Summer Squash, Scallops and Rice Pilaf with Balsamic Glaze

Nothing beats homegrown veggies straight out of the garden. Every time I’ve gone home to Indiana this summer, my mom – who inherited an impressive green thumb from her farming father, sends me back to Cleveland with a bounty of fresh produce, grown in the same rich soil my grandpa farmed for 60 years. This time, it was zucchini, yellow summer squash, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Zucchinis are classic – especially in grandma’s famous recipe for rice and zucchini, a common staple at our table growing up.  But some of my fondest zucchini memories have nothing at all to do with eating. See, when zucchinis would overgrow in the garden – sometimes more than a foot long and the circumference of a softball – they’d become too tough to eat. So we got crafty with our food and made Pickle Pigs – imagining the stem as the pig’s nose, and carving white lines into the zucchini’s dark green skin to make a face around it. We’d add little triangular slices of zucchini to resemble ears, and carve stripes, scales and other designs to decorate the body. The most fun was sticking in toothpicks as frail little pig legs, spikes of hair, or even a body full of spines – turning our Pickle Pigs into Pickle Porcupines.
Yes, I play with my food – which led to some experimentation with the yellow summer squash I brought home. Not to be confused with the golden zucchini (it’s OK, I’m a farm girl and I just learned the difference between yellow summer squash and yellow zucchini while writing this post), yellow summer squash joined rice pilaf and scallops in this experimental dish, adding some twists to my grandma’s old zuc & rice recipe. I’m sure grandma and grandma never ate squash this way:
Summer Squash, Scallops & Rice Pilaf with Balsamic Glaze
This is all the creation of my boyfriend/personal chef, who agreed to cook dinner if I washed the dishes. With the rice pilaf (box mix) cooking on the stove, he sliced and sauteed the yellow squash in olive oil over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper as they cooked. When they were cooked soft all the way through, he removed them from the stove top and covered them to stay warm while he moved onto the main attraction: the scallops.
He tossed thawed scallops in the skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter and began to sear them, then poured in enough milk to cover the bottom of the pan. He grated some Parmesan cheese into the skillet – making a mock Alfredo as the liquid began to bubble and cook any fishyness out of the scallops. When they were tender, he drained them, and began plating the plump scallops with the soft squash slices and the fluffy rice pilaf.
Over this, he drizzled a balsamic reduction, which I think gives a very artistic pizzazz to the final plate, and dresses up these summer squash to look like modern art. Bon appetit – I think Grandma would have been proud (as long as I didn’t tell her the rice came from a box).


Butternut Squash, Shrimp, Shallot & Shredded Carrot Soup

It started with a can of Amy’s Organic Butternut Squash Soup.

amys organic butternut squash soup
This creamy, squashy soup inspired a few additions for a little pizzazz, so while it warmed on the stove top, I thawed a dozen frozen cooked shrimp in the sink, then sauteed them in olive oil, adding a couple teaspoons of chopped shallots (about 1/4 of a whole shallot). As these sauteed, I sprinkled with Pampered Chef Red Thai Curry Rub, tumeric, salt and pepper.

I tossed the shrimp and shallots into the soup while it cooked, then peeled one organic carrot into the pot.
Within a few minutes, voila, Butternut Squash, Shrimp, Shallot & Shredded Carrot Soup.

Butternut Squash, Shrimp, Shallot & Shredded Carrot Soup Recipe

This butternut squash shrimp soup cried for some crusty bread to dip, so I made the quickest, laziest substitute for garlic bread ever: One hot dog bun, opened up, slathered with butter, sprinkled with garlic salt and shredded cheese, and popped into a toaster oven until the cheese melted and the bread crusted. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Asian Fruity Fish Salad

We start with two salmon fillets on a foil-lined pan, topped with a few shakes of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and fish oil, with ground garlic, ground ginger, and a fresh grind of black pepper and sea salt. These bake at 350 while we get the rest of the salad ready.

Next, we saute a handful of raw peeled shrimp with fresh minced garlic, fresh minced organic ginger, and mandarin orange juice along with a few slices. This boils until the sauce is thick and the shrimp is pink. We strain out the shrimp and let them cool, adding the liquid mash to the top of the salmon baking in the oven.

The salad is a simple shred of organic green chard topped with: sliced organic celery, sunflower seeds, fresh minced organic ginger, raspberries, blackberries, and mandarin oranges:

Asian Fruity  Fish Salad with berries

It’s topped off with shrimp, a slab of saucy salmon, and a shake of rice wine vinegar to become Asian Fruity Fish Salad:

With (and before, and after) the meal, we shared a bottle of Zin Your Face wine. Of course, a white probably would have been more appropriate, but with an evening rain storm rolling in and Nightmare on Elm Street playing on TV, it felt more like a red wine night. A raspberry-colored wine with a plummy, nutty scent, it comes in jammy and finishes off with spicy tannins and tobacco. Like any good and dangerous wine, it gets tastier the more you drink.

Sweet & Spicy Salmon, Shrimp & Chard

When you forget to thaw any meat before you get hungry, go straight for the seafood. Fish and shrimp are easy to “quick thaw” in a colander under cold running water. Then, they bake and saute quickly. And, for some reason, they seem far fancier than the chicken or pork that usually stocks my freezer and takes hours just to thaw.
But besides the time savings, the health benefits of fish abound. Just 4 oz. of salmon can contain more than 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, which is more than most adult Americans get from their entire diet over several days. Omega-3 fats fight inflammation, cancer, macular degeneration, and even promote cognitive function, youthful-looking skin, and lustrous hair.
A beauty food that gives me less time in the kitchen and more time to strut my stuff? Sold.
So, in the few minutes that the salmon filets and shrimp sit under running water, I start tearing up green Swiss chard, which brings its own punch to the plate. One cup of it, just 35 calories, provides more than 300% of your daily Vitamin K, plus healthy doses of Vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber. .
Meanwhile, my sous chef starts the mashed potatoes. OK, I’ll admit, the instant mix probably isn’t the healthiest way to go about this, but we are making this dish because we wait to the last minute without planning ahead, remember? To the standard instant mix and water, he adds a tablespoon of butter, 4 minced garlic cloves, garlic, cayenne, salt and pepper. And, because I love how mashed potatoes taste when served with a steak smothered in sauce, he adds a “tidge” of A1 Steak Sauce.
As soon as the salmon thaws, I sprinkle them with salt, pepper, turmeric, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. While it bakes on tin foil in a 375-degree oven, my sous chef whips up a glaze of maple butter and raspberry preserves – a combo that resembles peanut butter and jelly until he heats and reduces the sweet sauce.
Next, I add the shrimp to a skillet with extra virgin olive oil and douse generously with Tastefully Simple’s Red Thai Curry Rub, cayenne, and a garlic chili grind. At the same time, in the other half of the skillet, I heat the chard in butter. Eventually, this all gets stirred together, coating it all in a spicy heat that will be a delicious complement to the sweet glaze on the salmon. With a nice cut of bitterness from the salty chard and an echo of garlicky heat in the potatoes, this dish came together so stunningly it’s hard to imagine it thrown together last-minute.


A day of fine home-cooked dining

A typical day of eating at the hand of my personal chef / boyfriend:
For breakfast: 
2 scrambled eggs with ketchup and fresh ground pepper
2 meats: bacon and sausage
2 berries: blue and black
For lunch:
(Not pictured, unfortunately for you)
Tuna Salad Sandwiches
For supper:
Bacon-Infused Seafood Alfredo served on Organic Basil Linguine with
diced tomato, steamed asparagus, and fresh ground salt and pepper
Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus

Quick, Easy Oven-Baked Salmon

I’m relieved to finally have salmon in my freezer again. When it comes to remembering to thaw meat, I’m terrible. So even as much as I love chicken, it’s usually frozen beyond my last-minute (self-inflicted) time constraints.

But salmon thaws in a few minutes under running water, making it a quick, easy go-to dinner. The preparation is a snap – a few grinds of salt, pepper and garlic, then a squeeze of lemon – and it’s into the oven for 15 minutes while my quinoa cooks and then, during the last half, the green beans steam.


Seafood Pizza

Seafood Pizza:
shrimp + scallops + crab + bacon + red onion + garlic + white asparagus + jalapeno hollandaise

Valentine’s Dinner and Continued Surprises

I had no plans for Valentine’s this year, which is the only reasonable way to spend the day. We celebrated on V-eve with his preparation of crab legs and asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and my contribution of quinoa with raspberry vinaigrette. Just, wow.

Quinoa Recipe: (coming soon)
And, of course, starters of salad, accompanied by Perrier and Champagne, all set off with a red tablecloth — sexy. Then, we watched (I should say, he let me watch) the new episode of AMC’s Walking Dead. How’s that for romance?
It was a delightful Valentine’s, and it’s all I expected.
On Valentine’s Day, around lunch time, one of the girls at work came back to my cube and told me that my boyfriend was out in the lobby. My coworkers said they’d never seen me move so fast and run out the door. There he was, with a bouquet of a dozen red roses.

Not just flowers, but a vase to put them in, too.

So Valentine’s Day ended up not just a fancy crab leg dinner, but also a surprise in-person delivery of a bunch of gorgeous roses. And not even just that, but still another surprise the next day:
Chocolate covered (and drizzled) strawberries from Pickwick & Frolic.

Brown Sugar Dijon Salmon Glaze

This is a great glaze I found for salmon, made of brown sugar, honey and dijon mustard. Thanks, Bobby Flay.

I cut the recipe in half, but only made a single filet, so I think the leftover glaze might also be good on chicken or shrimp. I did make shrimp to accompany the brown sugar glazed salmon, but I just fried them in the skillet with chopped garlic and seasonings and doused them with some lemon juice and sherry. Delicious.

I figured since I cleaned my kitchen this weekend — we’re talking mopping the floor and everything — I might as well make something fancy. This qualified, and it was also scrumptious.

Unfortunately, there’s no picture coming to help you visualize the meal. I scarfed it down before I ever thought about it.

But Bobby’s picture is much more professional than mine anyway, so feast your eyes on this:

Bobby Flay salmon with brown sugar and mustard glaze recipe

Jambalaya-like Creole Shrimp

This jambalaya-like stew is delicious and hearty – perfect for chilly nights like tonight. I followed the recipe exactly the first time or two, but usually I’m throwing in whatever I have on hand. I always serve it over rice though. So, as it was called in the original recipe:

Easy Creole Shrimp:
1/2 cup each chopped onion and green pepper
1 T olive oil
1 can condensed tomato soup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup salsa
1 T lemon juice
1/2 T fresh parsley
1 t chili powder
3/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t pepper
1/2 lb shrimp

Start preparing rice by recipe. Meanwhile, chop vegetables. Saute onion and pepper in oil for 6-7 minutes, until crisp-tender. Stir in other ingredients, except shrimp, and boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook 6-8 minutes. Add shrimp, cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes.

I sometimes add celery if I have it, which is what the original recipe called for. Or red onions. Tonight I added a couple hot peppers too, and it was great. Plus, I made a healthy decision to substitute brown rice for white, even though I’m not a fan.