Friday, July 26, 2013

Raspberry & Grilled Chicken Salad {with Roasted Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette}

Hubby and I absolutely love our summers here in the northwest! One of our favorite things about it is picking fresh fruit from the local farms around our area, and berry season is an extra-special treat.

Unfortunately, due to vacation, company, and a generally busy schedule, we discovered that we had completely missed strawberry season! I am really disappointed because I like to freeze 10 lb. or so to have on hand for our Sunday night smoothies!

We were also sad to find out when we arrived on the bluff that a poorly timed hail storm had ruined many of the season's cherries! We managed to find some good ones amidst the splitting and small fruit, but I'm sure it's a blow to the farmers!

However, even in the bad news, there was a bright spot- raspberries!

We spent an hour or so in 90+ degree weather to glean these beauties, but they were worth it! I think I had forgotten how much I enjoy a good raspberry.

So, inspired by our bountiful supply of sweet and tangy berries, I decided to adapt Closet Cooking's recipe for a bright strawberry salad into a raspberry salad! It did not disappoint! The rich combination of goat cheese, pecans and bacon topped with succulent grilled chicken was perfectly complimented by the acidic bite of the beautifully pink roasted raspberry balsamic vinaigrette.

Tip: If you're tempted to skip making your own dressing in favor of a pre-made balsamic vinaigrette- don't! It only takes a few extra minutes, and it's well worth your time!

Raspberry & Grilled Chicken Salad
inspired by Closet Cooking
serves 4

For Salad:
1 lb. chicken breasts
1 cup roasted raspberry vinaigrette, divided (recipe follows)
5 cups fresh baby spinach
2 cups fresh raspberries
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pecans

Place the chicken and 1/2 cup of the dressing in a large ziploc bag and marinate at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Heat the grill to medium heat and brush lightly with oil. Grill chicken until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees (7-8 min. per side).
Meanwhile, prepare salad. Toss spinach with raspberries, bacon, goat cheese, and pecans. Dress salad now, or serve dressing on the side if you prefer. When chicken is done, slice thinly and place on top of individual servings.

For dressing (makes 1 cup):
1 cup raspberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TB dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Place raspberries in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil and lightly greased with cooking spray. Roast about 10 min., watching carefully so as not to burn berries. Allow to cool slightly.
Puree all ingredients, including roasted raspberries, in a food processor or blender until smooth, adding more oil or vinegar as needed if dressing is too thick. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

{Copycat} Red Robin Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Salad

Hubby and I enjoy date nights about twice a month, and one of our favorite locales for a more casual night out is Red Robin. Known for their gourmet burgers, onion rings and thick shakes, they also boast quite a variety of alternate entrees- such as some stellar mouth-watering salads, sandwiches and wraps. 

You might be familiar with the Whiskey River BBQ trio- the burger, the chicken burger, and the wrap-, but have you met the latest addition to the family? 

Several months ago I tried the new Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Salad- and fell in love. 

I quickly made a note of all the ingredients on my smartphone so I could try to recreate it at home- and finally, I have! 

If you haven't tried it at Red Robin yet, I encourage you to do so- but I'm also thrilled to bring you the easy, cheaper, customizable DIY edition! 

I think my favorite thing about this southwest salad is that it's just fun to eat! Every bite is an adventure- there are so many ingredients, you just never know what's going to be in your next forkful! It pops with color, flavor, and texture, featuring black beans, grilled corn, jicama, and much more!

Tip: I had never worked with jicama before, but I discovered that if you slice it too early, it will dry out!

Note: I didn't even try to replicate Red Robin's secret Whiskey River BBQ Sauce- I have my own favorite! I highly recommend Sweet Baby Ray's (oh, and I really do love it...not getting paid for this product placement)! :)

Copycat Red Robin Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Salad
by Jenn
serves about 4

4 skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves
2 ears sweet corn, husks intact, silk removed
3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
3 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 of a medium jicama, peeled and chopped into 1/2 in. cubes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup French fried onions
1 cup slightly crumbled tortilla chips
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ Sauce, divided
1 avocado, sliced

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill chicken 15-20 min., turning once, or until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F. Meanwhile, grill corn in husks 15 min., turning every 5 min. (For a great tutorial on grilled corn, click here). During last 5 min. of grilling, brush chicken with about a 1/4 cup of the BBQ sauce.
While chicken and corn are grilling, prepare salad ingredients. Toss romaine and iceberg together.
When corn is finished grilling and has cooled slightly, slice the kernels off of the cob (this works best in a bowl with the cob standing vertically!). 
Slice slightly cooled chicken thinly.
Assemble salad ingredients on individual plates as you like, though I suggest ending each serving with a drizzle of the ranch dressing, followed by the sliced chicken, a drizzle of BBQ sauce, and garnished with a few avocado slices.
Enjoy your "night out" at home!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Greek Nachos

So you know those ooey gooey, greasy, not-so-good-for-you, covered-in-fakey-processed-cheese-but-still-somehow-tasty, all-American, football game nachos?

Well, this...

This is not that.

This is light, colorful, and bursting with the zing of fresh mint and lemon!

When I first ran across this recipe on Pinterst it intrigued me as being incredibly creative- basically it's just a deconstructed gyro, but how fun to make a play on nachos! Everybody loves nachos! And what could be better than giving them a healthy Greek twist?

Oh, and we affectionately dubbed these "Grachos".

Just so you know.

Tip: If you have some extra time and you want to get all fancy, start by making your own pitas, then slice them into wedges and toast in the oven!

Greek Nachos
adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe in The New York Times
serves about 4

Plain or flavored pita chips (we like Athenos Original)
1/2 lb. ground beef (or lamb)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 TB ground cumin
4 TB olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
4 oz. feta cheese
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
zest and juice from one lemon
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup of pitted, sliced kalamata olives

Heat a skillet and 2 TB of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef (or lamb) and cumin and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until meat is cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes more.
Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine feta cheese, yogurt, remaining 2 TB olive oil, mint and zest and juice of lemon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Blend or process until smooth.
Put chips on a serving plate and layer with meat mixture, feta sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Food for a Fortnight


It's been a long time since I've written! Between company, vacation and typical summer spontaneousness, my blogging is all out of whack. But I am managing to bring you the menu!

Do you like my new title? I was trying to come up with something clever since I'm transitioning from making monthly menus to bi-weekly ones. We'll see how it goes!

Week 1 (July 16-21)

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken with Rice & Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Copycat Red Robin Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Salad

Fried Egg Sandwiches and Smoothies

Week 2 (July 23-28)

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