Garden Tomato Basil Salad

tomato basil salad

I’m baaaack!!! Long time, no post. I’ve been busy harvesting an abundance of tomatoes from my garden the past few weeks. Phew! Four tomato plants yielded a ton of fruit! Yippy! Now I get to figure out what to do with this horde of super sweet, juicy tomatoes before they go bad.  Yeah, canning is always an option, but who has that kind of time? Not me, that’s for sure.

One way to use up the numerous tomatoes we’ve harvested is to make tomato sandwiches. My husband has been taking those each day in his lunch. Another way is to make a fantastic tomato salad like this one! Couldn’t be easier. Chop your tomatoes in whatever size or shape you like, add some minced garlic, fresh herbs, and let it chill for a bit while you go and harvest more veggies.
Tomato Basil Salad
Cheese? Sure. If you have fresh mozzarella, feta, or farmer’s cheese on hand, cube it and throw it in. I didn’t have any, so I left it out. Oh well.  Here’s the recipe. I’m headed back out to see what else I can pick from my veggie garden. I’m still working on researching vegan cheese options, so bear with me. If you know of any that could be added, please let me know.

Garden Tomato Basil Salad


You need:
tomatoes: any quantity, any color, any size – chopped to desired size
handful of fresh basil, chopped
couple sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs white wine vinegar
1 tbs grated Parmesan cheese (leave out for vegan)
Just for fun – throw in a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and oregano!
salt & pepper to taste

Here’s how:
Throw tomatoes, basil, parsley, and garlic in a medium bowl.

In a small jar (or bowl) whisk together olive oil, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper. Pour over tomatoes and herbs. Toss together. Chill in fridge for a few hours.

You Will Fall In Love With Grass-Fed Butter

Great post outlining the health benefits of grass-fed butter!

Italian Home Kitchen Blog

ThinkstockPhotos-179875636

Many people think of butter as merely a cooking ingredient, but did you know that it can be a health food too? The health benefits of butter from grass-fed cows is undeniable, and the flavor is noticeably better as well – it is creamier and richer than the nameless brands at the grocery store. Organic butter is not always grass-fed, but there are ways to determine which brands are in fact from grass-fed cows.

The most obvious difference when you eat food that has butter from grass-fed cows is that it tastes much richer than regular grocery store butter. A factor in this is that it has measurably higher quantities of vitamins A, D, and K2, and also has high levels of conjugated linoleic acid, which has been shown to prevent heart disease. These micro-nutrients give a different balance to the butter, which leads to a taste that many people…

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Sausage & Pepper Subs

Healthy Sausage & Pepper Subs

Easy & Healthy. Can also be done in the slow cooker!

“Sub”, “Wedge”, “Hoagie”, or “Hero” – no matter what you call it, it is absolutely delicious. Many different ingredients wrapped neatly in a roll makes for an easy, satisfying, and yes, healthy meal.

Not doing the “bread” thing? No worries. Serve this sausage & peppers over a mountain of brown rice, quinoa, polenta, <pasta, if you prefer>, or by itself.

This sub offers a rainbow of bell peppers, onion, garlic, and herbs from my garden. For the sausage, of course pork is classic, but I opted for a healthier choice and used sweet Italian turkey sausage. I’ve seen so many different sausage choices now, so if you’re not into pork sausage )or turkey for that matter), opt for chicken sausage (so many different flavors options are available), or even veggie sausages. I haven’t tried veggie sausages yet, but I’ve used pork, turkey, and chicken sausages, and the results are unbelievably amazing every time.

Let’s do this…

You’ll need:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 of each color bell pepper (yellow, red, green). You can change up the colors, if you’d like. Sometimes I use orange bell peppers. To be honest, I don’t love green peppers, but I think they are necessary here because they add a sort of spicy bite, you can’t get with the others.
1 sweet onion
5 Italian sausage links (any variety you’d like). I used sweet Italian turkey sausage.
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce (any kind – pasta sauce, canned tomato sauce, leftover homemade red sauce)
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

First, set yourself up. Wash your peppers, fresh herbs, and sweet onion. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Slice peppers and onions into equal-sized strips.
DSCN0452[1]Next, brown the sausage links in pan turning frequently to evenly brown on all sides.

DSCN0455[1]Don’t they look like they’re posing and smiling for the camera? Almost like a synchronized swim team. Anyway…once sausage links are browned on all sides, remove them from the pan to a plate and set aside. They are not fully cooked yet!! No worries though; we’ll finish them later.

Next, put the sliced peppers, onion, and minced garlic into the skillet, and saute for a few minutes over medium heat until they are softened. You don’t want the to brown, just soften, and the onions should become translucent. Sprinkle with a little coarse salt & ground black pepper if you’d like. The salt draws the water out of the veggies and helps them cook down a bit quicker. As the veggies cook, use a spatula and scrape any stuck-on bits from the bottom of the pan leftover from browning the sausages. This adds great flavor!

DSCN0459[1]Add sauce and fresh herbs, and stir. If the mixture seems a bit thick, you can add a tablespoon or so of water to thin it out, BUT remember that as the veggies cook, they will release some of their own water content, also. You don’t want to end up with a mixture that’s too runny. If you’d like, here you can add some crushed red pepper flakes for a little zing!

Now, here’s where you have a few options with how you want to deal with the sausages. You can either leave them whole and put them back into the pan with the veggies, or you can slice them into disks before replacing in the pan. It’s a matter of personal preference. In my opinion I’ve found it easier to eat these subs with the sausages cut up rather than whole. Whatever you decide, do it and put the sausages into the pan with the veggies and carefully stir.

DSCN0465[1]

Turn stove down to medium low and simmer covered until sausage links are completely cooked through – about 15 minutes. Time depends on whether you left your sausages whole or not. They’ll take a little longer if you didn’t slice them.

Serve hot on toasted (or untoasted if you prefer) sub rolls. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired.

YOU CAN DO THIS IN THE SLOW COOKER!!!

Spray a crock of a 5 qt. slow cooker with cooking spray, and line bottom with sliced peppers and onions. Brown sausage links in skillet as directed above. Slice the sausage links into disks (or leave them whole). Place sausages in crock over bed of peppers and onions, and pour sauce over top. Cook on high for about 2-4 hours or low for about 6 hours.

If using this method, add the fresh herbs closer to the end of cooking time.

Sunshine Blogger Award!

sunshine-blogger-award-300x300Many thanks to the How To Stuff Your Pig blog for nominating The Seasoned Heart for the Sunshine Blogger Award!  How to Stuff Your Pig has many great tips for enhancing one’s everyday financial literacy. Check it out if you get a chance!

Here are the copy/pasted rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you.
  • Nominate some other bloggers for this award.
  • Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you have nominated.
  • Notify the bloggers you have nominated

Questions and Answers

Who is your favorite author?

I think my favorite author of all time is Charles Dickens, author of Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol (among many other well known works). I love that his works are told from the point-of-view of Dickens’ own reality and life experiences and are told with the slightest hint of sarcasm.

What is your favorite food/recipe?

Hmmm…that’s a tough one. I love Italian food, so my favorite recipe would have to be my homemade red sauce recipe because it was handed down through many generations, and it’s absolutely delicious and very versatile.

What is your favorite hobby?

Blogging is my new favorite hobby. I love writing and sharing ideas and tips with others. It’s also great to get other ideas and insights from other bloggers. Other hobbies include gardening, developing recipes, reading, and crossword puzzles.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I’m very quiet. I don’t like to draw much attention toward myself; I would rather focus on others.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I am actually not a traveler at all. I’m more of a homebody, but if I were a traveler, I would want to see Greece (perhaps when they are in better financial shape).

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

I would eliminate hunger throughout the world. I would love to teach people to grow their own food and to create healthy and tasty recipes from the food they’ve grown. I think it instills a sense of ownership and empowerment.

Here are my nominees:

Crafty Coin
Peeled.
Food Fellowship and Wine
All About Healthy Choices
KCole’s Creative Cooking Corner
The Creative Fox Den

Here are your questions…

1. What inspired you to start blogging about your topic?

2. What is something you love doing in your free time?

3. If you could learn one new skill, what would it be?

4. Name one accomplishment you hope to achieve in the next five years?

5. Where in the world would you like to travel?

6. Name one thing about yourself that you wished more people knew.

Peach Barbecue Chicken Salad

Peach Barbecue Chicken Salad

Just in time for your July 4th celebration! Here’s what to do with leftover barbecued chicken from your July 4th cookout (and peaches that will soon be coming into season).

I know, I know…I already posted a chicken salad recipe on my blog a few months ago, so you’re all thinking, “Yeah, yeah chicken, celery, mayonnaise, herbs, blah blah…” …every chicken salad recipe is the same, right? I thought the same thing until I created this version.  As you may already know, I am mildly obsessed with chicken salad; I can’t get enough of it. But, let’s face it – chicken salad can become quite boring, so every so often, I try to change it up a bit, and add unique ingredients and flavor profiles to keep things interesting.  Yes, I know about adding grapes, dried cranberries, apples, nuts, and all of that, but now that peaches are starting to hit the farm stands, I thought why not add them into the mix?  After tasting this, I thought, “Why did I not ever add peaches before?” This made an amazing dinner last night.

I started with two leftover barbecued chicken breasts (skin on and on the bone) that my husband (the Grilling Ace) grilled the night before using Dale’s ‘Kick-A**!’ Grill Sauce. In this chicken salad you get that smoky sweetness from the grill sauce plus the benefit of the smokiness from the charcoal grill in the chicken.  We only use charcoal because, in our opinion, a gas grill is tantamount to cooking indoors in a standard household oven.  Charcoal adds a certain accent that just can’t be achieved on a gas grill.  If you use a gas grill, we can still be friends. I’m not a hater…Anyway…

I believe there are a few tricks to making the perfect chicken salad.  First, I shred the chicken by hand rather than slice it in cubes. I think the shredded chicken holds the dressing better. I also prefer breast meat over dark meat in chicken salad; white meat creates a more hearty texture. Dark meat, in my opinion, creates a sort of slimy chicken salad. This is a great way to get the kids into the kitchen and involved in the cooking process. Let them shred the chicken by hand. They can get their hands dirty while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Second, I think the blend of sweet and savory profiles as well as different textures send chicken salad over the top. Also, I normally would discard the chicken skin before adding to chicken salad, but because the skin of this barbecued chicken is so tasty and crispy thanks to the grill sauce, I let a few pieces of it fall into the salad.  It adds another layer of flavor and texture.

Peach Barbecue Chicken Salad

Dressing – So, most chicken salad recipes call for mayonnaise. You probably know by now that I’m obsessed with Greek yogurt — so I use both. BUT I created the perfect sweet-ish dressing here that perfectly complements the smokiness of the chicken and sweetness of the peaches, but is still savory enough that when you take your first bite of the chicken salad, you don’t mistakenly think you’re eating dessert. I also added a surprise ingredient! 😉

Here’s how I created this masterpiece. I am including estimated measurements for the dressing ingredients because amounts will largely depend on how much chicken you’re using. These measurements are based on 2 large chicken breasts:

Shred chicken breast meat off bone – a few pieces of skin are okay. (We used organic chicken)
1 celery stalk, diced
1 peach diced

Optional add-ins that would be delicious:  crumbled bleu cheese, chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans

Dressing- Whisk together the following ingredients:
1/2 cup 0% Greek yogurt
2-3 tbs mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp honey
a few shakes of ground cinnamon – about 1/2 tsp (surprise!)
salt & pepper to taste

Place shredded chicken in a large bowl with diced celery and peaches. Pour dressing mixture over chicken, celery, peaches, and toss together. Chill in fridge for a few hours. Garnish with chopped fresh chives.

Enjoy on a sandwich, wrap, bed of greens, or by itself. The perfect light lunch or dinner.