Category Archives: Seasonal – Spring

Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Blackened Shrimp

When I was precisely 16 years and 5 months old I went on a trip to Peru. I remember my age exactly because only my 16 year and 5 month old self would get on a plane to one of the most amazing and culturally rich places in the world, kicking and screaming.  It’s quite embarrassing for me to admit it today since I would go absolutely anywhere in a heartbeat, but at the time, I didn’t want to go.

I was the only one left in the house after my older sisters had all moved out and my mom and step-father (a native Peruvian) wanted to bring me along with them to South America.  Being the dramatic teenager I was I thought for sure that my life would end immediately if I missed out on three whole weeks of summer happenings in my tiny Ohio town.  The idea of doing anything other than painting my fingernails and reading teen magazines did not interest me.

The plan for the trip was to first fly into Lima to stay with some family.  After a week of exploring the city we would continue on to a few smaller towns, visit more family, and then eventually end up in Cusco to do a four day hike to Machu Picchu.  Which, by the way, I showed up in the Andes mountains for this half of a week long hike up a mountain, never having hiked before, wearing a pair of Sketchers boots, and a backpack full of Seventeen magazines and nail polish. I vividly remember standing on the top of the mountain next to a group of four Frenchmen, who had been training for this hike for months, as I flipped through and re-read my test scores from the “What kind of boyfriend is he” quiz. 

Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco…none of those words really meant anything to me at the time because, not only had I never been to Peru, I had never been out of the country before.  I had no idea what it was like to see the world and my expectations were low (how could anything be better than Ohio?).  I was skeptical all the way up to, and even after, getting off that plane and stepping foot into Lima.  I remember how we sifted through taxi after taxi lined up outside to make sure we got in a legit car since they’ve been known to just slap a “Taxi Cab” sticker on the door to make a few bucks.  I remember how I was told that sometimes they’ll even kidnap you and hold you for a ransom to make a few bucks more.  I remember how we got in the taxi with a driver going 720 miles an hour, swerving through traffic while almost hitting a man walking a goat on a leash downtown Lima.   And then I remember thinking, Oh my god.  I’m going to love this place!

It was all so new and exciting and everything about it was intriguing. I especially loved the food. I had never experienced tasting the cuisine and dining cultures of a different group of people before and of all places, Peru seriously does it right.  Foods like quinoa and ceviche are everywhere. Fresh avocado, freshly squeezed oj carts going down the streets, I loved every bite of everything I put in my mouth.  Even some questionable things that I will refrain from sharing with you!

I am so grateful for the experience and it truly helped shape me into the passionate traveler and food lover that I am today.   When I eat foods like quinoa it always makes me nostalgic thinking back to the time when I had it first.  Every bite of the mild and nutty grain is better than the next.  It’s times like this that food…is more than just food.

 Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Blackened Shrimp

Serves 2 large lunch sized portions, or 4 smaller portions

Quinoa

(you can use all water if you prefer, but I think the chicken stock gives it a nice added flavor)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt
  • 1 large mango, pitted and diced
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and diced
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • Cilantro, a large handful chopped (about ½ cup)
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • salt
  • pepper

Blackened Shrimp

  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and devained
  • blackening seasoning (or you can buy prepared blackening seasoning)
  • salt
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Begin by rinsing your quinoa under cold water.  Next, add your quinoa, water, chicken stock and pinch of salt to a medium sized pot.  Bring to a boil and then cover with a lid and turn the heat down to a simmer. Continue to simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. 

For the shrimp, place all the shrimp in a large ziplock bag, add your blackening seasoning, a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil and shake to coat completely.  Heat another tbsp olive oil to medium-high heat in a large pan.  Cook the shrimp on each side for just a couple minutes, or until they turn pink.  Shrimp cook very quickly, so be sure not to overcook.

Mix the quinoa with the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper and serve with the shrimp and fresh cilantro garnish

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Filed under All Posts, Appetizers and the likes, Fruity Flavors, Healthy Options, Peru, Recipes, Scrumpdidily Salads, Seafood, Seasonal - Spring, Side Dishes

Roasted Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Crumbles

Give me a handful of asparagus and I will give you two million different ways to eat it.  Or more.  You all know how I feel about the sleek veggie (see: Feta, Walnut, Sundried Tomato Asparagus) — I could simply eat it every day.  And because asparagus season is upon us, I am literally eating it every single day.  In every kind of way.

But this little number?  Brace yourself, because I’m not sure there is even a word to describe it.  Delicious just doesn’t cut it…

Roasted Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Crumbles

(The candied pecans are really what make this recipe stand out, so if you’re going to skip a step – don’t skip candying the pecans — it just takes 5 minutes!)

  • Roasted Asparagus (recipe below)
  • Candied Pecans (recipe below)
  • about 2 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1 ½ cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Balsamic vinaigrette (or olive oil and balsamic vinegar)

Roasted Asparagus

  • 3 bundles thin asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

(I used the very thin asparagus, but if you use the more average size you will need to cook the asparagus for about 10-15 minutes longer)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Chop ends off of asparagus and lay out on a baking sheet.  Drizzle olive oil over to coat completely, season with salt and pepper. Roast Asparagus for about 8-10 minutes ( again, you’ll have to cook them longer if you have the larger asparagus).  Remove from oven, cool and then cut in half for the salad.

Candied Pecans

  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 4 tbs sugar

The candying process with the sugar only takes a few minutes and happens fast, so you want everything set up and ready to go ahead of time.  Line a baking tray with wax paper (or a silpat mat) and set aside and have your cup of pecans waiting nearby.

In a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the sugar on medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the sugar dissolves and reaches a golden amber color.  Add the pecans and quickly stir to coat and then transfer to the lined tray.  Spread the nuts out (I like to keep some of them in clumps, but you can spread them out thinner if you’d like) let cool.

Once your nuts are cool, assemble all of the ingredients in the salad and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette or just a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Filed under All Posts, Healthy Options, Holidays - Christmas, Holidays - Easter, Holidays - Thanksgiving, Recipes, Scrumpdidily Salads, Seasonal - Spring, Vegetables

Easy Easter Cookie Pops

 

These are just too great not to share.  Inspired by my 60-Second Cookie, it’s a similar concept – buttery crackers, creamy peanut butter, and smooth white chocolate.  They are just as delicious as they are simple to make.  

They are perfect to make with kids, you can use them as favors, create a centerpiece display, or just eat them all before anyone else has a chance to try them (oops).  Luckily they can be made in a snap. 

  • Buttery Crackers (like Ritz)
  • Peanut Butter
  • White Chocolate for Dipping
  • Lollipop Sticks
  • Styrofoam board
  1. Spread Peanut Butter between crackers and insert stick.
  2. Place the cookies in the freezer while you are melting the chocolate so that the peanut butter hardens and your stick doesn’t fall out while dipping.
  3. Once your chocolate is melted dip the cookies into the chocolate.
  4. Insert the lollipops into a styrofoam board for chocolate to set. Decorate as desired.

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Filed under All Posts, Great for a barbeque, Holidays - Easter, Recipes, Seasonal - Spring, Sweet Treats

Eggs Benedict with Ham and Polenta Cakes

  

Brunch.  Ahhhhhhh, brunch!  It’s the little things in life that make my stomach smile and brunch makes that smile stretch just a little bit wider.  Like perfectly poached eggs on a sunny afternoon or a hot, strong cup of coffee…well, anytime of the day.  This is my idea of heaven. Heaven I tell you!

Springtime is filled with lots of celebratory occasions from Easter to Mother’s Day to Memorial Day and I like to take full advantage of these opportunities to break out the fine china and snazzy linens and start cracking open the eggs.

Since eggs benedict is the epitome of all breakfast dishes – and one of my favorites – I thought I’d share with you a slight spin on the classic. Traditionally, the poached egg tops Canadian bacon and an English muffin before getting drizzled with a creamy hollandaise sauce.  Here I have substituted shaved ham for the bacon and a crispy polenta cake for the muffin.  And, I will have to say — it is nothing short of sunny perfection. 

 Happy Spring y’all!

Eggs Benedict with Ham and Polenta Cakes

(serves 6)

  1. Polenta Cakes
  2. Poached Eggs
  3. Ham
  4. Hollandaise Sauce

Polenta Cakes

(*Make this ahead. It needs at least 2 hours to set, or you can make it the day before and let cool overnight).

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt
  • 2 tbs butter

In medium saucepan combine cornmeal, water and milk.  Whisk together continuously while bringing to a simmer.  Add a generous amount of salt, cover and let cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the cornmeal becomes thick, the liquid is all absorbed and the cornmeal is tender, whisking occasionally.  Once cooked stir in the butter, check for seasoning and add more salt if needed.  Pour into a buttered 8×8 pan and cover with plastic wrap (to avoid a crust from forming on top).   Cool completely and refridgerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24.

Once the polenta has set, slice the polenta into six squares (or if you have circle cutters, whatever shape you desire).  Heat a little vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet and sear the polenta cakes for about 5 minutes on each side, OR until they become nice and brown on each side. Serve warm.

Poached Eggs

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tbs vinegar

First begin by heating up a medium-sized pot full of water to a simmer.  You want the water to be hot and bubbles starting to form, but NOT boiling. 

Next crack your eggs into an individual bowl or cup, so you are not cracking the egg directly into the water.

Once your water is hot enough, add the vinegar and with a large wooden or slotted spoon swirl the water in a circle making a circular whirlpool like effect.  Slowly drop your egg into the water and cook for about 3 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon.  Repeat with remaining eggs.

Hollandaise Sauce

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tbs lemon juice  
  • salt and pepper
  • water

Place a metal bowl over top of a medium sauce pan filled with about an inch of water, creating a double boiler. Bring the water to just a simmer.  Put the egg yolks in the bowl and whisk continuously until the yolks begin to thicken and they double in size (be careful not to get the yolks too hot or else they will curdle).  Once the eggs have thickened, add the lemon juice and combine and then slowly drizzle the melted butter into the eggs while continuing to whisk.  Whisk until the butter is completely incorporated and you have a thick, sauce-like consistancy.  Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.  If the sauce thickens up before you are ready to serve add a little water to thin it out.

When you are ready to serve, place the egg on top of the ham and polenta cake on the bottom.  Top with hollandaise sauce and garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

 

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Filed under All Posts, Breakfast; the most important meal of the day, France, Holidays - Easter, Recipes, Seasonal - Spring

Balsamic Asparagus with Feta Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes, and Toasted Walnuts

I am seriously in love with asparagus.  In love.  So much, in fact, that I almost have a little Asparagus Envy.  

It is truly everything I strive to be in life — tall, thin, sleek, versatile, luxurious yet balanced, full of life and flavor, wholesome, tall, thin, sleek.  Did I say tall and thin?  But seriously, it is the WHOLE package — inside and out.

 

The possibilities with asparagus really are endless.  A while back I shared an Asian Style Asparagus recipe with shiitake mushrooms and sesame seeds for The Magazine of Yoga that was a terrific combination as well.   This is the type of vegetable that all you need to know is how to cook it and then you can run wild with your imagination.  It really couldn’t be any easier.

For this recipe, I didn’t measure out the ingredients exactly, so it is an approximation — feel free add as much or as little as you’d like of the ingredients.  

  • One bunch Asparagus
  • 3/4 cup of Feta Cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped, marinated Sundried Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup toasted Walnuts
  • 2-3 tbs good quality Balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Trim the bottoms of your asparagus and then bring a medium pot of water to a boil.   While the water is coming to a boil prepare an ice bath for after the asparagus cooks.  (An ice bath is just a large bowl filled with cold water and ice – this will stop the asparagus from cooking as well as help it to keep the vibrant green color).

Once your water comes to a boil add the asparagus and cook just until the water comes back up to a boil (also known as blanching).  If you want your asparagus a little more on the tender side, leave it in for just a minute or two longer.  Once cooked, drain and place the asparagus immediately in the ice bath.

To finish, remove from water, drizzle with balsamic and other ingredients, season with salt and pepper as desired and serve.

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Filed under All Posts, Appetizers and the likes, Great for a barbeque, Healthy Options, Recipes, Seasonal - Spring, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Banana Cupcakes w/ Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Put on your frilly dresses because the Easter bunny is coming to town!   I love any excuse to make cupcakes, and really, is there any better way to celebrate a colorful spring holiday than with a delectable banana cupcake?  I think not. 

These are the cupcakes of all cupcakes — so easy to whip up, extra moist from the banana, and just overall, mouth-watering delicious. 

And just in case you run out of excuses (you can never have too many), once Easter has come and gone and you have those quickly browning bananas screaming to be made into something, you know exactly what to do with them — C.U.P.C.A.K.E.S.

Easy Banana Cupcakes

(Recipe adapted from http://www.cupcakeproject.com)

 Makes about 18

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 bananas, ripened until outside is beginning to brown

-Cream butter and sugar in mixer

-Add eggs, one at a time

-Add sour cream, flour and baking soda

-Add vanilla and mashed bananas

-Mix just until incorporated and spoon into cupcake pan

-Bake for about 20 minutes at 350.

 Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar

Mix together cream cheese, butter and brown sugar until well incorporated. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Begin to add the powdered sugar a little at a time, being careful not to over mix.  You can adjust the consistency of the frosting by adding more powdered sugar to thicken or a couple spoonfuls of half and half (or cream) to loosen.

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Filed under All Posts, Holidays - Easter, Seasonal - Spring, Sweet Treats

The answers you’ve been waiting for!

What a great way to end such a lovely Spring week!  Do you want to know my secret for making healthy food that tastes great?  What about some tips for those of you who think cooking is too time-consuming or complicated?   Check out my answers here along with lots of other helpful tips from my interview with  The Magazine of Yoga.  I also share with you my culinary role models, my take on whether great cooks are born or made, and divulge my all-time, ultimate comfort food!

P.S.  And while you’re there don’t forget to hop on over to this gorgeous Mango Cucumber Salad recipe that will leave your taste buds tantalized and refreshed!

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Filed under All Posts, Fruity Flavors, Healthy Options, Recipes, Seasonal - Spring, Side Dishes, Uncategorized