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Shop the Sale: Strawberry Pavlolva

Strawberry PavlolvaPavlova creates a Pavlovian response in me.

Don’t get the two confused.

One is a light, airy meringue. The other is a conditioned response.

My conditioned response to the light, airy meringue is to eat as much of it as I can, especially when the weather warms up and my eating gets a bit healthier as well.

I love that these meringues pack so much flavor but don’t weigh you down. I also love how they don’t have to look absolutely perfect.

You can put almost any kind of topping on these once made, but I love fresh strawberries in the springtime. With strawberries on sale this week, you can make enough of these to share.

Strawberry Pavlolva
Serves 12

2 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
4 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 lb strawberries, hulled and halved
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 cups heavy cream
seeds scraped from 1/4 vanilla bean
Preheat oven to 250° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar with the cornstarch; set aside.

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until peaks begin to form. Add remaining granulated sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the cornstarch mixture. Add vinegar and vanilla extract; beat 1 minute, or until meringue is glossy and stands in peaks.

Form 12 meringue shells by spooning six 3-inch mounds onto each baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon, make a well in the center of each mound.

Place in oven and reduce temperature to 200° F. Bake until meringues are firm and begin to color, about 2 hours. (They will be dry on the outside and chewy in the center.) Cool on baking sheets set on wire racks.

Meanwhile, combine strawberries, 6 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar, and lime zest and juice in a bowl. Set aside to macerate 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

In a large bowl, beat heavy cream, 3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar and vanilla seeds until stiff.

To assemble, spoon whipped cream into meringues. Spoon strawberries over the cream. Dust with remaining confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 265, Calories from Fat: 69, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 27 mg, Sodium: 45 mg, Potassium: 190 mg, Carbohydrates: 49 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 45 g, Protein: 3 g.

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Shop the Sale: Gulf Brown Shrimp

Shrimp and Garlic PastaI’m still not sure how I wasted so much of my life not loving seafood.

Beyond the fish sticks we ate every Friday night during Lent, I never loved seafood of any kind. Actually, now that I think about it, it was probably because of those fish sticks that I didn’t like seafood. Sorry, Mom, I’m just speaking the truth.

Rest assured, I’ve spent the past few years trying to make up for lost time. I’ve eaten shrimp by the pound. I’ve decimated a dozen Maryland blue crabs in one sitting. I’ve embraced raw oysters. My boyfriend makes a sea bass that’s out of this world, and I cook salmon as often as it goes on sale at Brookshire’s.

I find myself cooking with shrimp most frequently, so I love that Gulf brown shrimp is on sale this week.  An old friend of mine, Pete, for whom fishing is more an obsession than just a hobby, always told me never to overcook fish. The same goes for shrimp. It can still be slightly pink when you stop cooking it, and it will pretty much finish itself even after you take it off the burner. If you overcook shrimp, it becomes tough and chewy.

Enjoy this pasta dish; the garlic brings out the flavor of the shrimp beautifully.

Shrimp and Garlic Pasta

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, more for finishing
3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
8 oz medium Gulf brown shrimp, peeled and deveined or large shrimp, halved
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (14.5 oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
8 oz dried fettuccine or spaghetti
3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta. In a large skillet over low heat, combine the olive oil and garlic. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is just fragrant and beginning to turn golden, about 2 to 4 minutes; don’t let it brown or crisp. Add the shrimp and zest; season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high, and sear the shrimp quickly just until they turn bright pink, about 1 minute on each side. They don’t need to be cooked through at this point. Add the wine and let it simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until heated through. Set aside over very low heat if the pasta is not ready yet. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until just tender. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta, leaving drops of water clinging to it. Add the pasta and half of the reserved cooking liquid to the skillet. Gently simmer for a few minutes so the flavors meld and the pasta can drink up the sauce. Stir in the parsley, taste for salt and pepper, and serve warm with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Nutritional information: Calories Per Serving: 900, Calories from Fat: 290, Fat: 32 g (4 g Saturated Fat, 21 g, Monounsaturated Fat, 4 g Polyunsaturated Fat), Protein: 42 g, Carbohydrates: 108 g, Sodium: 1050 mg, Cholesterol: 170 mg, Fiber: 10 g.

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Shop the Sale: Roasted Potatoes with Chives, Bacon and Bleu Cheese

Roasted Potatoes with Chives, Bacon and Bleu CheeseI don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that America is pretty obsessed with bacon. Now, there’s even a bacon-bowl-making apparatus I’ve seen on television commercials. What do you put in a bacon bowl, I wonder? Oh, it would be good with scrambled eggs and cheese, but I digress…

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, bacon!

This pork product makes everything taste better. My kids like to eat it plain, alongside pancakes. Luke will dip it into his syrup, but Curt likes the full bacon taste to come through and doesn’t mix it with anything. I put bacon on top of meatloaf and wrap it around stuffed peppers. It goes in breakfast dishes, of course, but it also goes on sandwiches for lunch, in a brittle on top of sweet potatoes and in the crust of a chocolate pie for dessert.

Here, it goes on top of potatoes in a variation of the loaded baked potato.

Bacon freezes well, so buy a freezer full while it’s on sale this week at Brookshire’s.

Roasted Potatoes with Chives, Bacon and Bleu Cheese
Serves 6

12 small Yukon Gold potatoes
2 1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1 Tbsp minced chives

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water; bring to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt; cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. Once cooled, slice a small piece from the top and bottom of each potato. Transfer to a medium bowl. Toss with oil, remaining salt and pepper.

Place potatoes on a baking sheet. With a paring knife, score top of each potato. Top each with equal amounts bleu cheese and bacon. Bake until cheese melts, about 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 288, Calories from Fat: 67, Fat: 7 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 13 mg, Sodium: 1100 mg, Potassium: 1187 mg, Carbohydrates: 49 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 10 g.

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Shop the Sale: Tamale Casserole

Chicken Tamale CasseroleTamales are one of my favorite foods on earth, and I keep trying to find someone to teach me how to make them. I keep hearing it’s a lost art and extremely labor-intensive. I’m up for the challenge if anyone reading this wants to make tamales with me!

In the meantime, I’ve purchased them fresh or frozen and even made a variation of the dish, like in this casserole.

This recipe originally called for chicken. I’ve made it that way, but my kids like it better with ground Angus chuck, on sale this week at Brookshire’s. If you want to substitute chicken (Brookshire’s also has drums and thighs on sale that you can cook and shred), use three to four cups shredded chicken in place of the ground Angus chuck.

Chicken Tamale Casserole

cooking spray
2 1/4 cups pre-shredded 4-Cheese Mexican Blend Cheese, divided
1/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
3 tsp ground cumin
1 (14.75 oz) can creamed corn
1 (8.5 oz) box corn muffin mix
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies
1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce
1 lb ground Angus chuck, browned and drained of fat
1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine 1/4 cup cheese and next 6 ingredients (through chilies) in a large bowl, stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake at 400° F for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with ground beef; sprinkle with remaining 2 cups of cheese. Bake at 400° F for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes. Top casserole with green onions and cut into serving pieces.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 748, Calories from Fat: 381, Fat: 42 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (18 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 192 mg, Sodium: 1342 mg, Potassium: 121 mg, Carbohydrates: 57 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 16 g, Protein: 34 g

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Shop the Sale: Garlicky Baked Shrimp

Garlicky Baked ShrimpI was beyond excited to see 36/40 Gulf Shrimp on sale this week at Brookshire’s.

I plan to stock my freezer.

Think Bubba in the movie, “Forrest Gump.”

Baked shrimp.

Boiled shrimp.

Grilled shrimp.

Shrimp scampi.

Shrimp kebabs.

And so on!

I love that movie and I love shrimp even more.

Most people might call pork the “other white meat,” but to me, it’s shrimp. It’s so versatile, quick and easy to cook, and so delicious.

Bubba was right.

Here’s one of my (many) current favorites.

Garlicky Baked Shrimp
Yield: 2-4 servings

1 lb raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp white wine
salt and pepper
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) melted butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp fresh Italian-leaf parsley, chopped
half of a lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 425° F.

In a bowl, combine the shrimp, garlic and white wine. Stir to combine, then pour into a baking dish. Spread out evenly, and then season with salt and pepper.

In another bowl, use a fork to mix melted butter, panko and parsley until well-combined. With your fingers, sprinkle the mixture evenly in the baking dish over the shrimp.

Transfer dish to oven and bake until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 15-18 minutes.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 312, Calories from Fat: 128, Fat: 14 g (8 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 269 mg, Sodium: 459 mg, Carbohydrates: 15 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 28 g

Shop the Sale: Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Cheesecake Stuffed StrawberriesIt’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means roses, chocolate, wine and strawberries, although not necessarily in that order.

For couples, Valentine’s Day can be a romantic time. For us single people, Valentine’s Day comes with a bit of dread. I attend a Sunday school class for single parents, so you can imagine that there’s not a lot of love for February 14 in our group. However, because we always make the best of everything, we usually have a group event on that evening and enjoy each other’s company.
Last year, one woman made cheesecake stuffed strawberries, and I’m pretty sure they were gone before we ate the actual meal.

I’m going to make them this year because even if three of us bring the same thing, we still won’t have enough!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries
Serves 4

1 lb washed strawberries
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
6 Tbsp powdered sugar (add more if it’s not sweet enough)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

Use a paring knife to cut stems off strawberries. Hollow out a small hole in the center of the strawberries. You can also cut a small piece off the bottom of each strawberry so it will stand.

Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

Using a spoon, put the filling in a plastic bag and snip off a corner; pipe the filling into each strawberry.

You can then sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on the top.

Refrigerate until cold.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 307, Calories from Fat: 186, Fat: 21 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 62 mg, Sodium: 216 mg, Carbohydrates: 27 g, Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 19 g, Protein: 5 g

Shop the Sale: Hot Chicken Salad Casserole

Hot Chicken Salad CasseroleYou know you’re in the South when the words “chicken salad” and “casserole” appear in the title of the same recipe.

Goodness knows we love our chicken salad and our casseroles, and both are great on a chilly winter night.

There’s a restaurant in my hometown that I’ll go to when meeting girlfriends for lunch. They always have the best selection of warm salads, cold salads and hot soups (oh yes, and pimento cheese, but that’s probably another post). I can totally envision this hot chicken salad casserole fitting right in on their salad bar!

Chicken breasts are on sale this week, so try this one night soon.

Hot Chicken Salad Casserole
Serves 8

1 cup mayonnaise
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
pinch of dried thyme and rosemary, crushed
4 cups diced cooked chicken
4 eggs, boiled and chopped
1/2 cup minced celery
1/3 cup finely minced onion
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
topping (below)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13 x 9 baking dish. In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise and soup; blend well. Stir in the cheddar cheese, lemon pepper, thyme and rosemary. Add the chicken, eggs, celery, onion, green onion and almonds; mix. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt only as needed, then transfer to prepared baking dish. Add the topping. Bake 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Topping: Vary the casserole toppings by using additional shredded cheese on top, alone or with one of these toppings: 1 cup of Panko bread crumbs, dry bread crumbs, a sleeve of crushed saltines or Ritz crackers mixed with 1 to 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted or simply slice cold butter thinly and scatter over the top; or add 1-1/2 cups of crushed plain or kettle style potato chips to the top.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 389, Calories from Fat: 220, Fat: 24 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 162 mg, Sodium: 686 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 29 g

Shop the Sale: Roast Chicken with Carrots

Roast Chicken with CarrotsIn France, a roast chicken dinner in a small corner bistro is the stuff dreams are made of. While walking down the streets of any French town, you smell the aroma of the roasting poulet as you stroll along. I don’t think I ever went into a bistro without seeing a roast chicken on the menu, usually served with root vegetables and roasted potatoes of some kind.

I remember when I was newly married and was dying to impress my new husband with my culinary skills – such as they are – and share with him memories of the days I lived overseas. A few months into our marriage, there was a roast chicken gracing the cover of a popular national newsstand cooking magazine. I tore out the recipe, painstakingly purchased the ingredients and carefully prepared the evening’s meal. It didn’t turn out as well as the roast chicken in the bistros in France, but it was pretty darn good. Even better? The house smelled amazing while the chicken was roasting and for hours after our feast.

This recipe is similar to the one I made all those years ago and easy to accomplish.

With whole fryers on sale this week, you can cook one and save one for next week.

Roast Chicken with Carrots
Serves 4

whole fryer chicken (3 1/2 to 4 lbs), wingtips removed
freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, sliced in half
1 bunch fresh thyme
10 cloves garlic, peeled
8 carrots, peeled, trimmed and halved crosswise
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 425° F. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season well with salt and pepper. Stuff with lemon, thyme and half of the garlic; Then, using butcher’s string, secure the wings and legs to the body.

Place chicken in a small roasting pan or large, deep, oven-proof heavy skillet. Surround with the carrots and remaining garlic, then add 1 cup of the chicken stock. Drizzle with olive oil.
Roast the chicken for 15 minutes at 425° F. If you have a convection oven, you can reduce the heat to 375° F for the remaining time (otherwise, just keep it at 425° F). Roast until chicken is golden and carrots are well caramelized, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, basting with broth and pan juices every 15 minutes for the first 45 minutes. Add stock if pan looks dry.
Transfer chicken, carrots and garlic to a platter. Discard twine, thyme and lemon, and let chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Skim fat from pan juices and discard. Add vinegar to remaining pan juices and serve over the chicken.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 858, Calories from Fat: 488, Fat: 54 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 341 mg, Sodium: 1093 mg, Carbohydrates: 16 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 79 g

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Shop the Sale: Northwest Applie Pie Parfaits

Apple ParfaitIt’s only two weeks into the new year and resolutions to eat better and be healthier are already slipping out the window.

Case in point: I was talking to my sons about incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diet.

My older son, Curt, thought this was a great idea.

“Instead of dessert, I’ll have fruit after dinner,” he enthused.

“Great!” I thought. “It’s working!”

“Do you have strawberries?” he asked.

“No,” I replied.

“What about blueberries? Star fruit? Pomegranate?”

“No, no and no,” I had to tell him. “I have bananas, apples, grapes and tangerines.”

He thought for a moment.

“OK, I’ll have key lime pie,” he said.

Clearly, I need to keep some more exotic fruits – or fruits of his liking – in the house for snacking and “desserts,” but I can also make more desserts using fruit and other healthy ingredients.

This parfait is so easy and doesn’t have nearly the fat – or calories – of that key lime pie that was lurking in my fridge.

Northwest apples are on sale this week, along with Galas and Fujis, and any of these would make a delightful addition to this dessert.

Apple Pie Parfaits
Serves 1

6 oz fat free vanilla yogurt
1/2 medium Northwest apple
1 tsp graham cracker crumbs
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Cut the apple into small cubes, then place in the microwave; cook for about 1 minute.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and cinnamon.

To build parfait, layer 1/2 the yogurt then 1/2 the apple cubes. Repeat with remaining yogurt and apples, then top with cinnamon-graham cracker mixture.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 142, Calories from Fat: 2, Fat: 0.2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 3 mg, Sodium: 108 mg, Carbohydrates: 30 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 23 g, Protein: 5 g

Shop the Sale: Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori ChickenA few weekends ago, our Sunday School class had its annual class party at my house.

I LOVE having people over to my house, but I’ll admit I had ulterior motives for hosting: leftovers. People always insist on leaving leftovers.

Ok, twist my arm.

You see, everyone in this class COOKS. We have to, I guess, because it’s a class for single parents!

There were mocha cake balls (notice I started with dessert), cookies of all kinds, key lime pie and carrot cake. There were chips, queso, homemade salsa and guacamole. There was a sweet-and-salty brown sugar ham, homemade macaroni and cheese with a golden crust of perfectly toasted panko, a zesty Mexican layered casserole and a delicious cheesy chicken casserole. While it was all so scrumptious, the dish that made me especially happy when the cook offered to leave some for leftovers was tandoori chicken.

I had sort of coerced the chef into making this dish. She is South African by the way of Great Britain, and her accent is as delectable as her cooking. She’d mentioned on Facebook one day that she was in the midst of making a holiday feast for her family and I flat out responded, “Oh, that sounds good. Bring some to my house Sunday.”

She did. Tandoori chicken is traditionally an Indian dish. If you’ve ever spent any time in Great Britain, you know there’s a heavy Indian influence there, especially in London, where you can get succulent Indian take-out on almost every block. The chicken, traditionally thighs, is marinated in yogurt and a spice mixture that looks intimidating, but it’s well worth the complexity of flavor in the end result.

This recipe uses chicken breasts, which are on sale this week, and they stay juicy because of the rich marinade.

Tandoori Chicken
Serves 6

5 cloves
2 dried guajillo chiles (or 2 chiles de arbol)
2 green cardamom, husks discarded, seeds retained
1 black cardamom, husk discarded, seeds retained
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 cup whole fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup peanut or canola oil
2 Tbsp malt vinegar or lime juice
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
pinch of cayenne pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch stem ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra limes, for garnish

For the marinade, toast the cloves, whole chiles, both types of cardamom seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds in a cast-iron skillet until fragrant (approximately 3 minutes) , shaking the pan. Then, pour the spices into a spice grinder and grind them until you get a fine powder.

In a large bowl, whisk together the spice mixture with the yogurt, oil, malt vinegar, salt, ground cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garlic and ginger until well-combined. Adjust salt and pepper if needed.
Reserve 1/3 cup of the marinade and set aside; the extra will be used as a sauce.

Prick the chicken breasts with a fork. Add the chicken to the rest of the marinade and toss to coat. Marinate at least 1 hour in the refrigerator, up to overnight.
Line a baking sheet with foil and turn your broiler on. Shake excess marinade off of chicken, still ensuring it’s well-coated. Place each chicken breast on the baking sheet. Cook the chicken under the broiler until starting to crisp, about 5 minutes. Then, turn the oven to 350° F, and cook until a meat thermometer inserted in the meatiest part of the thigh registers 160° F, another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
While the chicken is cooking, pour the reserved marinade into a small saucepan, along with 1/2 cup water and the honey. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and reserve for serving.
Serve the chicken breasts on a platter with a fresh squeeze of lime and a drizzle of the sauce.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 316, Calories from Fat: 117, Fat: 13 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 104 mg, Sodium: 510 mg, Carbohydrates: 11 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 37 g

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