Foil Packet Soy-Lime Salmon with Green Beans


So, technically, I made this salmon in a parchment packet and not a foil packet (because who runs out of foil? me!), but who’s counting? What really matters is that this dinner was fast, easy, delicious, and nutritious.

When Jesse asked what was for dinner and I told him salmon he got that sad puppy dog look. It’s not that he doesn’t like seafood/fish, he just isn’t ever really excited about it. He definitely changed his look after the first bite. The foil (or parchment) locks in the moisture and the flavor leaving you with a perfectly cooked salmon filet and flavorful green beans.

 

 

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.

 

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.

Margherita Time

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This time last year Jesse and I were taking the first giant step of this newest journey in our life. We left the Thursday before Memorial Day and made our way across the United States to San Diego. I’m pretty used to long drives but this was in a class of it’s own. Still it was amazing. It was great having a chance to spend 3 days with just the 2 of us. Plus let’s be honest, this is a pretty cool country and we went from lush farm lands in the midwest, to wide open spaces in Texas, to dry flat dessert in Arizona, then green beautiful mountains in Arizona, then the most amazing mountains that looked like giant mounds of over-sized pebbles, and finally we landed in San Diego where the palms trees are plentiful and the air smells of the ocean. Just awesome.

Looking back a year later I don’t think I could have guessed how many incredible changes and wonderful experiences we would have in just one year of our lives. Of course with the good came some bad. The worst of it being that we have been separated for more than half of the last year. That part sucks, no way around it. But we’ve made the best of it and in 3 weeks we’ll be together again! Here is to hoping that this next year is even better (and has us together more than we are apart!)

What’s all that have to do with Margherita pizza? Uh, nothing. I just had some things to get off my chest before sharing the recipe. This pizza tasted great and would be perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. You can double the dough recipe, divided it into 4 and freeze 3 parts individually so you always have homemade pizza dough on hand. You’ll never need a processed, sodium laden frozen pizza again!

Margherita Pizza

1 ball pizza dough (recipe below)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle of garlic powder
1-1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup diced (or sliced) tomato
3-4 fresh basil leaves, julienne

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees, with rack in the lowest position in oven.

Roll out pizza dough until ~1/4 inch thick and ~10 inches across and transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder.

Spread the mozzarella cheese over the pizza dough and sprinkle the tomatoes and basil on top.

Remove hot pizza stone from oven and carefully transfer the pizza (parchment paper and all) to the stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it the whole time so the cheese doesn’t burn.

Easy Weeknight Pizza Dough
(Adapted from Amber’s Delectable Delights)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package quick-rising (instant) yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a measuring cup, add the sugar to the warm water and stir until dissolved. Add the yeast and let rest while you prepare the dry ingredients.

In the bowl of a food processor add the flour and salt. Pulse a few times to blend the flour and salt.

Turn the food processor on and stream in the water/yeast mixture. Turn the food processor off and stream in the olive oil. Then pulse in 4 second increments until a ball of dough is formed. It should be slightly sticky but not wet. If it is too dry add water a tablespoon at a time. If it is too wet add flour a tablespoon at a time.

At this point you can do one of two things. One, let the dough rest for 15 minutes while you gather your toppings, then roll out. Two, transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour until almost doubled in size. Then divide the dough in half and roll out. I typically let it rise, but the great thing about this recipe is that you don’t have too. I’m just used to letting it rise (for other recipes) and I like my dough to be a bit fluffier. I also feel like I have more dough to work with if I let it rise for longer (able to get 2 balls of dough).