Summer Grain Salad
I know, I know - we're just 2 full days into Spring and I'm already over here posting a summer salad recipe. In my defense - the thermostat hit 80 degrees in Georgia yesterday, so it feels a whole lot more like summer than spring in my town.😎 And yes, I blame the weather for forcing me to put away the winter soups and break out my new summer salad recipes so early in the season.😅
Green salads are great but sometimes I like to switch out my greens for grains. Grains bowls are my go-to lunch lately. I blame Panera. (Apparently, I'm taking zero accountability for my food choices.🤣) Ever since I was introduced to their mediterranean grain bowl - I've been hooked. I started by recreating their scrumptious bowl at home and it didn't take long for me to branch out to all sorts of other grain bowl creations from there.
This summer grain bowl combines some of my very favorite ingredients into one delicious salad. Crispy, roasted chick peas, nutty, chewy farro, toasted slivered almonds, sweet corn, fresh basil and dried apricots - does that sound as good to you as it does to me? This protein packed flavor bomb is super satisfying and a great meat-less lunch option.
Summer Grain Salad
1 15-ounce can garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup frozen corn ears, thawed
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
red pepper flakes
4 cups cooked farro, from 1½ cups uncooked
⅓ cup dried apricots, diced
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
½ cup slivered almonds
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Add the farro, corn, apricots, and parsley and toss.
Divide salad among bowls. Top with garbanzo beans, almonds and basil. I recommend adding the dressing just before serving.
It's pollen season in Atlanta and every day there's an internal struggle that goes on in my brain.🧠 I start each beautiful Spring day with the intention of keeping all doors and windows closed and tightly sealed, to keep that signature fine, yellow pollen dust layer from forming on my floors, appliances and countertops.🤧 But inevitably, sometime around noon, when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, I convince myself that it's perfectly acceptable to crack just one window open to let in some fresh air and perhaps just minimal pollen.😬 As the afternoon progresses though, I talk myself into the fact that I should open up more doors and windows and just deal with the pollen clean up. By the end of the day, every window and door in my house is open and every surface covered in a thin layer of yellow pollen.
I think the problem is that I just love Spring so much that I want to enjoy it fully --- inside my house. 😂 If I have to be inside, I want to feel like I'm outside - so I open up the house to let all that fresh Spring air in. Unfortunately, that also means that for a few weeks a year, I also let in the pollen. I don't think I ever really understood Spring cleaning until I moved to the land of yellow pollen.🤪
Cookie baking days are an exception to my open door policy. I keep all windows and doors closed during the baking and cooling process so the cookies are exposed to as little pollen as possible. I feel like I breathe in so much of the yellow pine pollen on my morning walks that I don't need to ingest it as a topping on my desserts as well. 🥴
Baking pollen free cookies is one thing but getting pictures of them --- let's just say that Spring photography takes pollen removal to a whole new level.🤣 Decks get hosed off, boards get scrubbed and porch furniture is pressure washed weekly because if you live in the South you know that pollen gets everywhere. It's totally worth the effort though because Pollen Free Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Cookies are the bomb! 💣
Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Cookies
3 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cups chocolate chunks
Bake 10-12 minutes at 350.
Sprinkle with sea salt.
For years, I steered as far away from wedding baking, as I possibly could.😬 On rare occasions, I would hesitantly accept requests from friends to bake a special dessert for a wedding but it didn't happen very often.👰🏽♀️ Honestly, just the thought of baking a wedding cake, a grooms cake, a cupcake or pie display or even putting together a tray of wedding favor cookies would send me into a cold sweat. 😅
I recognize that I put this unnecessary pressure on myself but, wedding baking was a hurdle that took me a long time to get over. Maybe it was the realization that everything that I make for a wedding will be photographed and examined by a larger than usual audience that caused my anxiety. 🎂😅 Or maybe it was the significance of the occasion that added to my baking stress level. Whatever the reason, it took some serious prodding for me to start taking wedding orders in my business.
After some super stressful and downright scary, larger than life, wedding cake experiences and a few cake deliveries that ended tragically, I finally realized that I needed to put some limits on the cakes that I make for weddings. Turns out - downsized, simply decorated wedding cakes are super popular right now anyway. 🎂 I'm actually really starting to enjoy this part of my job. 💁🏻♀️
Traditionally, tiramisu is Italian ladyfingers, soaked in espresso, layered with creamy, mascarpone cheese filling and dusted with the most decadent cocoa powder available. It's one of my all time favorite desserts. Simple, light, creamy and sweet.
Translating a classic tiramisu dessert to cake wasn't without it's complications. After some extensive trial and error - I finally landed on a delicious tiramisu inspired cake that - in my opinion - is out of this world good. A yellow sponge cake, brushed with an espresso simple syrup and filled with the signature mascarpone filling that everyone loves.
3 3/4 cups cake flour , plus extra for dusting pans
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
15 Tablespoons butter , melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
4 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla
9 large egg yolks , room temperature
5 large egg whites , room temperature
Espresso Simple Syrup
3/4 cup hot brewed espresso coffee or very strong coffee
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup full-fat mascarpone
2 ½ cups buttercream
½ cup strong brewed coffee - espresso preferred, chilled
Bake cakes 30 minutes at 350.
Cool on wire racks.
Assemble cake with espresso mascarpone cheese buttercream between layers and on sides and top. I decorated these cakes with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and few simple blackberries.
Herb Marinated Chicken with Bulgur
I did a little travelling last week, to visit these sweet souls.
Phone calls and text messages are great for keeping in touch but every few months - I just need to put my arms around these people and hug their necks. For those of you who don't already know - these are my parents, my kiddos and my "grand dog". 😁
Days spent with my family are sweet and I certainly don't take them for granted. Especially the family that I don't get to see very often because we live far apart. When we do get the chance to spend time together, we celebrate in the way that all Italian families do: with lots of amazing food and great wine. We tend to hang out together in the kitchen - it's just what we do.👩🏻🍳 There's never any shortage of family cooking sessions during my visits.
Last week, we celebrated two birthdays during my visit. So you know that I did some baking while I was there including this batch of birthday cornmeal cookies with honey buttercream. (Check back on the blog next week for this scrumptious recipe.😋 )
I did a little bit of baking but a whole lot of eating while I was on vacation.😅 Isn't that what vacation is all about?🤪 Now that I'm home though, it's time to get back to healthy eating -- in more reasonable amounts.🤣 Cue the lean chicken recipes with whole grains.
Herb Marinated Chicken with Bulgur
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 bone in chicken thighs
1/2 cup bulgur
3 ounces cherry tomatoes
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Drizzle 3 T. sauce over bulgur. Fold tomatoes and parsley into bulgur. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve chicken with bulgur and extra pan sauce.
French Mussels in White Wine Sauce
Most embarrassing thing that I've said to a waiter: "Those are the biggest mussels, I've ever seen."💪🏻😂 Meanwhile, my husband, who is sitting directly across the table from me, starts flexing like there's no tomorrow.🤦🏻♀️ Despite what my family thought, I wasn't actually trying comment on the masculinity of the wait staff, I was trying to compliment my entree.😅
FYI: My husband has reminded me of this embarrassing moment every single time I've eaten mussels since that fateful day. It's been 3 years and I eat a lot of mussels.🤣 I have a pretty predictable restaurant order if mussels are on a restaurant menu. For me, it just doesn't get better than a batch of tender, steamed mussels in a buttery, garlicky, white wine sauce.
The best mussels I've ever tasted were in Ireland. Did you know that mussel farms are quite prevalent in Ireland? I didn't know it --- until I visited.🇮🇪 We actually didn't visit the country during the mussel harvest season but the mussels that we ordered at the pubs were some of the most tender and flavorful that I've ever eaten. #irishpubmussels #stillnotthebiggestmussels
In my opinion, simple mussels recipes are best. Letting the mussels take center stage. And since we don't live in Ireland - or near a fresh body of water - I buy my mussels in the freezer section. They're actually pretty tasty - just remember to give them some air while they defrost and don't immaculate your husband by commenting on the size of the mussels. 🤣
French Mussels in White Wine Sauce
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed clean
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons butter
1 minced shallot
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 cup minced parsley
Transfer mussels to a bowl using tongs. Pour cooking liquid into a measuring cup.
Pour sauce over mussels to serve.
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