Backyard BBQ Recipes: BLT Pasta Salad

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! Here’s hoping you all had a great weekend!

Before I dive right into my e-mails, early morning meetings and phone calls at the office- I thought I’d share a quick and easy recipe I tried out this past weekend for an afternoon cookout at a friend’s house (the first of many this coming season, I’m sure!)

I’m a big fan of the simplicity of BLTs for lunch- but I also think a backyard BBQ isn’t quite the same without a chilled pasta salad available as a side. This recipe combines the two- the minimal ingredients of the sandwich but with a more filling pasta substituted in place of the bread and a bit more flavor with a creamy and tangy dressing mixed in. Add some avocado and you’ve got yourself a hit for your next early-Summer gathering!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 pound pasta (your choice! I used penne.)
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut into small wedges
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange the bacon on the baking sheet; season generously with black pepper. Bake until the bacon is crisp, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from the pan from the oven and cool completely.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, 7 to 9 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar; season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, tomato, avocado and romaine. Crumble the bacon into the salad.
  5. If serving immediately, add the dressing and toss well to coat. Or leave undressed and store in the refrigerator for up to two days.

This pasta salad was so good- and was a fun and flavorful spin on the usual macaroni salads I typically see at cookouts and backyard BBQs. Any leftovers (and there wasn’t much!) were placed back in an airtight container and refrigerated- and tasted just as good on Sunday during an indoor lunch when the weather didn’t hold out as planned.

I’m thinking I’ll be making another batch of this for my co-workers when we have our pre-Memorial Day weekend luncheon in a couple of weeks. Anything with bacon and avocado is sure to be a hit!

Try to enjoy your Monday, everyone! Let’s make it to the weekend!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Treats: Grilled Angel Food Cake with Blueberry Sauce

Keeping up with my theme of Summer-appropriate and grill-friendly recipes– I shifted today’s concoction from pineapples and ice cream to cake and blueberries, instead!

I love angel food cake. It’s light, fluffy, and has a hint of sweetness to it that makes it the perfect “any occasion” dessert- but it can also go from blissful to bland after a while if it’s not paired with something more flavorful- so combining it with a homemade blueberry-lemon sauce and a big dollop of freshly whipped cream sounded pretty incredible after dinner on a humid evening earlier this week.

This recipe requires minimal ingredients and takes nearly no time at all to prepare when done correctly- so if you’re in a pinch for something sweet and a little tart to serve as a post-meal treat before the Summer ends- this one will definitely come in handy!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 angel food cake (store-bought or homemade)
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Preheat a grill or grill pan. Slice the angel food cake into 8 even wedges.
  2. Lightly grease the grates of the grill and cook the angel food cake until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside.
  3. In a medium pot, combine the blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice and granulated sugar. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until the blueberries break down and the mixture is saucy, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar to medium peaks. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  5. Serve cake with the whipped cream and a drizzle of the blueberry sauce.

I had one slice of this and had to physically force myself not to eat about four more- it was that good. The blueberry-lemon sauce is fantastic- so much that I plan on using some that was leftover on top of a stack of waffles or pancakes tomorrow morning before I head to work- and the whipped cream had just enough of a vanilla kick to it to liven up the angel food cake when it was all scooped up together.

While no dessert is particularly “healthy”, I didn’t feel overly full or gross after I ate this. It was just the right amount of cake and toppings to keep me feeling satisfied and not sluggish- and I can’t wait to make it again!

xx

– Ashley –

Summer Treats: Grilled Pineapple Split Sundae with Cherry Sauce

Good Morning, everyone- and hello, August! Before I get to work at my office (and prepare to fight off a migraine from staring at my screen so intently for such long periods of time)– I wanted to share this quick and easy Summertime dessert recipe I recently discovered floating around the internet that I’ve been whipping up at home for guests that pop by- and for myself!

I love pretty much anything with pineapple in it, which is why I’m sort of shocked I’ve never thought to grill it before until now. Sure, I’ve cooked and baked with slices or cubes of it in the past- but to simply grill it and substitute it for a banana in a sundae/split? It never crossed my mind- but it’s a game changer!

You can use any type of ice cream you want for this recipe, too. It calls for vanilla- but I had some pineapple-coconut Häagen-Dazs (with pieces of fruit mixed in!) already inside of my freezer- and it tasted just fine with that, instead!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups pitted and halved cherries, plus more cherries for serving
  • 1 pineapple—peeled, quartered and cored
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream (or any flavor of your choosing- I picked coconut-pineapple for this one!)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a small pot, combine the cherries with the sugar and ¼ cup water over medium heat and cook until the cherries break down, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the mixture from the heat and use a potato masher or a fork to mash it into a paste. Strain into a small bowl, stir in the vanilla and set aside.
  3. Heat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Add the pineapple quarters and cook until charred all over, about 4 minutes per side. When cool enough to handle, cut the pineapple quarters into long strips or bite-sized pieces.
  4. Scoop the ice cream into bowls and top with pineapple, fresh cherries and cherry sauce. Serve immediately.

This is such a light, tasty, sweet (and a little tangy) treat to enjoy on a hot day. The pineapple has a certain crispiness to it when it’s grilled- and if served right away the ice cream melts just enough to coat all of the wedges. You can serve the dish with as much cherry sauce and whole cherries on the side as you want- depending on your preference. I personally love a ton of them on mine!

I’m thinking when I make this again this coming weekend- I’ll include some grilled bananas and maybe some strawberries, too!

xx

– Ashley –

Backyard BBQ Recipes: Skillet Pasta with Summer Squash, Ricotta and Basil

I love ricotta- so much that I’d probably eat it straight out of the container with a spoon if I knew I wouldn’t hate myself afterwards- and I also love summer squash, but up until now I hadn’t really discovered a recipe that combined the two in a way that was both delicious and filling. I finally came across this skillet recipe via PureWow recently and knew I had to try my hand at cooking it up for one of the recent cookouts I attended over my Fourth of July weekend.

Loaded with different flavors and textures- I had a feeling this was going to be a crowd-pleaser before I’d even finished preparing all of the ingredients!

If you’ve got 30 minutes- you can make this, too. It’s quick, easy and perfect for a last-minute meal idea- especially if you’re feeding a lot of hungry people!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 pound pasta (like penne or rigatoni)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup finely grated Romano
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Fill a large skillet with water and salt it generously. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Once it’s boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package.
  2. Drain the pasta and set aside, reserving ¾ cup of the pasta cooking water.
  3. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more.
  4. Add the squash and tomatoes, and cook until both are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the reserved pasta water to the mixture and toss well to coat, then add the pasta and stir. Sprinkle in the Romano and stir again to combine.
  6. Dollop the ricotta on top of the pasta and garnish with basil. Serve immediately.

I admit, I used a little more ricotta than what was needed in the recipe- but I don’t regret it. This dish was delicious and filled me up in just one serving- and there was even enough left over to re-heat the following day for lunch (and it was just as good re-heated, too- which rarely happens!)

You can play around with the vegetables included in this one to better fit you or your guests’ preferences- but I liked it just the way it was and I know I’ll be making this one again!

xx

– Ashley-

Backyard BBQ Recipes: Mexican Street Corn Dip

When I was a kid, I was pretty easy to please at backyard BBQs and cookouts. Hot dogs? Cheeseburgers? Potato salad? Okay, sure- fine. I just wanted to jump in the pool with my little pink floaties strapped around my arms so I would eat pretty much anything that was put in front of me just to hurry up and get it over with so I could move onto the swimming part of the day (after waiting 30 minutes post-meal, of course!)

But now that I’m an adult who loves to cook and experiment with flavors, textures, and colors on my plate- those old standbys just don’t do it for me anymore. I need some variety- even if I have to prepare it and bring it to the party myself!

I found this great nacho/dip alternative online a few days ago while searching for recipes for different and/or unique dishes to bring to an upcoming Summertime get together my friends are having this coming weekend. The use of cotija cheese, corn kernels and lime really caught my attention and I had a trial run with the recipe this past Saturday afternoon to make sure it tasted as good as it sounded (Spoiler Alert: It absolutely does!)

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 white onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups corn kernels (fresh or thawed)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Tortilla chips
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • ⅓ cup sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more as needed)
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more.
  2. Add the corn and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the milk and cream and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the Monterey Jack cheese until it’s fully melted.
  4. Arrange the tortilla chips in an even layer on a platter, and pour the corn mixture evenly over it.
  5. Sprinkle the cilantro and cotija cheese evenly over the dip, and drizzle the sour cream across it. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, then serve immediately with lime wedges.
  6. Sit back and bask in the glory of being the V.I.P. of the backyard BBQ!

The different cheeses, the cilantro, the corn and lime juice all blended really beautifully within this recipe- and the taste is a perfect mix of saltiness with just the right amount of sour for an extra tang on your tongue while you’re eating it. I shared this with family after preparing it and they enjoyed it just as much as I did- which is always a good sign!

The prep time for this dip is about 30-40 minutes- depending on how much of it you’re making- and it’s sure to be a hit at your next backyard BBQ, cookout, or beach party! I know I’m looking forward to making it (and eating it) again in the coming days!

xx

– Ashley –