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Fresh Mozzarella, Fried Tomato and Pickled Onion Panzanella

If you think of small towns and corn when you hear about the state of Iowa, you are only partially correct. But here in Des Moines it is filled with young professionals and unique businesses, home to Meredith publishing {Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, etc} and filled to the brim with foodies.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Barilla Interactive Lunch held at Meredith headquarters during Winefest Des Moines. Winefest takes place over a series of days and is filled with events, wine flights and delicious meals.

Chef Edmondo Sarti ran the lunch and since it was interactive, each table cooked their own meals.

My Mom, who attended the event with me made the Mezzi Rigatoni Puttanesca with Spicy Tomato Sauce, Capers and Mixed Olives.

Then came this delicious Branzino with Tomato Broth, Fresh Herbs, Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus.

After lunch we headed out to the beautiful Better Homes and Gardens test garden for Vanilla Panna Cotta with Seasonal Mixed Berries.

These were all very easy and delicious dishes, but my favorite was the Heirloom Tomato Panzanella with Cucumbers and Pickled Onions we had before the main dishes. This is an easy side dish, perfect for entertaining. I wanted to give a little twist to the original by adding a few crunchy fried tomatoes and delicious fresh mozzarella.

Fried Tomato Panzanella with Cucumbers, Pickled Onions and Fresh Mozzarella
adapted from Barilla


  • 1 cup day old bread, diced in 1/2 cubes {a baguette or other crusty bread}
  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup tomatoes {I used beautiful red, yellow and green tomatoes sliced in half}
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onions
  • 8 oz container of Bocconcini (or fresh mozzarella, diced)
  • 1/2 cup mini English cucumber, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup aged red vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar
  • Fried Tomato Coating: 1 whisked egg, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal plus 1/2 cup oil for frying.
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Place bread cubes in bowl and season with a drizzle of olive oil and toast until brown.
  2. In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least a 1/2 hour. {Leave out 1/2 cup of the tomatoes for frying. You can also leave out the bread if you prefer it more crunchy and add right before serving}
  3. Dredge your remaining tomatoes in egg then the flour mixture. Fry until golden brown. Set aside.
  4. Before serving, give the panzanella a good toss to distribute all of the dressing. Top with the fried tomatoes and fresh basil!

Nutella and Streusel Swirled Banana Bread

I love baking banana bread because it’s super easy. I even made it as a newly married college student in our cramped galley kitchen. Let me tell you, I was a eh…. a challenged cook. I remember breaking out the slow cooker all excited to make our first meal of plain chicken and rice. BUT, I could make a mean banana bread and always would have extra loaves in the fridge and freezer. I think that’s how we made it through college- frozen pizzas and banana bread.

I wanted to add a little extra goodness to my favorite banana bread recipe and what better way then to add Nutella! I also changed up the streusel part of the bread, which ended up being divine. The streusel layer will melt into the banana bread mixture creating perfect gooey swirls.

Nutella and Streusel Swirled Banana Bread


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup smashed ripe bananas, about 3
  • about 7 oz. Nutella


    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
    • 2 Tbsp. oil
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease (2) 9×4 loaf pans.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, using a fork or your hands, mix all of the streusel ingredients until you have a crumbly mixture.
  3. In order, cream banana bread ingredients in a mixing bowl until combined.
  4. In your greased pans, spoon a layer of banana bread in the bottom, followed by a drizzle of Nutella (you might need to put it in the microwave for a few seconds) and a generous portion of the streusel.
  5. Use a butter knife to swirl the three layers in the pan.
  6. Repeat each layer, leaving a layer of banana bread at the top. Top with a bit of remaining streusel.
  7. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Superbowl Cheesy Spinach & Bacon Dip

Just in time for the Superbowl I present to you the Cheesy Spinach and Bacon Dip. 

Even non-spinach lovers will enjoy it. In other words, devour it.

Are you hosting a Superbowl Party this year? Add this dip to your menu!


1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
1 lb. (16 oz.) VELVEETA®, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) cream cheese, cubed
1 can (10 oz.) RO*TEL® Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained
8 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled

MICROWAVE ingredients in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 5 minutes or until VELVEETA® is completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring after 3 minutes.


70 calories, 5g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 15mg cholesterol, 300mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate, 0g dietary fiber, 2g sugars, 3g protein, 25%DV vitamin A, 0%DV vitamin C, 15%DV calcium, 0%DV iron.

VELVEETA® and RO*TEL® are hosting an amazing sweepstakes to encourage simple, easy weeknight family meals and entertainment ideas. Winners will be picked each week, and the more points you collect the more chances you have of winning! Grand prize winner will receive $15,000! 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of VELVEETA/RO*TEL. The opinions and text are all mine.