July 30, 2014

Grilled Jalapeno Honey Lime Shrimp

Shrimp!! I seriously think shrimp may be my favorite food! Bubba from Forrest Gump would have so loooved me!! I find that shrimp is so versatile and that depending on the time of year...I am inspired to use it in different ways..

As I visited the seafood department of my local Whole Foods Market during my last trip there, what popped out to me were their extra large shrimp.  They were stunning!  Actually in my opinion the selection and freshness of the fresh seafood at Whole Foods is amazing and it gives me so many ideas for summer grilling however that day I knew I had to grab some of those gorgeous shrimp and throw them on the grill...so that's just what I did!

Often I let my kids help plan meals when we shop.  I love to see what ideas they come up with, then have them go search for the components.  However the shrimp...this one was all me.  I love shrimp any time of year but during the grilling season, I feel I can really make it shine!  So "I" shared what it was I wanted to do with those babies with them and then had my minions shopping assistants kids, go and grab what I needed, which they always seem to enjoy doing.

I kept it simple.  We had a salad, shrimp, crusty bread (at my son's insistence...he loves nothing better than a gorgeous hunk of warm crusty bread) and some asparagus.  Since my kids are allergic to shellfish, they had a simple pasta that night.

Both my husband and I loved the shrimp (I may or may not have snatched a few more than he did)! I kept the grill heat low...often I like to char shrimp a bit but this time, I wanted the flavors of the sauce to shine.  Those babies were perfect, with just the right amount of heat (for us...we like it spicy) and sweetness!

What is your favorite way to enjoy shrimp?  I would LOVE to know...I am always looking for a new way to enjoy them! 

If you love shrimp as much as I do...here are 6 of my favorite ways to enjoy it:

This incredible 10 Minute Garlic Shrimp has more flavor than you would expect from such a simple dish - its a friend and family favorite!

This is the first shrimp dish I ever made back when I was about 19 or so and to this day its wildly popular with everyone in my life, I never have a summer gathering without it - Spicy Grilled Shrimp

If my favorite food is shrimp...then my second favorite is bacon!  I can never get enough of Bacon Wrapped Shrimp (or chicken for that matter) - Bacon Wrapped BBQ Shrimp with Chipotle Mustard Glaze

This is such a fun appetizer and was a big hit both times I served it - Bloody Mary Shrimp & Avocado Dip

These are great for a fun nibble with a cocktails under the starts...a great date night dish!  Guacamole & Spicy Shrimp Tostadas

And if you want to drink your shrimp...well drink and dip your shrimp...My Ultimate Bloody Mary is for you!

This is the fourth in a six part series with Whole Foods Market, I was compensated to do this post however as always all opinions are my own.

Grilled Jalapeno Honey Lime Shrimp
1 pound of peeled shrimp (21/25 or larger), 
4 TBS grapeseed or olive oil
4 TBS honey
2 TBS lime juice
1 large jalapeno or 2 smaller ones
1 TBS minced garlic
1 TBS chopped cilantro 
Pinch of Kosher salt
A couple shakes of red pepper (Cayenne)

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, honey and lime juice and mix vigorously until combined.  Mince your jalapeno (decide if you want to add some of the stem and seeds for extra heat) and add it the mixture.  add in your garlic, cilantro, salt and red pepper as well, mix until combined.

Take 3 TBS of the mixture out of the bowl, cover and set aside.  Add your shrimp to the main bowl of the mixture and allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes.  Tossing it occasionally.  Skewer your shrimp on oiled skewers, the cook a preheated grill over med-high heat 3-4 minutes per side or until done to your liking.  Remove from grill, brush with reserve marinade (whisk it just pioor to brushing) and serve.


July 28, 2014

OATrageous Oatmeals Debut and a Giveaway!

4 years ago in DC, at a food blogger conference, I met a very nice woman who was about to have her first cookbook come out.  I was so excited for her...and now...now she is about to have her 4th cookbook released!  I am so excited for her and its so well deserved!

Kathy Hester is an authority on slow cooking as well as healthy eating.  She has a successful website; Healthy Slow Cooking as well as her first three books - Vegan Slow Cooking, The Great Vegan Bean Cookbook, The Vegan Slow Cooker and now she adds OATrageous Oatmeals!

Who doesn't love oatmeal...right?  In her new book, Kathy shares recipes using oatmeal for everything from drinks to dessert!

“If you thought oats were just for breakfast or cookies, prepare to be dazzled. Kathy Hester has taken the humble grain to new heights in this collection of savory and sweet oat recipes that include blackberry mojito refrigerator oats, steel-cut oat sausage crumbles, oat dosas with coconut chutney, and much more.”

 —Robin Robertson, bestselling author of Vegan Planet, Quick-Fix Vegan, One-Dish Vegan and many more

To kick things off in style for her OATsrageous Oatmeals launch, Kathy partnered with OXO to bring you a fun giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kathy also has another way for you to grab some goodies... be one of the first 100 people to email your OATrageous purchase receipt to oatrageousoatmeals@gmail.com it should include your full name and mailing address (for delivery purposes only) and you will receive a cool giveaway package with full sized items and coupons from some of her favorite brands worth over $25.0! After the first 100 Kathy has a special e-newsletter with recipes and ecoupons that she has gotten just for this promotion!

Curry Cashew Savory Granola
From OATrageous Oatmeals by Kathy Hester printed with permission of Page Street Publishing

Makes 2 cups (161 grams)
soy-free, gluten-free option*, oil-free option**

One of the reasons I love curry is that it blends spices used in desserts with savory and fiery flavors. Because of that, this granola straddles the line between savory and sweet. Try it as a delicious topping to the Indian-Spiced Tomato Soup (recipe on page 107) or a great change of pace to your normal morning yogurt.

2 tablespoons (14 g) ground flaxseed
mixed with 4 tablespoons (59 ml) warm
1 cup (92 g) rolled oats (*make sure oats are marked gluten-free)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil (**replace oil with 1 tablespoon [15 g] ground
flaxseed mixed with 2 tablespoons [30 ml] warm water in addition to the amount above)
1⁄3 cup (55 g) golden raisins
1⁄3 cup (26 g) finely shredded coconut
1⁄3 cup (43 g) minced cashews nuts
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄8 teaspoon ground mustard
salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 350F (177C) and either oil a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper.
Add all ingredients but the salt to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mix well, then add salt to taste.
Pour the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and press thin. You should have one large, flat
piece about 1/4 to 1⁄8-inch thin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges are browned and the
middle is no longer wet.

Let cool on cookie sheet and break it up into large or small chunks with your hands. Use to top
salads or plain yogurt, or just eat by the handful for a snack!


July 24, 2014

Grilled Wood Planked Chicken Legs

When you think of wood plank cooking...what's the first thing that pops up in your head?

Yup, I thought so...


Did you know that the flavor a wood grilling plank can add to meats & poultry is equally delicious?

Recently, the kids and I were shopping at our local Whole Foods Market when we came upon their selection of wood grilling planks.  I introduced the kids to them, let them smell the different woods then chose a few to place in my cart.

I instantly decided that I would use the two larger planks with chicken, so we headed over to the poultry section and I let the kids pick out what they wanted - not only did they pick out chicken legs...they picked out the mother of all chicken leg packages...I think there were about 18 legs in that package, lol!  Both my kids and my husband can never get enough of legs!

I let the kids decide how they wanted to flavor half of the legs and they both agreed that they wanted something lemony which I thought was interesting for chicken legs.  The combines fresh squeezed lemon juice, grapeseed oil, salt (a decent amount), pepper and some lemon peel zest, and brushed it over-top their legs.  I think that was it, maybe some garlic or onion salt too, not sure...I actually did not write it down, I was just enjoying watching them do it too much I guess.

For the other half, I decided to go a little spicy but keep it simple since I wanted the grilling plank to do its magic.  My husband really enjoyed them, he could taste the smokiness from the Hickory Grilling Planks I used, loved the spice and funny enough commented on the crispness the skin...something I was unsure of since I was cooking on the planks vs the grates of the grill.

Both versions of the legs came out great and each thought theirs was "the best"!
Letting my kids take the lead or have input on what we enjoy from the kitchen is important to me.  They feel empowered and I know they are learning so much along the way...so many important things for their future in their own kitchens.  We actually were talking about what else they want to make this summer...my daughter has a bucket list of things she wants to learn and what I love about it is some of them...I will be learning alongside of her!!  SHE is going to try things at the age of just-turned-10 that I have yet to try!  Love that!!

The kids decided that we will do a week of Italian cooking...I am SO excited to experiment with them and I can't wait to sit down with pen and paper in hand, capture their ideas, create a plan and bring it to life.  This is going to be fun!

I also purchased a couple of Whole Foods smaller Red Cedar Grilling Planks from whole Foods, which I plan on making some stuffed jalapenos on - I think those are going to be good!!  Ever cook veggies on a plank? Any tips for me?

Do you grill with flavored planks?  If so what are some of the things you make?  I'd love to hear about them and give them a try!

For more grilling inspiration, check out Whole Foods Complete Guide To Grilling.

Spicy Grilled Wood Planked Chicken Legs - 
2 flavored grilling planks (like a hickory, Maple or Cedar)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
8-10 skin-on chicken drumsticks
Salt & pepper
1 TBS olive or grapeseed oil
2-3 TBS chili with garlic sauce (depends how spicy you want it)
3 TBS honey

Soak your planks in a water-filled casserole dish for 90 minutes to 2 hours (place something on top of the planks to hold them down under the water).  I decided to add a few smashed cloves of garlic for a little something extra. Pat your chicken legs dry then season with salt and pepper...don't be shy.  In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, chili with garlic sauce and honey until smooth.  Brush it liberally over the chicken. Place the legs on the planks, carefully transport them to the grill, carefully place the chicken filled planks on your grill grated over medium heat and grill until done, brushing them a couple of times with the reserved marinade.  Halfway through the grilling, turn the burners off directly under your planks and finish up the cook via indirect heat.  Don't worry if your planks begin to char - its all good!

Colleen's Notes: Think of indirect heat on your grill (when the burner directly below what you are cooking are off) like using an oven. FYI, Patting your chicken dry before cooking will help ensure some crispiness. The photos in this post were taken prior to the legs being fully cooked - the actual legs were crispier.

This is the third in a six part series involving Whole Foods Market, I was compensated to do this post however as always all opinions are my own.


July 22, 2014

DIY Philadelphia Style Lime Water Ice

I was born & raised in Philadelphia.  I LOVED my neighborhood!  We never locked our doors. I was within walking distance of all of my friends yet had a huge yard where my dad had an enormous garden, cherry tree, apple tree, swimming pool and more. We had bats at night, snakes in the strawberry patch and the occasional surprise critter visit since we backed up to a wooded area.  I loved it!

When you think of Philly, you think of The Liberty Bell, The Reading Terminal Market, Rocky, Cheese Steaks and Hoagies...right??  But right up there with all of those are soft pretzels and water ice....Oh water ice, how I love you!  I have to say that water ice is at the top of my list when it comes to a dessert...actually any time of the year!  If you have never had it you will be in for a treat!

25 years ago a now famous water  ice company, started by a Philly fireman, opened their first and second shops not far from where I grew up...lucky for me their second shop was within a 15 minute walk from my house AND my friends and I walked right past it on the way home from high school! It was love at first bite for me!  Recently I decided to try to make my own DIY Philadelphia Style Water Ice...I though it would be a fun project to do with the kids over the summer...and boy was I right about THAT!

Enter The Spice House.  If you are a reader of my site you know the love I have for The Spice House!  It is my hands down favorite site to purchase...well anything (I am never without either their Vulcan's Fire Salt or their Chicago Old Town Premium Spiced Sugar)!  I don't think there is one other site that I have purchased more frequently from for the last 5 or so years.  I just knew I would find what I needed there to make water ice, and I did!  I ordered their Lime Extract and set out to make one of my favorite flavors of water ice - Lime!

If you ever wondered where you could get quality spices for all of your cooking and baking needs look no further than The Spice House!  

The Spice House opened its doors back in 1957, and today has both a robust online business as well as 5 locations throughout Chicago & Milwaukee.  They carry over 600 products from at least 50 different countries, including pure spices and herbs, spice blends, salts, and extracts and have caught the admiration of many home cooks across the country as well as some heavy hitters in the food world, including Alton Brown & Julia Child!

Alton Brown filmed his famous “Good Eats Fruitcake Episode” at their Evanston shop 15 years ago and recently had Patty and Tom on his Podcast – The AltonBrowncast Episode 23.  The Spice House also happens to make 3 special blends for Alton, which you can find here.  You know Alton Brown knows a good thing when he finds one!  Many of Chicago’s top chefs walk through The Spice House doors for inspiration, “secret ingredients” and all around quality spices.  Julia Child once proclaimed The Spice House a “national treasure”!

Patty remembers Julia’s visit to their Milwaukee shop:
We had cinnamon that came from Vietnam, a long log, real thick, and as hard as a baseball bat! The trade doors had just opened from Vietnam when she visited, and we couldn't wait to show her this bark, and then give her a taste in powder form. Julia took the bark right out of my hand and took a giant bite right out of it! My whole family was there and we all collectively sucked in our breath, and asked, "Do you want to spit that out?" But she kept right on   chewing and chewing and chewing, and 10 minutes later she had chewed it enough to swallow it. Julia was just so gracious, and she said something like, "Oh my dear, you're absolutely right, this is a delightful cinnamon, thank you for sharing this with me!" She signed the rest of that bark and today that bark is one of Patty’s prized possessions.

Tom & Patty took over Patty’s parents business back in 1993 and have built The Spice House into what it is today...resource for incredible spices and seasonings, as fresh as you can get them at an affordable price.  They scour the world for the best ingredients and spices.  From large farm collaboratives in exotic countries to boutique farmers who specialize in  items not commercially produced, like one special connection they have with a friend’s mother who just so happens to own a vanilla plantation in Tahiti, where only a limited amount of beans are produced and they're very…very expensive. “We have a really great connection with that farm, and we'll get maybe 20 pounds of Tahitian vanilla beans month”.   

To bring you the freshest ingredients possible The Spice House grinds and blends their spices and seasonings in small batches right in their stores which is why as you approach a store and walk through its doors you are greeted with an intoxicating aroma! 

Many of their spices come in pretty glass jars, however you can also order many varieties in bags (as well as in salt-free versions), and let me tell you...you will be blown away by their pricing! Their gift boxes are both gorgeous and well thought out.  The thought they put into their gift box packaging is something you really don't see these days. They include whole nutmegs, cinnamon sticks and more as packaging you can actually use!  Their delivery is always quick as well, which has always impressed me.  Take a few minutes and peruse their offerings and prepare to be impressed!

Once you try The Spice House…you just may fall in love with their quality, pricing and friendly service!  I know I sure have!

Check out what some of my foodie friends  created with ingredients they ordered from The Spice House:

2 incredibly lucky readers will win a delicious prize!!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1st Prize - $250.00 in spices, which includes Grill & BBQ Deluxe Gift Box Set, Bakers Spices Gift Box Set, Vanilla Bean Sugar, Chicago Old Town Premium Sugar, Vulcan's Fire Salt, Chai Spices with Vanilla, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Dutched Cocoa Powder, Aleppo Pepper, AND a $100.00 gift card to The Spice House to find your favorites not on this list or try some new ones!

2nd Prize - The Signature Selection Gift Box Set, Chicago Old Town Premium Sugar, Fancy Onion Salt, Fancy Garlic Salt, Vanilla Bean Sugar, Tellicherry Black Peppercorns and a $50.00 gift card to The Spice House to find your favorites not on this list or try some new ones!

Contest open to U.S. mailing addresses, must be 18 years or older to enter.  Prizes will be fulfilled by The Spice House.

Disclosure: I was given a gift card to order spices as compensation for this post, however as always all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

If you have never had water ice you are in for a treat!! Its cool and refreshing, there is nothing quite like it! You can make cherry, mango, cotton candy and bubblegum to name a few! You can add flecks of real fruit as well.  If this is your first time trying water ice...I say you yell out YO Adrienne!! While you enjoy it...to get the full effect!! If you are a tri-state area local and don't want to wait in the long-lines of summer...making it yourself is easier than you ever would have thought!  Quicker for sure than hopping in your car and waiting in line...give it a try and let me know what you think!

Philadelphia Style Lime Water Ice
4 1/2 cups of cold water
1 cup of sugar
1-2 teaspoons of The Spice House Lime Extract
4-5 drops neon green food coloring

In a small pot combine 1 cup of the water and your sugar.  Heat just until the sugar melts and the liquid is clear.  Stir occasionally until then.  Remove the pot from the heat and add in the remainder of the water as well as the extract and the food coloring.  Place your liquid into the bucket of your chilled ice cream maker bucket (I always keep at least one in my freezer, ready at a moments notice when the need for ice cream, sorbet and now water ice strikes) and churn until it becomes slushy-ish which should take about 20-25 minutes.  Perfect water ice is slushy, with some of it turning to juice again along the sides, you scoop it up with a spoon and sometimes sip on it...its magical!

When you store your just made water ice - do NOT store it in your ice cream bucket - it will harden like a rock and take forever to thaw.  Instead freeze it in mason jars (already per-portioned - a plus!) or a container.  Prior to serving allow it to once again become slushy, stirring it up as it begins to thaw.


July 21, 2014

The Basics: Making the Perfect Burger

This one is not a recipe, rather a tip for when it comes to making and grilling the perfect burger.  

First things first...if you are going to have a burger...have-a-burger!  No skimping or trying to cut fat!  I would rather wait 60 days for an amazing burger than have one made with the wrong meat, no cheese or whatever it is that a person might think is saving them calories or fat.  In my opinion..WHY even bother eating a burger if its not a great one?

Go for it!

Oh and those frozen things in boxes at the grocery store...for the love of Pete...stay away from them...stay far, far away! Anyone who thinks "they" are a great burger needs to give me their address so I can come over and cook up a burger they will never forget!  I am SO not a food snob...but THAT...nope...ain't gonna do it, that's where I draw the line!  Since it takes no time at all to make a burger and you pay just about the same for your meat as you do the pre-made patties - why bother?

So back to making the perfect burger!  First you need to start with the best beef available...the better the beef...the better the burger.  Freshly ground is best, whether by you or your farmers market/butcher.  I personally like to add loose ground sausage to my burgers (which lucky for me my farmers market carries). I feel that the addition of sausage lends my burgers both fabulous moisture and flavor.  Anyone who bites into them, especially the first time...asks me "what's in your burger?"

However many pounds of beef I use for burgers, I include half of that in loose ground sausage.  Which means if I am using 1 pound of ground beef, I use 1/2 pound of loose pork sausage.  Make sense?

Beef, sausage, salt,  pepper and a couple splashes of Worcestershire...that is it.

Work the meat as little as possible, which means that you want to scatter your seasoning across it, mix it ever so slightly then begin scooping up snowball-sized portions of meat.  Gently pack it like you would a snowball, place on a tray, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Remove burgers from your fridge 20 minutes before placing them on the grill.  Using the palm of your hand, give each burger a good whack! To flatten it to about 3/4 inch deep, then use your knuckle or thumb and indent the center of each burger.  This ensures that one your burger is done correctly in the center and two the burger itself doesn't puff up to much.

Cook your burger to your preference of doneness (I know where my meat comes from, so I cook it to just past medium).  Turn off the grill, add the cheese, close the cover wait a minute or two for the cheese to melt them top it with the things you love, close your eyes, take a big beautiful bite and enjoy!

July 17, 2014

Pepperoncini & Jarlsberg Cheese Pasta Salad

I'm not sure who first had the idea of portable cheese snacks but I for one love them!  It seems every age enjoys them, cheese is something I always feel good about eating and feeding my family and they are just so darn cute!!

Have you seen the new Jarlsberg Minis?  In the last 2 weeks, My family and I have enjoyed them at home, at the playground, up the mountains and even on the beach!  We all seem to love the taste, texture and nuttiness that you get in each bite...they travel well and they are SO fun to open!

See my kids by the water....I snuck in a few minis while they frolicked in the surf! Shhh!

Even the seagulls wanted in on the cheesy goodness.....lol  My kids made a run for it!

Those Jarlsberg Minis are satisfying and delicious!  I have even quickly diced a bag full of them up to make a what-the-heck-can-I-make-as-a-side-for-dinner-with-what-I-have-on-hand-pasta-salad!  And guess what...my husband was CRAZY for it!!  Oh the irony...sometimes I plan and work really hard on a dish and my hubs is like..."eh...it was ok".  Ooooh boy is that man spoiled! 

If you are looking for a quick yet flavorful pasta salad with a kick...here it is!  I raided my fridge and pantry and found  black olives, tomatoes and carrots, so in they went.  I wanted a kick so I threw in some chopped pepperoncini and some red pepper flakes.  To counteract that I added in a bunch of dices Jarlsberg Minis, seasoned it, grabbed some basil from out back and whall-lah!a fast and flavorful pasta salad!

If you would like the opportunity to win some Jarlsberg Minis for yourself, check out this fun Facebook Game and get yourself entered to do just that!! Good Luck!

I received samples of the new Jarlsberg Minis, however my opinion of their convenience, taste and uses are completely my own.

Pepperoncini & Jarlsberg Pasta Salad
1 pound Rigatoni (or your favorite pasta for pasta salad)
1 cup of diced grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup black pitted olives, sliced
1/2 cup to 1 cup of chopped 1 inch long segments of pepperoncini
1/2 cup freshly torn basil
1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
2 TBS of the pepperoncini juice
8 Jarlsberg Minis, quartered
Red pepper flakes to taste
Kosher salt & pepper to taste (or your favorite salt blend)

Cook your pasta according to package directions for al dente.  Drain and run under cold water to cool. Toss with a small amount of olive oil and cover until ready to toss.  Add in the remaining ingredients, toss and serve.  If you are making this ahead of time, cover tightly and refresh with a slash of oil before serving.