Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rum-Glazed Shrimp and Mango Kebabs

It's been a busy weekend of cooking at my house. The kids are out of school and the weather's been positively summer-like, all of which got me in the mood to cook some summery meals and eat on the deck. Over the last couple of days, I made a very interesting Feta and Watermelon Salad, Grilled Corn on the Cob, Sauteed Soft Shell Crab, and Rum-Glazed Shrimp and Mango Kebabs. Of course I also grilled the requisite hot dogs and hamburgers for the less adventurous diners. Since the kebabs were my favorite of all the dishes, I decided to share that recipe with you. I enjoyed the kebabs with a little watercress salad and a wild rice blend. They would be a nice hors d'oeuvre on a summer night as well. Enjoy!

Rum-Glazed Shrimp and Mango Kebabs
Serves 4

3 limes, juiced (for 1/4 cup lime juice)
1/4 cup rum
3 T. brown sugar
1 t. jarred minced ginger
1 1/2 t. cornstarch
1 T. water
1 ripe but firm mango
1 1/3 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on

Make the glaze by combining the lime juice, rum, brown sugar and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 - 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Combine cornstarch and water and whisk into glaze. Cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and let cool. (This step can be done hours ahead of time.)

Peel the mango and slice into large chunks.

Place the clean shrimp in a bowl and pour half of the glaze on it. Toss.

Thread the mango and shrimp on skewers. Brush with glaze. Grill skewers over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side. Brush with any remaining glaze and serve.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Honey-Ginger Grilled Chicken with Israeli Couscous

Tonight's dinner came together very quickly, because I did most of the work earlier in the day.

I made the broccolini and marinated the chicken this morning while I was waiting for a coffee cake to bake, and I stirred up the couscous before I drove my son to a party, while I waited for him to do his chores ("You can't go to the party until you finish all of your chores" is guaranteed to work for everyone involved.). At dinnertime, I only had to grill the chicken and nuke the side dishes. Hubby ended up with the most work: he did the dishes.

Honey-Ginger Grilled Chicken Breasts
Serves 4

4 chicken breast halves
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup Soy Veh Teriyaki Sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 heaping teaspoon bottled minced ginger
1 T. ketchup
1 lime, juiced
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Place chicken breasts in a gallon ziplock bag. Whisk together marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Pour over chicken and marinate for 2 - 12 hours.

Heat grill to medium heat. Remove chicken from marinade. Pour marinade into a small saucepan and boil for 5 - 10 minutes.

Grill chicken on oiled grill grates for about 3 - 4 minutes per side. When cooked through, remove from grill and brush with reserved marinade. Serve.

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts and Mint
Serves 6

2 T. butter
1 small shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 cups (1 small can) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (Trader Joe's sells them already toasted)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (or parsley)
sea salt

Melt butter in medium size saucepan. Add shallots and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add couscous, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and stir until couscous starts to brown slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook 8 minutes, or until couscous is tender and broth is mostly absorbed. Stir in pinenuts and fresh herbs. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Serve.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Curly Noodle Salad with Soy-Wasabi Vinaigrette

Everyone wants Asian flavors lately, and this salad is a great side dish for any Asian-flavored entree. In addition, it's so simple to prepare you'll make it again and again. I just finished throwing it together for tonight's dinner, which will feature Asian-Glazed Salmon. It would also be fine with some leftover grilled or rotisserie chicken tossed in for a one-dish meal. Add some sliced scallions or sesame seeds for crunch before serving, if desired.

Curly Noodle Salad
Serves 4-6

6 oz. curly Chinese noodles (found in Asian section of store)
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
4 oz. snow peas, trimmed and cut in half
4 oz. baby carrots, quartered
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
3 T. rice wine vinegar
3 T. low-sodium soy sauce
1 T. dark sesame oil
1 T. wasabi paste (I mixed about 1/2 T. wasabi powder with close to 1 T. water)
4-5 radishes, thinly sliced

Put a large pot of unsalted water on to boil.

Place the edamame, snow peas and carrots in a large colander in the sink.

Cook the noodles as directed on the package. Drain them over the vegetables in the colander and rinse all with cold water.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients (garlic through wasabi). Add the well-drained noodles and vegetables, along with the sliced radishes. Toss and serve, or refrigerate and serve later. This salad is best served cold or at room temperature.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I need a personal chef!

I have been crazy busy the last two weeks... business is going very well and I've been swamped with more evening activities than usual.

As a result, my family has been forced to (gasp!) order pizza, eat fast food, make sandwiches and look forlornly at each other at dinnertime, wondering if they'd ever have another home-cooked meal or fresh vegetable (well, they wondered about the meals. I don't think any of them were overly concerned about the lack of vegetables).

These last two weeks illustrated to me the challenges many families face at dinnertime, and it made made me long for my own personal chef. How great it would have been for them (and me) to open the fridge at dinnertime and find a delicious meal all ready to eat.

Now that things have calmed down for a couple of days, I've taken the opportunity to plan our week's meals and grocery shop, and I'm going to prepare a few meals so we'll be all set for the week to come. I'd still love my own personal chef, but I'm also secretly very happy that my picky teenage son requested the Sirloin Stir-Fry tonight (see blog post from April 26) and that I can get back to providing the dinners that they love. As my husband reminded me, "I just want dinner to magically appear in front of me at 6:15." Consider it done.

Monday, May 11, 2009

GFVF Ketchup

What the heck is GFVF Ketchup? It's my very own creation for a client who does not eat gluten, vinegar or refined sugar (to name a few of her restrictions). GF = gluten-free; VF = vinegar-free.

I was stunned at how easy it is to make thick, tasty, homemade ketchup. She will be thrilled because she hasn't enjoyed ketchup in quite some time, due to the fact that even the all-natural/organic ketchups on the market contain either sugar or vinegar.

I'm not quite ready to divulge my top-secret recipe yet, but when I am, I'll let you know.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fitness Together lunch

Today's cookdate was short and sweet... lunch for 4 fitness trainers at Fitness Together, Westborough.

I met these great people one day when I was checking out gyms and fitness centers in the area. They provide 1-on-1 personal training, and their clients see results. After a detailed fitness assessment, in which the trainers measure everything from body fat to resting heart rate, they develop a training schedule that fits each client's needs and abilities. I have worked out with a couple of the trainers, and the experience is awesome. You come away feeling like you've accomplished something you never could have without their guidance and support.

The manager, Karen, and I have been talking about how some of the Fitness Together clients might benefit from a personal chef who can prepare healthy meals to go along with their healthy lifestyles.

She asked if I'd prepare a sample meal for her and the trainers. They had a few dietary restrictions, which I'm used to: no dairy, no meat or poultry, no flour, no onions, no peanuts. I decided on Asian Glazed Salmon, Emerald City Salad and Sesame Sugar Snap Peas. After lunch, Karen called to tell me lunch was delicious, every morsel was devoured, and the trainers would definitely be telling their clients who to call for a healthy meal.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Isn't she lovely?

When I dumped my old fridge in Sept. 2007 after 12 years of service, my thought was that it was time for a fresh start. The kitchen had been remodeled, and I wanted new appliances. Younger, fresher, hipper... My emotions took over as I assessed the possibilities: side-by-side; stainless steel; water dispenser; automatic ice-making capability. As often happens, the rebound fridge was a disaster.

Our relationship got off to a very bad start when I couldn't even fit the food from the old fridge into the new fridge. After two years of non-stop bickering (I will take most of the blame for the poisonous words that were slung; the fridge never answered back. It doesn't have THAT capability.), it was time for one of us to go.

Enter my lovely new KitchenAid French Door 24.8 cu. ft. refrigerator. This relationship was entered into quite carefully. We were introduced at the local appliance shop months ago; I discreetly did some checking on its background; and we got to know each other during my frequent return trips to the appliance center. When I was quite sure that this was the correct fridge for me emotionally, rationally, financially and spatially, I made my commitment. Wish us well!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Asian Four-Bean Salad

Looking for something different to bring to the Memorial Day picnic this year? Or a jazzy side dish for grilled meat, poultry or seafood? Or how about a fantastic vegetarian/vegan dish? Here it is.

Based on a recipe from The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger, this recipe was given a revamp by my favorite blogger/chef, Amy Casey. I further tweaked her ideas and the results are "simply delicious." See for yourself.

Asian Four-Bean Salad
Serves 8 as a side dish

1 lb. fresh green beans, ends cut off and cut into 1" pieces
2 cups frozen shelled edamame
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned small white beans, rinsed and drained
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 T. canola oil
2 - 3 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. low-sodium soy sauce
1 t. dark sesame oil
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 T. agave nectar
1 t. grated jarred ginger
black sesame seeds for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add green beans and edamame. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes, until green beans start to go "pop" and are cooked but still a bit crunchy. Drain immediately in a colander and submerge green beans and edamame into a bowl of ice water.

Meanwhile, place black beans, white beans, scallions and red bell pepper in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, agave nectar and ginger.

Drain green beans and edamame in colander again, then lay on paper towels and pat dry. Add to large bowl with other vegetables in it. Pour dressing over all and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Taco Night

Some nights aren't so fancy around here. Taco Night is one of them. I just put out a variety of taco fillings, heat up some hard corn shells as well as some soft flour tortillas, and everyone can do their own thing.

Last night we had seasoned ground turkey, shredded lettuce and chopped tomato, shredded cheese, roasted vegetables, black beans, and brown rice. Every single ingredient had been lurking in my refrigerator or freezer, so there was no shopping involved, always a plus for me, because I seem to spend half my life at the grocery store. The family's favorite "sauces" are salsa, Ranch dressing, and (I really hate to admit this) ketchup. If we'd had a ripe avocado, I would have sliced that up, or even made a quick guacamole.

My favorite seasonings to use to make tacos -- actually, to make anything -- come from Penzeys. If you haven't ordered spices from them, or visited one of their retail stores, please do. They are simply the best.