Herbed Shrimp Pasta Salad

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Given that my sister Amy was the center of attention for her own graduation celebration, she got to pick which dishes my mom made for the party. One of her absolute favorites is this pasta salad with shrimp. Pretty much any time Amy gets to pick, this is what she asks for. This family favorite comes from my aunt Townley, although she says she thinks she got it from a neighbor years ago. Isn’t that always how things like this work? We’ve always known it as ‘Townley’s Shrimp Pasta Salad,’ but she got it from the neighbor, who probably got it from someone else, and on and on. Maybe one day, Amy’s friends will know it as ‘Amy’s Shrimp Pasta Salad,’ since she’ll make it so many times. And maybe one of you will like it so much and go on to make it so many times that it because known as YOUR shrimp pasta salad!

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Herbed Shrimp Pasta Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb medium shell pasta
  • 1 lb baby shrimp
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of an onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Salt & pepper as needed
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the pasta according to instructions or however you normally do it.
  2. Drain the pasta, but while still hot, stir in the mayonnaise, dill, and Old Bay.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil. Once softened, add the garlic and onions into the pasta, along with the shrimp.
  4. Stir everything together and top with a salt and pepper to your liking.
  5. Refrigerate until serving.
Makes ~8-10 servings if using as a main dish for a luncheon or similar. Is plenty for way more guests than that if part of a potluck with other dishes like we did for the party!
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Pinch of Crab Egg Dip

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Ok, bear with me now. I know this isn’t the first post where I’ve started with – “this sounds kind of weird, but I promise you it’s really good!” This is another one of those. I don’t know who originally thought, 💭Hmm… let me combine some eggs and crab and make a dip out of it, but I’m glad s/he did. My aunt Ann has made this dip for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always loved it. It’s super easy to throw together for a party and definitely something your guests probably haven’t eaten before. It’s a fairly mild dip, that will please most palates, provided they like crab/seafood. It’s delicious and addicting spread on crackers. I like it with a drop of hot sauce on top! Let us know what you think!

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Pinch of Crab Egg Dip

Ingredients:
  • 9 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 3 6oz tins of crabmeat (obviously use fresh if you’re so inclined/budgeted)
  • 2 tbsp poppyseeds
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Instructions: 
  1. Chop up the hardboiled eggs.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together.
  3. Chill until serving. Serve with crackers.
I don’t really know how to describe portions of a dip. This makes the amount of dip pictured above, served at a large party.

Amy’s Graduation Party

Selim and I have been in Virginia for a great long weekend to celebrate my younger sister’s graduation from college. She’s the last of our family, youngest of the four siblings, to graduate college. Our day was filled with family & friends, pomp & circumstance, caps & gowns, diplomas & honors… and a college party. Amy’s housemates (all 9 of them!) threw a party for their families and then one for their friends afterwards.  Even with all the parents that were present for both parties, we were still the boring old couple, as there were parents partying hard and clearly reliving some good old college memories.  Flash forward to Sunday and our family is hosting a family graduation party.  Any time we get the family together there’s always the classic dips, spreads, salads, snacks, and drinks.  We’ll highlight some of the unique ones that we think you’ll like in the next few days.

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Try one of these:

Pinch of Crab Egg Dip

Herbed Shrimp Pasta Salad

Sweet & Savory Cheese Ball

Happy Graduation Amy!! 🎉🎉

 

Meatloaf with Beef-Onion Gravy

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I don’t think it was until I was in high school or college that I realized that my mom’s meatloaf was different that most other people’s. Apparently, it’s more standard to have a tomato-based sauce, brown sugar, or BBQ sauce mixed in or coating the meatloaf. Don’t get me wrong, those are good too – but my mom’s meatloaf is better. It’s an indisputable fact… don’t argue with me! This was the only meatloaf I ever knew, but in looking through the family cookbook, I recently noted two separate recipes: “Mama’s Red Meatloaf” and “Mama’s Brown Meatloaf.” (“Mama” in this context being my grandmother.) So apparently my own mother was the one partial to the “Brown Meatloaf.” She probably made it for us once every few weeks, while I don’t think she ever made the red version. The meatloaf itself is simple. There’s not much more to it than the ground beef. But the gravy… oh the gravy… that’s what makes the dish! It’s so savory, thick, and delicious. There’s plenty to coat your meat, as well as whatever starch and/or vegetables your choose to serve with it. My recipe is slightly adapted from my mother’s, which is slightly adapted from her mother’s. This may not be nostalgic for you as it is for me, but it is homey, comfort food no matter what.

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PS: Can someone teach me how to photograph meatloaf and gravy so it looks appetizing? I promise you, this is delicious, despite it’s blah appearance!

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Meatloaf with Beef-Onion Gravy

Ingredients: 
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp + 2 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 packet of dry onion soup mix
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients (beef through 2 tbsp beef stock). Mix together with your hands until well-combined.
  3. Form the mixture into a loaf. Place your meatloaf into a glass casserole dish.
  4. Place in the oven on middle rack. Baking times will vary based on the thickness of your loaf (if you make a longer/thinner loaf, aim for the lower end… if you make a thicker/stouter loaf, aim for the longer end…). Plan on an hour & 15 minutes to an hour & 45 minutes. Safe internal temperature per the FDA is 160 degrees for ground beef.
  5. After 45 minutes to an hour, begin to make the gravy. Start by melting butter in a pan over medium heat.
  6. Once butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Whisk continuously until the butter and flour have come together to make a thick roux.
  7. Next, add the 2 1/2 cups of beef stock in by the 1/2 cup. Continue whisking. (You, of course, may add more or less depending upon how you like the thickness of your gravy.)
  8. Lastly, stir in the onion mix and milk. Lower heat and stir occasionally.
  9. With 20-30 minutes left in the cooking time for the meatloaf, remove it from the oven briefly. Pour off any released grease/fat.
  10. Coat the meatloaf with the gravy. Return to the oven for an additional 20-30 minutes.
  11. Serve after confirming that it is fully cooked.
Serves 4-6.

Cucumbers in Peanut Sauce

April 2017 Update: I think about this recipe from time to time, and in all honesty y’all, I’m not sure I can recommend it as posted. The sauce is delicious, but I think it’s just too overwhelming for cucumbers by themselves. One time I combined the cucumber and sauce with some rice noodles and that was much better. One of these days, I’ll whip up a more cohesive dish using this sauce and share that. Standby ’til then! Or if you want, give it a whirl and tell me what you think – how would you improve it??

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There’s a recipe in the family cookbook I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks now. I love cucumbers and eat them as a snack all the time. I mostly toss them in vinegar or something similarly light. But since I’m always looking for a new recipe or a way to change things up, I thought this recipe for cucumbers with peanut sauce would be a nice change of pace. The only problem? Occasionally in our family recipe book, my mom/ aunts/ grandmothers forgot that we can’t read their minds when they were writing out their recipes. This was one of those recipes. It called for things like “the worcestershire sauce” to top “the cucumbers,” instead of actual amounts.  So I guessed a little bit.

I think it turned out pretty well. I really like the peanut sauce. I will say though… I think it’s a little heavy for the cucumbers. Maybe it’s because, as I mentioned, I usually eat cucumbers without a whole lot on top. But maybe that’s just me. And the peanut sauce is worth repeating – I just may put it on top of something a little more substantial next time.

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Cucumbers in Peanut Sauce

Recipe adapted from my family recipe-book
Ingredients: 
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
Instructions: 
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together white wine vinegar, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper. Add the sliced cucumbers to the bowl and refrigerate while preparing the peanut sauce.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat in a small pan.
  3. Once oil is hot, add garlic. Flash fry for just 1 minute, then turn the heat down to low.
  4. Once oil has cooled some, stir in the peanut butter. Stir continuously until oil and peanut butter are well combined.
  5. Now lower heat even further, so burner is barely on. Stir in remaining three ingredients.
  6. Leave on very low heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove cucumbers from their bowl, leaving the liquid behind. Whisk together the peanut sauce and vinegar mixture.
  8. Return the cucumbers to the bowl. Refrigerate until cool before serving.

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Baked Brie with Caramelized Onion Chutney

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I’m pretty satisfied with myself. Why? Because I made another family recipe, as I’ve been wanting to do, AND I got to inhale some delicious cheese. This recipe comes from my aunt Lori. I’ve made it several times and every time wonder why I don’t make it more often. This is a great appetizer to share with friends; I made it tonight for our girls movie night. It would also be perfect for your upcoming holiday events!

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Baked Brie with Caramelized Onion Chutney

Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (ie: Craisins)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 round of Brie
  • {crackers for serving}
Instructions: 
  1. Melt butter in pan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions to the pan and toss to coat with the butter.
  3. Sauté onions for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently. Cook until the onions are beginning to brown and are very fragrant.
  4. Add the cranberries, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar to the pan. Cook another 5 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  6. Place the round of Brie on the cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes, until it is soft and starting to melt.
  7. Slice the top rind off the Brie and spoon chutney over top.
  8. Enjoy spread on crackers!

 

Cinnamon Buns

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Yesterday was Selim’s birthday! We celebrated by both having weekend shifts at the hospital. I was only there until 11pm, while he was there overnight, setting me up perfectly to make him post-birthday breakfast. Usually he’s the breakfast guy… It basically requires heavy machinery to drag me out of bed in the morning. But I always get excited for a good surprise, so out of bed I went!

I have two broad goals that I’ve been working on recently in terms of picking new recipes to try. 1) I’ve been wanting to bake more. Baking makes me nervous. You can’t taste it halfway through and adjust. Once it’s in the oven, you’re stuck with it. And 2) I’ve been wanting to make more family recipes from the family cookbook. These things, plus the fact that Selim has been eyeing the massive cinnamon buns at the farmer’s market the past few times we’ve been there, sent me to my Aunt Bobbie’s recipe for homemade cinnamon buns. All of my aunts are great chefs, but my Aunt Bobbie might win in terms of baking. She creates amazing desserts, not to mention really delicious breads and rolls. (Here’s to hoping no other aunts read this post 😉 !)

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Update 11/8/16: We decided to submit this recipe to Our Growing Edge, a monthly recipe link-up. The goal of this is to encourage the participants to conquer a food-related goal. As I mentioned above, I’ve been wanting to bake more – I think I’ve made good progression towards this goal with this recipe! This month’s link-up is hosted by Alicia at Alicia’s Bits ‘n Bobs

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Cinnamon Buns

Recipe courtesy of Ally’s Aunt Bobbie
Ingredients: 
  • Dough
    • 2 packages of yeast
    • 1/2 cup warm water
    • 1/2 tsp + 1/3 cup sugar
    • 3 cups + 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 eggs
  • Filling
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tbsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Icing
    • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • Several tsp warm milk
Instructions: 
  1. Stir yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar into the warm water. Let sit for 5+ minutes, until the liquid begins to froth.
  2. Scald the cup of milk. That is, bring it to just under a boil and then remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, sift together 3 cups of flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  4. At low speed, begin adding the wet ingredients to the bowl (yeast/water, milk, oil, and eggs). Beat until well-blended.
  5. Now slowly add the remaining flour while the mixer is set on low speed. You may or may not use exactly 1 1/2 additional cups – keep slowly adding until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop. Knead for 5-10 minutes until elastic and smooth.
  7. Place dough in a large greased bowl. Cover. Allow to rise for ~1 hour.
  8. Cream together all of the filling ingredients.
  9. Once the dough has risen, return it to your floured countertop. Use a rolling pin and roll out into a rectangular shape. [My aunt suggests roughly 10 x 18. I didn’t measure.]
  10. Spread the filling mixture generously across all of the dough except for the very edges (leave ~1/2 inch).
  11. Now roll the dough very tightly. The result will be a long log.
  12. Using a large sharp knife, slice the log on the horizontal. Aim for your slices to be approximately 1 inch thick. Remove each slice to a foil-lined cookie sheet.
    • The ends of the log might not look as pretty. You can discard or gobble down the misshapen ones while no one is looking.
  13. Again, let them rise – this time about 30 minutes.
  14. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  15. Bake for 20 minutes. Check on them towards the end – as the edges just start to turn golden, they’re done!
  16. While the buns are baking, whisk together your icing. Start with the sugar. Add the vanilla. Slowly add milk by the teaspoon until you achieve your desired consistency.
  17. Drizzle icing over the buns to serve. (I think they’re also delicious sans icing, but some might think that’s sacrilege.)
Makes 12-16 cinnamon buns.