Monday, July 25, 2016

Shrimp Cocktail Salad


There is something enticing about plump juicy shrimp with a zesty cocktail sauce. Unfortunately, shrimp cocktail has been relegated to the realm of old-school appetizers served by unoriginal hosts and restaurants.

Shrimp cocktail needs to make a comeback.

I can’t think of a better way to help than with a salad. Salads are all the rage right now because when done right, they’re tasty and have amazing health benefits. In my research for this recipe, I discovered that shrimp salad used to be a thing, so I thought: why not combine the flavors of shrimp cocktail with a deliciously complementary salad? The result is something with all the zest of the classic cocktail and the crunch of an amazing salad you can eat as an appetizer or a meal!

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep and Cook Time: 10-15 Minutes
Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Cups of Coarsely Chopped Peeled and De-veined Cooked Frozen Shrimp – the tail shells removed – The easiest way to do this is to squeeze the sharper ends of the tail shell between thumb and forefinger and pull. The shell should come right off.

¼ Cup Shrimp Cocktail Sauce – Available in the fish and seafood section of major grocery stores and at fish markets. If you want to try making your own from scratch, here’s my recipe.

4 Tablespoons of Mayonnaise or Jarred Salad Dressing

Zest and Juice of 1 Lime

3 Leaves of Fresh Basil, chopped

1 English Cucumber, Coarsely Chopped

2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes, Coarsely Chopped

1 Tablespoon of Red Wine Vinegar

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1/2 Teaspoon of Basil or Oregano

1 Small Clove of Garlic, peeled and smashed to release its oils

Salt and Pepper to Taste

8 Medium Leaves of Iceberg Lettuce - Washed and Dried

Equipment

1 Knife and Cutting Board
Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Regular Bowl

1 Mixing Bowl

2 Forks for Mixing – I like a whisk for mixing big things, but for little things like salad dressings and eggs, a fork and a little elbow grease work just fine.

Plastic Wrap

In a regular bowl, combine the vinegar, basil or oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, and mix everything well with a fork to combine.

Add the cucumbers and tomatoes and mix everything to coat.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge while you get the other ingredients ready.

In your mixing bowl, combine the cocktail sauce, mayonnaise, and lime juice and give it a good stir with a fork to combine.

Add your shrimp and mix everything to coat.

Add the basil and stir so that it’s evenly distributed among the shrimp.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on 2 plates.

Put some of the marinated cucumber and tomato on the leaves.

Top with the shrimp mixture and serve!

 Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.




Friday, July 15, 2016

Nanaimo Bar Cupcakes



Every once in a while I get a craving for a very specific dessert and Nanaimo bars are often at the top of my list. 

Nanaimo bars are a treat named after a city in British Columbia (Canada) and consist of a crumb base topped with a vanilla custard-flavored icing and covered with a solid layer of chocolate. They’re absolutely delicious but so sweet you can only eat them once in a while. They also come with an additional problem: you can’t serve them for someone’s birthday as that solid chocolate layer makes inserting a candle into the bars impossible. It is due to the latter problem that I came up with this recipe.

These cupcakes take just as much time as making regular Nanaimo bars from scratch but they’re a bit more moist and easier to bite into due to the cake base. The trick is to use a cake mix, which is idiot-proof and delicious.

Here’s How You Make Them

Difficulty Level: Medium
Total Prep and Cook time: 30 Minutes

Ingredients

1 Package of Chocolate Cake Mix – Prepared as per the instructions on the box in a muffin pan lined with muffin liners (available in grocery, dollar, and art supplies’ stores)

¼ Cup Melted Dark Chocolate

¼ Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

2 Tablespoons of Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

2 Tablespoons of Crushed Dry Roasted Nuts - Optional

½ a Teaspoon + 1 Pinch of Salt – Divided

3 Cups of Icing aka Powdered Sugar

4 Tablespoons of Instant Vanilla Pudding Powder - This gives the frosting it's custard flavor

½ Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

½ Cup of Softened Butter

About 4 Tablespoons of Milk, divided – ideally full fat Cow’s Milk

Equipment

2 Mixing Bowls

1 Frying Pan

1 Rubber Spatula

1 Wire Whisk or Electric Hand Mixer

1 Regular Bowl

2 Regular Spoons

Muffin Pan

Muffin Liners

Plastic Wrap

In the first mixing bowl, prep the cake mix according to the directions on the package.

Put the batter evenly into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners and stick in the oven to bake. The cake mix box will have instructions for how long the batter will need if cooked in a muffin pan.

While the cupcakes are baking, mix the softened butter, ½ Teaspoon of Salt, Vanilla Pudding Powder, Vanilla Extract, and half of the Icing Sugar together using a wire whisk or electric hand mixer.

Add 2 Tablespoons of Milk and whisk well.

Add the remaining icing sugar and mix until well combined. If the frosting seems too thick, add an additional 2 Tablespoons of milk and mix well.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

When the cupcakes are done, take them out of the oven and cool them completely.

In an ungreased frying pan on medium heat, dump in the shredded coconut and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula until some of the coconut is a pale golden brown.

Scrape the coconut into a regular bowl and add the Cocoa, the pinch of Salt, Brown Sugar, and Crushed Nuts (if using).

When the cupcakes are cool, smear a thick layer of the Vanilla frosting on each cupcake using a butter knife.

Drizzle some melted dark chocolate on top of each one with a spoon.

Sprinkle a generous amount of the coconut and cocoa mixture on top and serve!

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.






Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lemon and Herb White Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Leeks and Tomato Lime Couscous


There is nothing more romantic than a nice dinner and a good bottle of wine. Though rom-coms all too often feature a happy couple tucking in to a candlelit steak dinner, steak seems like an awfully heavy choice for a date night meal. If you’re full of meat chances are you’ll be too full and tired to have sex afterwards and for many of us date night is the only chance to get laid without fear of interruption. Fish, which is a lot lighter on the palate and the stomach, is a much better option especially when you pair it with seasonal ingredients.

This fish dish takes its inspiration from France. French food is one of those cuisines that manages to make a light meal feel luxurious and that’s a feeling you definitely want in a meal shared with your sweetheart. True to French tradition, I use wine and butter in this dish, but in moderation, favoring olive oil as my main fat in order to keep everything light without compromising flavor.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium-Easy
Prep time: 10
Cook Time: 1 hour

Serves 2

Ingredients

ROASTED TOMATOES AND LEEKS

1 Cup of Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

1 Cup of Cleaned, Sliced Leeks
Some grocery stores carry fresh or frozen leeks that are washed and already sliced. Check the area where bagged salads are sold and the frozen foods section. If you can’t find em, buy a leek, cut the dark green parts off, cut them in half length-wise and then rinse the crap out of them to get rid of all the excess dirt. You can now slice them up.

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Teaspoon of Basil or Oregano

½ Fresh Ground Pepper

½ Teaspoon of Salt

½ Cup of White Wine

HERBED FISH

2 White Fish Fillets
I used frozen sole filets from Costco that I thawed out, but you can use any small or medium white fish fillets, fresh or frozen and now thawed.

1 Teaspoon of Basil Pesto

½ Teaspoon of Lemon Pepper
Lemon Pepper is a salt and pepper mix where the salt has been flavored with lemon. It is my go-to fish seasoning.

TOMATO LIME COUSCOUS

Juice of 1 Lime

1 Cup of Chopped fresh Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

Pinch of salt

½ Cup of Couscous

¾ Cup of Water

1 Teaspoon of Half Salt or Salted Butter

1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

Equipment

1 Medium Baking Pan – a Brownie pan works well for this

1 Large Plastic Container

1 Spatula

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Frying Pan

1 Heat Proof Bowl

1 Regular Bowl

Plastic Wrap

1 Pot

1 Fork

2 Plates

Preheat the oven to 350 oF.

In the baking dish, combine the Tomatoes, Leeks, Olive Oil, Basil or Oregano, and your Salt and Pepper and stir everything with a wooden spoon to combine.

Stick the pan in the oven and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Season the fish fillets with lemon pepper and coat with the pesto.

Stick them in the fridge while the leeks and tomatoes are roasting.

After 30 minutes, take the leeks and tomatoes out of the oven and stir them once.

Stick them back in the oven for another 30 minutes and get started on your couscous.

In a bowl combine the chopped fresh cherry or grape tomatoes and add the lime juice and a pinch of salt.

Stir everything together and leave it to marinate while you prep your couscous.

Put ½ a cup of couscous in a heat proof bowl.

In a pot bring ¾ cup of water to a boil.

Pour the boiling water over the couscous and immediately cover with plastic wrap (or if you’re environmentally conscious you can always use a plate big enough to cover the bowl).

Leave it for 5 minutes.

Uncover the couscous and using the tines of your fork, separate them the grains. This process is called fluffing.

Add the Butter and Olive Oil and stir. Then add the Tomatoes and stir again.

Stick it in the fridge until the leeks in the oven are done.

Scoop out some the leeks and add them to your couscous. Give it a stir to combine.

Put some couscous on each plate and get started on your fish.

Heat your pan on high and grease it with a little Olive oil.

Put in a fish fillet in and cook on either side, turning when the edges go opaque. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork and the juices are a milky colour.

Put it on the plate with the couscous and repeat with the other fillet.

Put the remaining roasted tomatoes and leeks in the same frying pan and add the white wine.

Stir everything around on medium high heat until most of the wine has evaporated or been absorbed into the veg.

Use them to top the fish.

Now grab a glass of wine, light a candle, and settle in to a nice night with your sweetheart!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.