Pan Seared Salmon with Arugula and Avocado

Simple ingredients come together super quick in this recipe. The flavors of the peppery arugula, the buttery salmon and the acidic dressing, play very well together. Definitely a weeknight dinner to put on repeat.

I used Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar in lieu of Parmesan, just because I wanted to. The addition of mustard to a vinaigrette acts as an emulsifier, and keeps the oil and vinegar together with a creamy consistency. Don’t forget to season your vinaigrette before dressing your greens.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 Salmon filets, preferably wild

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cups baby arugula

1 tablespoons fresh juice from 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving

1 tsp Dijon mustard

crumbled parmesan cheese (or any sharp cheese that you prefer)

1/2 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 tomato, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

 Pat the salmon filets dry with a paper towel. Season on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add salmon filets skin side-down. Immediately reduce heat to medium, medium low depending on your stove. Cook, pressing gently on back of filets to ensure good contact with skin, until skin is rendered and crisp, about 6 minutes. If skin shows resistance when attempting to lift with a spatula, allow it to continue to cook until it lifts easily.

While the first side of the salmon cooks, whisk lemon juice, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the mustard in small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Flip salmon and cook on second side for another minute or two, or to your desired doneness. I like my salmon close to medium rare/medium at 125 to 130 degrees.

Plate the arugula and top with avocado and tomatoes, dress with the vinaigrette. Crumble on your chosen cheese, place salmon on bed of salad and serve with lemon wedge.

Enjoy!

*Double recipe for 4 servings

Brown Buttered Scampi with Parmesan Cauliflower Puree

Does the original scampi recipe call for wine? I want to say no, and that we (cooks) added that later on in life, but I have no idea. I didn’t use wine in this recipe, just butter, garlic and some lemon. This dish comes together quickly and with only a handful of ingredients, most of it being fat, dairy and garlic, you’re welcome.

While I steamed my chopped cauliflower, I let the shrimp hang out in a bowl with olive oil, minced garlic, crushed red paper flakes, a teaspoon of lemon zest, salt and a tad of honey. I also started my browned butter. All I did for that was place the butter and garlic in a small fry pan over medium heat. After a few minutes, the butter starts to foam. Then it will begin to turn brown and begin to smell nutty, just keep an eye on it to not burn the garlic, take it off of the heat when you like what you see.

Once the cauliflower is fork tender, drain and toss into your food processor. Add some salt, to taste, about 1/4 cup of cream or half n half, two tablespoons of melted butter and about 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese and puree. Taste and taste and taste again, I find that cauliflower, like potatoes always need more salt than we think. You can let that hang out in the processor until you are ready to serve, so it stays warm.

Meanwhile, heat a large-ish skillet over medium high heat and add a little olive oil. Toss in your shrimp and let cook for about 1 minute and when they start to get a little brown, flip and cook the other side for another 20-30 seconds or until cooked through.

Spread your cauliflower puree on a plate, top with shrimp and drizzle with that heavenly browned garlic butter. I garnished with micro parsley.

Dinner is served in under 30 minutes but now you have to find someone else to do the dishes because quick doesn’t always mean easy.

Lemon Talk

Our lemon tree is in full produce mode. I’ve always wanted a lemon tree for those moments when you randomly need a lemon but don’t have one. You know, maybe you decided to make a piccata dish or you wanted to make pesto. All you need is one lemon and clearly you don’t want to go to the store for one damn lemon, right? I used to visualize the neighborhood and picture which homes had lemon trees and then I may have helped myself to a lemon or two in a time of need (the tree would be in the front yard, I wasn’t hopping any fences you guys). Now that I have said lemon tree, I never have to buy lemons, but I’ve realized that I don’t use them very often.

The lemon tree was staring back at me probably wondering why I was neglecting it, I felt bad.

There is only so much you can do with an abundance of lemons. Lemonade, lemon bars, lemon cakes, lemon meringue pie, the list goes on. We still had cream cheese frosting in the fridge from Kaili’s birthday cake and I had puff pastry in the freezer, I didn’t see the harm in making lemon curd and then turn those three things into a lemon cream cheese danish.

This is the recipe I used to make the lemon curd.

INGREDIENTS

4 large egg yolks 

2/3 cup  granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2–3 lemons)

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons  butter, softened

 If you have a double boiler then pull that out. If not, like me, simply place a small heatproof glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water you will cook the curd in the top pot/bowl. Place on high heat. Once the water begins to boil, reduce to low heat to keep the water at a simmer.

Place egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt into the top pot of your double boiler. Using a whisk, whisk until completely blended, then continue to whisk as the curd cooks. Constant whisking prevents the egg yolks from curdling. Whisk and cook until the mixture becomes thick, resembling the texture of hollandaise sauce, about 10 minutes. If curd isn’t thickening, turn up the heat and constantly whisk.

Remove pan from heat. Cut the butter into 6 separate pieces, then whisk into the curd. The butter will melt from the heat of the curd. Pour curd into a jar or bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top so it is touching the top of the curd. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Once cool, the plastic wrap can be removed.

This can stay in the fridge for about 10 days.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When it comes to Tortilla soup, there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to make it. You like what you like and as the master of your own kitchen, you get to decide how you want it. Tomatoeyy, creamyy, brothyy, chunkyy. I personally like a silky broth with bits of chicken and then topped with avocado, tortilla strips and cilantro. So that is what is what we have here.

I took a can of diced tomatoes, 3 garlic cloves diced, one small onion diced, and a diced serrano chili, and heated them in a pan with some olive oil. Once they were glistening like you are bathing in the Mexican sun, I tossed them into a blender, added 2 corn tortillas and 2 cups of chicken broth and pureed until smooth. I poured the blender mixture into my dutch oven over medium high heat. Next, I added 2 tablespoon of taco seasoning, and one more cup of chicken broth. I let that hang out for a few minutes and then threw in about 1 1/2 cup of shredded rotisserie chicken and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. The key is to keep tasting the soup as it cooks. Does it need salt, spice, acid? You are the only one who can answer that.

I added a tablespoon of sour cream and a 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro. Then I tasted it again for seasoning.

If you like what you have, ladle into bowls and garnish with avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, cilantro, a squeeze of lime and jalapeños if you like it spicy!

It’s good, multiple meals worthy of good. For someone who doesn’t love leftovers (raises hand), this one is solid.

Triple Lemon Cake

Lucious lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting and candied lemons, you’re welcome.

This cake is so good, I am actually contemplating making it again, right now. That will be dinner for the week, just this cake and two forks. It might happen.

*NOTE This recipe makes three 8 inch round cake pans worth of cake. I used two 8 inch and one 6 inch cake pan, I had batter leftover.

I used this recipe for the candied lemons.

Once they air dried, I started the cake.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups AP flour

1 Tablespoon baking power

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup softened butter

1 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk, at room temperature

1 heaping Tablespoon lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

1/3 cup  fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

LEMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 pound cream cheese, room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups), sifted

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon), plus 4 teaspoons juice

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F Grease or spray three 8 inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then spray the parchment paper. Can never be too sure.

 Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a mixer of your choice, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be a little thick.

Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 19-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. 

Let the cakes cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting and try not to eat it all .

Using the same mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and sugar until smooth, about 5 minutes. Beat in lemon zest and juice.

*Can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days. Stir until smooth before using.

ASSEMBLE

Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Feed scraps to children who wont stop asking for cake. Evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Decorate with candied lemons and refrigerate for a good 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Twisty Pig

I don’t know why twisting bacon before cooking it changes the flavor and the texture, but it does and it’s delicious.

If you sprinkle some brown sugar on the bacon before cooking, you’ll never want bacon any other way again.

I actually made a little mixture of brown sugar, nutmeg, garlic powder and cayenne pepper then slightly dredged each piece of bacon in that seasoning before twisting. We may or may not have had this two nights in a row, paired with burrata and arugula.

We had a family day at the Galaxy game. We’ve been spoiled with amazing seats the last few times we’ve gone. I don’t know how we are going to adjust to going back to regular old seating.

Are anyone else’s children hooked on Turning Red? Ours are obsessed with one of the songs, they get home from school and go up to their rooms and belt it out. It’s also shower material. One minute it was all about Bruno and now it’s 4 town and birthday party decor.

I can appreciate a movie about PMS and a girls first period. Especially with a house full of females. Sigh, good times ahead.

The older two girls had a school field trip to the Opera. The school busses took them downtown to the Civic Center to see Romeo and Juliet in Italian. There were english subtitles so the kids could follow along. They were dropped off at school around 4:30 and didn’t get home until 10:00. It was a new experience for them and they had a great time. I can’t believe how old they are getting.

We wrapped up the week with an amazing USMNT game, a 5-1 win! The girls broke in the S’mores maker a couple of times, and we watched parts of the Academy Awards.

Did it win? We didn’t get that far.

Birthday Banana Cream Pie Semi-Fail

The birthday was a success. The pie, not so much.

The girls helped me fill 48 balloons for the birthday girl.

Possibly inhaling helium here and there.

I went back and forth on a banana cream pie recipe. I love watching Bon Appetit’s From the Test Kitchen Series. One of the chefs Chris does a segment called Reverse Engineering. The premise is… a fellow chef picks a recipe, I’ll use Gordon Ramsey’s Beef Wellington for an example. Chris gets to taste and touch the original dish but he’s blindfolded. Once he has an idea of what it is, he sets off to the store to grab the ingredients to make it. Back at the kitchen he attempts the first run, then he grades himself. He gets another stab at it, tasting the original, goes back to the store, yada yada yada. His third attempt is his final result. The chef that challenged him comes and compares the two dishes. Overall he does very well and it’s fun and I enjoy watching this experiment. Why did I explain all of this to you, well I chose his banana cream pie recipe. I figured his magnificent palate wouldn’t steer me wrong. His recipe had a twist on the original graham cracker crust recipe, he threw some salted peanuts to the mix. I decided to go for it, why not, peanut butter and banana goooooood. That was my first mistake. The peanuts completely over powered any graham cracker flavor. Good, yes, what I wanted, no. My second mistake was that the bananas weren’t ripe enough. I knew this while I was making it, the bananas weren’t banana-ee enough. I stood in the kitchen contemplating adding a little banana pudding mix to the vanilla pudding I had just made from scratch, then decided against it, that was my final mistake. Anyway, the end result was fine, did it taste like banana cream pie, no, did I love it? Also no. So, now we have a pie in the fridge that will most likely meet its demise in the trash later.

What lesson did I learn? Always trust your instincts!

Goes to show, just because I like a cooking show, doesn’t mean I will like the shows results.

I leave you with this absolutely amazing video. I die laughing every time I see it.

Summer Shrimp Spring Rolls

Each time I make these, whether I use avocado or switch it up and add fresh mango instead, I can’t believe how good they are. So deliciously fresh with the bright flavors of the herbs. I tell myself that I am going to put it on menu rotation. Then I don’t, because life… But that really isn’t a reason, so I will do better.

I found that prepping all the ingredients and assembling the rolls earlier in the day is the way to go. Cover with a damp towel, put them in the fridge and then dinner is literally waiting for you.

Chrissy suggests serving these with a Thai sweet chili sauce and a hoisin sauce. BUT, the key to these rolls is Mrs. Teigen’s peanut sauce. You see, this peanut sauce is one of the best I have ever had, and it’s super easy to make. You shouldn’t have these rolls without the peanut sauce, but you can have the peanut sauce without the rolls, you can have the sauce with anything. I find fingers pair well, cold noodles pair well and spoons definitely pair well.

Ingredients for Summer Rolls
4 to 6 red leaf lettuce leaves
8 medium shrimp, peeled (fresh or frozen (thawed))
salt
1 ounce Asian vermicelli or rice noodles
8 large or 16 small basil leaves
8 large or 16 small mint leaves
1 medium carrot, cut into 3-inch long julienne strips
1 avocado thinly sliced
8 (8-inch) round rice paper wrappers (you can find in most supermarkets with the Asian food)

Ingredients for Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 packed light brown sugar

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoon of Sriracha

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

If you are going to have the peanut sauce with the summer rolls, then start there. Add all of the sauce ingredients into your handy dandy blender or I like to use the magic bullet blender. After blending and tasting for seasoning, put it in the fridge until serving time. When that time comes, use warm water to thin the sauce to your liking.

For the Rolls:

Rinse the lettuce leaves and pat dry. Remove and discard the center ribs then slice in half so you end up with 16, about 3 inch long pieces. 

Fill a saucepan halfway with water and salt the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low, take the shrimp out of the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon and rinse with cold water, pat dry. Cut off the tails and slice lengthwise.

Place the rice noodles in the pot of still hot water to soften. Cook until soft. Remove and rinse in a colander under cold water. 

Create a workspace lined up with lettuce, herbs, carrots, avocado, shrimp and rice noodles. Fill a clean skillet or shallow bowl with warm water to soak the rice papers. Arrange a damp towel on your workspace. One at a time, dunk the rice papers into the warm water to soften. Remove from the water and run under cool water. They easily stick together, so the cool water is a good time to unstick them from themselves. Lay flat on the damp towel.

To assemble: place 2-3 shrimp halves pink side down about 1/3 from the bottom, layer over mint and basil, then avocado, then carrots, rice noodles, then lettuce leaves. Roll up like a burrito by pulling up the bottom, tucking in the sides, then rolling till the end. The rice paper will stick together sealing it shut. Repeat with remaining rice papers. 

If you aren’t serving these immediately, place them on a damp towel, and cover with a damp towel. They are fine hanging out in the fridge until you are ready. Serve with peanut sauce and Thai chili sauce.

Food and Music

I made a Thai Branzino recipe the other night and the results were so worth dicing 15 cloves of garlic.

The girls and I ran into our 99 Ranch Market for the fish, shrimp chips, pocky and green tea cookies… oh and a papaya that no one will touch but me. They don’t know what they’re missing.

I also found these rice crackers. I don’t know what they are called but from the picture we can guess.

I bought a variety pack for the girls, Shayne was the only taker and she loved them so we bought more.
This flavor (let’s call it chili) is really good. Not too spicy, sort of sweet….like a sweet and soy flavor with a tad of spice. Long story short, I need to buy more, I may have eaten them while the girls slept.

I also jumped on Dave Matthews Band tickets that went on sale Sunday, no hesitation. That is exciting, so very exciting. Kaili said that she wanted to go with us. I told her, the day she actually wants to listen to DMB, I’ll gladly take her to a concert. Then she followed up by asking me to take her to see BTS. The time is coming that we will be taking our tweens to a concert, what happened to these babies?

Speaking of music, I heard this song for the first time since, well before I had those babies, I am sure. I love Jason Mraz, I used to listen to this album every day.

Gouda and I watched the USWNT team win the She Believes Cup, and then the Galaxy won their season home opener.

Exciting soccer season ahead of us, I can’t believe it’s World Cup year. We are definitely wanting to watch a match in Vegas from the new downtown sports casino, who’s in?

Galentine’s Day

We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no no!

I don’t even have the girls today and that song has been stuck on repeat in my head all.damn.day. Have you seen Encanto yet? It’s cute, I enjoyed it and I enjoy it when it’s on. The girls like to watch all the You Tube families recreate that song, which I have to admit, always grabs my attention.

This one is my favorite.

But seriously, where do these people get the time to create these elaborate videos? I was asking Kaili, what do you think all of their neighbors think when they see them all singing and dancing in the middle of the street? Lol.

Sorry if you’re singing it all night.

How was everyone’s Valentines day?

We had a nice day. The girls made their class small valentine bags. Kaili gave them each a mini Kawaii Mochi squishy and candy. Averi gave them each a zipper fidget bracelet and candy.

I forced them to take kissy pictures.

I can NOT believe how big they are getting.

I will forever recreate these pictures, even if I have to fly across the world to surprise them in college just for a kissy face picture.

Babe got me some Adidas soccer slip on sandals, and lava filled dark chocolate Hershey Kisses that are so good.
For dinner, we got fancy and ate King crab legs and mushroom risotto on a towel in front of the television while watching Big Brother and Love is Blind 2.

Guilty pleasures all around.

Let me know if you want this mushroom risotto recipe, I took the easy way out and baked it.

Happy belated Lovers Days!