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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Is anybody else as excited as I am about cooking out?  Finally the weather is getting warm enough where we have all started to think about grilled food and eating outdoors.  We had a busy day spreading about 15 yards of mulch around our plant beds this past saturday.  We enlisted the help of my 7 year old nephew (I know, I know child labor laws..).  He was really a good worker!  After they finished I invited my brother and sister n'law and thier kids over to our house for the first official cook-out of the season.  Here is what was on my menu:  Grilled Balsamic & Rosemary Porkchops, Italian Bread Salad, Fresh Green Bean Salad with Shallots, Bacon & Blue Cheese.  We washed it all down with some ice cold beers and the official summer cocktail: Spiked Lemonade!  Since there is always room for dessert I made a quick Open Faced Strawberry Shortcake.  This meal was quick and easy to make. I actually came up with it based on what I had in my pantry, fridge and freezer.  Sometimes spur of the moment dinner parties turn out to be some of the best!


This is the best way to marinate and grill porkchops.  Make sure you get boneless, thick and juicy porkchops. Use a good quality balsamic vinegar and fresh rosemary.  There are only a few ingredients in this recipe, but if you use quality ingredients it makes all the difference.  The balsamic vinegar when grilled forms a nice glaze over the pork chops.  My husband pours on the extra marinade left over in the baggie while he is grilled the chops....a little added flavor!
  • 6 thick & boneless porkchops
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 TB. fresh rosemary chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Wash & rinse pork chops.  Pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Place pork chops in a large zip lock bag with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.  Close bag and toss so that chops are coated with marinade.  Place in fridge for about 4 hours.  Every 1/2 hour turning chops.
  3. Prepare outdoor grill.  Place chops on grill and cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes forming nice grill marks.  Turn the chops over.  Take extra marinade left in the bag and pour over chops. Close lid and cook for 5 minutes on the second side.
  4. Remove chops from grill and serve immediately.


There are so many recipes for Italian Bread Salad.  Some recipes call for no cucumbers and some call for olives.  You can add many different things to a bread salad, but I like to keep mine simple with a few fresh ingredients: bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh basil.  I toss these ingredients with some good quality olive oil and seasoning and it is a hit every time!

For the Salad:
  • 2 cups cubed italian bread (1 inch pieces)
  • 4 TB. olive oil
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes cut in half
  • 1 cucumber peeled and cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
For the Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 TB. good quality olive oil
  • 3-4 TB. red wine vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped fine
  • salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste
  1. Place cubed bread on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with 4 TB. of olive oil and mix well.  Make sure bread is back to a single layer on sheet after mixing.
  2. Cook for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees.  Stir  every few minutes so the bread can get golden on all sides.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, cucumbers and basil to a large bowl. 
  4. Make the dressing:  add the red wine vinegar and garlic to a small bowl.  Slowly drizzle in the 1/3 cup olive oil whisking quickly as you add the olive oil.
  5. Season dressing with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to your liking.
  6. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes, cucumbers and basil.  Sitr well to coat.
  7. Add the cubed baked bread to the salad mixture and toss so that they get coated with dressing as well. 
  8. Cover and place in fridge for at least one hour.  To serve drizzle with the remaining 2 TB. of olive oil and serve.
* This salad is still good the next day for leftovers, but it is best served a couple hours after you make it.


You can serve this dish room temperature of cold out of the fridge.  Either way it tastes great!  Make sure you use fresh green beans.  In the early spring months when fresh green beans are not available I use the fresh frozen ones from Costco.

  • 3 cups fresh green beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil divided
  • 1 shallot chopped fine
  • 3 TB. cooked and rough chopped bacon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbled
  1. If using fresh green beans: bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add green beans and par-boil them; boil for about 2-3 minutes only.  Immediately remove green beans from boiling water and place in a large bowl filled with ice and water.  This will quickly stop the cooking process so that your green beans are nice and crisp.
  2. If using frozen fresh green beans:  these beans are already pre-cooked most of the time so you can leave them as is and follow the recipe below.
  3. Heat 1 TB. olive oil in a large skillet.  Add shallot and saute for about 3 minutes. 
  4. Add green beans to skillet and saute for about 3 minutes.
  5. Remove green beans and shallots from skillet and place in a medium sized bowl.
  6. Add crumbled bacon, the rest of the olive oil, salt, pepper and blue cheese. 
  7. You can either serve right away at room temp. or place in fridge and serve later at a colder temp.


Nothing says "summer" like an old fashioned strawberry shortcake.  My recipe is super simple.  Again there are just a few ingredients, but if you buy them fresh it makes all the difference.  To make things easy on yourself you can buy a storebought pound cake.  If you are feeling ambitious you can also make your own.

*Serves 6

  • 1 pound cake sliced into 6 generously thick slices
  • 1 lb. of fresh strawberries - hulled and sliced
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 TB. sugar - divided
  1. Pour the heavy whipping cream into a large bowl.  Beat on high with hand mixer until stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters.  Fold in 1.2 TB. sugar.  Cover and place in fridge.
  2. Slice strawberries and place into a bowl.  Add the remaining 1/2 TB. sugar and mix into the strawberries.  Cover and place in fridge.
  3. When ready to serve slice your poundcake into 6 generous slices about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick.  Place a slice on each dessert plate.  Spoon a generous amount of strawberries over the top and sides of the pound cake.  Spoon a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream on the top.  Serve immediately.

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