RSS Feed

Tag Archives: shrimp

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette: One Simple Dressing, Two Amazing Salads (and a GIVEAWAY WINNER!)

Posted on

It was back in one of my undergraduate teacher education classes, that I was first introduced to the debate over nature vs. nurture. How much of our personality, strengths, challenges, and interests are a product of our individual biological makeups and how much is due to the environment in which we’re raised and the life events we experience?

From an educator’s point of view, I want very much to believe that nurture plays a more important role, because that idea acknowledges every child’s potential for success and a teacher’s ability to play a significant role in that. We teachers want to believe that given enough time, effective effort, and support, every one of our students can be successful. As educators, the idea of intelligence being a fixed, inborn characteristic would be limiting. So, as a matter of practice, we subscribe more heavily to the theory that nurture plays a more dominant role in human development.

IMG_8054

I have to admit though, watching my own boys grow and develop, it’s become a lot more evident to me that nature really does play a significant role. My three boys, all nurtured in the same environment, under very similar conditions, save for the automatic differences in birth order and changes that adding new members to the family have on a home environment. But, my three boys are just about as different as they can be, with their own individual strengths, interests, preferences, and challenges – traits which have been part of who they are since birth.

IMG_8425

My Liam is a creator, inventor, and planner. Hand the kid an old piece of cardboard, scissors, and a strip of painter’s tape and he’ll invent some revolutionary new technology which just might change the world. He’s also our head mischief-maker, in an ever-scheming, mad-scientist sort of way. He loves telling stories and doesn’t understand the reason for spaces between his words, either spoken or written. He’s a “What’s next?” sort of kid who wants to plow through the day filling it with as many experiences as possible. Liam doesn’t mind coloring, as long as he can do it fast and all with the same color.

Lucas is our character. He is silly and unabashedly honest with his emotions. The kid takes the stage and steals the show. Just last night, at his Irish step-dancing recital, he snuck out from behind the curtain before the show and spent a good five minutes flapping his arms and shaking his butt in front of the 100 or so people who’d gathered to watch the recital. After completing the first dance, while the rest of the dancers remained poised for the second dance, Lucas approached the front of the stage to shout to me about how much fun he was having. The curtain closed behind him. After spinning around and running nose first into the curtain, he giggled, then shuffled behind the curtain for his second dance. He feels things deeply, for better or worse. He likes his quesadillas with cheese only and “nothing I don’t like.” (If you’re sneaky about it, he will know.) He’s a songwriter, loves legos, and despises coloring.

Little James is a love. He requires copious amounts of hugs and kisses and snuggles, which he soaks up like a sponge and is generous in regifting to everyone he meets. He gives every child at the gym’s childcare a personal hug goodbye when we exit, and the gym cleaning lady gets one too. Sometimes he bites when he gets a bit to excited during a hug, sort of like a dolphin, which makes hugs a bit tense sometimes, but he’s irresistible. He thinks apples and corn on the cob are the best foods in the universe and he’s already trying to learn the alphabet – something the other boys had little interest in for most of their young lives. (His favorite letter is E.) James thinks coloring is the bee’s knees.

IMG_8055

They are who they are. And certainly, everything they experience throughout the rest of their lives will have an impact on who they will ultimately become, but it would be foolish to undervalue the unique people they were born as. I’ve learned that parenting, much like teaching, requires ongoing assessment of where our little people are in their lives, what natural talents and interests they possess, what motivates and what discourages them. Then, if we’re doing it right, we take all of that information and design little personalized plans that help nurture their existing strengths, expose them to other possible areas of interest, and teach strategies that might help them handle the areas of life which are more of a personal struggle.

So, do I treat all of my children the same? Absolutely not. I nurture each of my children in the way which seems to work best for them. We follow each of their natural leads and take it from there. Nature vs. nurture? I’m not sure. Ideally a bit of both, I guess, working harmoniously with each other to create unique, well-rounded, happy little people.

IMG_8427

Tomorrow, we welcome June. The weather is hot and soon my gaggle of small men will be off for a summer full of creating, destroying, laughing, crying, and loving. Our neighbors opened their pool yesterday and once again, I smacked myself in the head and thought, “Why the heck didn’t I start eating healthier months ago???” Somehow, I’m always too late for bathing suit season. But, the added bonus of the warm weather is that salads for dinner seem ever so much more crave-worthy. They’re light and fresh and have huge potential for deliciousness.

Here are two of my current favorite salads, both made with the same simple roasted red pepper vinaigrette. The dressing is light and flavorful, with a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The protein-rich toppings on these salads make either option a quick and easy, satisfying summer dinner.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar works just fine or roast your own)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.

Salad Idea #1 – Spinach with Shrimp, Bacon, Corn, and Avocado – Chop the bacon and cook in a fry pan until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain over a paper towel. Cook large shrimp in the hot bacon fat for a minute or two on each side, until cooked through. Toss a generous serving of fresh baby spinach leaves in a bit of the roasted red pepper dressing. Top with the cooked bacon and shrimp, fresh avocado, and sweet corn.

Salad Idea #2 – Mediterranean – Toss romaine or butter lettuce in the roasted red pepper dressing. Top with garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese crumbles.

IMG_7628

GIVEAWAY WINNER!! We have a winner! Using http://www.random.org to select a number at random, out of the 17 entries received for the $50 Shindigz gift card giveaway, the winner is #7, Jill fox. Congratulations, Jill!! I’m going to send you an email at the address provided with your comment to get the information necessary to fulfill your prize!! Thank you to everyone who entered!

Advertisements

Shrimp Cocktail Bruschetta and a Dinner Party Plan

About a month ago, two of my favorite people in the whole world ran off to a funky little motel in the Catskills and secretly eloped. (This place looks seriously cool! You can check out some of the wedding photos on the Roxbury facebook page.

I was ecstatic when I heard the news. And then, almost instantly, my mind went into dinner party mode. If there were ever a perfect reason to throw a dinner party, this was it.

Don’t you just love the idea of a dinner party?? Good food, plentiful drinks, amazing company… I love every bit of it; planning the menu and decor, preparing the meal, presenting each course, coming up with a few special touches… It’s something that I wish we could do more frequently.

But with three little kids (including a teething four-month-old, who’s fully convinced that sleep is for suckers), it’s hard enough to get a simple macaroni and cheese dinner on the table on any given day of the week. The thought of preparing an elegant, five-course plated dinner for ten is a bit overwhelming even to consider. It can be done though. It just requires a little careful planning.

A carefully crafted menu is the most essential component of any successful dinner party (aside from your guest list, that is). For our feast, I wanted to use fresh, seasonal foods which would bridge the transition from summer to fall. In order to spread the preparation throughout the week and keep things as simple as possible during the party, I wanted to serve dishes which could be easily reheated without any loss of quality. And then the big thing… I wanted to be able to sit down to enjoy each course with my guests. I mean, who wants to spend the whole time in the kitchen while your guests are laughing at the table (and threatening to eat the cupcakes prematurely)??  My goal was to create a menu where each course could be effortlessly completed and served within ten minutes of the previous course.

Here’s what I came up with…

Sunrise Champagne Cocktail

***

Shrimp Cocktail Bruschetta on Toasted Baguette

***

Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart in a Pine Nut Crust with Balsamic Reduction

***

Seared Scallops over Sweet Potato Bisque with Applewood-Smoked Bacon

***

Braised Beef Short Ribs in a Fig and Red Wine Reduction

with

Creamy Brie Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Asparagus

***

Pumpkin and Nutella Wedding Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Aside from the anti-sleep demonstration, which my four-month-old staged throughout the entire party, the dinner went off without a hitch. Preparation between the courses was a cinch and everyone enjoyed the meal.

Interested in hosting your own simple and elegant dinner party? Here are a few little tips:

Start with a signature drink; something fun, unique, and fitting for the event. We were celebrating a wedding and what wedding celebration is complete without champagne?? My Sunrise Champagne Cocktail is a simple twist on a classic Bellini. Fill champagne glasses a little more than halfway with champagne. Top with passionfruit juice. Finally, drop about 1/2 teaspoon of grenadine into the glass. The grenadine will fall to the bottom and disperse, creating a beautiful layered color effect…an effect which happened to match the layered colors of the bride’s wedding dress. Coincidence? I think not.

As guests arrive and mingle, have some little hors d’oeuvres available. Keep ’em light though. You don’t want your guests to overfill their bellies before dinner. And, you don’t want to be busy in the kitchen fussing over snacks as your guests are arriving, so keep it easy. The shrimp cocktail bruschetta I served during our party is an ideal option. It takes the concept of a tomato bruschetta on toasted baguette and combines it with chunks of fresh shrimp and the flavors of cocktail sauce. Simply arrange on a platter and set out for your guests to enjoy. You’ll be free to greet your guests and enjoy a cocktail as you focus on preparing the first plated dinner course.

For the first plated course, serve something cool or at room temperature. It will make it easier to get things started. I served the heirloom tomato and goat cheese tart I recently shared with you. You can prepare and freeze the crust a week or more ahead of time. It takes only a few minutes to finish the tart on the day of your party. Pop it in the oven just as your guests begin arriving. It will make your house smell delicious and will be ready in perfect time for the first course. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Serve a soup as part of your second course. They’re easily reheated and offer a ton of options depending on the season. I served my seared scallops over sweet potato bisque with applewood smoked bacon. The bisque can be completely prepared a few days ahead of time. Refrigerate the bacon pieces and freeze the bisque to keep it fresh. During the party, you’ll only need to quickly sear the scallops and reheat the bisque and bacon before serving. Within 5 or 6 minutes, the second course will be ready to serve.

The main course should typically be the heaviest item on the menu. Try to plan something which gives you flexible timing. I served braised beef short ribs in a fig and red wine reduction. This dish is an ideal main course, since it actually does best when prepared a day ahead of time and can be reheated and held until you’re ready to serve. Preparing a day before allows the sauce to chill, making it easier to remove the excess fat which will rise to the surface. You can then adjust the seasoning of your sauce and slowly reheat the short ribs, keeping them hot and ready in the oven until it’s time to serve.

To keep things easy during the party, do whatever little preparations you can ahead of time. On the side of the short ribs, I serve creamy brie mashed potatoes, which can be fully prepared a day ahead of time, and roasted asparagus, which take only a few minutes in the oven. Get your asparagus ready for roasting by washing, cutting, and arranging on a baking sheet earlier in the day. Before roasting, toss in a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then simply pop them into the oven.

For dessert, serve something which can be made ahead of time and requires little or no preparation during the party. I served pumpkin-nutella cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. They made a beautiful centerpiece on the table and were ready to eat when the time came. This meant that I could sit back and relax once the short ribs were served…Well, I would have been able to sit back and relax if the aforementioned anti-sleep demonstration weren’t still underway. Alas, what can you do?? He’s lucky he’s so stinkin’ cute!

Recipes for the short ribs, creamy brie mashed potatoes, and cupcakes will be coming up soon! For now, let me whet your appetite with this simple and delicious shrimp cocktail bruschetta!

Shrimp Cocktail Bruschetta

Ingredients

  • 6-8 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 2 cups shrimp, deveined, cooked, and chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Tabasco, to taste
  • 1 French Baguette, sliced
  • Olive Oil

Directions

Combine tomatoes, shrimp, green onions, horseradish, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, salt, and tabasco. Adjust seasoning as desired. Refrigerate until serving. Brush the slices of baguette with olive oil. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 375 degrees oven until lightly toasted. Serve shrimp bruschetta topping with toasted baguette slices.

Buttermilk Battered Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Chipotle Dipping Sauce

This recipe is a holdback from our New Year’s Eve celebration. Poor planning necessitated a few New Year’s recipe alterations. Namely, my lack of vegetable oil for frying the shrimp led to baking, which produced a delicious (and lower-fat) coconut shrimp, but not exactly my ideal result. I strive to present you with the ideal. So, I reserved this recipe until I had the opportunity to prepare it as planned.

The first time I ever made coconut shrimp was for a Caribbean-themed bridal shower, which I threw in honor of my sisters, who were having a double cruise-ship wedding. At the time, I used a recipe for beer-battered coconut shrimp which I’d found online. I’ve since developed my own buttermilk-based recipe, but I fully stand by the battering idea. A quick dip in a bit of batter helps the coconut to adhere to the shrimp and produces a fantastic, doughy coating around the shrimp.

To save a bit on the fat and calorie count, you can bake these little guys in a 400 degrees oven for about 15 minutes or so, until the coconut begins to turn golden and the shrimp is fully cooked. But, hands-down, my preferred method is frying. Go ahead and indulge! A sweet and spicy Pineapple Chipotle Dipping Sauce makes the perfect accompaniment to these tasty shrimp.

Buttermilk-Battered Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Chipotle Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

For the Shrimp

  • 3/4 cup Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 3/4 cup Buttermilk
  • 2 Eggs
  • Creole Spice Blend
  • 1 pound Jumbo Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail-on
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 2 cups Shredded, Sweetened Coconut
  • Vegetable Oil, for frying

For the Dipping Sauce

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar Pineapple Preserves (or Orange Marmalade)
  • 1-3 Chipotle Peppers (from a can of Chipotle in Adobo)

Directions

To prepare the batter, combine flour and baking soda. Stir in the buttermilk and eggs until well blended. Season with a dash or two of Creole spice blend.

To prepare the shrimp, arrange a plate of flour, the bowl of batter, and a plate of the coconut. Holding by the tail, press each shrimp in the flour to lightly coat. Then, dip into the batter and allow the excess to drip away. Press into the shredded coconut to cover both sides. Place the coconut-coated shrimp onto a baking sheet until you’ve prepared all of the shrimp.

Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a large frying pan, over medium heat, until it’s good and hot. Place several shrimp in the hot oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the coconut is golden brown and the shrimp is fully cooked. The oil should sizzle around the shrimp as it cooks. If the coconut browns too quickly, reduce the heat.

Prepare the dipping sauce by blending the pineapple preserves and chipotle peppers in a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Adjust the quantity of chipotle peppers based on your desired spiciness.

Serve the shrimp with a simple baby spinach and bacon salad, dressed in a honey balsamic vinaigrette.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Oil (Olive, Canola, Sesame)
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Whisk together all ingredients until well combined or combine all ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously, until blended.

Shrimp and Asparagus in a Lemony Basil Alfredo Sauce over Fettucine

Posted on

Something about the warm weather makes me crave seafood. This is the only time of the year when I think I’d have any chance of making it as a vegetarian, or more accurately a pesceterian. Though, I’d definitely end up missing burgers and grilled steaks and bacon and… Oh, nevermind!  I’d make a terrible vegetarian. But, I do love seafood in the summer! It’s fresh and light and tastes great with summery lemons. With that in mind, I offer you Shrimp and Asparagus in a Lemony Basil Alfredo Sauce over Fettucine.

The sauce is a basic creamy alfredo sauce, with the addition of basil and a little lemon juice and zest. Lemon zest is the bright outer peel of the lemon (not including the bitter, white pith). It is full of concentrated lemon flavor. You can skip the zest, but it really deepens the lemony flavor and looks lovely in the sauce. So, I definitely recommend it. To zest your lemon, thoroughly wash it and then use a zester to remove the thin outer layer of the peel.  If you don’t have a zester, you can use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to carefully remove the outer peel. Then, cut the peel into small strips.

Shrimp and Asparagus in a Lemony Basil Alfredo Sauce over Fettucine

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Shrimp, deveined and peeled
  • 1 small bunch of Asparagus
  • 1 box Fettucine pasta

For the sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp water
  • 1 Shallot, diced**
  • 5-7 Basil Leaves, chopped**
  • 1 Lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 1/2 cups Light Cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper

** Chop the shallot the same way you would chop a small onion. Click on the Photo Guides tab to view step-by-step photos of how to chop an onion and how to chiffonade basil leaves.

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the fettucine, al dente, according to the package directions.

Steam asparagus, chop into small pieces, and set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add shrimp to the pan and cook about 5 minutes until they are completely cooked through.  They will be pink and opaque. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Add a small amount of water to the pan, over medium heat, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits of shrimp stuck to the pan. Continue scraping the bottom of the pan until the bits are loosened and water has mostly evaporated. **See note below.**

Then, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.  Add the chopped shallot and cook until slightly softened, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the cream and the zest.  Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly.

Add the cheese, basil, and  the juice from 1/2 the lemon (about a Tbsp) to the sauce. Stir to combine.

Continue simmering for a few minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a bit more cream or milk to thin it out.

Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add a bit more lemon juice, if desired.

Add shrimp and asparagus to the sauce for a few seconds to reheat.  Toss the fettucine in the sauce.

(Serves 4)

** This step is called deglazing. Those little caramelized bits in the pan are called sucs. There’s some yummy flavor in those sucs, as long as you don’t burn them. The cool water will sizzle in the hot pan and help loosen the sucs while you scrape them up. This step will prevent the bits from burning on the bottom, while preserving the shrimpy flavor for the sauce. A bit of stock or white wine would work well for this step too, but water is just fine. If the sucs burn, clean out the pan before cooking the shallot.

Achieving Beautiful Dreams

Making Dreams Come True with Your Avon Business

The Gourmand Mom

Good food, seasoned with a dash of life

%d bloggers like this: