Recipe: Chardonnay Pesto Shrimp & Pasta

I started planning dinner before I left for work this morning.  I didn’t do anything as adventurous as get out the crock pot and start dinner… nope….  I just started thinking about what I wanted to make that evening.  Such is my life when I get to talk about wine all day.  Mind you, I’m definitely not complaining… just making an observation.  When I lead guests through a wine tasting at James River Cellars Winery, I gloss over recipe ideas and offer up ways to use the various wines we have to offer.  It’s the way I’ve always done wine tastings, but apparently it’s unique enough that people are stunned when I toss out recipe after recipe for our wines.  Thankfully, the winery owners have allowed my blog to be linked to the winery’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter account – guess I’m doing something right, huh?

I stopped off at the local grocery store to pick up a bag of shrimp on my wayChardonnayPestoShrimp&Pasta home and grabbed a tube of Pesto paste to use, along with some bow tie pasta.  I thawed, peeled, and sliced  the shrimp in half when I got home so that dinner prep would be as simple as possible.  Then I got out the rest of my ingredients:  a lemon, a pat of butter, olive oil, James River Cellars Winery Chardonnay, and a touch of half & half left over from another meal this week.  Once my husband got home, I was ready to start cooking.

I put some of the bow tie pasta into a pot with some salted water and got that started while I melted butter and olive oil in a large saute pan.  As soon as the butter/oil mixture was hot, I added the shrimp and allowed it to cook thoroughly – I had sliced the shrimp length-wise so the thin shrimp pieces curled up into little corkscrews.  Once the shrimp was cooked, it was time to start creating a sauce.

I made the sauce with the shrimp in the pan.  Sometimes I’ll remove the shrimp, but I was feeling a little lazy tonight and didn’t do this extra step.  I added some wine to the shrimp and let it sizzle for a bit until the chardonnay had almost been absorbed by the shrimp.  I then added the juice of the lemon, some pesto paste, a little more wine, a splash of half & half, and some of the pasta cooking liquid.  I allowed this to simmer until the sauce looked thick enough before I tossed everything with the cooked pasta.  It was quick and delicious!

The entire meal, cooking from start to finish, really only took about 15 minutes.  I even had enough time to defrost and toast a ciabatta roll so we could each have half to soak up the sauce.   While there are tons of different things I could have added or changed about this recipe, the clean taste of the wine, lemon, and shrimp paired with the pasta was just what I was looking for tonight.

I hope you’ll experiment with this recipe and come up with your own favorite version… it’s one of my favorite things to do.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Wine’d Up Kale Pesto

I have a college friend who has a Paleo-focused blog that I just love.  If this sounds like something interesting to you, I would encourage you to check out her blog (MomUncorked) as she has lots of recipes, helpful hints, and thoughts on how and why to follow this lifestyle.  While this plan is not for me, I really enjoy looking through her recipes and playing with them until they become something that would better fit my family’s eating habits.

Kale Pesto

This recipe is a mash-up of a pesto recipe that my niece posted on her blog (Peanut Butter Fingers) and one that my Paleo-friend has created on her blog.  It’s a Kale Pesto that incorporates wine… James River Cellars’ Hanover White Wine to be exact.  If you don’t have access to this lovely sweet white wine, I would suggest trying a Vidal Blanc or even a Sauvignon Blanc that has a bit of residual sugar.  You don’t want to use something as sweet or bubbly as a Moscato, but a little sugar isn’t a bad thing against the bitter taste of the raw kale in this recipe.

Enough of the lead in…. let me tell you how I made this fun recipe, using actual measurements, no less!.  Using my small food processor, I popped a large handful of chopped kale into the bowl, along with a few crushed garlic cloves1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup walnuts, and 1/8 cup pine nuts and began processing everything to a fine crush.  When it began whirling around, there didn’t look to be enough kale, so I added another small handful and continued to process the pesto.   I alternated between using the pulse setting and the continual setting until all the kale and the nuts seemed uniformly crushed.

Once the pesto started looking like… well… pesto, I turned the machine to the “on” position and slowly drizzled equal amounts of olive oil and Hanover White wine until the pesto was smooth and sauce-like.  I started with the olive oil, added wine, then went back to olive oil and finished with some wine.  It was definitely a “Using the Force” sort of situation and I stopped to taste-test before deciding it was finished.  I also added some freshly ground salt and pepper, seasoning the pesto to my preferred taste.

This recipe is definitely one that I will continue to keep in my fridge. It’s just sooo versatile!  I’ve used it as a sandwich condiment (fabulous on a BLT or even a simple tomato sandwich), I’ve added it to pasta (with a little warm cooking liquid, it softens and adds so much to a side dish), and even added some cream instead of cooking liquid for a creamier pesto dish with chicken or shrimp that is really yummy.   While kale is not my first choice for a green vegetable, it has some amazingly great dietary stats that make it something worth adding to your diet if you are willing.

Want an added bit of knowledge?  If you massage your kale leaves before using them, you can remove some of the bitterness of this hearty green.  Don’t believe me?  Read this great article from the Huffington Post that explains the why, what, how, and “really??” of this cool trick.

I hope you’ll consider trying this pesto recipe… with all the benefits out there about kale, it’s worth a whirl!

“Whirl”… get it?

Have a great and healthy day!

Recipe: A new twist on Pizza

I love making pizzas with my family. I say pizza with an “S” because I end up making individual pizzas for each of us… I halve, double, or make regular portions of my version of a Weight Watchers whole wheat pizza dough recipe and go from there, depending on who’s having dinner with us that evening. For M, it’s ham and pepperoni… for D, it’s a cheese pizza… if we’re including E for dinner, it’s just pepperoni… but for me, it’s a special black bean and corn salsa pizza. Doesn’t this look delicious?

Here’s how I start. The pizza dough recipe is supposed to make eight servings. After trying to make individual pizzas from this single recipe, I’ve learned that I need to either make 1.5 recipes or double to make four large enough pizzas to feed my guys… it takes A LOT to fill them up… but I digress. Here are the directions to make my pizza dough:

WW Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes 8 servings

Sponge:

2 t active dry yeast

¼ cup lukewarm water

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Pizza Dough:

½ cup fat-free milk

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat flour

¼ t salt

2 pkt equal

1. To prepare sponge, in a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over the water; when the yeast looks wet, add flour and stir hard. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let stand at room temperature for about 40 minutes.

2. To make the dough, stir the milk into the sponge. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt and equal. Add to the sponge and stir to blend.

3. Lightly sprinkle work surface with flour. Turn out the dough; knead until it become elastic and resilient, 10-12 minutes. *This is important… dough needs to be kneaded thoroughly for this to work.

4. Spray a large bowl with Pam, place dough in bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, 45-60 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Punch down dough, lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour and roll out dough to a 14” circle. Transfer dough to a baking sheet, arrange toppings and bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Per serving: 3 PointsPlus (1/8)

My NOTE: I make this dough into four individual pizzas that are rectangular and approximately 7”x14” (?). The pizzas are very thin, but I can cut them into 6-8 individual slices and be able to have my own pizza using 6 points for the dough. Totally worth it, imho…

Once the dough is done, I form each person’s pizza. For mine, I roll it into a rectangle (as noted above) and then spray with Pam and sprinkle garlic powder on top. I’m now ready to mix up my version of black bean and corn salsa. Using The Force, I mix a can of drained/rinsed black beans, an equal amount of fresh corn off the cob (or a can, drained and rinsed), mild salsa, some taco seasonings and some Cabernet Sauvignon. I like to also add a spoonful of pesto to add some depth to the taste and use about 1 cup of this mixture to top my pizza. The pesto recipe that I like best is one that my niece created and posted on her blog, PB Fingers and called Sunflower Seed and Walnut Pesto (http://www.pbfingers.com/2012/06/26/sunflower-seed-and-walnut-pesto/). If you want to read her blog, Peanut Butter Fingers, use this link and follow her for some terrific new recipes and great fitness ideas (http://www.pbfingers.com/). I would read this blog every day even if she wasn’t my niece!

After topping the pizza with your salsa, add your favorite cheese blend and follow the cooking directions as noted above. I used a blend of Asiago and Parmesan cheeses in the pizza I made the other night. Here’s how yummy it looked when I pulled it out of the oven.

I like to cut my pizza into 8 pieces and eat it with a knife and fork. There’s so much on top of this pizza crust that it’s just impossible to pick up and eat any other way. I hope you’ll try this pizza dough recipe sometime and play around with different toppings on your own pizza. There are franchises out there that make big money creating bizarre blends for pizzas… take a chance and create something that’s totally yours. You might be stunned at how well it all turns out!