Friday, August 21, 2015

Antipasto Skewers

This week I made the most beautiful appetizer. These antipasto skewers were such a party hit and truly "blog worthy" despite being so easy to assemble. There is really no cooking involved. I believe that we eat with our eyes first, and that's it's absolutely worth an extra minute to make your food look pretty. If you take the time to cook, take the time to garnish and plate your food! 
This appetizer is perfect at a party when your guests are trying to carry a conversation, sip a glass of wine, and munch on h'orderves without making a mess or feeling awkward. If you're going to serve finger foods, keep them simple and easy to eat. Your guests will very much appreciate your consideration in not choosing saucy, messy appetizers!  Did I mention these are still delicious the next day for happy hour? 

Antipasto Skewers
*I buy the ingredients depending on how many skewers I'm making, but I always buy 2 mozzarella cheese balls, 1 lb of both meats, and 2 packs of cherry tomatoes. A jar of the olives is plenty*

- cherry tomatoes
- large mozzarella cheese ball, cut into squares about the size of a cherry tomato
- packaged fresh tortellini, cooked according to package instruction
- boars head pepperoni (best if sliced fresh from the deli)
- boars head hard salami (fresh from deli)
- basil leaves
- kalamata olives
- black olives
- mozzarella cheese, cut into squares about the size of a cherry tomato
- salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar to finish

Cook tortellini according to package instructions, then drain, place in a bowl, and toss with olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Create an assembly line with all your toppings and assemble each skewer. Prior to serving, drizzle with balsamic, salt and pepper. I like to use tomatoes on both ends, and then I mix up the middle. I usually use one of everything, with the exception of 2 tortellini and 2 pieces of mozzarella cheese. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cold Zucchini Cucumber Dill Soup

Friends, I am sharing one of my mom's famous recipe's with you today. Before she shared this recipe with me, she would visit in the summer time and bring a giant mason jar of this soup for our lunch. Only 95 calories per serving and it has no cream. We would end up drinking it out of a coffee mug for lunch, snacks, or dinner until it was gone. It's just that good.

My sweet husband helped me bring my favorite white table to our front porch where I have the best light. I dusted off my 50mm 1.4 lens and took the best pictures I've taken in months. Sometimes when you walk away from something for a bit, you realize whether it's right for you. I realized on this beautiful overcast day that this blog is a great joy to me, and I hope to bring you a couple more special recipes this summer. 

Cold Zucchini Cucumber Dill Soup
recipe yields 8 cups and serves 6. Only 95 calories per serving! 

4 Tbsp oil
2 cups (about 2 yellow onions), coarsely chopped
2 pounds zucchini, washed with ends removed, coarsely chopped
4 cups (2 cucumbers) washed, seeds removed, skin on, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 cups chicken broth (I use Better than Bouillon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish - finely chopped cucumber, tomato, and a few sprigs of dill
  1. Cook onions in oil until soft. Add zucchini and cucumbers and cook for about 15 minutes until soft. Use medium heat and stir a few times, do not let them brown.
  2. Add broth and cook for 15 minutes more. Let it cool, then add the dill and process the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour in a bowl and refrigerate.
  3. Prior to serving, may add a dollop of sour cream if desired and garnish with cucumber, tomato, and dill sprigs.

Zesty Lime Shrimp & Avocado Salad

Summer has arrived, and with the heat comes simple fresh meals served with tart lemonade and buckets of beer. I adore summer evenings, sitting outside and watching the fireflies light up the yard, and nibbling on my favorite tomato basil mozzarella salad with a glass of crisp white wine and a chunk of fresh baguette. Summer is a season of simplicity, with days at the pool followed by evenings on the patio. Charlie checks out for bedtime at 730, and Josh and I move out to the deck to enjoy the evening hours. It's divine.
I've been fixing us my go-to summer salads, and tossing them with bright acidic dressings and freshly chopped herbs. This avocado shrimp salad is new to my summer repertoire, and pairs perfectly with a corona light and a few tortilla chips. 

Zesty Lime Shrimp & Avocado Salad
from Skinnytaste

1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 limes, juice of
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 lb jumbo cooked and peeled shrimp, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium hass avocado, diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced fine
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, combine the red onion, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let the onion marinate for 5 minutes to mellow the flavor. 

In a large bowl, combine chopped shrimp, avocado, tomato, and jalapeno. Add the red onion mixture and cilantro and gently toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

 Somewhere along the way I embraced the mindset that dinner is supposed to be a sit down affair: one meat and two sides. Tilapia over quinoa with roasted veggies. Steak with roasted potatoes and asparagus. Pasta with a salad. I love to light tea candles, use real napkins, open a bottle of wine, and play a nice pandora station like Steely Dan or Dizzy Gillespie. This was the time in our lives we casually refer to as BC (Before Charlie). 

When you have a little baby that demands much attention, you can throw all dinner rules out the window! It's quite fun actually. A few of our new dinner favorites are gourmet popcorn, fresh market rotisserie chicken salad, chips and salsa, or Barbara's peanut butter puffins. Annie's shells and white cheddar mac & cheese pairs perfectly with a nice Cab. I know all the mom's out there are laughing because they can totally relate.
I can now thank one of my besties, Amy, for the inspiration for dip night. Tell me you would not love to have buffalo chicken dip for dinner with tons of celery and tortilla chips.  I'm pretty sure Josh was in dude heaven when I told him what I had in the crock pot. I'm not even going to feel guilty about it since this lightened up version is heavy on chicken and greek yogurt. It's thicker than most other chicken dips I've tried, so you can really get a good amount of dip on all your celery bites. I modified the original recipe and used more chicken (3 cups) and half the cream cheese - still delicious. 

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (room temp) - original recipe called for 1 package 
1 cup (0% fat) greek yogurt
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp dry ranch seasoning
2/3 cup Franks red hot sauce
2 to 3 cups cooked shredded chicken OR 1 large can of chicken

Put all ingredients in crockpot, set on low for 3-4 hours and stir every hour.

You can also set oven to 350 degrees, combine ingredients in glass baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Spicy Shrimp

Ree Drummond has never let me down. She's cool like that. She can be trusted. And this recipe, my friends, is MAGNIFICENT and requires zero chopping or effort whatsoever.
                                        beautiful Shauna Niequist print from Lindsay Letters

Last Monday was a long day. I was flipping off night shifts, we had a very sad family funeral, and yet I wanted to actually fix us dinner and sit outside since it was a pretty night. I needed to take comfort in good food and my people. I get why happy people love to eat, and why grieving people love to eat. My amazing friend Cindy came over, Charlie went to sleep early after his nighttime bottle, and we sat outside, drank wine, and devoured these shrimp. We put the baking sheet right on the table, tore off chunks of baguette and soaked up the rich sauce. Josh kept our wine glasses full as we sipped on a cold Viognier. It was so simple and so good. Just what we needed after a long day. This meal was really a great big hug, and sitting under the stars with my people reminded me that everything was going to be OK.

Since it was dark, I didn't even take a picture, but I'm telling you, these shrimp are GOOD.

Spicy Shrimp
from the Pioneer Woman

3 pounds unpeeled shrimp (more or less)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
3 whole lemons (juice of)
1/4 cup (to 1/2 cup worcestershire) sauce
1 stick butter

Rinse raw shrimp with shells still on (21-26 count) and place on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle shrimp with olive oil. Generously sprinkle black pepper over the top of the shrimp and follow with kosher salt. Lots of pepper!

Squeeze the juice of 3 lemons over top of all the shrimp. Generously drizzle Worcestershire over the shrimp and then Tabasco. Cut stick of butter into pats, and place the pats on top of the shrimp as evenly spaced as possible. 

Place the pan under the broiler for 10 minutes until the shrimp are no longer translucent. Serve with a crusty French baguette to dip in the glorious butter lemon sauce!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

This quinoa salad is my new obsession because it's easy, healthy, and delicious. My friend Lexi made it for me on one of our fun baby play dates, and I've made it twice the last few weeks. We both decided that the recipe needed to be on the blog because it's AMAZING and ready in 30 minutes. 

The sweet potatoes, black beans and quinoa are a great combination with the cilantro and lime juice. It tastes like summer, and I like to eat it hot or cold. I brought it for lunch at work today and snapped this picture before the contained disappeared. 

One of my favorite Gretchen quotes that is ringing true in my life every single day is "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good". This photo was snapped my iPhone in a Tupperware container that I packed the salad in. Maybe, hopefully, one day I will get back to snapping Saveur worthy pictures of my recipes, but for now I am just cooking, figuring out how to make the perfect pizza dough in my mixer, and muddling mint for mojitos. Let me just tell you - add a little cucumber to a mojito and muddle it with the limes and mint - so fresh and delicious! Right now, I am embracing the good, the wabi sabi. If you haven't heard of WABI SABI, look it up, right now! 

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken broth (I love Better than Bouillon paste)
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can rotel tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 limes (use 1 lime for more subtle flavor)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Avocado - for topping

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Toss sweet potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until done. 
- Cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups chicken broth.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine rotel tomatoes, black beans, lime juice, coriander, cumin, and cilantro. Add quinoa and stir well.

To serve, top quinoa salad with roasted sweet potatoes and avocado.

Friday, May 1, 2015

+ a gratitude journal +

I believe in the power of little choices. I believe that the little choices we make matter the most.  The choice to spend time outside every day, to look for the silver lining when a wrench is thrown in your plan, to light a candle and sit at the table for dinner. I recently made the choice to keep a journal, and it's the best decision I've made in a very long time. 

On January the 20th I made my first entry in a 5-year journal that I call my Gratitude Journal. Earlier that day I was meandering around Barnes and Noble, found myself in the cookbook section, and turned around to see the journal section. I picked up a blue striped 5-year journal and purchased it then and there, even though it was a few bucks cheaper on Amazon. I believe in serendipity, that people and things come into our lives when we need them most. 

It started out as a gratitude journal, documenting a little thing I am thankful for at the end of a day. Recently, I've started to include Charlie's milestones and major events in the journal, as I was grateful for my girlfriends and wine more often than I will confess! Oh, and my husbands perfect vodka martinis. 

If you're looking for a daily boost, a reminder to keep an open and grateful heart, I highly recommend buying yourself one of these. They are on my personal list of all time favorite things! Here is the link to the one I love on Amazon. (gratitude journal)