Baked BBQ Chicken and Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

I can eat barbecue any time of year no matter what the weather is like outside. If it’s a hot summer day, we’ll often have the grill fired up cooking up something for dinner. If it’s a cold winter’s day and there’s a blizzard, we’ll often have the grill fired up ….well maybe not every blizzard, but you get the drift.

Today I decided to give Kevin a break on grilling, and I baked some barbecue chicken thighs. Yes, I know, it doesn’t have that smoky, delicious taste that you get from slow cooking BBQ over charcoal, but it’s still my barbecue sauce, and that’s half the game anyway. And it made me think of summer and how it can’t get here soon enough.

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I’ve been making this barbecue sauce ever since Kevin and I have been married. I’ve posted a recipe below, but to be honest, I haven’t followed it in years. Yes, it has the basic ingredients and approximate amounts (because one time I actually did measure everything as I went), but I’ve always made it “to taste.” Melt a pat of butter, add in some ketchup, mustard, garlic powder and other stuff – stir and taste. And taste and stir until I get just the right combination. Then I let it simmer to reduce just a bit, usually timing it to when Kevin needs it to slather on the chicken or ribs or whatever else he’s decided to barbecue for dinner. Feel free to adjust any of the ingredients to suit your family’s taste. If you like it spicier, add in more hot pepper sauce or be a bit more adventurous withe horseradish. Or kick up the amount of brown sugar and molasses for a sweeter taste. However you make it, it’s barbecue, and dinnertime tastes a whole lot better because of it.

I’ve named the recipe after my husband’s nickname simply because he first made it for me when we were dating. However, I make the BBQ sauce now (after tweaking his recipe).


baked bbq chicken 2


baked bbq chicken plated 2


Woodrow’s Barbecue Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup ketchup

1/8 to 1/4 cup prepared mustard

2 dashes Lawry’s seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 to 4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

2 to 3 dashes hot pepper sauce


Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add remaining ingredients, stirring well to dissolve brown sugar. Cook over low heat until hot and thick-do not boil. Adjust spices to taste.  Remove from the heat and use immediately, or store in the refrigerator.

Yield:  Approximately 1 cup


Baking Instructions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place skinless, boneless chicken thighs in the pan. Cover liberally with barbecue sauce. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.



I also made a spinach salad to go along side the BBQ chicken – nothing fancy, but I wanted to get some kind of greens on the table. This goes together fast, and you can use your favorite dressing with it. Tonight I decided to make a honey balsamic vinaigrette, which is tasty with just a hint of spicy kick to it. Word of caution about this dressing: do not substitute olive oil that has been infused with garlic for the garlic cloves and olive oil. If you think you can kill two birds with one stone by doing this, you’re more likely to run off any vampires within a 5-mile radius. I did this boo-boo once (and only once). My family and I love garlic, but that was garlic overload 101. Just stick to the 2 cloves of garlic and the EVOO, and you’ll be just fine.

spinach salad


Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the Salad:

1 package fresh spinach

4 ounces slivered almonds

4 ounces dried cranberries

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

honey balsamic vinaigrette

For the Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon white sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


For the salad, wash and dry the spinach leaves. Place all ingredients in a large bowl, and toss to combine.

For the salad dressing, add all the vinaigrette ingredients except for the olive oil to a blender. Puree on high until blended, and then slowly add the olive oil. Continue blending for about 2 minutes, or until thick. Use right away, or chill until ready to serve. You can drizzle this over the entire salad, or you can pass the Mason jar at the table and let everyone add their own amount of dressing.

spinach salad with vinaigrette 2

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Asian Chicken Slaw

I love salads, and I’ll make them year-round. Of course, summertime is when I make the most because I can walk out back to the garden and pick fresh lettuce, spinach and other spring veggies to get my salad fix. But today is February 24, and it’s a cold and windy day here in Iowa. No fresh veggies outside, but my salad craving was in high gear. I turned to Pinterest (as usual) to find something that sounded delicious yet easy to throw together that would both take care of my desire for salad and serve as a main dish for dinner.

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I stumbled across an Asian chicken salad on Reluctant Entertainer. It called for packaged coleslaw mix, cranberries and rotisserie chicken, ingredients I could easily find in my small-town grocery store. Using a premade slaw mix is a super time saver, but you could easily make your own by shredded some green and purple cabbage and adding in some shredded carrots. I made a few other modifications to the recipe (omitted the cilantro because some family members aren’t big fans). It’s a salad – not rocket science – and you can change ingredients however you wish to suit your family’s tastes.

Asian chicken slaw


Asian Chicken Slaw

2 small bags of coleslaw mix (about 12 cups)
4 cups rotisserie chicken, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups toasted sliced almonds
8 ounces dried cranberries
3/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups chopped cilantro
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


Layer the cabbage in a large bowl with chicken, almonds, cranberries, red onion, sesame seeds, and fresh cilantro.

Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, honey, ginger and sesame oil in a blender. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Process until smooth.

Lightly pour the dressing over the salad mixture and toss; serve.

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Taco Salad For A Crowd

When you have kids in sports, you frequently have potluck dinners, whether before a cross country meet, football game or after the season for an awards banquet. One of my go-to recipes for these events is taco salad, first because the kids usually eat all of it (and I don’t have to worry about leftovers) and second because you can make a large recipe. I usually end up making this in my lasagna pan so I’ve got room to mix everything together. I got this recipe when I was in 4-H from one of our group leaders.

If you aren’t making a dish for an entire team and don’t want to have taco salad for days on end, this recipe can easily be halved.


Taco Salad For A Crowd

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (you can use your favorite ground meat: turkey, venison, beef, pork or even chicken)
1 package taco seasoning (optional)
3 packages ready-to-eat salad greens
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 a medium red onion, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
16 ounces sliced black olives
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag original flavor Doritos, crushed
1 bottle Catalina salad dressing
Sour cream (optional)

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef until no longer pink; drain excess fat. Add taco seasoning to the browned meat (if using), mixing well until combined.

While the meat is browning, in a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients except the sour cream and Catalina dressing. Add the browned ground beef. Pour the Catalina salad dressing over the ingredients, and mix well until the salad dressing evenly coats everything. Serve with sour cream if desired.

Italian Pasta Salad and Watermelon Peach Salsa

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful fall day here in Iowa. The sky was a gorgeous blue, the humdity was low (finally!), and the bugs were nowhere in sight. Kevin wanted to grill some burgers, so I thought I’d whip up a couple side dishes to go along with.

The boys love my Italian Pasta Salad and tell me I need to make it more often. It’s an easy peasy recipe that’s great to take to potlucks and family reunions. I eyeballed the amount of each ingredient, so you can add more or less to your family’s taste.

I also decided to make a Watermelon Peach Salsa. We have four peach trees, the kind that has the little white peaches, and they are huge this year. I’ve already canned two lugs of peaches, so this was a great way to use up a few more. The recipe called for cilantro, but my family’s not a huge fan, so I omitted it.


Italian Pasta Salad

1 package rotini pasta noodles, cooked per package directions and cooled
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 a medium red onion, diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1/2 a green bell pepper, diced
1 3.8 ounce can sliced black olives
Half a package of turkey pepperoni (or regular if you prefer), sliced into strips
1 bottle zesty Italian dressing

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Set aside until cool.

In a large bowl, combine the diced onion, diced peppers, black olives and sliced pepperoni. Add the cooled pasta. Pour the Italian dressing over the pasta, and mix until well combined. Refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors meld together.



Watermelon Peach Salsa

2 cups diced watermelon
2 cups diced fresh peaches
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 a green bell pepper, diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and mix well. Refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors marinade together.

Roasted Beet and Kale Salad…and Late Night Single-Serve Chocolate Cake

We picked the first few beets today, and aside from the usual canned beets and pickled beets that I plan to make, I wanted to try roasting a few of the beets. I’ve never tried them roasted and had been looking forward to it if we had extra…and we do. 🙂

Adding to the fun of cooking, this past week we had a wind/electrical storm that took out the electronic motherboard on my kitchen stove… as we await the arrival of a replacement board, we are minus a stove. The burners still work (gas stove), but no oven. So…roasting these beets would mean using my microwave.

Four years ago when we remodeled our kitchen, I bought a Sharp Carousel Convention microwave. The intent of this purchase was that I would use the microwave to bake, roast, etc., during the summer so as not to heat up the kitchen when it was so hot. Of course, convention would take hold, and I’d use the oven and heat up the house. But with no oven available, it was time to test out this convection microwave.

I trimmed the beets and scrubbed them as usual. Then I found a glass pie pan and placed the beets in it along with about 2 Tablespoons of water. I microwaved the beets at 350 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes until they tested soft when pierced with a knife. I let them them cool until I was able to peel them and proceeded with the roasted beet and kale salad recipe.



Roasted Beet and Kale Salad

6 medium-sized beets, trimmed and roasted
2 cups kale, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon honey mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine roasted beets and kale in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine apple cider vinegar, honey mustard, honey, and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust flavors if needed.

Pour dressing over beets and kale and stir to coat vegetables completely. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let flavors meld together.

After dinner, the boys decided to go fishing, and Kevin and I sat down to watch a movie. As is usually the case, my sweet tooth went into overdrive. I searched through my Pinterest recipes and came across a single-serve microwavable chocolate cake recipe. I’ve never baked a cake in a microwave before, but as the oven was out of commission, I decided to give it a whirl. Wouldn’t you know….as soon as I’d pulled out my cake from the microwave, the boys returned home from fishing! And I had 2 more cakes to make  lol…..but they were definitely worth it. I found the recipe on


One-Minute Chocolate Cake

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stevia packet (or 1 tablespoon more sugar)
2 to 3 teaspoons coconut oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla

Combine dry ingredients and mix very, very well. Add liquid; stir. Transfer to a little disk, ramekin, or coffee mug. Microwave 35-40 seconds (center will be soft like a lava cake center). If you don’t want to eat your cake straight from the cup, be sure to spray your dish first (and then cool before trying to remove it).  Edit:  If you want a more cake-like texture, microwave each cake for 1 minute.