Friday, November 18, 2016

Chinese Sweet and Sour Dip

Perfect Pairing: Easy Entertaining


Last weekend we had Baby Lam’s shower at our house.  It was absolute perfection!


Eight of my friends and family helped host and I was just overwhelmed by the time, effort and love that went into the shower. 


Our inspiration for the nursery has been Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”.  


I think this translates into maps, adventure and travel!  So we used the same theme for the shower for our “Little Traveler”.  Of course the food had a global theme and each dish had a corresponding country and flag. 

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Everything was delicious and looked fantastic on the serving table.

While my incredible hostesses did all of the work for the shower I did contribute my new favorite appetizer, Chinese Sweet and Sour Dip.  I have been making this for a few months and it is always a hit.


Disclaimer, I totally realize that there is nothing even remotely authentic about this.  It is just darn tasty.


The base is cream cheese (always a good start) and it is topped with a combo of peanuts, veggies, cilantro, crunchy water chestnuts and soy sauce.  Then the whole thing is drizzled with sweet and sour sauce and served with crackers.



I don’t know why but this stuff is truly addictive. 


If you are looking for an easy appetizer to serve before the big Thanksgiving meal, here you go!  I know it is on our menu!  It is easily doubled if you have a large crowd. We are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year and can’t wait to celebrate with our family in our new home.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Egg Roll Salad

Perfect Pairing: Deep straight-sided skillet with a lid        


It is hard to believe I have been an “Iowan” for almost three months!  I don’t know where the time has gone.  Chris and I love living here and it really feels like home.  That being said, we both agree that sometimes it feels like we are playing house and soon we will have to move back into a one bedroom city condo.  Our baby boy is growing (and boy am I growing) and kicking and moving!  I love to watch and feel him moving around and getting comfy in there.  He has a tendency to stop as soon as Chris puts his hand on my stomach.  Stinker!


A big part of the move has been my transition to working from home full time.  So far I have really enjoyed the experience.  I did find that I need to make myself get out and do things because a few days will go by without leaving my neighborhood.  I’m sure it will be 10x harder once baby boy Lam arrives!  While I no longer need to pack a lunch to take to the office I find that it is much easier to have a big batch of something made at the beginning of the week so I can have a quick lunch ready when I don’t have a lot of time away from my desk. 


This Egg Roll Salad has been a staple lunch for me since I started working from home.  Not only is it delicious and satisfying it is incredibly light and healthy.  It is full of protein and fiber!  It is called an Egg Roll Salad because it tastes like the inside of an egg roll.  Side note, one thing that we miss from Chicago was the Chinese food delivery place that was a block from our condo.  The meals were just ok but they had the BEST egg rolls I’ve ever had in my life and they would legit deliver in under 15 minutes.  I miss those unhealthy rolls. 

I use my trusty straight sided skillet for this meal.  I use this skillet more than any other pan in my kitchen.  I am actually on my second generation because I wore out the first one.  Tip from the top, I found both of mine at a discount price at Home Goods.  You need a pan that has a large capacity for this recipe since you will be steaming two bags of slaw. 


Friday, August 26, 2016

Un-Recipe Files - Mango with Lime and Chile Salt

Perfect Pairing: Vegetable Peeler


So there have been a few changes recently in the Lam fam!  At the end of July we moved into our new home in Bettendorf, Iowa.   We were in transition for a few months until we closed on our new home.  We absolutely loved living with my parents at the lake (AKA: my favorite place on earth).  It was great to have time to relax after moving from Chicago and before moving into a new home.  Friends, moving is stressful!  Fortunately we had an army of helpers that actually made moving fun!

Chris and I are loving our new home and neighborhood.  I miss Chicago restaurants and our friends there, but that is about it!  Moving into a new state/home may not be the biggest news for us…. We are expecting a little one in January!


We are both over the moon excited to grow our family and become parents.  Fortunately I have felt great and have really enjoyed pregnancy.  Now that we are moved in and the final box has been emptied we can focus on all things baby!  I am truly pinching myself over all our blessings.  God is good!

One of the most common questions I get is if I am having any odd food cravings or aversions.  While I haven’t been dipping pickles in Nutella there are some foods that speak to me.  In fact, they call out to me.  I am loving cereal, fruit, anything pickled and carbs in general.  The only aversion so far has been certain vegetables.  I will love them one day and detest them the next day.  The pregnant body/mind is a fascinating thing. 


In addition to green grapes and blueberries I have been eating a lot of mangos.  Fortunately they have been on sale at our local grocery store so I can feel good about adding them to the cart every trip.  My mango obsession actually started before I was pregnant.  During our vacation to Cabo this year I discovered the Mango Man.  I kept seeing people eating mangos on a stick or in a bowl with something red sprinkled on top.  My curiosity got the best of me one day when he was on the beach in front of our hotel and I ponied up the cash to try one.  


Holy smokes.  Game changer.  Mango Man would peel the mango with lightning speed, chop it with a machete, squeeze fresh lime juice on top and sprinkle with chile lime salt.  The whole thing happened in about 15 seconds.  I quite literally chased him down the beach the rest of the trip. 


I started doing my own version of this once I was back home.  Sometimes I use a chile lime salt (like this) and sometimes I use my wedding Sriracha Salt.  You can also just use a sprinkle of good kosher.  The combination of the sweet ripe mango, tangy lime and spicy salt is perfection.  The perfect pairing, my friends!  I had always scored and peeled the skin off mango in sections but after seeing Mango Man’s methods I started using my trusty veggie peeler and was amazed with the results.


Eat and enjoy!!


Friday, July 8, 2016

Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad

Perfect Pairing: Grilled dinner


Last summer I went to a food and wine festival at Lincoln Park in Chicago.  Chris gave me the tickets for my birthday and I was SO excited.  The morning of the festival I woke up feeling gnarly and not at all like going to a food festival, but I persevered because that is my mecca.  I saw demos from some of my favorite chefs like Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard and tried lots of good food and wine.  Fortunately, I felt better as the day went on and we had a great time!


One of the best bites of food I had all day was a truffled Mexican street corn.  Holy corn Batman, it was delicious.  I may have gone back for seconds… and thirds.  It was a small piece of sweet corn rolled in some glorious mayonnaise mixture then topped with parmesan and shaved truffles.  I just can’t even describe it. 


Last summer my cousin’s wife made an extraordinarily good Mexican Street Corn dip for our annual Lake House Chef’s Challenge.  It was a serious crowd pleaser.  So, ever since the dip and the festival corn I have been wanting to try a variation on Mexican street corn.


Enter Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad!  Grilled corn and grilled scallions are mixed with pasta in a tangy sauce and then combined with cilantro, parmesan and avocado.  It is really tasty. 


If you have not grilled your scallions you are missing out.  It totally changes the flavor.  They are fantastic on tacos.


This salad is so not the typical summer pasta salad and would be a hit at any party.  There is some prep involved so I think it is paired best with a simple grilled entrée like hamburgers or brats. 


I wonder what else you can do with Mexican street corn.  Goals!


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Creamy Goat Cheese, Pesto and Burst Tomato Dip

Perfect Pairing:  Crackers


Summer!  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.  I am soaking up every minute because I am already panicking that it is almost July.  Wait!! I was going to do so much more in June!  


I am lucky enough to live at the lake this summer until we close on our new home at the end of July.  I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t suck living and working here.  I pinch myself daily looking at the beautiful views. 


A TGIF cruise is a favorite summer tradition.  We load up the pontoon with friends, food and drinks.  We set sail (motor) into the sunset with some chill music and enjoy the appetizer buffet in front of us.  Heavenly.


This appetizer is perfect for a TGIF cruise or any appetizer night.  A layer of whipped goat cheese is topped with prepared pesto and finished with burst cherry tomatoes.  Drag a cracker through all of it and you have an incredibly flavorful summer app. 


Three years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Raisin Bran Muffins (these are ALWAYS in the fridge in the summer)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Grilled Ranch Potato and Sausage Packets

Perfect Pairing: 8-cup glass measuring bowl


Friends!  Are you still with me?!  If you are, bless your heart. 

So… I have been majorly slacking on my little passion project, Perfecting the Pairing.  Let’s be honest, all of 2016 has been a bust, but the last two months have been ridiculous with ZERO posts.  I have a good reason!  Life has been bananas!  Wonderful, but bananas.  

In the last month Chris accepted a job in Iowa, we sold our condo in the city (closing soon), I started working remotely (it was an answered prayer to keep my job), we celebrated our one year anniversary, and we moved in with my parents until we close on our new home in Bettendorf, Iowa.  We kind of feel like our lives have been turned upside down but we are absolutely overjoyed with the exciting changes happening.  We are going to miss Chicago so much (especially our friends… and the restaurants) but we can’t wait to open the next chapter in IOWA.  If you follow this blog at all you know how much I love the lake where my parents live, so living there has not been a hard adjustment! 


Now that life has normalized a bit I am anxious to start blogging again!  These days I get to cook on a regular basis for more people and have access to all of my mom’s fun kitchen gadgets/serving pieces/spices/etc.  I have ZERO excuses!

The warm weather makes me want to grill all the time. Grilled foil packets are a quick and easy dinner with minimal clean up.  Everything is mixed together (potatoes, green beans, shallots, and pre-cooked chicken sausage) to make a complete meal.  The whole shebang is seasoned with ranch seasoning and red pepper flakes and thrown on the grill. 


So simple!


I pre-cook the potatoes for a few minutes in the microwave to speed up the grilling process.  I use my favorite 8-cup glass measuring bowl.  This is a must-have tool in my kitchen.  I use it all the time. 


Perfecting the Pairing is back!  

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  We got married! #LamsInLoveForever

Four years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Pickle Dip (I just re-discovered this recipe and make it all the time.  Now I add a spoonful of hot pepper jelly!)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Creamy Shrimp Dip

Perfect Pairing: Crackers and Cucumber


Making dreams come true! 


That was a bit of a red herring.  This Creamy Shrimp Dip is good but will not make dreams come true.  Now, Disney World…. That is a place that can actually make dreams come true!  I just got home from a trip to Florida.  Among the highlights were lots of relaxation time on the beach, seeing dolphins almost every day, locally grown strawberries, and ample reading time with a palm tree view.  My husband’s highlight was watching his team, the Detroit Tigers, at Spring Training.  My favorite part was spending a day at the happiest place on earth, Magic Kingdom.  I was so excited to share my favorite place with Chris. 


We had an incredible day.  The weather was perfection!  I insisted on making the most of the day.  We were some of the first people in the park when it opened and we stayed until the final fireworks.  I think we just beat the spring break crowd because we were able to do every single attraction on our (my) list and only waited for about 30 minutes, tops. 


In addition to the must-do attractions, there are a few mandatory food stops.  We had the famous Dole pineapple whip (Chris said he liked my impossibly light version better!) and a Mickey shaped rice krispy treat. 


I can’t wait to go back!


So this Creamy Shrimp Dip won’t make your dreams come true, but it is so easy and tasty!  The creamy base is sour cream and mayonnaise, light is fine.  Crunch is added with cucumber and green onion.  Flavor comes from a hit of horseradish, lemon, and a healthy dose of fresh dill. 


Delicious with crackers or cucumber slices. 


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