Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sur La Table Sale Favorites

Sur la Table is offering extra 10% off their clearance section today through Monday with the code Extra10!  Every time I head home to Greensboro I have to dedicate an afternoon to browsing Sur la Table.  I'm a huge fan of their products, and they always have great sales.  Here are a few of my summer faves!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mediterranean Beef Tips with Tzatziki

I have to admit, I feel a tiny bit bashful posting this recipe.  After all, I just married into a ginormous Greek family, full of amazing Greek cooks. Who am I to post my new favorite Tzatziki?! 

Cooking, however, is all about trying and learning new things.  I've really been embracing mediterranean and greek food lately, not only because I love the flavors, but the recipes and ingredients are usually fairly healthy. 

These beef tips have just a few ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand, and they pack some serious flavor.  Topping the beef with cool, garlicky, dill-y tzatziki is the perfect summer dinner. 

I originally planned to make these as kabobs, but the weather was not cooperating so instead I tossed all of the beef tips on my indoor grill pan.  This recipe serves two for dinner, but would make a great appetizer with a little pita bread as well. 

* 1.25 lb sirloin, cut into cubes
* 2 garlic cloves, smashed
* Juice of 1/2 lemon
* 1.5 tbsp. dried oregano
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* salt, pepper

* 3/4 c. greek yogurt
*1.5 tsp. lemon juice
* 1 tsp. lemon zest
* 1-2 garlic cloves, grated (depending on size)
* salt, pepper
* 1 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
* 1/2 an english cucumber

First, prepare the beef.  Combine garlic cloves, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add the beef and stir well to coat.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight. 

To prepare the Tzatziki, start by seeding and grating the cucumber (cut it in half lengthwise, then use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds; use a box grater on the smaller side to grate it).  Place the grated cucumber in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, and use the back of a spoon to press out as much liquid as possible (I ended up with 2 tbsp. grated cucumber).  In a bowl, combine yogurt, grated cucumber, lemon juice and zest, grated garlic, fresh dill, salt, and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Grill the beef tips over medium high heat until done.  Serve warm with Tzatziki. Enjoy! 

Thoughts for Monday..

Hello and happy Monday!

I'm getting a bit nostalgic lately.  It feels like summer is slipping away faster than usual, though I guess I  feel that way every year.  I'm trying my hardest to savor my time off and enjoy all that summer has to offer before it's too late. 

Friday night, I had a great dinner with friends at K-38, which is my favorite tex-mex restaurant.  If you haven't been, try the Shrimp Tempura roll and wash it down with a Prickly Pear Margarita.

Saturday I met my best friend Magen for lunch at the Yacht Club, where she introduced me to the most epic salad bar.  What I loved about it is that after you pick your toppings, you select which type of lettuce you want and the chef actually tosses it for you with your dressing of choice.  Then of course you can go back for pasta salad, quinoa salad, breads, cheeses, you name it.  If I ever find myself having a lunchtime party, I'm going to use this idea. 

We spent all day Saturday on the beach and Magen was kind enough to let Roscoe crash the party.  Mike brought him over and he took a dive from the dunes, headed straight for the water, and refused to get out until an hour later.  After we got back, Roscoe spent most of the afternoon doggy paddling in his sleep. 

Saturday night, I obliged my husband and joined him for cocktails at the Elks Lodge (his happy place).  Mike would spend every weekend night there if he could, but I usually keep my appearances to once every few months.  It's always a great time, but the alcohol has a way of sneaking up on you there! 

Sunday morning was spent completely absorbed in Elin Hilderbrand's new book, The Matchmaker.  I finally finished it and it was a doozy.  If you're looking for a good beach read, any of her books make a great choice.  They all take place on Nantucket in summer and it will make you want to spend your summers there too. 

I worked up quite an appetite staying in bed reading until 1:00, so Mike and I headed to the Trolley Stop for some Surfer Dogs.  If you haven't had a surfer dog, you need to try one as soon as possible.  I never thought i'd like a hot dog with cheese, mustard, and bacon bits, but the combination is pretty amazing.  I thought to myself i'd make us homemade surfer dogs for dinner, but once they're on my mind, I need to satisfy my cravings quickly! 

I feel like i've been way over-indulging lately, and really have not been exercising at all to combat it.  My goal for this week is to splurge less, exercise more, and i'm doing my best to meal plan so I'm prepared with healthy dinner options. 

 Here's what's on the menu:
Spaghetti with Whole Wheat Pasta, Grilled Romaine with Caesar Vinaigrette
Mediterranean Beef Kabobs with Tzatziki
Grilled Chicken Bowls 
with avocado, tomato, brown rice
Grilled Chicken Burgers (no bun!)
with sweet potatoes, grilled squash and zucchini

Cheers to a great week!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

There's nothing I love more than a great seasonal dish, and this cake just screams summer. Chock-full of sweet blueberries, with crispy, buttery edges from the pan, and that subtle cornmeal texture, this cake is a sure crowd pleaser. 

A cross between a cobbler, muffin, and cake, this stunner would be perfect for breakfast with coffee, or a casual dessert.  

* 1 1/4 c. flour
* 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
* 3/4 c. sugar
* 1 tsp. baking powder
* 1 tsp. salt
* 1/2 tsp. vanilla
* 1/2 c. buttermilk
* 2 eggs
* 1 stick butter, melted, plus 2 tbsp, separately
* 1 pint blueberries, washed and dried 
* powdered sugar, for dusting (optional) 

Preheat the oven to 375.  In a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, combine melted buter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.  

Place a 12 inch cast-iron pan or oven proof skillet in the oven with remaining 2 tbsp. of butter.  Heat it for 5 minutes, or until the butter is melted.  Swirl the butter around the pan. 

Add egg mixture to flour mixture, and whisk until just combined.  Pour into the heated, buttered, skillet.    Distribute blueberries on top of the batter (it will be thick, but the batter will bake around the blueberries). Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.  Let cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar.  Serve warm.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Strawberry Basil Smash

If I had to pick my poison, 9 times out of 10 it will be red wine.  This summer, however, the heat and humidity are starting to get to me.  These temps require a more festive seasonal cocktail. 

This Strawberry Basil Smash is so refreshing.  I've been buying strawberries every week since they're so inexpensive (and delicious) this time of year, and somehow I've managed to keep my basil plant alive, so this was super simple to whip up.  

This would work well with a variety of seasonal fruits and herbs.  Let me know if you come up with another winning combo!

Ingredients (1 cocktail)
* 1 shot Cointreau
* 1 shot vodka
* 1 tsp. lime juice
* 4 strawberries, sliced
* 2 basil leaves, roughly chopped
* ice
* club soda

Place strawberries and basil in the bottom of a mason jar (for easy shaking) and muddle them together.  Add cointreau, vodka, lemon juice, and ice and shake well to combine.  Top with cold club soda, stir, and serve.  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweet Corn & Bacon Risotto with Shrimp

There's nothing I love more than a simple date night at home after a particularly hectic week.

Of course, i'm one of those people who finds stirring risotto while sipping my glass of Malbec incredibly relaxing.  Others may not enjoy it as much, but it's a small price to pay for the deliciousness that is Sweet Corn and Bacon Risotto with Shrimp. 

I've been using the sweet corn that is in season at every opportunity; there really isn't a frozen kernel that can compare.  The salty bacon adds just the subtle smokiness and crunch the dish needs.  I topped mine with tender shrimp, but if you have a land lubber in your family, it also pairs perfectly with steak. 

Ingredients (serves 2)
* 1 c. abrorio rice
* 4 c. chicken stock
* 2 ears corn
* 3 pieces bacon
* 1 tbsp. butter
* 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

Add the chicken stock to a pan and warm over medium heat.  Slice the bacon into small chunks and add it to a preheated (medium high) skillet.  Saute until crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.  Drain off all but about 1 tbsp. of the bacon fat (you want just a light coating on the pan).  Add the rice to the pan and stir it with a wooden spoon, toasting the rice for 1 minute for so.  Add a ladle of the warmed chicken stock to the pan and stir until it is absorbed (if it sizzles up or is absorbed very quickly reduce the heat to medium).  Each time the stock is absorbed, add another ladle full. 

When there are about two ladles of stock left, slice the kernels off of the corn and add to the pan, stirring well.  Continue to add the stock until none remains.  

Meanwhile, heat a separate pan to medium heat and add butter.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add them to the pan, sautéing until they are just cooked through (light pink and white).  Stir the bacon back into the finished risotto and serve with shrimp. Enjoy! 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beer Can Chicken

I'm always looking for a new way to enjoy our weeknight staple, chicken.  For the longest time, i've been meaning to try the classic Beer Can Chicken.  What in the world was I waiting for?  Not only is it super simple to make, but the results are the juiciest, most tender chicken you have ever tasted.  

How cute is this guy? 
Once you pop the chicken in the oven, no other work is needed.  This would also be great on the grill.  

* 1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
* 1 light beer
* 1 tsp. onion powder
* 1 tsp. garlic powder
* 1 tsp. paprika
* 1 tsp. ground mustard

Preheat oven to 350 and lower the top rack to the lowest third of the oven.  Combine onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and ground mustard in a bowl.  Rub the spices all over the chicken.

Pour out (or drink!) about 1/3 of the beer and place it in the center of a roasting pan.  Place this chicken on top of the beer with the legs facing down.  Use the legs to prop the chicken up.  Roast in the oven for 1.5-2 hours, or until done (to test, gently cut the skin between the leg and the thigh; if the juices run clear, it's cooked through).

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Last time I was home in Greensboro, my mom, sister and I ventured to PF Changs for a late lunch.  My order is usually pretty predictable (spring rolls are a must and why would anyone NOT want beef with broccoli?) but fortunately for me, my sister convinced me to try their lettuce wraps. 

I'm not going to lie.  Those lettuce wraps were pretty bomb.  Both sweet and salty, with a little bit of heat, and a subtle crunch of water chestnuts.  Delicious! I immediately started to dissect the ingredients and I think my version is pretty close to the real thing. 

These lettuce wraps could not be easier to put together and make a great appetizer or main course (serves 4 as an app, 2 as an entree). 

* 1 lb. ground chicken
* 1 tbsp. olive oil
* 2-3 garlic cloves, depending on size
* 1/2 can (or 4 oz) water chestnuts, roughly chopped 
* 2 whole scallions, sliced
* 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
* 1/4 c. soy sauce
* 1 tbsp. honey
* 1 tsp. ginger paste
* 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
* Iceberg or butter lettuce, for serving

First, prepare the sauce by combining hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, ginger paste, and red pepper flakes in a bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Heat a large skillet to medium high.  Add the oil and garlic and sauté until the garlic is fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add the chicken to the pan and use a potato masher to break it up into small pieces as it cooks.  When the chicken is just almost done, stir in the water chestnuts, half of the green onions, and the sauce.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the  chicken is done and sauce has just slightly thickened. Garnish with the remaining green onion and serve with lettuce leaves. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Weekend Update: July 4th

I hope everyone had a fabulous 4th! I'm trying my hardest to get back in the swing of things after a great long weekend. 

I was lucky enough to spend the holiday at my best friend Magen's beach house, and our friends Megan and Andrew joined as well.  After hurricane Arthur decided to move on late Thursday night, the sun came out and the rest of the weekend was beautiful. 

Bright and early Friday morning, we headed to the island parade.  It got pretty hot, but we had to persevere because at the end of the parade we are rewarded with our annual corn dogs and icees, which makes it totally worth our while. There's really nothing better than a corn dog (ok, two corn dogs) after a long walk in the heat. (Thanks Megan for the pics!)

Andrew and I are totally cut-throat about our corn dogs.  I think I ran over a few kids to be first in line, and Andrew took two home for later in his pocket! 

We also got to ride to the parade in style in Andrew's new Wrangler - so much fun!

The rest of the weekend was spent on the beach, soaking up the summer sun.  We had great music, weather, lots of wine, fabulous food, and of course fireworks. 

Sunday morning, as per our annual tradition, Magen's mom mad us Breakfast at Wimbledon [in Wilmington!].  Of course there were peaches and cream, plus lots of fresh fruit, bacon, corn and sausage.  The perfect sunday feast!

The only thing that could have made it better would be if Federer pulled through for the championship. Like he said - there's alway next year! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Classic Wedge with Buttermilk Herb Dressing

I'm still in cookout mode on the blog this week!  So many people are either hosting friends for the Fourth, heading to pot lucks, or even cookout-hopping this weekend.  One thing I always like to ask others to bring my cookouts is a salad, and I know it's something I often bring elsewhere. If you're on salad duty too, look no further than this Classic Wedge with Buttermilk Herb Dressing. 

There is no salad that is more all-American than a classic wedge.   Fresh, crisp iceberg, with a hearty serving of buttermilk dressing, topped with salty, chewy bacon, fresh tomatoes, and a tangy bleu cheese.  What could be better?! 

This creamy buttermilk herb dressing has a similar flavor to ranch, with a fresh, herby twist, and it also happens to be surprisingly light on calories.  

Dressing (makes about 1 cup):
* 1/4 c. greek yogurt
* 1/2-3/4 c. buttermilk,
* 1 garlic clove, grated (on a microplane)
* 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
* 1 tsp. chives, minced
* 1 tsp. dill, minced
* black pepper
* iceberg, cut into wedges
* cherry tomatoes
* crispy bacon
* bleu cheese

To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in a mason jar or container with a fitted lid (start with 1/2 c. buttermilk, and add more if you prefer a thinner dressing).  Shake well to combine.  Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour.  Serve over a wedge salad.