Dream Porch

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Our dream back porch has become a reality this year! For the past sixteen years since building our home, we have dreamed of adding a unique and functional outdoor living area to our home.

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The original porch was only eight feet deep and received afternoon sun making it virtually unusable in the summer months. It only covered the area outside of our living room and not the back door entry that we use as the primary entry from our detached garage. Initially, it was also about three feet off the ground making it a safety hazard for little ones getting too close to the edge.

We began addressing the issues in 2007 by building a retaining wall and ramp (replacing steps) to hold backfill to build the ground up making better use of the yard. We used the retaining wall to also build in a grill to address another problem we face, constant wind. (Our previous grills had been recovered in pieces from down the road.)

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For years, we cut magazine clippings and toured the local Parade of Homes collecting ideas for our Dream Porch. With the advent of Pinterest, my board went into overdrive.

https://www.pinterest.com/jhightower97/dream-porch/

We knew we wanted the new porch to come across to cover the back door area and extend out to the end of our retaining wall. It was built with a massive footer to one day support a roof. We also began to assemble a wish list of building materials, white bead board, stone, stained wood, etc.

After consulting with several builders, we chose Chad Howe and his company Legacy Homes & Remodeling to take on the job of removing the old porch and tying this new structure into our existing home and elevation.

Chad could really see our vision though we had a hard time explaining how it would look at the end. Many of the decisions had to be made one at a time as we worked through the project. He was diligent in seeking advice from vendors and experienced subcontractors when deciding the best way to go about each facet of a project that was so different from the normal room add-on or new construction.

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The new porch is all we ever dreamed of, plus some! It addresses all of our needs and wish list items as well. We chose a 10/12 pitch to be consistent with our detached garage that faces the same direction. With the ground level already being built up to meet our main level, the porch has a massive presence.

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It was built using 4 x 6 and 4 x 4 posts for support to allow for screen panels to surround the space. We chose LP siding for the exterior and a metal standing seam roof for the exterior. The treated posts will be painted to match the siding once they have had a chance to cure.

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I love how the porch uses our existing brick and ties in with all of the materials we had chosen on our Pinterest board. The painted pine tongue-in-groove bead board covers the interior gable ends and knee walls.

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The ceiling is covered with the flip side of the same tongue-in-groove pine. We stained it using Porter Paints Canyon Brown Deck Sealer which colors and seals all in one coat before it was installed. The material for the box beams was stained a darker color for a little contrast.

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The existing retaining wall made a nice setup for the grilling area. It was also a great place to bring in some of the stone material we wanted to include in the project.

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We used a commercial-type range hood vented out through the wall for ventilation over the grill. It works well to keep the enclosed area from getting smoky. It also gives nice task lighting when grilling at night.

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My handy husband made the concrete countertops using a product called Z-Forms to create the bullnose edge and stained it using a small paint sprayer with a stain product.

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We tied in the stone again on the fireplace and repurposed a beam from an old barn the Lawrence family had torn down for the mantle piece.

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The nice fall breeze was working against me here with burlap banner. I’m loving decorating the porch for the seasons!

We used Eze-Breeze Windows on the porch. They are a vinyl porch window that comes on a screw-in frame with the screens installed.  The window panes can all be raised, lowered or removed to suit the weather.

They can protect against a driving rain in a summer thunderstorm or be kept out of the way to allow the breezes through. Although they do not give an R-Value for insulation, we find that they keep things warmer in the winter just by providing a windblock and some radiant heat from the sun.

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We used Yosemite Sand through-colored stamped concrete with a Charcoal release for the floor. It is sealed with a penetrating sealer instead of a top-sealer to make it less of a slippery surface when wet. We had it sawed on a 4′ diagonal  and the overall surface resembles large tile.

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While we were getting bids on the porch and making our final plans, my husband gave me the go ahead to look into installing a pool. We met with pool contractors as well during this busy time and I paid the deposit before he could change his mind! We could not be more pleased with our decision. It has given us countless hours of fun for our teenagers and all of the children in our lives.

Working with Jeff Bishop and Pleasure Pools truly was a pleasure. I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.

http://pleasurepoolstn.com/

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Everyone’s favorite feature we added was a glass garage door from Overhead Door for the end. It opens the porch up to the pool area when we need it and can be closed on summer evenings to help keep out unwanted mosquitos. It gives nice radiant heat from the sun in the winter months.

I must admit I was reluctant to use it because of the required track. We did not use an opener, opting instead to hand raise and lower the door.  The industrial look of the track doesn’t bother me in the least now that it is installed.

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A huge thanks to Chad Howe for turning our dreams into reality! We have thoroughly enjoyed our first summer and fall on the porch. We look forward to spending many hours in the years to come visiting with family and friends on our Dream Porch.

Sharing on Metamorphosis Monday at http://betweennapsontheporch.net!

 

New Life for Our Kitchen

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Several months ago, we finally got to a project we had wanted to do for years.  Changing out our laminate kitchen countertops for new natural stone.  We chose Diano Reale honed marble.  It is more of a natural creamy color and complements the honey-toned maple cabinetry well.  Don’t judge my photography.  I can’t seem to get the lighting right.

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First of all we cut down the raised bar that divided the room.  Notice my husband over there? In addition to the sage green laminate, you can see our white cast-iron enameled Kohler drop-in sink.  I loved it so much I wanted to keep it but was advised to use an undermount with the natural stone. You will also notice my old pendant lights here with the more foo-foo chain assemblies.

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I love how this simple change opened up the room!  You can see the veining in the marble and also the new Kohler Smart-Divide undermount sink.  It’s beauty is equal to the old sink and I love the low divide to accomodate large platters and baking sheets.  The only thing I didn’t consider was how low the bottom of it is because it is a couple of inches lower than the old sink.  It does make your back tired if you have a lot of dishes to hand wash.  I’m not sure I’d recommend it for a really tall person.

Sugar Grove Marble installed our countertops.  Chris and Megan were great to work with.  Megan helped me work through the look we were going for and decide on the Diano Reale.  It is traditionally used in a polished finish in bathrooms.  I loved the natural colored granites but wanted something with a little less pattern.  I loved the Carrera but the white and gray works better with white cabinets.

Marble will show rings and etching from acidic foods so we chose a honed finish which is duller to distract from that. Over time, it will develop a natural sheen and patina.  I’m excited about a product that gets better with age.

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You will also notice from the Before photo that we changed out our over-the-range microwave for a wall-vented range hood.  The vent fan on the microwave was so loud it nearly drove me crazy!  I love the sleeker look of the new hood as well as it’s functionality.

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Here is a close-up of the white subway-tile backsplash that my husband installed.  He even figured out the herringbone inset behind the stove with the picture-frame trim pieces.  I’m so grateful to have such a handy dandy around.

Wonder what happened to the microwave? We added an electrical outlet in our pantry and put a small microwave there as well as the toaster oven that used to clutter the countertops.

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I’m so glad our daughter talked me into changing light fixtures at the same time!  After much searching for a lower-priced option, I finally splurged on this Orb Chandelier from Ballard Designs and haven’t regretted it for a second. My photo isn’t clear so this is one I lifted from Houzz.

Orb Chandelier

For the pendants over the peninsula, we chose these seeded glass ones with a sleeker mount from Amazon.

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This is the finished product.  We have so enjoyed the fresh new look as well as the improvements in function this project has gained for us.  If you are planning some updates, I hope this helps!

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Source List:

Diano Reale Honed Marble – Sugar Grove Marble

Kohler Under-Mount Sink – Smart-Divide Enamel Sink

Lighting –
Ballard Designs Orb Chandelier

Feiss Pendant Lights

This post will be shared in Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch.

 

 

Grilled Shrimp and Summer Vegetables

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Summer is here! The weather is a tad unseasonably cool in Kentucky on these first few days of June, but school is out.  I couldn’t wait for the local produce to grill up this delicious meal Sunday night.

Grilled Shrimp and Summer Vegetables

1 lb. shrimp, unpeeled
2 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise in thick slices
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise in thick slices
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus
5 baby bella mushrooms, halved
cajun seasoning
1/4 c. olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper

Place vegetables in gallon Ziploc bag and marinate with garlic, fresh ground salt and pepper, and olive oil. Place zucchini and squash on hot grill and grill for 5 – 7 minutes per side. Remove to a platter.

Sprinkle shrimp liberally with cajun seasoning and place on grill using a grilling basket.  Add asparagus and mushrooms to the basket.  Grill these tender items with the lid open turning constantly with grilling tongs and removing each shrimp as it becomes opaque to avoid overcooking and remaining vegetables as they achieve desired tenderness.

Serve over a bed of buttered angel hair pasta with parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

White Chicken Chili

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1 lb. cooked chicken
4-6 c. chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 T. butter or olive oil
2 cans white beans
1 c. frozen whole kernel corn or 1 can shoepeg corn
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. oregano
¼ – ½ t. cayenne pepper
1 t. salt
1 c. sour cream

Saute chopped onions, carrots, and celery in butter or oil until tender. Add cooked chicken (I used leftover frozen turkey) and broth and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add beans, corn, and spices and simmer for about 15 more minutes. Stir in sour cream when ready to serve. Serve with crackers or cornbread.

Happy New Year

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I love New Year’s Day. From the parties, noisemakers, confetti, champagne, and the iconic ball-drop in Times Square, New Year’s Eve seems to get all the attention. While all of that is fun and games, I adore a quiet New Year’s Day spent at home with our little family watching the Rose Parade in front of a nice fire, listening to Bowl Games droning on in the background while I prepare a traditional meal, and looking forward to the main event. The HGTV Dream Home Special, that is!

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I like to use dried blackeyed peas as fillers in my candle hurricanes in this mantlescape as a nod to New Year’s tradition. Speaking of food traditions, let’s get to the New Year’s meal.  Beans or peas are on many families’ menu as they resemble coins. Blackeyed peas are the legume of choice in the south in a dish called Hoppin’ John served with cornbread. This hearty fare also incorporates pork which is also eaten as a symbol of progress by way of the animal continuing to “root” along and wealth because of its rich fat content. Cooked greens, ranging from collard greens to cabbage are eaten to represent money. My take on the green portion of the meal is coleslaw. Why, I don’t know, but thinly sliced home fried potatoes round out our meal.

Hoppin’ John

1 onion
2 carrots
2 ribs, celery
2 T. butter or olive oil
1 lb. breakfast sausage or smoked sausage, browned and drained
1 package, frozen blackeyed peas
1 package, long grain and wild rice
4 cups, chicken broth

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Start by chopping vegetables into a fine chop.

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I used the food processor to shred the ones in this photo. Then, add them to the soup pot with butter or olive oil to saute until tender.

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Add in your browned sausage.

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And your blackeyed peas.

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And your rice, with the seasoning packet.

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Finish with your chicken broth.  You can use a carton, but I make mine when I roast a whole chicken and freeze it to use when I need it.  More about that here.

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Finished product.  Yum!  I can smell it already.

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I always look forward to this simple meal after the rich dips and desserts of Christmas have come and gone.  It is a carb-laden feast, but the healthy fare starts on January 2nd at our house.  The interior Christmas decorations have all been packed away and it is time for a clean slate.That is what we all love about a new year, isn’t it?  The old has been wiped clean.  The year before us full of possibilities for us to experience, achieve or change.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  Make the most of yours in 2015.

 

 

 

 

One Chuck Roast, Three Meals

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Does the recollection that Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away or that Christmas is only six weeks away make your head spin? Me, too. With all of the myriad of items on our collective To Do Lists, let’s make our cooking do triple duty.

We’re going to purchase one large chuck roast (or two if one will not yield leftovers for your family) and use it to make three meals, one of which can be frozen for a quick dinner during the holiday season or for a nutritious lunch in the thermos on a cold day.

Meal 1
Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast, served with Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and Green Peas.

Retain any fat that you trim from the roast and pan drippings in your roasting pan. Return any leftover onions and carrots after the meal is served back to the pan as well. Add about 16 cups of water to the pan and cook right on the stove-top over medium heat until it reduces to a nice rich color. Let cool. Pour broth through a strainer and into quart jars, leaving an inch or so of head space. Freeze.

Meal 2

Beef Stirfry

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Leftover roast beef, sliced (Save half of your beef for Meal 3)
1 t. minced garlic
¼ t. ground ginger
½ c. soy sauce
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, cut into thin sticks
1 broccoli crown, cut into spears (or snow peas, zucchini, or whatever veggie you have in the fridge)
4 mushrooms, sliced

Mix soy sauce with garlic and ground ginger and pour over leftover roast beef to marinade.

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Cut all of your vegetables. Saute vegetables in olive oil over medium-high heat, beginning with the onions for about 5 minutes first.

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Then, add in the carrots and stirfry until almost tender.

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Add remaining veggies last as they will take less time to get tender, adding beef with marinade as the broccoli and mushrooms cook. Serve over brown rice for a quick weeknight meal.

Meal 3

Vegetable Beef Soup

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Remaining leftover roast beef, shredded
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 large potatoes
1 bag, frozen mixed vegetables
1 small can tomato paste
2 quarts beef broth
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar (to reduce the acidity of tomato paste)
½ t. pepper
½ t. parsley flakes

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Saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until tender.

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Add potatoes and one quart of beef broth and simmer for 15-20 minutes before adding remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat until all vegetables are cooked through and flavors blend.

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Serve for a meal. Transfer leftovers to pint or quart jars, leaving an inch or so of headspace and freeze.

Frozen Meal Helpers

Beef Broth and Vegetable Beef Soup

Enjoy!

Hawaiian Chicken

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Last night, I braved the wind to face the grill again before it gets too cold. This is one of our family’s signature dinners, always a favorite.

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Hawaiian Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
½ c. soy sauce
¼ c. ketchup
1 t. yellow mustard
4 pineapple slices, fresh or canned
4 slices, provolone cheese

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Mix together a marinade of the brown sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, and mustard and pour over the chicken breasts in a mixing bowl. You can grill it immediately or put it in the fridge for a few hours to soak up the flavor, whatever your timeline.

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Grill the chicken until done, flipping once during the cooking process.

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Add pineapple slices to the grill for a minute or two.

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Top the grilled chicken breasts with pineapple slice and a slice of provolone cheese. Cover the grill again for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve over Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice. We always have mandarin orange salad with it, but will substitute fresh pineapple for the mandarin oranges since we just cut one up for this dish anyway.

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Top 10 Back-to-School Breakfasts, Lunches & Snacks

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Back-to-School time is here and our schedules have just kicked into gear here in Kentucky. Nutritious food choices are more important than ever as our kids return to the classroom and as we adults try to keep it all together as well. While we all have the best of intentions, having a plan and some time-saving strategies is the only way to follow through consistently.

I’ll share my list with you if you share yours with me. Our girls never developed a cereal habit at breakfast. I failed them (or myself) miserably with that one! While I have never allowed alternatives to the dinner I serve, breakfast has always seemed to involve indecision and choice. Over the years, I have tried to clean up my choices keeping the “granola bar on the way out the door” breakfast to a minimum.

Quick Nutritious Breakfast Choices

1.  Greek Yogurt with Blueberries and Granola
2.  French Toast
3.  Oatmeal with Apples and Walnuts
4.  Cinnamon Toast, Peanut Butter Toast or Cheese Toast
5.  High-Fiber Cereal with Almond Milk
6.  Muffins or Sweet Breads (Banana, Amish Friendship)
7.  Bagel with Cream Cheese
8.  Eggs & Toast
9.  Banana with Vanilla Greek Yogurt topped with         Mini-Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
10.  Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich on Whole Wheat Toast

Lunchbox Choices

Do you find yourself constantly resolving to stop eating out for lunch? The boredom of the “sandwich every day” lunch is a killer of our best intentions if you ask me. That said, the sandwich is the obvious first choice. We just have to have some easy options to mix it up a bit.

1.  Ham or Turkey Sandwich
2.  Turkey Wrap
3.  Tuna or Chicken Salad
4.  Grilled Chicken Salad – Plan ahead by grilling extra chicken for dinner to have “planned overs” for lunches.
5.  Soup in Thermos (Canned or Homemade Soups)
6.  Pasta in Thermos – Think bite-sized pasta with marinara or other sauces you have on hand.
7.  Quesadilla – Chicken, Cheese, or Pizza Quesadillas keep well when wrapped in foil in the lunchbox with the dippers in an insulated container (sour cream, salsa, or even marinara sauce)
8.  PB&J – Okay, we all have those days!
9.  Peanut Butter Dippers – Ritz Crackers, Celery, Apple Slices
10. Cottage Cheese and Fresh Pineapple

Snacktime Choices

1.  Fruit Smoothie – Peel and freeze bananas and other fruits in freezer bags to have ingredients at the ready.
2.  Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix
3.  Cheez-Its or other favorite snack crackers
4.  Piemento Cheese and Crackers
5.  Grapes, Apples, Bananas, Peaches, Strawberries, Melon
6.  Carrots & Ranch
7.  Granola Bars
8.  Popcorn
9.  Peanut Butter or Cheese and Crackers
10.Hummus & Pretzel Crisps

Your turn to share!  Help me out, we need some new choices in our lives.

Just Peachy Grilled Chicken Salad

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With summer produce at its peak, I love to combine it with what I have on hand and see how dinner unfolds. It’s a different approach from the planned-in-advance dinners that are so necessary for my sanity on school nights. This is a little number I came up with last night as a dinner for two for the hubs and me with the girls away at camp. You never know how these experiments will go, but this one was a WINNER!

First, I cut a sweet onion in half and then into strips and added it to an iron skillet on medium-low heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil to caramelize. Caramelized onions can’t be rushed, but the flavor of savory and sweet together is well worth the wait. Trust me on this! I wish I had taken a photo of the glorious things while they were still in the skillet but I will have to add that in the next go-around.

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Next, start assembling the salads with some nice salad greens, washed and chopped. I used green leaf lettuce.

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Then, add some sliced grilled chicken breasts. I usually grill extra to have on hand for salads or quesadillas. Just a quick sizzle in the onion skillet will warm them up for the salad.

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Keep that skillet at the ready, to sear the cut edge of some beautiful fresh peaches or just add them to the grill when your chicken comes off, your call. My friend Allison introduced me to grilled peaches a few summers ago, and my life has never been the same!

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Now for the toppings. Sprinkle on some crumbled feta cheese but don’t go sparingly on the onions. Did I mention how much I love them? Then drizzle with a tangy vinaigrette. I use Red Wine Vinaigrette but a nice Balsamic Vinaigrette would be delicious also. Be ready for a flavor explosion between the smoky grilled chicken, the sweet peach, the salty feta, the savory onion, and the sweet and sour vinaigrette.

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I served the salads with spicy pepper jack cheese bread to take the meal over the top.  I hope you’ll try it and come back to share your thoughts. Happy summer!

Breaded Baked Cod with Homemade Tarter Sauce

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  • 1 – 2 lbs. cod filets, cut into serving sized pieces (any firm white fish will do)
  • 2 t. Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ t. paprika
  • ¼ t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 c. flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 2 ½ c. plain breadcrumbs (Make your own by toasting heals of bread and running in a food processor.  These freeze well for up to one month.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Canola oil

To bread the fish:

Season flour with paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in one shallow dish. 

Mix beaten eggs and Dijon mustard in another shallow dish.

In a third shallow dish, toss breadcrumbs with Old Bay seasoning. 

Spray baking sheet well with canola oil.  Stoneware works best for a crispy texture.  Dredge fish filets through the flour mixture.  Then, dip both sides with the egg wash and coat with breadcrumbs.  Place on prepared baking sheet and spray the top sides of fish filets with a liberal amount of canola oil.  Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. 

Tarter Sauce:

1 c. mayonnaise
3 T. dill pickle relish
Juice of one lemon
1 t. dried parsley or 1 T. fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Fish recipe adapted from http://www.hispanickitchen.com/profiles/blogs/panko-crusted-tilapia-with-chipotl-kissed-tarter-sauce