Bait, Hooks & Tackle

Fishing season is off to a great start. We have two outings under our belt and only one hook through the foot, not a bad ratio. Things have changed a lot since last year. Cutting worms in half, no problem. Hooking bait thru the eyeball, not an issue. Our poles have doubled in size, we’ve got some fancy new lures, and the boys are able to sit still for five full minutes. That’s five minutes more than last summer!

Although we haven’t caught any fish yet our hopes remain high. I’m ready to cook the first thing we catch but in the meantime some shrimp from the freezer will have to do. After last week’s beet debacle I needed to make amends, and I know shrimp is usually a sure thing…

Taco Shrimp w/Spicy-Lime Dip


For the dipping sauce:

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

Juice of ½ lime

1 tsp hot sauce, adjust to taste

Salt & pepper to taste

For the shrimp:

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ package of taco seasoning

Juice of 1 lime

Handful of fresh cilantro, rough chopped

1 1b. Raw shrimp, large or jumbo, peeled and deveined

Lime wedges, optional

(Recipe by Elaine Studdert)



For the sauce:

Mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice and hot sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. And more hot sauce if you like it spicy. Refrigerate for up to an hour to let flavors combine. Dipping sauce can be made ahead and stored in refrigerator for 3-4 days.

For the shrimp:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, taco seasoning, lime juice and cilantro.


Add the shrimp to the mixture and coat well. Marinate shrimp for 15-20 minutes.


Heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add shrimp to pan and cook no longer than 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the size on the shrimp. Shrimp are cooked when they are opaque and turn pink.


Place shrimp on platter with dipping sauce, and garnish with lime wedges. Serve cold or at room temperature.



And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Love this”

Liam (age 5): “Shrimp are my favorite, better than cheese”

Dylan (age 5): “Dip is too spicy”

Next time we are doubling this recipe!


In A Pinch

The other day I was Skyping with my sister. The topic of my blog came up as it often does (she is my editor and biggest fan) and she started giving me grief about how infrequent my posts have been in the last month or so. Well I immediately launched into a rant about how little time I had to get things done around here. How busy the holidays had been. How some nights I could barely get dinner to the table much less photograph it, write about it and get it up on the blog. Blah blah blah…

Even though our connection was not that great and there was bit of a time delay I could still see her rolling her eyes. Clearly, this excuse was not working on her. She wanted a weekly post in her mailbox, not some lame reason why I couldn’t get it done.

It got me thinking that I really needed to come up with some healthy meals that I could pull together super quick for those nights when we are racing against the clock to bedtime. And they needed to be blog worthy. Not just scrambled cheesy eggs, which are delicious, but not exactly interesting to read about or very original. Thus, my “In A Pinch Series” is born. A meal that is half homemade, half store-bought. Ideal for those nights when you are lingering somewhere between a leisurely home cooked meal and takeout.

Indian Simmer Sauce Shrimp


1 lb bag of raw frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

2 cups Indian tomato simmer sauce (see note)

1/2 bag fresh baby spinach, pre-washed, roughly torn

2 Tbsp mascarpone cheese (optional)

Handful chopped cilantro (optional)


Note: I get a delicious Indian tomato simmer sauce at our local farmers market. When I see the vendor I stock up. But most supermarkets have several options of this type of sauce to choose from. You can use tomato simmer, green curry, or yellow curry sauce.


Rinse shrimp, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile heat the simmer sauce in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Stir 1/4 cup of water into the simmer sauce. Then add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.


Add the shrimp to the sauce and cover. Cook over medium heat until the shrimp are cooked through, about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.


Lastly, stir in the mascarpone cheese. Cook for an additional minute until cheese is melted into the sauce. The mascarpone is optional but it makes the sauce creamy and tames the spice. Milk or yogurts are good substitutes.


Serve over rice or with a hunk of crusty sourdough bread. Garnish with fresh cilantro.


And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Whoa, that is spicy! Water, water!”

Liam (age 4): “I’m not eating this”

Dylan (age 4): “The Indian sauce is good”

Although the reviews don’t sound stellar, I consider this one a success. I got Matthew water and he inhaled it (the water and the shrimp). Liam did eventually try it and no one was bothered by the spinach!

Do you have any quick and easy semi-homemade recipes? Would love to hear about them!

Old Cookbooks

The other day I finally got around to unpacking the last boxes from our move. We have been living here four years so I guess it was time… In a box labeled Assorted I found my old “library” of cookbooks from my single days living on the Upper East Side. I had to laugh because it was such a strange and limited assortment – Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, CIA’s Breakfasts and Brunches, and the most uncharacteristic, Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook. I can only assume the last one was a gift? From whom I can’t recall. I also can’t remember ever using them – I was surprised they had followed me all the way to the suburbs, 15 years later.

I’ve upgraded along the way; but back then my one fancy kitchen gadget was a George Foreman grill that I kept on top of my microwave for lack of counter space. It was a present from my parents for finally leaving the nest! How I loved that grill… not sure where that ended up but it did not survive moving three apartments and one house later, like the cookbooks did.

After flipping through some pages for old times sake I did find several recipes in Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals that seemed easy, quick and suitable for the little guys. Since I had carried it around with me for all these years I figured it would be worth my while to try a few recipes after all. And if I could  cook them in 30 minutes, bonus!

Honey Lime Chicken (Adapted from Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals)


1 lime, juice of

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 lb chicken tenders, about 8 pieces

Salt & Pepper



Combine lime juice, honey, cumin, cilantro and olive oil in a shallow bowl.


Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.


Place chicken in dressing, making sure to coat each piece, and set aside for 10 minutes.


Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Grill chicken about 5-6 minutes per side.


Remove from grill and let rest. Slice chicken and serve with salsa and chips.


And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “I’ll give you one point and a bonus burp!”

Liam (age 4): “This chicken tastes like bicycles”

Dylan (age 4): “When you suck on it, it gets too spicy”

I am not sure what bicycles taste like but Liam did eat all of his chicken. And cooking time for this meal was in fact 30 minutes. Bonus burp to Rachael Ray!

Grilling for Dummies

I grew up in an apartment in the Bronx and then Queens. In between those two boroughs came a short stint on Long Island. After a year my dad found he preferred playing golf on a lawn a lot more than mowing one! I remember my mother grilling almost every night during that brief period; she loved that it meant no pots to wash. She also grew up in an apartment so her grilling repertoire was not that broad – we ate a lot of grilled chicken that year!

One of the highlights for me moving to the suburbs, as an adult, was purchasing our shiny new Weber grill. We came from a 1-BDRM in Brooklyn with a 2-burner stove and no oven – to say we were novices when our grill showed up was an understatement.

The delivery guy had to show us three times how to turn it on – I remember him talking slowly so we could follow along. After our “lesson” he assured us we would be fine, wished us luck, got in his truck and drove away… However, I guess we missed part of the instructions… How would we know when you ignite a gas grill the cover should be OPEN?!

To date we have managed not to set the house ablaze… And thanks to Bobby Flay and his plethora of grilling shows I have mastered most of the basics. Now we just have to figure out how to take care of the $#%^ lawn!

Thai Skirt Steak & Corn on the Cob


1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 Tbsp garlic, minced (2-3 cloves)

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 1/2 pound skirt steak, cut into 4” pieces

4 ears corn, silk and husk removed

Olive oil for brushing

Salt & Pepper



Combine cilantro, sugar, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce in a large zip lock bag. Add skirt steak, seal bag, and make sure steak is well coated. Refrigerate and marinade for one hour – ideally let marinade overnight.


Soak corn in large bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Remove corn from water and shake of excess. Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Place corn on grill and turn frequently until kernels are tender and slightly charred, about 15 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside.


Let steak come to room temperature. Crank grill up to high heat. Place steak on grill and brush with reserved marinade. Grill on each side until well charred, about 5-6 minutes, for medium-rare.

IMG_4598Remove steak from grill; cover with foil. Let stand for 5 minutes; cut across the grain into thin slices.


And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 5): “Really really really yummy, why do we need to save any for Daddy?”

Liam (age 4): “I like the steak so badly”

Dylan (age 4): “This corn tastes like fish. I can’t even bite it!”

Boys to Men

The excitement around here was palpable this weekend. After counting down for months the big day had finally arrived – Liam and Dylan turned four. Our little guys are growing up!

We started the day off with a run to the bagel shop for birthday bagels. And the fun continued with presents from mommy & daddy and older bro. Although Brian and I imagined our presents would be torn open with screams of joy – Matthew totally upstaged us. When Liam and Dylan saw what was inside the little packages Matthew had meticulously wrapped they could barely contain their excitement. I guess nothing can compare to getting a rock from your older brother. Who needs Amazon anyway? Next year, it is dirt and leaves for everyone!

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When I asked the boys what they wanted for their birthday dinner it was unanimous. Chicken Sticks! Translation: chicken kebabs… I added peppers to the mix and let them pick their own colors at the store. Liam chose green, Dylan the red. Including them in the decision process is a great way to get them to eat some veggies, so fingers crossed. And adding a pointy sword-like stick to dinner always goes over well.

Cilantro Chicken Skewers


1/3-cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 Lbs boneless, skinless, chicken thighs

2 large peppers (insert your favorite vegetable here), seeded, cut into 1” pieces

15-18 wood skewers



In a small bowl, combine lime juice, honey, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper. (Marinade can be made ahead and refrigerated)

Cut chicken into roughly 1” chunks and place in a shallow baking dish. Pour marinade over the chicken and turn pieces to coat evenly.  Cover and place into refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.


Note: If you choose to do white meat for the chicken I would suggest putting peppers on a separate skewer. The cooking times of the meat and peppers will vary and the meat may dry out.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Soak wooden skewers in water while grill is heating.  Thread chicken and pepper onto skewers and brush with olive oil. Grill kebabs until chicken is cooked through and charred in spots and peppers are tender. Turn skewers occasionally, approximately 12-15 minutes per side.

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Transfer to plate and serve with rice and lime wedges.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 5): “Why couldn’t you just make chicken?”

Liam (age 4): “Rice please. When I am six I will eat peppers…”

Dylan (age 4): “I’m just eating the chicken”

For the record, Matthew did eat three skewers, peppers and all!