Day 23: Shrimp Tacos with Corn Salsa

1560727_796789970343089_6332524993094821689_nI loved, loved, loved this recipe. I loved it so much, that I have a confession—I ate four of them. Yep, I “doubled” the recipe, at least on my plate. And I wasn’t the only one—everyone raved about it, and everyone probably ate more than the two tacos that actually made up a serving. I think the key to the incredible flavors came from the consistent use of lime juice—it was in the corn salsa, it cooked in the shrimp, and it was added to the sour cream. Overall, the tacos were both sweet and tangy due to the lime juice and honey, as well as fresh and creamy from the grilled corn and avocado.

I’ve got no back to story for this one. There’s nothing you need to know about the recipe other than the fact that you HAVE to make it. Seriously.

Day 22: Clams with Israeli Couscous

On Friday, I drove to Cape May for the last time this summer—an exciting, but bittersweet sign that summer was drawing to a close. This weekend was also a bit more special than some others because my younger sister and my 19 month old nephew—plus my 19 year old nephew—were all there at my mom’s for the weekend. Once again, when we arrived in Cape May, we immediately began to discuss what to do about dinner—and of course, I told them that I had to cook. I read them a few options from Cooking Light 2014—and we settled on “Clams with Israeli Couscous.” But, because my mom doesn’t actually like steamed clams, I also decided to add shrimp and scallops to the recipe, kind of like a “paella” minus the sausage and the rice.

10639556_796381027050650_6032668742646483981_nOnce again, I picked a recipe that had at least one ingredient that I had never worked with before—fennel. As I headed to Acme, I thought I knew what fennel looked like (a bulbous root), but when I arrived at the store, and found the vegetable was actually “Anise,” I was thoroughly confused. My confusion only grew when I asked the person stocking the produce if they had fennel, and he stared at my blankly and said he had no idea what that was. Thankfully, I had the sudden thought to google “substitute for fennel,” as the first article I came to told me that another name for fennel was actually “anise.” So, feeling rather proud of myself, I added it to the cart and headed off to find the Israeli couscous.

Normally, I buy this couscous at Trader Joe’s, but because I was in Cape May, my options were a but limited when it came to grocery stores. That being said, because I was at the larger Acme in North Cape May, I didn’t expect that finding this couscous would be a problem. Which it was—that is until I realized that it is also called “pearl couscous.” So, if you decide to make this recipe, make a note that instead of looking for Fennel and Israeli Couscous, look for Anise and pearl couscous.

Now on to the recipe. Because it cooked quickly, I prepped all of the ingredients before I started cooking. The only time consuming part came from my decision to add shrimp to the recipe—as I then had to peel and clean a pound of large shrimp. But beyond that, the whole thing took about 20-25 minutes start to finish. My only frustration came at the end, as I followed the recipe’s timing, there still seemed to be a lot of liquid in the pan, and the couscous started to stick to the bottom. Then, the worst part was that about 5-6 of the clams out of the 24 didn’t open, and I kept wondering if I should let them cook longer even though I might be risking ruining the couscous. In the end, I threw out the clams that didn’t open and served the couscous with the bit of liquid still remaining—and everyone loved it. The flavors were delicious, and everyone from the kids to the adults wanted seconds. The verdict about the clams? Everyone agreed that the recipe would not have been as satisfying without the addition of the shrimp and scallops, as the little bit of meat in 5 clams was more like a taste than a meal.

 

Day 21: Strawberry & Rhubarb Lemonade

To round out the busy week, I chose to make the one more lemonade recipe from the month of August. I know, another lemonade, but this one at least had one thing going for it that the others didn’t: rhubarb. Yes, rhubarb. I’ve never cooked anything with rhubarb. In fact, I’ve never even touched rhubarb, and the only reason I know what it even looks like was that I once saw it for sale at a local farm. So, when I decided early in the day to make this lemonade (mostly because I knew how busy the day was going to be), I went to the farm to buy it (for anyone local—Depiero’s).

10509544_795978823757537_6242294415496528375_nThe lemonade preparation was a bit different than the others. In this one, I had to cut up the strawberries and the rhubarb, boil them in a water and sugar mixture, and then simmer for 5 minutes. My only uncertainty came when the recipe didn’t say how small to cut the rhubarb, as it actually called for “frozen rhubarb” (which would probably have been more difficult to find than the fresh), and the frozen would already have been cut. So, I threw caution to the wind and cut it into 1 inches pieces. I was actually surprised by how similar rhubarb looked to celery, although it smelled nothing like it.

As the fruit mixture cooked, I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma coming from the pot—it was sweet and tangy, almost like candy. Once the mixture had finished cooking, I pressed it through a sieve into the pitcher containing 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, and placed it in the freezer for about 30 minutes to cool. Which it didn’t, so I served it over ice. Personally, I liked this lemonade, but my children did not. My daughter, in fact, thought it tasted like medicine, and actually gagged a little while drinking it—an over-exaggeration if you ask me.

The verdict? I won’t be making this lemonade again, but I definitely will make something else with rhubarb. Let’s hope that there’s another recipe in the next 344 days of Cooking Light.

Day 20: Sesame Dipping Sauce

I don’t know if you’ve already figured this out, but last week was a really busy week, and the recipes I chose seem to reflect that—they were all under the category of “Quick and Easy.” And I needed that. This change in my schedule with football practice has really taken a toll on my motivation. You’d think with two hours of practice that I’d have enough time to get at least a few things done while my son was otherwise occupied. But I’m a chatty person—which I’m sure you are well aware of—and I seem to get caught up in conversation whenever I drop him off. [This week, I’ve decided to not even park—he just jumps out of the car and runs to the field so that I can preserve every minute that I have between drop off and pick up.]

9299_795373720484714_6902683345305045450_nLooking through the remaining August recipes, the one for “Sesame Dipping Sauce” seemed like the perfect one for a busy day. So, while my son was at football, I made a quick stop at Shop Rite, picked up both chicken breasts and steak (my daughter wanted to try both types of meat with the sauce), and some fresh ginger. The rest of the ingredients were ones that I (thankfully) had at home: limes, soy sauce, dark sesame oil, salt, pepper, and green onions. The recipe took about 5 minutes to make, so once the steak and chicken were off the grill, we were ready to have dinner.

Now the review. It was ok. A little too tart if you ask me, and my son hated it—although he is a purist with his foods, so he’s not really into condiments. My daughter preferred it with the beef rather than the chicken, and seemed to like it. I think if I make it again, I would cut down on the lime juice, and maybe add a little garlic to give it some depth. If you make it, let me know what you think.

Day 19: Pickled Tomatoes

10592902_795020240520062_1638903715287481355_n (1)I’m really excited by this recipe—but I have to wait a week to find out if I did it correctly! [Ok, that’s not really true anymore, as it has been a week since I made them—and I can actually try them tonight!] With the exception of peeling the tomatoes, this recipe was both quick and easy. That being said, about half way through the peeling, I did begin to wish I had used cherry tomatoes rather than grape—they are so small and there were so many of them. And, yes, I did blanch them first so it wasn’t that difficult to do—I just wanted to snap my fingers have them ready to go.

I chose to make “Pickled Tomatoes” for two reasons: 1) I’ve never pickled anything. I just love the idea of making my own pickles. [Of course, the only pickles I et are kosher dills (usually with garlic), and this recipe doesn’t call for either of these ingredients. So, I really hope I love it!] AND 2) I really didn’t feel like making anything for dinner. It was a long day, and the lure of getting my kids takeout was just too tempting—so I did. And I made pickles.

Now, the only question I have is: What should I pickle next?

Day 18: Peachy Almond Shortcakes

When I got home from my mom’s on Monday (Day 18), I not only had no food in the house, I also had to work for a few hours, as well as drive both of my kids around. Needless to say, I really didn’t feel like cooking. But, because I am committed to this challenge—as well as the fact that my daughter won’t let me even contemplate skipping a day—I decided to make something after dinner: “Peachy Almond Shortcakes.” 10401547_794550507233702_7032313781304988288_n

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t bake. Therefore, I always have a bit of anxiety when I begin. For this reason, I actually prepped all of the ingredients so that I would have everything at my fingertips when the recipe called for it. The only thing that I didn’t have—which I had assumed I did—was powdered sugar for the peaches. So, I used a tablespoon of brown sugar instead, and because the peaches were far from ripe, I prepped this part of the recipe first—at least 30 minutes before they were needed so as to bring out the juice from the peaches.

I don’t know if it was having everything prepped, or that this recipe was just easy to follow, but the whole thing went off without any other screw ups—a true feet for me—and the final product was delicious. In fact, because the recipe had me toast almond flour for a few minutes, the overall flavor had a real nuttiness to it—although this might have also been from the amaretto. Either way, the shortcake was crumbly, light, and just slightly sweet. Then, with the combination of the peaches and whipped topping, it was the perfect dessert. So perfect that there was only one left when I woke up the next morning!

 

Day 17: Sour Cream and Onion Dip

I know I’m a few days behind in sharing the recipes for days 17-20, but if you’re following me on Instagram, you’ll know that I may not be writing every day, but I am definitely cooking. On Sunday (Day 17), my mother, sister, and son all collectively decided that I had to make Portuguese-Style Scallops for dinner—a recipe from Cooking Light that Iv’e been making since 1999—it’s a favorite. So, bearing that in mind, I had to choose something from the August recipes that did not involve an actual entree—so, I went with a quick appetizer: “Sour Cream and Onion Dip.”

10628556_794058097282943_557801534082427399_nWhile I was at the beach that day, my mother kindly went to the grocery store with my shopping list in hand. So, when she came home with yellow onions as I had indicated on the list—rather than sweet Vidalia onions—I quickly realized my error. The recipe called for “sweet yellow onions” and I forgot to include the word “sweet.” That being said, because the onions are diced and then cooked, they became sweet—just not as sweet as a Vidalia onion would have been.

The rest of the recipe was easy to follow, and consisted of simply measuring out a few ingredients: light sour cream, canola mayonnaise, chives, salt, and white pepper. Five minutes later, this appetizer was ready.

I’m not really a huge fan of dips, unless it is guacamole—so prior to trying it, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. And, because I am trying to make healthy decision, I decided to bake some thinly sliced zucchini “chips” to eat with it. I was honestly surprised by how delicious it turned out to be. I could have sat down with a plate of veggies and dip and had that for dinner—except everyone still wanted me to make the scallops. Which I did.