Ciao from Sorrento

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View from Piazza Tasso

We arrived in Naples yesterday and drove to Sorrento where we will be spending the next few days.  It is beautiful and I’ve already had some pizza (snack when we arrived) and pasta (dinner last night.)  Salute!

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Roasted Spiced Cashews

If you’ve never roasted nuts you may think this is a waste of time.  Why alter something that is so good in its pure form?

Just try it! Roasting nuts deepens their flavor and gives them a crisper texture.  I also like to buy the unsalted nuts so I can add my own salt and spices (hopefully using less than the salted variety would have been packaged with.)

Keep an eye on the nuts while they roast and don’t be afraid to stir them, especially if your oven has hot spots.  Take them out when the nuts are browned and smell, well, nutty, and immediately transfer into your spice bowl.  You don’t want to let your nuts cool on the tray they were baked on because they will keep cooking.

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What to buy:

  • 2 cups cashews
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • juice of 1 lime

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • place the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until they are warmed through
  • combine cayenne pepper, lime juice, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl
  • toss the warm nuts with the spice mixture until the nuts are completely coated

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Coco-Loco Shrimp

This recipe is the sister of one of Joe’s favorite recipes, Coco-Loco Chicken Strips with Sweet and Spicy Sauce.  Same concept of an egg wash and coconut followed by a light fry until they’re crispy and delicious.

What to buy (serves 2-3):

  • 3 cups coconut flakes
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and tails off
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 egg whites + 2 eggs cracked and whipped for egg wash
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

What to do:

  • toss the shrimp in the flour, then the egg wash, and finally the coconut
  • fry the shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side until the coconut begins to turn a golden-brown and the shrimp turn pink
  • serve immediately with spicy butter sauce or just some ketchup and sriracha

Crack(er) Toffee

This easy and slightly trashy recipe uses club or saltine crackers to make a treat that’s sweet, salty, crunchy, and chocolatey. You can make it more gourmet by adding chopped nuts or dried fruit to the top, or adding swirls of white chocolate.IMG_7254

What to buy:

  • 1-2 sleeves of club or saltine crackers (I used club in the pictures)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • arrange the crackers in a single layer on the baking sheet so that there are no empty spaces in between them
  • place the butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat
  • stir while the butter melts, and bring the mixture to a rolling boil
  • once boiling, carefully pour the sugar-butter mixture over the crackers on the baking sheet in an even layer, trying to cover most of the crackers (if you miss some spots, don’t worry as it will spread in the oven)
  • bake the sugared crackers at 350 degrees for five minutes, until the sugar is bubbling
  • remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for one minute
  • sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the hot sugar, and allow them to sit for one minute to soften and melt
  • once softened, use a knife to spread the chocolate over the cracker
  • refrigerate the pan to set the toffee and chocolate for about 30 minute
  • break into small uneven pieces and serve alone or over ice cream (I like to keep leftover tofee  in the freezer)

Viking Stew {How to Make a Low Country Boil}

I spent this holiday weekend in beautiful Isle of Palms with a group of friends from DC including trip planner extraordinaire Cat.  It was her great idea to stay in one night and cook a traditional Charleston supper: The Low Country Boil.

One of the girls started calling this Viking Stew, a great name so from now on, Low Country Boil is Viking Stew to me.

It was a  group effort to get dinner on the table especially after I forgot to boil the shrimp and we had to improvise with grilled shrimp (this is what happens when you sit in the sun all day and drink one too many glasses of wine!)IMG_7424

Low Country Boil is a great meal when you need to feed a crowd and spend minimal time in the kitchen.  It is easy to make and is meant to be messy and eaten with your hands while you sit outside.  All you need is a very large stock pot and a hot stove.  We added in bacon (again Cat’s good idea) because bacon makes everything better.

What to buy: (this fed 10)

  • 1/2 cup Old Bay seasoning
  • 3 pounds red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 package kielbasa sliced into chunks
  • 4 ears corn, halved
  • 2 1/2 pounds shrimp
  • 10-12 asparagus stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 package, 10-12 strips, of bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled

What to do:

  • bring Old Bay and 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil
  • add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes
  • add the kielbasa, asparagus and corn
  • boil for 10 more minutes
  • cook the shrimp for 3 minutes until they’re pink (I forgot to add them so our shrimp were grilled on the side – still delightful!)
  • when the shrimp are cooked, strain the liquid from the pot and pour everything into a bowl, adding bacon crumbles and tossing gently (you don’t want the potatoes to mash)
  • add salt and pepper (or more Old Bay) to taste
  • enjoy with good friends on a table covered in newspaper!

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U pdate: I made this for the family over the 4th of July and it was a big hit.  nonameDSC_0313 DSC_0318 DSC_0320 DSC_0324 DSC_0365 IMG_9064

Guacamole Chicken

Love guacamole? This recipe is a way for you to have guacamole for dinner.  It has all the same fresh flavor but with chicken so you don’t make a dinner out of guac and chips (yeah I’ve definitely done that before too.)

You can throw everything together in half an hour and add some Cat approved Margaritas to make it a perfect meal.

IMG_7219What to buy (serves 2):

  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced plus more for garnish
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

  • sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and cook until they’re no longer pink in the middle
  • combine all ingredients; toss gently
  • sprinkle some cilantro on top
  • serve with tortilla chips if you want to add some crunch

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I use my mini-chopper to dice up all the ingredients

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Red Beans, Rice and Sausage {in your Crockpot}

This is a simple and filling recipe that only takes a couple of minutes to throw together and is very similar to the Jambalaya recipe I posted a couple weeks ago.

I like to top it with cheddar but some sliced avocado would be nice too. I spiced things up with andouille sausage but you could throw in browned ground beef or turkey sausage instead for flavor. Make this on Sunday and you’ll have lunch for the week!  IMG_6686

What to buy (serves 6-8):

  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound   andouille sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups dried red beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 2 beers, any kind but I like an IPA – something with more hops and flavor
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water (if your slow cooker looks too dry, just add more water. you want everything to be almost covered with liquid)
  • salt and  pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons cajun seasoning
  • 1 cup wild rice, uncooked
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

What to do:

  • in your slow cooker, combine onion, garlic and sausage
  • stir in the beans, rice,  broth, beer and spices
  • cover and cook on high heat about 4 hours

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Fruity Granola

If you’re looking for a quick recipe this weekend to make your house smell amazing and that you can snack on all week, I have just the thing for you.  This granola is based on Ina Garten’s recipe which you can find here.  You might remember in March Cameron posted a granola recipe she had adapted from Ina as well – also delicious.

The recipe has quite a few ingredients but it makes a good amount and you can sub in nuts or fruits you like.  I like to eat it plain, with milk, or over yogurt and berries.  It is worth making yourself – will taste so much better than anything you can buy and won’t be loaded with preservatives or weird flavorings.

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What to buy:

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups sliced pecans
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups small diced dried pineapple
  • 1 cup small diced dried mangos
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • mix the oats, wheat germ, coconut, pecans and spices together in a large bowl
  • whisk the oil, honey and vanilla together in a separate bowl, and pour over the oat mixture
  • stir until everything is nicely coated
  • pour onto a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment
  • bake until it’s an even, golden brown, about 35-40 minutes-check often so you don’t burn it!
  • stir once halfway through
  • remove it from the oven and give it a good stir so it won’t stick as it cools
  • pour into a bowl, add the dried fruit, mix it up nicely, and store in an airtight container

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Down Under

It’s been a whirlwind this week in Sydney and Melbourne.  
In both cities I was happy to see a Winston-Salem (my hometown) institution.photo-2Even with KK, I feel very far away and disconnected from home probably, because I am.  The jet lag has been a bear and it has taken longer than I expected to adjust. This morning was the first day I slept past 4am.  Being off my sleep schedule means I’ve been able to see quite a few incredible Australian sunrises. This is the view one early morning from our hotel in Sydney. IMG_6903

Other moments from my iPhone: 

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How cute are the school kids with their uniforms and hats? Skin cancer is a big problem here so they cover up.

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It was hard to beat the atmosphere in Surry Hills and the beautiful fall weather while we sat outside enjoying a pizza with salami and chili oil at at Vacanza Pizzeria.