Now that our social lives are getting back on track, we feel a little rusty in the dinner party/entertaining game. We find ourselves going back to the basics as we dust the rust off and have more people over for dinner. One of our simple hacks to make entertaining easy is to have an interactive appetizer as part of the menu. While our guests are having a drink they can also stay busy making their first bites of food. This way, we can be in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on dinner. We love this caprese bruschetta because the ingredients are so simple but the taste is so impressive. By swapping fresh tomatoes out for garlic roasted tomatoes, traditional fresh mozzarella for creamy burrata, and simple basil leaves for homemade pesto, we have made each ingredient feel more special with hardly any effort. This appetizer is bursting with flavor and perfect for any summer gathering.
Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and the sliced garlic. Lay everything in a single layer on a cookie sheet and season well with salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are just bursting. Use a slotted spatula to remove the tomatoes and garlic from the pan and into a serving bowl, leaving any juices and oils behind. Toss the baguette slices with the oils from the pan and put in the oven. Toast for about 5 minutes, or until the baguette is crispy.
While the tomatoes are cooking, make the pesto. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Place in a small bowl for serving.
Drain the burrata and pat it dry with a paper towel. Carefully slice the burrata into segments and lay it in the serving platter. Season the burrata with a little salt and freshly cracked pepper. Assemble the serving tray with the tomatoes, pesto, and baguette slices. Serve immediately.
Every year for Calli’s birthday, we have a seafood birthday celebration with our best family friend, Leslie. We order a box of Alaskan king crab legs from Costco, steam the legs and serve them with lemon and hot butter. It is one of our favorite summer traditions and something we look forward to every year. The dinner is simple and the crab legs are just SO good. We had a few left over this year and didn’t want to waste one bite, so we decided to repurpose the crab into crab rolls. This recipe is intentionally simple as we want the crab to shine. If you don’t typically find yourself rolling around in leftover crab legs, you can typically purchase them by the leg at your regular supermarket.
We have moved to a lot of new cities for baseball season over the past few years; probably 8 in the last 5 years alone. Moving to a new city is both exciting and a little overwhelming, so we try and get our boots on the ground and familiarize ourselves with the city and neighborhoods as quickly as we can. One of the ways that Jamie does this is her famous “restaurant list”. Whenever we go to a new city (be it for a baseball move or a vacation), Jamie gathers some internet intel to create a list of restaurants we need to try while we are visiting. When we got to Columbus, Ohio this year for baseball and began digging around for research, we realized that the work had already been done for us. The Experience Columbus visitor’s bureau has two maps to help explore the city: The Columbus Coffee Experience and the Columbus Ale Trail. You can go to each of the locations on the two maps and get a stamp after visiting. This concept is a dream come true for type A foodies like we are. Not only have we expanded our exploration of Columbus well beyond what we would normally explore in a baseball season but we have been able to support a number of local restaurants in the process.
So let’s talk coffee. There are about two dozen coffee shops on the Coffee Experience map. We were glad to see that most of the shops have survived Covid shutdowns, but there are a few changes as to what is open with the current map. You can pick up the map in any of the shops participating and start your coffee experience. Rather than go through each of the shops one by one, we wanted to highlight our favorite shops and add a few more that deserve a spot on the map.
Judging the best coffee out of over 40 coffees is a difficult task. Some people like a straight forward beverage, and others (looking at you Ryan) like to order the coffee that most resembles dessert. Keeping those extremes in mind, here are the standout beverages we had along the way:
Winan’s – peaches and cream breve latte
Bexley Coffee Shop – strawberry latte
Roaming Goat Coffee – perfect cappuccino
Crimson Cup – french toast crunch latte
Brioso – their shop is closed for beverages, but their coffee beans were the best we purchased
While food isn’t a requirement for a “coffee experience”, we are not ones to turn down a good breakfast to pair with our morning caffeine. For the sake of research we ate more muffins, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries than we care to admit. Here were our favorites:
Fox in the Snow – hands down one of the best breakfast sandwiches in Columbus. The food is so good we went there twice! The pastries are also incredible if you are in the mood for something sweet.
Pistacia Vera – lots of traditional French breakfast items. The almond croissant is still discussed regularly as one of the best things we have eaten in Columbus. The croque monsieur and smoked salmon sandwich are perfect for a heartier, savory option.
Coffee Connections of Hilliard – maple waffle breakfast sandwich. It’s a little sweet, a little savory… the perfect start to any morning.
The Brekkie Shack – this shop is not on the coffee experience map, but is one of our favorite stops for breakfast and had to be added to our recommendations. The “all the feels egg sandwich” gives us exactly that, with an unusual combo of egg, bacon, cheddar, and crispy brussels sprouts.
Boston Stoker – after accompanying us to about two dozen coffee shops, Tuck thinks that this is the standout shop for furry friends. Their pup cup was his favorite!
Most of the time we are grabbing coffee on the run, but every once in a while we want to relax and enjoy the morning. These shops had our favorite places to enjoy our coffees or have such a cute storefront that we would want to bring visitors just to experience the vibes of the place.
Kittie’s Cakes Bexley – we love the patio at Kittie’s and the cute bookstore they share a space with. Kittie’s was also the only shop that made Jamie’s favorite drink (an iced cappuccino) so they earn bonus points for that alone. The neighborhood is great for a stroll, which is exactly what we did after downing a cinnamon roll and cappuccinos.
Luck Bros’ Coffee House – another shop that is not on the coffee experience map but is a great experience in Columbus. They are in Grandview Heights right across the street from a cute park and have a good sized patio to enjoy your coffee. Pre-covid they offered a coffee tasting flight, and we hope they bring that back soon.
Pistacia Vera – we already mentioned them before, but the aesthetic of this shop is Jamie’s favorite. They sell gorgeous flowers and have an open atmosphere that makes them stand out on the list. They do not offer seating post-Covid, but we were recommended to take our food and drinks to Frank Fetch Park a few blocks away. This little tiny park might be the cutest spot in German Village, and perhaps all of Columbus.
Stauf’s Victorian Village – there are quite a few Stauf’s shops on the coffee experience, but the Victorian Village location is definitely the standout. The shop is located in an old church and they did a great job of modernizing the space while keeping true to the building’s roots. They have a good sized shaded patio that is perfect for enjoying your morning coffee.
Summer is officially on the way and with it comes tomato season! We love to grow our own tomatoes and pick them up from the farmers market. You can not beat the taste of a fresh, seasonal tomato. We wanted to fancy up a simple chicken recipe and opted to made a “bruschetta” style grilled chicken for summer. The tomato, basil, and caper topping is perfectly refreshing on chicken and a great entrée for any cookout this summer. The recipe is light and simple, but bursting with flavor. For easy entertaining, you can make the bruschetta mix a few hours ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator. We prefer the mix to be closer to room temperature so pull it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to serve the chicken.
A great chicken entrée for a summer cookout. The tomato, caper, and basil “bruschetta” topping is the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken and a night on the patio.
3 large chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 large tomatoes on the vine, diced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs capers, drained
1/3 cup lightly packed basil, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs balsamic glaze
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat (about 400 degrees).
Mix the 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper together in a small mixing bowl. Drizzle the mixture over the chicken breasts and toss well to coat. Grill the chicken for 7-8 minutes per side, or about 15 minutes total. The juices of the chicken should run clear and the chicken should have an internal temp of 165 degrees. Gently tent the chicken with foil after it has come off the grill and let is rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
While the chicken is cooking, make the bruschetta topping. Dice the tomatoes and rid them of as much of their seeds as possible. Put them in a medium mixing bowl along with the remaining bruschetta ingredients (red onion – balsamic glaze). Use a spoon to gently toss to combine all of the ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside until the chicken has finished resting.
After the chicken has finished resting, slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices. Serve the sliced chicken on a platter and generously top with the bruschetta mix. Serve immediately.
If you are a Trader Joe’s fan, you know that their cauliflower gnocchi has a cult-like following. The gnocchi tastes light and fluffy and is a healthy alternative compared to the potato original. The one problem that we have with the gnocchi is that they are nearly impossible to cook correctly. They go from cooked to mush in just a few seconds, so if we are boiling them or cooking them on the stove top, there is just about a minute to nail the timing of the recipe so that it all turns out perfectly. We are not into these stressful cooking scenarios, and tried to make these gnocchi in an alternative way so that there is more wiggle room for the recipe to be successful. By roasting them in the oven with some olive oil, they get a crispy exterior while still maintaining their fluffy texture inside. We tossed them in a brown butter sauce and topped them with fresh peas, mint, and lots of lemon. To take this dish over the top, we have added a dollop of whipped ricotta to the bottom of the serving dish. It provides the perfect salty and creamy punch and helps meld all of the ingredients together.
An exciting vegetarian entree for summer. We love the combination of the crispy gnocchi, snappy fresh peas, and fluffy whipped ricotta.
1 package frozen cauliflower gnocchi
2 tbs butter
1 clove garlic, minced
juice and zest from 1 lemon
pinch of chili flakes
1 cup fresh peas
1/4 cup lightly packed mint leaves, stems removed and minced
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a cooking sheet well with cooking spray and lay the frozen gnocchi in a single layer on the cookie sheet and season them with salt and pepper. If there are pieces that are frozen together, do your best to separate them. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, removing after 15 minutes into cooking to flip the gnocchi before placing back in the oven .
Make the whipped ricotta. Put the ricotta into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer on medium-high speed to whip the ricotta until it is light and fluffy. about 3 minutes. If you continue to whip it and it isn’t changing texture, add a teaspoon or two of water at a time until it is light and airy and has very few lumps in it. Set aside.
Make the brown butter sauce. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. It is very important to brown the butter slowly – if you try to do this over high heat you’re likely to burn it. Cook the butter for about 7 minutes, stirring regularly, until the butter is light golden brown. It is ready when it starts to smell nutty. Remove the butter from the heat until you are ready to finish the dish (the gnocchi should have about 5 minutes left of the 25 minutes).
To finish the dish, bring the pan with the butter back onto medium heat. Add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, pinch of chili flakes, peas, and mint to the butter. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until the peas are slightly tender. Season the peas with salt and pepper to taste. When the gnocchi comes out of the oven, add it to the brown butter and pea mixture and toss everything well to coat.
Use a spoon to put a big dollop of whipped ricotta onto each of two bowls. Add the gnocchi and pea mixture to each of the bowls and garnish with additional fresh mint leaves, if desired.
Kidd grew up eating open faced subs that his dad would cook and has fond memories particularly of a chicken and broccoli sandwich. We spent time in the kitchen trying to recreate the nostalgia, and have landed on this open faced broccoli and chicken sandwich with Swiss cheese and balsamic glaze. The sandwich is packed with sneaky flavor from the spices in the sautéed broccoli. The balsamic glaze adds a tangy sweetness that ties all of the ingredients together. The result is the perfect lunch or dinner for the entire family. You can even recreate this on a baguette for a delicious appetizer.
An open faced sandwich recipe that reminds Kidd of his dad’s cooking growing up!
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 tbs olive oil, divided
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups broccoli rabe
1 tbs onion powder
1 tsp chili flakes
1 ciabatta or hogey style sandwich roll
2 slices of swiss cheese
2 tbs balsamic glaze
Cook the chicken. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the chicken strips. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2-3 minutes on one side. Add the balsamic vinegar and flip the chicken. Cook until the chicken is cooked completely through. Set aside to cool.
Using the same pan (no need to clean it out) add the remaining olive oil (2 tbs). Once heated, add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes so the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the broccoli rabe and lower the heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes until the broccoli wilts and becomes tender. Add the onion powder and chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Slice the sandwich roll or bread of choice in half lengthwise. You want to have the bread sliced thick so that it will hold up the weight of the ingredients. Toast the bread in a toaster or oven until it is lightly toasted on each side.
Add a slice of swiss cheese to the bottom of each piece of bread. Melt in the oven or microwave until the cheese is nice and bubbly. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the cheese. Top the sandwich with the chicken and broccoli. Serve immediately.
One of our favorite things to make in the summer is watermelon paired with unexpected ingredients. Last summer we shared a recipe for a Mexican-inspired spicy watermelon salad and recently we made watermelon and halloumi kabobs that we are still dreaming about. To keep the trend going and push the envelope a little, we took everything that we love about a wedge salad and transferred it on top of watermelon. It sounds insane, but it really works! When we think about a traditional wedge, the thing we like least about it is the iceberg lettuce. Other than satisfying the physical “wedge” component, iceberg lettuce is pretty flavorless. The watermelon adds a crunchier texture and the sweetness from the fruit actually makes the savory ingredients like bacon and blue cheese stand out more. If you have seen the “mustard and watermelon challenge” on TikTok lately, you know that a lot of people find the combo pretty awesome. Our homemade balsamic vinaigrette (made with Dijon mustard) ties it all together for a deliciously flavorful combination we will be making all summer long.
Everything we love about a wedge salad, with a watermelon twist!
Ingredients for the Wedges
1 large watermelon (you will only use about 1/2)
4 slices thick cut bacon
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if they are large
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
3 scallions, stems trimmed and sliced
Ingredients for the Dressing
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 tbs balsamic glaze
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay foil onto a cookie sheet and place the bacon onto the cookie sheet in an even layer. Cook the bacon for 10-15 minutes, or until it is crispy. Remove the bacon from the cookie sheet and place onto a paper towel to dry and soak up the extra fat. Set aside until ready to use.
Make the dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients in a small blender. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cut the watermelon horizontally into two, two inch thick discs. Set the rest aside for another time and cut each of the thick discs into four pizza slices, making 8 slices total. If the watermelon is particularly juicy, set the watermelon on a kitchen towel before getting ready to serve.
Assemble the wedges. Place each of the 8 wedges onto a serving platter. Dice the bacon and add the bacon, scallions, and tomatoes to the top of each piece of watermelon. Drizzle with the balsamic dressing and serve immediately.
In an effort to keep fresh peas from spring into our summer menu planning, we set out to create a recipe with peas and some decadent ingredients to make a recipe that would be rich and satisfying, but also healthy. We love a hearty salad in the summer as an entrée, but to feel like a main dish it needs to have some umph to it. Insert burrata and prosciutto, which we are convinced make every recipe better than it started. We love this salad because is has something for everyone. It is peppery from the arugula, salty and smoky from the prosciutto, has that creamy deliciousness from the burrata, and the snappy crunch of fresh peas. We are still obsessed with the light lemon vinaigrette that we used for our Watermelon & Halloumi Kabobs, and we have made a variation of that again for this recipe. The citrus from the lemon helps break up all of the rich ingredients in the salad and the mint is an unexpected fresh surprise we cannot get enough of.
A summer entrée salad with a little something for everyone. We love the unexpected flavor combination of the peas, mint, and prosciutto. Your dinner guests will be begging for more!
1 cup fresh peas
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
6 cups lightly packed arugula
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
1 ball fresh burrata cheese
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1 lemon, zest and juice
small pinch of red chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Make the dressing. Whisk together the 1/3 cup olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and chili flakes together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cook the peas. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the 1 tsp olive oil and garlic to the pan. Sauté for 2 minutes, or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the fresh peas and cook another 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Assemble the salad. Lay the arugula on a medium serving platter. Divide the peas into small piles over the arugula. Tear the prosciutto into large, bite-sized pieces and put on the arugula as well. Drain the burrata from its packaging and gently pat dry with a kitchen towel. Break the burrata into large segments and place on the salad. Add the fresh mint leaves to the salad and drizzle with the dressing over top. Season with salt and pepper (the burrata in particular!) and serve immediately.
One of our favorite items to make in the summer is grilled pizza. We love how easy it is to buy a pre-made dough at the store and get creative with toppings of our choice. This week, we were craving BBQ chicken and decided to make a BBQ chicken pizza. This pizza turned out to be hearty, flavorful and the perfect dish to serve with a fresh salad. If you don’t have a grill, no problem. We have included instructions for making this pizza in the oven. We can’t wait to share all of the pizza recipes that we come up with the summer and hope to hear from you with your favorite topping ideas as well.
A bold, flavorful pizza that is a perfect appetizer or entrée on a warm summer night.
1 lb package pre-made pizza dough
1 cup flour
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts diced into cubes
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, divided
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro
red pepper flakes (optional)
Take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature. If you are going to bake the pizza in an oven, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and put your pizza pan inside the oven while it pre-heats.
In a medium sized pan, heat 2 tbs of the olive oil over low heat. Add the white onion. The goal is to caramelize the onions so you want to make sure that you are cooking these low and slow. Stir frequently but the let the onions slowly caramelize for at least 20 minutes. Remove the onions from the heat and set aside.
Using the same pan (no need to clean in out) add the remaining olive oil – approx. 1 tbs – over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the BBQ sauce and stir until the chicken is completely coated. Continue sautéing the chicken for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the chicken breast pieces are completely cooked through. Remove from the heat and set aside.
If you are using a grill, preheat the grill to high (approximately 500 degrees).
Toss a light coating of flour on your countertop. Using a rolling pin and some of the flour, roll out the dough into a pizza shape. You do not need to use all of the flour. Use it as needed if the dough is getting sticky.
Place the pizza dough on the hot pan (for oven) or directly on the grill for 3-4 minutes to get the pizza dough crispy on one side. Remove the pizza dough and place is cooked side down on a tray.
Add the pizza toppings. Paint the pizza with the remaining BBQ sauce. Evenly distribute the caramelized onions, BBQ chicken and mozzarella cheese on the pizza. Place the pizza back in the oven or on the grill for 5-7 minutes until the dough is completely cooked through and the cheese is melted.
Sprinkle the cilantro, red onion and red chili flakes (if using) on top of the pizza. Serve immediately.
For as much as we love to cook, seafood is one of the types of food that we don’t cook a lot of at home. It’s sort of an odd observation because we LOVE seafood. Calli will host an annual lobster dinner every summer for her birthday, but if we aren’t splurging on lobsters and want something special, we usually go with clams. We love a good clams and linguini situation, but to mix things up and add a little something unexpected we have chosen to make this recipe for clams with fennel and chorizo. What we love about this dish is the mix of flavors- you get some smoke and spice from the chorizo, that sort of indescribable fresh licorice (ish) taste from the fennel, and of course the briny salty flavor from the clams. We have used littleneck clams for this recipe, but your favorite variety will work great in this dish.
We love the mix of flavors the chorizo and fennel add to fresh clams. We love this recipe for a nice summer dinner with lots of crusty bread to soak up all the sauce at the bottom of the bowl.
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed clean with a brush and rinsed under water
8 oz chorizo
2 tbs olive oil
1 large bulb fennel, stem removed and thinly sliced (reserve the fronds for garnish)
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
pinch of chili flakes
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup seafood or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
Put the clams into a large bowl with ice water. Let the clams sit in the ice water for 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
Half way into the clams soaking, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and chorizo to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the chorizo is starting to crisp up and the oil in the pan is starting to turn the color of the chorizo. Add the fennel and onion to the pan, cooking for another 3-4 minutes, or until they both have started to soften. Add the garlic and red chili flakes, cooking another 2 minutes or so, or until the garlic is fragrant.
Add the white wine and stock to the pan. Stir everything well to combine. Drain the clams from the ice water (rinsing again if necessary to make sure they are free from dirt) and add the clams to the pan. Cover the clams and cook over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, or until the clams have opened up. Toss everything gently with a ladle so that the clams get some of the fennel and chorizo broth in the shells.
Divide the clams and broth amongst two large bowls. Top with fennel fronds if desired and serve with crusty bread for dipping.