Thursday, August 27, 2015

Turnip greens with chickpeas and tomatoes

We celebrated Husband's last year in his 20s with a "meat brunch" (his idea, not mine) over the weekend. The party was a fun, casual, backyard affair with meats of every variety and a few brunch standards as well. Husband learned a few new tricks on the smoker, and I learned that you can, in fact, have a meat-induced hangover. 

The menu was elaborate, but remarkably simple to pull together:
  • Biscuits and spicy sausage gravy
  • Smoked peri peri chicken thighs
  • Twice marinated garlic buffalo chicken wings
  • Smoked pulled pork
  • Turnip greens with chickpeas and tomatoes
  • Brown sugar and cayenne smoked bacon
  • Grilled corn pico de gallo
  • Hashbrown, pulled pork, salsa, smoked jalapeno, and cheddar casserole
  • Asparagus and mushroom pesto quiche
  • Grilled kielbasa 
As far as libations, we had a well-appointed bubbly bar for mimosas, bloody marys, and a few other liquors and mixers that we feel appropriate to serve in the morning. I made a poor showing as a food iphonographer, though, and only took three pictures (and not one picture that turned out well). 

The smoked peri peri chicken and grilled buffalo wings:

A random snapshot of some things on my counter. Fantastic. Anyone know any food photographers hiring an apprentice? Please send them this photo as indicative of my portfolio:

And the hashbrown, pulled pork, salsa, smoked jalapeno, and cheddar casserole: 

Honestly, this was one of the most impressive spreads we have ever done for a party. And it's also one of the only times I've ever completely forgotten to take pictures. Now that you've seen everything that we served (or at least read the menu), you may be somewhat disappointed that the recipe that I'm sharing today is the turnip greens with chickpeas and tomatoes. You might almost be as disappointed in the recipe choice as Mops apparently was with our guest list: 

Serious scowling going on in that photo. 

My contribution to this brunch was minimal. Husband wanted to showcase his skills on the smoker, and I happily obliged. I was a bit pouty the day before the party. I'm used to micromanaging fretting over portions and prep time. I am an apron-clad dictator of the kitchen, pounding my fist and barking edicts from my granite-topped podium. I thought I was invincible. I should have seen the coup coming. 

Power trips aside, I wasn't used to being the "side dish" cook. But, once relegated to the corner, I got over it and made this side dish inspired by a fantastic interview on NPR I heard the day before the party while running errands. Weekend Edition interviewed Caroline Randall Williams about healthy southern soul food cooking and I felt inspired by her words, although I have not yet seen any of her recipes. Her cookbook, Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family, is now on my "must read" list. 

This recipe makes a heaping pot of flavorful turnip greens with unique flavors like paprika, chickpeas, fresh tomatoes, and coconut milk. Due to the almost stew-like consistency, I recommend serving the greens in a small bowl if you're dishing them out as a side dish, or else you run the "risk" of your whole plate tasting like the rich, flavorful sauce. 

I plan to serve it during the winter over quinoa as a main course. The recipe can be made vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous. I used bacon in this version for a Southern comfort-food flavor. Simply omit the bacon and swap the half-and-half for coconut milk and you can take the dish to vegetarian or vegan. 

I'm not really sure how we will top this year's birthday party for Husband. As he appears to be slowly edging me out of the kitchen, maybe he'll have the whole party planned and I'll get an invitation in the mail. Humph.

Turnip greens with chickpeas and tomatoes
Serves 6-8

You will need:
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds turnip greens, coarsely chopped
  • 1 16-ounce chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 low sodium vegan bouillon cube
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half or coconut milk (or more; adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons each paprika and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun spice blend
  • 5 slices bacon, optional
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Heat a large pot to medium. Add coconut oil, garlic, and chopped onion. If using bacon, add chopped bacon slices.
  • Cook for five minutes, until onions are fragrant. Add tomatoes, bouillon cube, and chickpeas. Stir occasionally until bacon is fully cooked. 
  • Add turnip greens, lime juice, water, hot sauce (optional), and spices. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for about  fifteen minutes, then stir in coconut milk or half-and-half. 
    • For a more stew-like consistency, increase coconut milk to a full can.
  • Cook for an additional ten minutes, until greens are tender and the texture is consistent. Serve hot, with hot sauce on the side. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grilled Corn Pico de Gallo

There are some flavors that are inextricably linked to seasons. Pumpkin, for example, is a fall staple. Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and peppermint make me think of winter. Summer is the season of watermelon, and for me, grilled corn. 

Grilling corn until it is slightly charred adds phenomenal flavor depth to a vegetable that can be fairly bland without a little help in the taste department. You can also grill a large batch of corn at once if you want to use it in several recipes. It is easiest to slice it off of the cob while it is still warm, but you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days, then re-heat prior to using it. I don't recommend making the pico de gallo ahead of time. If you want to grill the corn in advance, just store it separately. 

Grilled corn is a delicious addition to pico de gallo. The sweet, slightly crunchy kernels add a pop of flavor and a different texture to the classic mix of bold jalapeno and onion and acidic tomato. 

I'm not the sort of home cook who has the time to prepare every component of a meal from scratch every evening. I buy some things, like garbanzo beans and black beans, in cans. But you have to draw the line somewhere, and in my kitchen, the line is corn. There's no comparing corn sliced off the cob and the canned stuff. Canned corn loses all of the sweet flavor and fantastic crunchy-outside-tender-inside texture that makes corn on the cob so tasty. The kernels become uniformly soft and salty (even in the "low sodium" cans). It's worth the extra slices of the knife to have the fresh stuff. 

Summer isn't just the season for fresh corn. It's also prime time to take pictures of Mops in the water. It's amazing to me that this strange little dog loves swimming. It's even more amazing to me how miserable she looks while in the process. Here's Mops at Steel Creek on the Buffalo River, just living her little dog life to the fullest: 

No one asked us why we brought our pet sloth to the river, but I could sense the question in the air. Or at least it should have been. 

Enough laughing at Mops for now. Back to the recipe. 

We enjoyed the grilled corn pico de gallo on top of grilled salmon at a recent "team dinner" evening with some friends. I developed the menu, planned the recipes, and printed out copies of both for every lady in attendance. We divided up cooking duties, put on our best aprons, and had a fantastic dinner on the table with more wine than stress involved in the process. 

Our menu for the evening started with fresh salsa (brought by a savvy gardener pal), guacamole, and a kale, toasted pecan, chevre, mango, and avocado salad with my jalapeno cilantro ranch. For our main course, we had grilled salmon with a lime butter sauce topped with grilled corn pico de gallo. Our side dishes were mashed sweet potatoes with feta, grilled squash, and grilled balsamic green bean bundles.

This recipe can be made almost entirely from vegetables that are currently in season. If you're like my mother, you can probably harvest everything without leaving the house. If you've somehow managed to kill every plant you've ever touched, you may prefer to head to your nearest farmer's market. By the way, my plant kill list so far includes both succulents and mint. Although both seemed to try very ardently to survive, my black thumb overpowered them in the end. Rest in peace, my little green friends. 

I think I may add sliced peaches to this recipe next time. Or maybe avocado? Any other ideas?

Grilled Corn Pico de Gallo
Yields 6 to 8 servings

You will need:
  • 1 large purple onion
  • 2-3 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 3 ears of corn
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun spice blend 
  • Set grill to medium heat. 
  • Pour olive oil onto a large plate or platter. Roll corn in olive oil and add cumin and Cajun spice blend. 
  • Grill corn for five to seven minutes, until slightly charred in some places. Remove from heat and let cool. 
  • Finely chop the onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add garlic salt and black pepper. 
  • When corn is cool enough to handle, slice kernels from the cob. Toss the corn in with the other ingredients to combine. 
  • Serve at room temperature. This dish is best when prepared immediately before serving. However, you can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day prior to serving. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Jalapeno Ranch Dressing

Two things I never thought I would love: jalapenos and ranch dressing. 

Two things my husband loves almost as much as his dog, his Yeti, and me (in no particular order): jalapenos and ranch dressing. 

As with many recipes on this blog, I come to them by trying to force myself to accommodate the fact that I married a human with his own inferior unique taste buds. I eat dinner with this human on a regular basis, and it seems only fair to make things that are mutually satisfying if I expect him to help with dishes afterwards

However, one fortuitous date night, we tried Chuy's jalapeno ranch dressing. It was at that point that I realized that I didn't actually hate either jalapenos or ranch dressing. I actually really, really liked them.  

By the way, this whole ranch debacle isn't the first time I've done a complete about-face on a strongly-held opinion. Years ago, I would describe myself as "not a dog person." Not to say that I hated dogs or anything like that, I adored my childhood dogs, I just didn't want anything to do with other people's dogs. I thought other dogs were both unhygienic and inconvenient; I didn't understand why my friends started voluntarily acquiring these living, drooling, obligations. As this blog very clearly documents, however, I am now just as strongly of the opinion that I am very much a dog person. Our current foster, Bojo, appears to be pleased that I have changed my mind on this issue (PS adopt him!):

But let's get back to this salad dressing business. I served the jalapeno ranch dressing on a kale salad with mango, toasted pecans, chevre, and avocado for a "ladies night" recently. We also enjoyed the leftovers "the old fashioned way" - i.e., with carrot sticks (for me) and veggie straws (for Husband).

Jalapeno Ranch Dressing
Yields 10-12 servings

You will need:
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt 
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives 
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 jalapenos, seeds and stem removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup milk (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • Place all ingredients in a food processor, except milk. 
  • Pulse until the dressing is smooth. Add milk gradually if the mixture is too thick. 
  • Chill until ready to use.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hale Yes Baked Beans

I'm just as surprised as you are to see a semi-homemade baked beans recipe gracing the posts of the Sparkle Kitchen. But bear with me. These are fantastic, and you will thank me later. 

The developers of this recipe, the Hales, have been making these baked beans forever. It's a finely-tuned camping staple that my family has enjoyed for years. The Hales are the kind of people who will show up early at your wedding, make a side dish, then party all night with smiles on their faces. They served these beans at our wedding, cooking them "low and slow" all night over coals in the firepit next to the lodge where we got married the next day. 

Since we make these beans from the comfort of our own house rather than on the side of a river, we modified the recipe slightly. We added smoked jalapenos. Smoking the jalapenos reduces the heat significantly, as does removing the seeds. The peppers are left with a distinct, smoky taste, but not a significant amount of heat. The texture combines well with the rest of the beans. 

After all of the ingredients are ready, heat the dish through to warm it up and help the flavors combine. I structured the recipe based on baking the beans in the oven. That said, we also sometimes cook the beans in the smoker on about 200 Fahrenheit. There is nothing "raw" in the dish by the time that it hits the oven or smoker. Using the smoker just adds an additional layer of flavor. It's certainly not a "must do" by any means, but if you have a smoker, give it a try. 

I think I may attempt to thoroughly gild the lily next time and add roasted sweet potatoes or butternut. Thoughts? 

Hale Yes Baked Beans
Serves 8-10 as a side dish

You will need:
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 28 ounce cans baked beans (we like Bush's Best Original Beans)
  • 1 pound spicy sausage
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 5 smoked jalapenos (if you are using fresh jalapenos, cut back to three).
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray's)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2-3 teaspoons hot sauce, optional
  • Dash cayenne
  • Preheat the oven to 275 Fahrenheit. 
  • Heat a large pot or cast iron skillet to medium-high. Add olive oil, garlic, and onion and stir for about three minutes. 
  • Add the sausage, ground beef, and bacon and cook until browned. Turn off heat. 
  • Finely chop the green bell pepper and the smoked jalapenos. Remove the seeds from the smoked jalapenos.
  • In a large oven-proof dish, combine beans, peppers, hot sauce (optional), cayenne, and contents of the skillet. Stir in barbecue sauce. 
  • Cook for one hour, until the dish is heated through. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Avocado-Cilantro Crema

Hosting is often labeled an "art", as in "the art of hosting" or "the art of entertaining." I would argue that hosting is better described as a "practice", much like either law or yoga, rather than an art. Practice, by the way, is defined as "repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it." Dinner parties, brunches with friends, even happy hour on a Tuesday - I relish the opportunity to invite guests over for any occasion. 

I started hosting elaborate, multi-course dinner parties in high school (thank you to my parents for cleaning and my guests for eating my barely edible food!) and I've refined my methods over the many years since then. One of the lessons I learned early on was that I could prevent unnecessary stress by making sure that guests were never actually waiting on me to eat something. There's nothing worse than being a mere fifteen minutes away from serving a dinner you know is going to be amazing and hearing your friends say that they're "starving". Pour that hungry guest a glass of wine (and pour yourself one while you're at it), force a smile, and point them over to the "arrival appetizer," as I like to call it, while you wrap up the meal you've worked so hard to prepare. 

When we entertain, I love to have a couple of appetizers set out for everyone to snack on. I take a break from working on the main course about thirty minutes before guests are supposed to arrive (to account for the blessed early birds) to set up my "arrival appetizer". Although it can be hard to tear yourself away when you feel like you're running short on time, believe me that the effort is worthwhile. 

Beyond lowering the host's blood pressure, a plated snack welcomes guests to your home and communicates that you're thrilled that they're joining you for dinner, even if you're cursing yourself for choosing a dish that requires you to pit a thousand cherries or sweating over a skillet. These dishes do not need to be anything elaborate - a couple types of cheeses, fruit, and sliced baguette is just fine. I prepared these grilled sweet potato rounds with an avocado-cilantro crema as my "arrival appetizer" when hosting a casual cookout-style dinner for our families and it went over well, so now I'm sharing it with the world. 

Appetizers like this are ideal for the summer months, when you're already firing up the grill and guests are mingling inside and outside. I think it would have been the perfect addition to our Fourth of July spread, except for the fact that my guilty pleasure is "red, white, and blue everything" on the Fourth. It's the only holiday that I like to celebrate with color-themed food. I don't do that with Christmas, Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, or any other holiday with a convenient color theme. But when it's July 4th, expect me to buy color-coordinated macarons:

And it's not just food. I also invest in patriotic bandanas (Mops hasn't forgiven me just yet): 

Now, back to these off-theme sweet potatoes. I've been proclaiming the virtues of grilled sweet potatoes for quite some time on this little blog, so I won't bore you with yet another ode to the slight crunch on the outside, the mellow, soft middle, and the earthy contrast of the skin (leave the skin on, people, just leave it on!). Instead, let's talk about the crema. 

The avocado-cilantro crema is a thick sauce with a foundation of Greek yogurt and sour cream. The Mexican-type flavor comes from a combination of ingredients used to make guacamole: avocado, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, lime juice, garlic, cumin, and cayenne. The creamy base tempers the heat and makes the dish taste deceptively indulgent, when it's really nutrient-packed and healthy. 

I'm going to use the crema again to top sandwiches (I'm thinking Cubanos), to drizzle on grilled salmon, as a salad dressing (how great would it be with grilled corn?!), and as dipping sauce for quesadillas. Any other inspiration? What else should I do to enhance my "practice" with this tasty sauce? 

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Avocado-Cilantro Crema
Serves six to eight as an appetizer

You will need:
  • Three medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, mashed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh jalapeno, very finely chopped, seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons purple onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Heat a large pot of water to boil. Cook potatoes for five to eight minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from water and let cool, then cut into thick (about 1/2 an inch) round slices. 
  • Heat grill to medium-high. Drizzle sweet potato rounds with olive oil and grill on each side for two to four minutes, until grill marks appear. 
  • Add sour cream, Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, mashed avocado, chopped jalapeno, chopped onions, garlic salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne (if using) and lime juice to a food processor and blend until smooth. 
  • Transfer crema to a plastic bag and chill until ready to use. When ready to serve, snip a corner out of the plastic bag and pipe onto grilled sweet potato rounds. 
  • Top sweet potatoes with extra cilantro as a garnish, if desired. 
The crema can be made a couple of days ahead of time. The flavors will intensify, but you may need to stir it up before piping it onto the sweet potatoes, as the water in the yogurt and sour cream may separate. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus Summer Salad

We celebrated Father's Day in the traditional way - with a multi-course meat dinner! It's a lot of fun having my parents and my in-laws in the same town. And when I say "fun," I mean we can celebrate holidays together, thus turning every minor event into a gourmet potluck. What other kind of fun is there?

This was also our first time to have people over to our new house for dinner. Husband and I teamed up to create an easy, casual meal that was just perfect to celebrate our dear-old-dads. Mops even donned a new party dress for the occasion. 

While I was busy torturing my small dog making appetizers, Husband handled chicken on the smoker (possibly the best smoked chicken I've ever tasted). He rubbed the chicken down with apple cider vinegar, then used our current favorite rub (Butt Rub - that's the real name, I promise), and garlic salt for flavor. He smoked the chicken - which included wings, breasts, thighs, and drumsticks (all skin-on, bone-in) at 200 Fahrenheit. It was fantastic. Look at the bark on that chicken! 

The chicken ended up stealing the show. But, I never let fear of overkill run my kitchen, do I? So, in addition to the chicken, we bought an array of locally-made sausages (some of my favorite flavors: blue cheese & black pepper, plus red wine & Parmesan). I made a dad-approved appetizer (my pimento cheese dip). On the side, we had my mother-in-law's squash casserole (I didn't even get a picture of it because it was so delicious that I couldn't take the time to arrange it nicely) and smoked baked beans (Husband's favorite). 

My mom - the undisputed Salad Queen of the South, someone get her a tiara - made a fantastic, garden-fresh salad with corn, basil, avocado, tomatoes, mango, and more. Although I love to make and eat salad, I lack her ingenuity. I could more appropriately be dubbed the "Girl Who Thinks Anything Served on Greens is Salad." 

Usually when I make salad, I draw from the esteemed "kitchen sink" school of thought. Is it produce? Add it to the salad. Sometimes, though, one of my salads is worth writing down for future use. This is one of those salads. I started out by marinating the shrimp for an hour in an Italian flavor blend (including basil-infused olive oil, which I didn't note below because it's not necessary at all - just a nice touch), and added some lemon juice and garlic to the asparagus. These two ingredients - the shrimp and the asparagus - are grilled to perfection, then are tossed with an interesting blend of fresh fruits (pineapple), vegetables (hearts of palm and radish), and greens (arugula and cilantro). I didn't make a proper salad dressing, I just drizzled white wine vinegar and more of my infused olive oil over the bowl and lightly tossed it all together. 

It's a perfect make-ahead dish that you can impress guests with at arrival to a summer dinner party. The shrimp and asparagus are great chilled. Just grill them, fix the salad, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until right before serving. 

Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus Summer Salad
Serves six as an appetizer / side salad

You will need:
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Italian spice blend
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup radish, finely chopped
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cup pineapple, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • One 14 ounce can hearts of palm, drained and rinsed, sliced into rings
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional ingredients to consider: fresh avocado, chickpeas, grilled corn, fresh basil, and roasted red peppers. 

  • Thaw shrimp to room temperature (if frozen). Prepare a marinade with 1/4 cup of olive oil (reserve the remaining olive oil), balsamic vinegar, and one teaspoon of minced fresh garlic. Marinate for at least one hour, or up to three hours. 
  • Prepare washed and trimmed asparagus for the grill by arranging in a single layer on a plate or tray, then drizzling with 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice, a bit of olive oil, and the remaining teaspoon of fresh garlic. 
  • Heat grill to medium-high heat and add shrimp and asparagus. Scatter Italian seasoning blend evenly over the shrimp and asparagus. Cook for about four minutes per side, until starting to brown, then turn over and cook for about three minutes. Remove from heat and place on a clean tray. 
  • Toss remaining vegetables in a large bowl. Add shrimp after it has cooled for a couple of minutes. 
  • Let asparagus cool slightly, then slice in thirds for more "bite sized" pieces and add to the salad bowl. 
  • Top with white wine vinegar, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine, then serve in a large bowl. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer Grill Inspiration

Late spring has ushered in days that start out chilly and tip dangerously close to hot during the afternoons. The long days are sunny into the early evenings and the intense rain is subsiding as we get ready for summer. 

It's at this exact time of year that I'm the most comfortable outside - if even for a brief few weeks. This is because the weather has warmed up enough that people have decided it's time to turn the thermostat down to about 65 degrees, such that every office, home, and restaurant feels slightly morgue-like. 

It's at this exact time of the year, coincidentally, that I switch from minimizing my exposure to the cold of winter and chill of early spring to minimizing my exposure to the cold indoors. As the thermostat pendulum swings into the warmer weather, I plot ways to spend as much time outside as it takes to cook dinner without working up a sweat. So, I have taken up the tongs and fired up the grill, with a t-shirt on while I'm outside and a hoodie at the ready for when I have to go back inside. Here are some of the things that I've been grilling lately for your inspiration:

Chicken Wings

These chicken wings had a great tangy flavor from the generous portion of red wine vinegar that I used in the marinade. The marinade is a blend of red wine vinegar, dry ranch seasoning, hot sauce, olive oil, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, and Cajun seasoning. 

I served these wings with grilled zucchini, bell pepper, and a few slices* (three each - I counted and weighed each portion carefully!) of marinated steak. 

*Pro tip: freeze individual portions of meat with different marinades, label carefully, and be a weeknight dinner hero with an effortless meal. 


Steak marinated with Worcestershire sauce, garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, a bit of brown sugar, and black pepper adds a delicious, savory flavor.

I went a different direction for a Mexican twist on steak with a marinade that was a blend of olive oil, lime juice, pureed cilantro and parsley, garlic, and Mexican hot sauce (my favorite is Tapatio). 

Chicken Breast

This chicken breast was marinated in soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, mustard, olive oil, garlic, black pepper, and honey. Right before cooking, I wrapped the chicken with thick-cut bacon and secured with a toothpick, then added a touch of cayenne to the bacon. I topped the chicken with some melted muenster for the last couple of minutes on the grill. 

Portobello Mushrooms

These stuffed, marinated portobello mushrooms are a bit less healthy, but are fantastic. The marinade is a mixture of white wine, basil-infused olive oil, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar with thyme, garlic salt, and oregano. 

The mushrooms are stuffed with sautéed zucchini and summer squash cooked in olive oil with finely shredded onions, chopped sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pesto, crushed red pepper flakes, and a mixture of chèvre and cream cheese. Set the filling aside, covered and wrapped, at room temperature while you cook the inside of the mushrooms. Spoon the filling in as the underside grills to perfection and heats the filling. 

I also used grilled portobello mushroom as the base for leftover smoked chicken, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and roasted cherry tomatoes. 


I made kebabs last weekend with jump shrimp, marinated steak, mushrooms, red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini, onions, and - wait for it - brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts cook really nicely on the grill and enhance their slightly bitter taste. 

And this kebab dinner has zucchini, yellow squash, steak, and cabbage. 

What are your favorite marinades and things to grill?