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Spicy Corn and Bacon Quinoa

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It is scientifically proven that there is a direct relationship between the mirky color of bathwater and the level of fun which was had playing in yard. Ok…I’m making up that ‘research’. But you can always tell that the kids had a fun day when they need a shower immediately following their bath to rinse the dirty bathwater from their bodies. We consider that a successful day around here.

After spending the long winter cooped up inside the house, it is so nice to have the sun shining, the birds chirping, and the green returning to our trees and gardens. Spring time settles me. And the boys have been in their glory releasing all of their little man energy in the backyard…especially since we just finished building their new cedar play set; a joint gift from several family members. I am certain they will get years and years of enjoyment from it, which makes it worth the time it took the build. I have a feeling that my busy little men and I are going to be living outside this summer.

Busy little man #2

Busy little men needs lots of good, healthy food to fuel their active play. Which means I’m always on the lookout for nutrient-rich foods to add to their plates. Quinoa (pronounced ‘KEEN-wah’) is a protein-packed pseudo-grain which is chock full of healthy nutrition. On your dinner plate, it could easily take the place of a rice or pasta side dish with added health benefits. Best yet, quinoa is a low glycemic index and gluten-free food, which makes it desirable for people on specialized diets. Quinoa is truly a superhero of foods!

This quinoa gets a punch of spiciness from fresh jalapeño pepper. Sweet corn kernels and savory bits of bacon add a satisfying texture and flavor to this delicious side dish. If your family is sensitive to spiciness, you can easily reduce (or even eliminate) the jalapeño pepper and still be left with a very delicious and equally nutritious side dish.

Spicy Corn and  Bacon Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels (frozen is fine)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Combine the quinoa, broth, corn, jalapeño, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir, then reduce heat and cover. Cook over a very low heat (just like you would cook rice) for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for five additional minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the bacon and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as desired.

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Ham and Corn Chowder

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Life is made up of a series of memories; some big, some small, some clearly life-changing, and some seemingly inconsequential. My wedding day, the births of my children, the loss of loved ones…all clearly consequential. But the little memories…like singing the soundtrack to Grease with my sisters while we played on our childhood swingset or selling candy bars outside the grocery store or riding our bikes in the park…turns out that those are just as consequential. We just don’t always realize it in the moment.

So, I’m lying on the couch last night, glass of wine in hand, playing around on my computer and distractedly watching American Idol, when two of the contestants come on stage and begin singing Islands in the Stream, a duet originally performed by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In an instant I was transported back to my childhood, in my parents’ room, where my sisters and I used to stand at the foot of their bed, with our toes jammed between the mattress and boxspring, so that when we’d lean forward, the edge of the mattress would catch our calves and we’d suspend there, bobbing forward with our arms outstretched. We’d sway back and forth, mock-gliding over the mattress singing Islands in the Stream at the top of our lungs…with all the wrong lyrics, I am sure.

Such a simple little memory and yet it’s etched in my mind. Because it’s more than the ordinary event of singing a song with my sisters. It was a matter of being together, of laughing, of loving, and of feeling at home. Those are consequential, life-altering sorts of things wrapped in a silly little memory and tied together with a country song.

Every morning, our boys come bursting into our bedroom. The baby is usually already there by that point, drowsily enjoying a morning feeding. But the older boys don’t wake drowsily. They wake with a lightening bolt and go 0 to 60 in the moment they open their eyes. They fly into our room in a flurry. They do not stick their toes between our mattress and sing a Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet. They mostly just make animal noises and shout things like underpants. They climb into my armoire. They climb under the bed. They jump on top of the bed. (Just imagine if you released a couple of monkeys into an enclosed space…it’s exactly like that.) Every so often we can convince them to climb under the covers for a snuggle. And sometimes we’re inclined to just send them back to their room because the activity level far exceeds what we’re prepared to handle that early in the morning. But those morning memories, of waking to a family that loves them…those memories matter.

This weekend we’ll be making more memories, the kind that add a bit of mystery and magic to childhood. Though I’ve expressed my half-hearted support for the Easter bunny, he will be visiting our home, hiding eggs, and leaving a basket filled with soft, stuffed-bunny toys, bubble wands, chocolate-dipped marshmallow Peeps, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and animal crackers hidden under the cellophane grass. We’ll color eggs and make a coconut-covered bunny cake with shoe-string licorice whiskers and a jelly bean nose. It’s tradition. And tradition matters too.

For dinner, we will most likely enjoy slow-roasted lamb with a fresh mint sauce, along with roasted red potatoes, roasted asparagus, and slices of warm French baguette. Our family prefers lamb over ham, but for many families, ham is the star of their traditional Easter feast. With that in mind, I came up with this ham and corn chowder, which would make perfect use of leftover Easter ham. This satisfying soup is worth making, even if you don’t have leftover ham on hand! It’s hard to go wrong with sweet kernels of corn in a warm, creamy broth. Use fresh corn, cut from the cob, if corn is in season or use frozen when it is not. I used frozen corn kernels and it was perfect.

P.S. I just purchased Islands in the Stream from iTunes and have been listening to it on repeat as I write this post. I’m considering teaching it to the boys and showing them how to stick their toes under the edge of my mattress.

Ham and Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 15-ounce cans vegetable broth (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups ham, diced (approximately)
  • 2 1/2 cups sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 6-8 green onions, sliced
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Additional sliced green onions, for garnish

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, until lightly golden and tender. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and garlic. Stir to coat and cook for another minute or so. Whisk in the vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. (The broth should begin to thicken slightly.) Add the ham, corn, green onions, potato, and half and half to the pan. Bring the soup to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Ideally they should just be beginning to break down (to add extra thickness to the soup) but not so mushy that they’re falling apart. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm, garnished with additional sliced green onions.

Corn and Bacon Fritter Cakes

I have a confession to make. Until moments ago, I had no idea what Labor Day was really all about, other than it being the weekend before school starts, the symbolic end of summer, a traditional occasion for grilling out, and the last day where it is appropriate to wear white. Does that fashion rule even still apply? 

Oh, I could have made some guesses, based on the holiday’s name; perhaps something having to do with working people or labor unions. But it took a visit to Wikipedia to learn the history and reason behind the holiday we’re celebrating today.

The worst part is that I’d never given much consideration to my ignorance about this particular holiday until my son asked me to explain it.

Me: Daddy has off from work tomorrow!

Little Man: Oh yeah? Why?

Me: Because it’s Labor Day.

Little Man: What’s Labor Day?

Me: Uhhhhhh…a day when Daddy doesn’t have to work? 

I feel ashamed. I am clearly one of the millions of Americans who are clueless about so much of our history. I can hear my Dad in my ear warning, Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.

I’m certain that I must have learned the history of Labor Day sometime back in my elementary school days. But I think that sometimes we’re just not prepared to appreciate that sort of history without the background knowledge or experience to latch onto. It’s not until we’ve experienced a bit of the world that these things start to really make sense. I think, as adults, we need to take the initiative to reeducate ourselves a bit, reread those classic novels, remind ourselves of the significance of things we’ve come to take for granted…

Do you know the history of Labor Day?

Let me tell you about a holiday I do know something about… International Bacon Day! It takes place every year on the Saturday before Labor Day. Did you celebrate? I certainly did. If you missed it, it’s not too late to pay your respects to bacon. (Bacon won’t mind that you’re celebrating two days late.)

If you’re in need of a suitable celebratory bacon recipe, I’ve got just the thing. My corn and bacon fritters pair delicious, crisp bacon with irresistibly sweet end-of-summer corn in a rich batter to form little fry cakes; slightly crisp on the outside, tender in the middle. Make them large and serve them as a side dish to broiled salmon or make them small, topped with bits of smoked salmon and creme fraiche for a fantastic little hors d’oeuvres!

Cheers to all of the working people who help to make our country great and cheers to bacon!

Corn and Bacon Fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • Corn from 4 cobs, cooked (about 3 cups)
  • 8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Vegetable oil

Directions

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat together the milk and the egg. Gradually whisk the milk and egg mixture into the dry ingredients to form a batter. Stir in the corn, bacon, and green onions. Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Pour or spoon batter into the oil, as large or as small as desired. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Drain in a single layer on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

Spicy Chipotle Corn

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Hard to believe that it’s August already. This summer is going way too fast and we’ve been shamefully remiss in using our grill. Shame on us! But, this is part of my dilemma with our choice of grills.

In most regards, I prefer a simple charcoal grill, with coals lit in a chimney starter. The result is delicious, smoky grilled flavor without any lingering hint of gas or lighter-fluid. To me, it just feels like the way grilling should be done.

The big downside of the charcoal grill is the length of time it takes to prepare; waiting for the coals to light and to reach their ideal temperature. It makes grilling a couple of hot dogs feel like a bit of a production. And with a newborn in my arms and two active little boys running laps around me, I don’t have time for any more productions. The ease of simply turning a knob on a gas grill sounds so appealing.

I was very close to purchasing a gas grill this summer and partly regret that I never did. Seems too late at this point, since it will be snowing before we know it. Maybe next year…

On one of the few occasions that we did fire up the grill this summer, we threw on a few locally-made Hoffman’s hot dogs. I don’t eat hot dogs frequently, but sometimes it just feels like the perfect summer food. On the side, we enjoyed salt potatoes and this spicy chipotle corn. Is there anything more summery than sweet corn??

A little chipotle goes a long way when it comes to the spice factor in this dish, so if you prefer a milder result, you may want to reduce the chipotle by half!

Spicy Chipotle Corn

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle pepper, very finely diced (from a can of chipotles in adobo)
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cups cooked corn kernels or 1 bag frozen corn, defrosted
  • Salt

Directions

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, chipotle pepper, and scallions. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Add the corn. Stir until the corn is heated through and well coated in the spicy butter sauce. Salt as desired.

Shrimp, Chorizo, and Pineapple Quesadillas

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When I retrieved my ice cream maker from its hiatus in the basement, I told myself that I wouldn’t post too many ice cream related recipes. I recognize that not everyone has an ice cream maker lying around and I’d rather post recipes that don’t require any special equipment. I’m not doing a very good job of limiting the ice cream recipes though. It’s summer and I’m really enjoying the novelty of my ice cream maker. I’ve been finding myself dreaming of ways to use it. Some of my ideas are inarguably fantastic; others not so much. Last weekend, after a few glasses of wine, I was ready to whip out the machine to make some sort of Swedish Fish ice cream. I got some strange looks from the crowd, so we abandoned that mission. But I recently had another idea that I just had to try and since there was no one around to talk me out of it, I did. To make up for the fact that I’m sharing my third ice cream recipe in the past two weeks, I’m going to throw in a super simple, delicious bonus recipe which makes a easy, tasty dinner and requires no special equipment.

Remember earlier in the week when I mentioned the candy-sweet local corn, which I added to my pesto pasta with salmon and tomatoes? I wasn’t joking when I said it was candy-sweet. It seriously tastes like it’s been watered in syrup and grown in a bed of brown-sugar soil. I fed some to the kids and told them it was candy. They never paused for a second to question it. I’ve been dreaming about that corn ever since, plotting other ways to take advantage of its awesomeness. I wanted to use it as a dessert. It’s really that sweet. Sweet corn frozen custard came to mind.

Truth be told, this recipe was not a complete success. I contemplated whether I should share it or not, but I figured that if you’re crazy about corn, this recipe might be right up your alley. I fed a spoonful to my husband without telling him what it was and his reaction was less than enthusiastic. Confused would be the most appropriate description of the look on his face as he tried to process what he was tasting. His sentiments were that you can’t just feed people a bowl full of corn ice cream; that it needs to go with something. I agree. So, I made a homemade caramel sauce and served it with a graham cracker…sort of a caramel corn sundae, I suppose.

This frozen custard has a definite sweet corn flavor. The only added sweetener comes from a few tablespoons of honey. I used buttermilk to make up part of the cream base, sort of a play on my sweet honey cornbread with buttermilk, but I think the buttermilk was a mistake. The final custard was not nearly as creamy as I’d hoped. It had more of a firm, icy texture. I’m no ice cream making expert, but I suspect the iciness was a result of the buttermilk…perhaps a freezing point issue? If I were to repeat the recipe, I think I’d use an all cream base. Fairly certain that would produce a creamier result. The recipe I’m sharing with you excludes the buttermilk.

Summer Corn Frozen Custard

Ingredients

  • 3 Cobs of Sweet Corn
  • 2 cups Light Cream
  • 3 Tbsp Honey
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Egg Yolks, lightly beaten

Directions

Boil the corn for 8 minutes. Cool. Cut the kernels off of the cob. Save the cobs. Use a blender or food processor to blend the kernels with the cream, honey, and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture in a saucepan and add the corn cobs. You can break the cobs, if necessary, to fit in the pan. Heat the mixture, stirring often, until it begins to bubble. Remove from heat. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing the mixture to remove all of the the corn-flavored cream. Add a small amount of the hot liquid to the egg yolks to temper the yolks. (Adding a small amount of the hot liquid allows the egg yolks to heat gradually and prevents them from scrambling.) Add the tempered egg yolk mixture to the hot cream. Return the mixture to a saucepan. Heat the mixture until it begins gently bubbling. Cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and refrigerate until it is completely cooled. Then, pour the mixture into your frozen ice cream bowl and freeze according to your machine’s directions. Serve with caramel, if desired.

Now, on to that super easy, super delicious, no-special-equipment-required recipe. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a message wondering if I had any ideas for how to make use of some chorizo she had on hand. Yum. Chorizo. I gave her a few general ideas at the time. And then I couldn’t get chorizo off the brain. Chorizo is a spiced pork sausage that is typically available as chorizo picante (spicy) or chorizo dulce (mild). Spanish chorizo is cured and can be eaten as is. My supermarket carries cured chorizo near the deli and cheese section. Chorizo is also available as a fresh sausage which you would probably find in the meat section of your supermarket. Fresh sausage needs to be cooked prior to eating. I love the combination of chorizo with seafood, especially shrimp. It occurred to me that both shrimp and chorizo would pair well with pineapple. So, I decided to put together some super fast Shrimp, Chorizo, and Pineapple Quesadillas. I’ll definitely be making these again.

Shrimp, Chorizo, and Pineapple Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Spanish Chorizo, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked salad-size Shrimp
  • 1/2 cup Pineapple, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Mexican Blend Cheese
  • 8 Flour Tortillas

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the chorizo in a pan over medium heat until it begins to release its oil. Add the shrimp and pineapple. Stir to combine. When the shrimp and pineapple are warm, remove from heat. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup cheese onto each of four tortillas. Evenly distribute the chorizo, shrimp, pineapple mixture over the four tortillas. Top with another 1/4 cup cheese on each. Cover with the remaining four tortillas. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until the insides are hot and melty and the tortillas feel slightly crisp. Press down on the quesadillas about halfway through to help them melt together. Allow the quesadillas to cool for a minute or two before cutting.

Salmon, Corn, and Tomato Pasta in Pesto

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I have leftover basil pesto in my fridge from Friday night’s Wine and Cheese soirée. It would be a crime to let it go to waste. So, I planned a dinner around it. A few salmon fillets that have been chillin’ in my freezer and some candy-sweet summer corn sealed the deal. A handful of ripe baby tomatoes begged to join and I couldn’t resist. Voilà. Dinner.

Salmon, Corn, and Tomato Pasta in Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Salmon Fillets
  • 3 ears Corn
  • 2 cups Baby Roma Tomatoes (or other small, sweet tomatoes), cut into halves or quarters
  • 1/2 cup Basil Pesto, recipe here
  • 1 box Rotini (or other pasta)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season salmon with a bit of salt and pepper. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until fully cooked. When cool enough to handle, cut into small pieces. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook corn for 8 minutes. Cool in cold water. Cut the kernels from the cob. Cook the pasta according to package directions in lightly salted water. Drain. Toss the warm pasta with pesto, corn, salmon, and tomatoes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves about 6

Simple. Fresh. Delicious.

Grilled Ribeye Steaks and Grilled Fingerling Potatoes with Gorgonzola

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I’m not a lawyer or anything, but I’m pretty sure there is a law that mandates grilling on Memorial Day. In accordance with this purported law, we shall be grilling steaks and potatoes tonight.

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chipotle Butter, Grilled Fingerling Potatoes with Gorgonzola, and Corn on the Cob

I chose a thick, marbled ribeye steak and fingerling potatoes.  Russet potatoes would work well, but will need more cooking time. And, remember that chipotle butter we made last week?  Throw a dollop of that on the steak!  Sprinkle a little gorgonzola on the potatoes and serve with a piece of corn on the cob!

A little guide for grilling steaks:

  • Take the steak out of the fridge about 30-45 minutes prior to grilling to allow it to come up to room temperature. Allowing the steaks to come to room temperature facilitates even cooking.
  • Meanwhile, fire up your grill. Whether using a gas or charcoal grill (my preference), get it good and hot. Charcoal should have a coat of white ash and glow red in the middle. Distribute the coals unevenly, so that one side is stacked with coals and the other side has a lower, single layer of coals.
  • Remove the grill plate and rub it with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
  • Just prior to grilling, season your steak with a little salt and pepper. Avoid doing this until the last minute, as the salt will draw out the juices in the steak.
  • Sear the steak over high heat for a minute or two on each side. (If using a charcoal grill, sear over the stacked coals). Searing the steak over high heat seals in the juices.
  • If using a gas grill, turn the heat down to medium. If using a charcoal grill, move the steak over the lower heat, single layer of coals.
  • Allow the steak to cook for about 3-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak and your desired doneness. Rotate the steak 45 degrees halfway through, to give it a nice quadrillage (diamond pattern).
  • You can check the steak’s doneness by feeling the steak or using a meat thermometer.  My preference is to insert a meat thermometer into the side of the steak.  (Rare: 125 degrees,  Medium Rare: 130-135 degrees, Medium: 140-145 degrees, Medium Well: 150-155 degrees, Well: 160-165 degrees)
  • Remove the steak from the grill about 5 degrees below your desired temperature, as the steak will continue cooking off the heat.
  • Cover the steak and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before cutting or serving. Resting allows the juices to redistribute within the steak.

Using a chimney starter eliminates the need for smelly lighter fluid.

To Grill Fingerling Potatoes:

Pour a small amount of olive oil onto a large piece of foil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pierce each potato a few times with a fork. Place potatoes onto the oil.  Thoroughly wrap the potatoes in the foil.  Double wrap if necessary to seal in the oil. Grill for about 30-40 minutes, until fork tender. For larger potatoes, allow for longer grilling time.

Corn on the Cob:

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Put the shucked corn into the boiling water.  Boil for about 5-8 minutes.

And for dessert…

Bordeaux Cherry Brownie Ice Cream with Fresh Cherries

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