Garlic Shrimp

When I go to a restaurant I am my husband’s – and probably the wait staff’s – worst nightmare.  I must have it my way.  A little of this and a little of that.  If I could take a bit from each entrée it would be perfect because it seems there is always something I don’t like on every item, but something I do like on every item.

Such is the way when I look at a new recipe.  I become inspired by one recipe, but like ingredients from another and pretty soon I have a collaboration of two or three different recipes.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I think tonight’s adventure did.

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This is a marriage of ingredients from 3 different recipes, inspired mostly from a Food and Wine recipe I found online.  It was a fairly quick meal to fix and although I paired it with coconut rice, you could serve it with a salad or crusty bread and it would still be a filling meal for you.

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Just make sure when you eat this, share the joy.  There is a lot of garlic in it and you know they always say that if one eats garlic, then everyone should.  Don’t worry, they’ll all love it.

On a side note…no vampires will be visiting for a while.

Split Pea Soup, Split Decision

When it comes to the standard way of making things, or trying something new, my husband and I are typically at odds.  For Peter, lobster has to be served steamed in a shell, shrimp can be with a cocktail sauce or in scampi.  You can’t have pizza with goat cheese and you certainly can’t have pea soup without green peas.  Until now that is, because I live by a different set of rules.

Let me just give you a little background on this.  I grew up with pea soup.  It was always a staple when we had leftover ham.  It was green and thick and not very appetizing.  So it was a huge mistake on my part, when I mentioned after our ham dinner, the idea of making soup.  It turns out, much to my dismay, that he loved pea soup.

Well, I half-thought about it and when I was at the market, I picked up a bag of split peas.  Peter would be so surprised if I actually made this for him.  But visions flashed before me of the thick green paste and I immediately scrubbed that idea and threw the peas back on the shelf.  I started to walk away and out of the corner of my eyes I saw a bag with split yellow peas.  That’s right….YELLOW peas.  I never had them before, but after looking at the back of the bag and the recipe idea it gave, I thought I could make it work.  It was a good compromise.

That weekend, since it was cold and definitely feeling like a soup day, I decided to give it a try.  I cooked my ham bone down and reserved the broth and although I did refer to the bag recipe, I did change the recipe quite a bit to make it more my style.  This was working!

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The flavor was really good and the texture of the broth was more like a vegetable broth.  I was so happy because I thought his was something I could eat and Peter would love that we had split pea soup.  I really believed this was our soup of compromise.

Until my husband sat down to dinner that is.  He took a bite and it wasn’t so bad.  He took another bite and it was ok.  The third bite, he decided to tell me that pea soup was meant to be green and mushy.  This simply was NOT going to do.

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So once again we were at odds.  I loved it and he did not.  He wanted his green thick mush and I liked the texture more like a broth.  And it’s okay.  It’s okay if he doesn’t like it, because he doesn’t have to love everything I make and he has his standards.  But I will probably make it again and he will probably eat it again and complain again.   And have another two helpings again.

Do you really have two helpings if you don’t like something?

 

A New Squash Appreciation

When I was a little girl and was given squash for dinner, I had a couple of different ideas on how to handle this undesirable vegetable.  None of them included eating it.  I either dropped it on the floor for the dog to eat, left it on my plate until it was much to cold to eat or my favorite was to mix it with cranberry sauce and pretend I was eating peanut butter and jelly.  I said it was my favorite idea, just not a good tasting one.

Over the years, I tried in vain to acquire a taste for it.  I would think I liked the way it was prepared but when I ate it or tried to make it myself it had that same appeal that it had when I was a child.  I felt I would never grow to like squash, in any form.

Lately, however, I have been venturing out and a desire for different types of squash is burning.  I have had it pan-fried in hash and roasted in soups.  When I was at the market the other day, I went totally out of the box and picked up a spaghetti squash.  I didn’t even know how I was going to prepare it, but I knew I was going to do something!

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Imagine the odds when a couple of days later I came across this recipe from Half Baked Harvest’s blog for Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats.  I immediately went out, bought my ingredients and prepared my version of her recipe.

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I was totally amazed!  This had everything I loved about lasagna but was made with squash.  Could it be?  Could I actually have found a squash that I really loved?  I think the answer was a big yes.  I can’t really call this a healthy meal because of the cheese in it, but I do have to say it’s slightly better than eating a dish of lasagna.  Squash versus pasta equals a healthy alternative, so we have a partial win with this one.

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To make this easier if you’re in a pinch you can always use your favorite jarred sauce and for the cheese sauce, just layer parmesan and mozzarella cheese as you would in the traditional recipe.  If you do have the time however, go all out and do it as the recipe states.  It is so worth it.

Take it from a former squash hater.  This is one recipe you’ll keep!

 

 

Farro Risotto with Roasted Squash, Apple and Kale

I love this time of year.  I’m ready after the humid, muggy summer to breathe in some fresh crisp air.  I long for my sweaters and log fires to warm the evenings.  With the falling leaves comes the desire of using the abundance of fall flavors such as sage, pumpkins, squash and apples.

Did I mention I love fall?

I’m obsessed with apples right now.  I brought several different types of apples home with me the other day from the market, preparing for an all out apple fest.  I dove in, ready to conquer the sweet to the savory. The only thing I was missing was the road side apple cider stand.

So I have my apples, I love the fall and now I have to do something with all of it.  Well, that’s easy.  I decided to make this combination of a couple of recipes I had seen…  it was everything the autumn season is all about.  Farro Risotto with Apples, Squash, Kale and Sage.  My husband is loving me so much right now.  This meal is on his diet plan since it’s fairly healthy, but it’s also got flavor, texture and comfort, and it doesn’t taste like it’s a diet plan.

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I paired this with crispy chicken thighs and an apple cider gravy which will be coming in my next post, but for now try this out.   It’s in the top ten of my husband’s all time favorites, so I think you will like it.

Put on a sweater and fill your belly with the taste of fall.  It’s a yum on the food meter!

 

 

A Lighter Stuffed Pepper

This is my favorite time of year.  THE HOLIDAYS!  It’s about good friends, good times and good food.  (Good parties aren’t really so bad either).  Christmas is actually my favorite, with Thanksgiving a close second as far as food and parties go, but I really do love the Thanksgiving leftovers.  (I know there are more out there like me, so admit it)  Seriously, I could cook everything up, skip the dinner and just save all the food for the next day.  That is how much I love it.

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The standard turkey sandwich is one of the best ways to go, but my mom’s turkey rice soup is pretty incredible too.  The only problem is I have so many leftovers left over, that it becomes boring with the choices I have to use them all up.  I think, however, I may have stumbled on a pretty good addition to the leftover madness that ensues.

This is a recipe that I have worked out with turkey sausage and the recipe follows.  An alternative of course would be to use the equivalent of chopped turkey. If you do use the chopped turkey, it may tend to be a bit on the drier side so definitely add a bit more olive oil to the mix when you’re cooking it with the onions.  You could also add a bit of leftover gravy to keep it moist.  The options are endless!  I also used Tatsoi, which is a hardy green, sort of like a spinach or kale relative.  If you can’t find it (I found mine at the farmer’s market) you can always substitute with spinach or kale.

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The fun thing about this is you can really use anything you want.  Stuffed peppers are typically made with rice and ground beef and lots of cheese, but I’m trying to go the heart healthy way more often, so this is why I decided on this formula.  Get creative and use those leftovers up!  After all, it’s going to be another whole year before we can do this again!

 

 

Pulled Pork BBQ with Piquant Sauce and Classic Southern Slaw

Hot, lazy days and nights when you sit out with a fan and hope for a bit of a breeze.  Lightening bugs and children squealing with delight as they catch one in a jar.  Sweet tea and rockers on a porch, family picnics and pork barbecue.

It’s summer in the south.

Coming from the north I had never really had barbecue until i moved here almost 26 years ago.  Ever since that time I first held a pulled pork sandwich in my hand, I have been in love with it.  The vinegar sauce dripping down my fingers, the hot spice subtly controlled by the coolness of the rich coleslaw resting on top.  It was that first bite that made me realize I was destined to live in the south.

I have tried to make it many times over the past years.  Once I almost got it right and then somehow lost the recipe and it’s been a struggle ever since, trying to recreate it.

Until now.

Once again, I have gone back to my friend, Patrick Evans-Hylton’s cookbook “Dishing Up Virginia” and gotten the most incredible tasting recipe for dinner.  It was not what I expected when making it because of the ingredients, but definitely worth keeping it as written.  I want to tell you when you make this, open all the windows and doors because the flavorful scent of pork mixed with onions and garlic wafting throughout the home will make it almost impossible to wait the five hours it needs to cook.   I don’t recall how many times that day I almost dove head first into the oven.

The pork just fell apart, and it was so moist.  I cannot tell you in words how tasty this was.  With every bite I couldn’t wait for the next one.  To quote Patrick from his book and this recipe, ” No doubt other states do remarkable things with barbecue, but this Virginia recipe that combines tradition and time with spice and smoke is unequaled.”  So very true.

Eating dinner with my husband that night, I had the feeling there was a red checkered tablecloth on the table, grandma, grandpa and all the cousins were arriving with their pot luck and the fireflies were lighting up the evening.

Summertime in the south.  It can’t get any better than this.

Chicken Bang Bang

It all started with a little fillo cup appetizer filled with chicken, scallions and a kicking peanut sauce.  I’ve made these many times and from what I’ve heard,  always gotten great reviews.  I think it’s because the flavor combination is crunchy, creamy and spicy all in the same bite

The other day, my friend Karen and I were discussing lunch ideas for a couple of things she was working on and my little appetizer cup came up. She mentioned that it was too bad that it wasn’t a meal.

That made me think.

I thought it was a great idea.

It can now be considered an entrée.

And that is one reason I love cooking and you should not be afraid of it.  You can take an idea from one little thing and turn it into something that is completely different and yet, still so incredibly good.  All it takes is a thought, a conversation or a suggestion and you can run with it and make it your own. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t turn out well.  Make it again or change it.  It’s all about trying new things.

You could even change this recipe.  Try shrimp with it, thicker noodles, different vegetables or spices to increase the heat a little…whatever you like to make it your own.  Just don’t be afraid.

Send me pictures and let me know what you did.  I would love to see the ideas that you come up with!

Happy eating!

 

 

 

Lobster Linguine with Lemon and Basil

On most weekends, sitting over breakfast, my husband and I look at each other and ask what we’re going to have for dinner.  It was no different this past Mother’s Day Sunday.  My children were not here to cook for me, and I didn’t want to go out for dinner.  My only other options were to have my husband cook dinner which probably would have consisted of steak on the grill, or to cook it myself.  I obviously decided to cook it myself.

The nice part of cooking for yourself on Mother’s Day is that you get to choose what you want.  And my husband got to do the shopping.  I wish everyday was like that!  Anyway…it was cold for May 12th so we were thinking of something comforting, but I really wanted lobster.  I could have done Lobster Mac and Cheese, because let’s face it…that is the ultimate of comfort foods.  However, we were trying to go a little healthier so it was crossed off my list of choices.

And then it hit me.  I had seen a recipe for a shrimp and pasta recipe that had previously caught my eye.  I could adapt it and use the lobster.  And so I did with some minor experimental changes.

And it was good.

You can use shrimp if you prefer but I think the lobster added a bit more richness to it.   You can also cut out the butter and wine to make it even more healthy if you choose.  This is one of those recipes you can add and subtract to make it your own.  Experiment a little,  I think this is one of those dishes that will always come out tasting yummy.

So the next time it looks like you might have to cook your own celebration dinner…..embrace it.  You’ll be glad you did!

SPICY SHRIMP

If you asked my husband about cooking with shrimp he would say there would only be two ways to do it….with cocktail sauce or as shrimp scampi.  There are no other options.

Well, until now that is.

I was in the mood to make something spicy for dinner.  And that included something with shrimp.  You know how it is, you just get that urge and you have to look until you find something that fits what you’re looking for.  Although I’ve never had it, my brain was telling me Thai Shrimp. Don’t ask me why because I couldn’t tell you anything about it except that I knew it was known for being spicy.  I looked through several recipes and none of them really made me scream “make this!”,  so I took a couple of ideas, merged them together and created my version.  It was everything I had hoped for… and more.  You should ask my husband, Mr.Onlycocktailsauceorscampi what he thought.  He is now known as Mr. SogoodI’mhavingseconds.  He loved it.  I loved it and I think you will too.

Step outside of the box and try something new.  It was easy and tasty and a nice change from our typical weekday dinner.  Bon Appetite!

 

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