A Squared

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fourth of July Recipe Round Up

Happy 3rd of July, readers!

Are you planning a last minute barbecue this weekend? Or will you be attending one and don't want to arrive empty handed? Fear not! Here are a few of my favorite picnic and barbecue-ready recipes for you:

Appetizers & Snacks:
Cherry, Prosciutto & Parmesan Crostini 
Creamy Spinach & Roasted Red Pepper Dip  
Deviled Eggs
Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa

Grilled Zucchini & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini
Lemony Dill Dip

Seared Scallop, Jamon Serrano & Roasted Red Pepper Crostini 
Tomato Avocado Salsa  
Watermelon & Feta Bites

Main Dishes:
Adobo & Sazon Spiced Salmon with Orange & Pepper Salsa  
BBQ Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Bison Cheeseburgers with Caramelized Onions & Horseradish Aioli

Chicken Marinade 
French Onion Cheeseburgers  
Fresh Herb & Lemon Grilled Whitefish Packets 
Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Greek Grilled Porkchops 

Greek Yogurt & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breasts 
Grilled Chicken & Peach Salad with Dijon Champagne Vinaigrette Grilled Rosemary Balsamic Tuna
Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Slaw
Grilled Chicken Banh Mi with Red Gold Sriracha Aioli 
Grilled Chicken Pesto Sandwiches  

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Tomato Basil Salsa
Lemon Marinated Grilled Chicken & VegetablesMom's Flank Steak Marinade
Skirt Steak Marinade 

Spice Rubbed Flank Steak with Peppers & Onions
Sweet Onion & Barbecue Turkey Burgers  

Side Dishes: 
Caramelized Onion Smashed Potatoes
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad 
Cinnamon Apples
Dijon Roasted Zucchini & Potatoes 
Farro with Roasted Vegetables & Pine Nuts 
Greek Grilled Chicken Salad
Green Bean & Tomato Salad  

Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad
Grilled Corn Panzanella 
Grilled Corn Salad
Heirloom Tomato Salad 

Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Potato & Green Bean Salad
Roasted Spicy Lemon Broccoli 
Roasted Vegetable Salad 

Roasted Zucchini  
Simple Cucumber & Tomato Salad 
Spinach & Farro Salad with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette  
Sweet Corn, Tomato & Roasted Pepper Salad 
Tangy Apple Red Cabbage Slaw 
Tricolor Caprese Salad

Warm Marinated Tomato & Mozzarella Pasta Salad

Cocktails & Desserts:
Biscoff Cookie & Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
Black Bottom Cupcakes 
Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Cookie Butter Apple Crisp 
Fresh Strawberry Mint Sparklers    
Fresh Whipped Cream
Grilled Peaches With Frozen Yogurt 

Individual Peach Crisps for Two  
Key Lime White Chocolate Chip Blondie Bites 
Lemon Thyme Bundt Cake 

Old Fashioned Raspberry Icebox Dessert   
Pineapple Spiced Rum Punch
Polish Apple Cake
Prosecco Cupcakes with Prosecco Buttercream Frosting 
Raspberry Cake Bars
Raspberry Swirl Lemon Cake Bars
Red, White, & Blue Fruit Pops

S'mores Krispie Treats 
Strawberry & Lemon Curd Shortcake
Strawberry Thyme Juleps  


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Recent Happenings

Let's take a break from our regularly scheduled blog programming and talk about some fun happenings today! A lot has been going on in my little corner of the blog world lately. Posting aside, summer is a big time for events, festivals, and other great opportunities for blogging gals like myself. I try to only commit to one of these events per week (for my own sanity), but that can be so tough in the summer with so many cool things happening every day. Here's a quick snapshot of some of the fun things I have been up to lately:

My friend Kit from The Kittchen hosted Petunia Palooza with Wave Petunias at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Wave gave us a fun (and hands on!) lesson in planting and caring for petunias. They had arranged a huge spread of planters of different shapes and sizes, a variety of the signature gorgeous petunias, and several other flowers, plants, and herbs for us to create our own planter arrangement that represented us, or styles, and our blogs.

I love decorating with gray, so I snagged a minimalist gray planter and planted a variety of vibrant fuschia, purple, and silver/lavendar petunias in it. To compliment them, I added a delicate soft green climbing leaf and lavendar because it color coordinated, smells amazing, and what would a food blogger's planter be without an herb?

Fun fact that I learned here: The spacing recommendations printed on the plant tags when you buy them really only apply when you are planting in the ground. When planting in the ground, roots have the ability to stretch low and far. In a planter, they can only grow as far as the bottom so you can create fuller arrangements as spacing the roots is not an issue. The more you know.

The Windy City Blogger Collective hosted a happy hour at Seasons 52 in River North recently as well. I'm heading back there in a few weeks and will give you a full rundown of my full meal then, but in the meantime I wanted to mention that their flatbreads are the perfect happy hour snack. They come in a variety of flavor combinations like artichoke & goat cheese and grilled garlic pesto chicken, which are two of my favorites. They're low in calories (and even lower when you share with a girlfriend over a glass of not-so-low calorie wine), full of flavor, and feature an addictive crispy crust.

After a drink and a few several pieces of flatbread at Seasons 52, I headed down the street to Room & Board with Erin for a fun event all about Living With Color. An impressive panel of ladies featuring interior designer Alexandra Kaehler who used to write Things That Sparkle (one of the first blogs I ever read!), Valspar Color Strategist Sue Kim, executive editor of Apartment Therapy Janel Laban, and Cheryl Woolley who manages the visuals for Room & Board. The discussion was moderated by the hilarious editor-in-chief of House Beautiful Sophie Donelson. These ladies had amazing insights about how to (realistically) incorporate color into your living space. The bottom line: Don't be afraid of color and incorporate it into your wall color-- it's one of the cheapest and easiest things to change and can change the look of an entire space.

I'm a huge fan of Room & Board's furniture: their cozy modern aesthetic is right up my alley. After the panel discussion ended Erin and I window shopped for a bit and I fell in love with this display of chevron pillows and blankets in gray tones. I have just upgraded a an IKEA chair in my living room to a great new "grown up" one from West Elm and now I am itching to redecorate the entire room. I'll take one of each of these pillows, please!

And I know I have told you about Rocksbox before, but I had to share again because the most recent box is my most favorite yet! I'm obsessed with this gold and teal Aztec-inspired bangle from House of Harlow (Nicole Richie's line) and decided I was going to purchase it as soon as I opened the box for the first time. My stylist also picked this delicate and understated gold gorjana studs, which are a nice compliment to the two statement pieces in this box. I'm also loving this statement necklace-- it's lighter and a bit more delicate than most necklaces like it (including one that I own), so I am also considering purchasing this one to have as a more "everyday" statement necklace. Thank goodness Rocksbox offers such a great member rate on purchasing these pieces!

I'm still having so much fun with Rocksbox! As a reminder, Rocksbox will send you a box of 3 pieces of jewelry (with picks based on your profile, likes, and dislikes), you can wear them for as long as you want, purchase any of the pieces as you like (at a discounted rate), and when you're done, you send it back, and then your next personally curated Rocksbox is on its way to you. Want to try it out? Use code AASQUAREDXOXO at checkout and get your first month FREE!

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend! Check back in on Monday for more great recipes, food stories, and more!

Editor's Note: Products and services were provided to me at no cost in order to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed herein are my own.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Grilled Chicken & Peach Salad with Dijon Champagne Vinaigrette

On a recent Sunday evening I made dinner for my husband and myself. It was fresh, healthy, and not pasta, tacos, pizza, or burgers, but when we finished eating he said "Wow, that was really good!" This is a big deal, people.

That dinner was this grilled chicken and peach salad and it's one of my favorite new summer recipes. I'm pretty sure the only other time Alex has had this kind of reaction to a salad was when I made this fresh heirloom tomato salad last summer, so I'm guessing this is a once a year occurrence. I'm going for two in 2015 though, so stay tuned!

I loved a good dinner salad in the summer that's filled with hearty ingredients and complimentary flavors. Seasonal produce lends a really great fresh flavor to this salad and the addition of marinated chicken, toasty hazelnuts, and salty ricotta salata is a perfect match for these sweet caramelized peaches.

And to top this whole salad off: A new favorite dressing. I love the delicate flavor of champagne vinegar and have found myself using it a lot recently in summer recipes. This vinaigrette has a very French feel with the champagne vinegar, spicy Dijon mustard, a hint of sweetness from honey, and a generous sprinkle of chives. It's a subtle tangy touch to this sweet and savory salad.

Not to toot my own horn (toot toot), but beyond the flavor of this salad I really love the way that it looks! The slightly charred vibrant peaches, bright greens, and pops of whites and purples... it's a really good looking salad. It's also pretty easy to assemble, so you could serve this one at a summer dinner party and wow your guests without question. 


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp. dry seasoning for chicken *I used Bavarian Seasoning from The Spice House
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 5-6 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 2 ripe peaches, halved and pits removed
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 2 Tbs. champagne vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dry chives
  • 3-4 cups red and/or green leaf lettuce 
  • 1/8 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 hazelnuts, toasted and rough chopped *How to toast & skin hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup ricotta salata, grated 

In a large zip locking plastic bag, combine chicken, dry seasoning, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and 1 Tbs. olive oil. Seal bag, releasing excess air, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade and discard excess liquid. Grill the chicken 5-6 minutes on each side or until cooked through and the juices run clear. Remove from grill and allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting into 1-inch slices.

Reduce grill heat to medium. Use a pastry or basting brush to apply a 1/2 Tbs. of oil  evenly on the flesh sides of each peach half. Place the peaches on the grill cut side down.  Grill until softened and grill marks begin to appear.  Turn the peaches over and grill on the skin side for an additional 2-3 minutes and remove.

In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, honey, vinegar, chives, and salt and pepper. Stream in remaining olive oil while whisking until the mixture is completely combined.
Place greens in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Top with sliced grilled chicken and the grilled peach halves. Sprinkle evenly with red onion, basil, chopped hazelnuts, and ricotta salata. Serve with the vinaigrette.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

BBQ Small Plates Party Menu + Watermelon & Feta Bites Recipe

As I mentioned yesterday, Alex and I recently hosted a one-year anniversary housewarming party for ourselves. Our goal was to make this more of an 'open house' where our busy friends could come and go as they pleased, so it wasn't going to be any kind of formal sit-down meal with a specific start time. Instead, it needed to be small bites and foods that are easy for guests to help themselves to or to eat off of paper plates while standing and mingling.

We have also been dying to host a barbecue at our place-- partially because this year's summer weather has been so-so at best, but also because Alex has wanted to grill ribs, which I don't really eat them so we reserve that for when we're entertaining company. With all that in mind, we created a fun barbecue-inspired menu that was small plates-friendly. Ribs were a menu given, but the rest of the dishes were all designed to have a barbecue taste and feel, be friendly for meat eaters or vegetarians, and be packaged in convenient bite-size, handheld, or easily plated servings:

BBQ Small Plates Party Menu

  • Crudite, pita chips & crackers with Sabra lemon hummus and garlic & herb mascarpone spread (from Stamper Cheese Company)
  • Watermelon & Feta Bites (recipe below)
  • Roasted Pepper, Onion, Potato & Sausage Bites (recipe coming soon)
  • Mini Corn Muffins (I cheated and used a box mix, but added frozen corn kernels to the batter)
  • Orzo Salad with Tomatoes, Corn & Arugula (recipe coming soon)
  • Dry Rubbed Rib Hacks (we dry rubbed and grilled baby back ribs as we normally would and then sliced them into individual pieces for easy serving)
  • Nashville Hot & Spicy Chicken Tenders with Copycat Chick-Fil-A Sauce (sauce recipe here)
  • Raspberry Cake Bars (that recipe was posted yesterday!)
  • Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe coming soon)

And from the perspective of the cook, there also needed to be a good balance of items that Alex could grill, things that I could make ahead of time, and a few pre-made, convenience, or shortcut dishes too. When I was looking for a second protein to serve as an alternative to the ribs, I decided on white meat chicken since it's lean and different from the heavier pork ribs. But how do you make chicken stand up to low and slow roasted ribs? You bread and fry it, of course.

Now, my chicken wasn't actually fried but it was tender, juicy, and full of spicy flavor. I cut several chicken breasts into small plate-friendly tenders and used the Urban Accents Nashville Hot & Spicy Chick'n Brine & Bake Kit. This fantastic kit includes a mix for brining the chicken (ensuring it is moist and flavored throughout), a spicy Nashville-style rub (for a kick of extra flavor and heat), and a breading mixture which creates a deliciously crispy coating for the chicken. Having never tried this before, I was a little apprehensive about trying it out on my guests for the first time. These chicken tenders turned out to be one of the biggest hits at the party. Several people asked me how they were made and I was a bit embarrassed to admit that it came from a box! However, they were insanely delicious and a real crowd pleaser with great crunch and spicy flavor so I would happily use one of these kits again (they make a Tuscan Herb variety too... yum)-- for guests or just for us.

One of the other big hits at the party was another one of the easiest ones that I made that night. These watermelon & feta bites are vegetarian-friendly, are served cold, and the perfect combination of salty and sweet, and they're made with only 4 ingredients! The most difficult part of the prep work here is all the cutting you'll be doing with the watermelon and feta. Beyond that, it's a matter of skewering them, plating the bites, and drizzling stourebought balsamic glaze over the top. The sweet summery watermelon, salty feta, fresh basil, and tangy glaze make for an irresistible appetizer-- and a foolproof and elegant summer party snack!

Watermelon & Feta Bites Recipe


  • 16 oz. chunk feta, cut into 1/2-3/4" cubes
  • 30-40 fresh small or medium basil leaves
  • 1 baby seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into 1" cubes
  • 2 Tbs. balsamic glaze *I used a store-bought glaze, but you can make your own with this recipe too
  • 30-40 party toothpicks or thin skewers

For each toothpick, gently skewer a feta cube, a basil leaf, and then a cube of watermelon. Be sure to insert the skewer directly in the middle of feta cube and also into the center of the watermelon cube. The toothpick or skewer should not go all the way through the watermelon, but just to the edge-- once the three ingredients are skewered, place them on a serving platter watermelon-side down with the skewer standing up vertically. Continue with the rest of the ingredients.

Once all of the ingredients have been skewered and are plated, drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.*

*If making these a few hours ahead, make the skewers, plate them, and refrigerate. Drizzle with balsamic glaze when ready to serve.

Editor's Note: Products were provided by Urban Accents at no cost in order to facilitate this post. The opinions expressed herein, as always, are my own.
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