Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grilled Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad...Surviving Roadtrips

The girls and I recently did a few long distance road trips to start checking out college campuses and get an idea what some of their choices, likes, dislikes are out there.

Hard as I try, whenever we do a road trip I pack water, fruit, almonds, granola bars and any other easy, quick, healthy, energy snack I can get my hands on.  These healthy choices last about 37 miles and then my passengers (okay, me too) are completely board with them.

Fun fact about road trips though, you get to experience different stops and restaurants that you normally don't see in your hometown.  Exhibit A:"Steak'n Shake"!  I discovered this somewhere over the Colorado border, driving through Kansas.  Big mistake!!  Look at these cute little, road trip driving friendly sliders!!

After three days of surviving on gas station displays of "Krispy Kreme" donuts (don't judge...they're amazing), Mountain Dew to stay awake while driving, hotel buffet biscuits and gravy and what I think were scrambled eggs, Ding Dongs (also an amazing childhood favorite...yours too, don't try and deny it) and Peanut M&M's here and there, my gut felt like it was going to explode...and don't get me started on the Chili-Cheese Fritos.  I don't know what's worse, how I felt after inhaling them, or the rancid, lingering aroma in my car after the bag was opened..I think you get the picture.

Upon our return home, I needed a clean, fresh and home cooked salad (and car detailing)...this one did the trick perfectly!

Grilled Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad
Inspired by The South Beach Diet

1-1/2 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 to 1-1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
4 scallions, each cut into 2" small pieces

2 Tbl. fresh lime juice
2 Tbl. olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
4 cups Romaine lettuce
1 medium avocado, diced
4 to 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup cooked corn kernels (preferably grilled and cut from cob)
1 medium (red, orange or yellow) pepper, diced
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Add shrimp and scallions and toss to coat; refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil, black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt;  let stand at room temperature while shrimp is marinating.  In a large bowl, combine romaine lettuce, avocado, bacon, corn kernels and bell pepper.

Generously coat a grill or grill pan with cooking spray and heat to medium-high.  Alternately thread shrimp and scallions onto 4 skewers.  Lightly sprinkle shrimp and scallions with salt and grill, turning once and basting with any remaining marinade, until shrimp just turn pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Remove shrimp and scallions from skewers and add to salad mixture.  Add dressing and toss gently.  Arrange salad on 4 plates, top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

One Year Ago: Surf and Turf Crostinis
Two Years Ago: Smoked BBQ Chicken Nachos
Three Years Ago: Flatbread Friday

Of course, every road trip survivor deserves a little refreshment...
Bread and Butter Pinot Noir is our new favorite discovery.
It paired perfectly with our dinner salad.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Seniors, Shrimp Skewers with Pesto and Cheddar Polenta

The day has arrived...the "Last, First Day of School".  My girls are Seniors and this day has been coming for a very, very long time.  Although it doesn't seem that long...feels like they were just taking their "First, First Day of School" photos.

My heart is overwhelmed with emotions and it's going to be one of those long Kleenex kinds of year. Well, my little birds will be ready to fly soon and we just continue to pray for them and be thankful for all the Blessings we have been given with them.

This dinner has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than it is a great comfort meal for me in my time of need.

Shrimp Skewers with Pesto and Cheddar Polenta
Adapted from Cuisine at Home Grilling

For The Shrimp;
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. paprika
minced zest of 1 lime
salt to taste
16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
(1) 4 ounce container, prepared pesto sauce

For The Cheddar Polenta;
3 cups water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
salt to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Combine 1/4 cup oil, garlic, pepper flakes, paprika, lime zest, and salt for the shrimp in a bowl.  Add shrimp and toss to coat; marinate for at least 5 minutes.

Thread 4 shrimp onto each of the 4 skewers through both the tail and the head to hold in place.  Reserve marinade for basting.

Arrange skewers on the grill with the handles extending over the edge.  Grill covered for 1-1/2 minutes per side, brushing shrimp with marinade as they cook.  Serve skewers with warmed, prepared pesto.

For the Polenta, bring water and milk to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Gradually whisk in cornmeal.  Cook cornmeal according to package directions, or until thick, stirring often.  

Add Cheddar, stirring until melted.  Season polenta with salt.

One Year Ago: Naughty Cookie Bars
Three Years Ago: Flatiron Steak Salad

Monday, August 15, 2016

Zucchini Pie and School Week Meal Prep

It's "Back-To-School" week here in Colorado.  Just completed a great weekend of getting caught up on my 37 loads of laundry that I was in denial of and started on my closet purging for another Goodwill delivery.  A good home cleaning and refreshing the house for a new week and school year always feels good.  Every school year I remember my girls starting their school life in Kindergarten and reading Robert Fulghum's book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  It is a must read if you have not done so already.  It's a timeless classic that makes you look at and smile at life and how simple it really can (and should) be.

School clothing shopping for Senior Portraits is all complete, location scouting has been finalized and my Senior girls are ready to finish their high school careers.  Registration packets and parent authorizations are all signed. Incredibly bittersweet...what more can I say.  As always, to take my mind off my birds leaving the nest someday...I cook!

Last night I made a refrigerator full of chicken quesadillas, breakfast burritos, pancakes and waffles, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, my Pot Roast prep...you know, the quintessential teenager meal needs...(well, maybe for mama too, after all my mornings can get hectic also)!

For weeknight dinners, this side dish is awesome!  It came from one of my summer deliveries of Cuisine at Home and I was so excited to try it.  Comes together so quick and flawless that it will be one less thing to stress about during your back-to-school week.  Enjoy and have a good week!

Zucchini Pie (with cheesy rice crust)
Courtesy of Cuisine At Home May/June 2016

1 cup dry instant white rice
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray.

Combine rice, broth, Cheddar, egg, mayonnaise and pepper flakes; pour into prepared dish.

Arrange zucchini in an overlapping spiral on top of rice mixture.

Combine butter, Parmesan, Italian seasoning and salt; pour over zucchini.

Bake pie until bubbly and top is golden, 30-35 minutes;  let rest 10 minutes.

One Year Ago: Greek Chicken Salad
Two Years Ago: Spinach Chicken Bacon Pizza
Three Years Ago: Snickerdoodles

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Key Lime Jalapeno Cake

It is local fair and farmer's market seasons around most of the country and most definitely here in Colorado.  I love going to our farmer's market on Saturday mornings.  The freshest most beautiful fruits, vegetables and flowers with vibrant colors and scents.  Along with those, you can also get a taste of local honey, sausages, wines and cheeses with all the farms around our area.

Colorado is known for their peppers...all kinds...Hatch, Ghost, Jalapeno and every other kind imaginable.  The other day I was reading our local paper and noticed an article on one of our family owned bakeries here.  They specialize in taking everyday desserts and add a Colorado fresh ingredient twist to them.  I saw that they add jalapeno peppers to their Key Lime Pie...are you kidding me?  How awesome does that sound?

Since I had never made a Key Lime Pie from scratch (yet), and I was short on time, I did a play on the dessert and made a Key Lime Cake instead.  Oh my goodness!!!  This cake has everything...sweet, rich, creamy and a little kick of heat at the end of your bite that gets you in the tastebuds.  Honestly though, I could have just sat and ate the entire bowl of the key lime frosting...delish!!

Key Lime Jalapeno Cake
Adapted from Lauren's Latest and Inspired by La Momo Maes Bakery

(1) 16.5 oz. white cake mix
+ ingredients to complete cake mix (eggs, water, oil)
2 Tbls. finely grated lime zest
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs (removed and discarded) finely diced
8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbls. finely grated lime zest
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbl. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9x13 glass baking dish with nonstick spray on bottom and sides of pan and set aside.

Make white cake mix according to package directions.  Stir in lime zest and finely diced jalapeno. Pour into prepared pan and smooth batter out evenly.  Bake 23-28 minutes or until cake is completely cooked and lightly golden.  Set aside to cool.

For the topping; mix cream cheese with hand mixer to loosen.  Pour in sweetened condensed milk and stir until smooth.  Add in lime zest, lime juice and vanilla until smooth and filling has thickened.  Pour over cooled cake and spread evenly.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours covered in plastic wrap to set.

For the whipped cream; stir cream, powdered sugar and vanilla all together in a bowl until whipped into big pillowy peaks.  Add a spoon of whipped cream over serving.  Top with lime zest and serve.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

French Dip Date Night

It had been almost three years to the day since my girls were last at the Pepsi Center in Denver, for a concert. Looking back at their last concert photo, they have changed so much in three years, it's just unreal to me sometimes.

Well, after a long wait of 8 months (they received concert tickets for their birthday last year), the night had arrived...Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas.  Floor seats, nonetheless!!  I don't know how, but the Angels in Heaven above found me amazing (and affordable) seats for these girls.  The problem with having great seats...they will never sit in the "nose bleed sections" again!  I was just impressed that we didn't lose the tickets in those 8 months!

Priceless Smiles!

Fun Sister Memories Forever!

Demi Lovato

Nick Jonas

While our girls were rock'n out (they take after their mom, don't you know) my husband and I hit the big city.  We walked into the LoDo district and wandered around the new Union Station downtown. Once the scary lightning storm passed it ended up being a beautiful evening.

We stumbled onto the Thirsty Lion...which I can now say is probably my new favorite place downtown!!  Super fun atmosphere, extensive menu and awesome service...and the food, WOW!

I am a huge afficianado of The French Dip Sandwich.  I love, love, love these sandwiches and have since forever!  Their sandwich was unbelievable.  They make it with a Ciabatta roll (my new way to make it at home now), Provolone cheese and their Au Jus dipping sauce is infused with rosemary (also my new way to make it at home now). Amazing, just saying!!

My husband had their Fish'n Chips and he was equally impressed.  Yes, we will most definitely be back to the Thirsty Lion when we return to Denver for a future date night.  Cheers!

One Year Ago: Bistro Sandwich
Two Years Ago: Baja Turkey Tacos
Three Years Ago: Roasted Garlic and Cheese Platter

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Camping vs. Glamping and Potato Packets

So there's "camping" and then there's "glamping".  If you are a "glamper" then you already know the difference and I don't need to explain.  I am a glamper and I'm not going to apologize for it!

We finally were able to get away this past weekend to our favorite spot in Estes Park.  It's clearly everyone else's favorite spot too...because you have to make reservations in January for a summer weekend!  I know we must look like The Clampets from Beverly Hillbillies, but we are a high maintenance glamping family and pack everything, even if it's just for a few days.  Plus, if there's anything that makes me more crazy is having to pay $10.37 for a bottle of salad dressing I forgot at home and have to pay "tourist" pricing in the nearest convenience town.

The boys were even excited to go for our little trip...so excited that Angus threw up in the backseat before we even got out of the driveway. So much fun!!??

The view from our campsite was absolutely breathtaking at sunset.

First night, grilled ranch chicken...my husband has truly become "The Pit Master"!  If you are looking for hot dogs or hamburgers for dinner, don't come to our site...you will never see that being served on my watch...never!  We go full on gourmet even in the middle of the forest!

Thank God my husband is an early riser.  He knows I refuse to come out of the tent unless the percolator is brewing and my steaming cup of hot coffee is ready to go in my hands by the nice warm fire.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing better than pancakes made in a cast iron skillet!  My kids loved them so much that even when we are home, they will only have them prepared in the same skillet.  

Here is our new digs for the season.  Our kids commandeered our other tent for them and their teenager friends that tag along.  We haven't reached the motor home stage of our lives yet...yet!  However if you have to tent it, this one is really nice...it's like a condo on stakes.  Holds my 6'3" husband and our Labradors perfectly...as you can see, Theo approves of his new "patio".

Our super sized cots fit the bill nicely in the new tent and let's just face it, no girl can go glamping without her JLo faux fur blanket...and yes, my husband needed his custom made Seahawks blanket as well.

You will also never find a Pinot Noir being served in a plastic disposable cup in my glamping world.

Fireside ring ready for the audience.

Rib-eye steaks and potato packets grilled for our finale night.

Why is dinner so much better served in the forest.

Aside from his scary photo glow eyes, this sweet little friend was also having his dinner right next to our site.  He must have stayed at least an hour and just hung out with us.  So perfectly beautiful and mesmerizing to watch in his environment.

Potato Packets

6 large red potatoes, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
1 cold stick butter, divided into 12 slices 
Lawry's season salt
ground black pepper
garlic salt

On a square piece of foil, spray with non-stick spray.  Divided all the vegetables evenly for 6 servings.  Pile the foil with potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers.  Add 2 slices of butter.  Sprinkle lightly with season salt, pepper and garlic salt.
Fold foil together in the middle and then fold each side in.

Put on grill at medium-high temperature for about 30 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through.

*Makes 6 packets.

One Year Ago: GGMa's Angel Food Cake
Two Years Ago: Baja Turkey Tostadas
Three Years Ago: Sunrise Bars