Penne + Shrimp & Cilantro Pesto

From the beginning of our relationship Bryan knew I was a foodie – he may have known before we even met since all I contributed to the camping gear was food.  We met on a camping trip up in Ludington back in September 2011.  On that trip, I brought a ton of food.  On our second “meeting”, I made a delicious meal while up north skiing in Boyne.  Third date, I prepared homemade pasta carbonara for him in Chicago.  Needless to say, he caught on for my love for food and knew he had to step it up on his kitchen knowledge.

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The first homemade meal Bryan prepared for me was this Shrimp Pasta with Cilantro Pesto.  We lived together at this time and for the most part I had done most of the meal prep.  However, one day he said he was going to try out a recipe and cook for me.  I was very excited and came home to find him in the kitchen adorning an apron.  He was slowly removing each leaf of cilantro off of the stem.  It took him a really long time to pull off all those leaves and I didn’t mention that you can use a little bit of the stems., but I won’t forget him tearing all those leaves.. it was his meal, his preparation and boy was it good.

This dish has become a regular in our weeknight meal rotation.  Super quick to make, minimal dishes and a delicious and satisfying result.  Do you remember my Tilapia with Cilantro pesto post?  This pesto is basically the same, but with a couple adaptations to the pesto.  It is made a bit thinner so that it coats the pasta nicely.  Also, I don’t use nuts because I want to avoid the nutty flavor in order to maximize the cilantro flavor.  Over the years, we have tweaked our version of the pesto and continue to make improvements to it.

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I strongly recommend this dish when entertaining guests too.  It is a very pretty dish and since it is easy to make (pesto can be made ahead) you have more time to hang out with your guests instead of spending the whole evening by the stove.  Use whole grain penne, wild caught shrimp and organic ingredients in the pesto for a clean & wholesome meal.

Penne + shrimp & cilantro pesto

Recipe by:  Sara
Prep Time:  15 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 8-10 minutes   |||   Servings: 4  |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients:
half box whole grain penne pasta
1 lb wild caught shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 bushels of cilantro, leaves only
1 garlic clove
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pasta water
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan
1 tsp dried oregano
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

Directions
1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add penna when boiling and cook according to package directions.  Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the water once the pasta is drained.
2.  Meanwhile, in a food processor combine the cilantro, parmesan, oil, garlic, and seasonings.  Pulse until combined then slowly add 1/4 cup of water at a time, pulsing until smooth.
3.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 4 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
4.  In the pasta pot, combine the pesto, shrimp and pasta.  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
5.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

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Enjoy & have a wonderful weekend!!

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Easy Shrimp Tostadas

It’s been over a week since I logged into this bad boy.  I didn’t really have an agenda for this week’s menu and as you know if you have been following along for awhile, I tend to come and go from my blog from time to time.  There are 3 recipes that I have been dying to share so I want to take the time to get back at it.  Sometimes, life just gets in the way.  There has been a ton going on at work, some great things actually, that have required my undivided-extra-time-in-the-office-outside-of-work attention.  Possibly more on that to come at a later date.

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Anyways enough of that mumbo jumbo and onto this post because it does not disappoint!  I get a lot of food magazines and I never will stop getting the actual magazine.  I have gotten one on my Nook before, but I love tearing the magazine articles out and stashing them in my “to make” binder.  This binder has been around for quite some time so if you have lived with me before you’ve probably seen it.  I use these clippings as blog inspiration and that’s where this post comes into play.

The binder is expanding each week and so I been making a good effort to try out all the recipes I saved.  If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw my post a few weeks ago of the picture of the shrimp tostadas.  My binder is organized (somewhat) according to genre.  There are about 6-8 shrimp tostada recipes so I learned from those clippings to produce this one.  The main recipe is based off of a Cooking Light original.

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No time for dinner?  No problem.  This is yet another Dinner In Twenty recipe.  It actually can be prepared in less time than that if you make your toppings ahead of time too.  If you saw my post on Paige’s blog last week, you read that I like to try to incorporate Mexican into my weekly dinner routine.  We love the spicy, bold flavors of Mexican cuisine and they typically are quick to prepare.

One of my favorite components of this recipe is the Spicy Black Bean Salsa I posted on A Dose of Paige.  You will have to visit her website to get that portion, trust me it’s definitely not one you want to leave out!  The link is below.  I hope you enjoy this yummy and Not So Doughie recipe!

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easy shrimp tostadas

Recipe by:  Sara
Prep Time:  15 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 4-5 minutes   |||   Servings: 4   |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients
8-10 (6 inch) corn tortillas
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 avocado, diced
1 Roma tomato, small dice
1/2 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
1 lime, juiced
1/4 tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
Chipotle Black Bean Salsa
4
 oz queso fresca
chopped cilantro

Directions:
1.  On a baking sheet, toss the shrimp with the cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Spread evenly and bake at 350 degrees for 4-5 minutes or until pink.
2.  In a bowl, combine the avocado, tomato, Greek yogurt, and lime juice.  Season with salt, pepper and chipotle seasoning.
3.  Lay out your corn tortilla and layer with the bean salsa, shrimp, avocado spread, cheese and chopped cilantro.
4.  Serve with a dash of hot sauce if preferred.

Enjoy!

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Summer Corn & Shrimp Chowder with Bacon

{the summer soup}

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I used to hate soups.  I never was a big fan of them growing up.  Chicken noodle soup was served when you were sick, but soup was never a frequent visitor to the dinner table.  I did LOVE beef stew.  However, stew is not soup is not chowder.  In my old age, I have grown to love soups, stews, chowders, bisques, gazpachos etc etc.  They definitely appear on my dinner menu often, but in the fall & winter more.

However, I don’t discriminate soup in the summer so I add some delicious summer flavors to keep it light.  You’ve probably noticed a decent amount of posts including corn lately.  Well, it is summertime and I really cannot get enough of it.  [I will be posting a Mexican Corn Salad shortly where I use the corn straight up off the cob.]  This recipe uses the corn’s kernels and “pulp” to add creaminess to the broth.

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So what exactly is the difference between a stew, chowder, and soup?  I did some research to answer this question for you…..

  • SOUP:  Liquid is very thin.  Can be cream based or broth based.  It is majority liquid with some, if any, added pieces
  • CHOWDER:  Broth is thickened using an agent such as flour and has more “stuff” in it than liquid.
  • STEW:  Mainly solid pieces of veggies & meat cooked in a small amount of liquid (beer) cooked slow resulting in a gravy base.

Based off of these Sara-determined definitions, this is a soup because I didn’t use any flour as a thickening agent.  I am still going to call it a chowder because I like the word chowder and there is more “stuff” than liquid.

This is the ultimate summer soup.  It has many bold flavors, is light, creamy, salty, sweet, and in my chowder, spicy.  If you aren’t a shrimp fan, substitute crab or lobster – yum!  This dinner sounds a bit fancy, but it is yet another “Dinner in 20″ meal.  It requires one pot too which makes for easy clean up :)

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summer corn & shrimp chowder with bacon
Recipe By:  Sara
Prep Time:  5 minutes   |||   Cook TIme: 20 minutes   |||   Servings: 4   |||   Difficulty: Low

Ingredients:
3 slices of thick bacon, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
4-6 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined, cut into pieces
1/2 cup milk [I used fat-free]
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
dash of cayenne pepper
salt & pepper
Optional:  cilantro, cheddar cheese

Directions:
1.  Cut the corn kernels off the cobs over a bowl.  Squeeze any excess “juice” from the cores.
2.  In a dutch oven or large pot, heat over medium and add the bacon.  Cook until crispy.  Remove about 2 Tbsp from the pot & set aside.  If there is a lot of grease, discard all but about 2 tsp.
3.  Add the onion and celery & saute until softened, about 6 minutes.
4.  Add the garlic & thyme and saute an additional minute.
5.  Add the corn and any pulp acquired during cutting and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.
6.  Reduce heat to a simmer and add the shrimp.  Cook for 2 minutes.
7.  Stir in the milk.
8.  Season with salt and pepper and cayenne.
9.  Serve with cheddar cheese, cilantro and remaining bacon pieces.

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Enjoy!

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Shrimp Scampi {lightened up}

{same taste. no guilt.}
IMG_3468So I have to give myself a huge pat on the back.  Go me.  I did a great job eating clean and light last week.  The result: a pleasant reduction on the scale.  I hate scales and I try to avoid using it, but I was involved in a Diet Bet so it was required. The month was coming to an end and I needed to submit by final weigh in for the challenge.  I ate so well and the motivation to win the diet bet definitely worked because.. I won!  I was able to lose 4% of my weight in the month of February, resulting in being $50 richer.

I was back at Bikram three times a week & 1 day at the gym.  On top of that, I was only eating clean and organic.  It definitely paid off and I am even more motivated now.  I joined another Diet Bet and plan to lose another 4% in the month of March.  Hello more money!  Cheer me on & enjoy my healthy recipes this month!

Onto the yummy meal pictured above….

Isn’t so annoying how all bad things taste the best?  It seems the higher the calories, the better it tastes.  Not with this recipe though.  It contains the same delicious flavors, but way less calories that the original scampi.

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For this recipe, I used all organic ingredients including the pasta.  The silky sauce perfectly coats the shrimp and noodles and the broccoli is an added blast of nutrients.  Compared to heavily buttered scampi sauces, this lightened up version contains no butter or wine.

I tried to avoid carbs as much as possible, but I thought a small splurge with this meal was OK.  I just worked out extra hard & ate light for my other meals.  Shrimp is one of my favorite proteins. They are very light & healthy, aiding in the production of the good LDL cholesterol.  Shrimp is a great addition to a heart healthy diet.

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If you are in a rut and thinking that it is hard to eat healthy and that you have to give up all your favorites.  Pull yourself back up and tell yourself that is not true!  Any high calorie, high fat meal can be altered and still provide the same wonderful tastes.  This shrimp scampi dish is light, healthy, and incredibly tasty!

Shrimp Scampi [lightened up!]
Recipe Adapted from:  Cooking Light Magazine
Hands on Time:  20 minutes   ///   Cook Time:  20 minutes   ///   Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1 lb wild caught shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 small organic shallot, minced
8 oz organic spaghetti
2 cups organic broccoli
1 cup organic, low sodium chicken broth
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp organic parsley, chopped
zest of juice of 1 small lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cornstarch + 1 Tbsp H2O, mixed together into a paste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese + additional for serving
salt & pepper

Directions:
1.  In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to package instructions.
2.  About 2 minutes before the pasta is finished, add the broccoli.  Cook 2 minutes & drain.
3.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the shallot & 4 garlic cloves. Saute about 1 minute.
4.  Add the shrimp and cook on each side for about 2 minutes or until pink.  Remove and set aside.
5.  Add remaining garlic and chicken broth to the pan.  Bring to a boil.
6.  Reduce heat and add lemon and cornstarch mixture.  Whisk to incorporate.
7.  Slowly add in the parmesan and stir until melted.
8.  Add the pasta, shrimp, and broccoli and toss to coat.
9.  Stir in parsley and serving with a sprinkle more of parmesan cheese.

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enjoy!

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Orange & Garlic Shrimp Saute

{gourmet weeknight}

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I love cooking shrimp on weeknights because it only takes about 5 minutes.  This is a quick & delicious meal that will satisfy you & impress.  I was grabbing a salad for lunch at Whole Foods and saw large, beautiful shrimp on sale.  I didn’t even plan to make dinner that evening, but I couldn’t pass by these yummy shrimp.  I grabbed a box of 5 minute couscous to make along with the shrimp.

When I got home, I raided the fridge and cupboard to see what was on hand.  I had a whole bag of navel oranges that were about to go bad so I was decided to make an orange sauce to coat the shrimp.

I started preparation right away and dinner was ready about 10 minutes later.  First, I squeezed the oranges into a measuring cup & zested the fruit.

The shrimp was added to a saute pan and turned pink & yummy in less than 5 minutes.

I added the orange juice mixture to the same pan (quick clean up) and boiled it.  Once the butter was added, the sauce took on a beautiful sheen & the aroma was to die for.

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The shrimp was tossed back into the sauce and voila.  Dinner was complete.

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I strongly suggest this recipe!  Bryan and I really enjoyed it.  The heartiness of the couscous sticks to your ribs, leaving you feeling satisfied.  The sauce has a creaminess to it without any cream which sticks nicely to the shrimp.  I personally love the pairing or citrus and garlic.  I can’t wait to make this again!

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You can click here for the recipe!

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