TWO SALADS AND A BLOG AWARD!

Three reasons to smile today, how about that? Two very colorful salads to counteract the somber days of winter and the even more somber political scenario.  Plus, the joy of receiving a blog award. Not bad to close the first month of 2017!

The first salad was inspired by a very nice food blog, Hanady Kitchen. She is a veteran food blogger, but only recently I got to know her site. Better late than never. Love her cooking style. The star ingredient is Halloumi cheese, very unique ingredient that is worth trying to find in your grocery store. Depending on where you live it could be tricky. It is a grilling cheese originated in Cyprus, made of goat and sheep’s milk. Instead of melting away as a regular cheese would, it stands up to the heat and develops a crust that will leave a lasting impression in your gustative memory. Instead of the grill, I used my All Clad fish pan, and it worked like a charm.

salad

HALLOUMI SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND AVOCADO
(inspired by Hanady Kitchen)

1 block of Halloumi, cut in small squares
1 tablespoon olive oil
a few grape tomatoes, cut in half or large tomatoes cut in chunks
1 avocado, cut in chunks
1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 tablespoons Verjus (or lemon juice)
1/4 teaspoon sumac
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the tablespoon of olive oil on a non-stick skillet. Add the squares of Halloumi and fry until golden brown, flip to fry the other side. Remove slices to drain on a paper towel, squeeze a little lemon juice over them. Reserve.

Add the tomatoes and avocado chunks to a medium size bowl. Make a dressing with the grape seed oil, Verjus (or lemon juice), whisking well to combine. Add sumac, salt, and pepper, whisk again.

Add the dressing to the veggies, then the pieces of Halloumi. Mix gently, adjust seasoning. Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Halloumi will definitely become a constant guest in our kitchen. Nothing quite like it. That crust is perfect, the texture inside still firm with that delicate sharpness of the cheese. Perfect to nibble all by itself, or added to salads such as this one.

Moving on, the second salad comes from Fine Cooking magazine, and uses white asparagus as the main ingredient, but here’s the kick: it is raw and sliced very thinly. I know, mind-blowing…

shaved-asparagus-salad

WHITE ASPARAGUS, PARSLEY AND CRANBERRY SALAD
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

12 oz. white asparagus, trimmed, sliced very thinly on a sharp diagonal
1/2 oz. (about 1 cup) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 Tbs. Sherry vinegar
1 tsp. honey
lettuce leaves, for serving

In a medium bowl, toss the asparagus with the parsley leaves and cranberries. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper until emulsified. Toss the salad with enough dressing to lightly coat, and serve over lettuce leaves.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The only “problem” with this salad is that one bunch of asparagus will make enough for two, three people tops. Making this for a crowd could be tricky, unless you don’t mind spending considerable amount of time slicing asparagus. Nothing wrong with that if it suits your mood… Be Zen, though. I was not sure Phil would like the salad, but he absolutely loved it, thought it was different from anything he’d ever had before.  I tell you, the combination of raw white asparagus with cranberries is perfect. Plus they look nice together too.

And now for the Blog Award!  I was surprised with a comment from Bernadine (Bern Bakes) telling me that she awarded me the Mystery Blogger Award.  Stop by here to read more about it.

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WHAT IS MYSTERY BLOGGER AWARD?

“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.  Okoto Enigma

There are some rules, and of course I will break some of them, because as I mentioned before, I do not forward awards, so I hope I don’t offend anyone by it.

  • Display award on blog  DONE.
  • List rules DONE.
  • Mention creator of the award & provide link  DONE.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link DONE.
  • Say three things about yourself. CHECK BELOW
  • Answer five questions from your nominee CHECK BELOW
  • Write five questions for your nominees to answer (sorry, not nominating anyone)
  • Nominate from ten to 20 other bloggers. (see above)
  • Notify nominees by commenting on their blog (see above)
  • Share your best post CHECK BELOW

THREE THINGS ABOUT MYSELF

I decided to ask Phil to help me out, as I got in a kind of paralyzed mode trying to come up with something. Here is what he said, almost without blinking…

You are very determined (that is 100% true)
You are very organized (he is not talking about my bench, I can tell you that)
You respect people who are intelligent AND work hard (good sense of humor gets me too)

I guess these will do.  I think I’ll add I am very good at multi-tasking, but maybe that comes with organization?  And obviously it all melts away when faced with cake baking.

ANSWERING QUESTIONS FROM BERNADINE

Whats your current favorite T.V. show?
Big Bang Theory

What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
White chocolate

Do you have a bad habit?
Worrying

Do you have a good habit?
My exercise routine. And I am very proud of it too…  (since you asked.. 😉

If you could meet one celebrity or person you admire who would it be? Why?
President Obama. I don’t think explanations are needed.

SHARE YOUR BEST POST

After almost 8 years of blogging, it’s very hard to choose my favorite. Instead, I will share the most popular on the blog, which happens to be one of my favorite cakes, I’ve made it plenty of times.

Here we go… The Ultimate Apple Cake

 

THANK YOU SO MUCH, BERNADINE!
Nice to be recognized!

 

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ONE YEAR AGO: When Three is Better than Two

TWO YEARS AGO: Somebody Stop Me!

THREE YEARS AGO: Zucchini Pasta with Cilantro-Cashew Pesto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, Take Two

FIVE YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

SIX YEARS AGO: Mogo Mojo

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Slow-Roasted Chicken Thighs: an Ice-Breaker

 

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A BLOG AWARD!

Last week Mimi from “Chef Mimi” blog posted about several awards she’s received this year, and as she described her views on awards and the type of rules associated with each one, I found myself smiling and agreeing with her all the way…  We do have quite similar views on the issue, and we both wrote posts clarifying them. You can take a look at my own views by clicking here. But, what I did not expect was that she nominated me for a super cool award, the Blog of the Year 2013, and handed me not one but three stars at once!  Here is my badge, folks:

Blog of the Year Award 3 star jpeg

The instructions for this award are simple:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2013’ Award

2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there are no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ the blog(s) with their award.

3 Let the blog(s) that you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the instructions with them – (please don’t alter the instructions or the badges!)

4 Come over and say hello to the originator of the ‘Blog of the Year 2013’ Award via this link – http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/blog-awards-2/blog-of-the-year-2013-award/

5 You can now also join the ‘Blog of the Year’ Award Facebook page – click the link here https://www.facebook.com/groups/BlogoftheYear/ and share your blog posts with an even wider audience.

6 And as a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog … and start collecting stars…

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So, having shared all that, I will open an exception and pass this three-star award to one blogger, Sawsan from Chef in Disguise.  She blogs from Jordan, and adds so much to the food blogosphere with her knowledge of cooking,  her amazing photography, posts that are thoughtfully composed and go a lot deeper than simply sharing a recipe.  I always look forward to a new post by Sawsan, and often wonder how a woman with a very busy life – she is a orthodontist and has two  young kids – can find the time to compose such high quality posts.  I don’t know how she feels about awards, and will totally understand if she prefers not to forward them, but this is just my little token of appreciation to a wonderful woman!

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And now, let me thank Mimi once more not so much for the award, but for her words about my blog, which meant a lot to me.  Of course, stating that I have a “killer accent” did not hurt either.  Every foreigner HATES his/her own accent, and I am not an exception, so a different perspective on it is more than welcome!  😉

BRINED-ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS, AND A BLOG AWARD!

As I mentioned on my last post, we love to make our own pumpkin puree.  The pulp stores well in the freezer and we can use it for pies, soups, sauces or anything else that calls for the canned product.  Once that pumpkin is cut open, don’t even consider discarding the seeds.  Roasted pumpkin seeds, home-made, are a special delicacy.  Until now, we’ve followed traditional recipes that simply lay the seeds on a baking sheet, lightly coated with oil and a little seasoning.  This time, I took a slightly different route: I brined the seeds before roasting, and what a difference that made!  All credit goes to Sawsan, the wonderful blogger and ultra-talented photographer from Jordan.  Check her post about it here.

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GINGER-PAPRIKA TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
(from Chef in Disguise)

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
about 1 tablespoon olive oil
powdered ginger to taste
paprika to taste
     

Scoop out the insides of your pumpkin. Separate the seeds from the stringy core and then rinse them.

In a small saucepan, add the water, seeds and 1 tablespoon of salt
Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.
Spread your seeds on a baking sheet and allow to dry completely.

Drizzle the seeds once they get dry with olive oil, sprinkle with the powdered ginger and paprika, or any seasonings you like, and mix to coat them as evenly as possible.  Spread the seeds out over the roasting pan, all in one layer.

Bake in a preheated oven at 390-400 F (200 Celsius) until they become golden brown or are roasted the way you like (10-20 minutes).  Allow to cool, and….

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:
  Three great advantages in this brining approach: first, the salt gets into the seed instead of outside only, so you won’t get excess salt in one bite and not enough in another, which is quite common in the “old” method.  Second, the roasting time is reduced quite a bit, as the seeds will have a chance to start mellowing down in the brining step.  Third, a more pleasant texture in the final roasted seeds.  Try it with different seasonings, Southwest spices, chili, I bet even a little curry could be pretty interesting.

Sawsan, thanks for teaching me about brining seeds, loved it!

And now, time to show off the blog award I received…

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I was nominated by Alison, from Happy Domesticity, and of course, it made my day when I got her note about it!  The winner of such an award must answer 10 questions. Alison added one more. I don’t mind at all, as 11 is a prime number, therefore a lot cooler than 10.  Let’s get down to business:

  1. What is your favorite color? Maybe yellow, but I do love all colors.
  2. Your favorite animal? I am a dog person as far as pets go, but my favorite animal is the elephant.
  3. Your favorite non-alcoholic drinks? Home-made carbonated water (Penguin). Twist of lemon is optional.
  4. Facebook or Twitter? I use Facebook because my blog posts are publicized there and I get messages from readers.  I don’t like Twitter, and that is a good thing because I wouldn’t have time for it anyway.
  5. Your favourite pattern? I love horizontal stripes, just the other day I noticed that a lot of my clothes have stripes.
  6. Do you prefer getting or giving presents? Giving.
  7. Your favourite number?  4
  8. Your favorite day of the week? Friday.
  9. Your favorite flower? Christmas-cactus in full bloom.
  10. What is your passion? My work. But fitness comes a close second. Cookbooks get the bronze medal.
  11. Why did you start to write your blog? I love to write and I love to cook. Blogging seems like a good way to join both… 😉 

Alison, thank you once again for the award!
Makes blogging even more fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: A Sourdough Experiment

TWO YEARS AGO: Shrimp and Fennel Casserole

THREE YEARS AGO: Tuscan Bread

INSPIRATIONS AND A BLOG AWARD!

Every once in a while events happen in beautiful harmony. Last week I got notification of a new blog post by Kelly over at Inspired Edibles.  She shared a recipe for cauliflower puree, and her post immediately made me crave some.  I even exchanged a couple of emails with her comparing notes, as I had a version in my blog, from a couple of years ago.   I made the puree on a Sunday to have it ready for our dinner next day.  To serve with it, I picked a simple recipe (Mondays are busy days for us):  Shrimp in Spicy Orange Sauce…    Right as my shrimp defrosted in the fridge next day, Kelly published a new post with a recipe for Spicy Orange Ginger Shrimp!   subliminal, virtual inspiration?   I like to think so…  😉

SHRIMP WITH SPICY ORANGE SAUCE
(from Cooking Light magazine, August 2007)

1 + 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp  soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chile paste
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup chopped green onions

Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch, toss well to
coat, and set aside.  Combine orange juice, soy, honey, vinegar, and chile paste in a small bowl.  Reserve.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet  over medium-high heat. Add minced ginger to the pan.  Stir fry for 15 seconds or until fragrant. Add shrimp mixture, stir fry for 3 minutes. Add the juice mixture and onions, cook for a couple of minutes or until the sauce thickens and the shrimp are done, stirring frequently.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

So here is my delicious dinner, served!   Shrimp in a tasty and quick to prepare orange sauce,  over  cauliflower puree with a hint of apple.  A match I had never attempted, but is now classified as “made in heaven!”  Usually I would serve this type of dish with steamed rice, but I must say the cauli puree worked its magic here.  The meal was slightly more substantial, leaning into the comfort food zone,  great way to wrap up a Fall weeknight.

And, to go along in the inspired route,   Alaina from Flat Leaf Parsley   awarded me the  “Very Inspiring Blogger Award“.  Inspiring!  How wonderful is that?    The award requires that you say 7 things about yourself.  I’ve played this game before, and was tempted to just copy the same 7 facts here, but I thought that would be almost cheating.   So here you have seven “new” ones:

1. I’ve worn the same perfume for the past 30 years: a Brazilian cologne called Free.  Every year when I go to Brazil I stock up, and usually also get a couple of bottles from friends and family as gifts.  They know I would have a hard time without it!

2.  I have no sense of orientation whatsoever, and get in frequent trouble because of it.  I turn to the wrong side on the street and inside buildings. I get lost going from the bathroom to  my table in restaurants. It is pathetic and at times very embarrassing.

3. I am very good both at parallel and back -parking,  love the challenge of fitting our pick up truck in the tiniest spots.  And, I am obviously very modest!  😉

4. I used to drive a Porsche 944 Turbo.  Red. Gorgeous. Not a wise economical decision from a maintenance perspective  (it had over 100 thousand miles when I bought it), but I had a blast driving it!

5.  I studied Mandarin Chinese for a few years, wish one day I can find the energy and time to go back to it. Writing ideograms is an introspective and rewarding experience.

6.  Every day for the past 4 years, I send a picture of something beautiful (landscape, animals, flowers, sunsets) by email to a group of family members and friends. I call it “Beleza do Dia” (Beauty of the Day), and really enjoy doing it.

7. My motto: everything in moderation, except exercise…  😉    I have more than 30 fitness-related DVDs to provide enough “muscle confusion”, although P90X is my favorite.

Thank you so much, Alaina, for passing me this award!

ONE YEAR AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

TWO YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp