Shrimp Rice Bowl

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Mmmmmm… shrimp! I feel like if you polled the world about their favorite seafood, shrimp would win hands down. Shrimp is like the gateway drug of seafood – even people who “hate seafood,” seem to like shrimp. In fact, I’m pretty sure my sister’s introduction to the seafood world was with deep-fried shrimp, doused in ketchup. She now eats shrimp, crabs, scallops, the occasional fish, and lobster.

This recipe incorporates this delicious shellfish with fresh veggies and herbs, brought together with a great Asian umami flavors. It’s easy enough to throw together for a weeknight dinner, full of flavor, and contains more vegetables than average American dinner plate. Enjoy!

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Shrimp Rice Bowl

Ingredients: 
  • 3/4lb of shimp, peel & de-vein
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 tbsp low sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar, divided
  • Splash of fish sauce
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 20 baby carrots, sliced length-wise
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar, divided
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
  • Rice, prepared as you prefer
Instructions: 
  1. Allow coconut oil to liquefy in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add minced garlic to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until beginning to turn golden.
  3. Now add 2 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tsp of rice wine vinegar, and the carrots. Cover and steam for 4-5 minutes. (If you prefer your cooked carrots on the softer side, extend this time. We prefer our carrots still a bit crisp.)
  4. Lower the heat just slightly. Remove lid and add 2 more tbsp of soy sauce, the other 1 tsp of rice wine vinegar, the bell peppers, crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tbsp of brown sugar, and roughly 3/4 of the basil. Stir a few times to combine and return to lid to the pan.
  5. After ~3 minutes, add the shrimp to the pan, along with the remaining 1 tbsp of soy sauce and 1 tbsp of brown sugar.
  6. Leave the lid off this time and return the heat back to medium. Cook until the shrimp are all pink and opaque. This will take less time than you think – should be < 5 minutes. Try to avoid overcooking – rubbery shrimp are no fun!
  7. Serve over rice and top with the remaining fresh basil.
Dinner for two!

“Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles

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Every time the new year rolls around, it seems like everyone makes a resolution involving weight loss, healthy eating, or general fitness. We’ve been eating zoodles for awhile now (see here, here, here, & here), but I think they’re a great way to simultaneously cut calories and add more healthy vegetables to your dinners! This zoodles dish was inspired by a recipe I’ve had saved on Pinterest for awhile now from the blog/website SkinnyTaste. On this site, you can find so many healthy recipe ideas and healthier variations of classics. Given that takeout chicken lo mein can top out anywhere from 1000 to 1500 calories per carton (obviously varying between restaurants and preparations), this homemade version will probably serve your New Year’s resolution AND your waistline well!

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“Chicken Lo Mein” Zoodles

(Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste)
Ingredients: 
  • 12oz chicken breast
  • 2 med-large zucchini
  • Vegetables to stir fry – options:
    • Carrots
    • Bell peppers
    • Onions
    • Mushrooms
    • Green onions
    • Snow peas
    • Broccoli
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 tsp sesame oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the zoodles. (Click if you need more instruction.)
  2. Slice the chicken and your choices of vegetables.
  3. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp of garlic powder.
  4. Heat the 1 tbsp of neutral oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes until no translucent spots are visible.
  5. Remove the chicken to the side and wipe clean if needed.
  6. Add 2 tsp of sesame oil to the pan and increase heat to medium-high. Once oil is quite hot, add the vegetables. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 1 tsp of sesame oil, chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, and flour.
  8. Remove vegetables to the side and lower heat to medium.
  9. Add sauce to the pan. Allow to warm for 2-3 minutes, stirring as needed.
  10. Add zoodles, other vegetables, and chicken to the pan. Cook over medium heat for ~5 additional minutes so everything is coated in sauce and vegetables are cooked to your liking.
Serving sizes depends on how many vegetables you choose to add!

Hearty Hoppin’ John

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Technically this is our second New Year’s Eve living in South Carolina, but the first one barely counts. We had just moved here, in a whirlwind month that not only included moving to a new state, but also getting married, honeymooning in Puerto Rico, and spending Christmas with Ally’s family. I’m pretty sure there were boxes strewn about, half unpacked, while we watched the ball drop to close out 2015.

This year we decided to put a little bit of effort in and make a New Year’s Eve dinner. I strongly considered going Asian and honoring their traditional New Year’s noodle dishes, representing longevity for the next year. But instead, I decided to pay homage to our not-so-new-anymore home with southern Hoppin’ John.

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In researching Hoppin’ John recipes, I learned that like pimento cheese (see similar ravings in that post), everyone’s own grandma prepares it the correct way, while everyone else’s grandma is doing it incorrectly. Here are the facts regarding Hoppin’ John as best I can tell: It contains black eyed peas, although certain specific areas substitute field peas or red cowpeas. The peas are what makes Hoppin’ John one of the lucky New Years dishes of the American South – the peas represent coins and thus, wealth in the new year to come. The dish also must contain rice and some form of pork product. The dish almost certainly originated with slaves brought to the US from Western Africa. And most agree that the dish’s American origins began in the Carolinas, more specifically in the South Carolina Low Country. Now for the controversies: Which pork product to use – bacon, ham, pork sausage? Which spices, if any, to use? Where did the name originate? Does the rice have to be cooked in the same dish?

Therefore, I make absolutely zero claims to the authenticity of this Hoppin’ John. In fact, I guarantee you that it is not authentic. I skimmed probably 20-25 different recipes for inspiration, but did not follow any one in particular. With the base of the aforementioned black eyed peas + rice + pork, people toss in all sorts of different additions. I certainly did. This is quite a stretch from the plain, historic version that only contained the three base ingredients. But to be honest with you, I doubt I’d really enjoy plain rice, peas, and bacon.

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Happy New Year! We’re looking forward to 2017 and hope everyone else is too!

Hearty Hoppin’ John

Ingredients: 
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepped, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of dry rice
  • 6 cups of stock (chicken, turkey, vegetable)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 large spicy sausages, sliced
  • 4 cups of cooked black eyed peas*
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce (we like Frank’s)
Instructions: 
  1. Slice bacon into lardons. Toss into a large pan with tall edges. Cover and cook over medium heat until the bacon begins to release its fat, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and stir to coat in the bacon fat. Re-cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Now add the garlic. Cook uncovered for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the next 10 ingredients to the pan (peppers through sausages). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover the pan. You want the liquid to be just slightly simmering while the lid is on.
  5. Uncover and stir briefly every 15 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, add the black eyed peas.
  6. The dish is done when the rice is fully cooked. This took us ~45 minutes. You may require slightly more or less time, and/or slightly more or less liquid.
  7. Before serving, stir in the hot sauce.

*You may choose whether or not to use canned black eyed peas or soak/prepare dried peas yourself.

Serves ~10 people.

Post dinner notes: We soaked our own beans, instead of using canned ones. We overdid it in the preparation phase, and the beans were fairly mushy. Next time, we need to be a little more attentive when preparing dried beans.

Smoky Risotto

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You know that phrase “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? That basically describes me in a single sentence. I’d like to argue that this can be extrapolated to group pot luck settings. You know what I’m talking about… Eight friends are each bringing a contributing dish for the meal/party. No one wants to be that person who doesn’t contribute enough/as much as everyone else. But in reality, everyone is bringing a dish (or two, or five) that feeds many people, and everyone wants to taste some of everything. So at the end of the shindig, for better or worse, you’re always left with a smorgasbord of leftovers.

This raving does have a point. We were predictably victims of the too big potluck eyes for Friendsgiving. Our friend Brandon smoked our Friendsgiving turkey in his Big Green Egg. Based on the size of the egg, the boys were a little worried that the size turkey that would fit in the egg, might not be large enough to feed everyone. So we brought some chicken quarters over in the morning and smoked them after the turkey was done. [Side note: smoked Thanksgiving turkey is amaaaazing!] Shockingly, we didn’t finished the turkey, and Selim and I found ourselves in possession of an absurd amount of chicken.

Hence, we have smoked chicken in abundance for this dish. I personally would not go out and smoke a chicken just to make this recipe. Save it for a time when you have leftover smoked chicken, or snag a rotisserie chicken at the store for a substitute. Please note though, the way this is prepared, raw chicken will not be sufficiently cooked. Pre-cooked chicken is needed.

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Smoky Risotto

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 3-4+ cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 10 oz fresh green beans, snapped in half
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 1/2 cups smoked chicken, chopped
Instructions: 
  1. Using a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, warm the stock.
  3. Add the onions and garlic. Cook for 6-8 minutes. They should be soft and fragrant.
  4. Lower heat to just a bit. Add the arborio rice. Stir a few times to coat the rice in any remaining oil.
  5. Begin adding stock to the pan by the ladleful. Stir frequently until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice.
  6. Add spices and stir to coat well.
  7. Repeat step 5 over and over, until the rice has softened, but is still a bit al dente for eating. It took me ~30 minutes to get to this point.
  8. At this point, add the vegetables and chicken. Stir in a double ladleful of stock and cover. Leave covered for 3 minutes.
  9. Return to your previous routine of adding stock by the ladleful and stirring until rice is soft and creamy. (Your stirring may be a bit more difficult now that there’s other stuff in the pan.)
  10. Once the texture has softened to your liking, add the cheese. Stir to combine.
  11. Taste for and add salt & pepper as desired.
  12. Serve topped with an extra pinch of cheese on top.
Serves 5-6.

Post-dinner notes: I think next time I’d add more chicken. It kind of got lost amid the rice and vegetables. I also meant to use this fancy Smoked Olive Oil, but forgot. Next time!

Two-Way Beet Salad

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Beets are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. I’d had beets just once that I can remember prior to when Selim and I started dating, and I hated them that one time. So for years, I never tasted another beet. Selim likes them a lot and eventually convinced me to try them again. I was skeptically, but he converted me into a beet-eater.

A lot of times we just grate a beet in with whatever other salad ingredients we’re using that day. But I wanted to make a salad that showcased the beet itself. You may think it sounds ridiculous to roast some of the beets and not others – after all, once they’re all mixed together they barely look any different! But I’d give it a whirl. The roasted beets have a different texture and flavor than the raw ones. It gives this salad a greater depth of flavor, I think.

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Two-Way Beet Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 2 medium beets
  • Olive oil, divided (2 tsp + 1 tbsp)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2oz feta, crumbled
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Take one of the beets – scrub clean, peel, and chop into small rectangles/squares.
  3. Toss the beet cubes in 2 tsp of olive oil and a few dashes of salt & pepper. Spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet and place in the oven on a middle rack. Roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, take the other beet and similarly clean it. Grate this one via one of the larger holes on your grater. Place in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, thyme, and a few more turns of black pepper in a small bowl.
  6. Once the roasting beets are done, add them to the bowl with the raw, shredded beets. Toss with the vinaigrette.
  7. Top with feta and serve.

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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Finally Fall Chili

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It’s finally fall!

We’ve been waiting through the hottest summer of our lives for the cooler temperatures to finally get here. We had to wait until October for all that, but at least my favorite month hasn’t disappointed yet.

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While it seems like everyone else marks the changing of the seasons with a pumpkin spice latte, that’s just not quite my style. (Selim isn’t a pumpkin spice latte guy either, but he is on his second tin of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice coffee of the month, just sayin’…) I do, however, require pumpkin carving and some chili to confirm the season change.

We had a great night of hanging out with our friends, pumpkin carving, and this perfect-for-fall chili. Please be impressed by our amazing pumpkin carving skills in addition to this slightly spicy, hearty chili.

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Finally Fall Chili

Ingredients: 
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 orange bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 small ears of corn
  • 1 can (14oz) red kidney beans
  • 1 can (14oz) white kidney beans
  • 1 can (14oz) black beans
  • 1 can (14oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 large can (28oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp “regular” paprika
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Fresh-ground black pepper

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Instructions: 
  1. Slice the strips of bacon into very small lardons. Add to large pot, topped with 3 turns of black pepper, and cook over medium heat until the fat is released, ~ 5 minutes.
  2. Now add the diced onion. Cover the pot with its lid and sweat the onions for another ~5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, fish sauce, and beef. Stir occasionally, breaking up the ground beef. Continue cooking over medium heat until beef as browned.
  4. Now add all of the rest of the ingredients (vegetables, beans, herbs, & spices). Stir to combine well.
  5. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer for just 5 minutes and then turn heat down to low. Cover the pot and leave alone for an hour, or as long as you can! (We let ours go for 6+ hours.)

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Serves 8-12.