Apple, Bacon, & Goat Cheese Salad

Nothing beats a really good salad in the summertime. Whether it’s a simple Greek salad with grilled chicken – or something a little fancier like this apple, bacon, and goat cheese salad…they always go over well with our family after spending a day outside in the hot summer sun!

Crispy smokey bacon, crunchy apples, tangy goat cheese, candied walnuts – and the pièce de résistance, a delicious apple butter vinaigrette. I think it may be my new favorite salad dressing!

Musselman's Apple Butter

First off, it acted as an awesome emulsifier – it truly was the perfect consistency for a dressing. It also added wonderful flavor. The sweet and spicy notes in the apple butter really worked well with the salad, and combined with apple cider vinegar – there was definitely a ton of apple flavor going on.

I think the recipe for the dressing would also be an amazing marinade for chicken or pork. Looking forward to trying that soon, will report back! In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful salad.

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


Classic Pasta Salad

This one has been a long time coming, guys. Whenever I go to a cookout or gathering, this is my most requested dish to bring. And I can’t believe that I don’t have it here on the site yet. Friends are always asking for the recipe, and it will be great to have the link handy from now on!

At any rate, it’s the classic version. Tri-colored rotini, tomatoes, onions, cukes, black olives, cheese, and Italian dressing. But, there area few things that I’ve added it to it to the years that make it special…

First off, fresh herbs – chopped basil, parsley, and oregano bring a ton of freshness to the dish. I usually have an abundance of all of them in the summer, and it’s a great way to use them. Also, celery seed – the brightness and crunch it adds to the dish is on point.

I take a shortcut and use the powdered Italian dressing. I’ve made my own, and used bottled – but nothing compares to the Good Seasons Italian in this application. For someone who makes most of her dressings at home – I love the stuff. I’ve always got a packet in the pantry.

Sometimes I’ll add chopped up pepperoni or salami, or pepperocinis, or chopped bell peppers…but this is my standard. I could live off this stuff in the summertime, and many weeks – I do. It’s my favorite, and I know it will be one of yours too!

Classic Pasta Salad

1 lb tri-color rotini pasta
5 roma tomatoes, diced
2 cucumbers – peeled, seeded and diced
1 red onion, small diced
1 can black olives, drained and olives halved
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
16 oz shredded cheese (I like a blend of cheddar and mozzarella)
1 packet Good Seasons Italian Dressing (I like the Zesty kind!)
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Prepare salad dressing according to directions on packet.

Cook the pasta in salted water for 7-8 minutes until al dente, and drain.

Combine the veggies, olives and pasta in a large bowl. Add the salad dressing, and toss to coat everything.

Add in the celery seed, fresh herbs, the cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

Fridge it for an hour or so to let the flavors blend.

Source: adapted from my good friend Crystal’s mom, Ms. Ginny. We miss you, but rest assured your pasta salad lives on!

Grilled Pork Chops w/ Blueberry-Chipotle SauceA few weeks ago, the good folks at D’Artagnan sent me another box of goodies to do some recipe development with. I always look forward to their little “care packages”, as I have a hard time finding good quality butchered meats here on the Shore. So when I received these gorgeous Berkshire bone-in porkchops, I was ecstatic. I’d never worked with chops that were so gorgeous before!

Needless to say, I wanted to “do them up” right. I seasoned them simply with salt and pepper and grilled them. I wanted a little fruity kick to pair with them, so I made a simple sauce out of fresh blueberries, brown sugar, and some chipotle peppers.

The sweet and spicy combo was the perfect accent for the meaty chops. I served it all over a bed of cinnamon-spiked mashed sweet potatoes, which is something that one of my favorite restaurants (Bill’s, for you locals) on the island serves with their pork chops…and again, it was the perfect compliment to the other flavors.

With a fresh green veggie on the side, it’s a great hearty summer meal – lighter than your traditional meat and potatoes. Easy, yet certainly impressive enough to serve to company.

Big thanks to D’Artagnan for the hookup! The chops were so tender, juicy, and flavorful. If you too have a problem finding quality meats in your area, head over and check out the selection they have available for delivery. I’ve really been impressed with every single item I’ve tried so far!

Pork Chops with Blueberry-Chipotle Sauce

4 bone-in (1-inch thick) pork chops
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

For the Blueberry-Chipotle sauce:
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp chipotle in adobo, chopped

For the Cinnamon-Spiked Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp half & half
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
kosher salt

Add the quartered sweet potatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Boil over medium-high heat until potatoes are tender – about 15 minutes. Drain, and place back in the pot. Add the butter, brown sugar, half & half, and cinnamon. Mash until smooth and well combined. Season to taste with salt. Cover and set aside.

Prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once blueberries begin to soften and burst, reduce heat to low and let sauce simmer until it’s reduced by about half.

While sauce is reducing, grill the chops. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Season chops with salt and pepper well on both sides. Grill chops for about 3 minutes on each side, internal temperature should reach 140. Remove to a platter and tent with aluminum foil.

To serve, lay down a bed of the sweet potatoes. Followed by a chop. Then spoon over some of the blueberry-chipotle sauce. Serve immediately.

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

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.