Welcome to the Circle B Kitchen! 
We love that you're here and hope you'll browse the site and grab some recipes.  
The Circle B Kitchen has been blogging since September, 2009.  We have loads of recipes and thoughts on food to share in the coming weeks and months, so come back and check in often!  We love hearing from you and hope you'll leave a comment or shoot an email our way.  Whether you have questions about a recipe or the site in general, please let us know...    Contact me at      pberry@circle-B-kitchen.com


Find a Circle B Kitchen Recipe 

Some of Our Favorite Summertime Things!

         3- Berry Crumble

       Peach Caprese Salad

        Summer Tomato Tart

     Fresh Sour Cherry Cobbler

Arugula, Peach and Blue Cheese Salad

Chocolate Chip Strawberry Shortcake

         Paella on the Grill!

     Grilled Nacho Burger

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salsa

     Fresh Peach Pudding Cake

   Summer White Bean Salad

 

 

     Swordfish Provencal

Bacon-Guacamole Salmon Burger


      Circle B BBQ'd Chicken

And just in case you were wondering...

       

 

Our oldest daughter, Erin, has been riding, training and showing horses since she was a teenager.  She graduated from Colorado St. University with a degree in Equine Science and is now Financial and Administrative Manager for HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Association), which provides therapy through horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, brain tumors, head injuries, blindness, autism, and strokes.  For more information or to donate to this amazing cause, please visit http://www.hetra.org/ .

 

 

Sunday
Aug022015

Shrimp Fried Rice

 

We’ve most definitely moved into the dog days of summer.  August is now upon us and any excuse to stay away from a hot stove or oven is gladly seized upon, so I suppose I should be inspiring you to make a nice cold salad for dinner or something befitting the heat and humidity of this day, but no.  Ha!  Ironically, we're going to stand over a very hot pan and stir up some trouble.  Fried rice trouble, which just happens to be ever so delicious.  But I don't want you to worry about all that heat.  I can even say with confidence that you could turn off your air conditioning and still make this shrimp fried rice without breaking a sweat.  I’m not saying that you should do that, because personally, I’m very partial to air conditioning, especially when I’m cooking, but it’s sort of my lame way of saying that the actual cooking time here is so minimal that yes, you can make fried rice in the blistering heat of August and be very happy you did.  

Perhaps a little confession time is in order here because I have to admit that I sometimes (sometimes!) shy away from some Asian recipes because they look long and involved and the ingredient list sometimes takes ½ hour to read and then I’m like “Nah, let’s just have burgers”.  I’m not proud of this because I love stir fries and all things Chinese noodles and rice bowls and such.  And I dearly love fried rice.

 So I took it upon myself to create a recipe that is neither long, involved nor labor intensive, and I have to say that in this I have failed miserably.  Well, maybe not miserably.  I mean there is a bit of chopping and dicing and such, and there are waaaaay more words in the recipe than I had hoped for, but this is the fried rice that I want to eat, and the recipe that will get me there, so there are words.  Maybe lots of them.

 

After much testing and tweaking and tasting, I have settled on a recipe that feels worthy of the Circle B Kitchen label.  I just hope you will forgive me for the wordiness, but there is so much to talk about when it comes to making good fried rice; I’ll just try and talk fast. 

Firstly, we must talk about the rice.  You can really use just about any rice you love and adore, but oddly enough, it must be cooked, cold and stale.  Well, the stale part is a bit of an exaggeration, but cold, leftover rice is what makes a good fried rice good.  If you get a hankering for fried rice and you have no leftovers in the fridge, I have given you a nifty shortcut in the recipe.  I often make a double batch when I’m making rice, just so I’ll have enough leftovers to make this.  My preferred rice is brown jasmine, but like I said, any rice will do. 

Secondly, one of the things I love about fried rice is those bits of egg that give a lovely little bite of texture.  Sometimes the egg is scrambled in the pan after the rice is added and sometimes the egg is scrambled first and then removed and added back in at the end. 

In one of my fried rice trials I had some leftover spinach frittata in the fridge and I thought why not just chop it up into the rice and that was such a good call.  It was dynamite!  So now I always make sort of a mini frittata (more like a pancake) with the egg and add green onions and spinach and then cut it up and add that to the rice at the end of cooking.  So good in there! 

Another thing that I discovered along the way is using white pepper.  I’ve always loved white pepper in sauces and with seafood, so it’s no surprise that it’s also awesome in fried rice.  I think white pepper has a little more heat than black pepper, but it’s a warm, subtle heat that just works in here. 

Since this is shrimp fried rice, we're adding shrimp to the rice (thank you, Captain Obvious), but you could just as easily add chicken, pork, or make it vegetarian by adding your favorite veggies.  And one last thing… as usual, it’s always best to have all of your ingredients chopped, measured and prepped before you even heat up your pan.  The actual cooking takes no more than about 10 minutes, so I promise… you won’t even break a sweat.  Here’s the recipe…

Shrimp Fried Rice

Click here for a printable recipe

There are as many ways to cook shrimp fried rice as there are people who love it, but there seem to be 2 constants among them all.  Firstly, you must use cold, cooked (preferably leftover) rice, and secondly, you must not overcook the shrimp.    I love the strips of cooked egg woven into the finished dish, but if you prefer to scramble an egg in the pan after the rice is added, that’s just fine too.  Or leave the egg out entirely.  Another personal preference is the addition of white pepper which I adore.  It’s a bit spicier than black pepper and adds a subtle warm heat that makes this fried rice pretty special stuff.  As for the rice, just about any rice is going to work here (as long as it’s cold from the fridge).  My rice of choice is brown jasmine or brown basmati.  I make up a batch the day before or a few days beforehand.  I’ve noted a little shortcut below if you don’t have any leftover rice.  And one more thing, I know this recipe looks long and perhaps a bit involved, but it really isn’t.  If you have all of your ingredients prepped and ready, this comes together in about 10- 15 minutes. 

Serves 3-4

For the shrimp:
12 ounces of medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
½ teaspoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper 

For the egg:
3 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup thawed, squeeze-dried frozen spinach (about 2 ounces frozen)
¼ cup of chopped scallions 

For the rice:
*4 cups of cold, cooked rice (leftover rice is preferable)
2 tablespoons minced (or grated) ginger
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or more or less depending on your heat preference)
1 cup finely diced carrots
½ cup of fresh or frozen peas (optional)
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional) 

In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp with the cornstarch, salt and white pepper.  Toss to coat the shrimp as evenly as possible and set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. 

Combine the soy sauce and sesame oil and set aside. 

Add the thawed spinach and ¼ cup scallions to the beaten egg, along with a little salt and pepper.  Heat your skillet or wok and add a teaspoon or two of peanut or vegetable oil.  Add the egg mixture and let it spread out to cover the bottom of the pan.  Let it sit for about 30 seconds to cook the bottom and then use a spatula to flip it over.  Cook another 5 or 10 seconds until cooked through and remove to a plate.  After it has cooled, cut it into strips and set aside.  You can make this the day before and refrigerate it until you're ready to cook. 

Drizzle a bit more oil into the hot pan and add the shrimp, cooking quickly, untouched, for about 30 seconds and then flip them over and cook for another minute or two until they are just barely cooked through.  Do not overcook them.  Remove them from the pan and set aside. 

Drizzle a bit more oil into the hot pan and add the ginger.  Cook for about 10 to 15 seconds or until very fragrant and then add the diced carrots and peas (if using).  Stir fry for a minute or so. 

Add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry and add the rice, the white pepper and most of the remaining scallions, reserving a few for serving.  Stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes until the rice is heated through. 

Pour the soy sauce around the edges of the pan and stir to combine with the rice.

Add the shrimp and the sliced egg back into the pan and stir to combine well and heat through. 

Remove from the heat and add the cilantro (if using).  Serve while still warm from the pan, sprinkled with the few remaining scallions. 

*If you don’t have any cold, leftover rice in your fridge, here’s a handy shortcut. You can cook the rice like you would pasta!  A few hours (or days) before you plan on making the fried rice, you can throw 1 ½ cups of rice into a pan with lots of water in it.  Add a little salt and bring it to a boil.  Once the water has come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer for 20 minutes for brown rice.  White rice might only take 10 or 15 minutes. 

Drain the rice and spread it out on a smallish baking sheet or baking pan to cool and then place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  You want the rice to be cold and to dry out a bit.  That allows it to absorb the flavors in the pan and keeps the rice from becoming soggy or mushy.

 Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Jul252015

Two Awesome Avocado Appetizers

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Pinwheels

Those of you who are frequent readers are by now well aware that we're big fans of app night.  It happens around here at least once a week.  For us, app night usually takes the form of a large platter filled with appetizers like cheeses, breads, olives, smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, little meatballs, various crostini or breadsticks, dips, sausage bites, veggies, shrimp, whatever’s on hand that’s quick and easy.  

A quick peek at the Circle B Kitchen recipe index will immediately confirm the notion that we’re way into appetizers and the whole idea that dinner (or happy hour) should be fun.  To that end, I have recently added a couple more passengers to our app train and they’re both riding in the avocado car! 

Our first app, Smoked Salmon and Avocado pinwheels, pictured up top, happens to be one of those perfect little bites of flavor…smoked salmon, avocado and a tasty lime mayo.  They’re quick and easy to make and all you’ll need is some smoked salmon, 


(This is our very favorite smoked salmon right now - from Costco!)

…and your favorite wrap. 

I used a multigrain wrap, but you could use a flour tortilla or any other wrap that you’re into or have on hand.  It’s just gotta be fresh and soft.  Then we’re going to spread half with the avocado mixture and the other half with the lime mayo.  Then top half of it with the smoked salmon and roll it up real tight. 

Then slice it up and chow down.  So good. 

This second app, which is an avocado crostini topped with feta cheese and a sprinkling of cracked black pepper, seems like a no-brainer because it’s so simple and so very easy. 

I had no idea that avocado and feta cheese were such good friends.  But if this yummy combo hasn't been on my radar before, I’m thinking it may not have occurred to some of you either.  And I couldn’t not talk about it because it really is so incredibly good.  

To make these heavenly little crostini even more fiendishly delicious, might I suggest you find yourself some especially good feta cheese.  Pictured above is my go-to feta cheese and has been for years.  It really is amazing stuff... creamy, luscious and just the right amount of saltiness.  It's imported from Israel, and they carry it at Trader Joe's, so if you have one of those near you, snag some for your fridge. As a bonus, it lasts a really long time!

I happened to have served these two apps together one evening when The Husband remarked that they should perhaps always be served as a pair.  His observation was that the flavors of the smoked salmon bites totally complemented the avocado and feta cheese, creating a nuanced balance that made them perfect together. So there you have it from a professional consumer of Circle B Kitchen eats, and I take his opinion quite seriously (most of the time). 

We’re pretty much deep into the dog days of summer now and cooking often seems like the last thing we want to inflict on ourselves.  So just grab a big platter and fill it with fun little finger foods and forget about cooking altogether.  Set it into the middle of the table or out on the counter where everyone can grab and go.  It’s a win for everyone.  Here are the recipes…

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Pinwheels

Click here for a printable recipe

These are so simple to make, but pack loads of flavor.  If using the smaller 8-inch size wrap, divide the ingredients in half when assembling as it will make 2.  Each roll will make about 6 slices.  Otherwise, this will make one large-size wrap.  

Makes about 12 appetizer slices 

(2) 8-inch or (1) 12-14-inch wrap (I used multigrain)
2 ounces smoked salmon
Mayo spread (recipe follows)
Avocado spread (recipe follow) 

Mayo Spread

¼ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper 

Stir together the mayonnaise with the lime juice, salt and pepper and set aside. 

Avocado Spread

1 avocado
4 teaspoons of lime juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper 

Slice the avocado in half, remove the seed and discard.  Use a spoon to remove the avocado from the peel and place in a small bowl.  Mash with a fork until fairly smooth.  Stir in the lime juice, salt and pepper and set aside. 

To assemble, place one wrap on the counter and spread half of it with the mayo spread and the other half with the avocado spread, keeping about an inch away from the edges. 

Place the smoked salmon on the avocado spread and roll up the wrap as tightly as possible. 

Wrap this securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Remove the roll from the plastic wrap and carefully slice into 1 to 1½ inch pieces.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Crostini with Avocado and Feta Cheese

Click here for a printable recipe

Makes 4 crostini 

4 slices of baguette, grilled or toasted
1 avocado
4 teaspoons of lime juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Fresh cracked pepper for serving 

Slice the avocado in half, remove the seed and discard.  Use a spoon to remove the avocado from the peel and place in a small bowl.  Mash with a fork until fairly smooth.  Stir in the lime juice, salt and pepper and set aside. 

*Grill or toast the baguette slices and spread with the avocado mixture.  Top with the feta cheese and a good sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper. 

Serve immediately.

*My favorite way to do this is to brush the baguette slices with a tiny bit of olive oil (or spray with olive oil cooking spray) and sprinkle them with just a bit of kosher salt.  Then I place them oiled side down on a very hot grill pan until they get some sear marks and then turn them over for just a minute.  We love the charred, smoky flavor this gives the bread, without drying it out overly much.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Jul182015

Five Awesome Dips For Your Fries

Last week we talked about how to make fries, so I thought that this week we could talk about how to eat fries.  And I have to tell you, we've eaten a lot of french fries around here lately...but without one ounce of guilt.  No sir, for each batch of fries (2 lbs of potatoes), I only use 1 tablespoon of olive oil (and a little sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese).  They're not fat free, but pretty darn close (but they don't taste like it)!

So let's add that fat back into the equation by making some very cool dips, OK?  Oh sure, catsup (ketchup?) makes for a perfectly delicious dip, but sometimes you need something a bit more dippy. My favorite all-time french fry dip from my high school days involved after-school with friends at Bob's Big Boy in Glendale, CA, eating platters of french fries dipped in buckets of blue cheese dressing.  So of course, the first dip I made had to be a blue cheese dip.  If you've never dipped a french fry into creamy blue cheese dressing, it's time.

Wanting to cover a fairly wide range of flavors with my dip options, I got all mustard-y with the next one, and we loved it.  I added a little more Dijon because I totally have a mustard crush on Trader Joe's Dijon mustard and wanted more of that flavor to come through.  Dynamite!

The next two dips are actually versions of the same recipe.  The first one is a yogurt ranch dip that just might have been The Husband's favorite of the bunch.  It really was awfully good, but for some reason, it chose to stay in the fridge during the photo shoot.  I have no explanation for this, but when I discovered it hiding behind the eggs, it got a close-up shot, but it was too late to include it in the group pic up top.  Geez...

This one takes that yummy yogurt ranch dip and adds some tomato and hot sauce (or harissa) for a yummy, creamy, spicy version.

Last, and anything but least, I made a chipotle lime mayo dip that was just so totally killer.  I'm saving this recipe to whip up and serve with tortilla chips or spoon on tacos or anything else I can think of.  Oh man, it would be so awesome to dip shrimp into...it's creamy, it's spicy, with just a bit of tang from the lime.

Alrighty then, people.  Perhaps it's time to throw a french fry party and get your dips on.  Just click on the photos for links to printable recipes!  But don't forget to make some french fries first!

 Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Jul112015

Oven-Baked French Fries

 

And speaking of potatoes…  It doesn’t seem too big a leap to go from potato salad to French fries, especially if they’re as easy and scrumptious as these babies.  We do love us some fries around here, and as much as we love them fried (who doesn’t?), we’re just a bit more comfortable calorically with baking them.  To be honest, we really don’t miss the fryer at all cuz these come out crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and loaded with amazing flavor, owing to the addition of our very own Circle B Kitchen Seasoning Salt.  Oh, and grated Parmesan cheese.  But it’s the seasoning salt that makes them special, at least that’s what I’m going with. 

If you haven’t made up your very own batch of seasoning salt yet, you can grab the recipe here, along with a whole bunch of ways to use it.  The creation of this seasoning blend is one of my favorite culinary inspirations, and I can’t even begin to list all the ways I use this stuff…  It’s so great for seasoning chicken, meatballs, dips, eggs, sauces, and yes, fries. 

So back to the French fries… historically, there seem to be a few things that have a tendency to doom the outcome of homemade baked French fries.  One is cutting the potatoes too small or too large, another is the problem of too much or too little oil, not getting them crisped up enough, and then there’s the blandness factor.  We’ve got you covered on every one of those issues.

First of all, we’ve sort of come to the conclusion that ½ inch is about the perfect width for a French fry.  So that’s how we cut them.  If you like yours thicker or thinner, just adjust the baking time accordingly.  And yes, we are leaving the skins ON!  There’s great flavor and nutrition in those skins.  They’re our friends, so they stay. 

Secondly, I’ll admit to making some pretty greasy French fries in the past, which defeats the whole point of baking them instead of frying them, right?  So I’m of a mind to use as little oil as possible.  In this recipe, we’re also adding a little grated Parmesan cheese, which when heated, exudes a little oil, so that’s why we try and keep the oil to a minimum.  If you leave out the parmesan cheese, just add a bit more olive oil. 

These fries will cook through pretty quickly, which is why we’re setting the oven to 450.  That way they will brown and crisp in about the same amount of time as they cook through.  And finally, I think we’ve already addressed the flavor component.  Our Seasoning Salt makes these some mighty tasty fries indeed. 

I guess that about covers our French Fry dissertation.   Go forth and bake some potatoes in French fry form and eat them with gusto and maybe a burger.  Here’s the recipe…

Circle B Kitchen Oven-Baked French Fries

Click here for a printable recipe

Serves 3-4 as a side dish 

These are our go-to French fries here in the Circle B Kitchen.  They’re so easy to make and so good that you might just be willing to ditch the bag of frozen ones in the freezer.  They come out crispy on the outside, but tender on the inside, and amazingly flavorful, owing to the addition of parmesan cheese and our very own Circle B Kitchen House Seasoning Salt.  Now, if you haven’t yet made up a batch of our seasoning salt, you can easily get the recipe for it here.  It’s awesome stuff and this is a great application for it.  Otherwise, just use your favorite seasoning salt or just some salt and pepper.  But honestly, we think that it’s our seasoning salt that sets these fries apart from the rest.  As for cooking time, it so depends on your oven, but these might be ready in 40 minutes, or they may take a little longer.  This last time I let them cook for almost an hour and we loved how crispy they got. Your call.

NOTE:  In response to Stephanie's query in the comment section, I set out to test whether these might be freezer-worthy.  The answer is a resounding yes!  I made a batch, let them cool completely and then froze in a single layer on a sheet pan.  After they were well frozen, I popped them into a freezer bag and a couple of days later, I baked them up at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes.  They were perfect.  So go ahead and make extra for the freezer!

2 pounds Russet potatoes (about 3 large potatoes), scrubbed and dried
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (you could even cut this down to 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ tablespoons Circle B Kitchen seasoning salt 
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. (I've been baking these at 500 and love how crisp they get).  Coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. 

Slice the potatoes into ½-inch slices and then again into ½-inch thick French fries. 

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes and olive oil and toss to coat.  Sprinkle in the seasoning salt and cayenne pepper, if using, and gently toss until thoroughly coated.

Lay the potatoes in a single layer onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with the grated parmesan cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown, flipping them with a spatula or tongs about halfway through to prevent sticking.   Serve hot. 

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Friday
Jul032015

Circle B Kitchen Potato Salad

 

You could probably close your eyes and throw a dart at any food website on the whole flippin' internet today and find a potato salad recipe. It seems about as ubiquitous a side dish as there is for the 4th of July, or any barbecue or picnic for that matter. I mean, who doesn't love a good potato salad?! The operative word there is "good". Call me picky (and I'll admit to it), but I honestly think that a good potato salad isn't all that easy to come by. I think we all sort of have our potato salad preferences, and I decided this is as good a time as any to share mine with you.

To start with, I prefer using yukon gold or another kind of waxy potato, as opposed to russets. I think that waxy potatoes hold up better and have a better salad kind of texture.

Secondly, I have a real issue with overcooked potatoes, so this recipe features a fool-proof way to cook them so that your potatoes will always come out just right. First, we're going to boil the potatoes until they're almost, but not quite done, and then we're going to let them steam to finish cooking, which ensures they'll be cooked perfectly every time.

THEN, while your potatoes are still warm, we're going to marinate them to infuse them with lots of great flavor,

and then we're going to mix those now flavorful potatoes with a creamy mixture of mayo and sour cream, some chopped celery and chopped eggs and serve up one of the best potato salads imaginable.

One of the best things about it is that it's even better the next day, so make this one a day ahead and give yourself a little extra time on your big cooking day.

I sort of feel like this post should be on an op-ed page somewhere; I can't remember when I've sounded so opinionated, and I do apologize for being so bossy. But it's potato salad, for crying out loud! We need to make it like we mean it!

I wish you a very happy, fun, and delicious 4th of July! And if you're in need of a good potato salad for your barbecue, this one pretty much rocks. In my humble opinion. :-) Here's the recipe...

Circle B Kitchen Potato Salad

Click here for a printable recipe

This has been my go-to potato salad for like 30 years now and it never fails me. Cooking the potatoes until they’re still firm and then steaming them to finish cooking assures that your potatoes won’t be mushy and marinating them while they’re still warm adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the salad. Add just enough of the mayo/sour cream mixture to make it as creamy as you would like.  And it has been decided that a touch of mustard presence is a must.  So you may add a little prepared mustard (or Dijon) to the sour cream mixture, or a teaspoon or so of dry mustard to the marinade.  Or both, if you wish!

Serves 8 as a side dish

2 lbs Yukon gold or small red or white-skinned waxy potatoes (not russets)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 - 3 tablespoons mustard (yellow or Dijon), optional 

2 cups chopped celery
6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

Marinade:
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 ¼ teaspoons celery salt
1 ½ teaspoons instant onion
¾ teaspoon celery seed
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard, optional

If your potatoes are larger than 2 inches in diameter, cut them in half. Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons salt in a large enough pan of water that the potatoes are completely submerged. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife (they should still be fairly firm).

While the potatoes are cooking, mix together the marinade ingredients.

Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the pot they were cooked in (off the heat), and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Leave the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but firm. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1 or 2-inches chunks and place them in a large bowl and pour the marinade over them. Mix well, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the potatoes sit at room temperature for an hour or two to soak up the marinade.

Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and mustard (if using) and fold into potatoes. You may not need all of the mayo mixture. Stir in the eggs and celery. Taste for salt and pepper and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment