Summer Cooking in Wisconsin (Guest Post by Randi Hartwig)

Hi! I am Gretchen’s mom, and very excited to be posting on The Food Driven Life.
Happily, Gretchen and John left the heat of Texas for the warmth of Northern Wisconsin this past weekend. One of our other daughters Bente and her boyfriend Judd traveled from Milwaukee and we all  spent one of the last beautiful weekends of the summer at the cabin.  We enjoyed lazing around on the dock in between bursts of physical activity.  We read, napped, skied, kayaked, talked- while the weekend flew past the days seemed long and lazy.

The best part of family get-togethers is the planning and preparation of what we are going to eat next.  Since we are all in relax-mode the goal is to keep things simple. So here is an easy dinner to put together in between a day full of activity.

We started the evening with a surprise appetizer.  My friend Debbie made this amazing mixture and gave it to us with a bottle of wine just as we were heading out for a pontoon cruise.  What a great addition to a boat ride!  I don’t have a picture for two reasons, 1) I didn’t make it, and 2) we ate it too fast.  Thanks Debbie!  (Debbie throws the best parties with the most fantastic food- and she ALWAYS shares her recipes!  Don’t you love friends like that?)

Avocado Dip

  • 2-3 avocados, diced
  • 4 oz. feta, crumbled
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • clove garlic, minced
  • TBS. minced cilantro (use TBS of parsley if you don’t like cilantro-I have heard there are people like that out there but I don’t believe it)
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • TBS olive oil
  • 1/2 squeezed fresh lime

You might want to double the recipe- it’s that good. 

For an easy dinner we marinated boneless chicken breasts to grill.  Everyone always likes chicken and any leftovers are welcome.  The marinade makes the chicken juicy and full of flavor.

Chicken Marinade
  • 3 TBS. soy sauce (use Tamari sauce for gluten-free)
  • 1 TBS. honey
  • 1 TBS. oil
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. garlic minced
Marinate 4 chicken breast at least a couple of hours or overnight.  Grill 6 to 8 minutes a side- Don’t overcook! Chicken is best when the juices still run. 
For an easy side dish we had Smashed Potatoes
Pick out some nice small red or white potatoes from your Farmer’s Market (Isn’t the Farmer’s Market just the best? I marvel at the selection and perfection the vendors offer!)
Drizzle a little olive oil on potatoes and roast in oven at 375 on cookie sheet until fork tender
Using another cookie sheet gently smash the potatoes by pushing down on them
Drizzle again with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with your choice of herbs- I like rosemary.  Add a little garlic and some grated parmesan cheese. Put back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes until heated through.
Along with this we had a wedge salad- what could be easier? We sprinkled the wedge with diced bacon, blue cheese, and chopped tomato.  Gretchen made a homemade ranch dressing (John’s favorite), but any dressing would do.
Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (Modified from The Pioneer Woman)
  • 1 cup Light Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Light Sour Cream
  • ~1/2 cup Buttermilk (I believe I added a bit more to reach a thinner consistency)
  • 1/4 cup Italian Flat-leaf Parsley
  • 1-2 TBS. Fresh Chives
  • 2 TBS. Fresh Dill 
  • 1/2 tsp. White Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire
  • 1/4 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Fresh Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • Dash Tabasco
Whisk all ingredients to combine, adding more/less buttermilk to reach the desired consistency.
Dinner was great, easy to put together and we all had fun working together.  Great job on the grill, guys!
Finally, to celebrate Gretchen and John’s first year together, we indulged in a Braley Wedding Cake from 2510 (the B is slightly smudged due to our dog smashing the box on the way up).
One last weekend before summer truly fades into fall- so ends another summer filled with memories and good food!