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simmerstewandsizzle

Crème brûlée to fried chicken, trial and errors in cooking

When it starts to get sunny and warm outside all you want to do is eat something light and fresh.  I think of summer time veggies, citrus and grilling.  That’s how this salad came to be.  I really had a hankering for shrimp and we eat cous-cous at least once a week around here.  The rest just came naturally to me simply because it’s some of my favorite ingredients thrown together in one big, happy bowl.

Shrimp.  They can be so good or so bad depending on how you cook them.  We’ve eaten a lot of shrimp mostly because it’s the only fish/shellfish my husband will eat and actually enjoy/ask for/crave and you can do so much with them in terms of marinades or sauces.

But since summer is just around the corner I knew it had to be light and citrusy and garlicky and yummy.

And then grilled shrimp and cous-cous salad was born.

Here’s what we used to make it, although you can switch other ingredients in and out and come up with something as equally delicious.

For the shrimp and marinade:

1 pound shrimp (21-24 count) deveined

juice of 1.5 lemons, zest of 1 lemon

juice and zest of 1 lime

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

dash red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon oregano

First, take a look at your shrimp.  Are both the small and large blackish veins gone from each side?  If not, get a sharp pairing knife and follow the instructions in this lovely video.

Ok, so take your cleaned and deveined shrimp

and juice and zest your lemon and lime and mince your garlic

Throw all the ingredients above including the shrimp into a large bowl and toss together well.

Throw some saran wrap over it and let it chill and marinate in the fridge for 4-8 hours, stirring a couple times for good measure.

After the shrimp are through and full of flavor go ahead and stick them on kebabs and oil up the grill to medium heat.

While the grill is heating up you can start the cous-cous

I love the colorful stuff mostly because it just looks nice!

Cook the cous-cous according to the package directions or follow this method:

Bring 1 1/2 cups chicken stock to a boil, then add

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 clove pressed garlic

1 cup cous-cous.

Take the pan off the heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.  You’ll always end up with fluffy and flavorful cous-cous.  AND you can add anything you’d like to it and really can’t go wrong!

 However, on this particular evening I added about 1 cup arugula, 1/2 a diced red onion (sauteed in a little oil), a bunch of sliced red cherry tomatoes, a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro and a big ‘ol handful of feta cheese.  Oh, and a dash or two of lemon juice, that can never hurt.  This combination is so delicious and fresh and everything marries so well together and in fact makes me want it all again right now.

Just throw it all in a big bowl

I almost forgot about the shrimp.  Oh man.  The best part.

Once the grill is heated place the kebab’ed shrimp down for about 2 minutes on each side.  Don’t overcook the shrimp or you’ll just be eating cous-cous!

Once the shrimp is done just throw them on top of the salad and you’re good to go.  That’s another plus about this meal- one bowl is all you need!

This is the first meal we were able to enjoy on our brand new stone patio, making it all the better!

The perfect bite!

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I’m pretty sure the title says it all.

Mac & cheese by itself is usually good enough.  But add delicious rotisserie chicken and classic spicy buffalo sauce and you almost push it over the top.

My good friend Danielle (hi Dani!) made this recently (original recipe here) at one of our girl get togethers.  Every few weeks all of us get together at someone’s house (which usually means a husband is homeless for a few hours) and we all bring something to eat or drink and pretty much sit around…well…eating and drinking.  And talking and laughing.  A lot.  These nights are pretty fun I must say and have completely replaced heading out downtown to the bars.  I mean think about it- overpriced drink at a packed club or a plate full of buffalo chicken mac & cheese and some good laughs?

Seems pretty obvious to me.

Anyway, this mac & cheese is very simple to make but does require some time and pretty much all the pots and pans that you own.  Just be prepared to get a little messy here folks.  It’s worth it.

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus a few more

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 onion, finely chopped

2 stalks celery

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup hot sauce (like Frank’s)

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 1/2 cups half & half

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)

8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

2/3 cup sour cream

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (I used goat cheese because it’s what I had on hand and it was delicious)

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

salt

If I were you I would get everything chopped, diced and minced beforehand because once you get started things start to move quickly.

Start by melting 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook until soft, 5 or so minutes.

Add the chicken and garlic and cook for a few more minutes

Then, throw 1/2 cup hot sauce into the mix!

Simmer for a bit until thickened a little.

Now, forget that pan and everything in it.  Pan #2: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour and mustard to make a roux.  Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Slowly whisk in the half & half then add the rest of the hot sauce

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, throw in the elbow macaroni and cook for about 7 minutes, making sure it still has a bite to it

Ok.  Back to the saucepan.  Time to add the cheese!  Slowly add both the cheddar and pepper jack in increments making sure it’s mostly melted into the half & half before adding more.

Also, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Once the cheese is melted in, add the sour cream, whisking everything together.

This cheese sauce is almost good enough to eat on it’s own.  I’m just saying if you want to give up at this point it will not be in vain.

Take a 9×13 inch casserole dish and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread half the macaroni noodles on the bottom of the dish.  Top this with the chicken/onion/celery mixture, then top it with the remaining macaroni.  Pour the delicious cheese sauce over everything.

Almost done.

You can’t forget the glorious topping.

Throw the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a bowl and melt in the microwave.  Add the cheese (blue or goat), the parsley and panko

Spread this mixture evenly over the macaroni, pop that baby in the oven for 30 to 4o minutes.  Grab a bottle of wine, plop down on the sofa, discuss your day with your dog and wait.

Ok, you don’t have to do all of that but I highly recommend it to pass the time.

This is what you have when all is said and done:

Which is really all anyone could ever want.

Super cheesy but with a slight kick from the hot sauce.  This can easily feed a family and since there’s chicken it can be a one pot/dish meal or used as a side dish to something else.

Or you can make it when there’s only two of you living together and take leftovers for lunch all week.  I prefer that option.

I’m always looking for easy weeknight meals for two people.  Usually I do all my heavy cooking on Sundays and plan out easy, quick meals that I can make when I get home from work before Casey starts hyperventilating because he hasn’t eaten in the last 15 minutes.  I wish I was exaggerating but if you know my husband you know that I’m not.

I randomly stumbled upon this recipe on foodnetwork.com and seeing that it called for fresh rosemary I immediately texted my lovely co-worker, Lisa to see if she could bring me some the next day considering she has two huge rosemary bushes in her backyard.  She brought me a little baggy full of it and I can’t even describe the smell.  It’s everything I love about cooking all tied together in one lovely appetizing smell.  Perfection!

Anyhoo, equipped with all the right ingredients I gave this recipe a try, expecting just another ho-hum Wednesday night chicken dinner.  Instead, it was so delicious I’m making it again for dinner tonight.  We both loved it!  The lemon makes it fresh and light and the rosemary just ties it all together.

I’m getting hungry.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 pound red-skinned potatoes, halved or quartered if large (about 2 or 3 larger red potatoes)

salt and pepper

1 sprig fresh rosemary, plus 1/2 tablespoon leaves (or way more if you’re like me and LOVE fresh rosemary) I suppose dried would work ok too

1 clove of garlic, smashed

pinch of red pepper flakes

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 chicken breasts

5 ounces mushrooms- I used button

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Cover the potatoes with cold, salted water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.

Drain and set aside.

Take the rosemary leaves, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes and mince together, mashing together at the same time to form a paste.

Throw the “paste” into a bowl and add the half the lemon juice and olive oil.

Coat the chicken evenly with this mixture.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat (or a regular pan if you’re bad like me…whoops) Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes.

Turn the chicken and add them mushrooms and potatoes to the pan and drizzle with the remaining lemon juice and rosemary sprig.

Pop that baby in the oven, uncovered for 25 minutes.

Done!

Enjoy…

Have I mentioned how much I love one pot meals?

PS- I’m planting a rosemary bush ASAP!

I love Greek salad.  I ate it almost everyday when we were in Greece.  They make it very simple over there, just a few simple ingredients mixed together is all it takes.

Some people add lettuce to their Greek salads.  I’m not a fan of that and apparently neither are the Greeks.

All they use (usually) for a simple Greek salad is:

Tomatoes

Green bell peppers

Red onion

Kalamata olives

Feta cheese

Cucumber

Peppercinis

Olive oil

salt

red wine vinegar

It’s really up to you what to add depending on what you like.

Directions: Chop everything up, throw into bowl.

I add the vinegar, salt and olive oil to taste.  Add a little at a time to get the right taste.

Let the salad sit for a few hours (if you have time) to allow all the veggies, oil and vinegar and cheese to mix together and get more flavorful.

Final step (and the most important):

EAT!

I do declare it’s Greek week at our house!

This is the best week of the year!

Well, maybe not, but it’s close to being the best week of the year.

Lamb kebabs.

What a way to kick off the start of the summer!

Saturday was beautiful here in rainy, gloomy Portland.  We were able to set up a little table and eat outside.  We’re in the middle of putting in a huge stone patio so we had to awkwardly sit in the middle of the backyard in chairs, but it was perfect.  Especially since I had a nice big glass of cold Chardonnay!

These guys are super easy to make and have so much flavor.

All you will need:

1 small shoulder of lamb (about 1 pound)

1 onion, chopped into large pieces

1 red, green, yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped into large pieces

5 tablespoons olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, crushed or pressed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

salt and pepper

First you have to make the marinade.

Start by putting the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and herbs in a large bowl, whisk together.

Then, take the lamb

and cut into big chunks, removing some of the fat, but remember, fat equals flavor so leave a little behind!

Add the meat chunks to the marinade and mix around so all the meat is coated in the marinade.

Cover in plastic wrap and set in the fridge for 4-8 hours, the longer the better.

When the meat is almost done you can start preparing your veggies.  I just cut them into large chunks so they won’t fall off the skewers when grilling, just about bite-sized chunks.

Pull the meat out of the fridge, it should have soaked up most of the marinade by now and be full of flavor!

In whichever order you’d like, put the veggies and lamb on the skewers and line them up to get ready to grill!

Heat a grill or BBQ on medium-high heat.

Brush them with the leftover marinade.

Place on the hot grill for 10 minutes.

Then, turn them over, brush any leftover marinade over them again and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Oh yeah.

And that’s it.  Serve with pita and tzatziki and you’re good to go!

Even better if you can eat outside, and EVEN better if you have a nice, cold beverage to go along with it!

Please don’t judge me for the large rock pile in the background.  You know that old saying “out with the old, in with the new”?  Well, that was our old patio.

Another reason why I needed the wine.

I had this salad when I was grabbing dinner with a few good friends the other week and literally couldn’t stop thinking about it.  You see, we were at Elephant’s Delicatessen in Portland and right when you walk in you are overwhelmed with choices.  Curry salad isn’t something I am usually drawn to but they are nice enough to give you a sample and once I tried it I knew I had to have it.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The flavors are so unusual and so tasty that I knew I had to figure out how to make it.

I looked up a few recipes and began to realize that none of them sounded like the total package to me.  First off, all of them included mayo as the base of the curry sauce.  That is unacceptable.  I hate mayo.  Actually, that’s a lie, I will eat things made with mayo but will not make anything made with it.  We have never had a jar of mayonnaise in our house and I don’t plan on buying one just for one recipe.

Speaking of, my friends and I used to play this game where you had to list your most hated foods that you wouldn’t even eat if your mother-in-law slaved away ALL DAY long to make for you.  Mine are mayonnaise, cottage cheese and clams.  EW.  Clams are like the mayonnaise exception, my father-in-law (hi Bart!) makes a delicious clam chowder that I will happily eat any day…and will probably steal his recipe someday to post on this blog…

Back to the point, I made this one Sunday afternoon and took it for my lunch all week and never got sick of it, which makes it a winner in my book!

Here’s my recipe for DELICIOUS curried chicken salad:

(ideas taken from Ina Garten’s recipe)

2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces, or you can use pieces from a whole chicken purchased at the store

Olive oil (for the chicken)

1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt

1/3 dry white wine

1/4 cup chutney

3 tablespoons curry powder

2 large stalks of celery

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup golden raisens

1 cup chopped almonds

2 cups brown rice, cooked

salt and pepper

First you have to cook the chicken breasts.  Coat with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

As for the rest of the ingredients:

Try not to drink the wine…

Put the yogurt, wine, chutney, curry powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in a food processor and mix until smooth.

At this point all you have to do is throw everything together in a big ‘ol bowl!  I would recommend giving it a few hours to sit and mix all the wonderfulness together before eating, much better!

YUMMMMMMMMMMMMM

Greek/Mediterranean food is one of my all time favorites.  Lucky for me I married someone who feels the same, if not more.  We went to Greece for our honeymoon and ate our way through the islands, leaving no olive or piece of feta untouched.  Ok.  Maybe that was just me and the number one reason why I couldn’t remove my rings throughout the whole trip.  I was a little bloated by all the salty goodness that Greece had to offer and willpower was non-existent.  When would we be back to Greece?  I must eat all the salty kalamata olives I can get!

TMI?  I’m sorry.

Anyway, back to the point at hand.  I think lamb is one of my favorite meats.  I love the flavor and the mass amount of methods to cook with it.  I have a few more lamb recipes up my sleeve but they are more “summery” and must wait a few weeks at least, or a few months I suppose since I live in Oregon and it’s still hailing and raining here.  Constantly.

These patties come from a recipe book my mom gave me when I had just graduated from College.  The book is called “Just 4 Things” and it speaks the truth, every recipe literally only has 4 ingredients.  Let’s be honest, even that was a little too complicated for my post-college self so I waited to open the book until I started dating my now husband, which as you know is when the cooking bug really kicked in.

Point is, these lamb patties are so simple to make but have huge, huge flavor!

Here is all you will need:

1 pound ground lamb

1/2 onion, grated or finely diced

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped

*I also add one clove of garlic, finely minced

salt and pepper

Preheat your broiler

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Mix with hands.

Done.

Form 6 small patties with the meat and place on a broiler rack.

Cook each side for 8 minutes.

That’s it, and you’re done.

I serve them with couscous and usually throw in whatever veggies I have on hand.

FYI, couscous goes with everything.  Just ask my husband.  He could eat it by the bucket full if I would let him.  Obviously I don’t because then there wouldn’t be any left for me.

After 16 minutes the patties come out crispy, golden brown and ready to eat.

Hot lamb patties, couscous, naan or pita bread and fresh, homemade tzatziki sauce for dinner.  Doesn’t get any better.