Monthly Archives: March 2009

Simply Sinful Shrimpy Mac ‘n’ Cheese

About a month ago, I had a terrible craving for mac ‘n’ cheese.  Recipes were floating around all over the food blog circuit and I kept seeing it on TV.  I just couldn’t seem to get away from it!  So I attempted to whip some together, after work one day, and failed…pretty miserably.  I was rushed and I think I just wanted it too badly.  What I got was a decent tasting pasta dish, but it was not mac ‘n’ cheese, it was not ooey gooey and awesome, it was a little dry and just okay.  My craving was not satisfied.  I tried again last week, and I hit a home run.  I still didn’t really plan ahead so I had to work with what I had on hand…a great mixture of three cheeses, some wine, and frozen shrimp.  This is not a traditional, homey mac ‘n’ cheese, it’s rather gourmet and definitely more for the foodie crowd, so mac ‘n’ cheese traditionalists should beware.  My hubby and I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait to make another batch.

Ingredients

A few of your fave Cheeses (I used Rosey Goat, Cheddar, and Parm)

Short-Cut Pasta (like elbows, penne, etc. I used whole wheat)

Milk

Dijon Mustard

White Wine

All-Purpose Flour

Shrimp (Frozen or Fresh)

Onion

Garlic

Nutmeg

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Kosher Salt

Butter

Process

First, set a large pot of water to boil for your pasta.  Then sautee enough shrimp to suit your fancy, in a large heated skillet.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until just pink.

003While the shrimp cooks, preheat your broiler and finely chop the onion and garlic.  You can also start bringing a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.  When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente (still a little firm).

0041When the shrimp is cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside.  In the same pan, melt a couple tablespoons of butter and add the onions and garlic.

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Cook until softened and sprinkle in a couple tablespoons of flour.  Season with salt and pepper and mix well, until flour is smooth.

0081Allow the roux to cook out for a few minutes.  While it does so, shred up a heaping pile of cheese.

002At this point, your shrimp should be cool enough to handle, and you can cut them up into bite size pieces (you can also leave them whole, I just think this dish eats better with the shrimp in smaller pieces).

007When the roux has darkened just a tad in color and no longer tastes pasty, you can begin adding liquid.  I started by adding in the wine.

0111Stir rapidly until everything smooths out and allow to come to a boil.  The alcohol must be cooked out before you add the milk, or the sauce will curdle.

0122Then add milk until sauce reaches desired amount and consistency.  Remember you want enough to coat all of your pasta and a little extra.

013Season with salt and pepper, add a dijon mustard to taste, and just a touch of nutmeg, bring to a boil.

015Next stir in all but a few tablespoons of the cheese and continue stirring until melted and completely incorporated.

016At this point, you should check your pasta for doneness, strain it when it’s ready, and return it to the pot.  Then stir your shrimp into the cheese sauce.

0171Pour the sauce into the pot of pasta and gently stir until every noodle is coated (note how I’m using two different pastas, this is not technique my friends, this is lack of planning…still tastes good though).

0181Add more seasoning if necessary, transfer to a baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and pop into the broiler.

0192Remove from the broiler when the top is brown and bubbly.

0201Serve it up and indulge in this cheesy delight.

0222ENJOY!

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Filed under casseroles, Pasta, Seafood, Uncategorized

Tastemaker Review: Recchiuti Confections

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You can not get more gourmet than Recchiuti.  My friends over at FoodBuzz have outdone themselves once again, providing me with another product that I love more and more every time I indulge.  Hailing from San Francisco, owner, entrepreneur, and true chocolatier, Michael Recchiuti has created a product unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, and I have reason to believe that the incredibly addictive Asphalt Jungle Mix from his Dragee line is only the tip of the iceberg.

0221An unbelievably satisfying snack of balanced salty sweet nuggets and chewy, melty, and crunchy textures, it meets every demand of the tastebuds with smooth panacea and elegance.  My favorite are the burnt caramel hazelnuts and almonds.  The burnt caramel itself is a signature of Recchiuti.  From the first taste of these nuts, I was intrigued.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made them so delightful, but  after a quick visit to Recchiuti.com, it all made sense.  That perfect balance of salty sweetness came from the alluring flavor of delicately burnt caramel mixing with gently roasted nuts.  I couldn’t ask for anything more in a chocolatey treat, but Recchiuti has lots more to offer and for such an upscale, high-quality product, the prices aren’t too bad either.  The Dragees run at only 12 dollars for a 6 ounce box.  In fact, I may even order one of their many other selections.  Who could resist such innovative flavors as Rose Caramel, Bergamot Tea, and Tarragon Grapefruit?  Not me that’s for sure!  And, don’t even get me started on how badly I want to try their brownies!  I’ll be sure to let you know if I do.

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Filed under Silly Stuff

Almost Blackened Chinese Chicken

This Make Your Own Takeout installment made a fantastically quick and easy Saturday night supper.  It involved absolutely no planning (with the exception of defrosting the chicken), and honestly came together as I went along.  After work last Saturday, I threw together the marinade, added the chicken, and went for a nice long bike ride with my hubby.  When we returned, of course we were ravenous, and I was so glad that all I had to do was sautee the chicken, and throw together some quick sides.  Dinner was on the table in less than 20 minutes, candlelight, music, and all.  Combined with some quick-cooking brown rice and stir-fried veggies, neither of us missed our local Chinese joint one bit.

Ingredients

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

Garlic

Ginger Root

Soy Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Paprika

Cayenne Pepper

Cinnamon

Lemon Juice

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Cooking Spray

Process

Start by trimming and cleaning up your chicken.  Then you can prepare the marinade.  I love to marinate anything in zip-top storage bags, it makes for easy clean up and all around marination, but of course, you can use any bowl or dish.  Peel and finely mince several cloves of garlic and a good knob of fresh ginger root (the Microplane is excellent for this), and add it to your marinating receptacle of choice.

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Now, add the soy sauce, hoisin, and some lemon juice (I’m not gonna lie, I usually use fresh, but I didn’t have any, and as I mentioned, this involved no planning, so I used bottled…frown on me if you like).  Then add several sprinkles of all of the seasonings.  I normally add a little more than I would use to season the meat, to the marinade (mental images help on this one).

030Now, woosh it all around to combine.

031Add the chicken, and give it another woosh.  Then set aside and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (if you’re using the bag, make sure to seal it), mine was in for about an hour and a half.

032When you’re ready for dinner, lightly mist a skillet with cooking spray and allow to get very hot.  Add your chicken to the pan.

034Now, don’t mess with them!  You want to let them caramelize (that is, allow the sugars from the marinade to brown on the chicken).  When you’ve achieved a nice dark brown, almost burned looking crust, you can flip them over.  And just believe me, those dark bits are awesome!

035Don’t be scared!  Now allow the second side to get equally caramelized and the chicken to cook through.  If your chicken breasts are a little bit thicker, you may need to lower the fire so that they can cook through without the outside burning.

036Conserve your money, save your time, and ENJOY!

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Filed under Chicken, Ethnic, Make Your Own Takeout

Healthified: Pastelillos

A pastelillo is basically the Puerto Rican version of an empanada.  I grew up eating them and definitely consider them a comfort food.  One more plus…DH is practically a slave to them!  The only problem is, they basically consist of deep-fried pastry dough and greasy ground beef:  not exactly figure-friendly.  While I don’t want to completely sacrifice the essence of the dish, I want to be able to eat them more often, without the guilt.  So with this post…I’ve decided to officially launch a brand spankin’ new category:  “Healthified!”  Because yes, like so many people, after Christmas I vowed to do whatever I could to stay healthy and become more fit.  I’m not really the type to totally give up things that I love; I believe in enjoying life, and clearly, for me food is a big part of that.  To achieve my goals,  I’ve been altering some traditionally unhealthy meals to make them more suited to my efforts (and of course, bumping up my exercise routine!).  I’m not giving up cheese, or meat, or carbs, or really anything, I’m just modifying and moderating.  I hope you all enjoy my efforts and join me by making a change, so that you can be a better you, too.

Ingredients

Onions

Garlic

Bell Pepper

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

Spanish Green Olives (Alcaparrado or Manzanilla)

Goya Adobo (con pimiento)

Goya Sazon (con culantro y achiote)

Bay Leaves (dry or fresh)

Tomato Sauce

Goya Discos Grande (freezer section, make sure to defrost ahead of time)

Ground Beef (as lean as you can afford)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Note:  I would normally use fresh cilantro, as well, but I didn’t have any, so I skipped it and the recipe still turned out delish.

Process

Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees.  Then heat a drizzle of olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  While the pan heats up, finely chop all of your veggies.

001Then add the veggies to the pan, and season with salt and pepper.

004Saute until veggies soften and onions begin to go translucent.

008Add in the ground beef and allow the first side to brown up.

010When the bottom is nicely browned, turn and allow to cook through and mix with veggies.  Drain off any excess grease.

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Next, season to taste with the Adobo, Sazon, and more salt and pepper, if needed.  Then add tomato sauce (enough to really move everything around and coat the mixture), bay leaves, and olives.

012Stir well to incorporate and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

014Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves, and allow to cool for a few minutes.  While you wait, carefully separate your discs, lay the first one out and fill one half with a small amount of meat mixture.

017Fold over disc so that edges meet.

018Use a fork to seal and crimp edges.  Repeat this process until all of the discs are filled and sealed.

019Cover a cookie sheet with a silpat, parchment paper, or a light coating of cooking spray.  Then place each pastelillo on the cookie sheet and lightly mist with cooking spray.

021Bake 10-15 minutes until crust is bubbly and crisp.

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My baked, healthified version.

The original deep-fried version.

The original deep-fried version.

Allow to cool just a bit (they will be very, very hot right out of the oven) serve with a simply dressed salad, and ENJOY!

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Filed under Beef, Ethnic, Healthified, Make Your Own Takeout, Uncategorized