Creamy Shrimp Pasta

Before I lived in San Diego I lived in Ohio. But, before I lived in Ohio I lived in Maryland (and before that Ohio, Maryland, Ohio, we liked to move). One of the things I remember most vividly about Maryland is the crab parties we would occasionally have. I can remember going to the docks and my parents picking up a bushel of live Maryland blue crabs. When we got them home my sister and I would pick out a crab and race them across the kitchen floor. Then they were boiled, drained, covered in Old Bay seasoning, and tossed onto a big table covered in newspaper.

OK, so racing your dinner across the kitchen floor before eating it off of a newspaper covered table might sound a little barbaric, but I swear we weren’t the only ones that did. There was usually a crowd of friends there to enjoy and partake in the barbaric activities. It’s kind of a tradition in Maryland, at least in the crowd my parents hung with.

It’s been years since I’ve enjoyed a crab party but one thing I have continued to enjoy is the flavor of Old Bay seasoning. It takes me right back to those parties and makes me feel warm and happy. I think when we first moved back to Ohio it was difficult to find in the grocery stores but now most stores carry it, conveniently near the seafood.

Now I know this is starting to sound like a cheesy commercial, but I promise you it’s not. This meal was just the perfect option when my sister was in town because she has the same memories as I do. I love that this meal is impressive enough to serve to company but easy enough to make after work on a weeknight (which is exactly what I did while my sister was visiting).

Creamy Shrimp Pasta

(Adapted from Oldbay.com)

Ingredients
1 16 oz box of pasta (I used bow ties)
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp butter
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 Tbsp Old Bay, divided (low sodium kind if you can find it)
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 green onions, sliced thinly

Directions
Cook pasta according to directions on package. During the last minute of cooking add the peas. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of Old Bay. Cook for 3 minutes or until they start to turn pink. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Stir in the half-and-half, reserved cooking liquid, Parmesan cheese and the rest of the Old Bay. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and add the pasta, peas and green onion. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving (this gives the sauce a few more minutes to thicken)

Serve with extra grated Parmesan cheese.

 

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Last week the family I nanny for went on vacation so that meant two things for me. One, STAYCATION – which after the craziness of this summer was very, very welcome. Two, lots of cooking and baking. Well the staycation was awesomely relaxing and my kitchen took the beating like a champ.

Since getting back from China I have really wanted to get back into a groove of meal planning and I figured a week at home was the perfect time to get started. I have to say it’s AMAZING how many more vegetables I include when I plan my meals in advance. Every night I was just enamored with the beautiful colors included in all of my meals. Especially this meal.

I came across this recipe the morning I made my meal plan and it went straight to the front of the line. Besides Jesse jokingly saying, “Wow that appetizer looks great, what’s for dinner” (Do you know what popular chain restaurant he was thinking of?) these lettuce wraps went over really well. I loved the punch of veggies and the fact that I was able to not only cook a meal without dairy or a major carb, but that it was actually really enjoyed by all.

Recipe Note: The most time consuming part of this whole meal is chopping the veggies. I recommend doing all of the chopping and throwing the veggies in a bowl before starting up the stovetop. Once you start cooking everything goes really quickly. Also if you’re feeding people with big appetites, I would recommend multiplying the recipe time 1.5 or 2.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

(Adapted from Good Thymes and Good Food, previously on Annie’s Eats)

Ingredients

Sauce

4 tsp hoisin sauce
4tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper

Filling

2 tsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 lb. ground turkey, chicken, or pork (I did a combination of ground chicken and pork)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup carrot, very finely diced
1/2 green apple, finely diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Lettuce, for wrapping

Directions

In a measuring cup, whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce, set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the canola oil to the pan along with the garlic, shallot, and ginger. Cook for 30-60 seconds or until fragrant.

Add the ground meat to the pan, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink then create a well in the center of the pan by pushing the meat to the outside edges. Add the onion, bell pepper, frozen peas, and carrot to pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally add the sauce, apples, and green onion. Stir to evenly coat and cook for 1 minute to allow the sauce to slightly thicken.

Serve with fresh lettuce.

BBQ Turkey Burgers

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Grilling is great. Living in Ohio there were only a few months out of the year that were ideal for grilling. Winter would be way too cold and summer could be brutally hot (I’m sure a lot of you know what I mean). But man we looked forward to those months. San Diego has grilling weather pretty much year round. So can you believe that we just now bought a grill? Crazy, right? As much as Jesse loves steak and I love experimenting with food, you would think that would have been one of our first purchases. But, I guess other things just got in the way. Regardless, we have one now and it’s awesome.

One of the first things I had to make were these burgers that I have had bookmarked for months. Lucky for me I had just enough left over pulled pork and BBQ sauce. And when I say lucky, I mean lucky. These burgers were awesome. I have a deep love for all things BBQ so I guess it’s not that surprising.

The few changes that I did make were because of what I had on hand, white onions instead of red and green onions, and ground turkey instead of ground chicken. Also, I didn’t plan ahead far enough (or I just missed it on the ingredient list, I’m not sure what happened) so I didn’t have cornbread made. I did however have a good ole stand-by box of Jiffy mix. So I just used a 1/4 cup of that. Worked perfectly. Oh, and I only needed 3 burgers so that’s all I made. Of course they were HUMONGOUS, so I recommend making 4.

BBQ Turkey Burgers

(Adapted from Pink Parsley)

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup crumbled cornbread or 1/4 cup cornmeal or 1/4 cup Jiffy cornbread mix
2 Tbsp minced onion
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 lb ground turkey (or chicken)
2/3 cup chopped pulled pork
5 Tbs BBQ sauce, divided
1/2 red onion, sliced into rings
4 slices colby-jack cheese or extra sharp cheddar
4 burger buns
Oil for grill grates

Directions

Prepare your grill.

In a small bowl, combine the cornbread/meal/mix with the minced onion, cilantro, paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. In a medium bowl, combine the ground turkey, pulled pork and 3 Tbsp of BBQ sauce. Then mix the two together until thoroughly combined.

Shape into 4 even burgers. Place burgers and onion rings on preheated grill. Cook on one side for 5 minutes then flip to the other side. Brush the cooked side with the some of the remaining 2 TBSP of BBQ sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip one more time and brush with the rest of BBQ sauce. Place the grilled onions on top of the burgers and then top with cheese. Close the grill lid and cook until the cheese is melted. If you like your buns toasted, now is a good time to throw them on the grill.

Easy Mac and Cheese

It’s not what you think. I know that it looks like I’ve got a plate full of Velveeta Shells and Cheese, but it’s not! What’s really on the plate is the easiest and maybe creamiest homemade mac and cheese I’ve ever made. I consider myself to be somewhat of a mac and cheese connoisseur, I’ve made countless recipes, some that were amazing and some that were big fat flops. I was worried that this was going to be one of those flops. It just seemed way too easy, like 1-step up from the box kind easy. But this was no flop. It is the great, easy, weeknight answer to your “How can I make mac and cheese for a side dish without it taking longer than the main course” question.

Of course I upped the cheese to milk ratio a little bit because I’m cheese crazy and I’m so glad I did. I used a Medium Cheddar, but the possibilities are endless. Half Medium Cheddar half Vermont White. Half Colby Jack half Pepper Jack. Half Cheddar half Jack. See where I’m going with this? The more significant the cheese is on it’s own the more significant the taste will be in the mac and cheese. The Medium Cheddar resulted in a mild, smooth, and creamy mac.

Easy Mac and Cheese

(Adapted from Evil Shenanigans, originally from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients
16 oz box pasta, I used small shells
2 Tbsp butter
12 oz can evaporated milk
2 egg, beaten
1 tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp red pepper optional
1/8-1/4 tsp Black Pepper
2 cups freshly grated cheddar cheese*
Salt to taste

*Sorry kids, I just don’t think the packaged pre-grated cheese will work for this. It’s coated in stuff to keep it from sticking together and therefore, won’t melt well.

Directions

Boil pasta shells 1-2 minutes short of the suggested time on the box (No one wants mushy watery mac and cheese). In the meantime, combine the evaporated milk, eggs, mustard powder, and pepper in a large measuring cup and whisk together.

Drain the pasta in a colander and then return it right back to the hot pan. Reduce heat to low. Add the butter and stir until melted.

Carefully add the milk egg combination to the pan, stirring constantly to avoid making scrambled eggs. Stir for 3-4 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Add the cheese in 4-5 increments, making sure that each addition is completely melted before adding the next.

Serve immediately. We had ours with grilled steak and small salad and it was the perfect meal.