Sunday, July 29, 2012

Watermelon sharks

My family, boyfriend Brandon, and I spent the past week at the beach on vacation.  My dad's side of the family has a beach house, so when we go to the beach, it is a family reunion, including group dinners of about 20 people.

One night Brandon and I thought it would be fun to make a beach-themed dessert.  So, watermelon sharks were born...or created...The idea for this project came from a post on either foodgawker or pinterest a few weeks ago.

The first step was to cut off the bottom third of a watermelon to make it stand up.


 Then, we cut out mouths. 


Watermelons are actually easier to cut than pumpkins.  They do make a mess when hollowing out, however, because they are so juicy. Here is part of our giant mess. Notice the bowls and bowls (not all pictured) of watermelon flesh.

The next step was to shave off some of the green peel around the mouth to expose the white section of the watermelon.  This allows the teeth to be white.  To create the teeth, we cut out little triangles out of the white section around the mouth.


We also added grapes for eyeballs (pictured in first photo).  Another small fruit, such as cherries or even blueberries would also work well. All that was left to do at this point was to reinsert the melon into the shark so that it could be eaten.   Brandon and I took different approaches with our final touches.  I added sweedish fish, while he made his shark man-eating by adding sour patch kids. I like the extra color that the sour patch kids add.



This dessert was a huge hit with the crowd.  Everyone ooed and awed before finally realizing that they were in fact supposed to eat the fruit!   

Multigrain Pasta Salad

A couple of months ago, my mom gave me this bag of mixed grains from Trader Joe's.  It contains couscous, orzo, baby garbonzo beans, and quinoa.  You might have noticed by now that I don't eat a lot of pasta, or carbs in general.  It took me a while to get around to it, but eventually I made a pasta salad out of it. 

Here are the vegetables that I used in the salad: eggplant, red onion, and green bell pepper.


I chopped them up and roasted them in the oven until lightly browned.  


I also used some fresh herbs from my dad's garden and my own mini garden on the stoop: basil, oregano, rosemary, and more basil. The herbs were not roasted, but only minced.

While the vegetables were roasting, I cooked the pasta mixture, as specified on the package.  Basically, I boiled it for a few minutes.

 After everything was done cooking, I simply mixed everything together to form the salad. You could add a little olive oil and balsalmic dressing, but I thought the vegetables and fresh herbs gave the dish plenty of taste. This pasta salad can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold.  It would be a great healthy dish to take to a picnic or potluck!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Zucchini noodles with shrimp

For the past couple of weeks, I have been seeing zucchini noodles in the blogosphere.  Somehow people were using zucchini as noodles.  What? Personally, I am not a huge fan of zucchini.  One summer full of one too many from the garden... My dad had given me yet another zucchini from the garden, though, so I decided to try making zucchini noodles myself.

First I cut the zucchini into thin slivers, as closely resembling noodles as possible.   I think that a potato peeler would have done a nice job here, but since I didn't have one, I used a knife and did the best I could.


 After the zucchini was sufficiently sliced and diced, I blanched it in boiling water.

Then, I sauteed the "noodles" with olive oil, shrimp, tomatoes, onion, and Cajun seasoning.

It turns out that zucchini noodles taste like, well, zucchini. The Cajun seasoning and tomato sauce couldn't hide that distinctive flavor.  Maybe if the noodles were cut thinner they would lose their taste?  One can only hope...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mini quiche


In college I made quiche all the time.  It was an easy dish to prepare that felt homey and classy all at once.  I have not made quiche since college, and decided it was time to try again.  Only this time I made mini quiche using a muffin tin. I found the recipe through food gawker.  You can find it here.

The first step was to prepare the crusts.  I used a store bought (gasp!) pie crust, mostly because it was on sale. I used a plastic cup dipped in flour to cut out circles of pie crust. 


Then, I rolled them out a little thinner and placed them into a greased muffin tin, as you would with paper liners.  I found that 1 9" pie crust is enough to make 12 mini crusts. While I prepared the filling, I placed the tray in the refrigerator to keep the crusts cool.


For the filling, the first step was to saute onions in olive oil until translucent.  You'd think I would have come up with a more creative way to photograph this by now...

Then, I mixed the cooked onions  with eggs, cheese, defrosted frozen spinach, milk, and nutmeg.


 Next I spooned the mixture into the crusts.  I had some filling leftover, which I baked in a small baking dish alongside the mini quiche.

Finally, I baked the quiche in the oven for about 20 minutes.  When they came out they had pooofed up.


But after cooling, they deflated and looked very cute, in my opinion at least.  Overall, these quiche were pretty good.   As a single person, though, you can only eat so much quiche before getting tired of it.  Many of these ended up in the freezer.  I do not know yet how well quiche freeze.  My guess is not that well. This would be a great recipe to save and bring to a brunch or picnic.

Peach Plum Crisp


At work, all of my team members' birthdays fall in the summer.  Last week I made brownies for one coworker's birthday.  This week, I oet a little more creative and made a peach plum crisp for another coworker's birthday.  My birthday is up next, so I won't have to worry about that one!  I am requesting, however, a dessert involving berries, chocolate, and cheesecake at some point.  Luckily for me, my wonderful boyfriend has that one covered.

Here are the main ingredients in my crisp:  3 plums, 2 peaches, flour, turbinado sugar, brown sugar, old fashioned oats, vanilla, butter, and nutmeg.


The first step was to prepare the fruit base.  I sliced up the peaches and plums and mixed them with a little less than 1/2 a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, a little vanilla, and some nutmeg.  All of these measurements are approximate, as I didn't really follow one recipe. 

I let the fruit marinate, if you will, for about ten minutes while I prepared the crumble to go on top. The fruit got nice and juicy thanks to the sugar and developed a nice syrup. For the crumble, I mixed together half a stick of butter, brown sugar, flour, and oatmeal.  I found that the easiest way to mix everything together was actually with my fingers.  I tried using a fork, but the butter kept sticking to it.


I then baked the crisp in the oven for about half an hour.  You can see in this picture that I had enough leftover to create a mini "tester" crisp alongside a pie plate full of crisp. While not on purpose, this worked out perfectly, as I was able to test the product before serving my first attempt at a recipe to a group of people.  Luckily, the crisp was delicious on the first try!  At our surprise party at work, we ate the crisp along with vanilla ice cream. My coworkers were very impressed and the four of us finished all except for one serving of the large crisp. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cinnamon Toast


One of my favorite breakfasts growing up was cinnamon toast.  My mom would make it for me and my brothers. It is a wonderful breakfast treat that is surprisingly easy to make. The first step is to spread butter on bread.  Here I used real butter and store-bought wheat bread. My mom always uses real butter when baking, so I try to do the same. You can use any type of bread. Next, sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar.

To toast the bread, broil it on high for just a few minutes.  Watch the toast carefully, as it cooks very quickly and can easily burn.  Two of the pieces in the picture below are a little burnt, or, as I like to think of it, a little crunchy.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Easy shrimp dinner

Here is an example of a weeknight dinner that I made when I thought I had no food.  My thought process went something like this. "Well, I have some asparagus from the farmer's market left in the fridge, but that's about it...  I guess there's some shrimp in the freezer, I could do something with that.  Luckily that doesn't take too long to defrost...Oh, and I always have pasta or something in the cabinet....  Well that sounds like dinner."

So here's what I did. I blanched the asparagus in boiling water while boiling noodles, which were later tossed with butter, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.  At the same time, I also sauteed some chopped up onion and peeled shrimp with a little Cajun seasoning.


There were a lot of pans going at once, but all were very simple. Here is the final product: an easy, nutritious and delicious weeknight dinner.