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. 


Friday, February 19, 2016

Mushroom Flatbread with Pesto, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic

Perfect Pairing:  Girls' Night


A couple weeks ago Chris was out of town for the night on a mini “bro-cation”.  For the record, he did not call it this, that is 100% me.  He headed to Champaign/Urbana to watch the Fighting Illini play.  


That meant I had a night by myself at home.  I was going to miss him, but I was also going to make the most of it by making it super girly.  I was going to make the girliest thing I could think of for dinner, enjoy a mini bottle of champagne, and watch a chick flick that featured Bradley Cooper as a chef.  I was pumped.


I formulated my plan for a girly dinner as I perused the grocery store.  What is girlier than flatbread with goat cheese?  I mean, it is actually just pizza, but we call it flatbread so it sounds classy.  If I was making pizza for my husband it would most definitely have some kind of meat on it.  If I am making it for me it is going to be overflowing with mushrooms.  Chris is not a huge fan, so this was the perfect time to go fungi-wild. 


Instead of traditional pizza sauce I used a basil pesto.  So much flavor!  I always keep pesto in the freezer, it is a great ingredient to have on hand.


The sautéed mushrooms are finished off with a caramelization of balsamic, and then the whole flatbread is dotted with tangy goat cheese. 


So good.  So girly.  Dudes, if you want to make and enjoy this flatbread…. No judgement here!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Miso Potatoes

Perfect Pairing: Chicken Yakitori


Have you bought miso yet?  I extolled its virtues in this super simple Grilled Miso Salmon and in this Grilled Vegetable Salad with Miso Dressing and Toasted Cashews.  I can’t tell you how often I use miso in everyday cooking in salad dressings, marinades, and seasoning for roasted vegetables.  That being said, I think this potato recipe is my favorite use of miso.


Small red potatoes are boiled until they are just tender, fried in a little melted butter, and then coated in an umami bomb of miso, brown sugar, and spicy garlic paste.  They are mouthwatering.  They also smell amazing while you are pan frying them. 


I think these little beauties are great served with any grilled Asian-inspired protein.  I served them alongside Chicken Yakitori and a simple slaw.  


You will love this detour from your regularly scheduled potatoes!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spicy Pineapple Margaritas

Perfect Pairing:  Good tequila


Since I started Perfecting the Pairing the first blog post each January is something really healthy.  It’s always a recipe to help with those New Year’s Resolutions.  In the past I have posted about a light Berries n’ Cream Dessert, the uber-healthy diet food, Chicken Vegetable Barley Soup, Sweet Sesame Green Beans, and a hearty Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole.  This year was to be no different, except life caught up with me and it just didn’t happen.  I did jump right on the healthy bandwagon, it just didn’t quite make it to the blog.

I kept telling myself to do it, but now we are well into January and the healthy resolutions post lost some luster.  Why not move onto something more inviting in these frigid temperatures?  Something that will remind you of being on a beach somewhere.  MARGARITAS.  Not just any margarita, a Spicy Pineapple Margarita with a cinnamon sugar rim.  Yes, please.  Add some guac and the Latin Heat Pandora station and you are basically on vacation. 


I made these margaritas with an incredible tequila, Hotel California Reposado.  It is hands down the best, smoothest tequila I have ever tasted.  It also comes in a gorgeous red glass bottle, which I am obsessed with.


When my parents are on vacation they tend to make friends.  They’ll chat with the staff, the person next to them by the pool, or the person next to them at a restaurant.  I love it!  They have made some wonderful friends through the years.  Last year while in Cabo my mom and I met a beautiful new friend named Paula while relaxing with an ocean view.  After chatting with her and her husband for some time we found out that they own and operate the Hotel California Tequila company.  Their tequila is award winning and highly rated.  The Reposado I used scored 93 points with The Critico Official Tequila Rating Co.  You could sip it on the rocks.  Or, make some quality margaritas.


One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Creole Jicama Hash with a Sunny Side Up Egg

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Southwestern Chicken Slow Cooker Soup

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Roasted Garlic Herbed White Bean Dip with Basil Tomatoes

Perfect Pairing: Ritz Chips


I am officially in the Christmas mood!  The odd warm weather in Chicago during December has made it difficult to feel that cozy Christmas feel you get in the weeks leading up to the big day.  Over the weekend we headed to my parents’ house, AKA Christmas wonderland.  My mom does a fantastic job of decorating the house, inside and out.  My husband was there for 5 minutes and said, “I am officially in the Christmas spirit!”.  

We did a LOT of cooking over the weekend.  I think we made about 6 dozen cookies, 15 loaves of bread, 2 lasagnas, caramelized bacon (more on this in the future) and 7 batches of homemade noodles.  Every year my dad and I make these homemade egg noodles for chicken and noodles, which we enjoy with our extended family.  We serve chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes, starch on starch.  It is odd, and amazing, and the ultimate comfort food.



We listened to non-stop Christmas music.  We also wrapped presents.  Correction, Chris wrapped presents and I put bows (we call this foof in our house) on them.  My mom is the BEST gift wrapper around.  She truly has a gift.   See what I did there?


We also worked on our menu for the next couple of weeks.  Per usual, there is an appetizer night scheduled.  Who doesn’t love appetizers and a glass of wine?  It is my favorite kind of meal.  Roasted Garlic Herbed White Bean Dip with Basil Tomatoes is the perfect addition.  Not only is it delicious and light, it is quite festive if I do say so myself.  All sorts of red and green happening here.


If you would like a shortcut you could skip making your own hummus (but really don’t skip that) and top store-bought with the tomato and herb mixture.  While you are at it, roast multiple heads of garlic.  They are great to have on hand for salad dressings, mixing in mashed potatoes, or as a straight up spread on crostini.  


This dip was quite tasty served with Ritz Chips.  Those things are too tasty for their own good.  I am not sponsored by them in any way, I'm just a fan.  It would also be great with pita chips or your favorite cracker. 


I hope you all have a blessed Christmas and New Year with your loved ones!  I cherish this time with my family celebrating the birth of our Savior and reflecting on the year.  This one was pretty special me! 


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Arugula and Pea Salad

Perfect Pairing:  That oh-so healthy time between Thanksgiving and Christmas!


I am lucky/unlucky enough to have a brother that lives in San Francisco.  The lucky part is obvious because San Francisco is one of the world’s greatest cities.  The unlucky part is that it is very far from Chicago and I miss his family.  I have two very adorable nieces that steal your heart.  As my mom always says when she leaves there after a visit, “I left part of my heart in San Francisco.”



We have gone out to San Francisco for Thanksgiving many times throughout the years and it is a blast.  This year was no different!  While in the city we tried some amazing restaurants (State Bird Provision and Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta) and did some shopping and a little hiking.  I also had my first experience with Shabu-Shabu, which is a Japanese dish that you cook at your table.  It is not often that I try something completely foreign to me, and I loved it! 


Of course we had a delicious Thanksgiving meal with way too much food.  Hence, the necessary pre-meal hike.



The day after we set off for a weekend in wine country.  We visited about 7 or 8 wineries.  It was a tough job, but we were up to the task.



I swear the sun is a different color there and it shines so bright.




We had so many amazing wines and really enjoyed meeting people at the wineries and exploring the grounds.




We will be back!


We all know that the diet goes steadily downhill after Halloween, and a fresh salad most definitely has its place during that time.  


I love this super simple Arugula and Pea salad.  It has bright herbs, crunchy peas, peppery arugula, and a super simple light dressing.  It is easy to pair with pretty much anything.  Perhaps a crisp California white wine?!

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