Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shrimp Chorizo Burgers

Burgers are quintessential to the summer!  They are a great weeknight meal and of course, super popular for serving guests at cook outs.  Recently I was at the dentist browsing an old issue of Food & Wine magazine and there was an article about paella.  I love paella and while contemplating what to make for dinner last weekend, I couldn't get some of the paella's ingredients out of my mind!  When my husband requested that we cook up some burgers I had an idea!  What if I combined a few paella ingredients and incorporated them into a delicious burger?! 

This recipes recipe pairs two surf-in-turf ingredients who have known each other forever in a very friendly, delicious and perfect-for-cookouts way.   I decided to approach this burger concept kind of like how I build a crab cake and decided to chop up the shrimp and chorizo so it could be formed into a patty.  It worked out really well.  I baked these, but if you used a grill pan you could throw them on the grill too.  Make these spicy and sultry burgers at your next cook out!


Serves 4

1 lb of shrimp
1/2 lb of fresh chorizo (not smoked)
1 egg white
3 tbsp of mayonnaise
2 tbsp of diced white onions
1 tbsp of lemon juice (juice of half a lemon)
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of pepper
3/4 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tbsp on garlic
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 kaiser rolls


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On the stove top, heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat.  Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Remove shrimp from their shells and add to saute pan.  Reduce heat to medium and cook shrimp for 3-4 minutes on each side until shrimp is no longer opaque.   Remove from heat.

In a food processor, add shrimp and process for a few seconds until shrimp is chopped into small pieces.  If you don't have a food processor, chop cooked shrimp on a cutting board into small pieces.  Repeat for the chorizo!

In a medium sized bowl mix together bread crumbs, mayo, egg white, onions, and lemon juice.  Next lightly fold in chopped shrimp and chorizo.

Cover bowl and place in the refrigerator for no less than 30 minutes. It is important to refrigerate the mixture so the flavors marinate and also so you can easily form patties.

In a glass baking dish, form 4 burger patties and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. While the burgers are baking, lightly toast the rolls. Assemble burgers and garnish with tomato, arugula and lemon!

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Green Curry & Quinoa

I have been eating a lot of quinoa lately.  It's a powerful grain, high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals.   Quinoa is nutty with a delicate fluffy grain texture that cooks quickly.   And due to its wild popularity in the last 18 months, there are a zillion recipes out there for it.  But I decided on a whim to replace my usual brown rice with quinoa in my green curry and it turned out to be an ahhhhhmazing combination.

I never used to like things like green curry.  I always thought it was strictly for Indian cuisine, and that it would be crazy spicy.  In actuality it is a term used in many different cuisines, with my favorite being Thai, who's curry is based with creamy coconut milk.

When I lived in Philadelphia, there was a local Thai restaurant in Manayunk that my roommates almost exclusively ate at.  Chabaa is a beautiful and tasty little spot (and byob!).   My go to dish was one of the pad thai's, usually with jumbo lump crab, which was wonderful, but I had no idea what I was missing until three years ago when I had my first green curry! (Chabba pictures courtesy of yelp.com)

My husband and I were lucky enough to spend the summer traveling in Thailand and Cambodia 3 years ago.  I surprisingly became obsessed with the green curry!  In fact, my love of green curry was so strong that while honeymooning in Bali last summer, we made a quick trip up to Koh Lanta, Thailand solely partially because of my green curry obsession. 

Since then Chris and I have been experimenting with our own light and healthy version.  This recipe is pretty basic*, and changes due to what fresh ingredients you have in your fridge, freezer or pantry.   For vegetables, you can use almost anything of your liking- broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, bamboo shoots, asparagus, etc.  This recipe is also extra healthy because I used low-fat coconut milk, brown sugar splenda and quinoa instead of white or brown rice.


1 cup of quinoa
14 oz (1 can) low fat coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons of green curry paste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons brown sugar splenda
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon Thai basil, thinly chopped plus extra for garnish


It is a really good idea to rinse your quinoa before you cook it.  Quinoa seeds have a unique coating called saponin that will taste bitter if not removed. In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa grain well under cold running water.

In a sauce pan, bring to a boil 2 cups of water and the rinsed quinoa.  Cover and simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.

In a large sauce pan, simmer coconut milk and stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of green curry over medium heat for 5 minutes. 

Add fish sauce, brown sugar, thai basil, mushrooms, red peppers and peas.  Let simmer for 10 minutes uncovered and serve in a bowl over quinoa.  Garnish with extra Thai basil.

*This recipe is actually vegetarian because I was too hungry to wait for chicken to defrost and didn't have any frozen shrimp in the freezer.  But you can add chicken, tofu, pork or shrimp if you like!

Enjoy!  Follow me on Twitter @CheesePlease531

Monday, August 22, 2011

Watermelon Feta Salad

Summer is still here!  Even as we all look forward to the fall, it is important to take advantage of summer produce while it is still around.  I absolutely love watermelon - it tastes great, is low in calories and has a high amount of vitamin A (major antioxidant), vitamin C and Beta Carotene. This light and refreshing recipe is just quintessential to the summer.  The bright red watermelon in the salad is perfectly complimented by salty feta cheese and toasty pine nuts.  Red and green grapes add texture and color.  Top this salad with fresh mint and a champagne vinaigrette!

I got this recipe from one of my cook book's called "The All American Cheese and Wine Book - Pairings, Profiles and Recipes".  I love this cookbook, it was actually one of the gifts from my husband on the first Valentines Day we ever celebrated while dating.   Such a perfect gift, even back then he knew me very well!!  

I served this at lunch for a friend, and served the salad with BBQ grilled chicken.  The salty feta and sweet watermelon, along with the sweet and savory chicken paired especially well with Sauvignon Blanc.  Take advantage of this before the summer ends!


Serves 4

1 3lb wedge of seedless watermelon, or half of a seedless miniature watermelon
1 cup red and green grapes, halved
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves, plus extra for serving


In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, and mint.  Set aside.

With a sharp knife cut the watermelon in half lengthwise.  Cut the fruit away from the rind.  Then cut the fruit into cubes 1/4-inch.

In a large bowl, toss the watermelon together with grapes and cheese.  When ready to serve, toss with the dressing and nuts.  Garnish with a mint sprig and serve immediately.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers

What hands down goes best with cheese??  Crackers!  For years, I have tried and tested almost every single variety of crackers available at the grocery store, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, you name it.  I have read all the labels, compared ingredients, taste tested, and read nutritional labels with hopes of finding the BEST crackers to pair with my favorite cheeses, dips and hummus'.  Most of the time I am looking for a flavorful cracker that is low in fat (so I don't feel guilty eating 15 of them) and is not crazy expensive.

These homemade Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers are decidedly light and crispy.   They are pretty simple to make and use ingredients you probably already have on hand.  I immediately had the urge to make my own crackers when I came across this biscuit cutter at my favorite kitchen store, Sur La Table.   If you ever need any bakeware, kitchen tools, or pretty dishes, they have it all!  I could spend hours in this store (and hundred's of dollars).


2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp table salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
2-3 large rosemary sprigs, minced (about 1 tbsp)
3/4 tsp sea salt


Preheat oven to 425 degrees and lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray.  Mix rosemary and sea salt in a small bowl.  Mix all purpose flour, white whole wheat flour and salt in a medium bowl.

Add olive oil to the bowl with flour and salt mixture, and then slowly add the water.  Stir with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together (sometimes it helps to press the dough against the side of the bowl).

Divide the dough into three balls.  Cover two of the balls with some saran wrap and set aside while you work the first ball.

Lightly flour your work space and with your fingers press the dough into a flat oval.  Use a rolling pin to further roll out the dough.  I suggest using one because you want the dough to be pretty thin.  The rolling pin below was my Granny's that she passed down to me long before I actually knew of recipes that used one! 
With a cookie cutter or biscuit press, cut out each cracker and place on baking sheet. Continue to do so for each ball of dough, or in batches depending on the size and how many baking sheets you use.

Lightly brush the top of the dough with some water and sprinkle the top of each cracker with the rosemary sea salt mixture.  Be careful not to over season the crackers.  Bake for 8-10 minutes till slightly golden.  Remove and let cool.

These are sooo good just to snack on and are also great for entertaining.  Pair these crackers with a extra sharp Vermont White Cheddar and a cold glass of dry white wine.  Enjoy!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Bars

Have you ever been invited over to a friend's /co-worker's/ family member's home for dinner, and asked to bring a dessert?  For some, panic might set in, what do I bring?  Do I make something?  Bring something store bought? Is store bought tacky?  I believe one should never show up empty handed, and these types of questions always flood my mind.  I can't help it!  Dessert options are endless, and most of us don't routinely make dessert, but this recipe is one that is easy and will wow any crowd of diners.   The bars can be made a few days ahead of time and easily stored in the refrigerator. 

These Chocolate Toffee Short Bread Bars are a fun twist on the average cookie, and way more exciting than brownies!   The buttery chocolate-infused shortbread is deliciously topped with creamy chocolate and studded with sweet-and-salty caramel toffee bites.  I dare you to just eat one!


Makes about 30 bars
Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

For the Shortbread base:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter at room tempature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips, or finely chopped chocolate (I think the key is to use good chocolate, I prefer Ghirardelli)

For the topping:
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips, or finely chopped chocolate
1 1/2 cups toffee bits


Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 baking dish with foil and spray with baking spray.  (My mom turned me on to Pillsbury's Baking Spray with Flour and highly recommend it).

In a small bowl combine flour, salt and cinnamon, set aside.

With an electric mixer begin to mix butter while slowly adding brown and granulated sugar.  Beat on medium high until the mixture is light and fluffy.  About 3 minutes. 

At a slow speed, blend in the vanilla.  Then slowly blend in the small bowl dry ingredients.  (You need to add these slowly or cover the top of the mixer with a kitchen towel to avoid flour flying all over the place).  Stir in chocolate until it is evenly distributed.

Transfer the dough to the 9 x 13 pan and press into an even layer.  Bake the crust for 18-20 minutes or until shortbread is bubbling.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the hot dish to sit on a wire rack.  Sprinkle 6 oz of the chocolate evenly over top of the shortbread base.

Cover the pan with foil and let sit for 5 minutes.  Remove foil and spread the melted chocolate over the crust into a thin later using the back of a spoon or rubber spatula.  Immediately sprinkle toffee bits over the melted chocolate and press down. 

Let cool to room temperature.  If the chocolate is not set by the time the bars are cool, pop the entire thing into the freezer for ten minutes.  (I threw mine into the fridge, went to a yoga class, and when I got back they were set).  Using the long edges of the foil as handles, lift the bars out of the pan and with a sharp knife cut into small pieces.  Enjoy!

Thanks to my husband's wonderful family who gave me nothing but positive feedback on my recipes this past weekend!  Also, thanks and kindness to my wonderful friend Whitney who let me borrow her Kitchen Aid Mixer to see if I should invest in one.  I am glad someone got to use the mixer in the last two years!! ;)  I loved using it, and I must have one now!!!!  I foresee more baking in my future as my sweet tooth seems to grow sweeter every day.......

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Almond Crusted Chicken with a Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

Almonds have to be one of the easiest snacks you can have to satisfy hunger in a pinch.  They are loaded with good fats that keep you full longer and bursting with vitamin E, an antioxidant that bolsters the immune system.  We always have almonds around the house.  Last week Chris went to Costco and bought them in bulk.  He also bought several pounds of chicken breast and strawberries.  I threw together all of these ingredients and ended up with a surprisingly wonderful dinner!

The combination of the crunchy almond crust combined with a savory strawberry sauce is definitely a winner.  The hint of balsamic vinegar adds a nice extra layer of flavor.


Serves 4

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup of Almonds
1 Egg White
1 cup of Fresh Strawberries, rinsed and stems removed
1 tbsp of Sugar
1 tbsp of Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp of Corn Starch
1/8 cup of Chicken Broth (potentially more if sauce requires)
1 tbsp of Fresh Rosemary finely chopped (2 sprigs of fresh rosemary)


Preheat the over to 350.  In a food processor, process almonds for 1-2 minutes to a chunky bread crumb consistency.  Set aside.

Lightly pound chicken breast into 1/2" - 1" pieces.  The easiest way to do this is to cover the chicken breast with saran wrap using the smooth side of a kitchen mallet.

Dip chicken into a bowl containing the egg white, followed by dipping the chicken into the almond mixture.  Coat each chicken breast with almond crumbs on each side.  Place is a glass baking dish. Cover and bake for 30-35 minutes until chicken is browned and tender.

For the strawberry sauce, combine the strawberries, sugar, and balsamic in a food processor.  Place strawberry mixture in a stove top pan and add chicken broth, cornstarch and rosemary.  Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Top tender chicken breasts with the strawberry balsamic sauce and garnish with extra fresh rosemary.  Bon Appetit!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Happy Hummus

If there is one thing in this world I am absolutely crazy for other than cheese, it is hummus.  Hummus is a wonderful, healthy, and tasty snack option that can be used in so many ways.  I started buying hummus a few years ago, and you could always find me every evening after work standing in my kitchen dipping whatever I could find into a container of hummus.  I would be starving and could never stop myself from diving into some hummus before I cooked dinner.   When I started consuming containers of Sabra hummus faster than I care to remember, I decided to look into how to make it myself.

Turns out hummus not only is extremely easy to make, you can make it at a fraction of the cost!  And there are so many different ingredients you can add to change up the flavor.  Through out the past few years I have become addicted to making my own.   I like my hummus to be somewhat simple.  I also like it to be loaded with garlic, so feel free to use less, or even add more.  The secret ingredient lies in the ground cumin seeds, definitely don't leave it out.  This recipe is my favorite, it is the result of countless tries of many different ingredient combinations.  I think you will love it! 


1 can of chick peas, drained (aka garbanzo beans)
2 tbsp minced garlic (feel free to use 3 tbsp is you love garlic)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp organic sesame tahini  
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp freshly ground sea salt
1/8 tsp paprika


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process for 2-3 minutes.  Place in a small container and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.  Top with sprinkled paprika and serve with your favorite veggies (mine are cucumbers!) or pita chips.

It is always a great idea to whip up a batch at the beginning of the week to have on hand for sandwich spreads, or when you need a low-calorie snack!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yellowfin Tuna with Fresh Pineapple Salsa

This light and delightful meal was inspired by a trip to Key Largo last November.  We traveled down to Florida for a few days of warm weather and scuba diving.  The florida key's are a great little spot to get some sun and relax right before the holidays ramp up.  This past weekend we were reminiscing about the trip and all the good meals we had.  There is nothing in the world like fresh seafood!   One particular meal that stood out in my memory was a grilled tuna topped with fresh pineapple salsa… So delicious!

Yellow fin tuna is a tender yet mild fish that makes is great for grilling and eating a tad bit rare.  For the finest taste, look for sashimi grade tuna, also known as ahi tuna.  

Fresh cut pineapple is by far tastier than the canned variety.  Pineapple salsa is absolutely delicious and can be used for many other things too!  It will keep for 1-2 days, as long as it is covered and in the fridge.  Make a little extra and serve with tortilla chips as snack :)

Fresh Pineapple Salsa

2 cups of freshly diced pineapple
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
1/4 cup of red onion finely chopped
1 habanero pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1/8 a teaspoon of salt


Slice the top of pineapple and the bottom off.  Stand the pineapple on its side and with a sharp knife, slice sides of pineapple off.  Cut the pineapple into small slices and then remove the core of each slice.  (The core tends to be hard to eat, but I’ve had some pineapples were it was soft).  Dice the remaining pineapple into small pieces.

Toss all of the ingredients into a bowl and chill for a couple of hours to let the flavors marinate.

Yellow Fin Tuna

2 thick pieces of tuna (the thicker the better, mine were about 1.5”)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Sea Salt
Ground Pepper


Season each side of the fish with garlic powder, fresh ground pepper and sea salt.  
Heat grill to medium high heat.  Grill each side for about 4-5 minutes, until inside of the fish is a nice medium rare.  Top with pineapple salsa! Enjoy!