Creamy Cucumber-Avocado Salad

This fabulously easy salad was creamy and delicious. We ate it as a side with grilled vegetable and fresh ricotta sandwiches, but it could also be served as a light summertime main dish.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.com. I used avocado mayonnaise, chipotle Cholula hot sauce, and cilantro. My kids thought that it tasted like guacamole. 🙂 Great.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

  • 1 seedless cucumber (about 3/4 to 1 pound), washed and chopped into chunks
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and diced
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used avocado mayonnaise)
  • juice of half a lime, plus more to taste
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Chipotle Cholula, to taste
  • chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  1. Combine cucumber, scallions and avocado in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, and hot sauce; adjust to taste.
  3. Drizzle salad with dressing and garnish with chopped herbs.

Fried Rice with Kimchi, Bacon & Cabbage

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I am planning on serving shepherd’s pie tonight, but, for those of you serving corned beef and cabbage, this quick dish will put any leftover cabbage to good use. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. We ate it drizzled with sriracha and additional soy sauce. I also served the leftovers with scrambled eggs instead of fried.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed or sunflower, plus more as needed (I used canola oil)
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small bunch scallions, whites and greens separated, sliced
  • 4 cups shredded cabbage (from about 1/2 small head)
  • coarse salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups cooked rice, white or brown, preferably day-old
  • 2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce, plus more as needed
  • ½ tablespoon soy sauce, plus more as needed for serving
  • ½ cup kimchi, drained and chopped, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup green peas (thawed, if frozen)
  • fried eggs or scrambled eggs, for serving, optional
  • toasted sesame oil, for drizzling, optional
  • sriracha or other hot sauce, for serving, optional
  1. One day ahead, cook 2 cups of rice in 4 cups of water or stock. Once cool, store in the refrigerator overnight. (I used brown Basmati rice.)
  2. In a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons oil until almost smoking. (I used a large 14-inch stainless steel skillet but a nonstick would have been preferable.)
  3. Stir in bacon, and cook, stirring constantly, until bacon is golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl, leaving as much oil in the skillet as you can.
  4. Add scallion whites to the pan. Cook until soft, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes. If the pan looks dry, drizzle in a little more oil, then stir in cabbage and a pinch of salt. Cook, continuing to stir frequently, until cabbage is soft, 2 to 4 minutes.
  5. Stir in garlic, and cook until fragrant, another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the bacon.
  6. Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and raise heat to high.
  7. Add rice, and a large pinch of salt, then toss thoroughly to coat with oil. Spread out rice in an even layer along the bottom (and sides if in a wok), and drizzle fish sauce and soy sauce over. Let rice sit until sizzling stops and it starts to crackle and crisp, 1 to 4 minutes. Toss, taste, and add more fish sauce or soy sauce if necessary.
  8. Fold in bacon mixture, kimchi and peas, then transfer to plates.
  9. Top with scallion greens, more kimchi to taste, and fried eggs, if using. (I served it with one fried egg per person.)
  10. Drizzle everything with toasted sesame oil and soy sauce, as desired, and serve immediately with hot sauce on the side.

Easy Taco Skillet Dinner

I love a quick skillet dinner- especially on a weeknight. This delicious family friendly meal is from my friend Mollie @Frugal Hausfrau. I have made it a couple of times, most recently for our Super Bowl celebration. Our meal has to complement the mandatory Super Bowl guacamole. 🙂

Even though it could be served as is straight from the skillet, we ate it in both soft and hard shell tacos. (The hard shells won as the favorite, by the way.) I think that eating it as a pre-mixed taco filling made it even more of a crowd-pleaser. I modified the recipe by using ground turkey and by increasing the beans, onions, and garlic. Great!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup salsa (I used Trader Joe’s garlic chipotle salsa)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup white Basmati rice
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • hard or soft taco shells, for serving, if desired
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish, as desired
  • sliced avocado, for garnish, as desired
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish, as desired

  1. In a large skillet with a lid, over medium high heat, add ground meat and cook, crumbling as it cooks.
  2. As soon as it starts to give up the juices, add in the onion and bell pepper, continuing to cook until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic, stirring for a minute or so until it becomes fragrant.
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper; briefly stir.
  5. Stir in tomatoes with the juice, salsa, black beans, and hot sauce.
  6. Toss the rice on top and add the 1 1/4 cup of water. Gently stir together, bring to a boil.
  7. Cover with lid and reduce to a bare simmer. Cook for 25 minutes until rice is just done. If possible, don’t lift the lid or stir until rice is finished.
  8. Turn off the heat. Using a spatula, gently turn the mixture from top to bottom. Add cheese to the top. Cover with lid and let sit for five minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  9. Serve in warm taco shells garnished with green onions, avocado, and/or minced cilantro, as desired.

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Extra-Crispy Birthday Fried Chicken with Biscuits & Milk Gravy

Every spring, along with my husband’s special (made to order!) birthday dinner, I like to share part of the springtime experience at my house. In the past, I’ve complained about the goose families (with their beautiful goslings…) and the ducks who’ve seemed to chase them away. The new development this year is that my son (and husband) have been chasing the geese away with a drone!

  IMG_4083  IMG_4078

The house finches returned but have moved their nest from our entrance column to the top of our propane gas tank! BUT… The extraordinary event this year was that we have had frequent visits from a very special Night Heron. What fun!

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Well, onto the food. My husband has had little variation in his birthday dinner menu request for the past several years. Although I did repeat my caesar salad and vanilla bean cheesecake recipes (his true favorites), I spiced up the celebration by trying new fried chicken and biscuit recipes. This year, he asked for double fried chicken. After researching, I realized that this really means double battered fried chicken, not literally double fried. It had the most amazing crispy and thick crust with just the right amount of spice. The birthday boy loved it! We ate leftovers for days and never tired of it. Absolutely delicious. (He may even want it again for Father’s Day!)

The chicken recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. It did seem like a labor intensive recipe, and required planning in advance, but the chilling and resting times involved helped the breading adhere to the chicken meat. I doubled the recipe and pan-fried (instead of deep-frying) the chicken in Ukrainian sunflower oil. I also omitted the bourbon and used Sriracha instead of Frank’s hot sauce in the batter.

I served this indulgent meal with a side of creamy macaroni and cheese and with our new “Happy Birthday” fork! 🙂

I’m bringing this special birthday meal to share with my friends at Fiesta Friday #123 this week co-hosted by Margy @ La Petite Casserole and Linda @ La Petite Paniere. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 8

For the Chicken:

  • 4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

For the Assembly:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 T garlic powder
  • 2 T onion powder
  • 2 T paprika
  • 4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 T coarse salt, plus more
  • 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 T bourbon (optional)(I omitted it)
  • 6 T hot sauce (such as Sriracha or Frank’s); plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2-3 cups sunflower, peanut or other vegetable oil, for frying

Prepare the Chicken:

  1. Trim chicken and dry on paper towels.
  2. Mix salt, sugar, and baking powder in a small bowl. Season chicken all over with salt mixture (you may not need all of it).
  3. Chill uncovered on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. (I let it sit for about 12 hours.)

Assemble the Chicken:

  1. Whisk flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, and 4 T salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk egg, buttermilk, bourbon (if using), and 3 T hot sauce in another medium bowl.
  3. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken in flour mixture, turning to coat and packing into crevices. Shake to remove excess; return to rack.
  4. Pour 6 T buttermilk mixture into flour mixture and work in with your fingers.
  5. Dip chicken into remaining buttermilk mixture, allow excess to drip off, then pack moistened flour mixture firmly onto chicken. Gently shake off excess; return to rack. Chill at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
  6. Pour oil into a 12-inch cast iron skillet, about 1/2-inch deep. Heat over medium-high until a deep fry thermometer registers 350°. (I was diligent about maintaining the temperature throughout the cooking process.)
  7. Working in batches, fry two chicken thighs at a time, turning often and adjusting heat to maintain temperature, until deep golden brown, about 6 minutes per batch.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack set over paper towels to drain.

For the Biscuits:

This simple biscuit recipe is unlike any other I’ve made in the past. The dough is prepared and then rests at room temperature for 30 minutes. The result was wonderful! This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton.

Yield: Serves 8   Time: 1 hour

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 1 scant T sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 5 T cold, unsalted butter, preferably European style
  • 1 cup whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Pulse flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor (or whisk to combine in a large bowl).
  3. Cut butter into pats and add to flour, then pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture resembles rough crumbs. (Alternatively, cut butter into flour in the mixing bowl using a fork or a pastry cutter.)
  4. Return dough to bowl, add milk and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough rectangle, about an inch thick. Fold it over and gently pat it down again. Repeat.
  6. Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Gently pat out the dough some more, so that the rectangle is roughly 10 inches by 6 inches.
  8. Cut dough into biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Do not twist cutter when cutting; this crimps the edges of the biscuit and impedes its rise.
  9. Place biscuits on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

For the Milk Gravy (recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman):

  • 3 T fried chicken pan drippings
  • 2-3 T all-purpose flour
  • 1-2 cups milk (I used 1 percent)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, add pan drippings and flour. Whisk immediately. It should be smooth.
  2. Keep stirring until the mixture begins to brown, 2-3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan.
  3. Whisk in 1 cup of milk. Cook until desired thickness is achieved- adding more milk if desired.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cut biscuits in half and pour gravy over the top to serve.

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Classic Shrimp & Grits

This is a simple, classic, and perfect version of this fabulous southern dish. As a tradition in our house, we eat Shrimp and Grits over Easter weekend. It is absolutely delicious and can be served for any meal of the day. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Crook’s Corner of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, via Saveur. I used large shrimp and increased the amount of garlic and mushrooms. I also omitted the oil and used Sriracha instead of Tabasco. The shrimp tasted incredible after being sautĂŠed in the bacon fat. Mmmmm. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits
  • 3⁄4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar
  • 1⁄4 cup parmesan
  • 2 T unsalted butter, divided
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T olive or canola oil
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. medium or large shrimp, peeled with tails intact
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges or slices
  • 1⁄2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Tabasco
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  1. In a 2-qt. saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. (I incorporated 1 cup of chicken stock.)
  2. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cook, whisking frequently, until grits are tender and creamy, 30–40 minutes. (Whisk in more water for thinner grits.)
  3. Whisk in cheddar, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt; cover and set aside.
  4. Heat a 12″ skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.
  6. Season shrimp with salt and pepper.
  7. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  8. Lower heat to medium; add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute.
  10. Raise heat to high, add chicken broth, and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth reduces by half, 2 to 3 minutes.
  11. Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
  12. Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and its sauce.
  13. Garnish each bowl with bacon, scallions, and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.

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Vaguely Vietnamese Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

This really isn’t a taco blog! (or a Mexican food blog) 😉 I’ll stop after this one… or pretty soon anyway. In fact, calling these “tacos” is a little bit of a misrepresentation. They really taste something like deconstructed dumplings. Maybe? A warm, flavorful filling topped with a bright and crunchy slaw. All I really need to say is that these “tacos” were yummy.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sam Sifton. I used trimmed boneless pork shoulder country-style ribs instead of a bone-in pork shoulder and an unpeeled European seedless cucumber. I served the filling in warm 6-inch corn and wheat tortillas instead of flour tortillas. Perfect.

This is the second dish I’m bringing to Fiesta Friday #105 this week! 😉 Hosted by Lily @ Little Sweet Baker and Julianna @ Foodie on Board. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For the Pork:

  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • Âź cup fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
  • 4 to 5-pounds boneless pork shoulder country-style ribs, fat trimmed or a 5-pound bone-in pork shoulder, skin and fat removed
  • 12 to 16 corn and wheat tortillas, warmed

For the Slaw:

  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T neutral oil, like peanut or grapeseed
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce, or to taste
  • 10 oz shredded green cabbage or 1 small green cabbage, cored and sliced thinly
  • 1 European seedless cucumber, unpeeled, sliced into julienne or 2 medium-size cucumbers, peeled and sliced into julienne
  • 2 medium-size carrots, peeled and sliced into julienne
  • 1 Asian pear, peeled, cored and sliced into julienne
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped
  1. Prepare the pork: Place a sautĂŠ pan over medium-high heat. After a minute or so, swirl in the sesame oil and then the onions, stirring to combine. SautĂŠ for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to cook until the onions are soft and becoming translucent. Turn off the heat, stir in the ginger and set aside.
  2. Add the hoisin sauce and the fish sauce to the pan, and stir to combine, loosening the mixture with a little less than half a cup of water. Add sriracha sauce to taste.
  3. Put a few spoonfuls of the sauce in the bottom of a slow cooker, then nestle the pork on top of it. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the pork.
  4. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 5 to 7 hours, or until the pork shreds easily with a fork. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the slaw: Put the vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, neutral oil and sriracha sauce in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cabbage, cucumbers, carrots and Asian pear and toss to combine.
  6. Shred the pork with a pair of forks. Discard bones, if applicable.
  7. Return the pulled pork to the slow cooker and stir to combine with the juices. Serve with the slaw and warmed tortillas, with the cilantro on the side.

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Grilled Corn & Poblano Dip

Spicy deliciousness!! This appetizer is reminiscent of our absolute favorite tacos which also have mildly spicy charred poblanos and tangy crème fraiche. The corn stands in for the corn tortilla in the tacos. The beautiful char on the grilled corn in this dish upgrades the sweet corn flavor. Leftover dip would work well as a taco filling itself- but we gobbled it all up with salty tortilla chips! 🙂

This recipe is from the Bon AppĂŠtit RSVP section- which I love. Readers write in to request recipes for their favorite restaurant dishes. This recipe was adapted from Pig & Prince in Montclair, New Jersey, via Bon AppĂŠtit. We grilled the corn and chiles and assembled the dish ahead of time. I transferred the mixture to the skillet and baked it right before serving. Wonderful!!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 6 ears of corn, husked
  • 4 poblano chiles
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 8 ounces crème fraĂŽche
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons hot sauce (such as Cholula or Sriracha)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • tortilla chips, for serving
  1. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until well charred, 10–12 minutes. Cut kernels from cobs and place in a large bowl.
  2. Grill chiles, turning occasionally, until skins are blackened, 12–15 minutes. Transfer chiles to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 450°. Remove skin, stems, and seeds from chiles; chop flesh into Âź” pieces. Add to bowl with corn.
  4. Stir in scallions, garlic, crème fraÎche, sour cream, lime juice, and 3 Tbsp. hot sauce; season with salt and pepper. (At this point the mixture can be reserved to bake just prior to serving.)
  5. Transfer dip to a 10″ cast-iron skillet or 2-qt. baking dish and bake until bubbling around the edges, 10–12 minutes.
  6. Serve with tortilla chips for dipping.

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