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We’re finally back to normal (hopefully for real this time). I’m ecstatic about it, actually.

We’ve got some fairly easy meals going this week to get us back into the swing of things:
– Enchiladas with Papitos (thanks to my mom for leaving those in the fridge for us)
– Chicken Burgers with Pasta Salad
– Sausage, Potato and Cabbage Casserole (one of my all time favorite meals)
– Some kind of Pasta
– Cabbage Rolls (another Arabic recipe/weekend experiment with my parents)

My mom’s sausage casserole is probably second on my list of favorite home-cooked meals (nothing can ever top Nanny’s mac and peas!) and Billy’s grandma’s cabbage rolls are worth the effort they take to prepare. It’s going to be a blog-tastic week, I can feel it! Until next time, happy eating! Ciao.

P.S. Keep an eye out for a review of Rio Rancho’s (and possibly New Mexico’s) best new restaurant…the Black Olive.

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There’s really only so many ways you can cook fish, but I find that the application and the sauce make all the difference in the world. Since Billy is trying some fish for the first time lately, I’ve been trying to come up with some ways to make the “fish” taste less noticeable. In my opinion, sauce is one of the best ways to do that.

Last week, we drenched a nice piece of halibut in some flour than seared/fried it in a pan over medium-high heat. This created a nice crust without being too unhealthy, plus it was the perfect vehicle for a nice lemon butter sauce. The halibut took about 15 minutes to cook all the way through, but it was a pretty thick fillet. We let each side get a nice brown color to it before flipping.

Here’s what you’ll need for the sauce:
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 shallot, diced
– 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
– salt and pepper
– 1/2 cup white wine
– the juice of 1/2 a lemon
– about 1/4 cup heavy cream

This is a really simple sauce, and it’s great on any kind of fish (we also like to put it on rice or quinoa for a little extra flavor). Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the shallots the the pan and saute until they start to turn translucent, about two minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and let it and the shallots sweat out and cook through. Season with salt and pepper. Next, add the wine and lemon juice to the pan, bring to a simmer and let it reduce by half, about five minutes. Finally, add the cream to the pan, a little at a time (you might not use the entire quarter-cup). I usually let the cream mix in with everything and decide by how the sauce looks whether or not I want to add more. And…that’s it! Spoon the sauce over the fish and you’re good to go!

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Halibut with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa

The crust on the halibut was awesome. It gave the outside of the fish a perfect crunch, but also helped keep the fish nice and moist inside. The sauce really complimented the fish well, giving it the perfect amount of lemon flavor as well as a little texture and crunch from the shallot. We decided to give quinoa another shot, and this time it turned out really good. We used a full two cups of chicken stock to cook it, rather than half stock-half water like last time (thanks for the tip, Jenn!). It’s a great alternative to rice, and also soaked up the sauce really well…definitely a good combination!

So, apparently last week I lied. I didn’t keep up with the blog and we’ve got another short menu this week. We planned on having a regular menu this week, but my parents asked us to go to dinner with them before we leave town (which of course we agreed to) and we also went out an extra night for our anniversary.

Anyway, here’s what we’re planning for this week:
– Pasta with Alfredo Sauce
– Tacos
– Halibut with Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa

I’m not making any promises this week, but I’m really hoping that starting next week we can get back on track. Thanks again for sticking with me through the sparse posts. Until next time, happy eating!

Lately, Billy and I have been paying extra attention to what we eat. Not necessarily to make big changes in our diet, but to be aware of what we’re eating and to try to stay on a healthy track. My opinion has always been, if you’re cooking it…it’s probably a lot healthier than going out to eat. Which is true, for the most part. But, I decided to go out and buy a few healthy-eating cookbooks anyway to make sure that we are actually on the right page.

We made this shrimp curry recipe that’s featured in a book by the American Institute for Cancer Research called The New American Plate. The book is awesome! It’s more than a cookbook, actually. It’s got a pretty long introduction section that explains why American’s are more unhealthy and overweight than ever. It also explains how to prepare a “proper” meal with the right portions of meats and veggies. Anyway, the shrimp curry recipe was really good, and can easily be altered to include the meats and veggies you like most.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 tbsp cornstarch
– 2 tsp curry powder (or more if you like)
– 1/2 tsp sugar
– 1 tbsp (reduced-sodium) soy sauce
– 3/4 cup chicken broth
– 3 tsp oil (the recipe calls for canola or peanut, two of the healthiest oils, but whatever you have on hand is fine)
– 8 asparagus spears, cut into one inch pieces
– 1 bell pepper, diced
– 1/4 lb (about 20) sugar snap peas strings on both edges removed
– 2 tsp peeled ginger, minced
– 1 large garlic clove, minced
– 3/4 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (the frozen package will do)
– rice or noodles

The first thing you’ll do is prepare the curry sauce. To do this, combine the cornstarch, curry powder and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Next, add the soy sauce and combine, then add the chicken broth and give it one final whisk. Set the mixture aside.

In a wok or high-sided skillet, heat 1 tsp of the oil over very high heat. Add all of the veggies (including the ginger and garlic) to the pan and saute until everything had turned bright, about two minutes. (If you like any of the veggies cooked through a little more, add those to the pan first.) Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil (2 tsp) in the same pan, still over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook on each side until they turn pink, about one minute per side. Return the veggies to the pan and pour in the curry sauce (stir it up if it’s separated a little). Bring to a boil and simmer for about two or three minutes until the shrimp is cooked through and the sauce thickens.

Shrimp Curry over Udon Noodles

Shrimp Curry over Udon Noodles

You’d never know this is a “healthy” meal. While we were cooking, I kept thinking, “This isn’t any different from a normal night for us….” Which is, of course, a good thing considering we’re trying to make sure to eat healthy meals. The biggest difference we did notice is the proportion of veggies compared to the shrimp. But, according to the book, your plate should be 2/3 veggies and starches and 1/3 meat…so I guess that’s how all recipes from this book will be. No big deal, really.

But really, the shrimp were so tender and all the veggies were perfectly cooked — still crunchy and fresh, but cooked enough to not have that raw taste. The curry sauce was so flavorful, and the Udon noodles we made on the side sopped it up nicely. I think next time we make it I would add more curry powder for a little extra flavor and maybe change up the veggies. But overall, a really great dish.

P.S. I also highly recommend The New American Plate Cookbook. It’s so informative and all of the recipes look really tasty. Plus, all of the nutritional information for the dishes is right there.

We’ve been looking for new recipes lately, and this was pretty much us just throwing stuff together and hoping it turned out okay. The idea actually came from a dish that Billy used to get at some Mexican restaurant in Colorado Springs…and it actually turned out pretty damn good! It’s basically some bone-in chicken breasts with a sauce made from tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and chipotle peppers.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– Bone-In Chicken Breasts (one per person)
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 bell peppers, cut into strips
– 1 can stewed tomatoes
– 1 or 2 chipotle peppers, finely chopped, plus adobo sauce
– 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped

Using a high-sided skillet, the first thing you want to do is brown the chicken breasts to get a crispy skin and to lock the juices in. Throw them in a hot pan with a little oil for a few minutes on each side, you’ll know when to turn them when they’re no longer sticking to the pan. Once browned on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside.

Next, saute the onions in the same pan (adding more oil if necessary) until translucent. Next, add the bell peppers and let them cook down, but not all the way through. Finally, add the tomatoes, serrano pepper, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken back to the pan, lower the heat and cover the pan to let everything simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Mexican Chicken over Rice

Mexican Chicken over Rice

For making something up with nothing to go off of…this turned out pretty awesome! (All thanks to Billy, of course.) The entire dish had a bite to it, thanks to the serrano and chipotle peppers with adobo sauce, but was evened out by the acidity of the tomatoes. The smoked flavor of the adobo sauce gave the dish the familiar smokiness of classic Mexican dishes. The onions and bell peppers gave the dish a little crunch, while the tomato sauce was perfect for sopping up with some rice. This dish is definitely a do-over!

It’s the last week of short menus for us…at least for a week or so. We’ve only got three meals this week since we’re planning on eating out for our anniversary next weekend, but we’re trying all new things again this week.

Here’s what we’ve got going:
– Chicken with Mexican Tomato Sauce and Rice (carryover from last week)
– Curried Shrimp with Asian Veggies and Udon Noodles
– Chicken, Red Pepper and Tomato Pilaf

Hopefully I can keep up with the blog better this week since we don’t have a ton of family in town. Thanks for sticking with me through it though! Ciao.

Apparently we’ve been in a grilling mood. I guess we’re trying to catch up on all the grilling we didn’t do over the summer. At least the weather is still good. It takes a pretty good chef to be able to call your dishes “the ultimate,” but I think Tyler Florence has the chops. His book, Tyler’s Ultimate, has “the ultimate” recipe for everything. Let me tell you, his grilled shrimp with lemon-basil butter stuffing were amazing.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 stick butter, softened (make sure it’s not melted)
– a large bunch of fresh basil
– the juice of 1 lemon
– salt and pepper
– 16 large jumbo shrimp, shells on and split down the back

This recipe is really easy, but it takes some time to individually stuff each shrimp. We ended up with a really good system where one of us would put a drop of butter under each shell and the other would rub it around a bit. However it gets done, make sure you’re not shy with the butter because it gives the shrimp so much flavor. To make the butter, throw the softened stick, basil, lemon juice and salt and pepper into a food processor and puree until smooth. Stuff the butter under the shells of the shrimp, about a half a teaspoon for each shrimp.

Lemon-Basil Butter

Lemon-Basil Butter

Heat the grill over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray so the shrimp don’t stick. Once the grill is hot, throw the shrimp on and don’t touch until they’re ready to flip, about three minutes. Baste them with more butter as they begin to cook, then flip. Baste again and let them cook through, about another three minutes. Simple as that!

The Ultimate Shrimp

The Ultimate Shrimp with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Leaving the shells on the shrimp while they’re grilling gives them so much extra flavor, but nothing can top the amazing flavor from the lemon-basil butter. The shrimp had such a buttery flavor, but the flavors of the lemon and basil resonated throughout the meat of the shrimp. I’ve had grilled shrimp before, but there’s no doubt that these are truly the ultimate grilled shrimp.

Well, sort of. Over the weekend, we found this smoke box attachment type thing made for a regular gas or charcoal grill that basically gives you all the great flavors of smoked food without the smoker. (There are other ways of doing this, such as cooking your food directly on a wood plank, but we had never seen a box made for wood chips.) The box is pretty small, about 10 inches long and one or two inches deep, but it fits right in between the burners on a gas grill. You fill it with wood chips that have been soaked for at least 30 minutes, set it on a pre-heated grill and let it heat up until the chips start to smoke. It’s really simple to use and the salmon came out extra delicious.

Apple Wood Chips in the Smoke Box

Apple Wood Chips in the Smoke Box

We used apple wood for our Atlantic salmon fillet (at the recommendation of Bobby Flay). We soaked the chips for 30 minutes in a cup with another cup set on top to hold them down. While the chips were soaking, we seasoned the salmon with salt, pepper, garlic powder and lemon zest and rubbed in a thin layer of olive oil so the fillet wouldn’t stick to the grill. Billy pre-heated the grill, I drained the wood chips and put them in an even layer in the smoke box then placed the box in between two burners on the grill. With the grill closed, the wood chips began to heat up and started smoke away. After about 10 minutes we could smell the apply goodness…it was time to put the salmon on the grill! Billy put the salmon, skin side down, on the grill, closed the top and let the smoke box do its thing.

Salmon, Zucchini and Mr. Smoke Box on the Grill

Salmon, Zucchini and Mr. Smoke Box on the Grill

When the salmon was about half-way cooked, Billy quickly flipped it (have to get those perfect grill marks!) then shut the grill again in order to keep as much smoke in the grill as possible.

The fish was amazing. It was cooked perfectly, thanks to Billy of course, and had a subtle smoked flavor. Conclusion about the smoke box experiment: awesome deliciousness! We thought that maybe letting the food cook low and slow may give it more of a traditional smoked flavor, but the box is perfect for infusing food with a great smoky flavor. We served the salmon with grilled zucchini and quinoa (instead of rice or potatoes).

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This was also our first time trying quinoa. It was…interesting. The texture was pretty close to rice, but it had a small bite to it. It didn’t have much flavor on it’s own, but we tried to boost it up with some salt, pepper, chili powder and lemon zest. Definitely will be using it again, but will need more flavoring ideas…anybody have some they’d like to pass along?

Well…sort of. This weeks (and next) menu is really short due to multiple weekends of family being in town. Good news is, Saturday Billy and I are having the whole family over for a surprise dinner!

Nevertheless, here’s what we’ve got going this week:
– Grilled Salmon with Quinoa and Grilled Zucchini
– Chicken with some kind of Mexican Tomato Sauce and Rice
– Grilled Shrimp with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

All three recipes are things we’ve never done before. We found a Bobby Flay smoke box attachment for the grill and bought some wood chips so we’re going to try smoking the salmon and we’re trying a “stuffed” shrimp recipe from Tyler Florance. As for the Mexican chicken…well, Billy’s trying to recreate something he used to eat up in Colorado all the time. So anyway, I’m planning to blog on all three things. Wish us luck! Until next time, happy eating! Ciao.

We don’t frequently make Chinese food at home, but when we do it always turns out pretty darn good (and probably a whole hell of a lot healthier). The few things that we have tried haven’t been very difficult either. The perfect example is stir fry…all you need is a bunch of veggies, some meet (which isn’t even necessary, really) and some noodles or rice. We use store-bought stir fry sauce to flavor it because we haven’t yet found a way to get the flavors correct without the sauce.

Here’s what we like to put in our Chinese stir fry: (I’m not putting any exact measures because you can put as much or as little of everything as you like…it’s all about preference when it comes to dishes like this.)
– chicken, steak or shrimp
– onions
– bell peppers
– snap peas
– baby corn (we use the canned kind because it’s a lot easier to find)
– watercress
– stir fry noodles (we usually find these in the produce section…weird, I know)
– rice

We usually cook the meat first then take it out of the wok (or pan) to cook all the veggies. Cook the meat in a very hot pan until it’s just about cooked all the way through (you don’t want it completely cooked so that when its added back at the end it doesn’t get over done) then remove and set aside. Keeping the pan very hot, add the onions and cook until the start to turn translucent. This won’t take very long since the pan is still hot from cooking the chicken. Next, add the bell peppers and let them cook down a little bit. Once the onions and peppers have cooked to the consistency you like, add the rest of the veggies to the pan (if you have mushrooms or anything else that needs to cook down, add those before adding the veggies that just need to be heated and not cooked). Once all the veggies are cooked through, add as much of the stir fry sauce as you like. Mix everything together and add the meat back into the pan, adding more sauce if necessary. Once the meat is heated and finishes cooking, you’re done!

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We like to mix in some noodles, but you can simply just serve the stir fry mixture over rice and/or noodles. We love making this because it’s so easy, really tasty and a lot healthier (and cheaper!) than going out for Chinese food. Plus…you can make it any way you like, with any veggies and any meat that you prefer.