I’m not sure I could get through summer without my grill. I mean, I’m sure I’d figure out a way, but it’s definitely not something I want to do. We grill out nearly every single dinner in the summertime, and because of this frequency, we long ago stepped away from the grilling comfort zone of burgers and brats. To me, the grill is just another weapon in my kitchen arsenal, and I use it for way more than just grilling up some burgers. I make pizza on the grill. I roast veggies. Heck, I even make dessert on the grill! I think the grill is way more versatile than a lot of folks give it credit for.
When the fine folks at Reynolds asked me to throw a party on the grill, I knew my party food was going to break out of the box—no burgers or hot dogs here!
One of my favorite ways to grill up dinner is to cook food en papillote, which is just a fancy French way of saying to cook things up in cute little parchment paper packets. I love them so much because they are fast, really healthy (because you’re steaming the food), and there is virtually no clean up! Just toss the parchment when you’re done. These are perfect for summer entertaining. You get to spend more time hanging out with your guests instead of scrubbing pots and pans while everyone else has all the fun.
And the resulting food from parchment packets is always so incredibly tasty! This cooking method creates a delicious sauce from the juices of whatever you’re cooking—perfect for drizzling on top of your food when you serve. Typically, fish or seafood is the food you see most cooked en papillote, but you could cook virtually anything this way.
We always have a roll of parchment paper kicking around the kitchen. I usually try to shy away from disposable items in the kitchen, but to me, parchment is an indispensable kitchen tool. You can use it to make baking sheets non-stick. Roll it into a cone and use it to pipe on frosting. Wrap up baked goods with some and tie it with some baker’s twine for a pretty gift (I swear I won a cookie contest one time not just because my cookies were delicious, but because I wrapped them up all pretty in parchment and twine—presentation is everything).
This particular use of parchment paper is quite possibly one of my favorite meals I’ve ever posted on this blog (and that’s saying a lot considering there are 300+ recipes here!). We liked it so much we ate it twice within one week. The base is a creamy rice made with coconut milk, lime juice and a heavy hand of cilantro. I know there are a lot of cilantro haters out there (I’ve heard it’s a genetic thing—to some people, cilantro tastes soapy—crazy!), so you can easily leave it out and still have a super delicious dinner.
The juice from the pineapple, plus the honey-garlic marinade on the shrimp leaves you with this beautiful, sweet and tangy sauce when you open up the packet. Drizzle it on top of the rice, shrimp and pineapple—promise me you won’t throw it out!
If you’ve never made parchment packets before, the method is super easy (and, well, adorable). First up, you just cut a big ole heart out of the parchment paper. Do it second grade style by folding the parchment in half and drawing half a heart. Then you place your ingredients on one side, fold the heart closed, and the twist the two layers together, starting at the top of the heart and making your way down to the tail. Twist the tail tight, and you’ve got a nice little parchment packet.
Break outside the grilling box with these sweet and savory shrimp packets. Who needs burgers and hot dogs when you can grill up a meal like this?
- 2 cups lite coconut milk
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups rice
- Juice and zest of one lime
- 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound large raw shrimp
- 8 thick-cut slices fresh pineapple (about one pineapple)
- Begin rice by bringing the coconut milk, water, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat in a saucepan.
- Add in the rice, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
- Once the rice is tender, stir in the lime juice and zest and cilantro.
- Meanwhile, preheat the grill over medium-high heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Toss with the shrimp until well-coated.
- To assemble the packets, place two slices of pineapple on one side of each of four pieces of heart-shaped parchment paper. Divide the shrimp evenly on top of each of the packets. Drizzle with the remaining garlic-oil mixture.
- Seal the packets by folding the heart in half and twisting the edges closed. Place packets on preheated grill for 4-5 minutes, or until the shrimp is opaque and the pineapple is warm.
- To serve, layer the pineapple, shrimp and sauce over top of the rice. Use caution when opening the packets—the steam is hot!
Cauliflower is one of my absolute favorite veggies. And this is a super fun way to use it! I love a good potato salad for summer (and it’s hard to beat freshly-dug new potatoes in a potato salad), but this cauliflower version is a great way to get all that potato salad flavor without a ton of starchy carbs. You’d think that this would taste “cauliflower-y” but the flavorful mix-ins and creamy dressing mask any cauliflower flavor—it just tastes like potato salad!
Typical potato salad has a super thick and heavy dressing made with a ton of mayo, but I made this dressing out of half protein-packed, low calorie Greek yogurt and half mayo. You still get all the creamy flavor of mayo, but using the Greek yogurt really helps to lighten up this side dish.
The key to making this salad is to not overcook your cauliflower. Just like potatoes, overcooked cauliflower becomes a starchy, mushy mess. You want the cauliflower to just be fork tender—no crunch, but not so tender that it falls apart when you stir it up with the dressing. It took about 12 minutes to get there steaming it.
This veggie-rific variation on the classic summer side dish will surprise even the biggest cauliflower hater!
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
- 2 large stalks celery, diced
- 1/2 large red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped dill pickle (or dill pickle relish)
- 1/3 cup mayo
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Steam cauliflower until fork tender—about 12 minutes. Remove cauliflower from steamer and run under cold water to stop cooking. Drain well, and combine in a large mixing bowl with the eggs, celery, red onion and dill pickle.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, Greek yogurt, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over cauliflower mix, and toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving.
What’s your favorite way to eat cauliflower?
Growing up, I didn’t realize a lot of the food traditions we had in my family were regionalisms. It wasn’t until I married a cute boy from the Great White North that I started to realize that the things that I thought were standards in the kitchen, weren’t really all that common for everyone. It’s been a fun journey to introduce Craig to regional foodstuffs that I grew up with (he’s totally a pork tenderloin sandwich fan, now) and vice versa.
I remember early on in our marriage, it had to have been the first nice day of spring right after we were married, I said something like, “Oooh! Today is a good day for sun tea.” To which he replied by looking at me like I had two heads. Apparently, sun tea wasn’t a thing he did growing up in Northwestern Ontario.
But here in the Midwest? You’d be hard-pressed to find a house that doesn’t have a jar of sun tea steeping out on the porch on nice summer days. Logically, I understand that tea steeped by sitting in the sun is no different from tea you make with boiling water from a kettle, but I swear it tastes different. I swear you can taste the sunshine. And, hey, anytime I don’t have to heat up the kitchen, I’m a fan.
Some folks will steer you away from sun tea because of a bacterial risk. And while, yes, it’s true that the water never gets hot enough in the sun to kill any bacteria hanging out in the water, jar or the tea bags—that kind of thing has never been a concern to me. And, while I understand this is purely anecdotal, I can tell you that I’ve been drinking sun tea every summer for my entire time here on this planet (okay, maybe not that first year), and I’ve never gotten sick off of it. And you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has. Don’t fear the tea, friends.
If you’ve never made sun tea before, it’s incredibly simple. All you need is a clear jar, some water and tea. This time of year, in our area, you can pick up specific sun tea jars at pretty much every retail outlet on the planet (literally, you can find them at gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies). As any good Midwestern girl does, I’ve had my fair share of sun tea jars in my life, and I have managed to break every single one of them. One day, I’ll probably invest in a really nice, sturdy, heavy-duty jar for sun tea, but for now, I just use a half-gallon Mason jar. And it works wonders.
I like my tea just a touch sweet, so I mix up a simple syrup before steeping. Into my half-gallon jar goes 1/3 cup of sugar. If you’re a Southerner, you’ll probably need half to a full cup of sugar to get the standard, teeth-rotting, Southern sweet tea. If you aren’t into sweetened tea, just skip this step completely.
And then I pour in about a cup of piping hot water from the tap. Our tap gets hot enough to dissolve sugar, but if yours doesn’t, you could just put in some boiling water. Stir to dissolve.
Then, I get to unwrapping tea bags. I use six tea bags for my half-gallon jar. And I like this Newman’s Own black tea, but you can use whatever you like. I actually really like making sun green tea, too, because the water never gets hot enough to bring out that bitter quality that green tea sometimes has.
Gather up all the tea bags by the tag, and stick them into the jar, making sure to hold onto the tags so they don’t slip in.
And then head over to the faucet, and fill the jar up the rest of the way with cold water. Screw on the lid (making sure the tags of the tea bags are on the outside of the lid), and put it in a sunny spot outside. I like the railing of our back deck. Partially because it’s nice and sunny, but also partially because I can see it right outside the door in my kitchen when I walk by. I’ve been known to forget about a jar or two of sun tea in my life.
Depending on the heat of the day, the strength of the sun and how strong you like your tea, it could be as ready in as little as an hour, but I usually give it more like two or three out in the sunshine. It’s ready when it looks like…tea!
Pour it over ice in a Mason jar (seriously, that’s the only proper way to drink sun tea—out of a canning jar) and enjoy! If you have some fresh mint kicking around, put a few of those leaves in there for a really nice, refreshing summer drink.
Once my tea is done steeping, I do store it in the fridge—it will go bad if you let it sit out on the counter. Plus, that way it’s super cold and ready for enjoying anytime! I especially recommend it after you’ve spent all day working in the garden. Nothing tastes better.
Is sun tea a “thing” where you live? Do you have any food regionalisms that you love?
This post is sponsored by Ball Canning. All content and opinions are my own.
Read more about my sponsored post disclosure policy in the BTHR Bylaws.
I take a lot of pride in where I live. I know a lot of folks consider Indiana a “fly over state” and that might be a negative to the vast majority of citizens in this country, but I’ll let you in on a little bit of a secret—us Midwesterners enjoy the fact that we’re off the radar.
I love that I have neighbors who never will bother me unless I need them to, and then they’d give me the shirts off their backs. I love that I can drive for hours and hours and see little more than farmhouses and cornfields. I love that I can keep my car unlocked (and running) while I pop into the post office. And I love that I can drive up to any one of two dozen farm stands within a five mile radius in August and buy farm fresh cantaloupe by dropping a few quarters in an old coffee can.
Southern Indiana isn’t really well-known for a lot of stuff (other than being Louisville’s hat), but one thing we do excel at is making some seriously mean cantaloupes. In particular, Jackson County, Indiana—which is just north of where we live—is pretty well-known in the region as having the best cantaloupes in all of the Midwest. Folks drive hundreds of miles to visit this rural Indiana county just to grab a cantaloupe or two! I’m not sure what it is about this area that produces the sweetest, juiciest, biggest cantaloupes you’ll ever see, but I’m not complaining.
We only planted a handful of cantaloupe plants this year, but we have no less than 473,000 melons on the vines right now (not only are cantaloupes grown in this area incredibly delicious, but their also incredibly prolific). And as much as I love eating cantaloupe morning, noon, and night, the truth is, we’re a little bit overwhelmed with our haul. Melons are one of those summer items that can be really difficult to preserve for winter eating, but I figured it might be worth a shot to try turning some of our bounty into some jam to enjoy during those cold January nights. And, man, was that ever a good idea.
The idea for salting the preserves came from the fact that summer dinners for me growing up meant a giant bowl of cantaloupe on the kitchen table for dessert. And next to that bowl was always the salt shaker. Just like all sweet foods, a little bit of salt sprinkled on some fresh cantaloupe slices really sets it off. I figured those flavors would be really interesting combined into a jam.
Because of the welcoming of our little girl, I haven’t had the chance to do as much canning this summer as I normally like to, but I was so happy I carved out an afternoon to make this jam. Not only is it delicious, but there is something about canning that makes me feel incredibly connected to my roots. My parents canned food. My grandparents canned food. My great-great-grandparents canned food. My soul tells me I should be canning on a weekend afternoon in August. It’s hard to explain, but there is something about ladling bubbly jam into steaming hot jars that makes me feel a little more connected to my past. To me, canning is so much more than just stocking away some food (although, that’s a nice perk, too).
Because of this love of canning, I am so happy to be participating in Ball Canning’s International Can-It-Forward Day for my third year. I’m excited anytime I get a chance to spread the love of food preserving! I’m so proud to work with an incredible Indiana company like Jarden Home Brands (makers of Ball and Kerr Mason jars).
Can-It-Forward Day is this upcoming Saturday, and they will be live streaming seminars and canning demonstrations on their website to help folks get excited about canning. If you’ve ever wanted to get started canning but were too afraid or intimidated, this Saturday is a great way to get your feet wet!
Now, go make some jam! Enjoy.
Cantaloupe certainly isn't the first fruit you think of when it comes time to make jam, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be on your "must can" list! This jam is a new favorite in our house.
- 6 cups diced, very ripe cantaloupe
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 5 tablespoons powdered pectin
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Fill a waterbath canner with water, and place inside eight half-pint jars (make sure the water covers the jars). Bring to a boil. Place lids and rings in a small saucepan with hot water and heat, but do not boil.
- Bring cantaloupe, lemon juice, and 3 1/2 cups of sugar to a boil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a full, rolling boil that cannot be stirred down (it should take 10-15 minutes).
- Once the mixture is at a full boil, whisk together the remaining sugar and the pectin. Whisk the mixture into the cantaloupe mixture.
- Bring mixture back to a full boil, and then boil hard for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture looks thickened and is set. I like to test it by putting a small amount on a spoon and placing it in the freezer for a few minutes. If it's jelly-like when it's cold, it's set! If not, boil for a few more minutes.
- Remove the hot jars from the waterbath canner, and turn the canner back up onto high.
- Ladle the jam into the hot jars, leaving a 1/2" headspace. Using a clean, damp cloth, wipe any extra jam from the rim of the jars, and then place on the lids and the rings—tightening just until snug, not overly tight.
- Place the jars in a rack in the waterbath canner, bring to a boil, and process for 10 minutes. Remove from canner, and let cool completely. Check seals after 24 hours—the lids shouldn't flex or move when pushed down on. Store sealed jars in a cool dark place for up to a year. Any jars that don't seal, place in the fridge and eat within a month.
To celebrate Can-It-Forward Day, Ball has offered up an incredible prize pack to giveaway to one Back to Her Roots reader. Seriously, it’s a crazy awesome package! One winner will receive:
- Quart-Sized Case of Spring Green Heritage Jars
- Pint-Sized Case of Spring Green Heritage Jars
- Fresh Herb Keeper
- Dry Herb Jars
- Frozen Herb Starter Trays
- 5 Blade Herb Scissors
- Ball Blue Book of Canning
This post is sponsored by Ball Canning. All content and opinions are my own.
Read more about my sponsored post disclosure policy in the BTHR Bylaws.
For, uh, obvious reasons, I’m kinda obsessed with one-pot/one-bowl/please-don’t-make-me-do-lots-of-dishes meals lately. If pretty much all I have to do after dinner is rinse out one pot and pop it in the dishwasher, I’m a very, very happy girl. As much as I wanted to stock pile my freezer with lots of meals while I was pregnant, it just didn’t end up happening to the extent I wanted (it’s amazing how quickly that 40 weeks of pregnancy flies by), so, for now, we’re living on one-pot miracles.
I did a lot of research and cooking with all kinds super whole grains for my second cookbook, and while there are lots of yummy grains out there (and in the book), all that cooking just reaffirmed that my absolute favorite whole grain is farro. There is something magical about farro. When cooked, it’s chewy, creamy and nutty. It actually reminds me a lot of a whole grain version of Aboriro rice (the rice used in risotto). The magic part is that it manages to taste creamy and smooth, and have a slow-cooked flavor with barely any work. Quite literally, I just put everything in the pot for this farro, turned on the stove, and ignored it for a half hour. I came back, stirred in some Parmesan and scooped it into bowls. And the result was this totally luxurious dinner that tasted like I spent hours slaving away at it.
Since we’re trying to keep things simple, this was a main dish for us, but, of course, this farro would make an awesome side dish if you aren’t trying to avoid doing dishes. I think this would be a beautiful companion to chicken or eggplant parmesan. Or even just with some simple grilled chicken seasoned with Italian herbs. Yum.
I used fresh herbs in this dish because they are pretty much banding together and invading the little herb garden we have outside our kitchen door (seriously, no matter how much I clip off, they’ve doubled in size the next day), but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work out decently to try this with dried herbs, too—just make sure you use enough to really get the herb-y flavor!
This one-pot vegetarian grain dish tastes like it takes hours worth of work, but it's ready in about a half hour and takes little effort more than just some chopping.
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup farro
- 1 large onion, sliced thinly
- 1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup each fresh minced basil, parsley and oregano
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Bring all ingredients, except the cheese, to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender and has absorbed all the cooking liquid. Stir in the cheese, taste for seasoning and serve.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Do you have any one-pot meals you can share with me to add to my repertoire?
Mayonnaise gets a lot of hate in the healthy eating world, but I actually love mayo. Sure, it’s high in calories, but I think it’s delicious, packed full of nutrients, and it’s 100% “real” food. What’s to hate? I’m not saying you should take a spoon and down a bowlful of the stuff, but spreading a couple of tablespoons on a sandwich or adding a half cup into a dressing isn’t the health no-no that I think a lot of people feel like it is.
And mayo is even healthier when you know exactly, 100% what’s included in it, and you can do that by making it at home. Mayo is so incredibly easy to make at home, and you get to have complete control over the flavor and ingredients. I tend to use fresh lemon juice and olive oil in my homemade mayo because I love the bright and fresh flavor that it makes, but you could easily use whatever combination of ingredients makes a mayo that you and your family love. Either way, the process is the same.
Back in the olden days, the key to good mayo was a steady whisking hand and a decent dose of patience, but I’m all about using technology to get good mayo now. You can use a stand mixer, hand mixer, or a food processor, but I really like using an immersion blender and the little cup that comes with it. The tall, narrow cup works really well for small amounts of mayo, and it helps the mayo come together really quickly.
First up, in the cup, whisk together two egg yolks, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a hefty pinch of salt, and a tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice (you can also use white vinegar for a more mild flavor).
The next part takes some patience. Put 1 1/4 cups of olive oil (canola oil, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil all work, too) in a spouted measuring cup. And with the immersion blender going on low, drip a drop of the oil in. And then another drop. And another drop. Keep dripping the oil in a drop at a time, until the mayo starts to thicken up a bit. Don’t rush it! Just put in a drop at a time while the immersion blend does its work.
Once the mayo starts to look about like the thickness of melted ice cream, you can start streaming in the oil in a more steady stream. Keep the immersion blender going.
It seems counterintuitive, but the more oil you add, the thicker and thicker the mayo will get. Until all the oil is in, and you’ve got some beautiful, thick, creamy mayo! It’s like magic. Beautiful, delicious, kitchen magic.
Taste the mayo for seasoning (you might want to add more salt), and then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Use it just like you would store-bought mayo. It’ll keep a few weeks no problem. Although, it’s pretty tasty stuff, so it might not actually last that long!
This makes about a cup and a half of mayo, and you could easily half this recipe if that’s too much to keep around. If the raw eggs wig you out, you can use pasteurized eggs (which are available at many supermarkets), although, I don’t worry too much about it. Unless you are immunocompromised, the chances of getting sick from raw eggs is extremely slim—but, obviously, that’s a decision for you to make for yourself and your family.
Now go make yourself some mayo!