My Favorite 7-Layer Salad

After some extraordinarily busy months, I’ve found time to get back to cooking and entertaining.  And as summer weather has landed in Cincinnati, I’m looking forward to plenty of picnics, pool parties and family gatherings!  One of my go-to dishes for any of these occasions is my Favorite 7-Layer Salad.  There are lots of variations I’ve eaten in the past, but this particular combination of ingredients and dressing put this at the top of my list.  Crisp, green and fresh, it makes the perfect side for any of your upcoming summer gatherings.

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MY FAVORITE 7-LAYER SALAD

Ingredients

  • 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1 Cup Diced Celery
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions, Chopped
  • 8 Ounces Frozen Peas
  • 1 1/4 Cups Light Mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 6-8 Strips Cooked Bacon, Crumbled

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Instructions

  • Chop or tear entire head of lettuce into bite-size pieces.  Spread into an even layer in a 13×9 pan.
  • Sprinkle diced celery over lettuce.  Then spread green onions on top of celery.
  • Pour frozen peas over salad in a single layer.  Press down on first four layers to compact salad.  HINT:  I leave the peas frozen to keep the salad colder longer and it makes it easier to spread the dressing in the next step!
  • In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar and parmesan.  Spread evenly over frozen peas.
  • Sprinkle shredded cheese over salad and finally top with bacon.

You can serve this immediate if it will be out where the peas will thaw quickly.  You can also chill in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours prior to serving.  Also, you can use regular mayo, more cheese and/or bacon to make it a little more over-the-top.  Either way, I know you’ll love using this recipe throughout the summer.  Looking for variations?  Try using white onion instead of green for a little extra bite.  Also consider swapping or adding a layer of radishes or green pepper for additional texture and flavor.  Dig in!

Sticky Chinese Ribs

Have you ever had sticky ribs from your favorite Chinese takeout or local restaurant?  While I’m a purist most times about BBQ, I have to admit my latest creation for oven ribs is near the top of my all-time favorites.  From the citrusy marinade to the rich tangy sauce, there’s enough going on to forget that these never touched a grill or smoker!

 

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STICKY CHINESE RIBS

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Lbs. Rack of Baby Back Ribs

Marinade

  • 6-8 Slices Fresh Ginger
  • 2-3 Cloves Chopped Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup Orange Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Canola Oil
  • 1 Tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil

 

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Sticky Sauce

  • 3 Tbs. Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbs. Hoisin Sauce
  • 1 Tbs. Ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbs. Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tsp. Sriracha
  • 1 Tsp. Chinese Five Spice Powder

Instructions

  • Remove silver skin from the back side of ribs and cut rack in half.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients.
  • Place ribs in a gallon zipper bag and pour marinade over them.  Remove as much air as possible and seal.
  • Marinate for 2-6 hours, turning occasionally to ensure marinade penetrates all of the meat.

To Cook

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Remove ribs from marinate and shake off excess liquid.  Place in a glass 13×9 baking dish.
  • Add a half cup water, cover tightly with foil and bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours.
  • With 20 minutes left of cooking time, place all of the sticky sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat.  Stir frequently and cook for 15 minutes until sauce thickens slightly.
  • Remove ribs from oven.  Turn your oven’s broiler to low.
  • Transfer ribs to a foil-lined baking sheet.  Spoon 1/2 half of sticky sauce over ribs and place under broiler for 3-4 minutes.
  • Spoon the remaining sauce over the ribs and place back under the broiler for an additional 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove ribs from oven, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

The sticky sauce and warm spices cut through the fat of the ribs while enhancing the flavor of the pork.  You’ll be amazed how much these remind you of versions you’ve had from restaurants – only it’s better!  I know we’ll use this sticky Chinese-inspired sauce on wings in the near future too – I think a little sliced scallion would be the perfect finish.  Give them a try and I guarantee you’ll want to make them for your friends and family during these NFL playoff weekends.  Dig in!

Sweet & Savory Party Nuts

The holiday season is fast approaching and that means plenty of entertaining.  It’s always good to keep some homemade snacks on hand for company or to take along as a hostess gift when visiting family and friends.  This recipe is a simple way to dress up mixed nuts for a salty, sweet and savory snack you can make over and over again.  A surprising hint of rosemary provides a contrasting flavor and slightly piney aroma that’s reminiscent of the holidays.

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SWEET & SAVORY PARTY NUTS

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Salted Mixed Nuts
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Tbs. Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tsp. Fresh Rosemary, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Tsp. Onion Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg
  • 1/4 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Egg White
  • 2 Tsp. Water

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, rosemary, onion powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg and pepper.  Mix well with a spoon.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together egg white and water until frothy.
  • Add nuts to the egg white mixture and toss well to evenly coat.
  • Pour nuts into spice mixture and mix well to evenly coat nuts with sugar and spices.
  • Spray a 12-inch cast iron pan with cooking spray and pour nut mixture into it.
  • Bake at 275 for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  • Remove nuts from oven and pour out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Allow to cool fully.
  • Break up nuts and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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These nuts were a huge hit at trivia night recently.  I know we’ll make them often over the next few months with all we have going on.  Don’t have a cast iron pan?  Shame on you!  But you can definitely make these on a heavy non-stick baking sheet.  Also think about varying the herbs and/or nuts to your liking.  I’ve seen similar receipts with just pecans or cashews.  The addition of a little citrus zest would also bring another great flavor element.  Give them a try and tell me what you think.  Dig in!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Football season is in full swing and we’re constantly making snacks for a Saturday or Sunday game while we cheer on our favorite teams.  And while I love trying new things, it’s sometimes the old standby that makes for the perfect appetizer to watch a winner.  This recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip is hot and spicy and perfect to feed a crowd.  While I’ve had many variations, this is the one I like most.

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BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

Ingredients

  • 2 8-Ounce Bricks Cream Cheese
  • 1 16-Ounce Bottle Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • 2 12-Ounce Cans White Meat Chicken or 1 1/2 Lbs. Pulled Rotisserie Chicken
  • 1 16-Ounce Bottle Ranch Dressing
  • 1 Tbs. Garlic Powder
  • 2 Cups Cheddar Jack Cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a 13×9 baking dish, spread cream cheese into an even layer.
  • Pour a thin layer of buffalo sauce over the cream cheese to completely cover.  Use your favorite brand here.  You will only need half to three-fourths of the bottle to cover.  Add more or use a hot version for spicier dip.
  • Cover buffalo sauce with a single layer of chicken.  Canned works fine here, but a store-bought rotisserie chicken is even better for more flavor and a mixture of white and dark meat.
  • Pour the entire bottle of ranch dressing over chicken in an even layer.
  • Sprinkle ranch dressing with garlic powder.
  • Top with cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes uncovered until cheese is melted and it’s bubbling on the sides.
  • Serve immediately with tortilla chips, Fritos and/or celery sticks for dipping.

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Yes, that’s all there is to it.  And it’s easy to change it up with different flavors of buffalo dip or blue cheese dressing instead of ranch.  Tailgating, on the sofa or by the pool, you’ll make this again and again for the big game – or even the not-so-important game.  It’s just that good.  Dig in!

Chippy Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cookies and ice cream are BFF’s in my latest dessert creation.  To be honest, this is way easier than it sounds given that I already have an awesome recipe for Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies on my blog from the holidays.  With a few tweaks, you’ll have the perfect homemade sandwiches for your next picnic, birthday party or just for an occasional sweet treat!

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CHIPPY ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Prepare cookie dough recipe per instructions.
  • On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread out dough into a single layer.
  • Bake 14-18 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center is set.  The ice cream sandwiches actually stay together and cut better if the cookie is a little under-done.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in pan.
  • Remove ice cream from freezer and allow to thaw 10-15 minutes until it is spreadable, but not runny.
  • Cut cookie in half and turn one half over so it is bottom-side up.  Spread entire half gallon of ice cream in an even layer on cookie and top with the other half.  Press and twist slightly to get good contact.
  • Place entire cookie sheet in freezer and chill for 4-6 hours.
  • Remove from freezer and cut into bars with a sharp knife.  Serve immediately or store in zippered plastic bags in the freezer for up to one month.

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With a little time and patience, you can make these super-decadent treats all summer long!  Make them festive by substituting M&M’s for the chips or using different flavors of ice cream.  Want to take it over the top?  Make a quick chocolate ganache, dip half of each sandwich in it and then into colored sprinkles!  The possibilities are endless when you have a good cookie recipe and quality ice cream – just make sure you have a sturdy batter that doesn’t get too crispy or it won’t hold up or cut properly.  Dig in!

Hanky Panks

Much like its “frisky” name, these spicy cheesy sausage toasts will light a little fire in you! I often get requests for appetizer recipes that are easy for someone to take a bite and go.  These hanky banks are hearty, delicious and sturdy enough to grab one and mingle with your drink vs. standing around a chip and dip bowl or carrying a plate around.  Prepare these in a large batch and freeze to keep them handy for parties or a quick appetizer with drinks or for unexpected company.  Kids and adults both will love them!

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HANKY PANKS

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs. Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 Lb. Mild Pork Sausage
  • 1 Lb. Spicy Pork Sausage
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 32 Ounces Velveeta, Cut Into Chunks
  • 2 Loaves Light Party Rye

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Instructions

  • In a heavy pot, brown ground beef and sausage along with garlic salt, oregano and pepper flakes.  Drain meat throughly.
  • Place meat back in pot and add chunked Velveeta.  Stir over low heat until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.  It will be thick, but should be able to stir.
  • Remove from heat and spoon roughly 1 1/2 Tbs. of mixture onto each slice of party rye.  Place each finished rye bread on cookie sheets until all bread and mixture is used.  Put cookie sheets into freezer for 20 minutes until they are frozen or at least solid enough to stack in gallon freezer bags.
  • Bag in servings of one dozen and freeze until ready to use.
  • When ready to serve, place frozen hanky banks on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until they are bubbly and slightly browned.  Serve immediately.

It never fails to please a hungry crowd when you bake up a few dozen of these spicy snacks.  They’re perfect for football season and holidays or basically anytime you have no awareness of calorie count!  If you have an aversion to spicy food, feel free to use all mild sausage and/or eliminate the red pepper flakes.  If you want to make these in smaller batches you can also halve this recipe.  However, if you’re going through the process, I highly recommend making the full amount – your family and friends will love them!!