Cajun-style Shrimp, Sausage, and Potatoes

I am often day dreaming about recipes. I know, it may seem weird, but I truly do think of a couple ingredients and just imagine what I can do with them. I start out pretty general and then play around with ingredients in my head until I think I may be on to something. It doesn’t always work out, but often it does and when that happens, I am quite pleased with myself.

This dish came out of a craving I was having for shrimp. Who doesn’t like shrimp, right? I also LOVE Louisiana-style cuisine. Unfortunately, it isn’t usally the healthiest, so I either avoid it, just give in and go for gold, or, like in this case, rely on simple seasoning to give a healthy dish some Cajun flair.

This meal came together in a flash and the hubby went back for seconds. That makes it a total winner in my book.  The potato/sausage mixture makes a lot, so you can have leftovers, which are super delish the next day with sunny-side up egg on top.

You can adjust the seasonings based on your preference/tolerance for spice.

Cajun-style Shrimp, Sausage, and Potatoes

 

Olive oil

½ yellow onion, diced

4-5 mini sweet peppers, diced (mix of red, yellow, and orange). You can also just use 1 red bell pepper, diced.

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, diced

1 pound smoked turkey sausage (i.e. Hilshire Farms)

Cajun seasoning (I used Tony Chachere brand)

Shrimp, factor in about 5 medium-sized shrimp per person

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add about a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Saute the sausage until it starts to brown. Remove from the skillet. Add a little more olive oil if you need it and saute the onions, peppers, and potatoes until the potatoes are almost softened. Add the garlic at this point so you don’t burn it. Add the sausage back in and sprinkle some Cajun seasoning. However much you want. Let this cook until the sausage and potatoes are browned and cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a separate skillet over medium heat, add a little more olive oil. Sprinkle more seasoning on some peeled and deveined shrimp and cook until done, just a few minutes on each side is usually all you need.  I cook the shrimp separately because you will have leftovers of the potatoes and the shrimp doesn’t reheat well. You can always make more shrimp if you want later.

Once it’s all done, just serve up the potato/sausage mixture and top with about 5 shrimp per person.

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Minestrone Soup

I’ve been a bit in a slump lately. At least when it comes to blogging recipes. I’ve been making food I’ve already done on here or making other people’s recipe or even just making stuff that I ultimately deem “not blog-worthy.” (That parmesan French toast was pretty delish, though!)

I blame it on end-of-the-year laziness. I seriously get so lazy after Thanksgiving. I think I only worked out 2 times in the entire month of December. I barely do any housecleaning and the laundry starts when we are all on our last pairs of underwear. Well, it’s January now and a new year has started. I have a list of things I want to start doing. Work has been absolutely CRAZYPANTS but it should calm down in the next few days and my head will stop spinning and perhaps I can actually start accomplishing things.

First up, this soup. It’s been raining like crazy here in SoCal the past couple days. Now, I happen to enjoy the rain. I don’t like going out in it, but I do love being warm and cozy and listening to it pitter patter outside my window. I always like to think Fall weather is soup weather, but in SoCal that is not at all the case. It’s usually pretty warm until mid-December to January when it starts to get a little chilly.

Minestrone soup is a thick Italian soup made of a flavored broth and veggies with optional beans and pasta added in. There is no set recipe for minestrone since you can use whatever veggies are in season. This soup dates back to the Roman Empire, but the basic premise remains today.

This soup really hit the spot and was so easy to make. It hit my trifecta of easy, healthy, and delicious!  If I weren’t in the beginning of a Biggest Loser Challenge, I would have served this with a side of bread as well.

30-Minute Minestrone Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper

1 16 oz bag frozen veggie medley (green beans, corn, peas, carrots. You can really use whatever veggies you want.)

Parmesan rind (optional)

1 28-oz can low-sodium crushed tomatoes

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 15oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

12 oz box of shell pasta (or other small pasta of your choice) *I used Banza chickpea pasta and it was DELISH! You can’t even tell the difference and it punches up the protein of an otherwise-vegetarian dish.

Add olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or so.

Add the frozen veggies, basil, oregano, some salt and some pepper. I had a leftover rind from some parmesan, so I added this as well. You don’t have to.  Stir and cook for a few minutes until veggies start to soften.

Add the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes.

Add the beans and pasta and cook about 10 minutes (or per package directions for the pasta). Remove the parm rind if you used one and taste the soup for seasoning. I ended up adding more salt, pepper, and basil, but make it how you like it.

Butternut Squash “Noodles” with Bacon and Goat Cheese

I love all the flavors of Fall and anytime I can put them together in a new way, I’m all about it. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a side dish on here, but this one was definitely worth it. I mean, it has bacon and goat cheese in it, so it couldn’t possibly be bad, right? We all know goat cheese is life.
 

If you are braver than I am, you can cut your butternut squash yourself and use a spiralizer to make your “noodles”. I, however, am terrified of cutting hard-skinned squashes for fear of stabbing myself. I either enlist the hubby to do it (although I still have a fear of watching, lest he also stab himself) or I just buy it precut, like these cute zig zag cut noodles from Trader Joe’s.

 

Anyway, once you get the noodles taken care of, you are on your way to a quick and easy and (most importantly) delicious side dish.

Butternut Squash “Noodles” with Bacon and Goat Cheese

1 butternut squash cut into “noodles” (or about 12 oz from a store-bought container)

4 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced

2 sprigs worth of fresh thyme, minced

Goat cheese to your heart’s content

In a skillet over medium heat, cook your bacon until crispy. Remove from skillet to a paper towel-lined plate.

 

In the same skillet with the bacon grease, add your butternut squash noodles. 


Cook until softened. Just before they are done, add the sage and thyme. You can add a little bit of salt and pepper if you want, but the bacon is pretty salty, so you shouldn’t have to. Stir to incorporate and when the squash is done, remove from the heat and transfer to your serving dish.

Add the bacon back in and the goat cheese. Since you cook the noodles in the bacon grease, you lose the orange of the squash a bit and it isn’t the prettiest dish, but it tastes really yummy!

Pork Verde Rice Bowls

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, buy one of my absolute favorite kitchen gadgets is my slow cooker. I recommend everyone get one. I got a really nice one a couple years ago for Christmas and I still just love it.
 

I tend to use it mostly in the Fall/Winter, even though you’d think it would get a lot of use in the Summer since you can cook lots of things without heating up your kitchen, but that just isn’t how it seems to work out. Maybe because Fall/Winter is more comfort food type weather and slow cookers are good for comfort food? Who knows.

Anyway, the other day I made these delish pork verde rice bowls. I know sometimes pork gets a bad rap when it comes to nutrition, but pork tenderloin is actually a very lean source of meat. It is super tender, low in fat, low in calories, and high in protein (per 3oz serving: 120 cal, 3g fat, 22g protein). It is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as B6, B12, zinc, and iron. According the USDA, a 3oz serving of pork tenderloin is actually leaner than a skinless chicken thigh.

Now that you can eat pork guilt-free, here’s a yummy recipe that makes tons of leftovers.

 Pork Verde Rice Bowls

2 pound pork tenderloin (or if you have bad “amount” judgement, 4 pounds, hence all the leftovers)

1 jar salsa verde

½ yellow onion, diced

1 bag frozen corn

1 4oz can diced green chiles

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked rice for serving (brown or white, whatever you want)

Cheese, avocado, sour cream/plain greek yogurt for topping

 

In a slow cooker, add your tenderloin and cover with entire jar of salsa. Cook for 8 hours on low. When done, shred and let sit in the salsa juices to soak up some flavor. Add salt if needed.

 

In a skillet over medium heat, add a little olive oil, the onion, corn, green chiles, black beans, chili powder, cumin, and a little salt. Mix together and cook until completely warmed through and the corn is no longer frozen. Taste for salt and pepper.

 

In individual bowls, add some rice, then top with some pork and some of the corn mixture. Serve with whatever toppings you like.

 

Store the leftovers in the fridge and make more bowls, or wrap in a tortilla and make a burrito, wrap in a tortilla and top with enchilada sauce and cheese and bake for some yummy enchiladas, serve with eggs in the morning. The possibilities are pretty broad here.

Candy Corn Waffles

Here’s a cute little treat you can make your kids for a fun breakfast. It was actually really easy to do, although I would recommend using a squeeze bottle. I just used a spoon and while that was fine, I could see where putting the batter in a squeeze bottle would be much easier.
 

Also, thankfully these cuties don’t taste like candy corn, because that stuff is disgusting. Even if I did like it, it’s hard to imagine what it would taste like in a waffle!

All you need to do is mix up a batch of your preferred waffle mix, whether it’s store bought or homemade. I would suggest not using a whole grain recipe since you need the tip of the waffle to be really pale and whole grain batters tend to be too brown.

Once the batter is mixed up, divide it into three bowls. Leave one plain, add yellow food coloring to one, and yellow and a little red to make orange to the third bowl. I made the batters a bit brighter than I thought I’d need because the color will dull slightly when baked.

 

Set your round waffle iron on a slightly lower setting. You just want to cook these through, not brown them. My first waffle was too dark, so I turned the heat down and it was perfect.

Starting on the outside, do out an outer layer of yellow, then a layer of orange followed by filling in the middle with the plain. Close the waffle iron and cook until just done. It’ll look like a target, but when you separate into triangles they will look like little candy corns!


Autumn Steak Salad

I know salads for dinner are usually thought of as a summer thing. They are light and refreshing and rarely involve turning on an oven in the heat of the summer.
 

Fall foods are usually considered more hearty and comforting. However, there is nobody saying that you can’t enjoy a good salad in the Fall and still feel warm and full. I was looking for something that would check off all the boxes: healthy, salad, filling, hearty, full of Fall goodness, so I came up with this beauty of a dish. My husband loved it. I loved it. It definitely hit the spot.

I’ve put approximate amounts in the list below. That’s one of the things that’s so great about a salad: you have so much free reign to make it how you like. Don’t want steak? Use chicken. Or no meat at all. Change the apple, add more cranberries.

You do you, boo.

Autumn Steak Salad

1 bag mixed greens (or lettuce/greens of your choice)

1 sweet potato, cubed

Olive oil

Ground cinnamon

1 apple, diced (I used a Fuji)

½ cup dried cranberries (or more if you’d like)

½ cup chopped walnuts (or more if you’d like)

Goat cheese, crumbled

Steak cut of your choice (I used a 15oz rib eye I found at Trader Joe’s)

Maple Dijon Apple vinaigrette

Salt and pepper

Fresh sage, about 1 tablespoon, minced

Place your cubed sweet potato on a baking sheet and coat with some olive oil, salt, and cinnamon, just a sprinkle or so will be fine. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

While the potatoes are roasting, season your steak with salt and pepper. Cook in a skillet over medium heat (I used my cast iron) until cooked to your preferred doneness. Remove and let set for about 5-10 minutes. Slice thinly.

Mix together the vinaigrette by combining equal parts olive oil and apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and ½ tablespoon of maple syrup and whisk together.

Assemble the salad: In a big bowl, add the greens, apple, cranberries, walnuts, sage, goat cheese, cooled sweet potatoes, and steak slices. Drizzle with dressing and toss to combine.

Soft Pumpkin Spice Cookies 

Call it basic if you want, but I love the wonderful Fall goodness that comes from the pumpkin spice flavor. Plus, the aroma that fills your house while you are baking anything with cinnamon and nutmeg is hard to beat. 

My mom came over for dinner the other night and I know she’s a fan of pumpkin as well, so I whipped up a batch of these cookies. I pretty much wanted to see what would happen if I added pumpkin and spices to a regular sugar cookie recipe. These turned out so soft and pillowy with a great Fall flavor anyone would love. 

Soft Pumpkin Spice Cookies

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 cup unsalted butter, softened 

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon caramel extract (optional)

1/2 cup (canned) pumpkin puree
In a large bowl bowl, add flour, baking powder and spices. Stir with whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy.

Add egg, vanilla, caramel (if using), and pumpkin and beat to combine.
Scrap down the sides of your bowl with a spatula.
While the mixer is running on low, add the flour mixture, slowly.
Mix until all of the flour is incorporated, and the mixture begins to ball up and pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface into a ball. Pull off about pieces of dough and roll into balls. I used about 2” balls and pressed them with a cookie press. You could do whatever size you want to make your cookies. If you don’t have a press, you can always flatten the dough balls with the bottom of a glass. 

Bake cookies in a pre-heated, 350*F oven, on ungreased baking sheets 9-11 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies.