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.

 

Classic Lasagna

Some of the things I missed the most while I was in China were cheese, bread, and dessert. I got my fill of good vegetables, meat, and seafood, but nothing quite filled the hole in my heart (or stomach, in this case) that cheese and carbs left. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that my first meals back were loaded. Driving back from the airport we even made an emergency pit stop at In-N-Out Burger. Double double mustard fried with grilled onions and a Neapolitan shake? Yes please! Next up on my must-have-soon list was an over the top cheesy pasta dish, and lasagna fit the bill perfectly.

I’ve posted a vegetable lasagna recipe already, but this craving was for the classic version. So I whipped up a classic lasagna and enjoyed every last bite of the delicious cheesy, carb loaded, meat filled goodness. Then, yesterday I read online that July 29th is National Lasagna Day. Perfect! I bumped this recipe up the line so you’ll be prepared to make your own for the special day.

Classic Lasagna
(Developed over the years by me)
Ingredients
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles

1 15-oz container of Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out
4-5 fresh basil leaves, julienned (or 1 tsp dry basil but I really recommend finding some fresh!)
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper

1 lb Italian sausage (I used sweet, but also like spicy)
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dry basil
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp dry parsley
1/4 tsp dry rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1/3-1/2 cup dry red wine

1 16-oz ball of fresh mozzarella, shredded (to equal about 2 cups)*
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

*As with many things, I think that real fresh mozzarella is key. Of course it’s really up to you, but I don’t think a block of Kraft mozzarella will cut it! You can find real balls of fresh mozzarella in the specialty cheese section of any well stocked grocery store. If you have trouble shredding it you can cut it into slices. Or do what I do it and hand it to the nearest strong man and make them do it! 🙂

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, brown and crumble the Italian sausage. When the sausage is cooked through and browned add the tomato paste and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Stir to coat the sausage with the tomato paste. Season with dry basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the red wine and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

While the meat sauce is simmering, combine the ingredients for the ricotta filling in a medium sized bowl.

Spread 1/3 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Then lay out 4 noodles, slightly overlapping. Make 3 sets of layers in the following order:

  1. Noodles
  2. 1/3 of the Ricotta filling
  3. 1/4 of the Meat sauce
  4. 1/4 of the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese

After the 3rd group of layers, top off the lasagna with another layer of noodles, the last of the sauce, and the rest of the shredded cheese.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. (I also gave mine 2 minutes under the broiler to make the cheese a deeper golden brown)

Serve with a green salad and garlic bread. (Yes mine is totally Texas Toast, not homemade or gourmet but Jesse loves it and it was fast!)

Beef Stroganoff

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The weather in San Diego is much more unpredictable than I thought it would be. I thought that it was 65-70 and sunny every day. But lately it seems like it has been much more up and down. 2 weeks ago we had 3 days almost in the 90’s. Then it went to a steady week of 60 degrees with a cloudy marine layer until about 11 am and then sunny the rest of the day. Then we had 50 degrees and rain. Today it is 68 degrees and super sunny, just the way I thought it would be here. (which is a little funny because my weather app says the high today is 66 and the actual temperature is 68)


See, overcast marine layer and sunny with fluffy cotton ball clouds.

For me, when it was spring time in Ohio and the weather reached 60 degrees it felt like it was practically summer. For some reason 60 degrees here is much different. If you’re in the direct sunlight it can feel warm, but if a cloud rolls in or you’re hanging out in a shady area 60 degrees can seem down right chilly. A few nights ago it was a particularly chilly 60 degree evening and I wanted the kind of food that can warm the soul. I decided to make beef stroganoff which has been on my to-try list for quite some time. It turned out to be just the dinner I was looking for. It was both hearty and creamy without being too terribly heavy.

Beef Stroganoff
(Adapted from Simply Recipes)

5 Tbsp butter, divided
1 pound top sirloin, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup chopped shallots or onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup sour cream at *room temperature

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 3 Tbsp of butter. Increase the heat to medium-high and, working quickly, add the beef strips to pan. Brown one side of the beef then use tongs to to turn over and brown the other side. Work in batches if needed, so strips are not touching each other in the pan. Remove the beef to a plate (you can cover the plate with paper towels to absorb some of the extra grease)

Reduce the heat to medium and add the rest of the butter to the pan and melt. Increase the heat to medium-high again and add the mushrooms, shallots, nutmeg and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally for 4 minutes. Pour in the dry white wine and use a spatula to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan.

Reduce the heat to low and add the room temperature sour cream to the mushrooms. Stir to thoroughly combine. Careful not to allow the sauce to come to a simmer or boil (the sour cream will curdle, true story). Stir in beef. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

I recommend serving over egg noodles, but it would also be good over mashed potatoes or rice.

* I did not follow directions very well and my sour cream was cold, the sauce still came together but it wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked for it to be. It was a little grainy due to a little bit of a curdling reaction between the cold sour cream and hot pan. So don’t be like me, follow directions. Please and thank you!

I Love Lasagna and Happy Mother’s Day!

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This meal is in honor of Mother’s Day! Last summer my mom and I took a vacation to Disneyworld. It was the first time either of us had ever been and it was so much fun! We stayed at the Movie All-Stars resort and we were able to go to Epcot, Magical Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Truly an amazing trip and it was so great to get to hang out just my mom and I. One night we made dinner reservations for Tony’s Town Square in the Magic Kingdom. We both ordered the vegetable lasagna and it was actually pretty darn good. Of course the portion sizes were huge so we wound up wishing we just would have shared (but then I wouldn’t have been able to eat ALL of the cheesy top so maybe it was better that way). Since that time I have had vegetable lasagna on my to-try list.

Part of the trouble with lasagna is that it makes a ton. It was just me eating the lasagna last night so I didn’t want to make a 9×13 pan. I initially planned on using a small Le Crueset baker that I have but after pulling it out I thought the sides weren’t tall enough. I wanted to have lots of room for cheesy goodness in my lasagna. I looked around the rest of my bakeware and finally I decided that my 9×5 bread pan was best suited for the small lasagna job. It worked out perfectly! I think as is this recipe would serve 3 people perfectly, or in my case dinner and leftovers for 2 lunches.

This lasagna was DELICIOUS! The bechamel sauce added a rich flavor that went so well with the tangy tomatoes. I used zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, and spinach, but this recipe is so adaptable you could really use any of your favorite vegetables. Eggplant and bell peppers would make an excellent addition. Play around and see what combination you like best!


Bread Pan Vegetable Lasagna

Vegetable filling –
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 zucchini, sliced
1/2 yellow squash, sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 (14 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp dry oregano
pinch of rosemary
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Ricotta filling-
8 ounces (1 cup) ricotta cheese
1/3 cup frozen spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out
1/3 cup shredded italian cheese blend (or a mix of mozzarella and parmesan)
1 egg, lightly beaten
3-4 large fresh basil leaves (cut in a Chiffonade)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Bechamel sauce- (adapted from Mario Betali)
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg

1 1/3 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
6 no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the zucchini, squash, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes or until the onions start to turn translucent. Add the seasonings and can of whole tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to break apart the whole tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer while you make the bechamel sauce.

In a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. While the butter is melting heat the milk in the microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds. When the butter is melted, slowly add the flour whisking constantly. After 4 minutes, when the butter is a light golden color, slowly add the hot milk whisking constantly. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking often. Cook for 10 minutes then remove from the heat and add the salt and nutmeg. (during this time I made the ricotta mixture, remembering to whisk often) Then remove from heat and set aside until ready to assemble the lasagna.

In a small bowl combine the ricotta, Italian cheese, spinach, egg, basil, salt and pepper.

Pour a small amount of bechamel sauce into the bottom of a 9×5 bread pan. Lay one whole lasagna noodle and break a piece off of another to fill the pan (about 1/3 of another noodle). Continue to layer the ingredients in the following order:

1. Noodle
2. 1/3 of the Ricotta cheese mixture
3. 1/3 of the Vegetable mixture
4. 1/3 cup Shredded cheese
5. 1/3 cup Bechamel sauce

After the 3rd group of layers, top off the lasagna with another noodle, the last of the Bechamel sauce and the last 1/3 cup of shredded cheese.

Cover the bread pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. (I also gave mine 2 minutes under the broiler to make the cheese a deeper golden brown)