SHRIMP AND GRITS

They say you should never try out a new recipe when you’re having guests. I say horseshit. I love trying out new recipes when friends are coming over for dinner. In fact, I rarely try something new just for myself. My diet on a weekly basis can get pretty boring, so when I’m having company I like to fancy things up a bit. There’s a method to my madness. I swear.

Last week I had a few friends over for dinner and decided to try my hand at shrimp and grits. I had never made grits before but figured it couldn’t be too hard. And I guess it wasn’t, but the entire time I was making this recipe, I was paranoid that I was doing something wrong or that it wouldn’t come out right. The recipe was a little out of my comfort zone so as I got more into it, the more I doubted myself. I was beginning to panic that I had no back up plan and we’d have to order a pizza.

But in the end, everything came out just fine. My grits were slightly on the thicker side, but they still tasted amazing and my guests said how much they enjoyed the food. In addition to the shrimp and grits, I served a little appetizer, which I will feature here. It was extremely easy but super yummy.

CILANTRO CAPRESE CRACKERS

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of cilantro pesto (I bought mine pre-made at whole foods)
  • 1-2 cups of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Crackers (whatever kind you like. I used water crackers with pepper)

Directions:

Top a cracker with mozzarella, followed by a dab of pesto, and then topped with a tomato slice. You can put the cilantro and the tomatoes on top of the mozzarella in advance, but wait to put on your crackers until right before serving so that the crackers do not get soggy.

SHRIMP AND GRITS

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coarsely ground grits
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 pounds uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used veggie sausage. it was apple and maple flavored. it was a huge hit. I can’t remember the brand, but I got it at whole foods. Smart Sausages is a great brand too.)
  • 5 slices bacon
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (I HATE green peppers, so I didn’t use them)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • fresh oregano or parsley for garnish

Directions:

Bring water, grits, and salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan with a lid. Stir in half-and-half and simmer until grits are thickened and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

Sprinkle shrimp with salt and cayenne pepper; drizzle with lemon juice. Set aside in a bowl in the refrigerator.

Place sausage slices in a large skillet over medium heat; fry sausage until browned.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Retain bacon drippings in skillet. Transfer bacon slices to paper towels, let cool, and crumble. Because I do not eat bacon, I skipped this step. I did have bacon for my guests though. I made it in the oven and did not reserve the bacon drippings or cook my vegetables in them (see next step)! If you make the bacon in the oven, simply heat the oven to 350 or 400 degrees. Place the slices on a grill pan. And bake them for about 15 minutes, flipping half way through.

Cook peppers, onion, and garlic in the bacon drippings until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Or in olive oil, if not using bacon drippings.

Stir shrimp and cooked vegetables into the skillet with the sausage and mix to combine.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; stir in flour to make a smooth paste. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is medium brown in color, 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully, mixture burns easily.

Pour the butter-flour mixture into the skillet with sausage, shrimp, and vegetables. Place the skillet over medium heat and pour in chicken broth, and Worcestershire sauce, cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens and the shrimp become opaque and bright pink, about 8 minutes. Keep warm until serving, otherwise the sauce gets thick and weird.

Just before serving, mix sharp Cheddar cheese into grits until melted and grits are creamy and light yellow. Serve shrimp mixture over cheese grits with bacon crumbles and oregano garnish on top (bacon and garnish optional).

Recipe adapted from: allrecipes.com

Advertisements

SPINACH CALZONE

So, for a few weeks now I’ve been saying to myself, I need to update my blog. I need to update my blog. But I’m kind of having writer’s block. I have plenty of recipes to share, but nothing really exciting or insightful or witty to say about them. Maybe I’m just fooling myself into believing anyone other than my mom thinks that what I have to say is exciting, insightful or witty. And I can’t even say for sure if my mom thinks that. Maybe no one’s even reading anything I write on here… Hello? Are you there? Or maybe it’s okay to just post a recipe every once in a while, sans all the, what we call in the professional world, “blah blah.” And now Queen’s “Under Pressure” is in my head… and now I am listening to it on YouTube. True story.

Anyway, here’s a recipe for a mostly vegan calzone I made a few weeks ago. I would say it’s vegan, but I didn’t make the dough and I didn’t read the ingredients so I have no idea if the dough contained animal products or not. I bought the dough at the Giant. It’s hard to find just balls of dough, like they have at Bertucci’s, in the grocery store. So whenever I see dough like that, I buy it. I’ve heard Trader Joe’s has good whole wheat dough. I’ll have to check it out. I said dough 6, now 7, times in this paragraph. Wow.

MOSTLY/POSSIBLY-VEGAN SPINACH CALZONE

It’s been so long since I actually made this, I’m having a hard time remembering what I did. And I certainly cannot remember any of the measurements. I know you’re probably questioning my credibility right now, but work with me people. I just need a minute to think… Ok. I’m winging the measurements.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ball of dough (you can make your own or buy pre-made)
  • 1 bag of baby spinach, about 3-4 cups (this seems like a lot but spinach cooks down so much)
  • 1 small white onion (optional. I can’t remember if I used one or not!)
  • 1 cup of extra firm tofu, drained and then crumbled
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese (I used veggie shreds, soy cheese)
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flour or seminola flour
  • marinara sauce for dipping (I made mine from this recipe here, but feel free to buy pre-made)

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a pizza stone in the oven and warm it up for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.

In a medium or large sauce pan over medium heat, cook the onion in a bit of olive oil until it’s soft. Add the spinach and cook it down.

Combine the tofu, cheese, garlic, cinnamon, egg and salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix together well. So, I realize that eggs are not vegan and I said this was a mostly vegan recipe. The recipe I adapted this from used an egg, which I assumed was to hold the cheese mixture together. After I had made the recipe, I decided I did not need the egg and would not use it the next time I made this. So, use or omit the egg. It’s up to you. And now that I am thinking more about this, I am wondering if I used ricotta cheese… I am horrible, aren’t I? This is what happens when you wait weeks to post recipes. Well, either way, it won’t hurt if you do or you don’t add ricotta. Right?

Add the spinach and onion to the cheese and tofu mixture. Stir until it’s pretty well blended together.

Roll out your pizza dough. Get it as stretched and as thin as you can without it breaking. Make sure your work surface and pizza peel (in my case, a long wooden bread board) are well floured. Put the dough on the pizza peel before you load it up with spinach. One ball of dough allowed me to make two large calzones, both full with the spinach mixture.

Place one half of the spinach mixture on one half of the dough. Fold the other half of the dough over, pinching the edges so that no spinach mixture will seep out. Repeat with the rest of the spinach mixture and your other rolled out dough.

Bake on the pizza stone in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the dough has risen and is slightly browned on the top. If you want, brush the top of the dough with olive oil, parm cheese and any other spices before you bake it. I didn’t do this. I just thought of it. It sounds like a good idea.

Serve immediately with warmed up marinara.

Note: I truly apologize if you make this just like I’ve said here and it turns out all wrong. Like I said, I did my best to remember what I did here! And I really guessed on the measurements. I’m sorry! The calzones were delicious though, so I recommend trying them even if I sound like a crazy novice in this post! I always like to say, recipes are just a suggestion! So winging it is always a good idea. And by always I mean usually.

Recipe adapted from: The Healthy Foodie

 

 

SALMON AND POTATO TACOS

My mom does not like to cook. She says it’s too much work and she really doesn’t care enough about eating to put forth the effort. (I must be my father’s daughter because I care a lot about eating… too much. I think about eating more than I think about dating, which is saying a lot considering I’m 30 and single and have zero prospects. It’s sick. It really is.) It’s a running joke in our family that my mom never cooks. She even has a sign above the microwave that says, “Life is too short to cook for you people.” And when I think about when I still lived at home, I can’t remember ever sitting down to the dinner table as a family, except on random Sundays.  My mom just isn’t Suzy home-maker. She’s more like Suze Orman, career woman extraordinaire, minus the whole motivational speaker and lesbian thing.

But I don’t think she was always like this. I have memories of delicious foods that my mom made when we were little. Like these chicken wings that I would totally cheat on being a vegetarian for (and by would I mean have). And some sort of pepperoni stromboli. And what my family calls “Sarah’s favorite chicken.” She also made my lunch every day all the way through high school (and even after college when I lived at home for a while, she’d pack my lunch for work! I shouldn’t tell people that…). In elementary school there was always a little note in our lunch boxes. I also remember elaborate birthday parties with fun games and cute cakes.

So, I’m not really sure where or when my mom’s Martha Stewart tendencies went awry. But recently she decided that she was going to start cooking more. So she signed up for this thing called emeals, where they send you weekly meal plans complete with recipes and shopping lists. Anyway, one of the recipes was for salmon tacos. I tasted some of the leftover filling (I actually ate them with egg whites, sans taco shell, for breakfast) and it was so good!

I decided to re-create the recipe last night. I had my cousin, her husband and their two kids, and my brother all over for dinner. I was a little nervous because I don’t have a lot of experience cooking fish, nor do I have a grill (which the recipe called for), and the last few times I baked salmon it came out disgusting. But I borrowed a grill pan from my neighbor and friend, Kate, and blackened the fish beautifully! I’m not sure if I was intending to blacken the fish, if that’s how fish is properly blackened, or if I was even supposed to blacken the fish for recipe, but shiiiiz. It tasted amazing! And I was pleasantly surprised by how easy this meal was to make. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, so here’s my version of this delicious emeal.

SALMON AND POTATO TACOS

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of red potatoes, or other small to medium waxy potatoes, cut into cubes (I had a variety of potatoes that a friend who has a CSA and was trying to offload some potatoes gave me. I also don’t know if I actually used a pound, but whatever)
  • 3 frozen salmon filets, thawed
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 5-6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh salsa (more or less to taste. the emeals recipe called for green salsa, but I just used fresh red salsa that was almost more like a pico de gallo than salsa)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
  • a dash of chili powder
  • 1 tbsp of Argentinian steak rub (ok, so the original recipe called for ground chipotle pepper. what is that? whatever it is, I don’t have it in my spice cabinet. but I found this steak rub at my mom’s and it looked good, so I stole it. I figured that by adding cayenne pepper and chili powder, I must be making something like chipotle pepper powder.)
  • 8-10 corn tortillas, or whole wheat flour tortillas, warmed (I don’t really care for corn tortillas, so I served both kinds)
  • Sour cream

Directions:

Boil the potato cubes in a large pot of boiling, salted water, until they are tender (about 8 min). Drain and set aside to cool.

Combine sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, chili powder and Argentinian steak rub (or whatever you’re using) in a small bowl. Pat the salmon dry. Sprinkle the chili powder mix on the salmon, rubbing it in with your fingers. I mostly just applied it to the top, but I also got some of the sides.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on a grill pan. Or if you’re using a real grill, heat the grill. Cook the salmon on the grill or grill pan over medium heat until cooked all the way through. I left mine sitting on the grill pan without flipping it for a good while, but I did move it around a bit so it wouldn’t be stuck. On the sides of the salmon, I could see that the color was changing from orange to pink, up through the salmon, so I could see that it was cooking through. My entire kitchen/apartment was full of smoke, so when the salmon was cooked almost all the way through, I flipped it and blackened the top pretty quickly. Is this proper technique for blackening fish? I have no idea. But it sure was effective in creating a thick black cloud of smoke throughout my apartment. Here’s a pic of the blackened salmon.

 

Once salmon is cooked, remove from grill and set aside for a few minutes. When it’s cooled off a bit, break it into large chunks. It should flake apart easily.

Combine the green onions, cilantro, and half of the salsa in a large bowl. Gently stir in the potatoes. Squeeze the juice from the lime over the potatoes. Add the rest of the salsa and the salmon. Gently mix it all together so that everything is evenly distributed through the bowl and the potatoes appear coated with salsa, lime juice, and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on warm tortillas with a dollop of sour cream and extra salsa, if desired.

Note: If you have extra taco fillings, I highly recommend serving them with egg whites. Delicious! You could even put the mixture on a skillet to slightly brown the potatoes, making them a little bit more like breakfast potatoes. 

Note 2: My brother does not like seafood. So, I made him a piece of chicken on the side. I didn’t taste it (obviously) but it looked really good and he said he liked it. So I thought I should share how I made the chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, with the fat trimmed off
  • 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp of salsa fresca

Directions:

Boil chicken until cooked all the way through. Drain the water and set chicken aside to cool. Once it’s cool enough to touch, pull apart the chicken so that it’s shredded.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a small skillet. Add the chicken. Add enchilada sauce and salsa over top of the chicken, stirring frequently so that it is coating the chicken and not burning on the pan.

And there you have it! Shredded chicken for tacos. I served them to Matt in corn tortillas with shredded cheese and some of the potato mixture (making sure not to get any salmon). I didn’t take a picture before Matt woofed it down.

 

 

BEAN CHIMICHANGAS

(note: I’m posting this a week after I wrote it so please excuse the odd references to things that happened a week ago.)

I am coming off the most fattening weekend of my life. That may be an exaggeration, but on Monday night (it was a long holiday weekend), I was feeling pretty crappy about all the fried food I ate and beer I drank over the weekend. I went to Philly for the Made in America festival. It was amazing. So much fun, so many great performances, and so many fun people to hang out with. I may have danced off as many calories as I ate, but regardless, there was absolutely no need for me to be eating fried pickles, mac and cheese, and sweet potato fries all in one bite at 11 pm after a day of drinking Bud heavies and snacking on soft pretzels. Needless to say, I felt pretty disgusting afterwards. So I promised myself I’d be really good this week, eat right and hit the gym hard… which I’ve kind of done.

Despite barely being able to fit into my pants, my body was still craving that “comfort” food when really it should have been saying “lettuce for dinner.” So on Tuesday night, I wanted to eat something that wasn’t god awful for me, but was more than a handful of baby carrots. And the obvious choice was bean chimichangas. Duh.

Okay, so I realize these probably aren’t that great for you. But I took steps to make sure they were healthier than they could have been. That’s what I told myself anyway.

BEAN CHIMICHANGAS

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 large, whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup of vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 cup of black beans
  • 1/c cup of enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes with chiles (from a can)
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (I used “veggie shreds”)
  • a few dashes of cinnamon
  • dash of garlic powder
  • Tofutti sour cream (optional)
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the black beans, enchilada sauce, diced tomatoes, cinnamon and garlic powder. I had saved some enchilada sauce from my vegetable enchiladas, so that’s what I used here. But if you don’t have that, you can either buy enchilada sauce or omit it and use salsa instead.

Warm the tortillas in the microwave so they are easier to work with. Spread refried beans in center of tortillas, followed by black beans and cheese. Carefully roll up the tortilla, tucking in the sides so that your filling is not spilling out. (This has always been a challenge for me.)

Warm some olive or canola oil in a medium skillet, over medium heat. Flash fry the chimichangas very briefly so that they are slightly browned on the outside. Place the chimichangas, seam side down, on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes, until warmed through and your tortillas are a bit crispy.

Serve with sour cream and hot sauce (optional).

Note: I could really taste the cinnamon and felt like it was an excellent addition! It really gave the chimis a unique flavor. I think I would add a few more dashes the next time I make these.

Recipe adapted from: LilLuna.com

GYRO STYLE QUINOA BURGERS

Can you make yourself sick from eating too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? If so, I’m half way there. I don’t know what my problem is, but they are all I feel like eating lately. I’ve been having them for breakfast, for late night snacks, for dinner, any time really. I even bought a box of Uncrustables the other day. And last night, at the Giant, I was looking for another box of them but couldn’t find them. I even brought it up to the woman at the register when she asked me if I found everything I was looking for, which I never do. I always wonder, what are you going to do? Stop the line to go get me what I couldn’t find? No. It’s awkward. So I tend to lie and just say yes, even if I couldn’t find everything I was looking for. But my damn PB craving took over and said “Actually, no. I couldn’t find Uncrustables. What kind of place is this?!”

Anyway, it needs to stop. It really does. Sometimes, when I’m not feeling lazy, I plan my meals for the whole week so I can make sure I grocery shop appropriately and can make some of my lunches in advance. So, last night I had planned to make greek style quinoa burgers, NOT peanut butter and jelly. It wasn’t easy and I could taste PBJ on my tongue the whole time, but I forced myself to stick with my plan and made the burgers. And boy, was I happy I did! They were really good. And I made enough to have leftovers for lunch a few days this week. It helped with the PBJ addiction… although now that I’m writing about it, it’s starting to come back.

GYRO STYLE QUINOA BURGERS

I changed the name of this recipe that I found on pinterest because when I was telling a friend about them, she assumed they had feta and olives, which they did not, although adding some feta crumbles might not be a bad idea. The yogurt sauce on these makes them more like a gyro.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in large chunks
  • 4-5 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Coarse salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • A dash of garlic powder
  • A handful of fresh mint
  • 4 pitas (each 6 inches)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced diagonally
  • A handful of spinach
  • Any other vegetables you want to add to your pita pocket (optional)

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Or combine 1/2 cup of quinoa with 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and cook for about 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed.

In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped. Add cooked quinoa, half the scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse until combined but still slightly chunky. I only have a mini food processor, so I had to do this in two separate batches. I just mixed the two batches together once they were both processed pretty smoothly with some chunks. Refrigerate mixture for a few minutes until it sets up a bit. Or keep in fridge overnight, until ready to cook burgers.

Form mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick paties (dip hands in water to prevent sticking– this was a great tip!).  In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook burgers until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, mint, garlic powder, and the remaining scallions; season with salt and pepper. Serve burgers in pita topped with cucumber and other miscellaneous veggies and yogurt sauce. My burgers were small enough so that a burger fit in each half of the pita pocket. You could also slightly mash the burgers in the pita to fill up more of the pocket. Or don’t even slice the pita, and just roll it around the burger (if soft enough, or use naan) so that it’s more gyro style.

Recipe adapted from: wholeliving.com