How Do Bloggers Birthday? (Plus Recipes)

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Happy Birthday to Me!  So how does a food blogger celebrate her birthday?  Hint;  food will be involved, (too obvious?) and if she’s lucky, maybe some fun and games.  Last week I was in Maine for my birthday and a few of my peeps threw a goodmotherdiet party for me.  This theme was a sheer stroke of genius by friend and party planner extrordinaire, Kerri Eng (KGEvents) where all my guests brought dishes that have been featured on this blog. I was aware of the goodmotherdiet aspect but not what people were actually bringing, so each new dish was a surprise as well as a walk down memory lane.  I’m sharing the dishes that were prepared for the party as well as a link back to the original recipe, so if you feel inspired, feel free to make and send me a photo.

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Our evening began with a sunset cruise of Bear Pond on a pontoon boat featuring Mango Margaritas made by my friend, Rick from the original blog post: Mango Margaritas and Homemade Tortilla Chips with Grilled Pineapple Salsa

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While we cruised around the lake, we munched on a yummy Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart made by my friend, Karen, from the original recipe: Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart Karen was kind enough to make one without goat cheese for those who abstain (cough, my husband) which was also delicious.

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We also enjoyed a wonderful version of my Cranberry Jalapeno Cream Cheese Dip which had been ‘summerized’ by Kerri by substituting strawberries which are so sweet and delicious right now while cranberries are hard to find.  I love how the same recipe can be turned into a seasonal delight just by changing one ingredient.

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Alas, we finally had to leave the lake and head in to dinner where more goodies awaited.

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Dinner was a fabulous group effort. First up was deliciously spicy Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile.  I believe that the crew of Kerri, Rick and Jason had to improvise with chile sauce since they didn’t have Chinese 5 Spice.  It was hotter and wetter than the original but delicious. Other substitutions for Chinese 5 Spice would be any combination of star anise, cloves, fennel seed, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns and a dash of Creole Seasoning, red pepper and chili powder.  You can’t go wrong and this effort proved it.

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But the ‘piece de resistance’ was the Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon made lovingly by my son, Eric, and his sous chef, Hannah Grace.  I say lovingly because Eric is an experimental cook like I am, rarely following a recipe twice but this time he followed the recipe painstakingly in honor of the occasion with perfect results, even with our finicky oven.  This dish is a family favorite and a great main course to prepare for dinner parties as it take very little fuss and cooks quickly giving you time to enjoy your own party.

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Eric and Hannah Grace also served a platter of perfectly roasted veggies, including eggplant, red and yellow peppers, yellow squash, zucchini and mushrooms.

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No dinner is complete without a fabulous salad like this Caesar Salad made by my friend, Geof, who went to the trouble to make his own dressing and homemade croutons.  Yum! Marjie brought a delicious carrot cake which wasn’t from my blog but then I don’t make many desserts.  Hmmm, maybe that will change…

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Then the fun and games portion of the evening began with a hotly contested game of FAMILY FEUD hosted by our own ‘Richard Dawson’.  The ‘girls’ squeaked out a narrow victory over the ‘boys’ in spite of the fact that I missed the last of the ‘Top 7 Barnyard Sounds’ by answering Meow instead of Cluck, which if you know that I am also know as the Chicken Lady that is pretty funny. (Check out Mrs Vs Rescue Chickens )  In my defense, my mother in law had already said cock a doodle doo so I figured chickens were taken.  Sigh…  Then on to music.  This photo taken before fab musician, Peter arrived.

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During dinner, my son gave a very sweet birthday toast and then asked me how it felt to see so many of my recipes come to life and if it was intimidating.  Surprisingly, I found it very validating as a blogger, especially one who is not experienced at creating recipes (which is harder than you might think).  All of the recipes were a success, even those that were adapted to accommodate seasonal ingredients or availability.  Whew!  I suppose it could have been a disaster, but it was sure fun.  For someone whose Mom always had to scrape up enough neighborhood kids that were in town in July to make it seem like a birthday party, I feel pretty lucky. (I’m sure other summer birthday people know what I’m talking about) Maybe I’ll celebrate the whole month…

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Wheatless Wednesday – Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile

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Salt and Pepper Shrimp are finger licking good!  I’ll bet you can’t eat just one… I’m not even a shrimp fanatic and I loved these spicy, slightly crispy, garlicky shrimp.   They are perfect on their own as an appetizer. I guarantee they will get gobbled up and they don’t even need a dipping sauce, just lots of napkins.   Or pair them with rice and veggies for a complete meal.  Turn a simple buttered pasta into a delicacy by topping it with several beautiful and tasty shrimp.  Better yet, how about warm spicy shrimp over lightly dressed mixed baby greens, yum!

Did you know that shrimp is the most popular seafood in the U.S.? They are also a good choice from a nutritional standpoint.  They are low in fat and calories and zero carbohydrates but high in protein and heart healthy omega-3 fats.  Shrimp are a great choice when you are pressed for time since they cook in just a few minutes.  If you buy easy-peel or pre-shelled shrimp, the prep work is mostly done for you but the shelling and deveining process is not that difficult, it doesn’t even take that long.   Click HERE  for a handy video on shelling shrimp with just one cut.

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NOTES ON SHRIMP:  When buying shrimp, look for wild vs farmed shrimp, if possible, and pay attention to where they are from.  According to Seafood Watch, wild-caught shrimp is generally a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” with the exception of shrimp fisheries in Mexico and Louisiana, which are on the “Avoid” list for poor management. Farmed shrimp from the U.S. is also a good option.  However, 90% of our shrimp is imported farmed shrimp, mostly from Asia, and is generally on the “Avoid” list due to questionable practices including overcrowding, chemicals, poor quality of food and even abusive labor conditions. So even though they are likely to be more expensive than farmed, wild-caught shrimp are also better for you. The Huffington Post also reported that wild-caught shrimp are better for the environment, our health and our taste buds. Choosing to eat wild shrimp also helps sustain American jobs and fishing communities.

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Photo Credit – http://www.tasteofthai

If you don’t have Chinese Five Spice powder, which I didn’t, you can substitute with what you have in your pantry.  It is typically composed of star anise, cloves, fennel seed, cinnamon, and Sichuan peppercorns, so if you have any of those ingredients, start there.  I used bit of clove, cinnamon and crushed fennel seeds and added some Creole Seasoning which has black and red pepper and chili powder.  The cloves really combined nicely with the garlic and chiles, so I will definitely be using it more in cooking.  I suppose I will be looking for Chinese Five Spice next time I’m at the market. Who knew?

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SALT AND PEPPER SHRIMP WITH GARLIC AND CHILE

2 Tbsn cornstarch
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder or Creole Seasoning + pinch of clove and cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced into rounds
4 large scallions (green parts only), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1-1/2 lb. large shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.)
3-1/2 Tbs. peanut or avocado oil
1 small lime, cut into 4 wedges (optional)

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  • Peel and devein the shrimp if necessary. Using a sharp knife, slice through the underside of the shell and remove the legs, the vein and shell, leaving the tail on.  Then make a slice along the back and remove the second vein.  Click HERE  for a handy video on shelling shrimp with just one cut.

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  • Rinse and dry the shrimp dry with paper towels. In a large bowl, mix the cornstarch, sugar, five-spice powder, salt and pepper.

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  • Prepare the garlic, chile, and scallions; set aside.

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  • Add the shrimp to the cornstarch mixture and toss until evenly coated.

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  • In a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add half of the shrimp in a single layer. Cook without disturbing until deep golden and spotty brown on one side, about 2 minutes.

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  • Using tongs, quickly flip each shrimp and continue to cook until the second sides are spotty golden brown, about 1 minute longer. (The shrimp may not be cooked through at this point.) Transfer the shrimp to a platter or plate. Add another 1 Tbs. of the oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining shrimp, transferring them to the plate when done.

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  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet. Add the garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the chile and scallions are softened and the garlic is golden and aromatic, about 1 minute.

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  • Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to combine. Serve immediately, with the lime wedges.

Adapted from Fine Cooking

Salt and Pepper Shrimp with Garlic and Chile

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 Tbsn cornstarch
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder or Creole Seasoning + pinch of clove powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced into rounds
4 large scallions (green parts only), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1-1/2 lb. large shrimp (26 to 30 per lb.), peeled and deveined, tails left on
3-1/2 Tbs. peanut or avocado oil
1 small lime, cut into 4 wedges (optional)

  • Peel and devein the shrimp if necessary. Using a sharp knife, slice through the underside of the shell and remove the legs, the vein and shell, leaving the tail on.  Then make a slice along the back and remove the second vein.  Click HERE  for a handy video on shelling shrimp with just one cut.
  • In a large bowl, mix the cornstarch, sugar, five-spice powder, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, chile, and scallions; set aside.
  • Rinse and dry the shrimp dry with paper towels.
  • Add the shrimp to the cornstarch mixture and toss until evenly coated.
  • In a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add half of the shrimp in a single layer. Cook without disturbing until deep golden and spotty brown on one side, about 2 minutes.
  • Using tongs, quickly flip each shrimp and continue to cook until the second sides are spotty golden brown, about 1 minute longer. (The shrimp may not be cooked through at this point.) Transfer the shrimp to a platter or plate. Add another 1 Tbs. of the oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining shrimp, transferring them to the plate when done.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet. Add the garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the chile and scallions are softened andthe garlic is golden and smells toasted, about 1 minute.
  • Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to combine. Serve immediately, with the lime wedges.