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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Freeze for 2-3 hours.
Gently remove frozen cookie dough layers from the pan and peel from the paper.
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.
Place the second cookie dough block on top of the ice cream.
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
I have not officially tested this, but I think the pasta salad would travel well to tailgates and potlucks and could be refrigerated.
Here is another summer salad that will be easy to pack in individual containers and bring to swim meets, picnics, or any other tailgate type event that comes up this summer. It can be made ahead and keeps in the refrigerator for a day or two as long as you do not add the lettuce until just before serving. I also tested to see if it could be stored in a Mason jar for a teacher or office lunch, and it works perfectly. I won’t lie; the fact that it looks very Martha Stewart and Pinterest-y in the Mason jar is a huge draw for me.
16 oz. shell pasta, cooked and cooled
2 roast chicken breasts, pulled off the bone and diced/shredded (a grocery store rotisserie chicken works too and saves time)
12 oz. Caesar salad dressing (I like Marie’s brand)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced in 1/4 circles
~1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper, to taste
1-2 heads Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped
Combine cooked pasta, chicken pieces, tomato pieces, and sliced onion.
Add dressing and mix gently. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing and add more if it seems too dry. You will need more dressing than you think because of the lettuce that will be added before serving.
Sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan cheese and mix again.
Just before serving, add the lettuce to the pasta and mix.
If you are packing in a Mason jar or tupperware for a work lunch or picnic, layer the serving of pasta salad on the bottom. Place a layer of lettuce in the top. Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) until ready to eat.
I hate it when my ideas don’t work. Mr. Star Wars had his 10th birthday yesterday, and he wanted brownies with ice cream on top for his birthday dessert. This was just going to be a family dinner and celebration since we celebrated his birthday with a few friends before school started, but I still did not think that a plain old pan brownie was birthday-y enough, so I hunted down an alternative.
I had seen an idea on Pinterest for brownie cups. They seemed easy enough and upon closer inspection, they even used a boxed brownie mix, which I thought would translate into minimal time and effort.
Make the brownie mix according to the box directions. I think a fudgier brownie mix would work better than the one I used.
Spray with Pam or grease with Crisco the insides of a cupcake tin and across the top of the pan where the brownies will rise over the edge of the cup VERY WELL.
Fill the cupcake tins about 2/3 full with brownie mix.
Spray or grease the bottom of the second cupcake tin VERY WELL and gently rest the second cupcake tin on top of the filled cupcake tin.
Bake brownies according to the box directions. I baked my brownies about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove from the oven and remove the top cupcake tin. I thought it was best to remove while the brownies were still warm, but my brownies stuck to the pans, so I am not sure what to advise on this. I let them cool before lifting the cup out of the bottom cupcake tin after seeing the disaster with the top pan, but the base of the brownies completely stuck to the pan, so I ended up with brownie crumbles and broken brownie cups.
Take whatever brownie pieces you can salvage and put them in the bottom of a bowl.
Top with ice cream. Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss wanted mint chip. TheRoomDad and I had coffee ice cream. Drizzle chocolate syrup over the ice cream.
Thankfully, broken brownie cups taste just as good as perfect brownie cups. Anyone else want to give this one a try and report back? Is it my cupcake tins that are the problem?