Chicken Souvlaki

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Why is grilling a summer event?  Is it logical  to stand in front of a big metal contraption that is 100+ degrees when it is already 100+ degrees outside? And then you have to run in and outside, thus making your AC fight an even harder uphill battle to keep your house somewhat cool/bearable. And mosquitoes?  It takes approximately 5.3 seconds for my to get 6 separate mosquito bites, 3 of them in places that I swear was covered with clothing.  So basically grilling leads to me getting felt up by mosquitoes…and it’s the most action I have gotten in a while.

So you’ll see me this winter in my long underwear (…I promise to wear real pants too) grilling defiantly.  And these summer months you will see me inside standing in directly front of my AC vent in an attempt to get somewhat cool. (Except I won’t be grilling at all since I don’t have a grill, but that is another story entirely.)

Moral of this complaining rant: use a grill pan so you have AC in summer and heat in the winter and grill marks on your food.  Unless you want to stand outside in the heat.  Now that I have solved that problem, let me tackle that one little issue called world peace.

This chicken is light and refreshing, perfect for summer.  Warm, grilled chicken pairs well with cool yogurt and crispy cucumbers.  It will taste wonderful whether you grill it inside or outside. You can go through the entire process of marinating and such, but I won’t lie, sometimes I just splash a mix of the marinade in the pan while I cook the chicken and call it a day.

And looking back at this post I think I may understand why I am single and get those desperate spam e-mails for online dating: I complain a lot, get felt up by mosquitoes, and wear long underwear.  But I can cook! Come and get it, boys.

CHICKEN SOUVLAKI
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

For the Chicken:
1-1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into approximately 4 ounce pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Tztaziki Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Special tools: cheesecloth/tea towel

For Serving:
Wild Rice
Green onions, sliced

DIRECTIONS

For the Chicken:

In a large ziploc bake or baking sheet, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, dill, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Add chicken and shake/stir to cover completely.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes (up to overnight).

Prepare your grill.  Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through (will depend on the thickness of your chicken breast).

For the Tzatziki:

Secure a cheesecloth over a measuring cup.  Spoon yogurt on top.  Refrigerate and let yogurt drain for at least 3 hours.

Place cucumber on a layer of paper towel.  Salt cucumbers and let sit for at least 20 minutes.  Transfer cucumbers to a tea towel and squeeze to remove water.  Transfer drained yogurt from cheesecloth to a large bowl.  Add cucumbers, red wine vinegar, dill, and garlic.  Mix to combine.  Drizzle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.
For Serving:
Place chicken on top of rice.  Spread Tzatziki sauce on top.  Garnish with green onions.
If desired, put remaining marinade in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes.  Serve on top of chicken.

Asparagus Mimosa

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With the end of this past semester and May mini-summer break  I have learned that I no longer know how to do nothing.   I now get bored terribly easily- I think graduate school has made me live my life on the go too much. Gone are the days when I used to love to just literally sit around all day in my PJs and sleep past noon every day. Gone are the days when I was ignorant to the existence of two nine o’clocks in the day.  Now I know the 9 AM far too well.

I suppose I could get ahead on some work for the upcoming semesters, but let’s not resort to anything that drastic or crazy.

So while I am taking a little vacay back at home in Houston, I have been asking/forcing my family to get out and do stuff with me.  This has involved a little shopping, watching the new Stark Trek movie (and subsequently yelling “KHANNNNN!” any time I get the slightest bit frustrated for dramatic effect), and lots and lots of cooking.

Since most people will have having a mini vacation  with the upcoming three day weekend for Memorial Day and will be celebrating with some food, here is a a light side dish to go with your table full of red meat BBQ fixings.  Now I am not particularly fond of pasta salad, coleslaw, or potato salad, so I always am left with few side dishes to choose from at BBQs.  This grilled asparagus, onions mustard vinaigrette, and  hard boiled eggs is a surprisingly delicious combo that I love.

This is a great light option for any BBQ you will have this summer.  And I am in need of some lighter food options.  Too much free time leads me to cook and bake more, which leads to packing on some “winter warmth” as I lovingly call it.

But here is the problem: it’s no longer winter.  Summer brings bathing suits.

KHANNNNNNN!

ASPARAGUS MIMOSA
Adapted from Gourmet

INGREDIENTS

1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Layer asparagus on top in single layer. Drizzle olive oil on top. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, 8-14 minutes. Keep warm.

Grill alternative:  Heat grill to high or medium-high heat.  Toss asparagus with olive oil until lightly coated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Grill until tender and charred, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Keep Warm.

In a skillet melt butter. Add onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 4-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk mustard and vinegar together. Add onion mixture to mustard and vinegar.

Transfer asparagus to plates or serving platter. Divide hard boiled eggs on top. Season with salt and pepper. Pour mustard onion mixture on top.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Hawaiian Shrimp Skewers

Summer is coming. Our family motto is the opposite of the Starks, it always feels like it gets hotter and hotter here in Texas.  With the sweltering heat comes grilling season!  Nothing is easier than slapping some meat with some sauce on a grill and calling it dinner.
Skewers are an especially fun way to grill for dinner.  Slide on some meat and vegetables/fruit, baste with some yummy sauce and then each person gets to eat their own skewer for dinner.  This combination uses shrimp, pineapple, and red onion with a teriyaki-like sauce for a little Hawaiian twist.  Delicious with the sweet sauce and the crunchy charcoal grilled outside.  Yum.
(PS- If you aren’t watching Game of Thrones, fix that now!  These skewers are a perfect dinner to eat while watching…)
HAWAIIAN SHRIMP SKEWERS
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS
For the Sauce:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Skewers:
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pineapple, chopped
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
DIRECTIONS
For the Sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and honey.  Bring to a boil then simmer.  Mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water.  Whisk in cornstarch mixture.  Continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes, until sauce is thickened.  Set aside.
For the Skewers:
Prepare and preheat your grill.  Alternatively, thread shrimp, pineapple, and red onion onto your skewers.  Spoon our some of your sauce and brush onto raw skewers.  Grill skewers, about  6 minutes for each side.  Continue to brush with sauce as the skewers cook.
Serves 4, makes about 8 skewers

Turkey Burger with Pimento Cheese

This post may not be as much a recipe as some life advice: Put pimento cheese and potato chips on you next burger.

For me, a burger is all about the toppings. A plain, ketchup-only burger has it’s place when the craving hits, but the best burgers are often the ones with the best combination of a few toppings.  Restraint is an important part of making hamburgers.  Although a burger with everything can be great, sometimes there is just too much and the ingredients all mesh together.  This is my definite problem when I make burgers.  I want to add pickles, cheese, lots of seasonings, mayo, mustard, ketchup, onions, and more.  Then everything just all gets to be a big mess.

But not this time- I purposely stopped myself from adding more to this burger (which I almost did when I went to the fridge for the pimento cheese and saw sweet pickles).  The toppings of this burger are the wonderful southern concoction of pimento cheese, a sweet slaw, and crunchy potato chips.  These are placed on top of a simple turkey burger.

TURKEY BURGERS WITH PIMENTO CHEESE
Slightly Adapted from The Food Network
INGREDIENTS

1 cup chopped cabbage
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon mayonnaise16 ounces ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Olive oil
1/2 cup pimento cheese
1- 1/2 ounces barbeque potato chips
4 burger buns

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350°F.Combine cabbage, honey, and mayonnaise in a bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.  Form into 4 thin patties, about 1/4 inch thick.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook burgers 3-5 minutes per side.  Alternatively, you can grill these burgers as well.

To build burgers: place turkey burger on bottom bun, spread pimento cheese on top, top with some honey slaw, top with crumbled barbeque potato chips.  Place burger bun on top.  Bake for 10 minutes, until all ingredients are warmed through.

Makes 4 burgers.

Tequila Glazed Chicken

As summer is slowly coming to an end, there are many things I won’t miss. I won’t miss that time of day when the air conditioning loses the battle with the sun and our upstairs is stuck at a crisp 82 degrees for the afternoon. I won’t miss going outside and sweating, reversing any of my attempts to look decent. I won’t miss the front page of the newspaper having 75% of the stories relating to record temperatures, drought, or false promises of rain fall.

I will miss grilling. Now, here in Texas you can really grill pretty much year round. We had an 80 degree Christmas a few years back- the winter months don’t stop us from grilling. However, I will be going back to my apartment where I only have an oven and stove but no grill.

Grilling is a healthy and quick way to prepare delicious meals. And my favorite part: a lot less clean up. This chicken was a nice change from the typical barbeque grilled chicken.

TEQUILA GLAZED CHICKEN
Adapted from Cooking Light

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup tequila
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water.
2 teaspoons lime zest (about 1 lime)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

Prepare and preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Cut chicken breast into about 4 ounce pieces. Pound out to desired thinness. Combine cumin, chili powder, and kosher salt. Rub mixture onto chicken.

In a small saucepan, combine pineapple juice, tequila, and honey. Bring to a boil over medium to low heat. Continue to cook until mixture is reduced, about 10 minutes. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl, mix well. Add cornstarch mixture slowly to juice mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add lime zest, lime juice, and red pepper flakes.

Spray grill with nonstick cooking spray. Cook chicken on grill, about 5-7 minutes for each side depending on thickness. While chicken cooks on grill, baste with juice mixture throughout. Set aside approximately 1/4-1/2 cup of mixture to be used as sauce if desired.

Italian Meatball Burgers

A meatball sub meets the hamburger.

This was one of the first dinners I made for my family. I was looking for a lighter version of hamburgers and came across this from Cooking Light. This recipe is really flavorful and easy to put together. The Italian turkey sausage adds a lot of flavor, and the marinara sauce was a perfect companion to the burgers. It was a hit all around.

ITALIAN MEATBALL BURGERS
Adapted from Cooking Light

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces sweet turkey Italian sausage (about 2 links)
1 pound ground sirloin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Cooking spray
4-6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
6 hamburger buns
Marinara sauce

DIRECTIONS

Prepare grill.

Remove casings from turkey sausage. In a large bowl, combine turkey sausage, ground sirloin, dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and garlic powder. Shape into 6 burgers, weighing 4 ounces each, about 1/2 inch thick.

Spray grill with cooking spray. Grill burger for 5 minutes and flip. Grill for an additional 2 minutes. Top the burgers with mozzarella cheese and grill an additional 5 minutes. Remove burgers from grill and let stand for 5 minutes. Grill hamburger buns cut side down for 1 minute.

Place burgers on toasted buns and top with marinara sauce.

Barbecued Fish with Red Pepper Pesto

Seafood. Love it. Barbeque. Love it. Red peppers. Hate it.

This was a meal for my parents. My dad had gone off shore fishing and brought home a new type of fish: triggerfish. I didn’t have any of the fish this time, but by parents both loved the fish’s texture and liked the pairing with the red pepper pesto. I think Bobby Flay is cute, so on that alone, I would trust this recipe

BARBECUED FISHED WITH RED PEPPER PESTO
Adapted from Bobby Flay
INGREDIENTS 

Barbeque Rub:
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Red Pepper Pesto:
2 red peppers
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
3-4 tablespoons Parmesan, grated
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper.

4-6 fish fillets (such as mahi mahi, triggerfish)
Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

Combine paprika, cumin, dark brown sugar, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Set aside

Preheat grill. Roast red peppers for 5-10 minutes each side until skin is blackened, wrinkled, and soft. Remove from grill and allow to cool. Peel skin from pepper and discard. Remove the seeds and roughly chop.

Place peppers, garlic, pine nuts, dried cilantro, and Parmesan n a food process. Process until combined. With motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the grill to high. Spray the grill with nonstick cooking spray. Rub the fish fillets with barbeque rub. Grill each fillet, about 2-3 minutes on the first side until slightly charred. Flip fillets and grill for 3-4 minutes. Fish should lightly flake. Serve with red pepper pesto on top.