Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Happy Place

Today I figured out that The Fresh Market is my happy place. I was coming home and the traffic was particularly heavy for 3 o'clock in the afternoon and I was starting to get pissed, and I was in a hurry to get home. I stopped at The Fresh Market and was walking through and all my troubles seemed to melt away. I was no longer in a hurry and it just made me very Zen. I grabbed some healthy snacks and a couple of things for dinner. Then when I left my happy place, my Zenness went away and I felt annoyed again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bumblebee Tuna Commercial - Follow Up

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a hilarious commercial for Bumblebee Tuna, which happens to be the brand I buy. Anyway, thanks to a reader (Thank You Russ!) I have the link to share with you.

new bumblebee commercial - Google Video

The commercial is silly, but it just cracks me up.

A Lotta Produce for 20 Bucks

I have said it before and I will say it again, buy your produce at local stands and markets. I bought a ton of stuff at my local produce stand for only $20, well $23. If I went to the grocery store all of it probably would have cost twice as much. Below is a list of everything I got.
  • 1 whole cantaloupe (and let me tell you that melon was juicy, I already cut it up)
  • 2 Haas avocados (they were only 79 cents a piece; at the grocery store they are at least $1.29)
  • 2 (16 ounce packages) of strawberries (fresh from Plant City and only $1.79 per package)
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 2 white onions
  • 4 Gala apples
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 bag of baby carrots
  • 3 portobello mushroom caps
  • 3/4 of a pound of Boar's Head Turkey
  • 1 jar of roasted red peppers

Pretty good deal, huh? If you buy a lot of fresh produce like I do, you'll save a ton of money each week going to local spots.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I Lost My Poor Meatball...

when somebody sneezed. Not really, but I did lose my meatball tonight. I had leftover turkey meatballs from last night, so we made meatball subs. I used whole-wheat subs and toasted them first under the broiler. I reheated the meatballs and sauce on the stovetop. A good tip when making these is to cut the meatballs in half. It makes them a little more manageable. Fill the subs with the meatballs, top with provolone cheese and place under the broiler for a couple of minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Cutting the meatballs in half did make it easier to eat, but they were still extremely messy. I think I made it through three bites using my hands before I broke out the knife and fork. Messy is always tasty.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Double Duty Dinner

Tonight I made turkey meatballs that I served with some homemade marinara sauce (see previous post) and spaghetti. With there only being two of us, I of course had leftovers, which I will use tomorrow for meatball subs. Gotta love killing two birds with one stone. I used another Giada recipe, but instead of cooking the meatballs in a pan where you have to turn them and the pan gets kind of crowded, I baked mine in the oven.

Turkey Meatballs
1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs (I used Italian-style because that is what I had)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsps milk
1/2 cup grated romano cheese (I used parmesan because that is what I had)
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1 pound ground turkey
5 cups marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, cheese and salt and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine. Shape the mixture into bite-size balls. Place on a cookie sheet that has been lightly greased with cooking spray. Place in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.

For my spaghetti and meatballs, I removed the meatballs from the oven and added to a pot of marinara sauce that was warming on the stove. I served it over multi-grain spaghetti. I used only half the box for two people. The leftover meatballs I will serve on whole-wheat subs tomorrow night.

Holy Marinara!

I spent the afternoon making a buttload of marinara sauce, about 14 cups to be precise. I like to make a big batch, use some that night and freeze the rest for future meals. I make Giada De Laurentiis' recipe and double it. I pour 2 cup portions into freezer bags. Tonight I used some of the sauce and made turkey meatballs and spaghetti. I know making homemade marinara sauce can seem daunting, but really, it is very easy. This sauce also has some veggies sneaked in, which provides nutrients and natural sweetness.

Ingredients for the Sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 (32 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (Now, I only can ever find 28 ounce cans, which works out fine.)
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer uncovered over low heat for about 1 hour. Remove the bay leaves. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.

*Note: I chopped the onions, garlic, carrots and celery in the food processor. If I had to finely chop all that onion by hand, I would probably go blind. I am very sensitive. Anyway, just break the veggies down into smaller chunks first, and don't overstuff your processor.

**Note: The above recipe makes 8 cups, I usually double it. You can make this sauce a day ahead. Let it cool, cover it and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using. If you are freezing, it should be good for up to 3 months.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Health Update

I believe I mentioned to everyone that my husband's cholesterol is dangerously high, like time to break out the Lipitor high. Well, I am glad to announce he has lost five pounds! Which I am sure has positively impacted his cholesterol. I think my healthy cooking has something to do with it. Plus, me being on his ass everyday to drink lots of water and eat his morning Cheerios. I'll keep nagging him and feeding him healthy foods.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Parsley Pesto

Here is another pesto. I just threw it together, so please forgive my very accurate measurements. (That was sarcasm.)

1 Tbsp pine nuts
1 cup and half flat-leaf parsley, lightly packed
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
a couple of palmfuls of freshly grated parmesan cheese
olive oil, eyeball it

Start by adding the pine nuts to a skillet and toast over medium heat. Shake around every once in awhile until the pine nuts are golden brown. Add to a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor EXCEPT the oil. Let 'er rip until the ingredients are finely chopped and mixed well. With the processor on, slowly stream in the olive oil until you reach your desired consistency. It shouldn't be too thick, but the oil should be nicely infused. I would say about 1/4 cup.

I served the pesto over pork chops, but pestos are great as pizza sauces, on pasta, chicken, fish, shellfish and even red meat. Pretty much anything.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chicken Roll-Ups

Tonight I made a little variation on Chicken Saltimboca. My version took spinach, sundried tomatoes and parmesan rolled up in a chicken cutlet. You could do so much with this recipe. The filling combinations are endless. The key here is to not use too much filling or it will all spill out of the sides when you roll up the chicken.

4 chicken cutlets, 4 ounces a piece, pounded to flatten out evenly
1 (10-ounce) box frozen spinach, thawed
Sundried tomatoes, sliced
parmesan cheese
1 (14-0unce) can of chicken broth
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper olive oil

Lay the chicken cutlets out on a flat surface. Cover with plastic wrap. Using a meat tenderizer or a heavy pan, pound out the cutlets so their flattened out evenly. (By the way, a great way to release the day's tension.) Remove the plastic wrap. Season with salt and pepper.

Take the thawed spinach and squeeze out the excess water. Spread out evenly on the chicken cutlets. Leave a litle room around the edges. Next, layer a few sun dried tomatoes and then sprinkle a little parmesan cheese. Starting with the short, tapered end of the cutlet, roll up tightly. Secure with a toothpick. Repeat until all the cutlets are rolled up.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 Tbsps of olive oil. Cook the chicken until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Once the chicken is brown, add the broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Cover the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked trough.

Remove the chicken from the pan and divide among four plates. Increase the heat of the pan to high, bringing the liquid to a boil and allowing to reduce; about 5 minutes. Drizzle the sauce over the cutlets. Serves 4.

I served this with red potatoes I had cut into 1-inch cubes and sauteed until brown, crispy and soft in the center. Season with rosemary and salt and pepper.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Dinner - Part 3

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
There are few things more romantic than chocolate-covered strawberries.

Fresh strawberries, about 4-5 per person
Good-quality dark chocolate morsels, about 2-3 ounces

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

I used a double broiler to melt my chocolate. However, you could use a microwave, just be careful not to burn the chocolate. For a double broiler, take a small stock pot and add a little water. On the stove top, bring the water to barely a simmer. Place a glass bowl over the pot, making sure the water doesn't touch the bowl. The hot steam will melt the chocolate. Add the chocolate and allow to melt slowly; gently stir the chocolate occasionally.

Once the chocolate melts, remove from the heat. Dip the strawberries one at a time. Place on the parchment-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Valentine's Dinner - Part 2

Halibut with Capers, Olives and Tomatoes
This recipe is courtesy of Ellie Krieger's cookbook, The Food You Crave. Although, I've been making a similar sauce for years that I serve over pasta. See the picture below of the entire meal. Note to self: my red plates aren't very photogenic - does not do the food justice.

12 ounces of fresh halibut, skin removed
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup no salt added canned diced tomatoes, with juice
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp capers
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
2 cups baby spinach

In a nonstick skillet, heat the 2 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the halibut with some pepper. Place in the skillet. My halibut was about an inch think, so I cooked it for 4 minutes per side. The center should appear opaque. (Generally cook for 2 and 1/2 minutes per side per 1/2 inch thickness.)Remove the fish to a plate and loosely cover with foil.

Return the skillet to the heat, lower to medium, add a little more olive oil to the pan. Add the onion, cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and allow to reduce by half, about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the capers and olives. Stir in the spinach leaves, tossing until wilted. Pour the sauce over the fish. Serve with the bread and roasted garlic. Serves 2 lovebirds.

*Note: Using no salt-added tomatoes allows you to control the salt level. Besides, the capers and olives provide enough saltiness.

Caption: Top, the boccaccini and tomato salad; bottom-right, the halibut; bottom-left, the roasted garlic and whole-wheat rolls.

Special Valentine's Dinner - Part 1

I made a fabulous dinner for Valentine's Day. I went to the Fresh Market and got some really great ingredients. My plan was to make Seabass, a flaky white fish, but they were already sold out. Instead, I chose halibut, another great white fish that is very mild in flavor. I had never made it before, but it came out really well. I will definitely cook more with it in the future.

The menu consisted of halibut with capers, tomatoes and olives - a recipe from my new Elie Krieger cookbook. I also made a caprese salad using fresh boccaccini mozzarella, grape tomatoes and fresh basil marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I served it with roasted garlic that I roasted myself and whole wheat rolls. Altogether this was still a healthy meal. I think the fattiest component was the mozzarella. I completed the meal with fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. Also good for you. Dark chocolate has antioxidants!!

Roasted Garlic
1 whole head of garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil

Roasting the garlic this way mellows out the flavor and softens it, allowing you to spread it on bread as if it were butter. Delish! I had this years ago at an Italian restaurant, but this was the first time I tried to replicate it.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Using a knife, cut off the top third of the garlic head. Do not peel the garlic. Place it in a small, oven-proof dish, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil; and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes. You should now be able to use a butter knife to scoop out the garlic cloves and spread on bread, or anything else you can think of.

Marinated mozzarella and tomatoes
Boccaccini mozzarella
grape tomatoes
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Boccaccini mozzarella are little balls of fresh mozzarella. I picked up a little container from the Fresh Market. It was located on the olive bar, but I have seen these at the regular grocery story as well. You could as get a regular ball of fresh mozzarella and cut into 1-inch cubes. This dish wasn't an exact science. I just threw everything together. In a shallow dish, place the mozzarella and grape tomatoes. My tomatoes were a good size, so I sliced them in half. Season with a little Kosher salt and pepper. Take a couple leaves of fresh basil and slice; add to the dish.

In a small bowl, pour in some balsamic vinegar, maybe a 1/4 of a cup. Whisk in the olive oil, maybe a 1/4 of a cup. But really, I just eyeballed it. You can't screw it up. Whisk until the oil and vinegar combine. Pour the marinade over the mozzarella and tomatoes. Mix well. Place in the fridge for at least 3o minutes, or up to a couple of hours.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day

What is everyone doing for Valentine's Day?

We don't usually do anything, but this year I am going to make a special dinner. I think I am going to hit up The Fresh Market for some goodies. My plan right now is to make Seabass with capers, tomatoes and olives. And for dessert, strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. It's perfect because it is the peak of Florida's strawberry season. Plus, it will satisfy my sweet tooth and it's romantic.

If you don't have a Valentine this year, grab a group of other single ladies and hit the town or have a dinner party at your house.

A Big Salad for Dinner

I have gone two nights in a row without cooking. (Woo-hoo!) Last night I had a meeting after work and didn't get home until after 7:00, so my hubby cooked. (Double Woo-hoo!) He made a big Greek salad of romaine lettuce, feta cheese, kalamata olives, garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, banana peppers, chicken and a great Greek dressing I bought at Land and Sea or my produce stand. I don't remember which one I got it from, but I know they both carry it. I will post the brand later. (I'm not home right now.) Anyway, my husband marinated the chicken in some mojo, olive oil and seasonings. It was delicious and totally satisfying. Sometimes all you need is a big salad with lots of yummy ingredients. It's as easy is that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Peek Inside My Pantry

I don't have a recipe to post tonight because I didn't make dinner. I went out with some friends. However, I thought I would write a quick post about some of the staple items I always have in my pantry. With these items and a quick stop at the market, I can prepare a quick weeknight meal.
  • Pasta - a variety of shapes and sizes: orzo, spaghetti, penne, ditalini
  • Rice - brown, white, wild, and arborio for risotto
  • Couscous
  • Barley and lentils (Don't have these two now, but I plan to start cooking with them more.
  • Breadcrumbs - Panko (japanese-style) and Italian seasoned
  • Flour - all-purpose and whole wheat
  • Vinegars - red wine, balsamic, white wine; I even have a white balsamic that is delicious
  • Oils - extra-virgin olive, vegetable
  • Nonstick cooking spray (a regular one and one with flour for baking)
  • Beans - a variety of your favorites: I usually have garbanzo, white, kidney and/or black
  • Kalamata olives
  • Diced tomatoes - no salt added
  • Tomato paste, sauce, crushed tomatoes
  • Tahini pasta - an essential ingredient for making hummus
  • Sundried tomatoes - love these!
  • Capers
  • Peppers - roasted red and banana
  • Dried fruit - apricots, raisins, craisins
  • Nuts - walnuts, cashews, almonds (You can make great trail mixes with nuts and dried fruits. Throw some sunflower seeds in there, too. Trail mix makes for a great snack.)
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Tuna, clams (These last forever and when used with fresh ingredients like lemon juice and parsley, they really freshen up.)

I know this sounds like a lot, but accumulate the items over time, plus a lot of these you probably already have. Remember they last forever, so it's not like they'll go bad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chicken with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

I got some sauteed mushrooms from the Land and Sea Market by my house, so I thought it would be really good to make a sauce to serve over chicken. I made a rich, delicious sauce using red wine and chicken broth. Overall, it was pretty healthy as well. I didn't use any butter. I used a Chianti, but any light red wine like Pinot Noir or Merlot would work as well. When cooking, always use a wine you would drink. It doesn't have to be expensive. I think the bottle I bought was around $8. I already had sauteed mushrooms, but the recipe below is for if you need to sautee your own.

2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
8 ounces of mushrooms, chopped (just use your favorite kind of mushroom)
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken broth

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. A dried spice like oregano or thyme would be good as well. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken to the pan. Sear on both sides for 6-8 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Remove the chicken from the pan, cover with foil to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the other Tbsp of oil to the pan. Add the mushrooms and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Sautee until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and let cook for a minute. Add the wine, and reduce by half, about a minute. Add the broth and simmer for another 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken a bit.

Slice the chicken and top with the sauce. Serves 2. I served this dish with a side of orzo and peas. Orzo is a rice shaped pasta. One of my faves. For a side dish for two people, use about a 1/4 of the box, or 4 ounces, aka 1/2 cup. Cook according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot, but remove from the heat. Drizzle the orzo with olive oil, and stir in a little fresh parmesan cheese.

I just used frozen peas. The Steamfresh brand cooks in about 5 minutes in the microwave. I use fresh vegetables most of the time, but I always have frozen peas and corn in the freezer.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Honey and Soy Glazed Salmon with Sauteed Spinach and Brown Rice

Here is another great salmon recipe. It is fast, easy and healthy.

4 (6-ounces each) Salmon fillets, skin removed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce (I use the low sodium kind)
1/4 honey
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp water
the juice of half a lemon

1 bag of baby spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
nutmeg (either freshly grated or a couple of pinches of ground nutmeg)
1 Tbsp olive oil
the juice of half a lemon

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, dijon mustard, water and lemon juice. Set aside. In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the salmon fillets. Add the salmon to the pan and sear on both sides for 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the salmon to a plate.

Lower the heat to medium-low, add the soy-honey mixture to the skillet. Let simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens; stir occasionally. After a few minutes the sauce should thicken to a glaze, pour over the salmon.

While the sauce is reducing, heat another skillet over medium heat. Add a Tbsp of olive oil; add the garlic. Let the garlic cook for a minute. Then add the spinach in batches. Once the spinach starts to wilt down, add more. Season with salt and pepper, the nutmeg and lemon juice. Continue to add the spinach until it has all wilted down.

I also made brown rice with this dish. It went well with salmon and the glaze. I just used instant brown rice from a box. Follow the directions according to the package.

This entire dish serves 4.

*Note: Whenever making dark greens, it is good to add a little nutmeg. It takes away a little of the bitterness away from the greens.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

New Cookbook

One of my hobbies is collecting cookbooks. I bought a new one this weekend, Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave." Ellie Krieger hosts a show on Food Network and she is a registered dietician and nutrition. My husband and I have started eating healthier, and this week we found out he has extremely high cholesterol, which is what promted me to buy this cookbook. Now I'll really be watching what we eat. What I love about this cookbook is she takes a lot of classic dishes that we have grown up on, but does them in a more healthful way. If you don't deprive yourself than you won't over indulge. Each recipe has the nutritional information of the dish. She also shares great tips for shopping and snacking and dispels myths about certain foods. There are so many great sounding recipes in this book, I guarantee you'll be seeing them here. Cheers to a healthy life!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Another Vegetarian Dinner

Here is another great recipe for my vegetarian and meat-eating friends alike. This bean and pasta soup was perfect last night because it was so chilly out. Check out my food styling below in the photo of the finished dish! (I need some more practice.)

Bean and Pasta Soup
1 and 1/2 cups dried pasta (I used pasta ruffles, but you could use any short pasta like macaroni)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dried basil, thyme or oregano (or combination of any of those)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can red beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
3 (14 and 1/2 ounce) cans vegetable broth
salt and pepper
fresh parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to boil. Salt and add the pasta.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and dried spices. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except pasta. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until soup is heated through and flavors blend together, about 15 minutes.

Drain the pasta and add to the soup. Serve the soup topped with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Serves 8.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

To my readers...

My dear followers,
Just a couple of announcements I wanted to share.

First, thank you all for following and reading my blog. It is very exciting for me. I hope I have provided some great recipes and tips for you all. I also hope I have made you laugh at times.

Second, I encourage interaction, so please feel free to comment whenever you feel compelled to do so.

Third, you can also email me at If you would like to receive an email whenever I publish a new post, send me your email address.

Lastly, starting tomorrow I am going to attempt to upload photos of the recipes I post. This way you can see what the finished product looks like. I'll have to start practicing my food styling.

Thank you to all my readers, and I encourage you to sign up as a follower. If you have a blog, I'll post it on my blogroll (which is a feature I am going to add now).

Best, Laura

Fresh Vegetables and Fettuccine

This dish was so good, I'm going to add it to my regular rotation. It was very easy, too. I added chicken to it just to add a little protein and to turn it into a main dish, but you could certainly keep it vegetarian. Also, I used this basil garlic fettuccine that I picked up from the St. Pete Saturday market. It was delicious. (See my post about the market to see who makes the pasta.)

1/2 lb. (roughly half a box) uncooked dried fettuccine, spinach flavor or multi-grain would be great
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 chicken breasts
12 cherry tomatoes
1 and 1/2 cups broccoli flowerets
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded
1 Tbsp fresh basil (I omitted this since 1. the store didn't have any, and 2. I used the basil flavored fettuccine)
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan. Cook the chicken breasts until no longer pink; about 6 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the skillet to the stove and reduce heat to medium.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and cook the fettuccine according to the package directions.

Add the butter and a little more oil to the skillet. Add the vegetables, garlic and basil; salt and pepper to taste. Cover; continue cooking , stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, but still crisp. They should be bright and vibrant in color. Now drain the pasta and add to the skillet, tossing with the vegetables. Slice the chicken and add to the skillet as well. You may want to drizzle in a bit more oil. Divide the dish between two plates and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese. Serves 2.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Grilled Shrimp and Polenta

I meant to make fettuccine with fresh vegetables and chicken tonight, but I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer this morning. (I do that a lot.) Ever the resourceful modern housewife, I went with plan B. I decided instead to make grilled shrimp and polenta. The shrimp were frozen, but they don't take long to defrost. Place the shrimp in a bag; fill your sink with cold water, and place the bag of shrimp in the sink. You may need to switch out the water a couple of times. They should only take 15 minutes to defrost. Time-saving tip: buy shrimp already peeled and deveined.

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Grill seasoning, like McCormick's Grillmates
Old Bay seasoning
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup quick-cooking polenta
1/4-1/2 cup chedder cheese, shredded
fresh grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the milk and chicken broth.

Meanwile prepare the shrimp. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Remove the tails. Season the shrimp on both sides with the grill seasoning and Old Bay, just a light, even sprinkle. Heat a nonstick grill pan or skillet over medium-medium high heat. Spray the grill with either Pam nonstick spray or drizzle a little of olive oil. Place the shrimp on the grill, and let cook for a few minutes on each side. You can tell the shrimp are done when they turn bright pink, and curl up.

Once the milk and broth come to a bubble, season with salt and pepper. Slowly add the polenta while whisking. Remove from heat and continue to whisk for a couple of minutes. Add a little fresh parmesan, just a couple of tablespoons; and add the chedder cheese.

Serve the polenta on a plate, topped with the shrimp. Serves 2.

Bolthouse Farms Salad Dressing

I wanted to share a product recommendation to all my readers. I like creamy salad dressings, but sometimes they are just too fattening. Well, I have come across this line of salad dressings from Bolthouse Farms that uses yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonaise. It cuts down on the fat a lot, but it still tastes good. It also uses natural ingredients, so there aren't any preservatives. The varieties I have seen so far are Caesar, blue cheese, ranch, and thousand island. You can find them in the produce section of your grocery store, usually by the bagged and prewashed lettuce.

Monday, February 2, 2009

For My Vegetarian Readers

Here is a great vegetarian recipe for meatless jambalaya. (You must say Jambalaya like Newman does in the soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld.) This comes from a little Pillsbury Vegetarian cookbook that I picked up a while ago in the check-out line.

Meatless Jambalaya
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 a green pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 an onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained and roughly cut tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice (not instant rice)
1 (15 ounce) can red beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can butter beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook and stir 3-5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Stir in water, tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the rice. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until rice is tender. Stir occasionally.

Stir in beans. Cover; simmer an additional 5-10 minutes to heat through. Serves 5.

If you're aren't a vegetarian, you could certainly add meat to this for more protein, but the beans are quiet filling. Andouille sausage, chicken or shrimp would be excellent in this. If you do add meat, I suggest adding a little more tomatoes or sauce to the mixture, so it isn't too thick. Also, if you like really spicy food, feel free to add more cayenne pepper. You could also add cracked red pepper or hot sauce to increase the heat.

This is a lucky week for my non-carnivorous readers. I have two more non-meat dishes planned for this week: fresh vegetables and basil fettuccine; and pasta and bean soup. Stay tuned.