shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail is a delightful appetizer.

It’s refreshing, hearty yet light and delicious.

Cup Shrimp

And aren’t these little guys just adorable?  Though they look like GIANTS given the size of this picture, ha ha!

I can’t take all the credit for them though. I did create them, yes, but the idea for them didn’t totally come from me.

My inspiration came from 24 Carrots, a local catering company that I used to work for. I worked as a server, catering high-end parties and over-the-top weddings.

One of the most requested, and enjoyed, appetizers we offered was the shrimp cocktail.  Not only were the shrimp incredibly tasty, but they were served in a very impressive way.

Each jumbo shrimp was hung on the side of a tiny champagne glass that had been filled with spicy cocktail sauce and garnished with endive and fresh chives.

We’d fill a tray full, deliver them to guests and then listen to them rant and rave.

Tray of Shrimps 2

I served my own version of this shrimp cocktail as a surprise appetizer at a very special birthday celebration that I hosted a few weeks ago.

The guest of honor was just tickled, feeling especially blessed by the thoughtfulness, amazing presentation and taste of this dish.

It was the perfect amount, leaving us with plenty of room to thoroughly enjoy what followed: marinated, grilled flank steak with sauteed mushrooms, goat cheese biscuits, mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette and angel food cake with fresh strawberries and whip cream.

I do hope you grab a few small glasses of your own and enjoy a shrimp cocktail for yourself!

Shrimp Cocktail

8 jumbo shrimp, fully cooked with tail on
1 bottle of cocktail sauce
1 lemon, sliced
1 small bunch of parsley (or any fresh herb), rinsed and cut into small sprigs
4 small glasses

Place a small amount of cocktail sauce in the bottom of each glass, being careful not to pour it down the sides of the glass.  Hang two shrimps on the rim of each glass.  Cut a small slit in each slice of lemon.  Place one slice of lemon on the rim of each glass. Garnish by placing a small sprig of parsley into the cocktail sauce in the center of each glass.

 

 

 

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beauty for the table


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The other day I was desiring to be surrounded by a bit of beauty, and what better place to display such beauty, than on our dining room table.

It was late afternoon when this desire arose within me. I wasn’t wanting to leave  home to make a trip out to the store, nor was I really wanting to spend any money to purchase something beautiful.

So I decided to take a look around the house and see if there was anything I could use to create what I desired.

In our kitchen cupboard, I found a tall, slender mason jar. I also found a spool of twine in a drawer. Then I spied some beautiful blooms on the bougainvillea that sits on our patio, they were a shocking pink.

I tied some twine around the mason jar, filled it with water and arranged a few cuttings of the bright pink flowers.

I was excited because it was looking good, though I knew that it still needed something more, so I returned to our back patio.

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I clipped two small branches from our dwarf lemon tree that were filled with green leaves and one small bunch of fresh sage leaves.  I figured these things would add a little pop of color to the mix.

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I placed the arrangement on a wood round that I already had at home and added a cute set of little white bird salt and pepper shakers (I should mention that the wood round cost $10 from Michael’s and the shakers cost $1 from the Dollar Tree. Who says beauty has to cost big bucks?).

Every time I’d walk by our dining table, and every time I’d glance over at this centerpiece, I’d think, “ahhh God, thank you for beauty!”  My soul was being blessed.

The next time you’re sensing desire within, I encourage you to take a look around, to see what you already have and to create some beauty of your own. I just know you’ll be blessed.

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deviled eggs on a pretty plate

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Recently, I inherited a beautifully designed plate that was crafted to display and serve deviled eggs.

I’ve never owned something like this, an heirloom if you will, so of course I couldn’t wait to use it.

Easter was the perfect opportunity, as we hosted an Easter lunch at our place and deviled eggs are part of the more traditional Easter fare.

I decided to mix things up, and made two different kinds of deviled eggs. Half of the eggs were sprinkled with paprika and half with dill.

We each tried both eggs and couldn’t declare a winner, because honestly, both were super delicious.

I served them alongside a spiral cut ham from Honeybaked Ham, cornflake potato casserole, roasted asparagus and fresh rolls.

I do hope you too get to enjoy!

Deviled Eggs**

Eggs
Mayo
Yellow Mustard
Salt
Pepper
Paprika
Dill

Fill a saucepan with water, add eggs and boil on high heat for 11 minutes. Remove eggs from boiling water, place in a bowl and let cool in the fridge.

When cool, take out of the fridge and remove the shells from each egg, discard shells.

Cut each egg in half and scoop yolks into a bowl.  Place remaining part of the egg, the egg whites, on a platter.

Using a fork, mix yolks with desired amount of mayo and mustard (I usually use a 3 to 1 ratio, mayo to mustard). Season with salt and pepper.

Using a spoon, scoop a small amount of yolk mixture into the cavity of each egg white.  Sprinkle with either paprika or dill.

**I’ve not given any measurements because I don’t have any.  You are to use as many eggs as you desire. As for the yolk mixture, I’ll keep adding more mayo if it seems too dry or a bit more mustard if it doesn’t have enough flavor.

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fork oven-roasted potatoes

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They will melt in your mouth.

They’re simply delicious, and of course, super easy to make!

I came across the recipe for these fork oven-roasted potatoes in an issue of Bon Appetit magazine. I couldn’t resist.  I mean potatoes, olive oil, salt and oven-roasted, what’s not to love?

And they live up to their name for sure.

Roasting these potatoes, while coated in olive oil, at a high temperature gives them them a beautiful, golden brown crispy crust on the outside and a flavorful, just melt in your mouth, burst of potato on the inside.

I must warn you that once you taste one of these teeny little guys, you may not be able to stop.  In fact, you might just end up eating the whole sack of potatoes in just one sitting!

I made them this week as a side dish, along with grilled, marinated carne asada and a simple green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

I do hope you get to enjoy!

Fork Oven-Roasted Potatoes

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

1 bag of Trader Joe’s Teeny Tiny Potatoes
1/4-1/2 T kosher salt
1/4 c olive oil

Preheat oven to 400.

Peel potatoes. Place potatoes in a salted pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove potatoes and place on a paper towel lined plate.  When cool enough to hold, run a fork down the sides of each potato, scraping slightly, so as to create a groove on the surface.

Pour oil onto a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven for 4 minutes.* Add potatoes, turing to coat and season with salt.  Cook for 30-40 minutes, turning potatoes two more times, or until skin is a nice golden brown and looks crispy.

* I should warn you that your house may take on a smell from the olive oil being heated in the oven at such a high temperature, so I always turn on my oven vent fan and open the windows to let some fresh air in!

 

 

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orange cranberry scones

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I love that the month of January provides us with oranges! A good orange is my most favorite type of citrus.

I remember falling in love with oranges while studying abroad in Granada, Spain my junior year of college. I arrived there the month of January, and oranges were all we ate. They came straight from the tree and were just delicious. Every cafe and bar in the city would have a big bowl of oranges sitting next to its juicer. You could order and enjoy a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice anytime you liked.

There’s also nothing like an orange from a tree in Southern California. They too are just delicious — juicy and sweet, with a little bit of tart. So I was super ecstatic when my husband returned home last week with a plastic bag full of oranges that he’d just picked from a co-worker’s tree, thank you!!

We’ve been partaking in, as well as rationing them, all week. This morning I made a batch of orange cranberry scones for a breakfast treat.

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In case you’ve not tried it, you NEED to try this scone recipe. It’s killer, I mean seriously amazing!  When I make these scones, they’re always a hit. They’re oh, so flavorful and they just melt in your mouth (unlike a traditional scone that’s usually pretty dry!).

The recipe on this blog is for a lemon poppy seed scone, but it’s super easy to change it up. Simply follow the recipe, but when it calls for lemon zest or juice then use orange instead, and when it calls for poppy seeds, omit them and use a 1/8 c chopped craisins instead.

Hope you enjoy!

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french baguette

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“If we trust grace, we don’t need to hide from one another.”

I was scared to admit the truth, that something was wrong, that I needed help and that I still do.

I’ve struggled with disordered eating for most of my life. From bingeing to exercise bulimia, to categorizing foods as good and bad, to withholding and living in fear of food and to believing that bread, particularly white bread, is very very bad.

If you know anything about me, you know that I just love food and that I take great joy in cooking, so the incredibly sad thing about this struggle is that it steals from that deep love and joy.

I dealt with the bingeing post college, as I sought counseling and found freedom. I thought I was fine.  So a few months prior to my wedding, when my best friend confronts me because I’m really thin and have lost a lot of weight, I’m defensive. I’m slippery. I’m in denial. I can’t believe this struggle is displaying itself once again in my life, only this time in a different form.

As I approached marriage, I began to withhold.  I’d never not eat but would just limit what I ate, consuming mostly child sized portions.

One reason I withhold is because I want control. I knew that after saying I do, things in my life were going to change, radically change. I’d be married, which was something I’d never been before, and  I’d be moving, relocating my whole life. It was all so vulnerable.

I also knew that I was about to be seen by my husband for the first time. I didn’t want to be rejected or not loved because of my body and what it looks like. The lies that I can be tempted to believe are that I need to be thin or perfect (without cellulite that is) in order to be loved.  It’s a familial lie I do believe, one that may haunt the women in my family.

Three months after our big day and the move, I accepted a part-time junior high teaching position. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I felt so out of control that the limiting and withholding continued. I began to not eat a meal here or there, I continued to lose weight and I wasn’t being honest with myself, God or others. My husband, bless him, would gently confront me. He’d tell me that he missed the woman he’d dated (and by that he meant the me that had more meat on her bones and her behind!).

After a whole year of participating with this struggle, and allowing it to really have a hold, I knew I had to be honest. I was way too thin. I was tired. I was being robbed and I wanted my freedom back. It was with pen and journal in hand, that I was able to honestly speak the truth of my struggle and my heart.  I needed help, and I was finally at a place where I was more able to admit that and more sincerely mean it.

This struggle is something I’ve felt shame about but have also taken pride in. Shame has made me want to keep this struggle and my sin a secret. It’s embarrassing to admit that I’m not really free, that I can be desperate for control, that I can be afraid I won’t be loved, that I do withhold and that this isn’t something I can just change or fix on my own. Being thin gets you lots of attention, especially from women. So many women have commented on my body, envying what they see and wanting to know my method. I’m not going to lie, it can feel real good, until I remember that it comes at a high cost. Slowly I’m beginning to be honest with these women, telling them the truth about my body and my struggle and sincerely asking them not to praise me for my sin.

The Lord has been so gracious to me. He reminds me that He loves me, just as I am. He loves me regardless of my sin and struggle. He’s helping me to have discernment and be able to choose the good. I’m now able to recognize when I’m being tempted by thoughts like, “you shouldn’t eat lunch today or you can’t eat that roll with dinner because you already had toast today at breakfast,” to acknowledge them as really dumb thoughts and to not submit to them.

This struggle continues to be part of my journey, though things are shifting and have gotten way better. I still long for my roots to sink even deeper down into the truth of God’s marvelous love that’s revealed to us in Christ Jesus. I love myself and want to love myself more and more.  I hope to keep on nourishing my body, caring for it and calling it good, real good.

Now you know why the day I made french baguette, a very white loaf of bread, was such a big day for me, so significant. And the good news is, I’ve made it three times since!

This recipe is super simple and makes a delicious baguette. I’m proud of myself for trying it out, even doing so mid-struggle and not waiting until a point of arrival, and for enjoying it wholeheartedly!

French Baguette

Recipe adapted from Not Without Salt

2 3/4 c flour
1/2 T kosher salt
1 1/8 t active dry yeast
1 c warm water (100-110 degrees)

Dissolve the yeast in warm water.

Place flour and salt in stand mixer bowl.  Pour in yeasty water. Using paddle attachment, mix on lowest speed for 40 seconds.  Dough should form a shaggy ball. Let rest for 3 minutes. Replace paddle attachment with bread hook. Mix on medium speed for 2 1/2 minutes. Remove dough from bowl, should be tacky but not sticky.

Place ball of dough on a lightly floured cutting board. Knead with your hands for 40 seconds.  Place ball of dough in a lightly oiled glass bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight in fridge (for up to 4 days).

When you’re ready to bake, remove dough from fridge.  Divide dough in half. Take one half and place it on a lightly floured cutting board.  Gently shape the dough into a long tube, so that it fits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spray with a light amount of cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours and 15 min. (I usually warm my oven just a touch, turn it off, and then place the cookie sheet with dough in the warm oven to rise).

Pre-heat the oven to 450 (removing cookie sheet with dough before doing so). Place a rimmed baking sheet on bottom rack and fill with a thin layer of water. Place the cookie sheet with the dough on the rack directly above it. Bake for 15 minutes, the rotate the pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes until a crest a golden brown color.

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apple empanadas

My husband and I hosted our very first Thanksgiving last week, and it was super awesome!

My favorite part of the meal was the sixteen pound turkey we roasted.  It was cooked to perfection.  Seriously, I don’t know how it turned out so juicy and so moist, each bite just melted in your mouth.

The side dishes were some of the most delicious I’ve ever tasted: flavorful stuffing with celery and onion, creamy mashed potatoes, sweet cinnamon corn casserole, roasted green beans with shallots and garlic, sour cream strawberry jello mold and a sweet pickle and black olive relish tray.

I find my strong, favorable reaction to our meal slightly odd.

I mean it’s not like I’d never tasted a turkey or those side dishes before. My family has enjoyed the same Thanksgiving meal, with those exact dishes, year after year after year (we are BIG on tradition).

So I don’t know if it was just psychological because we were the ones who prepared the meal or if how I felt really was the truth, but whatever the case, my husband and I both felt like we rocked this Thanksgiving meal.

Dessert was the only part of our meal that was a first for me.

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I made mini apple empanadas that were dusted with cinnamon sugar, served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and topped with a drizzle of caramel sauce.

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Everyone agreed, their appearance was just adorable and their taste exceptional, all thanks to a fabulously flaky crust and delectable filling.

I  give thanks for these, enjoy!

Mini Apple Empanadas

Recipe adapted from Sarah Hearts and allrecipes.com

3-4 small/medium apples, peeled and diced
3 T unsalted butter
2 T brown sugar
1/8 t cinnamon

1 c flour, sifted
1/3 c cream cheese, whipped
1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c sugar
2 t cinnamon

Use a mixer to cream butter and cream cheese together until well blended, add flour and blend. Gather dough into smooth ball, wrap in foil and refrigerate for a few hours. Remove dough from refrigerator 20 minutes before using. Roll dough out thin on a lightly floured surface. Cut 10 circles with 3 or 4 inch round cookie cutter**.

Place diced apple and butter in a saute pan and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes or until apple begins to soften. Add brown sugar and cinnamon and cook for another 3 minutes (stir constantly).

Place a tablespoon of apple mixture on one half of a pie dough circle, fold dough over and use prongs of fork to seal edges. Place empanadas on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 375 for 17 minutes or until golden brown.

When cooled slightly, place each empanada in bowl of cinnamon-sugar mixture, turn over so as to coat both sides. Top with scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzle with caramel sauce.

**I used the open end of a clean, empty soup can since I didn’t have a round cookie cutter.

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