Monday, May 18, 2015

Saucy Grilled Shrimp and Pasta Salad

I'm in love with the flavors of Asia. Whether it's a curry, stir fry or salad, I'm giving it a try in my kitchen. And I have spent hours upon hours testing recipes that mimic my favorite dishes from the authentic Asian restaurants I frequent. Imagine my delight when I tasted Saucy Mama's Pacific Rim Ginger Dressing? Wowser!! Was I impressed! It had all the flavors I usually strive for when I make my garlic/ginger dressing. And there's no grating ginger or chopping garlic, no checking the pantry and fridge for rice vinegar and soy sauce, and no measuring anything. And I'm reluctant to admit, but I's as good or maybe even better than my homemade.

So let's get cooking and put together a simple salad that's perfect for a weeknight meal or company fare. And it's only seven ingredients. Yes, you read that right, seven ingredients.

Pacific Rim Ginger Grilled Shrimp and Pasta Salad
Servers 4 to 6

1 lb Gulf Shrimp peeled and deveined (I like the 16-21 count)
1 cup Saucy Mama Pacific Rim Ginger Dressing divided
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
1 large red pepper sliced 1/4 inch
2-3 scallions chopped
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
8 oz linguini

I just made this tonight and it's fresh in my mind. This is what I did. I soaked some wooden skewers in water for a half hour (so they don't burn on my indoor grill). While they were bathing I poured 1/2 cup of Pacific Rim Ginger Dressing into a gallon size plastic bag. In went the cleaned shrimp, and they had a bath of their own for 30 minutes. I then skewered them and cooked them in my grill pan on my stovetop for about 2-3 minutes per side.

Yummy looking right? One of these skewers is meant for the chef, so help yourself, simply delish. The shrimp can sit for a bit while you assemble the salad. Cook linguini according to package directions and drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. While pasta is cooking, chop the cilantro and scallions, and microwave the sugar snaps for 1-1/2 minutes. Most people don't cook their red peppers, but I microwave mine for about 45 seconds (Crazy? maybe, but I think they're just a little bit sweeter that way). Combine pasta and cooled veggies, scallions and cilantro in a bowl and toss with remaining 1/2 cup of dressing.

Plate and garnish with cilantro leaves. You can serve the shrimp on skewers as I did, but when it's mixed with the pasta salad, it's pretty impressive as well. Serve at room temp or even cold.

Saucy Giveaway! Yes, a giveaway. Please leave a comment here or on my facebook page for a chance to win some Saucy Mama products. I see some good eating in some reader's future. Details about the giveaway will be posted soon.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Exciting News!

I'm so excited, yes I am! I'm one of twenty five bloggers selected to compete in the 2015 Saucy Mama recipe contest. This contest is a biggie. It awards one winner a paid entry and all expenses paid trip to the World Food Championships this year in Kissimmee, FL which takes place next November. As always, I'm going to give it my all. I've got lots of ideas and am waiting for the products to arrive. This Saucy Mama wants to win! Be sure to check out my upcoming recipes and sign up for a chance to win some Saucy Mama products so you can enjoy them in your kitchen as well. Details to follow.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Caramalized Onion, Bacon, Cheese and Baby Kale Strata

Before I say good bye to winter, I must share my latest strata (last of the comfort food hopefully?). Remember, I live in New England and while a lot of the country has been enjoying comfortable temperatures, I made this dish 3 days ago when it was hailing on my way home from work. It's a simple fix, and I know you're going to like the caramelized onion/cheese/bacon/kale combo. Oh and the little tang of Dijon mustard is just perfect. Here's what you need to put this little darling together, and you don't have to be having a tough winter to make this, it's a great brunch entrée- hot out of the oven or served at room temp.

End of the Winter Strata
Serves 6

6 slices bacon chopped 1 inch pieces
1 T olive oil
2 medium sized onions chopped
1/2 cup Fontina cheese shredded
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese crumbled
3/4 cup baby kale chopped
8 slices hearty white or Italian bread cut into 1 inch cubes
4 large eggs
1-3/4 cups milk or half and half
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 T unsalted butter melted

Let's do this with pictures. It will help me next year when I'm at my wit's end with cold weather. Yes, that might help!

Sauté bacon in a large pan.

When just about crisp, remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Save 1 T of bacon fat and place back in pan and add 1 T of olive oil. Add your onions and cook on low heat for at least 20-30 minutes.

Add a little salt and pepper if you like. I did. While onions are caramelizing, shred your Fontina cheese and crumble the Gorganzola. Now chop your baby kale, slice your bread, melt butter and prepare your egg custard. In mixing bowl or large measuring cup mix eggs, milk, mustard, salt, pepper and cooled melted butter.

Prepare an 8" x 8' baking dish with cooking spray and layer 4 of the sliced pieces of bread.

Add your cooked bacon, caramelized onions, cheese and kale.

Top with the rest of the sliced bread and add the egg custard. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about an hour.

Since I've been making strata's all winter, I've been reading up on the "setting-up in the fridge" time of this lovely dish, and I am of the belief that 1 -2 hours is all you need. Some say overnight. Sorry- I don't have time for that, and also...I don't think it bakes as well. Yeah, I'm a rebel. But try it my way, I think you'll be happy. So put this little dish of deliciousness in a 325 degree oven and bake for 50-55 minutes. Oh, you can also add a bit more cheese to the top. It is a farewell to winter right? Take a look. Imagine how good it tastes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tex-Mex Orzo

Who doesn't love a side dish of flavorful Southwestern infused spices with black beans, corn, jalapenos, onions and orzo? Orzo, you ask? Well, I didn't have any rice but had an abundance of orzo (rice shaped pasta) and decided it would do the trick. This is quick and a perfect side with anything you're serving. And the good news? After you've put together your spice mix and chop your onions, this dish comes together in less than 20 minutes. Tempting? Let's give this recipe some star treatment.

Tex-Mex Orzo
Inspired by a very bare pantry

You won't use all this, but you certainly can for a bit more punch

1 tsp ground chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 can reduced sodium (15 oz) black beans rinsed and drained
1 can diced green chilis (4 oz)
1 cup uncooked orzo
1-3/4 cups water (you can use chicken broth)
1 cup frozen corn defrosted
1 tsp kosher salt
1-2 T Franks hot sauce

Let's cook! Mix together the spices.

On stovetop, in medium size sauce pan on low heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Now add the chopped onions and a teaspoon of spice mix and sweat for 4 to 5 minutes. I cover my pot and make sure the onions don't brown.

Looking and smelling goods far. Now add the orzo and another teaspoon of spice mix and toast the orzo for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the beans, chilis, and water. And one more teaspoon of spice mix and stir to incorporate.

Increase heat until water begins to simmer. Stir in another teaspoon of salt, lower heat, cover and gently simmer for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, your orzo is almost done. Add in the corn and stir. Now turn off the heat, cover with a paper towel, then your pot lid, and let sit for about 5 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.

Uncover and add in your hot sauce and stir. Tex-Mex Orzo is ready.

For the spice lovers in your group, serve some extra hot sauce on the side. It will be much appreciated. And by the way, this is not too spicy to serve the kids. It packs a little bite at the back of your mouth, but it's a very pleasant bite. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to re-mix this recipe to your liking. Add some tomatoes, red peppers, and even some healthy spinach. Oh, and don't forget to top with some cheese. I'm looking forward to a stocked pantry by the weekend when we might even have a weather forecast without snow or sleet!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Boiled, Baked and Fried

I'm a little obsessed with potatoes right now. It's been a long winter in New England and indulging in comfort food has kind of taken over. My last post, Twice Baked and Loaded inspired this decadent, yummy potato casserole and the fried potato pancakes that came soon after. Get ready for some good eating. Yes this is a rich side dish, and as a matter of fact it's one of the most decadent concoctions I've ever put together. But it's a side dish, so you don't have to eat it all in one sitting (you'll want to save some for the Bonus Fried Tater Cakes), and it does have it's redeeming qualities- like it's loaded with veggies (artichokes and spinach), slow roasted garlic and of course lots of love. Ready? Let's cook.

Artichoke and Spinach Dip Potato Casserole
Serves 6-8

Roasted Garlic 1 small head of garlic
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

The Dip
8 oz Neufchatel cheese (lower fat cream cheese) softened to room temp
1/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup reduced fat shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup lite sour cream
1/3 cup lite mayonnaise
5 oz frozen chopped spinach thawed or defrosted in the microwave, then squeezed dry to remove any liquid
1 medium-large can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 head of roasted garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp hot sauce

The Taters
5-6 Yukon Gold potatoes (medium sized) cut into 1 inch pieces
2-3 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2
salt and pepper

To roast the garlic: Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking sheet in the oven as it pre heats. Remove some of the outer layers of the garlic skin if they are plentiful. Cut the top off the head of the garlic and place on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Seal the foil and place on pre-heated baking sheet. Roast 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and squeeze the roasted pulp into your mixing bowl (discarding the skin) with the Neufchatel. We're going to put the dip together.


To roasted garlic and Neufchatel, combine the rest of the dip ingredients.

While you're making the dip, get the potatoes started. Put diced potatoes into a medium size saucepan, cover with salted cold water and bring to a boil on stovetop. Cook about 20 minutes until fork tender. Remove from heat, drain water, and let taters dry a bit in the hot pot they've cooked in. Time to give these babies some love. Add your butter and Half and Half to the potatoes and lovingly give them the mash of their lives. If I had a ricer, this would be when I would grab it- it's the perfect utensil for the creamiest mashed potatoes. But my old fashioned potato masher did almost as well.


That is one pot of creamy goodness. Take a taste, add a bit more salt and pepper if you think it needs the additional seasoning. I added a tad more salt. Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees and spritz your baking dish with a veggie oil spray. In medium sized mixing bowl combine the mashed potatoes with the dip. Take another taste. I think you should be very pleased. If you're feeling extra decadent, sprinkle a little more Parm on top of the casserole, you know I did.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes and serve.

If, and I stress if, you have any leftovers, you're going to want to try these tater pancakes inspired by Sarah Moulton, one of my favorite cooks ever. I only had enough left over to make 3 pancakes (well.... I did make them rather large and could have gotten maybe 5 or 6). I followed her recipe to the letter, and yes, you do have to cook them at least 15 minutes per side on medium low. Fabulous recipe, and a fulfilling experiment for me.

Happy Spring! And now that the weather is changing, let's bring on the salads, I'm ready!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Twice Baked and Loaded

I've been craving that ever-so-famous, ooey, gooey spinach artichoke dip lately and decided to combine it with some lovely looking Russet potatoes I have also been craving. This was an experiment because I wasn't sure the two would work well together, and (confession here) I've never made a twice baked potato. So join me while I take you on my Sunday afternoon cooking adventure.

Roasted Garlic, Spinach, and Artichoke Twice Baked Potatoes
serves 4 (1/2 stuffed potato per person)

2 medium to large Russet potatoes scrubbed
3 T butter
2-3 T half and half
pinch or two of kosher salt

Roasted Garlic
1 small head of garlic
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

The Dip
4 oz neufchatel cheese (lower fat cream cheese) softened to room temp
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup reduced fat shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup lite sour cream
1/4 cup lite mayonnaise
1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach thawed or defrosted in the microwave, then squeezed dry to remove any liquid
4 whole artichoke hearts (from a can), drained and chopped
1 head of roasted garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp hot sauce

To roast the garlic: Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a baking sheet in the oven as it pre heats. Remove some of the outer layers of the garlic skin if they are plentiful. Cut the top off the head of the garlic and place on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Seal the foil and place on pre-heated baking sheet. Roast 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and squeeze the roasted pulp into your mixing bowl (discard the skin).

While garlic is cooling, bake your scrubbed potatoes in the already preheated 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Before baking, I poke my potatoes with a fork to allow steam to escape, although I'm not sure if that is necessary. While potatoes are cooking, make the dip, and that's a pretty simple task. Combine all ingredients with a flexible spatula, taste and see if you need more hot sauce. I stuck with the 1 teaspoon, but was debating whether or not I wanted to add some chopped water chestnuts to the mix for a nice crunch, but opted against that as well.

Remove potatoes from oven and when they are cool enough to handle, slice them in half and carefully hollow out the pulp and place in small mixing bowl. I wasn't as careful as I should have been and ripped one. Lesson here: Next time I will make at least one extra potato. Also, leave about 1/4 inch of potato clinging to the skin. It makes for a sturdier package. Oh, now is a good time to set your oven to 350 degrees, getting ready for the second bake.

In mixing bowl add 3 T softened butter and 2 or 3 T half and half to the potato pulp. I added a pinch of salt as well, just because potatoes love to be salted.

I tried to get my mixture as smooth and silky as possible. Now take your artichoke dip and add it to the luxurious potatoes.

Combine well and fill your potato canoes. Top with a little extra mozzarella cheese and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Don't you just want to dig into this little bit of decadence? I went right for the middle one with the slightly browned cheese on top.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quick Asian Soup

The weather outside is frightful and nothing in the Boston area these days is delightful, especially schlepping a grocery cart across an icy parking lot. So I'm low on provisions again and soup seems to be my answer for avoiding the market. Here's a little gem, a variation of an Asian soup my friend Donna posted the other day on facebook. It's six ingredients, and ready in under 15 minutes. And it's delish!

Quick Pot Sticker Soup
Serves 4

4 cups chicken stock
4 scallions sliced 1/4 inch
1 T oyster sauce
2 T light soy sauce
12 frozen pot stickers
1/2 cup frozen corn

Heat chicken stock on stovetop in large pot. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce and scallions and bring to a low boil.

Add frozen pot stickers, cover, lower heat a bit and simmer 5 minutes. Add frozen corn and cook with lid on another 2 minutes. Soup's ready!

Wasn't that quick? I garnished with a teaspoon of Huy Fong's chili garlic sauce which gave it a bit of a bite. I would have added cilantro as well, but as you can imagine, I was without any fresh herbs. With or without cilantro, this is the perfect dish for the imperfect weather we've had in the northeast this winter.