Italy

seared shrimp with fresh pasta #quickandeasy

A friend recently asked me if during my upcoming visit, can I give her a few cooking tips. How flattering! I was trying to think if I actually had any tips. I’ve decided my tip is this: fresh lemon, fresh garlic, fresh herbs. That’s it! That’s really all you need. This recipe is proof as those three ingredients are the stars.

For this easy weeknight pasta (also a good date-night pasta) I buy raw, tail-on, deveined, large shrimp. I actually really love this kind. If you can get fresh, even better.  I use my go-to (everyday) seasoning mix: garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to season the shrimp and then I quick sear it. About a minute each side. So fast. If you really concentrate, this can be a 15-minute dinner! I use plenty of butter, lemon juice, and garlic, along with some pasta water to deglaze the pan after the shrimp have been removed. This creates a quick little sauce to toss the pasta with. Top it with shrimp and fresh parsley. I read somewhere to never add cheese to a seafood type pasta. So I don’t. But you definitely can. I mean, lobster mac and cheese is delicious so it can’t totally be true. However, with a light and simple dish like this, I like to let my favorite trio of lemon, garlic, and herbs shine. And plus, you have all that butter.

seared shrimp with fresh pasta

Servings: 2 people- There should be enough for 1 person to have lunch the next day (if you behave yourself)

  • 12-16 oz fresh pasta (gluten-free if you desire) I like fettucini or linguini. This brand is good if you’re gluten-free
  • 6-8 oz. fresh or frozen shrimp- Or about 5-6 shrimp per person, depending on size, use more or less if you want
  • Everyday seasoning mix (garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, pepper)
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic- minced
  • 1 large lemon or 2 small lemons, zested and juiced. Buy this and one of these if you haven’t already.
  • 1/2 a bunch of fresh Italian Parsley
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter (I like Kerry Gold or Kalona)
  • 1/2 cup water from the cooked pasta (reserve right before straining the pasta)
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Dry the shrimp off and sprinkle both sides with all the seasonings (see: everyday seasoning mix)
  2. Heat a Large Pot of water to boiling.
  3. Meanwhile, zest and juice and lemon, chop the garlic and parsley, set aside.
  4. Once the water is boiling, add some salt (this will help flavor the sauce later) and add the pasta, cook according to package directions. Some fresh pastas are done in as little as 2 minutes, so pay attention!
  5. Reserve a 1/2 cup of the pasta water before you strain the pasta, set the pasta aside.
  6. Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan- or use a little more oil if not a non-stick, heat to medium-high.
  7. Once the pan is hot, add the shrimp. Sear each side for about 1 minute each. Remove the shrimp.
  8. Add about half the pasta water to the pan, and continue to keep over medium-high heat. Scrape up any cooked shrimp and seasoning bits to de-glaze the pan. Save the rest of the pasta water to add to the sauce later in case more liquid is needed.
  9. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/2 the parsley.
  10. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce. Toss well.
  11. To serve, divide the pasta and top with the seared shrimp and fresh parsley.

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Asia, Thailand

Thai beef salad

I was introduced to Eatzi’s in Denver by my good friend who visited me from South Dakota. I had past it several times and had dismissed it as an Italian restaurant. I was totally wrong! Eatzi’s is like this glorious grown up, gourmet, college food court. If you love food, but hate to cook. You will LOVE Eatzi’s. Another friend recommended that I try their Thai Beef Salad. It looks unassuming but it is absolutely delicious. The ingredient list is long, but it’s completely necessary. All the fresh herbs and umami seasonings make this one of the best salads I’ve had. I could not find a recipe for it online, so I made my own. This makes the perfect lunch or main-dish dinner salad.

Thai Beef Salad

Serves 6

  • 6-8 oz. flank (or sirloin) steak- seared and cooked to rare/medium rare
  • 1 head green cabbage- cored and sliced
  • 4 oz. thin rice sticks (Asian sections)- cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 limes- juiced
  • ½ cup avocado oil
  • ¼ cup tamari, soy sauce, or bragg liquid aminos, or coconut aminos
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (Asian section)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (Asian section)
  • 6 green onions- thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper- thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion- thinly sliced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger- peeled and minced
  • 2 small stalks lemongrass- minced *
  • ½ bunch cilantro- chopped
  • ½ cup fresh mint- chopped
  • 1 plastic container or ½ cup fresh basil- chopped- Use Thai basil if you can find it.

*If you can’t find fresh lemongrass (it would be in the fresh herbs sections). Don’t worry. There is lemongrass in the red curry paste, so you’ll still get that flavor. Also, all of these ingredients are easily found in any grocery store. Lemongrass is probably the only one that may be hard to find.

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice through red curry paste. Mix very well.
  2. In a large bowl, add the sliced cabbage
  3. Pour the sauce over the cabbage and mix very well.
  4. Add the veggies and herbs, mix.
  5. Very, very thinly sliced the steak. Add that and the rice noodles to the salad.
  6. Mix together. Let sit for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. If it’s not salty enough, add a little more soy sauce or salt. If it’s too salty, add a little more rice wine.
  7. Serve room-temperature.
  8. Store in the fridge. It’s good for about 2-3 more days.
Uncategorized

That Fry Sauce

This is the sauce you want for your fries. I think I’ve finally pinpointed the recipe I use for tasty fry sauce. It wasn’t until I started using blue apron that I realized the secret to tasty sauce is a clove of grated garlic. Serve this tasty sauce with sweet potato fries, regular fries, salmon salmon cakes, grilled chicken, or any roasted veggie. If you serve it with sweet potato fries and salmon, be sure to serve it with a green salad or at least some green garnish, otherwise you’ll have a plate of orange!

ingredients:

  • ½ cup mayo (I like Primal Kitchen)
  • ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (my latest favorite is trader Joe’s fat free sour cream) *
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 fresh garlic clove, crushed or grated with a microplane
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

method:

  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix. I wait to grate the garlic over the bowl of ingredients. 
  2. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
  3. That’s it!

*i usually don’t buy the fat free version. However, I really liked the taste of this sour cream. Nice and sour and the ingredient list is simple, short, and real. 

Mediterranean

Hummus


We have made a temporary move to Dallas, Texas! My husband is working on a show here called Misfit Garage. We will be here until July. Dallas is full of really tasty food, I have a new pant size to prove it:-) I’m still cooking at him when I’m not tempted to eat out. I’m sharing one of my favorite snacks today.

Everybody needs a good hummus recipe they can make. I love making homemade hummus. It’s easy, cheap, and it really is much better than what you can get at the store.  I think that is because store-bought brands skimp on the tahini and olive oil. Perhaps both for cost and so that nutrition facts fat content isn’t so scary.  My favorite hummus to make is the kind without any extra flavors. I want these things to be the stars: garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice.  To make a tasty plain hummus, you really need to be heavy handed with the tahini and lemon juice. And also the olive oil. This is what you’ll need:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • ¼ cup tahini (at least)
  • ½ cup e.v. olive oil (or more)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Small bunch fresh parsley (optional)
  • ¼ cup plain greek yogurt- I like sheep’s milk yogurt like this brand
  • A little water if it needs to be thinner or use lemon juice if you have some.

The yogurt is totally optional. I add it if I have it.  Keep all these ingredients on hand at all times.  They’re all very versatile.  I think one of the best and easiest ways to make your cooking stand out is to buy a microplane zester and use it to add lemon zest and grated fresh garlic to your dishes. Makes a big difference!

  1. Add all the ingredients to a food processor. Except the olive oil!
  2. Whirl around the ingredients. 
  3. Slowly pulse in the olive oil and then pulse steadily until very very smooth.
  4. Add a little more lemon juice or water and adjust the seasonings
I was very happy about the taste, but I think I added a little too much parsley. It had a green hue. I think I’ll add it towards the end next time.

Below you can see my Instagram story that I posted. You can follow me @travellovecook on Instagram.

 

 


Colorado

white chicken chile

IMG_4019

It’s been drizzling rain here Denver for about 6 days now. Our seasons usually casually slide into each other, but this year summer abruptly clicked into fall. This may be the first year that I don’t have post-summer blues.  Perhaps it’s because it’s the first year that I’m not returning to school or teaching, as I have for the past 30 years of my life.  I went from college right into teaching first grade.  No, this year I’m excited for fall, and fall cooking. Nothing could be more fall than chile. How do you spell chile by the way? Is it chilli? White chicken chile is not anything new.  But it is delicious. I typically don’t like the “white” version of things, chocolate, pizza. But this is good. Lick your bowl good.

I’m currently experimenting with not eating dairy for various reasons (yeah, it’s sad). You could easily make this without the cream cheese. Please only do so if you have to! It’s quite the cheater recipe in that gets a lot of its seasoning and flavor from the prepared enchilada sauce (So “semi-homemade” cooking of me, but no I won’t do a “table scape”). This helps to make it a super easy week night meal that should only take about 30 minutes.

white chicken chile

makes about 4 large servings

  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 14oz. can pinto or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 block (8 oz.) cream cheese
  • 1 quart chicken broth (my favorite)
  • 1 pouch (8 oz.) Frontera green chile enchilada sauce (you can use any other brand of canned green enchilada sauce)
  • 1 small can of green chiles
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • optional toppings: lime wedges, cilantro, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips
  1. Heat a large pot with a little oil over medium high heat. Add the ground chicken and let it sear for a bit before you move it. You want it to get brown. Don’t stir it around too much. You can break it up later. Browning makes flavor.
  2. Once the chicken is cooked through and browned, remove it and set it aside.
  3. Add the chopped onion to the browned bits left in the pot from the chicken. Add a little more oil if you need to. Cook the onion about 4-5 minutes until soft.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds-1 minute.
  5. Add the smoked paprika, some salt and pepper and cook for about 30 seconds.
  6. Add in the beans, cream cheese, chicken broth, enchilada sauce, and green chiles. Cook over medium heat until the cheese is melted.
  7. Return the chicken to the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  8. Serve the chicken chile with cilantro, tortilla chips, sour cream, lime wedges, and avocado.

*My husband loved this chile. I thought it wasn’t creative enough or special enough for a blog but he said “why not?”. So, I hope you feel the same way. Let me know in the comments below what you think and especially if you try this!

 

 

Mexico, North America

simple summer salsa

This recipe is not some new discovery. I’ve been making this since high school when I ordered my “Kitchen Quick” off of t.v. Saying “off of t.v.” feels really weird. But it wasn’t online. I had my mom call to order this kitchen quick for me and it came with a recipe for salsa. This Kitchen Quick really catapulted my cooking love.  It was basically a hand-powered food processor. My friends would tease me that I would never come and hang out on the weekends anymore because I wanted to stay home and make “sals” (right, Min). The salsa recipe called for fresh cilantro, but this was ’98 in Iowa and we only had dried. By about 2000, you could easily find fresh cilantro in the stores.  The first time I used the fresh I about croaked. Disgusting! Now I love it. I can’t get enough.

I realize that this is the most basic salsa, but I think that’s what makes it so good! This is so easy, and there are so many GOOD tomatoes out there right now. So take advantage! You only really need a chef’s knife and a cutting board, but if you like a more blended salsa, use a food processor (I’ve had this one for 11 years) or blender.

  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 jalapenõ
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lime
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  1. chop the onion
  2. rinse the onion (rick bayless trick)
  3. chop all the veggies OR cut the veggies into large pieces and then put into the food processor or blender- including cilantro so skip step 5
  4. juice the lime and add it to the veggies
  5. chop and add the cilantro
  6. season with salt.

*besides fresh cilantro, I think that having a fresh salsa with enough lime and salt is key. It’s so important that it can make up for the fact that you have bad tomatoes.  Speaking of which, make this salsa even if you DON’T have tomatoes. Still good!

*I searched and searched for the Kitchen Quick infomercial youtube but I couldn’t find it.   I did find this creepy one though.

France

summer squash gratin

If you’re a gardener, right about now you have way too much zucchini or yellow squash. You can say you’re going to make zucchini bread, but will you really? Those zucchinis in your fridge are mocking you, just like the black bananas in your freezer. Use your zucchini tonight as a savory side.  I’ve got Martha’s recipe for you, with a few naughty tweaks. And it was already pretty naughty.  This recipe has butter, heavy cream, and parmesan. So yeah. It’s good. It’s a gratin without potatoes and trust me you won’t even miss them. How can you with so much butter, cream and cheese? But don’t worry, it’s low-carb. Except for the bread crumbs. Never mind. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 large zucchinis or yellow squash. Not the overgrown kind that are as big as your arm. They’re no good. Large is about 8 inches. Really, zucchini tastes best at about 4-6 inches, F.Y.I.
  • 2 shallots or a half a large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (use butter if you want)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, divided (gluten-free breadcrumbs are good)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (thanks for the tip Rachel Ray!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet or wok, melt ghee over medium heat; add zucchini, yellow squash, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini and squash are crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. I had to work in batches. Season with salt and pepper.

  2. Add cream, and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in 1/2 cup panko and 1/4 cup Parmesan and use a microplane zester to grate the fresh nutmeg into the mixture.

  3. Spoon mixture into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Take out of the oven, uncover and sprinkle with remaining panko and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Bake until top is golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

    * You could totally do this on the grill if you don’t want to heat up your house. Just be sure that your baking dish is grill safe. I have no idea how you’ll know this. But still.

    *Did you know that unless you buy organic, all zucchini squash are gmo? It’s one of the most heavily gmo’d veggies out that. I think papaya is the most. Don’t care? Ignore that fact then. But if you do, buy or grow organic!

 

Europe

goat cheese, prosciutto, and fig bites


These little bites are a classic and decadent combo, perfect with snacking on with a friend over a bottle of wine. Fresh figs are in season now. I use the green ones because they’re just gorgeous in color, both inside and out.  I used Trader Joe’s French baguette as the canvas then I layered the cheese, prosciutto, a honey balsamic glaze, fresh basil and topped with a beautiful fig slice.

Enzo is such a nosy dog.

ingredients:

1 baguette, sliced, toasted or not

1 package of prosciutto

1 cup washed and sliced fresh figs (dried will be just great when fresh is out of season)

1 package fresh basil, washed and dried

1 4 oz. package goat cheese, softened

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

method:

Mix together the balsamic vinegar glaze, honey, and olive oil. If you don’t have, or can’t find the glaze, use a regular balsamic vinegar and use a little less and add a little more honey. Season this mixture with salt and pepper.

Assemble the bites. Take a piece of baguette and spread it with goat cheese. Since my baguette slices were very small, I used just a 1/4 slice of prosciutto. Do this to all slices of bread and then take the balsamic honey mixture and drizzle over the top. Now lay one basil leaf on each piece then a slice of fig. Season all slices with some course cracked pepper.  Enjoy outside with a friend and a glass of Rosé

Aren’t those fig’s gorgeous?
Colorado

my favorite breakfast: green chile eggs and hash browns

If there is a food that is quintessential “Colorado” it would be green chile. In the fall, you can easily find fresh roasted green chiles on many street corners. Most are New Mexico Hatch variety.  I love making homemade green chile. But if I don’t have the time or the fresh roasted chiles, I like to buy Nanita’s. I get it at Sprouts in Denver but you can buy it online here. Its the sauce variety of green chile and not the stew or soup.  My favorite way to eat Nanita’s is with hash browns and eggs.  I cook the hash browns, pour over the green chile, and then crack the eggs into the hot green chile. I then cover it all and let it cook until the eggs are set, white are cooked but yolks are a thick-runny consistency.  Yum yum yum! Another way to make this is with cheesy grits.  For this, you would cook the grits separately and then serve with the hot green chile and eggs on top.

Ok, it seriously bothers me that I can’t seem to figure out how to flip that so it’s fitting the pan shape.

​​​​


​​green chile eggs with hash brownsserves 2-4

ingredients

2 large russet potatoes- peeled and shredded

1 small onion-chopped

2 tablespoons avocado or other high heat oil + 2 teaspoons more

1/2 teaspoon each: smoked paprika and garlic powder

salt and black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups Nanita’s green chile sauce or other commercial or homemade green chile sauce

2-4 eggs

optional toppings: chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, crumbled bacon, cheese

method:

Heat a cast-iron or non-stick large skillet to medium-high. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and let heat for a bit. Add the shredded potatoes, chopped onion, and seasonings. Don’t be shy with the salt and pepper! Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes until golden brown on one side. Drizzle the other 2 teaspoons of oil over the top and then carefully flip over. Let the other side cooked for about 5-7 minutes.  Pour the green chile sauce over top and let it heat for a bit. Carefully crack the eggs into the hot green chile. Cover to cook. Don’t get distracted. This would be a sad dish with cooked through eggs. Serve it up with the optional ingredients. But honestly, it’s amazing without them too. This dish is well-paired with good coffee.


If you want to make it with grits instead you’ll need to cook the grits according to the package directions. For a 2-4 person serving: add a tablespoon of butter and some sharp shredded cheese or good parmesan.

 

Hawaii

macadamia crusted cod

My husband left for 3 weeks of work in Hawaii. He will be working on a home show about luxury swimming pools. (enter Hawaii-ish and jealousy emjois) I wanted to make a nice dinner for him last night with a Hawaiian flair.  Turns out, this week is also Hawaiian Food Week. How perfect! I made macadamia crusted cod with sushi rice and a salad of pineapple, avocado, and cucumber.  The macadamia nuts are finely chopped and then mixed with some panko bread crumbs for the perfect crunch. The sushi rice is mixed at the very end with some lime zest, coconut aminos, and rice vinegar. The avocado, pineapple, cucumber salad adds the perfect fresh contrast and really makes this dish. I have to be honest though, I used nectarines instead of pineapple because that is what I had. It was fantastic! But this is Hawaiian foods week, so pineapple it is.

ingredients:

macadamia crusted cod

8-12 ounce cod fillet

1/4 cup macadamia nuts- finally chopped into crumbs

2 tablespoon panko bread crumbs (I use gluten free)

1 egg + 2 teaspoons water, throughly beaten

salt and pepper

sushi rice

1 cup sushi rice

zest of 1 lime

1 tablespoon coconut aminos (or soy sauce)

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

*a note about sushi rice: This is easy to find now in most grocery stores. I like it for this because it keeps with the Hawaiian theme and I love the sticky texture. You could definitely substitute regular rice in this dish. Quinoa could be a good choice too if you’re trying to behave yourself.

salad

1 small avocado, small chunks

1 cup pineapple (or nectarine or mango), small chunks

1/2 cup English cucumber, sliced 1/4 inch thick and then into fourths

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt and pepper

method:

Start the sushi rice. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Then combine with 1 1/2 cups water plus 2 tablespoons in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle a little salt in there and turn on high.  Once it’s boiling turn it to low for about 10-15 minutes and then turn it off, DON’T PEEK, and let it set for another 15 minutes. My big rice cooking advice is to just not lift the lid. Every time I peek, ruined.

Meanwhile, mix the finely chopped macadamia nuts with the panko breadcrumbs. It should be chopped this fine, or even finer:

season with some salt and pepper and set aside. Mix the egg and water and set aside. Get out the cod and pat it very dry with a towel.

Prep your salad fruits, then mix with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Don’t start making the fish until after the rice has cooked. Transfer the rice to a large mixing bowl like this:

Stick it in the fridge while you get the cod going. For this meal, the cod is best nice and hot but the rest of the meal is best at room temp. Cut the cod in to the portion sizes you desire. I cut our 2 servings into four pieces. Season each side of the cod with salt and pepper. Add the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil to the non-stick pan and turn on medium high.  Then, take the cod pieces and dunk into the egg and then dredge into the macadamia nut/breadcrumb mixture.  Press each side firmly into the crumbs and then place into the hot pan. Repeat with all cod pieces.  You want to keep the temp on medium high so that the coating gets nice and crunch and brown but the fish doesn’t get too done. overdone cod is pretty gross. Perfectly done cod is, well, perfection. 2-4 minutes each side should do the job. ​

​Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and season with a little more salt and pepper while it’s hot. Stick it in a 180 degree oven while you mix the rice.

Take the rice out of the fridge and mix it with the coconut aminos, rice vinegar, and olive oil. Use a microplane to zest a lime over the bowl and then mix it into the rice. Save that lime to serve with the meal.

Time to plate! Use a 2/3 measuring cup to scoop out rice and press it firmly into the cup. Turn it upside down and transfer to a plate to make it look fancy.  Put the cod on the plate and then spoon the salad over everything. Garnish with green onions or chives, lime wedge and some chili pepper powder. I used gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes), but ground ancho pepper would be good, or a little smoked paprika, or even spicy cayenne pepper.

Makes 2 servings with a little extra rice to put in the fridge and to make fried rice with the next day.