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Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

If you have a large pot and a few pounds of mussels, you can have a dinner party worthy meal on the tables in no time at all. Mussels are one of the easiest meals to prepare. All you need to do is give the mussels a quick scrub and soak, cook up a few aromatics for a broth to steam the mussels in, and five minutes cooking time. For Mussels with Cider, Shallots and Bacon, I decided to add some autumn flair but using apple cider instead of the more typical white wine as the base of the broth.

The website Serious Eats has a more detailed article on cleaning mussels if you would like a step-by-step guide. I have also included a video below. But, I promise, it is really easy and takes no time at all. Once you get the hang of it, you will be preparing mussels all the time!

While mussels and French fries (frites) are a popular combination in Belgium and France, I prefer to serve mussels with slices of nice bread. My favorites are a beautiful baguette or ciabatta. You will want to use the slices of bread to soak up the delicious broth.

So, let’s walk through the process. Heat a large pot over a medium flame and add oil olive and butter. When the oil and butter start to bubble, add the chopped bacon and cook for a few minutes.  Next you will add the shallots, garlics, and thyme and cook until they are soft. Finally, add the cider and mustard. Bring the broth to a boil before adding the cleaned mussels. The only need a few minutes to cook. Seriously easy, right?

Mussels with Cider Shallots and Bacon-2

If you would like a tasty beverage to accompany your mussels, I recommend either a crisp white wine, sparkling wine (bubbles go with everything), or a Belgian beer.  I love to serve this meal not only because it is delicious but it is a slow-paced meal which encourages conversation as you work your way through the mussels. Slow food at its best!

How to Make Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon Pin

Roasted Squash and Pear Sandwiches

Roasted Squash with Pear

Fall = Gourdfest. Well, around my house anyway. Each fall, we host a party where all things gourd-related are celebrated. I am talking about pumpkin beer tasting, butternut squash soup, pumpkin hummus, and roasted delicata squash with red onions. All the fall flavors make me so happy but having some of my besties in the house puts it over the top.

What my friends may not know is how many recipes I test before Gourdfest. I want the food to be as memorable as the laughs and good times that we enjoy. This year, one of my first test recipes is this Roasted Squash and Pear Sandwich. Doesn’t that sound like perfect fall food? Yet, such an unusual sandwich idea.

Roasted Squash with Pear

Let’s talk about butternut squash. Are you a fan? I was a little bit intimated by butternut squash at first. I mean, could winter squash BE any more difficult to cut through? But, I learned a little secret about butternut squash. When you are shopping for butternut squash, look for one that has long neck compared to its bulbous end.

Then, just cut through the stem end and cut again at the end of the long neck before the bulbous end. From here, all you need to do is peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. For this recipe, slice the neck into 1/2” slices.

Roasted Squash with Pear

After that, you have a decision to make, do you want to tackle the bulbous end or just chuck it into the compost bin? No judgment here no matter what you decide. Sometimes I will peel the skin off with the vegetable peeler and then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Other times, I won’t be feeling it at all, and will just quarter it and throw it into my compost bin.

The next component is a perfectly ripe pear sliced thin and a red onion also thinly sliced. The surprise ingredient is the miso mayo. Are you a miso fan? My first experiences with miso was in soup form at Chinese restaurants.  Miso is made from fermented soy beans. You know anything fermented is good for you, right? Gut health and all that. Miso paste can be found at Asian markets and sometimes in the ethnic food aisles or produce section of some grocery stores. Miso adds that umami flavor which is rich, deep flavor.

If you decide to buy miso paste (and you should) here is a recipe for miso soup so you can use up your stash. The video below is from The Happy Pear where twin Irish brothers post articles and videos featuring easy vegan recipes.

How to Make Roasted Squash and Pear Sandwiches

Want more sandwiches?

Roasted Squash with Pear Sandwich

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

What the heck do vegetarians eat? I hear this all the time from friends and family who want to invite someone they care about over for dinner. But, when that person is a vegetarian many cooks get stumped. Ask my Mom. She will tell you. That poor woman has two daughters are totally or nearly vegetarian and two grandkids are vegetarian. She will tell you that she hates inviting us over for dinner because she has no idea what to make. So, Mom, Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers is one great alternative to consider. It is hearty enough that even carnivores (like your husband) will feel satisfied.

First, a little background about Picadillo which is a popular dish in Spain and many Latin American countries. Picadillo is typically made with ground beef, tomatoes, and a variety of spices. It is often served with rice and used a filling for dishes like tacos or savory pastries.

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed PeppersI like this healthier version of Picadillo swaps out ground beef for lentils. Lentils are inexpensive to buy, low in fat, high in fiber, and full of protein. By sautéing aromatics like onion and garlic with chili powder, cinnamon, Italian seasoning, cocoa powder, and tomatoes, you can achieve a rich flavorful broth to coat the lentils.

This version of Lentil Picadillo is most similar to the Picadillo found in Puerto Rico which includes green olives for a salty bite and raisins for a sweet chewy texture. In Puerto Rico, Picadillo is a common filling for empanadas or fritters. In this recipe, I add cooked rice to the Picadillo and stuff it inside a sweet red bell pepper before baking.

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Finally, lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers is a great make ahead meal. You could prep the Picadillo on the weekend and then on a weeknight, stuff the peppers and bake.  A healthy, homemade dinner will be on the table in under 30 minutes. What is not to love about that? Also, can you say lunch leftovers? Just try not to gloat as your coworker pulls her sad little Lean Cuisine out of the microwave.

How to Make Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Pepper

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Zucchini Scramble Toast

It all started when my Mom showed up with three zucchini from her garden. She was heading out of town but her garden was still producing like crazy. Of course I could use them, no way would I let them go to waste. That is what I told both of us.

My garden has two zucchini plants so I already had zucchini pickles in the fridge. I’d made zucchini pie at least three times. Crispy zucchini chips? Yup, I had made them at several times. Chewy zucchini oatmeal cookies? I made those too.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Coffee has a way of clearing my mind and as I sipped my morning cuppa, I eyeballed the zucchini, thought about eggs, and that day old loaf of bread on the counter and Zucchini Scramble Toast was born.

I shredded the zucchini and thinly sliced part of an onion. All the veggies needed was a quick sauté in olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Once the vegetables softened, I added a couple of lightly beaten eggs to pan and let the eggs set for about a minute before gently pushing them around the pan. Just a little more salt and pepper to the eggs and scrambled until set. Remember the eggs will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove the pan from the heat.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

While the eggs were cooking, I toasted and buttered the bread. When the eggs were done, I divided the eggs evenly onto the toast. I sprinkled chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs on top. Chives and basil are terrific on the toast.

The beauty of Zucchini Scramble Toast is that while it is perfect for breakfast, it also makes a super quick weeknight supper. Plus, with the price of avocados these days, it may be time for the avocado toast trend to exit stage left. Who wants to help me start the next ‘toast’ fad?

So, Mom, if you are reading this, I used up all three zucchini. I hope you are having a great time on your trip and when you get home, come over for Zucchini Scramble Toast and a cup of coffee. I want to hear all about your adventures.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

If you keep pizza dough in your freezer (you do keep pizza dough in your freezer, right?), then weeknight dinners are a breeze. All you need is sauce, a few vegetables, and cheese and you are good to go.

A few years back I found a recipe on a blog for smoked mozzarella pizza with lemon.  The recipe and picture caught my eye because the lemon was sliced into paper thin rounds and used as a topping. Lemon rinds? Can you eat them? Would you want to?

Since I am always game to try new things, I made the recipe and fell in love with it! Since then I have realized that thinly sliced lemon on a salmon sushi roll is also delicious. But, this post is about pizza and over the years I have riffed variations of the original pizza based on whatever is in season or in my refrigerator.

This time around I had spinach that I needed to use and the end of a bag of pistachios. I find smoked mozzarella at Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, ask at your local grocery store. Smoked mozzarella can sometimes be challenging to find. You can use fresh mozzarella in a pinch if you can’t get your hands on the smoked variety.

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Pizza Dough

I take the pizza dough out of the freezer the morning I plan to make pizza. The dough will be thawed by dinner time. A few tips on pizza dough. Many grocery stores stock fresh pizza dough in their refrigerated aisles. I particularly like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. You can also hit the freezer section and get bread dough (like Rhodes) and keep that on hand. If you have some time on the weekend, you can make a delicious no-knead pizza dough and use it for this recipe or place it in the freezer for future use.

I also love making pizza on a pizza stone. You put the pizza stone in the oven as you start to preheat the oven. Once the oven comes to temperature, then set a timer for at least fifteen minutes and let the stone get nice and hot.

I roll the dough out on a parchment paper-lined pizza peel. Roll the dough out thin if you want to achieve a crispy crust. Then, drizzle the crust with olive oil and spread it around with your fingertips until there is even layer over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes over the top of the dough.

Next, place slices of smoked mozzarella on top of the dough, followed by lemon slices (rind and all). My sweetie doesn’t love the lemon rind so I do cut the rind off half the lemon slices and put those pieces of lemon on his side of the pizza.

Finally, place spinach leaves over the top and sprinkle with the pistachios. Slide the pizza and parchment onto the pizza stone and let the magic begin.

I usually check the pizza halfway through cooking time and rotate the pizza 180 degrees to ensure even baking.

Let me know if you try this unusual but delicious pizza!

This recipe is inspired Alexandra Cooks recipe for Pizza with Lemon Smoked Mozzarella and Basil  

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Summer is coming! Summer is coming! I cannot believe that we are less than two weeks out from Memorial Day weekend and the official start of summer. BBQs and margaritas are two summer staples that I look forward to during the cold, gray days of winter. These grilled margarita shrimp tacos hit the mark on both counts.

Firstly, the recipe was inspired by an almost full picture of margarita that was left over after a recent party. Who ends up with leftover margaritas? Usually not me. But this time, I had so much leftover and I couldn’t bear to throw it away. So, instead I improvised.

I had shrimp in the freezer that I thawed out and then marinated the shrimp in the leftover margarita making sure that all the shrimp were submerged in the liquid. I let them marinate for an hour or two in the fridge and started making the avocado and mango salsa, as well as, the spicy slaw.

The ingredient list may seem a bit daunting but I promise that this recipe comes together pretty quickly.

Pickled Red Onion

I had the pickled red onion in the fridge and recommend that you make up a batch to keep in your fridge too. I used this recipe. In addition to being delicious on tacos, the pickled red onions also tasted great on burgers (or veggie burgers as is the case in my house). Thinly sliced red onion will do in a pinch if you don’t want to make the pickled version.

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

I actually had the rest of the ingredients on hand and drew inspiration from what was already in the refrigerator. You can improvise with this recipe too. Don’t want to make the avocado and mango salsa? Then, consider using jarred salsa and avocado slices. Lettuce or cabbage shreds can replace the spicy slaw if you want, but it is really good.

I used flour tortillas but corn works too if that is your preference. If you feel like doing some prep work on the salsa and slaw ahead of time, these margarita grilled shrimp tacos are a great dish for entertaining. Make a big batch of margaritas, use some of it on the shrimp and serve the rest to your guests while you man the grill.

How to Make Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

 

Let’s be real here. I heart anything that I can scoop in a tortilla chip. If that scoopable dip contains seafood then I am over the moon. So, you can imagine my excitement as I prepped this shrimp and corn ceviche.

Sometimes, I will go on a bender of good health and stuff delicious fillings into leaves of lettuce (Romaine and Boston Leaf being my favs) instead of chips. Other times, I just want to scoop up delicious fillings into crisp, salty tortilla chips. I fall completely into the salty camp and would trade you cookies, cakes, and brownies for chips, nuts, and cheese any day of the week.

In the interest of full disclosure, this recipe would be at its best during summer when you could score fresh corn from the farmers market and roast it on the grill but it is also possible to make this dip year-round using frozen fire-roasted corn.

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

You can make this shrimp and corn ceviche several hours or a day ahead of when you plan to serve it. This makes it an ideal dish for parties or potlucks.

I used an orange as the citrus in the recipe but you could also use grapefruit if you preferred. Blood oranges would also make a dramatic and visually appealing substitution in this shrimp and corn ceviche recipe.

In addition to serving shrimp and corn ceviche as a dip or filling in a lettuce cup, you could also top the ceviche onto a bed of greens for a light lunch. I would serve the shrimp and corn ceviche with a crisp white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or a summer beer such as a Hefeweizen.

As the weather warms up, what are your favorite recipes, drinks, and music to listen to while you enjoy the sun-filled days? Drop a comment below and let’s get this warm-weather party started!

How to Make Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Is anything more exhilarating than watching the Earth come back to life in the spring? No matter how challenging things are in the rest of the world, a walk around the block can have me whistling a tune in no time. Daffodils and tulips are popping up from the ground, forsythia bushes burst out their bright yellow flowers, and one of my favorite ingredients, spring mix salad greens, make an appearance in my garden. One of my favorite ways to serve spring mix salad is to combine it with Mediterranean flavors of roasted red peppers, olives, pine nuts, and feta.

Spring Mix Salad

Spring Mix Salad is typically a combination the following lettuce types: romaine, oak, leaf, butter, chard, spinach, and arugula. The greens are small and tender. They are also quite delicate so you will want to handle and dress them with care. I like to make a light vinaigrette and sparingly drizzle it over the greens.  A spring mix salad is not the salad to pour a glumpy ranch-style dressing over. You will want a hearty romaine or iceberg to stand up to the weight of those types of dressings.

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Put the ingredients for the simple Mediterranean-inspired vinaigrette into a Mason jar and shake vigorously to combine. You can make the dressing ahead of time and then shake it up again just before serving.

You can either use jarred roasted red peppers for this recipe or roast your own. If I am not in a mad rush I usually roast them myself over one of my gas burners. You can also roast the red pepper under the broiler or on your BBQ. The key is to let the skin of the red pepper get nice and charred. Then, you place the pepper in a brown paper bag or in a bowl with a cover to steam for 10 minutes. The skin will peel right off.

The salad comes together quickly and makes a great accompaniment for dinner or I love to take it to work for lunch. Just tote your dressing along separately and pour on just before serving. The spring mix salad greens will wilt rather quickly after being dressing so plan accordingly.

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

How to Make Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

Aren’t sliders adorable? I think most things in miniature form are cuter than their full size counterparts. Think babies, puppies, kitties, and burgers. However, why should meat-eaters have all the slider fun? They shouldn’t, right?

Now that we are in agreement on that, let’s talk about these Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing. Boiling the beets along with a variety of aromatics imparts great flavor into the beets. The Green Goddess Dressing is creamy, herby, and delicious, which complements the earthiness of the beets. Red onions offer crunch and bite to the slider. The combination is top notch.

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

I estimate that approximately 99% of slider recipes that I come across feature some sort of meat filling. You know that I am always up for a challenge. Therefore, I want to create delicious options for vegetarian sliders. These Beet Sliders are not only gorgeous; they are perfect to eat while drinking a glass of wine or a beer and listening to Budos Band.

I would plan to serve two to three sliders per person for a perfect small plate offering. I adore small plates. Small plates always feel like a party. I would much rather have a few small plates than one entrée any day. Honestly, every day that would be my preference. Small plates are perfect for the chronically indecisive, possibly commitment challenged.

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

I digress. Let’s move on the these sliders. The key to any burger is getting the bun and burger to match up in size. Be sure that your beets are as big in the widest part as the bun they will eventually sit on. Once the beets are cooked and peeled, you will want to slice them into about one-inch rounds.

While the beets cook, whip up the ingredients for the Green Goddess dressing and thinly slice part of a red onion. I always recommend wearing latex or rubber gloves when working with beets. Beets stain everything they encounter so exercise care when preparing them.

If you are beet lover, you may want to check out these other recipes:

Beet Sliders with Green Goddess Dressing

 

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Perhaps it is my Irish roots or maybe it is just because potatoes are damn delicious, but either way, I love potatoes. And, as long as I have potatoes in the house, I know I can put a satisfying meal on the table in no time. You do not need me to enumerate all the amazing things that you can do with potatoes. Okay, I will anyway. I love them roasted, mashed, baked, fried, shredded, spiralized, scalloped, or hasselbacked.

As you can see in my previous posts for Roasted Carrot Hummus and Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate Seeds, roasted vegetables are my absolute favorite. The roasting process brings out incredible flavor and texture in vegetables and these lemon roasted potatoes are delightful.

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

The potatoes in this Lemon Roasted Potatoes recipe get crispy and golden brown on the outside and stay tender on the inside. The flavor of the garlic and lemon mellows in the roasting process and actually develop a sweetness. I have added the chipotle chili powder and cayenne to balance the sweet with a little bit of heat. The rosemary adds an earthy fresh flavor. But, if rosemary isn’t your thing, feel free to swap it out with some parsley but don’t add it until the end of the cooking time.

Lemon Roasted Potatoes are a lovely side dish to accompany any number of protein-filled main dishes. They would be a delicious side to salmon or chicken. On the other hand, if you are looking for a meatless menu idea, I think the potatoes would be delicious served alongside a Middle Eastern mezze platter of cut up veggies, pita wedges, hummus, and olives.

Alternatively, you could toss some asparagus spears in the oven while the potatoes are cooking. I would add them to the oven when you have about 20 minutes of cooking time left on the potatoes. Then, poach or fry an egg and serve on top of the potatoes. So good, right?

How to Make Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

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