Starter Recipe: Easy Lemon Shrimp

It’s been awhile since I last wrote… but that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped cooking, or planning out recipes for this blog! Here’s an amazing (and easy) recipe that is sure to impress even the pickiest of guests who enjoy shrimp.  I love pulling a dinner together in under 20-30 minutes, and this recipe is one that delivers every single time.  I hope you’ll try it and make it your own!

Ingredients:EasyLemonShrimp

1 bag of frozen raw shrimp (I buy mine whenever they’re on sale at the local grocer and keep them in the freezer… anything sized large or above is worth the money, in my opinion)

1 lemon

1 jar of your favorite preserves (I happen to like using fig preserves these days, but apricot or any light colored fruit would work well)

Butter (just a pat to sear the shrimp) and olive oil (just 1T for searing shrimp)

Wine (or your preferred liquid of choice)

1 package microwave brown rice (for convenience… feel free to use the cheaper stuff if you’d prefer)

Directions:

  1. Peel shrimp and have them ready to cook.  I always remove the tails because I hate the idea of having to put the empty tail shell back on my plate.  I also like to salt/pepper my shrimp prior to cooking, but it’s up to you if you want to do this step.
  2. Put butter and olive oil into a large skillet and turn the heat on to medium high.  Allow the fats to mingle and get really hot..
  3. Sear shrimp on both sides in the hot butter/oil mixture – my husband likes them to have a bit of “crisp” to the edges, so that’s how I make it in our house.  Just make sure the shrimp is thoroughly cooked before making your sauce.
  4. In a small bowl, make your sauce using the juice of the lemon, some wine (I used a half cup of sparkling white wine that we had in the fridge, but feel free to use whatever you have), and a few spoonfuls of preserves.  Mix everything together.
  5. Add sauce to the cooked shrimp and allow to thicken.
  6. Pop brown rice in the microwave and cook on high for 90 seconds (this is why I prefer to use this type of rice… so easy and quick!)
  7. Once the sauce has thickened, plate your meal with some brown rice, spoon the shrimp evenly between the dishes, and pour over the sauce.
  8. Yes, it’s just THAT easy.  Now, enjoy the compliments that come raining your way.

I have altered this recipe in many different ways, but I really love the way that lemon compliments shrimp.  If you want, you can make a vegetable and top the veggie with some lemon zest… brings all parts of the meal together nicely.  Last time, I used a bag of green beans, tossed the cooked beans with a pat of butter, salt/pepper, and the lemon zest. It was fabulous! Using the preserves counteracts the strong tart taste of the lemon juice and really does a nice job of pulling everything together.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If making this shrimp dish, don’t use a red or deep colored preserve as it will make the shrimp look as if it’s under cooked or raw.  Trust me… I did this once and will never forget the reaction.

Starter Recipe: Easy Mazetti

Another one of our family “staple” recipes is this easy and simple Mazetti, a recipe that my mother-in-law gave me early in my marriage.  Over the years, I’ve adjusted the recipe she gave me to either include lots of “hidden vegetables” or to use whatever quick ingredients I had on hand.  NOTE:  for those who are interested in the history of the name of this recipe, I would point you toward my friend, Jenna, at The Gleeful Gourmand, who wrote up this version of “Johnny Marzetti“.  I was fascinated to read the back-story of this great recipe, including her own recipe.  Back to my simple Mazetti… here’s the “down and dirty” of making a quick, hearty meal using just a few ingredients.EasyMazetti

Main Ingredients:

  • One package of ground turkey
  • 1-2 cans tomato soup (I would use one can soup and one can of red wine)
  • 1 1/2 cups of your favorite pasta
  • Cheese (for topping, as desired)

Directions:

  1. Brown your ground turkey in a large skillet in a small amount of olive oil or margarine (whatever you have on hand).  I also like to add 1/2-1 whole diced onion or some green pepper if I have things on hand and want to stretch the food a bit.  I typically will add some red wine and brown the turkey and veggies until the liquid is totally absorbed.
  2. Once the turkey is browned and starting to get a bit crispy, add your tomato soup (or soup and water/wine) and your pasta.  I really like to use large elbow macaroni, but have used ziti, bow tie pasta, or even small shells… use your favorite pasta shape but don’t use egg noodles as they won’t hold up to the cooking process.  NOTE:  You are welcome to cook your pasta separately, but I like the way the sauce flavors the pasta pieces.  Again, it’s entirely up to you.
  3. I enjoy playing with flavors at this point, so I have the unique flavor that I want from each mazetti dish.  I have been known to add more red wine at this point, but I’ve also added a shot of espresso (this darkens the flavor considerably), or just some stock or water.  If the liquid is absorbed and the pasta isn’t thoroughly cooked, you just need to add more liquid.  The pasta will soak up the liquid and become more al dente’… don’t ever give up on the dish as you’re cooking.
  4. To serve, you can pop this into a casserole dish, top it with some shredded cheese and warm it up in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until everything is bubbly.  If you’re serving from the skillet, you can either omit the cheese or add it on top just before serving and put the lid on your pan to give the cheese time to melt.  Either way is delicious… my boys have eaten this dish in many different variations and have loved it each time.

An extra way to make this dish special is to top it with buttered bread crumbs.  I have a recipe for making buttered bread crumbs on my website as a “bonus recipe”, included with “How to make a sauce“.  Both of these recipes would qualify as “starter recipes”, so please feel free to check this one out as well. I’ve just added the “starter recipe” tag, so you should be able to find it that way as well.

I hope you’ll check out Jenna’s recipe and her history of this recipe… it’s so interesting to find out where recipes originate! Since my Mother-in-Law lives in Michigan and is originally from Rhode Island, her recipe could be a variation of Johnny Marzetti, but it will forever be one of my favorites from her.  I was so touched when she shared one of her favorite recipes with me… it always reminds me of her, no matter how I actually end up making the final dish… it’s comfort food to me.

  

Starter Recipe: Easy Chicken Pie

A quick note about this new term; “Starter Recipe”… I have two sons who are learning to cook.  E has been playing around with recipes and ingredients for awhile now, but D has just started to venture into making his own meals.  Because of D’s newly found interest, I’m going to start posting recipes (aptly named “Starter Recipes”) to help those, like D, who want to cook but are intimidated by huge lists of ingredients or just want to make something that can be pulled together with things that are easy to keep on hand.  Use the search engine on my blog for more “Starter Recipes”… until I get more recipes posted, here’s our first of what I hope will become a long list of easy-to-follow and delicious recipes.EasyChickenPie

D wanted to use some of the leftover turkey that I had given him to take back to his apartment, but he didn’t just want to make a few sandwiches… he wanted to make a Chicken pie (with turkey).  We started with a short list of ingredients.

Ingredients:

  1. Leftover turkey/chicken NOTE: You can pull meat off a pre-roasted chicken if you don’t have any leftover from a previous meal.
  2. One can of mixed vegetables. NOTE: I like to use a can of “Veg-all” because it includes potatoes.
  3.  One can Cream of Chicken soup, undiluted. NOTE: If I were making this, I would add a bit of white wine here.
  4. One can of pre-made Biscuits NOTE: Use whatever biscuits you like best… these will be your topping.

Directions:

  1. Spray a 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop or shred meat and cover the bottom of your pan with bite-sized pieces.
  3. Open and drain the canned vegetables.  Spread them over top the meat in an even layer.
  4. Open and spoon the soup over the vegetables.  If you would prefer to mix these three ingredients together and then pour them into the pan, feel free to do so.  This is your dish, so make it however you like.
  5. Top with approximately 5 biscuits (as shown in the photo).  You can also cut each biscuit into smaller pieces and layer them on top of your pie… again, this is your dish.
  6. Spray top of biscuits with cooking spray (“Pam” is cooking spray) so they brown as they cook.
  7. Put pan in oven and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling.  Serves 2-4 (depending on serving sizes)

I do hope that you’ll try this recipe, especially if you’ve never cooked before.  Cooking can be a relaxing experience, as long as you have all your ingredients at hand and feel confident that your final outcome will be tasty and satisfying.  By following these recipes, I hope to help you learn how to become more comfortable with cooking for yourself and for others.  There’s really nothing as wonderful as making a meal that satisfies both body and soul.

Enjoy the journey!

Leftover Recipe: Holiday Turkey Casserole

I have to confess that I absolutely LOVE our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  I love cooking them, I love serving them to my family, and I especially love the leftovers.  Creating a new meal from the leftovers is just so much fun!  Everything has already been cooked at some point, so all you’re really doing is re-assembling the foods in a new and different way… how hard can that be?  TurkeyCasserole

Last year, I used the stuffing to create “stuffing waffles”… if you haven’t tried this before, you HAVE to try it.  They were simply incredible!  You can check out my recipe here, which also talks about topping them with turkey gravy.  Serious “yum” factor here.  This year, I decided not to get the waffle iron down, so I came up with this new casserole.  Same sort of “yum” to the flavor… just a whole new twist.

I layered about 2 cups of our Green Pea Casserole (it’s the same “green bean casserole” that everyone else does… we just use frozen peas instead.  GENIUS!), sprinkled 1 cup of diced turkey on top, then spooned 3/4 cup of leftover gravy just to cover the turkey.  To finish this off, I took scoops of leftover stuffing and put stuffing balls over the entire casserole, then smooshed them down with my fingers to “connect” them as a topping.  Just for extra flavor, I crumbled about 3 slices of bacon over top, but these really weren’t necessary… this casserole was stellar all by itself.

NOTE:  Before you ask where the “wine” is in this recipe, remember that I used wine when I made the stuffing AND the gravy (and usually it’s in the peas as well), so I didn’t really feel the need to add more, but you’re welcome to add a little to the gravy if you think it’s too thick.  Just use your best judgement.  

Once everything was assembled, I baked the casserole for dinner at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until the gravy was visibly bubbling.  This dish was honestly so good that we ate it for two nights in a row… all the flavors of a holiday dinner wrapped up in one meal.  YUM!

Leftover Recipe: Turkey Spring Rolls

I was searching for a new way to use up leftover turkey when I stumbled upon The Pioneer Woman, showing her spring roll recipe and I knew I had my inspiration.

I started by letting a small round of rice vermicelli sit in hot water until they were soft (this is, by far, the easiest thing to do!).  I then created a turkey mixture using thin sliced turkey, a spoon of apricot jam, some rose’ wine (white wine would be just as good, but I had leftover rose’ from Thanksgiving and I think it goes beautifully with turkey), a dash of sesame oil, a blob of ketchup, a little commercial orange sauce, salt & pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  I set this aside and then sliced some cucumber into thin sticks for crunch and opened a bag of broccoli slaw.  I was now ready to assemble these delicious spring rolls.TurkeySpringRolls

First thing was to pull out a few rice spring roll wrappers.  These things are great…. just soak them in hot water until they are limp and you can wrap them around anything.  They are a little tricky when you first start playing with them, so be ready to have an extra or two on hand, just in case.

I laid out the soft wrapper and assembled each of the spring rolls by layering a little of the soft vermicelli, then the cucumber sticks, a bit of the turkey mixture, and topped it with the colorful broccoli slaw.  Once they were assembled, the creative part had to happen…. I had to roll these things into logs!  I started by pulling the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling, then folded each side in, and rolled the whole thing into a log.  The first one was a bit funky-looking, but they got better as I went along.  NOTE: I had two spring rolls that each got holes poked in the sides from the broccoli slaw, so I just added a second wrapper around the original spring roll.  No biggie… 

Once all six rolls were done, I made a dipping sauce out of a mixture of apricot jam, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, and a drizzle of honey.  Calling this a “dipping sauce” is sort of a mis-nomer… it was more like a “spooning sauce”, but you get the idea.  I could have made it runnier by warming the jam up a bit, but this was so yummy that I left it alone.  I liked the thick texture of the sauce when spooned onto (or into, after a bite) the spring roll, so it was all good.  I also sprinkled a tiny bit of sesame seeds over top to make it look pretty, but that was totally unnecessary.  These things were gorgeous in their own right.

Try this recipe sometime… you’ll be amazed, just as I was, at the fresh twist you get from using turkey in such a unique way.

Recipe: Sausage and Pepper Casserole

My neighbor had a health issue with her mom last night and I thought that the nicest thing I could do for her would be to make dinner and dessert for them tonight.  I know her mom loves sweets, so I had to make sure to have some sort of dessert included, so I made a platter of chocolate chip cookies, since I already had the dough in the fridge… the question was now “what do I make for dinner”?

I looked through my freezer and found a package of turkey kielbasa and a half package of bacon, so that became the base of my recipe.  Since I also had some green peppers and an onion in the crisper, I decided to make a turn on a “sausage and pepper sandwich” and add some linguine and a creamy cheese sauce to pull it all together.  Here’s how I went about making dinner. NOTE: Remember that I was making two dinners for two people each, so these could have easily been made into a single 9×11 casserole instead of two individual 9″ round casseroles.

I crisped up the half package of bacon and then removed the bacon to a plate, leaving the bacon drippings in the saute pan.  I diced one package of turkey kielbasa and crisped that up in the saute pan as well before removing that to a plate. I sliced one green pepper and half a large onion and sauteed these in the bacon grease until softened.  While cooking all these individual pieces, I cooked 3/4 package of linguine (broken in half) until just al dente, then drained the pasta, saving some of the water in case I needed it for the sauce that would top the entire casserole.Sausage&PepperCasserole

I then assembled the casseroles, placing a little of the bacon and half the kielbasa and half the vegetables on top before adding half the pasta.  Once this was done, I was able to turn my attention to the sauce.  I wanted something that was creamy and slightly cheesy but didn’t just want to throw cheese on top of the pasta and hope it melted correctly.

I started the sauce by simmering 2T butter and 2T flour together to make a roux.  I then added some white wine (using chardonnay was my choice this time… crisp and clean) and chicken stock to start a great tasting sauce.  To make the taste unique to this particular dish, I added half a can of cream of mushroom soup (leftover from Christmas dinner), some parmesan cheese and some cheddar cheese for creaminess and a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce for flavor.  Once the sauce tasted “right” (you HAVE to be willing to taste your sauces during the cooking phase so they balance out once they’re added to a dish), I poured half over each casserole and topped each with a sprinkling of leftover bacon.

I have no idea if my neighbors will enjoy this casserole, but I hope they feel the love that comes from wanting to do something nice for others in times of stress.  Karma is a tricky thing… but I believe that if you always reach out to others in a positive way and from a place of kindness and love, that same thing will come back to you tenfold.  I’m not expecting them to do anything in return…. I just know that they shouldn’t have to worry about feeding their family when they’re facing a difficult time.

May we all approach life in this manner… give when you can and your life will be made better for the effort.

Happy New Year Blessings to you all, my friends.  Wishing you health and happiness as 2015 begins!

Recipe: White Mini Cinnamon Rolls

It’s the holidays, so this is when I try to take some extended time in the kitchen to play around with recipes… and this holiday season was no exception.  I knew that my husband would love it if I could come up with a way to make his favorite breakfast of Cinnamon Rolls, so I started with a basic bread recipe and played from there.

The recipe I started with is one that came from The Bread Machine Cookbook by Donna German.  This is a link to an Amazon page where you could purchase any of her #1-4 cookbooks… I have cookbooks #1, #2, and #4.  She has some amazing recipes and I love looking through her books for inspirations.  I found her recipe for a Cinnamon Swirl bread and started from there.  WhiteMiniCinnamonRolls

Into my bread machine, I put the following, in order: 4 oz water, 1 oz white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio, but you can simply replace this with more water), 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cup4s flour, and 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast.  I then set my machine on the “quick dough” setting and began to collect the remaining ingredients.

I warmed some butter (about 4 Tablespoons) in a ramekin and added a dash of salt and a drop or two of vanilla, whisking all together before setting this aside.

I then collected about 1/2 cup of brown sugar in a bowl and added a dash of salt, a tiny amount of nutmeg, and a few teaspoons of cinnamon.  I tossed this together and set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray your mini cupcake tin with cooking spray.  NOTE:  I like to put the pan on a baking sheet covered with foil so I don’t have to worry if the filling cooks over the edge and so it doesn’t drip onto the bottom my oven.  I love easy cleanup!  I also like to put a small amount of the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. It’s only about 1/4 teaspoon, but it seems to bake into a yummy topping in the end.

Once the bread machine had done it’s work and the dough was ready, I rolled it out on a board, into a large rectangle.  Take your vanilla butter and spread it evenly all over the dough.  Sprinkle all the spiced brown sugar over top and then begin to roll the dough into a log, length-wise, starting with the area closest to you.  Cut the log into 12 even slices and put each slice into a muffin cup.  I also like to press the rolls down lightly to push them into their individual cups.  Bake your cinnamon rolls for 17-20 minutes or until the rolls are nicely browned and puffy.

While your rolls are baking, you’ll want to make your frosting.  You can make yours any way you choose… use a prepared frosting, make a cream cheese frosting, or make something as simple as a blend of butter, milk, and confectioner’s sugar. I added a wedge of laughing cow light cheese to some butter, milk, and confectioner’s sugar… this is where your creativity can have fun.  You can add some orange juice instead of the milk if you want a little citrus taste… if you have some evaporated milk left over from a recipe you could use that instead.  It’s really all about what tastes good to you.

Once the rolls are baked, I like to turn them upside down on a rectangle platter and slather as much frosting as I can load onto these little yummy morsels.  You’ll want to serve them warm with milk or coffee… they are fabulous!

Wishing you sweet, delicious mornings and a very Happy New Year!