Surf and Turf with refreshing Gin and Tonics

With a whole 5 more days off work, we settled in to our grilling mode in the courtyard at home.  The sunshine and warm weather has been a real treat, but to celebrate our enormous accomplishment of riding our bikes to Fulton Market for fresh fish and meat, we grilled some really amazing surf and turf.  With all this heat, gin and tonics are the way to go.  The shrimp and lobster were purchased from Isaacson’s, best spot for fresh fish in town folks, and our favorite butcher, Olympia Meats, hooked us up with the perfect New York strip steaks.  Getting the freshest meat is the hardest part of this meal, make sure it’s fresh and cook it the same day you buy it.
For the steak:
kosher salt
2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2T Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper the steaks, then in a small sealable container shake to emulsify the Evoo and sauce.  Drizzle over seasoned steaks and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.  Blot the steak with paper towels to avoid flare ups on the grill.  Cook over direct high heat on you grill for 2 minutes per side and then let cook an additional 4-6 minutes over in direct heat until desired doness is achieved.  Tent with foil and allow steaks to rest before serving.
For the Shrimp:
Peel and devien shrimp leaving the tails on.  In a bowl toss the shrimp with a drizzle of Evoo and salt and pepper.  Skewer the shrimp on metal skewers.  Cook over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side.  Meanwhile,  In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup chopped capers, 1/8 cup Evoo, the juice and zest of 1 lemon, salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano.  Toss in the grilled shrimp to coat.  Serve hot.
For the Lobster
With kitchen shears, cut the top back shell of each tail down the middle, then skewer the tail from the under belly between the meat and shell.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small dish melt 3 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper, 1 T lemon juice, and 1 T parsley- chopped.  Cook the tails cut side down for 7-8 minutes between the direct and indirect heat of the grill.  Then flip them over moving the tails closer to the direct heat.  Using tongs spread the cut sides apart and baste the butter sauce inside the tails liberally, cook an additional 2-3 minutes checking often until the meat is cooked through, opaque.  Serve with additional butter and remove skewer before eating!  Yum 🙂
Gin and Tonic
(makes 5 cocktails)
5 ounces Gin
5 limes, juiced
1 liter Tonic
ice to serve
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher, leaving the lime rinds in the pitcher.  Fill  glasses with ice and pour the mixture in, place a lime half in glass to garnish.  Enjoy cold.
Now we are ready to enjoy some kayaking down the river… and see some fireworks! 

LOVE eggs and toast

Happy 7 years to US at Urban Kitchen.  We started the day with some themed breakfast, and how sweet does that look?  With a simple heart shaped cookie cutter you can make anything “lovable”.  Simple eggs, toast and Farmer’s Market tomatoes with salty cheese= perfect way to start the special day.
Serving for TWO
Brush olive oil on both side of two pieces of bread ( we used a dark rye), using a heart shaped cookie cutter, remove and reserve the center.  Heat a non stick pan over medium heat and place the bread and heart centers in the pan, crack and egg in to the cut outs and cook for 2 minutes before flipping, cook an additional minute until desired egg doneness, we like over easy.  Then serve the toasts with sliced tomato and a salty hard cheese such as Pecorino, Parmesan etc.  Enjoy and feel the love!

Brunch at Simmone’s

Breakfast burger, perfectly cooked beef ( burgers are good here), fried egg on top intensifies the richness.  Ate the bacon separate from the burger…

Caramelized red onion, mozzarella and bacon omelet topped with avocado and served with hash browns- sounded perfect… unfortunately, it’s hard to find a good cooked omelet out- as you can see it’s a golden brown crust- yuck.  The onions were sauteed in a gallon of oil at best- not caramelized… and in a pool of grease you could see glistening fried hash browns.  The bacon was not crisp, rather a little on the rubbery side…. The toast- very good! 
Overall for Simone’s BRUNCH: The service,- fantastic, the outdoor patio- heavenly, but stick with drinks at and lunch/ dinner for this spot because brunch was heavy on the grease, low on the freshness and no good.

Spiced Chicken with Black-Eyed Peas and Rice

This is another classic ‘use everything you’ve got in your pantry/freezer/fridge’ recipe.  We had some chicken breasts in the freezer along with a bag of frozen black eyed peas, plus lots of brown rice in the panrty… this made a great start to a spicy “jerk” chicken inspired meal.  It’s got a nice kick, tons of flavors and fresh notes from the bright green garnishes… plus it is a very hearty meal in a bowl deal- which means it works great as a leftover packed lunch!  If you don’t have Old Bay ( like most people in the midwest that aren’t lucky enough to get fresh crab straight from the ocean…) you can make your own version.  We threw a bunch of suggested spices together based on what was on hand in the pantry- below is the estimated concoction of spices, add or remove the different hot ones to suite your taste buds. 

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon homemade Old Bay seasoning
( 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, dash cayenne, dash ground clove, dash nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon garlic, 1/8 teaspoon thyme, 1/8 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon dried mustard, 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
16 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup chopped red onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 teaspoon hot sauce
16 ounces black-eyed peas
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro


Preheat oven to 350º.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine paprika, seasoning, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; rub all over chicken. Add chicken to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side, then place pan in oven. Bake at 350º for 6 minutes or until chicken is done. Cover and keep warm.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in rice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, hot sauce, and black-eyed peas; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Spoon about 3/4 cup rice mixture into each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 1 chicken breast half. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon green onions and cilantro.

Quick Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes

Graham crackers are awesome- if you have these on hand you can make a variety of mini treats….  top them with strawberry preserves and sliced banana with a drizzle of chocolate for a “Banana Split” or spread with Almond butter, drizzle of melted chocolate and sliced bananas or spread some lemon curd on top with a dallop of whipped cream- imagine all the lovely variations of mini “pies”… Dessert in our house happens almost every night so being able to do quick, small portioned, and healthier versions is really important.  A new favorite grocery staple is ricotta cheese, not only is it creamy and yummy enough to eat with your grapes or spread on toast with a drizzle of honey… but it also make a great base for our mini “cheesecakes” and it has a host of health benefits:  it’s high in protein, calcium, and it’s is a great source of phosphorus (20%), zinc (10%) and selenium (26%) and a good source of Vitamin A, Riboflavin and Vitamin B1…  Plus it is rich in Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids ( Known to help prevent heart disease and cancer, and are healthy for the body)  Mix it in with some antioxidant rich dark chocolate, and top with with fresh berries all on a bed of whole grain graham cracker for a crust… and feel good that you are eating such a healthy treat!
(Makes 4 servings, or 8 Cheesecake Crackers)

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup low fat Ricotta Cheese
4 sheets of Graham Crackers, Honey Low Fat
1 small package of fresh raspberries


Combine melted chocolate and ricotta in a small bowl.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture on each graham cracker

Top with fresh raspberries

Quinoa with Pine Nuts and Parsley

Quinoa is an incredible grain ( well technically it’s a seed), there’s a theme this month!  Like our Amaranth grain from last week, quinoa is very high in protein- the complete kind ( meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids) and is especially high in the amino acid lysine ( essential for tissue growth and repair)  Along with it’s protein power, quinoa is a very high in manganese an is a good source of magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, which can be very good for you if you suffer migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis. source

Grains keep really well so they make great pantry staples.  They can really add volume and nutrients to any meal in a pinch.  This weekend was SO busy that we didn’t even grocery shop, so it was time to get creative with stuff we already had- Extra pine nuts from the Homemade Pesto, parsley from the Shrimp Succotash, and green onions ( that were almost out the door!) and chicken broth from our Asian Noodle Bowl.   With quinoa on hand it was a cinch to toss this side dish together.  We served it steaming hot with broiler buttermilk ( always left over from Muffins!) marinated chicken breasts and a quick fennel salad. 

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
adapted from Ellie Krieger So Easy
2 cups Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup pine nuts, dry roasted
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2teaspoon pepper


Place broth and quinoa in a sauce pan, stir, bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook covered for 15 minutes.

Heat a pan over medium high heat, add the pine nuts and roast till slightly golden brown, tossing often.  Set aside in a bowl.

Add oil to the same pan and warm up over medium heat, add scallions and cook for 1 minute, add garlic, stir and remove from heat.

Fluff cooked quinoa, then add scallion mixture, pine nuts, parsley and season with salt/ pepper to taste. 

Serve hot!

Strawberry Gelatin Icing

Birthday cakes are so much fun 🙂  Who doesn’t love a sweet confection homemade especially to celebrate YOU?  This Strawberry “Iced” angel food cake has been a family tradition every year for our summer birthdays in June and July!!  It’s a simple gelatin and fresh strawberry treat that can be poured over an already prepared store bought angle food cake, or you can slice the angel food cake in layers and fill it up inside as well!  It’s a cool and creamy, just sweet enough icing that is decadent but refreshing at the same time!  Make this for your summer birthdays and they will be so impressed.  Below you will find our family recipe for the strawberry icing ( which can be used on cupcakes too)….
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin ( Knox)
1/4 cup cold water
1 1-pound package frozen sliced strawberries, thawed 
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup cream, whipped
Add gelatin to cold water.  Drain 1/2 cup strawberry juice from thawed strawberries.  Bring juice to a boil in a small saucepan and stir in softened gelatin.  Add remaining strawberries and lemon juice.  Cool until very thick.  Fold in whipped cream. 
For a layered cake:
Slice cake horizontally into 3 equal layers.  Spread filling between layers and top of the cake.  Refrigerate cake until firm before serving. Serves 8.

Shrimp Succotash

It’s been a long week, 5 days of working after the 4 day week last week, feels like eternity.  With Friday left to go, making an easy recipe like this was a welcome addition to the night!
Fresh, light, bursting with flavor and color- this recipe is the perfect summer meal to fill you up without leaving you with that heavy feeling.  The freshness really shines through with basil and parsley, both easy to pick from your garden!  Plus tomatoes, corn and zucchini are all in season for summertime.  So hooray for Friday and the weekend, and this recipe!  Enjoy,

Serves 4
Adapted from Ellie Krieger, So Easy
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 ounces no salt added corn kernels,drained and rinsed
10 ounces lima beans, thawed
1 medium zucchini (about 1/2 pound) quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 pound shrimp
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, corn, lima beans, zucchini, and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and preheat it over medium-high heat.  In the meantime, prepare the shrimp. Pat them dry and season them with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Add the shrimp and cook until the inside is opaque, 3 to 4 minutes, turning once.

Stir the vinegar and basil into the succotash, season with additional salt and pepper, to taste, and serve topped with grilled scallops. Garnish with Parsley Drizzle.

Parsley Drizzle:

1 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water, as needed to slacken

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree.

Yield: 1/2 cup

Chocolate Amaranth Pudding

I’m constantly on the lookout for creative and delicious ways to add healthy grains to our meals… enter the “food blogger” world and you’ll find SO many foodies and so much inspiration to create and share- well, FOOD!  While scouring some blogs, I came across this one, which is a great inspiration for creating really decadent desserts from a plethora of recipe resources ( she loves chocolate- I love chocolate!).  Who knew amaranth could be made in to a dessert?  And what is amaranth all about?  Well, listen to these stats (source):
The protein is of an unusually high quality, it’s one of the few grains that is considered a complete protein ( meaning it contains each of the 9 amino acids)
A ¼ cup of amaranth grain supplies 60% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of iron.
Amaranth grain is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid that most grains lack.
Amaranth grain is free of gluten, easier to digest, which is important for people with gluten allergies.
AND it has even been known to lower cholesterol…
Now, I’m not going to lie, this recipe takes time and has some steps.  Using dark chocolate, actual chocolate, in this homemade cooked pudding really makes the difference in flavor.  It has that pure sweet chocolate, in a creamy pudding that just happens make you feel the need to chew it and savor it longer in your mouth because of the amaranth… now as Jason said, it’s texture was a bit like quinoa in chocolate pudding.  The taste is phenomenal, but texture phobes beware, it’s like a mini version or tapioca, which we happened to really love!  This makes 8 servings at about 200 calories, and is pretty filling for a dessert.
Chocolate Amaranth Pudding
Serves 8
 3 cups fat free milk
1 cup amaranth
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup 60% dark Ghirardelli chocolate chips
Chopped walnuts, for garnish
Whisk together first 5 ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook 25-30 minutes, uncovered and stirring frequently, until the amaranth is tender. Be careful not to let the milk boil over.
Whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and eggs. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot amaranth mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Slowly whisk egg mixture into amaranth mixture in the pan. Cook 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Gradually add the chocolate, stirring until it melts.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Carefully set the pan into the ice bath and let the pudding cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (pudding will continue to thicken as it chills). Serve garnished with chopped walnuts for added crunch.