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Mother’s Day strawberry salad

Guys….Sunday is Mother’s Day, so make sure you have a card en route or that you are planning something for your mom, grandma, or, of course, your wife and mother of your kids. We live back in the north now, but when we lived in Nashville May was strawberry season, so we would go pick them on Mother’s Day. We should have our strawberries in June, but if you like anywhere in the south or in a warm climate like California, or even if you don’t mind grocery store strawberries, this is a great brunch or lunch recipe for your lady(ies). Enjoy and hopefully said ladies will also enjoy….

Mother’s Day Strawberry Salad (serves 2)
Salad:
4 cups chopped lettuce
1 cup sliced strawberries
4 oz. Turkey lunch meat
¼ cup feta cheese
sliced pickled sweet/hot jalapenos (optional)

Dressing:
2 tbsp. Strawberry preserves
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tbsp. Balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 tsp. Lemon juice
dash of salt and pepper

Combine all salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing and pour evenly over salad.

  

Creamy pasta with grilled asparagus, black olives & mushrooms

This one is in honor of the Farmer’s Market opening tomorrow in Madison. It does run year-round but is outdoors from mid-April until late October. And it’s freaking awesome. One vegetable that will be sold since we’re in the throes of spring is asparagus. Yes, it makes your pee smell funny, but if you grill it and season with just a bit of salt and pepper, asparagus is one of the tastiest vegetables there is. And it’s very much in season across the country now. So here is a recipe I created to take advantage of in-season asparagus…enjoy!

Don’t believe everything you read about pasta being bad for you. Sure, the whole-wheat varieties are better for you, because they have more fiber and vitamins. But if you keep your portions reasonable, and add good stuff (i.e. vegetables) like in this recipe, there are far worse things you can eat. We like the kind of pasta that holds sauce for this dish, like a bow tie or the one we used, Barilla* Piccolini (mini fusilli). This is a great, hearty dish that you can either serve to a bunch of hungry guys or to your lady to impress her. Be sure to pair it with a good white wine and some crusty bread for bonus points.

Ingredients:
1 16 oz. package pasta (we used Barilla Piccolini)
½ bunch asparagus
2 tbsp. Olive oil, divided
4 oz. Sliced mushrooms
½ cup sliced black olives
4 tbsp. Light butter or margarine
¾ cup fat free half and half
2 Laughing Cow cheese wedges
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil to keep from sticking and set aside.

Drizzle remaining 1 tbsp olive oil on asparagus and grill on a preheated grill rack for 3-4 minutes, or until spears begin to lightly char. Cut into 2 inch pieces and set aside.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and sauté mushrooms over medium heat until they begin to soften and lose their water, about 4 minutes. Drain and add the mushrooms and black olives to the asparagus pieces.

Meanwhile, wipe out the skillet and return to stovetop. Melt butter over medium heat. Add half and half and cheese wedges. Stir constantly, breaking up the cheese with a wooden spoon. When mixture is melted, add Parmesan cheese and stir until just melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add pasta and vegetable mixture to sauce and combine. Heat through and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.

* If you’re not familiar with Barilla pasta, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. This is not a paid advertisement, but a true testimonial from someone who has been eating only Barilla pasta for the last few years. The regular pasta cooks nicely—even if you overcook it by a few minutes it’s never too soft or mushy. And the Whole Grain or Plus varieties are not grainy at all—rather, they are just slightly heartier than their regular pasta. It’s probably the best store brand you can eat short of homemade pasta.

  

Steak and Potatoes 2

Spring is here, and oddly enough, it’s even warm enough here in Wisconsin to fire up the grill. In my case, our grill was destroyed, knocked over by the blizzard of 2011 in early February, so we have to buy a new one. So until then, we have to use an indoor grill pan, which really is not the same thing but does the job in a pinch. But I digress. What follows are a couple of recipes that are perfect for this time of year–it’s cold enough outside where you don’t mind firing up the oven, and therefore making my twice baked potatoes. But it’s definitely warm enough to grill outside with a light jacket. Well, unless you live in Arizona or Texas or Florida. Anyway, here are those recipes that I published on Bullz-Eye’s Grub for Guys a couple years back:

Flank Steak with Grilled Tomato Salsa/Twice Baked Potatoes
We started this series with a basic grilled steak, baked potato and grilled asparagus. Now, we’re back with a couple of recipes that take seriously a dude’s craving for red meat and white potatoes, with a bit more difficulty than the first recipes we gave you. After all, you should be an intermediate chef by now, right? Anyway, grilling season is year-round in some places, such as here in Tennessee. So let’s get to it……

Flank Steak with Grilled Tomato Salsa
Ingredients:
1 flank steak, 1.5 pounds or so
6-8 small plum tomatoes
1 thick slice onion
Cooking spray
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. Red wine vinegar
½ tsp. sugar
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat your grill or grill pan. Sprinkle steak on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside. Spray the tomatoes and onion slice with cooking spray, salt and pepper. Grill over medium high heat, turning a few times (try hard to keep that onion together!). Once they become tender and slightly charred, remove from grill. Put steak on grill while you make salsa. When tomatoes have cooled slightly, cut off the stem end. Place tomatoes, onion, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste in a blender and pulse a few times until it resembles a chunky salsa. Meanwhile, grill steak for about 4-5 minutes per side for medium (a little less if you like it rare-medium rare, a little more if you like it well done). Let steak rest on a platter for about 5 minutes before slicing into ¼ inch strips on the diagonal. Serve with the salsa on the side. Serves 3-4

Twice Baked Potatoes
Ingredients:
2 large baking potatoes (Idaho is best)
¼ cup milk (skim or low fat is fine but whole milk is best)
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2-3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Snipped or dried chives (optional)

Directions:
Preheat your oven or toasted oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and scrub dirt off of potatoes, pat dry, then pierce a few times with a fork before placing in the oven. Roast, turning once, for one hour. (Once again, I have to advise against microwaved potatoes or foil-wrapped….you want a crispy skin, don’t you?) When cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half, and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Put the skins back in the oven to brown for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the milk, butter, cheese, salt, pepper and optional chives to the potato flesh. If the mixture appears too dry, add a few more drops of milk or shreds of cheese. Spoon the mixture into the potato skins and bake for another 15 minutes or until brown on top and warmed through. Serves 4, or 2 hungry dudes.

  

Cajun Chicken Fettucine

This is one of those dishes that, when I think about it, makes my mouth start to water. Anything spicy and creamy at the same time that has a mound of pasta is good dude food in my book. This was originally published on Grub for Guys this past summer, but it might be more of a cold-weather dish. Anyway, give this a try and let me know what you think:

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of those dishes you can only eat once in a while, because it has enough butter and cream and cheese to clog your arteries on the spot. But man, does it ever taste good. But for as good as the standard Alfredo is, the Cajun version is even better if you like spicy food. Actually, it borders on being the food equivalent of crack. I’ve experimented with my own Alfredo sauces, and I just recently attempted a Cajun version….it passed the test of both my wife and I, so I hope you’ll give it a shot. You might try washing it down with an amber colored beer or even a light red wine like a Chianti.

Ingredients
1/2-pound fettuccine pasta (or one 9oz. fresh kind like Buitoni)
1/2 stick butter (I don’t mess around, there is nothing like the real thing)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 raw jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced (with seeds)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup whole milk
1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 cup cooked grilled chicken, cut into small chunks (pre-packaged grilled strips are fine)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt butter and then add olive oil. Add jalapeno and sauté for a minute or so. Add flour and stir for 30 seconds, then whisk in cream, milk, Laughing Cow cheese, and chipotle peppers. Stir until sauce begins to thicken, about 2-3 minutes. If it thickens too fast, add a bit more milk until it reaches your desired consistency, which should be creamy but not runny. Add chicken, Parmesan, salt and pepper, then stir in cooked pasta and warm until heated through. Serves 2-4, depending on size of who you’re feeding and how hungry they are, and the recipe is easy to double.

  

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