Why we started this idea????

A passion for food, wine, friends and entertaining is a big part of our life. This is a way for us to document our experiences, passion for food & life and also share it with others.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

GCC: Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Hot Pepper

This week for Gutsy Cooks Club Marie from Weekend Viands, our July host, served us up a fantastic Italian recipe for scallop sauce. One of our favorite shellfish options. 

It was Italian simplistic; the best seafood you can find, simple olive oil, garlic, parsley and hot pepper. Couldn't be much more simple and delicious.

We actually LOVE scallops. Sweet, succulent and with a smooth texture when cooked well. The original recipe called for chopped red hot pepper. We went with a dried ancho chile instead that I used some Rick Bayless technique on. In most of his recipes he first basically deep fries his chiles to rehydrate them which gives them a fantastic deep, complex flavor. We did this and chopped it up for the sauce.

This recipe first started with a great classic combo of garlic, olive oil and the pepper brought up to high temperature without burning the garlic. Not easy for me to do usually.

The thing with scallops is they are best when seared well. And its hard to get a good sear when buying frozen scallops which is most typically what you will find in the grocery stores even in a seafood haven like the Pacific Northwest. We used Sea scallops instead of the small Bay scallops the recipe called for. 

To achieve as much 'dryness' as possible I typically first ensure they are fully defrosted. Then I place them between layers of absorbent paper towels with weight on top to absorb as much moisture as possible. This helps. But having a hot pan, and we find the cast iron skillet works best for this, is another technique to help with this searing process. 

The recipe called to serve them over pasta. We had just had pasta the night before and having pasta two nights in a row for us, being not huge pasta consumers, was just not in the cards. We decided to make some Israeli Couscous to serve them on instead. 

We loved this simply elegant and delicate delicious dish. So, so good. 

Find the recipe it's linked here. Thanks Marie for a great line up of Italian recipes to try this month. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

As many of you know desserts don't get much attention on our site. Desserts are fine and good but we just usually decide to indulge in our calories else where. But every now and then we come across a recipe that inspires us to go ahead and make a dessert. 

When we both saw this recipe in Bon Appetit for Blueberry Hand Pies we knew this was going to be one of those recipes. 

We were just looking for the occasion to make it happen I suppose. When my parents arrived back in town from Arizona and we found this beautiful flat of mixed berries at the Proctor Farmer's Market the occasion had arrived.

We figured if blueberries were good in the hand pie recipe then fresh picked mixed berries would even be better. 

Forming the hand pies was a fairly delicate task that shows another reason we don't bake, it's just too precise. The dough was easily tearing. I knew juices were going to ooze out everywhere so I was definitely glad we used the parchment paper. 

And ooze out everywhere the mixed berries did. And then some. But the hand pies tasted fantastic. Just a simple fresh berry pastry to complete a meal. 

We were pretty happy to make this dessert.


Blueberry Hand Pies Adapted from Bon Appetit

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces


    Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter; pulse until the texture of very coarse meal. Add 1/4 cup ice water; pulse, adding more water if dry, until dough comes together in clumps. Form into a square, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

    Berry Pies
  • All-purpose flour (for dusting)
  • 2 cups blueberries (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar


Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough on a floured surface to a 15x12" rectangle. Cut into 6 rectangles.
Toss blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Brush edges of rectangles with water; mound some blueberries in center of each. Fold dough over, and press edges to seal. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut slits in tops.
Bake hand pies, rotating sheet halfway through, until juices are bubbling and pastry is golden brown, 35-40 minutes (juices will run onto parchment). Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Muddled Cherry Margaritas

We kind of like margaritas on the patio around here in the summer. We like them just a little bit.

And as much as we do love our margaritas sometimes changing them up a bit sounds good too. 

We had found these lovely local Rainier cherries at our farmers market and decided to try muddling them into a margarita to change it up a bit. We also love muddled mint into our mojitos so muddling cherries into a margarita sounded like something worth trying.

The result was sweet, sour and refreshing.


Muddled Cherry Margarita
Cut lime
2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce Triple Sec
1/2 ounce Grenadine
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 Cup cherries, pitted and cut in half
3 or 4 ice cubes

Rub the rim of a cocktail glass with lime, then dip in salt to frost. Muddle cut cherries with lime and ice. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing glass and stir well. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chipotle Cherry Chicken Wings

One food we seem to enjoy year round is chicken wings. We enjoy them so many different ways but most often spicy and grilled. And this version fit those requirements as well.

We've made this Chipotle Cherry Barbecue Sauce recipe found on Epicurious lots of times now over the years. Most recently we whipped up a batch on 4th of July for my sister's pool party to be used on our smoked gouda stuffed turkey burgers that I forgot to get photos of unfortunately. 

Since we have always enjoyed this sauce I actually made a triple batch to share with friends but to also have some on hand for future summer grilling escapades such as this lazy, beautiful Wednesday evening. 

On this mid week evening we were both thinking wings were sounding pretty darn good. I found our jar of the chipotle cherry bbq sauce in the fridge and decided we'd give grilled wings with the sauce a try, served with a strawberry spinach salad.

G cleaned up the wings per his usual type A way (thank goodness). We grilled them simply at first with salt & pepper. 

After they were pretty well cooked we then brushed them lightly with the chipotle cherry sauce to give them a little bit of caramelizing that we love on grilled wings.

Once the wings were done we then tossed them in a little more sauce and served them with our strawberry spinach salad and a Washington 2012 Tempranillo from our Lake Chelan vacation that paired perfectly. 

The wings and sauce were great. I think there are better ways we both enjoy our wings and the sauce separately but this worked for a mid week "Lets Eat" kind of meal. 


Chipotle-Cherry Barbecue Sauce

From: Bon Appétit  | July 2010 by Steven Raichlen, Francine Maroukian, and the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup cherry preserves (We also added some canned whole cherries with juice to give a chunky texture)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
  • 2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from can ( we used 3 to go spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Bring ketchup, cherry preserves, lemon juice, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, lemon peel, chiles, adobo sauce, liquid smoke, onion powder, and cocoa powder to simmer in medium saucepan, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring often. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Sauce can be made up to 1 week ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fresh Salmon Spring Rolls

We were having one of those... we’re really not on the ‘same page’ kind of menu planning days. We both wanted salmon that was the only common denominator. G was thinking more; cedar planked and rubbed with some yummy spices. I was thinking, “let’s trying something different.”

I had just read Diane’s post on White On Rice Couple’s blog post about fresh spring rolls. She had some great tutorials and always has photos that inspire my thinking. She shared her love for all things spring rolls and how she often tries to change it up a bit from the typical pork or shrimp spring rolls, think BLT spring rolls. 

This got my recipe tweaking brain parts thinking. 
"What if we made spring rolls with the grilled salmon. Mmmmm....I thought , I might be on to something here.” I shared my idea with G, he was less than initially tempted but ultimately is starting to understand “Happy Wife = Happy Life” so he said, “Sure, let’s give it a try if you want to.” Meaning he thought they didn’t sound very good but he knew I was pretty solid on wanting to give this idea a try.

Actually we used to make fresh spring rolls a bit more frequently than we have been lately. We’ve been known to even host a make your own fresh spring roll party or two or three in our time together. Which are always an interactive, hands-on way to get everyone involved in the kitchen.

My love for making spring rolls actually started early in my teaching career. One of my fellow teaching colleagues, Jim Warnke, hosted an after school spring roll party in his room. He showed us how to soak the skins and wrap the rolls. Being that was at least 15 or 16 years ago I can’t remember what prompted this after school gathering or any of the details. And it does seem like an odd at school activity but regardless whenever we make spring rolls I think of that experience and it was him who then inspired us to try hosting similar parties on our own. I haven’t seem Mr. Warnke in years but this memory always makes me smile and I remember his personality in general always made me smile and coming to work fun. 

We rubbed and grilled our salmon as we typically do and then let it sit and come to room temperature. 

I then prepped ingredients that I thought would pair well with salmon (grilled asparagus and sliced avocado) to wrap with the more typical spring roll makings (cucumber slices, red leaf lettuce, cilantro, rice stick noodles.) 

I additionally made our favorite chile sauce for dipping our salmon rolls. Once everything was prepped and ready for assembling I started the rice paper soaking and rolling. It was about this time that I thought, “Oh yeah, I forgot how temperamental these wrappers can be, maybe this is why I haven’t done this in awhile.” The good thing is the package of wrappers comes with far more than we would ever need so a few torn test wrappers was no reason to give up. 

Once I kind of got the hang of it again I was able to wrap a good amount of rolls. Mind you not nearly as lovely and sturdy looking as Diane’s appeared to be. But they were edible at least for a bite or two before they sort of just needed to be stuffed in your mouth all at once to not drop all the goodies inside. Definitely not a graceful eating experience.

But G’s was in LOVE. He said, “Babe, these are the sh_ _.” Which around here means they were fantastic. And they were. Especially paired with the chile sauce we typically use for our shrimp & pork spring rolls. I wasn’t convinced at first that this would be a good match but went with it anyway. They were light and fresh and the salmon was the perfect protein with the crisp (cucumber, lettuce & avocado) and the creamy (avocado) ingredients. 

I knew I had come onto something when the first thing G said when he got up the next morning was, “ I want some more of the salmon spring rolls.” Yep, it was one of those times where I felt like gloating and saying, “ I told you so.” But I kept that thought to myself and just smiled and said, “Yep, we’ll need to make those again soon.” And truth be told I’m already plotting making them again next week.

To see a great tutorial on how to best wrap your spring rolls go to White On Rice Couple’s blog and read Diane’s step by step process. 


Fresh Spring Rolls with Grilled Salmon
1/2 lb fresh salmon filet
2 Tblspn Rub with Love for Salmon 
1/2 Cucumber, seeded and sliced into sticks
1/4 lb aparagus, grilled, blanched and cut into sticks
1 avocado, sliced
8 red leaf lettuce leafs, rinsed
1 bunch clean cilantro
1 bag rice stick noodles (cook as directed by package)
1 package rice paper spring roll wrappers

Rub salmon with seasoning. Grill until done. Remove from grill let sit at room temperature. Once salmon is cool cut into slices to be wrapped in spring rolls. Prep all spring roll ingredients. Try to cut cucumber and asparagus to similar lengths. Have all ingredients organized and laid out for easy assembling. 

Carefully soak wrappers in luke warm water one at a time. Soak them only enough to soften or they will start to tear. (If you tear one throw it out and try again. It might take a few test wrappers until you get the feel for how long to soak them.) Once wrapper is pliable lay it on cutting board. Start layering; lettuce, cilantro, cucumber, asparagus, salmon, rice noodles. Keep ingredients in to one side of the wrapper. Fold bottom third up over ingredients. Then tightly hold ingredients as you wrap wrapper around (think burrito style.) Stack rolls on plate. Best eaten right away with the chile dipping sauce.

Chile Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon Garlic Chile Sauce

Heat vinegar and half of the sugar in saucepan on stove until sugar dissolves. Add remainder of sugar and salt until full dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in garlic chile sauce. Set aside until ready to serve. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

GCC: Grilled Shrimp Panzanella Salad

Sometimes experimenting with flavors pays off. This week for Gutsy Cooks Club Marie from Weekend Viands set us on a path for making Panzanella  Salad. We are fans of this salad especially during the summer months.

But to be honest we had just arrived home from a 5 day road trip with a pretty sick pup so we were feeling mostly just 'done' and in need for comfort. I had ran to the store to get rice and lean ground beef to start the bland diet for our pup that the vet recommended and I decided to pick up everything to make a grilled tomato shrimp spaghetti. Obviously I had forgot about this week's Gutsy Cooks Club assignment. Once I did remember I quickly went into "Gutsy" mode and started thinking how to merge my original pasta idea with the panzanella.

I decided to essentially go with a grilled version and add some shrimp. Hey, it's worth giving a shot. I knew the flavors would mesh well and one of the things I'm not a huge fan of in a panzanella salad is the mealy texture. So I thought grilling the bread might help with that. I know this makes it not so traditional and for panzanella purists it might even be sac-religious but hey that's what our Gutsy Cooks Club is all about.

I started by prepping all my flavors for the salad. Here's new tip I learned. To keep your wooden skewers from charring up on the grill it helps to soak them in water. I never seem to have a vessel long enough to soak them in. But a wine bottle is the perfect size. And we always happen to have an empty wine bottle or two laying around here.

 I filled one with water and put the skewers inside. I had to put a little weight on the top to hold them down but this is the best vessel I've found for this purpose thus far. I pulled some basil off my plant that was begging for water when we returned from our trip today.

I first wrapped my garlic in foil and got it onto the grill to get it good and soft to make the anchovy, caper, garlic paste that I used to flavor the dressing.

And hopefully later in the summer I might even get to pull a few tomatoes off our plant too. It was looking a bit sickly today but hopefully after some good watering soaks in it will look better tomorrow.

I got everything grilling and started my dressing following the paste technique from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan  using anchovies, garlic and capers. 

I didn't use anchovy fillets but rather the paste we use often for making Cesar dressing. I also roasted the garlic to get the sweet flavor too. 

I ground it all together and made it a paste to add to the dressing. 

Once I started seeing how lovely and charred the tomatoes were getting I knew this grilling idea was going to work well. 

And look at those grill marks on the bread about this time G was digging the idea even better too. Marie recommended making the homemade Olive Oil Bread for the salad. There were about 100 reasons why that wasn't going to happen for our attempt this week. But it was a thought to ponder if I was making the salad in late September when baking in the oven might be more logical than it was today. I used Greg's favorite Artisan Asiago bread with a chewy crust and heavy structure since we were looking to avoid the mushy texture.

Once the shrimp and the dressing were done it was time to start layering the salad in my favorite panzanella salad bowl. I started with the grilled bread.

Followed by the slightly charred and almost caramelized red onions.

And then the most perfectly grilled tomatoes that just slid off the skewer and immediately made the salad smell fantastic.

Followed finally by the grilled shrimp and basil.

The last touch was slowly adding the dressing and tossing carefully.

It was immediately beautiful and so aromatic.

This was a huge hit, the bread perfectly absorbed the dressing and flavors but kept it's structure enough to not turn into mush.

And the grilled onions and tomatoes made the most luscious flavors together. And the shrimp just made it feel like more of a complete meal.

We really loved this salad, we wish it wouldn't of been so hot out so we would of had more of an appetite since the leftovers probably are not going to taste so hot tomorrow. But it was so good we just had to test it out. 

To go to Marie's blog to see her version go here.

To see the original recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan go here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Grilled Fish Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Slaw

Wow, feeling a bit disconnected from this medium lately I guess. But really our focus was intentional in just getting through this school year. It's been a frustrating interesting spring for the both of us this year.
For me, a 4 year project finally had the world's best outcome for kids and learning at my school. As a principal it was grueling and quite frankly horrible work but worth the success that it brought. For G, he just accepted a new job as a science and math specialist at the district level in a different district. We've never worked in separate districts before so we were a bit leery for this adjustment but we both agree it's in the best interest in his professional next steps so now we are both very excited for him. But now we are ready for some much needed R&R and for us R&R doesn't usually include much rest because I love to be on the go but the fun and adventure it brings does bring mental relaxation.
To kick off the my first official eve of, "I start vacation tomorrow!" we decided a simple but delicious meal was in order. And these fantastic grilled fish tacos with our favorite cream chipotle slaw fit the bill. It was also a 90 degree day which is rare in these parts so outdoor cooking was a must. Hopefully it will be the inspiration to get me cooking and blogging again before the heavy work begins back again in August.
We are huge fans of fish tacos in general. But for me I prefer my fish grilled not fried and they must have some wonderful slaw or salsa. Our fish monger had some good looking rock fish fillets in his counter so this time we went with that. But they are equally as good with cod, tilapia or halibut. We typically create our own rub concoction to put on the fish prior to grilling but it was hot and I wanted out of the kitchen as quick as I got there so I used our 'go to" Tom Douglas Rub with Love for Salmon (shhhh...don't tell G that part. I'm sure this would not of met his type A combination choices.) 

A tip for grilling white fish that doesn't have much fat so that it won't stick is to 1) make sure your grill is good & hot before putting your fish on. And 2) rub the grates of the grill well with vegetable or canola oil. There is nothing worse that having your beautiful fish fall apart when you go to flip or remove it from the grill.
Once the fish is grilled we just carefully break it up into nice bite size pieces. Place the fish on some grilled corn tortillas and top it with some creamy slaw.
We had them along side some freshly muddled cherry margaritas since it was our kick off of summer vacation.
Grilled Fish Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Slaw
2 fillets white fish (rock fish, cod, tilapia, halibut all work)
2 Tblspns seasoning rub (we I used Tom Douglas' Rub with Love: Salmon)
Corn Tortillas (or flour; your choice we use La Tortilla Factory Handmade Style Corn)
1/2 avocado sliced
Creamy Chipotle Slaw
1 bag pre-shredded slaw mix
1/4 cup diced red peppers
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo
1 large chipotle minced ( we keep the seeds but you can remove)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
juice from 1/2 squeezed fresh lime
salt & pepper to taste
Heat grill. Make sure to oil the grill grates well so your fish doesn't stick. Rub fish with seasoning rub. While grill is heating make slaw.
Mix sour cream, mayo, minced chipotle, vinegar, lime and salt & pepper until well combined and creamy. Add cream mixture to slaw with red pepper. Coat slaw well with cream mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Grill fish until cooked through. Remove fish from grill and let set 3-5 minutes. With a fork carefully break fillets into bite sized pieces. Quickly grill tortillas until they just start to puff and have grill marks. Fill tortilla shell with fish. Top with slaw and sliced avocado. Enjoy!