Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hibiscus Margaritas

Hibiscus Margaritas

As Americans, we are really good at taking other countries' holidays and turning them into an opportunity for binge drinking.  And of these commandeered holidays, Cinco de Mayo is my favorite.  But only until we turn Bastille Day into a chance to drink lots of wine and eat cheese and bread though.  In the meantime, pass the margaritas and queso!

I have some really awesome recipes lined up to share with you this week, including TWO margarita recipes!  I'm starting with the hibiscus margarita, so that you have time to order some dried hibiscus flowers from amazon before the weekend!  They are relatively cheap, and you will pretty much have a lifetime supply, good for more cocktails, tea, glazes, desserts, etc.  So go ahead and order them now -- I'll wait!

These margaritas were kind of an experiment, but it was a wildly successful one.  I've had hibiscus cocktails before, but never margaritas, so I wasn't quite sure how they would turn out.  It was a fun recipe to make because you infuse tequila with the flowers, a technique that was new to me.  I liked this because it gives you a strong hibiscus flavor without watering down the tequila.  No one likes watered down tequila.

The resulting margarita is a gorgeous deep red hue, with a slightly floral, slightly spicy taste, well-tempered by the lime and orange juices.  This margarita had a wonderful complexity, without being too fussy or out there.  If you're looking for a unique margarita for Cinco de Mayo, give this one a try.  And stay tuned this week, I have more fun ideas and recipes coming at you!

Hibiscus Margaritas
adapted from
makes 6 margaritas

  • 16 oz tequila blanco
  • 2 oz dried hibiscus flowers (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 5 oz orange liqueur
  • 4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 6-7 limes)
  • 5 oz freshly squeezed orange juice (from 2 oranges)
  • 2 oz simple syrup
  • ice
  • lime wedges, for serving
In a medium saucepan, combine the tequila and hibiscus flowers.  Over medium-low heat, bring to 160 degrees, or until the tequila is just beginning to steam, 5-6 minutes.  Immediately remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 15 to 20 minutes.  

Place a fine-mesh strainer over a heat-resistant, quart-sized measuring cup or pitcher, and strain the tequila from the dried hibiscus flowers, pressing on them with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the flowers.

Stir the orange liqueur, lime juice, orange juice, and simple syrup into the tequila.  Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Serve over ice, with a lime wedge.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir-Fry in Lemon Sauce

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry in Lemon Sauce

I've had two obsessions this spring (well, three if you count tequila, but that's a year round thing).  My NEW spring obsessions are shrimp and asparagus.  We've been eating them both at least once a week for the past month, and I recently decided to combine their forces for a really awesome dinner.

I'm not generally a fan of Chinese takeout, but I do like the flavors of Chinese food.  Is that weird to say?  Oftentimes takeout leaves me feeling heavy and tired, and honestly a little sick to my stomach.  But take-out fake-out?  I'm always game.   Having control over the ingredients and sodium level makes all the difference for me.

This particular stir-fry is an ode to spring produce and flavors, and it couldn't be any further from the greasy, heavy Chinese food you're used to.  The asparagus, carrots, lemon, and shrimp pair wonderfully together.  As is the case with most stir fries, this does take a bit of prep work, what with the chopping, mixing, etc.  But it can all be done well in advance, and the dinner itself is cooked really quickly.  However, even if you do it all at once, you're still looking at dinner on the table in about half an hour; which in my book qualifies as a pretty solid weeknight meal.

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry in Lemon Sauce 

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry in Lemon Sauce
serves 4
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp dry Sherry or dry white wine
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
  • 5 tsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed, sliced on the bias into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • Lemon Sauce (recipe follows)
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the pepper, soy sauce, and sherry.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

As the shrimp marinates, prepare the lemon sauce (recipe below).  This is also a good time to trim and slice the asparagus, and peel and chop the carrots.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat.  Add the shrimp, arranging them into a single layer as best you can.  Cook about 1 minute, stirring halfway through.  They should be lightly browned but not fully cooked.  Remove to a medium bowl and set aside.

Return the skillet to high heat, and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the oil.  Add the asparagus and carrots and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are just barely tender, stirring constantly.

Stir in the garlic-scallion mixture and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Return the shrimp, along with any accumulated juices, to the skillet.  Shake the sauce to recombine, then pour it over the mixture.  Simmer, tossing and stirring constantly, until the shrimp re cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest.  Serve immediately .

Lemon Sauce
  • 6 Tbs low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
  • 2 Tbs mirin
  • 2 Tbs dry sherry
  • 2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
Combine all the ingredients into a pint-sized jar, and shake to combine.  Use as directed above.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin over Pimento Cheese Grits

BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin over Pimento Cheese Grits 

Any southern lady worth her salt has a good recipe for pimento cheese in her back pocket.  Traditionalists hold strong to the idea that pimento cheese should be used only for dipping crackers and spreading on white bread.  I myself am a bit liberal when it comes to my pimento cheese consumption, and firmly believe that the sky's the limit!  I mean, I made pimento cheese macarons last year.   Clearly I'm no traditionalist.  So while pimento cheese grits aren't that out there, they are a fun spin on both grits and pimiento cheese -- two of my favorite southern delicacies.  And to top it with grilled and glazed pork tenderloin?  Pure southern perfection.

I'm imagining serving this at a dinner party.  Start with fried green tomatoes.  Serve grilled or cornmeal-crusted okra on the side.  And finish with an Arnold Palmer Layer Cake or Peach Cobbler.  To drink?  If you can find it, La Peche Mode, a peach saison by Three Taverns Brewery here in Atlanta.  This beer pairs perfectly with the spicy pork and creamy grits.

I realize that some parts of the country are still blanketed in snow, but please.  The minute you can, dust off your grill and make this dinner.  You'll be so happy, and I'll grant you all southerner cards for the day!

BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin over Pimento Cheese Grits 

BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin over Pimento Cheese Grits

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat
  • 3 Tbs BBQ Spice Rub (recipe below)
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz diced pimentos, drained (or 1/2 roasted red pepper, diced)
  • 2 Tbs heavy cream or half and half
Prepare the grill to cook over medium-high heat.  Brush the grates with cooking oil.

In a small bowl, combine the BBQ spice rub and the canola oil to form a paste.  Rub over the pork tenderloin.

Place on the grill and cook, turning every 4-5 minutes, until the meat registers 140 degrees in the center.  For the last 5-6 minutes, brush with the bbq sauce.  Remove the tenderloin from the grill, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  Brush once more with bbq sauce, and slice.

As the pork is cooking, make the grits.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions.  Cook, stirring often, until they are softened and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the garlic, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook for an additional minute, then slowly whisk in the water and milk.  

Bring to a boil and whisk in the grits.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the grits are creamy, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Whisk often to keep lumps from forming and to keep the grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the cheese, pimentos, and cream.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

To serve, spoon the grits onto a plate and arrange a few slices of pork over the top.  

BBQ Spice Rub
America's Test Kitchen, Healthy Family Cookbook

  • 3 Tbs brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbs dry mustard powder
  • 2 Tbs pepper
  • 1 Tbs onion powder
  • 1 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs ground cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Combine all the spices in a small bowl and stir to combine well.  This can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about a month.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pizza Primavera

Pizza Primavera

Every year, around this time, I wax poetic about my love for spring.  You guys can all have fall, I'll take spring year round if I could.  I went for a run today in 85 degree weather, and it made me SO happy.  Despite the oppressive pollen counts, the kids and I have been spending as much time as possible outside, and again, it makes me SO happy.  And finally, what makes me most happy of all, spring produce!  I love incorporating spring veggies into as many of my meals and dishes as possible.  I'm a big fan of pasta primavera, so naturally, in my pizza-loving world, the next step was pizza primavera.

Y'all, this pizza.  It's really amazing.  It basically combines several of my favorite pizzas into one amazing, veggie-loaded pizza.  We start with a garlicky white sauce, then top it with shaved asparagus, roasted cherry tomatoes, onions, spinach, and mushrooms.  I used a combo of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, but I think fontina and/or goat cheese would be absolutely fabulous here too.  I sprinkled the finished pizza with fresh herbs, and this went down in history as one of my favorite pizzas ever.  Coincidentally, Caroline proclaimed it to BE her favorite pizza ever, and laid claim to the leftovers for her lunch.  This veggie pizza puts all other veggie pizzas to shame.  Served with a strawberry-spinach salad, you have spring dinner perfection.

Spring, we welcome you with open arms!  I hope you guys are as enamored with spring produce as I am, because I have a huge backlog of recipes, just waiting to be shared!

Pizza Primavera 

Pizza Primavera
makes 1 pizza
  • 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 3/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 lb pizza dough
  • 4-5 thick spears of asparagus, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced vidalia onion
  • 3-4 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs fresh minced basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway through.  Remove from the oven, place a pizza stone in the oven, and increase the temperature to 500 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the white sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until golden and bubbly, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk, and add the garlic cloves.  Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and bubbles.  Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese.  Discard the garlic.

To prepare the pizza, sprinkle a large square of parchment paper with cornmeal or semolina flour.  Roll and stretch the dough into a 14-15 inch circle or oval, and brush the perimeter with olive oil.  

Spread a thin layer of the white sauce over the dough, leaving a border all the way around (you will have some sauce leftover -- it's great for dipping the pizza into!).  Scatter the chopped spinach over the sauce, then sprinkle 2/3 cup of the mozzarella over the spinach.  Arrange the shaved asparagus over the cheese, then top with the roasted tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms.  

Finish by sprinkling the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the top.  Carefully transfer the pizza + parchment to the oven and bake 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.  

Sprinkle with the scallions and basil, slice, and serve.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Chicken with Chorizo Salsa

Chicken with Chorizo Salsa 

Is there an ingredient that will without fail, cause you to make a recipe?  For me, it's chorizo.  Include that spicy, smoky sausage in basically any dish, and I'm powerless against it.  Lately I've been adding it to scrambled eggs in the morning, along with shredded zucchini and fresh cilantro.  It's quickly become my favorite breakfast, and my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

BUT I'm not here to talk about that breakfast today, I'm here to tell you about this chicken with chorizo salsa.  Yes, chorizo salsa.  This stuff is a revelation, and I pretty much want to eat it every day with every meal from now to eternity.  Sound good?

This is also a super easy and quick weeknight dinner.  You make the chorizo salsa, then cook the chicken in the drippings, giving you even more chorizo flavor.  I served this chicken over a bed of Mexican-style zucchini, and it made for such a wonderful, satisfying, and healthy meal.  Mexican food tends to be heavy and calorie-laden (at least the things I love are!), so having a nice and light Mexican dinner was a nice change of pace.  I enjoyed the leftovers all chopped up and stuffed into lettuce wraps for lunch the next day, so I highly recommend that you save some for that!

Chorizo = love.

Chicken with Chorizo Salsa
adapted from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2015
serves 4

  • 2 oz (1 link) Mexican pork chorizo
  • 4 (6-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to even thickness
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped tomato (1 large)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped red onion
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove the chorizo from its casing and crumble into the pan.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes.  Transfer the chorizo to a small bowl.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper, and the ground cumin.  Sprinkle the mixture over the chicken breasts.

Return the skillet to the stovetop and add the oil to the drip pins in the pan, swirling to coat.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook 5 minutes per side, or until it's cooked through (reaching 165 degrees as the internal temperature).  Remove the chicken from the pan, and cover with foil.

Once again, return the pan to the stovetop.  Add the tomato, cilantro, and onion, and cook, stirring constantly 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the chorizo, then stir in the lime juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer the salsa to a small bowl.

To serve, place 1 chicken breast on each plate and top with about 2 tablespoons of the salsa and 1 tablespoon of cheese.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Asparagus Noodle Skillet Lasagna

Asparagus Noodle Skillet Lasagna

 Guys, I have such a fun post for you today!  Over the past few months, I've been loving zucchini noodles, and have been quite taken with my spiralizer.  I've even begun to branch out -- cucumber noodles are great in salads, sweet potato noodles make yummy curly fries… and beet noodles, anyone?

A few weeks ago I had planned to make skillet lasagna using zucchini noodles, but as I was buying groceries, I had the idea to use shaved asparagus instead.  It was a bit of a gamble, but it turned out to be one of the best meals I've cooked in a while!  The noodles were perfectly tender, without being mushy, and they imparted a wonderful mild and fresh flavor to the dish.  The texture was closer to that of fresh pasta than any veggie noodle I've had previously, and my kids absolutely devoured it.

I've been a bit hesitant to share recipes using the spiralizer here, since they do require a specialty kitchen tool.  But all you need for the asparagus noodles is a veggie peeler!  I was so excited by the success of this recipe, that I've been dreaming up other asparagus noodle ideas.  I never thought I'd be so excited about a vegetable, but with asparagus coming into season, get ready to see a lot of it around here!

Asparagus Noodle Skillet Lasagna

Asparagus Noodle Skillet Lasagna
heavily adapted from Inspiralized, by Ali Maffucci
serves 4

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups baby spinach
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

To prepare the shaved asparagus, Lay each spear flat on the cutting board and hold by the woodsy end.  Moving from the base of the stalk to the tip, shave thin slices using a vegetable peeler.  It's okay if they are different thicknesses. 

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick, oven safe skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook until it's just softened, 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano, and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.

Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the tomatoes plus their juices and the tomato sauce.  Season generously with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in the basil.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  In a medium bowl, combine the parmesan cheese, ricotta, 1/4 cup mozzarella, and the egg.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Remove half the sauce from the pan, and set it aside in a small bowl.  Stir the spinach into the remaining sauce, and cook over low heat until it is wilted.  Spread the sauce evenly on the bottom of the skillet.  Pile the shaved asparagus over the sauce, then pour the remaining sauce over the asparagus. Drop large spoonfuls of the filling over the top, then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top.

Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the noodles are soft and cheese is melted.  Serve.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Chicken with Orange-Feta Salsa


This dinner perfectly epitomizes the way I have been eating lately -- it's light, healthy, filling, and really pretty!  Don't you just love pretty food?  A super simple strategy for putting together a healthy and flavorful dinner is just pairing a lean protein with a quick salsa or relish.  Here, I paired seared chicken breast with a simple salsa of oranges, scallions, and feta cheese.  It's seemingly basic and simple, but it is SO bright and flavorful.  The combination of the sweet and sunny oranges pairs really well with the salty feta, and the scallions give it just enough bite to keep it interesting.  I think this salsa would be wonderful over any fish, shrimp, or even pork tenderloin.

I kept it simple when I made this chicken, and served it with roasted asparagus, but I think any green vegetable would be great.  The salsa was really tasty over the asparagus as well!  This dinner was a big hit all around, and we practically licked our plates clean.

As we're transitioning from winter to spring, we also transition to lighter, brighter meals, and this one is definitely a winner!

Chicken with Orange-Feta Salsa

Chicken with Orange-Feta Salsa
adapted from ATK's Healthy Family Cookbook
serves 4

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 (6-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 4 oranges
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs water
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feat cheese
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin

Spread the flour into an even layer in a pie plate or shallow dish.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge the chicken in the flour, and shake off the excess.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook 6 minutes, then flip.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through (160-165 degrees), another 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil.  Remove the skillet from the heat, but don't wash yet!

For the relish:  

Slice the top and bottom off of the orange, then cut away the peel and the pith (the white part) with a paring knife.  Quarter the peeled orange, the slice each quarter cross-wise into 1 inch pieces.

Return the skillet to medium heat, and add the garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir in the oranges and water.  Scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, then cook until th eoranges are just softened, 1 to 2 minutes.  

Remove the orange salsa from the pan into a medium bowl, then stir in the feta and scallions.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the chicken on a platter, then top with the salsa.  Serve.