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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shrimp and Roasted Pepper Tacos

After making all that salsa last weekend, I had absolutely no choice but to make something delicious to serve as a vehicle for the previous deliciousness.  No choice.  So bring on the tacos!  But these look like fajitas, you say?  They do because I chose to roast up some peppers and onions - which are always found on a fajita platter - which led me to inquire...What exactly is the difference between a taco and a fajita?

Apparently nothing.  Fajitas are typically from Texas and are traditionally made with skirt steak - hence "fajita" - "faja" means girdle in Spanish.  So I call these "tacos" because tacos are created by wrapping absolutely ANYTHING you want in a tortilla.  So again...bring on the tacos!

I think you can do this marinade with any type of fish.  I got it from Annie Eats and she says any white fish will do.  I have done it with bass and it was really good.  I did up some roasted peppers (since I had a green pepper from the garden just waiting to be used) and onions.  And I served them with some cheese, avocado,  the fresh salsa (of course), some green chili sauce, and corn tortillas.  Remember you can throw in anything you want or have in hand - so go have fun.

Shrimp and Roasted Pepper Tacos
marinade taken from Annie Eats

For the marinade:
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp feshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp minced cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
salt to taste

For the roasted peppers:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Put the peppers and onions in the baking dish and combine with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

Combine the lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and salt in a shallow baking dish with the shrimp and let marinade in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.  Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat and add the shrimp with the marinade.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp turn pink and curl.

Serve with all your fixins and nom, nom, nom...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fresh Salsa

It's the end of the summer and that means two things.  One - I am headed back to school all too soon, and two - we have tons of tomatoes coming out of the garden.  At least I'm really happy about one of these things.  Here is a delicious salsa recipe to numb the pain of the nearing school year.  Eat it with chips or just a spoon, but I'm going to need to make some shrimp tacos to go with this liquid gold.

Fresh Salsa
adapted from Annie Eats
(makes a little more than a quart or so)

2 seeded jalapenos
1 seeded cherry pepper (or 1/2 tsp ground cayenne)
2 large tomatoes
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
4 peeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 sweet onion
1 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until the vegetables have reached the size you desire.  Refrigerate in an air-tight container for at least two hours (if you can wait that long) and enjoy!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

I love, love, love these cupcakes!  The diced up peaches inside are such a nice surprise and the frosting is lick the bowl, the spoon, and your fingers good.  I love these cupcakes because not only are they delicious, but they are also interesting - and that makes them special.

(A special thanks to the talented Dan Tang, who took the above picture while giving me a photography lesson!  Check out some of his gorgeous work at

Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
makes 24 to 28 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour (if you don't have cake flour, read below and make your own**)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, sour cream, or full-fat yogurt
3 large peaches OR use a 1-lb bag of frozen, peeled, cored, and chopped smallish (1/3-inch dice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line your muffin tins.  Combine your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together, beating until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each one, and then add the vanilla. Gently mix in the buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt.  Stir in dry ingredients and fold in peach chunks.  Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean.  Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugars and cornstarch.  In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and vanilla.  Beat until the frosting is smooth and light.  Chill the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens back up, about 30 minutes, then spread or dollop on cooled cupcakes.

**To make your own cake flour using regular all-purpose flour:
For every cup of all-purpose white flour, remove two tablespoons and replace with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Be sure to whisk the mixture together to combine thoroughly and voila...cake flour! HyperSmash

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I took the picture above after my first photography lesson from a friend.  I lured him and his family over to my house with my (I wish I could say famous) spaghetti and meatballs.  I do make pretty tasty meatballs though.  The recipe I use is from my Jewish mom apparently has one of the best Italian meatball recipes in existence...yep.  They're extremely soft and moist - so much so that some will actually fall apart in the sauce - creating a super tasty meat sauce out of an ordinary tomato sauce.  Jim comes from a very Italian family with a mom and four other Auntie's who all make delicious meatballs.  He likes my meatballs the best.  So there you have it.  Make these if you want to fall in love with a meatball...or just want to return a favor from a friend.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

For the Tomato Sauce:
olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil

For the Meatballs:
2 lbs ground beef (you could also use veal, lamb, or a mix)
2 eggs
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2/3 of one of those tiny cans of tomato sauce (6 oz?)
a dash of pepper

1lb. spaghetti

Make your sauce:  Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil.  Heat on medium-low.  Add the garlic and onion.  Saute until the onions are translucent.  Add the cans of crushed tomatoes and the basil and combine.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then turn the heat to low.

Now make your meatballs:  Take off all of your rings and thoroughly combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Form your meatballs into whatever size balls of meat you prefer.  Now put olive oil in a nonstick pan and heat on medium.  Once the oil is hot, put your meatballs in a pan and turn them occasionally so that the outsides have browned.  Do this in batches if necessary.  If the oil gets too hot, turn down the heat a little.  Take them out when brown and drain them on a paper towel-covered plate.  Then put the meatballs in your sauce.  I like to let the sauce go for at least 2 hours (today it went 5 hours - the longer it simmers, the better it will taste), stirring occasionally so the sauce doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.

In yet another pot, boil up your spaghetti and when it is done, drain, return it to its pot and add some of the sauce so it doesn't get sticky.  Serve with romano cheese and crushed red pepper - and garlic bread too!

(Sorry there are no pics from the cooking process, but my hands were coated in raw meat for most of it and I didn't want to keep washing them so that I could touch my camera.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Zucchini Stuffed Poblano Peppers

And yet another zucchini recipe...

These stuffed peppers are amazing!  They've got the perfect ratio of rice to cheese to tomato to spices to....zucchini!  Any time I look at my zucchini plants, this recipe gets added to the list of "must make these" floating around in my head.  They're so good that it's worth it to turn on the oven in this heat!  Although I do run the air conditioner to help keep the kitchen cool, I tend to stay away from oven cooking in the summer.  This recipe makes me turn on my oven in August.  I've tried making these with bell peppers, but I didn't like them nearly as much.  I was truly disappointed actually.  So you MUST make these with poblanos.  Slice them in half so that you end up with halves that are as wide as possible even if they aren't as deep.  It will be near impossible to stuff super skinny openings and then keep them upright during the cooking process.

Zucchini Stuffed Poblano Peppers

4 poblano peppers, cut in half, stems, ribs and seeds removed
olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin (I use my mandolin)
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 15-oz cans no salt added diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked brown rice (or white rice)
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese (or other cheese)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a baking dish and the outside of your halved poblanos lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, zucchini, and all of your seasonings, and stir occasionally until onions are cooked.

Add the diced tomatoes and turn up the heat.  Cook until most of the liquid is gone.

Add the rice and combine.  Then add 1 cup of the cheese and combine.

Load each of your poblano halves with the filling.  They will be super high and heaping full.

Then sprinkle with the remaining cup of cheese.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 5 more.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lobster Jambalaya

Have you ever been to New Orleans?  If not, I highly recommend making the trip.  Be prepared to eat a lot and be sure to go to Coop's Place.  We went there twice in the four days we were there because we liked it so much.  It's a place that does not look at all like much - a real hole in the wall - but it is a jewel in the French Quarter.  Be sure to get the fried chicken and the jambayala (which has rabbit in it!) - both so good that I salivate just thinking about it.  Also, if you are an adventurous eater, be sure to try alligator and turtle - both regional specialties.  Thinking about New Orleans makes me want some jambalaya.  Hmmm...

Jambalaya is one of Jim's "go-to" dishes.  So when I asked him to throw some together, of course he said yes.  Then he asked if he should put some lobster in it!  Yes, please.  Next thing I know he's shelling 3 lobsters.  I absolutely love lobster, but a really love my husband.

Jim's jambalaya recipe is based off of Emeril's, so we use his Bayou Blast seasoning.  You don't need to buy this though, you could easily make it yourself using the following mix of spices:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
The rest of the recipe follows.  Also, feel free to make this with 1 lb peeled shrimp instead of lobster and any type of sausage or kielbasa you'd like.  I use turkey kielbasa to make it a little healthier.  (Hence the brown rice.) You could also use chicken.

Lobster Jambalaya
makes 8 servings

1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
2 tsp worchester sauce
2 tsp hot sauce
4 bay leaves
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 cups brown rice
6 cups chicken broth or stock (We used 8 today and it came out a little soupier than I would have liked.)
1 package of turkey kielbasa, sliced (or any type of sausage)
the meat from 4 lbs of lobster, cut into 1-inch pieces, rib cages with legs reserved
1 Tbsp Emeril’s Bayou Blast seasoning (or the use the mix from above)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
olive oil

After you remove the lobster meat from their shells, combine the meat with Emeril’s Bayou blast seasoning and put in the refrigerator to add at the end of the cooking process.

In a pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, and green pepper.  After a couple of minutes, add the lobster shells and stir occasionally until the onions are translucent.

Add the worchester sauce, hot sauce, bay leaves, garlic, tomatoes, rice, and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat so that the pot simmers at a low boil until the rice is cooked, about an hour.  Add the turkey kielbasa during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Remove the shells from the pot and add lobster meat and scallions.

Remove from the heat and enjoy!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lemon Basil Scones

I love baking because I get to pull out my grandmother's (my Bubby for those of you who know or don't know some Yiddish), dough board.  She passed away about a year ago, and my mother thoughtfully passed this on to me.  I think of my Bubby every day, but when I use her dough board, I am transported back to watching her make chocolate rolls and cookies, strudel and my favorite kreplach.  I don't think she ever made a scone in her life, but after watching her cook enough to feed an army almost every day of mine, I know she would be so happy to know that her love of cooking, baking, and feeding the neighborhood and those she loved dearly lives on in me.

My mother-in-law, Ann, always picks me up recipe flyers wherever she goes.  On her most recent trip to Vermont, she found a really good one with some interesting recipes.  I saw this one for Lemon Basil Scones, and being that I just happened to have some leftover basil and a lonely lemon hanging out in my fridge, I took it as a sign that I had to make these.

Even if you're not crazy about lemon or basil, this is your basic (and delicious) scone recipe.  You could substitute in anything you wanted.  It's an opportunity to be as creative as you want - or satisfy any lingering cravings for something - using delicious, flaky, buttery scones as the vehicle to do so.  Use any herb you want or have on hand.  You could throw in chopped fruit or chocolate chips.  (If you take the sweet route with your scones, add 1 tsp of vanilla along with the cream.)

I think the next time I make my lemon-thyme chicken soup, I will make these scones with thyme instead of basil.  They are really satisfying.  If you like buttery, flaky, comfort food, make these.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Lemon Basil Scones
made 8 scones using a 4-inch wide biscuit cutter

2 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 heaping tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream

Put the rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined.

Add the butter and pulse until the flour turns into course crumbs (about 12 1-second pulses).

Put the mixture into a large bowl and add the basil and lemon zest and combine.

Add the heavy cream and stir until it just holds together.

Dump the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough comes together.

Flatten into a circle about an inch and a half high and, using a biscuit or cookie cutter or even a glass, cut out your scones.

Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 14-16 minutes rotating once halfway through.

Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Zucchini Fritters

I know what your thinking..."Enough with the zucchini already!"  I can't help it.  Use what you got, right?  I look at it as a great opportunity to try out new recipes before my beautiful veggies spoil.  So have you ever heard a zucchini sing?  Well you will when you eat these (if you can hear them over your own happy humming!)

I really couldn't believe how delicious these amazingly simple fritters were.  I got the idea for the scallions (instead of regular yellow onions) and the baking powder (I would have never thought of that!) from my favorite food blog in the entire world - the food blog that got me into food blogs - Smitten Kitchen.  If you like food porn and/or cooking, check it out, and DO try these...

According to Smitten Kitchen, you could keep these in the fridge or freeze them for months.  Then you can reheat them 325 degrees until they are hot and crisp again.  I didn't want to try this, but if you do, please let me know how it goes.

Zucchini Fritters
from Smitten Kitchen

2 medium zucchini
1 tsp kosher salt
2 scallions, sliced in half lengthwise and chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup canola oil (or any other oil of your choice)

Shred the zucchini, put in a bowl, and toss with the salt.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.  Then you can wring out all the water - there's a lot of it - and wringing it out will allow the fritters to crisp.

In another small bowl, combine the flour and the baking powder.

Add the scallion, garlic, and egg to the zucchini and mix well.  Then add the flour mixture and combine.

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high heat.  Drop small dollops of the batter into the pan, flatten slightly with your spoon or spatula, and cook for about 3-4 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.  Then flip and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Serve with sour cream if you like sour cream (no thank you for me.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Slow Cooker Indian Chicken

I know it ain't the prettiest dish, but I swear it tasted better than it looks.  I am always on the hunt to find good slow cooker meals and healthier versions of chicken tikka masala - my absolute favorite Indian dish.  A really good chicken tikka masala has a boat-load of cream and clarified butter - that's why it tastes so damn delicious!  Well, this "version" has a very small amount of cream and not nearly enough butter for you to even be able to taste it's in there.

Although this won't relieve me of the urge to gorge myself at the nearest Indian buffet, it is a decent slow cooker meal with some decent Indian flavors.  I'll definitely cook it again when I'm craving Indian food.  The chicken was super tender.  Also, Adrienne liked it and asked for seconds, which is a HUGE plus.  I might halve the recipe next time because this made a lot of food.

Slow Cooker Indian Chicken
adapted from Smells Like Home

3-4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 cup nonfat greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1 jalapeno, stem removed and pierced several times
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 whole onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp garam masala
1 2-3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream

Combine the chicken, yogurt, cumin, coriander, and salt in the slow cooker.

Add the jalapeno to the top.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and onions and cook until the onions begin to brown slightly around the edges.

Add the garam masala and ginger and cook for about a minute until fragrant.  Then add the crushed tomatoes and sugar and bring to a boil.

Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken mixture.

Cover and cook on low heat for 5 hours.

At the end of the cooking time add the cream and let cook for another ten minutes.

Serve with your choice of rice and enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Shrimp in Coconut Red Curry Sauce

I thought this dish came out restaurant-worthy!  In fact, it came out better than any curry I have had at a Thai restaurant.  I am always disappointed when I leave Thai restaurants, but my version of your average Thai curry did not disappoint.  

You could make this dish with green or yellow curry paste as well - entirely up to you.  You could also use whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand.  I had green peppers that just came out of our garden, so I decided to build this dish around them.  Oh my goodness what a winner.  I wiped up the rest of the sauce with my finger - I was close to licking the bowl, but I didn't want to disturb Jim.

When you do put the sauce together, taste the sauce after using only 1 tablespoon of sugar.  I used 2 to start, and I think I might have been able to halve it.  I will try it next time with half the sugar and add the rest if it needs more.

Shrimp in Coconut Red Curry Sauce

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbsp peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 inches ginger, peeled and minced
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 serrano or thai chili pepper, seeds removed and minced
1 Tbsp red curry paste
1 14 oz can of lite coconut milk
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I would first taste after added half)
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/3 cup of water
2 green peppers, sliced
1 can sliced bamboo shoots
2 Tbsp roasted and unsalted peanuts

Love this stuff...

Heat the peanut oil in a pot over medium heat.  When hot, add the garlic, ginger, the white part of the scallions, and chili pepper.  Sautee for about 3-5 minutes until fragrant.  Add the red curry paste and stir everything together for another 3-5 minutes.  Then add the can of coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, and water, and stir until everything is combined.  Add the green peppers and let the mixture come to a boil.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook for about 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally until your green peppers have become tender but still firm – not soft.  Keep your eye on it because they can go mushy quickly.  Add your shrimp and bamboo shoots and cook until the shrimp have become pink and they have curled - this doesn't take very long.  Take off of the heat and stir in the green part of the scallions and the peanuts.  Serve with the rice of your choice and enjoy!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Whoever first thought of combining chocolate and zucchini is a mad genius.  The idea of dipping a zucchini stick in chocolate is plain gross, but throw some shredded zucchini in a loaf of chocolate bread, and the result is a moist, decadent, and nutritious dessert (or breakfast)!

This bread recipe uses browned butter which gives it a little bit of a nutty taste without actually using nuts, and all the zucchini keeps it extremely moist while being densely chocolaty at the same time.  It really is a delicious bread.  So delicious that it's dangerous.  I cut mine into slices so that I can then wrap each slice individually to freeze.  Then, if I'm craving something chocolaty at night or running out of the house too quickly to prepare any breakfast, I can easily defrost a slice by zapping it in the microwave for 10 seconds.  The zucchini part of it negates some of the guilt, but also half the flour is whole wheat and the chocolate I choose is 60% dark.  Every little bit helps!

*If you've never browned butter before...just put the butter in a pan and heat on medium.  The butter will start to spurt, sizzle, and sputter due to all the water evaporating.  Once it's done making all that noise, it is going to begin to brown.  Swirl the pan around every now and again so it browns evenly.  When it becomes light brown in color and smells a little nutty, it is done.  Pour it into a small bowl to cool.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, browned and cooled*
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup of chocolate chips (I use 60% dark)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8 x 4 loaf pan.
Combine the cooled browned butter and brown sugar in a large bowl.
Add the eggs and beat until smooth.
Add the vanilla and buttermilk and combine.
In another large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
Add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Add the zucchini and chocolate chips and combine gently.
Put into your prepared pan and bake for about 75 minutes. (I find it hard to use the dry toothpick rule accurately since the melted chocolate chips always cause it to come up wet and chocolaty, especially with this moist bread.)
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Remove from pan and continue to cool the loaf on a wire rack.

Have a slice with a glass of cold milk...delicious.