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Friday
May202011

Grilled scallops with quinoa and fresh veggies

My second son is almost a year old, which seems absolutely insane. I remember those first seven weeks of his life when it literally felt like time was standing still. He refused to sleep during the day during that span of time, so I found myself walking a million laps a day around our home with him in my arms while also trying to care for a crazy 3-year-old. It was a stressful time, and I vividly recall thinking that time would never march on from that point. I felt like I would be walking laps to the soundtrack of wailing (toddler and newborn) forever.

And now it is almost a year later and it's hard to believe it's almost a year later! Time is so strange in that way, isn't it? You wish something away and then it goes by way too quickly.

One thing that hasn't gone too quickly, though, is the last 5 to 7 pounds of baby weight I've been carrying for the past nine months. I realize that 5 to 7 pounds is not a huge deal, but when you are stubborn and refuse to buy new clothes it kind of matters. So. As we near the one-year mark of the birth of our beautiful second son, I am buckling down. I am making even more of an effort than usual to prepare healthy meals and avoid unhealthy foods.

I came up with this creation on the fly the other night. It was another beautiful evening, so I stationed my husband at the grill with the seafood while I put the rest of the meal together in the kitchen. We both loved it.

Start by soaking 8-10 sea scallops in a few tablespoons of butter for about 20 minutes.

While the scallops are soaking, prepare 1 cup of quinoa according to package directions.

In a medium bowl, combine:

1 large tomato, diced

1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 large cucumber, peeled and diced

1 cup corn kernels

2 cloves garlic, very finely minced

Juice from 1 lime

2 tablespoons olive oil

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

While the quinoa is finishing up, sprinkle salt and pepper onto the buttery scallops and cook them on a grill over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Serve all of the deliciousness together. Throw a pat of butter over the quinoa if you're feeling crazy. Or not. I didn't think it needed it.

After a (fairly) good week and some delicious healthy eating (oh, and sickness, too), I now only have 3-4 pounds to go!

Click here for a printable recipe!

Wednesday
May182011

Cheese-Stuffed Peppers

This is Week #20 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click on the above graphic to view all P&TC recipes. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2010: An Entire Year of Recipes.

Since the moment I opened my F&W cookbook, this very recipe has been screaming to me. The weather is finally gorgeous, and I mean gorgeous, here in good ol' Minnesota (and yes, the pile of snow still stands, but it is slowly shrinking), so grilling season is in full swing! There is nothing better than coming home from work on a beautiful day and opening our doors and relaxing and playing with my boys outside while scents of grilled food float through the neighborhood. Aahhhh...

These stuffed peppers are a perfect grill-weather treat. They would be great as appetizers for a party or just a Mexican side dish. In my case, when I made them the other night, they were a full meal. My husband wasn't home from work yet and my boys had already eaten, so I sat with knife and fork and devoured two entire cheesy peppers all by myself. I'm not ashamed!

To get started, combine the following in a medium bowl:

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Light a grill.

Using a small, sharp knife, remove (and reserve) the stems from:

4 Anaheim or Cubanelle peppers

4 baby bell peppers

4 small poblano chiles

Cut around the insides of the peppers to detach the membranes and remove the seeds. Using a butter knife, fill the peppers with the cheese mixture and reattach the tops of the peppers. Rub the peppers with olive oil.

Grill the peppers over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the peppers are blistered all over and the cheese filling is piping hot, about 7 minutes.

Transfer the peppers to plates and serve!

The warm, gooey cheese combined with the slight zing, and even sweetness, from the peppers makes an incredible little summertime treat.

Click here for a printable recipe!

Monday
May162011

Giveaway winner announced!

We are so very thankful for our readers and we are just loving getting to know all of you. This giveaway is our way of saying THANK YOU for tolerating my (Megan here, speaking for myself!) constant complaining about SNOW and COLD, and for just generally being awesome (you, not us).

The lucky winner of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten was commenter number 9: Cooking Rookie!

Congrats! Send us an email through the contact button at the top of the page, letting us know where we can send the cookbook! Enjoy!

Saturday
May142011

Coconut grilled chicken with mango salsa

Unless you, too, frequently drive along Viking Drive in the city in which I work, you might not believe me when I say that there is still a 10-foot pile of dirty snow that sits on the ground across the street from my place of employment. Every time I see that disgusting pile of slop, I let out a defeated sigh and instantly start dreaming of a tropical vacation. My husband and I started planning a tropical vacation a few months back, right after we learned that our oldest son would need to have his next surgery sooner than we expected. We weren't able to find childcare, though, so our tropical vacation never transpired. And I find myself sadly dwelling on that missed opportunity a lot these days.

So I have found that I have to do little things to trick myself into thinking that I'm sitting on a beach, enjoying my husband's company in WARMTH and with no large piles of snow in sight. When Kelapo contacted me and asked me to try their coconut oil, I knew it was meant to be. Coconuts = beaches = sunshine = no snow. Can I tell a quick story? Five years ago when my wonderful husband and I were on our honeymoon in Nassau, Bahamas, lying on the beach, absorbing the hot sunshine, we listened to a beach vendor repeat, "Fresh COCONUTS, tropical DRINKS, this is not a CEMETERY, let's get the pah-ty STAH-TED!" Over and over and over. But we didn't mind the repetition because, well, we were in the Bahamas. And he was talking about drinks and parties, and oohhhhh, I hate that stupid pile of snow. I often wonder if it will be July when it finally disappears.

The first thing that came to my mind when concocting a coconut-oil-related recipe was a light, fresh, fruity, delicious chicken meal that would make me think of a tropical vacation. First, though, I'd like to tell you how delicious coconut oil is. It can be such a great replacement for olive oil in a variety of dishes. I highly recommend it, and especially the Kelapo brand, which is now available in the Minneapolis area at Lunds and Byerly's. There are nutritious benefits to consuming coconut oil, as well. Check out Kelapo's website for details.

I wanted to create a sweet-spicy marinade for the chicken. My goal was to keep it simple because what I had in mind for the salsa was a little bit more complicated.

In a medium bowl, combine:

2 jalapeno peppers, sliced

4 green onions, sliced

Juice from 1 lime

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Salt and pepper

Place 4 chicken breast halves in a shallow dish and cover with the coconut oil-jalapeno mixture. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight, turning the chicken occasionally.

Discard the large chunks from the dish and grill the chicken over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, about 15-18 minutes.

In the meantime, add the following ingredients to a medium bowl:

1 mango, peeled and diced

10 strawberries, stemmed and diced

1/3 cup dried cranberries

Juice from 1/2 a lime

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Salt and pepper

By the way, I used these delicious Orange Flavored Cranberries from Trader Joe's, and I loved the citrus flavor they added. Yum. Yum. Yum. TJ's rocks.

Mix well.

Spoon the salsa over top the grilled chicken. Close your eyes and pretend you are near the ocean. Someone in the distance is talking about fresh tropical drinks.

I have to say, this is a fabulous little meal. I love the underlying coconut flavor that peeks through, mixed in with the assortment of other light flavors that danced around inside my mouth.

The next day for lunch, I shredded the chicken and put it atop a piece of flatbread. I topped it with the mango salsa and a little extra fresh cilantro.

It was a delightful lunch, once again bringing me back to an imaginary tropical location. And making me forget about that wretched pile of snow.

Click here for a printable recipe!

Wednesday
May112011

Macaroni and many cheeses

This is Week #19 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click on the above graphic to view all P&TC recipes. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2010: An Entire Year of Recipes.

Ok, so I haven't had the best week in the world. Everything seems to have exploded at once. Why does that always seem to happen? By Saturday of this past week, I just wanted comfort, and preferably in the form of food. I was pleased to see that this comforting macaroni & cheese recipe was next on the list for my challenge! That could not have worked out more perfectly. I prepared it while my boys napped and then served it to them for dinner (they both loved it!) and, after they were in bed for the night, I went downstairs and scooped myself a huge bowl full of the comforting cheesiness. I sat in my little spot on the couch as I devoured its splendor and sipped wine and flipped through cookbooks. I suddenly forgot about the insanity in my world for a bit, and just enjoyed my comforting down-time.

Preheat your broiler. In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook 2 cups of elbow macaroni until al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in another medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat.

Whisk in 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour until a paste forms.

Gradually whisk in 3 cups of milk until smooth.

Bring the sauce to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking, until thickenend.

Off the heat, stir in:

2 cups mixed shredded semihard cheeses (Mimolette, aged Gouda, Vella dry Jack)

Salt and pepper

Stir until melted.

Stir the macaroni into the the cheese sauce and transfer to a 9x13 glass or ceramic baking dish.

Sprinkle 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the top.

And broil 4 inches from the heat source for 4 minutes, or until richly browned. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Thanks for being there when I needed you, mac & cheese.

Click here for a printable recipe!