Grilled Chicken/Shrimp/Pineapple Kababs with Chili Lime Vinaigrette

Can’t decide between chicken or shrimp tonight… how about both?! These grilled chicken and shrimp kababs with pineapple are sure to please. They pack a little heat with the addition of chili powder and red pepper flake, but it pairs nicely with tangy lime and cooling cilantro! Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Makes 10 – 12, 12 in kababs, feeds 4 – 6 people

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast tenders
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 small lime, juiced
  • 1/2 small bunch cilantro, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 pinch red pepper flake
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 pineapple, chunked

Directions:

  1. Rinse chicken, pat dry and cut into bite size pieces. Rinse shrimp, remove tails. Combine both in one medium sized bowl.
  2. In a separate, smaller bowl whisk together lime juice, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, spices and olive oil.
  3. Pour vinaigrette over chicken and shrimp and toss to coat. Let marinate 30 minutes.
  4. To assemble the kababs, start by threading a pineapple chunk, followed by a piece of chicken and then a shrimp. Continue along the length of each skewer leaving about 1/2 an inch at the ends for handling. Repeat until all ingredients are utilized, then discard vinaigrette.
  5. Coat grill with spray or oil to avoid sticking. Grill kababs over medium heat for 6 – 8 minutes (flipping them halfway) or until shrimp are opaque and chicken is firm.
  6. Serve kababs alongside a hearty pasta salad like my Mediterranean Orzo Salad.

*Original recipe adapted from aberdeenskitchen.com, shared via Dina C.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Can’t go wrong with this salad! It’s filling, fresh, flavorful and makes a great side dish. Tonight I served it alongside kababs and tomorrow it will make a great leftover lunch. It feeds a crowd so consider taking it to your next bbq or block party! Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Feeds 8

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups tri-color orzo pasta
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 oz ricotta salata, diced
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 handfuls arugula/baby spinach blend

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, bring stock to a boil. Reduce heat, slowly add orzo and stir. Simmer until cooked al dente (approximately 8 – 10 min), drain off any remaining liquid and rinse. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare dressing. In a medium bowl whisk together honey, lemon, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix gently to combine the parsley, scallions, tomatoes, cheese and almonds.
  4. Once orzo has cooled, fluff it with  fork to break apart any clumps. Pour the dressing over top and mix in the ingredients in the remaining bowl. Let salad chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to serving. Just before serving, fold in the greens.

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    Served with chicken/shrimp/pineapple kababs!

*Original recipe adapted from melskitchencafe.com, with thanks to Dina C. for sharing!

Cheese Boards and Charcuterie

There’s no doubt, cheese boards and charcuterie are a culinary trend these days. Almost every event I cater or attend, features some form of this crowd pleasing combination; meat, cheese, cracker/chip and dip on a board. I’ve had multiple requests for guidance when it comes to creating your own display so I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain my thought process and how I put together an eye catching, mouthwatering presentation!

The Board; foundation is key! You want to make sure you choose a board or platter that meets the functionality of your engagement. For example, I often use a 14″ round wooden board that rests on a Lazy Susan. I prefer round, edgeless boards (especially ones that spin) not only because I find them more visually appealing, but also because they allow for ease when serving. In addition to form, you want your board to have function. Boards that spin are fabulous because no matter where your guests sit they can reach for what they want. However, a rectangular board with shallow sides and handles can also be functional if say, you plan on cruising around your party board in hand, serving your guests. Truly, it’s all about personal preference here while keeping in mind the board itself shouldn’t be the center of attention (it’s going to get covered anyway), your food should be!

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My favorite 14″ spinning board.

Cheese, please! I usually feature two or three favorite cheeses per board. I like to go with cheeses that are universally well received like Manchego, Brie or sharp cheddar. If I know my audience has specific preferences I might feature something special like Stilton blue cheese or perhaps a truffled goat cheese. Again, there are no restrictions or limits here. My only words of wisdom are to pre-cut the hard cheeses so they are easy to grab and to place the soft cheeses that require a knife in an area on the board where there’s room to maneuver.

We have the Meats! I’m no expert when it comes to charcuterie so I rely heavily the pre-packaged meat selections I find at my grocery store. Stores like Trader Joe’s actually arrange sliced cured meats in trios, tapas style, doing all the pairing for you! When in doubt, play it safe and like cheese, select 2, maybe 3 meat varieties. Prosciutto is always a crowd favorite as is salami and smoked sausage. I like to roll meat like prosciutto into tubes for easy grabbing and/or slice meats like sausage, ahead of time.

Spreads/Dips. Every board needs a few of these not just for the guests who maybe don’t like cheese or eat meat, but to add to the variety. I almost always have hummus on hand as well as some kind of a fruit spread like fig jam. Picky guests can use a cracker to enjoy these treats even if they don’t care for anything else on your board or if they’re adventurous they may pair a slice of cheese with some jam! Most people love the combination of something salty with something sweet!

Fruits/Veggies. Same holds true here; I typically feature red grapes and green apples because they’re easy, pleasing and don’t make a mess. I’ll take a bunch of grapes and use a kitchen scissor to trim it into several smaller bunches so people can grab one and get a few grapes at a time (I don’t have the patience to remove all the grapes from a bunch and place them around the board, plus they roll!). I prefer to serve sturdy veggies like cucumber slices or carrot sticks as well as red and green peppers. It’s nice to offer veggies that crunch but also hold up to dipping.

Extra, Extra! Nuts and chocolate aren’t necessary but always welcome on a cheese and charcuterie board. Almonds and shelled pistachios are great choices as are pecan and walnut halves. I never put milk chocolate on a board, only dark. I feel like dark chocolate offers a more subtle compliment. I’ve also been known to combine the two by placing a small bowl of trail mix somewhere on the board.

Placement. So once you’ve gathered all your ingredients, it’s time to set up your board. I start by taking anything in a container or vessel (like humus or jam) and spacing them out on the board. From there I continue to fill in the empty space starting with food items that will take up the most space by adding one item at a time taking care to spread things out and not group similar items together (i.e. don’t put all the cheese together or put all the meat on one side). As the board fills, I use smaller items like grape clusters or nuts to fill in any voids. I usually add the crackers last and find room for them wherever I can (most often along the edges). The point is, there is no point! It’s your creation and you can design the layout of your board however you wish. Foods should touch if not overlap each other and your board should take on a look of casual elegance.

 

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Classic Round Board with blue cheese and Manchego, salami and prosciutto, hummus, olive tapenade, grapes, apples, peppers, trail mix and crackers.

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Rectangular board featuring turkey sausage, mortadella, capicola, cornichons and flat bread.

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Chocolate covered blueberries, dried apricots and a spicy jelly make this holiday board a party on its own!

More to consider…

  • endive leaves
  • pear slices
  • raspberries
  • cornichons
  • olives
  • marcona almonds
  • dried apricots
  • honey
  • tapenade
  • pretzel chips
  • bread sticks
  • sliced baguette

Drunken Cauliflower

Heads up, if you’re a fan of cauliflower, vodka sauce and/or parmigiana, trust me, you’ll want to try this recipe! With all three rolled into one delicious dish, how can you go wrong?! 

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp prepared pesto
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • pinch of red pepper flake
  • 6 cups (approx. 40 oz) frozen cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until glistening. Add garlic and sauté a few minutes more. Pour in the can of crushed tomatoes, add the pesto and fresh basil and stir to combine. Bring sauce to a boil then add the vodka. Let boil for a few minutes to allow alcohol to burn off. Reduce heat to a simmer and add honey and seasonings. Mix well and let cook for 10 minutes or so partially covered.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse and drain frozen cauliflower. Add to the sauce and stir to coat. Cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off heat and mix in the parmesan.
  3. Preheat oven to 375. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Transfer cauliflower and sauce to the dish. Top with shredded mozzarella and bake for 30 minutes uncovered, until sauce and cheese bubble and brown. Serve with crusty bread!

Helpful Hint: I use frozen cauliflower but if you want to use fresh, you should blanch it prior to adding it to your sauce!

Baked Blackberry Croissant French Toast

Try making this easy yet decadent breakfast casserole next time you need to feed (and wow) a crowd! It’s your basic french toast casserole complete with egg batter but what makes it special are the flaky croissants that take the place of boring old bread! Oh, and don’t forget the hidden layer of gooey blackberry preserves and creamy cream cheese! Top each serving off with homemade whipped cream and your favorite fresh berries and you’re all set. Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Feeds 8 – 10

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup, divided
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 day old croissants, roughly torn
  • 1, 10 oz jar of blackberry preserves (or any other berry flavor)
  • 6 oz cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • fresh berries as garnish
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish liberally with cooking spray or butter.
  2. In a large bowl whisk the eggs, 2 tbsp of syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Fold in the torn croissants and gently toss to coat.
  3. Layer half the croissant pieces in the bottom of your casserole dish. Add dollops of jam and cubes of cream cheese over top. Finish by layering with the remaining croissant pieces. Pour any remaining egg mixture over top.
  4. Cover with foil and chill in the refrigerator at least 3 hours (can go over night). Remove foil and bake at 375 for 45 – 50 minutes until croissants are toasty and jam and cream cheese oozes up. If croissants get too toasty prior to end time, re-cover loosely with foil until finished baking.
  5. Serve with fresh whipped cream*, berries and powdered sugar.

*To make the whipped cream simply combine heavy cream with 1 tbsp maple syrup and whip until stiff peaks form.

Original recipe adapted from halfbakedharvest.com

Blistered Shishito Peppers

They say 1 in 10 of these little green peppers is “hot” but somehow I ate 24 in one shot and only ran into 1 that made me grab my drink for some minor relief!? My point is, the shishito isn’t recognized for it’s heat but more for it’s flavor and versatility. I’ve seen them prepared deep fried, pan fried and oven roasted. I prefer them roasted simply because the prep/clean-up is a breeze and you don’t end up drowning this somewhat sweet and delicate pepper in a vat of oil. This recipe is quick and easy and the shishitos turn out perfectly blistered! Have a little fun at your next get-together playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with your food! Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Feeds 4 – 6, appetizer portions

  • 8 oz shishito peppers, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup Panko style bread crumbs
  • 1 – 2 tbsp Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a cookie sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium size bowl, toss dry peppers with sesame oil to coat. Add the Panko and the seasoning and continue to toss until combined/coated.
  3. Transfer peppers to the cookie sheet and spread out in a single layer.
  4. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until peppers are blistered, flipping them half way through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  5. Serve warm with ranch dressing or dipping sauce of choice.

Comments:

My grocer carries one brand of shishito peppers, Freida’s, so that’s my go to. They come packaged in 8 oz potions so it makes it easy to grab and go when I am shopping. If your grocer sells shishito peppers in bulk, simply grab 3 – 4 handfuls and you’ll end up with the equivalent of 8 oz give or take!

Zucchini “Ravioli” en Casserole

I’d like to thank my friend Dina for this recipe inspiration! She shared a picture of her version of this dish and the original recipe with me after her family raved. I’m always looking for creative ways to lighten things up and get extra veggies into my peeps! This recipe delivers on both those points for sure. It’s a tiny bit tedious but it’s worth the effort. It not only presents beautifully, it tastes terrific! To save time at the end of the day, I actually prepped everything a few hours prior to baking. One note of caution, zucchini contains it’s fair share of water so be warned that it can be a little soupy, depending. By uncovering it after it bakes a bit, some of the moisture has time to cook off and that can help. 

Ingredients: Makes 12 – 14 ravioli

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground chicken
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • Italian seasoning
  • 20 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 baby zucchini (each approx. 8 inches long)
  • cooking spray
  • 2 cups marinara sauce

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and brown the ground chicken and garlic, seasoning it with a pinch of salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Drain any fat and set meat aside to cool down.
  2. Meanwhile, make the cheese mixture by mixing together the ricotta, egg, a pinch more of salt, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and the chopped parsley. Set that aside as well.IMG_0468
  3. To prepare the zucchini, trim off the ends. Using a sturdy vegetable peeler, press firmly and pull the peeler down the length of the zucchini, creating a long, wide “zoodle” reminiscent of a lasagna noodle. Repeat using each zucchini. Throw away the first and last zoodle from each zucchini as they will have too much skin and will likely be too narrow.IMG_0467
  4. Lightly grease a 9x13in casserole dish with cooking spray. Ladle about 1/2 a cup of marinara sauce into the dish and spread evenly across the bottom. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. To make the zucchini ravioli, lay 2 matching zoodles side by side (overlapping slightly), lengthwise. Take an additional 2 zoodles and lay them side by side perpendicular to the first 2, essentially forming an “X”.IMG_0472
  6. Dollop a teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the X. Top it with a teaspoon of meat and then follow with another teaspoon of cheese mixture. Carefully fold over each “arm” of the X towards the center, starting with zoodles that are on the bottom layer and working clockwise until a “ravioli” square is produced. Trim excess zucchini if pieces are too long.
  7. Place each “ravioli” seam side down in the casserole dish. Repeat previous step until all the zoodles are used and your casserole dish is full.
  8. Sprinkle any remaining meat and spoon any remaining cheese throughout the dish. Top each ravioli with a generous spoonful of marinara. Sprinkle dish with a handful of shredded mozzarella, some additional parmesan cheese and any left over zucchini scraps.
  9. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Bake an additional 10 minutes uncovered and then broil for 2 – 3 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.
  10. Let sit 5 – 10 minutes before serving. Serve with garlic bread and green salad.