Thursday, December 29, 2011

Great Uncle Tag’s - Bay Spiced Shrimp

Happy Holidays! Chris here, and I’m excited to post on Culinary Indulgence.  Chelsea is taking a break from blogging and trying to recover from her food coma (too many snowflake cookies!).  So, I decided to give you all a taste of something I think is pretty unique and absolutely delicious.  To get started we first need to get in the right mood and imagine…

It’s Christmas time, below freezing outside, the air is thin and smells of pine and chimney smoke.  After a 2 hour car ride up the endlessly winding and increasingly snowy mountain roads, we arrive at our destination - a small cozy cabin dwarfed by the surrounding pines trees and powdered freshly white.  An impossibly steep driveway leads us to the entryway which is framed by icicles hanging from the roof and front deck.  We approach the front door and once it opens we are greeted by the most wonderful part of the Holidays - the delicious aroma of bay leaves, cloves, and coriander filling the air (you probably thought I was gonna say “family”,right?,  but this is a cooking blog).

This is how I remember Christmas when I was growing up and I wanted to share this recreated recipe with you all because it is so savory and so easy!  This is an adaptation of a family recipe from my Cousin’s grandpa, Tag, who made this dish “famous”.  I looked online at ancestry website’s to see the exact relation I would have to Tag but apparently there is “none”, so I’m gonna do my own thing and call him Great Uncle Tag.

Great Uncle Tag’s - Bay Spiced Shrimp


5-6 lbs medium sized shrimp, raw with shells on
6 light beers (use any light beer you like, not something too hoppy)
6-8 dried bay leaves, whole
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup Old Bay seasoning
2 large lemons (1 sliced, and one cut into wedges)
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
2 tablespoons coriander seeds (whole)
1 tablespoon cloves, whole
Cocktail sauce, for dipping
1 chive/green onion for garnish *optional*


First, rinse shrimp and place in a large tray.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon, lightly season with 2 tablespoons of the Old Bay seasoning and stir in to incorporate.  Top with sliced lemons.  Set aside in the refrigerator.

In a large pot add beer, the remaining old bay seasoning, bay leaves, garlic, and all of the spices.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer with lid on for 15-20 minutes.  This will get all of the great flavor out of the ingredients.

Now time for the shrimp! We are going to poach the shrimp in the broth we just made.

Remove lid from pot and add the shrimp (if your pot is big enough then add all the shrimp, if not then it’s perfectly fine to do this in batches).  Add shrimp in and continue to stir shrimp around while leaving the lid off. 

Shrimp are done once they are bright pink in color and the shells start to curl in slightly (about 5-7 mins).  The shells will keep the shrimp nice and tender but be careful not to overcook them as the shrimp will get rubbery.

Remove the shrimp from the pot with a straining/slotted spoon and they are ready for serving.  Garnish with lemon wedge, cocktail sauce, and chopped chives (optional).

Print this Recipe

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Snowflake Sugar Cookies

I hope that everyone had a Merry Christmas filled with family, friends, and good times!  I know we did! 

I made these pretty snowflake sugar cookies for our family's Christmas Eve party and they were a hit!  Not only are those cookies pretty to look at, but they have the perfect buttery sweet taste that a good sugar cookie should have.  I will admit, they were a little cumbersome to make, but they were definitely worth the extra effort!

This was the first time that I made sugar cookies from scratch, and thanks to a lot of tips from the amazing Martha Stewart they turned out great!

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract

Royal Icing (Recipe Below)


Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar, mix until light and fluffy.  With mixer running, add egg, milk, and vanilla and almond extract.  Mix until well combined.  With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture.  Mix until just combined.

Transfer dough to a work surface.  Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper and set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thickness (Martha’s recipe says 1/8 but I thought this was a little too thin).  Cut into desired shapes (dip edges of cutter in flour to prevent dough from sticking).  Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between each cookie.  Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. 

Refrigerate cut-out cookies on baking sheets just before baking to retain crisp edges.

Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; (do not allow to brown)!  Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Royal Icing:

1 pound confectioner’s sugar
5 egg whites
½ cup water

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the confectioner’s sugar to get rid of any bumps.  Add the egg whites and beat on medium speed.

To make a thicker icing for outline cookies DO NOT add any water!  Beat until the icing is the desired thickness.

To make a thinner icing for flooding cookies add some water until you have the right consistency.

Add a few drops of food coloring (a little goes a long way) if so desired.

To make icing cookies easier put icing in squirt bottles instead of piping bags.

To ice cookies:

First, make a border around the cookies edges with the thicker icing to create a dam.  Let dry a few minutes.   

Fill in the cookie with flooding icing and move around with tip of squirt bottle to evenly distribute.  Add any sugar or sprinkles and let dry.

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

Friday, December 23, 2011

Petite Peppermint Sandwiches

I am so busy today finishing last minute things to get ready for Christmas, but I just HAD to share this festive cookie recipe with you!  These tiny little sandwich cookies are packed with peppermint flavor and are just absolutely adorable.  Perfect for a holiday party and just in time for Christmas!

 Makes about 35 sandwich cookies

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 recipe peppermint cream cheese filling
Finely crushed peppermint candies


In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, vanilla, and peppermint extract until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.

Divide dough into four portions. Shape each portion into an 8-inch roll.

Wrap each roll in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Freeze for 2 to 3 hours or until dough is firm enough to slice.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut rolls into 3/8-inch-thick slices. 

Place slices 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. 

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or just until firm. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Filling:


1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
3 cups powdered sugar

*Note* This recipe says to use milk added by the teaspoon to thin out the filling, but I did not need to do this when I made mine.  In fact, I had to add a little bit more powdered sugar to make it thicker.  You don’t want the filling to be too thin or it will ooze out the sides of the sandwich and won’t work.

In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in vanilla and peppermint extract. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. If necessary, beat in enough milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make a filling of spreading consistency. Makes 1-2/3 cups.

This is how the filling should look when it's the right consistency:

To assemble, spread Peppermint-Cream Cheese Filling over the bottom of one cookie, spreading to the edges. 

Press the bottom of a second cookie against the filling, pressing lightly until filling comes just slightly over edges. Roll edges of cookies in crushed candies or sprinkles. Repeat with the remaining cookies, filling, and candies.

Make these cookies tonight and you're sure to get in the holiday spirit!

Recipe Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pot Roast

There's something so special about a tender juicy roast, surrounded by vegetables and herbs, that's been simmering all day in the kitchen.  Maybe it's the savory smell that fills your home, or for me, it makes me feel like I'm in my Mom's kitchen again.  When I was growing up this dish was definitely one of my favorites, and now, I'm proud to say that after making this pot roast myself a few times, it finally tastes almost as good as Mom's!

Makes about 4 servings

1 (3-4 pound) beef chuck roast
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1 large onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 large Yukon gold potatoes
2 carrots, chopped (Or you can substitute one bunch baby carrots)
2 celery stalks, chopped with tops reserved
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf


Season all sides of the beef with salt and pepper.  In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown the meat on all sides and ends.  Be patient, this part is important!  You want the meat to have a nice crust on the outside.

Pour in the wine and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 2 minutes.   

Add the beef broth and tomatoes and let simmer for 2 more minutes.  Place the herbs, garlic, and onion around the roast and season with salt and pepper. 
Cover the pot and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 2 hours, basting the roast about every 30 minutes.

Scatter the vegetables around the pot roast. 

Cover the pot and cook about another hour, until the vegetables all completely cooked through and the meat is fork tender.  If you like celery tops in your pot roast put them in the pot at the last 30 minutes of cooking time so that they won't completely disintegrate.

*Note* I like to break my pot roast dish apart with a wooden spoon and incorporate all the veggies before serving, but you can leave yours whole and slice for presentation if you'd like.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli and Bok Choy Stir-Fry

I recently subscribed to Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, and I am so happy that I did!  Not only does this magazine have great recipes (like the one I'm about to share with you), but it's also loaded with cleaning and gardening tips, decorating ideas, you name it!  I am one of those annoying people who when I see something I like in a magazine, I fold the page over...well my new magazine has almost every page folded over so I think I'm going to have to find a new method of saving pages I like ; )

My husband is always pestering me to go outside of my comfort zone of making my usual Italian dishes and try something new.  So, when I came across this stir-fry recipe I knew I had to try it.  This dish is perfect for when you're feeling like take-out Chinese, but want to skip all of the calories that come with it.  It will fill your house with amazing smells of garlic, fresh ginger, sesame, and soy, and it will entice your taste-buds with flavors of sweet, spicy, and salty.

This dish is so easy to make and makes a great weeknight meal.  There is a bit of prep work that goes into preparing the vegetables, cooking the rice, and marinating the chicken, but if you have someone helping you it will go by in a snap!  While the rice is cooking and the chicken is marinating (both take about 20 minutes) you can be washing and chopping the veggies.

The next time I'm feeling like Chinese, I'll look no further than my own kitchen!

Makes 4 servings

5 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
5 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ¼ pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
2 green onions, white parts thinly slices and green tops reserved
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (If you don’t have rice vinegar you can substitute white vinegar)
1 teaspoon chili paste
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets, partially steam in microwave about 2-3 minutes
1 large Bok Choy, trimmed and cut into pieces
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Cooked rice

My husband requested that I give a shout out to his home grown Tokyo onions and Meyer lemons, so here they are:


In a medium bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 2 teaspoons honey, 1 tablespoon lemon, and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.  Add cut-up chicken, toss to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in fridge for 20 minutes.  Remove chicken from marinade with slotted spoon and discard marinade.

In a large nonstick skillet or wok heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.  Cook the chicken until browned and cooked through, about 6 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

In the same skillet add the white parts of the onions, ginger, and garlic.  Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant.  Add the Bok Choy and sauté about 2-3 minutes until wilted.  Add the broccoli and sauté until the vegetables are soft.  Transfer the vegetables to a plate.

For sesame sauce, in a small bowl whisk together broth, remaining soy sauce, remaining honey, the cornstarch, vinegar, and chili paste until cornstarch and honey are incorporated.   

Add sauce to skillet.  Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until thickened and darkened in color.  Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil.

To serve, add rice to plates, top with chicken then vegetables.  Pour sauce over top.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion tops.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Minestrone Soup

On a cold and gloomy day like yesterday, all I feel like eating is something warm and hearty, and this minestrone soup was just the thing.  It has tons of color with lots of veggies plus leafy greens, beans, and potatoes which makes for a very satisfying soup.  Trust me, this soup will really warm your soul!

Makes 4 to 6 Servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound Swiss chard or Kale, stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
2 large golden potatoes or 1 russet potato
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini (white) beans
2 (14 ounce) cans beef broth
1 (1 ounce) piece Parmesan rind *See note*

*Note* One of the key ingredients in this soup is the Parmesan rind!  Trust me, without this little trick the soup will still taste great, but it will be missing that creamy texture from the Parmesan.  Whenever I buy a block of Parmesan I cut off the rind and cut it into 1 ounce pieces.  The rinds will keep in the freezer and you can throw one into a soup, stew, pasta sauce, or whatever else you’d like to add a nice creamy texture and taste.


In a stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic.  Cook stirring frequently until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.  

Add the Swiss chard and potato.  Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. 

Stir in the tomatoes and rosemary sprigs.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes are soft.  Add the beans, broth, and Parmesan rind. 

Simmer, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender and the soup is thick, about 20 minutes.  Discard the rosemary stems and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

This is how the soup should look when done...see the change in color and texture

Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted crusty Italian bread!

Recipe Adapted From Giada De Laurentiis 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

With Christmas right around the corner I was in the mood for some cookies over the weekend.  I have a couple of new cookie recipes I am planning to try this year, but I thought to myself why not stick to a classic and make my first batch of the season chocolate chip!

I don't need much of a description for these cookies, as I said, they are a classic.  But I will tell you to make sure you enjoy these warm out of the oven with a glass of milk or some Bailey's on the rocks like we did ; )

Makes 30 Cookies

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter *See note below*
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

*Note: If you like your cookies to be a bit smaller and crunchier, similar to Chips Ahoy cookies, use less butter than the recipe calls for (about half a stick) and make into smaller balls of dough.  I prefer a softer cookie, but Chris likes them this way so that’s how I have made them here.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put the butter in a microwave safe bowl, cover and microwave about 30 seconds until melted.  Cool slightly.  Whisk the sugars, butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.  Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a wooden spoon (don’t over mix!)  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets.   

Space the cookies about 2 inches apart.  Bake until golden, but still soft in the center, for 12 to 16 minutes, depending on how chewy or crunchy you like your cookies.  Transfer hot cookies to rack to cool.  


Recipe Adapted from Food Network Kitchens

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chicken Piccata

This Chicken Piccata recipe is one of my go to staples when I’m in the mood for something easy and light.  I love cooking any type of cutlet.  They are quick and easy to prepare because they are pounded out thin, and they are typically dusted with flour and/or bread crumbs before searing, which makes the meat a perfectly crisped golden brown.   This dish in particular is one of my favorites because it has the light fresh taste of lemon combined with capers and fresh parsley.  I like to serve it with any type of pasta tossed in a little olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Makes 2 servings

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved crosswise (Or you can substitute a couple of boneless skinless chicken tenders)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 lemon sliced into rounds
½ cup dry white wine
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons drained capers (you can add as many capers as you like)


Place each chicken breast between plastic wrap and pound out with a meat mallet to ¼ inch thick.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour with some salt and pepper in a shallow plate.  Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat lightly.   Be sure to keep the dusting of flour light!  That is the key to this dish. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the chicken breasts and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until browned.  Remove chicken from the pan and place onto a plate. 

For the sauce, wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel.  Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, salt and pepper.  Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes.  Turn the heat down to low and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the capers.  Stir to combine.   

Place the chicken breasts back in the pan and toss to coat with sauce.  Top the chicken with sliced lemons and cook about 3 more minutes until chicken is fully cooked through. 

Garnish the chicken with parsley and serve.

Recipe Adapted from Barefoot Contessa