Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Grits

Grits, butter, garlic, and shrimp all in one dish - be still my heart. This is an easy 20 minute meal from the December Food Network Magazine.

I liked it a lot - Jason thought it was too peppery, but that would be my fault, not the recipe. It has a hint of lemon though you could taste and add more if you liked (or just squeeze the lemon over top).

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Grits
3/4 cup instant grits
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact (I just used a pound)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus wedges for serving
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat, covered. Uncover and slowly whisk in the grits, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and 1 tablespoon butter. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic and cayenne, if using, and cook, tossing, until the shrimp are pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons water, the lemon juice and parsley; stir to coat the shrimp with the sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Divide the grits among shallow bowls and top with the shrimp and sauce. Serve with lemon wedges.

Orecchiette with Kale, Bacon, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Tonight's dinner came from the December Cooking Light - it's a 20 minute meal and really, honestly, took about 20 minutes. It's also budget friendly since it's pasta based, has very little meat, and uses stuff you typically already have on hand.

I forgot to drizzle the lemon juice over the top at the end but we both thought it was tasty without it. It was simple but flavorful. The cayenne gives a hint of spice that sneaks up on you - it would be fine to skip that if you don't like spice.

If you can find black kale, CL says this would be a good dish to use it in. I had to use green. Also, you can try another shape of pasta - like penne - if you want.

Orecchiette with Kale, Bacon, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
8 ounces uncooked orecchiette pasta
5 cups bagged prewashed kale (couldn't find - just bought a bunch and chopped it myself)
2 slices center-cut bacon (I used 4. Who can use just 2 slices?)
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (I just sprinkled grated)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cook pasta in boiling water 8 minutes or until almost tender. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

 While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; crumble and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add sun-dried tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add pasta mixture, reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid, black pepper, and salt to pan; toss to combine. Top pasta mixture evenly with bacon and cheese; drizzle evenly with lemon juice.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dionna's Chili

Last February, when I had surgery, our friend Dionna brought over food for us - including this chili. I've made chili before but evidently don't make "real" chili because I throw in weird things... according to Jason. This, however, was real chili and he loved it. I got a bite or two of it before he claimed it as his own. I emailed Dionna for the recipe and was surprised at how easy it was!

Dionna's Chili
1 lb. ground beef (I used ground buffalo)
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 pkg mild chili seasoning
2-3 heaping teaspoons of brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 can dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can pinto beans (drained and rinsed)

Brown and drain the meat.

While browning the meat, combine all other ingredients in pot and stir together well. Simmer over low-medium heat. Add browned meat, turn up heat to medium heat for about 10 minutes. Then, put on low and let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring ocassionally.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Butternut Squash Gratin with Blue Cheese and Sage & Asiago-Olive Rolls

Both of these recipes were REALLY good and will definitely have to be on a holiday menu again. I made them to go with the turkey and stuffing in the previous post.

The butternut squash recipe is from Cooking Light and was delicious. However, cutting up and peeling butternut squash is no easy task and I would pay whatever it costs to buy pre-chopped squash at the store if they were to ever offer it.

The rolls are from Southern Living and may be my favorite roll - even above the rosemary rolls from Pioneer Woman (shocking, I know!). I couldn't find olive tapenade so I just made my own - I'll list that recipe, too.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Blue Cheese and Sage
5 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 (1 1/2-ounce) slice white bread (I used panko but would use breadcrumbs next time for less crunch)
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Steam butternut squash, covered, 10 minutes or until tender.

Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 12 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup. Transfer to a small bowl; add 2 teaspoons oil, and toss with a fork to combine.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion to pan; saute 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add butternut squash, chopped sage, salt, and black pepper to bowl, and toss gently to combine. Spoon squash mixture into an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle crumbled blue cheese evenly over squash mixture, and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and crumbs are golden brown.

Asiago-Olive Rolls
1 can refrigerated classic pizza dough crust
1/4 cup refrigerated olive tapenade (or recipe below)
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese (I used shredded)
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450. Unroll crust. Spread tapenade over dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Sprinkle with cheese and rosemary. Gently roll the dough, starting at one of the long sides. Cut into 10 (1 and 1/4 inch thick) slices. Place slices in a lightly greased 9 inch cake pan (I used my cast iron skillet). Brush top with melted butter. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden.

Olive tapenade
20 pitted olives
1 Tbsp rinsed, drained capers
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
Fresh cracked black pepper

Throw it all in a mini chopped and pulse until well combined.

Turkey with Maple-Cranberry Glaze

Though we weren't home for Thanksgiving this year, I couldn't pass up the super cheap turkeys. I decided to roast the turkey over the weekend and invited my mom to come eat with us.

Last year, I used Alton Brown's brining method and it was very good. This year, my schedule was too hectic to mess with brining so I used a Paula Deen recipe I found online and hoped for the best. It was VERY flavorful and moist - we couldn't tell much difference between this year's turkey and last year's brined turkey honestly.

I stuffed my turkey with sliced oranges and sage, thyme, and rosemary.

Roasted Turkey with Maple Cranberry Glaze
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic cloves
1 (15-pound) turkey

3 tablespoons butter
1 (12-ounce bag) cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup cranberry juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small mixing bowl combine the butter, House Seasoning, parsley, shallots, and garlic. Thoroughly rinse and dry the turkey. Tuck the wings underneath the body and place the turkey in a roasting pan. Rub the butter mixture all over the turkey.

Roast for 18 minutes per pound. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh and registers 165 degrees F. and the juices run clear. Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Let simmer until the cranberries burst, about 8 to 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve and let cool. Reserve for turkey.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Salisbury Steak with Mushrooms

Both Food Network Magazine and Cooking Light had recipes for salisbury steak this month so I took that as a sign. Plus, it's good ol' comfort food that is perfect for chilly temps! I went with the Food Network version because it used mushrooms. And I love mushrooms.

I've made several different versions of salisbury steak and really, they are all just about the same but I love the addition of mushrooms in this one and the absence of any kind of beef broth. It was very easy, fast, and used things you typically already have on hand. We both thought it tasted great.

I served it over buttered egg noodles.

Salisbury Steak with Mushrooms 
1 pound ground beef
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
7 saltine crackers, finely crunched (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon minced sage (I used some rubbed sage I had)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (I forgot we were out so I used soy sauce in a pinch - worked great)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Gently mix the beef, egg, onion, cracker crumbs, sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl using your hands. Divide it into 4 equal portions and shape into oval patties, about 1/2 inch thick.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium high heat. Brown the patties, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate.

Add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet and cook the mushrooms until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste, scraping up any browned bits. Sprinkle in the flour and stir, then stir in 2.5 cups of hot water and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, swirling to combine.

Return the patties and any juices from the plate to the skillet. Simmer until the sauce thickens and the patties are cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spinach and Smoked Gouda Stuffed Chicken

This is one of my favorite chicken recipes and I seem to rarely make it - I'm always trying something else, I guess! It's a basic stuffed chicken recipe but it's so rich and delicious that it's perfect for guests (I've made it for dinner guests before). You obviously don't have to stuff it as full as I did; I made too much stuffing to go in just two pieces of chicken and I wasn't about to waste it!

The cheese could change, I suppose, but I just love the rich smoky flavor of smoked gouda. And did I mention that smoked gouda is my favorite cheese ever?

At one time, I had an actual recipe for this but now I just eyeball it. I'm sorry my measurements are not exact - just make it up! This time, I bought thick slices of gouda at the deli counter, so I could buy just enough, and cut it into small pieces instead of shredding. You can see that in the picture (along with where the pat of butter was!).

Spinach and Smoked Gouda Stuffed Chicken
1 box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of liquid
1 box of cream cheese, softened
Shredded smoked gouda - about half a pound for 4 large chicken breasts is plenty
4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
Ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the cream cheese, spinach and smoked gouda in a small bowl. Sprinkle some nutmeg, salt, and pepper into the mixture. Slice the chicken breasts open to make a deep pocket. Stuff each breast with the cream cheese mixture and place in a greased baking dish. Put a pat of butter on top of each piece of chicken and salt and pepper over top. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Frittata Roma

This recipe was really good. I'm a fan of quiche but Jason really hates crust (how is that even possible?) and quiche takes a long time to cook. A frittata has the same feel of a quiche but without the crust and cooks in a fraction of the time.

I got this recipe from my friend, Kathy. You can change up the ingredients and use things you already have on hand. I used my large cast iron skillet for it. Perfect all in one pan dish!

(I sprinkled the top with grated parmesan right before taking the picture!)

Frittata Roma
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced (I used roasted red peppers instead)
1 red onion, sliced
8 ounces fully-cooked Italian sausage, sliced into coins
1 14-ounce can small artichoke hearts, quartered ( I roughly chopped them prior)
1 cup (4 ounces) Provolone Cheese, shredded (I used mozzarella, I had some on hand)
6 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) Parmesan Cheese, shredded (I used grated)

Preheat broiler. In 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat butter. Add sundried tomatoes, peppers and onions; cook 3 minutes until onion is tender. Remove from heat, stir in sausage, artichokes and Provolone.

In medium bowl, beat eggs with basil, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over pepper and onion mixture. Gently toss together. Return skillet to stove over medium-low heat; cook until frittata edges are set, 3 to 5 minutes. Place frittata under preheated broiler, 5 inches from heat for 3 minutes, or until golden and puffed. Remove from broiler, sprinkle with Parmesan, and let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Honey Walnut Shrimp

I found this recipe on AllRecipes while looking for new ways to use shrimp. It had great reviews and, since it's my favorite faux chinese dish at Panda Express, I wanted to give it a try.

I hit 4 different stores in my hunt for the mochiko without success so I went with cornstarch, which several reviews substituted with. I plan to hit an Asian food market for it since I'd like to try it the "right" way.

The dish was fairly easy and quick (though a little messy...). I thought the shrimp might adhere to the batter better if they were patted dry, which is what I did with the first batch, but instead it made it difficult to dip - the batter is a gluey texture. So, I tried it "wet" and it worked perfect and went a lot faster!

I was impressed with this recipe. I really think it tastes just like something you'd order at a chinese restaurant (or Panda Express!). We'll definitely have to have it on a fairly regular basis (as regular as I make any dishes) even if Jason picks out all the candied walnuts. More for me!

Honey Walnut Shrimp
1 cup water
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
4 egg whites
2/3 cup mochiko (glutinous rice flour) - I used cornstarch instead
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon canned sweetened condensed milk
1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Stir together the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the walnuts. Boil for 2 minutes, then drain and place walnuts on a cookie sheet to dry.

Whip egg whites in a medium bowl until foamy. Stir in the mochiko until it has a pasty consistency. Heat the oil in a heavy deep skillet over medium-high heat. Dip shrimp into the mochiko batter, and then fry in the hot oil until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

In a medium serving bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, honey and sweetened condensed milk. Add shrimp and toss to coat with the sauce. Sprinkle the candied walnuts on top and serve.

Original recipe:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Skillet Meatballs and Noodles in Creamy Herb Sauce

Every once in awhile, I check out a magazine at the library called Cook's Country. This is the first time I have made a recipe from it and it was a good one. Today it's cold and wet outside so this was perfect! It was quick, about 30 minutes to prepare, and flavorful. Plus, everything was made in one skillet which means less dishes!

Skillet Meatballs and Noodles in Creamy Herb Sauce
1 pound ground beef (85% or so)
1 package garlic and herb Boursin cheese
Salt and pepper
EVOO or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
8 ounces egg noodles
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives

Combine beef, 5 tablespoons Boursin cheese, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl and knead gently until combined. Form mixture into 1 inch meatballs. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook meatballs until well browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer meatballs to plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan.

Cook onion in reserved fat until browned, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in flour and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Add broth, noodles, and wine and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to med-low, and cook, stirring often, until pasta begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add meatballs and simmer, covered, until meatballs are cooked through and noodles are al dente, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in remaining Boursin cheese and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

Chipotle-Barbeque Chicken

This is another recipe from Rachael Ray magazine. It was easy and hands off, since you can throw it in the oven and walk away for awhile. The chicken was flavorful and very juicy. It's another $10 spot meal and was actually very cheap since HEB had bone-in chicken on sale ridiculously cheap a couple of weeks ago and I had everything else on hand. By the way, I have always purchased the tiny can of chipotle peppers in a adobo sauce and typically only use 1 or 2 of the peppers each time. So, I started to take the teensy plasticware containers (the ones that always come in box sets and you never use) and put 2 peppers and some sauce in each and freeze. That way, I rarely have to purchase cans! I just yanked one out of the freezer to thaw the night before I made this recipe.

Chipotle-Barbeque Chicken
3 tablespoons butter
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
3/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
8 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds) <-I used chicken breasts, thighs gross me out

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes.

Add the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce to the skillet. Add the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, worcestershire and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Using tongs, coat the chicken in the sauce and place skin side up on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I came across this recipe for salted caramel cupcakes and knew I had to make them. I typically don't bake, so this had to be cheater style. It was super easy with minimal measuring. They came out very moist, rich, and sweet. When I make the next batch, I'm going to up the salt a bit though some at work thought it was perfect the way it was. The original recipe comes from

By the way, "salted caramel" is a little misleading; it's very caramely, and the sea salt just emphasizes the caramel taste. It's not at all salty if that was scaring you.

Salted Caramel Cupcake
One box chocolate cake mix and ingredients to make it (I used Devils Food)
Sea salt
3-5 Skor or Heath bars
1 jar caramel ice cream topping (or make your own, if you're that kind of person)
Your favorite vanilla icing (homemade or storebought - I used cream cheese)
Squeeze bottle

Bake the cupcakes according to the package directions. When the cupcakes are almost done, pour the jar of caramel into a glass measuring bowl (since it has a ridge that makes it easy to pour from) and add 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt for every 8 ounces of caramel. Warm in the microwave for 1 minute then stir. Pour the caramel/salt mixture into the squeeze bottle.

As soon as the cupcakes finish, inject caramel into the center of each. Move them to a cooling rack.

While they are cooling, smash the candy bars into tiny pieces. I enjoyed putting them in a ziplock and beating them with a rolling pin.

Once cooled, top them with frosting and sprinkle the candy bar pieces over top. Drizzle leftover caramel over top of each of them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sweet Sausage Rolls (aka Sinful Bites of Joy)

These are very very bad for you but oh so delicious. A week or so ago, I was looking for things to make for the church-wide Children's Sabbath breakfast and came across these nuggets of goodness. Made a few pans, tried one (okay, more than one), and carted them to church. They were gone before anything else.

They are ridiculously easy. The recipe I found called them Sweet Sausage Rolls but they should be renamed Sinful Bites of Joy. You'll know why when you try them. The dough soaks up the sugar/butter mixture and the chopped pecans stick to the bottom. It's salty. It's sweet. It's crunchy. Try them!

Sinful Bites of Joy
1 tube crescent rolls
24 little smokies
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. brown sugar

Unroll crescent dough and separate into triangles; cut each lengthwise into three triangles. Place a smokie on the long end and roll up tightly; set aside.

Combine the melted butter and other ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour it into the bottom of a baking dish (I used a 9x13 glass dish). Arrange smokie rolls, seam side down, in butter mixture. Bake uncovered, at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 2 dozen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Grilled Naan Bread "Pizza" with Mango Chutney, Prosciutto and Ricotta

This is another Aarti recipe - I really love Indian flavors, and have invested in LOTS of Indian spices, and since Aarti usually makes traditional food with an Indian twist, it doesn't feel like we're eating Indian food every night. Case in point, this yummy pizza. The recipe below is with my changes.

With the creation of my incredibly awesome new HEB, I once again have regular access to great ethnic foods. Yes, I could have driven to Central Market but it just never happens. Plus that place is a madhouse! I spotted the naan bread and the prosciutto on my first visit to HEB. Priorities, you know... Kroger doesn't carry either item. Though they might now that HEB is in town. My local Kroger has renovated completely and added a sushi bar to compete. Sorry, Kroger, not gonna work on me.

This was super easy - start to finish, 20 minutes? HEB is lacking one thing - paneer cheese. So instead I went with ricotta, and it was delicious. Jason has never had paneer so I need to find some soon and let him try it. In the meantime, this pizza could use a variety of cheeses on it (feta would be good, too, but Jason hates it). You could also try a variety of toppings. We both really liked it. Very flavorful and a nice change from a strictly tomato based pizza.

Grilled Naan Bread "Pizza"
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons sweet mango chutney
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (for a kick!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
A glug extra-virgin olive oil
4 pieces of naan bread 
4 slices prosciutto, diced

Preheat your grill.

In a small saucepan, combine the tomato paste, mango chutney, minced garlic, and water over medium heat, until well combined. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes and then remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the mozzarella, ricotta, cayenne, cilantro, ground cumin and extra-virgin olive oil. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Divide the tomato-mango chutney sauce evenly among the naans, spreading to coat the top. Evenly divide the cheese mixture among the naans and then add the chopped prosciutto. Throw it on the grill for 3-4 minutes until the crust is crispy around the edges.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Syrup (for Pumpkin Spice Latte)

I did not take a picture of the syrup because, honestly, I had no decent container to put it in. I can point you to the blog that I found the recipe on - she has a great photo of it:

In case you didn't know, I really love coffee. A lot. And I really love Starbucks. A lot. I count down the days until the pumpkin spice latte hits the stores and try to justify the $5 pricetag as many times as I can until it goes away for the year. This syrup may be the key to suddenly having a lot of extra money in the bank - it's so.good. And, since it's homemade, I know what's in it.

I made the syrup in about 10 minutes using stuff I already had in the house (I try to always have canned pumpkin on hand for the dogs - though I admit it's hard to find the stuff right now!). When it was done, I made myself a pumpkin spice latte. Well, as good as I could make without an espresso machine. I used one of my dark, bold KCups and brewed it on the 'iced coffee' setting, which is really concentrated. I poured that into a glass with warmed nonfat milk and about 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin spice syrup. It was very similar to the deliciousness that is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. So similar that I'm fighting the urge to drink 10 more tonight.

If you have an espresso machine, will you invite me over? I'll bring the syrup.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons pumpkin purée

In a small pot over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the remaining ingredients. Allow to cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not boil. Strain mixture using cheesecloth or a tea towel. Pour into a small (8-10 ounce) bottle and store in the refrigerator.

To make a pumpkin spice latte, simply add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of syrup for each shot of espresso.

For an iced latte, stir together syrup and espresso before adding desired amount of cold milk.

For a hot latte, add frothed milk and stir to combine. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mushroom Bolognese

This recipe is from the October Cooking Light. It's interesting how the mushrooms take on the same features of a ground beef/pork, especially when you dice it small and cook it down. It was hearty, flavorful, and rich - very good with a little parmesan cheese and whole wheat noodles. This was a low calorie meal, too.

Mushroom Bolognese
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups chopped onion
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 pound ground pork
8 cups finely chopped cremini mushrooms (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup white wine
1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup whole milk
10 ounce uncooked whole-wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Combine porcini and boiling water in a bowl; cover and let stand 20 minutes or until soft. Drain porcini in a colander lined with a paper towel over a bowl, reserving liquid. Rinse and chop porcini.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and pork; cook 10 minutes or until pork is browned, stirring to crumble pork. Add cremini mushrooms, garlic, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 15 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring occasionally. Add porcini; cook 1 minute. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add reserved porcini liquid and wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes as necessary. Stir in milk; cook 2 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding 1 tablespoon salt to cooking water. Drain. Toss pasta with sauce; top with cheese and parsley.

Chili (with Bison and Beans)

Since the temperature dropped below 90, I decided it was time to have a bowl of chili. Jason and I are both counting calories these days so I went to the token healthy chef on Food Network, Ellie Krieger, for a recipe. Her three bean and beef chili had great reviews and was low calorie. She uses finely chopped vegetables and beans and just a little bit of meat. Certainly not a "Texas Chili" but very good nevertheless.

I somehow decided to make things more difficult for myself and bought dry beans instead of canned; this worked okay, I just had to boil and soak them a day ahead of time and increase the cooking time. In the future, I'll be back to canned.

We opted to use ground bison instead of beef this time.

Chili with Bison and Beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced (1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
2 carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 pound extra-lean ground beef (90 percent lean)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can of chipotles
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the oil in large pot or Dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and carrots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the ground beef; raise the heat to high and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomatoes, water, chipotle and adobo sauce, oregano and salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and continue cooking, partially covered, 20 minutes longer. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Source: Ellie Krieger (includes nutritional info)

Lasagna Rolls

I was watching Fine Living Network one day and saw a quick "how to" on making a lasagna roll. I decided it had to be easier than making lasagna and I needed to try it! Now, I cheated a bit for the sake of time. I purchased a jar marinara sauce to use and made the filling myself. This made it quick and cut down on the pots used.

We both really liked it; it tasted like traditional lasagna but was prettier on the plate - not to mention the portion control was easier!

The ricotta mixture is from Giada.

Lasagna Rolls
2 cups (or so) marinara sauce
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
4-5 slices bacon, cooked and chopped (I used microwave bacon)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, bacon, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Add a tablespoon or 2 of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Ladle some marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, without touching, atop the sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Brisket Tacos and Cilantro Lime Rice

For Labor Day, my inlaws came over so I wanted to make something that would be customizable. Tacos are easy, but brisket tacos are easy and delicious. I love ordering brisket tacos at Tex Mex restaurants so I thought I'd just make a standard brisket and add the usual taco fixings. I thought it turned out pretty tasty.

This brisket recipe is from Tyler Florence and was very good; probably the best brisket I've had in awhile (not compared to the smoked brisket at BBQ places - I don't have a smoker!). It was very juicy, tender, with lots of flavor.

Beef Brisket Recipe
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles striped from the stem and chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (4 pound) beef brisket, first-cut (I had a huge brisket that I cut into 3 parts and froze - I used just 1 part, which was about 4 pounds)
Coarsely ground black pepper
4 large carrots, cut in 3-inch chunks
3 celery stalks, cut in 3-inch chunks (reviews said this got mushy so I skipped it)
4 large red onions, halved
2 cups dry red wine
1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes, hand-crushed
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

On a cutting board, mash the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt together with the flat-side of a knife into a paste. Add the rosemary and continue to mash until incorporated. Put the garlic-rosemary paste in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil; stir to combine.

Season both sides of the brisket with a fair amount of kosher salt and ground black pepper. Place a large roasting pan or Dutch oven over medium-high flame and coat with the remaining olive oil. Put the brisket in the roasting pan and sear to form a nice brown crust on both sides. Lay the vegetables all around the brisket and pour the rosemary paste over the whole thing. Add the wine and tomatoes; toss in the parsley and bay leaves. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 3 to 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices, until the beef is fork tender.

Remove the brisket to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes. Scoop the vegetables out of the roasting pan and onto a platter, cover to keep warm. Pour out some of the excess fat, and put the roasting pan with the pan juices on the stove over medium-high heat. Boil and stir for 5 minutes until the sauce is reduced by 1/2. (If you want a thicker sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of flour with 2 tablespoons of wine or water and blend into the gravy).

Slice the brisket across the grain (the muscle lines) at a slight diagonal.

*My changes: I did not make the gravy, since we were using them in tacos. I had sliced avocado, cheese, sour cream, salsa, and flour tortillas to go with it.
For the sides, I made cilantro lime rice and black beans - they could be used in the tacos or on the side. Or both. 
This is surprisingly similar to the rice at Chipotle - it would be great in a burrito, taco, burrito bowl, or just as a side dish.
Cilantro Lime Rice
2 cups water (use chicken broth; it's MUCH better)
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Bring the water to a boil; stir the butter and rice into the water. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir the lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro into the cooked rice just before serving.

Sloppy Bombay Joes

I think it's impossible to get a sloppy joe to look appealing? This meal is from my new favorite Food Network host - Aarti. I rooted for her during The Next Food Network Star and am so pleased with her first few episodes. I already loved Indian food, and the spices they use, but her recipes give even more ways to use the unique flavors.

Now, I do not like sloppy joes. Matter of fact, it's a "man meal" that Jason makes if I go out of town because I'm not making it or eating it. I have to eat my words after trying these - they were delicious. Obviously worlds apart from the dreaded canned Manwich you can find at Walmart but still very easy and so tasty. Since her recipe uses ground turkey, and relies on spices for flavor, the calorie count can't be that bad...

Sloppy Bombay Joes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 serrano chile, seeded and finely minced (save the other half for the turkey)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water

3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Small handful shelled pistachios, about 1/4 cup
Small handful raisins, about 1/4 cup (I skipped - I really hate raisins)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (skipped - but want to try it again with them)
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced (skipped)
1/2 serrano chile, seeds intact (don't chop it up unless you like things spicy!)
Kosher salt
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup half-and-half (I used a little cream instead)
Small handful chopped fresh cilantro (soft stems included)
4 to 6 hamburger buns
Begin by making the sauce: Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until it shimmers. Add the ginger, garlic and serrano pepper. Saute until the ginger and garlic brown a little. Add the garam masala and paprika and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile for the turkey, in large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of oil. When shimmering, add the pistachios and raisins. Cook until the raisins swell up and the pistachios toast slightly. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of oil, and warm until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 10 seconds, or until some of the sizzling subsides. Stir in the onions and bell pepper; saute until softened and starting to brown. Add the serrano pepper. Saute for another couple of minutes, seasoning with a little salt. Stir in the turkey, breaking up the big lumps. Cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, your sauce should be ready. Pour the sauce into the skillet with the turkey. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Once the turkey is cooked and the sauce has thickened a little, remove the serrano pepper. Add the honey, half-and-half, pistachios and raisins. Stir through and taste for seasoning. Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.

Toast the buns, fill with the turkey mixture and serve.

Scallops with Sauteed Spinach, Basil, and Cream

This recipe is from my friend, Sheryl, who adapted the original recipe. I used her suggestions for the most part and it was really, really tasty. I wish my picture looked as good as hers so you could see just how nice this dish looks when plated.

Scallops With Basil and Cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped onions
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 pound bay or sea scallops
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Pasta, cooked

Heat the butter in a skillet on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, until they are just soft, about 3 minutes.

Add the scallops and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Transfer the scallops to a platter and set aside.

Add the basil and cream and cook until the cream reduces and thickens a bit. Season with salt and pepper. Return the scallops to the skillet and toss gently to coat with the sauce. To serve, pour the mixture over linguine or angel hair pasta.

*My changes, per Sheryl's suggestions: I seared the scallops prior and just added them at the end. I sauteed some spinach in butter and garlic, set aside, and then plated it under the scallop mixture. I also doubled the sauce so there would be plenty. We got 3 good servings from this recipe (with the doubled sauce)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Peaches

Tonight's dinner was really good. Both recipes are from Cooking Light and were very fast. The chicken recipe is originally for thighs but since I don't care for thighs, I cut breasts in half (and thirds, for one large piece) and used the same cooking times. Worked great. The recipe is really stuff you already have in your pantry and spice cabinet, which makes it budget friendly. The chicken has a good kick to it. I'm pretty sensitive to heat and I ate it fine but just as a warning. You could leave out the cayenne and probably still get good flavor without the heat.

I love quinoa, and I'm glad there are more and more recipes using it. It's very healthy and easily versatile, plus I think it's cool looking. I had to punt on the quinoa recipe, as I didn't have a lemon and I used up my honey on the chicken but it was still perfect. The peach really makes it; it melds so nicely with the quinoa.

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 3 large breasts)
Cooking spray
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Preheat broiler
2. Combine first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Add chicken to the bowl and toss to coat. Place chicken on a boiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.
3. Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken and turn over. Brush with honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.

Quinoa Salad with Peaches
Bring 1.5 cups water to boil in medium saucepan. Add 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Cool quinoa slightly. Stir in 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper, 1/4 cup chopped green onions, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1.5 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1.5 teaspoons honey, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 sliced ripe peach.

My changes: I left out the bell pepper, used lime juice instead of lemon, and used corn syrup instead of honey. Hey, I was desperate!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto

Tonight's dinner came from the Sept Cooking Light magazine. It was the perfect summer meal - light, bright, just used one pot, and VERY fast. Start to finish was 20 minutes, and that includes the peeling of shrimp and chopping.

Gnocchi are potato dumplings; they are usually found in with the dried pasta. They cook in 3-4 minutes and can be used like a pasta.

Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto
1 (16 ounce) package vacuum-packed gnocchi
4 cups (1 inch) pieces of asparagus (about 1 pound)
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp, coarsely chopped
1 cup basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (use the microwave!)
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
4 teaspoons EVOO

Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add gnocchi and cook 4 minutes or until done (it will rise to the surface). Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Add shrimp and asparagus to the pot; cook 5 minutes or until shrimp is done. Drain. Add shrimp and asparagus to the gnocchi.

Combine 1 tablespoon water, basil, pine nuts, cheese, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor. Process until smooth, scraping sides. Drizzle oil through the chute with the processor on and process until well blended. Add basil mixture to bowl and toss well to coat. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Grilled Achiote Chicken

This recipe came from the Relish magazine that my dad had passed onto me. The whole issue is ethnic foods and this was from Mexico. I've never even heard of Achiote seasoning before but now that I have a box of it, I will use it again soon. Evidently it's a good marinade on just about anything. I found it in the Mexican food section of the ethnic aisle at Kroger.

This chicken was very easy and quick. I took the magazine's advice and sliced the chicken very thinly and mixed it in with the sauce. Then, served it in warm tortillas with chopped cilantro, sour cream, some cheese, and cubed avocado. We both really liked the flavor. It's hard to describe. It's not spicy but sorta tangy.

Grilled Achiote Chicken
Marinated Chicken:
1 (7 ounce) packet achiote seasoning
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts

Achiote Citrus Sauce:
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper

To prepare chicken, dissolve achiote seasoning in vinegar and oil. Add chicken, turn to coat well, and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Prepare the grill. Remove chicken from marinade, reserving marinade. Grill chicken until done, about 7 minutes on each side.

To prepare sauce, pour reserved marinade into saucepan; add garlic and juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, stirring, until sauce is the consistency of a thin cream sauce. Add salt and pepper. Serve sauce over chicken.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Roasted Green Chile Cheese Grits from Bonnell's Restaurant

We had a staff hosted dinner over the weekend for a group of people who won it in a fundraiser auction a few months ago. Typically, we talk about a menu and see what each person could make and bring to complement it. I decided to bring a starch - we talked about risotto (too time consuming), polenta, and grits. I'm a fan of cheese grits. I've never been to Bonnell's but a colleague said their chile cheese grits would be perfect for the meal so that's what I made. Since the grits can get gummy, I roasted the chile and chopped everything at home and cooked the dish there.

Grits are always easy to make and even non-grit loving people typically like cheesy ones that are really creamy. These grits are really, really tasty. Probably the best grits I've had to date. Since Jason wasn't at the dinner, I can't wait to make them at home again sometime soon so he can taste them. They were flavorful, cheesy, and creamy.

This would be delicious with a big steak and some grilled asparagus.

Roasted Green Chile Cheese Grits
1 teaspoon butter (I'm sure I used more...)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 roasted poblano chile, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped garlic (I used more)
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup quick grits
2 ounces grated cheddar cheese
2 ounces grated jack cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Creole seasoning blend, to taste

Saute chile, onion, and garlic in butter until soft.

Add cream and chicken stock and bring to a simmer (just before a rolling boil).

Quickly whisk in seasonings and grits. Stir constantly until grits begin to thicken (a colleagues help in whisking was helpful!)

Gently fold in cheeses and let sit for at least 5 minutes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

(Starbucks knock-off) Mocha Frappuccino

Each month, Food Network Magazine (which I love) makes a copy cat recipe from a popular restaurant. I've made several of them and they are always spot on. This month was the mocha frappucino from Starbucks. I rarely order the frapp at Starbucks because it's pricey. I'm just as happy with an iced coffee (half the price and larger size). But they are delicious... and the mocha is my favorite. This recipe is really good. I thought it tasted like it, and I didn't even do all the steps. I realized (after making the coffee mixture) that I don't own a single ice cube tray so I had to punt. Also, it's a pain in the rear. If I make it again (which you know I will...) I will make a huge batch to have on hand for awhile. Or invite over a lot of friends.

Mocha Frappuccino
Makes: 4 drinks

For the coffee ice
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups warm strong coffee

For the chocolate syrup
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ounce milk chocolate, finely chopped (I used dark - life's too short for milk chocolate)
1.5 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frappes
1 cup reduced fat milk
Whipped cream, for topping

Make the coffee ice. Stir the sugar into the coffee until dissolved, then let cool. Pour into a 16 cube ice cube tray and freeze until solid, about 3 hours.

Make the chocolate syrup: Combine the sugar and cocoa powder in a saucepan and slowly whisk in 3/4 cup hot water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking, until the sugar dissolves, 3-5 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cool.

Make the frappes: Puree 8 coffee ice cubes, 1/2 cup milk, 1/3-1/2 cup chocolate syrup, and 1 cup plain ice in a blender until smooth. Pour into 2 glasses, then repeat to make 2 more drinks. Top with whipped cream and more chocolate syrup.

Monday, August 9, 2010

ABC Baby Shower

This weekend I hosted a baby shower for my sister and her new baby, Zoe. I didn't want to do a typical frilly shower with pastel colors and teddy bears so I decided to do a bright, modern color scheme of tangerine, hot pink, and green and use ABCs. The invites had the alphabet on them and said "Z is for Zoe."

I was really pleased with all the food - most of them were new recipes. I'm one of "those" that tries a new recipe out on guests. In my defense, I tasted everything prior and would have trashed anything gross and just left it off the table. I did 3 different sandwiches, 2 salads, fruit, a bread, chips, and cake for dessert. Enough for lunch but not overly heavy.

I made watermelon limeade, peach tea, and ice water for drinks, plus coffee with cake. The peach tea was disappointing to me so I'm not including the recipe. The watermelon limeade was raved about; it was unique and several guests asked for the recipe. I put sliced lemons and limes in the water for color and added flavor. I also put lemon wedges and fresh mint out for anyone that wanted it.

The little signs each say "W is for Watermelon Limeade, P is for Peach Tea" etc.

W is for Watermelon Limeade
8 cups chopped seedless watermelon (about 6 pounds)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes)
2 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vodka (optional)
Ice cubes, for serving
Fresh mint leaves, for serving

Working in batches, puree watermelon in a blender or food processor* with lime juice until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, and blend to combine. Taste, adding more sugar if necessary. Transfer to a pitcher. Stir in vodka, if using. Cover and chill. Before serving, stir well, and serve over ice, garnished with mint.
*You could also use an immersion blender

Source: Martha Stewart

I rimmed each glass with pink sugar and filled them with (Sonic) ice right before guests arrived.

For the sandwiches, I made egg salad, smoked salmon, and pineapple nut. I thought they were all tasty. The egg salad had dill in it which is my favorite herb. The smoked salmon has a cilantro-lime butter with it that is just delicious, and the pineapple nut is sweet and crunchy. They seemed to be eaten equally so I don't know if there was a favorite.

E is for Egg Salad
8 hard-cooked eggs, diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dill weed
8 slices white bread

In a bowl, gently mix the eggs, mayonnaise, onion flakes, salt, mustard powder, garlic powder, pepper, and dill. Cover, and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight. To serve, spread equal amounts on 4 slices bread; top with remaining bread slices to make sandwiches.

Source: All Recipes

P is for Pineapple Nut Sandwiches
2 cups crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped nuts
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
milk or mayonnaise (if needed)

In saucepan combine pineapple and sugar. Bring to boil. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Cool. Stir in nuts. Soften and mash cream cheese - if needed - with enough milk or mayonnaise to make a good spreading consistency. Combine with pineapple mixture. Spread on thin bread, top as sandwich. Trim and cut into squares.

*This made a LOT of filling. I made all those sandwiches and ended up still not using some of it. Next time I'd half it.

Source: Epicurean

S is for Smoked Salmon Sandwiches
24 slices thin white bread
4 ounces Ginger-Cilantro Lime Butter, recipe follows
8 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

Spread all of the bread slices generously with the butter. Place slices of smoked salmon in an even layer on half of the bread slices. Top with remaining bread slices, trim, and cut into squares.

Ginger-Cilantro Lime Butter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces (1/4 cup) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place butter, cream cheese, ginger, lime juice, cilantro and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until ingredients are combined, about 30 seconds.

Transfer mixture to a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Roll into a 1 1/2-inch wide log. Refrigerate until ready to use. Yield: 1 (7-ounce 10 by 1 1/2-inch) log

Source: Food Network

I wanted to make salads that weren't done all the time - so I made a rice salad and a pasta salad. I knew my sister loved Caprese, esp after a trip to Venice a few years ago, so I knew this would be perfect for her shower. I don't eat tomatoes but my mom tasted it and said it was delicious. The pasta did have a nice flavor to it (I picked around the tomatoes). This recipe made a TON. I have about that much left - it grew on the platter!
P is for Pasta Caprese
1/3 cup EVOO
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, cored seeded and cut into ½ inch pieces (I used hot house, couldn't find heirloom easily)
1 pound pasta, such as campanelle, penne, or fusilli
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into ½ inch pieces
½ cup fresh basil
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

Whisk EVOO, lemon juice, shallot and garlic in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add sugar, if desired (depending upon sweetness of tomatoes). Add tomatoes and gently toss. Marinate at room temp, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta. Drain and run until cold water.

Add pasta and mozzarella to the tomato mix and toss. Stir in basil, lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

Source: Food Network

This is one of my favorite salad recipes. I made it a few weeks ago for a church function and thought it was missing something. I had a foodie at church taste it and he suggested mango chutney - that was it! I just added the chutney and tasted it along the way until it was right. Added the right level of sweet and tang to it.
C is for Curry Chicken Rice Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked, cooled rice
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup shredded cooked chicken or one 12 oz. can chicken breast meat
1 cup diced celery
3/4 cup mayonnaise
Mango chutney

Mix together the rice, curry, oil, vinegar, & ginger. Place in the fridge to chill for about an half hour or longer. Once the curry mixture is thoroughly chilled, in a separate large bowl mix the remaining ingredients together. Fold the curry mixture into the chicken mixture until incorporated.

Return to the fridge to chill until you serve it.

Source: a friend

These were sooooooo good. And thankfully, my very best friend was there to make them because they would not have come out so perfectly had I done them! I just thought they tasted delicious.
P is for Parmesan Straws
1 large egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
All-purpose flour, for rolling
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce box), thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water; set egg wash aside. In another small bowl, combine Parmesan, mustard powder, salt, and cayenne; set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough (still folded in thirds) to a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. With short side facing you, cut in half crosswise; brush one side of both halves with egg wash. Sprinkle one egg-washed half with cheese mixture. Sandwich halves together, egg-washed sides facing in; press lightly to adhere. Run a rolling pin over dough to seal.

With short side facing you, cut dough crosswise into 24 strips, each 8 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Place strips, 1 inch apart, onto two baking sheets; twist strips, pressing down on ends to adhere them to sheets. Bake until cheese straws are puffed and golden, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.

*We doubled the recipe
Source: Martha Stewart

These are just skewers of fruit with fruit dip. I thought they were more fun than a fruit salad. The dip is cool whip and cinnamon - so easy but really tasty.   

I served salt and pepper kettle chips because I love them.
My amazingly talented best friend made this cake!


See the ABCs in the white frame?  

Alphabet books were scattered about.

The guest of honor, Zoe, with my mom. I bought her an outfit to coordinate with the shower colors... yeah, I'm that kind of aunt.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta

This is a Pioneer Woman recipe that was really good. Even Jason called it 'good' which is rare to hear from him. Has a very lemony taste, which we like, and lots of other levels of flavor.

PW suggests marinating the chicken overnight with lemon juice, dijon, honey... but I didn't have time to do that. Instead, I rubbed lemon pepper on the chicken breasts and throw it on the grill. It was really good and went perfect with the pasta.

This would also be good with shrimp or scallops.

Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta
4 whole Grilled Chicken Breasts, Sliced
1 pound Penne Pasta, Cooked Until Al Dente
½ sticks Butter
3 whole Lemons, Juiced (I used 4)
¾ cups Heavy Cream
¼ cups Half-and-half
1-½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (or Romano)
Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
20 whole Basil Leaves, Chopped

Cook pasta, reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water when you drain. Set pasta aside in a colander.

In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Squeeze in the juice of 3 to 4 lemons. Whisk together. Pour in cream and half-and-heat. Whisk until hot. Dump in cheese and whisk until melted. Add salt and pepper. Check consistency, adding some of the hot pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed.

Pour pasta and sauce into a large serving bowl and stir in half the basil. Sprinkle remaining basil all over the top, then add sliced chicken breasts.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shrimp Taco Salad

This recipe (which is actually called chipotle rubbed shrimp taco salad) is from the August Cooking Light. A taco salad really isn't much of a recipe but the dressing was, I suppose. This was a really quick dinner - 20 minutes or so.

We both like taco salads - Jason orders them out on occasion. Since I can eat salads right now, I enjoy them too. I'm a fan of shrimp but Jason said he would prefer just plain ol' taco meat next time. Only I would marry someone who would prefer hamburger meat over shrimp...

Shrimp Taco Salad
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons minced shallots
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 refrigerated (8 inch) flour tortilla taco salad shell kit
1 pound peeled, deveined jumbo shrimp
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
6 cups packaged prechopped romaine lettuce
1.5 cups chopped peeled ripe mango
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4 radishes, quartered
*I also added diced avocado and drained/rinsed black beans. Jason smothered his in cheese.

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly.

Bake tortilla shells at 350 according to package directions.

While shells bake, heat grill pan over med-high heat. Combine shrimp, chili powders, and salt in large bowl. Toss well to coat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shrimp to pan and cook 2 minutes on each side or until done.

Place lettuce and other toppings in tortilla shell and drizzle with vinaigerette. Toss.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cilantro Shrimp

This is from the August issue of Cooking Light. We both really liked this - though don't attempt it if you aren't a cilantro fan. It had a lot of flavor, a little heat, and took as long as the rice takes to cook (for white rice, just 15 minutes) to chop everything and cook it.

Cilantro Shrimp
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
3 cups (1 inch) slices green onion
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3.5 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste) or hot sauce
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
3 cups hot cooked brown rice (we used white)

Heat wok or large skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add onions, ginger, and garlic to pan. Stir fry 1 minute. Add shrimp, stir fry 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce and chile paste; stir fry 1 minute or until shrimp are done. Remove pan from heat; add cilantro, stirring consistently until cilantro wilts. Serve over rice.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Grilled Burgers with Meyer Lemon Butter

This burger recipe is from Bon Appetit and was really good. A nice change from the typical grilled burger and the butter made the burger extra moist. I liked the subtle lemon flavor throughout the burger and the surprise lemon pop in the center. I, sadly, did not find Meyer lemons at my store so just used regular.

Grilled Burgers with Meyer Lemon Butter
6 tablespoons butter, room temp
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated Meyer lemon peel or regular lemon peel
1.5 pounds ground beef (15% fat) - I used a little over 2 pounds
Hamburger buns
Toppings: sliced onion, lettuce, tomato, etc.

Mix butter, all herbs, lemon peel, and lemon juice into bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Measure out 1/3 cup butter; transfer to sheet of plastic wrap (leave the rest in the bowl for spreading on buns). Using plastic wrap as aid, form butter into 3 inch log. Wrap to seal and place in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut crosswise into 4 rounds. Fatten rounds into 2 inch diameter discs.

Divide meat into 4 equal parts (I made 5 patties). Form each piece into a ball. Using thumb, made deep wide indentation in center of each ball. Press 1 lemon-butter round flatly into indentation, then press meat securely over butter to enclose. Flatten each burger into 3.5 inch diameter patty, leaving butter rounds horizontally in center of each burger.

Brush grill with oil (or spray) and bring to high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the burgers with salt and pepper. Spread remaining butter over cut sides of the buns. Grill burgers until cooked through, 4-6 minutes on each side. Grill buns until slightly charred, about 1 minute per side.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Brisket, Ranch Style Beans, Napa Cabbage Noodle Salad

Tonight I tried three new recipes. Brisket was on sale so I thought I'd try my hand at it. The multitude of recipes out there sent my head spinning! I don't have a smoker so I considered oven vs crockpot and decided on a highy rated oven recipe on AllRecipes. It took hours but very little work on my end and was very tender and tasty. Jason thought it tasted like pot roast... I'm not sure that's good or bad. He used botted BBQ sauce on his and said it was good. I liked a little pan sauce on mine and dad ate his without. It was not dry at all - perfectly cooked, tender, and flavorful.

2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon ground back pepper
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 (4 lb) beef brisket
1.5 cups beef broth

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and blend thoroughly. Apply rub to surface of brisket. (I tossed some ground dry mustard in as well).

Cook, uncovered, in preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and add beef broth to pan (I also threw in a bottle of dark beer). Lower oven to 300, cover pan tightly with foil, and cook 3 more hours. Let brisket stand for 30 minutes before slicing.

Notes - I added a bottle of beer to the pan and I added dry ground mustard to the dry mix. My brisket had a lot of fat on it so I trimmed a lot off prior and then sliced around it when it finished.  

The beans were also from AllRecipes; I wanted a change from baked beans, which I've made a couple of times. Now, these seemed bland at first bite and then it hit you with a bite of spice and flavor. The three of us weren't sure what it was missing to make it bland - the obvious (salt) didn't make a difference. Otherwise, it was tasty but is missing something. Any ideas?

Ranch Beans
1 pound dried pinto beans
1 quart water
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chile powder
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (I used ground cayenne)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

Place beans in Dutch oven or soup kettle; add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain, discarding liquid. Return beans to pan; add 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1-1/2 hours longer.

Instead of a creamy cole slaw to go with dinner, I wanted the oriental slaw that is served often at church events. I searched on All Recipes and found one that sounded tasty. This was soooooo good. My dad hasn't had this dish before and he declared it "freakin' awesome" and ate several helpings. Cheap, very easy, good for a crowd.

Napa Cabbage Noodle Salad
1 large head napa cabbage, shredded and chilled
1/2 cup olive oil
1 (3 ounce) package ramen noodles, crushed
1/2 cup sesame seeds (I skipped)
3 ounces blanched slivered almonds
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons white vinegar

Add olive oil to a skillet over medium heat and brown ramen noodles, almonds, and sesame seeds (you do not need this much oil - I used just a drizzle). Set aside to cool.

Prepare dressing by mixing canola oil, soy sauce, white sugar, and both vinegars in blender until smooth (I didn't want to use a blender so I used a small whisk and did it by hand instead).

About 30 minutes before serving, toss the dressing and cabbage together. Chill. Just before serving, toss noodle mixture and cabbage together.

See Aimee Cook

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