Scenes from Aruba, part four

And of course, I’d have to do an Aruba food post…not every meal but here’s a few faves!

Grilled Grouper – nothing like fresh seafood

Dushi’s Mac Attack Burger – yes that’s right a perfect burger topped with Mac and Cheese – and bacon. I mean seriously, how can you see that and not order it? Yum!
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Superfood is an exceptional grocery store with an amazing bakery
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Dessert for breakfast, it’s a vacation, right?
A tradition from every trip to Aruba, Toasty Cheese at the Old Dutch Bar at the airport with a glass of wine before flying home.  Loaded with creamy, gooey Gouda, grilled Panini style.  It’s an end of vacation treat.  Until my next trip…..

Caprese-Style Chicken Flatbread

Having just created a new twist on my flatbread-for-one recipes, I wanted to share it with my followers.

Caprese-Style Chicken Flatbread

  • 1 flatbread
  • 1/2 c chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 1/4 c spiced ricotta (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 c chopped heirloom tomatoes
  • fresh basil and parsley leaves – torn
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c shredded mozarella
  • aged balsamic vinegar – to drizzle

Heat oven to 400. I use my cast iron skillet and like to preheat it for 5 minutes while prepping the flatbread and toppings.* Brush the bottom of the flatbread with a little olive oil. Place it into the skillet and bake for 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven and spread the ricotta, followed by the chicken and tomatoes, basil, parsley and mozzarella.  Drizzle balsamic over the top and return to the oven for 5-6 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

*Flatbreads can be done on a grill pan – or right on the grill.

Spicy Ricotta – enough for 4 flatbreads

  • 1 c ricotta
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • red pepper flakes – to taste
  • 1/4 t Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Seasoning
  • 2 t olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together. Refrigerate for an hour….overnight (even better).

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

Lately I’m a bit obsessed with flatbreads. Often its a challenge – what to make for a delicious dinner….for one person. Enter flatbreads, something I frequently order off appetizer menus and my recent love-fest with HelloFresh has only intensified my obsession and imagination.

Today I raided the fridge for ingredients. I’d had company for several days during which I cooked great meals that left me with some amazing leftovers….this is what I created.

Barbecue Chicken Flatbread

  • 1/2-3/4 c chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 1 flatbread
  • 2-3 T herbed, garlic ricotta (see recipe below)
  • Grape tomatoes 6-8 sliced in half
  • 1/3 c Italian shredded cheese blend
  • Barbecue sauce
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • Italian parsley

Heat oven to 400. I used my cast iron skillet and like to preheat it for 5 minutes while prepping the flatbread and toppings. Brush the bottom of the flatbread with a little olive oil. Spread the ricotta, followed by the chicken and tomatoes. Drizzle barbecue sauce over the top, add red pepper flakes and cheese. Place into hot skillet and bake 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with Italian parsley. After 5 minutes, cut into wedges and serve.

Herbed garlic ricotta (enough for several flatbreads)

  • 1 c ricotta
  • 1-2 t garlic powder
  • fresh herbs – I used chopped chives and thyme
  • 1-2 t olive oil

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate. I like to make this at least a few hours or the night before I use it.

Shrimp and White Beans over Angel Hair Pasta

Tonight I turned to my fridge, freezer, pantry and herb garden for inspiration and made this delicious meal for one. It was so tasty I wanted to share it here.

Shrimp and White Beans over Angel Hair Pasta 

serves 1

  • 15-20 cooked shrimp
  • 8 oz white beans
  • 8 oz heirloom grape & cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 4 oz angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 c toasted panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 T chopped shallot
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T dry white wine
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t oregano
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 T toasted pine nuts
  • red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste

Mix toasted panko bread crumbs with oregano.Chiffonade fresh basil.  Cook angel hair pasta as directed on packaging. In a large skillet add olive oil, garlic and shallots and saute for 3-4 minutes at a medium heat,  Add red pepper flakes, shrimp and white beans..  After 2-3 minutes, add tomatoes, lemon juice and wine, lower heat and allow to simmer for 3 minutes, add butter, salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl, layer pasta then add shrimp and bean mixture. Top with pine nuts, panko and basil and serve immediately.

 

 

Pesto Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb

Mom is joining me for today’s Easter dinner and for the last week I was on the fence about what I’d fix. Mom is easy as she loves everything I cook – and tells me I should be on Chopped (home chef edition), with my inevitable win launching my own Food Network show but I digress.

A few days ago I saw rack of lamb and the decision was made.  Mom and I both love lamb chops and I’ve made those many times. I’ve cooked rack of lamb only once and grilled it. It was delicious though my friend Terry had to start my grill as the one time prior that I’d lit it, I blew the lid back and lost all my arm hair. Spence was always my grill master and though Mom would (and could) light my grill I had decided to go a different way.

After scanning cookbooks and Pinterest for ideas I quickly realized that I hadn’t picked up fresh herbs – never a problem from May-October when my herb garden provides more than I need. What’s a girl to do? It was noon, my homemade croutons were done and cooling, our favorite Rhubarb Custard pie is in its final 20 minutes of cook time, sweet potatoes poked and ready for baking, my dijon vinaigrette prepared.  I’m still in my jammies and not enough time to shower and run out for fresh herbs before mom arrives. Though dried herbs might work, I knew I could do better.

Then it hit me – make a crust using pesto with its lovely green color and fresh herb flavors mixed with Panko breadcrumbs, both of which were in my gourmet pantry! Brilliant kitchen hack if I don’t say so.

Pesto Panko Crusted Rack of Lamb – serves 2-4

  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 1 c Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 T pesto
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

Several hours before dinner mix together the breadcrumbs and pesto. Score the fat side of the rack, salt and pepper to taste.  Wrap the bones in foil to prevent burning. Cover all sides of the rack with the breadcrumb mixture using more on the fat side which will be face up when cooking.  Pat it down to make the crust. Refrigerate for several hours.

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Two hours before you’d like to serve dinner, remove the rack from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for 45-60 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper and place the rack into the pan.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the rack.

Cook time will depend on how rare you like your chops – check at 15-18 minutes for rare to medium rare (my preference) by inserting a meat thermometer look for the internal temp of 120 degrees. Remove from oven and tent, the temperature will increase to 125-130 degrees; allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

Remove the foil. To preserve the crust for serving and presentation, I cut them 2 bones per chop. I served these with a nice bottle of red wine, spinach salad with homemade croutons and Dijon vinaigrette, the aforementioned baked sweet potatoes with butter and fresh grated nutmeg – and of course the pie.

 

 

 

Another week of delicious meals from HelloFresh…

When I received my box on Tuesday this week I was disappointed to see that the two entrees I received were not the ones I selected. The good news was two-fold 1) the ones they sent were meals that looked delicious and 2) when I called, they immediately applied a credit to my next order. I offered to send photos and it was not necessary. An email arrived within minutes apologizing and documenting their resolution. I couldn’t ask for more.

Especially now that I’ve had both meals – absolutely loved them.

The first one I fixed the day I got the box. Although I’ve enjoyed some pretty spectacular burgers in my lifetime, it would be easy to say this might have been the best one ever.

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The Melty Monterey Jack Burger with Red Onion Jam and Breaded Zucchini. Seriously. This burger rocked my world.

Tonight I fixed the Sweet as Honey Chicken with Green Beans and Jasmine Rice. And again, I had a meal that was delicious and flavorful but also it was one of two 540 calorie meals that were offered for this week which was a nice benefit (others being higher in calories but still balanced and healthy). If I’d had this in a restaurant I would have sent my regards to the chef. As it was, I patted myself on the back.

So far, I’m a fan of HelloFresh and with each new box, I feel certain that my positive experiences will continue.

This blog represents my opinions and enthusiasm but no compensation from HelloFresh. From inception I didn’t want to have advertisements on my blog, (no judgements) simply my preference.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi – Documentary Recommendation

Recently my friend Tom, a fellow foodie, recommended a documentary that he considers a “must see”.  It’s on Netflix right now and sounded interesting so I poured a glass of wine and queued it up. If you’ve followed my blog you know that I’ve made very few movie recommendations over the last four years, only doing so when it’s one that has inspired me to share.

Released in 2012, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the fascinating, joyful story of Jiro Ono an 85 year old Sushi Master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin three-star restaurant. Sukiyabashi Jiro is a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station. Jiro Ono serves a tasting menu of roughly 20 courses, for a minimum of 30,000 Japanese yen ($281 USD). with a well deserved reputation of creating the best sushi in the world.  And his is the only Michelin star recipient whose restaurant doesn’t have its own restroom (though you can use one in the subway).*

The movie is sub-titled which is worth mentioning though it does nothing to detract from the fascinating and mesmerizing story.  I was enthralled by the artistry and mouth-watering sushi but Jiro is the star here.  His life story is incredible and his passion for his craft is inspiring.  The old saying that “when you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life” has never seemed more accurate.  

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The movie is a feast for the eyes and a story that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it. Suffice it to say that this blogger feels compelled to share her recommendation that you make a point of watching this documentary.

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If you need more Jiro, check out YouTube as there are many short clips worth seeing.

* Some content is from Wikipedia with photos from Pinterest. 

My Experience with HelloFresh

For those following this blog you know I love to cook. I have my Doctorate from the Food Network (okay I’m making that up), dozens of cookbooks, numerous Pinterest foodie boards and an overall obsession with great food. I was aware of these meal services – HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef – but felt they weren’t for me.

Until a week ago…..

Having passed the one year mark since losing Spence, I started looking at these meal services through a different lens. Cooking for one with a love of food but a small appetite, I’d been finding that food was going to waste – especially produce. Cooking for one, I rarely try new recipes and was in a bit of a rut. I checked out several sites and for me it came down to looking at the meal choices. HelloFresh had me at “Hello” (random Jerry McGuire reference).

The smallest commitment, two 2 serving meals per week (from a choice of ten) made sense for me. There’s no contract and you can skip a week(s) or quit anytime, flexible and hassle free.

Via text updates, I knew my shipment would arrive on Tuesday via UPS.  Everything was well-packaged and super fresh, a huge re-usable cold pack inside and the box was lined with a cooler-type insert.

 

My chosen meals were Lemony Cheese Tortelloni with Pancetta, Peas and Zucchini and Pan Seared Duck Breasts with Duck-Fried Potatoes, Asparagus and Grape Tomatoes.

I made the Tortelloni first, using half the ingredients which were more than ample for a single serving.

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Easy recipe with step by step instructions, including photos and even a suggested wine pairing
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Delicious!

I made the recipe exactly as written, making any notes on how I’d enhance the second portion later in the week. I’d add toasted pine nuts, a pinch of red pepper flakes and shave Parmigiano Reggiano over the top adding both texture and flavor.

I love duck and when I see it on a menu I order it – but I’ve never prepared it. HelloFresh gave me a fool-proof recipe and opportunity to try something I’d never done.  Count me in…

 

The Pan Seared Duck entrée was…..perfection!  I savored every bite and I can’t wait to make the second portion in the future. I don’t think I’d change anything!

There are lots of enticing first-time offers by these meal services that ultimately make your first order inexpensive and with no long-term committment what have you got to lose?

 

 

 

 

Rhubarb Strawberry Custard Pie

I’m currently in Portland visiting my cousin Kristin and her husband Dick. When I had booked my flight I mentioned that I’d love to cook for them while I was their guest. To my delight their neighbor had given them rhubarb from his magnificent garden and I offered to make my favorite Rhubarb Custard pie. They had beautiful strawberries and Dick asked if we could add those as well, absolutely!

Using my Mom’s Piecrust Recipe, Kristin and I made two 10 inch pie crusts. Twice, though that was not the plan. Chatting too much I botched one tiny step in the first batch and it was impossible to roll out. The second batch was perfect. Then onto the pie recipe:

Rhubarb Strawberry Custard Pie – recipe for one pie

  • 1 10 inch pie crust (unbaked)
  • 3 c Rhubarb – 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 1/2 c sliced strawberries
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 T milk
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/4 t fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 T cold butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the rhubarb and strawberries, spread over the pie crust.




Whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, milk and nutmeg, pour over filling. Add the cold diced butter on the top.



Place the pie on a cookie sheet, then into the oven on the lowest rack (this helps to cook the crust on the bottom).  Bake for 35 minutes, remove and sprinkle sugar over the top of the pie. Place back in the oven, turning the pan 180 degrees to get even browning on the crust. Bake another 30 minutes watching for the crust to brown and remove to cool, the center of the pie will still be a bit jiggly. Cool at least 2 hours and then enjoy it!

Fontina & Prosciutto Flatbread with Figs & Balsamic Reduction

This is the second post in my new series, Cooking for One.  Since losing Spence almost three months ago, it’s taken time to regain my appetite and rediscover my passion for cooking.  Thankfully the desire to create and savor delicious meals has slowly returned.  In sharing these ideas, I hope that even when it’s just you, you’ll feel inspired to make something special – you’re worth it!

Fontina & Prosciutto Flatbread with Figs & Balsamic Reduction

  • 1 piece of Naan
  • olive oil
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • sliced Fontina cheese
  • thin sliced prosciutto, torn into smaller pieces
  • chopped or sliced figs
  • thin sliced red onion
  • chopped pistachios
  • fresh baby spinach
  • balsamic reduction

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a cast iron skillet (or baking stone) with olive oil and place into the oven for five minutes. While the skillet heats, brush the top of the Naan with olive oil, add cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes, then add slices of fontina covering the top. Next add the proscuitto, figs, red onion and chopped pistachios. Place the flatbread into the skillet and return to the oven for ten minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.  Remove from oven and immediately top with a handful of spinach then a good drizzle of balsamic reduction.  I enjoyed this with a lovely glass of Prosecco.

Note:  Naan is such a quick and delicious product to use for a quick flatbread or pizza – try any combination of fun toppings – there’s simply no limit!