Tag: summer

Sheet Pan Steamed Salmon

Sheet Pan Steamed Salmon

This simple, elegant salmon dinner comes together in 40 minutes!

Peach Galette, or Lazy Pie

Peach Galette, or Lazy Pie

Peach galette is flaky, buttery pie dough wrapped around a sweet, perfectly soft, cinnamon kissed peach filling.

Marinated Grape and Goat Cheese Salad

Marinated Grape and Goat Cheese Salad

This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission for items bought through some of the links in this post, at no cost to you. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Gracious Cooking.

This salad was a happy accident. I intended to make a grilled nectarine salad with goat cheese, but the nectarines I got were super mealy, flavorless, and gross. So, I had to improvise, and the Marinated Grape and Goat Cheese Salad was born!

A few weeks ago, I was flipping Ottolenghi’s Simple, by Yotam Ottolenghi, and ran across his recipe for grilled, marinated grapes. I did not know that you could grill or marinate grapes, and I was very interested. His marinade is completely different from the one I used, but when I cut into that mealy nectarine and saw the nice firm grapes sitting on the counter, I knew what I had to do.

Marinated Grapes

I am very pleased that I now know about marinated grapes. Grapes are so delightful on their own, I’d never thought they needed a transformation, but adding some acid, oil, and seasonings to them makes the grapes really special. In this case, I marinated them in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey. In his book, Ottolenghi says it is ideal to marinate them for a day, but I did not notice a difference in the grapes I marinated for one hour vs one day. That said, marinated grapes will keep for a few days in the fridge.

These grapes would make an awesome appetizer on their own, and they definitely are the star of this salad.

Marinated grapes might be your new favorite snack.

Making the Balsamic Glaze

Before you get crazy with the grapes (you’re going to sear half of them in a pan), you need to make the balsamic glaze. For the glaze, bring the balsamic vinegar and honey to a boil and them immediately reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the glaze thickens slightly and can coat the back of a spoon. Then pour into a container and let cool.

grape salad
This could be your lunch.

Cooking Grapes? Are You Sure?

For this Marinated Grape and Goat Cheese Salad, you’re going to sear half of the grapes. Like, in a pan. It sounds crazy, but the warm, half burst caramelized grapes mix with the cold, fresh grapes and greens for a flavor and texture explosion. There are also chopped almonds to add to the party.

So, how do you sear grapes? Preheat a frying pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until quite hot. Then scoop half of your marinated grapes out of their balsamic vinegar bath with a slotted spoon, and carefully release them into the pan. They will hiss at you, do not listen to them. Roll them around in the pan until you see nice brown spots on them and a few have burst open. Then quickly pour or scoop them into a bowl. Have the rest of the salad ready for assembly, as you want the seared marinated grapes to still be warm when you eat.

searing grapes
My pan cleaned right up, but if your gives you trouble, add a little water and boil it for a couple of minutes. That should release anything that’s stuck on.

Assembling the Salad

Step 1: Arrange greens on a plate or platter.

Step 2: Pinch some bits of goat cheese off, and sprinkle them about.

Step 3: Arrange half of the fresh grapes, and half of the seared ones over the salad.

Step 4: Make it rain chopped almonds.

Step 5: Drizzle a small amount of balsamic glaze over the whole thing.

Step 6: Repeat steps 1 through 5, if you wish, for a double-decker salad.

Step 7: Enjoy!

seared marinated grape salad

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Marinated grape salad

Marinated Grape and Goat Cheese Salad

Gracious Cooking
With seared, marinated grapes, creamy goat cheese, crunchy almonds and a sweet balsamic reduction, I think you just found your new lunch go-to.
Prep Time 1 hr 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Salad
Cuisine American


For the Balsamic Glaze

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon honey

For the Marinated Grapes

  • 1 large bunch red grapes
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey

For the Salad

  • mixed salad greens
  • 1 log goat cheese
  • 1 cup roughly chopped roasted almonds


For the Balsamic Glaze

  • In a small sauce pan over medium heat, bring the balsamic vinegar and honey to a boil, and then immediately reduce the heat to low.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened to your liking. Be careful not to burn.

For the Grapes

  • Whisk all marinade ingredients (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey) together in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Pick the grapes off of the stem and drop them into the marinade. Stir.
  • Let the grapes marinate for 1 hour, and up to a few days.
  • When you're ready to assemble the salad, preheat a 10 or 12 inch frying pan over medium for a few minutes over medium heat, until hot.
  • Scoop out half of the grapes from the marinade with a slotted spoon, and carefully place them in the hot pan.
  • Let them sear, shaking the pan occasionally to roll the grapes over, until brown spots form and/or a few grapes start to burst.
  • Pour the seared grapes into a bowl.


  • Arrange half of your salad greens on a plate or platter. Tear off pieces of goat cheese, and sprinkle them around the plate. Do the same with half of the fresh marinated grapes, half of the seared marinated grapes, and half of the almonds.
  • Drizzle a small amount of balsamic glaze over the first layer.
  • Arrange the other half of your greens on top of the first layer, then add the rest of your ingredients. Drizzle another small amount of balsamic glaze over the whole salad.
  • Enjoy!
Keyword almonds, Balsamic Vinegar, goat cheese, grapes, salad
Peaches and Burrata: The Perfect Summer Appetizer

Peaches and Burrata: The Perfect Summer Appetizer

Peaches and burrata cheese served on crunchy crostini is the perfect sweet, salty appetizer for summer entertaining.

Zucchini and Cheese Galette

Zucchini and Cheese Galette

Zucchini and Cheese Galette is the perfect way to use up some of your garden zucchini! You’ve just met your new favorite summer appetizer.

Smoked Chicken Stuffed Barbecue Potatoes

Smoked Chicken Stuffed Barbecue Potatoes

This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission for items bought through some of the links in this post, at no cost to you. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Gracious Cooking.

The stuffed barbecue baked potato is one of the great, and sometimes underrated, pleasures of the barbecue world, and smoked chicken is the perfect filling. Of course, you can absolutely use brisket or pulled pork as your filling too, but I find that chickens are much easier and cheaper to smoke at home, so that’s what I use. One day I will have my brisket revenge, and we’ll do brisket potatoes. One day…

About two years ago, I bought a used Traeger grill, and it has been an awesome addition to my cooking arsenal. One of my favorite things to smoke is a whole chicken. The flavor is so smoky and yummy, and it doesn’t take very long (relative to beef or pork) to smoke. Often, I’ll spatchcock my chickens, but not always. If I know I want to do stuffed BBQ potatoes, I’ll cook the potatoes on my Traeger, too. Smoked baked potatoes = yum.

What the Heck Does it Mean to “Spatchcock” a Chicken?

Let’s just get this out of the way, the term “spatchcock” is kind of terrible. Can we not come up with another term? How about a flattened chicken? Butterflied whole chicken? I mean really, anything would be better, but “spatchcock” is the word we use for a whole chicken with the backbone removed so it can be laid out flat.

According to Saveur,

The term “spatchcock” is rumored to be a 17th century shorthand for “dispatching the cock”, meaning to open a chicken carcass in order to cook it. This technique involves splitting the chicken by removing the backbone so you can flatten it, resulting in crispier skin and even, quicker cooking.


A spatchcocked chicken looks like this:

To spatchcock a chicken, get a rimmed baking sheet, and put your whole chicken on the baking sheet, breast side down so the backbone is facing up towards you. With heavy duty kitchen shears, cut through the chicken on each side of the backbone to remove it. A note about kitchen shears, just get them. Trust me, I broke so many pairs of regular scissors doing this before I finally got kitchen shears. Just get the shears. They won’t break, and they come apart so cleaning them in the dishwasher is easy, but I digress. Back to the smoked chicken.

Prepping Your Chicken

After you remove the backbone, flip the chicken over and lay it out flat. I kind of crack the rib cage to get it to lie flatter. If that grosses you out, feel free to skip it. In fact, if this whole process grosses you out, don’t do it! It’s not strictly necessary. Spatchcocking your chicken helps it cook a little faster, but it’s not way faster. Feel free to leave the chicken whole if you wish. Just remember to remove the giblets, if there are any.

After your chicken is prepped, You’re going to brine it. This can be done for up to 24 hours, but I often just do it for an hour, and it’s fine. To brine your chicken, dissolve 1/3 cup of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a couple of cups of water in the insert of your instant pot, or a similarly sized bowl. You want a bowl that will fit a whole chicken. After the salt and sugar is dissovled, put your chicken in and fill the bowl with water so that the chicken is covered. If you’re only leaving your chicken in the brine for an hour, you can leave it on the counter, or put it in the fridge until ready to use. Now it’s time to get your potatoes on the smoker.

Smoked Baked Potatoes

I’ve used two methods for smoking potatoes on the Traeger. I’ve smoked them at 225 degrees F for 4 hours, or at 350 degrees F for just over one hour. Honestly, they turned out the same. I don’t really see a need for the 4 hour smoke, unless you’re cooking something with a long cook time anyway and can just put the potatoes on at the same time. In the case of a smoked chicken, cook them at high heat while the chicken is brining.

Preheat your smoker to 350 degrees, clean your potatoes, poke a few holes in them with a fork, rub them in olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper on them and smoke those spuds at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until soft all the way through, then remove them from the smoker. When your potatoes are done, your chicken should be done brining. The only downside to this method, is that you’ll need to re-heat your potatoes after the chicken is done smoking. I just microwave them before I put the toppings on.

Smoking the Chicken

When your chicken is done brining, take it out and put it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the chicken dry. Then, stuff some compound butter, in this case, butter with garlic, lemon zest, salt, and creole seasoning, under the skin. You do this by sticking your finger under the skin of the breast and wiggling it around to make a little pocket. Be sure to get over by the leg so you can get butter in there, too.

Then, your chicken is ready for the smoker! Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees, Put your probe thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. This takes about 3 hours. If you get impatient, you can turn the heat up a little but after the first hour of smoking. I usually do this and still get a good smoke ring.

Let your chicken rest for half an hour on a cutting board, then carve and slice (or dice for the potatoes).

Assembling the Smoked Chicken Stuffed Potatoes

Once your potatoes are done and your chicken is rested, it’s chow time! Slice open the potato (re-heat it if necessary), fluff the inside with a fork, add some chopped chicken, barbecue sauce, cheese, sour cream, green onions, and whatever else you’d like! Then dig in and enjoy the wonder that is barbecue stuffed potatoes.

I usually make extra potatoes and make vegetarian barbecue potatoes for lunches when the chicken runs out. So good.

Those of you saying “but I don’t have a Traeger!”, fear not. You can totally use chicken and potatoes roasted in the oven. It’ll be missing some of the smoky flavor, but will still be delicious. Also, this summer I’m going to work on a recipe for a whole chicken cooked on a propane grill, so stay tuned!

When you make this recipe, will you please leave a comment and a review on this post? I can’t wait to hear from you!

Smoked Chicken Stuffed Barbecue Potatoes

Gracious Cooking
Tender smoked chicken, barbecue sauce, and baked potato fixins stuffed into a smoked baked potato, what could be better?
Prep Time 15 mins
Brining Time 1 hr
Total Time 4 hrs 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings


  • pellet grill or other smoker


For the Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Tony Chachere's, or another creole seasoning you can use any seasoning blend you'd like
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • zest of 1 small lemon

For the Potatoes

  • 4 large russet potatoes feel free to make extra for leftovers
  • 2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste


  • barbecue sauce
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • slivered green onions


To Brine the Chicken

  • Add the sugar and salt, along with a few cups of water to a bowl that will hold at least a gallon. I use the insert of my Instant Pot. Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
  • Add your whole chicken, either spatchcocked or whole, to the pot.
  • Let brine for at least one hour in the refrigerator.

For the Potatoes

  • Preheat pellet grill or oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wash the russet potatoes.
  • On a rimmed baking sheet, spread out the potatoes and poke them a few times with a fork. This lets steam escape during cooking.
  • Slather potatoes with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Cook either on the smoker or in the oven for about an hour, or until soft all the way through. Set aside.

To Smoke the Chicken

  • Preheat smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove chicken from the brine, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Dry the chicken with paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, mix the butter, salt, pepper, Creole seasoning, garlic, and lemon zest until thoroughly combined.
  • Slide your finger under the skin of the chicken at the back of the breasts to form a pocket under the skin. You may have to break through a membrane to do this, it's ok.
  • Stuff the compound butter in the pocket, working it as far under the skin as you can.
  • Place on the smoker and cook until an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is reached at the thickest part of the breast. This usually takes between 2 and 3 hours.
  • Rest on a cutting board for 30 minutes.


  • Carve and chop your chicken.
  • Slice a potato, re-heating if necessary, and add chicken and all of the garnishes you'd like.
  • Dig in!


Cooking time assumes a 4 pound chicken.
Keyword Baked Potato, Barbecue, Chicken, Smoker

Lemon Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Lemon Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

These Lemon Cream Cheese Sugar cookies are the perfect cookie. Soft, sweet, and beautifully lemony, they’re sure to be your new favorite cookie.

How to Make Magic Color-Changing Lemonade

How to Make Magic Color-Changing Lemonade

Homemade lemonade is so easy to make, and with the addition of butterfly pea flower powder, you can make it magic!

How to Make Swig Sugar Cookies, But Better

How to Make Swig Sugar Cookies, But Better

This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission for items bought through some of the links in this post, at no cost to you. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Gracious Cooking.

I don’t know if this is popular in the rest of the US, but here in Utah we have drive-thru soda shops that sell mixed sodas. You can get different fruit purees, flavorings, etc. My favorite is Coke Zero with raspberry puree. The first of these soda places that I was aware of is called Swig, and they sell a dense sugar cookie with pink frosting on top. They usually serve them a little chilled, and they are delicious, especially alongside a Coke Zero with raspberry puree.

I have two complaints against the Swig sugar cookie.

  • They are around $2.50 a piece. Now, I fully support bakers getting paid for their work. Baked goods are usually labor intensive. It’s just hard to pay $2.50 for a cookie when my drink costs less than that. Do I do it sometimes though? Yes.
  • The Swig cookie is pretty intense. It’s very dense, very big, and very sweet. They sell a smaller version, but it costs almost as much as the regular size.

I set out to make a smaller, lighter, tastier soda shop style sugar cookie, and I feel that I succeeded. Also, you can make the whole batch for around $4.00. That’s $.09 per cookie!

The Process

This dough comes from Mel’s Kitchen Café. The dough really is perfect. It’s soft and pillowy, and bakes up beautifully. I adapted her cookies to be half the size, and have a less sweet icing. Here’s how you make them:

  • Cream the butter, oil, sugars and vanilla until fluffy and lightened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, sour cream, salt, baking powder and cream of tartar and mix.
  • Add the flour and mix until just combined.
  • To shape the cookies, you scoop 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of dough about an inch and a half apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. The easiest and fastest way to do this is with a medium cookie scoop. I dragged my feet about getting a cookie scoop, and now I’m obsessed with it. Just get one. You’ll love it.
  • Next, take a flat-bottomed glass, spray the bottom with cooking spray, and dip it in sugar.
  • Press each cookie so that it’s between 1/4 and 1/2 inches thick, like so:
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes. Check them at 8. You want them to be just set, but not browned. You don’t want to overcook these cookies.
  • Cool on a wire cooling rack.

The Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

For the frosting, I wanted a kind of hybrid of buttercream and cream cheese frosting. To me, American buttercream is often way too sweet, but cream cheese frosting can be kind of heavy. To get the best of both worlds, I made a cream cheese frosting with more butter than you would typically see. That, along with heavy whipping cream and whipping the frosting for 5 whole minutes, achieves a lighter cream cheese frosting that is way less sweet than buttercream. It’s still sweet though, don’t you worry.


You can decorate these with all sorts of things! Fruit is very yummy on top. I used fresh strawberries from our garden, and they did not disappoint. My daughter wanted to add sprinkles to some, so we did that too. Both were very fun. You could also dye the frosting pink for that true Swig look.

Whatever you decide, send me a picture when you make them! Tag me @athometestcook.

I hope you love these cookies as much as we do. They would be awesome to take to a baby shower, family dinner, or party.

Swig Sugar Cookies, But Better

Gracious Cooking
These soft, sweet but not too sweet sugar cookies are perfect for any holiday or event.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 8 mins
Total Time 38 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 38 cookies


For the Cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened 1/2 cup is 1 stick.
  • 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil any neutral flavored oil will work.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour fluff the flour before scooping it to prevent accidently adding too much flour.
  • 3 or 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar for pressing the cookies

For the Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar


For the Cookies

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  • In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter, oil, vanilla, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar together and beat until very creamy, about 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt over the mixture, and beat until well combined.
  • Add the eggs and sour cream, and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl when needed.
  • Add the flour and mix on low speed until combined (no floury pockets), but do not overmix. This only takes about 10 seconds in my mixer. Also, if your mixer bowl does not have a lid, cover it with a towel so you don't spray flour everywhere.
  • On your lined baking sheet, scoop out cookies that are 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons' worth of dough. I use a #40 (medium) cookie scoop to do this. I can fit 16 cookies per sheet. Leave about an inch or an inch and a half between cookies.
  • Spray the bottom of a flat glass with cooking spray. Dip the bottom of the glass in granulated sugar, and lightly press each cookie until it is between 1/4 and 1/2 inches thick. Dip the glass in sugar after each cookie to prevent sticking.
  • Bake the cookies in a 350 degree oven for 7-9 minutes, until set but not browned. 8 minutes was perfect in my oven. If overcooked, these will be crumbly and not soft.
  • Remove cookies to a wire cooling rack, and let cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I use the cake paddles on my Bosch), add the butter and cream cheese. Beat until combined and smooth.
  • Add the heavy cream, and beat until smooth again.
  • Add the vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar. Beat until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the frosting looks too thick, you can add a little more cream.
  • Frost your cookies and enjoy!


Top these cookies with fruit or sprinkles for a festive touch. Serve immediately if using fruit.
Store covered. I store mine in a cake saver. These can stay at room temperature for about a day, but after that should go in the fridge. Try them cold! They’re tasty. Of course you can bring them back to room temperature before eating, too.
These should freeze great. I haven’t personally tried it, but I would press the cookies, freeze them on a tray, and them put them in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. When ready to bake, take them out of the freezer and bake in a 325 degree oven for 10 ish minutes. Check them at 8.
Keyword Baked, Cookies, Cream Cheese, Frosting, Sugar
Greek Spinach Salad with Simple Greek Vinaigrette

Greek Spinach Salad with Simple Greek Vinaigrette

This Greek Salad with Greek Dressing is fresh and bight. Plus, it uses leftover chicken! Win!

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