Saturday, February 28, 2009

Poppy Seed Chicken and Rice

I haven't made this casserole in a while, but I needed an easy one-dish meal that freezes well to take to a friend. This dish makes me think about our newlywed days; this was a standard dish for most of my friends when we first got married. It's super-easy comfort food.

Poppy Seed Chicken and Rice
4 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used my slow-cooker method.)
1 (16-oz.) container sour cream
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cups cooked brown rice (I used Minute rice.)
2 sleeves Townhouse crackers
1/2 stick butter, melted

1. Combine chicken and next 6 ingredients, stirring until blended. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Combine crackers and melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over chicken mixture. (I froze it at this point.)
2. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Note: If frozen, thaw overnight in refrigerator. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Bake as directed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Apple Cake Tatin

Some friends came to dinner tonight and we had Lemon Chicken Pasta, Baby Blue Salad, and this terrific apple cake. The recipe was inspired by one from Ina Garten, but I've streamlined it a bit. This upside-down cake is great as a dessert (served with vanilla ice cream, of course) or for breakfast.

Apple Cake Tatin
2 Granny Smith apples
Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Peel apples; cut in half. Use a melon baller to core apples. Cut apples halves into slices. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray; place apple slices in an even layer in bottom of pie plate. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup brown sugar.
2. Beat butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla and sour cream.
3. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until blended. Pour batter over apple mixture in pie plate.
4. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken Scaloppine

Tonight's menu came from the February 2009 issue of Southern Living: Chicken Scaloppine, Creamy Cheese Grits, and Roasted Zucchini. Very tasty and very quick to make. The scaloppine recipe called for turkey cutlets, but I couldn't find them at the store. However, I had boneless chicken breasts in the freezer. So I thawed the chicken breasts and then placed them between two sheets of plastic wrap and pounded them until they were flat. (Don't be intimidated! This took maybe a minute to do.) Instead of cooking the grits in water, I used an equal amount of chicken stock. Andy and I agree that we'll only roast zucchini from now on; it was delicious! Definitely try these dishes; dinner was ready in less than 30 minutes. (Cost per serving: $2.40)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Peas and Prosciutto With Lemony Tortellini

It's Tuesday, and that means my father-in-law is here. He loves pasta, so that's what we had for dinner. The recipe was inspired by one from the March issue of Everyday Food. The flavor is terrific; it's a nice change of pace. It made me think of spring. Best of all, the meal-in-one only took 20 minutes to get it on the table (the tortellini cooks in just 3 minutes). I served it with my favorite foccacia from Continental Bakery. (Cost per serving: $2.50)

Peas and Prosciutto With Lemony Tortellini
Makes 4 servings
1 (19-oz.) package frozen cheese tortellini
2 tsp. olive oil
4 oz. prosciutto, chopped (Ask for prosciutto slices at the deli counter.)
2 bacon slices, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 (16-oz.) package frozen green peas or 1 (10-oz.) package frozen green peas
Zest and juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup whipping cream (You could substitute half-and-half.)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook tortellini according to package directions; drain and set aside.
2. In the same pot, sauté prosciutto, bacon, and garlic until brown. Stir in frozen peas, lemon zest and juice, cream, and Parmesan cheese. Cook, stirring often, until mixture is thoroughly heated. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sour Cream Pound Cake Cupcakes With Grapefruit Buttercream Frosting

This idea was inspired by my Lemon-Blueberry Cupcakes. I thought the tartness of grapefruit might be a nice contrast to sweet buttercream. These were pretty good, but I want to experiment a bit more. The icing separated a bit. I think part of the problem was too much grapefruit juice; I only didn't use quite all of the juice out of one piece of fruit. But next time, I think I'll cut it into quarters to squeeze so I can get a more accurate amount. The grapefruit flavor is very subtle. The other issue I had with the icing was that it was a little grainy. I think the butter was too soft. Now that I know what grapefruit tastes like with buttercream, next time I will add orange zest to the cake batter; this will be a nice bridge to the citrus flavor of the icing.

Sour Cream Pound Cake Cupcakes
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. sour cream
Vegetable cooking spray
Grapefruit Buttercream Frosting

1. Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture, alternately with sour cream, and beat until blended. Pour batter into lightly greased muffin pans.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until done. Cool completely before icing. Store in the refrigerator.

Grapefruit Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
Juice from 1 grapefruit
1 (16-oz.) box powdered sugar

1. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually beat in grapefruit juice and powdered sugar until mixture is light and fluffy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Basics

A friend suggested I blog about the food basics I keep on hand to ensure I can make dinner. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and am going to attempt to explain my approach to menu planning; shopping; and the staples in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.

First, meal planning. I like to cook a variety of foods. So my goal when I sit down to plan a menu is to include at least one new recipe every two weeks. I do repeat meals, but because of where I work and because I subscribe to a lot of food magazines, I have a constant supply of inspiration. For me, the times I've become uninterested in cooking are those times when I just make the same things over and over. How boring! Also, Andy isn't a picky eater, which is so awesome. Even if he doesn't like an item in a particular dish, he'll eat the dish anyway and just pick out the offensive food. He is a gem for sure! Whenever we have a new dish, we vote to see if its a keeper. I don't assign meals to specific days, but I do post the menu on the side of the fridge. On it, I note if components of a particular meal are in the freezer (such as chicken cutlets) as well as a complete freezer inventory. This helps me know what meals are ready and waiting.

I shop for groceries once every two weeks. I've had this same system for a long time and it works well for Andy and me. If there are more than two people in your family, shopping a week at a time would probably be better. The good thing about having a systematic approach to grocery shopping is that it cuts down on multiple trips, which add up fast. During a two-week period, I might have to pick up more milk or another small thing, but that's all. I absolutely shop with a list; I make the list and menu at the same time. When I shop, I add up my purchases on a calculator as I go; this keeps me on budget. (I look like a nerd with my list on a clipboard and my calculator, but that's okay! I had a woman stop me one time to tell me that she was so glad she didn't have to shop that way.) Because I plan two weeks at a time, we usually have dishes that require fresh produce the first week and use frozen the second week.

Pantry Staples

unbleached all-purpose flour
unbleached self-rising flour
granulated sugar
brown sugar
powdered sugar
vanilla extract
dried herbs and spices
canned tomatoes
canned beans
sourdough bread
wheat bread
Kosher salt
cracked black pepper
balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
olive oil
vegetable oil
peanut oil
cooking spray
sweet onions
sweet potatoes
Arborio rice
unsweetened cocoa
assorted chocolate morsels
baking chocolate
dried cranberries
golden raisins
soy sauce
Worchestershire sauce
chicken and beef stock
plain breadcrumbs
Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
peanut butter
canned pumpkin

Refrigerator staples
cream cheese
feta cheese
raspberry preserves
maple syrup
Dijon mustard
dill pickle relish
Wickles pickle relish
hoisin sauce
whipping cream
blocks of Cheddar and Colby-Jack cheese
provolone cheese slices
basil pesto
fresh fruit
fresh vegetables
fresh parsley and cilantro
grape tomatoes
minced garlic
Parmesan cheese
sour cream
corn tortillas
dried pasta
canned lite coconut milk
chocolate syrup

Freezer staples
chicken cutlets
chicken breasts
homemade chicken stock
pizza dough
frozen vegetables
ice cream
frozen hamburger meat
frozen french fries
frozen leftovers

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Buttermilk Pancakes

For breakfast we had one of Carson's favorites—pancakes (with bacon, of course). This combination of ingredients yields very light and fluffy pancakes. The batter has vanilla in it, which lends a nice flavor. These are the best pancakes! (They are equally tasty for dinner as well.)

Buttermilk Pancakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine buttermilk and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
2. Scoop 1/4-cupfuls of batter onto a hot grill pan or griddle. Cook until bubbles form on surface and edges look dry. Turn over pancakes and cook 2 minutes. Serve warm with warm syrup.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Prosciutto-Provolone Grilled Cheese With Tomato Soup

Our nephew Carson is spending the night with us. He and Uncle Andy are busy building all kinds of neat things with Legos. By request, we had grilled cheeses for supper. The Tomato Soup was super simple to come together, and I thought it would be nice to add some prosciutto to the sandwiches. Carson did a taste taste and gave the sandwich his seal of approval.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

White Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Cookies

For years I have been using the small 1-Tbsp. scoop to make cookies. Recently I've begun using the 3-Tbsp. scoop and have been pleased with the results. I think the larger size gives the cookies a better texture.

White Chocolate-Macadamia Nut Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 (11-oz.) package white chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli.)
1 package macadamia nut pieces

1. Beat butter and sugars with an electric mixture until creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. Use 3-Tbsp. scoop to place batter on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
3. Bake at 350° for 11 minutes. (I prefer soft cookies; if you like yours crunchier, increase the baking time.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

This was a new dessert for me. I'm not sure that what I came up with tastes like the traditional cake, but Andy and I really liked the results. We topped the cake with ice cream, of course. Instead of making a large cake, I used my jumbo muffin pan to make individual-size cakes.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Vegetable cooking spray
1 can sliced pineapple
Brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup buttermilk

1. Coat jumbo muffin cups with cooking spray. Divide pineapple rings among muffin cups. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
2. Beat butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture with buttermilk, beating until blended.
Spread batter over pineapples.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Use a fork to remove cakes from pan; serve warm.

How To Peel Ginger

I learned this tip for peeling and mincing ginger at work. Here are the very easy steps for prepping fresh ginger, including step-by-step photos.

1. Use a spoon to peel the ginger; it only takes a small amount of pressure.
2. Instead of mincing the ginger with a knife, use a microplane grater to grate ginger. (If you don't have a microplane grater, you must get one! It's handy for grating Parmesan cheese and zesting citrus. This handy tool cost about $15 at Williams-Sonoma.)

Chicken Panang Curry

This dish is based on a recipe from Bon Appétit. (The original called for tofu.) I love to order a similar dish at a local Thai restaurant. I was pretty sure that Andy wouldn't be a big fan, and he wasn't. To make dinner more palatable for him, we also had Pork Dumplings, which I had in the freezer. Next time, I will add a little more peanut butter and maybe some soy sauce. (Bonus: The panang's spiciness will open your sinuses!)

Chicken Panang Curry
4 shallots, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 lb. chicken tenders, cut into cubes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. red curry paste (I've found this at Publix and Whole Foods.)
1 tsp. roasted chili paste (I found this at Whole Foods.)
1 can light coconut milk
3 1/2 cups water, divided
Juice from 3 limes
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup brown rice

1. Sauté shallots and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in a Dutch oven until chicken is almost cooked through. Stir in garlic, and sauté until vegetables begin to get tender. Stir in peanut butter and next 5 ingredients. Stir in 1 cup water, lime juice, and brown sugar. Cook on low 20 minutes.
2. In a small saucepan, bring remaining 2 1/2 cups water to a boil; stir in brown rice. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Pour rice mixture into Dutch oven. Cover and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, for 30 more minutes or until rice is tender.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast foods. (Andy disliked it for a long time after Oatmeal Incident '02, but he's a fan once again.) I prefer steel-cut oats over instant any day, and because that variety takes so long to cook, it's not a weekday option. My solution: Make a big batch on the weekend, refrigerate it, scoop out a serving each morning, and reheat in the microwave. I prefer steel-cut oatmeal because it's chewier and heartier. It used to be very difficult to find it at the regular grocery store, but it's now readily available.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal
4 cups milk
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar (amount depends on your personal prefence)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Pinch of salt
Slivered almonds (optional)

1. Bring milk to a bowl in a large pan; stir in oats. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Stir in brown sugar and next 2 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until oats are done. Allow mixture to cool; place in a airtight container. Store in the refrigerator. Reheat individual servings in the microwave at HIGH for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle each serving with slivered almonds, if desired.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Barbecue Baked Fries

This is a superfast, super-easy meal idea.
1. Bake frozen french fries according to package directions.
2. Top baked fries with shredded pork from your favorite barbecue restaurant; drizzle with barbecue sauce, and, if desired, top with pickles.
3. Sprinkle shredded cheese over top.
4. Bake at 425° until cheese melts. Serve with sour cream, if desired.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fried Chicken Tender Salad

For lunch on Sunday, we had salad topped with fried chicken tenders from Publix. We used chopped green leaf lettuce, a sliced English cucumber, 1 pint sliced grape tomatoes, 1 lb. chopped chicken tenders, Homemade Croutons, and Balsamic Vinaigrette. This is a great option for a busy weeknight!

Homemade Croutons
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
Sourdough bread round, cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt oil and butter in a large skillet. Stir in bread cubes, and cook, stirring often, until bread begins to toast. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Strawberry-Fruit Toss With Cornmeal Shortcakes

This was our dessert on Saturday night. The recipe will be in the April issue of Southern Living, and I highly recommend making it. The cornmeal in the shortcakes is subtle, but it keeps the cakes from being too dense. The lemon zest in the dough is tasty; next time, I plan to add some vanilla extract. The fruit mixture—strawberries, pineapple, and kiwifruit—has lime zest, lime juice, and chopped mint, which makes it very refreshing. Yummy! Cost per serving: about $1.25.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

My best friend, Kristin, and her family visited us this weekend. On Saturday night Paul, Julie, and their kids joined us for dinner. We had a variation of Ina Garten's chicken pot pie. The main difference between Ina's original and the way I made it is that I omitted the 1/4 cup of cream in the chicken mixture; it was creamy enough. I also didn't blanch the carrots separately; instead they sautéed with the onions (one less pot to wash). A food processor is key for making the dough because it comes together very quickly. You could probably use a heavy-duty stand mixer to make it, but I think it would take longer and I don't know if the butter and shortening would be as evenly distributed. If you're in the market for a food processor, I recommend the 11- or 12-cup capacity one by KitchenAid. The large bowl size is great for doughs and big batches of pimiento cheese (a necessary part of a Southern girl's cooking repertoire). Note: This dish makes a ton! I feed six adults and five children (including some second helpings) and still have enough left for another meal for four. Cost per serving: about $2.

Chicken Pot Pie
1/2 cup butter
2 sweet onions, chopped
4 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup flour
1 (32-oz.) carton chicken broth
1 1/2 lb. chopped cooked chicken
1 (10-oz.) box frozen peas
Salt and pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Melt butter in Dutch oven. Add chopped onions and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, on medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir in flour, and cook 2 minutes. Gradually whisk chicken broth into flour mixture until it begins to thicken. Stir in chicken and peas. Simmer 5 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Top with Pastry, crimping edges to seal. Brush with beaten egg, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut slits in top of crust.
3. Bake at 375° for 1 hour.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup butter, cut into cubes
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water

1. Place flour and next 4 ingredients in food processor. Pulse until mixture is blended and resembles coarse sand. With the processor running, gradually add in ice water through food chute until dough forms a ball. Place dough on a lightly floured surface, and knead to make a disk. (At this point you can chill dough for 30 minutes—a key step when it's hot outside. However, I didn't chill it this time and it was fine.) Roll dough out into a rectangle.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How To Cook Chicken

The photo on the left is the raw chicken; the one on the right is cooked.

A friend asked me to post this tip. When I need to cook a lot of chicken for a casserole, etc., I use my slow cooker. There are several advantages to this. 1) No chicken foam! 2) The length of time it takes in a slow cooker allows the chicken to absorb the flavor of the liquid I cook it with and gets rid of the chicken taste. 3) If you use bone-in chicken, the meat gets so tender that the bones slide right out. 4) You don't have to thaw the chicken before putting it in the slow cooker. (I discovered this because I always forget to put the meat in the fridge the night before.)

I use this method most often with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but it also works for bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts as well as thighs and even whole chickens. If family packs are on sale, I take advantage of the savings and cook a huge pack at once. I tailor the herbs and spices to the dishes the chicken will go in, but for most dishes, a combo of dried tarragon and thyme and salt and pepper works well.

This is the easiest way to shred chicken. Remove the chicken (if necessary, take out the bones first) from the slow cooker with tongs; place hot chicken in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a flat beater. Place a kitchen towel over top of mixer to create a tent. (This prevents shredded chicken confetti from decorating your kitchen. A lesson I learned the hard way.) Turn mixer on the lowest setting for about 1 minute. The chicken will be perfectly shredded. If you beat it too long, it will become mush, so keep an eye on it.

Slow-Cooker Chicken
Salt and pepper
dried tarragon
dried thyme
Orange juice
1/2 cup butter

1. Rinse chicken, and place in slow cooker. (It's okay if pieces overlap.) Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, tarragon, and thyme. Pour orange juice into bottom of slow cooker (1 1/2 to 2 cups, depending on amount of chicken). Place stick of butter on top. Cook on LOW for 8 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker, and chop or shred the meat, depending on how you plan to use it. Note: You can strain the broth and then freeze it to use in risotto or soups.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Coca-Cola Cake

If you've never made this cake, you must. The Coke underscores the chocolate flavor; in fact, you can't taste it. This cake reminds me of my grannie's chocolate cake, which has a grainy, fudgelike frosting. I use this recipe from Southern Living. It's a great cake to take to new parents, to a sick friend, or just to make someone's day. Enjoy!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Greek Salad

We had leftover Beef Stroganoff for dinner tonight. I reheated it in a saucepan and added about 1/2 cup of milk to keep it creamy. I served Greek Salad and focaccia from a local bakery as sides.

Greek Salad
1 head green leaf lettuce, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olives
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 oz. feta, crumbled
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

1. Toss lettuce and next 4 ingredients together in a large bowl.
2. Combine red wine vinegar and next 4 ingredients in a bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cherry Cobbler

I think cobblers are the perfect dessert: warm fruit, a buttery crust, and, of course, topped with ice cream. Yes, I like chocolate, but a good cobbler is hard to beat, especially in winter. I'm always looking for new and improved ways to make them, and I think this recipe (inspired by one from SL) is the best for frozen fruit. Cherries are my fruit of choice, but berries would be tasty as well. The next time I make it, though, I'm going to replace some of the milk with amaretto and use almond extract instead of vanilla.

Cherry Cobbler
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
2 bags frozen pitted cherries
Vanilla ice cream

1. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 13- x 2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle frozen cherries on top of batter.
2. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Serve warm with ice cream.

Hello, Cupcake!

I think I've written many times on this blog about my love of handheld and small desserts, particularly cupcakes. In fact, the only cakes I make are cupcakes, with the occasional sheet cake thrown in the mix. Hello, Cupcake! has some precious ideas that seem to be pretty simple. The main requirement seems to be patience. (A challenge for me!) I can't wait to try some of the cupcakes in this book. My niece AC has requested the Pupcakes for her April birthday party; her sister wants the Penguins. If you love to make cupcakes, definitely check out this book.


For lunch today we had muffulettas, those huge sandwiches with an NOLA provenance that have salty, yummy olive salad. They are so easy to make. The trick is to make the olive salad the day before; it makes a lot, so I'm experimenting with the leftovers. I'll let you know if it worked.

1 ciabatta round or other round bread
2 cups Olive Salad
6 slices Swiss cheese
1/2 lb. sliced hard salami
6 slices provolone
1/2 lb. sliced ham

1. Cut ciabatta in half horizontally. Scoop out insides, leaving sides and bottoms intact. Spread 1 cup Olive Salad on each half of bread. On the bottom half, layer Swiss, salami, provolone, and ham. Top with remaining half of bread, cut side down.
2. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes. (This will heat up the bread, but the meat mixture will still be cold. It's a nice contrast.)

Olive Salad
1 (32-oz.) jar mixed pickled vegetables
1 sweet onion, quartered
16 oz. pimiento-stuff green olives, drained
1 (6-oz.) can pitted ripe olives, drained
1/4 cup pepperoncini salad peppers
1 (7.25-oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained
2 Tbsp. capers
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. black pepper

1. Drain pickled vegetables, reserving 1/4 cup of liquid. Place pickled vegetables and onion in food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Spoon into a large bowl. Place green olives and next 3 ingredients in food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Spoon into bowl with vegetable mixture. Stir in capers, reserved 1/4 cup pickling liquid, and remaining ingredients. Cover and chill 24 hours.