Monday, February 1, 2016

Mexican Grilled Shrimp Caesar Salad...I'm Back

After a month of being on hiatus (from blogging that is)...I am back.  January was a month of recovery from holidays, birthdays, preparing for the new year, taking on some new additional duties and mourning the loss of friends who unexpectedly passed away, which carried a lot of emotional sadness at year's end.

It is now a new year and a new month today.  I am on the golden passage countdown and in 19 days I will be turning 50 years old.  While getting a long overdue and much deserved pedicure last week, I read a great quote from Julia Louis Dreyfus..."I try to push worry down and pull the Spanx up!", when asked how she deals with aging.  LOVE THIS!!  That has to be, without a doubt my motto!

So, in between pulling my Spanx up and trying to keep my worrying down, I am back in the competition volleyball gyms and traveling with our girls and team tournament catering every other weekend.  I am in awe of how far they have come in this sport and in their maturity and growth. They are now looking at colleges and we are praying for recruitment and scholarships to see them through their college dreams.

As always, our schedules have been beyond hectic, so quick, "post holiday figure friendly" meals have been trying to make it to the table.  I am typically the one in the house that is craving shrimp (of any kind) and my husband will always be the first one who wants "The Big Salad", (if you were an avid fan of the Seinfeld tv show, you will remember Elaine's Big Salad episode - hilarious!!).

Needless to say, I was able to pull together the best of both worlds and we had this amazing shrimp salad. It has the perfect amount of crunch, flavors and was an awesome light dinner for the two of us.

Mexican Grilled Shrimp Caesar Salad

1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
5 Tbl. olive oil (divided)
salt and pepper

1 Tbl. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small head romaine lettuce, leaves torn to bite size pieces
1/2 small jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small avocado, peeled and diced

1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
1/2 cup seasoned tortilla strips

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread pepitas on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Heat grill (or you can cook on a grill pan inside on cooktop) to medium-high.  In a medium bowl, toss the shrimp with the cayenne, 1 Tbl of oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Grill until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic, remaining 4 Tbl. olive oil and whisk well.  Add the lettuce, jicama, pepitas, shrimp, and avocado and toss with dressing to combine.  Plate salad and top with Cotija cheese and tortilla strips.

**Note: You may want to double this dressing portions, if you're like me and don't want an overly dry salad.

One Year Ago: Sweet Dreams Cake

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Stuffed Mushrooms and Memories

Only two days left until the beautiful Christmas holiday celebration.  My daughter and I had one last gift wrapping marathon last night and just about completed all our tasks for our long family weekend together, which is definitely overdue for all of us.

In my blog two years ago, I shared some of our special family ornaments that we have collected through our travels and hang on the tree every holiday season.  This year, we took trips to Atlanta, Georgia (for the first time) and also returned to our favorite vacation spot in Sunriver, Oregon...and of course returned with our memories and Christmas tree ornaments to treasure and remember the times with.

The World of Coca-Cola Headquarters and Museum 
and our tour of Atlanta, Georgia in March.

Memories of our Whitewater Rafting excursion
with Ouzel Outfitters in Blue River, Oregon in August.

This week while both girls were out for an evening, my husband and I decided to have one of our infamous "nosh nights".  Instead of just our typical go-to Genoa salami with Vermont sharp white cheddar cheese and rosemary garlic Triscuit crackers, I decided to take it up a notch and go for a little more fancy holidayesque platter...Crab Cakes with Dill Butter sauce, my favorite Stuffed Mushrooms and finished it off with Toasted Baguette slices with Fig Jam, Proscuitto and Cambozola Cheese, (which by the way is now my daughter's new favorite high end lunch...forget the basic grilled cheese sandwich, she is completely addicted to this.

These mushrooms are elegant enough for an 
upcoming New Year's Eve party or 
simply perfect for stay at home date night.

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 pound white, button mushrooms
1 cup Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs
2 Tbl. butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and dry mushrooms well.  Pull stems from mushroom caps (set caps aside).  Finely chop the mushroom stems.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped stems, onion and garlic.  Saute about 10 minutes until onion starts to turn light golden brown.  Turn heat to medium and add the panko crumbs and saute another 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the Parmesean and Mozzarella cheeses.  Stir well until cheeses have melted into the mushroom/onion mixture.

Spoon (about 1 heaping Tablespoon) each mushroom cap with the filling, pressing gently.  Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 20 minutes (check after 10 minutes), until mushrooms are tender and stuffing is gold brown.

One Year Ago: Blueberry-Banana Muffins
Two Years Ago: Rouladen

Monday, December 21, 2015

Holly Jolly Buckets and Bark

Every year I try to put together either Thanksgiving/Fall or Christmas/Holiday home baked goodies for our nearby neighbors.  Last year I had my act together a little earlier and made everyone my Pumpkin Bread.  This year...not so much.  I really struggled for what seemed like eternity with what, how and when to fit it all in before the holiday gets away from me.

Finally figured out some easy recipes that looked festive, along with the help of my daughters.  I proceeded with my Holly Jolly Bark and Holiday Cake Cookies.

As luck would have it, my daughters had some extra "Treat Sleighs" that they made for their Leadership Group.  So, away we went with a plan, ingredients and fun gifts for our neighbors.
I found perfect size chalkboard/galvanized buckets and labeled them in fun holiday chalkboard markers.

The boys even joined in, but between their "spa day",
 holiday baking, wrapping gifts and fitting in all the other weekend 
household duties, they couldn't stay awake another minute.
Looks like they "just settled down for a long winters nap".

Holly Jolly Bark

16 whole "Christmas edition" Oreo cookies with red filling, broken up
1-1/2 cup pretzels (long, skinny ones), broken up
1 cup red and green Christmas M&M's
1 lb. white chocolate bark
Christmas colored sprinkles

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Lay out the broken cookies, pretzels and M&M's

Melt the white chocolate bark according to package directions.
Pour melted chocolate over cookies, pretzels and candies.
Use an offset spatula to spread chocolate evenly and
add the holiday sprinkles over chocolate.
Let set for at least 6 hours, so chocolate can set.

Cut into bite size pieces and package in holiday bags.
(Use any leftover scraps from the sides as
topping for ice cream -Yummy!!)

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

One Year Ago: GGMa's Lemon Shrimp
Two Year's Ago: Thumbprint Cookies

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wassail and Blessings

Happy Thanksgiving to you and much to be grateful for and the many blessings that have and continue to bestowed upon us.

We started our morning with a "turkey trot" and a glorious sunny walk with the dogs.  When we came back home, I had a nice hot batch of Wassail waiting for us, complete with my homemade Juicy Apple Popovers.

My husband has been fighting a terrible cold all week and I knew a batch of his favorite Wassail would do the trick to help him feel better.

We hope this holiday finds you, your friends and families well and full of blessings!

Hot Wassail

1 gallon apple cider
4 cups orange juice
5 cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbl. whole cloves
1 orange, sliced into rounds
1 lemon, sliced into rounds

Bourbon (optional)

Place all ingredients in slow cooker (except Bourbon) and mix well.

Turn the slow cooker on high heat and cook for 3-4 hours (or on low for 6-8 hours).

Ladle in a mug and serve hot.  (Optional to add a wee taste of Bourbon to your mug of wassail, should you choose).

One Year Ago:  Apple Pie Martini
Two Years Ago: Juicy Apple Popovers

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bourbon Glazed Salmon with Savory Roasted Peppers

Growing up I never liked the taste of salmon, and I grew up in Alaska!  I think it took me until I was in my thirties to really acquire a taste for it and appreciate all the different ways it can be prepared. Now, I love it!  I have learned to grill, bake, and pan sear it.

Our local fish counter every now and then has their featured "Bourbon Glazed Salmon" for sale.  It has been marinated and ready to prepare. Try as I have, I cannot get them to give me their recipe for the bourbon glaze, which is out of this world..  I am still experimenting with it and trying to recreate the glaze, but until then, I'll just keep enjoying theirs.

These peppers are awesome on salmon and just about any other type of meat.  These have become a staple in our house and a quick accompaniment to any dinner.

Savory Roasted Peppers
Adapted from Kikkoman

3 large peppers (orange, yellow and/or red)
3 Tbls Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce
2 Tbls balsamic vinegar
2 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbl finely chopped fresh oregano leaves (or 1/2 Tbl. dried if you don't have fresh)
1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional), depending on what you are serving this with

Turn on oven to broil mode.  Cut peppers in quarters and arrange skin side up,
 in single layer on foil lined cookie sheet (sprayed with non-stick spray). 

 Broil 6 to 8 minutes or until skin is blackened.  
Turn peppers over and cook 5 minutes longer. 
 Remove from broiler; let stand on sheet 5 minutes.

Remove skin from peppers and cut into strips, set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, 
olive oil, oregano and garlic.

Add peppers to vinegar mixture, stirring to coat well.
Marinate 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Arrange marinated peppers over your favorite meat or fish.
(Sprinkle feta cheese over peppers if serving with steak or chicken)

One Year Ago: Two Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins
Two Years Ago:  Churchill Downs Signature Barbecue Shrimp

Every good chef should have a secret sauce, 
wouldn't you agree - here is mine!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cioppino For Those Chilly Nights

It's back, it's cold and it came in hard last night with a vengeance!  Our first winter snow storm came roaring in like a lion with severe wind gusts all night and this morning.  Needless to say when the dogs went out, they were very quick to do their business and came running back into the house looking like I had just dusted powdered sugar all over them.

I have been on a serious soup craving as of late, with all the chilly nights we've been experiencing.  It started last week with a chiropractic appointment for my daughters that went into overtime and we got out late.  I looked at my watch and said, "I'm not cooking, we're stopping at Panera to pick up dinner!" (which is a very rare statement for me to make on short notice).  I have to admit, that was the best chicken and wild rice soup I have had in a very long time - definitely hit the spot!

This Cioppino, I decided to tackle during one of our ENS nights (Empty Nest Syndrome), while the girls were at a tournament.  I don't know why I had been so intimidated by the soup (aka "Fisherman's Stew"), it was one of the easiest and most flavorful and fun dinners to make.

For Chilly Nights

1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and chopped finely
3 Tbl. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. dried red chili pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes in juice
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup full bodied red wine (like Zinfandel)
1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice (or fish stock)
1/2 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1/2 pound manila clams, scrubbed
1/2 pound halibut, cut into 2 inch chunks
1/2 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound scallops
1/2 pound cooked snow crab legs, shells cracked and meat removed (discard shells)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 loaf rustic crusty baguette

Heat olive oil in a 5 to 6 quart heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Stir in the onions, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper flakes and salt.  Cook covered over medium heat, stirring once or twice until onions begin to soften, about 4 minutes.

Add tomato paste, tomatoes with their juice, water, red wine and clam juice.  Cover and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer covered about 30 minutes, until the flavors blend.

Add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid.  Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5-10 minutes.  Add the halibut, shrimp, scallops and snow crab meat.  Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer.

Discard any clams or mussels that do not open and discard the bay leaf.  Season the soup, to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Squeeze a little of the lemon wedge over the soup and serve with rustic baguette (for some serious mopping up of all that yummy goodness).

One Year Ago:  Sweet Shrimp and Spicy Sausage Skewers
Two Years Ago:  Pear Tart

Yes, it was that good - he went for seconds and thirds!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Biscuits and Gravy Breakfast Bake...Baby It's Cold Outside

Well our morning temperatures have definitely dropped as of late.  It's just a tad bit chilly when we wake up now.  Still no snow yet though, just crisp fall air which is perfectly okay with me at this point.  I'm not quite ready to pull out every parka, coat, scarf, hat and gloves quite yet.  Although, I have already started wearing a few of my pashmina scarves that I love so much (don't ask how many colors of them I have), because I am fashionable like that.

A few weeks ago when we were entertaining family, I decided to have a send off Sunday brunch for my sister-in-law and her husband.  In planning the menu I really wanted to do biscuits and gravy but they can really get heavy sometimes.  I decided to make a breakfast bake instead with the same ingredients, only cutting up biscuits into quarters.  This way it is much more portioned control and health conscious for those of us watching our figure...well, that's the story I was trying to convince myself of anyway.  

WOW!!  This dish was awesome.  My husband went back for seconds and thirds.  The bake was gone in a blink, before I could even get a photo of it.  So, as luck would have it, I made another batch of it the next week, so I could get photos and it was still a huge hit with the family!  If you have upcoming holiday company in the near future, I highly recommend this one for breakfast.

Biscuits and Gravy Breakfast Bake

2 (12 ounce) packages Jimmy Dean Reduced Fat Sausage
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 to 4 cups whole milk
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Lawry's season salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (12 ounce) container Pillsbury Grands Jr. Biscuits (10 count)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 9x13 glass baking dish
with non-stick spray inside (bottom and sides).

If you have a cast iron skillet, I recommend using that
to make the sausage gravy.

Brown sausage over medium-high heat until no longer pink.
Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Sprinkle half the flour and stir so
that sausage soaks it all up, then add more a little at a time.
Stir around again and pour in the milk, stirring constantly.

Cook the gravy, stirring frequently until it thickens (up to 15 minutes).
Sprinkle in the seasoned salt and pepper and continue cooking.
If it gets too thick, add 1/2 cup milk at a time, if needed.

While the sausage gravy simmers, cut the biscuits into
quarters and spread around baking dish.

Pour the sausage gravy over the biscuits and stir well, 
to make sure all the biscuits are coated and evenly distributed.

Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes,
until biscuits are cooked through and lightly browned.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

One Year Ago:  Creamy Artichoke Bruschetta
Two Years Ago:  Cherry Cheesecake Brownies