Gluten-Free Shrimp Meatballs, and Bonus Louis Salad!

It was a hot and sticky summer’s day, and we were having some friends over for a mini Book Club lunch.

Barb was bringing her family’s famous Chili Crack, and I had prepped the fixin’s for Strawberry and Basil Spritzers (with gin!).

Seeing as how it was a hot and sticky summer’s day, I opted for a main course salad; specifically, a Louis salad.

So, I needed shrimp or lobster or…

Shrimp and pork meatballs! And, bonus! they are gluten-free, too!

•1-1/2 lb ground beef/pork blend
•1 lb shrimp, deveined and peeled
•3 scallions, chopped
•5 cloves garlic, minced
•1/2 tsp curry powder
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper

Heat your oven to 350º.

Note: my main oven is currently out of commission, so, until  my new oven arrives next week, I have been using the convection oven setting on my micro-hood whenever I need to bake something; so, your actual cooking time for these might vary.

Add all of the ingredients to the bowl of your food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until well mixed.

Using a one tablespoon scoop, shape into approximately 60 meatballs and arrange on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the meatballs over.

Return to the oven for another 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.

Go ahead and taste one, for quality control purposes, of course.

Nice! But…

Even though these meatballs were going to be the “meat” part of a “Salad, with MEAT!” (thanks, Barb, for that description, which will be the only way I think of these kinds salads from now on), and I had that fine Louis Dressing already chilling in the fridge, I thoughtthat mebbe a bit of a glaze would be nice on them.

So, I tossed ’em into a large pan with a honey Aleppo pepper sauce from Trader Joe’s and warmed them over medium low heat until they were glazed and ready for the salad, which was chopped romaine, Blanched Asparagus, grilled Halloumi cheese, sliced red onion, and Peruvian pearl peppers from my market’s olive bar.

Note: no honey Allepo sauce? No problem! Plum sauce, pepper jelly, or even barbecue sauce will work for a glaze.

To serve, arrange the meatballs – I started out with six per person – on a large salad plate and add your freshly tossed salad.

Add Louis dressing to taste, and some freshly cracked black pepper.

A nice, and, surprisingly filling, salad!

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Strawberry Basil Spritzer – with Gin

Whenever our Book Club gathers, we make certain to include some sort of lovely fruit to enjoy as a part of the get together.

Normally, that would be our favorite Fruit Salad, freshly decanted from whichever bottle(s) have caught our eyes.

Oh… did I not mention that our fruit salad is wine? Red, white, rosé, we are pretty easy.

Then, for a recent small gathering, one of our members sent a recipe for a strawberry

and basil spritzer that looked interesting and refreshing, but… only sparkling water?

I thought we could do a bit better than that.

There was also a fair amount of muddling strawberries and basil in individual glasses, but, I have better things to do than that, so, a strawberry and basil smoothie it is!

But first, to make a simple syrup, which is a lot easier than folk seem to think it is.

Simple Syrup:
•1 cup sugar
•1 cup water

•16 oz whole frozen strawberries, thawed
•60 fresh basil leaves (to taste)
•1/2 cup simple syrup
•Gin (to taste)
•Sparkling water

Note: don’t care for gin? Try it anyway! But, if you really cannot deal with it, substitute vodka or rum, or, even mebbe ginger beer for a non alcoholic version.

To make the Simple Syrup, simply stir the sugar into the water in a saucepan over medium heat until it has completely dissolved. This will only take a few minutes.

Allow the syrup to cool completely, then store in the fridge for up to a week until you need it.

Simple Syrup made and cooled, let us make our strawberry and basil smoothie!

Pour the Simple Syrup over the strawberries and basil leaves in a blender jar and pulse until you have your smoothie as you like it.

Note 1: my blender has a “Smoothie” setting, so it did a bunch of the pulsing on and off on its own for a minute or two, leaving me a pretty nice drink.

Note 2: the original recipe (y’know, the one that called for all that muddling in individual glasses) called for 1-1/2 cups of trimmed strawberries and 15 basil leaves divided among four glasses. My blender method used a 16 ounce bag – or about three cups – of thawed frozen strawberries, and I started out with that, 1/2 cup of the Simple Syrup, and the 15 basil leaves.

Then, I tasted the smoothie, and, it was… nice, but… it most certainly needed more basil; so I added another dozen leaves and processed again; and then tasted again.

In the end, 60 basil leaves seemed to provide the perfect balance of basil to strawberries.

To make your Book Club Fruit Smoothie, pour the strawberry and basil mixture over ice in a glass, add gin to taste, then a splash or three of sparkling water.

Give it all a bit of a stir, then settle back and discuss your book(s).

Or not.

Our Book Club does not get caught up in minor details. As long as we have our quota of fruit, and some other tasty comestibles (in this case, Barb’s Family’s Chili Crack and a rather nice Shrimp Meatball Louis Salad with grilled Halloumi cheese), we are good.

Note: the amounts listed in this recipe made enough for eight to ten nicely poured glasses of fruit.

In case you were counting.

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Barb’s Family’s Chili Crack

Well, technically, I guess this is Barb’s Sister-in-Law’s Chili Crack; and, you know it’s gotta be good, because:

her mom is the justly famous Aunt Beezy – of Aunt Beezy’s Soda Bread, and…

Just consider the leavings in this nine inch serving plate.

And there were only four of us at the table.

And this was just an appetizer.

All this said, I did make a few changes to the original, which calls for Hormel Chili (no beans), and an eight ounce block of plain cream cheese.

I went with Wolf Brand Chili (still no beans), and Philadelphia Spicy Jalapeño Cream Cheese Spread.

Note: the nice folk at Wolf Chili and Philadelphia Cream Cheese have provided no funding or sponsorship of this post; these are just two ingredients that I thought would work well together.

•1 can chili (no beans)
•1-1/2 (7.5 oz) tubs cream cheese spread
•Shredded cheese (I used 4 cheese Mexican)
•Tortilla chips

Note: if you go the eight ounce brick of plain cream cheese route, let it soften to room temperature so you can spread it more easily.

The method is dead simple, and, since this is a microwave recipe, it all comes together in next to no time.

Spread the cream cheese over the bottom of a glass pie plate or quiche pan, then spread the chili over the top to cover, and then top with the shredded cheese blend.

Pop into the microwave and cook until the top layer of cheese is nicely melted, and the chili and bottom layer of cream cheese are both well heated through. Mebbe a minute or three total, depending on your ‘wave.

Serve with chips on the side.

Note: we have all found it better to give folks a plate so they scoop out a big spoonful of the dip to then enjoy with their tortilla chips. Of course, that may very well have been the reason just the four of us went through most of this plate.

Oh well. It was wicked good.

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Baked or Grilled Beans

Full Disclosure: these beans are not – as a family member likes to say – my favorite; but, my husband was pretty happy with them, so I guess there’s that.

They are, though, a nice change from the regular baked beans, and come together pretty quickly.

The nice folk at Food Network call for grilling these for 15 minutes; but I put mine in a small pot and baked ’em at 250º for an hour or so.

•1 tbsp bacon fat
•1 cup diced sweet onion
•1 cup diced red pepper
•4 cloves garlic, minced
•1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
•1/4 cup ketchup
•2 tbsp brown sugar
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1-1/2 tsp cider vinegar
•1/2 tsp Cayenne
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp paprika
•1/2 tsp dry mustard
•1/2 tsp onion powder
•1 tbsp sugar
•2 tbsp maple syrup
•1 (15.5 oz can) dark kidney beans
•1 (15.5 oz) can northern white beans

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Melt the bacon fat in a pan over medium high heat, then add the onion and red pepper and cook, stirring often, until the veggies are tender, about eight minutes.

Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, mebbe another minute, then add the tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and the seasonings and cook, stirring, until the brown sugar has melted into the sauce.

Drain and rinse the beans and then stir into the sauce.

Now, you have a choice…

Pop your beans into a cast iron (or other grill-safe pot), cover, and place on the grill, close the cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.


I transferred mine to a small pot, then covered and baked them at 250º for an hour or so.

Like I said… nice enough beans, just, not my favorites.

Note: if you’d feel like you’d like some meat in these, go ahead and add your fave, cooked, to the beans before grilling or baking.

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Ribs, Slow Cooked, Then Grilled

I usually pre-cook my ribs, sealed tightly in a baking pan with foil, but, well, my oven decided it did not want to play anymore.

OK, I get it, my range has probably seen a lot more action than is the norm, and, nine plus years in, with one burner that has needed to be lit manually for the past year or so, I guessed as how I was mebbe due for some new kitchen toys.

New range and fridge ordered (because, why not? I was there). But…

they won’t be delivered until early August, so, what to do with this rack of ribs?

Enter the slow cooker; and the nice folk at, who shared this method.

•1 rack of baby back pork ribs
•1/2 cup water
•1 onion, sliced
•3 garlic cloves, minced
•Montreal Steak Seasoning*
•Barbecue sauce

*Or your fave seasoning blend.

Cut the ribs to fit in the slow cooker, then add the water, onion, and garlic. Season as you like, then cover and cook on High for four hours, or on Low for eight hours.

Once finished, you will have perfectly tender ribs, ready to add barbecue sauce and finish in the oven or on the grill.

Remove from the slow cooker and discard the onion and any cooking liquid.

Arrange the ribs on a large baking sheet, or transfer to a grill.

Bake the ribs at 375º or grill, brushing with your barbecue sauce of choice.

I used my own sauce, which is a fave.

Bake or grill for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce has had time to caramelize on the ribs.

You can serve with more sauce on the side, but, really, you won’t need it.

Tender, tasty, and so! so nice.


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Let’s Louis Like You Mean it!

I do love me a Louis salad – be it Lobster Louis, Shrimp Louis, or Chopped Veggie Louis; it is all good in my book – and I have several very nice versions of Louis Dressing here on this blog.

Then, after a long absence, we finally had good friends over for an evening of food and wine and conversation, and one of our friends presented me with this kinda cool cook book, originally published in 1965.

Our friend lamented the lack of photos,

but the author’s writing style more than makes up for that lack. Here is part of his entry on Louis dressings:

“Many inferior restaurants use something that is more like 1000 Island dressing.”

Please, tell us how you really feel!

This Louis dressing would not be served in some inferior restaurant, and it has an interesting, mebbe vintage mid-century, twist on other Louis…

Stiffly whipped heavy cream.

SO, of course I had to try it, and it is pretty darned good for being so simple to toss together, all you really need to remember is one, one, one, and one.

•1 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff*
•1 cup mayonnaise
•1 cup chili sauce
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste

*1/2 cup of heavy cream will whip nicely into one cup.

Note: an immersion blender makes quick work of whipping cream. Just add the cream to the beaker and whip, pulling the blender wand up and down through the cream to evenly aerate it. This will only take a minute or so.

Once the cream is stiffly whipped, add the remaining ingredients to the beaker and blend until well and truly mixed.

Transfer to a jar and stash in the fridge until it is time to serve your salad. You will end up with almost a quart of the good stuff, so you are good for sharing your Louis with family and friends.

Louis well-made and chilling, it is time to consider our salad options…

I was in the mood for a main course salad, so air fried some frozen Bang Bang Shrimp from Whole Foods – really tasty, and gluten-free, to boot!

For the rest of the salad, I sliced and air fried Halloumi – a Cypriot sheep cheese – then sliced the crispy bits into matchsticks and added blanched asparagus and thinly sliced red onion.

Great salad, great dressing; and most certainly not inferior.

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Grilled Halloumi and Kielbasa Vinaigrette Salad

First; if you don’t know, Halloumi is a Cypriot sheep or cow cheese that stands up really well to grilling.

It is also frikkin’ tasty, and available at many well stocked cheese shops or, seasonally, at Trader Joe’s.

Now, you can just grill it and mebbe serve it with a bit of sweet chili sauce, or toss it on some flatbread with chilies and perhaps some hot honey and then grill it, or, as I did here, grill it and serve with a nice salad.

•Halloumi, sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
•Romaine, chopped and chilled
•Asparagus, blanched and chilled

•5 cloves garlic, minced
•1/2 cup red wine vinegar
•1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
•1-1/2 cup canola oil
•1/2 cup olive oil
•1 tbsp Dijon mustard
•1/2 tsp 21 Seasoning Salute
•1/2 tsp basil
•1/2 tsp parsley
•1/2 tsp oregano
•1/2 tsp paprika
•1/2 tsp Tellicherry pepper
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp sugar

Kielbasa and Veggies:
•2 kielbasas
•Chopped pimientos*
•Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
•Scallions, sliced
•Peperoncini, sliced

*I used whole Peruvian Pearl Peppers, from my market’s olive bar, though you can also order them from Amazon.

First, make your vinaigrette by add all the ingredients to a blender jar or an immersion blender beaker, then just process until the vinaigrette has emulsified. Transfer to a large covered jar and stash in the fridge.

Next, trim your asparagus and add to boiling salted water for about three minutes – just until it turns a bright and vibrant green. Immediately transfer to a bowl frill with ice water, then drain well, set aside to dry, then chill.

Place the kielbasa in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Remove from the water, allow to cool, then cut into 1/2 inch slices.

Note: I tend to keep my asparagus and lettuce separate from the vinaigrette until just before I serve it.

Add the sliced kielbasa and other veggies to a large bowl, then pour the vinaigrette over and toss to combine. Cover and stash in the fridge for a few hours or, even better, overnight (this is the reason I keep the asparagus and lettuce apart).

When ready to serve your salad, heat your grill to medium, then arrange the sliced Halloumi on the grates.

Grill for a few minutes, until each slice is nicely marked, then turn over and repeat.

Once the Halloumi is grilled to your liking, you can chop the slices and toss with the Romaine and sliced asparagus in a large salad bowl.

Now, you have a choice; add all of the kielbasa vinaigrette, toss, and serve, or, and I really like this option… Allow folk to serve themselves Halloumi and salad, then top it off with as much of the kielbasa vinaigrette as they like. If you’re like my friends, you will like rather a lot.

And then, if you have leftovers, the lettuce is still fresh and crisp, and the vinaigrette is still conveniently in another bowl.

Great cheese!

Great salad!

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Cherry Mimosas

We were planning only our second Book Club get together in well over a year, and I was thinking about a beverage.

“Wait! What about the book?”

Oh, sweetie, we are most certainly not that kind of book club.

So… beverages…

Mimosas are always nice, and I found a recipe with cherry juice and stuff…

•Champagne or sparkling wine
•18 oz pineapple juice
•3/4 cup cherry juice
•1/4 cup Cointreau

Note: I think next time I make this, I will use orange juice in place of the pineapple; this was good, but a touch too sweet.

Stir the pineapple juice together with the cherry juice and Cointreau in a large container, then stash in the fridge to chill.

When ready to serve, pour the chilled juice mix into a wine glass and top with your champagne or sparkling wine of choice. Because it is on the sweet side, I would recommend a dry sparkling wine, but you do what you want.

Garnish with a pitted cherry and/or a slice of orange.

This is more than enough juice for two bottles of wine, so gather the book club!

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Aunt Buzz’s Vichyssoise

This is one of those classic (to me) summer recipes – enjoying a very cold bowl of potato soup in the dining room of Aunt Buzz’s bright yellow house; second down from the top of the mountain.

Aunt Buzz loved to entertain, but, as I am pretty sure I have mentioned before, she did not love to cook, so, as with any decent mid-century hostess, she found shortcuts.

And this shortcut – cream of potato soup, sour cream, milk, and garlic powder, all

whirled together in the blender, then thoroughly chilled, is one for the ages.

•2 cans condensed cream of potato soup
•1 cup sour cream
•1-1/2 soup cans of milk
•1/2 tsp garlic powder
•1/4 tsp white pepper*
•Chives (for a garnish)

*Aunt Buzz did not add freshly ground white pepper to hers, and I am pretty certain she will be making arrangements to haunt me for “gorping this up,” but we love pepper, and white pepper keeps the soup that lovely, silky cream color.

Combine all of the ingredients – except for the chives – in a blender container and process until nicely combined.

Transfer to a container and chill for at least a few hours.

Note: one of the keys to this soup is that it be served ice cold (I once had it in a (kinda nice) restaurant where they served it in a cut glass bowl suspended over another cut glass bowl filled with ice), and so, I think that it needs to be chilled in a glass container.

Serve with cut chives scattered over the top.

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Candy Apple Chicken Wings

Nicely spiced, cinnamon and apple come together to make for a fine wing sauce; and a tasty snack or dinner.

Based on an old KFC recipe (we loved their candy apple wings!), these are pretty close, and much lighter, since I’ve baked the wings instead of frying, and just spritzed the lightly seasoned wings with a bit of olive oil.

For this version, I’ve used apple jelly, but, if you want to bump up the cinnamon a tad, apple butter works a treat, too.

Candy Apple Sauce:
•2 (5.5 oz) boxes Red Hots candy
•1 (18 oz) jar apple jelly
•1 cup Fireball whisky
•3 tbsp butter
•1/2 cup brown sugar
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp sea salt
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste

•3-1/2 lb wings
•1/4 cup flour
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp garlic powder
•Olive oil

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste

Stir the Candy Apple Sauce ingredients together in a large pan over low heat until the brown sugar and the candies have melted -this could take a while, those candies are tough.

A note on the Red Hots: around here, at least, they were kinda hard to find, so I ended up ordering them on line. You can use another cinnamon candy, but some of them that I have tried in the past don’t really melt at all. They release the cinnamon flavor and red color into the sauce, but you have to pick out a bunch of opaque white capsules before using.

Let the sauce simmer for 4o minutes, stirring often. Not all of even these candies will melt, so don’t fret about a few stragglers.

Heat your oven to 400º.

Add the flour, peppers, Seasoned Salt, and garlic powder to a gallon-sized zipper bag along with the chicken wings and shake to coat the wings evenly.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and fit with a rack.

Arrange your seasoned wings in a single layer on the rack and lightly spray both sides with olive oil.

Pop into the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the wings are done.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a large bowl, and toss with enough of the sauce to nicely coat each wing. You might have leftover sauce, so, bonus – more wings faster next time!

Rearrange the wings in a single layer on the rack and pop back into the oven for 15 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and enjoy as you will. Ranch dressing is a nice addition, but not really required.

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