Lime Marinated Grilled Shrimp Salad

Now that winter is over and it’s officially spring (for the most part) it’s time to get “beach body ready”!  Even if you’re not trying to lose weight it’s always a good idea to eat a healthy balanced diet and this recipe is perfect.  When I made this dish I wanted something quick and easy to make with as few ingredients as possible and this is what I came up with 🙂



1 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp lime zest
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
mixed greens
vinaigrette dressing


In a medium bowl combine shrimp, olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, cumin, oregano, garlic power, salt and pepper.  Toss shrimp so that each piece is evenly covered in marinade.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat grill or grill pan over medium high heat.  Place shrimp on grill and cook about 4 minutes on each side.  Allow shrimp to cool slightly and serve on top of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette dressing.


*An NCJ Original*


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Southern Fried Hoecakes

I like to call myself a Southern girl that just happened to be born in the city.  Since I was a child I’ve been making annual trips down to Mississippi to visit family and learn the history of my descendants that lived there.  Don’t tell anyone but I can fake a country accent better than those folks on the show Nashville, lol!  But seriously I love all things southern and these hoecakes make me feel like a country girl.

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while you know that I love my family in the south and all the food that comes with it!  Hoecakes are one of those foods that instantly makes me think of being in the Mississippi country surrounded by family and love.  My cousin Sherry actually made these for Thansgiving one year and I’ve been addicted ever since.

Never had hoecakes? It’s basically taking cornmeal batter and frying them in butter similar to how you would make pancakes.  And in case you were wondering where the name came from check this article on Wikipedia.  They can be a side item for dinner or served for breakfast with fresh fruit and honey.  Either way I hope y’all enjoy.  What’s your favorite southern dish?


1 cup AP flour

1 cup self-rising cornmeal

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup butter, melted

Oil or butter for frying


In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt.  In a small bowl combine the eggs, buttermilk, water and melted butter.   Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Heat the frying oil or butter in a medium or large skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter, by full tablespoons, into the hot skillet. Use about 2 tablespoons of batter per hoecake. Fry each hoecake until brown and crisp; turn each hoecake with a spatula, and then brown the other side. Remove each hoecake to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.


Recipe adapted from The Food Network


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Lamb Meatballs with Cucumber Dill Sauce


As my friend says, “It’s not a party without meatballs!”  So for my latest Girls Night In I made these deliciou Lamb Meatballs. I wanted to try something different from the standard BBQ  meatballs, which are pretty darn good in their own right.   However, if you’re looking for something quick and easy to make that will still impress your guests these are perfect.  They only took about 30 minutes to prepare (if that long) and 20 minutes to bake. So if you’re in a rush you can make the meatballs ahead of time, refrigerate them and pop them in the oven right before your party.

These meatballs are tender and juicy with just the right amount of crunch from the onion and toasted pine nuts.  Next time you have a party make these and trust me your guest will love you for it!  They go  perfectly with a glass of pino noir or riesling if you’re not into red wine.



2 lb Lamb, ground
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 1/2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped and divided
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cup greek yogurt, strained
1/2 cup cucumber dill dressing
Fresh Dill for Garnish


In a saute pan heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes and set aside. Meanwhile in a large bowl thoroughly combine lamb, pine nuts, cumin, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon dill, egg, salt and pepper.  Add onions and combine using your hands.  Line a baking sheet with foil and roll out 1 1/2” balls placing them on baking sheet. These can be prepared ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator for up to a day.  Bake for 20 minutes.

While meatballs are baking, prepare yogurt sauce. In a small bowl, combine Cucumber Dill Dressing, yogurt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon of dill.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a starter with dipping sauce on the side and garnish with fresh dill.


Recipe adapted from Paula Deen


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Mexican Drunken Shrimp with Guacamole

Last week a few of my girlfriends and I went to dinner at Cooper’s Hawk.  If you’ve never been there, it’s a winery that also serves some pretty good food.  I will admit that my favorite part of the night, other than sharing some much needed laughs with my girls, was the wine tasting at the beginning.  It was so crowded that we had an hour and a half wait before we sat at our table!  But the wine tasting made it all worth while.  I opted for the “Sweet Wine” tasting which consisted of one ounce pours (yeah right!) of eight different wines.  I liked some and loved most of what was served, my favorite being the Cranberry and Romance Red wines.

 After all that I thought the night couldn’t get any better.  Luckily my girlfriend, Rekia, is a member of their wine club and received two of their newest cookbooks Celebration Recipes From Cooper’s Hawk Family and Friends, one of which she gave to me. Oh happy day! Cookbooks are like dirty magazines to me…I like to read them in private and they give me an obscene amount of joy, even if I never make a thing from them. However, after seeing the Mexican Drunken Shrimp on the menu and getting a complete thumbs up from my friend Monica, I decided to try this recipe for myself.

First, the shrimp is wrapped in bacon.  I could just stop there because you all know how much I LOVE bacon!  But I digress…ok so the shrimp is wrapped in bacon, but then to make the sauce you use some of the drippings and fond from the bacon, add to that tequila (yum) and some chicken broth and butter and you have a killer sauce.  To top it off add some homemade guacamole spiced up with jalapeno peppers that gives it the Mexican feel.  I would suggest serving each shrimp on a small amount of guacamole as an appetizer with some extra guac and chips on the side.  Or they can be served with rice and beans as a complete entree.   I can’t wait to make these again!



For shrimp:

14 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
7 slices bacon, halved crosswise
2 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tequila
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp unsalted butter

For guacamole:

2 ripe avocados
3 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice (1-2 limes)
1/2 cup and 2 tbsp diced tomato
2 tbsp minced onion
4 tsp minced, seeded jalapeno
3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper


Rinse shrimp and season with garlic powder and pepper.  Wrap each shrimp in with a half slice of bacon, place a plate, cover and refrigerate.

To make the guacamole, cut the avocados in half, remove pits and scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl.  Using the back of a fork, mash the avocados until there are no large chunks.  Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of lime juice, 1/2 cup of tomato, the onion, 2 teaspoons of the chile, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, the salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly, cover and set aside.  To prevent the avocado from oxidizing, cover with plastic wrap by pressing the wrap down into the bowl until it touches the guacamole and completely covers it.

In a large pan heat the canola oil over medium high heat.  Add bacon wrapped shrimp and cook on both sides about 5 minutes on each side until shrimp is completely cooked through and bacon is done.  You may need to rotate the shrimp and cook on all sides depending on how large the shrimp is.  Remove and set aside on paper towels to drain.

Pour the fat from the pan, reduce heat to medium and add the garlic and saute about 15 seconds.  Add the tequila, stir and make sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.  Simmer and reduce by half.  Add the broth and reduce by half again.  Add the butter, remaining 1 teaspoon lime juice, 2 teaspoons of chile and 2 tablespoons of tomato.  Stir to mix well and simmer about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

To serve place shrimp on a tablespoon size dollop of guacamole.  Spoon sauce over shrimp and garnish with cilantro and a wedge of lime.


Recipe adapted from Celebration Recipes from Cooper’s Hawk and Friends


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Chicken Skewers with Walnut Pesto


A few weeks ago I went to an event with my sisters and co-workers.  It was a nice relaxing night with my girls and a glass, or two, of wine…my kind of night!  The only thing that made it better was the delicious food.  Nadia G. from the show “Bitchin’ Kitchen” on the Cooking Channel was there to promote her new cookbook “Cookin’ for Trouble”.

Nadia did a demo of some of her new recipes but the one the impressed me most was her Chicken Skewers with Walnut Pesto.  Such a simple recipe that packs a ton of flavor.  I didn’t want to seem greedy but…whatever these skewers are awesome and you should make them now.

Normally pesto is made with pine nuts  and olive oil but this recipe calls for walnuts and walnut oil.  It gives the pesto a more mellow flavor in my opinion but I think I’ll try a more traditional pesto next time.  Before this event I’d only seen Bitchin Kitchen a few times. I’m more of a Barefoot Contessa on a Saturday morning kind of girl.  But after trying some of the recipes in her new cookbook I am officially a fan of Nadia G.


For Pesto:

2 cups of basil, packed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper

For Chicken skewers:

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cubed
12 cherry tomatoes
9 pearl onions, cut in half
Sea salt
Garlic powder
Freshly cracked black pepper


Making the pesto: In the processor, pulse basil, walnuts, garlic, and walnut oil until combined. Add Parmesan and olive oil, and pulse again.  Season with sea salt to taste.

Making the chicken skewers: Soak the wooden skewers in water for 1 hour. Onto each skewer, alternately thread chicken, cherry tomatoes and onions; repeat until skewer is full.

Brush the prepared skewers with olive oil, and season with garlic powder sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Grill for around 5 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked. Slather with walnut pesto.

 ♥ Nina

Recipe adapted from Windy City Live with Nadia G.

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Salmon BLT Sliders with Chipotle Mayo

So I know I’ve been on a dessert kick and after last week’s peach series I felt like it was time for something with a little kick.  After much thought (and browsing on Pinterest) I found this awesome recipe.  I feel like I should have been making and eating this all my life!  I mean it has salmon which I love and bacon which makes EVERYTHING taste better.  Throw in some sauteed mushrooms that I had left over in my fridge and all I needed was a glass of wine and I was done.  Plus they’re so small and cute, how could you resist eating them?!

The Adobo sauce definitely adds some heat to these already yummy sliders.  Don’t be like me and try to taste the sauce by itself…it will burn your tongue off!  Mixing it with the mayo cools it down a bit but if you really like spicy food feel free to add more than the recipe calls for.  These sliders would be awesome to serve at a party.  Let your guests build their own and sit back and get all the glowing praise.   Or just eat them yourself…I won’t judge you.


makes about 6-8 sliders


1 pound raw skinless salmon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp olive oil

2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into thirds

2 tomatoes, sliced

lettuce for topping

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp Adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo)

6 slider buns or dinner rolls, toasted if desired


Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add bacon. Cook until crispy and fat is rendered, then remove and let drain on a paper towel.

Preheat the broiler in your oven and place the top oven rack as close as it can go to the broiler. Cut the salmon in to squares pieces that fit the size of your buns.  Brush with olive oil, then cover both sides with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place on a broiler pan (or nonstick baking sheet) and broil for 5 minutes. Gently flip and broil for about 5 minutes more.  Depending on the strength of your broiler you may need to place the oven rack lower (which is what I did).  Just keep a close eye on the salmon and if it is browning too fast move the rack down or lower the heat on your broiler.

In a small bowl, mix mayo with adobo until smooth. Spread some on each bun, top with a square of salmon, a slice of bacon, a tomato sauce and lettuce. I also topped mine with sautéed mushrooms and onions because I had extra in my fridge but feel free to leave off if you’re not a big mushroom fan.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is


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Mixed greens, strawberry & goat cheese salad

This is hands down one of the best salads I’ve tasted. Sweet and refreshing, just in time for Spring!




  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, grated
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh mixed greens, washed and torn into pieces
  • 1 can hearts of palm, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 6 ounces goat cheese, cold



  1. For the dressing, combine the vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small non-reactive saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Make sure not to let the dressing boil.
  2. Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature. When cooled, whisk in the oil, onion, poppy seeds, dry mustard and paprika until thoroughly combined. Set dressing aside.
  3. In a salad bowl, combine the mixed greens, hearts of palm, strawberries, walnuts and goat cheese. When ready to serve, add some of the dressing, and toss gently. Serve the remaining dressing alongside the salad so diners may add more, if desired.


Source: inspriration from Paula Deen (

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French Onion Soup

This was so easy to make and the taste is incredible.  Just like the French onion soup you get at restaurants…probably better!


  • 2 Onions sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 20oz beef stock
  • 20oz chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 ½ cup Gruyere cheese grated
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 cups seasoned croutons



  1. Warm the oil and butter in a pot for about 1 minute or until it begins to create a white foam.  Add onions and sauté until the onions are caramelized and have a nice golden brown color.  Add oregano and basil and cook for another 2 minutes.
  2. Add the red wine and deglaze the pan by scraping the bits off the bottom.  Add remaining stock and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour soup in an oven safe bowl or ramekin and place croutons on top of soup.  Add cheese on top of the croutons and place under a broiler to allow the cheese to melt.  Remove from broiler once the cheese begins to bubble and turns a golden brown.  Garnish with a little parsley or paprika and enjoy!


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Cheese Biscuits

Ok, I’ll admit it…I’m a Hunger Games nerd and I love any and everything related to this awesome movie.  I read all 3 books in less than a week and when the movie came out I camped out in the lobby of the theatre for 3 hours just so we could be first in line to see the premiere.  Hey don’t judge me…I know I’m a little obsessed but hey I could be addicted to worse things right??  Just when I was coming off my HG high and life was returning to normal I saw an article about “The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook” I literally jumped out of my seat!  Okay maybe not literally but you get my point.

For those who’ve read the books, and not just seen the movie, you all know that food plays a HUGE role in the story line.  I think the author was trying to highlight some of the food/hunger plights going on in the world today.  I could go deeper but instead I’ll point you to this interesting analysis:

These biscuits were all I could have hoped for.  Warm right out of the oven they were fluffy and melted in my mouth.  If you like the biscuits from Red Lobster these are pretty darn close.  Emily does a great job at transforming the most popular recipes, like lambs stew with plums, and making them into actual recipes that taste good.  It’s like seeing fiction come to life right before your eyes.  I can’t wait to make some more recipes from this cookbook!



2 cups Bisquick

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup whole milk

3/4 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup butter

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1/4 tsp kosher salt



Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet with butter.  Combine Bisquick, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, sugar, milk and cheese until well blended.  Use ice cream scoop or large spoon and drop batter by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.

Combine butter 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, Old Bay seasoning and kosher salt in small bowl. Microwave about 30 seconds until butter is melted.  Stir butter and seasonings and brush tops of biscuits with butter mixture.


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Spinach, Mushroom & Shrimp Quesadilla



1/2 pound of shrimp peeled & deveined

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (10 ounce) package chopped spinach

2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese

5 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 Portobello mushroom caps, sliced

4 (10 inch) flour tortillas

1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Rinse shrimp in cool water and place in bowl, season with salt & peper. Warm 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble and turn white.  Add shrimp and cook till pink (about 4 minutes on each side).
  3. Warm 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble and turn white. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Drain and pat dry.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on one side of each tortilla. Place tortillas cheese side up on baking sheets, and bake 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  5. Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 8 minutes. Mix in spinach and shrimp and continue cooking 2 minutes. Place an equal amount of the mixture on the cheese side of each tortilla. Fold tortillas in half over the filling.
  6. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place quesadillas in the skillet one at a time, and cook 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges to serve.

*An NCJ Original*

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