Monday, July 7, 2014

Honey Lime Grilled Shrimp Salad

One of my favorite things about spring and summer is cooking on the grill. Not only do things cooked on the grill taste amazing, but it makes for easy cleanup. Anything that has me doing less dishes is a win in my book.

If you've been here before you know my recipes (unless I'm baking) don't really include measurements. I like to consider it part of my cooking philosophy: relax, have fun, and throw in a little of this and a little of that…or maybe I'm just a little lazy. Seriously, I should probably re-name this blog, "Sorry Ya'll I don't Measure When I Cook". Regardless, I hope that you can make my recipes work for you. Cooking shouldn't be about following a bunch of rules, so take my idea, make it your own, and enjoy!

Honey Lime Grilled Shrimp Salad

Olive oil
Juice of 1 fresh lime
Garlic Powder
Fresh cilantro

Chopped romaine
1-2 ears of corn, husks removed, grilled, and cut off the cob
Avocado, sliced
Grape tomatoes, halved
Sliced red onion
Grilled marinated shrimp

Make the same as the marinade only omit the garlic powder.

How to make it
Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl. You want slightly more olive oil than lime juice, about a 2:1 ratio. Use a smaller portion of the honey. It will emulsify your marinade (basically make your oil and acid combine.) Take your raw, cleaned, and deveined shrimp and toss them in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Brush your ears of corn with some olive oil and grill until corn is tender and slightly charred, once cool cut the corn off of the cob. (TIP: Stand the ear of corn in a bowl to cut the kernels off. The kernels will fall into the bowl rather than flying all over your kitchen). Grill the shrimp until cooked through.

Toss all salad ingredients together and top with dressing. Enjoy!

This salad is light, fresh, and perfect for a hot summer night. I especially love making homemade dressings to go along with my salads. Store bought dressings are full of extra salt and ingredients I can't even pronounce. My basic formula for homemade dressing is an oil (usually olive), an acid (vinegar or fresh citrus juice work well), an emulsifier (mustard or honey are my go-tos), and some seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, fresh herbs, etc.)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Allergies and a Natural Fix!

I love the spring. I love the warm sun, the bright green leaves, the flowers blooming, the longer days, sitting on the deck, and the promise of summer. I don't love allergies.

I was recently contacted by AllergEase to see if I was interested in trying their all-natural allergy lozenges. I'm big into all-natural products, and I suffer from seasonal allergies, so I was excited for this opportunity. 

AllergEase is an all-natural lozenge which works to help fight seasonal allergies. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor of the drops. In my mind I had compared the drops to Cold-Eeze, which do not taste so great (they give my mouth a weird numb feeling and bad flavor). AllergEase however tasted kind of like drinking a cup of minty honey lemon tea. Pretty tasty for an all-natural herbal supplement. 

I have not used enough of the drops yet to make a statement about their effectiveness, but the reviews and research out there are promising. 

I have decided to share this product with you all by giving away one box of AllergEase all-natural allergy lozenges. The box contains 21 lozenges, so it will get you well on your way to allergy relief!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below with your favorite spring time activity you enjoy when allergies aren't getting you down! The giveaway will close in one week, on Monday, April 11, 2014 at 8:00 pm EST. U.S. entries only please. 


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dreaming of Spring

We have had an unusually snowy winter here in Richmond this year. As a teacher, I have loved getting some snow days, but now I am ready for sunshine, warm breezes, leaves and flowers sprouting, and spending some much needed time outside.

I hung my spring/summer wreath on the front door yesterday, a simple DIY you can find here, and I am not embarrassed to say I have had my spring mantle up since I took down my Christmas decorations. The time between Christmas and spring is a weird time for decorating anyway. By the time Christmas is over I am done with winter and am ready for spring, so I figure why not bring spring inside. 

Here is my spring mantle look. I created it with items found around my house, which is the best kind of decorating because its free! 

I love the pops of greenery for a fresh bright look. The yellow birdie was a Hobby Lobby find a few years ago (although I feel like they often have things like that), and the fresh tulips are from Trader Joe's. I was lucky and happened to be in Trader Joe's when the tulips were on special for $1.99 a bunch. Prices like that make splurging on fresh flowers an easy decision!

Even though there is leftover snow outside of my window right now, a weather forecast of temperatures in the 60s this week, and coming home to this cheery front door, give me hope that spring is closer than I think. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Slow Cooker Short Rib Sandwich

I just love coming home to dinner ready in the crockpot. It smells delicious when you walk in the door, its easy to cook, and easy to clean up. 

Last night's dinner was a slow cooker short rib sandwich. The meat was so tender and yummy. I topped the sandwiches with caramelized onions, swiss cheese, and baby arugula. This dinner was a definite win and will be on our menu again soon. It was also pretty inexpensive to make (I had most items in my panty already), which is always a plus!

Here is my recipe. Sorry I don't measure when I create recipes, my cooking philosophy is to relax and have fun. As long as you're not baking, exact measurements are overrated. 

Slow Cooker Short Rib Sandwich

1 package boneless beef short ribs
1 package onion soup/dip mix
Dry red wine
Black pepper
1 sweet onion, sliced
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Swiss cheese
Baby arugula
Bakery rolls

Put the short ribs into the crockpot. Pour in the packet of onion seasoning mix and add some fresh cracked black pepper. {I used the whole packet of onion soup mix, which does make the meat more on the salty side, but in my opinion it was not overly salty} Add some red wine, about 1/4 cup, and some water, another 1/4 cup? (you want the bottom of the crockpot covered) Stir so the ribs get evenly coated with everything. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

When finished use two forks to shred the meat and stir into the remaining juices in the crockpot. Turn the crockpot to warm. 

Heat a skillet to medium high heat. Add the onions, a small pat of butter, a drizzle of olive oil, and a splash of balsamic. Mix well. Add some fresh ground black pepper and a small sprinkle of sugar. Turn the heat to low and let the onions go until golden brown, stirring often. 

Toast your bun and add some shredded meat, onions, and a slice of swiss cheese. Place under the broiler for a a few minutes to melt the cheese. Top with a handful of baby arugula and enjoy with the rest of that red wine!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cooking for a Cause & Four Recipes!

Today I have some fantastic recipes to share with you. In addition to tasting delicious, they are part of a very special cookbook. Each recipe featured today is from the special edition Southern Living Christmas Cookbook, which is available at Dillard's at Stony Point and Short Pump malls in Richmond, VA for only $10. All of the proceeds from this cookbook go to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond, Virginia.

From their mission statement, "Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond, VA provides a home away from home for children receiving medical treatment and their families, and helps to fund programs in the local area that directly improve the well-being of children."  

When Ronald McDonald House contacted me to see if I would be interested in sharing their cookbook on my blog I jumped at the chance. Not only do I love Southern Living, and cooking and baking, but I am honored to be a part of something that can make a real difference in the lives of children and their families. 

Here is our local Ronald McDonald House:

Isn't it lovely? I was able to take a tour of the house with Director of Development, Allison Smith, and learn more about their programs and how they help families. On the tour I heard about the bond that develops among the families that stay in the house, and how meaningful it is for them to have a safe place during their child's treatment. Although each family and their child has a unique situation, they all know the feeling of being different, of having to fight a battle that not many other people understand. Wow, did that hit home. I wanted to say, you are speaking my language sister. I of course immediately thought of my sweet Emma, and how she never even had the chance to fight life's battles. As hard as this made the rest of the tour for me, it only furthered my desire to participate in this project. I want these families to have the opportunity to embrace and support each other in this beautiful place, as they fight alongside their child for health and life. 

Here are some of the sweet faces of Ronald McDonald House Richmond:

To help you get an idea of the types of delicious treats you can make after you purchase your cookbook, I will share with you a few recipes that I tested. 

The first was the Stove-top Chicken Pot Pie. This recipe was super easy, quick, and delicious. It was the perfect comfort food. 

Stove-top Chicken Pot Pie

8 frozen buttermilk biscuits
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms
4 cups chopped cooked chicken (they recommended a rotisserie chicken, which I used.)
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup
1 cup low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 (8-oz.) package 1/3-less fat cream cheese, cubed
1/2 (0.7-oz.) envelope Italian dressing mix (about 2 tsp.)
1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed

1. Bake biscuits according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, saute onion in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until golden. Add mushrooms, and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients; cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes or until cheese melts and mixture is thoroughly heated. Stir in peas, and cook 2 minutes. Spoon chicken over hot split biscuits. 

Yum, now wasn't that easy?! They have a Southern-Style Chicken Pot Pie recipe that I am trying next. It has leeks in it, which are my ultimate fave! Please don't judge my large portion. I was really hungry, and it was just that good. {Also, sorry for the bad picture quality…the lighting at night in my house is terrible for photography!}

The next dinner that we enjoyed from the cookbook was Rosemary Grilled Chicken. The recipe pairs the chicken with Garlic Spinach and Cheese Grits, which don't get me wrong sounds amazing, but we were curious about the Asparagus-New Potato Hash, so that's what we made on the side instead.

Rosemary Grilled Chicken Thighs 

1 garlic clove, pressed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary*
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 lb. skinned and boned chicken, thighs**
1/2 lemon

1. Combine garlic and next 6 ingredients in a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag, squeezing bag to combine ingredients. Add chicken, turning to coat, and seal bag. Chill 1 to 24 hours.
2. Preheat grill to 350 to 400 degrees (medium-high) heat. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade. Grill chicken, covered with grill lid, 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a large piece of aluminum foil. Squeeze juice from lemon over chicken; fold foil around chicken, covering chicken completely. Let stand 10 minutes.

*Fresh thyme, cilantro, or oregano may be substituted
**1 1/2 lb. skinned and boned chicken breasts may be substituted. (This is what we used.)

Asparagus-New Potato Hash

1 lb. small red potatoes
1 lb. fresh asparagus
2 shallots, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup crumbled farmer's cheese or queso fresco
Garnish: lemon slices

1. Bring potatoes and salted water to cover to a boil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook 15 minutes or until just tender; drain well. Cool 15 minutes; cut into quarters.
2. Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Cut asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces. 
3. Saute shallots in hot oil in a large nonstick skillet 1 minute. Add asparagus, thyme, and next 3 ingredients; sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Add potatoes, and sauté 3 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly heated. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with cheese. 

Both of these recipes were delicious and I will make them again. The chicken was especially good, as I can be funny about eating chicken. It was super tender and flavorful, and grilling it made it extra yummy. 

After trying out a few dinner recipes I was in the mood for something sweet. The last recipe I have to share with you this evening is:

Sticky Bun-Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups pecan halves and pieces
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
2. Stir together melted butter and next 2 ingredients. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoonful butter mixture into each cup of 2 lightly greased (12-cup) muffin pans, and top each with 1 rounded tablespoonful pecans.
3. Stir together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl, and make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together pumpkin, next 2 ingredients, and 2/3 cup water; add to dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened.
4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans, filling three-fourths full. Place an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan on lower oven rack to catch any overflow.
5. Bake at 350 degrees on middle oven rack for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert pan immediately to remove muffins, and arrange muffins on a wire rack. Spoon any topping remaining in muffin cups over muffins. Cool 5 minutes. 

These were absolutely amazing! The cake part didn't taste overly sweet, so it was well balanced with the sticky, gooey, sweet topping. I will definitely make these again. I took one for each of the girls on my team at school and they all loved them as well. 

The recipes from the cookbook that are on my "to make soon" list include: Bacon-and-Cheddar Corn Muffins, Hominy Grill's Shrimp and Grits, Spiced Pomegranate Sipper, Bacon-Onion Dip, Cornbread Tartlets with Tomato-Lima Bean Relish, Ragout of Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta, Holiday Meatloaf, Home-Style Butter Beans, Southern-Style Collard Greens, Shrimp and Grits Dressing, Waldorf Spinach Salad, Pimento Cheese Rolls, Sour Cream Cornbread, Lemon-Poppy Seed Cakes, Individual Frozen Peppermint Cheesecakes, Caramel-Pecan-Pumpkin Bread Puddings, and Coconut Joys. Oh dear, that's a lot of recipes. And that is seriously only a fraction of the cookbook. Oh, yummy!!

I hope that you will enjoy these recipes, and even more, I hope that if you are located in the Richmond, Virginia area that you will purchase one of these cookbooks. It is a beautiful cookbook and is bursting with fantastic recipes. More importantly, it helps a wonderful organization continue their mission. 

Happy eating ya'll!

I was provided the cookbook for the purpose of this post, but all opinions are my own. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Homemade Pecan Pancakes

I currently have a big bag of pecans in the pantry in preparation for a homemade pecan pie for Thanksgiving {yum, my favorite!}. This week I decided to use some of the pecans and give pecan pancakes a try. We had a breakfast for dinner night and enjoyed the pancakes with some extra crispy bacon, one of my all time favorite foods.

To keep the recipe a little more "clean" and natural, I chose to make the pancakes from scratch, rather than using a mix. Plus, we already had all of the ingredients in the pantry, so why not?

Pecan Pancakes
Adapted from Food Network

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Dash of salt
1 cup buttermilk*
Dash of vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the buttermilk and egg and whisk until smooth. Pour in the melted butter and pecans and stir to combine. 

Heat a griddle to medium heat and add a small pat of butter. Using a ladle pour the batter onto the griddle and cook the pancakes to golden brown on each side. Add more butter to the griddle as needed during cooking to keep the pancakes from sticking.

Serve with butter and maple syrup (we use the real stuff for both, it tastes better and it is all natural). 

*Buttermilk: Pour one tablespoon of white vinegar into a measuring cup. Add in 1 cup of milk (any kind is fine, I used 1%). Let sit for 5 minutes and you have buttermilk! 

Oh, and for full disclosure, after taking this picture my phone was covered in butter and syrup because the pat of butter kept sliding off the hot pancakes. I had to keep sliding it back on with my finger while trying to take a decent picture. Good thing my phone has a screen protector so the mess was easy to wipe off. ;)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Amherst Gray

A lovely reader asked for some more pictures of our Amherst Gray siding. It is a color she is considering for her home, and she wanted to get a better idea of how it may look from different angles and in different lights. She asked me a few weeks ago, so I hope I'm not too late, but here are a few more pictures of our home with its fabulous new{ish} color! You can read the makeover post here.