Thursday, July 30, 2009

Greek-inspired grillin'

While perusing the latest recipes on this week (yes, I was being bad and doing it during class on Wednesday), I came across a couple of recipes that I thought would be perfect to try. After a quick trip to Publix on the way home from work, I had everything that I needed for an atypical but appetizing grilling experience: steak, roasted red peppers, coriander, and pita bread.

I started marinading the steak, but unfortunately, the weather decided not to cooperate. It started raining. When Rick and I talked on the phone, he said that he wasn't going to be able to come over that night due to his having to do some work at home. I decided that I would just throw the meat on my George Foreman and make a Greek salad as a test-run for our meal. Luckily, the weather cleared up, and Rick called back to say that he wanted to come over! Yay!!! While I waited for Rick to come over, I made bread crumbs out of leftover hamburger buns that were in the refrigerator for the roasted red pepper spread and started soaking bamboo skewers in some water.

I was finishing up the roasted red pepper spread when Rick arrived. I was excited to let him sample a taste of it. We were both pleasantly surprised at the spread, and when I put it in a plastic container to store until dinner time, I swear it looked like something I would buy at Whole Foods.

As I've mentioned before, Rick has expressed interest in taking a more active role in dinner preparation, and I have to admit that it is difficult for me to hand over the reigns. He told me last night that he doesn't like to follow recipes which doesn't make it any easier for me. Baby steps!! He was eager to help and joyfully smashed garlic to make the garlic and oregano oil to brush on the pitas. I decided not to do the feta corn that was part of the menu and do a simple Greek salad instead.

We headed outside to the grill and started off with the pita bread. Rick brushed them with the garlic-oregano oil after I took them off the grill, but of course, I had to brush at least one! As we were grilling them, Rick came up with an excellent idea--grilled pita bread pizzas! Looks like that's what we are going to be doing on Friday. He's going to bring over the toppings (a surprise) so we'll see what happens!

The meal turned out wonderfully! Th roasted red pepper and walnut spread was delicious with both the pita and the meat. It was also wonderful on the pita "sandwiches" with the leftover beef that I had for lunch today. Rick's apparently did not make it past 10 am. I promised Rick that I wouldn't quote him this time around because he fears that no one will believe the continued positive reviews of our meals. I'll just say that even though he's not a huge Greek fan, he definitely enjoyed this meal!

Here is the Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread recipe:

yield: Makes about 3 cups
active time: 10 min
total time: 15 min

2 (7-to 8-ounces) jars roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (from a baguette)
1 cup walnuts (4 ounces),
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Purée roasted red peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, vinegar, cumin, cayenne, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor until almost smooth.
With motor running, add oil in a slow stream, blending until incorporated.

Cooks' notes: •Spread is also delicious with crudites, crackers, or toasts.
•Spread can be made 3 days ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Changes that I made:

  • Used leftover hamburger buns to make the breadcrumbs
  • Reduced the recipe by 3/4 due to my purchasing a 12 oz jar of roasted red peppers
The Garlic-Oregano Grilled Pita recipe:
yield: Makes 6 servings
active time: 20 min
total time: 30 min

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano
6 (6-to 8-inch) pocketless pita bread rounds
Kosher salt to taste

Heat oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook garlic, turning once, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Discard garlic and remove skillet from heat, then stir in oregano.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas); see Grilling Procedure . Oil grill rack. Grill pitas, 3 at a time, covered only if using a gas grill, turning once, until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes total per batch. Transfer to a cutting board and brush both sides with garlic-oregano oil. Cut pitas into wedges. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve warm.

Cooks' note: Pitas can be grilled in an oiled hot 2-burner grill pan over medium heat.
Changes that I made: We did 3 pitas only, and I added a little fresh ground black pepper to the oil.
And finally....the Cumin-Scented Beef Kebabs!
yield: Makes 6 servings
active time: 30 min
total time: 2 1/2 hr (includes marinating)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 pounds sirloin flap steak or flatiron steak, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Equipment: 12 (12-inch) skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes if wooden
roasted red pepper and walnut spread

Stir together oil, oregano, garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then toss with beef. Marinate, chilled, at least 2 hours.
Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (high heat for gas); see
Grilling Procedure . Thread about 4 pieces of beef onto each skewer, leaving small spaces between pieces, then transfer to a tray.
Oil grill rack, then grill beef, covered only if using a gas grill, turning, until browned but still pink inside, 4 to 5 minutes.

Cooks' notes: •Beef can be marinated up to 8 hours.•Kebabs can be broiled on an oiled broiler pan about 3 inches from heat.
Changes I made: I used 1 pound of plain ole sirloin because there were just two of us (and of course, I cooked mine rare).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wasabi Chicken?

I love making Asian-inspired meals because they are not only easy but also delicious. I don't try to do anything extremely complicated--just yummy! Rick has told me several times how much he enjoys when I make this particular type of cuisine. Recently, I jokingly told him that these dinners were so good because I was part Asian. Those who know me know that I'm blonde-haired and blue-eyed and very far from such.

On Saturday, I decided to dig out a recipe from my recipe box for wasabi crusted chicken. I haven't made it since 2004. I was really surprised that I haven't made it in so long because I'm such a big fan of panko and wasabi. My fear of chicken may have been keeping me from doing it. Yep, cooking chicken has always scared me. It's too dry if you over cook it, and there's that whole salmonella thing if you under cook it. Lately, I've gotten better with it, though so I decided to take a chance and try this recipe again.

When I got home from clinical, I was a little tired, but luckily, Rick had gone to the grocery store while I was busy in the nursery. He picked up chicken broth, teriyaki sauce, eggs, and the cilantro and chow mein noodles for the slaw. I decided to pair the chicken with Rick's favorite slaw. He, unfortunately, left the bag of cole slaw at his place so we ran over there to get it before starting. We contemplated grilling out because I was so tired but decided to go ahead with our planned meal.

I don't know if my tiredness or what kept me from following the instructions that I had written on the side of the recipe that said "make wasabi paste and coat chicken before dipping in eggs," but I opted to ignore this simple step. The result? Not a bit of wasabi kick! I had even added the wasabi powder to the sauce and egg wash! Grrrr.... They still turned out yummy, but if you want the wasabi kick, you gotta add the wasabi to water to "activate" it! I also failed to flatten my chicken breasts before cooking so I ended up baking them for a little bit (covered in foil) after cooking them in the peanut oil to avoid burning the panko. They turned out great, though (minus the kick of course)! I used leftovers today to make a chicken sandwich with wasabi mayo. I finally got that wasabi kick I was looking for!

The slaw, as always, was delicious!!! The only changes I make to it is using a bag of cole slaw and adding sesame seeds and chow mein noddles on top!

Here is the untouched Chicken Recipe

Wasabi-Crusted Chicken Breasts

  • 1 1/4 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
  • 4 teaspoons wasabi powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten to blend
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, flattened to 1/3-inch thickness between plastic wrap
  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 3 tablespoons low-salt chicken broth
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced


Combine panko, wasabi powder, salt, and pepper in a large shallow dish. Place eggs in pie dish. Dip chicken, 1 breast at a time, in egg, and then in panko mixture. Turn to coat completely.
Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté 2 chicken breasts until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Repeat with remaining oil and chicken.

Add teriyaki sauce, sake, and chicken broth to skillet; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. Drizzle sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with sliced green onions and serve.

My changes:

  • ALWAYS make wasabi paste (wasabi + water) and coat chicken before dipping in the egg
  • I use mirin instead of sake
  • Repeat after me again...ALWAYS make wasabi paste and coat chicken before dipping in the eggs

The slaw recipe:

  • 2 1 1/2-pound heads green cabbage, very thinly sliced (about 25 cups)
  • 1 cup seasoned rice vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons oriental sesame oil


Place cabbage in very large bowl. Add vinegar, cilantro and oil; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; chill at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours, tossing often.
*Also known as sushi vinegar; available at Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets.

My changes:
  • Use bag of cole slow
  • Add sesame seeds before tossing
  • Top with Chow Mein Noodles

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stuffed Green Peppers

I finally got to make the stuffed green peppers last night. I've been wanting to do them since I picked up two at the farmer's market last week. I was scared that they were going to go bad because we hadn't been able to do them (gotta love birthday weeks!). I guess that when they come straight off the farm, they last longer than when you get them from the store. They definitely look better! Before Rick came into my life, I wasn't as big of a fan of green peppers. I didn't hate them, but I often felt that they overpowered the meal. I've gotten over that, though, and I love them now!

I was searching the internet for recipe ideas when Rick came over. I was fairly certain about what I wanted to do, but I was unsure about cooking times once the peppers were stuffed. I opted to follow a recipe that had them cooking (once stuffed of course) for an hour at 350. Sounded good to me.

I browned around half a pound of lean ground beef with garlic and onions then mixed in salsa, cooked rice, and 2% sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. I thought it would be cool to use the rest of the salsa that I had gotten at the farmer's market instead of the traditional tomato sauce. Rick did the stuffing once the peppers were cleaned out, and we placed them in a baking dish. Somehow, I managed to make the perfect amount of stuffing! Into the oven they went! While they were in the oven, I opened the rest of the birthday presents that Rick had gotten me. He thinks that I peeked, but I swear I didn't!!!

About 20 minutes in, I added a little bit of salsa to the top of the peppers. When there was about 5 minutes left, I topped the peppers with mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Because I was using the reduced fat cheese, it wasn't melting as nicely I was liked so I ended up broiling them for a few minutes at the end.

We were amazed at well they turned out, and Rick said that he was adding this dish to his list of favorites. We weren't sure how to start eating them so I halved them and topped each half with additional cheese. What can I say? I LOVE cheese!!!

Here's the recipe:

2 green bell peppers
Salsa of your choice
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup water
1/4 onion, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
Cheddar Cheese
Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a sauce pan, cook rice and water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let rice simmer for around 20 minutes.

While rice is simmering, brown beef along with garlic and onion in a medium skillet. Set aside when it is cooked.

Cut the tops off each green pepper and carefully remove them. Remove seeds and insides from the peppers. Discard the tops and insides. Rinse out the peppers with water and place them in a baking dish (open side up).

When the rice has finished cooking, mix rice, salsa (don't have an exact measurement for this--just go with however much you want), and cheeses (again, go with how much you'd like) into the skillet with the ground beef. Using a spoon, stuff each pepper to the top with this filling.

Place baking pan into the oven, and cook the peppers for 1 hour at 350 degrees. After 20 minutes, add salsa to the top of the peppers. When there are 5 minutes left, place additional cheese on top to melt.

When plating the peppers, add salsa to the plate around them and a little on top. Cut them in half and sprinkle cheese on top when served.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Suprise shower snacks!

My friend Kim is in town this week. I haven't seen her since around Christmas, and since then, she has moved to West Virginia. She is expecting her daughter, Chloe, in November. Some of our friends had planned a surprise baby shower for her on Sunday. Kim thought that she was going for dinner on Shem Creek, but we had other things in mind!

I was asked to make my shrimp bruschetta that I had brought to Kristin's party in December.
I came up with the idea for these snacks by combining two bruschetta recipes from Over the years, I have taken them to showers, parties, and on road trips. I even made them for Rick as a comfort food after he had a really bad day at work a couple of weeks ago. He loves them. One thing that makes this recipe even easier is having the baguette sliced at the bakery at Publix. It not only saves time, but it also saves me from having to deal with those messy crumbs!

I also decided to make these cheese puffs from that I have made several times for Rick and I. They are one of our favorites. Since I knew how much Kim (and everyone, too) likes hot things, I thought that they would be perfect! I like to do half habanero cheese and half sharp cheddar to give them a little spicy bite. This time, I made them a little bit bigger than normal. At first, I had a mild freak out moment when they didn't seem to be poofing enough, but I think that happened due to the size. Why is it that when you make something for a bunch of people it never seem to come out as well as when I make them at home? I was also worried that they weren't done. After they came out of the oven, I sampled one, and it was a-okay. My mouth was definitely on fire from the habanero cheese!

I'm happy to report that I came home with two empty platters. Luckily for Rick, there were two puffs and two pieces of bruschetta that didn't make it on either plate!

The recipes:

Spicy Shrimp Bruschetta

  • One bread baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • Two cloves garlic
  • 2 shallots, chopped (I have also been known to use 1/3 cup of onion if I don't have shallots)
  • 1/2 pound shrimp (each shrimp cut into thirds)
  • 3/4 cup light mayo
  • 1/2 container of shredded 3 cheese blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teapsoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley
  • Shredded cheddar cheese to put on top of each piece of bruschetta

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat, and sautee shrimp, basil, garlic, and shallots until the shrimp is opaque. Place mixture on a plate that is covered with a paper towel.

Place the slices of baguette on a baking sheet.

Turn on oven to broil. In a medium bowl, mix mayo, cheese, paprika, cayenne pepper, and parsley. Add shrimp mixture to bowl and stir. Taking a tablespoon, add one scoop of the mixture to each slice of bread. If you need to make the mixture go a little farther, just add a little bit more mayo and cheese. Put a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese on top of each piece of bruschetta and broil for 2-3 minutes until the cheese starts to broil. Enjoy!

Here's the original recipe again for the cheese puffs.

And then the one that I use

Habanero-Cheddar Cheese Puffs

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (packed) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup (packed) grated habanero cheese1
  • 1 cup minced green onions
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Bring 1 cup water, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat; mix in flour. Stir over medium heat until mixture becomes slightly shiny and pulls away from sides of pan, about 3 minutes; transfer to stand mixer fitted with paddle. Add eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition to form sticky dough. Mix in cheese and green onions.
Using 2 teaspoons, form dough into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch ovals; drop onto baking sheet 1 inch apart. (Can be made ahead. Wrap in plastic, then foil. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake cheese puffs until golden, about 30 minutes if at room temperature and 35 minutes if chilled or frozen. Serve immediately.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Easy Peasy Quesadillas

Thursday, I went to the farmer's market on Daniel Island with Niki and Jeff. There weren't too many booths, but I did pick up two beautiful green peppers that I'm looking forward to stuffing for Rick and I soon. One lady had a pickle booth, and I probably had more than my fair share of her pickled okra. I would've bought some, but I have two jars at home that my mom gave me. I did, however, buy some dill spears and some salsa. The salsa was chunkier than I prefer, but the taste was perfect with just a little bit of bite.

For dinner, Rick and I decided to do quesadillas because I was dying to use the salsa that I had purchased. I sauteed shrimp that was seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Usually, I mince garlic, but I was feeling a little lazy so I went with the powder. The shrimp were sauteed in olive oil. Because I had a ton of shredded cheese, I opted to "sandwich" the shrimp inbetween a layer of cheddar and a layer of mozzarella.

My favorite pan was sprayed with a little Pam, and we were in business! While I was putting together the first one, Rick said that he wanted to do the second one (his) himself. He did a great job and didn't lose any cheese when he flipped it (something I sometimes struggle with myself!). Rick is on a "super foods" kick, and he started coming up with all kinds of future quesadilla idea. Even though I had cooked up a whole pound of shrimp, we didn't use it all and had some to snack on throughout the evening. I really wanted to take a picture of Rick cooking to post here, but unfortunately, the batteries in my camera were dead! Unfortunately, my camera batteries were in my car, and we were experiencing some amazing storms. Once the quesadillas were cooked, I topped them with the salsa and a little bit of light sour cream. Delicious!!!

Here's the recipe:

Olive oil
1/2 pound shrimp (peeled and deveined)
Garlic powder
PAM cooking spray
Two tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Salsa of your choice
Light Sour Cream

For shrimp filling
Season 1/2 pound of shrimp with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Heat around 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp is opaque (stirring with a spatula). Transfer the shrimp to a plate that is covered with a paper towel and set aside.

For quesadillas:
Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and spray with Pam. Place one tortilla on the pan and covered half of the tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese. Add half the shrimp to the cheese, and cover with mozzarella cheese. Fold other side of tortilla over and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flip tortilla and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and repeat with the other tortilla.

When they are finished, cut each into four pieces and top with salsa and a small amount of sour cream. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Hidden Gem in My Recipe Box

Even though I was excited about seeing Rick last night, I have to admit that I was tired after a long night at the library the night before. I took a power nap after work, and when Rick's calling woke me up, I wasn't in the mood to do anything complicated for dinner. Rick said that he wasn't really hungry after going to luncheon at work so I started combing my recipe box for something light and easy to make. I wanted to do something with seafood as I always have a pound of frozen shrimp in the freezer, and I didn't want to have to go to the grocery store. I was looking for something new, and nothing was really appealing to me until I came to the last one in the box. Luckily, has this really cool feature that allows you to sort so I didn't have to go through all 600+ recipes. This particular recipe was added in June 1999, and oddly, I had never tried it. Sounded good...pasta, seafood, basil, garlic....and didn't sound too difficult.

When I went to the pantry, I realized that I didn't have any linguine. I called Rick, and he didn't either so despite my lack of desire to go to the grocery store, I found myself heading up to Publix. While there, I cruised over to the seafood counter and saw that bay scallops and small shrimp were on sale so I went ahead and got a pound of shrimp (already peeled and deveined!) and a half of pound of bay scallops to go with my pasta. I also decided to get a shallot, too.

Our timing was perfect as Rick and I got to my place at the same time. We picked some basil from our plants. Rick was on pasta duty while I did all the chopping. I wasn't able to crush the fennel seeds, and I really think I need a mortar and pestle. When cooking the shallot, garlic, and basil, I used pepper oil instead of plain ole olive oil. I never really measure how much I put in the pan before I saute--just enough to cover the bottom. I reduced the fennel seeds by half. The smell of the garlic, basil, fennel, and shallot that filled my condo was amazing.

After the shrimp (yep, used the whole pound) and scallops cooked for around two minutes, I added 1/2 of white wine and continued to cook until the shrimp were opaque. Finally, I added 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. I made sure not to cook the sauce down too much. I had Rick taste it to see if it needed anything else, but he couldn't think of anything. We both thought that maybe it was a little salty. When the pasta, seafood mix and 3 cheese blend (I live by this stuff!) were all tossed together, saltiness was definitely not a problem! A little more cheese and a sprinkle of dried parsley to garnish were added when I plated it. Rick called the dish exceptional! He really liked the little bite that the pepper oil gave it.

Yep, this dish was perfect. It was simple and easy and not heavy at all. I think that next time, I may use another shallot.

Here is the original recipe.

Bon Appétit | December 1990
A shrimp and scallop pasta dish with basil and fennel.
Yield: 4 first- or 2 main-course servings

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 pound medium uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/2 pound scallops
8 ounces linguine, freshly cooked
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Additional grated Parmesan

Melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, basil and fennel and sauté 1 minute. Add shrimp and scallops and sauté until both are just opaque, about 4 minutes.
Place linguine in bowl. Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Pour sauce over linguine and toss. Add 1/3 cup Parmesan and toss again. Pass additional Parmesan separately.
Changes that I made:

  • used 1 pound of small shrimp
  • used 2 tablespoons of fresh basil instead of dried
  • added a chopped shallot
  • added 1/2 cup white wine
  • cooked in pepper oil
  • added butter to pan at the end
  • subbed 1/2 cup of 3 cheese blend instead of grated Parmesan

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The orzo honor of Nicole

Since I haven't been able to cook lately because of an exam today in pediatrics, I thought I'd share two super simple dishes just for fun. Hopefully, tonight, Rick and I will be able to have dinner together. Today, he told me via email that he grilled out last night while I was slaving away in the library. He did lemon pepper chicken last night, and he was enjoying leftovers at work when I heard from him. You know, I really hate when school gets busy, and we don't get to see each other. I think it makes me a little grumpy, too. At least it will be over in December!!! 

During my first semester of nursing school, I came upon this recipe while looking for a side dish. Unfortunately, Rick and I can't seem to remember which one, though. That semester, I was required to do some sort of community service activity for one of my classes, and I signed up to go to a potluck dinner that SNA was doing at the Ansonborough House in downtown Charleston. I decided that this dish would be an easy, delicious one to take. When making the orzo with artichoke hearts and pine nuts, I followed some of the suggestions from the reviewers on the website and added capers, 3 cheese blend, and grilled chicken. The day of the potluck, I was talking about it to my clinical instructor Nicole about it, and she wanted me to send her the recipe. Due to my hectic schedule in nursing school, I kept forgetting to send it to her. This semester, I ran into her at the VA during one of our community clinicals, and I am happy to report that I have finally sent it to her. Luckily for her, that recipe inspired this other one, too, and I was able to send it as well. These dishes are great either hot or cold! Enjoy!

Here is the original untouched recipe.

Gourmet May 2006

Canned artichoke hearts give this dish a Mediterranean flavor without the work involved in preparing fresh ones.
Yield: Makes 4 side-dish servings
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 15 min

1 1/2 cups orzo (10 oz)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 (14-oz) can whole artichoke hearts (not marinated)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

Cook orzo in a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain in a colander.
While orzo cooks, lightly toast pine nuts in a dry small skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 1 minute, then coarsely chop.
Drain artichoke hearts in a large sieve and rinse well. Pull off leaves from bases of hearts and quarter bases. Rinse leaves and bases well, then drain thoroughly.
Stir together oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add orzo, pine nuts, artichokes (leaves and bases), parsley, and zest and toss to combine.

My changes:

  • added two grilled chicken breasts that have been seasoned with Italian seasoning and marinaded for about 30 minutes with the seasoning and red wine vinegar and a little bit of lemon juice prior to grilling. I shred/chop it up and mix it in.
  • added about 3/4 cup to 1 cup of 3 Cheese Blend (Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano)
  • added chopped capers.

That recipe along with some leftover basil (now we grow our own!) inspired this recipe.

1 container of Feta cheese with tomato basil
½ Red onion (minced)
3 cloves of Garlic (minced)
2-3 tablespoons Fresh Basil (chopped)
3 chicken breasts
2 marinated artichoke hearts (if they are quartered, use 8 to make 2 full artichoke hearts)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
Red pepper flakes
½ box of orzo

Marinate chicken breasts in balsamic vinegar, one clove garlic, ground pepper, (3-4 twists), a dash of red pepper flakes, and one teaspoon basil for around 30 minutes.
Fix orzo per box instructions. Drain and return to pot.
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil with ¼ teaspoon basil in a pan and then add to orzo. Add remaining basil, feta cheese, and artichoke hearts to orzo.
In the same pan, add chicken and some of the marinade and sauté chicken breasts until done. Chop and shred chicken and add it to the orzo. Pepper to taste. Mix together thoroughly and serve.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saturday night stuffed burgers

While perusing the Food Network website for dinner ideas yesterday afternoon, I came across a recipe for stuffed burgers. Last summer, Rick and I did a few gourmet-ish type burgers, and I was searching for something new to try when I ran across this recipe. I thought it sounded pretty yummy. I had three slices of bacon left over from when we made real bacon bits for our baked potatoes on the Fourth of July, and this recipe sounded like the perfect way to use them. My friend, Amy, has this rule about not eating two different meat types in one dish, but I disagree. Bacon and hamburger go great together!

I had never stuffed any burgers so I thought that this recipe would be fun, too. In the past, we had mixed everything together, but I thought that having the hidden pouch of bacon, cheese, onion goodness would be a neat surprise. For a side, I decided to go with the most awesome cole slaw recipe in the world (well, at least according to me anyway). It is simple and perfect just like slaw should be. To make life easier, I always simply pick up a bag of premixed cole slaw at the grocery store.

With thoughts of stuffing burgers in my mind, I headed up to Publix to get what I needed. I grabbed a Vidalia onion and a bag of pre-shredded sharp cheddar. I'm quite the fan of Vidalia onions. When I was a young girl, my Grandmother Elliott used to eat them, and she was even known to carry a couple slices of these sweet onions (and tomatoes, too) in her purse to supplement her meal when we would go out to dinner. Back then, I (of course) was petrified with embarrassment when she would whip them out of her purse, but I'm glad that I have integrated them into my cooking as an adult.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pack of ground beef that was exactly 1 1/2 pounds. As I was hopeless staring at the different kinds and about to grab two packs of lean ground beef, one of the helpful people who works at Publix told me to go for the more fatty meat because it would make our burgers less dry. After I explained our dinner plans to him, he said that he was going have to call his wife and have burgers for dinner, too. I decided to mix the lean ground beef and the fatty kind.

We got a late start yesterday evening. I don't know if it were the fact that I knew that I was going to doing my first real blog about our meal or because we were going to be meeting Niki and Jeff for drinks after they went out for her birthday dinner, but I was feeling a little anxious and rushed. Luckily, I had Rick there to help and calm me down. Usually, he's more of the chopping kind of guy (except for onions of course), but he has started to want to learn more about cooking. It really makes me happy that he wants to learn. I swear it's more fun when we do it together.

Rick was a little skeptical about the whole stuffing process and wanted to do what we did in the past and just mix them up. He was on patty duty and made the eight thin patties while I sauteed the onions in the bacon grease. He did an excellent job and came up with the brilliant idea to make one of the pair smaller than the other which aided in assembling our loaded meat masterpieces. We mixed the cheese, onions, and bacon in a bowl, and I used a 1/3 cup to put the hidden treasure on the patty. Making the patties actually stick together was a bit more of a challenge than I thought it would be. The first one that I put together looked terrific, but from there, we definitely struggled with the perfect presentation. That's okay, though. It's the taste that counts!

As we were heading to out to the grill, Niki and Jeff arrived. Much like our burgers, they were stuffed from dinner at Red Drum, but they kept us company while we cooked our burgers. Prior to last summer, grills scared me. I blame it on some childhood fear that if I messed with it, the grill would blow up on me. I'm happy to report that I'm over my fear, but I do struggle on the grill. I like to "play" with the food while it is cooking, and Rick always has to remind me not to flip whatever we are cooking too early and too often. It's a struggle for me, but I'm learning, though!

On the grill, two of the burgers did fall apart a bit. That yummy, melted sharp cheddar cheese came oozing out while pieces of onions and bacon peaked out of the busted seams.
We had a little bit of leftover cheese mixture, and I added it to one side of the bun (a slice of Velveeta on the other) before toasting them. Yum!!! The burgers were huge, but wow, they were delicious! I really liked the taste of the onion that was sauteed in the bacon grease. Rick decided to add cole slaw to his, and he still insisted that they would've been just as good if they had been mixed instead of stuffed. Today, he has taken it back.

Next time, I'll try to remember to take pictures!!

The untouched recipe from :


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Frank's Red Hot)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 strips bacon, diced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
  • 4 burger buns
  • Lettuce, tomato, pickles for garnish


Preheat grill to medium.

In a bowl combine beef, garlic, hot sauce, salt and pepper, to taste, being careful not to over mix. Warm a skillet over medium heat and fry bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Keep heat on skillet and fry a pinch of the beef in the bacon fat to test seasoning. Adjust seasoning, if needed, then form 8 even thin patties, about 1/2-inch thick and set aside. Saute onions in bacon fat in skillet until tender, 5 minutes. Place onions and bacon in a bowl with cheese. Form a spoonful of bacon-cheese mixture into a ball, then place in the center of 4 patties. Top each with another patty and seal the edges. Grill burgers over medium-high heat, flipping once until desired doneness is reached, approximately 4 minutes each side for medium. Serve in buns with garnishes. Alternative: In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sear the burgers 4 minutes on each side.

My changes: used 1/2 lean ground beef and 1/2 regular; used tabasco for the hot sauce; used 2 cloves of garlic; only had 3 slices of bacon. Instead of dicing the bacon, I tore it apart with my hands.

The cole slaw:


  • 6 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Salt and pepper


In a large bowl, combine cabbage and carrots. In a smaller bowl, make dressing by combining mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed, sugar, salt and pepper. Toss dressing into cabbage mixture and let chill. Serve in a family style bowl.

My changes: Instead of getting cabbage and carrots, I get a bag of cole slaw from the grocery store. I also added a dash of garlic powder. I also use Light Mayo instead of the real deal.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

So here I go!

Nope, I've never had a blog before, but I'm kinda bored and decided to start one. I plan on posting the different recipes that I've been cooking up for Rick and I and whatever else comes to mind. I think it'll be a cool way to keep up with everything that we're trying and enjoying. I plan on posting as I make them, but there are some favorites that I may pepper my blog with from time to time. The ones in purple font are my personal creations while the ones in black font are straight from whatever website that I found them.

I've always enjoyed cooking, and I've become a pretty decent cook over the years. Sometimes, my culinary creations are straight from websites like, but other times, I like to take those and tweak them a little bit. I've got a couple of my own that I've come up with, too. There have been some definite hits and a few miserable misses. I look forward to sharing them all with the world.

My love and appreciation for cooking as grown and taken on a new meaning now that I have someone that I love to cook for. Back in my single days when I would make some meal for myself, I definitely enjoyed it, but something (or someone) was missing. I loved it when my parents would come to visit or when I'd have friends over so that someone else could indulge in whatever exciting new dish or old faithful stand-by I was making. Then a little over a year ago, I met the most wonderful man in the world. At first, I wasn't sure what dish to make for him, and I really fretted over what to do. I can't remember how long I waited until I cooked for him, but I do remember that it was within the first month. Since then, we've had meals originating from all parts of the world...Italy, Brazil, China, Japan, Mexico, and of course America!

With that in mind, I think it's time to head to the grocery store for the ingredient for tonight's meal. Because it's summer time, we're gonna hit the grill for some stuffed burgers with cole slaw for a side. Can't wait!

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