Crab Cakes with Mango Apple Salsa

I’ve been doing a lot of posts about the number three… three ways to make grilled cheese, three marinades for shrimp skewers…  I really like the number three. Today we’re getting back to a nice straight forward recipe. But guess what? There are three components! Today it’s crab cakes with mango apple salsa and a spicy remoulade sauce.

I’ve shared before that a big factor in my recipe posts is what I find on sale at the store. There’s nothing wrong with trying to save a little money! This week I found lump crab meat. I was psyched. I’ve been dying to take a stab at making crab cakes.

Yup, that’s right. I have never made crab cakes before. I’ve eaten them a lot, I’ve seen them made, I’ve skimmed some recipes… Basically, I knew how to make them, I just never did it. But I know what I like, and I cook what I like, and guess what? So I just kind of winged it, and it actually turned out pretty darn good.

Let’s start with the salsa and sauce first, because you can make these ahead of time.

  • 1 cup finely diced mango
  • 1 cup finely diced apple*
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. Combine mango, apple and scallion in a bowl. Add lime zest, lime juice and salt, tossing until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

*Use whatever kind of apple you want! I went with Fuji. Red apples in general tend to be sweeter, while green apples lean more towards tart, so pick whatever appeals to you.

  • 3/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 Tbsp pickled jalapeños, finely diced
  • 2 tsp pickling liquid
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth and well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Well, those parts were easy, huh? And I know, more mayo. I declared I hate mayo in my last post, but the disclaimer is I hate it on it’s own, just spread onto things. When I started cooking I realized how many sauces and dishes secretly had mayonaisse buried within them. I had been consuming it without even knowing. But if I find a big glob of the stuff on my sandwich, it’s going back. (I’m looking at you, Wendy’s.)

If you don’t want the sauce to be spicy, you can substitute the jalapeños with regular pickles. Or use a fresh jalapeño and regular pickle juice. I know I’m kind of a weirdo and not everyone has a jar of homemade picked peppers always on hand.

Onto the main event!

  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp mayonaisse
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 2-3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 8 oz lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped Hawaiian roll (about one roll)
  • 2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup canola oil for cooking
  1. In a bowl, whisk together egg, mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper, garlic, parsley and green onions. Gently stir in crab meat until combined. Add the bread and panko, slowly folding it in, until evenly distributed.
  2. Using your hands, form 4 patties (about the size of your palm). Try to keep them as uniform as possible. Sprinkle each pattie with a little salt and pepper. Place on a plate or pan lined with parchment paper, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. Cook patties in the skillet, about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. Don’t overcrowd the skillet, cook 1 or 2 at a time if you need to. Transfer to baking sheet or pan, and let them warm through in the oven for 3 minutes.
  4. Serve the crab cakes over the remoulade sauce with mango apple salsa on top, with an optional side of micro greens and a slice of lemon.

Crab cakes can kind of seem intimidating to make, but trust me, it’s pretty easy. Taking the time to make the homemade salsa and sauce also gives this dish a wow factor. I love when there’s a lot of different texture a flavors on a plate. The sweet, cool fruit is perfect top of the warm, soft crab cake. Then that little kick from the spicy remoulade just rounds it all out. It’s got a little bit of everything all in one bite.

I’m also going to pat myself on the back, because I think this is one of the prettiest plates of food I think I’ve ever made.

You can make the salsa and sauce the night before, the morning of, or even during that hour when the crab cakes are setting in the fridge. It’s definitely not as time consuming as you would think. All three parts to this recipe are essentially dumping everything in a bowl and stirring it up, and the actual cook time for the crab cakes is about 10 minutes.

A lot of crab cake recipes use butter crackers or plain bread crumbs. I like the idea of fresh bread to really soak up the flavor, and using Hawaiian rolls adds that buttery element. You could certainly use white bread or whatever you gave in the pantry. The addition of the panko bread crumbs was for that crispy texture the crackers would have provided.

These are great for an appetizer, but honestly, two of these guys were a pretty satisfying dinner for me. You could even skip the micro greens and do a heftier simple side salad to really give it the look of an entree.

The best part of this recipe for me? I have another container of crab meat still in my fridge. I have a feeling these crab cakes will be showing up again very soon on my dinner table. Let me know if you try this recipe out- tag me on Instagram or Twitter if you get a photo, or tell me about in the comments!

The Picky Gourmet Guide to Grilled Cheese

I thought today we could have a nice little chat about one of the most perfect meals ever created. From the pickiest of eaters to the most refined of palates, everyone loves a good grilled cheese sandwich. If you tell me you don’t like it, I’m going to call you a liar.

Like many people, I started really honing my sandwich making skills in college. Grilled cheese sandwiches became a staple when rushing between classes or after night out. Actually, they still are for me. My friends will tell you, if you end up at my place after the bar, I’ll most likely insist on making you one. And it will be damn good.

Here are my tips for the perfect grilled cheese:

1. When it comes to the bread, go simple. A big food trend over the last few years has been fancy schmancy bread choices- foccacia, pretzel buns, sourdough, cheese crusted, herb infused, multi grain, etc. I love all these, but I think there is still a place in the world for some good old fashioned white bread, and that place is a grilled cheese sandwich.

2. Skip butter. Go with mayonnaise. I KNOW some of you will say no way, no how, I hate mayo. Why? Because I hate mayo. Not a fan. Except when it’s cooked into the bread of a grilled cheese. It’s easier to spread evenly than butter is and it has a higher smoking point. This means your bread isn’t going to burn before your cheese melts and you’ll end up with a perfectly golden color all over.

3. Speaking of melty cheese- ideally I would say make your grilled cheese in a skillet that has a lid you can use. If you are using a flat top or griddle, use a metal bowl or make a dome out of tin foil if you have to. Covering it while cooking creates steam that melts the cheese quicker.

4. Experiment. I know, I said keep the bread simple. But go nuts on the filling! Use whatever you have around and stuff it in there. Most things go great with bread and cheese. Here are three of my favorite ideas:

Seasoned Tomato Slices, Basil & Mozzarella

Seasoning the tomato with salt and pepper really enhances the flavor. This is my all time favorite version of grilled cheese.

Caramelized Balsamic Onions, Blue Cheese & White American

I like the contrast of the sweet onions and the salty blue cheese. Bacon could be a great salt element in place of the blue cheese, but I don’t eat it. Try it out if you do!

Pickled Jalapeño, Banana Peppers & Cheddar Jack

This always makes think “picked a pair of pickled peppers”… You can get both already in a jar from the store or make your own. I love the heat from the Jalapeño paired with the sweet banana pepper.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with just a cheese sandwich either. That’s the beauty of it. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you’d like.

I know, it seems a little weird to devote a whole post to this, but even though I am a much more adventurous cook and eater these days, I still love my classic, comfortable staples. Not every meal has to be complicated or involved. Sometimes its nice to take something you already know how to make and have some fun with it.

What would you put in your perfect grilled cheese? Have you ever tried out a flavor combo that didn’t work at all? Let me know what you think.

End of Summer Shrimp Skewers

It’s September already? I always mixed emotions because on one hand it’s my birthday month, but on the other hand, summer is coming to end. Before it does, we have Labor Day weekend… AKA one more excuse to grill out.

One of my favorite things to grill is shrimp. I always show up to barbecues with containers of marinating shrimp to skewer and throw on the grill. I mean, everyone else always has hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salad covered… and since I don’t eat red meat, I like to give myself some more variety than just chicken wings and side dishes.

I love playing around with different flavors for the marinades, and here are my three favorites. For grilling, you want to use large or jumbo shrimp. I went with jumbo and each of these marinades works for about 10-12 shrimp. Obviously you can cut the amounts in half or double them, depending on how much food you want to make.


Top to bottom, #1, #2 & #3

#1 Sweet & Spicy

  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1 shallot, finely diced

#2 Lemon Garlic

  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • juice from 1 lemon (set aside)

#3 Teriyaki

  • 1/4 cup mirin/rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • pinch of salt & pepper

To make the shrimp, whisk the ingredients of the marinade together in a small bowl. (Except the lemon juice on recipe #2, the acid will start to cook the shrimp.) Place your tail on, deshelled, deveined shrimp into a ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Shake them around a little to make sure they are well coated. Refrigerate for about a half an hour.

Skewer the shrimp and cook them over medium heat, about 350 degrees, on the grill. Reserve the leftover marinade (and at this point, add the lemon juice to #2) to brush over the shrimp while it cooks. After a 2-3 minutes, flip the shrimp and brush on more marinade. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until opaque and cooked through.


Top to bottom, #1, #2 & #3

This is great to bring to a cook out because, like I said earlier, it’s different and it’s easy to transport. Once you have your marinade baggies all set, you can put them on ice or in a cooler and take them to the party. Easy clean up too, since all you have to do is toss out the bag.

I think it’s really fun to make two or three different flavors at the same time. People can try them all and pick their favorite. These little flavor bombs will really stand out from all the typical cook out dishes people expect.

Once summer ends, you can still get down on these. Use your grill pan and make them on the stove top. Serve them over some rice or stir-fried veggies for a really easy and fun meal.

I hope you all enjoy your last days of summer! Get outside and make them count. I know I will, I’ve actually got to wrap this up and head to a picnic today! Then in the next few weeks, I can start brainstorming fun fall recipes to share. Stay tuned!

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

It’s been a busy and stressful week. I’ve been trying to go through the motions to change over to my married name, which has been such a pain. I’m also elbow deep in wedding thank you cards and basically getting life in order in preparation for my husband’s next deployment. Long story short, I was feeling a little low on energy and creativity in the kitchen. So instead of coming up with a brand new recipe, I decided to perfect one of my favorites.

I LOVE buffalo chicken. (You may recall during Super Bowl season I posted what my friend loving refers to as my “three part buffalo saga”.) I also LOVE pizza. Who doesn’t? The only way these two things get any better is to put them together. Yup, it’s time for buffalo chicken pizza.

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp buffalo sauce
  • 14oz pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/8 cup caramelized onions*
  • 1 medium celery stalk, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Parmesan cheese to garnish
  1. Season chicken with garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. Place in a small pot or skillet and pour in 1/4 cup buffalo sauce, turning the chicken to coat. Cook over medium low heat, turning occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is easily shredded with a fork. Set shredded chicken aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the pizza dough on to a greased round baking pan. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, all the way to the edge.
  3. Spread marinara sauce onto the dough, leaving a half inch around the edge for the crust. Sprinkle on the mozzarella and top with the shredded chicken. Next, evenly distribute the onions, celery and carrots, and finish with the blue cheese crumbles. If you’d like, use the remaining Tbsp of buffalo sauce to drizzle and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over everything.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

*To carmelize an onion, combine 1 Tbsp of butter with 1 Tbsp olive oil over low heat in a sauce pan. Add a sliced onion (white or red) and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring often and scraping the pan, until they start to brown. Add a pinch of salt and deglaze the pan with 1 Tbsp of wine, vinegar or water, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Drain any excess liquid. You can use these immediately or save them in a jar for a couple days in the fridge. I used a a white onion and balsamic vinegar to add sweetness to the pizza.

I have made this a lot, in a lot of different ways, but yesterday I think I really nailed it. As I was “building” this version, I thought I may have gone overboard. There is a lot of toppings. Surprisingly, the dough really held up, making it much easier to eat that it make look.


I could have just stopped at sauce, cheese & chicken…

Since I made the shredded buffalo chicken and onions, I took a short cut and used the pizza dough that comes in the tube. No shame. This is a recipe you can do a lot of prep work for the day before or morning of, so when dinner time rolls around, you just have to assemble and cook.

I was also unsure of the carrots and celery. They aren’t exactly typical pizza toppings. “Hey, delivery please. I’ll have a large pie with pepperoni, mushrooms and… celery?” But when you have wings, what do you want on the side?


Toppings for daaaaays

I set out to make this taste as much like eating buffalo chicken wings as possible, but on a pizza. And it worked. Spicy chicken, sweet onions and tomato sauce, melty mozzarella, salty blue cheese and crunchy veggies all come together for the perfect bite. I don’t mean to brag, but I would rather make this recipe than order out. My taste testers (aka husband and friends) gave it rave reviews too.

I would love to see if you try this, or any Picky Gourmet recipes! Feel free to comment or find me on social media. I had some readers share photos of my ricotta stuffed chicken from the last post, and it makes me day to know people are enjoying my food. Happy cooking everyone!

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Chicken

I don’t eat red meat. I haven’t since I was probably about 4 or 5 years old. So needless to say, I eat a lot of chicken. The struggle with chicken (especially your standard boneless, skinless breast) is that you don’t want to undercook it, but in a matter of a minute or two, they overcook and dry out.

Also, my social media feed is always showing me click bait articles and food website features on how to be creative with “boring” chicken breast. I personally think chicken is extremely versatile, but maybe that’s just the mindset you develop when you don’t eat mammals.

Side note: I am not someone who judges or hates on red meat eaters. I’m not going to tell you not to. To each their own! Just don’t try and force me to eat a hamburger. Many have tried. All have failed.

This recipe came about when I was attempting to make homemade ravioli. I had the filling ready to go, and I screwed up the pasta. Well, crap. Now I have a bowl of stuffing and no vessel. So I grabbed something I always have on hand: my trusty boneless, skinless chicken breasts.


The before pic (at the head of the post) is much neater than the after pic

Yields 4 servings

For the ricotta filling:

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Combine ricotta, egg, minced garlic, chopped basil, oregano and Parmesan in a bowl and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Carefully slice into the side of each chicken breast horizontally, leaving 3 edges intact. It’s better to slowly make many shallow cuts until you have a good sized pocket so you don’t slice right through the breast.
  3. Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil onto a lined baking sheet. Combine garlic salt, dried basil and pepper and sprinkle half of the seasoning over all the chicken, on one side only.
  4. Stuff 3 or 4 spinach leaves into each breast, followed by as much of the ricotta mixture as you can, without it overflowing. Use 3 or 4 more spinach leaves to push the stuffing in and create a barrier. Secure the opening with 2 toothpicks.
  5. Place the seasoned side of the chicken face down on the oiled baking sheet. Drizzle the chicken with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes and let rest for 2-5 minutes. Remove toothpicks and serve.

This is a recipe that’s fairly simple since it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, but it will require you to get your hands dirty. Make sure you have paper towels and hand sanitizer near by, because you are going to really have to get all up in that raw chicken. Also, if you are using wooden toothpicks, soak them in water for at least 10 minutes so they don’t burn up in the oven.

When I tested this recipe, I served it with asparagus that I sautéed with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and the zest and juice of a lemon. Today I went make it again, so I could actually take notes and write the recipe, and I realized the rest of my asparagus had started to go bad. So today, it was mashed potatoes on the side! You could really pair this with whatever you like or have on hand.


My first attempt, with asparagus

I love this recipe because the chicken actually cooks faster and more evenly since its been sliced almost all the way through. The ricotta filling keeps the inside moist and tender through the baking process as well. Trust me, it’s going to look a hot mess when it comes out, because the filling is going to seep out a little. It’s not the prettiest dish, but it’s delicious, and that’s all that counts sometimes.

Most likely, you will have leftover ricotta filling. Keep it for a couple days. You can do what I did and make the chicken a couple times with different sides, or use it in stuffed pasta or a lasagna dish. Just stir it into some more ricotta to stretch it. Whatever you use it for, remember there’s egg in it, so you need to cook it.

Don’t write off chicken as a boring dinner. It’s blank canvas for thousands of meals if you get creative. Sometimes you just need to think outside the box… Or in this case, inside.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken & Spinach

OK friends, it’s going to be a short and sweet recipe post today. I have a busy week with a guest coming to town and then I’ll be spending the holiday weekend in Las Vegas (woo hoo!). When I know I’m leaving town, I don’t like to go grocery shopping and end up with a bunch of food I can’t make in time. Instead I like to clean out the fridge and use food that would otherwise be bad when I return from my trip. I had heavy cream, spinach and fresh rosemary on hand which was screaming to me “fettuccine alfredo!”

Pasta always lends itself to a quick and easy meal. I don’t like to use jarred sauces though. Homemade just tastes so much better. I love making alfredo sauce because it uses only a few pretty standard pantry items that I always have around, like butter and grated parmesan cheese. I also literally always have pasta in the cupboard. I’ve tried a lot of combinations and it took quite a while to figure what I think is my perfect alfredo sauce recipe. I had it down, but then yesterday, I think I made it even better. The addition of spinach and rosemary that I needed to use or lose took it to a new level.

Yields two (big!) servings.

  • 8 oz fettuccine
  • 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  1. Cook pasta until al dente and set aside. You can do this ahead of time or while you are making the sauce.
  2. Heat canola oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken with garlic powder and a pinch of salt & pepper. Cook chicken for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until cooked through. (If you have to cut it in half to fit into the pan, do so. You want to use a pan you can make sauce in, so avoid a skillet.) Remove from heat, slice into bite size pieces and set aside.
  3. Leave the oil and brown bits in the pan and add the butter. Let it melt over medium-low heat and use a metal spoon or spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped spinach and rosemary and stir for a minute until the spinach starts to wilt.
  4. Add cream, garlic, lemon pepper & salt. Let it come to a low boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce starts to thicken.
  5. Add the parmesan while on low heat, then bring it to medium. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat, return the chicken to the sauce, then the pasta, and toss until well incorporated. Serve immediately.

If you can’t fit all the chicken and pasta in the sauce pan, you can pour the sauce over everything in your drained pasta pot. I just prefer only getting one pot all sauced up.

My husband wasn’t too excited about the spinach at first, but with all that creamy, cheesy sauce, he was happy in the end. The spinach adds a nice little texture to the dish, and it’s a simple way to get some extra greens in. It almost makes fettucine alfredo a health food! (A girl can dream…)

The biggest secret for my recipe is using the same pan for the chicken and the sauce. All those brown bits and juices that get incorporated into the butter as the base of the sauce create so much flavor. Between that and the rosemary, the finished dish actually has a faint scent of a whole roasted chicken. I feel like a lot of restaurants just throw in bland, unseasoned chicken in with their pasta and hope the sauce covers it up. My way has everything working together, and it’s pretty darn tasty. My wary husband actually said this was the best fettucine alfredo I had ever made.


Ready for the close up

Like I said in the recipe, this makes two big bowls. For a table of 3 or 4 people, you could actually just add a second chicken breast to bulk it up a bit, then serve this in smaller portions with a salad and garlic bread. Feel free to double up the recipe if you have a big family, just know that this isn’t great for leftovers, so I try not to make more than I need at a time. You can absolutely save it, it will be fine, but fettucine alfredo is always best right off of the stove because the sauce separates over time and loses its creamy texture.

Let me know if you try out this, or any other Picky Gourmet recipes. I love seeing pictures and getting feedback! I hope everyone has a great 4th of July weekend. I know I will. Make sure to follow me on Instagram & Twitter to see my foodie adventures in Vegas!

We All Scream For Banana Ice Cream

I’ve mentioned before, summer is here and I am obsessed with fruits. I’ve been using them in all types of dishes. When I have a lot leftover, I freeze them to keep for smoothies and such. Actually, my go-to morning meal is a smoothie bowl topped with fresh fruit and things like shaved coconut, granola and flaxseed. I love posting my breakfast creations on Instagram, they are some of my most popular pics.

Be sure to follow @thepickygourmet!

This past week my husband was out of town and I ended up buying a little more than I needed for the week. Long story short, I had a lot of bananas I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat and were starting to brown. So I peeled them and froze them, without any plan of what to use them for.

I try to keep snacks to a minimum. I used to graze all day but now I try to stick to just meal times and one snack or treat a day. I try to keep things like yogurt cups and homemade salsas in the fridge and avoid packing the pantry with temptations. It helps me from picking at things all day (you know when you eat, just because you are bored?) and I don’t end up with a bunch of half full boxes and bags of stale snacks that we never finish.

A big problem for my husband and I was ice cream. He buys a carton on a whim, I buy a carton on a whim, and we end up with three or four kinds of ice cream at a time in the freezer, that we forget about. So when I was craving a snack last week, I remembered my frozen bananas and how I heard you can make “ice cream” out of them. I had three frozen, peeled, chopped bananas and I could have used a food processor to make a big batch, but I wanted to experiment. I actually used my NutriBullet to make myself individual servings and over three days, I tried out three different flavor combinations

Shaved coconut, vanilla & cinnamon. I used one banana with about a 1/4 cup of shaved coconut and a couple drops of vanilla extract and blended it together. Then I added a couple teaspoons of ground cinnamon and pulsed until it was incorporated. I garnished with some more shaved coconut and some cinnamon sticks (just for presentation, really.)


Strawberries & mini marshmallows. This time I blended the banana first and then added 3 sliced strawberries and about 1/8 cup of mini marshmallows. I didn’t want to chop them up too much, so just a couple pulses to get them mixed in was all it took. I also garnished with both ingredients. I wished I had some graham crackers to add to make this like a strawberry cheesecake kind of deal, but I’ll try it next time!


Mint, chocolate chips & cocoa powder. I blended the banana with 1/8 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips and some fresh mint leaves. Then I added a tsp of cocoa powder at the end, because I tasted it and wanted a little more chocolate flavor. The chocolate chips added a great texture though, and I garnished with a few more of those and some mint.

The best part of this is you can taste as you go and add some more if you need to. I started off with a little coconut in the first batch and ended up throwing some more in, just like I added the cocoa powder to the last one. My advice is to start with a little and build on it if you need to. One banana is perfect for a serving, so keep that in mind if you are making this for a group. I personally love that I can make just enough for myself, and then tomorrow I can make something different. No need to commit to a whole carton.

Actually I take it back, the real best part is eating it. It is so creamy and delicious, just like real ice cream. Whether you use a NutriBullet like me or a food processor, you will need to have a rubber spatula on hand to occasionally stop blending and push it all off the sides. Have patience, because the more you blend it, the better it gets.

This is the perfect summer treat. Easy to make, refreshing and healthy- it doesn’t get much better than that. There’s also an infinite amount of possibilities for mixing in other flavors. What would you add to your banana ice cream? Let me know, or even better, try it out! (And then let me know!)

Taco Tuesday Two Ways

Fun fact: Taco Tuesday was supposedly a promotion created by Wyoming based fast food chain Taco John’s in the 1980’s. I’m not exactly sure how it got so popular, because everyone has heard of Taco Tuesday. I only just heard about Taco John’s when I drove through the plains states and saw signs for them last September. Whatever the reason, you are bound to see a couple #tacotuesday pictures or statuses on social media once a week.

I’ve got a lot of directions to give, so I’m going to keep the introduction really brief. I wanted to do a taco post, so I played around with a couple ideas one day. I ended up with two different dishes, using similar ingredients, that were both so good I couldn’t decide between them. Before I get to those recipes, there are two components I made beforehand and used in both.

Pickled Jalapenos

Now these are optional. My husband and I like spicy food, so we benefit from having a jar of these in the fridge. If spicy is not your thing, you can skip this.

To make these, combine 1 cup of water and 1 cup of white or rice vinegar in a sauce pan. Add 3 Tbsps of sugar, 1 Tbsp of salt, 2 crushed garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Stir in 10-12 jalapeños (sliced, seeds and all), remove from heat and let it rest for about 15 minutes. The jalapeños will start turning a darker, more olive green color. Using tongs, stuff a mason jar as tightly as possible with the jalapeño slices and then pour the pickling liquid over the peppers. Cover and refrigerate.

Mango Salsa

I’m going to be honest, Whole Foods had mangoes on sale last week. They were in my last recipe as well. It’s summer and I am really into using fruits in everything lately.

You can make this salsa in a flash by simply combining 1 finely diced mango, 2-3 finely diced Roma tomatoes and 1/2 of a red onion, you guessed it, finely diced, in a bowl. Then zest and juice a lime, add to the salsa and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate.

Now it’s taco time!

Fried Shrimp Tacos

Yields 4 tacos

  • 4 small flour tortillas
  • 12 large shrimp, cleaned & deveined, tails removed
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup mango salsa
  • 1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
  • fresh cilantro, lime & pickled jalapeños for garnish
  •  salt & pepper for garnish
  1. Combine buttermilk, cayenne, garlic & paprika in a bowl. Add shrimp, tossing to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
  2. Char the tortillas over a gas burner or warm in the oven on low heat. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a fryer or pot to 375 degrees. Set up a dredging station with the shrimp in one bowl, the egg wash in a second, and the panko bread crumbs in a third. Dip the buttermilk soaked shrimp in the bread crumbs, then the egg wash, then the bread crumbs again. Fry for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the mango salsa between the tortillas and top with queso fresco and pickled jalapeños (if desired). Lay 3 fried shrimp on each taco, garnish with cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

This was my initial idea for this blog post. Shrimp tacos are my favorite, but I had never tried making them fried before. The shrimp were so crunchy from the panko, it was a great contrast with the fresh salsa. If you want a little extra creaminess, a dollop of sour cream or guacamole would be amazing. I just tried to keep it light and simple since the protein was deep fried.

So as if those weren’t enough, I also noticed scallops on sale. I really don’t work with them a lot, but I thought why not? I knew I would have leftover mango salsa from the tacos, so I decided to do a second dish. I used some of the same ingredients, but in a different enough way that you could serve them together on Taco Tuesday, or for back to back week night dinners.

Spicy Scallop Tostadas 

Yields 4 tostadas

  • 4 small flour tortillas
  • 8-12 scallops
  • 1 tsp lemon peppoer
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup mango salsa
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1-2 Tbsp hot sauce
  • lime & pickled jalapeños for garnish
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Heat oil in a fryer or large pot to 350 degrees. Fry tortillas one or two at a time, for about 5 minutes, flipping once, until golden brown & crispy. Place on paper towels to drain and set aside.
  2. Combine lemon pepper, ginger, chili & garlic in a bowl. Warm a skillet with a little oil over medium heat. Roll the scallops in the spice mixture then place in the skillet. Sear for 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
  3. While the scallops cook, divide the mango salsa onto the fried tortillas. Stir together sour cream & hot sauce to taste in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Place 2-3 scallops on each tortilla, on top of the salsa. Garnish with the sour cream mixture, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a pinch of salt & pepper, and pickled jalapeños (if desired).

I hate buying a bunch of stuff for one dinner and then having all this extra food. These recipes have the mango salsa, tortillas, lime and (optional) pickled jalapeños in common. You can even reuse the frying oil for both.

The way these two dishes compliment each other, you could mix them up. Imagine the shrimp, scallops, salsa and garnishes all displayed with the choice of fried or warmed tortillas like a build your own buffet. Add your own favorite proteins or toppings, if seafood isn’t up your alley. Throw in a pitcher of margaritas and call it the best Taco Tuesday your friends have ever seen.

Tacos. Perfect for a party. Perfect for a week night family meal. No wonder so many people reserve one night a week for them. Let me know what your think, or if you have any fun Taco Tuesday rituals or recipes you love!

Sweet & Spicy Grilled Chicken

Grilling out goes with summer the way peanut butter goes with jelly. When I was a kid though, I hated cook outs. I don’t eat red meat (honestly almost never have), so I was obviously not a fan of blackened hot dogs and hamburgers. Anything else on the grill I didn’t trust because it probably was “contaminated” by beef. Cook out meals for me were usually some potato chips and maybe a piece of corn on the cob. Not very exciting.

Now that I’m no longer a kid and can cook for myself, the grill is no longer the enemy. I make sure burgers have their own designated area because I am still a little weird about it, but most of my loved ones don’t complain about it.

I really like thinking outside of the box when it comes to grilling. Not everything has to be barbecue sauce, ketchup and mustard. The other day I stumbled upon a list of fruits that are great for grilling and I saw pineapple. My gears started turning and I decided to try a dish that sounds more like it comes from a take out menu than a cook out: sweet and spicy grilled chicken!

Yields 2-4 servings

  • 5-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut to 1 inch pieces
  • mango, cut to 1 inch pieces
  • pineapple, cut to 1 inch pieces
  1. Cut the chicken into chunks. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, sriracha, ginger and sugar. Add chicken and toss to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  2. Heat your grill (or stove top grill pan) to medium heat. Thread the chicken, bell pepper, pineapple and mango on separate skewers.
  3. Place the chicken and bell pepper skewers on the grill over direct heat and brush both with reserved chicken marinade. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Move the chicken and peppers to indirect heat, and place the pineapple and mango skewers over direct heat. Brush all skewers with marinade and cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked through and the peppers and fruit start to char, remove the skewers and serve immediately over white rice.

OK. Confession. I don’t have a grill right now. I used a stove top grill pan. It actually works really well, and it’s a great option if you live in an apartment or don’t have space for a real grill.We’ve all had versions of sweet and sour chicken, mango chicken, pineapple chicken, whatever. This has all the taste of a take out meal, but with this extra boost from grilling. The carmelization on the fruit from cooking it on that direct heat really brings the flavor to another level.

The marinade unifies all the components. The fruits aren’t too sweet, the chicken isn’t too spicy. Just don’t use the reserve marinade as a sauce at the end, since it had raw chicken in it. Only use it for cooking. Trust me, the pineapple and the chicken thighs are juicy enough that you don’t need to drown this in sauce.I used separate skewers for each ingredient because I wanted to make sure it all cooked evenly. Having colorful, mixed kabobs is a more interesting presentation, but I served this up off the skewer. The serving sizes are a little vague in the recipe above, but I had a large skewer of each ingredient and it was more than enough for two servings. Use that rule of thumb if you want to make this for a crowd.

I hope this inspires you to try something different at your next cook out! This recipe is really quick and just as easy as prepping a burger. Cheers to a summer full of fun and food!

Muffin Pan Party Hacks

Hellooooo summer! I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. Mine was great: mini golfing, happy hour, quality time with my guy and a big surprise birthday party/cook out for a friend. Most people I know kicked off the weekend of summer with a party and there will be plenty more between now and Labor Day.

It got me thinking about easy ways to feed a crowd, besides a package of hot dogs and a bag of chips. The best kind of food for a party is something people can just grab and go. Individual portions, cute presentation, easy transportation… It all brought me to my muffin pan. Here’s three ideas I have, and trust me, they aren’t muffins.

Baked Mac & Cheese

If you are headed to a cook out, you can pretty much expect a big bowl of slimy pasta salad, sitting out in the sun all day. But if you were going to an authentic barbecue spot, you’d be served warm, gooey mac & cheese.

I started by making a big batch of macaroni and a sauce of cheddar cheese, milk & butter. Use whatever recipe you like or you can make the kind out of the box if you want to keep it even simpler. I lined the muffin pan with cupcake liners and sprayed them all with a little cooking spray. Fill the cups with the pasta, making sure you don’t go over the rim. Then I mixed equal parts Italian bread crumbs & Parmesan cheese, with a dash of Cajun seasoning, and sprinkled it over the top of each cup.

At this point, you could cover with foil if you are traveling somewhere. All it takes to finish these up is to bake them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’d love to see how they turn out by putting the pan on the grill. The pasta is cooked, so it’s really just about getting that bread crumb topping crunchy & golden.

What you get is an adorable side dish that’s so easy to serve. It stays contained and doesn’t spread all over the plate. It’s so easy, but guests will be so impressed. They are great for dinner at home too, because they help with portion control and kids will love them.

Mini Calzones

These probably aren’t the first thing I would think of for a cook out, but a rainy summer day? A game night with friends? A casual pot luck dinner? These will blow everyone’s minds.

I used store bought pizza dough, the kind that comes in a 13 oz tube. I needed two of them. I divided it equally into a dozen parts and flattened them into circles. At this point, you can stuff these however you’d like. I made three kinds.

  • Mozzarella, fresh basil & pesto
  • Cheddar, bacon & pickled jalapeño
  • Mozzarella, spinach, carmelized onion & blue cheese crumbles

Put the ingredients in the center of a dough circle, then carefully stretch the edges over the stuffings and pinch together. Place seam side down in a greased muffin pan. Brush the top of each calzone with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan (or garlic powder, or Italian seasoning, or all three!). Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

I served mine with some marinara (great for the pesto) and ranch dressing (great for the bacon/jalapeño) to dip. The spinach/onion ones were so creamy from the two cheeses inside, I didn’t bother to dip those in anything at all!

These were so delicious and a huge hit all around. I still recommend a fork and knife, but my husband dove right in and ate it by hand. Just beware of molten hot cheese! These also keep in the fridge really well for a couple days, so you could totally make these ahead of time and reheat them.

French Toast Cups

This is kind of a French toast/bread pudding mash up. Everyone loves French toast, everyone can make it, but this is a fun, new way to present a classic.

I used cinnamon raisin bread and cut it into small, uniform cubes. Then I whisked together a tradional French toast batter of milk, eggs, sugar & vanilla in a large bowl and added the bread cubes. Let them soak for about 5-10 minutes, stirring a couple times to make sure they all get saturated. Place the mixture into a greased muffin pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I serve mine with maple syrup and a little powdered sugar.

This is awesome for a breakfast or brunch with friends and family. French toast can be messy and tedious, because you can only cook a couple pieces of bread at a time on the stove top. This way everyone has a perfectly sized, perfectly warm helping of French toast at the same time. You could even plastic wrap the pan and travel with it before baking it off. I had leftovers, and reheated them later at night, topped with some cinnamon ice cream. Yum! Double duty, breakfast & dessert!

I hope you try some of these tricks out. They are three well-loved and familiar recipes, simply scaled down to, well, muffin size. I promise these will be the star of your summer gatherings. Do you have any ideas for a creative muffin pan hack? Let me know.

Party on!