Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hawaiian Island Dip

This recipe is an old family favorite. My mom and aunt have been making it for a long time, but only recently did I decide to give it a try at my latest party. When you look at the ingredients, it seems an odd combination. Honestly, when my mom told me the ingredients, I thought she was joking...pineapple, green onion, and green pepper? Eh....I'm not sure sure...

Boy was I wrong!! This dip is as good as I remember. Sweet, slightly spicy, and completely addicting. I had to store it in the fridge so I didn't eat it all before our guests came!

Oh, and my mom swears that it's even better if you use Pepperidge Farm butterfly shaped crackers...she claims they are not only "prettier for company" but they are sturdier and hold up if you can find them (I couldn't...) then get those to go with this super easy, crazy delicious dip.

Hawaiian Island Dip

2 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large can crushed pineapple, drained very well
3 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix until well blended. Store in the refrigerator, at least 1 hour (it's best overnight or even 1 day ahead). Serve with crackers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grilled Basil Shrimp

Another great way to fill up but not fill out during summer is to cook and enjoy shrimp. Shrimp is so versatile because it absorbs the flavors around it. This makes it perfect for a rich and delicious marinade.

This grilled basil shrimp combines the freshness of lemon and basil with the savory flavors of garlic and spicy brown mustard. These shrimp are the perfect topping for pasta or a salad or as an elegant, yet simple, appetizer for a party!

Grilled Basil Shrimp

1lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 T. spicy brown mustard
3 T. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 T. garlic, minced
1/3 C. fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 1/2 T. butter, melted
2 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
Wooden skewers

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, lemon juice, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, melted butter, and oil. Whisk to combine well. Add the shrimp and marinate in the refrigerator 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Remove shrimp from marinade and thread onto the wooden skewers. Discard marinade. Lightly oil grill grates and arrange skewers on grill. Grill 4-5 min., turning once, or until opaque.

*Note: Grilling really lends the best flavor. To cook indoors, saute shrimp by removing from marinade and cooking in skillet over medium-high heat for 5 mins. or until opaque, making sure to turn shrimp while cooking.

Serve with a side of linguini, over salad, or as an appetizer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lemon Herb Pork Chops

During the summer, I just can't seem to get enough lemon! There's just something about it's bright, tartness that it adds to food (especially pork) that make me think of summer grilling. This recipe is a really flavorful and light summer meal. With all of the party recipes I've had coming your way, I thought I should help you (and myself!)out and lighten things up a bit!

The pork is incredibly juicy and the lemon-herb combination makes light, yet flavor-packed meal. I served this with marinated grilled veggies and it was perfect for a hot summer night. Grilling outside helps to not heat up your house, but you could always saute the chops in a pan with a little bit of nonstick spray.

With just a few ingredients, these pork chops are also really fast for a quick weeknight meal!

Lemon Herb Pork Chops

4 pork chops
4 T. lemon juice
2 T. Canola oil (or other light oil, like vegetable oil)
1 T. garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp pepper

In a ziplock bag, combine the lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, oregano, and pepper. Seal and shake to combine well. Add the pork chops and marinate at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates to prevent sticking. Grill the pork chops 5-7 minutes per side until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Asian Pork Tenderloin

Besides chicken, I think pork tenderloin is my favorite thing to grill. Although steak and chicken are wonderful, I think that pork tenderloin give you the opportunity to infuse great flavors into the meat. Plus, sometimes I just get so sick of chicken!

This recipe was very simple and perfect for summer. I combined all of the ingredients in the morning and let them marinate the pork all day. By dinnertime, the tenderloin was tender (duh), juicy, and so flavorful. Plus, pork tenderloin is also a healthier option for someone who wants a lot of flavor, little fat, but is sick of chicken. Pair this with some rice and asparagus and you've got a wonderful summer meal that won't leave you feeling guilty.

Asian Pork Tenderloin

2 pork tenderloins (typically 2 tenderloins come in 1 package)

For the marinade/sauce:
4 T soy sauce
4 T teriyaki sauce
2 T brown sugar
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 T ketchup
1 T garlic, minced
4 T honey
1 T onion, minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Remove 1/4 cup of marinade and save to baste the tenderloin later. Add the tenderloins and marinate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat grill to medium heat. Remove tenderloins from marinade and place on oiled grill. Discard marinade from meat. Grill for 8-10 minutes on each side, basting with reserved marinade/sauce, until a meat thermometer reads 150 degrees and juices run clear. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

Almond Joy Truffles

When I saw these truffles, I just knew I had to make them. Almond Joy candy bars are irresistible to me and I have to have one or two...or twelve. I have even been known to raid Halloween bags for them. So although these truffles were my first attempt at making any kind of truffle, the recipe seemed easy enough. Thankfully, they turned out great and taste really close to the candy bar!

With 5 simple ingredients, a little messy rolling, and BAM! Heaven in a ball. These went really fast at my last get-together and my husband even found the ones I was hiding in the back of the fridge. (I have to find a new hiding place!!) Try these out as a special treat or a gift - they stand up really well to packing and storing.

Almond Joy Truffles

1/3 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
20 salted almonds, whole
1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut, toasted*

In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, heat cream and butter until hot. Turn heat off, and stir in chocolate until melted. Chill chocolate in the freezer or refrigerator until firm (about 2 hours). Roll chocolate into 20 balls and place almonds in the centers of them. Roll truffles into coconut.

*To toast the coconut, place in a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir occasionally but keep your eye on it. As the moisture is drawn out of the coconut, it will turn a beautiful golden brown.

Makes 20 truffles

Adapted slightly from Sugar Plum

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

California Chicken Salad

With all of the parties and get-togethers over the summer, it's hard to it's hard to eat at picnics, restaurants, and parties without feeling the effects of all those calories. So in order to balance all of the delicious party food and desserts, I try to keep my at-home meals lighter. But, something lighter and healthy doesn't mean that it has to be boring or bland.

This California Chicken Salad is the perfect summer lunch or light dinner. It forgoes the mayo for smooth yogurt and pesto. Plus, any cravings get met by adding in the sweetness of dried cranberries and just a few candied pecans (come on, a little sweetness never hurt anyone!). This chicken salad was fantastic over some wedges of pita bread but would also be great over a salad (Chicken Salad Salad, anyone?) or as a sandwhich - however you choose to eat it, it's a great summer meal that won't leave you feeling guilty!

California Chicken Salad

1 1/2 C. Cooked chicken breast, chopped
1/2 C. prepared pesto
1/2 C. plain, nonfat or lowfat yogurt
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 C. dried cranberries
1/4 C. candied pecans

In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt and pesto well. Add the chicken, green onion, cranberries and pecans and mix very well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pita bread or a salad. Enjoy!

Toffee Mascarpone Fudge Bars

For a 4th of July party this past weekend, I decided to forgo the traditional fruit-based desserts and go rich....really rich. I made Toffee Mascarpone Fudge Bars. They combine the crunchiness of toffee with smooth, rich chocolate. They were a big hit but are definitely best served indoors and away from the humidity! These indulgent little bars are so good, rich, and delicious that a little goes a long way...unless you're like me and keep going back for seconds...and thirds!

Regardless if you are going to a party or just want a dreamy, rich dessert to have around the house, this recipe is a real winner. It's deceptively simple, too, which is an added bonus with the busy summer months. Just be sure to truly let the chocolate set up in the refrigerator before you start in on these - it'll be worth the wait!

*Note: the recipe below is for a 7x10 3/4 pan. This recipe can easily be doubled for a 13x9 pan - this is what I did for the party and just got thicker, richer bars. Your choice!

Toffee Mascarpone Fudge Bars

Vegetable cooking spray
1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough, at room temperature
2 (1.4-ounces) chocolate-toffee candy bars, coarsely chopped, divided (*You can add more if you really love toffee!)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 C. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 C. (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/4 C. salted almonds, chopped

Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 7 by 10 3/4-inch nonstick baking pan with vegetable cooking spray. Lay a 6 by 18-inch piece of parchment paper in the pan, allowing the excess paper to overhang the sides. Spray the parchment paper lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the cookie dough, 1/2 of the chopped chocolate-toffee candy pieces and vanilla extract. Using damp fingers, gently press the dough into the prepared pan. Using the tines of a fork, prick the dough all over. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the crust is lightly browned. Cool for 15 minutes.

Place the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a medium bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted. Cool the chocolate mixture for 10 minutes. Whisk in the mascarpone cheese until the mixture is smooth. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate mixture over the cooled crust. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate-toffee candy pieces and chopped almonds over the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the chocolate layer is firm.

Peel off the parchment paper and cut into 1 inch by 1 inch bars. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rustic Tuscan Bake

This recipe is the perfect blend of rustic, Italian flavors and the comforts of a warm, home-cooked casserole. The spicy andouille sausage is the perfect compliment to the creamy white beans, tender carrots, and sweet sun-dried tomatoes. Although it's a little different, I was really happy with the way this recipe turned out. It's definitely a different twist on the traditional casserole. It goes perfectly with a crusty baguette and a glass of red wine.

Rustic Tuscan Bake
1 lb. Andouille sausage, sliced
1 T. roasted garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 C. pesto
2 C. carrots
2 C. white beans
1 C. sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C. asiago cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine garlic, salt, pepper, and pesto. Mix well. Add the sausage, carrots, beans, and tomatoes and mix well. Spread the mixture into a lightly greased 13x9 pan. Sprinkle with asiago cheese. Cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is slightly golden on top.