Cheesy Shrimp & Grits
On our first date, River and I got to know each other over a big plate of shrimp and grits at the local “date place” restaurant. We quickly bonded upon discovering we both enjoyed the dish as a favorite. Since then he and I have sampled shrimp and grits together at multiple restaurants in multiple cities. And no two dishes of shrimp and grits have been the same. I’ve wanted to discover a simple recipe for the dish that could be served as written or could be adjusted to include different flavors all with the same base so River and I could cook it together at home.
After trying several recipes, Self Proclaimed Foodies’ version of Cheesy Shrimp and Grits is the clear winner. It’s simple, but not simplistic, with full flavor from the cheese, shrimp stock, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. I’ve made this recipe both with white wine and cooking sherry in the water to cook the grits and have discovered I like the richness from cooking sherry slightly more. Although choice either is delicious. I also used locally sourced and ground grits. While I know those might be challenging to find, a recipe like this really calls for the highest quality ingredients you can find and afford.
This recipe for shrimp and grits makes four servings. For date night, we only needed two servings, especially with a kale salad on the side. So River and I cut the recipe in half. This worked well, except we both felt it needed slightly more sauce. I’d encourage you to make the full amount of sauce. Any leftovers could be used for another dish later. I bet it’d be great on a lovely piece of sauteed cod! We also used bacon fat to sear the shrimp, opting to impart the smokiness bacon fat provides. The entire dish paired nicely with a dry prosecco. A crisp riesling would also be delicious.
Mini Almond Flour Chocolate Cakes
As I’m typing this I’m currently day three into a seven day self isolation period awaiting COVID-19 test results. Dylan has gone to spend a couple weeks with his dad. I top off my self isolation period by taking my mother to the hospital to have heart surgery (the reason behind the COVID-19 test). So I’m not exactly living my best life at the moment. In fact I’m trying hard to be grateful for the time alone for the first time since the end of March but occasionally failing.
I’ve rattled around my house alone after work hours knitting, sewing, listening to live stream music performances, binge watching Netflix and FoodNetwork shows, craving food I can’t go get, and wanting to do things that have to be put off for a few weeks. I’ve learned to find little ways to indulge in self-care. One of those ways calls for drowning my frustration with chocolate. And that’s okay. But drowning emotions in chocolate can also lead to food guilt. So I’m also trying to be gentle with myself. No dessert is perfectly healthy. Mini almond flour chocolate cakes from Snappy Gourmet are at least semi-keto friendly as well as gluten free. The recipe also makes only two servings. If you’re not quarantining you could share with a confidant. If you are alone, save the other serving on the counter or in the refrigerator for the next day.
Add a few berries for some freshness and whipped cream (from a can is fine!) to cut the richness of the chocolate on these almond flour cakes. Or splurge on a small scoop of vanilla ice cream like I did. Snappy Gourmet says you can substitute the almond flour for wheat flour if desired. I did not try that option.
Smoked Salmon Flatbread Pizza
One of the things I’m discovering about working from home is how nice it is to take a break and pop into my own kitchen to make my lunch. All the ingredients I may want are there. I don’t have to prep something at 6:30am. If I decide on something different or have a craving for something, it’s easy to change my mind. I can also take my lunch on the deck on nice days and enjoy fresh air while recharging for the afternoon tasks.
As a result I’ve been on the search for cool, easy to prepare, and tasty meals that may not have been considered for a lunchbox meal when I was working in an office away from home. Smoked Salmon Flatbread Pizzas by Three Many Cooks absolutely fit the bill. Even though this recipe is pricier than I would normally invest in, it was well worth the extra money. And because I prepared the flatbread only for myself (Dylan generally doesn’t care for seafood), I’ve been able to make the ingredients work for other meals as well. Smokey, salty, lemony, creamy… The smoked salmon flatbread with a lovely blend of flavors in the cream cheese, hit all the notes for me.
The recipe calls for using naan as the base for these flatbreads, which I think would be perfect. I’m in love with a gluten free pizza crust from a local bakery, so I used it instead. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. Be sure to enjoy this with a cold glass of sparkling water and a squeeze of lemon to help cut the fattiness and richness of the cream cheese and smoked salmon. Or if serving this with a brunch, prosecco would be lovely. And we all know how much I love a good brunch. Leftover cream cheese spread is good on crackers for an afternoon snack. Extra smoked salmon would be nice on a personal charcuterie board for lunch another day.
Tuna Recipe Round-Up
Early on in the pandemic inspired-shutdowns and stay at home orders my boss gave me two cases of canned tuna. That’s a lot of tuna. Dylan and I quickly grew tired of the simple tuna salad sandwiches I normally make on a hurried Saturday afternoon full of chores and errands. A mission to find alternative recipes and ideas for canned tuna ensued. I asked friends and people on foodie Facebook groups for their favorites, and I tried several to narrow it down to our three favorites.
Tuna Casserole for One from One Dish Kitchen
Dylan and I made tuna casserole one rainy evening when we both needed comfort food. It was easy to double to make it “for two” and utilizes standard pantry staples. I did discover as I was preparing the dish there was no lemon juice in the house. Cooking sherry proved to be a good substitute that provided a richness and elevated the dish. I also included some celery for nostalgia and crunch. Tuna casserole was a hit, and I’m pleased to find a recipe that can be easily prepared even on evenings I’m alone.
Spicy Sriracha Tuna Wraps from Gimme Delicious
Who else misses sushi? There isn’t a sushi place open around my area yet, and I’m having withdrawals for a good spicy tuna roll. Spicy Sriracha Tuna was a wonderful substitute to satisfy my cravings for now. Because I needed something easier to eat than a wrap while eating lunch at my desk to meet a deadline, I turned the tuna mixture into a salad of sorts on a bed of spinach. Perfect for a working lunch! It would also be fantastic picnic fare. In addition to a wrap, I feel it would also be good stuffed in an avocado half or cucumber boat.
Easy Tuna Dip from Pamela Salzman
When I described this tuna dip via text to my dear friend River, he said “So it’s a tuna hummus,” which I thought was a good way of describing it. Because I never use anchovy paste, after some research, I substituted it for Worcestershire sauce, which worked perfectly. The capers provided a wonderful saltiness and “umammi.” I used the suggested white beans, although optional avocado would give this a nice creaminess I think would be fantastic. Dylan wasn’t interested in trying this tuna dip, so I was able to enjoy it all to myself on the deck one lazy Sunday afternoon following online church worship services. It was excellent with gluten free nut crackers, bell pepper slices, carrot rounds, and celery sticks. I think a good crusty toasted bread would also be a tasty choice.
Southwest Quinoa Salad
Dylan and I are continuing to observe stay at home recommendations and social distancing. Even though we treat ourselves to a curbside pickup meal from a local restaurant on occasion, we’ve made almost 200 meals at home in the last two plus months. Because our tastes are often vastly different, we’ve come to a point sometimes I eat one thing and Dylan eats another. It works for us for now. Southwest Quinoa Salad from Kristine’s Kitchen is one of those meals I naturally gravitate toward, but Dylan wouldn’t enjoy.
This past week the weather looked like it was going to warm up for several days. I was craving something cold as well as filling. A green salad wasn’t going to cut it. I also had a bag of quinoa in my cabinet. Did you know quinoa is naturally gluten free, low in fat, and high in protein, fiber, and iron? It makes an excellent addition to a vegetarian meal. Quinoa is also extremely versatile. It can be eaten cold or hot; in salads; as filler for patties; as substitution for rice; even toasted in granola!
This southwest quinoa salad is no different. The first night I ate this salad was cold as a side with a piece of cod sauteed with butter and seasoned with chili powder. The next day the weather turned cold and rainy, and I served myself a big bowl of the salad warmed with a slice of homemade bread for lunch. I’ve enjoyed it both ways. While I haven’t tried it yet, I also think it would be good mixed with an egg for binder, formed into a patty and shallow fried. Several comments I read on this recipe noted the addition of chicken to the mixture, which I think would be delicious!
No matter how you serve southwest quinoa salad, it’s a great recipe to have in your rotation for an easy summer supper, a side dish with chicken or fish, or in a medley of other salads.
With predicted meat shortages on the horizon the grocery stores in my city have begun limiting meat purchases. As a result, I’ve been looking at ways to stretch my current supply of meat as well as vegetarian options for Dylan and me. One of those meat-less options that is packed with protein and flavor is an old standby recipe – Falafel from BudgetBytes. This recipe is also wallet-friendly, coming in at around 50 cents a serving depending on food prices in your area. As a new, stay at home mother many years ago, I would often make up a double batch of falafel and freeze for easy lunches between marathon breastfeeding sessions.
“What?” you say. “Falafel is complicated!” No, it really isn’t. There is some pre-chopping of the onions and garlic, but your food processor will do most of the work for you. If you don’t have a food processor, you could use a small food chopper and work in smaller batches. Like Beth at BudgetBytes, I have chosen to form these falafel and shallow fry instead of deep fry them as well, which helps cut down on the fuss. To form the patties, scoop out the chilled mixture with an ice cream scoop drop onto a baking sheet and flatten with your hand. However, if you feel a falafel isn’t a falafel if it’s not deep fried, use your ice cream scoop and roll the mixture in your hands instead.
If you’re avoiding wheat, like me, chickpea (or garbanzo bean) flour works almost better than wheat flour in this recipe. But don’t feel you need to try to find chickpea flour just for this recipe! Falafel freeze very well and defrost within a few hours on a plate in the refrigerator for lunch or supper. They are also versatile. Serve in a pita, over a salad, as a burger, or plain with some fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and tzatziki on the side. (BudgetBytes’ easy tzatziki is a favorite.) In a search for ways to serve falafel, I came up with some interesting ideas and options. Falafel waffle, anyone? Not only are falafel a good way to be creative, this is a great time to give yourself permission to do so!
Beer Braised Pork Review
Shortly after my ex-husband and I went our separate ways a few years ago, I discovered craft beer and local breweries. And we have a lot of them in Virginia. Heading out to a brewery for an hour or two to grab a beer and listen to live music became a past time I could do while my son Dylan was at Boy Scouts, or since he’s old enough to be alone a few hours, with a friend after dinner on occasion. Hanging out at breweries a couple times a month, I began following their Facebook and Untapped pages so I could time my visits with bands or releases of brews I’ve grown to enjoy. One of those breweries posted a link to Beer Braised Pulled Pork Sliders with Chipotle Beer Cheese Sauce and suggested their imperial porter as a good choice for the braising liquid.
Upon trying this recipe once, I was hooked. It’s a staple now in my recipe binder and in my freezer. Often, I’ll make a double batch of this when pork loin or pork butt goes on sale. (The last time I had two dutch ovens going with meat!) I have indeed, tried the imperial porter suggested, which is my go-to, although I recently discovered a stout with a hint of orange I feel complements this dish well. And this pork works so well with so many things!
Because I don’t often eat bread, I’ve never made this dish with the suggested cheese sauce on a slider or sandwich. Dylan likes it spiced up a little more with extra of the spice rub mixed in the shredded pork while reheating as a large, stuffed quesadilla or taco (see pictured quesadilla with my homemade barbeque sauce and cheddar cheese). One of my favorite treatments is pork over grits with a mushroom gravy made with some of the braising liquid and beef broth. We also enjoy it as pulled pork sandwiches, in omelets, in homemade mac and cheese, on flatbread, and once I even made an eggy sort of casserole with the beer braised pork, cheese, egg, and heavy cream.
Yes, the braised pork freezes extremely well either once cooked and still in large pieces or shredded and stored in 2 cup servings. I’ve also transferred the pork loin or butt to a slow cooker after searing in the dutch oven. Dylan and I discovered quite by accident when we mixed up two jars in the pantry that the spice rub makes an excellent seasoning for chicken tacos as well. Beer Braised Pulled Pork Sliders with Chipotle Beer Cheese Sauce is so easy and so versatile, answering “What’s for dinner?” during this time of uncertainty is one less question you have to stress about.
Protein Egg and Quinoa Salad Review
Let’s be real here. Since March our lives have been dumped upside down. “Normal” is no longer school and work and soccer games and spring weekend festivals and church services. “Normal” is isolation and anxiety and homeschooling (or not) and masks and hoping to goodness that for one day – just one – something new won’t happen. My anxiety bubbles just below the surface threatening to erupt at any given moment. My friend Schroeder and I check in with each other via text every day to see where we are on the anxiety scale, one being calm. Ten being a talk-me-off-the-ledge full-blown anxiety attack. The goal is to keep us both simmering at no more than a three.
Two months ago I wrote my review for SkinnyTaste’s Protein Egg and Quinoa Salad regaling you with “pack your lunch, sit in a quiet park on a sunny day on your lunch break” ideas. “It’s finally spring!” I declared. “Treat yourself, and get out of the office on a nice day!” I’m sure many of us would love nothing more than to be with our colleagues again, even the ones who make the Wicked Witch of the West theme run through your head. I know I would.
Yet, here I sit looking out my home office window at the warm spring day beyond, desperate to see something other than the same four walls of my home and the parking lot of my local grocery store when I pick up my curbside grocery order. So here’s the deal… It is finally spring. Treat yourself. Get out of your house and on to your yard, patio, deck, whatever small bit of outside space you have. Make your kids whatever their favorite sandwich is. Prepare this fresh protein rich salad for yourself, and have a picnic. Seriously.
SkinnyTaste’s Protein Egg and Quinoa Salad is delicious and can be adapted in so many ways. No lentils? Use black beans like I did. Add spinach instead of arugula. (I used both). Cut up two dyed Easter eggs. Use bottled dressing instead of making the lemon dressing suggested. No one will judge you for it. As you can see from my pictures, a jar isn’t necessary. In fact I preferred the rectangular food container shown so I could eat it straight from that. After your picnic when the kids have eaten most of their sandwiches, there are potato chip crumbs in your shoes, and everyone’s hair is wild, break into the bougie chocolate you know you’re saving “for a special occasion.” This is your special occasion. You all deserve a piece.
I have a confession to make. I love brunch. I love the ritual of brunch. The mimosas; the savory, too rich dishes; the combination of “breakfast” foods and “lunch” foods; the idle chat with friends on a rare relaxed Saturday; the eggs and meat and muffins. Oh, my! And so when one of those videos from Tastemade designed to catch your eye caught my eye while scrolling through Pinterest one evening, I knew right then and there I had to make green souffle omelet for brunch with several of my theater friends following our most recent show. This fluffy, cheesy omelet is packed full of green spinach and flavor.
The technique has more steps and is slightly more time consuming than a regular omelet, but if you’re going to take the time to have brunch, it’s worth making the event special. If you have a stand mixer, it will make the process a little easier, but a hand mixer will work just as well. I felt there was too.much club soda and cut it to just a few tablespoons the second time I made this dish. (Use the leftover club soda for your cocktails.) Also with the generous amount of cheese, mind your salt levels.
It wasn’t clear what the recipe meant by “turn on the grill,” which I’m assuming were British instructions. After beginning the omelet in a cast iron pan on the stove for a minute or two, I baked this in the oven at 375° for 10 minutes. Then put the pan under the broiler for another two minutes. Keep an eye on it so as not to burn the cheese. You omlet could be divided in a myriad of ways. Cut into small wedges for a crowd or cut in half for a more intimate gathering. Leftovers do lose some fluffiness, but rewarm well. Serve with your favorite brunch cocktail and some fresh fruit.
Typically for St. Patrick’s Day my son Dylan and I enjoy corned beef, mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. However this year we’ve endured practically an entire month of rain here in Virginia and decided maybe we’ll mix things up a bit with something more warming. Irish Beef Stew from Erica, Emily, and Echo at Fav Family Recipes seems to be a good choice. While neither of these dishes are truly traditional in Ireland, we enjoy celebrating the Irish side of our heritage with meals fairly well recognized in the United States. Also, I’m not sure I could convince Dylan to sample haggis.
The day I first tested this recipe, we had so much rain, there were threats of flash flooding. Schools were dismissed at 1:00pm. When Dylan and I made it home safely a half hour later, I decided to take advantage of an extra few hours on a weekday to move this delicious slow food recipe up on our weekly meal plan. Because of our time frame, I left the stew simmer for three hours on the stove top in my cast iron dutch oven instead of transferring the ingredients to the slow cooker. My body doesn’t always handle wheat well, so I used Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour blend to coat the beef instead of wheat flour. The gluten free flour blend did just as nice a job of adding body to thicken the sauce as wheat flour. You could also choose not to use any flour at all, since the recipe calls for a slurry of cornstarch as well.
While I’m a sucker for a good sauce, I felt there was too much liquid in this recipe for my idea of stew. The second time I made this, I cut all the liquid (broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and slurry) by half and kept a close eye on how the broth thickened as the beef stew simmered and reduced. You can always add some water if things feel a little dry for your tastes. The flavor of the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine vinegar was spot on, though. Having grown up with a waterier, less seasoned beef stew, I loved the heartiness of this recipe for Irish Beef Stew. Dylan and I soaked up our meal with some gluten free cheese bread that he loves. I had enough leftover, even with a teen boy’s insatiable appetite, to have a serving later in the week for lunch.