Starter Recipe: Easy Lemon Shrimp

It’s been awhile since I last wrote… but that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped cooking, or planning out recipes for this blog! Here’s an amazing (and easy) recipe that is sure to impress even the pickiest of guests who enjoy shrimp.  I love pulling a dinner together in under 20-30 minutes, and this recipe is one that delivers every single time.  I hope you’ll try it and make it your own!

Ingredients:EasyLemonShrimp

1 bag of frozen raw shrimp (I buy mine whenever they’re on sale at the local grocer and keep them in the freezer… anything sized large or above is worth the money, in my opinion)

1 lemon

1 jar of your favorite preserves (I happen to like using fig preserves these days, but apricot or any light colored fruit would work well)

Butter (just a pat to sear the shrimp) and olive oil (just 1T for searing shrimp)

Wine (or your preferred liquid of choice)

1 package microwave brown rice (for convenience… feel free to use the cheaper stuff if you’d prefer)

Directions:

  1. Peel shrimp and have them ready to cook.  I always remove the tails because I hate the idea of having to put the empty tail shell back on my plate.  I also like to salt/pepper my shrimp prior to cooking, but it’s up to you if you want to do this step.
  2. Put butter and olive oil into a large skillet and turn the heat on to medium high.  Allow the fats to mingle and get really hot..
  3. Sear shrimp on both sides in the hot butter/oil mixture – my husband likes them to have a bit of “crisp” to the edges, so that’s how I make it in our house.  Just make sure the shrimp is thoroughly cooked before making your sauce.
  4. In a small bowl, make your sauce using the juice of the lemon, some wine (I used a half cup of sparkling white wine that we had in the fridge, but feel free to use whatever you have), and a few spoonfuls of preserves.  Mix everything together.
  5. Add sauce to the cooked shrimp and allow to thicken.
  6. Pop brown rice in the microwave and cook on high for 90 seconds (this is why I prefer to use this type of rice… so easy and quick!)
  7. Once the sauce has thickened, plate your meal with some brown rice, spoon the shrimp evenly between the dishes, and pour over the sauce.
  8. Yes, it’s just THAT easy.  Now, enjoy the compliments that come raining your way.

I have altered this recipe in many different ways, but I really love the way that lemon compliments shrimp.  If you want, you can make a vegetable and top the veggie with some lemon zest… brings all parts of the meal together nicely.  Last time, I used a bag of green beans, tossed the cooked beans with a pat of butter, salt/pepper, and the lemon zest. It was fabulous! Using the preserves counteracts the strong tart taste of the lemon juice and really does a nice job of pulling everything together.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If making this shrimp dish, don’t use a red or deep colored preserve as it will make the shrimp look as if it’s under cooked or raw.  Trust me… I did this once and will never forget the reaction.

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Recipe: Chicken Veggie Gris

Ok, I’ll admit that this is a strange name for a recipe, but at least it gives you an idea of what you’re getting… right?

Let me share a little background before launching into this recipe with you.

We recently relocated to a new state, in a new town, in a furnished corporate apartment.  Have you ever had to do this?  It’s sort of like cooking in “your own” kitchen, but it’s not.  The pots and pans are different… the utensils are unique (even though I *did* bring my own)… and even the cooking vessel (an electric stove instead of my beloved gas range) is different.  Challenges to be sure, but I was determined to make our transition to this new place as smooth as possible… which meant cooking dinner each night.  

Yesterday, our first weekday in our new apartment, brought on my first challenge.  I had to purchase *enough* food and seasonings without purchasing *too much* because, remember, this is only our temporary home.  I already have the necessary pots, pans, seasonings, etc to make the meals that I want to make… but they’re currently sitting in a Jessup, MD storage unit.  So, in the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to create delicious meals without purchasing too many items that will end up being duplicates if I don’t use them up before we move from our current residence.  I hope you find my journey to be interesting and maybe even a little helpful!

Dinner on Monday was a challenge.  I went to the local Walmart to pick up some things, but this particular store was rather sparse in selection, especially since it carried no fresh produce or proteins.  This is where I bought the kitty litter, toilet paper, skim milk, orange juice, spaghetti sauce, canned chicken, a loaf of bread, foil, and a large bag of individually packaged chips. While I could have stopped at the Fresh Market store a block from our apartment, I was on a particular mission to find something that would help me get groceries (and cat litter) from my car to our new home, so I was traveling around town with this goal in mind.  I eventually found a collapsible cart that will be perfect for my needs and darted into the closest grocery store to stock up on some fresh items.

Since this was my first venture out for supplies, I was trying to mentally flip through a number of meal options that could create the most amount of duplicate ingredients.  I ended up choosing two packages of ground turkey, two packages of chicken breasts (with three in each, which could yield three meals for the two of us), some broccoli slaw, a bag of onions, romaine (for my lunch salads),  a bag of onions, a small box of frozen meatballs, cooking spray, and spices (garlic salt, herbs de provence, dry mustard, italian seasonings, pepper, and Hungarian Paprika).  Using these basics, I decided to go with something very simple for dinner… and my Chicken Veggie Gris was born.ChickenVeggieGris

I started by seasoning two chicken breasts with garlic salt and herbs de provence.  Using the apartment’s skillet, I turned the electric burner to “8” and allowed the pan to heat.  Clearly, this is not the way to do things with an electric oven because when I added some margarine and a thinly sliced onion to the pan, there was entirely too much smoke in the apartment. I quickly turned down the heat and turned *on* the vent fan to keep from setting off the fire alarm so things calmed down a little.  NOTE: there was never any real danger, but it really did freak me out a bit. 

Once the onion had time to saute in the margarine to soften, I opened a bottle of white wine (I used a Pinot Gris, but only because I couldn’t find a bottle of James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay fast enough) and added that to the onions to allow them to soak up some of the yummy wine flavor.  I then moved the onions away from the center of the pan, placed the chicken breasts in the center to brown, and seasoned the underside of the breasts with the same seasonings as mentioned above.

Dinner was looking a little bleak at this point so, after I flipped the breasts over to cook through, I added some broccoli slaw to the pan for color and veggie-goodness.  Seasonings were now the priority… dinner couldn’t be bland, especially for my first attempt.  I opted to add a few dashes of soy sauce, some balsamic vinegar, and about a half cup of the wine to create a sauce that would make things come together.  I then cooked everything until all the flavors combined, about 10-15 minutes.  The chicken was poaching nicely and, while I would have preferred to have the veggies with a little more crunch and color, the softened broccoli slaw suited my husband’s tastes and still looked pretty on the plate.  To finish off the meal, I cooked a packet of brown and wild rice and used that as our starch for dinner.  It wasn’t exactly the meal I’d planned, but it was tasty and home-cooked… the best way to finish out a stressful “first day”.

I’ll continue to add recipes, both from before and during our move, so I hope you’ll check back to see how things are progressing.  I have some recipes that I never had the chance to share, so I’ll let you know when those are posted.  My attempt tonight is going to be something along the lines of a lasagna, without lasagna noodles…. will that even work?

Follow me on this journey… I promise to share both the highs (yummy recipes) and lows (how in the world am I going to learn to cook without a gas stove?) of the coming weeks.

Recipe: Easy Enchiladas

This is a recipe that I first saw on another blog (kevinandamanda.com) and knew I just HAD to try!  The original recipe called for a lot more cheese and enchilada sauce than I knew my family would like… plus, there was no wine in the recipe.  I just *had* to re-work it into something that would work for me and my wine-inspired blog.  Thankfully, it was a huge hit and has already been made numerous times to great positive acclaim.

EasyEnchiladas

What I love most about this recipe is that it truly is incredibly easy.  I’d always been a bit intimidated by enchiladas for some reason, but not any more when I use this recipe.  Much of this meal was done by simply assembling the ingredients, but first, I had to make some rice.

I used James River Cellars Gewurztraminer wine but could have easily used another favorite wine (Chardonnel, Vidal Blanc, or even Chardonay) to make the rice for this dish.  I used 1 cup of wine, 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of Arborio rice.  I simmered the rice until the liquid was absorbed and the rice was fluffy.  I did add some parsley, salt and pepper, but feel free to add whatever flavors you like in your rice.  Just remember that the rice is a fairly tame part of this assembly line, so don’t go too crazy with the seasonings.

I also decided to use a pre-roasted chicken in this recipe.   I pulled off both chicken breasts and diced the meat small enough to layer in the enchiladas.

Overall, your ingredients are as follows:  tortillas, hummus, rice, chicken, cheese, and enchilada sauce.  As with all my recipes, please feel free to personalize things to your family’s tastes.  Red Pepper Hummus instead of a Garlic Hummus, Mexican cheese in place of Cheddar, Whole Wheat Tortillas as opposed to bulk purchased tortillas or even homemade tortillas. . .  it’s all about making a meal that will make you and your family happy.

Assembling your enchiladas. . . here’s where the fun starts!  Place the tortilla on a cutting board and begin the layering with hummus, a layer of rice (mine is fairly sticky and soft), some chicken, and a sprinkle of cheese.  You can see an example in the second photo from the left… I throw on a fair amount of cheese, but do whatever will make you happy.  I made all the enchiladas, laying them in the baking dish, then poured some enchilada sauce over top and finished by sprinkling on more cheese.  Note:  I loved the Cheesy Enchilada recipe that inspired this alteration but know that my guys would have balked if I had followed her recipe exactly. . .  hence the need for an “Easy Enchilada” recipe of my own.

Once your enchiladas are assembled and ready, you can wait a bit to bake them if you must.  I had a hard time not popping them directly into the oven (I was already hungry by this point) but I was “good” and waited until my darling hubby and son got home from work.  Once they arrived, I popped the baking dish into a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until the cheese was melty, I could hear sizzling, and there was visible steam rising from the enchiladas.  Seriously. . . I don’t usually use “exact times”, so use your best guess on cooking time, based on your own oven.

As you can see by the large photo of an enchilada, above, these things were really filling.  I thought everyone would end up eating two enchiladas each, but we could barely make it through one.  If you’re making this for a crowd, feel free to expect football players to eat two, but the average person will probably only make it through one.  They are aa-maze-ing!

Hope you find this recipe to be as amazing as we did. . . and, as always, be sure to alter the ingredients to make your own “family favorite”!

Recipe: Merlot Risotto with Goat Cheese and Carmelized Onions

This is one of those “O M G” recipes for those of you who like a creamy rice dish.  It’s got flavor and just enough texture… it’s decadent yet simple enough to make for a quick dinner… and it’s got lots of ingredients that can be flipped around to suit almost any finicky guest.  Even better, it’s based on a recipe that my boss uses at her house!  It became a staple in her house after her trip to Rome… it’s going to become a staple in my own house because it’s just so darn tasty.  You’ll have to try it and see what YOU think.

Merlot Risotto

Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons of olive oil (divided 2T +2T)

Garlic (to taste – I like a lot, so I use 3-4 cloves worth)

1 1/4 cup arborio rice (I used a medium-length rice since I couldn’t find arborio but might use a short-grain next time)

1 cup James River Cellars’ Merlot (You can also use Cabernet Franc or another deep red wine of your choosing)

3 cups beef stock (If you’re making this for a vegetarian, simply use vegetable stock instead)

4 oz goat cheese (Use what you like and the amount you prefer – it’s the creaminess that you want here)

2 large, thinly sliced onions (You can substitute 3 cups of mushrooms or a mixture of both if you prefer)

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large skillet, heat 2T olive oil over low heat, then add onions.  Allow to slowly cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized.  If you’re using mushrooms in any form, this is where you’re going to cook them.
  2. While onions are cooking, heat remaining 2T olive oil in a large saucepan (don’t use something too small!).  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add rice, tossing to coat in the oil, and allow to toast for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in wine, stirring occasionally.  Once the wine is absorbed, add in 1 cup of stock and allow the rice to absorb the stock as it did with the wine.  Repeat this 2 more times until all the stock has been added and absorbed.  I didn’t stir this constantly – I didn’t feel it was necessary.  I kept an eye on it and then tasted the rice when all the liquid was absorbed – if you like a softer consistency, feel free to add another cup of stock to the rice and stir as before.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add salt/pepper, goat cheese and onions, then stir.  I like the cheese to be thoroughly incorporated before I serve it, so I don’t top each serving with bits of cheese, but feel free if that’s what you prefer.

You’ll notice that this post looks like an actual recipe… because I started with an actual recipe.  I’ve added tons of places where you can alter things to fit your preferences, but this is your starting point.  If you want to add some protein, feel free!  There’s no “RISOTTO POLICE” who will come and tell you that you’re doing things wrong.  As with any recipe where I use The Force to create a new rendition, feel free to make your own changes.  The idea is to help you think outside the box and come up with a dish that will become a favorite at your house.

After all… don’t you think the famous chefs took some inspiration from the food they ate when they were out?  It’s scary, but try it every once in awhile.  You might create a new “famous” recipe too!