Creamy Pesto Shrimp

I used Knorr’s creamy pesto sauce packets for a fast and large meal with rotisserie chicken, so it’s nice to use it with shrimp, too. I’m aware some folks don’t like to use pre-made flavor packets… but I feel sorry for those people because, let’s face it, McCormick’s chili packets make the best chili. My family loved this dish.

2 T olive oil
1lb uncooked large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 1/2 C milk
1 pkg Knorr Creamy Pesto sauce mix
1 C grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 grated parmesan cheese
2 T lemon juice
8oz your fave pasta, cooked & drained

Heat oil in large skillet over med-high heat and cook shrimp, stirring occasionally until shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside.

Stir milk and Knorr mix into skillet and bring to boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened. Stir in shrimp, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and lemon juice. Toss sauce with hot pasta and serve.

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Chili Lime Sweet Corn Salad

This recipe surprised me by winning over most of our dinner guests last night. It’s a subtly sweet and crunchy corn salad and it’s simple to put together. I grabbed the last 4-pack of corn at my grocery store yesterday (not in season yet in Nebraska) and added one can of sweet corn kernels to the mix. Turned out just fine.

INGREDIENTS:
6 ears of corn, husk and silk removed
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco*
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Boil the corn for 3 minutes, then remove and allow to cool slightly so that they can be handled. Cut kernels off the cob into a large bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together butter, lime juice, chili powder, and chopped cilantro. Pour the chili lime mixture over the corn and mix to coat. Add the crumbled queso freso and stir. Season with salt to taste.

Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers.

Carnitas Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

I’m all about recipe books with great pictures and layouts these days and I pick up a new one from the library each time I go in. This recipe comes from Kelsey Nixon’s Kitchen Confidence and it’s a keeper. These carnitas are incredibly flavorful! (It comes with a recipe for pickled red onions, which I did not make, but will do so in the future. That recipe follows the carnitas.)

1 3lb boneless pork shoulder (butt), trimmed of excess fat
Juice of 4 limes
1 C orange juice
4 garlic cloves, smashed
3 T chili powder
1 t ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
1 T kosher salt

Cut the pork shoulder into 1.5-2 inch pieces and put them in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add the lime juice, orange juice, garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, and salt. Add just enough water to cover the pork and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking at a gentle simmer for at least 1.5 hours but no longer than 2 hours, stirring occaisonally and taking care that there is still liquid in the pot.

Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until all the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated, about 10 minutes. Continue cooking, carefully turning the pork pieces, until they develop brown, crispy edges, about 5 minutes.

Serve the pork with picked onions (instructions below), warmed tortillas, and, if desired, avocado, cilantro, cabbage, cheese, and lime wedges for squeezing.

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PICKLED RED ONIONS

1/3 C fresh lime juice
1/3 C red wine vinegar
1/3 C sugar
1 T kosher salt
1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into rings
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

In a small saucepan, combine the lime juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, and jalapeño. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.

Place the onion slices in a bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over them. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool for about 20 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days.

Pasta with Garlic Shrimp & Broccoli

This one from AllRecipes was a winner with the entire family tonight. It felt extravagant—and sure, it’s not great to eat heavy cream and butter every night—but it came together easily and tasted delicious. Winning!

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) package angel hair pasta
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pesto
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 1/2 (16 ounce) package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. Melt 1.5 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly stir in milk and cream; simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened. Mix in pesto, parsley, 3 cloves minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, white pepper, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, place broccoli in a steamer over 1 inch of boiling water, and cover. Cook until tender but still firm, about 2 to 6 minutes. Drain.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Saute shrimp, remaining 3 cloves minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes, or until shrimp are pink.
  5. In a large bowl, toss pasta, shrimp and broccoli; pour sauce over and serve.

    **I used frozen shrimp with tails on, first thawing them in cool water and setting them aside. I used frozen broccoli, cooking it most of the way in the microwave and then tossed it the butter and garlic to heat up by sauteeing. After a minute or two I added the shrimp and heated it altogether. Easy.

 

Chicken Pho

IMG_3867Oh man, this recipe is everything I wanted it to be: (so) easy, (so) delicious, a big hit with kids and adults. And if you make it a Pho-riday (get it? get it?), all the better.

I found this recipe in an old issue of Eating Well.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups chicken broth (I used 6 cups broth and 2 cups water, and would do it again)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 10 whole star anise
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bone-in chicken leg quarters, skin removed, trimmed (the original recipe calls for chicken breasts, but this is what I used, and I’d do it again)
  • 8 ounces wide rice noodles (the original recipe calls for 6 ounces, but we had an 8-ounce package, and Jason likes the noodles, so…)
  • 6 cups chopped bok choy
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, thinly sliced
  • Sriracha or chile-garlic sauce
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 watches

Directions:

  1. Combine broth, brown sugar, fish sauce, star anise, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon stick in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add chicken, meat-side down. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 4 hours).
  2. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Remove and discard spices. Add noodles and bok choy to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the bone and shred with two forks. When the noodles are tender, stir in the chicken.
  4. Serve bowls of soup with bean sprouts, basil, mint, cilantro, jalapeños, Sriracha, and limes on the side, so everyone can add their own toppings.

 

Roasted Chicken with Cranberries and Winter Vegetables

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So I might be a little bit obsessed with this meal. It’s the kind of meal that I want to get every single flavor in every bite, but there are so many flavors that it can’t really (or can only barely) be done. It’s seasonal and beautiful (chicken notwithstanding) and super easy. A little bit of a disclaimer: cooked Brussel sprouts do not smell good. I took this meal to a friend’s house tonight to celebrate their new baby, and when we got back in the car, Clara said, “Are you kidding me? It still stinks in here?” Ha. But the taste is worth it.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered if they are really big)
  • 2 small (or 1 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small acorn squash, seeds removed and sliced thinly (peeled is optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (could also use chicken breasts)
  • 4 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • 7 fresh sage leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 415 degrees.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the vegetables and cranberries on the sheet, then add the chicken on top.
  3. Melt the butter or ghee in a small saucepan, and add the sage leaves just until they wilt a bit.
  4. Drizzle the butter and sage over the chicken and vegetables and salt and pepper as desired.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Tempura

Transforming a beautiful plate of vegetables into a beautiful-in-a-different-way plate of deep fried vegetables has become one of our favorite Christmas Eve traditions. I’m not gonna lie: tempura is not super easy to make because it’s pretty labor intensive.  which is why it is a once-a-year kind of meal. But, it’s so delicious. The recipe comes originally from Alton Brown, and we have modified it over the past couple of years to reflect our family’s tastes. Although we do have chicken, the vegetables are by far everyone’s favorites.tempura

Ingredients

  • the vegetables and protein you’re going to fry–we use 2 small sweet potatoes, sliced; 1 zucchini or yellow squash, sliced; 1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets; green beans (1/2 pound maybe?); 1/2 avocado, sliced; 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) white rice flour
  • 1 1/2 quarts vegetable oil (for each pan that you use to fry; I used two this time, and it worked well)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold seltzer water (or club soda or sparkling water; do not sub tonic water)
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • (ice to line a bowl that you’ll set the batter in)
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Prepare your vegetables and chicken–slice, trim, chop, peel; do what you need to do.
  2. Whisk together the flour and rice flour in a medium glass bowl. Divide in half and then set the flour mixture aside.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven over high heat until it reaches 375 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer (or until bubbles form around the handle of a wooden spoon; every year I have to Google how to tell if oil is hot enough).
  4. When the oil is getting close to ready, whisk the seltzer water, vodka, and egg together and divide the mixture in half. Put half the wet mixture in the refrigerator to reserve.
  5. Pour half the wet mixture into half of the flour mixture and which to combine. (I have generally found we need to add a little more flour to at least half of the batter, sometimes to both halves). It will make a thin (but not watery) batter.
  6. Set the bowl of batter into a larger bowl lined with ice.
  7. Dip the vegetables in the batter and let drain for a few seconds over the bowl, then drop them carefully into the hot oil. Fry 6-8 pieces at a time until puffy and very light golden, about 1-2 minutes (the chicken takes a little longer).
  8. Remove to a cooling rack lined with 3 layers of paper towels, and sprinkle with salt as desired.
  9. When you run low on batter, whisk up the other half of the liquid and the flours.
  10. Tempura may be held in a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Alton Brown said the texture would be compromised, but I thought it was just fine. :)