The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Month: January, 2013

Shrimp and Couscous with Yogurt Hummus


When it comes to photography, workdays and wintertime are just a bit inconvenient. I awake before the sun rises, I pull into my driveway as the sun sinks to its knees beyond the rolling tides of Long Island Sound. This of course gives me approximately six minutes to snap a few photos of my cooking before I face the tungsten lighting frustration that comes with nighttime, indoor photography.



And unfortunately, six minutes does not allow me to prepare a satisfactory meal, nor does it allow for tinkering with white balance, shutter speed, and aperture. So where does this leave me? Sometimes it leaves me bouncing around the kitchen, spoons and ingredients flying, on a Sunday afternoon. Other times it means delicious blog-worthy meals never make it for publishing due to yellowish tint, unappealing shadows, and my never ending quest for a quality photograph.


Fortunately, I tend to persevere despite growing frustration, as that frustration evaporates like steam when I realize that somehow I have captured a decent photograph beneath the unforgiving glow of table lamps and kitchen lights. I also cannot help but melt at the thought of springtime florals, days growing longer, and the fact that I really would change much about my workdays.


As you may or may not know, I have a real fondness for shrimp. In our house, we call them “little protein buddies.” Despite the initial shelling and de-veining that one must endure, the end product always outweighs the labor of preparation. Speaking of preparation, aside from a little protein buddy cleanup, this recipe is fairly low maintenance, low calorie, high fiber and delicious to boot!


Shrimp and Couscous with Yogurt Hummus

Serves 4


1 cup whole wheat couscous

1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon hummus

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or dill


1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 TBSP fresh lemon juice

1 TBSP lemon rind


Combine the couscous, apricots, lemon rind and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups boiling water, cover with plastic wrap and let sit until all of the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender, about 5 minutes.

In a small serving bowl, mix yogurt, hummus, mint and 1 tablespoon. Season with salt and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat broiler to high. Toss the shrimp, tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil and paprika together. Spread out on a broiling pan and broil until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drizzle with the lemon juice.

Fluff the couscous with a fork before serving. If any drippings from the broiling pan remain, add them to the yogurt-hummus sauce. Serve the shrimp over couscous with sauce on the side.










If you’re a follower of my blog then you probably read one of my recent posts about my conscious effort to incorporate a few things into each day that make me really happy.


This guarantees happiness in each day, helps me bring a positive attitude to the table of life, boosts my energy and makes for more extra-special days when I happen to stumble upon unexpected happiness.


I’m really not trying to be a happiness bore to everyone so I think I’ll just go ahead and share a few keeper photos from my sunset walk along Napatree Point this past weekend.






pretzel 1
I find it interesting the way a person evolves over time. Their job changes, their friends change, time goes by, certain activities that were such a part of day-to-day live fade away, filled by new activities, new routines, and subsequently, new memories.


 Sometimes when my minds drifts off I think about the person I used to be, the person I want to become, the person I am today. I remember being in high school and even college, waiting to feel like an adult. Waiting for some moment, some passage into adulthood. That time stamp never came though. On a day like today, a rather ordinary Sunday, when I look back on things, I realize the ways I’ve changed from the girl who was just waiting to grow up.



 Don’t grow up to fast, people warned me. You’ll miss these days, I was told. Fortunately, I can say that this is the most content I’ve felt in quite a long time. Sure, there’s always room for things to go my way a little bit more often, there’s a few things that I wish could be different, or things I wish I had done differently. But, I think that these things are minor in the grand scheme of things.


I’d like to tell those people full of warning, that it was wasted on me. For I am happier than my younger self. I find comfort and contentment in small things I used to enjoy a child, activities I lost touch with and never thought I’d revisit.


Several years ago I watched Alton Brown endlessly, episode after episode, entranced in his witty delight and scientific approach that he brought into the kitchen. I went off to college without any clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. It took me more time than I’d like to admit, to realize that the plastic foods and Little Tikes kitchen set of my childhood and the many episodes of Alton Brown I watched in high school were helping to build the foundation on which I would mount a career off of. I am forever intrigued by an individual’s relationship with food, for food is an integral part of everyone’s life in one form or another.


 One of my favorite Alton Brown episodes was about making homemade pretzels. I used to make them in high school, but then the recipe was abandoned. I spent less time in the kitchen and lost touch with something that brought me so much happiness. I am so happy to be back in the kitchen perfecting that same recipe I worked with years ago.


With a little help from Martha Stewart, Alton and a few other creative minds I think I’ve finally developed a recipe worthy of sharing with you, my readers.


For the dough:

1 package yeast

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

1/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup beer

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (option but encouraged)

2 TBSP unsalted butter, softened

For the boiling bath:

1/4 cup baking soda


For topping:

Flaky salt or light brown sugar and cinnamon or freshly grated parmesan cheese or garlic and parsley

Clearly, the possibilities are endless…

Combine together yeast, salt, sugar and warm water in a small bowl, allow to sit for about five minutes, until foamy.

Whisk flour and cayenne pepper together in a large bowl (preferably the bowl of a stand mixer). Using a pastry blender (highly recommended) or two knives, cut the butter in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the beer to the yeast mixture, stirring to combine. Add the liquid to the flour mixture and with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer, mix at low-medium speed for about 5 minutes, until dough it no longer sticky and pulls away from the edges of the bowl. Remove dough from bowl, oil sides of bowl, return dough and cover. Allow to rise in a warm area for 30 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray them lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. Once risen, divide the dough into several equal pieces. The amount of pieces will depend on the size and amount of pretzels you wish to create.

Roll the dough pieces into 12 inch ropes, make a U shape, twist the ends twice and then fold ends back over pretzel to form a circle, pressing ends to seal the dough. Allow pretzels to sit on the baking sheet for about 20 minutes to rise. While you wait, fill a large pot with at least five inches of water. Bring to a boil. Conveniently, this will also take about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 475F.

4 step

Once pretzels have risen, add the baking soda to the water which should be at a rolling boil. Gently drop as many pretzels as you can, without over crowding, into the boiling water bath. Boil for about 45 seconds, remove pretzels with a large flat, slotted, spatula and transfer back to baking sheet. Sprinkle with desired toppings and bake in the oven for 12 to 14 minutes.









Air Plants


Well folks, if you’re reading this and you live in the Northeast, then you can agree there is no escaping it. We are in a deep freeze. What always astonishes me about this time of year is how you can look outside your car window and just see the bitter cold out. There doesn’t need to be a person hunched in layers hurrying from door to door to detect it. There doesn’t even need to be ice within view to see it. The cold, unrelenting, bitter air of 7 degrees below zero permeates the landscape.


The tree line of the woods, stretched high along the interstate, jabs at the glow of dawn on the horizon, but the branches seem to ache, appearing arthritic and stiff. Smoke billows from old mill towers, exaggerated and puffy, as if it is trying to chase away the arctic air mass.


As I battle with the proper heat setting on my dashboard, I catch a glimpse of one lone rock rising out of a body of water, icicles wrapped around its base like a skirt. No ducks, no swans, nor any wildlife to observe on a day like today. Just people like me, bundled up in woolen socks and scarves, mittens and turtlenecks, brainstorming the best way to spend the shortest amount of time possible outside, playing victim to Old Man Winter.


It’s days like these were I can get lost in the whimsy of my air plants. These little self-sufficient, succulent-like, house plants are a real pleasure to have hanging around (quite literally). They’re relatively low maintenance, low cost, mess free (with no dirt and minimal roots) and are reminiscent of tropical destinations, strangers to sub freezing temperatures.


A little initial work is required to get your plants on a proper watering schedule, but the rest is low maintenance, pure enjoyment. Whether glass terrariums, decorative dishes or driftwood are your choice of vessel, these plants will live in the air and in indirect sunlight, using their leaf system as a means of obtaining adequate hydration.

Ours were ordered through Air Plant Supply Co. and we found the glass terrariums on Etsy.


Here’s a little info for those of you who think an air plant or six would make a nice addition to your living room or sun room…

Temperature – a good range for optimal growth is between 50-90 degrees.

Life Cycle – air plants will bloom (a magnificent and brightly colored flower I am told) and reproduce little offshoots, better known as “pups,” just once in their life time, but the “pups” can be removed when they have grown to be 1/3rd the size of the parent plant. Pups will grow to be parent plants and repeat the life cycle given adequate light and water.

Fertilizer – thought not required, a Bromeliad fertilizer is recommended (should you choose to fertilize) to be used once per month during the months of March through October.

Water – air plants should be watered at least once per week – 2 to 3 times is optimal. A longer, 2-hour soak is recommended every 2 to 3 weeks. It is important to shake excess water from the plant’s leaves and to allow for complete drying in between waterings. Some particular species may require less (or more) frequent watering, but this information should come along with your order of air plants.

*It is important to realize that although air plants will maintain life for a longer period of time with minimal water, they will not grow or thrive and eventually will die. This can be learned the hard way in the case of “spike,” our little guy who was cared for by an uninformed owner, he is currently receiving comfort soaks and appears to have just one bright green leaf left to his body. We shall see how he fairs now that he is under proper care.


Parsnip and Carrot Chips

If we magnified out successes as much as we magnify our disappointments we’d all be much happier.

Abraham Lincoln

DSC_0147Sometimes I think that in a perfect world I would be able to watch the sun rise every morning, take a walk in the woods or along the shore, take lots of pictures, use my Kitchen Aide mixer daily, chase the sunset, visit the both the beach and the mountains, make delicious hearty dinners, frequent my craft basket, master the art of calligraphy, and take a nice bath with good smelling candles only to cuddle up in clean sheets with my favorite fuzzy blanket and kitten afterwards. I would spend the minutes and hours in between catching up with friends and creating memories with my family. These are the things I think about when I think of my perfect world.


It only takes a few moments though, and I quickly realize that in fact this would only be perfect for a brief second. I crave structure, I need to work inorder to stay sane, I love getting to know new people and I would dearly miss the ever-evolving world of nutrition. I then rush to think of a way to fit all of this into a revised perfect world.


Instead of ever succeeding in this impossible task, I remind myself that my “world” is made up of many consecutive days. How fortunate I am that I have the time to do all of these wonderful things; I have come to realize that they just can’t happen all the time, or everyday. I become relieved when I remember this.


So instead, I try to do at least one thing each day that I would consider a part of my perfect world. The great thing I have come to realize is that most everyday I manage to squeeze more than just a few of these ideals into my life. I also have learned that the more I appreciate, the more I cultivate an attitude of gratefulness and optimism the more I seem to squeeze out of the passing hours.


One of the most recent discoveries that brightened up my day was a post I came across a few months ago that I finally got to try out. Parsnip Carrot Chips. The sweet and salty crunch is so satisfying, the calories are negligible, the fiber is abundant and can’t we all use a bit more veggies in our life? I like to think so.


Of course, in order to prepare these chips I needed to pick up a “Y” shaped veggie peeler, and this meant visiting my favorite kitchen store of all time. I wasn’t complaining one bit.


The only complaint about this quick bite? They’ll disappear in the mouths of friends and family faster than you can say vegetable.

Parsnip and Carrot Chips

Several carrots and parsnips, washed and peeled

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 325F and spray two baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray. After washing and peeling the skin off a few carrots and parsnips, use a “Y” shaped vegetable peeler to peel the carrots and parsnips into long, thin strips. Place into a bowl and toss with just a bit of olive oil. Add salt and pepper as desired. Spread the strips out onto cookie sheets and bake for about 30 minutes, turning the strips over 2 to 3 times during cooking. Watch the chips carefully towards the end of cooking to avoid burning.


Into the Woods

When you plant seeds in the garden you don’t dig them up everyday to see if they have sprouted yet. You simply water them and and clear away the weeds; you know that the seeds will grow in time. Similarly, just do you daily practice and cultivate a kind heart. Abandon impatience and instead be content creating the causes for goodness; the results will come when they are ready.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron

After days of playing victim to the evil cold and flu season once more I was antsy to get outside and get back behind my camera’s lens. I wasn’t looking to go too far from home, but I was looking for new vistas and unfamiliar paths.wood1

As much as I love bright expressions of color, lately I find myself drawn to the earthen hues that can only be found when the leaves have parted and the snow has melted away. As a neutral blur beyond the car’s window, the vast amount of variations of brown and green reveal their unique beauty only upon a closer look.

I was feeling patient, and I wanted to manipulate my camera’s unfamiliar settings a thousand times to see what kinds of images I could capture to take back with me, to tuck away for rainy days.wood3I’ve compiled a few of my favorite barks and braches, decay and fluid movement. I hope you enjoy them even half as much as I enjoyed capturing them.


Pineapple Ginger Fruit Crisp

One of my favorite recipes of all time is a create-your-own cobbler I found back in August. It was as though I couldn’t fail. The amounts were already provided and with just two or three options for each step of the way, I wasn’t overwhelmed into abandonment of the whole idea. The recipe couldn’t get old because it could always be changed with just a few ingredient substitutions. I’ve tucked it away for warmer days.


I wish I was better at creating my own recipes and it’s something I am working towards. A few modifications here and there to a recipe is still my comfort zone.


Most of the time I will stick to a recipe as is the first time around and then make some adjustments when I revisit the recipe a second time. Simple substitutions like incorporating whole wheat flour is a given. Low fat milk or light cream substitutions are pretty run-of-the-mill in my kitchen unless I suspect the extra fat content is crucial for success in a recipe, and then there’s always trusty moderation to fall back on.


I came across a fairly simple recipe yesterday and I was excited to try out one of my new Le Creuset cooking pans. Pineapple fruit crisp was reminiscent of the cobbler I dreamt about on cold winter days when I would give most anything to be back in the orchard of peaches and nectarines.


As I usually do, I stuck with the recipe as is, but sometimes I just need to learn when to go with my gut. The recipe called for 1 TBSP of ginger. While I will admit I am pretty hooked on ginger since I made Ginger Snaps back in November, the amount seemed extreme. Go with your gut and modify my emerging creativity urged, stick to the recipe my hard headed self protested. And so I stuck with the recipe.


The topping was sweet and crunchy, and although quite satisfying I wanted more. And I wanted the nutty undertones that whole wheat flour always brings to the table. For fear of messing with the topping too much I had stuck with all-purpose the first time around. The pineapple was moist without being overly juicy, but the swift kick of ginger with each bite was a disappointment. A disappointment I saw coming from the very beginning.


Here’s the recipe with some recommended modifications (and less ginger) for anyone who is yearning for that summer treat on a cold winter’s day. Please feel free to comment if you find any variations that work in your own kitchen!

Pineapple (with a little less) Ginger Fruit Crisp

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

Serves 6

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 1/4 oz whole wheat flour

1/2 cup old fashioned oats

2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg


1 large fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, cut lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces.

2 tsp fresh lime juice

1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger

1 TBSP cornstarch

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375F.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, oatmeal, butter, nutmeg and a pinch of salt into a medium bowl. Using your fingers, rub in the butter until it’s the size of small peas and the mixture resembles coarse and crumbly breadcrumbs. The mixture should hold together when squeezed. Refrigerate, uncovered, while you make the filling.

Put the pineapple chunks in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk a bit of salt, lime juice and ginger. Pour over the pineapple and mix until combined. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the pineapple, then stir again.

Transfer pineapple to a 9-inch square baking disk and sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes, until fruit is bubbling around the edges. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Cast Iron Shrimp


With a day full of to-do’s in front of me, I thought I would quickly share a recipe I tried out for dinner last week!



Seafood has always been a mainstay of my diet. With many offerings of lean protein and some omega-3 rich sources as well, the ocean never seems to disappoint me. I used to think that cooking with limes had to come in the warmer months but when I came across this cast iron shrimp recipe on Square Meal the other night it really caught my eye. I wasn’t about to wait around until May to pull this dish together.


The sauce that accompanies the shrimp packs a full citrus punch leaving little need for additional lime spritzing once the meal is plated. The ingredients are few but the flavors are plentiful. The addition of some toasted bread acts as the perfect vehicle for savoring all the juices left behind.



Cast Iron Shrimp

Recipe adapted from La Buena Vida’s blog.

Serves 4

2 lbs of uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup of low sodium chicken broth

freshly ground pepper

3 cloves of garlic, chrushed

finely grated lime zest and juice of 1 lime

pinch of smoked paprika

pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

pinch of salt

handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

bread for serving, additional lime if desired

Place the garlic, lime zest and juice, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and olive oil in a medium bowl and mix to combine. Add the shrimp, toss to coat in the marinade. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Drain the shrimp, reserving the marinade. Place a shallow cast-iron skilled over high heat and bring marinade to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and stir to combine. Add the shrimp and simmer over medium high heat until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.

After plating the shrimp, spoon some of the marinade overtop of the shrimp and scatter with parsley. Serve with bread and lime wedges if desired.







Sea Scallops and Brussels Sprouts


As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. 

                                                                                                                                   Henry David Thoreau

DSC_0078They say money can’t buy happiness, and they say that one who puts too much emphasis on material goods makes one materialistic, shallow, and perhaps dull. These two mantras have always made me wonder. I wonder who is they, and how did they come to such conclusions. But I also wonder about the exceptions and then I quickly forget about these mantras because I don’t really care for such definitive statements.


A renewed interest in photography initially left me frustrated and unfulfilled. I would venture out with my point-and-shoot Canon only to fret. But then I realized that above all frustration and grainy, unsatisfactory photographs I was a happier person. I was happier because I was doing something that I had loved and lost touch with.


It wasn’t my exquisite DSLR camera that turned me on to photography, nor was it the thing that reinstated my passion; for that would probably warrant materialism. Instead, my camera has become a material good that has allowed for experimentation and growth. Growth for my hobby and growth for myself as an individual.


I sometimes find myself wondering how I used to spend weekends if not searching for landscapes and other various creative outlets; the way I tend to spend my weekends nowadays. It’s strange to think about how fascinating I find both old habits and new discoveries. Old habits are stitched with nostalgia and new discoveries are bountiful with opportunity.


It’s a beautiful thing, the opportunity to bring some of my favorite things together, photography, location and food. Recently I discovered a new spot to visit and a new food to incorporate into dinner. Fortunately enough, my camera was ready to shoot.


It’s especially exciting when I discover new things in “my own backyard” so to speak. I’ve lived in the same town for my entire life and I’ve lived in the same house, slept in the same room. But twenty-three years later I am still finding the new in the familiar. The new and familiar can occur in many settings, specifically the grocery store and my hometown.


Brussels sprouts evoke so many reactions in people, from he fond to the fearful and I must admit, I have had minimal encounters with this cruciferous vegetable. However,  after a day poking around the shores of Stonington and coming across a recipe for brussels sprouts and sea scallops I felt I couldn’t go wrong. And I didn’t.


The recipe I used, which I modified only slightly, can be found here. For those who are interested, I used slightly less olive oil and butter than the original recipe called for, and I added bacon for an additional layer of flavor.

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Bites


I thought I had paid my dues, I’d gone through box after box of
lotioned tissues, I’d taken my sick day; and as far as I was concerned
that was enough participation in cold and flu season to last me
another year. Unfortunately, just two weeks later I was fighting
another cold, with muted taste buds and a low grade fever.


It was a beautiful Sunday morning and all I wanted to do was get
outside, take a walk, and continue to experiment with my camera.
Unfortunately, with a runny nose and another work week looming, I
opted to stay inside in the warmth of my kitchen. This of course meant
one of two things, cooking or crafting. Rather than knitting some
tissues I decided to make tomato soup…I’m kidding about the tissues
of course.
As the onion whirrled in the food processor my sinuses quickly
cleared. My congestion was abruptly replaced with onion-induced
tears.It was like magic how quickly the onion went from whole to
thinly sliced. As you may have noticed, I’ve grown quite fond of my
food processor!


I used a combination of two recipes I had found online as I hadn’t
ever attempted to make my own tomato soup before. In fact, I usually
avoid tomato soup. The acidity was unappealing and the sodium from the
canned versions quickly eliminated that option. Aside from
sodium-awareness, I found the process to be fairly low maintenance
with some occaisional stirring which led to a hearty lunch perfect for
fighting both head colds and the cold temperatures outside.

Tomato Soup

Serves 4-6 (depending on the appetite of your crowd)

Adapted from Eat At Home Blog, Adventurous Tastes Blog & Bon Appetit

1/2 stick unsalted butter

2- 14 oz cans of Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes

4 cups of water (or low sodium chicken broth)

1/4 cup low sodium tomato paste

5 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or thyme), tied with twine

1/2-3/4 of a small onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic gloves, pressed with the back of a knife

1 tsp sugar

1/4 – 1/2 cup light cream

a dash of white pepper, salt if desired

In a stock pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the rosemary sprigs (tied together), garlic and onion and saute until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add in tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in diced tomatoes, 1 tsp sugar and water. Increase to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat down to medium high and simmer, stirring often for 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

Working in small batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender. Return to pot over medium heat and stir in light cream.  Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes longer and add white pepper (and salt if desired) to taste.


For the Grilled Cheese:

Any type of cheese and bread you fancy! I used slices from a whole grain sesame loaf, sharp cheddar cheese and provolone cheese.

Using a pizza cutter for ease (or a knife), cut into bite sized squares to toss in with your soup. You could always go the traditional route and dip your corner in too.