Summer Recipes Pin

Top 10 Recipes Of Summer

Certain things are guaranteed to happen during an Iowa summer. It will be hot. The humidity will make the heat seem trivial. Sweet corn loves the humidity. Potlucks, cook-outs and picnics revolve around fresh foods like sweet corn. As far as I’m concerned, the more picnics, the more successful the summer.

Whether you are fixing dinner for your family or need a dish to contribute to a potluck, having reliable and delicious recipes at your fingertips will make even a last-minute invitation more enjoyable. In this post, I have gathered 10 of my tried, tested and (most importantly) tasty recommendations for summer appetizers, salads, sides, sandwiches, desserts and drinks. Click on the title below each picture to go directly to the recipe.

recipe #1

Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Avocado and Basil CheeseAvocado Stuffed Tomatoes: these pretty little vitamin-packed tomato cups are filled with a mixture of avocado, goat cheese, spinach-basil pesto and lemon juice. Easy to make and hard to resist!

recipe #2

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Corn and Black Bean Salsa: the perfect mix of corn, black beans, onions, peppers, and tomatoes make this salsa the perfect appetizer for your next picnic or party.

recipe #3

Tangy ColeslawSidekick Coleslaw: simple, fresh, crunchy, tangy and healthy(ish) … this coleslaw is the perfect sidekick to all your grilled (and non-grilled) dinners!

recipe #4

3-Bean Salad

3-Bean Salad: this colorful, delicious, and simple bean salad recipe is loaded with vegetables and perfectly balanced with a light, tangy dressing.

recipe #5

4-Bean Casserole with Bacon

Baked 4-Bean Casserole: this baked bean casserole goes pro with a variety of beans and a molasses and vinegar sauce. This recipe is a crowd pleaser for your next picnic or potluck.

recipe #6

Cheesy Jalapeno Corn

Cheesy Jalapeño Corn: sweet corn, spicy jalapeños and creamy cheese create a side dish that pairs perfectly with your favorite BBQ or grilled meats. Get the recipe here!

recipe #7

Cajun Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Cajun Pork Sandwiches: take an inexpensive cut of pork, add a little heat, top it with coleslaw and pile it on cornbread … or a bun, it’s your choice!

recipe #8

Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream

Amazing Apple Pie: the classic combination of warm apples and cinnamon are layered between two flaky crusts and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for pie perfection! Get the recipe, tips and personal suggestions here.

REcipe #9

Lemon Pound Cake

Lemon Pound Cake: tart and sweet … the perfect combination! This lemon pound cake is delicious by the slice or crumbled and layered with almond yogurt, fresh strawberries and toasted almonds.

recipe #10

Summer Fruit Sangria

Summer Sangria: refreshing and fruit-forward, this sangria recipe is perfect for any summer gathering or just a relaxing moment in a hammock.

Now go, enjoy your picnic, watch the fireflies and soak in summer wherever you live!

Top 10 Summer Recipes


Please Pass the Sofrito

The what?

A year or two ago this would have been my answer if someone asked me to “please pass the Sofrito”. Then I ordered a Mediterranean Egg Sandwich at our local Panera Bread restaurant. I had no idea what a “Tomato Sofrito” was but I was willing to give it a chance. That’s all it took.

If you google “Sofrito”, you will quickly discover a wide range of results: some green, some red, some extra-“herby”, some spicy. The closest thing I could find to a definition was this from Wikipedia: a sauce … of aromatic ingredients cut into small pieces and sautéed in cooking oil. The “ingredients” used are determined by the influences of a particular region: Mediterranean, Spanish, Latin, Caribbean, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or Italian.

What is consistent about Sofrito is that it makes an excellent rice or pasta addition, sandwich condiment, soup base, or omelette filling. No matter which flavor-direction you want to go, Sofrito will add that depth of flavor you want.

Sofrito Ingredients

This particular version has an Italian flavor profile using thyme, rosemary and crushed red pepper. It pairs well with Parmesan cheese, prosciutto and roasted vegetables.

Italian-Style Sofrito

Print Recipe
This simple sofrito recipe is a wonderful combination of tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Adjusting the herbs and spices of this Mediterranean condiment to fit your Mexican, Spanish or Caribbean meals.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and onion and sauté 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until tomatoes break down, stirring frequently.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Sofrito should resemble a chunky jam.
  5. Fill a jar with the mixture and store in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

If you prefer a smoother texture, place the cooled mixture in a food processor and puree until smooth or desired consistency.

Sofrito Grilled Cheese

Based on that egg sandwich I loved, I made a killer grilled cheese sandwich using this recipe. Two slices of Italian-style bread, a layer of pesto, a pile of shredded cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmesan cheese, and a layer of Sofrito. Yes, it’s an indulgence. But it has vegetables!

Sofrito Frittata

The next day, I took about a cup of the Sofrito and used it to make this gorgeous (if I do say so myself) frittata. I added some shredded Gruyere and Parmesan and a sprinkle of Italian herbs to my basic frittata recipe and this was the result.

There is a small amount left in the jar in my refrigerator and I’m thinking it would make an excellent Bruschetta …

Please stay tuned!

Tomato Sofrito

Beef and Potato Tostada

Maria’s Tostadas

It is fair to say I do 98% of the cooking in our home. I am not complaining. After all, it is something I love to do. It wasn’t, however, always that way. When my husband and I were first married, we were both in grad school, were both working part-time and we arrived home at about the same time each night. We also had a newborn. In other words, time, money and energy ran on empty a lot. I probably cooked more often than he did but he made dinner regularly. His go-to meals were:

  1. spaghetti with meat sauce,
  2. chili,
  3. tuna noodle casserole, and
  4. tostadas.

Chicken and Beef Tostadas

The first time he made tostadas, I remember thinking “Hamburger and potatoes? In a taco? Don’t let him see you panic or he’ll never cook again!” 

It doesn’t happen often but I managed to keep my mouth shut.

At least until it was time to open it and take a bite. Then, all I said was, “This is delicious! Who taught you to make this!?!”

“Maria, our foreign exchange student from Mexico.”

Apparently, when he was in high school, his parents had taken this student into their home after the family she was supposed to stay with had to move. And to this day, we are making her tostadas!

Beef and Chicken Tostadas

Crispy corn tortillas are covered with a seasoned beef and potato mixture and topped with shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and sour cream or taco sauce. The potatoes are extra yummy because they are cooked with the ground beef and pick up the flavor of the meat drippings as they cook. They are a bit messy to eat but delicious down to the last bite.

When I decided to make these for dinner and for the blog, I thought about some of the new taco restaurants in our area and the street tacos they serve. One of my favorites is a chipotle chicken taco. Ground chicken and a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce went into my grocery cart. The chipotle flavor made me think of sweet potatoes and a new tostada combination was born!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Tostada

If you have not worked with chipotles in adobo before, you can find them in the Hispanic food section of the grocery store in a 7-8 ounce can. The chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapeños, canned whole, in a vinegar-based, spicy-sweet sauce. A little goes a long way with these peppers. When I open a can, I empty the entire can into a food processor and puree the peppers and the sauce until smooth. After covering a cookie sheet with parchment paper, I drop tablespoonfuls of the puree onto the paper and place the cookie sheet in the freezer. When the discs are frozen, I cut the parchment paper between the discs, layer them into a resealable plastic bag and return them to the freezer. When a recipe calls for chipotles, I take the amount I need out of the freezer and return the rest for another recipe.

Freezer prep for chipotle in adobo

Even as I write this, I am thinking of another combination I want to try: al pastor (pork and pineapple). One simple recipe … endless possibilities!

Gratias, Maria!

Print Recipe
Potatoes and ground meat make a simple and delicious combination for homemade tostadas! Add condiments (guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, cabbage, jalapeños, etc) for the "perfect" combination.
Beef and Potato Tostada
Beef and Potato Tostada
  1. Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a light drizzle of vegetable or avocado oil to pan.
  2. Add ground meat, potatoes, onions, salt, black pepper, and Mexican oregano (if using).
  3. Break meat apart as it browns and stir occasionally, allowing meat and potatoes to brown lightly. When the meat is no longer pink, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until potatoes are tender.
  4. Stir in desired amount of chipotle in adobo puree (see hints in blog post), if using.
  5. Taste the meat/potatoes and add salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.
  6. To toast the tortillas, lightly coat both sides with vegetable or avocado oil and place on a pan, under a low broiler for 1-2 minutes on each side. Tortillas will begin to brown and be crispy on the outside. (This can also be done in a sauté pan on the stove top.)
  7. Place tortilla on a plate, spoon meat/potato mixture on top and add condiments (see list in notes below) as desired.
Recipe Notes

Meat/Potato Combinations: Ground beef pairs well with a Russet (Idaho) potato. Ground chicken and sweet potatoes are an excellent combination. Ground pork is great with either a Russet or a sweet potato but is especially good with hominy (not a potato but the texture is similar). To use hominy instead of potatoes in this recipe, wait to add it (drained and rinsed) until the meat is almost fully cooked.

Condiment List: sliced jalapeños, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, sliced radishes, sour cream, fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges, green onions, and guacamole.

Beef and Chicken Tostadas


Wine & (Apple) Roses

Roses are red,
Apple are too,
Add some white wine and …
Here’s a dozen for you!

Is there someone in your life that you would like to impress, congratulate, or show gratitude? Flowers are always a good choice but EDIBLE flowers? Oh my!

These beautiful sweets look ever so complicated but they are really quite simple. Yes, they take some time but when you (the “giver”) see the reaction of the recipient (the “givee”), it will be worth every minute.

The basic recipe requires red apples, crescent dough, cinnamon/sugar, a rolling pin and a muffin tin. Seriously, that’s it. You can go to the next level with a filling like I used for this post … golden raisins macerated in white wine and spices and then pureed … or try peanut butter, Nutella, or caramel sauce … all based on what you think the “givee” will like!

To give you every opportunity for success with this process, I asked my youngest son to come home and take pictures and video for this post (Photo Credit: Marcus). Here we go!

Apple Roses


Step 1: Wash 3-4 (depending on size) red apples, cut in half, remove core as pictured, and slice into very thin (1/8″) semicircles. Discard (i.e. eat) end pieces. You will need 60-70 semicircles. Place in a bowl of cold water (enough to cover apples) with the juice of one lemon.



Step 2: Microwave apples in lemon water on high for 4-5 minutes or until apple pieces are flexible and do not break when bent. Remove from water and dry on paper towels. Set aside.




Step 3: Open the tube of crescent dough and unroll two triangles (or one rectangle) and place on a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, gently roll dough into a 9″x6″ rectangle.




Step 4: Using a pizza/pasta cutter or a knife, cut dough into three strips (9″x2″ each). Move dough strips a few inches apart.




Step 5: Sprinkle dough with sugar (and cinnamon, if you want just a simple cinnamon/sugar rose).




Step 6: Lay 5-6 slices of apples, overlapping as shown on the top half of each strip (notice I am working from the top of the photos). Start and end the apple slices about 1/2″ from the end of the strip.



Step 7: Spoon a thin line of filling (recipe below), peanut butter, Nutella or caramel at the base of the apples (the center of the dough strip).




Step 8: Fold bottom half of the dough strip up and over the apples and filling. Press down gently to secure in place. You should see the rounded tops of the apples sticking out from the dough edges.



Step 9: Video time! Gently roll up the dough from one end to the other. Focus on the spiral dough end as the video perspective shows. This will make for a nice, flat bottom to the rose. If you have trouble securing the dough at the end of the rolling process, spread a little melted butter on the end to keep the dough from unraveling.


Step 10: 
Place each rose in a well buttered muffin pan and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Use a thin knife to go around the outside of each rose, loosening it from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before removing roses to cooling rack.



Wine/raisin filling

What better paring for roses than wine? And what is a raisin but a dried grape? This is a perfect filling to compliment the apples without overpowering their sweetness.

1/2 cup white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works well)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Remove from microwave, cover and let sit for 30-60 minutes. Put all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Allow to cool completely.

I have also made this recipe using pie crust which is AMAZING. The crescent dough is more forgiving when rolling. There are other recipes that use phyllo dough which I’m sure is fantastic … I just don’t have good luck with it for whatever reason.

The goal here is not to create a culinary masterpiece (although it comes close). The goal is to make something by hand to show someone else how much they mean to you. Skip the card … maybe add a single rose and a bottle of white … and deliver it personally.

Gifts that nourish the soul are the best gifts.

Who wouldn’t love a dozen of these homemade Apple Roses? Simple, beautiful, delicious and filled with a white wine and spiced golden raisin puree.





Turkey Poblano Chili

Everybody has their favorite chili. It’s one of those “my mom’s better than you mom” kind of things.

For the record … MY mom makes THE BEST chili. This is not up for discussion.

Maybe your mom didn’t make your favorite chili (shhhhh … I won’t tell). Maybe your favorite chili comes from a spouse or a restaurant. Some people like it thick … some like it thin … with beans … or without … ground beef … pork … chicken … spicy … mild … on a hot dog … or fries …

The point is chili is versatile.

I happen to be one of those eaters who likes chili in all its variations. When I found a recipe for Turkey Poblano Chili, I was curious about the use of turkey but truly all-in with the poblanos. I started growing poblanos in my garden a few years ago and I just can’t get enough of them (see post on Iowa: Home of Giant Poblanos and Stuffed Peppers Mexican Style). I switched up a few things and really love the result.

This is when I remind you that a recipe with a long list of ingredients is not necessarily a difficult recipe. Do not be intimidated by this list. Trust me … you will enjoy the process and LOVE the result.

Simple sides like corn bread, tortilla chips, or polenta are all good choices to complete the meal.

If your mom makes chili like this, I’m impressed.

She can’t beat my mom’s chili, but I’m impressed.

Print Recipe
Turkey Poblano Chili
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 1 day (see note below)
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 1 day (see note below)
  1. Roast the poblanos: Cut poblanos lengthwise in quarters, removing the stem, seeds and membranes. Lay the pepper pieces, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the skin side with one tablespoon of olive/avocado oil, and place under the broiler for 5-6 minutes, or until skin is blistered and charred. Remove the peppers from the broiler, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam (5-10 minutes). Place pepper pieces on a cutting board and gently scrape the loose skin from the peppers (no need to remove all the skin). Dice 3 of the peppers (12 pieces) into 1/2” pieces; set aside. Cut the remaining 2 peppers (8 pieces) into thin strips; set aside.
  2. Chili: Heat a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Drizzle remaining olive/avocado oil into pan and add ground turkey, breaking the turkey up as it cooks. When browned (no longer pink), add salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, onion, and garlic to the pan. Reduce heat to medium and stir to distribute spices evenly; cook for 3-4 minutes or until onions begin to soften. Add 2 cups of turkey/chicken broth/stock, tomato juice, beans, hominy, tomatoes, and the reserved poblano pepper strips. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Poblano puree: Place remaining reserved diced poblanos in a food processor with a small handful (at least 1/4 cup) fresh cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice. Pulse until evenly chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the broth/stock and process into a thick puree.
  4. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of broth/stock, the puree and corn to the soup, stirring to combine. Simmer gently for 30-40 minutes to break-down tomatoes and combine flavors.
  5. Garnish with sour cream, toasted pumpkin seeds, sliced radishes, finely diced onion, shredded cheese, and jalapeño slices.
Recipe Notes

As (almost) always, this soup is better if made a day in advance.

Chili is a staple for cold days, game days, and soul-comforting days. Mix things up a little with this slightly smoky, mildly spicy version made with ground turkey, poblano chiles and a blend of sweet corn and hominy.

Pigskin Soup

Yes it is a strange name for soup, but I think you will like the reason.

I was recently asked to write some articles for the Iowa Food and Family Project‘s monthly newsletter. Beyond excited to have the opportunity to write for this organization that supports and promotes things that I value … Iowa, food, family, and farming, I was glad the topic of the first article they wanted was about my favorite winter comfort food: soup. January is National Soup Month and this time of year begs for an article on what to serve for the upcoming bowl game.

This cheese soup has always been a crowd pleaser among my family and friends. It was definitely going to be a part of the article but it needed a name-lift. If the Packers had been in contention, this job would have been easier. During the brainstorming process, I thought of “Twice-Baked Potato Soup” and “Potato Skin Soup” because the ingredients and flavors of this recipe remind me so much of those foods. Still not thrilled, I started peeling the potatoes and as the peelings hit the sink, I paused. The skins of “potato skins” were destined for the disposal. I saved them, rinsed them and turned them into the best topper for this soup: Baked Potato Skin Crisps.

Turns out peeling potatoes is inspiring. The word “skin” kept going through my head and finally the football connection was made: pigskin.

Please don’t judge how long it took me to come up with this …

The realization that pork was an MVP (couldn’t resist) in this recipe made the name all the more appropriate. Bacon AND ham? Spike the ball!

Hey … at least I didn’t say “Slam Dunk!”

I’m done … here’s the recipe.

Print Recipe
Pigskin Soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30-45 minutes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30-45 minutes
  1. Sauté onions and celery in bacon drippings over medium heat until tender (4-5 minutes).
  2. Sprinkle flour, thyme, ground mustard, and black pepper over vegetables and stir to coat; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce; cook and stir for 2-3 additional minutes.
  4. Add bay leaf and white wine, cook and stir for 3-4 minutes while flour and seasonings thicken the wine and the alcohol evaporates.
  5. Stir in chicken broth, carrots, potatoes and ham; simmer for 10-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender (time varies based on the size of the vegetable pieces).
  6. Slowly stir in one cup of the milk, stirring constantly, until milk is thoroughly warmed. Repeat two more times with remaining milk (see note below).
  7. Add shredded cheese, a little at a time, stirring to allow it to melt in the soup (see note below).
  8. Finish with a small dash of nutmeg. Remove from heat.
  9. Garnish with shredded cheese, green onions, potato skins (see note below), and bacon.
Recipe Notes

Adding the milk and cheese in intervals creates a smoother texture.

Baked Potato Skin Crisps: This recipe provides a delicious topping for this soup, a tasty side to any soup or sandwich and an excellent way to use the potato peelings rather than throw them away!

Leftover Mashed Potato Substitute: This soup is also a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. Simply omit the diced potatoes and instead add 1-2 cups of mashed potatoes right before adding the milk and cheese. Stir the mashed potatoes into the soup base until completely warmed and distributed (i.e. few clumps of potato are left).

This soup combines our favorite pork products with that wonderful cheesy appetizer of potato skins. Salty ham and bacon, melty cheeses, and diced potatoes make a bowl of rich soup that is only improved with a sprinkle of crisp bacon, a bit of sour cream and a few strips of baked potato skins.