Blackberry Basil Vinaigrette

Have you guys taken note of all of the gorgeous berries in stores right now? I’ve been enjoying all of them, but hard pressed – I’d say juicy, plump blackberries are my favorite. And, they’ve been REALLY good this year. So when Driscoll’s reached out to me and ask me to come up with blackberry recipe to share with you guys, how could I say no?

While I’ve had my usual fun baking with them, I thought a more savory application would be a fun twist. In an effort to shed a few pounds before sandbar season, I’ve been trying to eat more salads. I always make my own dressings, but have never made one with a fruit puree as the base before. Wow, I’ve really been missing out!

I added a handful of fresh basil to the blackberries before I pureed them, which added a wonderful aroma and freshness. The thick puree acts as a wonderful emulsifier, and the sweetness from the berries really rounds out the flavor. I also used champagne vinegar, for it’s subtle flavor…to really let the blackberry and basil shine. But, white wine vinegar would be an excellent substitute.

I like to serve it over a bed of mixed greens with some candied walnuts, herbed goat cheese, and plenty of fresh blackberries. Makes the perfect simple salad for these warmer days we’ve been having! Would also be wonderful to use as a marinade for chicken or pork. I’ll definitely be trying that in the very near future!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Driscoll’s. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monterey Chicken Sandwich

Life has been crazy around here lately. First off, our school day has been extended through the remainder of the year to make up for lost time for all the snow/fog days we had. So, our 1st grader goes in at 8:15 AM – and doesn’t get home until around 4:45.

Then factor in homework, Cub Scouts, and baseball practices/games into our schedule…and it doesn’t leave much time for a good, home-cooked meal around the dinner table. This chicken sandwich is an answered prayer on those evenings!

A chicken cutlet cooks up quickly on the grill or in a skillet, brushed with a flavorful barbecue sauce, then piled with bacon and melted cheese. Throw it on a bun, and dinner is done! They’re even great wrapped up and taken “to-go”, to later be enjoyed at the game (or on the beach!).

I added a slice of tomato and onion for a little extra flavor and crunch, and I thought it worked nicely with the other components. I served alongside some sweet potato chips and a pickle, for a quick dinner.

Another great, quick recipe to have under my belt for those nights when life is just – crazy!

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Buttercream

There are few flavor combinations that I love more than lemon and blueberry. The sunny bright flavor from the lemon, and the subtle sweetness and gorgeous hue from the berries. I baked these lovely cupcakes for a Relay for Life radio auction here on the lower Shore, but I managed to keep a few to enjoy and take a few pictures of so I could share the recipe with you guys!

As always, I used my favorite vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream recipe, then glammed it up a bit. Some lemon zest and lemon extract in the cake batter gives it that lemony punch that I was looking for. For the frosting, I cooked fresh blueberries down a bit with some sugar to soften up, then pureed and added to the buttercream. It creates a gorgeous color, that just screams “spring”!

Garnish with a single, fresh blueberry – and you’ve got yourself one delicious cupcake. This makes a large batch too, usually for me it ends up being around 30 cupcakes. I never have a problem getting folks to take them off my hands though, I’m sure you won’t either! Take advantage of all the delicious berries popping up in stores right now, and make these cupcakes soon.

Garlic Oil

This is one that couldn’t be any easier. I use this garlic oil in everything, from frying eggs to salad dressings. Wonderful to start off a basic marinara sauce. It’s great with some dried or fresh herbs sprinkled in, and dipping chunks of crusty bread. Or, even as a finishing drizzle on some hot oven fries. Basically, anything you wish to impart a little extra garlic flavor into!

I like to use a good quality olive oil – don’t go spending a bunch of money on the fancy extra-virgin stuff, though. I just glug it right into a saucepan with a handful of garlic cloves, get them bubbling a bit, then turn down the heat to low to let the flavor infusion happen. Sometimes, if I’m feelin’ frisky, I’ll add a few sprigs of fresh herbs…but it’s not necessary.

Keeps forever (at least a month or so – if it lasts that long!) as well. I just keep it right on the counter with all my other oils, so it’s right at hand when I need it. It also makes a wonderful homemade gift when presented in a pretty oil dispenser with a ribbon! If you’re worried about it spoiling, it also keeps fine in the refrigerator. This is definitely one to have around, guys!