Grilled Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Neither my husband or I grew up eating Brussels sprouts, so we just assumed we did not like them much.   This was true up until a few years ago, when I decided why not, let’s give these a try and see what they are all about.  I am so glad I did too.  Now we eat them quite frequently, in many different ways.  Our newest way to eat them was marinated in balsamic vinegar and grilled.  Yummy!  A Quick, Impromptu Dinner with Friends

Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous  or Crucifarae family, also known as the Brassicaceae family, which also includes cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables.  They are very nutritious and there are many health benefits to having a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables.  They are loaded with all kinds of vitamins, and are very high in vitamin C.  One 1/2 cup serving of cooked Brussels sprouts can provide up to 81% of your daily intake of vitamin C.   Not only are Brussels sprouts high in vitamin C, but they also contain a large amount of antioxidants and fiber.  Antioxidants are known to reduce the stress in cells, which helps lower the risks of chronic diseases, and is also known to help fight against cancer.  Because fiber moves through the body very slowly and undigested, having a diet rich in fibers helps to lower the amount of sugar absorbed in the bloodstream and regulates insulin production.  It is also believed that Brussels sprouts contain anti-inflammatory properties as well.

These simple ingredients really made the Brussels sprouts come to life.  I had a little extra balsamic vinaigrette leftover from before and added that too.  But, mostly it was salt & pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

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This is so easy to make.  I cut the Brussels sprouts in half and tossed them with all the ingredients, then placed them in a vegetable basket for grilling small or delicate vegetables.  We grilled them for about 20-25 minutes, flipping them over after about 10 minutes.

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There was just a hint of sweetness to the flavor because of the balsamic vinegar.  These are super easy to make and really delicious too, not to mention very healthy as well.

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A Quick, Impromptu Dinner with Friends

We had the unexpected pleasure of having some good friends stop by just as I was starting to prepare dinner.  It is just as easy to cook for four as it is for two, so instead of setting up only two chairs outside on the deck, we set up four.  When the four of us get together, we always have a great time.  The time just passes by quickly and we never stop talking.  And usually, the wine flows pretty freely as well.   We opened up a bottle of Albarino wine that we bought when we were in Virginia, back in May.  Virginia Ranks #5 in Grape Production for the United States  Our friends Janet and Bob are wine lovers like I am, and we had wanted to share this bottle with them ever since we got back, we just had not had the opportunity to do so until now.   Along with our wine, we had a cool, fresh Mediterranean meal that consisted of a spicy lemon-herb grilled chicken, topped with my yogurt sauce (yes, we had a bit leftover from the other day, but it is all gone now – Gyros with Brisket), vegetable cous-cous, grilled Brussel sprouts in balsamic vinaigrette and warmed pita bread.   It was a cool night, with hardly any bugs, which made it a perfect evening to enjoy out on the deck with good friends, good food and good wine.  I love these quick, impromptu get togethers.  Often times, these are the most fun.

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My marinade was made with garlic, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, thyme, basil and lemon verbena.  I mixed it all together and let the chicken marinate for about 2 1/2 hours before grilling it.  Like how I cook most of the time, I don’t really measure things, I just cook by instinct, and eyeball how much of things I need to use.  The chicken was very tender and full flavor.

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Grilled spicy lemon-herb chicken, grilled Brussel sprouts in balsamic vinaigrette, yogurt sauce, vegetable cous-cous, Albarino white wine.

 

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Spicy Lemon-Herb Chicken

1 heaping TBSP garlic

1-2 tsp each, parsley, basil, thyme, lemon verbena (optional), chopped fine if fresh or dried

1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 tsp each salt & pepper

3 TBSP lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

1-2 lbs chicken

 

Mix all the ingredients together and pour over the chicken.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours.  Then grill the chicken until it is done.

 

 

Last of the Leftovers

WHOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!  We have finally finished off all the leftovers we had from our little gathering last week.  Lots of Leftovers They were all delicious, but I am really glad to start cooking first-overs again.  The last of the leftovers was the smoked pork.  We made it into sliders the first time around, and the second time around, I used it as an Asian stir-fry.  My refrigerator is now empty and all the leftovers are gone, so it is time to fill it up again, with more yummy, delicious first-over foods.  I wish I could lose all the weight that I have gained as fast as I can get rid of all the leftovers. That just isn’t happening nearly fast enough, unfortunately, but that’s another story for another day.

This was our smoked pork when we first took it off the smoker.  This, like everything else we served, was very tasty, so we were not going to let it go to waste, although unfortunately, all this food is quickly going to my waist.  From this, we shredded it and used it for sliders first, and from sliders, it became an Asian stir-fry with a lot of vegetables.

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This is one of those meals that just kind of grew from using a little bit of this and a little bit of that, which allowed me to use up all the leftovers I had and empty out my refrigerator.  I added my leftover pork along with the left over sweet potatoes that I sliced thin; a little extra of both red and green bell peppers, sliced into thin strips; and some green beans, mushrooms, onions, garlic, ginger, basil and lemon verbena (from my backyard).  Once everything was cooked, I added some leftover soy-ginger vinaigrette/marinade Seared Ahi Tuna Salad for my sauce, served it over rice with some Asian dumplings, and voila, dinner was done.

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Cooking my vegetables.  Saute the hardier vegetables first, like the sweet potatoes, green beans and bell peppers then once those are soft and tender, add the rest of the vegetables and the garlic and ginger and continue to cook until they are all done.  This is one of those meals that I really emphasize using what you like and using what your have.

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Since the pork was already cooked, all I had to do was add it after the vegetables were cooked and then I added my soy-ginger vinaigrette/marinade mixed with a little corn starch to thicken it up, and cooked it all for about another 7-10 minutes.  After everything was cooked, I added the basil and the lemon verbena and mixed them in well with the rest of the stir-fry.

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Once everything was done, I served it over rice, added some cooked Asian dumplings and topped it off with a bit more basil and lemon verbena for my garnish.  Then I finished it all off with a cool, crisp chardonnay that had hints of apples, citrus and melon that accompanied the meal very well.   But the best part …… all the leftovers are now done and have been recreated, eaten and enjoyed as something totally new and different from what they were as first-overs.

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Soy Ginger Vinaigrette/Marinade

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

1/3 cup soy sauce

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/3 cup rice vinegar

2-3 TBSP honey

1/3-1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup olive oil.

2 tsp fresh bail, chopped fine.

 

Whisk everything together and chill until ready to use.

Gifts From the Heart

My dear friend Priscilla, whom I have known since I was 12, had a birthday.  We have known each other most of our lives, so birthdays are most special when we just get together and have a good time enjoying each other’s company.  But this time, I made her day really special.  I made her gifts, and they all came from the heart, and to us, those are always the best kinds of gifts.   Everything I gave her I made especially for her.  Priscilla loves to cook and appreciates good food and wine just like I do.  I made her the lavender truffles, Time for Truffles although she did not know that at the time I posted about them.  They were a big hit.  I also bottled the wine as well.  The wine came from our favorite winery here in Colorado, InVINtions, A Creative Winery, located in Greenwood Village, down in the Southern Denver Metro area.   It was one of their red blends, but we bottled it and it is our label (if you look closely, it is my dog Vinnie on the label, also enjoying his glass of wine).  I also painted this fun whimsical picture for Priscilla as well.  My creativity has been blossoming in many different areas lately.  There was definitely a theme of wine and chocolate going on; two of my favorite things.

IMG_2956‘We had a girls’ night out, since our husbands went out on their own too.  This doesn’t happen too much anymore, so we took full advantage of our girls’ night out and had a great time.  After Priscilla opened her presents, we went our for dinner to a fun Cuban restaurant in nearby Louisville, CO.  The restaurant was called Coabana, and you can contact them at Coabana.net.  Neither of us was hungry enough for a full dinner, so we chose a fabulous selection of tapas and sangria.

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Even though we thought we were dining light, and split everything, there was still a ton of food. Because it was all so delicious, of course, we had to eat as much of it as we could.  From left to right, we had shrimp ceviche with avocados and pickled onions, served with grilled plantains or tostones; croquettas de pescado or fish croquettes; lamb empanadas with a roasted red pepper and habanero sauce and chips and salsa.  The atmosphere was fun and festive and very colorful.  It was like a little bit of Havana right here in the North Denver Metro area.  I really recommend Coabana.  The food is traditional Cubano style food.  The atmosphere was fun and colorful.  And the service was very good and very friendly.  You can tell by the smile on Priscilla’s face that we had a very enjoyable evening and dinner, and I hope she had a very happy birthday too.

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Gyros with Brisket

Believe it or not, we have actually used all of the beef brisket we had left over from our party.  I will use the left over pork tonight and we still have a few odds and ends that are also leftover, but those will all get used up very soon.  It has been fun coming up with so many completely different menu ideas that all originated from the same meal.  I hope you all have enjoyed this not-so traveled world of what to do with leftovers.  But the end is near.   We are slowly whittling away our leftovers, bite by bite.  Leftovers are great, especially when they have been recreated and transformed into something else, but I am actually looking forward to really cooking again too.  🙂 Lots of Leftovers

This last meal with the brisket and the cucumber salad was beef gyros topped with a cool and creamy yogurt sauce and feta cheese.

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I sliced the beef into thin strips and reheated it, chopped some more lettuce, tomatoes and red onions, and added it to the cooked pita bread.  I topped it with a creamy yogurt sauce and feta cheese.  The final touch was a French malbec and some leftover sweet potato salad.  This was such a quick and easy meal that was perfect after another long, hot day.

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I used my remaining cucumber salad Cool Cucumber Salad and chopped it up into a small dice.  Then I added yogurt, garlic, lemon juice paprika and more black pepper to my yogurt sauce and topped it with parsley.

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Layer it all together on top of the warmed pita bread, and top with feta cheese (optional) and voila!  Delicious gyros are right in front of you, ready to eat.  It’s like going out to eat in a Mediterranean restaurant in the comfort of your own home.   I just cooked my pitas directly over the flame on my burner, but sometimes I wrap them in foil and put them on the grill, if we are using the grill for other things..

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Yogurt Sauce

I cup of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions, cut into a small dice

1-1 1/2 cups plain yogurt

1 heaping TBSP garlic

1-2 TBSP lemon juice

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp black pepper, or to taste

 

Mix everything together and chill.  Serve cold.

 

 

Time for Truffles

I find recipes in the darnedest places sometimes, and often they are really good recipes too.  I found this recipe for lavender truffles in a light murder mystery book of all places, and it just sounded way too inviting not to try.  I am so glad I did too.  They turned out really delicious, and they just melt in your mouth.  The book was a light murder mystery, in the vein of Murder She Wrote, the old TV series that starred Angela Landsbury back in the 80’s.  The book was called “Death is Like A Box of Chocolate“.  It is a light, easy read, with a few surprisingly really good truffle recipes in the back.  It is definitely a fun book to check out.  And don’t forget to try out the truffle recipes too.

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The recipe itself only has four simple ingredients.  They were time consuming, but not difficult to make, once I figured out what I was doing and how I was supposed to do them without making a huge mess.  It took me a couple of tries to figure things out, but once I did, they were very easy to make.

 

Lavender Truffles

2-2 1/2 tsp dried lavender or 24 fresh lavender flower heads

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

2 1/2 cups chocolate chips, or your favorite dark or bittersweet chocolate, divided

4 TBSP butter

 

Place the cream and lavender into a saucepan and heat on high just until the mixture starts to simmer, then melt the butter into the mixture and incorporate well.  Turn off the heat, and let it steep for 15 minutes.  After it has steeped, strain the lavender from the cream mixture and discard, then add 1/2 of the chocolate and melt completely, stirring constantly, over a medium heat.

Once the chocolate mixture has melted, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the chocolate over the parchment paper.  Spread it out and smooth it over the parchment paper, then chill for at least 2 hours.   You want the chocolate to set, but you do not want it firm.

After the chocolate has set, put some plastic gloves on so the heat in your hands does not melt the chocolate, and spoon about 1/2 tsp of the mixture and roll into a ball.  Place the rolled balls on another baking sheet, lined with another sheet of parchment paper.  Repeat until the mixture is all used and rolled into balls.  Chill and set once again, for at least 2 more hours.

After the second chilling, melt the rest of your chocolate (if it does not melt smoothly, add a little milk as needed to make the mixture is more liquid and smoother, which makes it much easier to work with.  I found adding the extra milk made the chocolate more like a ganache, and gave a real shiny sheen to the coating, which I like.  I think it also gives a very nice finish to the chocolate).  Insert a toothpick into the chilled truffle balls and dip completely into the melted chocolate and gently swirl it around, making sure to cover the truffle ball completely.  Gently shake off the excess chocolate, and repeat until all the balls have been dipped.  I added some colored sprinkles to mine, but that is optional.  If you are doing this, add it to the balls before placing them back into the refrigerator to set once again, for at least 2-4 hours.  Once they are set, they are ready to enjoy.  The truffle filling is very smooth and creamy, with subtle hint of lavender.  These are so good.  If you like chocolate, you will love these.

Cooking the cream and the lavender.  I used dried lavender.

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Straining the lavender after it has steeped for 15 minutes.

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The second cook, adding 1/2 of the chocolate.

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Spreading out the chocolate for the first chill.

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Making the truffle fillings.  These are now ready to go back into the refrigerator for the second chill and set.

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Sorry for the poor quality on this one.  It was difficult to show what I was doing and take a picture at the same time.  Dipping the truffle fillings into the melted chocolate.  Gently shake off the excess chocolate.  Now is the time to use sprinkles if you choose to do so.  Once they are all done, chill again for at least another 2 hours.  If you prefer to be more fancy and add more elaborate decorations, do so after they have chilled and set once again.

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Time to sit back and enjoy.  Time for truffles.

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From Brisket to Steak & Cucumber Salad

On really hot days, nothing is better than a cool salad.  We are back in the upper 80’s and lower 90’s again for this week, which means it is still salad weather.  And since I had a ton of cucumber salad, as well as a lot of other leftovers Lots of Leftovers that still needed to be used, and some of the delicious brisket, I combined them to make a nice cool steak and cucumber salad, Cool Cucumber Salad .  It was just perfect for dinner.

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This cucumber was HUGE.  It was about 1 foot long and about 6″ in diameter.  We were afraid it would be bitter, but it turned out just fine, especially with a little bit of sugar from the dressing.

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The brisket is in the middle , on the top white plate.  YUMMY! It was so tender and full of flavor.  I did not cook that, so unfortunately, I cannot have bragging rights, but take my word for it, it was out of this world!

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After chopping a bit of romaine lettuce and boiling a couple of eggs, all I needed to do was add some of the cucumber salad and slice the brisket.  The dressing was the vinaigrette that was in the salad already.  To finish it off, I toasted a couple of the slider buns that were also left over and finished the dinner off with a smooth South African Shiraz.  This quick and easy salad, along with the wine, was the perfect ending to a long, hot day.

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