cheese Sliders are super easy to make and they’re great for lunch, snacks, and even potlucks.  We serve them during pool parties, the kids and adults love them.  Best of all they’re very easy to make and can be prepped ahead of time.  Just pop them in the oven about half an hour before serving.  They’re great hot or cold.

Here’s what you need to make them!  I’m sure your family will love them as much as mine does.  The kids usually fight over the left overs!

By the way you can use  ham or if you prefer turkey or turkey ham.  I use King’s Bakery Hawaiian Sweet Rolls but if you can’t find them any kind of sweet dinner rolls will work.  I also use the ham and cheese I have sliced at the deli, I like the slices a bit thicker; but you can use the packed have you find at your grocer’s refrigerated case like Oscar Mayer or whatever brand you prefer.  I use Munster Cheese because it melts well and has a mild flavor everyone enjoys, but you can use whatever cheese you like.

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Ham & Cheese Sliders

2 Package King’s Bakery Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

1 Lb.  Sliced Ham

1 Lb. Sliced Munster Cheese or your preferred cheese

1/2 Stick Melted Butter

1 Tsp. Garlic Powder

1 Tbl. Chopped fresh parsley

Cooking spray

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray.

Cut dinner rolls in half horizontally.

Place bottom of rolls tightly against each other in the pan, you should be able to fit 36 rolls.

Cut Ham and Cheese slices into squares about the same size as the rolls.

Place 2-3 slices of ham and 2-3 slices of cheese on each roll.

Place Roll tops on the cheese filling.

Mix garlic powder and parsley into melted butter.

Brush butter mixture on the rolls.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve hot or cold.


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Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

This is the perfect side for your next BBQ.

YIELDS: 8

PREP TIME: 0 HOURS 10 MINS

TOTAL TIME: 0 HOURS 30 MINS

 

 

INGREDIENTS 

FOR THE PASTA SALAD

1 lb. penne

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. garlic powder

Kosher salt

2 c. chopped romaine lettuce

1 c. halved grape tomatoes

1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 c. croutons

2/3 c. Caesar dressing

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley 

Freshly ground black pepper

 

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook penne according to package directions until al dente. Drain and transfer to large bowl. 

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Season chicken with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt. Cook until golden and cooked through, 8 minutes per side. Let rest 10 minutes, then cut into 1″ pieces. 

Add romaine, tomatoes, Parmesan, croutons, and chicken to pasta bowl. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together Caesar dressing, lemon juice, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Pour over penne mixture and toss to combine. 


Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
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Turkey & Cheese Pinwheels – Easy Finger Food

Turkey & Cheese Pinwheels – Easy Finger Food

Looking for something simple, light, and tasty for lunch?  These no cook Turkey & Cheese Pinwheels are a hit with kids and adults alike.  They’re easy to make, require absolutely zero cooking skills, and are really good.

We used to buy them by the tray at Costco.  We all loved them and they were always a big hit at potlucks.  But it seems the price went up on a try, either that or I finally paid attention to the price.  Whatever the case may be $40 for a tray of something we can easily make at home seemed a bit steep.

So we’ve been making these pinwheels at home.  I’ve actually had my grandsons making them.  They put them together and I slice them.  We recently hosted a pool party in our backyard and these Turkey & Cheese Pinwheels were on the menu.  The kids had some for lunch and snacked on the rest all afternoon.

These Turkey & Cheese Pinwheels are ideal for lunch, snacks, as appetizers, and for potlucks.  Best of all  you can whip a tray up in no time!  Here’s what you need to make them.  Feel free to adjust the amounts needed to suit your needs.

Turkey & Cheese Pinwheels

Ingredients:

1 Pkg. 10″ Flour Tortillas (or you can use Spinach Tortillas)

1 Container Strawberry Flavored Cream Cheese Spread

1 Lb. Sliced Turkey Breast (I like to use the roasted turkey breasts from the deli, I have them sliced a little thicker, but you can use any brand of pre-packaged Turkey Breast)

1 Lb. Sliced Swiss Cheese

Lettuce Leaves (I use the Mizuna lettuce I grow in my garden because they are flat, but you can use any type of lettuce or even spinach leaves)

Directions:

Spread cream cheese evenly on a tortilla.  Spread to about 1/4′ from the edge.

Place turkey slices on top of cream cheese, you will need more than 1 slice to fill the surface of the tortilla.

Place Cheese over the turkey slices.

Gently flatten lettuce leaves and place on top of the cheese.

Roll the tortilla jelly roll style.  Make sure you roll the tortilla tightly so that it won’t unravel when you slice it.

Seal seam to the roll with a dab of cream cheese to keep it from unrolling.

Slice off both ends of the roll.  Slice it so that both ends are straight and show the filling.

Slice the roll from left to right making sure each slice is about 1″ wide.  You should get about 6 slices.

Place pinwheel slices on serving platter and repeat process until you have enough pinwheels for your needs.

If you have leftovers you can store them in the fridge in airtight containers.

Turkey & Cheese Pinwheels - Easy Finger Food
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Blistered Peppers Tapas

Blistered Peppers Tapas

Tapas some of my favorites things when visiting Spain.  Tapas are appetizers or snacks that are generally eaten in the evenings before dinner.  We usually enjoy them with a  pitcher of Sangria.

Tapas are usually smaller servings of Spanish favorites and are a great way to sample a variety of dishes.   They can be hot or cold and range from olives to small bowls of scampi style shrimp.  One of our favorites are Blistered Peppers, they go great with Blistered Olives which can be green or black olives.

In Spain this particular tapa is made with Padron or Shishito peppers.  Those peppers are about 10 times milder than a jalapeno pepper; blistered peppers are generally on the sweet peppery side not the spicy side like jalapeno or habanero peppers.

But Padron and Shishito peppers are not easy to find in the US.  So I had to look for an alternative.  After experimenting with different types of green peppers I can honestly say that you probably won’t be able to find anything equivalent, however you may be able to come close.  I’ve found that the closest substitute are Anaheim Peppers although they will have more heat and are bigger than either Padron or Shishito Peppers.  Another option I’ve used are Serrano Peppers which are easier to find in Hawaii.  Serrano Peppers are about the same size as Padron or Shishito Peppers but have more heat than either pepper and a bit more heat than the Anaheim pepper.

Whichever you ultimately use the process of making Blistered Peppers are the same.  So here’s my recipe.

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Blistered Peppers

Ingredients:

10-12 Fresh Peppers (Padron, Shishito, Anaheim, or Serrano Peppers which ever one you can find or prefer)

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

Coarse Sea Salt

Directions:

Wash Peppers leaving the stems on.

Dry peppers on a paper towel.

Heat Olive Oil in small frying pan.

Add peppers and gently cook in hot oil until skin starts to blister and turn sort of white.

Remove from heat and toss in coarse sea salt to taste.

Serve hot or cold.  I like to serve them in small ramekins or mini cast iron skillets


Blistered Peppers Tapas
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Gambas al Ajillo Tapas – Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

Gambas al Ajillo Tapas – Shrimp in Garlic Sauce

Serving Tapas always remind me of my many trips to Barcelona.  One of my favorite tapas are Gambas al Ajillo or Shrimp in Garlic Sauce.  I love them with lots of crusty bread for dipping in that butter garlic sauce.

Tapas are small servings of Spanish foods.  They’re usually eaten with wine or cocktails in the evenings before dinner.  We enjoy them with a nice pitcher of Sangria.  They’re a great way to sample a variety of Spanish dishes.  I like to order a variety of Tapas and make a whole meal out of them.

Gambas al Ajillo are exactly like Shrimp Scampi.  They are delicious and best of all very easy to make!   I serve them hot off the stove on a mini cast iron skillet or a ceramic ramekin with lots of crusty baguette slices.  Here’s my recipe!

Gambas al Ajillo

Ingredients:

20 Medium shrimp (41/50 count) – peeled and de-veined with tail on

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

1/4 Stick Butter

1 Tbs. Finely Minced Garlic

Juice of 1/2 Lemon

Directions:

Heat Olive Oil in small skillet.

Melt butter in hot oil.

Add garlic and cook until garlic starts to turn brown.  Stir constantly to keep garlic from burning.

Add shrimp and cook until shrimp turns pink.

Squeeze lemon juice over all.

Serve hot with crusty slices of bread.

Gambas al Ajillo Tapas - Shrimp in Garlic Sauce
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Gambas al Ajillo Tapas - Shrimp in Garlic Sauce
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