Monday, June 29, 2009

Honey Dijon Chicken Salad

I am more of a red meat kind of girl, while my husband could eat chicken every day of his life! After experimenting with some thin sliced chicken breasts, I just may have been converted!

For the chicken, combine:
3 Tbsp of honey
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Paprika

Mix the above ingredients in a bowl, and then coat the chicken breasts with this mixture and place in a baking pan. Then take breadcrumbs and lightly sprinkle them on just the tops of the chicken breasts in the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Once they are cooked, slice them and top them to the following salad ingredients:

Romaine lettuce or spinach leaves
Chopped red onion
Thinly sliced apples
Goat Cheese
Mandarin Oranges (use the canned variety and save the juice for the dressing)

Mandarin orange juice
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Sherry vinegar
Dash of garlic salt and pepper

Toss ingredients together and drizzle just a little dressing. This dressing is really light, and simply enhances the flavors of the fruit and makes the bold chicken really stand out. And an alternative: chill the chicken and salad before serving - The perfect meal for a hot summery day!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Scrumptious Stuffed Shrimp

I was doing some research in a cook book of mine, and came across a recipe for butterflied shrimp. The recipe was for parsley butter stuffed into the shrimp. Boring! I decided to kick it up a notch (ok- maybe 10) to make a great appetizer for Father's Day using some ingredients I had in my fridge and pantry.

Chorizo Stuffed Shrimp (dark one above):
6 Large Gulf Shrimp
1/2 link Chorizo sausage
3 oz Grated Fontina Cheese
Bread crumbs

To prepare the shrimp, slice along the back of the shrimp 2/3 of the way down to remove the shell and legs, leaving the tail. Using cooking scissors make this really easy and quick! Remove the vein and lightly wash the shrimp in warm water. Once all the shrimp are prepped, take a serrated knife and cut the shrimp almost in half, leaving a little bit to hold it together and open. This is called "butterflying". Next, dice the chorizo sausage and mix with the Fontina cheese. Stuff small amounts of this mixture into the butterflied shrimp and place in a baking pan. Lightly sprinkle the tops of shrimp with breadcrumbs to give them a little crunch!

Crab Stuffed Shrimp (light one above):
6 Large Gulf Shrimp
1 can Fancy Lump Crab Meat
3 oz. Grated Fontina Cheese
Bread crumbs

Prepare the same as above, substituting crab meat for chorizo. Add to the same pan, top with breadcrumbs, and broil all the shrimp in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are a golden brown. Serve with spicy and cilantro lime aioli (recipes follow).

Aioli, by definition, is a garlic mayonnaise. It is also one of the most versatile sauces to add to any meal. Real chefs make the mayonnaise from scratch - eggs and oil- but I use store bought low fat mayonnaise and just add ingredients. It makes it quick and easy!

For my spicy aioli, take 4 Tbsp of mayonnaise, add 1 clove minced garlic, 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon paprika, and salt to taste. For my cilantro lime aioli, take 4 Tbsp of mayonnaise, add 1 clove of minced garlic, 2 Tbsp cilantro, 1 Tbsp lime juice, and salt to taste. Mix ingredients and serve.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pesto Festo

Since my newest crave is fresh pesto, this is a quick and easy appetizer or addition to any meal.

Fresh loaf of bread
Low fat Ricotta Cheese
Olive Oil

Take the loaf of bread and slice it thin. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and lightly toast in the oven or toaster. Place a couple spoonfuls of ricotta in a dish and top with a bit of pesto. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on top just to keep it creamy. Once bread is toasted, serve with the ricotta and pesto spread.

This is a wonderful alternative to garlic bread, as the ricotta gives it a creamy texture on the toasted bread, and the pesto gives a fragrant garlic and basil flavor. I like the ricotta because it gives it a really light, mild flavor and is easy to spread. However, if you want to kick up the flavor, substitute soft goat cheese for a sinful and simple addition to any meal.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Party Playlists

Besides food, music is key to any dinner or party.... it sets the tone for the evening. I love to play flamenco music when I am making Spanish cuisine, or a jazz medley when it is a good dinner with good wine. The beauty of the internet is that you can create a playlist from your iPod or simply your computer. The one below is my new favorite for a nice, quiet dinner with my husband, or a simple meal with friends:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Check out sites like, and to sign up and create a free playlist. If you are iPod savvy, you can go to and purchase songs to download to your iPod. I often buy music mixes on CD, like Latin Groove, Jazz Lounge, or African melodies, because they feature a melange of music to perfectly set the mood.

I often cook with music and a glass of wine.... it helps me relax after a hard day of work, and gets me in the mood for a delicious meal, even if we are only having spaghetti. Dinner always seems to taste better with a little Andrea Bocelli in the background!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Simply Sea Scallops

Sea Scallops, tossed with a little whole wheat pasta, are a quick and healthy meal! You can easily modify this simple recipe with different sauces. I prefer a homemade pesto, to give the scallops a rich, organic feel.

1 lb. Fresh or Previously Frozen Sea Scallops
1Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 box Whole Wheat Thin Spaghetti or Linguine
Pesto (recipe below)

In a frying or saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add scallops and saute until bottom side is golden brown. Then using tongs, flip scallops and cook on remaining side for 2-3 more minutes. While sauteing the scallops, boil water and add pasta for the recommended cooking time (usually on the box). Drain pasta. Also, remove the scallops and place on paper towel to drain any excess oil. In a large bowl, combine pasta, scallops, and pesto...toss and serve. I like to add parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese to finish the dish.

For the Pesto:
Pesto's main ingredients are basil, olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts. Adding any other herbs, spices, and nuts are completely up to you! Fresh herbs are always best, since they are more fragrant, but in a pinch, simply raid your spice rack for all the dried ingredients you need. Here's the pesto I make:

1/2 cup Basil
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tbsp Parsley
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup Pine Nuts
3 cloves Garlic
1 tsp coarse salt
Dash of Thyme
Dash of Sage
Cracked pepper

Combine all dry ingredients in a small food processor and set to chop. As the food processor is chopping and mixing, slowly pour in the olive oil to mix. The result is a really aromatic pesto, perfect for so many recipes. Optional ingredients are a dash of lemon juice for a citrus pesto or a few red pepper flakes for a kick!

Friday, June 12, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow?"

One of my favorite nursery rhymes... it made me always want to have a garden. Unfortunately, God blessed me with a black thumb and Florida heat, so not everything I plant actually can survive. I do have a couple of herbs: Greek and Sweet basil, oregano, and Italian parsley, as well as some fun plants: spearmint, chives, green beans, cayenne peppers, and tomatoes. The vegetables are still very young, so I'll keep you posted on their progress (and use in my recipes when they are ripe!)

Fresh herbs really are the best things you can add to any meal (see past recipes for examples). If you feel you have a black thumb like me, you can buy the small pots of mature herbs at your local hardware store or nursery. Just re-pot them in some rich soil so that they can flourish. Make sure it is soil made for vegetables and herbs, so that you are not exposing yourself to harmful chemicals and pesticides.

Also, in order to survive the hot summer months, you must water the plants EVERY day. Not much, just a little water is all they need. My husband likes to joke that I have "killed" my herbs on days when I have not yet watered them, and he finds them limp and dragging on the ground. After some water for them, and luck for me, they perk right back up!

Go to for some great tips and ideas on how to start your own perfect garden. You can also check out the Earthbox, a fool-proof way to garden that doesn't require watering everyday ( All methods take a little patience and diligence to keep plants healthy, but the rewards are ones you can taste everyday!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Southwest Summer Salad

I am a big fan of really fresh salads, and this new one is no exception! It is perfect by itself, but I also like to make taco turkey or beef and add to the salad for a complete meal.

1 head Iceberg Lettuce (or Romaine if you prefer)
1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced
1 Beefsteak Tomato, sliced
1 Cucumber, sliced
1/2 cup Red Onion, diced
1/2 cup Canned Corn, drained
1/2 cup Black Beans, drained
1/2 cup Black Olives, sliced
1/2 cup Mexican blend cheese (I like the low fat kind)

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 limes, juiced
2 Tbsp Cilantro
Garlic Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Mix dressing in small bowl or food processor. Lightly drizzle over salad to give it just a hint of lime and cilantro. Toss and serve.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lemon Herb Chicken

Earlier this year, I planted some seedlings for fresh herbs. I have a bit of a black thumb when it comes to plants, so I am very excited that (most of them) are still alive. With all the rain we have been having lately, not only have I not had to remember to water them, but they have been thriving! I finally decided to trim off some fresh basil, oregano, and parsley to make this dish:

2 Chicken breasts
4 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
Fresh Basil, chopped
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Fresh Oregano, chopped
Fresh Rosemary, chopped (I used dried, since my plant didn't survive)
1 Cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 Tbsp Garlic Salt

In a bowl, coat the chicken breasts in lemon juice. In a separate bowl, combine herbs, garlic salt and Panko, lightly bread the chicken breasts, and then place in an oven safe pan. Pour remaining lemon juice into the pan to keep chicken moist while baking, and top the breasts with the remaining Panko mixture so it is nice and thick. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (you may need to adjust cooking time depending on your oven and thickness of chicken breasts). When they are done cooking, turn on the broiler for 2-3 minutes, just to toast the Panko on top, until it becomes a golden brown.

You can really taste the freshness of the herbs, and the Panko is light enough to soak in the lemon. For an alternative for those who want a lighter lemon flavor, add 1/4 cup white wine and 2 Tbsp lemon juice. I like to serve this with green sides, like broccoli or green beans, for a really fresh and healthy meal. Enjoy!