Cilantro-Lime Chimichurri with Avocados

I have actually written about this sauce before, but it seems to be buried in a post that is hard for some to find. I made the meal featured in this post this weekend and it was again a huge hit. The sauce is absolutely the star of the show. I serve this with chips as an appetizer, add a generous helping of it to rice and then serve as a sauce along with any grilled meat. I think of this sauce as a healthier option to guacamole, which is hard to beat. Since you use less avocados, you get the heart healthy fats without all the calories. I have been doubling the recipe as I find myself always wanting more and using it every way I can!

Cilantro-Lime Chimichurri with Avocados
Forks & Amusement 2009
Makes 1 1/2 cups (This has a decent shelf life, store in an air tight container for up to 3 days)

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
4 husked tomatillos (I could not find them in the market and subbed one 7 oz. can of salsa verde from the Mexican section, normally the market will have them, they look like little green tomatoes with husks)
4 trimmed green onions, roughly chopped
2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
juice of 2 limes (use more if they are not that juicy)
1 deveined and seeded jalapeno, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of Green Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1 large avocado
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cumin

Combine ingredients in a food processor, mini chopper or blender and process until it is a smooth sauce. Use the pulse function to make sure everything combines well. Taste the sauce and add what flavors you may want more of. Salt? Smokey Cumin? Lime? Transfer sauce to a serving bowl and enjoy with tortilla chips, serve with rice and/or over grilled meats.



Irish Soda Bread

Being Irish and growing up in a house where St. Patrick's Day ranks right up there with Christmas, I have been taught how to make an Irish dinner. Corned beef with cabbage, boiled potatoes and soda bread remind me of springtime when I was young and the weather itching up into the 60s. This year I did not have the opportunity to make the entire meal as I had a girls night in at a friend's house. But, I knew soda bread would be a hit with the girls and a good way to celebrate the day. This recipe is easy (I feel like I say that with every post, but I swear I will only use the word when it really is!) and fast. I think I made the batter in about 10 minutes and that included sifting and measuring. I used raisins instead of currants as I am not a fan, so go ahead and add whatever you would like. Dried cranberries, chocolate chips, anything you like in a scone or a muffin would work. I even saw a recipe where they added rosemary and Parmesan, quite the way to incorporate Italian and Irish cuisine!

Grandma Clark's Soda Bread
The New Basics Cookbook
makes one 10" loaf


Smear 2T of the butter evenly in a 10 inch cast iron skillet. (I used a 9" cake pan) Line the pan or skillet with a circle of waxed paper. Melt 2 more tablespoons of butter in a separate pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift dry ingredients together. Add currants and toss well to coat. Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter. Add this to the dry ingredients, along with the caraway seeds if you are using them. Mix till blended, but do NOT over mix. Spoon batter into the prepared skillet or cake pan and smooth top gently with a spatula. Dot the top with remaining 2T butter.
Bake until golden brown and puffed, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve warm.
I enjoyed this again today warmed up in the microwave, slathered with some butter and served next to my cup of tea. I felt the Irish in me and home once again.


Vegetable Fried Rice with Eggs

I was recently in Hawaii and was so delighted every morning to have rice with my eggs in the morning. Not a totally unusual combination, but I was obsessed. So I tried to replicate a version of what I ate at home. What came out is a delicious, veggie-laden, fried rice made with bacon. This is just a new spin on your average bacon and eggs. I served it for dinner and I will absolutely be making this again and again.

Bacon Fried Rice with Fried Eggs
serves 4

1 cup long grain white rice
6 slices of good quality bacon diced (If on the thin side, use a couple extra)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 large onion, diced
2 large leeks, cleaned well and diced ( just use the light green of the leek)
3/4 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
3/4 cup roughly chopped mushrooms (I used baby bellas, but any would work)
1/2 cup bamboo shoots roughly chopped
1/2 cup of water chestnuts roughly chopped
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar unseasoned
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
8 eggs

Cook rice according to package.
Meanwhile, in a wok or large pan cook the bacon over medium heat until just browned and crispy. Turn off the heat and remove bacon quickly to a paper toweled lined plate. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Once pan is very hot, carefully add the ginger, onion, leek, carrot, celery and mushrooms. Stir to coat vegetables in fat and combine. Allow to cook until vegetables are tender, but not burnt, about 10 minutes. (If you feel like your pan is way too hot, turn it down and continue to cook) Add the bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, stir to combine and allow to heat through, about 1 minute.

Add the rice wine vinegar slowly all over the pan to deglaze. With a wooden spoon, scrap the bottom of the pan to incorporate all of the browned bits into the vegetable mixture. Add the soy and stir to combine. Add the cooked rice and bacon. Continue to stir and cook the rice with the vegetables for 2 minutes until combined and delicious. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and cover.

Over a very low flame, using a large pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray, crack the eggs carefully into the pan allowing enough room to flip over. Once the egg whites are opaque and almost cooked through, carefully flip them making sure not to break the yolk (although that happens all the time!). Cook on the other side for just a few minutes until egg whites have set. Immediately spoon a heaping portion of rice on a warmed plate and serve with two eggs on top. Top with some fresh ground pepper and serve immediately.

Yum, I want this again right now! You can add whatever vegetables you would like to this recipe. I also did not add any heat, but you could do so when you add the soy. This would also be a great side for any Asian inspired dinner. Forget the eggs and serve with a soy and ginger marinated steak or chicken breast!



Lobster Mac 'n Cheese

Total indulgence. (Or gluttony. I suppose it depends on who you ask). Valentine's Day. Seemed like the perfect excuse. I got the idea in my head and then started looking for recipes online. Some seemed too fussy, others didn't seem decadent enough (because what's the point in making it if you don't go all out?!). What I ended up with was a mix of several different ideas, in the most scaled down recipe possible. It was all about the ingredients with this one. (Full disclosure: I spent a small fortune on cheese, but it was worth every penny.)

Lobster Mac 'n Cheese
3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
12 ounces lobster tail pieces, fully cooked and chopped up (I bought mine fresh from the store and steamed them)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk, room temperature
4 cups white cheese, shredded. I used an extra sharp aged Wisconsin white cheddar, Beecher's semi-hard cow's milk cheese (yes, I did take photos of the wrappers so I could remember), Beemster Dutch cheese and a cave-aged Swiss Gruyere. The cheesemonger at my local market helped me choose these. Like I said before, I wanted to go all out. If you want to make it simpler on yourself you can choose one cheese. White cheddar or gruyere, maybe?
White truffle oil (the recipe I found that included truffle oil called for 1/4 cup - I think I would use less next time, but definitely include it!)
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (make them fresh, don't use store bought!)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook macaroni; drain.
Next step is making a roux to start the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. When melted and foamy, add the flour and whisk together to make a paste. Add 1 cup milk, continue to whisk until mixture is blended and creamy. Add the cheese 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly. As the cheese melts, continue to add remaining milk and cheese in 1 cup increments. Add more milk if the cheese sauce seems too thick (mine didn't). Add the white truffle oil once everything has been incorporated. (This is where your kitchen starts smelling heavenly.) Once the sauce is fully melted, add the pasta and lobster. Stir well to coat everything. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish. Top with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 400-degree oven until top is browned (roughly 30 minutes). Serve with champagne and a baguette (remember, you're going all out).

(No, I did not prop up the Italian calendar just for the photo).



Simple Greek Inspired Dinner

Last night I made a quick dinner that my husband deemed "blog-worthy." A saying in the house that has become a part of our regular vocabulary. It was flavorful, easy and has just a few steps. I broke down all of the components below. You can eat and assemble however you would like!

Pita: You can find store bought Greek style pita at most markets. It is fluffier and thicker than just your average pita "pocket," so make sure you get the real deal. You simply brush each side with a little olive oil and heat up in a pan or grill pan. You can also pop in the microwave if you prefer.

Tzatziki: This is a traditional yogurt sauce that is served with pita, gyro, anything you want. Combine Greek yogurt (ie: Fage) with lemon juice, grated cucumber, salt and pepper all to taste. I would start with half a lemon's juice with every 1/2 cup of yogurt and 1/4 cucumber. Then play with it to your taste.

Greek salad: Toss together romaine, diced tomatoes (I used halved grape tomatoes), diced cucumber and diced red onion. Drizzle with red wine vinegar and olive oil to coat, salt and pepper.

Chicken: Marinate boneless, skinless, chicken breasts in marinade (tablespoon of Dijon, juice of 2 lemons, chopped fresh oregano, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil until it doubles in quantity) for 30 minutes or even up to overnight. Use enough marinade so that your chicken is fully covered in it in a plastic zip top bag. Grill chicken, let rest for 10 minutes while tented with foil, slice on an angle with sharp knife.

This is a very lose recipe. Sorry it is not very exact! But this is the perfect recipe to attempt to taste as you go and see how to make things your own. There are not very many ingredients, so please play with it!

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