Summer Squash and Tomato Gratin

Here’s another zucchini recipe to try while you can still get fresh zucchini in the market. It’s super simple and quick to put together and it’s really healthy too. There’s not a lot of flavors in the dish other than the vegetables, so it really needs to be made with fresh, in-season produce to give you the best flavor. I won’t go on another farmer’s market rant since I just did that last week, but I will encourage you again to check out your local farmer’s market.

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This gratin would be the perfect side dish for just about anything cooked on the grill. The savory, soft squash and tomatoes are complemented perfectly by the crunchy, cheesy breadcrumbs.

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Goat Cheese Tart with Marinated Tomato Zucchini Salad

This tart is a somewhat rustic yet elegant way to showcase the fresh vegetables that are so delicious this time of year. The veggies have a slight tang from marinating in a super simple vinaigrette, which perfectly complements the creamy cheese in the tart. This dish would be great as a summer appetizer or side dish. It would also be fabulous for brunch, or even dinner served alongside a fried egg with a slightly runny yolk. If goat cheese isn’t your thing, you could make the tart with just ricotta, or substitute in another soft cheese such as cream cheese.

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This tart ABSOLUTELY has to be made with fresh, in-season produce. The raw tomato and zucchini salad won’t taste even remotely the same if made with out of season produce purchased at the supermarket in the middle of January. I highly recommend visiting your local farmer’s market not only to get the ingredients for this tart, but for fresh, flavorful produce for other meals as well. At the market I was able to find heirloom cherry tomatoes that were so delicious I could have eaten the whole pint plain, and I’m not a raw tomato person AT ALL!  When I got home from the market, I weighed all my goodies and calculated what I would have paid for them at the grocery store. I ended up paying at least 35% less, got food that probably tasted better, and had the added bonus of knowing I was helping support farmers in my area. That’s a win, win, win if you ask me!

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Meatloaf

Two weeks ago on the way home from church, Greg said to me, “You know what I’ve been having a hankering for recently? Meatloaf. I’d really like it if you made some sometime.” Meatloaf was one of my favorite meals as a kid, especially when it was served with a side of macaroni and cheese, but for some reason, I’ve never made a traditional meatloaf myself as an adult. When Greg made his meatloaf request, I was immediately reminded of this recipe I had seen on another blog several years ago. I’d never tried meatloaf with bacon on it before, but bacon makes everything even better than it is on its own, so I thought I’d give this version a try.

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I think our favorite part of this meatloaf is the ketchup glaze that’s spread on top of the meatloaf and served alongside. It’s super simple–just ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. We both decided that the touch of extra sugar and vinegar brings out the ketchupiness of ketchup, and makes it taste like a much fancier sauce. It’s so good I think I may just have to make some the next time I want ketchup for burgers and hot dogs.

Just as a side note, I didn’t follow the recipe below exactly. I used just ground beef and pork because I don’t eat veal. The meatloaf was still nice and moist with lots of flavor, so you can use any combination of ground meats you prefer.

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Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken

Greg was out of town this week for work so I was on my own for dinner. I usually take this opportunity to make meals with ingredients Greg doesn’t like–like mushrooms and blue cheese. After being out of town myself the previous week and several days of eating hot dogs, cheeseburgers, french fries, pie and s’mores, my body really wanted something clean and healthy, so I decided to go with this simple Greek salad. I made the dressing and and prepared the veggies at the beginning of the week, which made it easy to just grill a chicken breast and assemble my salad each night.

In addition to being tasty and healthy, this recipe is really flexible too. You could easily substitute steak for the chicken, or use a grilled portabello cap for a vegetarian option.

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I made several changes to this recipe, but I’ve included a link to the original below so you can try it without my changes if you’d like. First of all, the original recipe had you add fried white potatoes to the salad, but white potatoes really aren’t very good for you, and the whole point of having a salad for dinner is to eat something healthy, so I left out the potatoes. Also the original recipe suggested adding the dressing to a skillet to warm it up for a bit before dressing the salad. I don’t mind warm meat on top of a salad, but I’d rather have my lettuce be cool and crisp so I skipped the dressing warming step.

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Lasagna

Last week I spent several days with my family in the Madison-Bouckville area attending a large, outdoor antique show. My family’s gone to this show every summer for almost as long as I can remember. My grandfather brings up his camper and we all (some combination of my parents, brother, grandfather, aunt, husband and myself) stay at a nearby campground for several days. This year Greg wasn’t able to come, so I ended up sharing a tent with my brother like we used to when we were kids.

Since Greg was going to be home alone for a few days I knew I could either leave him to fend for himself for dinner, which means either fried eggs or frozen dinners every night, or make him something ahead of time that he could quickly, and easily reheat in the microwave. I opted for lasagna.

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In the past I’ve made this lasagna using store-bought dried pasta and sauce, but this time I decided to go all out and use homemade pasta and sauce, because that’s just how I roll. It actually wasn’t as complicated as it might sound though since I already had homemade sauce in the freezer. Any time I make sauce, I always double the recipe so I can have extra on hand in the freezer whenever I might need it.

I’d made pasta plenty of times before, but I’d never used homemade pasta in a baked dish and so wasn’t sure if I’d need to boil it before baking like you have to with dried pasta. Knowing that they sell “no-boil” lasagna sheets in the grocery store, I decided to assemble the lasagna with my raw pasta and hope for the best. It worked out perfectly!

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Shrimp Taco Salad

I actually haven’t cooked anything all week because our fridge has been so full of leftovers. We had several parties and outings last week and weekend and we managed to acquire leftovers at nearly every one. Our fridge has slowly been emptying out, and hopefully after tonight all the leftovers will finally be gone and I can actually start cooking again!

I made this salad several months ago for Cinco de Mayo. It has lots of separate components, but none of them are hard to make, and if you prepare them ahead of time you can easily assemble the salad in the few minutes it takes for the shrimp to cook. Honestly the most time consuming part of this recipe is chopping the tomatoes, onion and jalapeño for the pico de gallo. If you really wanted to save time, you could use store bought pico instead.

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I was initially a bit concerned that I might not like the dressing for the salad since it’s just lime juice and olive oil with a few spices, because I’m usually not a fan of anything sour. I was pleasantly surprised though when I tasted the finished dressing on the salad. The touch of honey in the dressing goes a long way in cutting the sourness of the lime, and the lime goes really well with the shrimp. The salad is topped with cotija cheese- a crumbly, slightly salty cheese that’s almost like a Mexican version of feta.

If you’re not a shrimp fan, this salad would be equally good with grilled chicken. Just coat the chicken with the same spice mixture and throw it on the grill. There’s enough protein in the salad from the black beans and the cheese that you could even leave the meat out entirely for a vegetarian meal.

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Peanut Butter S’mores

These cookies have all the gooey goodness of s’mores, no campfire required. I used to think there wasn’t much that could be done to improve s’mores, but several years ago I came up with the brilliant idea of spreading peanut butter on the graham cracker before adding the chocolate and roasted marshmallow- and I haven’t eaten a s’more without peanut butter since. These cookies have the same amazing flavor combination because the filling is a mixture of marshmallow fluff and creamy peanut butter. Instead of graham crackers, the filling is sandwiched between two molasses shortbread cookies.

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When I saw this recipe on The Chew a little over a year ago I knew I had to make it because I love peanut butter and Greg loves s’mores. Just a few weeks after making them I actually got to meet Carla Hall, the celebrity chef who created this recipe! Greg and I had already planned to go to a Red Wings game to see the Louisville Bats (the Cincinnati Reds triple A affiliate), and it just so happened that Carla Hall was going to be at Frontier Field doing a book signing before one of the games. After watching her cooking demonstration, it quickly became apparent that you needed special tickets in order to meet Carla and have her sign a book for you. We didn’t know that though, and so didn’t have those special tickets. I decided to get in line anyway, and fortunately no one asked to see my ticket, so I got to meet Carla Hall! She was just as nice in person as she is on TV, and we had a chance to chat about how much I loved these cookies, and about the food I’d smuggled into the park in my purse.

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