Monday, December 5, 2016

Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Shortbread Fingers

Two Christmases ago, my husband's entire family came to visit from the Midwest.  My mother- and father-in-law arrived Christmas Eve, and my sister-in-law and her family arrived late Christmas evening.  Rather than a big family meal just as everyone was arriving, I opted to serve soup and salad for supper with a big plate of Christmas cookies for dessert.  I always make sugar cookies at Christmas, along with another secret family favorite, but I wanted a third type of cookie on my platter.  Something with chocolate, to round out the flavors I already had going on.  And something simple since cooking (and planning) for so many people was bound to make my head spin.  I channeled my inner Sandra Lee and opted for semi-homemade!  I'm not sure how I came up with this combination, but it was a real winner and something I'll make again and again!

1 package Walkers shortbread fingers
12 ounces dark chocolate
peppermint sprinkles, or finely chopped candy canes

Heat a small sauce pan of water to simmering.  Place a shallow bowl over the pan, ensuring that the bowl is not submerged in the water.  Melt the chocolate, stirring constantly until smooth.

Working quickly, dip the shortbread into the chocolate so that half is covered.  Allow excess to drip off.  Place the shortbread on a wire rack placed inside a baking sheet, and sprinkle with peppermint before the chocolate cools and hardens.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Grilled Achiote Shrimp

I never met a shrimp I didn't like.  My husband, on the other hand, doesn't care for my favorite crustacean.  Especially the large varieties.  Still, every now and then I sneak them into the menu rotation because I just love the sweet flavor and tender meat.  And, since he doesn't like them as much, I get all the leftovers!  Of course. this dish can certainly be made with smaller shrimp if your guests agree with my husband.  I made a "surf and turf" style meal serving these shrimp kebabs alongside a delightful beef tenderloin for a fabulous Brazilian Theme Dinner...just in time for the Olympics!

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon achiote powder
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on

Heat oil, garlic, achiote powder, and zests in a saucepan over low heat until bubbles form at the surface.  Remove from heat and let mixture steep 15 minutes.  Whisk in cilantro, lemon juice, orange juice, salt, and pepper.  Pour marinade over shrimp, toss to combine, and refrigerate no longer than 45 minutes.  Thread shrimp onto skewers (I normally do 3 shrimp per skewer since they are so large).

Preheat grill to medium and brush grates with oil.  Grill shrimp until opaque and cooked through, about 90 second per side, until grill marks appear.

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from Cuisine at Home.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Coriander Beef Tenderloin with Onion-Cilantro Relish

Who doesn't love a great steak?  This one is just full of flavor, and while I don't normally subscribe to perfecting perfection (come on, tenderloin is about as good as it gets!) the relish on these steaks is amazing and brings to flavor of Brazil right to your backyard.  The relish would be equally fabulous stirred into rice for a color side dish, served over fish or chicken if you don't care for red meat, or added to some fresh tropical fruits (pineapple and mango) for a tasty summer salad.

For the relish:
2 cups finely diced red onion
1/2 cup diced jalapeno
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoon chopped orange zest
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the beef:
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 beef tenderloins

Preheat grill to medium and brush grates with oil.

Make the relish.  Combine onions, jalapeno, vinegar, zest.  Let sit 5 minutes before stirring in the oil.  Stir in cilantro just before serving.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the steaks, combine the coriander and salt.  Press seasoning into beef.  Grill steaks, covered, until medium-rare (about 4 minutes per side) or to taste.  Transfer to a plate, tent with foil, and allow to rest 5 minutes.

To serve, plate steaks with relish on top.

Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from Cuisine at Home.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pineapple Caipirinha

When my mom and I were on a Girls Weekend Getaway, we met a lovely Brazilian couple who told us all about Caipirinhas.  My mom had tasted the cocktail previously, but I never had.  When I came across this recipe, I was inspired to make a Brazilian meal featuring the drink!  It's refreshing, tasty, and perfect for the hottest of summer days. And, since it's been 100 degrees in DC for the last week or so, I had an excuse to whip up a bunch. These are an amazing signature drink, or the foundation for a themed dinner party, which is certainly my favorite kind! Saúde!

1 1/2 cups pureed fresh pineapple (2 cups diced)
1 cup cachaca (you can use light rum or vodka in a pinch)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
crushed ice
lime slices
pineapple wedges

Whisk together pureed pineapple, cachaca, lime juice, and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Divide among 4 glasses filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with lime slices and pineapple wedges.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Brazilian Backyard BBQ

In honor of the Rio Olympics, I couldn't help but host a theme party (are we really surprised here?!)...  These flavors are the epitome of summer, party, tropical, color, spice, and fun!  I've certainly never been to Brazil (bucket list) but these flavors are exactly what I think of when I imagine a vacation there!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sunset Sangria

Several years ago, before we had kids, my husband and I went to Key West on vacation.  One of my favorite memories from the trip was the Sunset Shrimp Spectacular festival we attended.  $5 got you a shrimp dinner, and $5 more got a margarita to wash it down.  The ambiance was made complete by playful dolphins in the bay, a local band at the end of the pier, and festival performers dancing in Mallory Square.  It was a perfect evening, and this is the perfect summer cocktail.  Mix up a pitcher and to enjoy in the evening, just as the fireflies are coming out!  Feel free to change up the ingredients to suit your tastes, keeping in mind that the colors of the original recipe are meant to mimic a gorgeous summer sunset in the Keys...

3 cups tequila
1 750 mL bottle pinot grigio
3 cups ruby red grapefruit juice
1 1/2 cups simple syrup
1 1/2 cups lime juice (fresh is best!)
3 cups ice
3 cups club soda
large slices of citrus (orange, lemon, pink grapefruit)

Add all ingredients to large pitcher or drink dispenser, with the exception of the ice, club soda, and fruit.  Stir to combine.  Gently stir in ice.  Pour club soda over the top just before serving, and garnish with fruit.  Pour over ice!

Recipe adapted from Pottery Barn catalog.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunset Shrimp Spectacular

The first summer my husband and I were married, we road-tripped to Key West on vacation, celebrating the end of my time of active duty service in the Navy. We stayed in a fabulous place that recommended the Tuesday Night Sunset Shrimp Spectacular. For $5, you were served steamed shrimp, corn-on-the-cob, and cole slaw, and ate standing up. But the sunset from the pier, steel drum bands, and street performers made the ambiance priceless. We "splurged" and bought a couple of $5 margaritas and later a $10 bucket of Corona long-necks. When my husband teased me about having champagne taste, I remind him that that $30 meal is in my top five best dinner dates!  In fact, it was such a memorable time, that when we later had another couple over for dinner, I recreated the experience at home.  The evening was a huge success and I even pulled it off for under $100 total!