Thursday, January 9, 2014

Olive Garden (Inspired) Salad

If you're anything like me, you believe Olive Garden has some of the most crave worthy Italian food.

And, if you're anything like me, there isn't an Olive Garden in your neck of the woods (bummer) - yet you still find yourself craving their amazing food. 

One of those especially crave-worthy, and amazing, foods is their endless dinner SALAD. 

The crispy iceberg lettuce + the undeniable zing of their dressing +  delicious veggies = PURE AMAZINGNESS!

Luckily, and thanks to Pinterest, I found an Olive Garden Inspired Dressing recipe that is sure to remind you of the "OG" (a.k.a. Olive Garden). It's just like the real deal, and most likely you already have the ingredients on hand. 

You can whip up this dressing, store in a mason jar (or tightly sealed container) and have "OG Inspired Dressing" to smother your salads for a couple of weeks. Be sure to store dressing in the fridge, and shake well before re-using. 

Olive Garden (Inspired) Salad (Adapted from The Country Cook)


For the Dressing
  • 1 packet Italian Dressing Mix (and 1/4 cup vinegar, 3 tbs. water, 1/2 cup oil to make dressing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon (real) mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
For the Salad
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Olives (black or green)
  • Sliced Red Onion
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Sliced Pepperoncini Peppers
  • Salt & Paper to taste


For the Dressing
  • Begin by preparing the Italian Salad Dressing according to the package directions - (add 1/4 cup vinegar and 3 tbsp. water cover and shake vigorously until well blended. Then, add 1/2 cup oil and shake again until completely blended).
  • Next, add prepared Italian dressing in a bowl and begin adding the remaining dressing ingredients.
  • Whisk all ingredients and mix well (I use a sports shake blender) then transfer OG dressing into a sealed container (mason jar).
  • Refrigerate until ready to use. (Will last about 2 weeks in your fridge).
For the Salad
  • Shred iceberg lettuce (enough to make a side salad portion)
  • Add sliced red onion, olives, and peperonccini's.
  • Top with Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper to taste.
  • Drizzle OG dressing.
  • Mix well.
  • ENJOY!

This post is linked with love to the fabulous Full Plate Thursday, at Miz Helen's Country Cottage

Friday, January 3, 2014

{Five} Faves: FRIDAY

So I decided to start something new. Heck, it's a new year, why not??
Each week, I'd like to share with you my top 5 favorite things from the past week.
Things related to cooking, working in the kitchen, gardening, products and recipes I love, or whatever else seems to pop into my brain at that moment. 

Image via//Sweetness In Starlight

Are you ready?? 
Me too!!

1.  Food Chopper by Pampered Chef - Holy Smokes, do I ever love this thing or what?! It is by far one of the best inventions, EVER! You can use this handy little device to chop-up veggies & fruits. You can use it to dice up pretty much anything, which is awesome and saves you a lot of time! For example, bawling your eyes out when dicing onions can now become a thing of the past. It also works great for chopping nuts, and other hard foods like candy. Best part: It's 100% dishwasher safe! I love love LOVE it! This bad boy is an absolute kitchen must-have. 

Image via//Pampered Chef

2.  ABC's The Taste {Television Show} - Eeeek!!! I'm squealing with excitement! I'm so so so HAPPY ABC's The Taste is back for season 2. The first season was so much fun to watch - we didn't miss a single episode. Last night {Thursday}, the show premiered with contestants trying their best hand {or shall I say, bite} to be chosen as a chef in one of four judges' kitchens. I'm a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain & No Reservations, and think he's all around fantastic! Needless to say, we were immediately drawn to this show. This season looks like so much fun, and I am glad chef Marcus has joined the other judges. I've already got my top picks... I may or may not be rooting for  Food Blogger, Audrey Johns. "High-Five! Whoop! Whoop!" to all the home cooks out there!!
Image via//ABC

3. THE Blue Spoon - If you're following me on Instagram, you might have seen this post about the beloved blue spoon. I am not too sure where this spoon came from but I must say, it's a keeper! I use it religiously in the kitchen for anything from mixing, stirring, to scooping. But most importantly, its shinny blue color, speckled with confetti-like dots just makes me smile every time I look at it. And, I know that it helps me cook my dishes too, I just know it does. Maybe my love for the spoon possibly spills over into making the food - therefore, food made with love? Yes, that must be it.

4. Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine - This stuff is almost too good, and I mean that in the best possible ways. Mix up this Moonshine with some fruit juice, especially some Apple Juice, pour it over some ice, serve it chilled... sip it up.. and WHOOOIE!! Or if you'd prefer, or just plain eagar, you don't even have to mix or serve it. You can just drink it right out of the jar if you please. Husbands especially love it... and wives especially love the nice big mason jar when said husbands finish it off. Winning and Winning.
BUT please BE CAREFUL {and legal}, it's the strong stuff.

and last, but definitely not least...

5. Skinny Cow's Peanut Butter Creme filled Chocolates - Okay, seriously y'all, you gotta hear me out on this... First let me just say, I am NOT one for skinny, lite, fat-free anything. Mainly because, well, it usually taste fat-free, or sugar free, or made with some other sweeter that's not sugar. And I know all that fat and sugar stuff is not so great for ya, but I am telling you, it's great for my taste-buds. Okay, now let's back to the topic at hand here... These, these right here -THESE. ARE. SO. DANG. DELICIOUS!! Image a fancy peanut butter cup (3/pck) and each pack contains only 130 calories and 7 grams of fat! I know what you're thinking... but I'm telling you they DO NOT taste anything like they only contain 7 grams of fat or 130 calories, especially split among the three of them. AND, unlike some other chocolate & peanut butter treats which only contain two per pack, these Skinny Cow Chocolates are nearly half as many calories and grams of fat per serving! Yeah, they are pretty amazing! 
You can grab a box full of 6 packs (which will allow you to share, in case you're feeling friendly) at your local grocery store. Please do, go pick some up, you and your friends will thank you. Oh, and they also have Caramel (OMG!) filled chocolates too! Hats off to you Skinny Cow!
Image via//Queen Be Coupons

Note: I received this product complimentary from Influensterhowever all content and opinions expressed here are 

my own. 

So there ya have it, my first ever top 5 favorites post from this week!
What about you guys?
Do you have any top faves from your week? 
I'd love to hear them!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!! a.k.a Eat Your Black-Eyed Peas

Hey Everyone & Welcome to 2014! 
I wish each and every one of you a fabulous new year, and may you make the very best of 2014!

With the start of the new year comes the Black-Eyed Peas, Greens, and some form of pork for your enjoyment and eating pleasure.

Maybe it's because I'm Southern,
 or maybe it's because I'm Superstitious, 
Maybe it's a combination of both
but every New Year's Day (NYD) I make it a point to devour a good ole heaping helping of Black-Eyed Peas (BEPs).

Why?? you ask
Great question!

I've never quite understood the meaning behind the BEP on NYD...
Nor have I particularly enjoyed the BEPs... 
they're nasty, smelly, little things, aren't they?
(I knew you'd agree)

 This New Year's I decided to do a little history research behind the whole meaning and tradition of BEPs for NYD. After all, I am a grad student, and that's what we do - Research.

According to some, Black Eyed Peas represent prosperity & luck in the coming new year. 
Some might even argue that you should eat 365 peas to ensure a full years worth of  good luck and prosperity, while others might suggest saving one pea to share with a friend of loved one. Some even say that if you eat less than 365 peas you will have that many days of bad luck in the year, and if you eat more than 365 you'll have bad luck the entire year. I know, I know, it's really complicated. Just eat them (however many) and you'll be good. 

Eating BEPs on NYD hasn't steered me wrong up to this point, so I'll continue to do it. Along with a couple of other things to ensure I get the very best out of my year.

So back to the BEP... they're gross, they make your house smell, they're flavorless, and all around boring. Definitely not my go to bean, or pea, or legume. Whatever.

This year, I decided to jazz things up a bit!!

I decided to make the eating of BEP a little more FUN and a lot more tolerable, I mean, enjoyable.

I introduce to you - Texas Caviar

Never hear of it? Me either, until my extensive research efforts...

Texas Caviar is a fun little side dish that can be served as a dip with chips, crackers, or bread...  It can be served as a cold Black-Eyed Pea Salad, if you will.  
Or, if you're like me, it can be served with some cornbread so that you can tolerate eating 365 BEPs.

So I turned to the wonderful, and always trustworthy Pioneer Woman, and found a lovely little recipe and added my own twist. 
It makes everything better, doesn't it?

Plus, let's face it, we all want to ensure the very best for ourselves in the upcoming year, right?!
So then we MUST EAT the Black-Eyed Peas. 

Here's what you'll need

Ingredients: Black-Eyed Peas (canned peas work perfectly fine too - and you won't have to cook them), Green Onion, Cilantro, Celery, Red Onion, Red Bell Pepper, Jalapeno (pretend the green pepper is a Jalapeno), Olive Oil, White Wine Vinegar, Ground Mustard, Celery Seed, Sugar, Salt, & Pepper. Not Pictured - Shredded Cheese

So I found some pre-washed, pre-soaked Black Eyed Peas that I doctored up in the crock-pot to cook. I added some Salt Pork, Celery, and Onion and cooked them on high for about 4 hours and then let them cool over night. Refrigerate after they're cooled. 

You'll need to begin this process by making the dressing. 

Add some olive oil to a shallow bowl. 

Then add the vinegar.

Next, add sugar, ground mustard, celery seed, salt, and a good amount of ground black pepper.

Give a good whisk!

Do a little taste test to make sure it meets all your dressing need, then set it aside as you prepare the rest of the veggies.

Chop up your celery.

Dice up your red bell pepper.

Chop up some green onions.

 Next, peel your cucumber and slice in half.

Then remove the seeds.

Now, chop up the red onion.

Then, carefully, remove the seeds and dice up the jalapeno. Wash your hands well and avoid touching your face. I learned this the hard way.. Just use gloves. Trust me.

 Pour your Black-Eyed Peas in a large bowl.

Then, throw all your pretty chopped up veggies into that large bowl with your black-eyed peas.

 Add about half a cup of shredded cheese, more if you're feeling a little frisky.

 Pour in that delicious dressing from earlier.

Give the entire thing a good, but gentle mixing! 

Isn't it colorful, and gorgeous?!

Now, if you're truly Southern, add a nice big ole piece of Sweet Cornbread. Yum!

 Texas Caviar (adapted from The Pioneer Woman's Black-Eyed Pea Salsa)

For the Dressing
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup White Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Celery Seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste

For the Caviar
  • 3 stalks Chopped Celery
  • 3 stalks Sliced Green Onions
  • 1 chopped Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 chopped Red Onion
  • 1 whole Cucumber, Peeled, Seeded, And Chopped
  • 1 whole Jalapeno (optional), Seeded And Chopped
  • 1/2 cup (or More If Desired) Chopped Cilantro
  • 24 oz cooked Black-eyed Peas (or 2 cans of drained Black-Eyed Peas)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Cheese
  • Garlic Salt to taste

  • Mix together dressing ingredients. Whisk well and set aside.
  • Combine all vegetables (except cilantro and shredded cheese) with black eyed peas.
  • Pour dressing over the top and gently stir together.
  • Add shredded cheese and cilantro and stir gently.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • Serve with warm cornbread.
  • Enjoy!

This post is linked with love to the wonderful Weekend PotLuck , at The Country Cook.