Thursday, August 24, 2017

DIY Gourmet Hot Dog Bar

If you have been following my posts for a while, by now you know I love hosting people in our home. For me it is just as much about the conversation + community as it is the food... but I am also a firm believer that it never hurts to turn some simple items into a plate of lovingly prepared and thoughtfully styled food.

So, that leads me to the delicious platter of goodness pictured above. Have hot dogs ever looked so drool-worthy?! I know they are not the best thing in the world to eat, but every once in a while I think you just gotta splurge. Hot dogs are definitely splurge-worthy. And if you're going to eat them you need to fully commit... go all in... and have no regrets. So why not invite a few friends over, set up a beautiful display of all your favorite fixins'the classics and maybe a few unique onesand let people DIY their own gourmet dogs while you watch some football.

Major plus of this setup: the work on your end is minimalyou can do all of the prep ahead of time so you can actually enjoy the event instead of sweating in the kitchen while your guests party in the other room.

I have listed out four hot dog concoctions and accompanying ingredients below. I think it helps to narrow in on a few ideas so you can organize on your end and also give your guests some culinary direction if they need it. DIY signage is of course always an option, too. Some may think it is over the top but I am in full support of the idea. ; )

Side note: I have homemade and alternate options listed below. If you do not have the time / do not want to add extra steps reference the ** below for some easy hacks!

Pictured above:
Tex-Mex Dog: black bean puree, fresh corn salsa, monterey jack, tortilla strips
The Classic: diced onion, white cheddar, pickle relish, sliced pickles, mustard
Southern Comfort: raspberry-chipotle jam, pimento cheese, bacon crumbles, jalapenos
BBQ Crunch: cole slaw, bbq sauce, crumbled bbq chips

What You Will Need:
hot dogs (we love Oscar Mayer Angus Selects Beef Franks)
white cheddar, shredded
monterey jack, shredded
pimento cheese (we love Palmetto brand)
lightly salted tortilla strips (usually found by the salad dressing)
pickle relish
zesty pickle spears, sliced into strips
1 small white onion, diced
raspberry-chipotle jam (we love this kind, but plain raspberry will also do)
bacon, cooked in advance & crumbled
jalapenos, sliced
bbq sauce
bbq chips, crumbled
ketchup (just in case people want the basics)
black bean puree (see below)
corn salsa (see below)
sweet and spicy slaw (see below)

For the black bean puree (double if needed):
1 can black beans
½ tsp chili powder, cumin, garlic powder
Directions: rinse and drain, pour into a food processor, add spices and a little bit of water and pulse until smooth.
**A can of refried black beans would work just as great as long as they are thick enough.

For the corn salsa (double if needed):

2 ears of sweet corn, kernels cut off
½ cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 large lime, juiced
½ tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper
Directions: mix all together, let sit in refirgerator for at least an hour.
**You can buy pre-made pico de gallo and add in the corngreat shortcut that will still taste fresh.

For the slaw (this can also serve as a side dish if you want to double-up):
1 - 16oz package tri-color cole slaw 
½ cup red onion, sliced thin
¼ cup (reduced-fat) mayonnaise
¼ cup yellow mustard
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
½ tsp each: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper

Directions: pour slaw & onions into large mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients in a separate bowl, add to slaw and stir until blended. Let refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
**You can buy pre-made slaw from the deli section and add in the spices & red onion to take the flavor up a notch.

Place all of your toppings in separate bowls around the table, grill up some dogs as guests arrive (or you can even do this ahead of time and keep them in the oven on "warm" setting) and let everyone get after it! This hot dog bar will be a hit, trust me.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Mini Meatloaves

Y'all. This meatloaf is life changing. You may think that sounds dramatic but I mean it. Bacon + garlic + fresh herbs topped with a brown sugar glaze (that caramelizes while cooking). So. Good. I am picky about meatloaf too... and not many can rival what I ate growing up... but THIS one wins for me (sorry Mom & Nanny). It is the meatloaf of all meatloaves. Go make you some and get back to me with your review!

What You Will Need:
½  pounds ground beef (I used 80/20)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp each fresh: thyme and parsley, chopped (1 tsp of each if using dried)
1 cup garlic & herb bread crumbs (you can use plain if preferred - these just add more flavor)
1 large egg
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce, divided
¾ cup milk
6 pieces thick-cut, applewood smoked bacon (I like Smithfield or Wright brands)
½  cup ketchup
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
toothpicks for assembly

Set oven to 350° 

Step One
In a small sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add in garlic and saute an additional minute. Set aside.

Step Two
At this point, I usually let my KitchenAid stand mixer do the work for me (because why not). Or you can use your hands. Whatevs your feeling. Just mix everything from the beef down to the milk together, including the cooked onion/garlic mixture + only 2 tsp of the Worcestershire.

Step Three
Divide into six equal parts, and shape into mini loaves. Wrap a piece of bacon around the diameter of the meatloaves (the meatloaves should be about as thick as the piece of bacon is wide), securing with a toothpick where the ends meet. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and set aside.

Step Four
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients (don't forget that last tsp of Worcestershire). Coat the tops of each meatloaf. Bake for about an hour and 10 minutes, or until set. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before eating so they don't crumble completely apart.

And this is probably obvious, but it is kind of a requirement to serve this yummy meatloaf alongside some creamy mashed potatoes. I also added a side of sautéd zucchini and corn for good measure.

Enjoy, y'all! xo


Friday, April 7, 2017

Banana Pudding

Banana. Pudding. A southern dessert staple and hands down one of my all-time favorites (rivaling my Grandma's strawberry pie, Mom's german chocolate sheet cake, and Aunt Lorene's lemon bars). I love trying out new ways to make it, but I have to say this version is always the winner for me. The butter cookies (thank you Paula Deen for this idea!) are a yummy alternative to traditional vanilla wafers, and the homemade whip cream blended into the pudding really takes it to the next level. I hope y'all like it as much as we do!

What You Will Need:
1 cup heavy whipping cream*
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 bag Pepperidge Farm Chessmen Cookies
5-6 bananas, sliced thin
1 small box French vanilla instant pudding
2 cups milk
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Step One
Pour heavy cream into a stand mixer (or you can use a handheld mixer if you prefer). Beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add in powdered sugar + vanilla and continue beating on medium-high speed until until it is the consistency of whip cream (about 2-3 minutes maybe). Pour into a separate bowl so you can reuse the stand mixer for step three.

Step Two
While whip cream is finishing up, line the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass dish with cookies (save some to crumble on top), then layer bananas over the cookies. Set aside.

Step Three
Using the stand mixer (I skip cleaning it since you combine everything in a minute anyway), combine the softened cream cheese + sweetened condensed milk. Mix on medium speed until blended. Fold in whip cream.

Step Four
In a separate mixing bowl, blend milk + pudding mixture with a whisk (or handheld mixer) until it sets, about two minutes. Fold into cream cheese/whip cream mixture until well blended.

Step Five
Pour the pudding over the cookies and bananas. Crumble the remaining cookies on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve -- I suggest letting it set for at least two hours for better consistency.

*This recipe was adapted from Paula Deen -- she used one small container of cool whip instead of homemade whipped cream. If you want to eliminate a step you can use that too, but if you have the time to make it homemade go fot it -- you won't be disappointed!

Enjoy, y'all! xo


Recipe adapted from Paula Deen.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

15-Minute Marinara Sauce

This 15-Minute Marinara has endless uses... homemade pizzas, your favorite pasta dish, to pour over over meatballs, or use for dipping with your favorite garlic bread. It also stores well in the fridge for up to several days. Win win!

What you will need:
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 8oz can tomato sauce
½ tsp Italian seasoning 
¼ tsp each salt, pepper and sugar
Pinch of red pepper flakes

This recipe makes enough for about four-five personal pizzas so double or triple if you need more, are making a pasta dish, or want to store some for a later time.

Step One
In a small saucepan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add in garlic, salt and pepper and cook an additional minute.

Step Two
Turn heat to medium, pour in tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, sugar and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes (or longer if you prefer), stirring occasionally.

Dinner idea: top some naan bread with this sauce + cheese + your favorite toppings and cook @ 400 for 10 minutes.

Easy peasy! Enjoy, y'all! xo


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sausage, Spinach & White Bean Skillet

We love one-skillet, easy-to-make, easy-to-clean-up dishes around here! Bonus: when it takes 30 minutes or less before it is on the table. Double bonus: when it includes beans (which my boys would eat everyday if it was up to them).

This Sausage, Spinach & White Bean Skillet meets all criteria listed above. Score!

What you will need:

1 tbsp olive oil
½ pkg of turkey kielbasa (or your preferred sausage), sliced fairly thin
½ yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed & drained
½ can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (Muir Glen is my fave brand)
4-5 cups fresh spinach leaves
¼ tsp each dried basil, thyme, rosemary (use fresh herbs if you have them on hand)
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt (optional as you will also get salt flavoring from the chicken broth)
Dash of red pepper flakes (also optional if you want an extra kick)
2 cups (or more/less depending on how "saucy" you want it) reduced sodium chicken broth

Recipe serves about 4 people (2 adults + 2 kids for us, with some leftover).

Step One
In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Saute onion and sausage for about 4-5 minutes, or until onions are translucent and sausage is slightly browned. Add in garlic, herbs & spices and saute an additional minute.

Step Two
Add in spinach and continue cooking/stirring for 2-3 minutes, or until spinach has wilted down. Pour in beans, tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.

Step Three
Let mixture boil for a couple minutes and then turn down to medium heat. Cook about 5-7 more minutes, or until mixture has thickened. Lower to medium-low or low setting and simmer until ready to eat.

Serve in a bowl with some warm crusty bread and enjoy this 20-minute dish full of protein, greens and flavor!

xoxo, y'all --


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Valentine's Day Popcorn

We heart popcorn around here! If you do, too, you must try this sweet version for Valentine's Day! This recipe takes very little time to make and will surely be eaten up just as quickly. I make this year-round and adjust the M&Ms and sprinkle colors according to the season or holiday. Super easy and super yummy!

What you will need:
1 bag pre-popped popcorn (preferably lightly salted - I love this Cooking Light version)
1 cup (or more) broken pretzel pieces
1 cup (or more) Honey Nut Cheerios
1 bag white chocolate morsels (I love Nestle)
1/2 cup (or more) M&Ms

Step One
Pour popcorn into a large mixing bowl. Add pretzels and cheerios. Set aside.
Place parchment paper on a large jelly roll pan (or something flat with sides so the sprinkles don't fly everywhere later on).

Step Two
Melt chocolate according to package, being careful not to burn. Pour onto popcorn/pretzels/Cheerios and stir to coat evenly, leaving a little bit of the chocolate to drizzle on top in a minute.

Step Three
Immediately spread popcorn mixture onto parchment paper and drizzle the remaining chocolate on top. Spinkle M&Ms and sprinkles on top of the mixture (don't wait long because the chocolate hardens pretty fast).

Let popcorn cool and then break apart. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to three days.

xoxo, y'all --


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Black Bean & Chicken Verde Enchiladas

Y'all will never hear me say no to an enchilada. Like ever. Tortillas + cheese + mexican spices + creamy sauce... what more could a gal ask for (besides chips and a margarita to complement them)?!

These Black Bean & Chicken Verde Enchiladas are the product of a merge between two of my favorite recipes / using what ingredients I had on hand. That's the beauty of enchiladas - they are covered in cheese so anything tastes good mixed within them. ; )

I did take a few extra steps in preparing these guys, but I also offer tips below on how to cut some corners as you may not have the extra time like I did today (thank you napping children - praise!). The Fry crew was very pleased with the results so here goes...

2 cups chicken breast, diced
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
¼ cup chicken broth
3-4 green onions, diced
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup roasted salsa verde
¼ block cream cheese, cut up
Fajita size tortillas
Spice blend: 1 tsp each cumin, garlic, salt; ½ each tsp each pepper, onion powder, chili powder
Toppings: shredded monterey jack (about ½ cup), cilantro, tomatoes, avocado (or whatever else you like)

Step One
Roast your chicken in an olive oil + salt + pepper + garlic powder blend on 375° for 30 minutes OR use rotisserie (way easier & already has great flavor built in). Dice up into bite-size pieces.

Step Two
Mix your spices together and set aside - you will use them throughout the process.

Step Three
Pour black beans into a saucepan, cover with chicken broth and 2 teaspoons of the spice blend. Bring to a boil, turn down to medium heat and cook 5-10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Mash some of the beans to give them a creamier texture.
Alternative: you can use uncooked beans - they will still be tasty and this takes off a step from the process - but you'll need to at least warm/mash them so the mixture will stick together.

Step Four
In a large bowl, mix together chicken, beans, cheddar cheese and 2 of the diced green onions. Set aside.

Step Five
In a small sauce pan (rinse and reuse the one used for the beans) on medium heat, mix together the salsa verde, cream cheese & 2 tsp spice blend until smooth (about 8 minutes). When done, mix about ¼ cup into the chicken & bean mixture.
Alternative: heat cream cheese + salsa + spices in microwave in 30 second increments until melted.

Step Six
Pour some of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Place chicken & bean mixture onto one side of the tortilla and roll up. Cover enchiladas with remaining verde sauce, top with monterey jack cheese & cook on 350° for 30 minutes, or until bubbly.
*This should make 6-8 enchiladas depending on how you fill them*

Top with cilantro, remaining green onions, avocado, etc. Enjoy with some rice & beans / chips / salsa / guac / pico / all the things!

xoxo from my enchilada-loving heart --