Archives for June 2014

Fresh From the Garden: STRAWBERRY-TINI


“Dance as if no one is watching, sing as if no one is listening, and live every day as if it were your last” ~ an Irish toast

It’s official, strawberry season is in full effect!  It seems like every Farmer’s Market stand and grocery store has a huge display of fresh strawberries as soon as you walk through the door.  Perfectly plump and bursting with flavor, now is the time to be stocking up and enjoying the sweet tastes of this summer fruit.

Since everyone love a crisp and refreshing cocktail in the summer, this recipe for Strawberry Martini’s (or the Strawberry-tini as I like to call it) is the perfect drink to serve at your next party.  It’s easy to make and will have your guest asking for more.

Strawberry set up

The key to this drink is the ruby-red strawberry simple syrup.  Not only does it creates the beautiful, rich color of the cocktail, but it adds just the right amount of fresh-from-the-garden strawberry flavor.  It’s the perfect complement to ice cold vodka on a warm summer afternoon!   Make a large batch of the simple syrup ahead of time and it will keep in the fridge for up to a month.  You will be ready to amaze your friends and family with your bartender skills when they pop in for a visit!  If possible, use freshly picked strawberries from your local Farmer’s Market or fruit stand to really turn the flavor a notch.

strawberrry straining 2

Don’t worry if you don’t have  a cocktail shaker or a fancy bar strainer on hand.  A large mason jar, with a lid, and a fine mesh strainer work just as well.


To make two servings, put one cup of ice into your mason jar or cocktail shaker.  Add 4 ounces of chilled vodka and 8 ounces of chilled strawberry simple syrup.  Secure lid and shake.

Pour the mixture into your martini glasses using a strainer to separate out the ice.   Add a sliced strawberry to the rim of each glass as a garnish and serve.

These babies are strong but oh so refreshing! Cheers!


Fresh From the Garden: STRAWBERRY-TINI

Yield: 2 servings


    For the Strawberry Simple Syrup
  • 4 cups of fresh strawberries, rinsed, with tops removed and cut in half
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Juice of one lemon
  • For the Strawberry-Tini Cocktail
  • 4 ounces chilled Vodka
  • 8 ounces chilled Strawberry Simple Syrup
  • 2 fresh strawberries, rinsed with tops on
  • 1 cup of ice


    Strawberry Simple Syrup
  1. In a heavy bottom sauce pan, dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat.
  2. When sugar is completely dissolved, add strawberries and lemon juice.
  3. Stirring occasionally, let simmer for 15 minutes until liquid is deep red and strawberries are soft.
  4. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to separate the fruit from the liquid.
  5. Allow to cool completely.
  6. Strawberry-Tini Cocktail
  7. Put one cup of ice into your mason jar or cocktail shaker. Add chilled vodka and strawberry syrup.
  8. Secure lid and shake.
  9. Pour through strainer to separate the ice.
  10. Garnish with a strawberry on each glass and enjoy!


Make your simple syrup first thing in the morning and use the leftover fruit as a topping for French Toast or as a fruit spread on buttered toast. The fruit is still full of flavor and can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

*The simple syrup recipe will yield 2-3 cups (depending if you leave some juice in with your cooked fruit). This will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month and can also be used as a topping for ice cream or as a substitute for maple syrup on pancakes.

How to Bake Hard-Boiled Eggs

Eggs 1

By definition, a hard-boiled egg is an egg that is immersed in water and boiled in it’s shell long enough for the yolk and white to solidify.  Sounds easy, right? In a perfect world, the shell would also peel right off and there would be a pretty yellow yolk inside.

The reality is that hard-boiling an egg is part science and part luck.  I have made them countless times over the years and am the first to admit that I have yet to master the art of perfect hard-boiled eggs.  The temperature of the water, the type of pan you use, even the amount of time you let them cook all plays a role in creating an egg that is easy to peel and cooked thoroughly.

Baking eggs in their shell was an idea that came from my sister.  She found a photo on Facebook and knowing that I am always up to try a new kitchen trick, I told her I would give it a shot.  I was skeptical at first but pleasantly surprised by the results.


Perfect Eggs! Cook a large batch ahead of time and you can add baked eggs to your favorite salad for quick and easy lunch.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare the following:

  • 6 Eggs
  • A Muffin Tray
  • Parchment Paper
  • Scissors

Eggs prep

First, cut your parchment paper into six small squares to “line” your muffin tray.  You can put the eggs straight into the muffin tins, however, once you cook and peel your eggs you will notice small yellowish-brown dots where the eggs were resting against the metal, sort of like a burn mark.  After making these a couple of different ways, I found that the extra cushioning provided by the folded parchment paper not only kept the eggs away from the sides but minimized the the burn marks to almost nothing.  If you do get one of these small marks, just cut off before serving.  They do not go deep into the egg white.

Eggs 2Next, rinse and pat dry your eggs.  Put one egg in each opening of your lined muffin tray and place in oven for 30 mins.  Make sure to set a timer!!  I forgot during one batch and it was not pretty.  Timing is key here!

After pulling the tray out of the oven, transfer eggs carefully (using an oven mitt or tongs) into a bowl of cold water.  It’s important to do this as it stops them from cooking.  Let them sit in the cold water for 10 minutes.   Once cool to touch, just crack, peel and enjoy!


eggs spot 1A quick note: Even though the eggs are washed before cooking, you will notice some small brown spots on the eggs when you pull them out of the oven.  I am not sure what causes them, but after a quick google search it appears that this is totally normal.  It does not affect the taste at all and when you rinse the eggs at the end most of the spots will disappear.


Five Fun Facts about Eggs:

  1. The average hen lays between 250 to 270 eggs per year.
  2. The average person consumes approximately 170 eggs per year with 40% of the world’s eggs being consumed in China.
  3. Joey Chestnut, a professional competitive eater, set a World Record in October 2013 by eating 141 hard-boiled eggs in just 8 minutes!
  4. The brown or white shell of an egg does not affect nutritional value or taste.  It is directly related to the breed of the hen.
  5. Each egg contains just 70 calories a piece and 6 grams of protein.

Backyard Corn and Red Pepper Summer Salad

Corn Title 2Summer is finally here!  It’s the season full of backyard barbecues and lazy picnics in the park.  While corn on the cob is always a party favorite, sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge to eat if you are not seated at a table.  The last thing you want is to watch your corn precariously weighing down the side of your plate (or worse, watching it roll right off!)  So how do you serve fresh, juicy corn without the mess or worry?   Skip the potato salad and try this tangy Backyard Corn and Red Pepper Summer Salad instead.

Served cold, this recipe combines the sweet flavors of the corn and red peppers with the tangy bite of cilantro and cumin.  Lightly sauteed onions round out the flavors to create a full-bodied dish that will have you reaching for seconds.  Make a large batch the night before your next party or picnic and you will have an easy side that tastes great with burgers  or barbecue chicken.  Sprinkle any leftovers over romaine lettuce for a easy summer salad that you can enjoy for lunch.

Preparing the Corn:

While many people like to boil or steam corn, I prefer to roast mine in the oven.  It is a simple and hassle-free way to prepare and helps to keep your hands free for other things.   It also keeps the kernels crispy and full of juice! To roast corn, preheat the oven to 350°F.  There is no need to shuck the corn.  Just trim off all the silky ends and pull of any husks that are sticking out and could possible catch fire in the oven.  Place the corn in the in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.  Carefully remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before shucking.  {for additional info and photos about roasting corn, please click here}

Once the corn is cool enough to handle, stand corn on the flat base and use a knife to carefully remove the kernels.  Always cut from top to bottom and make sure to keep your fingers above the knife blade at all times.  Cutting into a bowl will keep the kernels from rolling off your cutting board and ending up on the floor.


Backyard Corn and Red Pepper Summer Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 3 ears of corn, cooked with kernels cut off
  • 1 large red pepper, cored and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil and add diced onions. Saute for approximately 5 minutes, until edges start to brown. Remove from heat.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the corn kernels, chopped red pepper, browned onion, cilantro, and 2 teaspoons of grapeseed oil. Make sure that all vegetables are lightly coated in oil.
  3. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of cumin and toss together. Place in refrigerator for one hour before serving.
  4. Before serving, stir and add salt and pepper to taste.


For best results, I recommend cooking the corn in the oven (recipe here). This can be done a day before to save time preparing.

Rhubarb Compote on Toast

Rhubarb on toast

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” ~ Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked. 

The beautiful thing about recipes passed down from one generation to the next is that you know they are good.  There is no need to second guess an ingredient and you are almost guaranteed to know the results before you start.  This recipe for Rhubarb Compote comes straight from my great-grandmother’s kitchen.  Spread on lightly buttered toast, it is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

So what exactly is a fruit compote?   Simply put, the word compote means “mixture” in French.  In the early 17th century, the French began to cook their fruit in a mixture of sugar and spices to serve as dessert.    Because it was made with inexpensive ingredients and was easy to prepare, fruit compote became a staple served warm with biscuits and cream as an afternoon snack.  During the Renaissance, it became popular to serve chilled after dinner.


This recipe for Rhubarb Compote was passed down from my great-grandmother

Today, compotes are prepared in the same traditional manner and can be served in a wide variety of ways.  This recipe skips the spices and includes orange juice to create a fresh summer taste.  It is also a two-for-one recipe because you end up with an amazing Rhubarb Simple Syrup when done.  Served warm or chilled, it makes a wonderful addition to an ice cream sundae or simply topped with whipped cream for quick dessert.


Tips for making Rhubarb Compote:

  • Make sure to dissolve all the sugar in warm water before adding any of the other ingredients.
  • Always use fresh squeeze orange juice for the best flavor.
  • The fruit will break down and get stringy while you cook.  Try not to mash it up too much with your spoon while stirring.
  • When separating the simple syrup from the compote through the mesh strainer, you want to leave some of the liquid in with the fruit.
  • For more information on how to pick and prepare rhubarb, click here.


Rhubarb Compote on Toast

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: approx 2 cups


  • 1 cup raw organic sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 4 cups rhubarb, washed and chopped into 1/2" sections
  • 2 pieces of toast


  1. In a heavy bottom pot, dissolve sugar in water over medium heat.
  2. Add rhubarb and orange juice. Bring liquid to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The rhubarb will start to soften and liquid will thicken. Remove from heat.
  4. Pour the rhubarb mixture through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Press gently on the fruit with the back of a spoon to help extract some extra syrup from the fruit.
  5. Transfer the remaining fruit compote to a bowl (see below for the remaining syrup).
  6. Toast and butter bread.
  7. Spread warm compote on toast as you would jam.
  8. Refrigerate remaining Rhubarb Compote for up to one week (and enjoy every day for breakfast!).


The syrup that is strained from the pulp makes the beautiful red simple syrup. Do not discard. Carefully transfer to a clean mason jar or sealed container and use in lemonade or on top of ice cream. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

rhubarb simple syrup

There are few things in this world that I love more that rhubarb.  It’s a funny looking fruit, with huge leaves and pinky-green stalks, that reminds me of celery.  Often overlooked unless you are a fan of Strawberry-Rhubarb pies and jams, it has a unique flavor that is not quite sweet and pretty tart in it’s raw state.

If you are not familiar with rhubarb, then this recipe is a great place to start.  Not only do you get an amazing Simple Syrup to add to summery drinks but you are left with a beautiful bowl of Rhubarb Compote that is perfect for spreading on toast or adding to your favorite dessert.

stalksPrime rhubarb season runs from April through late June.  I’m lucky because my parents live in northern Pennsylvania and have a HUGE rhubarb patch in their garden.  We get to pick and eat fresh rhubarb all summer long!  If you do not have a garden with rhubarb, fear not!  I regularly find it at my local Whole Foods, at at my neighborhood supermarket and even some farmers markets.

Tips for Picking and Storing Rhubarb:

  • Much like celery, you want to look for stalks that are firm and crisp.  Make sure they are not bruised or damaged.
  • If you are buying at a farmers market and the leaves are attached, make sure they are full of color and not browning or wilting.
  • If you grow your own rhubarb, break stalks off at the bottom, close to the base of the plant and discard the leaves .
  • Never eat the leaves.  They are actually toxic when digested so keep away from small children and pets.
  • The color of rhubarb varies from green to pinkish-red.  Unlike other fruit, the color variations do not indicate levels of sweetness.  There are only slight variations in flavor so don’t worry if you have a rainbow of colors in your mix.
  • Always wash stalks right before using.  Washing stalks before refrigerating will make them turn limp and soggy.


 Tips for making Rhubarb Simple Syrup:

  • Make sure to dissolve all the sugar in warm water before adding any of the other ingredients.
  • When the fruit cooks it will break down and get stringy.  Try not to mash it up too much with your spoon while stirring.
  • Don’t worry if you do not get all the liquid out of the Rhubarb Compote mixture at the end.  I actually prefer to leave a little bit of the syrup in the fruit for other recipes.  It makes a great topping for ice cream this way.

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 2 cups


  • 1 cup raw organic sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 4 cups rhubarb, washed and chopped into 1/2" sections


  1. In a heavy bottom pot, dissolve sugar in water over medium heat.
  2. Add rhubarb and orange juice. Bring liquid to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The rhubarb will start to soften and liquid will thicken. Remove from heat.
  4. Pour the rhubarb mixture through a fine mesh strainer and over a bowl. Press gently on the fruit with the back of a spoon to help extract more syrup from the fruit.
  5. The syrup will be warm so carefully transfer to a small mason jar or container and cork. Refrigerate for up to one month.


Once the syrup is separated, put the remaining fruit compote into a container and store in the fridge for up to one week.




Shrimp Tacos

Soft Taco

 “Don’t judge a taco by it’s price” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 

I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t like tacos.  They are quick make, easy to eat and super tasty.  While the origins of the taco are hard to pin down, the term “taco” can be traced back to the silver mines of Mexico in the 18th century.  Originally used to describe explosives wrapped in paper which were used to excavate silver ore, the word eventually became the name of the popular meal served to miners, a tortilla wrapped around meat filling.

Nowadays tacos can be both traditional or full of extreme ingredients and flavors.  From fast-food chains to high-end restaurants, chefs are pulling out all the stops to create exciting variations of this Mexican staple.

This recipe for Shrimp Tacos is full of fresh ingredients and bold flavors.  It works well in both hard or soft taco shells.  Slicing the onions and peppers, shredding the cheese, dicing tomatoes can all be done ahead of time to speed up the cooking time.

raw shrimp

Prepping the Shrimp: Start with one pound of whole shrimp (approximately 26-30 shrimp per pound).  Shrimp is typically frozen just after being caught, so using frozen shrimp vs. fresh shrimp will not affect the taste.  To defrost, leave shrimp in the refrigerator overnight.  If you are in a hurry, you can also put shrimp in colander and submerge in a bowl of cold water.  Let shrimp sit is cold water 15-20 minutes until thawed, changing the water half way through.

Once shrimp are thawed, you will need to peel and devein them.  If you are not sure how to do this, click here for a video showing the proper technique.  Make sure to rinse the shrimp in cold water and pat dry before tossing with seasoning.

taco mix 2

Shrimp Taco Seasoning Mix:  To make, you will need paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin, sea salt, ground pepper and maple sugar*.  Measure and whisk together all your dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Once the dry ingredients are blended together thoroughly, add Worcestershire sauce and whisk to create a thick paste.  Don’t worry if it is clumpy!  Just spoon the mixture into a gallon-size plastic bag and add shrimp.  Seal the bag and toss gently, making sure all the shrimp are covered in seasoning.  The moisture from the shrimp will help thin the paste and allows the spices to stick.

* I love maple sugar and believe it is a must have ingredient in any kitchen, but it is not available in all supermarkets.  If you can’t find it don’t despair- just substitute 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar into the dry ingredient mix and then add 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup with the Worcestershire sauce.  Keep an eye out for maple sugar at specialty markets and pick up for the next time.

You are now ready to cook!


Cooking: For the best results, use two skillets.  You want the flavor of each ingredients to stand out and the shrimp to have as much seasoning as possible.  Since they take more time to cook, start by sauteing your peppers and onions in a tablespoon grapeseed oil for about 5 minutes.  The vegetables will soften and the edges to start to brown.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, while you start on the shrimp.

Heat up a second (larger) skillet with 2 teaspoons of grapeseed oil.  Add the marinated shrimp and any extra spice mix from the bag.  Cook for 2 minutes on each side.  You will notice the shrimp turning white, indicating they are cooking.  Make sure to keep and eye on the shrimp and move them around so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  After 4 minutes, add the vegetables from your first pan and continue to saute for 2 more minutes.  The veggies will pick up any remaining spices from the bottom of pan for a subtle kick of flavor.

Taco standServe: Tacos can be messy which is why I love this taco rack from Crate and Barrel.  It makes prepping tacos a snap!  You can easily stuff, dress and serve them right from the rack.   Using a spoon or tongs, pile your warmed shells with some veggies, three shrimp a piece and garnish with diced tomatoes, cheese and cilantro.  The shrimp have so much flavor that you don’t need to add anything else.

Serve with a side of chips and guacamole  or a salad and enjoy!

Hard Taco


Shrimp Tacos

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4

Serving Size: 2 tacos per person


    For the Tacos
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined
  • 8 taco shells, soft or hard
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (for vegetables)
  • 2 teaspoon grapeseed oil (for shrimp)
  • Seasoning Rub
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Garnishes
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Rinse peeled and deveined shrimp and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together cumin, pepper, sea salt, maple sugar, red pepper flakes and paprika.
  4. Add Worcestershire sauce and whisk to create a thick paste.
  5. Put seasoning mix in a one-gallon plastic bag and add shrimp. Toss in bag until all shrimp are coated with seasoning.
  6. If using hard shell tacos, place shells on backing sheet and warm in oven for 6 mins.
  7. While shells are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil in a medium sized skillet. Add onions and peppers and saute until vegetables start to soften and edges are browning, approx 5 mins.
  8. In a second (larger) skillet, warm 1 1/2 teaspoons grapeseed oil. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes on each side. Shrimp will turn white and seasoning will start to blacken.
  9. After the shrimp have cooked for 4 minutes, add the peppers and onions to the shrimp skillet and continue to saute for an additional 2 minutes, lightly coating the vegetables with the seasoning mix. Remove from shrimp and vegetables from heat and transfer to a bowl to serve.
  10. Fill taco shell with a spoonful of onions and peppers. Top with 3-4 shrimp per shell. Sprinkle with diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and chopped cilantro.


*If you are using soft shell tacos, wrap shells in paper towel and warm in microwave for 30 seconds before serving. There is no need to turn on oven.

*If maple sugar is not available, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar into the dry mix and add 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup with the Worcestershire sauce.