Coconut Shrimp w/ Sweet & Spicy Sauce

Coconut shrimp …. flavors of the tropics! When prepared correctly, you should end up with a significantly crunchy, thick crust of aromatic coconut, surrounding a center of plump & tasty, cooked shrimp. The concept is simple but it is possible to end up with rubbery shrimp. I found there are just a couple of key things to keep this from happening.

First, select the best possible shrimp you can find. My own choice is always the Marina del Rey, wild-caught Argentinian shrimp. You need a large or jumbo size. If your shrimp are too small, the ratio of breading to shrimp will be off and they will cook through too quickly, turning rubbery as the crust crisps up.

Adding a bit of Panko-style bread crumbs in with the coconut gives the shrimp an extra crispy crust as well as a flour dusting before you dip them into the egg wash. As much as I prefer not to fry things, these coconut shrimp seem the best when pan-fried in a combo of oil & butter.

The sweet/spicy sauce is very simple but plays a major role in the end result. We enjoyed these shrimp as the main course with Jasmine rice & steamed broccoli.

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Coconut Shrimp w/ Sweet & Spicy Sauce
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Sauce for Drizzling on Shrimp
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Sauce for Drizzling on Shrimp
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Instructions
Sauce
  1. In a food processor or blender, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Coconut Shrimp
  1. Using 3 separate bowls, place flour in the first, egg in the second & panko & coconut in the third.
  2. Clean & devein shrimp. Dust them in the flour then dip in the egg & lastly coat with panko/coconut mixture.
  3. Preheat skillet over medium heat. Melt butter & then add oil. Once the combo is heated, place the shrimp in the skillet & cook 2-3 minutes on each side, until lightly golden brown. Place cooked shrimp on a plate lined with paper towel. Serve with the sweet/spicy sauce --- its the ultimate condiment for the shrimp!

Chicken Cheese Burgers w/ Portobello Fries

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!

In Canada, July 1st marks the day for Canadians to show pride in their nations history, culture and achievements. From coast to coast the country’s birthday is marked with various events.

This is the date of the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867.

Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event for the day. Although we are experiencing some rainy conditions this Canada Day, nothing says you can’t modify the traditional barbecue with cooking indoors. For something different, I decided to try making some portobello ‘fries’ to accompany our chicken cheese burgers. Technically, they are not really fries at all, but they’re crispy and dip able and that is all anyone expects from a fry.. right? Sliced and breaded with crumbs and cheese then baked makes these portobello fries super tasty.

Of course, the staple at most barbecues, tailgates and picnics is the classic burger. But a burger doesn’t have to be just a burger and cheese isn’t just cheese. For ours, I’m making chicken burgers ‘infused’ with shredded Gruyere cheese. Then taking it to the next level and adding caramelized onions and guacamole.

What a nice ‘Canada Day’ meal it makes!

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Chicken Cheese Burgers w/ Portobello Fries
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Chicken Cheese Burgers
  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, Gruyere, bread crumbs, parsley, egg & garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Form into 4 patties & place in refrigerator until ready to grill.
Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat oil in skillet until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Place in a dish; set aside.
Guacamole
  1. In a bowl, coarsely mash avocados with lime juice & salt. Stir in garlic, onion & cilantro; blend well. Cover with plastic wrap & place in fridge until needed.
Portobello Fries
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place a wire rack on a large baking sheet lined with foil.
  2. In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour, spices, salt & pepper. In another shallow dish, lightly beat eggs with 1 Tbsp water. In the third shallow dish, combine panko/butter mixture with the Parmesan cheese.
  3. Gently toss mushroom slices in the flour mixture. Coat evenly & shake off any excess flour. Then, dip the floured fries into the eggs, drip off any excess eggs & then place them into the panko mixture. Gently press the panko mixture onto the mushrooms.
  4. Place the fries onto the wire rack, leaving an 1/8-inch space between each. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown & crispy. If you wish, you could serve fries with marinara sauce, ketchup or a roasted garlic mayo.
Assembly
  1. Once you have all the various components to this meal this far all that is left is to barbecue the chicken burgers over a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes per side or until cooked thru. Instead of baking the mushroom fries you can alternately grill them on the BBQ as well.
  2. Slice & lightly grill Ciabatta buns. Top each bottom half with a chicken burger, a slice of cheese, some guacamole, caramelized onions & a tomato slice, ending with the other half of the bun. The big question is, how to get your mouth around it!
Recipe Notes
  • Whether you bake or grill, either way its all good!

Leek ‘Cannelloni’ w/ Ground Beef & Cheese in Herb Sauce

Transforming vegetables into majestic vessels for holding flavorful fillings is nothing new. Any vegetable that keeps its shape while cooking is a good candidate for stuffing.

The leek is a winter vegetable, inexpensive, sturdy and resistant. It will keep for several months, thus its association with ‘rustic’ food.

It has been said that the leek has a dual personality. Although, an unsung hero of the onion family, it has long been prized for its aromatic properties and considered an essential addition to stocks, soups and stews.

Stuffed vegetables appear as first courses, as main course accompaniments and as the main course itself.

In this recipe, the outer layers of the leeks form the ‘pasta’ here, whereas in the classic ‘cannelloni’ dish, pasta tubes are stuffed with various fillings and baked in a bechamel sauce. This recipe is an adaptation of a Turkish meal which leek tubes are filled with a beef mixture and baked in a cream sauce.

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Leek 'Cannelloni' w/ Ground Beef & Cheese in Herb Sauce
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Keyword stuffed leeks
Servings
"CANNELLONI
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Keyword stuffed leeks
Servings
"CANNELLONI
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Instructions
Leek Cannelloni
  1. Peel, wash & remove root end & unwanted green parts of leek. Cut crosswise into 10 cm - 4-inch long pieces. Simmer in salted water for about 5 minutes or until tender but NOT real soft. Remove from pan, reserving liquid; drain. Push center parts of leek out with fingers, making leek shells open on both ends. Set aside.
  2. Add rice to reserved liquid from leeks & cook until just barely done, then pour it into a strainer & cool it down to room temperature. In a saucepan, fry chopped bacon; add ground beef, onions & garlic. Cook ONLY until meat is no longer pink. Remove from saucepan & drain on paper towels.
  3. In a bowl, combine bacon, ground beef & onions, cooked rice, egg, parsley, paprika, salt, pepper & grated cheese. Spoon the mixture into the leek 'noodles'. Place the stuffed leeks standing upright in a casserole dish.
Herb Cream Sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, heat butter; add chopped leeks & herbs & saute for a few minutes. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute or until smooth & bubbly. Add milk, chicken broth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 5-8 minutes or until sauce thickens. Season with salt & pepper. Pour over the leek noodles, sprinkle shredded cheese on top & bake for 30-40 minutes.
  2. This meal is so nice served with mashed potatoes or bread sticks.

Shrimp Pot Pie

There are many kinds of comfort food. The humble pot pie seems to be one that fits into that category quite well. In 1951, the first frozen pot pie was created by the C. A. Swanson Company and was made of chicken.

If you do a search for a seafood pot pie on the internet, very often what you find is basically a copy of chicken pot pie with seafood subbed in. The sauce or gravy is a ‘cream of whatever’ can of soup. Nothing wrong with that, but I find if you use a combo of clam juice, half & half cream and some seafood spices, you can come up with a more defined flavor.

The nice thing about a pot pie is that it can be made to feed a crowd or as an individual meal. Whether it has a bottom crust or not is up to you. Toppings can vary from mashed potatoes to cornbread or biscuits etc., etc. Above all else, you can make some extras to freeze for another day. As the saying goes … its all good!

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Shrimp Pot Pie
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword shrimp pot pie,
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Instructions
  1. Thaw frozen puff pastry in refrigerator. Keep chilled until you are ready for it. The pastry will be used for a top crust ONLY. Butter the bottom & sides of your casserole dish; set aside.
  2. In a large pot, pour the clam nectar; bring to a simmer over medium heat & add the shrimp. Poach shrimp JUST until they are opaque & cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Pour the broth & shrimp into a bowl & set aside.
  3. Return the pot back to the stove; over medium heat & melt the butter. Stir in onion, celery & mushrooms; saute until vegetables are translucent, 5-6 minutes then stir in the garlic, flour & seasoning. Cook, stirring for 1 minute then add the shrimp & broth. Cook for several minutes, stirring until sauce thickens. Add 1/3 cup half & half & simmer gently for a minute or two. Remove from heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. In a small saucepan, place potatoes & peas. Add enough lightly salted water to barely cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce the heat & cook at a low boil until the potatoes are just tender, 7-8 minutes. Drain. Taste the shrimp sauce; add salt & pepper to taste. Add potatoes, peas & tomatoes (if using). Pour mixture into buttered casserole dish.
  6. Place the chilled pastry over the filling, tucking it down between the filling & the dish or drape it over the sides. Poke a steam vent in the top with a paring knife. Place the casserole on a baking sheet. Beat the egg with remaining Tbsp of half & half. Lightly brush the pastry with egg wash.
  7. Bake casserole until filling is bubbly & top is golden brown about 30-35 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack & allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Turkey Meatloaf w/ Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Cheese

Although, the classic meatloaf seems to come and go, it probably never really goes out of ‘style’ in some form or another.

Great meatloaf is not just a hamburger shaped in a loaf pan. Experimenting with different flavor combinations will add new dimensions to this vintage meal. Don’t overlook the benefits of a good meatloaf, not only is it comfort food, but the leftovers make great sandwiches.

I recall, my brother and I thought ‘any’ leftover in my mother’s fridge was fair game for a sandwich filling. To this day, I still love sandwiches. As far leftovers go, its hard to top meatloaf. Of course, I’m not talking about just any random joining of bread and meat. It needs to be well-crafted with varying textures and flavors that compliment and contrast, arranged between slices of preferably fresh, wholegrain bread, not your average ‘squishy’ loaf.

Sandwiches can be just about anything … simple, on-the-go street food, affordable to the masses or luxurious creations. They can be sweet, savory, hot, cold, big or small. Sometimes they even offer a glimpse into traditions and customs of the regions from which they’ve sprung. Sandwiches bridge gaps between cultures and classes. No matter where you go, odds are you’ll find a variation on that ‘starch and something delicious’ formula known as the ‘humble sandwich’.

In this turkey meatloaf, instead of bread crumbs, I’ve used packaged stuffing mix. Roasting the tomatoes on top not only gave the meatloaf some extra flavor but added to the sandwiches made from the leftovers. You could say its one of those ‘cook once … eat twice’ meals.

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Turkey Meatloaf w/ Roasted Tomato & Mozzarella Cheese
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray, set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except tomatoes & fresh basil, just until blended
  3. Press mixture into prepared loaf pan; top with tomatoes. Bake 50 minutes or until cooked. Garnish with fresh basil (or thyme) if you wish.

French Onion Chicken Meatballs

Although ancient in origin, French onion soup underwent a resurgence in popularity during the 1960’s due to the greater interest in French cuisine.

French onion soup is a type of soup usually based on a meat broth and onions. At some point in time, the French decided that the onions should be caramelized to bring out their natural sweetness. Then, to top things off, its garnished with Gruyere cheese on a slice of baguette and broiled in the oven.

These chicken meatballs put a bit of a different spin on that iconic soup. Made with all the classic ingredients, but turned into a main course meal. Nice to serve with either pasta or rice.

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French Onion Chicken Meatballs
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
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Rating: 5
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Instructions
Chicken Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & rub with oil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine chicken, Gruyere, bread crumbs, parsley, egg & garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Form into 16 meatballs then place on prepared baking sheet & bake until golden & cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Sauce
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions & cook until very soft & golden, 25 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic & cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Add broth & thyme & season with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat & let simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Pasta
  1. Boil egg noodles in salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes; drain & add to sauce. Grate Gruyere & Parmesan cheeses & combine.
Assembly
  1. Divide pasta/sauce between 4 serving plates. Top each with 4 meatballs & divide cheese combo between them. If you wish, microwave each plate for a couple of minutes to melt cheese before serving.

Shrimp Quiche Casserole

Quiche has always been an incomparable, one dish meal in my opinion. It’s kind of a whole food with protein, vegetables, dairy and carbohydrates. Quiche’s convenience wins hands down. After mixing the basics … eggs, milk or cream … any ingredients will work from leftovers to freshly cooked. You can use just about anything that you have in the refrigerator.

While some recipes are crust-free, most quiches have some kind of foundation. Potatoes, rice, cauliflower all make nice ‘crust’ options. Quiche makes a great choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. To keep it interesting, I’m always trying to find ways to tweak the ingredients to make it taste just a bit different each time.

Two of Brion’s favorite foods are broccoli and rice. I decided to make a rice/cheese crust, which I pre-baked so it would get a little crispy. Then, when it bakes with the filling, it holds together quite nicely. The seasoning plays a crucial part in the quiche.

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Shrimp Quiche Casserole
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Servings
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Instructions
Rice Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Blend crust ingredients. Using the back of a large spoon, press into a greased 8-inch round baking dish & bake for 15-20 minutes.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter; saute garlic & mushrooms, stirring for about 5 minutes. Stir in onions, cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Pour 2 cups water into skillet & bring to a simmer. Cook shrimp for about 1 minute or JUST until pink. Reserving 1 cup of the liquid, rinse shrimp under cold running water. Shell & devein shrimp; arrange over rice in baking dish.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 F. (If you have turned it off after pre-baking crust). In a heavy saucepan, melt remaining butter & stir in flour. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, without browning; gradually whisk in reserved liquid & milk. Cook, stirring, for about 20 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, lemon zest & spices until cheese is melted. Stir into vegetable mixture & pour over shrimp in rice crust.
  5. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 cup cheese & bread crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over 'quiche'. Bake for about 40 minutes or until quiche is 'set'. Cut into wedges & serve.

Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes

Is there anything potatoes can not do! Many cultures make some form of potato cakes with any kind of filling you can imagine. Sauteed cabbage, ground meat, egg and onions, you name it, the possibilities are endless. Mushrooms are by far, one of my most favorite fillings.

Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all the same variety. The difference is just age.

The white button mushrooms, are simply the youngest variety. They have been cultivated, too, for that white color and soft texture. In the wild these mushrooms are usually browner.

The Portobello is the most mature mushroom; it’s really just an overgrown white mushroom! They are left to grow for longer, until they have spread out into that delicious meaty cap.

The Cremini mushroom is just in between these two varieties. It’s a moderately mature version of the white button mushroom. Mature state means that they have a browner color, firmer texture and better flavor than the younger white mushrooms. Who knew!!

These stuffed potato cakes are such a nice addition to a winter meal.

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Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes
Instructions
  1. Cook potatoes in salted, boiling water until soft. Drain & mash.
  2. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms & garlic in olive oil. Season with salt & pepper & add chopped parsley.
  3. Place mashed potatoes in a bowl; add egg, butter, grated Parmigiana cheese, a pinch of salt, pepper & nutmeg. Combine well. Divide mixture into 8 equal patties. Roll into balls & then flatten into patties. In the center of 4 of the patties place 1/4 of the mushroom mixture. Top mushrooms with a cube of mozzarella cheese. Place one of the remaining potato patties on top of each filled one & gently press edges to seal.
  4. Heat a griddle to 350 F. Brush with some butter & fry stuffed potato patties to a golden brown on each side. Be careful when turning as they will be quite soft.

Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins

A little touch of exotic seems like a good idea in late February. When you think of bananas and papaya, doesn’t tropical come to mind? I never seem to have much luck when I bake with bananas. I would rather eat them raw, in fact you might say they are a staple at our house. But, I have hung on to this muffin recipe for a long time and never tried it. Papayas are not something I usually buy, but that soft buttery texture and slight musky undertone paired with banana should work magic in this recipe.

You will notice the name of the recipe says ‘spiced’ and when you read it there is only one teaspoon of cardamom spice in it. A little bit of this pungent spice packs a big punch so it is good to use it sparingly. The flavor of cardamom is wonderfully complex … herbal, spicy, floral and slightly sweet.

Cardamom is a spice that’s used in both sweet and savory cooking in many cuisines all over the world. No other spice more completely captures the essence of the exotic and that exactly what I was aiming for.

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Spiced Papaya-Banana Muffins
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cardamom & baking powder. In another bowl, combine mashed banana, papaya, oil & beaten egg.
  3. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring gently, then fold in pistachios. Stir ONLY until batter is combined.
  4. Put batter in muffin tray cups lined with paper cups, filling each to about 3/4 full. Top with remaining chopped pistachios.
  5. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until baked through. Remove from oven & let them cool in the tray for 10 minutes, then put the muffins on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe makes either 7 large muffins or 14 medium size.

Stuffed Baked Jumbo Shrimp

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The word ‘new’ brings thoughts of hope and an opportunity to focus on new goals and challenges. Throughout the world, New Year’s Day is filled with traditions and symbolic ritual with many of the traditions revolving around food. Certain foods symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. Fish are believed to be a lucky new year’s eve food because their scales resemble coins and they swim in schools which evokes the idea of abundance.

If you want to have seafood other than fish … shrimp, clams, mussels, squid and oysters are all thought to be good choices as new year’s ‘lucky foods’. It seems the start of a new year has a tendency to turn even non-believers a bit superstitious.

This shrimp dish can be used either as an appetizer or a main course. Brion & I love shrimp so we made it a full meal deal!

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Stuffed Baked Jumbo Shrimp
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Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix, mayonnaise, Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, egg & water. Stir to combine & set aside to thicken slightly.
  2. Butterfly shrimp by making light incisions in the inner part of the shrimp starting from the tail down; remove veins trying not to slice too deep. Season shrimp lightly with sea salt.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a baking dish. Divide filling between shrimp. Place stuffed shrimp into prepared baking dish. Drizzle with melted butter & bake for 20-25 minutes.