Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shrimp and Cream Cheese Omelette

Two weekends in a row, same omelette.
First time... bliss, happiness and but some pondering on what would be even better.
I had to do some fine tuning, and frankly, I got no push back from my taste tester.
The first week was just plain white cheese, shrimp, tomatoes and green onions.
Very, very nice.
Hmmm, what would make it better?
How about a nice cream sauce?
A little cream cheese is a nice easy addition to the omelette making a delectable cheesy sauce.

While an omelette is technically a breakfast dish around here, this would make a very nice and easy dinner too. I bet you wouldn't get much push back from anyone you decided to serve it to.

For the record, I did cook my eggs on slightly too high of heat because omelettes shouldn't really be browned as I have photographed above, though it does look kinda nice. I have a impatience problem at times, higher heat is not the answer folks.  Remember that.

I buy the frozen shrimp at costco, the little salad kind.  Sometimes it can be hard to find, so you can always buy it fresh (previously frozen usually...) at the grocery store, or you can cut up bigger prawns (which is what I did below).

Serves 2

3 oz Cream cheese
1/4 cup cheddar, mozzarella, or jack cheese (any kind you like... have on hand)
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 cup small bay shrimp
8-12 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
4 eggs
Salt & Pepper

Beat eggs, add a bit of salt and pepper

In a microwave, melt the cream cheese for 30-45 seconds until soft, add the cheese and stir.  Mix in 3/4 of the green onions.  Microwave for another 30-45 seconds. Taste and add a little fresh pepper, if desired.  Probably won't need salt, but that is up to you.

In two small fry pans, coat with cooking spray or a teaspoon or two of butter, heat pans to medium heat and add half the egg mixture into each pan.  Lift the edges to cook the eggs until mostly set.

Add in a couple tablespoons of the cream cheese sauce onto the one half of the egg mixture. (Do this before the eggs becomes dry looking) , top with shrimp and tomatoes.  Fold over and slide onto your plates, add a bit more sauce and top with some of the remaining green onions.
Serve with some yummy toast and homemade jam... or hash browns, or salad.  Whatever suits your fancy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Maui Tomato Ginger Bisque

On a recent trip to Maui, we headed to Mama's Fish House, which has the reputation of being the best food on Maui.  Unfortunately, we had a huge, and fantastic lunch earlier and we NOT even close to hungry at dinner time, so we couldn't eat the full experience.

One thing we did enjoy, was their Maui Tomato Ginger Bisque.  Served in darling little cups that you pick up and drink.  It was intense ginger and tomato taste, and I was thrilled when the bartender told me the recipe was published online on their website. I checked it out while waiting for the plane on the way home.  Easy recipe, but wow, it made too much.  Can't think of one reason I would need that much soup.
I also don't have access to Hana ginger, Maui onions or Maui tomatoes.  
So, this is my rendition of the recipe.  
I will say that Hana ginger must be stronger than what we buy here, so I have included more ginger than the original recipe in order to get the same taste.
Don't skip the roux, it really adds to the taste and helps to give the soup body.

Serves about 4-6 

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp garlic minced
2-3 Tbsp fresh ginger peeled and minced
1 large can (28 oz), pear tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Roux (1/4 cup flour mixed with 2 Tbsp butter)

With a small fry pan sauté the onion in 2 T. butter until translucent, add
the garlic and ginger, cook for 1-2 minutes (do not burn garlic) over medium heat.

Add the cooked onion garlic to another larger soup pot, add canned tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Make the roux in the same pan as you used to saute the onion mixture, it will add to the flavor. Add the butter and flour and combine, stirring until the mixture starts to brown over medium high heat.  Takes about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Here's what it looks like after a bit of cooking:

Add the roux to the soup mixture and stir well.
Carefully puree hot soup with a hand emulsifier/stick blender, adding the cream and simmering until its hot again.  Taste and season with salt and pepper to your taste.

If you don't have a hand blender, you can use an upright blender.  Be careful though, blending hot liquids is tricky and dangerous as they have a tendency to expand when blending.

View from the beach in front of Maui's Mama's Fish House

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Moscato Mojito

Call it a Moscato Julep if you like.
Mojito or julep...Almost the same thing really.
This is perfect for a hot summer evening on the deck, and I am sincerely hoping that this day is winding up to be just that kind of day.  Sun is shining and it's looking good for the second day of Summer in the Northwest!

Very, very simple and delicious with only 2, maybe 3, ingredients.
I know it's kind of weird to put mint in wine... but you have to admit, putting mint in whiskey or rum is kinda different too. I've never liked "real" mojitos, they taste too tooth-pastey (that's my own word).  This is fruity, naturally sweet wonderfulness with a great mint accent.
Perfect for hanging with your sister, friend or honey on the deck.

The hardest part of this recipe is "muddling" the mint.  Really, muddling is really just smashing up the mint to release the essential oils, and hopefully break it up into some tiny pieces too.  I find it easiest to muddle herbs with a little sharp crushed ice and a large handle wooden spoon if you don't have an official muddler tool. Mine is pictured below.

No official recipe here... just some ratio suggestions.
Bottle of Moscato
1/2 cup of mint leaves
1/2 lime (optional)

Drop about 10-15 fresh mint leaves into the bottom of a cocktail shaker, and top with about 1/3 cup crushed ice.  Only ice cubes?  Put them in a ziploc bag and smack them with the bottom of a heavy pan! Viola, crushed ice!

Now, muddle the mint and crushed ice together until you are seeing some breaking up of the mint into small pieces.  Don't worry about it too much, you are getting the mint flavor.  
Add more crushed ice and about HALF the moscato you intend to serve.  
Cover and shake gently.
Why gently?
Well, as you may have already noticed, some moscato is quite bubbly and tends to explode in the shaker.  Ask me how I know... ?  
Pour into wine glasses, add more moscato.  Garnish with another sprig of mint and serve.
I like it with a squeeze of lime, which adds a bit of zip and freshness, but it's totally up to you.

Enjoy, and welcome to Summer!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Piper's Top 10 Martini Recipes 2013

June 19th is National Martini Day.
Who knew martinis had their own special day?
Well... me, after a Facebook friend told me.
I have about 5 martini recipes in "draft" mode, but I thought I would christen this special day with a listing of MY past favorite martinis.

Don't hassle me about these being girlie martinis, and all that, because if you want a manly martini do this:
Vodka, vermouth, shake (don't stir) strain into a glass and garnish with an olive, or a twist.

Not sure if Martini's were created first in the late 1880's or in 1911 in NYC, nowadays, over 50% of cocktails are served in a martini glass.Join the ranks of James Bond, Hemingway, Bogart and Clark Gable and look instantly more suave with a martini in your hand.

Blackberry Raindrop Martini  
Not the best picture, but one of the best things to have on a Summer's evening.

Burning Ring of Fire Martini
Not for the faint of heart, perfect for love, Valentine's Day and all that.

Coconut Water Martini
Hands down, my favorite all time martini.  It's the first one we ever paid more than $10 for (ok... a long time ago...).  Still our first choice to enjoy together.

Honey Badger Martini
Not my favorite,  but definitely the one with the funniest stories attached to it.  Sure to encite you to watch YouTube and not feel like giving a sh*t anymore.

Irish Coffee Martini with Bailey's Cream 
A night time favorite.  Bailey's whip cream might be the best stuff on Earth.

Ocean Mile
Okay, so obviously this is a mixed drink, over ice.  I'm just saying you could all the Blue curaco to the bottom of your glass and shake up everything else over ice and strain over the Blueness to get a martini version of a Ocean Mile.  OR, you could try the Blue Lagoon which is dedicated to my cute daughter with blue hair.

Pineapple Jalapeno Martini Margarita
I will admit to liking spicy... what about you?  This is the one.  Lip numbing deliciousness.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Martini 
A sunset in a glass.

Tiramisu Martini
Dessert anyone?  I prefer this to that soggy Italian layered dessert everyone seems to like so much.


What the Pho Martini
Certainly the best named martini and a delicious spicy savory martini like no other!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Strawberry Avocado Spinach Salad

Hmmm... a salad that's a big hit on Dad's Day?
Yep, that traditional annual feast of charred, bloody barbecued steaks (with chimichurri sauce) was upstaged by a salad.
Old, young, male and female, Dad, Mom, brother, sister.  All agreed on it.
When exactly, does that happen in your life?  Not enough... certainly not enough.

We laughed, we argued (perhaps just broke up sibling disagreements), we cried, we had a good day together.  Hiking, eating and drinking together.  
Sweat, exertion, love and hunger.  What else is needed to make your day?

We had an in depth conversation on whether eating poppyseed dressing would give you a false 'positive' drug test like it was the most important thing of the day.  Someone said the "Myth Busters" confirmed it with a priest and a poppyseed bagel.
Oh, really?
Mythbusters?  Then of course, you win with that argument.
Still, I think this one is still safe serving to your sewing circle, your church group, your gal pals, and yes, even your MEN.

A great salad and a great time with family today.

 (I forgot to show the sliced almonds and the red onion, dang it.
The red jar of liquid is my homemade raspberry vinegar, some day I will blog about it.)
1- 12 oz bag of baby spinach 
1 pint strawberries, hulled, 
1-2 avocados, sliced
1/2 cup (about 4 oz) crumbled gorgonzola cheese 
1/4 c sliced almonds, toasted 
1/2 half small red onion, thinly sliced 

Poppyseed Dressing Ingredients: 
1/2 cup vegetable oil, olive oil or grapeseed oil (whichever you like best)
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 -1/2 cup white sugar (I don't like it too sweet.... I use 1/4 cup)
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash of garlic salt

First make the dressing, the recipe above makes about twice as much as you need.  This will keep a couple months, so that's nice to have for another use.  
OR, use bottled dressing like a raspberry vinagrette or a poppyseed dressing.

Toast the sliced almonds in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until they are golden brown.  Cool.
Slice the strawberries, the avocados and the red onion.

I add about half the dressing to the bottom of the bowl and then layer on the following:
  • spinach
  • strawberries
  • avocado
  • gorgonzola
  • red onions
  • sliced almonds   
Toss whenever the rest of your dinner is ready to go. Serve at once.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

In n' Out Burger "Animal Style"

There are lots of articles about the famous In n' Out Burger chain, with their super secret squirrel menu. However, all the info on that menu is readily available on the Internet, so recently when we were in Arizona, we brought it up on our phones in order to figure out what to order.
How easy is that?
I'm from Seattle, we really think that Dick's Burgers are "the bomb", but since Arizona has this famous chain,  it seemed to us that we should see all they could offer.
And offer, they did...
My hubby did the ordering, dropping almost ALL of the secret menu bombs. I hung back... sorta embarrassed... couldn't believe he would try ordering all those terms in one order.
All his requests were speedily and efficiently satisfied. That young gal never even acknowledged that this was out of the ordinary. OMG... It worked just fine.

I have to say, that burger was one of the most satisfying burgers I've had at a fast food place.  Lots of yummy flavors and fresh veggies too. I'm glad I don't live closer.

Here's what we got. 
Two burgers, "Animal Style" which is two burger patties grilled in mustard (!), topped with cheese, grilled onions, pickles (not usually included on their burgers) and extra sauce.  We also ordered the hot yellow chili peppers that come in a little baggie to add yourself, OR you can request 'chopped chilies" to get them added to your burger.

Here's the Neapolitan Shake; Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry milkshakes layered into one cup. We got one to share...  just seemed too decadent to have one each. And a diet Pepsi... hahaha.

I regret not ordering "animal fries" which is essentially fresh fries with melted cheese, grilled onions and special sauce.

Here's a little Arizona sunset shot to enjoy while you digest.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Ocean Mile

We had one of these recently at Duke's in Maui, called the Ocean Mile.
So beautiful, so enjoyable on a sunny day.
So maybe today wasn't as sunny as that afternoon on Maui, but I do believe this will put you in a Hawaiian frame of mind.
Add a cute lil' ole umbrella, and you are almost there.

For the record, my new hurricane glasses cost .69 cents and came from Goodwill.  
GO me!
Who knew that .69 cents could make you so happy? 
Oh... maybe it was the refreshing beverage?
Note- For the record, a jigger is a unit of measurement... a ratio... so anything you use to measure with.  I suggest a 1/4 cup measuring cup, or a 1 or 2 oz shot glass, depends on how much alcohol you want.

Makes 1

Plenty of crushed ice
1 jigger vodka, regular or lemon
1 jigger malibu rum
1 jigger blue curacao
1-2 jiggers pineapple juice

Garnishes- Pineapple, an umbrella, a slice of lime or lemon 

In a tall glass, fill 3/4 of the way with crushed ice.  Add a jigger of blue curacao.  Then add a jigger each of Malibu rum and vodka. Top with pineapple juice and garnish with an umbrella.

Let the person enjoying the drink to stir up the layers.   



Sunday, June 9, 2013

Asian Sesame Quinoa Spring Rolls

I made Vietnamese Spring Rolls a couple of years ago, but saw this idea and wanted to try quinoa instead of the noodles which I find too bland.  I ramped it up a bit and gave it more taste by marinating the quinoa before wrapping in the rice papers.  This is a nice meat free alternative to a spring roll while still getting some good protein from the quinoa.  Heck, you could even add shrimp or chicken or tofu if you wanted a bit more in there.

Thanks to my old neighbors who willing accepted a dinner invitation to come over for dinner.  Since they are always enthusiastic about whatever I am cooking up, they make very good guests indeed. We assembled these together, occasionally using a piece of wrapper as a "bandage" on a ripped spring roll, laughing about our skills.  Make it fun people.
Hey, you do what you got to do to make it work.
These were a nice appetizer before an Asian Steak Salad that we did for our entree.  More to come on that one, I have to think about that whole recipe before I can post that one... I kind of made it up as I went!

Makes 12-16 rolls
1 cup dry quinoa, cooked per package instructions, cooled
1-2 cups spinach leaves
1/2 English cucumber, cut into very thin strips
1/2 red bell peppers cut into very thin strips
1/2 large carrot, cut into thin strips
1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro, cut into sprigs
1 cup of bean sprouts, if desired
12-16 Vietnamese rice papers
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce (if doing gluten free, look for a gluten free brand!)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp garlic red pepper paste (or 2 tsp garlic, crushed and 1 tsp red pepper flakes)
1 Tbsp ginger, grated
1 tsp fish sauce, if desired

Cook the quinoa per the package directions, which is usually 1 cup dry quinoa with 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer, cooking for 15 minutes until the water is absorbed.

Cut all the veggies and set aside on a spring roll "prep" area (see picture below).

Make the sauce/marinade by mixing all the ingredients together.  Half the sauce will be used to flavor the quinoa, the other half will be used for a dipping sauce*.  

Toss the quinoa with half the sauce and start to prep your spring rolls

Bring a small amount of water to a boil in a large, wide saucepan, or stock pot.  
(You need something big enough to dip the rice paper wrappers into- see my pan on the upper right of the photo?)   Quickly dip the rice paper wrappers in the warm water to soften.  Don't worry about getting them super soft, they will continue to soften after you've made your rolls. I've even heard of people doing two wrappers instead of one to cut down on the tearing, but I like the thickness of one wrapper on my spring rolls.

Using a large cutting board, Lay the wrapper flat and fill across the center with spinach, cilantro, carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, bell pepper, cilantro and green onion and then a scoop of marinated quinoa. Fold the wrapper inward on the sides and tightly roll.  Check here for step by step pictures.

Serve at once, but also good if made ahead and used for lunches.

*If you have any leftovers, it makes a nice Asian salad dressing by mixing with a little more vegetable oil and tossing with veggies. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Arugula Salad with Watermelon, Feta & Mint

A very easy and refreshing salad.
And good for you, did I mention that?
We had a pizza recently that was topped with arugula, feta and watermelon.
Weird?  Yes... and delicious too.
It was basically a yummy artisan pizza with cheese, top with salad.
I'm fine with that.
I've seen and tasted people's watermelon,mint and feta salads before, but frankly, I thought they were missing something.  Something zippy, and peppery... like arugula!
I even used balsamic vinegar for the dressing.
Some of you know how much I do NOT like balsamic vinegar... so dark, so sweet.  It's everything that I don't want dressing to be... except on THIS salad.
(That's sort of like me saying I was wrong...)

Here's a couple things to remember,
Toss the greens with the dressing, and then top with the watermelon, feta and tomatoes (if using) and toss it again.  That way your feta and watermelon don't get all weird and dark colored.

About the mint...  it's totally optional, we tried it both ways, two days in a row.  I think we like it best without the mint. But it's up to you.

Serves about 6

1/2 bag spinach, about a 9-12 oz bag
1/2 bag arugula,about a 9-12 oz bag
1 cup feta, crumbled
2 cups watermelon, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
10-12 golden cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (optional)
1-2 Tbsp fresh mint, minced (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh chives, minced (optional)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dry mustard, or dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

I make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, using a whisk to incorporate the mustard until the dressing emulsifies. 

Add the greens (and fresh herbs, if using) and toss.
Top with the feta, watermelon and golden cherry tomatoes. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Got up early this morning and made coffee cake.  
Yup, Monday at 5am.
I have to get up pretty early to blog these days. 
And any excuse to cook, or bake, something is OK with me.
I even got a power walk in while it baking and was to work by 6:45.  Woo hoo.
We've been trying to diet, (having too much fun vacationing lately, I guess), but I have an almost unlimited supply of "test eaters" at work. 
I know!  I can get them to eat this and probably do it happily too..
There were happy faces all around, including mine when I tried it.
I did take a walk, you know.

I can see where variations of this would be great. You might want to try fresh berries instead of chocolate, but I must say, chocolate chip coffee cake is especially decadent and not the normal dry coffeecake. I also think this would make terrific muffins, just back them about 20 minutes or so. The topping is just brown sugar and nuts, no flour or oatmeal, and I was a bit worried about it at first, but it was crisp and sugar crunchy. Yum.

This recipe from the Seattle Times a couple of days ago, but looks like it was originally in the Baltimore Sun.

Serves 10 to 12

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter or margarine and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time until incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix together sour cream and baking soda. Sift together flour and baking powder. Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream until combined to the butter sugar mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread batter into a greased angel food cake pan, or an 8x8 square pan. Batter will be very thick.

Prepare topping by blending with your fingers the brown sugar, chopped nuts and cinnamon. Sprinkle topping mixture evenly over the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, testing it with a toothpick to make sure it's done inside.

Cool on wire rack before removing from pan.