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!

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!)

My Favorite Kitchen Toys, Part 2

It has been so long since I last posted. I’m at my family’s home in Massachusetts prepping for my wedding (under 2 weeks away, yikes!) and time is just flying. I’ve been so busy it’s been hard to keep up, but I decided I needed to take a break, relax and write a little. So it’s time for the second installment of my favorite kitchen toys

Today it’s two totally different gadgets. One is big, messy and only for special occasions and the other is small, simple and used often in my house. It’s the deep fryer and the spiralizer!

Let’s start small with the spiralizer. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about healthy pasta alternatives and also posted a recipe, both featuring zucchini noodles. That’s definitely what I use this tool for the most. I also love it for making fresh slaw, cutting veggies uniformly for salads and stir frys, and for potatoes… I’ll get back to the potatoes.

The spiralizer I have is plastic and retails for about $25. It’s kind of a pain in the butt to clean because it has to be done by hand, but it does come with three blade options, and so far, it’s done its job well.

Someday I’d like to invest in the Kitchenaid attachment for my mixer, but that retails for around $100. The advantage would be it having more blade options, it would take up less cabinet space and it’s metal, so dishwasher safe. Not to hate on the one I bought. It’s still fun to use and I pull it out about once a week for one thing or another.

Next is the deep fryer. I got this for Christmas a few years ago, and have to say, it’s a lot of fun. We pull this out only a few times a year, because it can be kind of a mess and a hassle to clean up. Mine retails for around $60, which isn’t too bad considering this is not an every day tool.

Usually this gadget comes out because I love to make fried chicken. You can always pan fry on the stove top, but with a fryer like this you can actually cook a whole chicken (broken down) at one time. Here’s some legs and wings from last time:

Oil tempature is a key factor and it’s a lot easier to monitor on a digital fryer than using a thermometer in a pan. Remember to always use canola, vegetable or peanut oil because of the high smoking point. Don’t waste your olive oil on this.

Speaking of oil, you can always reuse. It takes a lot to fill up the fryer, so you don’t want to just dump it right away. My fryer has an airtight cover, so sometimes I just leave it for a few days and have some more fun with it. It’s important to strain in after each use though, you don’t want food particles left behind to burn. You can also store used, strained oil in the fridge to use later.

After fried chicken night, I plan for a couple more ways to use my fryer over the next week or so. Usually I go for snacks or sides, because unfortunately eating fried chicken three times a week isn’t the best meal plan. Since it has a generous basket, I love making things like onion rings or fries that would be harder to do in a pan. Which leads me to my last couple deep frying experiments…

I’m sitting around one day and I have oil, and I have potatoes, and then I see my spiralizer. The wheels start turning. Normally for fries, I just hand cut them into large wedges. But I decided to try making curly fries. It didn’t exactly work.

I used the thick spiral, the green one in the middle, but they still came out very thin a delicate. But I soaked them (always soak cut potatoes in water for at least 30 minutes before frying), let them dry thoroughly, and fried them anyway. I tossed them in some Cajun seasoning right after they came out and what I got was really more of a topping than a side dish. They were these crispy little potato straws what would be amazing on a burger, a piece of chicken or even on a salad for some crunch. Not what I intended, but definitely something to keep in mind for a dish down the road.

So then I tried putting another potato through the spiralizer, this time using the orange piece, the straight blade. I got this long, wide, thin ribbon and I realized this would be great as a potato chip.

I ripped it into (for lack of a better measurement) chip sized pieces. Soaked, dried, fried. Then I drizzled them with some truffle oil, garlic and Parmesan. WOW. Here’s a shot of the finished chips and the potato strings.

Not a bad little afternoon snack, huh? I love playing around in the kitchen and ending up with something delicious. I just wish my deep fryer was ready to go all the time. I do plan on trying the chip recipe baked in the oven to see how it goes for a more weeknight friendly side. I’ll let you know how that goes when I get back to California and my toys.

I’ll try to get back to a weekly schedule of blog posts again. I knew getting ready for a wedding was going to be a busy time, but I really underestimated the amount of downtime I would get. Between planning and catching up with old friends (and hitting up my favorite restaurants from my old stomping grounds), it’s a miracle I got this done!

Do any of you use these tools? What can you not live without in the kitchen? I’d love to hear. Until next time, happy cooking!

Making the Most of Leftover Roast Chicken

I’m sure a lot of you had a big Easter feast on Sunday and will be living off the leftovers for a few days. I really, really hope you had ham, because next weekend you should try out my roast chicken recipe from my last post. Then your week will be full of delicious leftover transformations again!

I hate wasting food. At the same time, I’m not always in the mood to eat the same thing three days in a row. Unlike pasta or a casserole, a whole chicken has endless possibilities. I’ll show you how I used my leftovers this week, so let’s start where my last post ended.

The bird is broken down into two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks and two wings. Eat your share along with the veggies, get nice and full, lounge around and watch some TV, then when your energy returns, get back into the kitchen. Take whatever wasn’t eaten and start cutting the meat off the bones into strips. Get it in tupperware and into the fridge for tomorrow.

Do not throw away the bones and the rest of the carcass. We bought the whole thing, we cooked the whole thing, we are using the whole thing. Remove whatever was stuffed inside the chicken, put what’s left into your biggest pot and fill it with water until it’s submerged. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed, especially with the feature photo, it’s time to make homemade chicken stock.

This is fun because you can really put whatever your want in the pot to make broth. Essentially you want:

  1. Vegetables. I used celery and red onion. Usually you would go for a white or yellow onion, but I was all out. Carrot is usually a staple too. But yeah, I was out. I cooked everything for dinner and forgot to leave some for the stock! It didn’t hurt the finished product though.
  2. Herbs, seasonings, aromatics. I added fresh sprigs of thyme, about a Tbsp of black peppercorns and a half of a bulb of garlic. Don’t forget some salt as well. Rosemary, parsley, oregano, whatever herbs you need to get rid of could be used, just don’t over do it. Stick to one or two, preferably coinciding with what you seasoned your chicken with initially.
  3. Acid. This will help break down the chicken carcass, as well as brighten up the flavor. I used a whole lemon, sliced in half. You could also use vinegar, whatever you have around. White wine, apple cider, etc.

Place everything you want to add into the water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for at least two hours, stirring occasionally.

Now it’s time to strain it. I personally use this pasta pot with a strainer. I can easily lift out the solids to throw away. Then I take a piece of cheese cloth and attach it to the lid of a plastic quart container with a rubber band. Using a ladle, I carefully pour the stock through the cloth to catch the last of the food particles, leaving a clear, smooth broth in the container. You can store this in the fridge for about 3 days, or the freezer for  about 3 months.

So the bones of the chicken have been put to good use and now you have a bunch of shredded chicken in the fridge. Here’s my three favorite ways to use it.

My first dish to recycle the chicken is a salad.

This is a great on-the-go option to take to work. I threw together some chopped romaine, red onion, pickled banana peppers and blue cheese crumbles. Topped with a handful of chicken strips and drizzled with some olive oil or your favorite dressing, this is a quick and beautiful weekday lunch. Of course you don’t have to make it exactly I did, use whatever you like or have on hand.

For a heartier option, maybe for dinner, make some chicken sandwiches. Quickly sauté some chicken in buffalo or barbecue sauce, just to heat it though. Then grab some buns, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ranch, mayo, whatever you like and you’ll have a great meal in a matter of minutes. I wish I had a photo for this, but sometimes you are so ready to eat you forget to take one!

My last idea is great for a lunch at home, and again, it’s quick and easy. Make some quesadillas!

I used a Mexican blend of shredded cheese, fresh chopped jalapeños, red onion, a little fresh chopped cilantro and of course, the chicken. You can chop the chicken more finely if the pieces you have are too big. I like to use two small tortillas rather than fold it over. I put all my ingredients evenly on one, place it in the hot skillet, then top it with the second tortilla. Once the cheese begins to melt, it holds the quesadilla together and makes it easy to flip. I always serve mine with a little sour cream on the side.

All these options have options, how cool is that? Once the chicken is gone, I am always so sad. I want to make another one, because it makes lunch and dinner so easy for the next few days! Like I said in my previous post, a little work on the weekend makes for a few days of 5-10 minute meals.  It’s a great way to clear out your fridge and make something delicious at the same time. What are some other fun ways you like to use leftovers?

Trying New Things

I text my husband “what do you want for dinner?” He replies “to be honest, I’m in the mood for gnocchi. maybe with some pesto?” I say “no problem”.

I’ve never made gnocchi. But I like a challenge. Here are my tips for trying a new recipe:

  1. If you’ve never eaten it, don’t make it. How can a dish be successful if you’re not sure what the outcome is supposed to be? My husband is a gnocchi freak and orders it at Italian restaurants all the time. I don’t ever choose it for myself, but we always share plates so I knew the texture, flavor and look I was trying to achieve.
  2. If you don’t have the correct tools and ingredients, don’t do it. In this case, I didn’t have a way to properly prep potatoes (say that 5 times fast) so I opted for the ricotta gnocchi route. But make sure you find a recipe you can follow exactly. If it’s your first try, it’s not the time to to be substituting ingredients and improvising.
  3. Always have a back up. I’ve made homemade pesto before so I was confident in that, but I totally grabbed a package of cheese ravioli from the store in case this all went to hell.

They weren’t the prettiest, but it was delicious and blew my husband’s mind. I also had plenty of gnocchi leftover to freeze, so I can try again soon with a different sauce.

The funny thing is, anyone who knew me when I was young would never expect me to be writing a food blog. Or writing a post entitled “trying new things.”

I was an extremely picky eater thoughout my childhood and adolescence. There were years of my life that I basically only ate pizza, chicken tenders, fries, baked potatoes, yogurt and bread. I remember being embarrassed that my parents would ask, and even pay extra, for the waiter at the local Italian restaurant to go next door and get me fries. I remember pigging out before sleepovers so I wouldn’t be hungry when everyone else was eating food I was scared of. I remember any time I did attempt to try something new, everyone staring at me, waiting to see what I said and usually being disappointed in my negative reaction.

I got a little better in high school, but still avoided eating in public and having to explain all my self inflicted limitations. My turning point was the college cafeteria. I realized no one knew I was a picky eater unless I told them. So I didn’t. I went to lunch alone a couple times a week and used that time to try things. Then sophomore year I moved off campus and had my own space to cook and eat. No one was there to roll their eyes or sigh when I didn’t like something. No one made a big deal when I ate something new and liked it. It was like a weight being lifted.

So fast forward. I’m nearly 30, and I love food. What was once my enemy is now my passion. I’m still a little picky, hence the title, but I’m no longer scared of food and new things. The one big obstacle is that I have not eaten red meat since I was a toddler, and can’t see myself doing so in the future. Well, unless I’m at a bar and someone orders cheese fries… I’m not opposed to a couple bacon bits when I’ve been drinking.

So that’s the story behind The Picky Gourmet. I’m excited to have started this blog and I’m excited to learn new things and eat good food. Hope you all enjoy!


{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

Healthy Pasta

I am obsessed with pasta. Between that and pizza, it’s safe to say if I had to choose one cuisine for the rest of my life it would be Italian. I’ve even joked that if I could change my last name to whatever I wanted, it would be Mozzarella. (Actually, I wasn’t joking. I so would.) But I digress!

The sad truth is that too much pasta isn’t the healthiest of diet plans. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a healthy home chef, but it’s nice to have some alternatives. Here’s a countdown of my top three favorites:

Number 3: Spaghetti squash. While delicious, they can be a little daunting. To cook them you have to cut them in half lengthwise (carefully, they can be hard to get through), scoop out the seeds and roast for about 30-45 minutes. It becomes tender enough to scrape the “meat” of the squash into strands that resemble angel hair pasta. Bonus! You can use the shell of the squash as a bowl and top with sauce, cheese and whatever else you like. Easy clean up!

Number 2: Whole wheat pasta. Essentially the same as any boxed pasta you would normally make. The color is a little darker, the texture is a little less tender but dressed up with sauce and veggies the taste is great. A cup of whole wheat pasta can have around 25% of your daily fiber, not to mention more vitamins and less calories than the regular pasta. Bonus! This is as easy as skipping the regular pasta at the grocery and picking up a different box. Same preparation.

Number 1: I think you can guess by the photo. Zoodles! Zucchini noodles are my new obsession. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables as it is. In noodle form, they only take a couple minutes to cook and come out beautifully tender. Zoodles also have like NO calories. OK, about 30 calories per medium zucchini. You can manually cut noodles with a veggie peeler or splurge a bit and get a spiralizer like I did. Bonus! The spiralizer is so fun! Also zoodles can last in the fridge for 3-5 days in an airtight container. Sometimes when I have leftovers, a couple days later I will make a dish and use less whole wheat pasta than the recipe calls for and add the zoodles for the last two minutes of cook time. Half whole wheat pasta, half zucchini, all delicious.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a recipe using my beloved zoodles. stay tuned!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}