Blue Chip with Roast Beef and Horseradish Cream

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1 bag Terra Blue Potato Chips

10-12 slices of Deli Organic Rare Roast Beef. (Thin to medium slice)

4 TBs pickled horseradish

¾ cup light mayo

¼ cup light Greek yogurt

1 TBs Dijon mustard

½ tsp honey

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

1 English Cuke – Diced

½ cup chopped chives

 

First, cut the roast beef deli slices into ½ inch horizontal strips so you’ll have about 10 pieces per deli slice.  Next mix the next 7 ingredients in a bowl.  Taste to make sure it has the right amount of salt and acidity balance.  Add more salt and/or horseradish if needed.  Set aside and refrigerate.  This sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance. 

Line up your potato chips.  Then add the beef, sauce, cukes and chives.  This is best served immediately cool or at room temp.  Enjoy!  

20 Minute Pork Parmesan with Fresh Tomato Sauce

1 1.5-2lb pork tenderloin

1 large heirloom tomato

1 large yellow tomato

½ cup parsley

¼ cup basil

¼ cup good quality olive oil

1 garlic clove crushed

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 fresh mozzarella ball, sliced

4-5 TBS quality olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

EVOO

Cut tenderloin in ½ inch slices.  Pound Flat, about ¼ inch.  Add the following 7 ingredients in a food chopper and pulse (turn food processor on and off) 4 -5 times. There’s your sauce. You do not need to cook it. 

Add EVOO to a sauce pan and put on Medium/High heat.  Pan fry for 2 minutes on each side until slightly browned.  Place pan-fried pork in a baking pan and top with sauce and fresh sliced mozzarella.  Put in oven on broil until cheese is melted.  Do not leave unattended, as it will be about a minute or two. Serve hot and along side your favorite Pesto pasta.  (Recipes to come)

Not only is this a 20 minute meal but it costs less than $4 per person.  Enjoy!

Sausage, Cannellini and Kale Soup

First, I have to give credit to where credit is due.  I got this recipe idea from Stacy London who was on the Chew last winter.  I loved how the soup incorporated another vegetable in the broth.  Although her recipe is a bit healthier, as she uses chicken sausage, and no beer, my version was a crowd pleaser at Super Club and Beer Dinner.

5- 6 chicken or pork Italian Sausage links sliced raw (if you like spice, make it Hot Italian Sausage)

2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

16 oz low sodium veggie broth

16 oz low sodium chicken stock

1 cup beer

2 cups broccoli with stalk, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 cups chopped kale

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Crushed red pepper to taste

Salt and Pepper to taste

Olive Oil

First, heat oil on the bottom of a large stock pan at medium/ high heat.   Add sausage and brown for 3-5 minutes.  Add desired amount of crushed red pepper between ½ - 1 tsp.  Remove browned sausage and set aside.  Add onions to pan and sauté until translucent.  Add broccoli and sauté for another 5 mins.   Then deglaze the pan with beer and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add veggie broth and chicken stock and simmer for 5 more minutes until the broccoli is fork tender. 

Now for the fun part, use your emersion blender and blend until smooth for about 5 minutes. This is now your creamy broth without adding cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste and more crushed red pepper if needed.

Add 2 cans of cannellini beans, garlic, kale and the cooked sausage.  Simmer for about 30 minutes and serve.  Goes great with your favorite crusty bread or top with croutons.

This is almost better the next day so I encourage you to make enough for lunch or leftovers during the week.

Enjoy! 

Tomato Bourbon Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

After receiving an awesome gift of Bourbon from a friend, I immediately knew that I needed to recreate one of my favorite soups that Barbara Winthrop from Babarba's Kitchen introduced me to.  Although she was a bulldog in the kitchen, Barbara was a great mentor and I learned a lot about food from her.  Barbara lost her battle with lung cancer many years ago and her passion for food stayed with me. Here’s my take on Barbara’s recipe.

2- 28oz cans of diced tomato with juice

2 cups chicken or veggie stock

½ cup bourbon, 2 portions of ¼ cup

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 TB dried oregano

3 small/ medium garlic cloves, crushed

Dash of crushed red pepper

3 slices of American cheese chopped

2 TB Greek yogurt

olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Pinch of sugar

2-3 slice of prosciutto finely chopped

4-5 basil leaves, chopped

This recipe should take less than 30 minutes in-total and costs just under $6.

Add olive oil and crushed red pepper to a stock pan on medium high heat.  Then add chopped onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent.  Next add ¼ cup of bourbon to the pan and stir.  You will notice that the alcohol will cook off as the alcohol smell will dissipate and the liquid will almost disappear.  Next add stock, garlic, and the rest of the bourbon, and tomatoes to the pan and bring it to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the American cheese and stir.  This will add creaminess and saltiness to the soup.  You can either put this in a blender or use your immersion blender until smooth.  While the soup continues to simmer add 2 TB of Greek yogurt to a bowl and 2 TB of the soup and mix.  This will temper the yogurt so it does not curdle.  Add the tempered yogurt to the soup.  Now for the fun part, take a small strainer or sieve and pour the soup through it into another pan or bowl.  Use a ladle to push the soup through the strainer.  There will be a lot of “pulp” left over in the strainer.  You are doing this to get the smooth texture of the soup and not the texture of a sauce.  Scrape the pulp from the strainer and save in bowl.  Once all the soup is strained, add ½ the pulp back in or to desired consistency.  Add a pinch of sugar for balance. Taste.  Add more salt, pepper, crushed red pepper if needed.

In a small sauté pan add a few drops of olive oil on medium/ high heat then add prosciutto until crispy.  Feel free to omit this part if you don’t want meat.  I liked the added texture in each bite.

After soup has been simmering for about 20-25 minutes then ladle into bowls and top with crispy prosciutto and chopped basil.  Enjoy a little a bit of my food memory. 

Dinner Party for 4 for less than $30

Lately, it’s been my mission to show that you can cook gourmet food that’s healthy, affordable and moderately easy.  This past weekend, I served the following menu:

$5 -Toasted Goat Cheese Crostini with truffled honey raspberries

$18- Pork Chops with Grilled Peach and Apple Salsa

$4-Wheat Berry Salad with roasted shallots, radicchio and kale

$3- Caramel Pecan Apple Bites

Although the menu sounds complicated, it’s simple and took less than 1 hour to prep and only minutes to cook.   How did I do it?  Detailed prep work and the cooking order were crucial.

The longest thing to cook was the wheat berries.  If you are unfamiliar with wheat berries, try them out.  The large rice like texture gives a great bite to a fall salad. 

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Shallots, Radicchio and Kale:

1 cup dried wheat berries

Small radicchio cut in quarters

2 large shallots cut in ½

4 medium Tuscan kale leaves sliced ¼ inch thick

4 cups water

For the Vinaigrette:

¼ cup Cinder Vinegar

1 TBs Dijon mustard

1 crushed garlic clove

½ cup Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by placing the wheat berries in a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, simmer for 1 hour.  While the wheat berries are cooking, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place radicchio and shallots on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Then place in the oven for 30 minutes.

While everything is cooking, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients.  Taste, taste, taste to make sure you like the mix of the ingredients and the acidity of the dressing.  It will be put on the wheat berries so it might be a little stronger by itself. 

Slice up the radicchio in ribbons about ¼ inch thick.  Chop roasted shallots.

Place the kale in a large serving bowl. The kale does not need to be cooked because the heat from the cooked wheat berries will wilt it.  Then add the cooked wheat berries, radicchio, shallots and vinaigrette.  Mix gently and taste to make sure you have enough salt and pepper. 

The great thing about this side/salad is that you can let it sit at room temperature or serve it right away. 

Try a wheat berry today and let me know what you think!

Toasted Goat Cheese Crostini with truffled honey raspberries:

I’ve been a bit obsessed with truffled honey.  If you are not familiar with the earthy flavor punch of truffle, then this is a perfect little bit to introduce sweet and savory to you and your family’s pallet. 

1 French baguette, cut into ¼ inch slices

1 4 oz goat cheese log

¼ cup 2% Greek yogurt

2 TBs honey

1/2 tsp truffle oil

12-15 raspberries

2 sprigs of fresh thyme, picked

When planning an app for a party, I usually count 2-3 bites per person, especially if it’s the only app.  For 4 people, I used about ¾ of the baguette.  You can also freeze any sliced crostini for later use.

Lightly toast the sliced baguette.  While the bread is toasting, mix the Greek yogurt and goat cheese until smooth like cream cheese.  In a separate bowl, mix honey and truffle oil and keep at room temperature.

While the crostini are still warm, spread on goat cheese mixture, top with raspberry, drizzle the truffled honey on top and top with a sprinkle of fresh thyme.  Pop the honey mixture in the microwave if the honey stiffened up.

If you are not a fan of goat cheese, you can also use ricotta cheese as a substitute.

Not only was this a great bite, it was family friendly, inexpensive and eye appealing. A great appetizer for the holidays!

Pork Chops with Peach and Apple Salsa:

4 bone in Pork Chops

1 large peach, sliced in 1/2

1 large apple, cored and sliced in 1/2

1 small jalapeño, chopped

Juice and zest of one small lime

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

½ cup of celery leaves

First, start by drizzling olive oil over the pork chops and sprinkle with salt and pepper let rest.  If you plan on cooking the wheat berry salad recipe above, roast the apple with the shallots.  If not, roast apple at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. 

Heat the grill to high.  Once heated, place the peach on the grill.  Turn the heat down to medium and grill the pork chops, 5 minutes on each side.  After five minutes, remove peach to start the salsa. 

For the salsa, chop the roasted apple and grilled peach and place in a bowl.  Add jalapeno, lime juice, zest, a drizzle of olive oil and salt. 

Once pork chops are done, set aside and let rest while you get the rest of your meal ready.  Add salsa to the top of the pork chops and top with celery leaves.   Serve with wheat berry salad and a veggie of your choice. 

Caramel Pecan Apple Bites:

This very simple dessert was a great ending to the meal. 

2 large apples, sliced

2 tsp caramel, melted

Toasted pecans, chopped

Kosher salt to taste

Place sliced apples on plate, top with melted caramel, pecans and sprinkle with salt. This is one of my all time favorite desserts and it requires no baking.  In less than 5 minutes and $3 later you’ve got yourself a sweet tooth satisfier!

The guests loved this meal and we all agreed that if timed right, it could even be a quick mid-week meal a whole family would love.  Enjoy eating 2gether! 

10 Minute Meal- Grilled Swordfish Piccata Kabobs

As my culinary career gets on its way, I’m always trying new recipes in my kitchen.  My mom was coming to visit and I wanted to wow her so I came up with this recipe because swordfish was on sale at Whole Foods that week.

2 lbs swordfish, skinned and cubed

1 lemon, juice and zested

3 tbsp large capers with juice, roughly chopped

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4

Take the cubed swordfish and skewer it.   Season the fish with salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Heat the grill to high. Mix the remaining ingredient; lemon, zest, capers with juice, parsley and olive oil in a bowl and let sit.  I always recommend you taste the sauce before you put it on or in anything.  Now would be the time.  If it’s too sour add more olive oil, just remember that you will be adding it on top to highlight the fish and not to mask it.

Lower one side of the grill to medium and place the skewers on that side.  Grill for 3-4 minutes each side.  Spoon piccata sauce over kabobs and serve with a grain and veggie.

One of my toughest critics, my husband, gave this a 10!  Quick, Easy, Healthy and Family Friendly - Enjoy

Middle Eastern Maki Rolls

I was recently put into a situation where I needed to present myself on a plate.  In the middle of the night, I thought of modernizing the traditional rolled grape leave.  You can find the traditional recipe (here).

The Middle Easter Maki Roll recipe was carefully tested and perfected by some of my foodie friends.  The cauliflower in the recipe really changes up the taste of the traditional maki roll and brings in a more earthy taste, while also adding texture.  The tzatziki and tahini sauce compliment the roll perfectly by giving it a creamy texture, yet tart taste.  Although it’s not the simplest recipe, it’s well worth the time it takes to create it.

Maki Roll:

Jared rolled grape leaves, rinse and stems removed

¼ head of cauliflower

½ lb ground lamb

1 lemon juiced

2 TBs canned tomato sauce

½ cup bulgur

Water

12 mint leaves

1 small pickling cuke finely chopped

1 tsp dried mint leaves

2-3 springs of parsley, picked, washed and dried

salt and pepper to taste

For the Tzatziki sauce:  Recipe link (here)

For the Tahini sauce:  Recipe link (here)

Directions:

Remove grape leaves from the bottle and unroll them.  Soak grape leaves for 5-10 minutes in cool water.  In a bowl add hot tap water and soak the bulgur 5-10 minutes to soften it.  While the grape leaves and bulgur are soaking roughly cut the cauliflower and place it in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped with the consistence of rice. Time to get your hands dirty, mix lamb, bulgur, tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  

Now for the fun part, place the grape leaf with the point facing away from you.  Put a heaping teaspoon of the cauliflower in the center of the leaf and then top with a teaspoon of the lamb mixture in the lower middle half of the leaf and shape into a log shape.  Then, fold over one side of the grape leaf, then the other and somewhat tightly roll the leaf away from you.  Place the leaf in a deep saucepan.  Although it’s time consuming, it’s fun to use your hands and the final result is well worth it!  Once all leaves are rolled, add water and lemon juice.  Place a dish on top of the leaves to make ensure they stay under the liquid.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes.  I think they taste best the next day, but you can serve them immediately.  For helpful pictures on how to roll grape leaves click (here).

In a Mortar and Pestle, add dried mint and salt and grind together.  Finely chop the pickling cuke.

Make sauces- links above.

Heat canola or veggie oil to 325 degrees. Add mint leaves and remove after they float up top, about 2 minutes.  Place on paper towel and drain excess oil.

Once rolled grape leaves are slightly cooled then cut the grape leaves ends off.  Then cut the rolls in thirds.  Stand the rolls up, top with tzatziki, chopped cukes, and one fried mint leaf.  For the second roll, stand up, top with tahini sauce and a mint leaf.

Plating Tip: Because you want a simple dollop of sauce, place the sauce in zip-lock bag and cut off a small corner, squeeze the bag to get out the sauce.

This is a winning recipe! Trust me!

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Strawberry and Minted Feta Salad

My friend and I were talking about what to do with all the strawberries we picked last week and she asked if I’ve ever had balsamic strawberries over ice cream.  That gave me an idea for this recipe.  The acidity from the balsamic really brings out the sweetness from the strawberry, which is complimented by the feta and mint perfectly. 

1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 cup- balsamic dressing

1 cup sliced fresh or frozen strawberries (thawed, keep juice)

3 TBs balsamic vinegar

3 sprigs mint picked and chopped

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Salt to taste

I’m personally a dark chicken meat person but if you like white meat, this recipe would work just as well.  Start by marinating the chicken in balsamic dressing for at least 2 hours. Start cooking the chicken on the grill.  The chicken should grill about 6-8 minutes per side and the internal temp should be 165 degrees. Place the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and bring it to a boil for about 3-4 minutes.  You’ll want the smell of the vinegar to be gone and the consistency to be like syrup.  Once cooled, add to the strawberries and then mix. 

When the chicken is done, top it with the strawberry balsamic sauce, and add the feta cheese and mint on top.  Serve with rice and a vegetable.  Enjoy a little bit of summer for dinner!

On a side note, I always test out recipes on my family before I post and this was a huge hit with Kevin and Jackson.  I kind of want to make it again tonight!

What A Year It’s Been!?!

I launched Better2Gether a year ago and what a year it’s been.  All I knew at that time was that I had a calling for food and I wanted to figure out a way to transition myself into the culinary world while at the same time incorporating my family into the process.  I told myself, you’ve got a year to figure out if I will grow and learn something about myself in order to keep going.  The answer is yes and I can’t wait to document and share what’s yet to come…

But first, I’m going to share my top 5

Top 5 Blogs

  • I’ve got a lot to learn- The main purpose of Better2Gether was to document and share my family tested recipes.  I’ve seen myself transition into a better writer, better home chef and a more patient mommy. I learn more everyday from my family, from chefs and from perfect strangers.  I will never be to old to learn new things that help better me as a person and I actually love sharing this journey of eating, living and playing on my blog. 

  • Some people don’t care-  At first it made me sad that some people didn’t mention anything about what I’m passionate about, but now, I accept that not everyone cares.  And now, I’m ok with that, especially as I move forward toward my goal. It will not hold me back or fade my drive because people not caring or giving me negative feedback will happen my whole life and it’s something I cannot change.

  • Everything is better with Bacon and/or Avocado- I’ve created many recipes this year with both, or either of these ingredients, and they have always been a hit!  Some examples:

  • Take what’s given to you- I totally believe and follow in the notion that what you throw out into the universe will come back to you.  I understand that not everyone believes in this, but I’ve been living it over the past 10 years.  After I was on the Chew, I felt like my 15 minutes of fame needed to be more than that.  I threw it out into the universe that I wanted to be in a culinary field and follow my passion.  From that moment, I was asked to be a guest chef at the “Real School” which made me realize I love to teach and not everyone knows what a whisk is.  In January this year I realized that if I wanted to do what I wanted to do, which was to teach others about food, then I would need to go back to school.  But how was I going to do that with two kids under 5?  Then the stage at Hugo’s happened. I grasped onto an amazing opportunity at one of the best restaurants in Portland.  I learned so much from my time there that has helped me grow as a home chef and know that I have a lot of learning to do.  I have this gitty exciting feeling that I’m on the right path.  Now I just have to follow it.

  • It’s a lot of work- When I started a year ago, I wanted to post 3 times a week, now I’m lucky if I get 1-2 posts out a week.   I’ve had other priorities named Jackson and Nolan and they take precedent over my work.  So if I don’t post more than 1 a week it’s ok, just as long as I learn something new in the process and trust in the process of being a working mommy. 

Now what’s next? I will continue to post over the next year, continue my education in the fall with Hugo’s, and also create my business plan for 2gether we Eat.  Who knows where the next year will take me, but thank you to my 111 Facebook followers, Piners and family and friends for listening and joining me on this journey.

Happy Eating, Living and Playing 2Gether!

Findings At The Farmers Market

I’m very fortunate to live in a town with a wonderful and growing farmers market that takes place twice a week.  My CSA farm, Freedom Farm has a wide variety of produce that is ever changing. This summer I’ve decided to buy produce I’ve never tried before and test out recipes on my family.  This week was baby turnips.  Daniel, Freedom Farm owner and farmer, suggested that I pan fry the turnips first and then add the greens to wilt.  So I did just that with a little garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt and siracha.  I loved it and Jackson my 6 yr old loved it too. The other boys didn’t really care to try it, and they didn’t know what they were missing.  Here’s to warm weather, farmers markets and trying something new! 

Handheld Caesar

I was hosting a bbq and wanted to serve a salad that could be handheld.  It’s simple, inexpensive and a crowd pleaser for any age.

2 hearts of romaine

1-bag croutons, chopped

4 TB of your favorite Caesar dressing, recipe to follow from my friend Jen

3 TB Parmesan reggiano

Lemon Zest

Remove the outer leaves from both heads of romaine, about 10-12 leaves. Clean and pat dry with a paper towel.  Roughly chop the remaining romaine, clean and dry.  Mix chopped lettuce with the dressing and Parm.  Spoon salad mixture in lettuce cups and top with a sprinkle of lemon zest. 

Caesar Dressing:

½ cup fresh Parmesan

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup lemon juice

2 garlic cloves crushed

1t. Worcestershire sauce

Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients and dress your salad. I love making this anchovy free/ kid friendly salad dressing. 

Fish Taco Bites with Cuke Mango Salsa

As the warm weather approaches, it’s time for some BBQing.  I love bringing bite size appetizers that are light and full of flavor in one bite.  I decided to shrink one of my favorite dinners into a bite size portion.

Please see the Fish Taco recipe here and get yourself some scoop tortilla chips.

Prepare recipe as follows and layer the fish, salsa and avocado creama as you would a taco.  If you want a little extra heat, add some jalapeño ice. Recipe here.

It’s a perfect little bit of summer and don’t be surprised if the kiddo’s sneak a few bites as well. 

Jalapeño Ice

I was prepping dinner and was making cilantro lime chicken tacos with mango cucumber salsa and I realized I didn’t buy any jalapeño at the store.  I decided to use my frozen jalapeños from my garden that were flash frozen at the end of last season.  Instead of chopping it, I thought that I would just grate it.  Then I realized, that jalapeño ice is a nice topping to any Mexican recipe.  If you like the added heat, top your tacos, guacamole or salsa with the ice. 

In this case, I just added the grated jalapeño ice to the salsa to give it a little heat.  Because Jackson was my taste tester, he told me that it added a little “Zip” to the salsa. 

Like the heat? Add a little jalapeño ice to your mojito or margarita for a little “zip” in your drink.

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

Who doesn’t like something wrapped in bacon?  My family certainly does.  Which is why I served these bacon wrapped asparagus bundles on Easter dinner.  This idea actually came from my dad who served it up during his holiday dinner this past December.  It’s easy to make and easy to serve and each person has their own bundle.  Serves 6

1 large bunch of asparagus, washed and ends cut

6 slices of thick cut black forest bacon

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Wrap the raw bacon around 5-6 asparagus spears to make bundles.  Place bundles on a cooking sheet.  You’ll want to make sure the bacon end is face down on the sheet so that it doesn’t unwrap.  Cook for 15-20 minutes until bacon is crispy. 

This side dish was a huge crowd pleaser for young and old.  It’s also quick, easy and low cost.  Enjoy

Crostini with Pear, Walnut, Ricotta and Drizzled Honey

I always love switching up toppings on a Crostini and these ingredients are for the most part, stuff I have around the house or have been left over from another recipe. 

Not only is this recipe a crowd pleaser, it’s also appealing to the kiddos too.  If you’ve got time to spare, have the kiddo’s help by spreading the cheese before putting the crostini into the toaster oven. 

This fancy appetizer only takes about 10-15 minutes from start to finish.

1 French baguette

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 ripe pear, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise

2-3 tbs honey

1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Salt to taste

Lately I’ve been asking the bakery at the grocery store to slice my bread.  Most bakers will slice bread for you, which is great because it saves you a lot of time in the kitchen. If you don’t have the option to have the baguette cut for you, cut it yourself into ¼ inch slices. 

Place sliced baguette pieces into the toaster oven and toast for about 3 minutes.  You want the bread to look slightly toasted but not brown or to crunchy. 

Once out of the toaster, smear the ricotta cheese on the slices and top with 2 pieces of pear as well as ¼ teaspoon of honey drizzled on top and 5 to 6 chopped walnuts.  If the walnuts are not salted, add a pinch of salt to each one. 

The flavor combination of this crostini delivers something special for those sweet and savory taste buds. Enjoy!

Shrimp Scampi- My 5yr old's favorite meal

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If you ask my son Jackson what’s your favorite food, he’ll tell you its shrimp scampi.  I always think “that’s my boy”.  I told him that one-day he’d be able to make the scampi from start to finish because it’s that easy. 

After school he helped me prep the shrimp and the ingredients for the scampi.  He did everything from rinsing and peeling the shrimp, to helping juice the lemons.  Touching the shrimp made him squirm a little, but all in all he was so proud that he helped cook his favorite meal. 

1 lb medium size raw shrimp (buy cleaned and peeled as an option)

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 tsp crushed red pepper (if you like spicy, double the portions)

3/4 cup white wine

½ cup olive oil

3 tbs unsalted butter

zest and juice from one medium size lemon

½ cup parsley

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Salt to taste

Grated Parmesan-Reggiano

1 box of your favorite pasta. We love thin spaghetti with this recipe.

Get your water started for your pasta.  Then gather all your ingredients and start prepping.  Jackson and I did all the prepping after school so when I was ready to cook, the prep was all done.  

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When the water is boiling, add the pasta, as the sauce only takes 10 minutes or so.  Add olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to a large saucepan on a medium setting.  You do not want to fry the garlic, so it’s important that you keep the heat on medium to medium high for 3-4 minutes.  Then add the white wine and salt to taste.  This is where your sense of smell comes in.  You’ll want to cook for about 2-3 minutes until you cannot smell the alcohol in the wine.  No worries if you can’t tell the difference, 2-3 minutes should suffice.  Then add the lemon zest and butter.  Once the butter is melted then add the lemon juice.  I just learned from my apprenticeship at Hugo’s that it’s important to add the citrus at the last minute if you want to maintain the sour lemon flavor.  I add it now, because I want the shrimp to have the lemon flavor.  You can also add half of the lemon juice now and the other half right before you serve it.  It just depends how much lemon you like in your scampi.

Once sauce is complete, add raw shrimp and cook for 2 minutes per side.  You want the shrimp to be pink and slightly curled.  If you cook the shrimp to long it could get rubbery.  Once the shrimp is cooked add the cooked pasta right to the pan.  Remove the pasta with tongs and let the excess water drip off.  You do not have to drain the pasta because the starchy water adds to the sauce. 

Top pasta with parsley and grated parm and serve immediately.  Sometimes I serve the kiddos a little bowl of their own cheese so they can add it themselves.  This is and will continue to be a staple meal in our house and a family favorite.  Hope it becomes yours as well.

5 Things Professional Chefs Do In The Kitchen That You Can Do At Home

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Over the past two months, I’ve learned so much from my apprenticeship at Hugo’s, one of Portland Maine’s top restaurants. During my time in their kitchen, I’ve consistently observed them doing some simple but effective things that I’ve since brought home to my own kitchen and am excited to be able to share them with you:

Workstation -

  • Keep a neat and clean work station. 

  • Place damp towels under your cutting board to keep it from slipping. 

  • Have at least 2 cutting boards. One for meat and chicken and one for veggies. 

  • Have an extra towel close by in case you need to wipe down the knife or the cutting board.  

At home, I’m finding I’m more efficient in the kitchen and have less of a mess when I’m done cooking.  Well, maybe you should ask my husband about the mess, as I’m not the one that does the dishes. J

Mise en places - This is a French phrase, which means “putting in place”.  Or, the Rachel Ray method. 

  • Grab everything you need for the recipe, including the pans and cooking utensils first before you start preparing. 

  • Once food is cooked, you should have mise en place for plating as well. 

At home when I’m cooking up a recipe, I clean, chop and prep all the ingredients before I start cooking.  I sometimes do it all the night before or earlier that day if I know I only have 20 minutes to get dinner on the table for my hungry family. 

Don’t waste anything - In the French Laundry Cookbook, Thomas Keller explains how difficult it was to watch some of the animals being slaughtered, which explains why some people are vegetarians.  But if you choose to eat meat, like myself, you should respect the meat by using all parts of it.  This doesn’t just go for meat, it’s also nice to save produce scrapes for soups and salads as well.  I’m not talking about using the core of an apple, but if you only need the scallion whites for a recipe, save the greens for later.  If you roast up a chicken, save the bones for a broth, the insides for gravy, crisp up the skin and use as a serving vessel and the fat (aka schmaltz) to cook with.  After learning this from my apprenticeship experience with Hugos, I’ve been more apt to cook with schmaltz and bacon fat to boost the flavor of what I’m cooking and not waste anything.

Try different combinations -  Some people get in the habit of always pairing the same things like seafood with lemon or peanut butter with jelly.  Think outside the box and you’ll be surprised on what you come up with.  This was very relevant to me when the Hugo’s chef had me assist in making a nori (seaweed) crab fritter (fried dough) and served it with a grapefruit mayo.  It wasn’t lemon, which you would traditionally think would work, but grapefruit, another type of citrus that very well complimented the crab amuse.  (An amuse is a single bite appetizer)

Balance -  This technique is by far the hardest to conquer but important to know.  When I say balance, I’m talking about flavor balance- sweet, salt, acid and heat/spice.  This is primarily used when you’re making the marinade, gravy, sauces and or rubs.  It doesn’t necessarily mean what you are putting on the plate.  For example, I was making a Greek yogurt dip for veggies this week and it seems really tart to me.  I already added garlic, onion, dill, salt, pepper but it needed to come together more, so I added sugar.  It helped balance the flavors so that all the flavors melded together without one standing alone.

Next time you’re in the kitchen remember to keep it clean, keep it together, keep all of it, keep an open mind and keep it balanced. 

Brined Chicken in a Crockpot

I’m sure you’ve heard of brining your turkey, but have you thought of brining your chicken for Sunday Supper? At Hugo’s, where I’m staging, they serve a staff meal before the dinner service begins.  It’s always amazing, but one time they had roasted chicken pasta.  I asked why the chicken was so flavorful, not that I expected anything less.  The chef told me that they always brine their chickens.  So I figured, why shouldn’t I?

As you might have noticed, I love rosemary and lemon so I decided to brine my chicken with those flavors.  I didn’t have a vessel to fully submerge the chicken in, so I decided to try it in a crockpot because it was deep enough and fit in the fridge.  

Ingredients:

1 5-6 lb chicken, remove insides and wash

1-cup kosher salt

1-cup sugar

3 sprigs rosemary

5 peppercorns

3 bay leaves

1 lemon sliced

About 1 gallon of warm water

Mix salt, sugar and a cup or so of water in a container and stir to dissolve.  Add rosemary, peppercorns, lemons and bay leaves to the bottom of the crock-pot.  Add chicken breast side down and add brine solution.  Make sure you have enough water to cover the chicken and let sit overnight to 24 hours. 

Remove chicken and rinse.  Add chicken to roasting pan and add rosemary, salt and olive oil to the chicken and rub it in.  Roast at 350 degrees for 1 hr or when the internal temperature is 165.  Serve with Hushwee, (recipe here), and roasted veggies, (recipe here).  This is a meal my family really enjoys 2gether. The best part, are the leftovers to make potpies, (recipe here), pasta dishes, tacos, chicken salad etc.

Fish Tacos w/ Cucumber Mango Salsa & Avocado Cream

Although this recipe may sound fancy, it’s so easy and takes less than 30 minutes. Plus it cost less than $12 for a family of four.   Both kiddos wanted to help and I felt that it was especially important for this meal because this was the first time I introduced the fish taco concept.  To get the troops ready to cook with me, we washed our hands thoroughly!

Ingredients:

1 lb of white fish (haddock, pollock, hake, flounder or tilapia)

1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed

1 cup chopped cuke

1 small shallot, chopped

¼ cup chopped red pepper

½ cup chopped cilantro

1 lime zest and juiced (1 large or 2 small)

1 chopped jalapeño, optional

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp chili powder

olive oil

Salt to taste

1-package corn tortillas


For the Avocado Cream Sauce:

1 ripe avocado

½ lime, juiced

¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped

½ tsp cumin

2 TB olive oil

Salt and Sriracha to taste


The first step is to marinate the fish while you prep the salsa.  Sprinkle cumin, coriander, and chili powder on both sides and then add 2 tsp lime juice and ½ the zest on the fish.  Let the fish rest. 

Next, in a bowl add the mango, cukes, shallot, red pepper, cilantro, jalapeño, rest of lime and zest to a bowl and salt as desired.  I would recommend about 1 tsp of salt. Mix together and let sit while you cook the fish.

Mix all ingredients in the blender or chopper for the avocado cream and blend until smooth and creamy.

Add olive oil on the bottom of a skillet and bring heat up to med/high.  Once oil is hot, add fish and pan fry for 3 minutes on each side or until fish is slightly flaky.

Heat corn tortilla according to the package.  Fill the tortillas with fish, mango salsa and avocado cream and enjoy.  The kiddos loved adding their topping to the taco.  All 3 boys loved this dinner. 

Myer Lemon Chicken Pot Pie with Rosemary Salt Crust

I had some leftovers from the Roasted Myer Lemon Chicken with Rosemary Salt (recipe here) as well as roasted sweet potato and beets that were served with the meal that night.  I needed a quick meal that I could pop in the oven when I got home from work and a pot pie was created. 

I always seem to have prepared pie crust in the freezer because it’s so easy to use for a quick meal.  I also saved the drippings from the roasted chicken and used that for the gravy.

Ingredients:

2- 3 roasted Myer lemon chicken legs/ thighs, deboned and cubed

1 left over sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1-2 left over roasted beets and/or roasted carrots, peeled and chopped

1 cup of frozen mixed veggies

Drippings from Myer lemon leftovers

2 TBs Flour

1 package of premade pie crust

1 tsp dry rosemary

1 tsp salt

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425. Place first 4 ingredients in a pie plate and in that order.  To make the gravy you will need to start a roux.  Place 2 TBs of flour in a sauce pan on a medium heat.  Add 4 TBS of the fat (top layer of drippings) to the pan and stir until pasty.  Then add 1- 1 1/2 cups of drippings, minus the fat, to the pan.  The best way to do this is to put the drippings in a plastic bag and hold it at an angle.  You will see the broth settle to the bottom and the fat on the top.  Next cut a small hole on the bottom corner of the bag and pour the broth into a liquid measuring cup.  Feel free to save the fat, also known as schmaltz, and refrigerate and use the next time you roast up your veggies or even frying up some eggs.

If you do not have enough drippings to make the desired amount of gravy, feel free to use chicken stock as well. Keep pan on medium high and stir until its par boiling.  Do not let it boil.  Keeping it at this temperature will help thicken it to desired consistency.

Once the gravy is done, pour on top of pie contents.  Roll out pie crust and put on top of pie pan and pinch the edges to make the crust.  Brush the top of the crust with a little olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary and salt.  Cover the crust with foil for the first 15 minutes of cooking. Take off foil and cook for another 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let cool before serving.  My kiddos get so excited when we have pie for dinner and eat every last bite.  I think next time I’ll make another pie so we can have leftovers from the leftovers.