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Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy BBQ Dressing

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There’s a little angel who lives on one of my shoulders, whispering, Be a good girl, Amy. Eat the apple instead of the brownie. Put down that fifth glass of wine. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. 

There’s a little devil on the other shoulder. He woos me with sexy little suggestions like, Come on, Amy…life’s too short to not enjoy delicious food. You’re not that much overweight. That chocolate will taste even better than skinny will feel. And wine is good for you…scientists say so. Trust me. Trust me. 

I was never ‘overweight’ until I had my babies. As a child, I was one of those featherweight gals who could scarf down remarkable quantities of lemon Italian ices, yodels, and meatball subs without a care. My hunger was infinite. In high school, I gained height without weight and bordered on scrawny. I sobbed like there was no tomorrow over my flat-chested fate. In college, I quickly gained the freshman fifteen (or twenty) on a diet of pizza, beer and Lucky Charms. It filled me out and gave me the curves I’d craved so badly in my youth. I slimmed down by the end of my college days. From there on out, I maintained a healthy weight, with barely an effort. I haven’t been ‘skinny’ since my high school days. But I was healthy and trim.

And then I had my boys. I gained a little more than I should have with each pregnancy. I lost most of the weight between pregnancies with a bit of discipline, but still started each pregnancy five pounds heavier than the one before. And now, here I sit, over a year after the birth of my third son, still struggling to get my weight down. It’s been harder this time. I’m not that far out of a healthy weight range for my height, but those pounds make a difference.

I started this year pumped full of motivation to lose the baby weight, just like millions of others who make grand new year resolutions and swear they’ll stick with them. I actually had a really successful start and quickly lost 15 or so pounds early in the year. And then I got lax and the number on the scale started creeping up again. I’ve been playing the yo-yo game ever since. Lose a few, gain a few, lose a few, gain a few. Lather, rinse and repeat. It would be so much easier if I didn’t love food so darn much!

The funny thing about those little guys on my shoulders is that, in my mind, the angel is blissfully plump. The devil is thin and decrepit. I secretly think that the angel wants me to enjoy the chocolate. He wants me to enjoy the beautiful world of delicious food…just in moderation, of course.

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of drool-worthy food out there which can still be enjoyed within the framework of wanting to shed a few pounds. And there’s no better time than the summer, when produce is at its peak and the hot weather naturally inclines us to eat lighter, to achieve those healthful goals. Take advantage of the season’s bounty to enjoy fresh salads full of vibrant summer flavors, like this grilled peach and prosciutto salad in a creamy barbecue-inspired dressing. Ripe peaches, at their summer best, get grilled to bring out even more of their natural sweetness. Combine that with crisp red onion slices, savory prosciutto, and salty gorgonzola, drizzled with a slightly-spicy BBQ dressing, and you’ll be singing summer’s praises.

Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy BBQ Dressing

Ingredients

  • 3 peaches, sliced
  • 8 slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 8 cups mixed spring greens
  • 3/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • Vegetable oil, for rubbing the grill

For the Creamy BBQ Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Wipe your grill with a bit of vegetable oil to help prevent sticking. Preheat the grill at medium heat. Place the peach slices on the preheated grill and cook for a couple minutes on each side, until tender. (The peaches can be used hot off the grill or chilled.)

To prepare the dressing, stir the ketchup, mayo, brown sugar, mustard, worcestershire sauce, vinegar, onion powder, and cayenne pepper together until smooth. Refrigerate until using.

To assemble the salad, place about 2 cups of the spring greens on each plate. Scatter the onion slices over the greens. Arrange the peaches in the center. Top with the prosciutto and gorgonzola. Drizzle with the dressing.

Makes 4 Entree-Sized Salads

Oven-roasted Pulled Pork and Summer Peach Pizza

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Recently, I was having a conversation with someone who was tossing around the idea of opening a pizza shop in a city whose pizza market is predominated by chain restaurants. I suggested that as a way of setting himself apart, he should focus on using very fresh ingredients; local, seasonal, and organic when possible. In addition to offering a really good traditional pizza with traditional toppings, he could offer a special of the month, something a bit different, which features the most seasonal produce. As an example, I threw out peaches. Well, that got an odd look. So, I continued, Maybe with a BBQ type of sauce and pork or something. The odd look remained.

Over the next couple days, I mentioned this peach and pork pizza idea to a handful of other people, all of whom had the same confused reaction. Maybe I should have let it go, but for some reason, I couldn’t get this pizza off my mind. I mean, people put ham and pineapple on pizza. So why not pork and peaches?

I let the idea simmer in my brain for a while. The pork should be slow-cooked and tender, like pulled pork. The peaches would need to be roasted to make them extra sweet and tender. The sauce should full of tomato flavor, but with a definite sweet bbq accent. The cheese should be melty and mild. The more I thought it through, the more convinced I became that it would work.

So, I picked up a big pork shoulder and got cooking. Pulled pork is something which works best when cooked low and slow. There are several ways to do it, all of which can be successful. My preferred method is to oven-roast the pork, since I can use that method year round and I find that it produces a less mushy result than with a slow-cooker. You can decrease the cooking time by increasing the heat, but low and slow is your best bet for a tender roast, which will pull apart with ease. My recipe is sort of in middle as far as heat and time goes, but if you have more time on your hands, lower the heat and give it a bit more time.

For the sauce, I made a Honey Garlic BBQ sauce. I cooked the sauce along with the pork to pick up some of the pork flavor and allow the flavors to blend and concentrate. This also allows the onion and roasted garlic to slow cook for an even sweeter flavor. For a leaner end-result, you can cook the sauce separate from the roast.

Pulled Pork and Summer Peach Pizza

Ingredients

For the Roasted Garlic-Honey BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 15 oz. can Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Mustard
  • 1/4 cup Worchestire
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 head Roasted Garlic, cloves removed from the skin*
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped

For the Roast:

  • 1 5-7 pound Pork Shoulder
  • Paprika
  • Brown Sugar
  • Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper

For the Peaches:

  • 2 Peaches, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

For the Pizza:

  • 2 12″ Prepared Pizza Crusts
  • 2-3 cups Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/3 cup Chives, finely chopped

*Click here for my guide to roasting garlic.

Directions

To prepare the roast, trim the excess fat from the exterior. Rub the roast all over with paprika, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy dutch oven pan with a tight fitting lid or in a baking dish that is just big enough to hold the roast, combine all sauce ingredients. Place the roast on top of the sauce and cover. If using a baking dish, tightly seal the pan with foil. Place it in the oven and cook for about 5 hours. No need to check, stir, or baste. Just pop it in a let it do its thing. You’ll know it’s done when the meat starts to pull away from the bone and the internal temperature, as measured with an instant-read thermometer, has reached at  least 170 degrees. You can also test the meat by scraping a fork into a piece of the roast. It should easily shred from the roast.

For the peaches, place the thin slices in a small baking dish and toss with the brown sugar. You can omit the sugar, if desired, but the small amount of sugar gives the peaches a very light, sweet glaze. Place the baking dish in the oven during the last 30 minutes of the roast’s cooking time.

When the roast is cooked, remove from the oven. Carefully lift the roast from the pan and place it on a rack or in a colander to cool for about 15 minutes.

While the roast is cooling, pour the sauce through a strainer to remove the chunks of onion, garlic, and any pork pieces. Allow the sauce to settle. Then, pour off any excess fat, which will rise to the top or use a spoon to remove the fat. Taste the sauce and adjust the flavor with more salt, cayenne, or honey, as desired.

When the pork is cool enough to handle, but still warm, use a fork to begin pulling the meat. If you scrape the fork against the meat, it should start pulling apart easily. Discard any fatty chunks. I like to go back over the meat with my fingers after pulling it, to make sure there are no slimy, fatty bits remaining.

Pour the sauce over the meat and toss to combine.

For the pizza, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scatter the sauced pork in an even layer over the crust. Place several slices of peach on top of the pork. Sprinkle with a good layer of mozzarella cheese. Garnish with the chopped chives. Bake for about 12 minutes until everything is hot, the cheese is melty and the edges of the crust are golden.

Makes 2 12-inch Pizzas (plus leftover pulled pork for sandwiches!)

This pizza was really good. Even my skeptical husband was pleased!

Peaches ‘n’ Cream Panna Cotta

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As a child, I was a shrewd negotiator in the business of Barbie clothing.  I used my persuasive (and most likely devious) tactics to build an enviable collection of outfits for my Barbie. While my Barbie had bins full of outfits for every occasion, my two younger sisters’ Barbies were dressed in hair scrunchies. While my Barbie impressed her dinner guests with multiple stunning outfit changes, my sisters’ Barbies wore tattered hand-me-downs. I’ll never live it down. In fact, my brother-in-law claims that one of the first things my sister ever told him about me involved a warning about engaging in trades.

Out of the entire Barbie clothes collection that my sisters and I bartered over, the hands-down favorite was the elegant Peaches N Cream gown; a full peach chiffon skirt with a shiny, pearlescent bodice and a tiny flower applique. If a life-sized version of that dress existed, I may have worn it for my wedding. And I’m not even particularly fond of the color peach or full chiffon skirts. We must have passed that dress back and forth a hundred times, always the prized gem of a trade.

Mattel recently put out a reproduction of the Peaches N Cream Barbie. I shrieked when I saw it at Target and almost bought it at first sight, but the $50 price tag was enough to dissuade me. Part of me wanted to wrap it up and give it to my sisters as a fun gag gift. Perhaps I could then convince them to trade it back to me in return for a handful of scrunchies.

As a result of this bit of personal history, it’s hard for me to think about peaches without thinking of cream. So when I nearly tripped over the bin of ripe summer peaches, which my grocery store so conveniently placed directly in the entranceway, lest anyone forget that it’s peach season, I knew exactly what I needed to make; my very own panna cotta incarnation of Peaches ‘n’ Cream. This dish is, quite simply, roasted summer peaches enveloped in lightly sweetened cream. Peaches ‘n’ Cream.

Removing the skin from the peaches and roasting  them in the oven until they are extremely tender is key, so that your spoon will slip through the delicate peaches almost as easily as through the sweet cream. You can serve the panna cottas unmolded or serve them in their bowls. Puree some of the extra roasted peaches for a decorative and delicious coulis (pronouced koo-LEE). Add a bit of water and strain, if necessary, to achieve a smooth peach sauce.

Peaches and Cream Panna Cotta

Ingredients

  • 3 Ripe Peaches
  • 1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup Milk
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 packet Unflavored Gelatin Powder (about 2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 Vanilla Bean, split in half lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • 1/4 cup Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a paring knife to peel the peaches. Remove the pit and very thinly slice the peeled peaches. Place peach slices in a baking dish. Toss with the brown sugar. Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes, until the peaches are very tender. The riper the peaches, the less time they’ll need to cook. Occasionally toss the peaches with a spoon as they cook. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin powder over 1/4 cup of the milk. Set aside to allow the gelatin to bloom.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla bean halves. Over medium/medium-low heat, gradually heat the mixture, whisking to dissolve the sugar and evenly disperse the vanilla bean seeds. Once the mixture begins to bubble around the edges and the sugar is fully dissolved, remove from heat. Remove the vanilla bean halves. Add the hot liquid to the gelatin. Whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Set the mixture in an ice bath to begin cooling, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange several peach slices on the bottom of 6 small bowls or ramekins. Pour some of the panna cotta mixture into each prepared dish. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours to set the panna cotta.

To unmold, dip the bottom of the dishes into warm water for a few seconds. Use a knife to loosen the edges. Invert over your serving dish.

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