Garlic Shrimp

When I go to a restaurant I am my husband’s – and probably the wait staff’s – worst nightmare.  I must have it my way.  A little of this and a little of that.  If I could take a bit from each entrée it would be perfect because it seems there is always something I don’t like on every item, but something I do like on every item.

Such is the way when I look at a new recipe.  I become inspired by one recipe, but like ingredients from another and pretty soon I have a collaboration of two or three different recipes.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I think tonight’s adventure did.

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This is a marriage of ingredients from 3 different recipes, inspired mostly from a Food and Wine recipe I found online.  It was a fairly quick meal to fix and although I paired it with coconut rice, you could serve it with a salad or crusty bread and it would still be a filling meal for you.

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Just make sure when you eat this, share the joy.  There is a lot of garlic in it and you know they always say that if one eats garlic, then everyone should.  Don’t worry, they’ll all love it.

On a side note…no vampires will be visiting for a while.

Farro Risotto with Roasted Squash, Apple and Kale

I love this time of year.  I’m ready after the humid, muggy summer to breathe in some fresh crisp air.  I long for my sweaters and log fires to warm the evenings.  With the falling leaves comes the desire of using the abundance of fall flavors such as sage, pumpkins, squash and apples.

Did I mention I love fall?

I’m obsessed with apples right now.  I brought several different types of apples home with me the other day from the market, preparing for an all out apple fest.  I dove in, ready to conquer the sweet to the savory. The only thing I was missing was the road side apple cider stand.

So I have my apples, I love the fall and now I have to do something with all of it.  Well, that’s easy.  I decided to make this combination of a couple of recipes I had seen…  it was everything the autumn season is all about.  Farro Risotto with Apples, Squash, Kale and Sage.  My husband is loving me so much right now.  This meal is on his diet plan since it’s fairly healthy, but it’s also got flavor, texture and comfort, and it doesn’t taste like it’s a diet plan.

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I paired this with crispy chicken thighs and an apple cider gravy which will be coming in my next post, but for now try this out.   It’s in the top ten of my husband’s all time favorites, so I think you will like it.

Put on a sweater and fill your belly with the taste of fall.  It’s a yum on the food meter!

 

 

Changes in Life

Life Changes.   None of us want them because I think we all hate change.  If it’s a good life change, we’ll take it begrudgingly, but if it’s something that’s scary or undesirable, we avoid it like the plague.  Perhaps that is why so many of us cling to what we know and what is comfortable.

I am one of those people.  I get comfortable and want to stay with what I know.  Even if it makes me unhappy.  I sit and think how different life could be if I would just try something new, but it’s scary so I stay where I am.  Sometimes, however, you get a kick in the butt that forces you to make that change and you go with your heels dug in…. and then you realize that it was something you should have done so much sooner.   Yes, that’s me.  Kicking and fighting and holding on to the door jam until my knuckles turn blue.  And that is where the story begins.

To start with, I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything.  It’s only been a couple of months but when you stop doing what you love, it can seem like forever.  I stopped for several reasons.  It was a time of drudgery and unhappiness and I couldn’t wrap my mind around anything that gave me pleasure.  I was trying to figure out life’s destiny due in part to the untimely death of my brother, due in part to the fact I didn’t want to get up and do what I had done for the last sixteen years….mortgages.  Life wasn’t fun anymore.

My bosses talked to me…they were worried.  My friends and family talked to me.  I talked to myself.  I decided after several conversations and long bouts of thinking that I was going to make a HUGE change and leave my “I knew where I was going everyday” job.  I was going to concentrate on my blog and so the next change was to redo everything to make it more exciting and fun to look at. I went to a food writing seminar and hung out with chefs and other foodie writers and thought I was super cool.  But then I added in food safety courses and menus and decided to take on the catering business.  At this point I am sure my husband thought I had lost my mind and for the first few days I was almost in agreement with him.  But as time wore on and I was doing what I loved and I didn’t have the stress of my job any longer…I realized this was a dream come true and yes, why hadn’t I done this years ago?

But just as you think everything is going right with the world,  along comes another change that slaps you upside the head and wakes you up.  Out of state and only one day into our mini vacation, my husband has a heart attack.  Luckily for both of us, with fortuitous timing and excellent care, everything turned out well with no damage to the heart.  But what a wake up call for both of us!

We had to take a look at our lifestyle, our way of eating and what we were eating.  It was time for another change.  We realized how lucky we were to receive this “second chance” and made the choice to eat smaller portions, heart healthy meals, exercise and even cut down on the wine that we love to enjoy.  Some of it has been easy, and some of it has been a kicking and screaming change.

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One of the fun things is discovering foods that are good for you and still amazingly good to eat.  The day of the heart attack we had eaten that morning at the bed and breakfast we were staying at and they had been so nice to share their granola recipe with me that I had enjoyed with my yogurt.  It was one of the first things I made for my husband to make a change to his breakfast.

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Sometimes changes are good and sometimes not so good.  But it’s all about how we deal with them and how we embrace that change.  I for one am loving life right now and hope that it keeps being as exciting as it’s been the last couple of months.  And I hope you stick with me…together we’ll embrace the storm.

 

 

A Memory

For most of us there is something that will trigger a memory.  it might be a song, a smell or even a place.  For me, it is a block of butter and a piece of toast.

We grew up on margarine.  At least my mom, my brothers and I did. It was cheaper than butter and growing up poor, my mom did what she could to control what was spent.  However, when it came to my dad, the expenditure of butter was not negotiated. My mom thought once she could fool him and put margarine on his toast.  That never, and I mean never,  happened again.

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I remember him slicing his block of butter, not from the side like most people cut it, but skimming his knife along the top as though it was a priceless commodity. .One day I asked if I could try it.  My mom and my brothers looked up like I was about to commit a crime, but my dad beamed with pride and agreed to let me try it.  I was watching a man share his pot of gold as he shaved the butter from the top with the same care as a man who was shaving his face for the very first time.  He laid the thin slices on my toast and we watched it melt into the crags.  Taking that first bite;  tasting the buttery richness that I had never experienced before, I smiled at my dad and realized we had just shared something that would always be special between only the two of us.  It was almost like he knew I understood the importance of what I had just experienced.

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I’m grown up now and my dad is no longer with us.  There is never a time, however, when I don’t come across a solid block of butter, hold it in my hand and I’m immediately back in our little kitchen. Who would have thought that one simple gesture would start me on a culinary trek of tasteful discoveries?  Unlike, my dad, I don’t use butter like it’s a treasure to be doled out sparingly.  I use butter with gusto and add a bit into everything I do.  Maybe it’s the richness it adds to my recipes, or maybe it’s just a small thank you to my dad for showing me that sometimes you just need to splurge for the sake of enjoyment.

So a toast to my dad, well,  with a piece of toast!  And of course I can’t forget that little slice of butter.

 

 

 

A Toast Addiction

I watched a cooking show the other day.  There is nothing extraordinary about that, and in the opinion of my husband I probably watch them more than I should.  It was a show I had never seen before, and honestly I can’t even tell you the name of it.  What I can tell you is that after that show I acted like a pregnant woman out of control, on a quest to satisfy an overwhelming craving.  It was a craving for toast…..oh, but not just any toast.

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It was toast browned in a skillet with a mixture of maple syrup and butter. It was toast that was caramelized until it had a sugary, crunchy coating and then topped with a slice of creamy, yet savory cheese.  It was more than toast and I wanted to try it.

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I am not usually a maple syrup on anything kind of person.  Not even as a child did I like French toast or pancakes smothered in that syrupy sticky sweetness.  I do like the taste of maple syrup, but more in the one little bite kind of candy you get when you go back to New Hampshire or Vermont for a visit.

For some reason, however, this had really caught my eye.  For the next week I thought of nothing else and so finally over the weekend I decided I was actually going to make it.

I wish I hadn’t.  I was like a drug addict on crack I loved it so much.  I made it three times and went through a whole loaf of bread and a round of brie.  I did have a little help eating it all, but quite honestly,  if I didn’t have to share, I probably wouldn’t have.  It was just that good.

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I curse you and thank you Amy Thielen of the Food Channel.  I am now an official Maple Bread lover,  or otherwise known as a toast addict . My disclaimer is,  I cannot be responsible for you once you try this.  I will, however, welcome you with open arms to my support group.

It really is that good.

Seared Scallops with Blue Cheese and Bacon Risotto

No matter what I do in life, it seems it’s always better when bacon is involved.  There is just something about the sweet, salty, meaty combination that makes us all fall in love with it.

I’m not even sure when and where I saw this recipe.  It might have been a posting from a local restaurant or a picture in a magazine, but when I saw bacon and risotto in the same sentence, I knew I wanted to make it  On that same note I remember thinking how much my husband liked scallops and how much I like risotto, so as in life….a perfect pairing!

I’ve always made what I think is a pretty good risotto, but I’ve always used parmesan.  This recipe just shows you that it’s okay to think outside of the box.  Of course, the nice thing about risotto is you can add pretty much whatever you really like and it will come out good.  That is the beauty of this dish.

When you see a picture or have an idea that inspires you….give it a try.  Nothing lost, nothing gained as my grandmother would always say.  You might actually find you’ve created something worth talking about!

Bon Appétit!

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Blueberry Pie Parfaits with White Chocolate Cream

Do you remember when you were younger and you would go blueberry picking?  I do.  Half the blueberries would be in the bucket and the other half in my mouth.  My shirt and fingers would be blue with the juice, but it was something I looked forward to every summer when they were ripe.  Now I just go to my back yard where I have two little starter bushes.  My only problem is I have to race the dog to see who gets there first!

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With blueberry season its natural to want to make blueberry pies.  I love a good pie but it is a little basic at times.  Imagine how pleased I was when I looked through a “Fine Cooking” magazine and discovered this blueberry pie parfait!  I had to give it a try…and taste!

This recipe had a white chocolate whipped cream and it was a welcome addition.  It lightened up the dessert without taking away from the blueberry pie flavor I expected and the white chocolate added a rich undertone.  The buttery almond-thyme streusel added more of a textural crunch than would a standard pie crust, which I really loved.  For me, this dessert was a huge winner on the flavor thermometer.

What I also liked about this is that if you’re tasting as you go along with the recipe, you can change it up to make it more to your personal liking.  A little more white chocolate in the whipped cream,  an extra squeeze of lemon into the blueberry or another shake of cinnamon into the streusel.

I’ve made these several times since my discovery of the recipe and it always gets rave reviews.  A few nights ago, we had been invited over to a friend’s home for dinner and I wanted to bring this but wasn’t sure about the trip.   It was easily solved when I used jelly canning jars, topped them with a lid and no spill! And I got extra points for presentation.

So enjoy your summer and bring some tasty fun to your family and friends.  They will love you for it!

Butter Poached Lobster

One of my favorite memories was when we went to New Hampshire on vacation and my dad would take us to Rye Beach.  There was a restaurant that had a tree growing up through the inside of it and my dad would take us over to the big tank filled with lobsters and say “pick out the one you want”.   That began my love affair with lobster.

For awhile he drove trucks and sometimes he would drive up to New England for a delivery.  We always knew when he came home, my grandmother and my aunt would be over for dinner and there would be a cooler full of lobsters.  I could crack the shell and have my lobster sitting in butter before my grandmother had it on her plate.  We never had a lot growing up…..but we ate lobsters from time to time.

I’ve always steamed or boiled my lobster, just like my dad taught me.  I heard about butter poaching but really hadn’t thought about it.  One night, my husband had steak for dinner and I had a couple of small lobster tails so I thought I would give it a try, just to see what all the fuss was about.  Well, I have to say it was everything that everyone had said it would be.  Buttery, sweet, tender and absolutely delicious.  I vowed right there I would never steam lobster again.

This dish does look fancy but don’t be intimidated.  This will elicit a bit “wow!” if you want to impress someone but you don’t need to wait for a special occasion.  You can make it any time you want.

This recipe calls for a lot of butter.  I used a full pound of butter and honestly I probably could have added more…..but I didn’t want to get crazy.  I did a butter emulsion, which means that the butterfat and the milk solids are bound together and don’t separate as long as you keep the temperature under 190 degrees F.  I used a candy thermometer to regulate the temperature but you don’t have to go to this level if you don’t want to.  You could probably poach the meat in plain melted butter and get the same yummy results.

 

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