Cucumbers

I just made the easiest lunch ever…and it’s very good for you!

I just know to call it “Dressed Cucumbers”.

  • 4 cups of sliced cucumbers (peeled if you like it that way)
  • 1 cup Fat free mayo
  • 1/4 cup Splenda (or your favorite zero calorie sweetener)
  • 1/4 cup Vinegar (again, your favorite)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Combine mayo, Splenda, vinegar, and salt, mix well.  Add cucumbers, stir to coat.

If you want it cold, you can chill in the fridge for a bit.

This makes 6 servings (side portions).

I made the full amount of dressing, but I only cut enough cucumbers for me to eat (since I’m the only one who eats them), and then just dipped dressing to my liking.

I added black pepper for a bit of spice.  And you could probably add some dill for added flavor (I didn’t have any) or cumin/paprika/red pepper if you want a bigger bite.

I was thoroughly satisfied with my salad – it was tasty, filling, and SO LOW on calories, and ZERO fat!

Calorie Count:

  • Approx 27 calories/serving of dressing
  • Approx 11 calories/serving of cucumbers

Pawleys Island Eats

Vacation is the perfect time to try out some of the local eateries of your destination. If you are anything like us, we bring our share of groceries to feed ourselves in the room, but we also love to go out and try some of the recommended yet little-known places.

Friday, June 3: Hanser House
It’s an adorable little farmhouse of a restaurant with a load of detail in the decorations that will kept us looking around and brainstorming the whole time we were there. They serve local seafood 3 ways: fried, grilled, or broiled. They have food for the land lovers too (but who goes to the beach to eat steak or chicken?!). Their hushpuppies are small little morsels of sweetness. I had grilled flounder – 3 beautiful fillets of flounder and green beans and a side salad. Marie had grilled trigger fish which has a light taste but meatier than your typical “flakey” fish. The only downside to our visit was the family with 4 children and no capacity to parent. They were screaming and running around the table and clanging forks on the table legs. But who you sit near is a toss-up, so if you can overcome that, you’re in for a great dinner.
http://www.hanserhouse.com/index.htm

Saturday, June 4: Drunken Jack’s
We got a recommendation from a friend about this place and decided to give it a try. Based loosely on stories of pirates, it’s got a nice atmosphere and do a great job of separating the “drunken” parts from the family parts. They are right on the harbor and have local fish – we even got to watch them unload their catch and filet them on the dock (we got to sit by the window). I had broiled shrimp and scallops. While not the biggest I’ve ever had, they were probably the tastiest I’ve ever had. Ken had a swordfish steak that was beautiful and very tender. They also have a salad bar that comes with every meal that’s a nice cool addition to your meal.
http://www.drunkenjacks.com/

Sunday, June 5: Seafood World, Myrtle Beach
As a heads up, most local eateries are closed on Sundays. We got a recommendation for a great place – not open. Looked up some places online – not open. I thought we might end up eating Arby’s, Ken was going to hunt down a Carrabba’s. We decided to drive up to Myrtle Beach and see what “wachesaw”. Seafood World is a seafood buffet ~$25/person. The main attraction on the buffet was the snow crab legs. I got to teach Marie how to crack and eat crab legs and she liked them, and got the hang of the crackers really quickly. Not much super exciting at a buffet, but it was decent and a fun family experience.
http://www.seafoodworld.net/

Monday, June 6: Dead Dog Saloon
I know, doesn’t sound like a reputable place to go, but they had a covered patio overlooking the inlet and a reputation of some of the best ribs around. Later in the evening they were going to have life music, so we missed all that rowdiness. But Ken and his dad both got ribs and said they were delicious. I had a trio of grilled shrimp, scallops (delicious, 2nd only to the ones I had earlier in the week), and a crab cake, with enough Mac & Cheese to feed 4 people. The only downside I experienced was the guy next to us on the patio was smoking, but once he started eating, he stopped and we ate faster than him (fortunately).
http://www.deaddogsaloon.com/

Tuesday, June 7: Baskin Robbins
So, you can’t go to the beach and not have an ice cream outing. After all the day’s events, we drove miles and miles to find Baskin Robbins (or any open ice cream place). I got a single scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge – YUMMY! That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Wednesday, June 8: Sonic
Another late night ice cream run, and the last night of vacation. I got a Dr. Pepper float and it reminded me of when my mom would make ice cream floats at home. I know we made them with Coke, can’t remember if we ever made them with Dr. Pepper or not, but the memory is what counts.

French Toast without the “French”

Saturdays, Summer days, and even some weeknights are some of the best times for family to get together to make and eat breakfast.

I remember when my mom would make pancakes and I would ask her to make all kinds of shapes out of the batter (Mickey Mouse was always the most successful).  Sometimes, she would make what we called “silver dollar” pancakes that were about 2.5 inches in diameter.  That made me feel like I was eating more.

When my grandmama would make pancakes, she would let the batter drip-drip-drip across the pan to make me “barbie-sized” pancakes that were small enough to float in the syrup on my plate.

Cheese toast was another one of my favorites.  Put one slice of cheese on one slice of white bread and put it in the toaster oven (not a pop-up toaster).  I would watch it and once the cheese started to puff up and bubble off the bread, I knew it was ready.

Whenever I would go stay with my grandparents, Grandmama would make French toast.  And I would always ask for my French toast to be made “without the French”.  As I got older, I would eat French toast with the “French”.  It wasn’t until I started cooking French toast for myself that I realized how silly French toast without the French was.  To breakdown French toast:  bread soaked in egg and fried in a pan.  French = egg, toast = bread.  So, I was basically eating bread toasted in a buttered pan – covered in syrup, of course!  (And don’t let the French toast sticks on the breakfast bar at Shoney’s or in the freezer section fool you.  They should be ashamed to call themselves French toast!)

Like most kids my age, we grew up on Pop Tarts and Eggo’s and Lucky Charms, but it’s the family-cooked breakfasts that makes the memories.

Did your family do anything special for breakfast?  Invent their own food or cooking style?  I’d love to hear your favorite breakfast memories!

Vacation Eats

Here is the places we ate while on vacation:

Wednesday night: Mitchell’s Fish Market: I ate tropical talapia, veggies & mashed potatoes (and a bonus dollup of goat cheese)

Thursday night: Harbor Docks: I ate bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with deviled crab, salad & veggies

Friday night: Marina Cafe: I ate grilled salmon in lemon & brown butter sauce with braised spinach & yukon gold potatoes (this place requires reservations and is kind of pricey but was the 2nd most delicious meal of the trip – the talapia was my #1)

Saturday night: Dinner Cruise: I ate shrimp scampi with penne pasta, salad, bread, & banana foster cheese cake

Soy-Maple Glazed Salmon

Thought I’d take a break from the seriousness and share an awesome new recipe I found (and fixed just 2 hrs ago).

Soy-Maple Glazed Salmon

Ingredients
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo
4 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets

Market tip: Adobo is the spicy tomato sauce that comes in a can with chipotle chiles. Canned chipotles, usually labled “chipotles in adobo,” are available at many supermarkets, some specialty foods stores, and Latin American markets.

Preparation
Whisk syrup, soy sauce, and adobo in pie dish to blend. Add salmon; turn to coat. Let marinate 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain marinade into small saucepan.

Heat heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add salmon and cook until slightly charred outside and just opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, boil marinade until reduced to scant 1/4 cup sauce, about 4 minutes. Place 1 salmon fillet on each of 4 plates, drizzle with sauce, and serve.

Tips:

  • I did not use the adobo sauce, partly because Ken’s kinda picky about flavors (especially tomatoes), but mostly because I didn’t have it.
  • After marinating the fish fillets, I coated them in sesame seeds before cooking
  • I served the salmon over a bed of rice (make sure to start the rice at the same time as the marinate or it won’t be done at the same time)
  • Can also serve with edamame (I didn’t have that either)

Ken really enjoyed it, so even if I had to run out in the rain to fetch the rice cooker and it caused the fish to be done way before the rice, it was definitely a success.

Try it out, make your own variations, and let me know how you like it!

Fantasy Football Draft/Dinner Party

Last night Ken held his Fantasy Football live draft party.  We’ve got 10 people playing this year and yes, he even lets the girls play!

It all started about a week ago, we had a chores list on our “fridge board” and knocked it out.  Then we rearranged some furniture so everyone will have a place to sit.  Ken got an app for his iPhone called Epicurious that helps you find recipes for what type of event and meal you’re planning.

I had to work 9-5 yesterday and Ken was awesome – he got the last minute cleaning done and bought groceries (I did made him a grocery list the night before)!

When I got home, I had two (then three) awesome sous chefs – Ann, Vickie, and Elyse helped me pull all of our wonderful recipe ideas together.  And Ken and the guys grilled outside.

Our Menu: Grilled chicken or steak, Potato & Mozzarella cakes, Bacon-wrapped pineapple, Veggies w/ homemade dip, Pita/tortilla chips w/ humus, and Parmesan wafers. (Lucee had cheese puffs)

We only had a few mishaps: 1) when making the Parmesan wafers, Elyse sprayed the pan under the wax paper, but didn’t spray the wax paper under the cheese.  Thus the wafers had wax paper on the bottom of them.  2) when we put the Parmesan wafers in the oven, we forgot to turn the oven back off of Broil (which is how we cooked the bacon-wrapped pineapple), so the wafers didn’t burn, but the wax paper did – smoke alarm #1.  3) We put the bacon-wrapped pineapple back in the oven to crisp up the bacon, I was using an old oven mitt that I bought when I first started living by myself (it was about 6 years old and lived in 4 different places).  Needless to say, it didn’t protect me from a 500 degree pan – smoke alarm #2.

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All in all, it was a very successful night – good food, good entertainment, and good football with some great friends (even Matthew on the web cam got to party with us).  Lucee decided to flirt with Moose after Elyse left.

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And because our menu was so successful (even with the mishaps), below are the recipes we used:

Potato & Mozzarella Cakes

  • 3 pounds large russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper or Cajun seasoning (optional)
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 to 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small jar store bought pesto sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Bake the potatoes right on an oven rack until a bit overcooked, about 1 hour. Let sit until cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop out the flesh. Reserve the potato skins, if desired, for another use. (We baked the potatoes in the microwave for 20 minutes – poke and wrap each one in a wet paper towel and put in a microwave safe bowl.)

Lower the oven to 250 degrees F.

Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater. You should have about 6 cups. Season the potatoes with the salt and pepper, and then divide them into 16 equal balls. Press each ball into a patty about 1/3-inch thick. (Didn’t have a ricer so we made them like mashed potatoes).

Cut half of the cheese into 1/4-inch pieces. Place a piece of cheese in the middle of each of 8 patties. Cover with the remaining patties. Shape the patties into smooth disks. Lightly dust the patties on both sides with flour. (Potato patties can be made ahead and covered and refrigerated up to 1 day before cooking.)

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of oil and heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Place 4 patties in the skillet. When you hear the patties sizzle, lower the heat to medium. Cook until brown and crispy on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes total, turning once. If the potatoes absorb all the oil, add another tablespoon or 2 of oil to the skillet and cook the remaining 4 patties.

In a microwave-safe bowl, warm the pesto in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until warm throughout. Grate the remaining mozzarella. (Don’t like pesto, that’s why I suggest adding red pepper or Cajun seasoning to add the spice)

To serve: Sprinkle each potato cake with grated mozzarella and place in a 250 degrees F oven until the cheese is melted. Spoon pesto on top of each cake and serve immediately.

Cumin Parmesan Crisps

  • 2 cups coarsely grated  fresh Parmesan cheese (about 6 ounces – Parmigiano Reggiano)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or fennel seeds, finely crushed or ground (we used cumin powder – a 1:1 ratio)
  • Nonstick spray

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.  Mix cheese and cumin in medium bowl. Scoop 2 tablespoons of cheese and sprinkle into a mound on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper (spray the wax paper first).  Flatten into a 4 inch rounds. Bake for 2-3 minutes or until light golden and bubbling.  Place on wire rack to cool for 2 minutes, then remove with a metal spatula.

Garlicky Cheese Dip

  • 1 cup whole-milk cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 hard-boiled large egg, forced through a medium-mesh sieve (we skipped this part)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

Rumaki (but not really)

  • 12 strips of bacon, halved lengthwise
  • 24 chunks of fresh pineapple
  • 24 toothpicks

Place piece of pineapple in center of each bacon strip, wrap, and secure with toothpick.

Place on broiler pan or shallow baking pan and broil, about 5-6 inches from heat. Broil until bacon is crisp 10-15 minutes.  Alternatively, back in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Note: the bacon grease and the pineapple juice accumulate in the pan so a broiler pan is preferred.  We ended up baking them the first time then turning them on their sides and baking again so the bottoms wouldn’t be soggy

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