I first had this salad at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse several years ago, and was completely blown away. I’d never had a salad that was served with a warm dressing, much less one that had a bunch of bacon drippings added to the mix. It’s just enough to barely wilt the spinach, red onions, and thinly sliced mushrooms.

It couldn’t be any easier to make at home either, and makes for a wonderful lunch or dressier side salad for dinner. I served it with alongside the French onion soup I made last week, and it was great. This is Alton Brown’s recipe (because you can never go wrong with AB), and it uses red wine vinegar. But, I’ve also used balsamic as well – and just cut out the sugar from the recipe. Hands down, my favorite salad. Make it!

I have my mother-in-law, Linda, to thank for this wonderful recipe.  Jon and I had been dating for about a year and she came to visit.  I guess I was 19? Maybe 20. At any rate, at the time, I had zero interest in the kitchen. Needless to say, Jon was looking forward to his Momma’s visit. Not only to see her, but also in hopes of getting a few home cooked meals.

She was here for a week or so, and made several delicious rib-sticking meals during her stay.  But the egg rolls. I know it sounds absurd, but these egg rolls changed my life. After learning how to make them, that I could make something like that from a dingy little bachelor pad kitchen…it’s like something clicked inside. I began trying new and different recipes. I looked forward to coming home and cooking dinners. I couldn’t get enough information about different ingredients and techniques.

That was close to 10 years ago, and I still have that hunger and love for cooking. I think it’s awesome that I can pinpoint the moment where it all started. I’m pretty sure it will never end!

Coconut shrimp have always been one of my favorite appetizers. Whenever I see it on a menu, I can’t help but ordering them, just to see what their version is. Many times I’ve been severely disappointed. The best I’ve ever had was at Waterman’s Inn in Crisfield, Maryland. Big shrimp and copious amounts of coconut, fried to golden perfection.

So, with most of my other restaurant favorites, I came home with the resolution to make coconut shrimp at home that were just as good. That was over 3 years ago now, and the road was bumpier than I’d imagined. There were many casualties on the coconut front, but I finally got the batter down just right. The key is to do a beer batter coating on the shrimp – then roll them in the shredded coconut. Also, letting the shrimp chill for 30 minutes once coated really helped to keep the coconut on the shrimp – and not come off in the oil.

These make an impressive appetizer, as well as a delicious main course. I paired them with a tropical quinoa salad, for something on the lighter side, and it was a perfect meal!

I love salsas of all kinds. Traditional red salsa, corn salsas, fruit salsas – it would be hard to nail down just one favorite. Last week we had fish tacos, and I went to the store for a few last minute ingredients. The cashier alerted me to the fact that the fresh, local cantaloupes were on sale for $2 BOGO. How could I resist? A true buy one get one too, not that BOGOHO crap!  I’d planned to do my usual mango salsa, but remembered when Shawnda had made a cantaloupe salsa to pair with fish tacos, and thought that would be a fun twist instead.

I pretty much just took my recipe for pico de gallo, and subbed in cantaloupe for tomato. It was fresh and delicious, and perfect with the blackened fish. And of course it wonderful for munching on with tortilla chips too. I know this would be a hit at any potluck or BBQ, as it’s so unique and different. Taking advantage of the last of the summer’s bounty while I still can, I know I’ll be making this a few more times before all the good melons are gone!