…because i just do.

thoughts and things that make me happy

Month: August, 2013

Chicken Sitting

…because fresh eggs are divine.

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Bird watching this week means free eggs!

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Savory Summer Tarts

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Fresh from the oven.

Sometimes I find summertime meal-planning difficult.  I find myself making the same thing with little variation over and over again.  Summer to me means grilling and an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits but firing up the grill for another kabob just wasn’t appealing last week.  Also, we were about to go away for the weekend so I was hoping I could use up any ingredients I had on hand.

When I want something simple and delicious I always turn to Ina Garten.  I found her recipe for Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts on page 92 of her cookbook “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” and quickly discovered the only ingredient I needed to buy was 4 ounces of herb-garlic goat cheese.  I tossed my frozen package of Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry on the counter to thaw and headed to store.

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Garlic, onions & heirloom tomato.

Below is Ina’s recipe for her savory tarts…

Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts

*makes 4 individual tarts

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted (I use Pepperidge Farm)
Good Olive Oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (I used ¾ teaspoon dried thyme)
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (¼ inch-thick) slices
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

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Rolling out the Puff Pastry.

Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11×11-inch square.  Using a 6-inch-wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps.  Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make a total of 4 circles.  (Please note, you will have a lot of unused puff pastry… If you want less waste I suggest using one sheet of the puff pastry rolled out to an 11×11-inch square and simply cut into 4 equal squares).  Place the pastry onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

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I used a latte bowl to create my 6″ circles.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic.  Sauté for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is very little moisture remaining in the skillet.  Add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned.  Remove from heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a ¼-inch-wide border around each pastry circle.  Don’t cut all the way through the puff pastry and don’t worry it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Prick the inside of the pastry with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside of the scored border.

Place one-quarter of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge.  Crumble 1 ounce of the goat cheese on top of the onions.  Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart.  Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper.  Finally, scatter 3-4 shards of peeled Parmesan on each tart.

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Ready for baking… notice the scored edge of the pastry.

Back for 20-15 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.  Serve hot or warm.

I served these with a green salad made up of all the raw veggies left in my fridge … a deliciously different summer dinner.

Flower Friday

…because fresh flowers make a happy home.

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Hydrangeas in Heath Ceramics.

Cape Cod Wanderings

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Lobster Buoys at Sesuit Harbor.

At the end of July we took a family trip to Cape Cod to celebrate the 50th Birthday of my husband’s cousin, Deirdre.  Luckily, after a great party we got to spend the rest of the week alongside beautiful Sesuit Harbor in East Dennis, MA.  One glorious afternoon while my husband took my son and his cousins fishing I went on a little adventure with my camera.  I’m blown away by Cape Cod; how amazingly green and lush it is, how undeveloped much of it has remained and how entirely different Cape Cod Bay is from the Pacific.  It is quintessentially American… the cedar-shingled homes, Old Glory flying around every corner, roadside eateries with delicious, fresh seafood and an undeniable sense of history that oozes from every brackish pond.  It’s only my second time on the Cape but I can understand why generations of families find themselves heading back here year after year.

Pleasant Street

The beautiful home we stayed in near the corner of Pleasant and Sea Street.

Along my meandering path I came across the peaceful Quivet Neck cemetery, a sweet bench inviting strangers to take it easy, insanely colored hydrangeas, gorgeous homes,  tunnels of trees, a harbor full of boats, shimmering sea grass and even some patriotic lawn flamingos.  I hope you enjoy my photographic journey as much I treasure that solo day discovering Quivet Neck.

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Quivet Neck’s tree-lined streets.

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Fun finds in the neighborhood.

Quivet Neckhouses

A few of my favorite Quivet Neck homes.

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Pink and purple hydrangeas.

Sesuit Harbor

Sesuit Harbor.

Coming back to reality after a day of exploring means a chilled glass of Chardonnay in an outdoor shower with a view of  luscious green trees and a dazzling blue sky and finally, a walk down to Sea Street Beach for a picture perfect sunset.  Here’s hoping next summer brings us back here.

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Outdoor Shower.

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Sunset over Cape Cod Bay from Sea Street Beach.

Southwest Shrimp Taco Night

This past weekend we took one of our favorite dinners on the road and set up our shrimp taco fiesta in a lovely Venice backyard.Shrimp Tacos

In an effort to ensure that we get our families together once a month, my friend Christina and I have created a bit of a unique family dinner party.  The interesting aspect is that whoever is hosting the get together doesn’t actually have to do the heavy cooking.  The host obviously provides the home but also appetizers, drinks and dessert while the guest brings the main meal.   Somehow, it seems to lessen the burden of hosting a fully home cooked meal, which often takes an entire day of prep… shopping, cooking and cleaning.  In this way, we’ve managed to keep up our monthly dinners for well over a year.   It also keeps us amused that our unconventional arrangement continues to baffle our husbands.DSC_0651

Below are the recipes I used for our Southwest Shrimp Taco Night.
adapted from Southern Living, August 2008

Southwestern Citrus Shrimp Tacos

The Shrimp

2 pounds peeled, deveined shrimp
10-12 12″ skewers (I prefer metal but if you use wood ones make sure to pre-soak them to avoid burning)
2 tablespoons Southwest Seasonings (I use Emeril’s Southwest Essence)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice

  1. Thread shrimp onto skewers and place in a long shallow dish.
  2. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high). Combine Southwest seasoning, garlic and citrus juice in a bowl.  Whisk together. Pour over skewers.  Cover and chill 10-30 minutes. Remove shrimp from marinade and discard marinade.
  3. Grill shrimp, without grill lid, 2 to 3 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. I like to serve the shrimp still on their skewers.DSC_0633

Southwest Cream Sauce

1 (16 oz.) container sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  1. Whisk together sour cream, garlic, red onion, chili powder, cumin, ground red pepper and salt.
  2. Whisk in lime juice until smooth.
  3. Cover and chill until ready to serve.DSC_0635

Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad

3 ears fresh corn, in husks
3 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 (15 oz. cans) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Hot Sauce, to taste (I prefer Tapatio)
2 avocados, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat grill to 450° (medium-high).  Pull off top tassel from corn, leaving the rest of the husk in tact.  Submerge and soak corn in water for approximately 1 hour.
  2. Grill corn in husks, covered with grill lid, approximately 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Remove from grill; cool 15 minutes then remove husks and silks.
  3. Hold each grilled cob upright on a cutting board; carefully cut downward, cutting kernels from cob. Discard cobs; place kernels in a large bowl. Gently stir in tomatoes and next 6 ingredients.  Add hot sauce to your desired potency.  Cover and chill until ready to serve, if desired.
  4. If chilled, let corn mixture stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Peel and chop avocados; toss with corn mixture just before serving.

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Serve the Above with the Following:

  • Lime wedges
  • Shredded Radicchio & Iceberg Lettuce
  • Cilantro garnish
  • Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
  • Flour and/or Corn Tortillas
  • Spanish Rice (I like Near East Spanish Rice Pilaf)
  • Mexican Beer & lime (my favorites are Pacifico Clara and Corona)

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Throw in great friends and family and enjoy your own Southwest Shrimp Taco Fiesta!