Sauteed Cajun Shrimp

Happy happy Friday! I’m always excited for the weekend… I’m especially excited about not having to set my alarm at night, and being able to stay up late and read or watch “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” if I want to… two things that are on my agenda for the weekend. My best friend is also coming over tomorrow for another installation of our Horror D’ouevres, and I’m really excited for that too šŸ™‚ Can you believe that this weekend also signals the end of June? I certainly can’t! This week also brings the 4th of July, and while I don’t have any plans to watch fireworks, I’m still looking forward to the holiday, and a day off of work. As a kid, we always used to go visit my family out in Missouri for a week in the summer, and we were always there for the 4th. The laws there are not as strict regarding fireworks there as there are in Connecticut, and so it was always our tradition to buy a bunch of fireworks, and take turns setting them off in my Grandparent’s backyard. It was so much fun to actually set off our own fireworks, rather than just watch them…. although a good fireworks show can be fun as well.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite series of cookbooks, theĀ Everyday FoodĀ series. The magazine (which unfortunately is now defunct), was one of my favorite food magazines, and I am still mourning the loss of it. The recipes were simple, but excellent, and were perfect for quick and delicious weeknight meals, which are the type of meal I am most drawn to, as that is the type of meal I cook most frequently. This meal fits the bill perfectly. Just a few ingredients, Ā super quick and simple, but still so flavorful, and not boring at all. I used turkey kielbasa in this dish to make it healthier, but I think that andouille sausage (pork, turkey or chicken) would be even tastier, if you can find it.

Sauteed Cajun Shrimp

Sauteed Cajun Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 can (14.5 oz) low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup long-grain white rice

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, sliced lengthwise into thin strips

8 oz precooked andouille or kielbasa sausage (I used turkey kielbasa), halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced crosswise

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions:

1. Heat 1 1/2 tsp of oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook about 3-5 minutes, until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the rice, season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

2. Meanwhile, place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add remaining 1 1/2 tsp of oil. Add the bell peppers, and cook about 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are crisp-tender. Add the sausage and shrimp, and cook about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is cooked through, and the sausage is heated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Serve shrimp and sausage mixture over the rice.

Source:Ā Everyday Food: Light

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Cilantro Lime Rice

Except for the very rare occasion, I always make rice and beans to accompany my taco nights. Most of the time I stick to making just regular old white rice, and some spiced up canned beans (I usually add spices like cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne to my beans- never measuring). Sometimes though, I like to change it up, and this cilantro-lime rice is a super simple, and tasty way to make white rice more exciting. Just cook up your rice like you normally do, and then add in some cilantro, lime juice, and garlic… so easy! This was the perfect accompaniment to my fish tacos, and would be a great accompaniment for any Mexican-themed meal.

Cilantro Lime Rice

Cilantro Lime Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup long grain white rice

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, add the water, rice, salt and olive oil (if using). Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes.

2. Fluff with fork, and then add the cilantro, lime juice, and garlic clove, and mix together.

Source:Ā adapted fromĀ Annie’s Eats

Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf

Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf

I served this rice pilaf on the side of the red chile enchiladas and it went perfectly. Usually I just cook rice very plainly because it is something I don’t have to follow a recipe for and Ā sometimes I really like simplicity, but I wanted something more exciting to go alongside the enchiladas. This was still a very simple recipe with just a few more steps than basic white rice, but it was so much more flavorful. I loved the garlickyness of it as garlic is one of my favorite flavors, and while I really love tomato-based Mexican rice, this was a nice alternative to accompany a Mexican-themed meal.

Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf

Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tbsps vegetable or olive oil

1 1/2 cups white rice

1 small white onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1 3/4 cup chicken broth

Salt

3 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (for garnish)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put rack in center position.

2. Add oil, rice and onion to a medium oven-proof saucepan, over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice turns to a milky-white color. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add chicken broth and 1 tsp salt. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil.

3. Place into the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and add chopped parsley.

Source:Ā Mexican Everyday

Black Bean-Brown Rice Patties

Happy weekend everyone! I hope spring has started well for you all.  It’s still quite cold here in CT and it’ll be a few weeks more before we actually start feeling any spring-like weather, but for now I’m enjoying the lengthening of days and searching for signs of buds and shoots pushing up from the earth. It looks like we possibly might have snow on Monday, and honesty, that doesn’t bother me at all. That’s just one of the things I expect from living in New England. The snow this winter has not burnt me out yet! 
These patties are a wonderful light, but hearty meal, that are one of my top contenders for my favorite recipe of the cleanse. I served mine with romaine lettuce drizzled with olive oil and lime juice, with some buttery avocado and cilantro on top. I didn’t even miss having a bun for these patties. The only issue was that they were a bit dry, so maybe next time I’d add a little bit more oil, or possibly bake them a bit less.  Regardless of this though, they were fabulous!



Black Bean-Brown Rice Patties

Makes 6 Patties (Serves 2-3)

Ingredients:
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cup cooked brown rice (For reference, 1/2 cup uncooked rice will yield about 1 1/2 cups cooked rice)
2 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp flaxmeal
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Coarse salt
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add all ingredients to food processor, and pulse until combined. Season to taste with salt.
3. Form 6 patties, about 1-inch thick. Place patties on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake about 20-minutes, until the tops are crisp and golden.
You can serve these plain if you’d like, but they are fabulous with a few extras- some ideas: lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, red onion, cilantro. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lime.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I bet that chicken soup is a comfort food for a huge number of people out there, and rightfully so in my opinion.  It’s something many of us associate with childhood, and our mothers. It’s something I crave in the winter, and especially when I’m under the weather. I made this soup a few weeks ago when I was nursing a seemingly never-ending cold. One that seems to have finally gone away- I’d like to attribute that to this soup! This is my favorite quick and easy version of chicken soup. It is from the wonderful cookbook Fresh Flavor Fast, which comes from the people over at Everyday Food, one of my most favorite cooking magazines that unfortunately is no longer a standalone magazine. That magazine, this cookbook, and the other two in this series- Great Food Fast and Everyday Food: Light, I seem to turn to again and again for reliable and delicious weeknight meals. This soup comes together relatively quickly, uses some shortcuts such as store-bought chicken broth, but cooks in such a way that imparts it with so much flavor. Sauteing the onions and poaching the chicken in the chicken broth really work to make this soup so flavorful.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
32-oz low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup wild-rice blend
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8 oz), or 8 oz boneless skinless chicken breast 
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
Directions:
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot, preferably a dutch oven. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until onion starts to soften, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth, rice, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 35 minutes.
2. Add chicken, carrots, and celery. Return soup to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Remove the chicken, and shred.
3. Return the shredded chicken to the pot, and season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Skillet Pork Chops and Rice with Parsley Butter

I don’t cook with pork much (other than bacon, of course).  It’s not that I dislike it, but it is something I’m not confident cooking. This turns into a continuous circle because how will I ever become more comfortable cooking with pork if I never even try?!

For Christmas, my boyfriend’s grandparents gave us a great gift of food from the Omaha Steak Company, including some boneless pork chops. This was the perfect opportunity to increase my level of confidence!  Aren’t gifts of food awesome?!

This recipe was very simple and tasty! I especially liked the way the rice came out with this method of cooking.  Why don’t I cook my rice in chicken broth more often?!

Skillet Pork Chops and Rice with Parsley Butter
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and divided
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
2 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup long-grain white rice
4 (6 to 8 oz) boneless pork chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Directions:
1. Stir together the parsley and 2 tbsp butter in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Combine the rice and 1 cup of chicken broth in a large microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.  Microwave for 6-7 minutes, or until broth is absorbed. Watch out when you remove this from the microwave- it will be HOT!  As will the steam when you open the plastic wrap!
3. Meanwhile, dry the pork with paper towels, and cut two slits about 2 inches apart in the fat cap on the outside edges of the pork chops- this will help them stay flat as they are cooking, instead of curling up. Season the pork on both sides with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp of butter. When it’s melted, and the pan is hot, add the pork chops.  Brown the pork chops on each side- about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the pork chops once browned to a plate, and tent them with foil.
5. Add the remaining tbsp of butter to the skillet.  When melted, add the onion and cook 6-7 minutes until browned. Add the garlic and thyme and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
6. To the skillet, add the rice and the remaining 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Nestle the pork chops into the rice, add any accumulated juice as well, lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook for 10-14 minutes, until the broth is absorbed into the rice and the pork chops are fully cooked.
7. When serving, top the pork chops with parsley butter.

Source: Cook’s Country, Aug/Sept 2011, via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Dirty Risotto

Once upon a time I was afraid of making risotto.  You see, I had heard many horror stories about how hard it was to make…. so for the longest time I did not make it, yet I dreamt about making it.  Finally my curiousity won out and I decided to go on the hunt for the perfect risotto recipe, Magic Risotto, if you will.  I decided that for my first attempt at risotto I wanted it to be a meal in itself, and not just a side dish, that way I could concentrate on the risotto itself, rather than split my attention.  I can multitask, but I prefer not to when I’m trying out a completely new and involved cooking method.  My search lead me to a Giada De Laurentis recipe for dirty risotto- risotto with hot Italian sausage, pancetta, red peppers, and mushrooms?  Yes please!

When I actually made it, I found that risotto is not difficult at all.  Yes, it does involve constant stirring, and adding of broth slowly, but I actually find it to be meditative and soothing.  Yes, my arm does tend to get a little tired, but I look on the bright side, and consider that my exercise for the day.  (Today I also got some exercise in as I worked on planting my new plants in containers- there will be pictures tomorrow!)  So I absolutely recommend this recipe!!  It will take a little time, but it is worth it, and while you stir you will inhale the delicious aroma of the risotto for about a half hour straight, which makes the stirring that much better.

Dirty Risotto
Serves 4-6


Ingredients:
5 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
2 ounces pancetta, or bacon, chopped
1 link (about 6 ounces), spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
3/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup red bell pepper (about 3/4 of a med-large pepper), chopped
4 ounces button (or cremini) mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio or medium grain white rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Directions:
1. Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan over medium high until simmering, then reduce heat to low and cover to keep warm.
2. Heat a large heavy saucepan, or Dutch oven, over medium heat.  Add butter, and when melted, add pancetta (or bacon) and sausage.  Stir frequently, breaking up sausage, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the onion, red pepper, and mushrooms.  Cook until the veggies are tender, stirring often, about 8 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.
4. Add rice, and stir into veggie/meat mixture.  Add white wine, and cook about 1 minute, until the wine is mostly evaporated.
5. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Repeat with remaining broth, adding 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring constantly until absorbed.  It’ll take about 2-3 minutes each time.  Do this until the mixture is creamy, and the rice is tender but still firm to the bite- about 25-30 minutes.  In my experience, it’ll take the full amount of chicken broth.
6. Remove from the heat, add 3/4 of the grated Parmesan, and stir.  Either transfer to a serving dish, or serve from the pan.  Garnish with remaining Parmesan and fresh parsley.


Source: Giada De Laurentis via foodnetwork.com


Notes:

  • As I listed in the ingredients, the original recipe calls for pancetta and button mushrooms.  I think bacon is fine substitution because I usually have bacon in my apartment, but I don’t think I’ve ever bought pancetta- maybe next time.  Darn you budget!!  Also, I substituted cremini mushrooms because I like them better, and I think they have a little more flavor- so there!!  But button mushrooms would be fine, as would shitake I’m sure. 
  • Ummm, so I used regular chicken broth instead of low-sodium because I always forget that low-sodium is the way to go.  If you are like me and do this, the addition of salt when the veggies are cooking may not be necessary, unless you like things extra salty that is.  
  • Once again I served this straight from my Dutch oven – no need to make extra dishes dirty right?  Also, this recipe says to serve immediately, and that I did, but I have to say from experience, that this risotto makes excellent leftovers.
  • Now I feel that I must branch out and try making some other risottos- I think wild mushroom risotto should be next because I love me some mushrooms.