7/29/2012

Sunday Dinner

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Feta Cheese Truffles

Grilled Leg of Lamb
Tzatziki Sauce
Greek Potatoes 
Grilled Vegetable Platter



My daughter Emma is away at basketball camp for the next few days and as much as I will miss her, I thought I would take advantage of her absence this Sunday and prepare a meal that is not one of her favorites-- lamb.  (It happens to be my son Jack's favorite meat.)  Unfortunately, she will be missing out on one of her favorite cheeses-- feta.

Like the Gorgonzola Truffles and the Goat Cheese Truffles, these are a savory version of the more common chocolate or other sweet truffles.  And with a Mediterranean feel to the menu tonight, I knew the feta version would be the perfect starter.  

Since feta is a main ingredient of this recipe, please use a quality feta preferably in block form.  In my opinion, feta that is already crumbled and packaged is a little too salty.  Minced shallot and garlic is added for an extra savory layer while also providing a little kick.  Some added lemon juice and a quick roll through some finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley serve to bring all of the flavors together into one harmonious, popable bite.

7/27/2012

Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches with Strawberry Swirl

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If I had a dollar for every time I have heard or read---"I want to make these using strawberries in place of blueberries", I might be able to make a dent in the national debt.  Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled when people are excited about anything I launch out into the ether that is...whatever the cool term is for the internet these days.  That being said, it has been made clear to me that the time has come to put out a strawberry version of this delicious summer treat.  

The recipe is virtually the same as the blueberry version with a minor tweak in the compote.  Please partake of these lovelies.  It's like holding Summer in your hand.  And then eating it☺.  

7/26/2012

Shrimp Burgers

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It is kind of weird when you hear the word "burger" used for a sandwich containing anything other than ground beef or maybe turkey.  It just falls on the ears a little funny.  Look, I wasn't about to call this sandwich a ground shrimp patty sandwich, so shrimp burger it is.  After you taste it, you most likely won't care what it's called.  You will take another bite, then several more after that, all the while tasting something different and delicious in every bite.

Like the Ultimate Steakhouse Burger, I prefer a burger that is thick and meaty.  To get that thickness, I use a full two pounds of shrimp to make six burgers.  I add a little mayo for fat and flavor before adding an extra egg along with the breadcrumbs for a good binder.  This keeps the burger from falling apart while retaining a moist and tender texture.  Lemon juice is obligatory when shrimp is on the table, but I also like to add a splash of sherry to accentuate that sweet shrimp flavor.


I like to serve them sandwiched between toasted whole wheat hamburger buns with a thick slice of tomato and a nice dollop of tartar sauce.  Although I am not normally a fan of cold lettuce on a hot burger, I find that some shredded romaine lettuce adds a satisfying crunch. 

7/24/2012

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

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Standing on the homemade soapbox again... I have already shared with you my go-to recipe for homemade hamburger buns, but every once in a while a burger recipe comes along that calls for something a little different.  That something arrives in the form of these beautiful whole wheat buns.

Normally I like to share with you the base recipe before sharing the adaptations, but since it is burger season, I am going backwards.  Like the white flour hamburger buns, I enrich this dough with an egg.  It provides good structure and texture.  Rather than using sesame seeds or poppy seeds, I stay on theme with the whole wheat and sprinkle the buns with a little wheat bran.  


Sweet, nutty, and 100% whole wheat (o.k. a little potato "flour"), these are a healthy and most certainly tasty alternative to a plain bun.  Perfect for burgers, but a great bun for sandwiches too.

Now, about that burger...

7/22/2012

Sunday Dinner

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Grilled Beef Tenderloin
Tomatoes and Marinated Red Onions
Simple Salad

Chocolate Nemesis


It is the height of Summer and I know that I should be making desserts involving the bounty of the season.  While I love and appreciate all that nature provides for dessert making this time of year, I really need an excuse to make something with my old friend chocolate.  Try as I might, no reasonable excuse has presented itself.  Well, I'm just gonna have to make something anyway.  At the end of the day, chocolate needs no excuse.

This is like a pudding that you can eat with a fork.  The chocolate flavor is deep and intense, giving you a perfectly valid reason to have a dollop of whipped cream on the side.  The cream takes that rich edge off just a bit while adding a dimension to the overall taste and texture profiles.  Oh, and the name!  It is absolutely brilliant, but after a few bites you might be calling this dessert "Chocolate Frenemy".

Sunday Dinner one year ago

7/20/2012

Barbecue Chicken Kebabs with Bacon Rub

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I have never been a fan of meat and vegetable kebabs.  Not because I don't like the meat or veggies, but because the vegetables aren't cooked to my liking by the time the meat is done.  If I get just meat or just veggies on one skewer, I am all in, especially when bacon and barbecue sauce are involved ☺.  

This is a great recipe that can easily be doubled or even tripled (I did this recently for a family gathering) to feed a hungry crowd.  You can use breast meat, thigh meat or both, as I do in my house to cater to everyone's oh so delicate palette.

Normally I put the smoke flavor in my barbecue sauce, but in this recipe that great smoky flavor comes from the bacon in the rub.  How do you get the bacon in the rub, you ask?  It is pureed in the food processor until it forms a paste.  Mmm... bacon paste (said in my best Homer Simpson voice). Mix it with some sweet and smoky spices and massage it into the chicken.  It is messy and you might think that it is never going to combine, but keep at it or hand it over to the kids and let them have at it.


These make an excellent meal when paired with the zucchini slaw. Leftovers make for a yummy barbecue chicken sandwich.

7/19/2012

Sweet and Tart Zucchini Slaw

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Are you one of those people that is always on the lookout for new recipes to use up that abundance of zucchini in the garden?  Yeah, me too.  When you have a delicious recipe like this one to use up that summer veggie, you might start to look at that abundance in a new light.


I think you'll find crunchy raw vegetables tossed with a sweet and tart dressing a winning combination of tastes and texture.  The addition of poppy seeds provides a unique twist.  Serve it as a light salad for lunch or as a side dish to a barbecue dinner.  It is certainly a nice change from the classic creamy slaw (always a favorite).  This slaw is best eaten soon after it is made because the vegetables will start to release moisture as the mixture sits.  That being said, the leftovers are still tasty.  They just lose some crunch.

About that barbecue dinner... stay tuned.  (There's bacon involved!)

7/18/2012

Pineapple-Blueberry Smoothie

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Here I go talking about the weather again, but dang... it's HOT!  Like the iced latte, starting out with a cool beverage on mornings like this certainly helps in the effort to beat the heat.  Simple and quick to prepare, portable, healthy and very tasty---this smoothie has everything you want in a summer breakfast.


Pineapple is a year round fruit in our house.  In the summer I like to pair it with the sweet blue jewels of summer.  It might seem like a strange pairing, but it really works.  I use my standard smoothie formula, but use pineapple and blueberries for the fruit.  What really makes this smoothie stand out is the coconut water.  I don't know if I am fully convinced of all the health benefits of coconut water, but I do know that it helps make for a tasty beverage first thing in the morning.  You can almost feel the tropical island breeze off the water instead of the hot wind off the pavement.

7/15/2012

Sunday Dinner

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Marinated Mushrooms

Tuscan Grilled Chicken
Roasted Vegetable Panzanella
Fresh Corn Risotto

Red Currant and Raspberry Meringue Torte



It is that time of year when the garden is bursting with juicy red raspberries and bright red currants.  The kids have picked enough that I was able to make this dessert for dinner tonight.  It is like a giant macaroon that is baked in a biscuit like crust.  The top of the meringue is perfectly crisp and the interior is bursting with the red jeweled fruits.


Since it is not too sweet, I like to serve it with lightly sweetened whipped cream and this red currant-raspberry sauce.  I even made enough sauce to freeze for a Sunday dinner dessert down the road☺.

7/13/2012

BLAT Pasta Panzanella Salad

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Finally is what a few of you are probably saying right now.  I talked about this pasta salad with my facebook followers weeks ago and I apologize for the delay in sharing the recipe, but I had to make it one more time (and get a better picture) just to make sure it was perfect for you.

Along with grilled foods, I think pasta salads are perfect summer time meals.  They are simple, versatile, and can feed a crowd.  This one is inspired by one of my favorite summer sandwiches when tomatoes are at their peak-- the classic BLT.  I, however, twist up the classic in this pasta salad. Of course there is bacon for the B, and tomato for the T, but I made a substitution for the L, as well as an addition of the A.  I like baby arugula for a nice peppery bite that compliments the bacon and tomato well.  The addition of avocados lends a buttery and creamy taste and texture.  What really makes this pasta salad fun and stays true to the sandwich inspiration are the crunchy, buttery homemade croutons; hence the panzanella in the name.


As far as the recipe goes, I will let you cook the bacon to your own liking.  I know some people have to have it just right (like me), and others like it burnt to a crisp.  I used plum tomatoes in the recipe because that is what I can get all my children to eat, but you can use cherry tomatoes or any other variety that you like.  Like a slathering of good mayo on a BLT, the creamy dressing brings all the ingredients together.  BLT + pasta salad = yes, please!

7/12/2012

Homemade Croutons

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Raise your hand if you like crunchy, buttery croutons in a salad... my hand is raised high.  Actually, I am guilty of snacking on them straight out of the jar.  I'll bet you are too.  

Yes, I am aware that there are boxes and bags of croutons for sale at the market, but do I really need to stand on my soapbox and give you the "homemade is so much better" speech?  Nah-- didn't think so.

This is a good, basic recipe for croutons.  Ah, but croutons can come in so many varieties when you are making them in your own kitchen!  I like to use white bread with butter or sliced country bread with oil...sometimes I throw in dried herbs or spices and sometimes I infuse the butter or oil with sliced garlic.  They are all tasty combinations.


They are an excellent addition to a green salad, but they are also great in soups, stews, or anything that calls for a good carbo crunch.  And to my facebook followers, stay tuned for that pasta panzanella salad recipe that I teased you with a few weeks back.  You'll need a batch of these for that one.

7/10/2012

Homemade Iced Latte

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I am willing to bet that many of you enjoy your cup of joe first thing in the morning.  But with the current heat wave, the last thing that I want is a steaming cup of coffee to get the day rolling.

Steeping the coffee grounds in cold water gives the coffee a slightly sweeter flavor than if you were to use leftover brewed coffee.  But don't throw that stuff away, pour it into ice cube trays for coffee ice cubes.  That prevents dilution of your iced latte.


I like to use my french press coffee pitcher to easily strain the mixture, but you can use a fine-mesh sieve lined with a cheese cloth.  The recipe serves four, but it can easily be doubled or tripled for a week or two worth of joe on the go.

7/08/2012

Sunday Dinner

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Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa and Tortilla Chips

Pork Carnitas
Onions and Cilantro
Tomato Habanero Sauce
Homemade Refried Beans

Coconut Cream Cheesecake


This is the menu for my daughter's Sunday birthday dinner.  Twelve years flew by in a blink! She loves to enhance these flavors with a nice, spicy salsa. This recipe is adapted from one in Rick Bayless' classic Mexico-One Plate At A Time.  Who better to put your trust in for a solid recipe for Mexican food?

Sunday Dinner one year ago

7/06/2012

Ceviche Verde

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How about an interesting recipe that does not require cooking from the stove or oven?  That's what I was thinking recently during our interminable heat wave.  Warming up the house that the air conditioner has labored all day to keep somewhat cool was just not appealing to me.  This ceviche verde has everything I want in a summer dinner.  It is light, healthy, easy to prepare, has interesting flavors, and does not call for an oven to be turned on.  It is the acid from the citrus that cures the fish. Therefore it "cooks" like magic.

As far as the particulars of the recipe---I normally do not care for Manzanilla olives on their own, but they work in this dish.  I would suggest them for the briny flavor they contribute.  The fish also needs to be very fresh.  Nothing fishy smelling or frozen.  Just sweet seafood at its best.

Served as an appetizer, light lunch or dinner, this is a simple and satisfying way to enjoy bright summer flavors in a no-cook seafood salad.  Maybe I should call this seafood salsa?  Hmm... interesting idea.

7/03/2012

Patriotic Poke Cake

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Some of you may remember the Strawberry Poke Cake featured on my blog in May.  Hopefully some of you made and enjoyed it, because it was a big hit around here.  In getting my Declaration of Independence juices flowing in the days leading up to the 4th of July, I felt compelled to make something delicious and apropos of our nation's 236th birthday.  

One might say the result exploded with color and flavor.  We will be saluting the genius of the Founding Fathers with forkfuls of appreciation for their efforts before watching fireworks.  I hope you do the same.

Oh, and for those of you who enjoy my Sunday dinner menus or those looking for a little inspiration--- I will be hosting a holiday/early birthday get together with family and friends tomorrow.  Our menu will be as follows...

Macaroni and Cheese Pimento Bites


Patriotic Poke Cake

7/01/2012

Sunday Dinner

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Avocado and Goat Cheese Crostini

Grilled Pork Rib Chops
Creamy Corn Pudding Soufflé with a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Star Spangled Blueberry Pie


Apple pie gets all the press when when people mention great American food traditions.  It deserves the attention.  For my money, though, blueberry pie is right up there among the great summertime foods of this country.  

A slice still warm from the oven with very little blueberry ooze.

I like to mash up one third of the blueberries before baking.  This step helps release flavor from the blueberries to swirl around the rest of the berries which are left intact.  I also add cornstarch to the filling.  This helps reduce likelihood of a runny filling.

A slice at room temperature.
A slice of blueberry pie with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream is as good as it gets.


Sunday Dinner one year ago

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