Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Well not yet, but - weather aside! - we're seriously feeling it at our house. (And sorry for a second Will Smith intro.  Can't help myself sometimes.)  To me, warm weather cooking means celebrating fresh, brightly colored ingredients.  Many also get pumped up this time of year to fire up the grill after a winter hibernation.  If you've read this blog before, you know that our grills are not deterred by weather, and thus never really stop firing; but that makes us no less emphatic about enjoying charred deliciousness at a patio soiree.  I do realize that not everyone shares our grilling psychosis passion, so I'll be sure to include non-grilled plates in my summertime blathering.  The dishes in this post are fast, light, and yummy - and grilling is optional.

Carne Asada Tacos with Pickled Onions  (Click here for the recipe)

What caught my attention to make this recipe?  PICKLED ONIONS.  I love, love, love them, and I'm thrilled to be seeing them everywhere these days.  This recipe offers an easy and tasty pickling method.  You better believe I stashed the leftovers in the fridge for a future cereal? sandwich accoutrement.
In an attempt to cut down on the prep time, I used ground turkey in lieu of chicken and just sauteed it in a pan.  We inadvertently purchased ground turkey with virtually zero percent fat, and it was painfully dry.  I slopped on the onions' pickling juice to compensate.  We added corn as a last minute something to brighten it up!

Tilapia and Summer Vegetables Pack (Click here for the recipe)

Despite considerable effort and self-talk, I struggle to find super healthy recipes that achieve wow flavor.  I just can't seem to convince myself that a dish tastes as satisfying/amazing/rich as the "healthy version" recipe promises.  But friends, I found one this time!!!  It is perhaps the lowest calorie dish referenced on this blog, and I absolutely love it.  Maybe it's because it's not trying to be something else (I'm referring to recipes and cooking shows attempting to make low fat versions of stuff like buffalo wings and chicken pot pie.  What's the point?  To me, this ensures inevitable disappointment, as one takes bite after bite wishing it was the real thing.  Rather than try to fool yourself with an impostor, just make this authentically light and yummy dish!).  Good news-- it is also extremely quick.  A couple notes: 1) The fish cooks quickly, so cut the veggies into small pieces so they will too.  2) For those not fond of olives: Ryan leaves them out of his packet and finds nothing lacking.  I'll take his word for it, as omitting them is not in my DNA; I would put olives on ice cream.

The second picture gives a better shot of the light, lemony sauce.  This picture also reminds me that I forgot the green beans.  Oops. 

Rum Glazed Shrimp and Grilled Pineapple Salad

This shrimp recipe below came from my friend Amanda.  The title, starting with "Rum Glazed", had me at hello.  They are sweet, savory and have a perfectly subtle spice.

Rum Glazed Spicy Grilled Shrimp

2 1/2 lbs fresh 16/20 count shrimp
6 Tbsp light rum - split 4 Tbsp and 2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp fresh Key Lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
10 bamboo skewers, soaked in cold water for at least 1 hour

Peel the shrimp, keeping the tails intact.  Devein if desired.  In a small bowl, combine 4 Tbsp of the rum, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt.  Add the shrimp, and toss to coat thoroughly.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat the grill (or grill pan or broiler) to high.  In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, and remaining 2 Tbsp of rum.  Thread the shrimp on the skewers; lightly brush with the brown sugar glaze.

Place the shrimp on the cooking surface, and cook for about 3 minutes per side, brushing with the additional glaze, until the shrimp are opaque.

Pineapple, Basil & Cucumber Salad

For the salad, I used mint in lieu of basil, because my mint plants are lush and vast, while my basil plant is neither.  I initially wondered why it just required olive oil for the "dressing", and then it clicked that the pineapple juice provides the perfect acid.

Heat grill/grill pan/broiler to high.  Cut 1/2 cored pineapple into 1/3-inch-thick rounds.  Grill until char marks appear, about 2 minutes per side.  Allow to cool, and then cut into bite-size pieces. Toss with 1 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced, 1/2 cups basil (or mint) leaves, 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp coarse salt.  Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Mojito, anyone?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


....is the age of the lady that made this flawlessly gorgeous and delicious coconut cream pie. 

Ryan's grandmother, "Grammy" to us and "GG" to our kids, is one inspiring gal.  She lives independently. She wears a dress every day.  She remains a great source of emotional and practical support for her children - several of whom are in their 70's - while for most, those tables turned decades ago.  Such help recently included unpacking boxes when her daughter (also a grandmother) moved into a new house.  Yes, Grammy is turning 95 this summer, but was the one helping someone else move.  Those same sweet little hands rolled out this beautiful pie crust.

She's a sharp cookie and never misses a beat.  She regularly acknowledges milestones and special dates, even as grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren (yeah, that's right) multiply around her. 

Grammy, you rock.  If God makes me your age one day, I can only hope to be the positive force you are to your family.  I can only hope to still be taking care of my kids the way you do.  And heaven knows that I would love to be making homemade coconut cream pies - though they'd never hold a candle to yours.  xo

Friday, May 6, 2011

Salad Kick

It's been a salad kind of week - inspired in large part by my girl Marth - and I have three tasty versions to share!  Two can stand on their own as a main course in my opinion.  The third, no less yummy, I think does great nestled next to something a bit more substantial.

Salad # 1 
Panzanella  Click here for recipe

While the veggies are lovely and inspiring, I can't lie that the toasted (or grilled in this case, thanks to hub) bread steals the show....especially bathed in vinaigrette.  I mean, come on.  Speaking of the dressing, I really prefer red wine vinegar to champagne vinegar in this recipe. 

This salad is quick, (relatively?) healthy and fabulous enjoyed outside with a glass of whatever.

Salad # 2
New Spinach Salad (recipe at end of post)

The latest Martha Stewart Living offers a section on classic salads reinvented.  The bright colors of the photo layout brought on a craving for veggies and led me to select two to try this week!  The new take on spinach salad is straight up awesome.  In lieu of bacon, the recipe brilliantly calls for sliced chorizo, which I am wild about.  We met and fell in love over breakfast in Mexico when my eggs were cooked and served alongside its spicy goodness; I have kind of been stalking it ever since.  I love the creative approach to this salad, especially the dressing technique.  The yum-infused oil that cooks the fingerling potatoes and chorizo becomes the base of the dressing, which is completed with chopped shallots, sherry vinegar and seasoning.  The hard boiled egg is replaced with a poached egg in this dish, which admittedly is not everyone's cup of tea.  I personally found it absolutely perfect on this salad, and actually chose to celebrate it a bit with the addition of toasted crostini to sop up every last bit.  Yay little poached egg.

Salad #3
New Waldorf Salad (recipe at end of post)

I tragically have no photo of salad #3, which was another deliciously reinvented classic from the same article.  This salad replaces the signature mayo base with a tangy vinaigrette.  The best part though was roasted red grapes, which were a first for me, and most certainly will not be the last.  Roasting imparts complexity in the fruit's flavor and mellows the bright sweetness to something subtle and somehow rich at the same time.   This topic leads me another component of the salad: the walnuts.  Don't skip the toasting part!  It makes an incredible difference and is more than worth it.  By the way, I swapped the frisee for mixed greens.  I don't love frisee, and further, I look like a fool eating it.  I can't seem to get a good bite in without a piece unattractively protruding from my mouth, requiring an awkward and sheepish retrieval.  Not that I wish this unfortunate predicament on anyone, but I kind of hope I'm not the only one with this issue?  Regardless, be advised that mixed greens work fine here.  Am I still talking?

The recipes:

New Waldorf Salad, courtesy of Martha Stewart

For the roasted grapes:
1 1/2 lbs red seedless grapes
1 Tbsp confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil

For the dressing:
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
1 head frisee
1 Honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

1.  Roast the grapes:  preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toss grapes with sugar and oil.  Roast on a rimmed baking sheet until just starting to wrinkle and burst, 25-30 minutes.  Let cool.
2.  Meanwhile, make the dressing: combine shallot, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, and cumin in a bowl.  Gradually whisk in oil, and season with salt and pepper.
3.  Make the salad: toss the grapes (without pan juices) with sliced celery, frisee, apple, and walnuts.  Drizzle salad with dressing, and toss to coat.

New Spinach Salad, courtesy of Martha Stewart

For the poached eggs:
1 Tbsp white vinegar
4 large eggs

For the salad:
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 fingerling potatoes (about 12 oz), blanched and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
5 oz baby spinach
2 links (not dried) chorizo, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick

For the dressing:
2 Tbsp minced shallot
1 Tbsp shery vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Poach the eggs:  add vinegar to a large saucepan of simmering water.  Crack eggs into the water, one at a time.  Poach eggs until whites are set but yokes are still runny, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate using a slotted spoon.
2.  Make the salad:  heat 2 Tbsp oil in a high-sided skillet over medium heat.  Cook potatoes until golden, about 6 minutes per side.  Transfer to a large bowl using a slotted spoon, and add spinach.  Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet.  Cook chorizo until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Add to bowl using slotted spoon.
3.  Make the dressing:  remove skillet from heat.  Add shallot and let cook for 30 seconds.  Swirl in vinegar.
4.  Pour dressing over salad, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Divide salad among 4 plates.  Top each with an egg.