Grilled Bread Salad with Spinach, Tomatoes and Blue Cheese

This salad may be my favorite thing about grilling, and it’s all because of the bread.

Charred bread – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and tossed with oil and balsamic. It’s seriously the perfect bite. If you haven’t grilled bread for salad before, you need to do it ASAP.

I first made this salad several years ago. It has changed a bit over the years so I am sharing this updated post.

When making this bread, you don’t want soft, fresh bread. Buy day old bread, or buy your bread the day before. The best bread for this salad is day-old ciabatta bread. Slice it open down the middle, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and char it as little or as much as you want.

Once charred, you chop it into bite sized pieces and let it soak in an oil bath with cilantro and red onions for 15 minutes before finishing the salad.

At this point I guarantee you will be stealing pieces of the bread to eat!

The salad is finished with baby spinach, chopped tomatoes, blue cheese, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of sea salt and black pepper.

Grilled Bread Salad with Spinach, Tomatoes and Blue Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 c good olive oil plus more for brushing the bread
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced open (see pics above)
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 c baby spinach
  • 2 juicy red tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp blue cheese
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Directions
  • Pre-heat your grill
  • Put the onions and cilantro in a large bowl with the oil; let sit in the fridge while you prep the bread
  • Brush both sides of the bread with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place on the grill for 4-7 minutes per side, depending on how charred you want it. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite sized pieces. Add the bread to the bowl with the oil/onions/cilantro and toss. Let sit 15 minutes.
  • Add the spinach, tomatoes, blue cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Toss. Adjust oil/vinegar/salt/pepper.
  • Serve immediately.

Originally posted at Maryellens Cooking Creations

Celebrating 10 Years with our Best Recipes

Today Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations turns the big 1-0!! Ten years of sharing recipes from my kitchen – I can’t believe it!

It’s funny to think back on how much has changed in ten years both with this blog and with me personally. When I look back through the blog year by year I can remember things happening in my life by the way I was cooking and the food I would make. Kind of like when you hear an old song and it brings back a memory. My food brings back so many memories of times in my life. Oh how things have changed! Ten years ago we were both in our early 30s –

Food Blog Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations celebrates 10 years with their best recipes. Chicken, salads, pork, beef, lobster, quick and easy weeknight meals, romantic meals, meals for entertaining, soups, appetizers and party food.Ten years ago I had never cooked risotto. I had never baked something that didn’t come in a box. Believe it or not, I had never worked with bone-in chicken (except that one time I made chicken soup from scratch in high school). There were so many dishes and ingredients I hadn’t heard of, or wasn’t brave enough to try. I (thought) I loathed mushrooms and blue cheese and eggs. Things like homemade tomato sauce, pan sauces, homemade frosting and whipped cream did not exist in my kitchen. And my knife skills? None. I still used to put my index finger along the top of my cheap knives.

But then after being married for about three years, I took an interest in cooking, mostly because both my husband and I were getting sick of tacos, stuffed peppers, pepper steak, and cheese nip chicken. Sadly, that’s about all we ate when we were both home… Thank goodness for work travel!

When I first jumped into really cooking, I immediately discovered that I did not enjoy measuring and preferred to go by taste, look, and smell. I soon started to read recipes and decide what I’d change before even trying the recipe. I had some failures and some successes, and learned a LOT along the way. Weekly I was trying at least 2-3 new recipes, and Saturday nights were dedicated to date nights at home where we’d cook something new and fancy together (yes, my husband is an awesome cook and loves being in the kitchen whenever he can!). I don’t think we ate the same thing more than twice for at least 2 years because I was in love with experimenting and creating new recipes. That is when I decided to start this blog – it was really just a way to keep track of recipes. I had no idea where it would take me.

During those first few years, favorites were discovered and put on rotation, however I never lost that love of creating new recipes. Over the years my food has evolved to suit our lifestyle, and these days, instead of spending hours on one recipe, I focus a lot more meals to feed my family. Although every now and then I do get a full day in the kitchen and love it!!

Food Blog Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations celebrates 10 years with their best recipes. Chicken, salads, pork, beef, lobster, quick and easy weeknight meals, romantic meals, meals for entertaining, soups, appetizers and party food.

Writing this blog has taught me and brought me so much more than just cooking.

Entertaining and planning menus is one of my favorite things to do. I love sitting with my notebook writing out ideas and I totally appreciate that my husband lets me run them by him a million times. Luckily he enjoys it too, and we love creating holiday menus together. We often start talking about Christmas months before the big day!

Photography has also become a hobby of mine. I know I still have a lot to learn and hope to find the time to take some classes soon, but on my own I can see much improvement. Those early food pics were pretty homely, as my husband would say! (so please, as I share some old recipes below, be mindful of that 🙂

And finally, it’s crazy to think that I wasn’t even on Facebook when I started this blog. There was no such thing as Twitter, Instagram, Yummly, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc. I could go on and on! It has been fun connecting with people through those platforms and learning the best ways to use them to connect with all of you (and meanwhile my 6 year old sees a logo and knows what social media platform it belongs to – it’s like second nature to them!).

Since my life and this blog are completely entwined, I can’t help but think of how my personal life has changed over the past ten years. Ten years ago I was in my early 30s, married almost 4 years and working in the corporate world, traveling the country (and world) for pharmaceutical and medical meetings. After the birth of my daughter I decided to move on from that life, and now I consider myself very lucky that I am able to work part-time for now so I can be there for the school bus, school events, and extracurricular activities with my amazing 6 year old daughter. Cooking with kids Ten years ago I wasn’t even thinking of kids yet, and now this little one is almost 7! How awesome is it that she loves to get in the kitchen with me and we can pretty much get her to try (almost) anything. Most recently she tried mussels and loved them! She’s an energetic little girl and keeps us on on toes – our little first grader who loves acting, dancing, cooking, singing, playing outside, reading, writing, making lists, playing games and telling jokes. Things haven’t always been easy over the past ten years – although blessed to be in our forever home, it has been a continuous work in progress and it always seem like something is going wrong or breaking. We have both dealt with unemployment, secondary infertility, pregnancy losses, and the death of our first dog, Daisy Mae. During all of those times, I always turned to cooking as my therapy. Family and cooking have been my one constant through all of these ten years. 
So take a trip down memory lane with me as I share my most popular and/or favorite recipes. These are recipes that have been shared the most, liked the most, and recipes that have been favorites of my family. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My top post of all-time comes from May of 2008 – Time for a Party. In this post I shared a menu for a party including this recipe for tortilla pinwheels, and now I see them pinned all over Pinterest. They are a hit! I take them to every party and get asked for the recipe several times at each party. Sometimes simple is the best! 

The perfect party appetizer - tortilla pinwheels

My husband has contributed several recipes, desserts, and wine reviews to this blog. Two of his recipes are in my top searched, pinned and shared recipes! He loves making this Maine Lobster Stew, has made it for the last 2 years on Christmas, and is always looking for excuses to make it again. I’ll take credit for helping with the plating and taking the photos. 

Maine Lobster Stew - decadent and creamy with sherry and lobster meat

Another recipe of his that sends a lot of people to this blog through searches is his Beef Negimaki. After ordering it several times at our local sushi place he decided to make it on his own. We both agreed it was even better than the restaurant’s! Since this post is from 2009 the pic isn’t great, but what I do love about this post are the step by step photo instructions for cutting and rolling the beef. 

Beef Negimaki - rolled flank steak with green onions. Japanese food made at home

My top breakfast post of all time, and one that I make often, is a grab and go breakfast – Egg Muffins for Breakfast-on-the-Go

Breakfast on the go - egg muffins. Egg muffins with vegetables, egg muffins with sausage. Grab n go breakfast

I’m so happy that this next recipe is in my top ten of all time because it is one of my favorites – Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with a Lemon-Garlic Aioli.Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with a lemon garlic aioli. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes. “Too hot to cook” and “grilled chicken salads” are both so commonly searched, and lead my followers to this post for Yakitori Chicken with Cold Veggie and Soba Noodle Bowls. This is one of my top chicken recipes as well as a top salad recipe. 

Grilled yakitori chicken with cold veggie soba noodle bowls. Too hot to cook! Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

With close to 200 chicken recipes in this blog, it was really, really hard to narrow it down to my favorite. I have so many, from this French Onion Braised Chicken and this Gruyere Chicken with Mushrooms, to Shredded Chicken with Chiles and Chicken and Dumplings. I finally chose a popular recipe, and it is fitting that it is a bone-in recipe – Garlic Herb Roast Chicken with Vegetables

Garlic Herb Roast Chicken Breasts with vegetables. Bone in chicken. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

Soups are cooked in my kitchen once a week over the cool and cold months, so with over 80 soup recipes in this blog it is hard to choose a favorite. This Potato and Corn Chowder with Bacon is one of my most popular, and it is one of my favorites because it is so hearty and well, bacon!

Potato Corn Chowder with Bacon. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

It’s funny that ten years ago I had never made risotto, and now I have over 20 risotto recipes on this blog. Risotto is in my top ten search words, so I picked one of my favorites for this anniversary post – Three Garlic Risotto. I have been making this one for years (it was probably one of the first risotto recipes I ever made!) but finally just blogged it recently. 

Three Garlic Risotto - Roasted garlic, toasted garlic, sauteed garlic. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

Still, after ten years of doing this, I only use my crock-pot for shredded/pulled chicken, pork or beef. My top slow cooker and top pulled pork recipe is this amazing Guinness Pulled Pork. I’m so happy it gets so much love because it definitely gets a lot of love in this house! Korean Pulled Pork Tacos

Guinness Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Crock pot slow cooker cooking. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

My personal favorite pulled pork recipe is the pork for these Korean Pulled Pork Tacos. These are pretty popular on Pinterest, too! 

Korean Pulled Pork Tacos with a Creamy Sriracha slaw. Crock pot slow cooker cooking. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

And sticking with the pork theme, this Stuffed Pork Loin with a Mushroom Wine Gravy is one of my most popular posts. It is a great recipe, perfect for holidays or entertaining, and the tutorial for cutting and rolling the pork is spot-on. This post, and the picture, are from 2008 – 

Stuffed Pork Loin with a mushroom wine gravy. Great recipe for Christmas or Easter or entertaining. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

This is a newer recipe and it quickly became my second most popular appetizer – Cheesy BLT Stuffed Jalapenos, and it is easy to see why. Look how yummy! 

Creamy and cheesy BLT Stuffed Jalapenos. BLT Jalapeno Poppers - perfect appetizer or party food. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

Let’s finish this off on a sweet note! I don’t bake that often – my husband is actually the baker in the house. This cake recipe has become a favorite of both of ours, and is my most popular dessert recipe on the blog – Philly Fluff Cake

Philly Fluff Cake. Philly cream cheese cake with chocolate swirl. Celebrating 10 years of our best recipes.

Thank you to all of my readers and followers for making the last 10 years possible. I have enjoyed sharing and learning with all of you, and I appreciate all of your comments, likes and shares. I look forward to continuing this journey in my kitchen and with this blog, and hope you will be there with me! Thank you!

Food Blog Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations celebrates 10 years with their best recipes. Chicken, salads, pork, beef, lobster, quick and easy weeknight meals, romantic meals, meals for entertaining, soups, appetizers and party food.

Originally posted at Maryellens Cooking Creations

Grilled Flank Steak Crostini

An elegant appetizer for entertaining – crusty, toasted bread topped with creamy melted cheese and thinly sliced grilled flank steak. 

Our friends were in town on business recently so we were lucky to spend a fun night with them over good food and of course, lots of good wine. We definitely don’t get to see them enough so this midweek visit was a special treat. 
As soon as the visit was planned I started to discuss the menu with my friend Jeff who shares my love of food and cooking. My husband tried to contribute (I’m lucky he loves to cook, too!), but whenever Jeff visits the food is always our thing. 
I knew our menu would include several courses. We ended up with three appetizer courses an an entree. Honestly, but the time we were done with apps I didn’t even need an entree, but after an hour break we got back to cooking. 
Our favorite appetizer was this grilled flank steak crostini. I love crostini with different toppings, so for this one we decided on melted cheese and thinly sliced grilled flank steak. From there I just winged it and made several kinds of crostini with different toppings. 

Look how beautiful!!! 
Half of the crostini had melted provolone and steak, while the other half were topped with blue cheese and the steak. Toppings I used were chopped grilled red onions and sliced roasted red peppers. Once the crostini came out of the oven I topped some of them with cold tomato bruschetta topping and fresh arugula. 
I can’t even pick which combination of ingredients were my favorite – they were all good!! They were so good that the next night my husband and I made more for dinner with the few leftovers that we had, and I plan on making them for a girls’ night I am hosting next week (as long as the blizzard doesn’t mess up my grilling plans!!). Yes, THAT good!


Grilled Flank Steak CrostiniOriginal Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations
Ingredients

  • 1 baguette sliced into 3/4 inch pieces on the bias (a slight diagonal slice)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1 flank steak
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Cheese (I used sliced provolone on half and crumbled blue cheese on the other half)
  • Other toppings, such as:
    • 1 roasted red pepper, sliced
    • 2 rings red onion, grilled and chopped
    • Fresh arugula
Directions
  • Heat grill to high. Season flank steak liberally with salt, pepper and dried thyme. Cook __ min per side, flipping only once, to medium rare (or medium, depending on your liking). Let rest 10 minutes before slicing into very thin slices.
  • In the meantime, heat your oven to 400 degrees. 
  • Place the baguette slices on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Put in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until crispy.
  • Remove from the oven and rub each baguette with the raw garlic. Top each baguette with cheese, steak, and other toppings, except the arugula (optional: put some more cheese on top). Return to the oven and turn your broiler on high for 2 minutes or until the cheese has melted. 
    • NOTE: if you don’t want your steak to cook any more under the broiler, only top the baguettes with cheese and other toppings and broil. Top with the steak after removing from the oven.
  • Optional: top with some fresh arugula and drizzle with olive oil before serving. 

Originally posted at Maryellens Cooking Creations