Backyard BBQ Recipes: Grilled Watermelon-Feta Skewers

Backyard BBQ Recipes: Grilled Watermelon-Feta Skewers

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

I am so excited for this weekend- not only because I need a little break from what proved to be a rather busy and hectic work-week- but also because the weather is supposed to be really nice and I’ve got a lot of outdoor stuff I want to do around the Valley!

One of those outdoorsy things may include some grilling- and I recently came across a super simple, super quick backyard BBQ recipe that combines fruit and cheese (a great pairing in itself, really)– but in a fun and unique way.

Meet watermelon and feta skewers- the Summertime recipe you didn’t know you needed in your life ’til now!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • About 40 (1-inch) pieces cubed watermelon
  • About 20 (1-inch) pieces cubed feta cheese
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups arugula (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil (optional)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Set your grill to high heat. Thread a piece of watermelon, a piece of feta and a second piece of watermelon onto a 6-inch skewer. Repeat with the remaining pieces of watermelon and feta.
  2. Once the grill is hot, brush the skewers on all sides with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Grill until lightly charred on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and cool slightly.
  3. To serve, mound 1 cup arugula onto each plate and top with 5 skewers per plate. Drizzle each salad with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with chopped basil. Serve immediately.

Even though the original recipe calls for some extra ingredients for presentation purposes- my skewers were well-received even without being placed on a bed of arugula or sprinkled with basil. I put them out with a little bowl of standard cream cheese fruit dip and another little bowl of vanilla Greek yogurt and my friends devoured them just the same!

The sweetness of the watermelon with the saltiness of the feta was an unexpected flavor journey as I ate a couple of these skewers myself- but it was definitely delicious and something I will absolutely make again- although I think the next time I might leave them on the grill for a little longer to get a bit more of a charred surface. I was admittedly afraid of melting the cheese too much during this go at the recipe!

That just about does it for me this week. I’ll be back on Monday with more recaps of my time around the Valley, another look at my Summer wardrobe and maybe- just maybe- a custom-made Summertime soundtrack to share! You’ll have to check back to find out!

Here’s wishing you all a sunny, safe and fun weekend ahead. Be good to yourselves and each other!

xx

– Ashley –

Brunch Bites: Mini Quiches with Hash Brown Crusts

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

While I don’t leave for vacation until Wednesday morning- I’m pretty much already there mentally at this point. Although I have a longtime fear of flying- I’ve reached such a point of emotional and physical exhaustion that I know I’m going to sleep like a baby the second the plane takes off and will hopefully wake up feeling refreshed and ready to soak up the sunshine when I land in Vegas!

I digress. My perpetual feeling of sleepiness is the result of being a bit overworked and overwhelmed with my move right now (as well as all the rain we’ve been getting!) and thankfully has nothing to do with poor diet- as made evident by this positively exquisite dish I prepared for brunch over this past weekend.

With just a few ingredients and under an hour of your time- you can make these little and totally customizable quiches, too!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

FOR THE CRUST

  • 3 cups frozen hash browns, thawed and drained well
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Pinch of salt

FOR THE FILLING

  • 6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled into bits
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 7 eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white cheddar cheese, grated

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. MAKE THE CRUST: Preheat the oven to 425°. Lightly grease a standard-size muffin tin. In a medium bowl, toss the hash browns with the butter and salt until well combined.
  2. Place 2 tablespoons hash browns into each cup of the muffin tin. Press gently into the base to form a crust. It’s OK if the potatoes come up slightly around the edge of the cup.
  3. Bake the hash-brown crust until it’s golden and crisp, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°.
  4. MAKE THE FILLING: Place about 1 tablespoon bacon into each crust, then top with a few pieces of tomato.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and season with salt and pepper. Pour the custard into each cup, stopping about ¼ inch below the top rim. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake until the quiches are puffed up and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve warm.

Honestly, I could probably eat an entire dozen of these on my own in one sitting- because they were delicious and one or two didn’t feel like nearly enough for me by the time I was finished. Between the hash brown crust and the fluffy egg loaded with bacon and tomato- I was on Cloud Nine during my entire brunch get-together.

I know I’ll be whipping these up again after I’m moved into the new apartment and I finally have a chance to go grocery shopping!

I’m off to do some last minute crunching at my office to get things done before I take off to the West Coast- but I’ll be back on Wednesday morning with a pre-flight recap of my weekend!

Enjoy your Monday, everyone! Here’s hoping it’s easy and stress-free for all of you!

xx

– Ashley –

Brunch Bites: Berry Ricotta Croissant French Toast

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Although I’ve been working pretty much non-stop since Monday and will more than likely be working through the weekend, as well- I did find some time this past Sunday to whip up a quick, easy, creative- and delicious- brunch recipe that I had been inspired by while browsing PUREWOW.

Ricotta in French Toast was something I’d never considered before- since i usually only put it in on my pizza or in my salads and lasagna- but I’m really glad I gave this a shot because it was so unbelievably sweet and tasty!

This recipe, which only takes about a half hour total to prep and assemble- is completely customizable, as well. You can use any type of berries and toppings you like- and it will taste incredible regardless!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 small croissants
  • Butter, for greasing
  • Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling (this is optional!)
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup fresh berries (your choice! I used strawberries this time around.)
  • Maple syrup, for serving

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a shallow, medium size bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon until combined. Dip the croissants into the egg mixture, allowing each side to sit for 1-2 minutes in the egg mixture.
  2. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and coat generously with butter. When the skillet is hot, cook the croissants in batches (do not overcrowd) until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the ricotta. Stir in 1 tablespoon honey for added sweetness.
  4. Carefully slice open the croissants length-wise, and using a small spoon- fill each croissant with portions of the cream/ricotta mixture.
  5. In a small bowl, mash half the berries. Stir in the remaining whole berries. 5. Serve the french toast topped with additional ricotta, berries, and maple syrup.

This was another huge hit for me and my friends- who cleaned their plates and came around looking for seconds! I know I’ll be making this again- but I intend to find some more ricotta-filled recipes moving forward since it’s a much more universal ingredient than I previously gave it credit for!

But the morning is underway and I’m off to answer e-mails, voicemails, and maybe sneak in a nap under my desk- but you didn’t read that and you certainly won’t tell anyone- right?

Have a great “Hump Day”, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Breakfast Bites: Mozzarella Meatball Frittata

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

Another weekend down and another snowstorm to emerge from (relatively) unscathed. Here in New England we got a one-two punch- an overnight storm on Friday/Saturday and another one last night into this morning, Spring may be on the way- but Winter is not going to go down without a fight!

With all the snow, ice, and bitterly cold temperatures- I wanted to cook up something this past weekend that would warm me up from the inside out and keep me fueled for all the shoveling and for getting through my plans that were unfortunately pushed together and sort of rushed with all the weather delays (including helping one of my best friends move to her new house and unpack, stopping in Northampton for theater-related work, and squeezing in some pampering for myself!)

I love a good egg recipe- and frittatas are one of my favorites. This one in particular, which incorporates meatballs and a couple different kinds of cheeses- takes about 20 minutes total to prep and cook- making it perfect for those of you on the go who want a tasty, hassle-free breakfast or brunch dish to serve!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons slivered basil leaves
  • ½ pound meatballs (cut in half if more than 1 inch in diameter)
  • 4 ounces mozzarella, preferably fresh, cut into ½-inch chunks

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large ovenproof and preferably nonstick skillet, heat ½ tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the tomato juices are viscous and glossy, about 2 minutes. Pour the tomatoes onto a plate and use a silicone spatula to scrape any sticky tomato juices onto the plate as well.
  3. Whisk the eggs until well blended, then mix in the Parmesan and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Place the meatballs in the pan, cut sides down if they have been halved. Evenly sprinkle in the tomatoes. Pour in the egg mixture, using a fork to evenly redistribute the tomatoes or basil if necessary. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly across the top. Cook until the edge of the frittata starts to set, then use a silicone spatula to pull the cooked egg away from the side of the pan a bit, letting the raw egg flow behind it. Repeat a few times and cook until the eggs are almost set around the perimeter of the pan, about 5 minutes.
  5. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the eggs are just set in the center and the top is dappled with toasty brown patches, about 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 1 minute to help set the top and to foster bubbly, toasted cheese bites.
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven. The frittata is easiest to remove from the pan after resting for 5 minutes. Slide the spatula underneath to loosen, then cover the skillet with a large plate or pizza pan and invert the frittata onto it. Flip the frittata one more time onto a serving plate or cutting board so it is right side up.

You know a recipe is good when my brother- a somewhat picky eater who happened to stop by shortly after I’d prepared this- really liked it! It’s filling and loaded with so many delicious flavors (the tomato and garlic stand out to me the most) that work wonderfully together.

Next time I prepare this, I think I may incorporate some red pepper and maybe some onion, as well- just to add more vegetables to the mix!

And now, with a new week just starting- I’m off to shovel, try to get some work done at my office, probably shovel some more- and then curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book a little later on tonight!

Stay warm out there, everyone- and enjoy your Monday!

xx

– Ashley –

Cozy Cooking: Smoked Gouda Potato Pancakes

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! We made it to another weekend- and considering I almost *didn’t* make it to the weekend- I’m very grateful.

Last night, while en route to visit a friend for a pre-birthday dinner celebration since I won’t see them on my actual birthday- I was hit from behind by a woman speeding on the highway who failed to slow down for the line of traffic I had been stopped and waiting in. The collision caused some serious damage to the back of my car, and unbeknownst to me until later on when I attempted to get myself and my vehicle home safely- some even worse damage to my tires.

What made it worse was that when I went to pull over to exchange information and see if she was okay- she went around me and took off. The impact had caused my stuff to go flying around the inside of my car- so I didn’t get a photo of her car, her license plate, etc. It was a hit and run- and now I’m dealing with the fallout, the appraisal process, and a very sore back. I hope wherever she is- she steps on a Lego block.

I digress. I’m thankful it wasn’t worse- and even though I’m in some pain right now- I’m especially thankful it seems to be a superficial injury.

___________________________

We’re expecting a significant amount of snowfall here in New England this coming weekend, which means a couple of things- the supermarkets are going to be like something out a post-apocalyptic horror movie with people fighting for the last of the bread and milk (it’s a Northeast thing) and I am more than likely going to be spending a considerable amount of time indoors while the roads are cleared.

I’ve already done my grocery shopping for the next couple of weeks- so I’m ready for anything- and I know of at least one Winter-friendly, warming dish I can whip up if I don’t lose power! These Gouda-loaded potato pancakes are crispy, cheesy, super filling- and can make even the coldest climate feel a little more cozy and comfortable.

Best of all? They’re super easy and fast to make! I did a trial run of these earlier this week- and they came out fantastic!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 lbs. russet potato, peeled
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¾ cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Grapeseed oil, as needed
  • Sour cream
  • Sliced green onions

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Coarsely shred the potato and onion on a box grater. Transfer shreds to a piece of cheese cloth and squeeze as dry as possible. Let sit for 2 minutes and then squeeze dry again.
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes, onions, and cheese in the flour to coat and then the lightly beaten egg and stir until evenly coated.
  3. In a large skillet, heat up a generous amount of oil over medium heat until hot and shimmery. Drop the potato mixture by the tablespoon and flatten.
  4. Cook over medium to medium-high heat until edges are crisp and golden, about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Drain on a wire rack or paper towels.
  5. Continue pancaking until potato mixture is done. Top pancakes with sour cream, green onions, and more shredded Gouda, if desired.

I could eat these pancakes every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. They’re like thicker, cheesier hash browns and are perfect for breakfast, lunch- or dinner!

Prior to the snowfall, I’ll be finishing up some things/loose ends in regards to my car accident and icing/applying a heating pad to my back to alleviate my pain. This coming Tuesday is my birthday- and depending on the weather and if I have a car or not- we’ll see what ends up happening for a celebration!

I hope you all have a wonderful, warm and safe weekend. If you’re from my neck of the woods- be careful driving and shoveling!

See you all next week!

xx

– Ashley –