Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mesquite Shrimp Salad

I have been blessed for almost the entire month of August to have Scott come home every day for lunch. It's been so great to have an extra 45 minutes every day just to hang out with him. But it also means I need to figure out an additional meal every day! This is a salad that would be wonderful for lunch (though, we did actually have it for dinner last week).

The inspiration for this salad is a salad that my best friend, Megan, used to eat every time we went to Logan's Roadhouse in Huntsville. It is no longer on the menu there, so I really just thought about what a Texas rancher would eat on his shrimp salad if he ever were to eat a salad. Therefore, this may be the most manly salad ever. Scott agrees. But, it's healthy, too! :) Enjoy!

Mesquite Shrimp Salad
makes 2 salads
  • 1/2 lbs shrimp (deheaded, deveined, deshelled, de-everythinged)
  • 2 tsp McCormick's mesquite seasoning (you could probably find an off brand, but this is the best grocery store brand of mesquite! )
  • 2 bowls full of Lettuce chopped, probably about 2-3 cups (I used a combination of Boston, red leaf, and something really curly I got at the Farmer's Market)
  • 10 grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion chopped
  • two large pinches of julienned carrots
  • 4 Tbsps shredded colby jack cheese
  • 4 slices bacon (turkey, if you want to REALLY sneak it past your cowboy!) crispy and chopped
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 2-3 bread & butter pickles (if you're not on the diet! they're too sugary otherwise)
  • 2 Tbsp chipotle ranch dressing (recipe follows)
1. Pre-heat a medium sized skillet to medium high heat (6/10) with a good spritz of cooking spray.
2. Add shrimp to pan, and immediately add mesquite seasoning. Go ahead and add more than the recipe says if the shrimp don't look covered enough. You want them well seasoned.
3. Cook shrimp 3-5 minutes, until shrimp are curled and pink and completely opaque.

1. Layer half of lettuce, onions, carrots, cheese, tomatoes, bacon, avocado and pickles in a bowl. Do the same with the other bowl.
2. drizzle with chipotle ranch (or any other dressing of your choice) dressing.
3. Top each bowl with half of sauteed shrimp.

** You could also skewer and grill the shrimp, which is most likely the way Logan's Roadhouse cooked their shrimp. However, sauteeing in my bacon grease was much more appealing to me... plus, I don't have an outdoor grill.

Chipotle Ranch Dressing-- home-mixed... not home made
  • 4 Tbsp ranch dressing, depending on how much dressing you want on each salad (my favorite is the Bolthouse yogurt ranch... amazing ranch taste, lower in calories, fat and sugar... for the times you just need something creamy!)
  • about 1/4 of a tsp of the adobe sauce that comes in the can with chipotle peppers.
1. Mix the two ingredients in a separate bowl.


Carb options
I served this with some toaster cakes (the flat corn cakes that Thomas, the english muffin company, makes) for Scott. It would be wonderful with corn muffins, regular corn bread, or johnny cake.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Naked" Calzone, AKA the sausage, pepper, spinach & tomato skillet

My husband loves pizza. Even before the diet, I could really do without it, but now that I can't have it I occasionally crave it. Does you ever have that problem? A food you don't really care for, but once you can't have it, you NEED it?

Last week I really wanted to impress Scott. I don't know why really. Maybe it's because I was gone for 2 months and didn't cook a thing or maybe it's just because I love him and I want him to think I'm cool. So in addition to the southwestern eggrolls in the previous post, I decided to make a calzone for him. Since I can't eat the dough part, I decided to cheat and purchase the pizza dough. Luckily, Price Chopper (my closest grocery store) has handmade dough available in their bakery section! It's right next to the filled cannolis, so watch out! But they even have a whole wheat option. Therefore, I just bought a ball of whole wheat pizza dough there. You are welcome to make your own from scratch if you feel like it. I've done it before, and it's not difficult, just a little more time consuming for a weeknight dinner that I wanted it to be.

After throwing Scott's full calzone into the oven, I simply made myself a delicious salad and plated up some of the filling for myself and topped it with a sprinkle of part skim mozzarella and parmesan. It really knocked out my pizza craving because the spicy, tomatoey, gooeyness was there without the carby crust.

The great thing about this recipe is you don't need to follow it!! Because of mine and Scott's affinity for sausage, that's what I used for a stuffing. And onions with red and yellow bell peppers just go well with that in my mind. However, you could use hamburger, pepperoni, grilled chicken, mushrooms, black olives, and on and on! The principle is the same. Follow the step by step in the recipe for any ingredient you choose to include!

Calzone (Naked and Fully Clothed varieties)
  • premade, "raw" pizza dough (meaning, not already rolled out and baked into a crust); optional
  • low fat Italian sausage (or any other meat you want. Or not)
  • red & yellow bell peppers, diced (or any other veggie. Think sauteed mushrooms, sliced black olives, green peppers-- anything you'd want on a regular pizza)
  • onion, diced
  • fresh spinach (because you need to sneak in some greens... I promise you don't taste it)
  • about 1 cup pizza sauce (I use Ragu from jar. you can use more or less sauce depending on how you like it)
  • cooking spray
** Preheat oven (and pizza stone if you have it, or cookie sheet) to 500°
1. Brown sausage in a very small amount of cooking spray over medium-high heat until fully cooked. You will need to cook any meat that you put into the calzone before mixing it with other things. Remove meat from skillet after done and set aside.
2. Add another spritz of cooking spray to your pan. Add in any veggies you want, still over medium high heat. Note that onions and bell peppers will need more time to cook than mushrooms. So add the more hardy veggies first, and then after a few minutes, add in the softer ones.
3. Add sausage back to skillet. Spoon pizza sauce over meat and vegetables. Reduce heat to medium low. Allow all ingredients to heat up.
4. Meanwhile, divide dough (each ball of dough will make at least 2 very large calzones, 4 medium ones).
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to around a 1/8 inch thick, 12 inch in diameter circle.
6. Once filling is well heated, add a good handful of fresh spinach leaves. Stir until wilted and incorporated.
7. Evenly divide filling from skillet onto half of dough. Be sure to set aside filling for yourself if you're not wrapping it!!
8. Sprinkle filling with mozzarella or parmesan or both.
9. Fold empty side of dough over and crimp along the edges to seal as best as possible.
10. Using a large floured spatula, transfer calzones to pizza stone (or preheated cookie sheet).
11. Bake until dough is puffed and golden, 10-15 minutes.

Carb options
calzone dough.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Southwestern "eggrolls"

I'm sure everyone encounters the same issue I do once a week-- What in the world am I going to make for dinner every night? Most of the time, I can look through my Cooking Light, Health, or Martha Stewart and figure out something for at least 5 days of a week. But there are times when I am absolutely stumped. What do I do when I completely lack inspiration? I ask my husband.

So this week, I had no idea what to make again. Typically, when I ask for Scott's input, I get something, well, normal, like hamburgers. This time in particular, though, I get "Chili's Southwestern eggrolls."

Excuse me??

So I searched the internet (how in the world did anyone ever cook anything without the internet?) to find a reasonable recipe. I found one recipe that contained about 40 (not exaggerating) ingredients, and I just couldn't go there. I ended up combining several recipes I found to make something simple and tasty with the southwestern flair.

Obviously, deep fried eggrolls are not on my diet. So, I made Scott 5 rolls, and then used the rest of the filling as a topping for some grilled chicken. I served it with sour cream, but next time, I will make an avocado ranch dip (because it just feels right. And no, I don't have a recipe... I'll make one up later). A salad would be an amazing accompaniment.

The amounts of ingredients are a ballpark figure. If you really like corn, but don't so much like red bell pepper, put more corn. If you don't want the filling quite as spicy, cut down on the jalapeno. It's all flexible.

Southwestern Chicken Topping
This recipe makes 6 small eggrolls and leaves enough filling to cover one large chicken breast.
  • 2 chicken breasts (one will go into the filling/topping, the other will be topped)
  • 1 Tbsp oil, or a long press on the cooking spray nozzle
  • 4 Tbsp minced red bell pepper
  • 4 Tbsp minced green onion
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernals
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 4 Tbsp frozen spinach, thawed & drained
  • 2 Tbsp diced canned (pickled) jalapenos
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • large pinch of salt
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4-1 cup Monterey Jack/Pepper Jack cheese
  • (optional) eggroll wrappers
1. Salt & pepper chicken breasts. grill until done, 4-6 minutes per side. Set aside. When cool enough to handle, dice one breast. You can go ahead and plate the other.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil (or long spritz of cooking spray) in a medium skillet over medium heat.
3. Saute bell pepper and green onions until tender, about 4 minutes.
4. Add cooked, diced chicken back to skillet. Add corn, beans, spinach, jalapenos, cumin, chili powder, salt & cayenne to skillet. Cook about 4 minutes, until all elements are hot. Stir well to ensure all elements are evently distributed (watch carefully the spinach... it tends to clump)
5. Remove skillet from heat and add cheese. Stir well until melted.

**at this point, you can use completely as a topping on the chicken breast. For eggrolls, continue.

6. Heat 1-2 inches of oil in a sauce pan, or use a deep fryer if you have one. I don't. Oil should be about 350°, or crackling when you flick water from your fingers into the oil.
7. While oil is heating, wrap filling into eggroll wrappers. I use the "envelope" method... meaning this: A. lay eggroll wrapper in a diamond shape in front of you. Add a nice log of filling in the very middle (4-5 Tbsp of filling). Fold bottom point up over filling. Fold in both sides over folded bottom point, sealing both sides with a little water on the edges. Fold top point down over roll, again sealing with a little water.
8. Drop eggrolls, in batches if necessary, into oil and fry each side for 2-3 minutes, until well browned. Be sure to flip them over or the bottom side will burn.

Alternative to deep frying: You could easily pan fry these in less oil. Also, I know of many people who bake rolls. Preheat the oven to 350°, spray both sides of the rolls with cooking spray. Cook until top is browned, then flip over to brown the other side. I will be honest and say I have no idea how long this should take.

Serve with sour cream, or avocado ranch dip (if you get a recipe for this before I make one sometime in the future, please share!).

Carb options
First and foremost, by choosing to make fried eggrolls, you'll have a carb for your meal. Secondly, some sort of Spanish or Mexican rice could be good with this, but I don't think it would be necessary. My husband is a carb-o-holic and he didn't seem to want anything besides the rolls.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hello again! It's time for shrimp vindaloo!

wow, it's been a long time! Thanks for hanging in there with me this summer. I had an amazing time living in New York City for June and July and I finally feel like I'm settled back in at home, and I've started cooking again! Tonight I'm actually roasting a chicken (my easy go to dinner when I'm lost) but today I'm going to share with you my husband's favorite thing I make. In fact, the first time I ever cooked for him, this was the dinner we had!

It's a delicious Indian dish that does not use curry. So if you want to try some more ethnic flavors, but don't particularly like curries, here's your ticket! I devoured mine on a bed of fresh spinach and I do not regret losing the rice! For those who don't cook seafood often, remember that shrimp will cook completely in only about 3-4 minutes! As soon as they are curled up and pink, they're done. It's really easy to leave them for just 30 seconds more and they end up being chewy and tough.

Welcome back, and enjoy!

Shrimp vindaloo
  • 2 tsp minced ginger (use this amount in step 1)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne) depending on the heat level you want
  • 1/5 tsp cinnamon (trust me!)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves (again, trust me!)
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger (yes, ginger is in the list twice. This instance is for step 2)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp golden raisins
  • 1 pound shrimp, deveined, and without shells (you can leave the tail cause it looks cute)
1. Combine first 9 ingredients (ginger through cloves) in a small bowl. Add vinegar to form paste.
2. heat oil in large skillet at medium high heat (about a 6 on a scale of 1-10). Stir in 2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger and all garlic for 20 seconds.
3. Add spice paste to skillet, stir constantly for 30 seconds.
4. stir in brother and raisins.
5. simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
6 Add shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes, just until shrimp is curled and looks pink.

Carb options
As with any good Indian food, jasmine/basmati rice and naan are delicious for soaking up sauces. A crisp, sweet white wine like a riesling or Gew├╝rztraminer pairs perfectly with the Indian spiciness.