Tag Archives: recipe

Shrimp and Grits

24 Jan

Get in my belly.


I have been obsessing over the idea of shrimp and grits since seeing it served as a brunch item in a New Orleans episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. How could anything combining those two foods possibly be bad? So I set to work researching recipes, and in the end I pulled what I liked best from each to make my own simplified, quick-cooking version (in some cases the recipes were projected to take up to 40 minutes to prepare!).

This meal was easy, spicy, filling and delicious served alongside a dish of wilted greens. I’ll be making this again — probably with a few tweaks and maybe the addition of some diced tomatoes or green onions to the shrimp and garlic mixture — but Steven and I both loved it as it is.


  • 2 cups grits, prepared according to box directions (I used Quaker brand — 2 cups boiling water, 2/3 cup dry grits, done in 5 minutes)
  • 3/4 lb medium-sized frozen cooked shrimp, tail-on — thawed, rinsed, and drained
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided in half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • dash Frank’s Hot Sauce


  1. Prepare grits according to package directions (don’t forget to salt the boiling water before adding the uncooked grits).
  2. While grits are cooking, melt 2 tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  3. Add shrimp and lemon juice. Cook until shrimp are warmed through and starting to curl. (At this point I drained off all of the cooking liquid, which was a considerable amount. Next time I’ll probably save some to thin out the grits and add a bit of briny, seaside flavor to the entire dish.)
  4. Add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and hot sauce to shrimp and toss to coat. (I added quite a lot of spice to mine, probably 1 1/2 tsp cayenne.) Cook 2-3 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  5. Remove prepared grits from heat. Add 2 tbsp butter and 1 cup cheddar cheese, stir until cheese has melted.
  6. Divide cheesy grits between two bowls. Top with the shrimp and garlic mixture. Serve immediately.

Makes two adult-sized portions.


Shepard’s Pie

19 Jan

It’s a cold, snowy day here in Pittsburgh — the kind of day that begs for warm, hearty comfort foods eaten in pajamas by a fire. So I decided to take my first crack at a longtime favorite dish: Shepard’s Pie. It’s barely healthy — and definitely not low calorie — but it is filling and deliciously rich. Traditionally it’s made with lamb, but I used ground beef since that’s what I had on hand. The taste definitely did not suffer, especially after a few tweaks to amp up the mashed potato topping.


That's one sexy casserole.


For the filling:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lg onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb baby carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 lb frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp butter plus a pat to butter casserole dish
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the topping:

  • 6 medium-sized red potatoes, skin on, boiled and drained
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp horseradish sauce
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (for sprinkling on top of potatoes!)
  • salt and pepper to taste


For filling:

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add onion and carrot. Cook until onion becomes fragrant and begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add raw ground beef to veggies in skillet and season with salt and pepper, garlic powder, thyme and dry mustard. Brown meat over medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Drain off fat.
  3. After draining fat, add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and peas to beef and veggie mixture. Stir to combine.
  4. Sprinkle flour over beef and veggies. Stir until well incorporated and flour taste has “cooked off”, approximately 2 minutes.
  5. Add beef broth all at once and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat until gravy begins to thicken, 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

For topping:

  1. Mash boiled potatoes with butter, heavy cream and milk. Add more milk if necessary to achieve desired consistency.
  2. Add horseradish sauce, sour cream and 1 cup cheddar cheese to mashed potatoes. Stir until cheese has melted. Salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble:

  1. Butter an oval casserole dish and pour in beef filling.
  2. Spoon mashed potatoes over filling, using a spatula or fork to create swirls and ridges.
  3. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheddar.
  4. Bake in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Potato crust should be browned and crispy on top; if it isn’t after 30 minute bake time, pop it under the broiler for an additional 3-5 minutes.
Serves six.
As if the pie itself wasn’t enough, I served mine alongside quartered turnips roasted in olive oil with a dash of salt and freshly cracked black pepper (wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for one hour), jarred pickled beets and a hunk of crusty bread to mop up the gravy.

A winter masterpiece.

Easy Maple Fried Apples

14 Dec

Last week I bought a tote of Cortland apples at a chain grocer, for a fairly inexpensive sum, only to get them home and discover that all but the top ones were deeply bruised — visibly marked with the fingerprints of someone who had handled them in the journey they took to get to my table. After a moment’s disappointment at the loss of a quick, fresh, grab-and-go snack, I started brainstorming for an easy use for nearly spoilt fruit.

One of my most loved rules of the kitchen is that no food should be wasted. I am the person who uses vegetable trimmings to make stock. Every scrap of fat or gristly cuts of meat go straight from our plates into our dogs’ mouths. The week before big grocery shopping I make “freezer stews” of a beef roast drowned in stock and the remnants of every less-than-a-meal’s-worth leftover frozen vegetables. Why waste good nutrition? It’s a truly modern American notion that any less than perfect piece of produce is damned to the trash; in any farmer’s kitchen these bruised apples would be trimmed down and recycled into another form, whether it be applesauce or apple dumplings.

And thus those apples met butter, maple syrup, and some wintery spices in a skillet to become a very tasty topping for sweet treats, or a great snack in their own right. I served mine warm over a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream dusted with graham cracker crumbs, but they’d also make a great companion for pancakes or french toast. No need to peel the apples — the skins will soften nicely and add a bit of texture.



  • four large apples, cored and sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bourbon extract


  1. Melt butter in a large shallow skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add apples to hot skillet.
  3. Add remainder of ingredients to apples.
  4. Stirring occasionally, cook over medium heat until apples are soft (nearly falling apart) and sauce is thickened to syrup-like consistency, approximately 10-12 minutes.
Makes approximately four 1/2 cup servings.

Pumpkin Recipes

15 Oct

We are definitely on a gourd kick at our house. And our favorite of all the gourds is pumpkin. Put it in everything — breads, pies, cookies, coffees, beers, stews, curries, pasta sauces — and I’m a happy girl. One of my favorite pumpkin dinner recipes is cheese ravioli with leeks and mushrooms in an easy, creamy, nutty pumpkin cream sauce.  In the interest of saving time I always use canned mashed pumpkin — though if you have the time and patience to break down your own pumpkin, I’m sure it would taste even more amazing.


  • 18 ounces frozen cheese ravioli
  • 1/2 cup butter (1/4 lb), divided in half
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 12 oz mushrooms (I like porcini or baby bellas)
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp nutmeg or sage (cook’s choice!)
  • fresh chopped parsley for garnish


  1. Prepare ravioli according to package directions. Drain and set aside, keep warm.
  2. Melt half of the butter (1/4 cup) in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are browned and tender. Set aside.
  3. Melt remaining butter (1/4) in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add leeks, season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened.
  4. Stir in pumpkin and herb of choice (nutmeg or sage) and heat through.
  5. Remove from heat, add milk and half and half. Stir to combine.
  6. Slowly add parmesan cheese, stirring continuously. Return to low heat for 1-2 minutes to warm through, continue stirring so sauce does not scald.
  7. To serve: Divide ravioli  and mushrooms between four plates. Smother with pumpkin alfredo sauce and garnish with 1/4 of the fresh chopped parsley.
Serves four.


Since the above recipe only required 1/2 cup of pumpkin from a 15-ounce can, and our cupboards were completely bare of cane sugar (I made this the day before big grocery shopping day), my old fallback of using bread as a vehicle for leftover vegetable ingredients wasn’t an option. Instead I scoured the internet for a quick pumpkin soup, and happened upon this recipe. To keep it savory, I used 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar instead of 1 tablespoon of cane sugar and added slightly more nutmeg and pepper. I also substituted leeks for the onion, since that’s what I had on hand. It was a big hit served with a nutmeg garnish alongside a snack platter of Manchego cheese, whole wheat crackers and beer jelly. And it only took 15 minutes to prepare!


19 Jul

Though I made a valiant effort to expand my horizons, the appeal of turning a pound of farm fresh basil into delicious pesto was too much to resist (plus I already had all the ingredients on hand!). And it was delicious.


Pesto is an ideal way to extend the refrigerator life of a quick-spoiling herb like basil, which only lasts about three days bagged in the fridge. Store pesto in an air-tight container with the top of the pesto glossed in a thin sheen of good quality olive oil, and it will last up to two weeks. Or preserve it even longer by molding a tablespoon of pesto into each compartment of an ice cube tray to freeze. Pop the pesto cubes out into a freezer bag and use them to spice up soups and sauces.

Of course, ours never made it that long — I mixed a little over half of my recipe’s yield into some whole wheat elbow macaroni with a splash of pasta water to make a creamy, minty green pasta sauce. I served it topped with diced tomato and salty strips of prosciutto, which fed us as a main course for a night with leftovers to pack for lunch the next day. The remainder of the pesto we spread on melba toasts with Manchego cheese and olives for a TV time snack platter.

Here’s the recipe I used, which is a little different from the traditional preparation as it swaps out pine nuts for pistachios:


  • 2 cups fresh basil, packed
  • 1 cup shelled dry roasted and salted pistachio nut meats
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 — 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • juice of half a lemon


  1. Using a food processor, grind pistachios.
  2. Add garlic, basil and grated cheese. Blend.
  3. Squeeze in lemon juice and begin adding olive oil; use more or less based on taste and desired pesto consistency. Enjoy!
This recipe took approximately 10 minutes to whip together, and yielded about 1 1/2 cups of pesto.

Fish Tacos in Twenty Minutes

13 Jul



  • 1 lb of your preference of mild white fish fillets, thawed (we like mahi mahi best, followed by tilapia)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups bagged broccoli slaw mix
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (we use four cheese Mexican blend)
  • 1/2 large tomato, diced
  • 1 medium-sized jalapeno, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lemon or lime
  • 8 flour tortillas


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place fish fillets in a shallow baking dish. Squeeze lemon or lime juice over fish; scatter with garlic and jalepeno. Bake for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  2. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in hot oven to warm through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fish to a plate and flake with a fork (don’t forget to include all of that delicious garlic and jalapeno!).
  3. Divide fish evenly between 8 tortillas. Top each with 1 tbsp of black beans and equal amounts of slaw mix, cheese and tomato.
  4. Portion two tacos per person; divide remaining black beans among plates and top with cheese. Serve with garnishes of choice (I like sour cream, guacamole or hot sauce).
Serves four.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

30 Jun

That is how I chose to utilize the second of our three massive zucchini from last week’s trip to the Farmer’s Market. The following recipe only needed half of one of the monsters to equal 2 cups of grated veggie.


  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups grated zucchini


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease two loaf pans (or one loaf pan and a muffin pan, as I did).
  2. Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and bake until fragrant,  3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk eggs, sugar, applesauce, canola oil, and vanilla in another large bowl until blended. Add to the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in zucchini and almonds. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans.
  5. Bake the loaves 55 to 60 minutes (30 to 35 minutes for muffins), or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto rack and cool completely.

Yield was one loaf and one dozen muffins.

This recipe could easily be doubled and the excess frozen to enjoy later.