Monday, December 31, 2012

Whole Red Snapper with Grilled Vegetables

Happy New Years!  Gerry and I are in Port Arthur, Texas and decided to cook a whole red snapper for dinner tonight which we picked up at the local supermarket.  It was a Bobby Flay recipe so it was packed with flavor and spices.  We loved this dish and we are looking forward to making this again.

Whole Red Snapper with Charred Jalapeno-Basil Vinaigrette
Makes 4 servings

For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper
3 tablespoons diced red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons basil chiffonade
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the fish:
1 whole red snapper (about 1 - 1 1/2 pounds) cleaned and scaled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive Oil

For the grilled vegetables:
1 red onion, sliced thick
1 eggplant, sliced thick
1 fennel, cut into 6 pieces
1 red pepper, cut into 4 pieces
1 yellow pepper, cut into 4 pieces
Olive oil, to coat
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

For the Charred Jalapeno-Basil Vinaigrette:  heat oil in a small saute pan until smoking.  Add the jalapeno and cook until charred on all sides.  Let the pepper cool and slice thinly.  Place the pepper and the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until blended.

For the fish:  heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat.  Season the cavity of the fish with salt and pepper.  Brush the fish with oil on both sides and season with more salt and pepper.  Saute for 4-5 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium, carefully flip the fish and cook for another 6 to 7 minutes, covered.  Remove to a platter and immediately drizzle with the vinaigrette.

For the vegetables:
Toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill until tender.

Adapted from Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay

Our rating:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sriracha Shrimp Skewers

Two of my favorite ingredients are in the title of this post.  I love the heat from Sriracha and I have been eating the best of the Gulf shrimp since we have been on the gulf coast.  These are the freshest shrimp I have had, so therefore the best. 

I spent the afternoon exploring the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge which was great.  This refuge is about 90,000 acres and the best part was the 15 mile Bayside Drive Tour.  The tour has many spots where you can pull off and learn facts about the wildlife in the area or just enjoy spectacular views.  In my wanderings, I saw an ocelot, a snowy egret grabbing a fish out of the ocean and flying away with it, and a full grown deer with a huge rack of antlers.  All in all, it was a great afternoon.  On my way back to the RV park, I stopped at a little fish market and bought these extra-large shrimp. 

The shrimp were brushed with a sauce made with Sriracha, honey, fresh lime juice, minced garlic and fresh cilantro.  They were then seasoned with salt and pepper before being grilled for a few minutes.  These were stupendous.  I served them over a creamy polenta to help offset the heat a little from the Sriracha and with a side of sauteed green beans.

This dinner was quick, flavorful and packed a punch of heat.  This recipe is spicy, so if you like a little less spice, cut back the Sriracha to 1 1/2 tablespoons or just 1 tablespoon.

Sriracha Shrimp Skewers
Makes 3 to 4 servings

2 tablespoons Sriracha (less, if desired)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 pound extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine Sriracha, honey, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat.

Thread shrimp evenly among grilling skewers.  If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak the skewers in water for at least 1 hour before grilling.  Brush shrimp all over with Sriracha mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Grill shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until the shrimp are firm and opaque in the center.

Recipe from Handle the Heat

Our rating:

Taco Soup

Doesn't everyone have that one recipe that they are almost (but not quite) embarrassed to share?  Well this is mine since it's much less a recipe than the successful combining of already prepared ingredients.  You can pull this recipe together in about 10 minutes and then simply let it simmer for about 30 minutes and dinner is ready.  You just can't beat the ease of preparation.  If you ever have a night where you are pressed for time or energy, give this soup a try.

Taco Soup
Makes 8 servings

1 pound ground beef (I used ground turkey to lighten it up)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounces canned chopped tomatoes
1 can Rotel tomatoes, original or spicy
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans pinto beans with jalapenos, undrained
2 cans shoepeg corn, undrained
1 package taco seasoning mix (I used homemade - recipe below)
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Dressing mix
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, if desired
Grated Cheddar Cheese for serving (optional)
Sour Cream (optional)

Brown ground beef  (or turkey) and onions.  When meat is almost done, add garlic and stir frequently to prevent browning the garlic.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Stir well and taste for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  Since I used my homemade seasoning mix, I found I needed a little salt and pepper.  Cook on medium to low heat for 30 minutes.  Add a small amount (1/2 cup) water if needed.

Home Taco Seasoning
4 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well to blend.  Store in an airtight container until ready to use.  Use 2 heaping tablespoons in place of a packet of seasoning mix.

Our rating:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Huli Huli Pork

Since we have been in South Padre Island, we have been surrounded by palm trees.  The weather has not exactly cooperated to create the island tropical feel with the high today being only 60 degrees with gray skies and wind gusts making it feel much colder than the thermometer.   Even so, I turned to a Hawaiian-inspired meal which included grilled red pepper and pineapple on the plate with some rice and a perfectly grilled pork tenderloin which was marinated and then brushed during grilling with a flavor packed sauce.  Some of the sauce was reserved and reheated in a sauce pan just before serving to be drizzled over the finished dish.  This dinner packed a punch with the sauce and was enhanced by the red pepper strips and pineapple.  Looking forward to having this many more times.

Huli Huli Pork
Makes 4 servings

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon sweet Mirin cooking wine
1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced in half
olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 fresh pineapple slices, 1/2-inch thick
Rice for serving

Place pork in a large, heavy self-sealing plastic bag set in a shallow dish; set aside.

For marinade, in a small bowl combine the ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, wine, lime juice, ginger, and garlic.  Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture to a small bowl; cover and chill until needed.  Pour remaining mixture over pork; seal bag.  Marinate in refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Drain pork, reserving marinade.  For a charcoal grill arrange hot coals around a drip pan.  Test for medium-high heat above the pan.  Place pork on grill rack over pan.  Cover and grill 20 minutes.  Brush with drained marinade.  Cover and grill 15 to 20 minutes.  Brush with drained marinade.  Cover and grill 15 to 20 minutes more or until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.  (For a gas grill, preheat grill.  Reduce heat to medium-high.  Adjust for indirect cooking. Grill as above.)  Remove pork from grill.  Cover pork with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.  (The meat's temperature will rise 5 degrees during standing.) 

Drizzle the red pepper halves with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill about 5 minutes total, turning about halfway through.  Grill the pineapple slices the same amount of time as the red pepper halves.  Slice the grilled red pepper halves into slices when done and cut pineapple slices in half.

Meanwhile, place reserved sauce mixture in a small saucepan; heat through.  Pass sauce with pork.  Serve pork over rice with grilled red pepper slices and pineapple slices.

Adapted from Better Homes and Garden. com

Our rating:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Magic in the Middle Cookies

We traveled from Port Aransas to South Padre Island on Sunday.  We explored the area briefly yesterday afternoon since it was beautiful out (mid 80's in the afternoon) and then made some steak fajitas for dinner.  The weather took a dramatic change with a cold front coming in with a storm this morning and the temperatures stayed pretty much at 58 degrees all afternoon.  I decided it was the perfect day to bake some cookies and these are what I chose.

These are a sugar coated chocolate cookie with a peanut butter filling.  The filling is just simply peanut butter combined with confectioners sugar.  The chocolate cookie part was made with cocoa, peanut butter and chocolate chips.  The filling was rolled into balls made from 1 teaspoon of the dough and the chocolate cookie dough was wrapped around the filling.  The cookies were then dredged in granulated sugar and flattened before being baked.  These reminded a little of eating a cookie version of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  Gerry's comment on them was "these need to go on the Christmas cookie platter"....high praise for a cookie from him.

Magic in the Middle Cookies
Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies

For the Dough
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra for dredging
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate

For the Filling
3/4 cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

For the Dough
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand-held mixer, cream together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Fold in the chocolate.

For the Filling
In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter and confectioners' sugar until smooth. With floured hands or a teaspoon scoop, roll the filling into 26 one-inch balls.

Scoop the chocolate dough into 26 tablespoon portions, make an indentation in the center of the dough with a finger and place one of the peanut butter balls in the indentation.  Bring the cookie dough up and over the filling, pressing the edges together to cover the center.  Roll the cookie in the palm of your hands to smooth it out.  Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Place extra sugar in a shallow bowl.  Roll each cookie in the sugar and place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.  Using the bottom of a drinking glass, flatten each cookie to about 1/2-inch thick.  Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until they have set (and you can smell chocolate). Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Bake the remaining cookies on a cooled baking sheet.  Enjoy!

Note:  These cookies are better once cooled (Gerry will attest to this)

Recipe slightly adapted from The Galley Gourmet

Our rating:


Saturday, December 8, 2012


I love tempura but have never tried to make it at home until this week.  The latest issue of Saveur magazine had a great article on making a wonderfully light tempura and I couldn't resist the temptation.  I used some of the black drum fish we had bought and a few shrimp.  I also battered some sweet potato slices, some zucchini slices and a few mushrooms.  It all came out great with the batter being very light and crispy.  I will definitely make this again.

Makes 2 Servings

2 1/2 cups cake flour, divided
2 egg yolks
2 cups cold water
1/4 cup ice cubes
1/2 pound fish, cut into 1-inch cubes
4-6 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
4-6 mushrooms
Canola Oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

Fill a deep cast-iron skillet with enough canola oil to a depth of at least one inch.  Heat the oil over medium heat to 360 degrees, checking it with a deep-fry thermometer placed in the skillet.  Maintaining a consistent temperature is important to creating the perfect color and crispness of the batter.

While the oil is heating, place one-half cup of the cake flour on a plate for dredging and line a sheet pan with paper towels for draining; set both aside.  Place the two egg yolks in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Mix the yolks with two cups of cold water.  Add 1/4 cup of ice cubes.  (Keeping the liquid ice cold will reduce gluten development in the batter.)

Add 2 cups of cake flour.  Grasping four chopsticks, their tips pointed down, stab at the flour to combine it with the liquid until a loose, lumpy batter forms, about thirty seconds.  Do not whisk, and do not use a fork; you want the batter to be barely mixed, so as not to activate the glutens.  Pockets of dry flour should be visible in the liquid, which should have the consistency of heavy cream.  (Mix the batter just before cooking, so the flour particles have limited time to absorb moisture.) 

To cook, start with the fish and then the shrimp.  Lightly dredge them in the flour  This will help the batter adhere.

Dip them quickly into the batter.  If the batter appears watery, sprinkle a little flour on top, but do not mix it in; dipping the ingredients in the batter will be enough to combine the flour with the liquid.

Just before frying, add the toasted sesame oil to the frying oil.  If the oil temperature lowers, allow it to rise back to 360.  Quickly lay the fish in the oil; separate them from one another with chopsticks.  Cook the fish until the bubbles around them grow larger and less intense, and the batter turns golden brown, about three minutes.  Remove the fish from the oil, and place them on the paper towels to drain.  Sprinkle with a little salt if desired while warm.  Follow the same procedure for the shrimp.

To maintain consistent oil temperature, cook the rest of the ingredients in small batches.  Cook vegetables at 350 degrees about 2 1/2 minutes for most.

Serve the tempura immediately, with a dipping sauce or seasoned salt.

Slightly adapted from Saveur, December 2012

My rating:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Crab, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

The inspiration for tonight's dinner was the 1 pound container of Jumbo Lump Crab meat that I purchased from my local fish guy today.  I used half of it in the in today's featured recipe for Crab salad and I used the other half in my favorite crab cakes which recipe I have previously posted.  The crab meat was perfectly fresh and that is always the basis to a great recipe.  Start with the freshest ingredients possible to get the best possible results.  It was a thoroughly crabby evening!

Crab, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad
Makes 2 Servings

1/2 Ruby Red grapefruit
1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked through for shells and cartilage
1 1-inch piece of a seedless cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/4-ince dice
1/4 red or orange bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 scallion, white and light green parts, only, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced
1/2 small jalapeno, very finely minced (optional)
1/2 avocado, diced, sprinkled with a little reserved grapefruit juice and seasoned with salt and pepper
About 3/4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice

Cut the grapefruit crosswise in half and carefully cut out the half-segments, slicing along the membranes to release the fruit.  Squeeze the juice from the hollowed-out half and keep it covered in the refrigerator (discard the rind).  Put a double layer of paper towels on a plate or cutting board and arrange the grapefruit segments on the paper.  Cover with another double layer of towels and pat the segments lightly.  Discard the paper towels, arrange the fruit on a new layer of towels, and cover again.  Let the segments sit for at least 2 hous, or for as long as 5 hours, if the towels are very wet, change them again.

When you're ready to make the salad, drain the crabmeat if necessary, turn it out onto a double thickness of paper towels, and pat it dry.  Put it in a bowl and add the cucumber, bell pepper, scallion, and jalapeno (if you're using it).

Cut the grapefruit segments into very small pieces, add them to the bowl, and using a fork (or your fingers), gently toss the ingredients together.  Don't overdo it - you want the crab to stay in largish pieces if possible.  Add  tablespoon of the oil and 1 tablespoon of the reserved grapefruit juice and season with salt and pepper and, if you'd like, a couple of shakes of Tabasco.  Add the cubed avocado seasoned with grapefruit juice and salt and pepper.  Taste the salad and decide what you'd like to add, if anything.  I usually add a squirt or two of lemon juice for extra pop, or you may need a little more oil.  Just pay attention to the amount of liquid you add - you don't want the salad to be wet.  When you've got it just the way you want it, stir in the mint and serve.

Recipe from Around my French Table

Our rating:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lemon Fish with Caper Sauce

When we went to our local fish guy the other day, we talked about black drum which is a fish local to this area.  I decided I would try this mild, white fish today and it was supremely fresh.  I used a recipe calling for halibut and substituted the black drum.  The fish was rubbed with a paste of olive oil, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper before going on the grill.  Once the fish was just done, it was topped with a lemon caper sauce before serving.  I think part of what made this dish so wonderful was the freshness of the fish...all the other ingredients just complemented the delicate flavor of the fish.

Lemon Fish with Caper Sauce
Makes 4 Servings

For the paste:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 fish fillets, about 6 ounces each (recipe calls for halibut, I used black drum)

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the paste:
In a small bowl whisk together the paste ingredients.

Rub the fish fillets on all sides with the paste.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to grill.

To make the sauce:
In a small bowl whisk together the sauce ingredients.  Set aside at room temperature.

Grill the fillets over Direct High until the fish is just opaque at the center and slightly firm to the touch, 8 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time.  Remove from the grill and serve warm with the sauce spooned on top.

Adapted from Weber's Big Book of Grilling

Our rating:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chicken Hash with Squash and Kale

I made the ultimate Fall meal for dinner tonight.  It started with butternut squash and kale which were blanched until almost done.  Some chicken thighs were then browned in the same pot.  Red onion was added and sauteed for a couple of minutes.  The blanched squash and kale went back in the pot along with the dried cranberries and chopped fresh sage for a minute or so.  The dish was finished off with a sauce made of chicken broth, maple syrup and Dijon mustard.  All of these ingredients are the perfect elements of a fall meal.  This recipe was quick and easy to make in addition.  The title doesn't sound pretty but the food was delicious.  I served this with a slice of pumpernickel bread toasted in a hot oven topped with Cheddar cheese and apple slices which was the perfect accompaniment.

Chicken Hash with Squash and Kale
Makes 2 Servings

2 cups peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into large chunks
2 cups stemmed, chopped kale
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch chunks
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Blanch squash in a large pot of boiling, salted water until almost cooked through, 3-4 minutes.  Off heat, stir in kale and let stand, uncovered, for 3 minutes; drain vegetables and set aside.  Season chicken chunks with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in same pot over medium-high heat and saute until chicken pieces are browned on all sides.

Add onion; saute 2 minutes.  Stir in reserved squash and kale, cranberries, and sage; saute 1 minute more.

Whisk together broth, syrup, and Dijon; pour over hash.  Simmer until liquid reduced by half, about 2 minutes.  Adjust seasoning before serving.

Recipe from Cuisine at Home for Two

My rating:

Gerry's Rating:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spice-Rubbed Flounder with Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille

While we have been in Port Aransas twice in the past two years, I have been leary about trying the local seafood shop (and what a mistake that was).  The Port A Seafood shop is a very local shop but the fish they sold me was absolutely spectacular!  After going to the fish shop, I decided on the menu based on the freshest fish available.  I chose to make this recipe since I thought all the ingredients would be in season.  We started our meal with Tequila-Grilled Shrimp and after having these fish dishes, I can't wait to go back to our little local seafood market.

Ratatouille is just another great way to get you to eat your vegetables, which will not be a problem once you taste this grilled version.

Spice-Rubbed Flounder with Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille
Makes 4 servings

For the ratatouille:
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium Japanese eggplant
1 medium zucchini
2 small ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the vegetables
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

For the rub:
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

4 flounder fillets, about 6 ounces each and 1 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, cut in half

To make the ratatouille:  Cut the onion crosswise into 1/2-inch slices; cut the eggplant and zucchini lengthwise into 1/2-inch planks; core the tomatoes, halve them crosswise, and seed them; quarter and seed the bell pepper.  Brush the vegeatbles all over with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over Direct Medim heat until tender, turning once halfway through grilling time.  The onion will take 10 to 12 minutes, the eggplant 8 to 10 minutes, and the zucchini, tomatoes and bell pepper 6 to 8 minutes.  Allow to cool, then chop into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablesoon of the olive oil.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the grilled vegetables, basil, and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir, reduce heat to low, and keep warm while you grill the fish.

To make the rub:  In a small bowl, combine the rub ingredients and mix well.

Lightly brush or spray both sides of the halibut fillets with olive oil and season evenly with the rub.  Grill over Direct Medium heat until the fish is just opaque and slightly firm to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once halfway throug grilling time.  Remove from the grill, squeeze the lemon on top and serve immediately with the ratatouille.

Recipe from Weber's Big Book of Grilling

My rating:


Florentine Risotto

We traveled from San Antonio to Port Aransas on Sunday and will be here for a week.  We have vacationed here with the entire family for the past two summers and we thought it might be fun to visit the shore in off season.  The weather has been in the high 70's to low 80's since we got here and the beach has had very few people on it.  It has been quite refreshing without all the summer crowds. 

I have enjoyed long walks on the beach since the weather has been perfect. 

This risotto is not made in the typical fashion of constantly stirring and gradually adding all of the broth in increments.  This is made more like a typical rice where you bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer, covered, until the rice is tender.  You then add the spinach, cannellini beans and Parmesan cheese at the end.

Florentine Risotto
Makes 4 Servings

1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads or 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium high heat.  Cook onion and garlic in butter about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is just crisp-tender.

Add rice, stir to coat with butter mixture.  Stir in broth and saffron.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Heat to boiling; stir once thoroughly and reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is almost tender and liquid is absorbed.

Stir in remaining ingredients.  Cover and let stand 5 minutes.  Serve with more grated Parmesan, if desired.

From Betty Crocker's New Cookbook

My rating:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Moules Mariniere

The English translation for Moules Mariniere is Mussels in White Wine and these are delicious.  Tonight's dinner was the ultimate in simplicity:  Romaine lettuce leaves with a simple vinaigrette, Mussels in White Wine and baguette slices.  Some of the best meals are the ultimate in simplicity.  I started the mussels by sauteeing some finely diced onion, shallot and garlic until just glistening.  I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper and continued to saute for another few minutes until the onion was softened.  I added white wine, herbs, and lemon peel and simmered for a few minutes before adding the mussels.  The mussels were heated to a boil and then simmered for a few minutes.  The heat was turned off and allowed to set for a minute or so.  Then you have perfectly steamed mussels.

Once all the mussels have opened, they are ready to be served immediately.

Moules Mariniere (or Mussels in White Wine)
Makes 2 servings

1/2 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 thyme sprig
1 parsley sprig
1/2 bay leaf
1 strip lemon zest
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded if necessary

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed casserole, warm the oil or melt the butter over low heat.  Toss in the onion, shallots, and garlic and turn them until they're glistening.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, just to soften the onion.  Pour in the wine, increase the heat to medium, add the herbs, and the zest and simmer for 3 minutes.

Add the mussels and stir them around in the liquid.  Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then cover the pot, adjust the heat so the liquid simmers steadily, and cook for 3 minutes, (I sometimes give the mussels a stir during this time). 

Turn the heat off, keep the lid on the pot, and let the mussels rest for another minute (or more, if need be) so they finish opening.  Once they're opened, they should be served immediately.

Adapted from Around my French Table

Our rating:

Frosted Molasses Cookies

I started my day with an hour long walk on the River Walk trail right by our RV park.  It has been overcast every morning with fog on a couple of days.  The sun usually starts peeking through the clouds about mid-morning.  The mornings have been a little cool (in the 50's on average) and the afternoons warming up to the high 60's to mid 70's - just perfect.  Here are a couple of shots I took this morning while walking.

I crave these cookies every once in a while and they are always on the Christmas cookie platter.  These are a soft molasses cookie with raisins and glazed with a light vanilla flavored frosting.  I grew up on these cookies so they are definitely a comfort food for me.  I happen to be very lucky that Gerry loves all things containing molasses.

Frosted Molasses Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

For the cookies:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup shortening (Crisco)
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup raisins

For the frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and cinnamon.

Cream shortening and brown sugar.  Add the beaten egg and molasses.  Beat until smooth.

Add dry ingredients to batter, mixing by hand until smooth.  Fold in raisins.

Drop by tablespoon 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Frost while warm.

Frosting:  Cream all ingredients together.

Recipe from my childhood

My rating:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bangkok Barbecued Chicken

I went in a whole different direction for inspiration for tonight's dinner since we did Jamaica on Tuesday, we're going to Thailand today.  I took a whole chicken and cut it up into 6 pieces and marinated it in a very aromatic mixture for about 6 hours. 

While the chicken was marinating I went and visited three other missions in San Antonio: Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose and Mission Espada.  It is amazing to see the structures still standing today and the glimpse of what life would have been like back then.  I also made a quick stop at the Espada Aqueduct which was an ingenuous system for diverting water to irrigate crop fields.  I love getting my fill of history.

Now, back to dinner - the chicken was grilled over moderate heat to cook through and then finished over high heat for the last 10 minutes to brown and crisp up the skin.  I served this with simply boiled, buttered potatoes and a squash saute.

Bangkok Barbecued Chicken
Makes 4 servings

For the marinade:
4 large garlic cloves
1 large shallot, roughly chopped
1 medium jalapeno chile pepper, stem removed and roughly chopped
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds

To make the marinade:  In a food processor with the motor running, drop the garlic, shallot, ginger, and jalapeno, through the feed tube and process until they are fine minced.  Add the basil and process until finely chopped.  Add the remaining marinade ingredients and proess until well combined.

Cut the chicken into 6 pieces; 2 breast pieces, 2 legs with thighs, and 2 wings (remove and discard the wing tips).  Cut 3 or 4 slashes about 1/2 inch deep, into the meatier side of the breast and leg-thigh pieces.  Place the chicken pieces in a large, plastic resealable bag, and pour in the marinade.  Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly.  Turn the bag to distribute the marinade, place the bag in a bowl, and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours, or as long as 12 hours, turning the bag occasionally.

Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and discard the marinade.  Grill, skin side down, over indirect medium heat until fully cooked.  The breast and wing pieces will take about 30 minutes.  The leg-thigh pieces will take about 40 minutes.  During the last 10 minutes of grilling time, move the chicken over direct medium heat until well browned all over, turning once.  Serve warm.

Recipe from Weber's Real Grilling

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ultimate Burger

I planned these burgers for dinner tonight since I played golf this afternoon.  The afternoon temperatures were in the mid-60's with blue skies, the perfect golf weather as far as I'm concerned.  It was a fun afternoon spent outside and I'm looking forward to playing again.

I prepped these burgers this morning, so it would be easy to fire up the grill and get these cooked.  These are really great burgers with the secret to keeping them moist, (shhh) bacon fat.  I have not yet made bread in our motor home, so I bought whole wheat hamburger buns.  These would be fabulous on homemade buns.  I'll try that next time.

Ultimate Steakhouse Burger
Makes 4 servings
6 strips of bacon
1 to 2 slices of white sandwich bread, crust removed and torn into 1/2-inch pieces  (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 85-90% lean
1 teaspooon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, grated on a microplane

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is browned and crisp, about 8 minutes.  Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain; set aside.  Spoon 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat into a bowl; set aside to cool.

Place the bread in a small brown, add milk, and let the mixture sit until saturated, about 5 mintues.  Using a fork, mash the mixture until it forms a smooth paste.  Break the beef up into small pieces in a medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic, bread paste, and reserved bacon fat.  Using a fork or hands, lightly knead the mixture until it is well incorporated and forms a cohesive mass.  Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions and form in 3/4-inch thick patties.  Using a finger, make several dimples onto one side of each patty.  This prevents the patty from doming once cooked.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill with a hot fire.  Grill the burgers (without pressing down!) until they are well seared on each side, about 7-10 minutes total.  Served topped with previously cooked bacon, if desired.  Enjoy!

From The Galley Gourmet

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jamaican Halibut with Tropical Salsa

I spent the morning exploring Mission San Jose, one of the four other missions still open in the San Antonio area (not counting the Alamo).  The Alamo is in a class by itself and not run by the National Historic Park Service.  Mission San Jose happens to be less than a mile from our RV Resort so it was very easy to explore.  I had the opportunity to take a guided tour with one other person in my tour group so it was very informal and informative.  I do love immersing myself in the history and scenes of the area.  I happen to really enjoy museums.

I then explored my grocery shopping options with a Whole Foods and a Central Market about 10 miles away.  Exploring new grocery stores is also something I really enjoy (even though it makes shopping challenging in trying to figure out where things are).

Even though we are in San Antonio, I went to the islands for inspiration for dinner tonight with this Jamaican Halibut recipe.  Two halibut fillets were marinated in a mixture containing fresh orange juice, dark rum, soy sauce, lime juice, ginger and herbs and spices.  After marinating for an hour, the fillets were dried off, drizzled with oil and grilled.  Once done, I served it over white rice and topped it with the tropical salsa.  This had all the right levels of heat and spice complemented by the sweetness of the fruit in the salsa.  Can't wait to make it again.

Jamaican Halibut with Tropical Salsa
Makes 2 servings

For the fish:
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (the juice of one medium orange)
1/4 cup Jamaican dark rum
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 halibut fillets, about 6 ounces each and 1 inch thick

For the Salsa:
1/2 cup finely diced ripe pineapple
1/4 cup finely diced ripe banana
1/4 cup finely diced cucumber
3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 tablespoon minced red bell pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil

To make the marinade:  In a medium bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients.  Add the fillets and turn to coat them evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning once or twice.

Remove the halibut from the bowl, pat dry with paper towels, and discard the marinade.  Brush or spray both sides with oil.  Grill over high heat until the halibut just begins to flake when you poke it with the tip of a knife, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once.  Serve warm with the salsa.

Adapted from Weber's Real Grilling Cookbook

Our rating:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Eggplant Steaks with Caprese Salsa

We arrived in San Antonio yesterday and will be here for a week.  As soon as we had the motor home set up yesterday we headed to the Riverwalk and had lunch on the sidewalk watching the boats go by.  San Antonio is a great city to visit with tons of things to see and do.  Our RV Resort has a walking trail also along the river, but it happens to be about 6-7 miles away from all the activity.  I am planning on exploring some of the missions (I've already visitied the Alamo), exploring more of the Riverwalk in the downtown area and playing some golf.  We are looking forward to a great week.

With the weather here in the 80's in the afternoons, I've been craving some grilled food. This eggplant dish has been on my mind for a while and this was very good, but I'm sure it would be even better with tomatoes straight from the garden or farmer's market in the heat of summer.  I can't wait to make this again in season.  I basically took a medium sized eggplant (just about 1 1/2 pounds) and sliced it in four thick lengthwise slices.  The slices got a quick marinade in a balsamic vinaigrette before being grilled.  Once done they were then topped with a tomato and mozzarella mixture (as in a Caprese salad) and served with a grilled bread slice. 

The grilled eggplant brought the Caprese salad to a whole new level.

Eggplant Steaks with Caprese Salsa
Makes 4 Servings

For the Eggplant:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 eggplant (1 - 1 1/2 pounds)

For the Salsa:
2 cups seeded and diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup diced fresh mozzarella (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Whisk together 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup oil, garlic, salt and pepper for the eggplant in a bowl.  Cut eggplant lengthwise into four 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick slices.  Place eggplant slices in a large glass dish.  Pour vinegar mixture over eggplant, turning to coat slices; let eggplant sit for 5 minutes.

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 teaspoons oil, salt, and pepper for the salsa in a medium bowl; set aside.  Do not do this step earlier in the process so that the tomatoes will keep their freshness.

Grill eggplant slices, covered, until tender, 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove eggplant from grill; top with salsa.  Garnish with more basil if desired.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Herbs

Until a few years ago, Brussels sprouts were not served in our house.  It happens to be that Brussels sprouts are one of our son-in-law's favorite vegetable.  I began experimenting with the little cabbage heads and as a family we have embraced the little sprouts.  The trick is to cook until just done to avoid the bitterness that can sometimes be associated with them.

In this recipe, they are browned in olive oil and butter and then braised in chicken (or turkey) stock until tender before being tossed with crisp bacon and chopped herbs.  These were absolutely worth the space on the Thanksgiving plate.  I know I will make them again and again without waiting for Thanksgiving.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Herbs
Makes 4 servings

1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 1/2 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch squares
1/2 cup mild onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
2/3 - 3/4 cup chicken stock, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Remove any dry or yellow outer leaves from the sprouts.  Slice off the dry stem and cut into quarters.  Set aside.

In a medium saute pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until golden brown, about 7  minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a bowl.  Pour off all but 1/2 tablespoon of fat from the pan.

Return the pan to medium heat, add the shallots and thyme and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the shallot mixture to the bowl with the bacon.  Pour 1/4 cup of the stock into the pan and, using a wooden spoon, stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Pour the stock over the bacon mixture.

Wipe out the pan with paper towels and place over medium-high heat.  Melt the butter and oil.  Add the Brussels sprouts and season with salt; stir to coat evenly.  Cook until the sprouts begin to brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir again, then cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 cup of stock. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally and adding more stock as needed until the sprouts are soft and tender, about 15 minutes more.  Add the bacon mixture and any remaining stock and stir to incorporate.  Stir in the chives and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Slightly adapted from The Galley Gourmet

Our rating:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Acorn Squash with Cranberry Sauce

This Thanksgiving feast was a very different take for me since it was just the two of us in the motor home.  We are still in Fredericksburg, Texas which is a lovely place to spend Thanksgiving.  Since I was cooking for two, I kept on with the tradition of some of the classics, but did change up quite a few things.  Instead of roasting a whole turkey, I opted for a turkey breast (I happen to love white meat so that worked out great for me), stuffing, gravy, Sweet Potato Casserole (a family classic), homemade cranberry sauce, Acorn Squash with Cranberry Sauce, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Herbs, rolls, and Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits.  I decided to skip regular potatoes this year and I added the Acorn Squash with Cranberry Sauce.  I replaced the typical green beans with the Brussels sprouts and I replaced the pumpkin pie with the Pumpkin Cheesecake Parfaits.

It was an absolute feast for the two of us.

Acorn Squash with Cranberry Sauce
Makes 2 servings

1 medium acorn squash (about 1 pound)
1 cup whole cranberry sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon allspice

For the Cranberry Sauce
2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tablespoon grated orange zest

Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally and boil for 5 minutes.  Add cranberries and orange zest, bring back to a boil and boil gently for 5 more minutes until cranberries begin to burst and soften.

Let cool and refrigerate.

For the acorn squash:

Prick squash several times with fork to allow steam to escape.  Place in oven.  Microwave on high 15 to 20 minutes until soft when pricked with fork.  Turn squash over after 9 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Cut in half and remove seeds.  Place cut side up in a casserole just large enough to hold both halves.

In small bowl, combine cranberry sauce, honey and allspice.  Spoon into squash halves.  Bake in a 350 degree oven 15020 minutes until heated through.

Adapted from GE's Microwave Convection Oven Cookbook

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