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Seafood weekend

It’s stone crab season here in Clearwater. I’ve never had these yummy little creatures anywhere but here and they’re de-lish (and super expensive!) These were served cracked, cold with lemon & a mild dipping sauce. I highly recommend you trying these if you’re in the area.

Also on the menu this weekend was hubby crafted clams casino as an appetizer – very flavorful. The recipe can be found here. Enjoy!

I followed that up with a new dish, a creamy, garlic shrimp dish served over rice. This recipe is a keeper! This recipe can be found here. (I added artichokes and a little chopped bacon, cause, why not?)

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A little Poké

This dish has been a fun go to that I’ve posted before. Search the site for the how to’s. Each time I make this, I change it up a bit this one was a base of arugula with jalapeños, avocado, salmon & tuna topped with a few sesame seeds. Super fresh, satisfying and low carb!

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Hashing it out…

I will say upfront that I did not make this delicious corned beef hash, this was all the hubby (except for the poached eggs, which I whipped up). Corned beef hash is one of those dishes that you can really modify to your liking. In his recipe he uses (obviously) a corned beef, which he cooks overnight in the crockpot (could that be easier?) Just add water and spices, and set up crockpot – 8 hours low). Then he sautés cubed potatoes, onions, carrots, green, red and yellow peppers seasoned with salt, pepper, sazon. Once these goodies are cooked through, he mixes in the shredded corned beef. That’s it! You can top this with eggs, any way you like them, hollandaise sauce or salsa.

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Eggplant Parmigiana

This is a dish that I have not made in about thirty years. The reason for that is I was asked, thirty years ago, to make several trays of eggplant parm for my best friend’s engagement party. I was up literally all night and my kitchen was completely trashed for about a week. I think that experience gave me eggplant parm PTSD.

The only time I will ever use a jar sauce is for pizza or parm. My Sunday sauce is too rich (due to all the pork and beef that I add). The richness would take away from the flavor of the eggplant. That said, the sauce that worked for this is Michael’s of Brooklyn.

To start this dish, peel your eggplants (I leave just a few strips of peel on) then slice thinly into circles, about 1/4 of an inch thick. Then dip slices into well beaten egg, followed by breadcrumbs. I place breaded slices on a wire rack until all of my eggplant has been breaded. Then in a shallow fry pan, heat canola oil. When the oil is hot, add eggplant and fry until slightly browned on both sides (should take about 3 minutes per side). I return the fried slices to the wire rack so any excess oil drains off.

Next step is to prepare the layers in your baking pan. I start with a healthy amount of sauce in the bottom of the pan. Lay down a layer of eggplant followed by as much mozzarella as you like and some fresh ricotta and top with some more sauce. Repeat layers until you are out of eggplant. Make sure top is mozzarella and sauce.

I baked mine for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. That’s it! Enjoy this delicious dish.

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Back at the grill…

I always say, the freshest ingredients simply prepared is the best way to cook.

For this meal I had some amazing, colossal shrimp which I butterflied and seasoned with EVOO, pepper, and Slap ya Mama. I also had sushi grade tuna which I cubed (large cubes) and dredged in black pepper.

The shrimp, I simply grilled them for about 2 minutes (or until they turn pink, depending on how hot your grill is) and that’s that. For the tuna, I sautéed the dredged cubes in a little EVOO until just the outside is charred and the inside is still bright pink (you could also do this in a cast iron skillet on the grill). I served the tuna with a wasabi/soy slurry.

I served grilled eggplant with the shrimp. To do this, first peel the eggplant, leaving some strips of peel on the fruit. Then simply slice the eggplant in circles, about 1/4 inch thick. Brush with EVOO and season with salt & pepper. Throw the eggplant on the grill about 5 minutes before the shrimp and remove when they are tender and charred. The center will be soft and very tasty.

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Freshest Fish…

I know I cook a ton of seafood, but this particular dish was amazing. A friend of mine just got back from the glorious Keys and brought back her bounty of snapper (the filets were cleaned, packed, flash frozen and shipped).

I kept the recipe super simple so not to take away from any of the naturally delicious flavor of the fish. I lightly dredged the fillets in some seasoned (salt, pepper) flour and sautéed it stove top in a little EVOO. Depending on the thickness of the filets, it should not take more than about 3-4 minutes per side.

In a separate pan, I sautéed fresh spinach seasoned with crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper.

I plated this gorgeous dish on top of creamy polenta – can it get any easier?

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Seafood on the BBQ…

Literally nothing could be easier than cooking super fresh, simply prepared seafood on the grill. I just soak the clams to get rid of any sand they might be holding onto, scrub the mussels and toss them all right on the grill. As soon as they pop open they’re ready to eat. Hubby makes a butter dip with garlic, lemon and parsley (or cilantro) and that’s it! I also sprinkled a little Slap Ya Mama seasoning on the mussels just to spice them up a bit.

Great as an appetizer or a main dish, clams, mussels, and a side of Shishito peppers!

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Orecchiette…

This simple, one pot meal is a real crowd pleaser. Cheap & easy (like some people I know) you’ll have this prepared in no time. Step one is to coarsely chop a ton of fresh garlic and a bunch of fresh broccoli rabe (if you find yellow flowers on the broccoli rabe, it’s not fresh). Bring about 5 inches of water, with one bullion cube added, to a boil, add the the broccoli rabe and cook for seven minutes. Strain and refresh with cold water (to revive that gorgeous green color). Next, in the same pot, add a little EVOO, fresh sausage meat (uncased), red pepper flakes, and garlic and cook until all redness is gone. Toss this on top of the broccoli rabe that is sitting in the strainer. Now fill, the same pot, with water seasoned with kosher salt (don’t clean it, let all those yummy flavors season the water – work smarter, not harder!) When rapidly boiling, add orecchiette and cook until al dente – depending on the brand of pasta (I use Barilla) about 9 minutes (taste it before you strain it). Before straining, reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water. Now strain the pasta and return to pot, add the broccoli rabe and sausage meat with a little EVOO, black pepper, 1/2 of a freshly squeezed lemon and if you want to loosen up the sauce some of the reserved pasta water. Plate and add a ton of grated cheese (no one is judging!) more red pepper flakes to taste and freshly chopped parsley. Boun appetito!

The ONE POT….

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3 Step Clam Sauce…

Spaghetti Alle Vogole as my grandma would say, this recipe could not be easier. Here it is in 3 simple steps:

  1. In a shallow pot, add a little EVOO and a pat of butter. Sauté a little garlic (or a lot of garlic!) some red pepper flakes, parsley and black pepper (I tossed in a jalapeño just for kicks).
  2. Add 2 dozen cleaned clams (see how to clean clams here) into pot and add 2 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup of white wine (I used chardonnay). Cook over medium heat until all clams open up (discard the ones that don’t – or give them to a guest you don’t like…haha)
  3. In a rapidly boiling pot of salted water, cook 1 pound of capellini (angel hair pasta) for about 7 minutes or until cooked al dente. Strain pasta and plate with plenty of clam sauce and clams, garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
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Dress it up…

Weird fact about me – I don’t like leftovers. There are only a couple of things that I will eat as a leftover. Chicken cutlets are one of those things. I had a large package of chicken cutlets in the freezer and wanted to make something simple that I could have for lunch during the week too. I simply prepared a bruschetta using what ever I had in the fridge – in this case it was cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and jalapeño – which I dressed with a salt, pepper, EVOO and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

I simply breaded and fried the cutlets, you can also season them and bake them in the oven. When fully cooked I just topped the cutlets with the bruschetta and voila!

Take this boring cutlet:

And make it fabulous by dressing it up!

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Taco Tuesday…

Taco Tuesday has become sort of a tradition at our place. We have our little Tuesday night gang and the super casual, tasty, fun night is something we look forward to after a busy work day. I try to mix it up a bit every week. Some fun taco filling options I’ve recently made include tuna dredged in black pepper and simply sautéed in a little EVOO (cooked rare, you want to see red!) Blackened shrimp is a homerun every time. And of course there’s the blackened chicken. The toppings that are our go to’s are: sour cream, avocado, onion, jalapeño, tomato, shredded cheese, and tons of hot sauce! For a side dish I made some stuffed jalapeño poppers (slit the pepper in the middle, stuff with cream cheese, wrap with a piece of bacon and bake for 20 minutes at 350).

Pro-tip: If you’re following a keto or low carb diet, skip the tortilla and make a protein bowl! All the yummies with none of the carbs!

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Going out to eat…

I know I cook, a lot, but I do enjoy going out to eat as well. We’re lucky to have a great Greek community not so far away. Our favorite place in Tarpon Springs is a restaurant called Mykonos. (See reviews here.) It’s a simple place that gets loud and frenetic during lunch and dinner (constant yells of “Opa!” fill the dining area when the flaming Haloumi is being brought from the open kitchen).

We basically get the same items every time we go to Mykonos. Here are our go-to’s: a trio of dips which are: 1) Skordalia (mashed potatoes flavored with garlic, crushed almonds, lemon juice, EVOO and a shit ton of garlic – NOT A FIRST DATE DISH!!), 2) Melitzanosalata (eggplant dip, much like babaganoush) and 3) my (personal favorite) Taramasalata (roe/caviar, lemon juice, breadcrumbs, onion garlic and olive oil).

We also get grilled calamari – which is amazing. No need to bread and fry truly fresh fish, throw it on the grill, splash with fresh lemon and enjoy, like they do in Greece. For a main course my hubby got grilled shrimp in a fresh tomato sauce, it was very simple and delicious. I always get a peasant salad (tomato, red onion, cucumber, feta cheese and pepperoncini-no lettuce) with a side of gyro meat. It’s ALWAYS too much, but so simple, fresh and delicious.

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend this place. Oh, and don’t let the turkey vultures in the back parking lot scare you (they terrify me).

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Low carb shrimp parmigiana…

I came across this picture in my food file and remembered how delicious it was. Check it out:

To make this beauty cut a spaghetti squash in half, seed it, brush the cut side with a little EVOO, season it with salt & pepper and bake it, cut side down, for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. While that magic is happening, quickly sauté some fresh shrimp, garlic, onion, spinach and season well (I like to add some red pepper flakes or diced up jalapeño just to spice it up). Next step, when the squash has cooked and is cool enough to handle scrape it out into the wok with the shrimp sauté. Mix the squash and shrimp well so it’s all incorporated. Then turn the mixture into a baking pan that is lightly brushed with EVOO (to prevent sticking). Top this with mozzarella and bake for about 20 minutes in a 350 oven (until cheese is melted and a little brown).

This shrimp parmigiana will not knock you off keto and was delicious! Let me know if you have any questions.

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Keto Clam Sauce…

Yes, it is possible to make delicious low carb linguini & clam sauce.
I’d have fought you on this if I had not done the research and trial &error to prove it.

The key is to find a low carb noodle that doesn’t taste like wet paper. These low carb freaks of nature are out there – you just need to try, try and try again. I found one yesterday at our local Publix that actually had both a good taste and a bit of bite (think al dente). You can read more about the nutritional info here. Note that you don’t cook these noodles, plop them in a strainer, rinse them well, drain them and then add them to whatever sauce it is that you are making.

The clam sauce that I made is my go-to. I sauté some fresh, coarsely chopped onion and garlic (tons of garlic) and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I put the cleaned clams (I soak the clams when I get them home so the sand they might be holding is released) into the pan and let them steam up for about 2 minutes. Then I add a cup of white wine, a bottle of clam juice, a chicken bullion cube (for extra flavor) and, if you need more liquid, some water. I season again with the same seasonings as above and wait for the clams to open (discard any that do not). When clams all open and the sauce is heated through, I put the pasta in the pot and mix it all in.

That’s it! Plate, serve and enjoy!

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Killing Keto…

We’re getting very creative with Keto. Last night we prepared an appetizer of Italian wedding soup, which strangely I’ve never made before. Honestly, this could have been a main course. It was hearty and flavorful and very satisfying.

I started this by making little baby meatballs. For my mixture I used diced onion, garlic powder, fresh chopped parsley, a beaten egg and…wait for it…crushed pork rind chips…which replaced breadcrumbs. The pork rinds that I’ve found locally that I like are these:

I simply put some pork rind chips in a Ziploc bag and crush them up using a mallet (or you can use a baking pin or wine bottle).

I roll these cuties into petite meatballs and put them on a wire rack over a cookie sheet and bake them for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the meatballs were cooking I sautéed some fresh chopped onion, celery and fresh parsley seasoned with salt, pepper and some red pepper flakes. I then added eight cups of water and 3 chicken broth cubes and let this come to a boil. When it was really rolling I tossed in the meatballs and lowered heat a bit. After five minutes, I added a full head of well cleaned and coarsely chopped escarole. I let this boil for another 5-7 minutes (or until the escarole is wilted but not mushy).

Voila! Low carb/keto Italian wedding soup! I plated this with a dash more of red pepper and a ton of grated cheese. It was excellent!

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Chicken Cutlets Keto Style…

Who doesn’t love chicken cutlets? There are a million different ways you can prepare them (bruschetta, lemon, marsala…)

This is what happened last night: First I seasoned (salt & pepper) the thin cutlets, then I dredged them in almond flour (shaking off any excess) and pan fried them in my wok (I used less than 1/2 inch of oil – I don’t deep fry) or you can cook them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (timing will depend on the thickness). When cooked I place them on a serving dish lined with paper towels to rest while I prepare the rest of dinner.

Drain the oil from the wok, but don’t clean it (whatever little tidbits are left in the pan will help to thicken up the sauce. I used 3/4 cup of white wine, a tablespoon of butter, juice from 4 freshly squeezed lemons, and salt & pepper. Whisk, whisk, whisk. After it’s all incorporated throw in some capers and Voila! Lemon sauce.

So now you need mashed potatoes, but #keto…

To make this magic happen I used two bags of cauliflower rice (you can easily make this at home in your food processor, I was just being lazy). I put cauliflower rice in a pot with about 1/2 cup of water over medium heat. Season generously with whatever spices you like. I used salt, pepper, a tablespoon of butter, 1/4 cup of cream and two tablespoons of mascarpone. I use my immersion blender for a few minutes to make this creamy like “real” mashed potatoes. If you don’t know what this handy dandy tool is, you can read all about it on Amazon (not that Amazon needs my help selling things). After it all comes together, I put the mashed in a baking dish and toss in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes so it get nice and hot. I think cheese in this dish would be amazing (but the hubby).

I also served this with our go to veggie, broccoli rabe. So yummy and easy. Just roughly chop the broccoli rabe. In a pot (or same wok) bring about 4 inches of water with a chicken broth cube to a boil. Toss in the broccoli rabe and cook for seven minutes. Strain and refresh with cold water (this will bring that beautiful green color back). In the same pot/wok add a tablespoon of EVOO and coarsely chopped garlic (for me, the more the better) put the broccoli rabe in the pan and just quickly sauté for a few minutes and you’re done!

I plated the mashed first, topped with the chicken cutlet, topped with lemon sauce and broccoli rabe on the side. My husband plated his differently LOL.

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Yankee in Florida…

So this Northern girl switched it up and made a Southern dish. I will admit I’ve never had, or even knew what, a boiled peanut was until recently. I’ve seen the trucks on the side of the road but thought “yuck” and kept driving. My husband brought some home the other day from a local place and they were very surprisingly yummy.

So, after some research, this is what I did. I bought a 2 pound bag of raw peanuts, which I tossed into the crockpot with 10 cups of water and bunch (like 1/4 of a cup) of this newly discovered spicy seasoning, “Slap Ya Mama” (sorry Mom!)

Now here’s the kicker, I read that you need to cook the heck out of these bad boys. Recommended time in the crockpot was 24 hours on low! My crockpot maximum time is 20 hours, so I had to reset it for an additional 4 hours (adding a little more water…and seasoning) while doing so.

About 20 hours into cooking

The result was super flavorful, soft but not mushy boiled peanuts. They’re low carb and I’m told can be frozen (without the liquid) if you can’t finish the bounty.

I’d definitely make these for tailgate or BBQ!

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Seafood BBQ…

Living on the West Coast of Florida has really let us enjoy outdoors much more than we did living in the Northeast. We love fresh seafood, fresh air and the amazing sunsets. While I can’t take credit for the BBQ expertise, that’s all on hubby – I can make a great menu and prepare everything so it’s good to go.

We are lucky to have a great fish monger nearby. For this BBQ, I butterflied colossal shrimps and blackened them. I just sprinkled blackening seasoning over them after butterflying and that’s it! I like the Old Bay Blackening Seasoning.

For the clams, I soak them for a while in just fresh water (no need to add flour, as I’ve read). Soaking them helps them to release any sand that they may be holding onto. When you’re ready to cook them lift them from the bowl (rather than dumping the bowl) leaving the sandy water behind. Rinse and then put in fresh bowl while escorting them to the BBQ. Hubby makes a concoction of butter, a whole (not chopped) clove of garlic, juice from 1 lemon and chopped cilantro) that he melts in a small heat resistant dish on the BBQ. Great dipping for either clams or mussels or even shrimp!

The veggies are fresh sliced zucchini with EVOO and a little ranch (powder) dressing sprinkled all over. The scallions were just trimmed (roots and tippy tops cut off) with a little drizzle of EVOO.

Of course we needed a little steak too…I like mine rare with just a little salt & pepper. Obligatory baked potato (which, to speed things up I microwaved for 3 minutes before oiling up and seasoning) wrapped in foil and tossed on the grill with the other goodies.

Simple, and yummy!

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Taco Tuesday!

We may be late to the game but we just started doing Taco Tuesdays. It’s so much fun. I remember making tacos for the kids when they were little so I’m glad to be back at it again.

My husband makes a great fresh guacamole. All you need to do is mix fresh mushed up avocados (we do this using the back of a fork), chopped tomatoes, minced onion and jalapeños, fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon), salt & pepper in a bowl. I like the guac to be a little chunky, but it’s totally your preference. If you don’t know how to cut open an avocado, I found this good video here that you might want to check out. Also, a note of caution – we now use gloves when chopping the jalapeños, it’s a story I won’t share here…

Then we make the fillers…we eat shrimp, a lot of shrimp…so we sautéed some shrimp in a little EVOO with a bit of garlic and seasoning – and that’s it!

For toppings, I chopped up some lettuce, tomatoes, and some more jalapeño. Then of course there’s the obligatory shredded cheese, sour cream and hot sauce. We like the soft shell flour tacos, which I warm up for 30 seconds in the microwave before plating.

Get creative and have a fun Taco Tuesday!

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Chicken Cutlets…

I’m not talking about a fashion accessory, I’m talking about actual chicken cutlets. It might sound boring but I love a simply breaded chicken cutlet with a green side dish and a little fresh Greek yogurt (or tzatziki) on the side.

For this plate I used egg dip and breadcrumbs and simply fried the breaded cutlets. (Let me know if you need details on this, it’s super easy!)

I had a side of broccoli rabe (which I steamed and blanched, then drizzled with EVOO, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes) and a bowl of cauliflower mashed “potatoes” .

Sometimes I make a tomato bruschetta (chopped cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, fresh chopped basil, salt, pepper and EVOO) and top the chicken cutlets with that and it’s great!

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Slow and low Pernil…

Let me start by saying that I would probably not cook Pernil for any of my Latino friends, the same way they would probably not make Sunday sauce for me. That said, it came out delicious and was a rightful payment to my friend Dana who helped with a house project. I think the smell of it cooking in the oven kept her motivated and helped us get through it quickly!

Pernil is a a large, usually inexpensive, piece of pork labeled at the supermarket as “picnic shoulder”. It’s got a large layer of skin that crisps up as it cooks and keeps the meat tender and juicy.

To start I make a marinade of orange juice (3 cups), apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup) and olive oil (1/4 cup) and a ton of minced garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and fresh minced parsley. You want to make enough marinade so that at least half of the pork is covered (you’ll need to flip the pork over after a few hours so all sides get some loving). I usually marinate this over night turning a few times during the process. I’ve tried marinating it for just a few hours and it just wasn’t as good, it really needs to go overnight.

Now for the magic, using a sharp paring knife I stab several deep holes (while channeling a dark, serial killer persona) in the meat-not on the skin side-where I will place cloves of garlic deep inside to infuse the pork with flavor. Next, using a super sharp knife, I carefully cut long lines about 1 inch apart from each other across and through most of the fat layer (to the point where the skin meets the meat) and do the same on the bias to create a hatch pattern. (See pic below.)

I put this bad boy on a v-rack in my oven skin side down for two hours at 150 degrees. After two hours I flip it so the skin side is now facing up and cook for another two hours at 150 degrees. This piece of meat was about 5 pounds so you may need to adjust your cooking time depending on the size of pork you have. If you have a meat thermometer your inside temperature (which you take after the pork has rested outside of the oven for about 3-5 minutes) should be 145 degrees. (A useful meat temperature guide can be found here.) After resting I turn it over to hubby, who harnesses his inner caveman and carves this beauty up.

Nice side dishes are rice, salad, yucca, you name it!

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Getting Greek…

The worst part of the lockdown was not being able to travel. We love Europe and all the different foods and flavors you find there. Greece was one our favorite trips. We spent time in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini (our hotel in Santorini was insane, check it out here).

Anyway, since we can’t be in Greece right now, we’re cooking up a simple Greek lunch. Souvlaki! This dish could not be easier. Many people like to use chicken thighs for this recipe, which are more flavorful but hubby only likes white meat so I use skinless, boneless breasts which I cube up. In a bowl I add about 2 cups of white wine, about 2 tablespoons of oregano, a tablespoon of EVOO and salt & pepper. Whisk this marinade well and then add the cubed chicken. You can marinate for an hour or as long as overnight. I then removed chicken from the marinade and put in shallow baking pan and baked in my oven for about 25 minutes (until there is no pink in the middle of the chicken).

I served the souvlaki with a salad, warm pita bread, fresh feta cheese (IMO Bulgarian goat feta is the best if you can find it.) and a side of freshly made tzatziki sauce. To make the tzatziki I use Greek Yogurt (I like the Fage brand, 0% fat) which I strain before using so it really thickens up. I add minced, peeled & seeded cucumber, garlic powder (fresh garlic is too strong, I’ve been told…) salt, pepper and a ton of fresh minced dill. Stir in all ingredients and let it set in a bowl in fridge for about 20 minutes).

You can make a sandwich with all of these yummy ingredients or if you’re on keto just plate it with the sides and no bread.

Let me know if you have questions!

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Instant mood lifter…

There’s nothing better for the soul than a bowl of chicken soup. We’re down in Florida now and some will argue that it’s just too hot for soup. I say turn up the A/C and enjoy soup all year round.

I start with the trilogy (chopped celery-leafy tops included, carrots and onions) which I sauté in a large pot with a little EVOO. I season heavily with salt, pepper, thyme, tons of fresh dill and a packet of Sazon con Azafran (please don’t write me about color additives…) Once the veggies have sweated I plop in a whole cleaned chicken (as big as will fit in pot). Add water so the birdie is covered and season again with salt, pepper, thyme and yes, more dill. I cook this for about 90 minutes or until bird is cooked. Turn off heat and let cool a bit before removing the bird to debone (you can wrap the bird in cheesecloth before putting in pot for easier removal). One the bird has cooled enough to handle remove and toss any skin, bones and cartilage. Shred meat using a fork and return meat to soup. Turn heat on medium and let cook for another 20 minutes.

Plate soup over some cooked tubettini and serve with tons of fresh shredded parmesano, salt & pepper. I guarantee you will feel better just smelling the soup cook!

Pro-tip: My hubby likes potatoes in the soup sometimes instead of the pasta. To make with potatoes, add them about 45 minutes after starting the soup (so they don’t get too soft and fall apart). I use medium sized red potatoes which I cut in half and put in skin on.

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Shrimp & Grits…sort of

One of the dishes I used to like to order when I was on the road was shrimp & grits. This was not a dish that I grew up with or one that I made, until recently (of course with my own spin on it).

To make my version of this dish I prepared some polenta (follow the instructions on the bag). I use chicken broth (or you can use vegetable broth) instead of water – this gives the polenta a richer flavor. When the polenta is nearly done cooking (remember to stir, stir, stir) I add about a tablespoon of mascarpone, which makes the polenta creamy and yummy. Remove from heat and prepare the shrimp.

In my wok (or sauté pan) I steam some fresh broccoli rabe for about 7 minutes (again I steam this in chicken broth, which removes some of the bitterness). Strain and refresh with cold water. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, drizzle with a little EVOO and set aside.

Now, back to your wok or sauté pan. Add a little EVOO, when warm add some fresh minced garlic and either fresh chopped onion or scallion and cook for about 3 minutes. Add fresh, cleaned shrimp and sauté until just pink. I usually have mint & basil growing on the patio, so I would mince some up and toss in towards the end of cooking.

Now to plate this baby. Spoon polenta on the plate, top with shrimp and a helping of the broccoli rabe. I garnished with fresh avocado. You can drizzle with EVOO and viola!

Pro-tip: you can use any type of protein and/or veggie for this dish. Chicken would be great or LOBSTER…broccoli or zucchini noodles would work too.

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Cheese please…

15 Minute Meal!

Hubby is away so I am going crazy with putting cheese in everything!

Last night was a quick orecchiette, with sautéed spinach, tons of crushed garlic cloves and red Argentinian shrimp from Trader Joes (sometimes I just don’t feel like going to the fish monger, and these tasty, frozen shrimp are a great Plan B). First get your salted water boiling for the pasta. While this is happening sauté fresh crushed garlic and the shrimp in a little EVOO until shrimp are mostly cooked, then add spinach until cook until wilted (use a large sauté pan as you’ll add the pasta when it’s cooked). When water is rapidly boiling add your pasta cook for 9-10 minutes (or until it’s cooked al dente). Save about a cup of the starchy water and strain the pasta. Add pasta to sauté pan with shrimp, garlic and spinach adding the water if you need to loosen up the mixture. Keep heat on low and mix until well incorporated.

After plating this ‘beaut I topped with red pepper flakes and as much grated cheese as I could get on the plate.

Pro-tip: Did you know that Orecchiette means “little ear” in Italian? Think about that next time you cook it – notice the shape.

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Slow and low kind of day…

There’s nothing easier or better than tossing a few ingredients (short ribs, one jar of Goya Sofrito and one jar of Goya Recaito) into the crockpot and letting the magic happen – eight hours on low.

Last night was short ribs over polenta preceded by antipasto on the patio and our go-to wine, Ghost Pines. Hubby making his cameo.

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Quick dinner…

Need a quick, healthy dish that is super tasty?

Add well cleaned, chopped escarole to rapidly boiling water (add a chicken bullion cube for extra flavor and to remove any bitterness from the escarole), cook for 7 minutes, strain and refresh with cold water. Then, sauté shrimp with a little EVOO, butter, lemon, garlic, red onion, fresh cherry tomatoes that have been halved, pepper, fresh cilantro (I have this growing on my patio so I’ve been adding that to everything!) When shrimp is cooked add escarole and combine. Viola! Dinner is served.

Pro-tip: This is a good recipe to improvise on – i.e. get rid of any vegetables that you have in the fridge – you can toss anything into this dish and it will come out great!

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Easy side dish…

If you need a healthy, easy to prepare side dish try this:

Buy a bag of fresh string beans (haricot verts if you’re fancy) snip off the stem side (top of picture below):

Snip off the stem side (top of picture below):

After snipping and cleaning, submerge the string beans into rapidly boiling, salted water and cook for 7-8 minutes (we like ours on the crunchy side but if you don’t, just cook longer). When done cooking, blanch the string beans by dumping into strainer and rinsing with very cold ice water. Blanching the string beans will bring back the bright green color of the string beans

(Science tip: Blanching stops enzyme actions which would otherwise cause loss of flavor, color and texture.)

Place blanched string beans in serving dish, drizzle with a little EVOO, season with kosher salt, pepper and diced red onion (or whatever spices you like) and serve!

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Chili even when it’s hot out

I did an experiment the other day and tossed two packages of ground turkey, chopped red, yellow and green peppers (one of each) a chopped onion, cilantro, salt & pepper, taco seasoning and a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes into my slow cooker. I cooked it for six hours on high.

It came out great! I topped with some shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped red onions and fresh diced jalapeños and it was both a great presentation and delicious.

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A nod to Cod…

One of my favorite fish is Cod. I drizzle filets with a little EVOO, pepper or blackening seasoning and bake in the oven at 350 for about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the filet.

I served this the other night over a bed of sautéed Brussel sprouts with bits of pre-cooked bacon tossed in with crushed grape tomatoes on the bottom layer.

Super fast, fresh and healthy.

Pro-tip: Half the Brussel sprouts and sauté in EVOO for about 15 minutes until softened, but so they still have a bit of crunch. When cooked, toss in the bits of pre-cooked bacon for added flavor. No need to salt if you use the bacon.

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Eating Al Fresco…

Now that the weather is getting nice we’ve been eating on the patio. I absolutely love eating outside with the fountain on and the great view that we have, it’s restorative.

We found a place nearby (shout out to https://naturesfoodpatch.com/) where they make their own sausages filled with unusual and tasty fillings (i.e. a chicken sausage with broccoli rabe and cheese and and pork sausage with bacon). We tossed some shrimp, asparagus, little neck clams and a filet mignon that we butterflied right onto a hot grill. We also had a side of our homemade pickles (see my pickle recipe: here )

Pro-tip: For the little neck clams, soak them in fresh water with a tablespoon of flour (this makes them release any sand they may be holding onto). Then put on hot grill until they pop open. Serve with melted butter mixed with garlic, a splash of fresh squeezed lemon and a little cilantro or parsley.

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Shrimp of the week…

This dish was so delicious and simple. I always say that you just need to start with the freshest, closest ingredients you can find and whatever you make will turn out great. I started with some cherry tomatoes that I halved. I put them in a baking dish with a few cloves of garlic, Kalamata olives, some fresh oregano, basil and mint from the garden, drizzled the mix with olive oil and seasoned with S&P. I would have put a block of feta cheese right in the middle of it…but the husband…I baked the dish for about 40 minutes at 350 (I then removed half for hubby and added feta cheese to the rest and baked for another 10 minutes).

Next, I simply sautéed my shrimp in a little EVOO and a pat of butter along with some Vidalia onion, garlic and seasoning.

To plate this dish: I served it over cauliflower rice, so I plated that first, topped with shrimp, then with the baked tomato concoction. It was delicious, easy, hearty and a dish that I will definitely make again.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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Chicken of the Sea

We love fresh ahi grade tuna. When my fish monger has it we’ll buy a small steak, pepper crust it with fresh cracked black pepper and simply sauté it in a little EVOO for about a minute and half per side. I serve it with a little wasabi and low sodium soy sauce, it’s a great appetizer and so delicious.

Pro-tip: This was cooked a bit more than we like (thanks to my ADD) but still flavorful.

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Poppers…

Last week at the farmer’s market I couldn’t resist buying a bucket of the most ginourmous jalapeños that I’ve ever seen. I had no idea what to do with them, I considered pickling them or making a jelly. I wound up making poppers, which was fun and will make for a good appetizer or keto snack.

This dish would be fun to make with the kids. I just seasoned some cream cheese (salt & pepper) cut the stems off the peppers, cut a slit down one side of the pepper and stuffed with about a tablespoon of the cream cheese. I then wrapped an uncooked slice of bacon around each pepper and secured with a toothpick. I chose to freeze these, when I’m ready to cook I’ll defrost, remove toothpick and bake them at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Low carbing…

We needed a quick low carb dinner after a long day, followed by a walk to the beach to see a gorgeous sunset. We wound up making zucchini fritters and BLTs on lettuce wraps. Delicious and low carb.

I never made the zucchini fritters before. What I did was grate up two zucchinis using my food processor (you could also use a box grater). I set the grated zucchini in a bowl, salted in and let it sit for an hour (the salt draws out the water). I then squeezed handfuls of the zucchini to get any residual water out and placed back in a dry bowl. I added seasoning (salt, pepper, minced garlic and 1/2 packet of Sazon – I’d love to add some parmesan to this, but the husband…), one egg and enough almond flour to bind the mixture. I pan fried the fritters, but you could also bake in the oven. They came out great. You can serve with a little tzatziki or even ranch dip on the side.

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A small fire…

Two things about me: 1) I rarely use the microwave. Ours in fact, has been broken for months. The only button that works is the “add 30 seconds button” that I will occasionally use to warm something up (3 x 30 seconds lol). For the most part the microwave is just large clock in my kitchen. The other thing about me is that both my daughter and I are obsessed with Trader Joe’s. There isn’t one close to me in Clearwater, which is rough since I used to live around the corner from one in New York. We always ponder what we call the “Trader Joe’s Parking Lot Phenomena”. People seem to loose their minds in the excitement of being at a Trader Joe’s and forget that they’re actually driving. Every Trader Joe’s parking lot is a shit show. I’ve seen maneuvers and accidents in these parking lots that are pretty incredible. @TraderJoesRants – anyone have any idea what is happening in these parking lots?

Well yesterday I needed some retail therapy so I drove 40 minutes to get to the nearest Trader Joe’s (in St. Pete). I knew what to expect and was not disappointed. There’s a certain calm that comes over me when every location of a store chain that I love is set up the same way and your not standing in a random isle confused and lost. For $50 I got quite a bounty. One of the items that I was excited about was a bag of frozen mushrooms, which I decided to microwave – without reading the instructions. After a small fire erupted in the microwave, my husband was happy to point out the clearly explained “DO NOT MICROWAVE” instruction on the packaging. Oh well.

This is my bounty:

And this is the small fire…

Anyway, in the end I made a great stir-fry of shrimp over cauliflower rice (sans the mushrooms) with mixed veggies. It was healthy and yummy. The Argentinian Red Shrimp from Trader Joe’s were excellent, I highly recommend.

Shout out to Trader Joe’s in St. Pete that had not only the normal great stuff that we love but a wine selection that was very impressive!

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What a crock…

I love coming home to the smell of something that’s been cooking for hours. This recipe I found online is a keeper. It takes a bit of prep, but it’s totally worth it. I made a few adjustments including leaving out the sugar and using low fat yogurt. Since we’re watching our carbs I served this over zucchini linguine, which I sautéed in EVOO before serving. You can find the recipe here:

https://sweetandsavorymeals.com/slow-cooker-butter-chicken/

This dish was super flavorful, aromatic and delicious.

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The Famous Mississippi Pot Roast…

So, for any of you on social media and/or various food blogs you’ve seen the hoopla around the “Mississippi Pot Roast”. I’m not a big pot roast person but I do love an easy crock pot meal during a busy week, so I thought I’d give this a go. I followed the recipe exactly (which I NEVER do). Since it’s only four ingredients I thought, what could go wrong? The four ingredients are: a chuck roast (mine was about 2 pounds), 5 pepperoncinis, 1 packet of dry ranch dressing, 1 packet of dry au jus gravy mix.

I chose to brown the chuck roast in a skillet for about 5 minutes per side to enhance the flavor (you can skip this step, but I think it’s worth doing). Then I placed chuck roast in my crock pot, topped with packet of dressing and packet of au jus and laid the 5 pepperoncinis on top of that. You add no liquid to the crock pot – I know this seems counterintuitive but trust me, the meat releases a lot of liquid as it cooks. Set for 8.5 hours on low and wait for the magic to happen.

I served zucchini soup as an appetizer. As sides I made roasted asparagus and cauliflower mashed. Message me if you want the cauliflower mashed recipe, it’s really good!

Pro-tip: This dish came out delicious, the meat – while it shrunk about 50% in size – was tender and flavorful. For my taste the dish was a little salty. Next time I would add only 1/2 of each dry packet and add a little fresh ground pepper. I think if you wanted to add some carrots and potatoes about half way through the cooking process this might absorb some of the salt.

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Seaworthy…

There’s nothing like super fresh, simply prepared seafood. We’re lucky to be on the Gulf where seafood is both fresh and abundant. Tonight we started with some sautéed shrimp (just sauté in EVOO and/or a little butter with a bit of garlic and whatever spices you like, i.e. pepper, blackening seasoning, chili peppers).

Then, for the main course, I blackened some fresh cod and baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees (I cooked the cod over some sliced Vidalia onion for flavor). It was perfectly cooked. Cod is mild with large flakes and needs to be seasoned. This is the same fish that I use for fish and chips. I bought a one pound piece of cod, which was enough for two people. I found no bones in the cod, which is usually the case.

My new penchant for blackening seasoning started with this Old Bay product. I love it and it’s not super salty.

I plated the cod over broccoli rabe with some of the onion from the baking dish. Of course serve with fresh lemon. Enjoy!

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When the kids come home…

As I’ve mentioned, my daughter and her boyfriend recently got their own apartment about 20 minutes away from us, it’s a milestone for us all. They came for dinner last night. The day before, I asked the princess what she wanted me to cook. Her response was, “Can you send me a few options and I’ll pick one. Also mommy, I’d love brie and crackers as an appetizer…” So you see what I’ve created here. My fault, entirely.

We settled on polenta, broccoli rabe and sautéed shrimp. This is a super easy, dish that’s healthy, tasty and filling. I start by preparing the broccoli rabe, which if you read this blog regularly you’ll know the drill. Boil water with chicken bullion, add chopped broccoli rabe, cook for 6 minutes, strain, blanche and set aside. Then, sauté shrimp with chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and a little EVOO (I actually used sesame oil because I was out of EVOO. This added an aromatic flavor that really went well with the shrimp.) Then add the strained broccoli rabe to the shrimp. Add a little crushed red pepper and set pan aside.

Now to prepare polenta – I use chicken broth to make the polenta, this gives it a rich taste. Follow the instructions on the packaging. Basically – don’t stop stirring! I use a whisk. You’ll need to add more polenta very slowly to get the desired consistency. Some folks like polenta very thin and soupy, others like it thicker and more like a pasta – we’re in the middle. When it’s nearly done I add a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons of mascarpone to thicken it up and flavor it. I also top with a few chopped scallions to add a crunch and a pop of color.

Pro-tip: When we were in Mexico last year we found this great seasoning that I like to add to seafood. It’s called Tajin – it’s actually a combination of dried chili peppers, dehydrated lime, and sea salt. I seasoned my shrimp in this before sautéing. I also think this would be great to use to rim a glass for a Bloody Mary. I may need to try that this weekend – I’ll let you know!

That’s it! This entire dish took about 20 minutes to prepare so it’s a good work week go-to recipe. Enjoy!

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Sunday brunch…

My daughter recently moved out, into the big world! We had her and her boyfriend over for Sunday brunch today, it was fun to again cook for more than two people (I may have gone a little overboard). We started with mini-quiches followed by fresh banana bread, a Stromboli and a tossed salad.

I cook the mini-quiches in a cupcake tin. I put whatever fillers I’m using (these were filled with spinach, feta, olives and artichoke hearts) into a buttered cup then top off with scrambled raw egg. Bake for 20 minutes until egg is cooked through and serve immediately.

Pro-tip: Sauté freshly chopped spinach slightly before adding to tins. Also make sure all fillers are roughly chopped.

The banana bread – truth – from a box mix – and there’s not a crumb left so I guess it was good.

Stromboli is super fun to make. You can use any ingredients that you have on hand and you can make it either sweet or savory. The one I made today used only half a pizza dough (from our local pizzeria) and was topped with ham, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, spinach and cherry tomatoes. Bake for about 40 minutes, cut and serve!

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Appetizers, Mezze, Antipasto, Tapas…

We’ve been into little dishes lately. Usually meatballs are reserved for Sunday sauce but this week we turned them into an appetizer. For this batch I used a mix of ground beef and ground pork (you could also use veal or ground chicken or turkey). I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, crushed red pepper and fresh minced mint. For the binder I used an egg and panko bread crumbs. (I would advise you to add some fresh grated parmesan cheese…which I can’t do because SOMEONE doesn’t eat cheese…)

I baked these babies in the over at 350 for about 30 minutes and served with a side of spicy mayo. They smelled great and the pop of mint was amazing.

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Low carb and yummy…

Spaghetti squash is our new go to lately. It’s super versatile, easy to prepare and low carb/calorie. The hardest part of this squash is cutting it open!

To prepare this dish I halved a spaghetti squash and removed the seeds. I then seasoned with a little EVOO, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (you can add whatever seasonings you’d like). Place cut side down in a baking pan and toss in pre-heated 350 degree oven for about an hour (depending on size). You can tell it’s done by poking a fork in the squash – if it goes in easily it’s done.

The fun part is the toppings – we’re trying to empty out our freezer so I’m using everything in there. I sautéed some sausage and shrimp (adding garlic, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper). I also had some left over escarole and frozen peas which I added.

To plate this dish I first scooped out the spaghetti squash, topped with escarole, then topped that with the shrimp & sausage, pea sauté. Of course a healthy sprinkling of parmesan makes everything better. It was super flavorful and filled us up!

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Freshness overload

Last night’s dinner was a go-to for us. Chicken cutlet with bruschetta. My bruschetta changes depending on what looks fresh in the produce department. I was lucky enough to be in Astoria the other day and shopped at my favorite grocery store (shout out to Berry Fresh on Ditmars). So for this bruschetta I incorporated fresh cucumbers, dill, tomatoes, red onion, chopped Greek olives, a fabulous feta cheese and a good quality EVOO. I mix this all together with a little kosher salt & pepper and let it get cozy in the fridge for about an hour so that all the flavors come together. Take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.

You can use this bruschetta on top of any protein you like. Last night I fried up some chicken cutlets and plated it all on top of some of steamed broccoli rabe and a side of tzatziki.

Pro-tip: when you steam the broccoli rabe add a bullion cube to the boiling water, this takes the bitterness out of the broccoli rabe. Also, I drain the cooked broccoli rabe then quickly sauté it with a little garlic, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes (just long enough to incorporate all the spices).

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Comfort food…

Life is chaos right now so I needed comfort food dish that would not be stressful to make. Orecchiette, sausage, shrimp and broccoli rabe was just that dish last night.

Start by blanching coarsely chopped broccoli rabe (add a bullion cube to the boiling water to take the bitterness away). Then sauté de-cased sausage, shrimp, a little crushed red pepper and of course a little (or a lot) of crushed garlic. Once the sausage and shrimp are cooked through add the cooked (al dente!) orecchiette and mixed it all together. Add a few ladle fulls of the pasta water to create a bit of a broth.

Voila! Super flavorful, satisfying and easy to do. You can totally switch out the proteins here (think chicken, lobster, cod…)

Pro-tip: Add a touch of cream or mascarpone to thicken up the broth and deepen the flavor.

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A BBQ Kind of Night…

I have been jonesing for a BBQ. I don’t ever BBQ for myself because I never seem to figure out temperatures, so I leave that to my hubby. I’ll throw anything on the grill and just know it will taste better. So for this BBQ, we started with some fresh clams with butter. Literally just soak the clams for 30 minutes before cooking to get them to release any sand and toss them on the BBQ until they open. A little melted butter for dunking just makes it even better. And of course we had to throw some shrimp on the barbie too…

After that yummy appetizer, we prepared some steaks (don’t forget to leave them out before cooking – never cook a steak straight from the fridge). Simply salt & pepper and ready to grill. I love a ribeye and hubby goes for a filet mignon so we need to adjust our cooking times. We also wrapped up some potatoes in aluminum foil – get these on the grill way before the steaks as they’ll need more time to cook.

As a side dish, I made an old school recipe that I haven’t made in million years – escarole with white beans. I actually had to call a friend to remind me how to make this. You really have to clean the escarole well as it tends to be sandy. After that, roughly chop and blanch for 7 minutes (I add a bullion cube to the boiling water, which takes some of the bitterness out of the escarole), strain the cooked escarole and immediately rinse with cold water to bring back that pretty green color. Sauté minced garlic in a little EVOO, add escarole, warm through, add a can of rinsed white beans, warm through, season with salt & pepper and serve. I could have this as a main dish, it was really flavorful and filling.

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Bean, beans, good for the heart…

I have a funny memory of my Italian grandparents getting into an epic fight about burnt lentils. They were both great cooks so kitchen disasters were not common, maybe that’s why I have never cooked lentils before. It’s a cold miserable day here today, so I experimented with lentils, making a super flavorful, hearty soup. Here’s what I used:

Ingredients:

Trilogy (all diced: 1 onion, 2 stalks celery and 2 carrots)
1 clove of garlic diced
2 cups red lentils
8 cups of vegetable broth
4 cups of roughly chopped baby spinach
1 cup of coconut milk

Here’s how to make the magic happen.

In a large pot, saute the trilogy in a little EVOO. Season with salt & pepper. When barely soft (about 7 minutes) toss in rinsed lentils (just put them in a strainer and rinse under cold water). Add the vegetable broth and stir to incorporate. Under fairly high heat bring soup to a boil. Stir together and cover pot and reduce heat to low. Let this cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes the lentils will be tender and the consistency will be on the thicker side. Remove from heat and add the spinach, stirring into the soup and cover for 5 minutes. Stir again to blend the now wilted spinach and add coconut milk. Warm up on low flame for another five minutes and voila!

I really liked this dish. It was a hearty lunch and something I’ve never made before. I think my grandparents would be proud LOL.


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Protein Bowl Kick…

I seem to be on a protein bowl kick. I think they’re super fun to make and have endless variations. Low carb, full of flavor and fresh veggies and protein.

This yummy bowl started with blackened shrimp (my new obsession – I use Old Bay Blackening mix, it’s great and not super salty). I simply sprinkle the shrimp with the seasoning and saute them quickly in my wok. When cooked, I removed the shrimp from the wok and quickly stir fried the black beans, diced tomatoes, red bell pepper, red onion, and jalapeno.

For the layers I started with spaghetti squash (which I had leftover and just warmed up) followed by the stir fried veggies, shrimp, avocado and a little cheddar to top it off.