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    The Perfect Menu For A Mid-Summer Dinner Party

    Robin Shirley Cooking Class

    This past week I had the opportunity to teach two more cooking classes for the University of Virginia’s Club RED – a heart health initiative for women – managed by the Cardiovascular Center at UVA.

    I truly love spending time with this group of ladies. We have a good time learning, cooking and chatting about health, life and Chris Hemsworth 🙂

    So many of the Club Red members keep coming back for each of our heart-healthy classes at The Happy Cook and many of them stay in touch with me through my personal blog and facebook page.

    This month we taught a refreshing summer menu of:
    Fiery Grilled Shrimp 
    Honeydew Cucumber Gazpacho 
    Sweet and Crunchy Quinoa Salad and
    Blueberry Sorbet (see recipes below)

    About three months in advance of each class, I begin working with the Club Red Nutritionist and Club Red Director to develop a heart-healthy menu that includes local and nutrient-dense ingredients. It’s so great working with them because they allow me to also choose menu items that are full of super foods and free of gluten and dairy.

    Honeydew Melon Veggies

    Robin Shirley Blender

    See recipes below…

    Dinner Party Prep Plan

    Shop for ingredients up to three days ahead.

    Day before:
    Make gazpacho and chill in refrigerator overnight.
    Marinate shrimp and store in refrigerator overnight.
    Cook quinoa and prep dressing. Store in refrigerator. Prep salad ingredients but do not toss salad until day-of.

    Day of:
    Chill drinks.
    Toss quinoa salad.
    Set table.
    Grill shrimp just before serving.
    Make blueberry sorbet after dinner, as dinner is digesting.

    Honeydew Gazpacho

    Honeydew Cucumber Gazpacho

    Paleo, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
    serves 6

    3/4 ripe honeydew melon, seeded
    1 1/2 small fennel bulbs, coarsely chopped
    1 1/2 celery heart stalks, coarsely chopped
    3/4 English cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
    1/2 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
    4 tbsp + 2 tsp fresh lime juice; add more to taste; set aside wedges for serving
    1 tsp sea salt; add more to taste


    1. Cut away honeydew rind and dark green flesh close to rind. Cut honeydew into 1” chunks. Should yield 6 cups.
    2. Place melon in a blender with fennel, celery, cucumber and jalapeños.
    3. Blend on low speed until almost smooth. Strain through medium mesh sieve or colander if there are large fibrous pieces that need to be removed.
    4. Stir in minced chile, lime juice, salt and sugar. Taste and adjust seasonings.
    5. Cover tightly and refrigerate until very cold.

    Recipe courtesy of “Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes”

    Veggie Measured Ingredients

    Quinoa Salad


    Sweet and Crunchy Quinoa Salad

    Sweet and Crunchy Quinoa Salad

    Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
    serves 6

    Salad Ingredients:
    1 cup quinoa
    2 cups water OR low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
    1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
    1 cup green onions (about 1/2 bunch), thinly sliced
    1/2 cup dried cherries*, chopped
    1/2 cup parsley, chopped
    * May substitute chopped apricots, cranberries or raisins

    Dressing Ingredients:
    1/4 cup orange juice
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1/2-3/4 cup light coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk
    2 tsp honey
    1/4 tsp sea salt, optional
    freshly ground black pepper, to taste


    1. Place quinoa and broth in large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat; simmer 15–20 min. or until liquid absorbed. Remove from heat.
    2. Meanwhile, place almonds in a small pan over medium heat and toss until lightly browned and fragrant.
    3. Whisk together dressing ingredients in small bowl until well blended.
    4. While quinoa is still warm, stir in green onions, cherries, parsley and almonds, then toss with dressing and serve.

    Recipe courtesy of The Well-Fed Heart

    Fiery Grilled Shrimp

    Fiery Grilled Shrimp

    Fiery Grilled Shrimp

    Paleo, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
    serves 6

    3/4 tsp crushed red chile flakes; add more to taste
    1/3 cup packed fresh mint leaves, very thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
    1 1/2 lb. large wild-caught shrimp (24–30 count), shelled and deveined
    Extra-virgin olive oil


    1. When ready to serve, heat grill on high until very hot.
    2. Sprinkle salt, chile flakes and mint over shrimp, then gently press in seasonings.
    3. Drizzle a little oil over shrimp. Grill shrimp, flipping once, until just opaque throughout, about 3 min.
    4. Divide cold gazpacho among cold serving bowls. Serve hot shrimp on small plates next to bowls. Drizzle a little oil over soup and shrimp. Garnish soup with mint and squirt a little lime juice over shrimp. Serve immediately.

    Recipe courtesy of “Home Cooking with Jean-Georges: My Favorite Simple Recipes”

    blueberry sorbet

    Blueberry Sorbet

    Paleo, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
    serves 6

    4 cups frozen blueberries (or other berry of choice)
    4 tbsp raw, local honey or 1 tsp. green stevia powder
    2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean powder
    Pinch sea salt
    1 – 1/2 cups light coconut milk (start with less; add more as needed)


    1. Put coconut milk into bottom of food processor or blender pitcher.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients on top of the liquid.
    3. Secure lid and process/blend for 1 min. or less, until very smooth and all lumps are gone. Stop and remove air bubbles if necessary. Use tamper of blender, if necessary.
    4. Serve immediately or place in the freezer for no more than 30 min. to create firmer texture.

    Recipe by Robin Shirley

    Photo Credit: Robin Shirley

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