Seafood Paella

My dad came to visit us after we moved to our new place, and I knew I wanted to spend some time cooking with him. He’s the one who taught me to experiment in the kitchen and not to stress about a missing ingredient or precise cooking times. Exact measurements are usually pointless and recipes are really more like guidelines. With the exception of baking, I tend to find this attitude makes my cooking so much less stressful.

When my dad came up to visit, I knew I wanted to capitalize on our mutual love of seafood. I’ve been wanting to try making paella for years and figured this was the perfect opportunity. Andrew and I took my dad to Harbor Fish, our favorite fish market in Portland. Narrowing down the options was the hardest part! The nice thing about paella is that it’s flexible in the type and quantity of seafood. This recipe may not be 100% authentic, but it’s delicious! It takes some time to make, but the effort is worth it, and much easier if you have a helper. This made 4 BIG servings plus leftovers. I was a little lazy – forgot the peas and skipped the herbs – but please add something green so it looks less bland.

 

Seafood Paella

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb. sea scallops, cubed
1 lb. mild white fish (I used halibut), cubed
2 lb. mussels, cleaned

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
5 c. fish stock (chicken or vegetable will work too)
1 tsp. saffron threads
1 c. frozen peas

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion, red bell pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic in the oil until softened. In a separate pot, heat the stock over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, season well with salt, and cook just until pink. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the shrimp to a heated bowl.

In the meantime, set a heat-proof colander full of the mussels over the stock pot and cover. Cook until mussels open, 10-15 minutes, then move mussels to the heated bowl with the shrimp. Dad and I opted to remove them from their shells, but if you like the prettier presentation, feel free to leave them in.

Add the rice and saffron to the pan with the vegetables and toast, stirring for several minutes. Add the wine, stirring well. (You should be recognizing my risotto method at this point!)

Once the mussels are cooked, remove the colander from the stock pot and begin adding the broth to the rice, a cup at a time. Allow the liquid to be fully absorbed before adding more.

When all the liquid has been absorbed, the rice should be creamy with a very slight bite to it. At this point, add the raw scallops, raw fish, and frozen peas to the pan, stir to incorporate, and cover. Allow to cook five minutes or so – just until the fish and scallops are opaque. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve on heated plates, preferably garnished with fresh herbs.

Posted in rice, seafood | Leave a comment

Picnic Musings

It’s Memorial Day weekend and Andrew and I are heading “up north” to go camping. No matter what your plans are, I hope they include a picnic – I loooove cookout food! If you’re looking for some ideas on new things to make and bring along to a get together this weekend, look no further!

I’ll be doing a lot of this:

I’ll also be cooking over our camp stove and an open fire, so some of these aren’t options for me. I like to plan ahead for camping and tend bring things I’ve made at home – cold salads, pre-cooked ground beef (for taco pockets!), desserts. The options I’m providing here are more suited to picnics, cookouts, and simple summer dinners than they are to camping.

Olive Broils are a tasty appetizer with just five ingredients (some of which you probably have on hand!) that are a hit at every gathering. The best part is that they require no baking, just a quick broil, so the oven doesn’t need to stay on for any length of time.

Gorgonzola Spinach Turkey Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries are a healthy alternative to beef that don’t require you to sacrifice flavor. Top the burgers with caramelized onions and you’ll have a new cookout favorite!

Cold Curry Peanut Noodles are a fun spin on pasta salad and incredibly delicious, even as leftovers!

Tabbouleh is a non-traditional salad that is cool and refreshing. Such a great way to add some much-needed GREEN to a typical cookout menu. Make it the day before to allow the flavors to marry.

S’mores Bars are a sweet ode to a childhood campsite favorite! Super chocolatey and so simple to make that you can throw them together for a last-minute cookout without breaking a sweat!

***Do you have exciting Memorial Day weekend plans? Gardening, camping, hitting the beach? Share your plans (for fun AND food) with me in the comments!***

Posted in holidays, summer | Leave a comment

Wednesday Yums

Just a little post to share some stuff I’ve been finding awesome lately!

Nasturtiums

These edible flowers are adorable – bright, springy, and yes, tasty too! Andrew’s cousin Elise gave me nasturtium plants when we went to visit over the weekend and I am so excited to see them flower and to come up with fun ways to eat them!

Super Easy Dinners

That’s right, here’s a recipe in the middle of a random post. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and throw a pound of boneless skinless chicken tenders onto it. Spray chicken with olive oil and sprinkle on your favorite seasoning (I used Old Bay). Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes (until chicken is cooked). In the meantime, boil a pound of pasta. Remove chicken from oven and shred with two forks. Toss pesto (store-bought is just fine, but if you have homemade, go for it) with the chicken and pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese for the easiest dinner ever.

Gaucho’s Churrascaria

Gaucho’s rocks! A Brazilian steakhouse on Commercial Street in Portland, the food is non-stop and it’s all delicious. Definitely a nice option for those who visit Maine but aren’t big seafood eaters. Twelve kinds of meat is only part of the story – there’s also a huge salad bar, tons of side options, and a nice wine and cocktail menu.

The String of Hope

I mentioned our cousin Elise earlier. I have been wanting to share with you that her daughter was recently diagnosed with lymphoma and is undergoing treatments in Boston. Mia is an awesome girl and it was her desire that we support something that isn’t all about her, or even all about cancer. She chose The String of Hope – a really great cause that focuses on bringing hope and compassion to those who have none. I’m loving the little reminder on my wrist that I am so blessed and so lucky to have love and hope in my life. Anything I can do to pass that on to other people, I’m willing to take part in. Check out The String of Hope when you have some time.

Have a great week! If you haven’t already, use the button on the right to friend TPF on Facebook – I’m hoping to showcase some more Portland restaurants and share more pictures with you there this summer.

Posted in chicken, it's not all about food, pasta | 2 Comments

Spicy Chicken Taco Cups

All right, if you never ever ever use store-bought anything, you’re going to want to turn away from this post right now and maybe read about the time I made Bouef Bourguignon from scratch, because I used *gasp* packaged crescent rolls. Things have been so busy since we moved and not only have I slacked on my blogging, I’ve gotten lazy about cooking dinner. It doesn’t help that Andrew has been out of town a lot for work – when he’s gone, I fall back on risotto and pasta, and you all definitely know how to make those if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time.  🙂

Andrew and I both love spicy tacos, and though I love “authentic” tacos made with carne asada or marinated fish, when I make them at home, I almost always go for ground meat. Ground chicken and turkey are good choices for us – with all the spicy seasonings, I really don’t miss the flavor that ground beef provides. Obviously, you can use whatever you want, but in the pictures of these taco cups, they are made with ground chicken.

Adobo sin pimienta is adobo without pepper – it’s a seasoning you can get in the grocery store, near the Mexican/Spanish ingredients. I love it on rice, pasta, polenta, and as a seasoning for meat. It’s just a blend of garlic, salt, oregano, and turmeric, so if you don’t want to buy it, you could always use the individual spices to your taste.

Spicy Chicken Taco Cups

1 lb. ground chicken breast
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. ancho chile powder
2 tbsp. fajita seasoning
2 tbsp. chipotle tabasco sauce
1 tbsp. adobo sin pimienta
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 package refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 c. shredded cheese

Remove crescent rolls from the refrigerator to allow them to warm up a bit. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with one rack in the center of the oven and the other directly under the broiler.

Spray a large pan with cooking spray (I use sprayable olive oil) and heat over medium-high. Add the chicken and break up with a spoon. Sprinkle all the spices over the chicken and stir to coat well. After the chicken is mostly cooked, cover the pan and turn the heat down to low.

Separate the crescent rolls. In an ungreased muffin tin, coil each roll into one muffin cup, pressing the seams together. Allow some of the roll to drape over the top of each cup.

Bake according to package directions (typically 375 degrees) for 2-4 minutes. At this point, the rolls puff and start to fill in the cup. Use a small ladle or something cylindrical (the bottom of my ice cream scoop well!) to hollow the cup out again. Bake another 8-10 minutes or until rolls are a light golden color.

Remove pan from the oven and switch the temperature to “broil”.

Fill each cup with the spicy meat mixture. Top with a sprinkling of cheese. Return pan to broiler for 1-2 minutes, just until cheese is melted.

Top with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, chopped green onions, or the garnish of your choice.

Posted in beef, chicken | 1 Comment

A great find

Since moving to Maine, I’ve had to revamp my grocery-buying habits. So far, my favorite haunt is Trader Joe’s. I know I’m late to the party on the TJ love, but the store near my old house was SO expensive. Now that I’ve moved to a higher cost of living area, I’m noticing that Joe’s is cheaper than the grocery store on a lot of items, and usually their food is better quality.

Anyway, I found something awesome there recently and just wanted to share.

Trader Joe’s Chocolate Cake Mix!

I love this cake mix! As mixes go, it’s a great option – it bakes up super moist, and as they brag on the box, will really fill your pan. I used the cake to make cakeballs, but it would be a great choice for any occasion.

Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Tell me about your favorite products in the comments!

Posted in shop | 1 Comment

Chocolate Cobbler

My friend Heather passed along this super simple recipe for Chocolate Cobbler from Tasty Kitchen several months ago. The recipe sat in my bookmarked folder for a few weeks and then, I suddenly needed to bring a dessert somewhere in an hour. This chocolate cobbler takes 15 minutes to put together and every ingredient is probably already in your pantry. Parts of it are soft cake, other parts are fudgy chocolate.

It’s kind of like a big pan of molten chocolate cake.

Nothing wrong with that.

Any time you need a chocolatey dessert, simply throw this together and pick up a half gallon of ice cream – perfection. I opted for mint chocolate chip – vanilla just seemed too cloyingly sweet when paired with this ridiculously gooey dessert.

Chocolate Cobbler

1 c. AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
7 tbsp. cocoa powder, divided
1-¼ c. sugar, divided
½ c. milk
⅓ c. melted butter
1-½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ c. light brown sugar, packed
1-½ c. hot tap water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, 3 tbsp. cocoa powder, and 3/4 cup sugar.

Pour in the milk, butter, and vanilla and stir until fully combined.

Transfer the batter to an ungreased 8″ baking dish – I have used the white Corningware pictured above and also a glass 8×8 square.

Mix the brown sugar with the remaining white sugar and the cocoa – sprinkle over the batter.

Pour the hot tap water over everything – do not touch! No stirring, no poking, just pour the water on top and leave it alone.

Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes or so.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This will be a short post, but I couldn’t let today go by without sharing these amazing cupcakes with you! Irish Car Bombs are a favorite of mine and you all know how I feel about dessert, so these deep dark chocolate stout cupcakes filled with a velvety whiskey ganache and topped with a sweet Bailey’s buttercream are right up my alley. SmittenKitchen has the recipe posted – my changes are as follows:

  • dark cocoa powder instead of regular for the cupcakes
  • Ghiardelli bittersweet chips instead of chopped chocolate for the ganache
  • used the full amount of whiskey and Irish cream

I opted to use the base of an icing tip to cut the holes in the cupcakes since I don’t have an apple corer or 1″ circle cookie cutter.

Look how dark these cupcakes are – the combination of the dark chocolate and the stout lend themselves to a rich, dark, dense cupcake – this might be my new favorite chocolate cake!

The first bite gives you rich cake, sweet coffee frosting (with a kick!), and that to-die-for whiskey ganache.

Yummmm, right?

Have a happy and safe St. Patty’s Day! Slàinte!

Posted in chocolate, cocktails, holidays | 4 Comments

Roast Pork Loin & An Update

You know it’s funny, when I first started cooking I was never intimidated by roasting a whole chicken or even a turkey, but a pork loin was a whole ‘nother story. I’ve talked to lots of people who don’t like the idea of cooking either one, but a lot of the time, our conversations are dedicated to whole poultry. I don’t get a lot of questions about roasting large pieces of pork or beef, and I’m guessing this is because most new cooks are just plain intimidated by the idea. I get it – trying something new can be scary, especially when messing it up results in a loss of dinner and an often expensive piece of meat.

That was how I felt when we first moved into our house – there were so many projects we wanted to tackle, but where to begin? And what if we made a major mistake and couldn’t fix it? It’s the pork loin principle – being so afraid of screwing up that you just skip it all together. There were certain things we couldn’t avoid fixing in the house though, so we did our research, talked to people who had done the projects before, and then blundered through the best we could…and guess what? Nothing was irreparably damaged. In fact, a lot of it came out great. In the three and a half years we’ve lived here, we have learned so much about how to do things for ourselves, and do them well.

refinishing furniture

re-insulating the attic

completely tearing off and replacing our roof

You know, just little projects.

So why am I telling you all this? You may have noticed a major slacking on my part in terms of blog posting, and that’s because we sold this house that we’ve poured so much blood, sweat and tears into. Things have been in an uproar as we moved halfway across the country and are just now getting settled in.

So. Yikes. It was scary to be staring down this huge move halfway across the country, out of the house we’ve lived in since before we were married. And into a much smaller kitchen. *sigh* That’s the one downside of our new place – the kitchen space. I’ll have to post about the adjustment!

I promise I’m getting to the roast pork loin. I love to buy these giant pork loins at the store – they are massive, but relatively affordable, and they make a million meals. Serve the roasted garlic alongside crusty bread for dipping. I typically freeze some of the leftovers for later use and use the rest to make Cuban sandwiches with.

Roast Pork Loin

10-12 pound boneless pork loin
3-5 pounds potatoes (red, gold, fingerling, blue, whatever you like), washed and roughly chopped
2 heads garlic
4-6 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 c. chicken or vegetable stock
dried thyme, rosemary, sage
olive oil
salt & pepper

First, let’s prep the garlic. Take one head of garlic and slice the top off. Pour a little olive oil into the open top, then wrap tightly in tinfoil. From the other head of garlic, remove 10 or so cloves. Peel and slice them in half, then set aside.

Use a paring knife to cut slices in the pork tenderloin. Push the knife straight in an inch or so, then stuff a piece of garlic into the slit. Repeat on all sides of the pork until garlic is gone.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss onions, carrots, and potatoes with olive oil to lightly coat. Season with salt, pepper, and dried spices. Position the pork fat side up on the roasting rack and drizzle with olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and dried spices.

Roast at 450 degrees for ten minutes. Add the chicken broth and cover pan with foil. Reduce heat to 250 degrees for an hour, or until the meat registers 150 on a meat thermometer. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Posted in comfort food, pork | 1 Comment

S’mores Bars

Are you looking for a new super simple dessert recipe? Something to keep in your back pocket for the next time someone says “CHOCOLATE” the next time you ask “what can I bring?” A quick and easy option comprised entirely of ingredients you probably keep on hand in your pantry?

Look, S’mores Bars ain’t fancy. But then, they aren’t pretending to be. And they don’t need to be. That’s because anything s’mores has something that fancy just doesn’t – nostalgia. This is a find from Annie’s Eats and though, like Annie, I didn’t really care for s’mores as a kid, now I happen to think they’re a great excuse to eat chocolate. Not that I ever really need one.

S’mores Bars

3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c. sweetened condensed milk
1 1/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 c. mini marshmallows
2 whole graham crackers, broken into pieces

Line an 8×8 pan with tinfoil (make sure to wrap it over the edges) and spray with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl, then stir in the graham cracker crumbs. I like to use a fork to make sure every last little crumb gets some buttery goodness. Dump the mixture into your prepped 8×8 and press the crumbs into an even layer. You can use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to help you.

Pour the condensed milk into a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate melts completely and it is completely smooth. Turn off the stove and stir in the vanilla and salt.

Here’s where you have to move fast – the chocolate will cool quickly. Pour over the graham cracker crust and smooth with a spatula. Top with the marshmallows – gently push them into the chocolate just a little bit so that they stick. Poke the graham cracker pieces into the chocolate.

Cover the pan with foil and stick it in the fridge for at least four hours – you want to give it ample time to set. Uncover and use those edges of the bottom tinfoil to lift the bars out of the pan. Cut into squares or rectangles and keep cool until ready to serve.

Posted in camping, chocolate | 2 Comments

Palmiers

You’ve heard about my love for Ezra Pound Cake before – remember that pumpkin soup? Everything I’ve tried from Rebecca’s website has been delish, and these palmiers are no exception. Oh, it’s pronounced “palm-yay” so now you can go ahead and pretend you’re fancy.

These are crunchy, puffy little curlicues of goodness. I’ve experimented with a few different combinations – the recipe I’m going to share will produce two different palmiers that are absolutely easy to put together and are a hit with everyone. Rebecca’s right – these are a great go-to appetizer that can use up whatever you’ve got in the fridge and pantry – extra spreads, nuts, veggies, anything is fair game! The pictures in this post are a variation on my recipe below – I mixed the prosciutto and chicken together, omitted the spinach and sun-dried tomato, and added in red onion. You can really put any of your favorite combinations in these and they’ll be delish.

Savory Palmiers

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
pesto (jarred is fine)
6-8 very thin slices prosciutto (get 1/4 lb. and eat the rest while you make these!)
1/4 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. fresh spinach, washed, dried, de-stemmed
6-8 thin slices deli sliced chicken breast
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

A package of puff pastry has two sheets in it – use one at a time and leave the other wrapped until you’re ready to work with it. Unfold the puff pastry sheet on a cutting board. Use a floured rolling pin to roll into a rectangle – you want it to be about 12″ long.

Spread a thin layer of pesto over the sheet – leave a 1/2″ border all the way around to prevent squishage. (Totally a word.) Lay the prosciutto in one layer over the pesto. Sprinkle with the walnuts and top with the spinach.

Roll the left side in towards the center, then repeat with the right. Continue rolling until the two sides meet in the middle. Flip the log over and lay seam side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Cover in plastic and place in the fridge.

Repeat with the second puff pastry – spread the pesto, top with chicken, then add sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Roll it up and add it to the pan in the fridge – let them chill for at least 45 minutes – you can go overnight if necessary.

When you are ready to bake them off, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the rolls from the fridge and put on the cutting board. Slice into 1/2″ pieces. Lay them face up on the parchment or silpat – leave 2″ or so of room between each one. Bake 15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.

Posted in appetizer, cheese, chicken, entertain, spinach | 1 Comment