Sunday, February 23, 2014

Seafood Paella

This recipe for Seafood Paella is such a gem that I knew I had to send it to my editor at  She posted it recently and now I'm so excited to be able to share it here.

There are so many ways to make Paella and so many recipes out there, but I am especially proud of this one because I think it's simple enough for the average home cook.  You don't need a special pan or special rice; just a few ingredients that can be found in most grocery stores.  And when all these ingredients come together, you have an amazing dish that is sure to spice up any weeknight.  This Seafood Paella is also good for entertaining because it presents beautifully and appears to be challenging but is actually quick and easy.

So please do me and your taste-buds a favor and hop on over to to get the recipe and give this dish a try!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day Dinner for the Girls

This Valentines Day my single girlfriends and I decided to have a girl's night that would include a home cooked dinner (made by me), games and lots and lots of wine. As we were planning it, I felt like such a cliche. But then I realized what we were NOT doing was an "I hate valentines day" sort of function. In fact, all of us loved Valentine's day so it just made sense that, since none of us had dates, we just spent the evening together instead of alone. It ended up being a great idea and I adored the dinner I made for the girls so I decided to immortalize it here.

I didn't intend to make 4 courses but it all 

began with a request for my Tortellini w/ Spinach and Mushrooms: an easy breezy semi-homemade dinner I created last year that ended up being pretty popular with my followers and my girlfriends as well. Of course I would oblige the request, but then, as I was thinking about how rich this pasta dish is, I decided to make a really yummy salad to go with it.

The salad I made was kind of two recipes in one. First, I came across Rachael Ray's Heart-y Salad and I loved the idea of a heart themed salad. But I'm not a big fan of hearts of Palm, so I decided to keep the Romaine Hearts and Artichoke hearts and search for an amazing dressing and...I found one!! In Emeril Lagassi's Romaine Salad is an amazing recipe for a lemon Dijon vinaigrette. This good I almost poured it in a cup to drink it.

In the end, I did a mash up of Rachael and Emeril's salads and created my own Simple Salad with "Lots of Heart."  It included hearts of romaine (chopped), canned artichoke hearts (drained), halved cherry tomatoes with chives and grated pram for garnish. I actually marinated the artichokes and tomatoes in the dressing and drizzled more over the greens right before serving. I also made the croutons in Emeril's salad recipe and I must say that using Creole seasoning on the bread was genius! Thanks Emeril!

So now I had planned out two courses and I realized this was turning out to be a vegetarian dinner. GASP!! Something had to be done about this! :) I decided my first course would be a Quick Shrimp Scampi Appetizer to go along with the Italian theme I had going on. My shrimp scampi is really simple and always a crowd pleaser:

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
4 slices crusty bread
1 lb jumbo shrimp (deveined, peeled, tails on)
2 tbsp butter 
2 tbsp evoo
2 cloves garlic (minced or grated)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (couple pinches)
5-6 basil leaves (chiffonade or thinly sliced)
Salt to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 450. Brush both sides of bread with evoo and toast in the oven for about 2-3 mins on both sides. Arrange bread on a plate. Then, in a small roasting dish, toss all of the remaining ingredients together and place into the oven for 6-8 mins or until shrimp is pink and tender, the butter has melted and is bubbly. Pour the shrimp and all it's juices over the bread and serve piping hot.  (Variation: If you're not a fan of basil, parsley is the herb used in the classic scampi recipe)

So now I had 3 courses but no Valentine's day dinner is complete without dessert. I decided to go the semi homemade route again and use a
Tastefully Simple boxed Salted Caramel Creme Brûlée.  This box mix was a great option for creme brûlée lovers who want to attempt the dish at home. But I think Tastefully Simple may operate like pampered chef where you can only buy through a distributor/salesperson. So if you can get your hands on this great, but if you can't and want to try to recreate this dinner, I suggest making my Tiramisu because you can make it in advance, or grab your favorite store bought dessert. The other homemade courses will make up for it.
So that's it! 4 amazing courses. Pulled all of it off in about 2.5 hrs and my grocery bill was a mere $45. 4 courses for 4 people for 45 bucks!! Granted, I did have my Kitchen Essentials on hand but you can't beat it! I hope you all enjoyed your Valentine's Day as much as I did and I wish you lots of love this and everyday! Xo

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jerk Chicken Burgers

I don't know about anyone else, but this winter is killing me.  Perhaps I've been spoiled with mild winters the last few years or maybe the thick skin that I'd built up living in NYC has finally worn off but I'm sick of being cold and I'm sick of snow and ice.  I share all of this because, my winter blues certainly inspired my latest and greatest experiment in the kitchen.  

It was an unusually cold day and my thoughts travelled to summer and the cookouts I threw at the pool in my apartment complex.  Last summer, for the first time, I made jerk chicken on the grill and it was a smash hit.  This spicy Jamaican entree was fresh on my brain when a follower of mine on Instagram posted a picture of Jerk Turkey Burgers.  They looked really good and I knew this was the perfect way to get my jerk fix, but I decided to use ground chicken because "Jerk Chicken Burgers" sounded like victory to me.

So even though I'd never worked with ground chicken before, I picked some up along with Grace's Jerk Seasoning; my favorite brand. (I don't bother to make jerk from scratch, waayyy too many ingredients and way too many opportunities to royally screw it up. Plus this lady Grace does it so well, why bother?) 

Once I had those two ingredients, I realized that what really makes a burger great, is what you put on it so I wanted to make a nice refreshing topping to cool down the spiciness of the jerk seasoning.  I'd had mango salsa in mind but when I didn't see any fresh mangos in the produce section, I decided to go with pineapple salsa. Plus, I'd discovered that in the refrigerated section, my grocer had a nice sized pineapple chunk already cored and sliced in into rings, saving me a few steps already.

So I went home and got busy!  What I will say is that even though I love jerk, these burgers really did blow my head off and I decided when I wrote the recipe (And when I make them again very soon) I would decrease the amount of Jerk seasoning.  But my roommate has a higher tolerance for heat than me and she absolutely loved the burger.  She even said it was one of the best things I've made for her.  

So below is the recipe along with plenty of pictures.  These burgers really spiced up a cold winter weeknight for me and I want you to experience the same.  Enjoy!

Jerk Chicken Burgers

Ingredients: (Makes 4 burgers)
1 lb Ground Chicken (mix of white and dark meat)
1-2 tablespoons Grace's Jerk Chicken Seasoning*
1 small shallot (or red onion), grated
1/2 cup Plain Panko Breadcrumbs
4 fresh hamburger buns (I used Italian Potato Rolls)
Mayo for topping
Sliced Ripe Avocado for topping
Pineapple Salsa, for topping (recipe below)

*When it comes to jerk, I found (the hard way) that a little goes a long way. One tablespoon is perfect for medium heat, but if you want HOT, add the second tablespoon.  I wouldn't go past that though.


Add ground chicken to a bowl along with the jerk seasoning and then grate in the shallot, up to two tablespoons.  Add in panko bread crumbs  and then, using your hands, mix everything together.  This mixture will be very wet and if you feel compelled to add a bit more panko that's fine. What I did, after mixing in about two handfuls of panko, was form 4 patties and allow them to set in the refrigerator, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

While the burgers are setting up, you can make the pineapple salsa (see below) and slice the avocado, being sure to toss the slices in fresh lime juice to keep them from browning.

Next, remove the patties from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.  Preheat your indoor grill pan to medium heat and begin by toasting the buns for a couple minutes on each side and arrange on a serving plate.  Next, gently place the 4 patties on the grill pan.  Loosely cover the pan with foil and allow the patties to cook for about 5-6 minutes.  Then flip them over and grill for 5-6 minutes more, still covered with the foil.  Remove the patties from the grill pan, place them on a plate and cover with the foil and allow them to rest for another 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, spread each side of the toasted buns with mayo.  Then, place a patty on each burger bun bottom.  Place 2 avocado slices on top of patties as well as 1-2 tablespoons of the pineapple salsa.  Cover with the top bun and serve immediately.

Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients: (makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
4 1 inch pineapple rings
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
Salt, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions: I grilled my pineapple rings on the indoor grill pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side, however this step is optional.  Dice pineapple and add to a mixing bowl.  Add in the diced bell pepper, red onion, chopped cilantro, juice of one lime, salt to taste and a pinch of cayenne.  Using a spoon, toss everything together, cover with saran and refrigerate until ready to serve.  The longer this sits, the better it is so feel free to make up to a day in advance.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

RIP to my Twitter

This blog is for cooking.  It's called April's Cookin, it should be about food, I get it.  But those of you who know me, know that I'm a teacher by day and serious foodie by night.  I've always been transparent about this and today I have to use this blog to discuss the non-foodie side, the teacher side. 

I've been teaching for 7 years and therefore I think it's safe to call this a "career."  Though I have to admit that this career has been oh so rocky and bumpy and HARD. The drama is constant, and this is not just the daily drama of managing 20-30 hormonal teenagers.  I'm talking about drama on top of the drama.  I could regail you all with some of the wild stories I've built up from working in the schools, but this post is going to be about progression so I'm not going to re-gress back into my past. Unfortunately, I will have to share with you the latest drama so that you can see how I am going to use my setback to move forward (plus I think this is a great cautionary tale for teachers), but as for the rest of it, maybe after my cookbook is published I'll get tapped to do a memoir.  Never can tell.

So anyway, over the past two years I've found a comfy home, great entertainment and actual connections on twitter.  I wouldn't be here, literally, in this place in my life as a serious home cook, food blogger and food entrepreneur if it wasn't for twitter.  I found a space where I could share my life in the kitchen as it was happening and the people I've met (some of you may be reading this as subscribers) have been just AWESOME! But how does the saying go? All good things must come to an end?  Well, it seems like my students agree with this saying because they discovered my twitter page and made every tweet that could be interpreted as inappropriate and embarrassing public knowledge to not only other students but to my administrators as well. 

Now to be clear, I'm not blaming 15 & 16 year olds for my choices.  I am taking responsibility. People warned me long ago to go private but I didn't listen. I liked being public because the foodies could find me, see my work, see my tweets and jump on board.  I figured if I didn't include my full name, I'd be fine.  Plus I was very niaeve in my understanding of the nasty side of twitter and how a seemingly innocent tweet (a mere 140 characters) can be miscontrued, misinterpreted and literally used to bring you down.  So trust me, I know where I went wrong and I learned many lessons from this experience.  I know I'm lucky to have my job still (people get fired for things like this).  Though I cannot sit here and tell you that having to delete my twitter wasn't heart breaking. It's been a week and I thought it would be getting easier, living without it, but those urges to tweet don't go away.  I still have my Instagram and Facebook (both tightly secured) but on one I can only post pictures and on the other I don't feel comfortable sharing all my inner thoughts about cooking and eating and anything else that I love.

So here's what I've decided.  I'm going to use my blog for all of my shameless sharing for the next month.  It won't be the same as Twitter of course but I need to create a better blogging routine anyway and I figured that now would be a great time to start.  I cook about twice a week and in the past I would share what I was doing in real time on twitter, so I will keep to that schedule and post bi-weekly or so here on April's Cookin'.  I will continue to post pictures on Instagram because, as a self-proclaimed food pornographer, I cannot help myself.  But I will bring all the thoughts, questions, successes, errors, accolades and anything else I can think of to the blog.

Then, once February is over and my students have moved on to destroying someone else's social media life, I will see if I can sneak back on twitter quietly and keep the blogging routine going as well.  Now at this point, you may be judging me and wondering why can't I just stay away from the twitterverse?  Well, all I'll say is that it's bad for business to stay away.  When I return alot of things will be different but I don't let a bunch of teenagers run my classroom, I certainly wont let them think they can run my twitter page!

See you all soon! Happy cooking and happy 2014 to you all! xoxo