Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mixed Green Salad with Pears, Goat Cheese, and a Fig Vinaigrette

When I came across this pretty looking salad, I thought it looked perfect as a light side dish for the crab leg dinner that my parents were making for us while we were visiting Kansas City for my sister's bridal shower.  I honestly don't think I had ever eaten figs before I made this, but I loved it in the dressing.  I used my favorite 18-year balsamic vinegar, which made for such a great flavor....make sure you use really good balsamic in this!

The salad was elegant enough for a special occasion or holiday, and it was easy and simple.  I loved this salad, but Kevin thought it would be better with some chopped walnuts or sliced almonds so I'll probably try that next time.  The recipe below makes the perfect amount of salad for 6 people.


6 cups mixed salad greens
1-1/2 cups thinly, sliced, cored Bosc pear
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (I think I probably used more than this)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
5 dried Mission figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped
6 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (I used coarse sea salt)


Combine balsamic vinegar and dried Mission figs (stemmed and chopped) in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 5 minutes.

Combine the fig mixture, water and fresh lemon juice in a blender or use you immersion blender, and process until smooth.

In a small bowl (or use a mason jar so you can just shake it up) add the blended fig mixture with shallots, fresh thyme, crushed garlic, extra-virgin olive oil and Kosher salt. Stir or shake well to combine.

Thinly slice your Bosc pear, leaving the skin on. Place 1 cup greens on each of six plates; topping each serving with 1/4 cup pear and 2 teaspoons goat cheese. Drizzle vinaigrette over each serving.

Source:  The Noble Pig Blog

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sesame Noodles with Shrimp

These sesame noodles are so yummy, and the addition of shrimp to the original recipe made it even better!  This meal was a little bit sweet and a little bit spicy and totally beats take-out. 

Luckily, I've been cooking a lot of Asian food lately so I had almost all of the ingredients already.  I was able to quickly throw together this recipe for an easy weeknight meal that didn't take a lot of effort.....the most time consuming part was peeling the shrimp and waiting for the water for the pasta to boil.  All in all, definitely doable after a long, tiring day.

To make this even better next time I make it, I will add in some fresh minced ginger at the same time as the garlic, and I will also add some chopped cilantro when I serve it (I have reflected these changes on the recipe below).


1 (16 ounce) package linguine pasta (I might try whole wheat next time)
3/4 lb. raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined with the tail removed, and seasoned with salt and pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons safflower oil (you can substitute canola oil if you want to, but I like to keep safflower oil on hand for when I make stir-fry)
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sweet Asian chili sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha
6 green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup chopped cilantro


Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat about a tablespoon of EVOO in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink (about a minute per side for medium shrimp and slightly longer for larger shrimp).  Remove the cooked shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Keep the skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of the safflower oil to the skillet.  Stir in garlic and ginger and sautee for about a minute.  Add sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sweet Asian chili sauce, Sriracha, and the rest of the safflower oil. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves.

Mix the sauce with the cooked linguine and the shrimp, and toss to coat. Garnish with green onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds.

Source:  Adapted from allrecipes

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pork Tinga Tacos

I'm usually not a huge fan of many slowcooker recipes....I like the concept of dumping a bunch of ingredients into the slowcooker and coming come 8 hours later to a delicious meal, but I find that a lot of slowcooker recipes are just too mushy for me.  When I stumbled upon this pork taco recipe that came from Rick Bayless, I decided to give my slowcooker another shot.....I'm glad I did!

Being a slowcooker recipe, this is very quick and easy.  You should make this when you can find some avocados at a good price.....I can't believe how expensive they are some weeks!  At my grocery store this week, they are $2 each....what?!  I know they're not in season yet, but geez that's crazy.  When I made these tacos, I was lucky that I found avocados for $0.75 a piece at my local fruit and vegetable market. 

Just a warning - this recipe makes a ton of taco filling.....I immediately froze about half of it to use at a later date, and we still had more than enough for Kevin and I to eat for dinner that night plus leftovers another night.  It was very good and pretty healthy by my standards.


1 lb. redskin or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes (I used 5 or 6 medium-sized yukon golds)
2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1″ pieces and seasoned generously with salt and pepper
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
3-4 chipotles in adobo, chopped
1 Tbsp. adobo sauce (which is just the sauce that canned chipotles come in)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. dried oregano (I used Italian seasoning instead)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 1/2 tsp. salt

For serving-
4 oz. fresh Mexican chorizo sausage (optional, but recommended - I used 7 ounces)
24 warm corn tortillas (I like white corn tortillas with this recipe.....if non-fried corn tortillas are not your thing, I think flour tortillas would taste good with this recipe too)
1 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco (or other fresh cheese, such as feta or goat cheese)
2 large avocados, diced (don't leave out....the avocado really adds a lot to these tacos!)
cilantro, chopped


Spread the potatoes over the bottom of a slowcooker and top with the pork.

In a large bowl, mix the (undrained) tomatoes with the chipotles, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, oregano or Italian seasoning, garlic, onion, and about 1.5 tsp. salt. Pour the mixture evenly over the meat and potatoes.

Cover and slowcook on high for 6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.

When you’re ready to eat, fry the optional chorizo and then stir everything together, breaking the pork into smaller pieces. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.

Serve with warm tortillas, cheese, cilantro, and avocados for making soft tacos.

Source:  Smells Like Home Blog, Originally from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

Friday, April 22, 2011

Scallops with White Wine Lemon Butter Sauce

Alright, I know this photo is not good at all (I wish I could buy a DSLR camera.....but maybe someday), but I still had to post this because these scallops were so freaking good!  If you want to see a great picture of how these scallops should look, check them out at Confections of a Foodie Bride (which is where I found this recipe) because her photo is amazing.

These scallops were originally called carmelized scallops, but I had to change the name because I obviously didn't get a good sear on my scallops.  I'm no scallop expert, but I think mine didn't sear like I had hoped because 1 - I didn't have my pan screaming hot when I put the scallops in, 2 - I used a non-stick pan, and 3 - I just used regular butter, not clarified butter.  I did make sure to dry the scallops, but next time I will make sure I use a really hot pan that isn't a nonstick.

Regardless, these scallops were great and had an amazing flavor.  The lemony, buttery wine sauce goes perfectly with the scallops.  I served these with some gnocchi with a light alfredo sauce, and it was a great meal for two.....I wouldn't have minded a couple of extra scallops :)


12 large scallops (around a pound)
Pinch of kosher salt (I always use coarse sea salt)
Freshly cracked black pepper
4 Tbsp clarified butter (I admit it....I'm too lazy to make clarified butter....I just used 4 T. of regular, salted butter)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, zested and squeezed
1 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped (I left this out because I didn't have any)
8 chives, chopped (Hooray for my chives which are now coming back after sitting outside all winter!  I didn't even know they did that!)


Heat butter on medium high.

Pat scallops dry. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Spread sugar on a plate and dip one side of each scallop into the sugar before placing it (sugar side down) into the saute pan.

Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the scallops are nicely seared (don't overcook or they will be rubbery!). Remove scallops from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice to the pan and reduce the sauce by half.

Serve scallops topped with pan sauce, lemon zest, parsley, and chives. 

Source:  Found on Confections of a Foodie Bride Originally from Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Asian Lettuce Wraps

I have to admit that before I made these, I'd never actually eaten lettuce wraps.....a meal without carbs?!  How could that be???  I stumbled across this recipe on The Noble Pig blog and decided to give it a try since I've been trying to eat a little healthier lately.

I'm glad I gave this a try because it made a tasty, healthy meal for us.  I'll admit that I wouldn't have turned down some eggrolls or potstickers to go with this, but it was definitely filling on it's own and good for my waistline.  I also loved the presentation, and I think this would make a good appetizer when you're entertaining guests.  I will definitely be making these again :)


1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 pounds ground turkey or ground pork (I used a 1.25 lb. package of ground turkey)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 cup bean sprouts
2 carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)
24 large Boston or butter lettuce leaves (I used 1 head of butter could also use regular iceberg lettuce to cut the costs a little bit)
Soy sauce, for serving


Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, saute 1 minute longer.

Stir in turkey and cook, stirring until almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add broth and hoisin sauce. Cook, stirring and breaking up clumps of turkey, until turkey is cooked through and some of the liquid cooks down, 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in teriyaki sauce, bean sprouts and carrots. (You should have about 6 cups of filling).

Either spoon about 1/4 cup of filling into center of each lettuce leaf, or serve like I did below so that each person can just make their own lettuce wraps.  Serve with soy sauce if desired.

Source:  The Noble Pig

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chili and the 2011 Chicago Blizzard...

Even though it's mid-April, I decided to post my go-to chili recipe because it's so freaking cold in Chicago today!  When I woke up this morning, there was actually a tiny bit of snow on the ground :(  WTF!  Why won't spring just come already?

Here's a look back at a few pictures I took around our condo during "The 2011 Chicago Blizzard."  I'm so glad that it's (hopefully) going to be warm soon!   Here's a picture of all of the snow accumulating on our deck mid-way through the blizzard:

It took a couple of days before the city even plowed our side street.....I was student teaching at the time (which I drove to in the suburbs), and I was so glad that school was cancelled for two days because there's no way I could have gotten my car out!  Luckily we have an enclosed garage spot, but there was no way I would have been able to get through our alley. 

The sidewalks were too deep to walk through at first, so we took Windy down the tire tracks in the middle of the street for her walks.

I had to take a picture of the car below because I couldn't believe how high the snow drift was!  I feel bad for whoever had to dig this car out....

There were gigantic piles of snow everywhere after our sidewalks got plowed.....

Windy's loving the snow :)

Anyway, back to the chili.....if it's cold where you are, and you want one last pot of chili before it gets warm for good, give this recipe a try.  This is my favorite basic chili recipe (with no beans, but you could certainly add some if you like that).  As always, make sure to taste while you cook and season with plenty of salt and pepper!  I love making this on a Sunday so that we can eat up leftovers during the week.  I have also frozen leftovers to eat later, and this freezes very well.


2 pounds ground beef
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. chili powder
1 T. cumin
1 T. dried Italian Seasoning
3 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 bottle or can of good beer (IPA's are my personal favorite for drinking and cooking)
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded sharp cheddar cheese, saltine crackers, and cilantro (for serving)


1.  Drink half of your bottle of beer.....yummy....then set the other half aside.  Combine ground beef, onion, and garlic in large stockpot. Cook and stir over medium heat until beef is brown. Drain.

2.  Stir in chili powder,cumin, italian seasoning, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and the remaining half of your bottle of beer; break up tomatoes while stirring. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste (sometimes I'll also add more chili powder and cumin if it needs it).  Heat to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.  Taste again and re-season as needed.

3.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, saltine crackers, and cilantro.

Source:  Adapted from Allrecipes

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thai Chicken Flatbread Pizza

Just thinking about this thai chicken flatbread makes me want to put it on the menu again for next week.....and I just might do that!  It tastes amazing, and it's really quick to put together.  I'll admit, I'm too lazy to make my own pizza crust most of the time (and I'm not into using Pillsbury or Boboli crusts anymore), but I found a solution that I have been using whenever I want a super thin crust bought flatbread!  I buy packaged flatbread from the bread section of my grocery store, top it with whatever I want on my pizza, and bake at 450 degrees for about 8 minutes or so.

There are a lot of different flatbread pizzas that I have to share, but this one is the hands-down winner for both Kevin and me.  Just a warning....the sriracha that I top it with makes it very spicy so if spicy is not your thing you might want to leave it off.  I didn't measure to find exact measurements when I made this, but I tried to give my best estimates.  Try this great combination, it's a great pizza :)


2 pieces of store-bought flatbread (you can of course substitute your favorite pizza crust)
A little over half of a 7 oz. jar of peanut sauce (or enough to thinly spread all over your pizza crust)
1/2 lb. cooked chicken, diced into small, bite-sized pieces
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (you can use more or less depending on your tastes....I think I probably used a little more than this!)
4 scallions, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Sriracha hot sauce, to taste


1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2.  Spread the peanut sauce all over the flatbread crust in a thin layer.  Arrange the chicken pieces over the pizza.  Sprinkle on the shredded cheese, jalapenos, and the scallions.

3.  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the cheese has completely melted and the crust has browned a little (you'll probably need to cook this a bit longer if you use regular pizza crust instead of flatbread).  Top cooked pizza with shredded carrots, cilantro, and sriracha (be careful - a little goes a long can look at the amount I used in a picture to give you an idea of how much to use if you want it very spicy).

This is sooooo good!

Source:  Inspired by lots of restaurants where I've had something similiar and from a recipe I saw on allrecipes