Blackberry Basil Chicken Salad


Oh, hi! Anyone here? It’s definitely been a minute!

This salad is one of those things that I have been meaning to share for a LONG time. We make this on repeat in our house from about the time that blackberries first start re-appearing in the stores in the spring through fall grilling season. Why? It’s easy. Healthy. Delicious. Simple. And it makes just enough for a lunch salad serving for each of us the next day. It’s even better once I can start using my basil from my little vegetable garden.

The recipe originally came from emeals, and I’ve made a few changes but have mostly stayed true to the original simple ingredient list. I don’t love arugula in large amounts, so I usually buy a small pack and mix it with spinach or other salad mixes to spread it out a bit. My only other change, as above, is increasing the ingredients to make 4 salads. Enjoy!


(Printable Recipe)

Blackberry Basil Chicken Salad
Adapted from emeals

1 pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 to 1-1/2 pounds)
1 (5oz) pack of arugula
1 (5oz) pack of spring mix
2 pints of blackberries, washed
1/2 cup chopped basil
6 oz can honey roasted almonds (I don’t use the whole can)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Panera refrigerated Balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Preheat your grill (or heat a pan over medium-high heat). Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts and grill until cooked through. Allow them to cool, then slice.

Divide the salad greens between plates (or containers if you are saving some for lunches). Chop the basil. Divide the ingredients between each salad. Top with dressing and serve.

Flank Steak-Topped Oven Fries


If there’s one self-admitted food weakness that the hubs has, it’s fries. There’s a restaurant here in town that serves a humoungous bowl of Honey Truffle Fries, and when we’re talking about going out for supper, there are a lot of nights where we don’t get past the discussion of those fries. At least they don’t know our names there… yet 🙂

I saw this Buzzfeed recipe on my Facebook feed, and I knew it was something that we needed to make soon.  It worked out as a great weekend dinner for us (particularly after our 12 mile hike this weekend!), but I could easily see this adapting into something that appears in our house more often once football starts back up!


The potatoes are cut, mixed with spices and oil, and then baked. With the oven temperature as hot as it was, I didn’t find that I needed to use a wire rack to elevate the fries. Laying them directly on the pan worked great, although I did line my pan with foil. I actually didn’t even turn the fries during the bake time. They did ‘stick’ a little to the pan, so it might be a good idea to turn them with a spatula halfway through.

The flank steak that we picked up was a thicker cut than I’ve used with flank steak in the past, and I definitely needed longer cooking times to cook it to our desired doneness. As written in the Buzzfeed article, it was definitely rare. If you prefer, I think the steak would be great grilled!



(Printable Recipe)

Flank Steak-Topped Oven Fries
Adapted from Buzzfeed

For the fries:
2 russet potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika

For the steak:
1/2-lb flank steak
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 to 1 Tbsp. olive oil for cooking the steak

1/2 to 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
Plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
2 roma tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
Cojita cheese (Can sub queso blanco or feta)
1 avocado (mashed with pepper, garlic salt, cumin, and lime juice) or prepared guacamole

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil.

Place the flank steak and ingredients from the salt through the lime juice into a ziplock bag. Marinate for 20 minutes.

Rinse the potatoes and dry them well. Slice lengthwise into 4-5 slices, and then cut into fries that are 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Place the potatoes into a large bowl. Add the olive oil and spices and mix until the potatoes are evenly coated. Line the potatoes, in two rows, onto the baking pan so that no pieces are overlapping. Bake for 30-35 minutes until crispy and golden brown. You may want to flip the pieces halfway through the bake time. After the fries are complete, switch the oven to low broil.

Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and cook the steak until desired doneness in the skillet. Alternatively, you can also grill the steak. Once done, remove from the pan and set aside and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Cube the pieces of steak. Pile the fries back into the skillet and top with the shredded cheese and then the steak pieces. Broil 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with Greek yogurt, guacamole, diced tomatoes, cilantro, and Cojita cheese.

Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad


This salad. I have been obsessed with this summery salad since it first debued at Panera. Berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and grilled chicken. I’ve tried for years to re-create it at home. Even posting a similar one here, although I never have been able to get the dressing quite right at home.

So, you can guess how excited I was a year or so ago when I found the Panera poppyseed dressing in the refrigerator section at Target (note: I can also buy it at Kroger, although it is usually slightly less expensive at Target).


I now have the hubbs hooked on it too. I’m not kidding when I say we ate this weekly until we had to retire the grill for the winter. Now that the warmer weather is creaping back and berries are creaping back into the stores, we’ve picked that habit back up. It is now at the point where I prefer our homemade version — we add WAY more fruit!

The recipe is pretty quick and easy. Washing berries, draining the pineapple and mandarin oranges, and grilling the chicken. We use a variety of berries depending on store sales/which ones look better, but the traditional is strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. You’ll notice blackberries replacing the blueberries in this photo. Use whichever berries you like! As for the salad, you can cut up an entire head of Romaine lettuce or you can buy the pre-mixed salad mixes. We honestly do both depending on the time we have available. You could even use pre-grilled chicken to make this a layer and go type of dinner.



(Printable Recipe)

Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad
Adapted from Panera/The Cookin’ Chemist Original

1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1-2 heads of Romaine lettuce (or other pre-mixed greens), washed and chopped
1 (16 oz) pkg. strawberries, rinsed and sliced
2 (6 oz) pkg. rasberries, rinsed
2 (6 oz) pkg. blueberries, rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pineapple tidbits (or pieces), drained
2 (8 oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 pkg. feta cheese
Panera Poppyseed Dressing

Preheat the grill. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. Grill until cooked through. Let set for 5 minutes. Slice.

Divide the salad greens between 4 plates (we usually do 2 plates and 2 bowls for lunches). Top with the berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, pecans, and feta cheese. Top with the sliced chicken. Add dressing in desired amounts.

Spicy Orange Chicken with Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce

spicy orange chicken with apricot orange dipping sauce on rice

There are 2 things that a recipe title that long can tell you – 1) The “I can’t think of a good name for this so I’m going to just tell you everything that is in it” syndrome or 2) It’s an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Not that I can blame them. I also find it a little hard to be creative with my recipe names and often end up in the first camp 🙂

I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy the cookbook The Best Light Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. At this point, I am not sure how many times I’ve checked it out from our library, saving a few more recipes each time. In reality, I am not sure I ever would have made this recipe save for the jar of apricot preserves my husband randomly brought home from the store. It actually wasn’t bad on toast alone, but peanut butter and apricot preserve sandwiches just didn’t work quite as well.
Needless to say, I was looking to use up the rest of the jar.

spicy orange chicken with apricot orange dipping sauce

We enjoyed these chicken skewers with the dipping sauce over rice for our meal, but I am confident that they’d work equally as well on an appetizer tray for New Year’s Eve or any remaining holiday parties. In fact, the recipe is actually in the “appetizer” section of the cookbook. The book indicates that the recipe (as an appetizer) will serve 10. As written, we ate it for a main dish with a couple meals as leftovers. The sauce here is a little sweet but just in the right way and really compliments the chicken. In the past, I’ve been a little wary of the fruit and meat combination, but after these fajitas and this skewer recipe, I’ve found I really should keep an open mind. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Spicy Orange Chicken with Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce
From The Best Light Recipe

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup apricot preserves
nonstick cooking spray

Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce:
1 cup apricot preserves
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Slice the chicken across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick strips (about 30 strips). In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the parsley, salt, orange zest, red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic powder, and pepper. Add the apricot preserves and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (can be left for up to 24 hours).

For the dipping sauce, puree the apricot preserves and vinegar together in a blender or food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Stir in the parsley, orange zest, salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The dipping sauce can be made up to 48 hours before and stored in the refrigerator.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers. If desired, the chicken can be cooked on an outdoor grill over medium heat until cooked through, flipping skewers partway through the cooking process. Alternatively, adjust an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Line a broiler pan with foil and top with a slotted broiler pan top; spray the broiler pan top with nonstick spray. Lay the skewers on the broiler pan and cover the skewer ends with foil. Do not cover the chicken. Broil until the meat is lightly browned and cooked through, 5-8 minutes, flipping skewers over halfway through. Repeat the process if necessary to cook all the meat. Serve with the prepared apricot dipping sauce.

Summer Grilled Vegetable Pizza

grilled vegetable pizza with tomatoes

Around here while the hubby was cooking, it largely equaled more pizza. It was not necessary a bad thing. As I hopefully have proved with our list of recipes, homemade pizza can be pretty good. Recently, we’ve been repeating some of the old favorites, but this is a new one the hubbs ran across to throw into the mix.

grilled vegetable pizza grilling vegetables
grilled vegetable pizza with tomatos before baking

The original recipe is from Cooking Light. We’ve made it a couple times already, with a few variations on the original. As written, the recipe calls for marinara sauce for the crust. The first time we used actual spaghetti sauce, but we found it to be too liquidy as the crust in the center of the pizza never cooked through. Our favorite thus far, pre-made brushetta topping from Trader Joe’s. It is chunky enough to avoid the problems we encountered with the marinara, and man that stuff is good! 

As far as the cheese goes, we’ve made it both with fresh mozzarella and bagged pre-shredded mozzarella. My favorite is probably the fresh, but either works well 🙂 Enjoy

grilled vegetable pizza slice

(Printable Recipe)

Grilled Vegetable Pizza
Adapted from Cooking Light June 2012 

1 lb. pizza dough (homemade or from store)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 (4oz) zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 (4oz) yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices 
1 small onion, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup marinara sauce (or try a pre-made Brushetta)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut and/or torn into small pieces

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Also, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the stone pizza pan in the oven while it is preheating if you are using one.

Thread the onion pieces onto a skewer so that the skewer pierces each ring. Brush both sides of all the vegetables with olive oil. Grill vegetables for 3 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender and grill marks appear. Remove from the grill and coarsely chop into medium-sized pieces.

Roll out the pizza dough onto a pizza peel or a piece of lightly floured parchment paper. Spread sauce over the crust. Top with vegetables and pieces of mozzarella cheese. Remove the pizza pan from the oven and transfer the pizza (either via peel or on top of the parchment paper) onto the stone. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until the crust begins to brown on the edges. Cut into slices and enjoy.

Grilled Veggie and Hummus Wraps

grilled Mediterranean vegetable wraps cut

I have a confession to make. The hubs and I have developed quite the hummus addiction. All kinds really, but our hummus of choice is currently the white bean and basil hummus from Trader Joe’s. Seriously. Between the 2 of us, the container will not last 2 days in this house. I want to try to make a copy-cat version at home as we are going there several times a week to get it. Will share if we are successful with the recipe!

These wraps fulfill 2 requirements for us right now – 1) they contain hummus, 2) they are super quick. This is really more of a method than a recipe as you could use any veggies or any hummus that you desire. The recipe is written for onions, red bell peppers, and eggplant, but you could certainly swap in any veggies you would like to grill (like zucchini rather than eggplant). One tip I have for grilling onions – slice them thick (1/2-inch) and thread them onto a skewer. When the onion cooks, it shrinks, and this prevents the rings from falling all over the grill. Enjoy!

grilled Mediterranean vegetable wraps

(Printable Recipe)

Grilled Veggie and Hummus Wraps
Adapted from Cooking Light April 2012

4 (1/2-inch) slices red onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
1 eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch slices (other veggies if desired)
Non-stick spray
1-1/2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 (8oz) container of your favorite hummus
4 flatbreads or large whole wheat tortillas
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Heat a large grill pan or an outdoor grill over medium heat. Thread the onion slices the long way (through all the rings) onto 2-3 skewers to make it easier to grill. Spray vegetable pieces with nonstick spray. Add to preheated grill, turning at 2-3 minutes until softened and slightly charred. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly and roughly chop. Combine vegetables, olive oil, parsley, and salt. Toss to combine.

Spread hummus over each wrap leaving a 1/2-inch boarder around the edges. Divide vegetables and Feta cheese amongst the wraps. Tuck in the ends and roll up the wraps. Enjoy whole or cut in half.

Favorite Pork and Vegetable Kebabs

family favorite kabobs closer

April might be a little early to start thinking about grilling season. But if any of you are like we were when living in the Midwest, when there’s a will, there’s a way. We’ve even been known to scoop the snow off the top just in order to use ours (of course this wasn’t in AZ!).

This is a kebab recipe that I’ve been making since before I was even blogging. In fact, I can distinctly remember the first time we made it because the weather was quite the opposite that night. We had tornado warnings rather than snow 🙂 

Crazy weather aside, let’s talk about the food. The term “favorite” in this recipe comes from the original recipe, although I would certainly say this is on the top of our grilling list. There are quite a few steps in this recipe, but the end result is worth it. We have adapted it through the years in both ingredients and methods to match what works best for us, and you can certainly swap the vegetables for others that you prefer others. My only piece of advice would be not to leave out the pineapple! 

family favorite kabobs

Break out the grill early this year, and try this out. Enjoy!  

(Printable Recipe)

Favorite Pork and Vegetable Kebabs 
The Cookin’ Chemist Original

6 small red potatoes, halved

1-1/4 cups canola oil

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

3 Tbsp. prepared mustard

2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 medium ears sweet corn, cut into 2-inch wheels

1 large onion, cut into wedges

1 large green or red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pkg. cherry tomatoes

1-1/2 cups cubed fresh pineapple (can use canned)

1 cup brown rice, uncooked
lg. foil roasting pan


Prepare rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until starting to soften, about 10-12 minutes (this will depend on the size of the potatoes). You do not want to cook them completely through as they will go on the grill later. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, parsley, pepper, and garlic. Pour half into a large resealable plastic bag; add the pork. Pour the remaining marinade into another plastic bag, add the vegetables and pineapple. Seal both bags and turn to coat. Refrigerate and marinate for 1-2 hours. 

Drain and discard the marinade from the pork. Thread the pork pieces through skewers. Drain the vegetables, reserving a couple tablespoons of marinade. Place the vegetables in the foil roasting pan and add the reserved marinade from the vegetables. Heat the grill over medium heat. Place the entire pan of vegetables and the pork skewers on the grill. Grill until the pork has cooked through and the vegetables have softened. Serve over rice with some of the reserved liquid in the vegetable pan.

Flank Steak Tacos with Cilantro Lime Marinade

His mom has a tatoo that says, “Son”… When in Rome, they do as he does… If he says, it’s not you, it’s me. He’s lying… Anyone else always cracked up by the Dos XX most interesting man in the world commercials? I love them… 

Anyway, one thing those commercials always make think of is Mexican food. We love it in any form. Everything from simple ground beef tacos to the most elaborate enchiladas you can make. The recipe for these beauties comes from Laurie at Simply Scratch. She makes a great pico too! The tacos really require no more work that your average taco recipe. Only a little more time so that the meat has a chance to marinate. The result? Delicious, simple taco perfection. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Flank Steak Tacos with Cilantro Lime Marinade
From Simply Scratch 

2 lbs. flank or skirt steak
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lime, juiced 
1 garlic clove, smashed 
2 tsp. honey
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly removed from the stems
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. Ancho-Chili powder (I just used regular)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
aluminum foil
10-12 soft flour tortillas
lettuce, shredded or chopped
Monterey Jack cheese, freshly grated 

Pico de gallo:
4 roma tomatoes, seeds removed, diced small
1 small red onion, diced small
1 jalapeno pepper, diced finely
1 clove garlic, smashed, peeled and minced
3 green onions, white and green parts sliced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
pinch of Kosher salt
few grinds of black pepper 

For the marinade, in a mini food processor, place the cilantro, garlic, and lime juice and pulse quickly until chopped. Toss the remaining ingredients up to the tortillas into the food processor and pulse until combined. Place the steak and marinade in a ziplock bag and marinate on the countertop for 30 minutes. Be sure the meat is at room temperature before grilling. 

While the meat is marinating, combine all the ingredients for the pico de gallo. Toss to mix. Cover and place in the refrigerator while you finish the tacos. 

After 30 minutes, grill the steak for 6-10 minutes on each side over medium-high heat. Remove from the grill and cover with aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for 5-7 minutes before slicing so the juices in the meat can redistribute. Slice across the grain at a slight angle. Warm some flour tortillas, top with desired toppings, and serve with the pico de gallo.

California Chicken

I feel like we have really embraced avocados this year. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like we didn’t enjoy them before, but I never really cooked with them. In fact, I have a funny story regarding my husband and peeling an avocado, but I will spare him the details on here. Now that we are using them, I feel like we are buying them all the time. It has definitely been quite awhile since I have gone to the store without buying at least 1 or 2!

This recipe is the result of an idea that I took from The bones of the recipe were good, but it needed a little tweaking to work in our household. This includes the unwritten rule that if it is warm enough to grill, meat will be grilled not baked. I did end up using the broiler to melt the cheese but a couple minutes that it takes cheese to melt under the broiler does not count. The resulting chicken was great! It picked up quite a bit of flavor from the marinade and just gets better when topped with melted cheese and avocado slices. Pair it with a side salad for a great summer meal. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipes)

California Chicken
Original idea from

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. honey
1-1/2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 small tomato, thinly sliced
2-3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into slices

Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness and place in a ziploc bag. Combine the marinade ingredients starting with the lime juice and ending with the pepper and place into the ziploc bag with the chicken. Place the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. You don’t want to leave it too long or the acid in the lime juice will start to cook the chicken!

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Grill the chicken until cooked through. When the chicken is almost done, preheat the oven to broil. After the chicken has been cooked through, place in an oven-safe pan coated on the bottom with non-stick spray. Top each breast with slices of tomato, then slices of cheese. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and just starts to look brown. Remove from the broiler and top with avocado slices. Serve and enjoy!

Pesto and Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Fresh Mozzarella

While we may be a few weeks out from the official “first day of summer,” I think summer may have hit the country in the past few days. I am used to the 90’s, but I saw them all across the weather map this evening on the news. The whole thing was red! 

When it is warmer, I try to avoid making meals in the oven, especially anything that needs to bake longer than say 20-30 minutes, so we end up grilling out quite a bit. In fact, we’ve been grilling a lot this year including things that wouldn’t be your traditional grill fare – vegetables, bread, and even some fruit. This was a recipe that landed in my email inbox from Cuisine at Home, and I think it was the launchpad for our current grilling obsession.

I did adapt the recipe a little. We ended up using a french loaf rather than the ciabatta because the store was randomly out of ciabatta that day. Lately, I’ve been into making my own bread more, but with boards, it just wasn’t going to happen. The french loaf worked fine, although I would like to have these again with the ciabatta – this may be my excuse to have them again soon 🙂 My other change contradicts the oven thing a little, but I broiled the assembled sandwich for a minute or so after it was done because I wanted to help the cheese melt just a little bit more. As a side note, grilling the vegetables is pretty easy, but keep an eye on the bread. It will get toasty quickly on the grill!

We really enjoyed this dinner, and if you are like us, you’ll find yourself finding new reasons to grill vegetables after having this 🙂 Enjoy! 

(Printable Recipe)

Pesto and Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Fresh Mozzarella
Adapted from Cuisine at Home

2 red bell peppers cut into quarters
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
1 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 loaf ciabatta or french bread (16 oz), sliced in half, lengthwise
1-1/2 to 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup purchased basil pesto
8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch slices

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Place onions on a metal skewer so that the skewer pierces each layer; this will help keep the rings from falling apart when grilled. Brush the peppers, zucchini, squash, onion, and cut sides of the bread with olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

Grill vegetables until tender, 3-5 minutes on each side. Grill bread until toasted, 1-2 minutes on each side. Preheat the oven to broil. If desired, slice bell peppers into strips. 

Spread pesto on one side of cut bread. Remove the onion from the skewers and separate into rings; place over pesto. Layer mozzarella and other vegetables over onion. Top with the remaining side of the ciabatta loaf. Broil for 1-2 minutes keeping a close eye on the bread to make sure it doesn’t get too brown. Cut loaf into eight sandwich wedges.