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Shrimp, Squash and Zucchini Pasta

August 2, 2013

Squash and Zucchini_1

I promised in my last post that I would feature my Mom’s delicious squash and zucchini pasta and here it is! Sometimes she adds shrimp or chicken so this time I chose to do it with shrimp. I am in Louisiana, after all. I made this dish with vegetables that I grew in my garden so it tasted even better than normal. Really! There is nothing better than organically-grown fruits and veggies that you grew yourself! I get a sense of satisfaction out of it but maybe that’s just me.

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This dish is really simple. It’s only a few ingredients – garlic, onion, squash, zucchini, shrimp, olive oil, and pasta – and it only requires a few steps. So it’s very easy and anyone can make it!

Squash and Zucchini_3

Sautee the vegetables first and then do the shrimp separately. The vegetables take much longer to cook and you don’t want to overcook shrimp or it will get touch and chewy. Throw all if it over the pasta, add parmesan and parsley and you’ve got a healthy summer dinner.

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Recipe

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1/2 a Medium Onion, diced
  • 1 Zucchini, chopped horizontally
  • 1 Yellow Squash, chopped horizontally
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 10-15 Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 Lb Angel Hair Pasta
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 tbsp Parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta.

While pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a pan on medium heat and add onion, squash and zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sautee for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften, stirring occasionally. Set the vegetables aside in a bowl.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. In the same pan you used for the vegetables, add butter on medium heat and let it melt. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute then add the shrimp. Make sure the shrimp are not crowded in the pan. You will probably have to cook 2 batches depending on how much shrimp you have. Cook the shrimp until they turn pink on each side and add to the vegetable bowl.

Once pasta is ready, drain but do not rinse. Throw the pasta in a bowl and pour the vegetables and shrimp on top and toss all of it together. Add parmesan cheese and parsley.

Enjoy!

Summer Garden Harvest!

June 11, 2013

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In addition to my love for cooking, I also really love to garden, even if it can be a real pain sometimes. Despite fighting off the worms and hand-picking snails and slugs tenaciously every evening (I know –  gross), there is something very therapeutic about gardening to me. There is also a great sense of satisfaction when you finally get to eat what you’ve been nurturing for all these months.

Even though I’m fairly good at gardening (it’s taken years of practice and dozens of phone calls to my green thumb parents), I have to say I got very lucky this time around as I left my garden for 2 weeks unwatered and unattended. Thank God for Louisiana rains! When I returned home from my honeymoon, I was pleasantly surprised by clusters of ripening tomatoes, a few developing yellow squash and basil plants that had doubled in size. Louisiana is great for all of these vegetables and herbs but the trick is keeping away the pests.

Here is a preview of what I have in the works and I promise I will follow with some corresponding recipes including a classic Caprese salad, pesto, and my Mom’s famous angel hair pasta with squash and shrimp. But for now, here are a few of my plants and tips for planting and maintaining a healthy, bountiful garden.

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These are Beefsteak Tomatoes and they do really well in warm climates but they also require a lot of water/rain. I planted these very late in the season last September and I thought they were gonners but since we had a mild winter and it did not get extremely hot here this spring, they survived and blossomed this May.

However, I’ve had issues with Japanese Horn worms, other worms, snails and slugs, I’ve sprayed a mild insect killer that you can get at Lowe’s or Home Depot called Natria. It’s not organic, but it’s the closest to organic you can get when using a spray. It worked for the worms but not for the snails and slugs. I have cats and I always see neighborhood cats in my yard so I didn’t want to use snail bait or Sluggo. It works, but if you have animals in your area I highly advise against it! Animals will eat it and it can kill them very quickly.

So I researched natural ways and the best solution I’ve found is filling a cup with beer and placing it in the soil near the plants so the rim is ground level (see the photo below on the right side). The snails and slugs are drawn to the yeast in the beer and they fall in and drown. In one hour I found 5 snails! Another great deterrent are crushed eggshells. Sprinkle them around your plants and it will keep them away.

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The Natria worked really well on the squash but they key is planting them on mounds and keeping the mounds from dissolving during watering and growth.

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Lastly, my specialty – Basil! I am taking too much credit because basil just thrives here in Lousiana. It loves sun and lots of water. The Natria works well for keeping worms off the basil but you can see there are still some holes where they got to it in between sprays and heavy rains. You can also see the purple basil to the right and a budding cucumber in the front! 🙂

I hope you find this helpful. You can apply these tips no matter where you are planting but it’s always better if these three plants get plenty of sun and water.

Shortbread Caramel Brownie Bars

April 15, 2013

 

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I apologize yet again for not posting for a while but I’ve been very busy in the midst of wedding planning! So this will probably be my last post until I return from my honeymoon at the end of May and then I promise I will be more consistent with posting new recipes, gardening tips and design ideas.

These bars are probably one of the most decadent and amazing things I have ever made. I got the recipe from Sunset Magazine/MyRecipes.com where I used to work as an online editor. I made the mistake of bringing them to work a few months back and now I get requests for them all the time. They are not difficult to execute but require three steps so they take some time to make.

You start by making a rich and buttery shortbread layer that you bake then allow to cool. Then you melt caramels and milk and pour that layer over the shortbread and let it set in the fridge. Lastly, you make a homemade brownie mixture and pour over the caramel layer then bake again in the oven. They are gooey and chocolately and buttery with a nice flakey bottom from the shortbread. I highly recommend these. They are divine and dangerous!

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Recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) butter $
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 12 ounces individually wrapped soft caramels, such as Kraft
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 10 ounce bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs $
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut 1 cup butter into chunks. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and the butter chunks. Whirl until dough comes together. Press evenly over the bottom of a buttered 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Bake in a 325° regular or convection oven until top feels dry and is just beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely

Meanwhile, unwrap caramels and place in a microwave-safe bowl with milk. Cook in a microwave oven on full power (100%) for 1 minute. Stir mixture, then cook and stir at 30-second intervals until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes longer. Spread caramel mixture evenly over cooled crust and chill until firm, about 20 minutes.

In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bottom of bowl should not touch water), stir chocolate and remaining 1/2 cup butter often until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and, with a whisk or a mixer on medium speed, beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, and salt until well blended.

Pour chocolate mixture over caramel layer and use a knife or spatula to spread level, completely covering caramel.

Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until a wooden skewer inserted into the chocolate layer comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely, then cut into 24 bars.

Country Girl’s Creamery

February 12, 2013

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In January I had the privilege and pleasure to get a private tour of our friend’s dairy in Wiggins, MS. I can honestly say that it was the best milk and some of the best cheese that I have ever had. They showed us how the cows are brought in, milked and then entire pasteurization and bottling process. Then we got to see how they make all the cheeses and sample everything! The milk is not homogenized so it’s richer and more creamy than typical milk you buy in the grocery store but it is so smooth and fresh that if you love milk, you will love this!

Country Girls Creamery_3

In both photos working from 12 o’clock and moving clockwise there is there standard cow’s milks cheddar, jalapeno  cheddar, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato cheddar. The regular cheddar is flavorful and you can almost smell the cow. It is great on a burger. The others are great on their own, or with crackers. My personal favorite was the mozzarella.

They also make butter and cheese spreads (pictured above left).

Unfortunately I do not think you can order the products online but if you are ever in the area, I highly recommend a tour. You can find them on Facebook here.

French Onion Soup

December 12, 2012

French Onion Soup_1Ok – I know there are no excuses for how long it’s been since I’ve posted. But just so you don’t think I’m a total slacker, I have still been cooking new recipes regularly and photographing them in the midst of planning my wedding, working, furnishing my new house and of course, maintaining an active social life.  But I know there are plenty of bloggers out there who are just as busy as me (but let’s face it, some have no lives), so I have no excuse for my absence.

Moving on to the good stuff: In the past year or so, my good friend Tara’s obsession with French Onion Soup has rubbed off on me and now I find myself craving it more often than not. There is a place here in New Orleans that makes a great version with a couple locations which both conveniently happen to be near my office and my home making it easy for me to run out and get it at a moment’s notice. However, I decided since I love the stuff so much, I might as well try to make it myself. HUGE SUCCESS!

I adapted this recipe from a couple recipes from the Food Network and used ingredients that I prefer. For example, some recipes call for Parmesan cheese, but I chose Gruyere cheese because I like the nutty richness of the cheese and it pulls and breaks up great in the broth. I also used red wine to deglaze the pan where some recipes use cognac or sherry. The fun part is putting the soup in individual crocks or ramekins, covering it with cheese and putting it under the broiler.

French Onion Soup_2

In true Parisian style, I served it with a frisee and mixed green salad with thinkly sliced radishes and a lemon vinaigrette. Bon Appetit! * I promise my next post will come sooner that 3 months away this time! 😉

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Recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 Large yellow onions (about 2 lbs ), thinly sliced with the grain to hold their shape
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Cup grated Gruyere Cheese
  •  Baguette slices, cut on the bias (about 1 Inch thick)

In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven or large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt, cover, and cook until deeply caramelized, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionaly and scrape brown bits from bottom of pot. Turn the heat up to medium and sprinkle the onions with the flour. Stir and allow to cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add the thyme, bay leaf and stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed. Ladle the soup into 4 ovenproof crocks.

Heat the broiler to high.  Top each crock with 2-3 baguette slices and evenly distribute the cheese on top of each. Place the crocks under the broiler just until the cheese is bubbly and browning, about 1 minute but keep you eye on them. Serve hot.

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Strawberry Pie

August 6, 2012

I know strawberry season is over but they are still plentiful in grocery stores so you can still use this recipe through the end of August. And of course, as a devoted reader, you will pin this and save it for later. 😉

I made this pie back in May for a friend’s wedding and I was surprised at how good it turned out. I’m not going to lie, I used a Pilsbury store-bought crust after 2 attempts at homemade crusts that resulted in epic fails. I used a recipe that included vodka and the crust fell in on itself – I don’t recommend vodka.

This recipe for the filling is fairly simple and I got it from the Joy of Baking. It includes fresh strawberries and frozen raspberries. The hardest part is putting the thawed raspberries through a strainer to get out all the seeds and pulp. It just takes, time but it isn’t difficult. Then you boil the jam, raspberry juice and sugar, add the gelatin and create a filling to mix with the strawberries and hold them together. It’s a great flavor – not too sweet and adds a nice tartness from the berries and lemon juice.

Recipe:

Crust

Be a cheater like me and use the refrigerated store-bought kind. If you have a good fool-proof recipe, you can use it…show off.

Filling:

  • 12 ounce bag frozen unsweetened raspberries
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons seedless blackberry or raspberry jam
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshlemonjuice
  • 4 cups (about 2 pounds) fresh strawberries

Thaw the frozen unsweetened raspberries and then transfer to a fine mesh strainer placedover a large bowl. Gently press the berries with the back of a large spoon to release their juices. (All that should remain in the strainer is the raspberry seeds.) Put the raspberry juice, along with the sugar and jam, in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the jam dissolves and the sauce just comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small measuring cup sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over 1/4 cup (60 ml) of cold water. Let this mixture sit for about 5 -10 minutes, or until it becomes softened and spongy, and then microwave about 20 seconds or until the gelatin has completely dissolved.Remove the raspberry juice from the heat and stir in the dissolved gelatin and lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until the mixture starts to gel, stirring periodically (this takes about an hour).

Meanwhile, cut the strawberries into bite-sized chunks. Place the strawberries in a large bowl and fold in the thickened raspberry juice, making sure all the strawberries are coated with the sauce. Pour the strawberries into the baked and cooled pie shell and place in the refrigerator until firm (about three hours). Serve with softly whipped cream, if desired. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. This pie can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Guest Recipe: Crab Stuffed Mirliton

June 25, 2012

A few weeks ago our good friends Ryan and Jessica came and stayed with us and were honestly the BEST house guests I’ve ever had. They own a well-known Creole restaurant in Los Angeles called Harold and Belles. Ryan’s grandfather, who is originally from New Orleans, started the restaurant in 1969 and Ryan and his father have built the restaurant into a fine-dining establishment specializing in authentic New Orleans-style and Creole cuisine.

Needless to say, Ryan is an AMAZING cook. He made us several feasts during his stay including, Shrimp Remoulade, Crawfish pasta, bread pudding and Banana’s Foster but the one that I had never had before was his Crab-Stuffed Mirlitons.

Mirliton, also known as Chayote, is a green, pear shaped gourd that is similar to squash in flavor and texture but is more fleshy and thick when cooked. It has a very clean, simple flavor that is enhanced by Ryan’s awesome crab stuffing and creole seasoning.

Ryan starts by boiling the mirlitons in his restaurant’s famous creole seasoning to add flavor right off the bat.

He then removes the mirlitons from the boiling water and cuts them in halves and removes the center. (You can eat this flesh or add it to the stuffing for volume).

As the mirlitons cool, Ryan makes the stuffing, starting with a basic roux and then adding the shrimp and crab last.

I’m so excited to share this recipe with you all and showcase Ryan and his restaurant. If you are ever in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend stopping by. Now that I live in New Orleans, I’ve had my fare share of Creole cuisine and I can honestly say, this is the real deal.

Bon appetit!

Recipe:

  • 4 large mirlitons
  • 1 16 oz. container crab claw meat
  • 1 cup chopped shrimp
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 Yellow Onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 stalks Celery (finely chopped)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1/3 Cup Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons Harold and Belle’s Creole Seasoning
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Add mirliton and 2 tablespoons Harold and Belle’s seasoning to a large pot of boiling water and boil  for 30 minutes or until mirliton are tender to the fork. Remove Mirlton from pot and cut in half length wise starting from crease at bottom of the Mirliton. Remove hearts (disc-shaped layers) on surface  of Mirliton and discard (or eat!). Carefully remove 1-2 tablespoons of flesh with a pairing knife and save for later. This creates  the pocket for your crab stuffing and will be added to the stuffing later.

For crab stuffing heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, bell peppers and celery and cook until tender. Mix in a heaping tablespoon of Harold and Belle’s seasoning and then add shrimp and crab meat. Simmer stuffing at medium heat for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  Chop mirliton flesh that you saved earlier and add to stuffing mixture. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Add breadcrumbs and mix well. Remove from heat.

Set mirliton halves on a baking sheet and stuff each half with 1-2 heaping tablespoons of stuffing mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.