Greek Salad

I live in South Carolina where the weather changed from almost uncomfortably warm to hot and humid some time last week. During the oppressive heat season, the only foods that appeal to me are fresh and crunchy and light. As a result, we have been eating variations of a Greek salad quite a bit lately.

The reason I love the Greek salad so much is because of the dressing. When you search Greek salad dressing recipes, there are many options. I took a few recipes that were similar and combined parts using the herb combination I liked best. The finished dressing is tart and tastes great with steak or chicken. If you are looking for a light summer meal, put together a chopped Greek salad. Leave the dressing off and make some individual portions to bring to school or the office for your teacher or work lunch. Add the dressing when you are ready to eat.

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • ~1 t. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 t. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 5 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 t. dried basil leaves
  • 1 t. dried oregano leaves

Salad Ingredients

  • Romaine lettuce, chopped (enough for people you will be serving)
  • peeled cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • grape tomatoes halved or quartered
  • thinly sliced purple onion
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • grilled steak or chicken, thinly sliced
  • pita chips

Directions

  • Mix together dressing ingredients and shake in a jar or use a whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • Put chopped lettuce in a serving bowl. Top with cucumbers, tomatoes, and purple onion.
  • Mix salad dressing again if it has separated and pour over salad. Toss well until ingredients are covered evenly with dressing.
  • Sprinkle feta crumbles on top.
  • Serve with sliced meat and pita chips.

Notes

  • Other ingredients you could add are calamata olives or mild banana peppers.
  • I like my lettuce chopped into small pieces because I think it tastes better that way. The dressing really covers well.
  • This makes a great teacher lunch. Assemble in individually sized tupperware with the dressing on the side. Pour the dressing over when ready to serve, put the lid on firmly, and shake.

For more great salad options, read about my favorite FRIED CHICKEN SALAD or TACO SALAD.

Homemade Cheezits (kind of)

cheese-crackers-gift-bags-front-and-back-2

It’s holiday teacher gift season! I love teacher gift ideas, and I try not to repeat too many ideas from year to year. If I were not a teacher and a parent, I would not take the teacher gift situation so seriously, but I know how much I appreciate getting a small thank you from a student or family at the holidays, so I try to do the same for my children’s teachers. At the holidays, I often receive lots of home baked sweet goodies (no complaints here). Because there might be lots of cookies and candies on the way, I thought I would go the savory route for this year’s teacher gifts.

cheese-crackers-close

The crackers look like a Cheezit and have a similar taste but are slightly more gourmet due to the rosemary. I found THIS RECIPE via Pinterest. The recipe is easy to follow, but it is time consuming since you need to mix the dough, let it rest in the refrigerator, roll out the dough, cut, and bake. I put about 2/3 cup of crackers in each gift bag and ended up making three batches of dough to have enough crackers (twelve teachers).

cheese-crackers-cutting-shapes

In order to make my cuts even for the cracker shape, I cut a strip of cardstock paper one inch wide and used that as a guideline for cutting. I had straggly edge pieces that were not perfect shapes, and those were the pieces we ate at my house!

cheese-crackers-gift-bags

I printed labels on Avery 8163 shipping labels (2″ x 4″). You could use this ROSEMARY CHEESE CRACKER LABEL template and print on regular paper, cut, and tie to the bags with curly ribbon. The crackers would also be pretty in pint Mason jars or small, decorative Chinese food container boxes.

cheese-crackers-cooling

I am hoping the teachers receiving these little gift bags will enjoy this snacky treat. For our teachers who we know are dog owners, we are giving these DOG TREAT GIFT BAGS in place of the human treat. It saved me having to make even more batches of crackers!

cheese-crackers-gift-bags-front-and-back

 

 

No Bake Recipes

cookie dough bar

Miss Priss has been on a cooking bender. I think she fancies herself a future Chopped Junior contestant. I was getting tired of monitoring the kitchen with her, so we moved over to no-bake recipes. I don’t have to be by her side the whole time, and she still experiences all of the joys of cooking. She is also gaining measuring skills, the ability to read and follow directions, and learning how to clean up after herself (my favorite side benefit). She has no idea she is actually learning these valuable skills, and I am not planning on revealing this little secret.

cookie dough bars sliced

The best recipe she has made so far is a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream bar. I found the original recipe and directions HERE. I helped cut the parchment paper to the correct size, and I licked the bowl, but other than that, I had no involvement.

Directions

  • Prepare the eggless cookie dough batter (CLICK HERE for recipe).
  • Line a 9 x 9 pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper strips. Put one strip horizontally across the pan and the other strip vertically. The ends of the strip should hang over the edges of the pan. This will allow you to lift the frozen cookie dough out of the pan later.

cookie dough bars first layer

  • Press half of the cookie dough into a thin layer on the bottom of the parchment paper lined pan.
  • Put two new strips of parchment paper over the layer of cookie dough and gently press and smooth the paper. Spray lightly with Pam or another cooking spray.
  • Press the other half of the cookie dough on the second layer of parchment paper into a thin layer.

cookie dough second layer

  • Fold the parchment over the top and put a weight on top to hold the parchment paper down (you could use a tupperware/bag of dried beans, bag of frozen vegetables, or something else in your freezer).

cookie dough weight

  • Freeze for 2-3 hours.
  • Gently remove frozen cookie dough layers from the pan and peel from the paper.

cookie dough removing layers

  • Put two of the strips of parchment back in the pan and gently place one cookie dough block back on the paper in the pan.
  • Gently spread one quart of softened ice cream over the cookie dough base.

cookie dough spreading ice cream

  • Place the second cookie dough block on top of the ice cream.

cookie dough bars assembled

  • Cover with a strip of parchment. Place a weight on top (dried beans or bag of frozen vegetables again) and put back in the freezer for 2-3 hours.
  • To serve, lift the cookie bars out of the pan using the bottom layer of parchment paper as a handle. Cut into squares with a sharp knife. Running the knife under hot water before using it to cut will help make slicing easier. OK– so I helped with this step too, and the cookie dough “crust” breaks very easily.

cookie dough bars frozen

Reasons to Cook with Kids

  • Math skills– fractions, adding, dividing, proportions…
  • Science skills– heat and temperature, changing states of matter
  • Procedures and directions– following step by step directions and seeing the cause and effect if you go out of order (or stay in the order of the recipe), developing patience and waiting for results
  • Reading– recognizing and reading a recipe format as compared to non-fiction text or chapter books
  • Screen free– no devices required

cookie dough ice cream bar

Tortellini Pasta Salad

tortellini pasta salad serving

A new gourmet olive oil shop opened in town, and I had two sweet students bring me bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the end of the school year. The olive oil is that really good kind that tastes good all by itself with crusty bread dipped in it, which was my main plan until we needed a side dish for TheRoomDad’s latest grilling adventures. I whipped together an easy tortellini pasta salad that is delicious and summery and excellent with steak.

tortellini pasta salad olive oil dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 family sized package cheese tortellini (~1 lb)
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 handful baby arugula
  • 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded (or to taste)

tortellini pasta salad mixing

Directions

  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to the pasta and toss gently to keep the tortellini from sticking together and let cool slightly.
  • In a separate dish, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and pepper.
  • In the bowl with the tortellini, add crumbled bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and dressing. Toss well until the tortellini is coated with dressing. The arugula will wilt slightly.
  • Sprinkle Parmesan on top before serving.
  • Serve at room temperature.

Notes

  • I have not officially tested this, but I think the pasta salad would travel well to tailgates and potlucks and could be refrigerated.

tortellini pasta salad finished

A Hankering for Pie

strawberry pie slice

Recently, I became unafraid to make pie crust from scratch. It happened when Miss Priss I needed to bake a pie after she won a persuasive writing contest at school. We had to bring in the pie she described in her essay for a class pie tasting. I put off making the pie until the last minute– as in really late the night before it was due– and I was forced to make a homemade pie crust since I could not get to the grocery store at that late hour to buy a pre-made one. Turns out, they are not that hard to make, and you really do notice a difference. I’ve tried a few different recipes and prefer the crust recipes that use Crisco as opposed to butter (see links below).

sugar and cream pie slice

Miss Priss’ winning pie was a Chocolate Brownie Drizzle Pie from Paula Deen. Tonight we are having Strawberry Pie and last week (in honor of Pie Day) we ate this Sugar and Cream Pie that was heavenly.

Strawberry Pie Ingredients

  • 1-2 pints fresh strawberries, stems and leaves removed
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 t. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t. lemon zest
  • 1 9-in. baked pie shell
  • 1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped

Directions

  • Cut 1 pint strawberries into bite sized pieces and line the bottom of the baked pie shell with the strawberry pieces. I quartered the strawberries and dropped them into the crust, but you could slice them and place the slices evenly around the shell to make the pie more decorative.
  • In a saucepan, bring to a boil 6-8 whole strawberries with 3/4 c. water. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Combine cornstarch and sugar and add to the berries.
  • With a whisk, stir constantly until the mixture is clear and thickened. Pour thickened strawberry mixture through a sieve to remove any chunky pieces.
  • Add lemon juice and lemon zest to the strawberry liquid.
  • Pour liquid over the strawberries in the pie shell. Chill several hours.
  • Serve topped with whipped cream.

strawberry pie

Notes

  • If you do not chill the strawberry pie long enough, the strawberry syrup will be runny and not hold together when you slice the pie. This does not affect the taste of the pie, but it looks pretty messy.
  • The original Crisco pie crust recipe can be found HERE. I use milk in place of the water.
  • Pioneer Woman has a good Crisco pie crust recipe HERE.

pie crust transfer