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Blackened Chicken

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Blackened Chicken

Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

Inspired by: My love for spice and chicken that is cooked well, but still very juicy! I think this is one of the best ways to really sear in the juices and cook chicken fairly quickly.

Supplies: Cast iron skillet

Ingredients:

Preparation:

  • Heat your cast iron skillet so that it is searing hot (approximately 5 minutes).
  • Pre-heat oven to 375-400 or if you have a good toaster oven you can use that and skip the pre-heat.
  • Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise if they are too large for a single serving.
  • Coat the chicken in olive oil and roll it in the spice until it is completely covered.
  • Add olive oil to the hot skillet, heat for about 30 seconds, and place the chicken breasts in the skillet.
  • Sear each side for 3-5 minutes until blackened and crisp and juices are locked in.
  • Remove from skillet and place in oven.
  • Cook smaller breasts for approximately 15 minutes and larger ones for approximately 20.

Notes: Slice into strips and server over salad.

Wine Suggestions: A medium bodied red with some good fruit and a bit of spice on it would be perfect. We just had this last night with our friends Katie and Joe and drank a Southern Rhone blend – Chateau Pesquié Cotes du Ventoux Terrasses. It was fun because, coincidentally, they were at Chateau Pesquié last year. A spicier Rioja, Barolo or Zinfandel, or an off-dry white would be other great options.


Spicy Shrimp – Grilled

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Time: 5 minutes to make marinade, 20 minutes to sit in marinade, 4-8 minutes on the grill

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shrimp, cleaned but with shells
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Spice it Up …by Karen™ (as an alternative: 2 teaspoons paprika, ½teaspoon cayenne)
  • ½ teaspoon course salt

Preparation:

  • Wash and drain shrimp (leave shells on).
  • Mix all the other ingredients together.
  • Toss the shrimps into the mix and cover well for 20 minutes.
  • Heat the grill to about 400.
  • Skewer shrimps and grill for a approximately 2-4 minutes on each side depending on whether they are medium or jumbo in size.

Notes: The shells get salty and spicy and finger-licking good! If the shells are tender, they can be yummy to eat as well. These shrimps are so good healthy served over any salad. Try the mango-mint quinoa with them too!

Wine suggestions: Light to medium bodied spicy reds such as a spicier Grenache or Southern Rhone blend, or an off-dry aeromatic white such as a Riesling or Condrieu.


Papaya-Cucumber Salad

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Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Inspired by: Tony Khalife, amazing musician/artist. He taught me so much about the beauty and nuances of food.  This was one of those many salads that he just threw together one day because it sounded good and we had the ingredients. It has become a favorite because it balances out many of the spicy dishes I love to make, and when I’m in Mexico, which is quite often in the winter, I can easily find all the ingredients at a tiny market. It is often my contribution to potluck parties there with friends.

Ingredients – Salad:

  • Papaya  – 1 cup diced
  • Cucumber – 1 cup diced
  • Slivered almonds – 1/2 cup
  • Jicama – 1 cup diced (optional)
  • Avocado – ripe but firm (optional) – 1 cup diced

Ingredients – Dressing:

Preparation: Put all ingredients into glass bowl and toss gently (if you include avocado add this at the end). I do not normally add the spice, but this is fun if you want to add some zing.

Notes: This is an easy salad to bring to a party. Use the entire papaya with the same cucumber and almond proportions. Dice the cucumber and papaya in advance and add the almonds and dressing near serving time.



Spiced Cashews

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Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Inspired by: I’ve always loved cashews and almonds, but my favorite is when they are salty and spicy. I was headed out to a party a few nights ago and thought it would be fun to try my spice blend on some cashews. We loved them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound bag of unsalted roasted cashews
  • 1-2 tablespoons Spice it Up …by Karen™
  • 1 teaspoon of melted butter (I used unsalted because the spice already has salt, but if you like salty go for the salted butter)

Preparation: Set the oven to about 200 degrees. Toss the cashews in the melted butter – just barely coat them. Then toss with the spice blend until they are covered well. Spread on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully – they will brown very quickly with the butter. This gives them a slightly toaster look and taste and dries the butter out a bit.

Notes: I think anything salty and fatty is fabulous with wine – so these are perfect to nibble on while sipping wine!


Spicy Shrimp – Pan Fried

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Spicy Shrimp - Pan Fried

Time: 5 -8 minutes

Serves: 2 – 4

Inspired by: Minimal ingredients in the kitchen and being so hungry that I want to make something yummy in minutes! These are great on salad, pasta and quinoa or just to nibble on their own. Normally I prefer not to cook during a party, but I hosted a party last night and it was so easy to make these while everyone was hanging around the kitchen because it just took minutes.

Ingredients:

Preparation: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet or saute pan. Once it is hot, add the shrimp. Sprinkle with the spice (any amount to your liking – a small amount goes a pretty long way) and cook for about 2 minutes on each side and serve.

Wine Suggestions: These are yummy with any off-dry white such as a Riesling or possibly a Viongier or Condrieu. They are also nice with a medium-bodied red with some nice fruitiness or spice such as a fairly ripe Spanish Rioja, Southern Rhone or Merlot.


Green Beans with Toasted Almonds & Manchego

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Time: 15-20 minutes

Serves: As many as you’d like

Inspired by: Green beans are one of my least favorite vegetables, but when they are dressed up with things I like such a nuts and cheese, it changes everything.

Ingredients / Preparation:

  • Green beans for as many as you are serving.
  • Wash beans and snip off ends.
  • Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Saute over medium heat for 5-10 minutes (depending on the texture you prefer). Sprinkle with grated Manchego (or any hard salty cheese) and toasted almonds.

Wine Suggestions: You’ll probably select a wine that goes best with your main course, but if you are considering wines that are most complimentary to green beans, good pairings are high acid, unoaked wines that can compliment herbal flavors such as Sancerre, Verdejo or my favorite would be a Gruner Veltliner that seems to pair well with most anything.


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