Pickled Cucumber and Radish


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With Memorial Day weekend upon us, I wanted to post another healthy side dish option for you to balance out the carb and mayo laden dishes you're sure to face at BBQ's.  Don't get me wrong, I love carbs and mayo, but I also like to have some balance.

Before I get to the recipe, if you're still looking for other healthy side dish ideas, check out these salads Spinach, Fruit and Cheese Salad, Balsamic Strawberry Couscous Salad, Honey Mustard Cole Slaw, Black Bean and Corn Salad and Knock-off Tabbouleh.  And while I'm at it, this Strawberry Shortcake would make a great dessert if you're still searching for one.

When I made the Shrimp and Peas Pasta Salad I had a hard time thinking of what to serve with it.  While it could stand on it's own, I need some variety in my meal.  Since it already contained protein, vegetables, starch and fat, I was stumped.

I recalled the last bunch of radishes I threw away and challenged myself to use them up here.  While we like radishes, they aren't our preferred vegetable so they tend to get pushed to the bottom of the produce drawer.  Once they land there, they sit there, for weeks.  Then I can't figure out what's at the bottom of the produce drawer, and that's not pretty.  I wasn't going to let that happen again.

Enter this pickled salad for which I had all the ingredients on hand.  I added red onion and this became a perfect accompaniment to the pasta salad, ever so slightly sweet without the pungency of raw onion.  This is a very refreshing salad that I can see making again this summer to balance out the starchy, mayo laden, summer salads.  I may play around with it by adding some fresh herbs as well.

This was better the 2nd day, so I would recommend you make it the night before you plan to serve it.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup thin radish slices
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil.  Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool.

Combine cucumber, radish and onion in a bowl.  Pour cooled liquid over vegetables.  Stir, place in a airtight container with a tight fitting lid.  

Refrigerate, shaking the container every once in a while to move the liquid around.  Serves 3.

Shrimp and Peas Pasta Salad with Buttermilk-Herb Dressing


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It just so happened we had a late work night the day I planned to make this pasta salad I had seen in Cooking Light's June 2011 magazine for dinner.  Needless to say, I was starving by the time I left work and that usually means I'd order take-out to pick up on my way home.  While take-out was tempting, I knew this recipe was planned for dinner and I thought I could make it quicker than I could gnaw my arm off.

My arm is still attached!  And I am so glad this won over take-out!  Not only is this easy to make, it is packed with flavor and what I would consider it fairly healthy.  I used whole grain pasta and mayonnaise with olive oil.   

Here is what you'll need:
  • 8 ounces uncooked medium shell pasta (I use whole grain)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 lb small-medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used the small, sweet, pink Maine shrimp)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise with olive oil
  • 1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 3 Tbsp minced fresh chives
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions, adding the shrimp and peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process.  Allow to set in order to drain off excess water.

While pasta is draining and cooling, in a mixing bowl combine remaining ingredients.

Add cooled pasta, shrimp and peas to mixing bowl.  Toss to combine well and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.  Serves 3-4 as a main dish.

Chicken Piccata


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I don't know if this happens to you, but when I return from vacation it takes me a day or two to get back into the kitchen.  Then when I do, I want to start with something easy which usually involves pasta.  We recently returned from a vacation that was everything but relaxing, so it was no surprise that it took me a few days to get back in the kitchen. 

I'm not sure why or how I got chicken piccata stuck in my head since I had never eaten it before.  In my search I struggled to decide between Ina's recipe and Giada's recipe, but i ended up following Giada's after reading that Ina's wasn't traditional.  Bonus, it fit my returning from vacation criteria, easy and pasta!

This was a great meal to get me back in the kitchen.  It's so simple to pull together, with bold fresh flavors.  I paired it with fresh angel hair pasta and we skipped a vegetable side tonight!  I think this would also go well with rice.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Season the flour with salt and pepper. 

Melt 2 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. 

Coat both sides of chicken breasts with flour mixture, shake off excess and place in frying pan.  Be sure not to overcrowd the frying pan.  Cook on first side ~3-4 minutes until browned.  Flip chicken onto second side and cook ~3-4 minutes until browned.  Once browned on both sides, remove from pan.  You may need to do this step several batches based on the size of your pan.

Reduce heat to medium.  Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, chicken stock, capers and parsley to the pan.  Combine and heat through 2 minutes.  Add 2 Tbsp butter to the pan, melt and whisk until well blended.  

Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add chicken back to the pan, cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Serves 4.

    Latin Style Beans


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    While I've always eaten different types of rice and beans, I hadn't ventured into cooking much and rarely ate these two ingredients together..  That all changed pretty quickly when I met my husband, I needed to learn some basic recipes to keep him satisfied in between trips to his parents (to eat Mami's cooking!).

    Early on in our relationship, he would do some of the cooking and this is one of the recipes he taught me.  Somehow, I've become the one that cooks this, and every meal now (JR, what happened?), and I've put my own spin on this dish.  I've learned that pretty much every Latin household has their own spin on this as well.


    This has become a part of our regular rotation, and I finally took the time to measure so I could share it with you.  I know this picture isn't pretty (I'm still working on my photo and editing skills), but I hope that doesn't stop you from making this dish. 

    Here is what you'll need:
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4 cup sofrito or recaito
    • 2/3 cup diced ham
    • 2 carrots, diced
    • 1 potato, diced
    • 4 oz mushrooms, diced
    • 3/4 cup chicken stock
    • 1 packet Sazon
    • 1/2 tsp adobo
    • 4 oz. tomato sauce
    • 15 oz. can of beans, drained and rinsed
    In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add sofrito and cook until fragrant.

    Add ham and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  Add carrots, potato and mushrooms.  Continue cooking until slightly browned.

    Add chicken stock, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking ~5 minutes until vegetables are halfway cooked through.

    Add remaining ingredients, stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover and allow to simmer 10 minutes..  You will want to be sure there is enough liquid throughout the cooking process.  If the liquid has reduced too much, add chicken stock or water (we like our beans a little soupy) to keep the beans from mashing together.

    After 10 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Serves 4.

      Stovetop Mac and Cheese


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      I know I said healthy recipes until vacation, but I did cook a few indulgences as well.  My theory is all things in moderation.  When I made the BBQ Meatloaf, I'm sure you saw Alton Brown's Stovetop Mac and Cheese that I served as a side. 

      Alton really knows what he is doing here!  This dish is delicious, easy to make and is ready in a fraction of the time it takes to make baked macaroni and cheese.  Plus, you only use one pot!  Usually I'm using 3; the pot to boil pasta, pot to make sauce and a baking dish.  I must warn you though, there is one bad thing about this dish, you will want to make it every week because it is so good and such a cinch to pull together!

      Don't be afraid to use whatever cheese you have on hand.  I've made this several times, using different cheeses, and each time it has come out great.  This time I used leftover cheddar, Dubliner and Monterey Jack cheeses. 

      Here is what you'll need:
      • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
      • 4 tablespoons butter
      • 2 eggs
      • 6 ounces evaporated milk
      • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
      • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
      • Fresh black pepper
      • 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
      • 10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
      In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta until al dente, then drain.  Return pasta to the pot, add butter and melt.  Stir to be sure all pasta is coated.

      In a small bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard.  Add to the pasta, stirring well.  Add cheese to the pasta and stir well.

      Turn heat on low and cook pasta for 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and creamy.  Serves 4.

      Gallo Pinto (Costa Rican rice and beans)


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      As you're reading this post, I'm in Costa Rica and perhaps I have eaten this dish today.  Last weekend, I started getting really excited about our upcoming trip so I decided to make a traditional Costa Rican breakfast for us to chat over as we planned the final details of our trip.  Gallo pinto is part of the traditional Costa Rican breakfast, and in preparation of our trip I decided to try my hand at cooking it. 

      As you can imagine, just like with any traditional dish, there are several variations to be found.  I settled on this one, and am really glad I did.  We eat a lot of rice and bean dishes, and this may be my favorite yet.  The big distinction in this preparation is that some of the vegetables are added close to the end of cooking which helps them retain their freshness and add so much flavor.  I can't wait to see how close this dish comes to the real thing. 

      Here is what you'll need:
      • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
      • 1 cup Goya medium grain white rice
      • salt to taste
      • 1 small or medium onion, diced and divided
      • ½ small red bell sweet pepper, diced and divided
      • 3 tsp chopped fresh cilantro 
      • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
      • 1 cup, 1/2 can, black beans, liquid reserved
      In a large pan on medium high heat, add 2 Tbsp olive oil and saute dry rice for 2 minutes, stirring as needed.  Add salt.  Add 1/2 of the diced onion, 1/2 of the diced pepper and cilantro to the pan and saute minutes, stirring as needed.

      Add chicken broth to the pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes, resist any urges to lift the cover, until rice is tender.

      Once rice is done, push rice to the edges of the pan leaving a well in the middle.  Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the pan inside the well, add remaining onion, pepper and beans.  Stir and saute for 2 minutes.  Add 1/4-1/2 cup of liquid from the beans to moisten the mixture and give it color.  Serves 4.

      Garbanzos and Smoked Sausage


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      I had no intention of blogging this dish until I was in the middle of cooking it and the house smelled amazing!  I'm a big fan of Meseidy from The Noshery blog.  When she posted this recipe it went on my long list of meals to make.  I am so glad that this made its way to the top rather quickly since JR and I love garbanzos.  This was a winner and will definitely become part of our meal rotation.

      Recently JR asked me to cut back on the spiciness in our dinners, so I substituted a smoked sausage for the chorizo.  I also cut back the amount of garbanzos used and served this over rice.  The only thing this meal was missing was a side of avocado!

      This would also make a great vegetarian meal by omitting the sausage, increasing the garbanzos and using vegetable broth.

      The changes I made are included here:
      • 1 Tbsp olive oil
      • 12 oz. smoked turkey sausage, sliced
      • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
      • 1 medium onion, diced
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
      • 1 Tbsp capers
      • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
      • 1 15oz can garbanzo beans
      • 1 cup tomato sauce
      • 1/2 cup chicken stock
      • 2 roma tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced (or 1/2 cup of canned diced tomatoes)
      Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and brown on both sides.  Remove sausage from pan and set aside.

      Add pepper, onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown.  Add cilantro, stir and allow to cook 1 minute.

      Add capers, vinegar, beans, tomato sauce, chicken stock and tomatoes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

      Add sausage to pan, stir and allow to simmer an additional 10-15 minutes.  Serve over rice if desired.  Serves 4.

      Source: Adapted from The Noshery

        Balsamic Strawberry Coucous Salad


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        I just love spring and summer salads.  Today I made 3 of them; fruit salad, potato salad and this Balsamic Strawberry Couscous Salad which I found on Prevention RD blog.  I could have happily eaten spinach, strawberry and goat cheese salad for lunches again this week, however, I decided to switch it up which helps keep me from getting bored.

        I made a couple changes to the recipe.  I used black beans, since I had 1/2 a can leftover, and an herbed goat cheese, since I had no fresh herbs on hand.  And since I'm on a spinach kick, that made a perfect bed for this salad.  This is absolutely delicious, and will keep me fueled this week.

        My changes are included here:
        • 1 1/3 water
        • 1/2 tsp olive oil
        • salt to taste
        • 1 cup dry couscous, prepared according to directions
        • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
        • 1 tsp sugar
        • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
        • 1 Tbsp olive oil
        • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
        • 2 oz herbed goat cheese, crumbled
        • Baby spinach leaves
        • Scallions for garnish
        Bring water, olive oil and salt to a bowl in a small saucepan.  Add couscous, turn off heat, cover and allow to cook 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

        Place strawberries in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with sugar and balsamic vinegar.  Set aside a few minutes, until couscous is cool.

        Add couscous, beans and goat cheese to strawberries, carefully mixing to combine.

        Serve over spinach, which a few snips of scallions for garnish.  Serves 4.

        Bloggers Bake for Hope



        Tomorrow is the Bloggers Bake for Hope bake sale!  I'm really excited to participate in this event in honor of my sister-in-law, Elisa, and in memory of my dear friend, Janis.  I hope you will consider bidding, as well as sharing this information with your friends and family.  You can see the items for sale by clicking on this image: