Sunday, August 31, 2014

Grilled Salmon with Blueberry Basil Habanero Sauce

Frequently at work I will email Blake and ask him what he thinks of some food idea brewing in my head. Believe me I think about food a lot. Daily Blake gets the update on these thoughts. Important decisions must be made. 

For example, today's decision consisted of should we do our favorite cheese and wine picnic for Labor Day dinner or smoke ribs on the grill? And if we smoke ribs on the grill what will we eat to celebrate the Broncos first football game because sticky ribs are also a viable option for that. And would it be totally out of line to go out for breakfast tomorrow, order a pancake flight, and then stuff my face with cheese and bread for dinner? 

And so we fall down the rabbit hole that is my mind on food. Last week the email sent to Blake was entitled salom because I apparently refuse to edit myself, even on something as apparent as an email subject line. The question was crazy or delicious? The item on the table was salmon glazed with a blueberry basil habanero sauce. The answer? Delicious. Definitely delicious and light and summery. Habaneros are hot and I would recommend that those who prefer things a little more mild substitute a jalapeno in its place. We served ours with an equally summery side salad of corn, red onion, zucchini, and avocado dressed simply with a little olive oil, lime, salt, and pepper. This dish is pretty and tasty. When asking crazy or delicious, I say go for it! A little adventure never hurt anybody.

Grilled Salmon with Blueberry Basil Habanero Sauce 
Serves 2

1 tsp olive oil
1 habanero or jalapeno, minced( wash hands thoroughly after handling the pepper)
6 ounce container of blueberries 
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons fresh basil, diced 
1 pound salmon
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add habanero and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring frequently. Add blueberries and honey. Cook until blueberries begin to burst open and get a little saucy, about 5 minutes. Add the basil and cook an additional minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

Well oil grill grate and heat grill to about 350 degrees or medium heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Start cooking salmon on the fleshy side for 6-7 minutes. Flip and brush half the glaze over the top of the salmon. Cook for an additional 6-7 minutes. Serve with leftover sauce. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Greek Chicken and a Note on Marriage

In your first year of marriage, people often ask how you're enjoying married life. My answer? It's a lot like it was before. Heck, I have known Blake for 8 years. We dated 3 years before we got married. What could be all that surprising or different? It still annoys me that he is challenged when it comes to picking up after himself. It still annoys him that I always leave one small bite left of whatever I was eating. And I am still just as thoroughly taken by him as I was the night of our first date. His smile, enthusiasm for knowledge, and frumpled zombie like demeanor in the morning still get me. The way he opened the door for me, took me by the hand, and showed me how great an adventure this life could be. That was pretty spectacular too. Wow, right? Wow, indeed.

Then one day we are driving home from lunch where we split a sandwich and a salad and Blake says, "we should split lunch like that more often". And I smile like he has just said the most romantic thing to me, which in a way he has. What a married thing to do. It reminded me that since we became married this life is ours. When he is not around, I feel off kilter. My plans, my adventures only now have real meaning, if he's apart of them. So now when asked how I'm enjoying married life I know my answer. Married life is fantastic. I now have someone to split a salad and sandwich with until the end of eternity. Oh, and someone who makes home feel like home, who I can see the world with, and share a vision of the future, our future. 

So all of this is why I am sharing greek chicken with you today. Greek chicken is possibly the most made dish in this household. It comes from my mother. It reminds me of home and family. Greek chicken is easy to make and so delicious. Garlicky browned chicken swims in a sauce of marinated artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives, dill, and feta. Serve over couscous with a green vegetable side and you have yourself a well rounded meal. A favorite in this home. 

Greek Chicken
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubes
3 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cans of marinated artichoke hearts
1/4 cup of olives, pitted and halved
1 tsp dill
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup feta
1 package of couscous prepared according to package directions

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. Add garlic and cook stirring frequently for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook 3-4 minutes until slightly broken down, stirring occasionally. Add artichoke hearts with the marinade, olives, dill, and pepper, stir until combined, and cook until warmed (about 2 minutes). Turn off the heat, add the feta, and stir. Serve over couscous. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Peach Pie Scones

Summer is not over yet. Not quite. To embrace that notion we are going camping and hiking this weekend. So what if the low in the mountains is 35 degrees. It's still summer and I will not be stopped. My greatest camping revelation came when I realized the awesome food that can be made on a camp stove, grill, or over a fire.

Our go to backcountry camping meal is peanut vegetable curry noodles. Coconut milk, red curry paste, peanut butter, honey, and soy sauce over rice noodles and chopped fresh veggies. It's heaven after a day of hiking. With car camping the sky's the limit. Tonight we will dine on buffalo chicken quesadillas over the grill and black forest smores roasted in foil in the fire to make everything warm and gooey. Tomorrow to give us energy to climb Huron Peak we will enjoy these peach pie scones. The scones I make before we leave and warm them on the grill at camp. They give you a good reason to get out of your warm sleeping bag.

Given how wonderful peaches are right now, I'm consuming on average about three a day. While peaches in August are best consumed fresh and unadulterated, they also make for great desserts and pastries. These scones highlight the peach in all its glory. A flaky buttermilk, butter, and nutmeg spiced dough encases peaches sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Right out of the oven they can't be beat but they are still delicious rewarmed.

Peach Pie Scones
Makes 10, adapted from Joy the Baker

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg 
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 peach, sliced thin
1/4 cup buttermilk for brushing
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (if you don't have parchment, you can just grease the pans).

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry cutter or your fingers, add the butter to the flour and break up until a coarse consistency develops.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to combine. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 15 times.

Roll dough out to a square approximately 12" x 10" and about 1/2" thick. Brush half the square with buttermilk and arrange peach slices in a single layer on the buttermilk side. Sprinkle with half the cinnamon and sugar. Fold the empty side of the dough over the peach side pressing gently together.

Cut dough into 10 squares. Brush tops with buttermilk and last half of the cinnamon sugar. Using a spatula move scones to the baking sheet and bake 15-18 minutes.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spicy Shrimp with Gouda Mashed Potatoes

For the past few days, Blake has been out of town and I have reverted back to my old bachelorette ways. Hours of reading, watching movies of questionable substance, and long walks. I know what you're all thinking. Take it easy there. Just because your husbands gone doesn't mean you need to be so wild and crazy. I will try and reign it in.

As a bachelorette, I can tell you I still went all out when it came to cooking. I have always loved food. So what if I'm only cooking for myself, I still want to eat a delicious meal. So this week I made myself spicy shrimp with gouda mashed potatoes. 

I ate approximately 5 potatoes all by myself in two meals. If you told me I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it may very well be potatoes. Mashed, baked, or fried potatoes take the cake for me. Or bread. Anything starchy and devoid of nutritional value apparently. Even better if the potatoes contain gouda. Lots of gouda. And even better still if some spicy shrimp rest atop my massive potato mound. The mashed potatoes below are purple because purple potatoes were what I had in the farm share. High starch potatoes are best for mashing so russets or yukon golds should be your go to here. Cook this comforting meal for a friend or family or yourself. Good food should be enjoyed always. 

Spicy Shrimp with Gouda Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4, adapted from How Sweet Eats

Gouda mashed potatoes
2 pounds yukon gold or russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and peeled 
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup half and half 
1/2 cup gouda, shredded 
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Boil for 30-40 minutes. Once easily pierced with a knife drain the potatoes into a colander. 

Put drained potatoes back in the pot, add butter, half and half, gouda, salt, and pepper, and mash together. Mash until your prefered consistency. I still like mine with a few lumps.

Spicy shrimp
1 pound shrimp, peeled, veined, and patted dry with a paper towel (you can buy them peeled an veined at most grocers) 
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced

In a small bowl, whisk together chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, lemon pepper, and salt. Sprinkle spice mixture over the shrimp and toss with hands or large spoon to coat. 

In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Let the butter brown slightly, swirly the pan occasionally to prevent burning. Add the shrimp and cook 3-4 minutes on each side until pink. About 2 minutes before your shrimp are done add the garlic and finish cooking.

To serve
2 ears of corn, grilled or boiled and removed from the husk 

Serve shrimp and corn over the mashed potatoes. Some hot sauce is a good addition.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Crispy Zucchini Caprese with Reduced Balsamic

Approximately 100 tomatoes are growing in my garden right now. One hundred tomatoes, dozens of hot peppers, forty carrots, two chard plants, four kale plants, two watermelons, two pumpkins, and one cantaloupe. It's a banner year for the garden. One year I can't wrestle one red tomato away from the squirrels and the raccoons and the next I'm beginning to ponder eating tomatoes like apples given the bounty.

In the farm share, the zucchini, cucumbers, and corn are plentiful. For lunch yesterday, I ate an ear of corn, a cucumber, and an enormous carrots because at some point you quit trying to come up with clever ways to cook all of this produce and just eat it as is. This is the beauty of summer though and I don't for one minute take for granted being surrounded by all this goodness.

But if you don't want to eat a tomato like an apple, I can't blame you. While nothing compares to the goodness that is a tomato straight off the vine, I too prefer mine with some accompaniments. Since it's summer, we would be remiss not to talk about caprese once. Caprese highlights summer tomatoes in all their glory.

While I love the standard no frills caprese, I can never leave well enough alone. Armed with an arsenal of zucchini I decided nothing would be better than breading and pan frying the zucchini and adding it to caprese salad. It's crispy crunch is the perfect textural contrast. Even better with the reduced balsamic, which concentrates the sweetness of the vinegar. I can't get enough.

Crispy Zucchini Caprese with Reduced Balsamic 
Serves 2, zucchini adapted from How Sweet Eats

1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4" inch rounds
1 large egg
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup parmesan
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2" rounds
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2" rounds and then rounds cut in half
8 basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk egg in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together panko, flour, parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. Coat each zucchini round in the egg then dredge in the bread crumb mixture, pressing to adhere.

Line a plate with a paper towel. Heat a skillet with the olive oil on medium high heat. Once hot, carefully place zucchini slices in the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Use a spatula to flip half way. After all the slices have been fried, place on the paper towel lined plate.

Pour balsamic into a saucepan on high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and simmer until reduced by half, 7-8 minutes.

While the balsamic is reducing, prepare your caprese. Alternate zucchini, tomatoes, and mozzarella on a plate. Tear basil leaves in half and scatter over the top. Sprinkle over salt and pepper to your desire. Using a spoon drizzle balsamic over the top.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Muddy Buddy Crispy Treats

Fact: a muddy buddy crispy treat a day has been shown to increase happiness. Or at least it has increased mine. I have been consuming these squares at an alarming rate. But darn they are good. So good. So satisfyingly, chewy, sticky, sweet. So packed with peanut butter and chocolate goodness then glued together with marshmallows. I dare say you have yet to really live until you have made these treats. 

My introduction to muddy buddies came from my mother-in-law. I both love and regret when she gives us a batch. Mostly I love but sometimes a little regret sneaks in after a whole tin disappears in 2 days. I have decided they make excellent hiking snacks. They are quite good for breakfast and lunch and after dinner. And oh my goodness, they are stunning when melted together with marshmallows and butter. 

Muddy Buddy Crispy Treat 
Makes one 9" x 13" pan, slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker 

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbs butter
1 3/4 bags of marshmallows (10 ounce bag)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
7 cups Chex cereal 
Powdered sugar

Grease the 9" by 13" baking dish and set aside. 

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt together chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter. Stir constantly until melted and combined. 

Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract followed by the cereal. Press the mixture into the pan, dust top with powdered sugar, and let set for 30 minutes. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Roasted Tomato, Fig Tapenade, and Feta Sandwich

August comes all too quickly in summer. It means summer is on it's way out and we must hurry to accomplish any summer dreams left untouched. Thus far, summer has been taken on with great gusto in our household. We have fished, climbed mountains, grilled and then grilled some more, spent many an evening on the porch, grown about 100 carrots (anyone want some carrots?), and camped. Left on the summer list is to learn to play that darn mandolin (this can be accomplished in a month, right?), one last camping trip, using the smoker, canning, and eating as many fresh Colorado tomatoes as we can possibly fit in before frost takes them away.

Accomplishing this last task shouldn't be a problem. I have never seen our tomato plants so laden with fruit. I could eat caprese six ways to Sunday. I could also never grow tired of our favorite pasta with hearty veggie meat sauce made from tomatoes right off the vine. Finally, we must put tomatoes in a sandwich because sandwiches are a splendid thing. This roasted tomato sandwich with salty sweet fig tapenade and feta is quite glorious and easy and vegetarian. This sandwich embraces the bounty of late summer and you should too.

Roasted Tomato, Fig Tapenade, and Feta Sandwich
Serves 4

Roasted tomatoes
4 medium to large tomatoes, sliced about 1/2" thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss sliced tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until tomatoes get wilted and slightly charred.

Balsamic vinegar reduction 
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Place balsamic in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until vinegar has reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Fig Tapenade
1 cup mixed olives, pitted (use your favorite olives here but avoid black olives)
2/3 cup dried figs, quartered
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons capers

In a food processor or blender, pulse the olives, dried figs, and garlic together, until coarsely chopped. Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper, and pulse a few more times to incorporate. Mixture can be as chunky or smooth as you wish. Mix in capers by hand.

To assemble
4 ciabatta rolls, toasted

On the toasted roll, layer your tapenade and tomatoes, drizzle over reduction, and sprinkle on the feta.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lemon Zucchini Muffins


I already declared to Blake that I will be making approximately 122 varieties of zucchini bread or muffins this year. Our farm share overflows with summer squash and I believe it should all be turned into a variety of everyone's favorite slightly sweet and moist quick bread. I will reserve at least one or two squash for crispy zucchini roasted caprese sandwiches but only one or two the rest will be made into bread. Sweet potato zucchini bread, zucchini cornbread, chocolate spiced zucchini bread, and these lemon zucchini muffins will all be happening. Maybe twice. Maybe in cookie form. Who knows what we are capable of.

I started off zucchini month with these lemon zucchini muffins and I must say I am quite smitten. They radiate summer. The wonder of zucchini in bread is the moisture it provides. Also, zucchini is a vegetable, which makes it inherently healthful and these muffins healthful in return, right? Right! Lemon zest really brightens the muffins. I look forward to waking up to them every morning.

Lemon zucchini muffins 
Makes 10 muffins (an odd number I know, but this is how many we get through while they are still fresh)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil (or other neutral oil)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups zucchini, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Whisk together both flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In another bowl combine sugar, lemon zest, and juice. Press the lemon zest and sugar between your fingers. Mixture should look a little like wet sand. Whisk in the honey, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until combined. Stir in zucchini.

Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined with a spatula. Fill muffin cups to the top and bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let cool 5 minutes and then remove from the muffin tin to cool completely on a wire rack.