Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Garlic Shrimp

I have one regret about this dish, you guys. I only wish I had actually timed myself making it because I’m pretty sure the whole thing only took me maybe 20 minutes. It came together so quickly, I was genuinely curious how long it actually was. 

A ridiculously delicious 20-minute meal? That’s healthy too? This is the goal, am I right? If only my kids were as into it as my hubby and I were, but hey, I’m picking my battles today and they are fine with their chicken nuggets for today. More for me! :0)

Anyway, back to the recipe, which is even easier if you use store bought pesto. Which is totally cool. 

Or you can be super cool and use my spinach basil pesto that I love so much :0) 

This is so simple I’m not even going to write out a recipe. I’ll just give you the steps and you can make it to your tastes. 

Start with your Shrimp. In a bowl, add your peeled and deveined shrimp. I used half a pound of 16/20 count and it fed two of us. Add a couple cloves of minced garlic, a sprinkle of salt, and a sprinkle of lemon pepper. Let it sit while you prep your zucchini. 


Using a spiralizer, make your zucchini noodles. You can also use a vegetable peeler if you don’t have a spiralizer. Or you can use regular pasta. 


In a skillet over medium high heat, add a little bit of olive oil and sauté your garlic shrimp. It just takes a few minutes on each side, until pink and cooked through. Remove from the skillet.


In the same skillet, with all the yummy bits and now-flavored oil from the Shrimp, add your noodles and cook until soft, but still a bit al dente. 


When the noodles are ready, turn off the heat and add a scoop of your pesto. Toss with the zoodles until coated.


Plate your pesto zoodles with the Shrimp and enjoy! 

You could probably make this easily with chicken instead of Shrimp if you wanted. Or another kind of fish. You could also leave it as is and keep it vegetarian.

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Spicy Shrimp and Ham Pasta

Whenever I have a really good meal somewhere, I like to try to recreate it at home. Eating out can get expensive, so sometimes it’s nice to be able to satisfy a craving for something you had out without having to spend the extra cash.  

Also, you get to stay home and eat it in your sweats and watch TV, so just go ahead and add that to plus column too.   

I especially like to try to recreate yummy dishes we have on vacation. This is a fun way to relive those moments when you were blissfully away, not ruled by the clock or responsibilities. If the recreation is successful, you just have to try not to book the next flight out at the dinner table. 

If you remember, on the last night of our vacation a couple weeks ago, we ate at a restaurant called Saints & Sinners and I had this amazing shrimp and tasso pasta. Channing Tatum apparently owns the restaurant, and while I doubt he had much to do with the creation of this dish, I will give him a shout out for hiring the chef who did because it was one of my absolute favorite meals of the whole trip. I was so full but I couldn’t stop myself from eating it because it tasted so good. I didn’t want to waste a single bite. (PS I did my best, but my husband ended up finishing up the last few bites.) I knew as soon as I took my first bite, I was going to have to figure out how to make this at home.

When I got home, I started researching two components of this dish: 1. how to make the rosé sauce, and 2. Where to get tasso. 

Tasso is a smoked ham found most specifically in south Louisiana cuisine. It’s actually made from the pork shoulder (ham is from the hind leg), which is cured and then covered in a spicy rub and smoked. It can be eaten alone, but it is usually used for the delicious flavor that it adds to other dishes, like pasta, seafood, and jambalaya. 

Tasso is such a specialty item, I wasn’t even sure where I could get it. It wasn’t at the regular grocery store, but I figured a place like Bristol Farms or Whole Foods might have it. Nope. I looked on the website for a butcher called Huntington Meats at the LA Farmer’s Market. This place is really pretty amazing for all the different meats they have. They have it all from beef and chicken to pheasant and alligator. According to their website, they do in fact carry tasso ham. The only problem is that it really isn’t all that convenient for me to go there. It’s not that it’s far, but it is a bit out of my way. Maybe if I was making this dish for a dinner party with, say, Channing & Jenna Dewan Tatum, or something, I would take the extra step and head over there, but since it was just for us, I went a different, easier route and just got regular ham and added the spicy seasoning separate. Plus, if I want to make this more often, I’m definitely not going to Fairfax every time I want tasso. 

I was actually really pleased with how this dish turned out. I’m going to tell you how I made it and then give you a few notes at the end for what I would different next time. And there will absolutely be a next time. 

Copycat Shrimp and Tasso Ham Pasta 

For the sauce:

Olive oil (just a couple tablespoons)

½ an onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ tablespoon dried thyme

½ tablespoon dried oregano

½ tablespoon Cajun/creole seasoning

Pinch of red pepper flakes

7 oz can of tomato sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

½ cup white wine

¾ cup heavy cream 

For the ham:

Olive oil (just for a light saute)

2 smoked ham steaks, diced small 

For the shrimp:

Olive oil (just for a light saute)

Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed

Cajun/creole seasoning 

1 pound Rotini pasta, cooked to package directions

¼ to ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese  

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In a large skillet, saute your ham in some olive oil until warmed through and slightly browned on the outside. Set aside on a paper towel to drain. I used these Farmer John smoked ham steaks from the store since I didn’t have tasso and I think it worked great.   

  
In the same skillet, make the sauce. Add a little bit more olive oil if you feel like you need it. Add your onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, Cajun/creole seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onion and garlic are soft and fragrant. 

  
  
Add the tomato sauce, sugar, and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the heavy cream.

  
Add your cooked pasta, the reserved ham, and some parmesan cheese to the sauce and mix together. Let them hang out and the flavors get all yummy while you make the shrimp. 

  
In another skillet, add some olive oil and your shrimp. Sprinkle with more Cajun seasoning. Flip when one side is pink and cook until done. 

Taste the pasta and add salt to your preference and finish with more Cajun seasoning if you want. I did both. 

  
Serve and enjoy! 

Here are a few notes for next time: 

· I would either use chicken broth instead of the white wine or do half of each because I felt the wine was a bit of a stronger flavor in the dish than I wanted. It was still good, I just wish the flavor had stayed in the background more.

· Either double the amount of ham or make less pasta.

· I added Cajun seasoning 3 times: once at the beginning of the sauce, once at the end, and to the shrimp. I never thought it was enough as I was adding it, but then I ate it and it definitely had a kick! If you like things spicy, season away, but if you want it a bit milder, just add it at the beginning of the sauce and then taste it to see if you want more or not.

· I was looking at the picture I took at the restaurant and there is a lemon twist on top. I don’t know if that was strictly for garnish or if they somehow incorporated lemon in theirs. I didn’t taste it in theirs and I didn’t include it in mine.

· I think the salting at the end was a really good idea. There are so many flavors going on in this dish, I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. This allows you to salt to your preference.

· Let me explain why I didn’t mix the shrimp into the pasta: one, if I take this to work for leftovers, I do not want to be the person who reheats seafood in the microwave and make the whole office smell like seafood. Also, I thought I had more shrimp in my freezer than I actually did. I only ended up making about 12 shrimp. I would absolutely make more next time. Or, like I said before, make less rotini.

 

The restaurant inspiration!

 
 

My own version! Looks pretty good, huh?

 

New Orleans Food Tour, Day 4: Gator bites, crawfish, shrimp and ham pasta

Yes, you read that right. I skipped day 3. We did something fun and food-related that I want a bit more time to write about than I take when blogging from my phone.  So instead, onto day 4:

For breakfast, we wanted to go to Brennan’s for their legendary eggs Benedict, but apparently you need reservations and we didn’t have any. We went to a place called Stanley’s on Jackson Square and it was delicious! I just had bacon, eggs and creole breakfast potatoes. I didn’t get a picture, but it was really good.

For lunch we split an alligator Po’Boy from Oceana Grill. I had never had alligator before and the best way I can describe it is chickens seafood, but a bit chewy. Sounds strange, I know. But it really was good. I probably won’t be rushing out to have it again, but not bad.  

For dinner we went to Saints and Sinners, which is apparently owned by Channing Tatum.

My hubby had been wanting to try a crawfish boil, since they are in season right now, and they were the only ones around offering one. It was a lot of work to eat a crawfish, but it was a really fun dinner.   

   
I had a shrimp and Tasso pasta that was unbelievably good! Tasso is a type of ham that is native to Southern Louisiana. It is rubbed with cayenne and other spices and smoked. This pasta was one of my favorite dishes from this whole trip.   

Paella (Spain)

Ah, Spain. España. Have you been there? I have not been to Spain, but it is definitely on my Travel Bucket List. The country is ancient and beautiful. I kinda *sorta* understand the language. The food looks amazing.

Since a trip to Spain is not in my near future, this dish is the closest I’ll get to it. Paella is widely considered the National Dish of Spain and originates from the Valencia region, along the Mediterranean coast. The main component of paella is rice, and you can make seafood paella, meat paella, mixed paella, vegetarian paella… you get the picture.

Around the 10th Century, the Spanish Moors began cultivating rice and the Valencian people would use that rice to make casseroles of rice, fish, and spices for family and religious feasts. By the 15th century, rice became a staple of Spanish cuisine. I read a quote from a Spanish food historian, Lourdes March, about paella that said, the dish “symbolizes the union and heritage of two important cultures, the Roman, which gives us the utensil and the Arab which brought us the basic food of humanity for centuries.”

I really loved that because that was sort of the whole point in my starting this blog. In a world that is as divided as today’s is, food is still so universal. Everyone loves food. Every culture has their own traditions. Most cultures even borrow from other cultures. We all sit down at the end of the day at the dinner table. The fact that paella has come to symbolize the unity of two cultures in Spain is beautiful.

From what research I’ve done, there are many ways to make this dish. You can even get a paella pan, but I just used a large skillet. This particular paella is shrimp and scallops because that’s what I had on hand, but I think doing a shrimp and chicken would be delicious.

A typical spice in paella is saffron. As you may know, this is the most expensive spice, by weight, in the world. The bonus is a little goes a long way. I found a small jar at Trader Joe’s that cost about $5 or $6, which is the cheapest I’ve seen for a jar. The one I saw at Pavilions was closer to $17.

The only problem I had with the recipe I used was that it made SO much rice! The rice to seafood ratio was so off. I would probably just make less rice next time. Otherwise, this recipe was delicious and I can’t wait to play around with this dish again and see what sort of delicious combinations I can come up with.

Shrimp and Scallop Paella

(recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking?)

¼ cup olive oil

4 shallots, minced (I used leeks because that’s what I had on hand)

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from the stem

2 bay leaves

2 pinches of saffron

3 cups long grain white rice

¾ cup white wine (I’m sure you could just use chicken broth)

2 tsp salt

6 cups chicken broth

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes because that’s what I had)

8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, split, and deveined

8 sea scallops, cleaned

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling

1 lemon juiced

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large oven-proof skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the thyme and the bay leaves and cook for a minute or two. Add the saffron and the rice and stir for a couple minutes until the rice is coated with the olive oil.

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Add the wine, salt, and chicken stock, making sure the rice is evenly distributed in the pan. Raise the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Once it comes to a steady simmer, remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the tomatoes. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

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After 20 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and add the shrimp and scallops. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for another 13 minutes until the seafood is cooked. This seemed like a very specific time, but I did exactly 13 minutes like the recipe called for and it came out perfect!

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Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley, drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice and serve.

I had no expectations for this dish, but it turned out really good! I can see why Spain claims it as their national dish!

¡Buen Provecho!
 

Lemon Shrimp and Farro

“Farro, Farro, oh baby.” Do you see what I did there? Besides make a bad joke?   If you ever went to any sort of church camp in the 90s, you probably do.

But in all seriousness, let’s talk about Farro. I’m relatively new to this wonderful grain, but I love it. Like so much. You can make salads with it. You can make farro and cheese with it. Risotto. Anything!

Farro is a grain that is often found in Italian cuisine. It is considered an Ancient Grain, which just means that it hasn’t been changed by selective breeding over the thousands of years it’s been in existence. Some say that makes it healthier, but others say not necessarily. Whether or not Ancient Grain is a marketing ploy, Farro is actually very good for you as it is full of omega-3s, protein and fiber.  

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If I had to describe the taste, I’d say it was very similar to brown rice, but the grains are bigger. You prepare it almost the same way as rice and like rice, it will pretty much take on the flavors that you combine it with.

And the flavors of this dish were spectacular. My husband couldn’t stop eating it, so it’s a good thing it was healthy!

I found this recipe on this site here.

It was very easy to put together and I’m sure you could substitute the shrimp for something else if you really wanted to.

Lemon Shrimp Farro

10 oz shrimp

¾ c farro

1 shallot, minced

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 oz green beans

10 grape tomatoes

½ oz basil, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Cook your green beans until crisp tender, set aside. Cook the farro, set aside.  

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Season the shrimp with a little salt and pepper and cook in a pan until pink. About a minute before the shrimp is done, add the garlic and finish with half the lemon juice, set aside.

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In a bowl, combine the shallot, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, and the other half of the lemon juice. Whisk together, slowly adding 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with a little salt and pepper.

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Toss the farro, tomatoes, green beans and half the dressing. Serve with the shrimp and basil and finish off with the rest of the dressing. 

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Bacon Wrapped Shrimp 

Ah, New Year’s Eve. It’s a young man’s game, and while there was a time when I looked forward to getting all dressed up and going out, that time for me has passed.

Don’t get me wrong; I still love to get dressed up and go out, but just not on NYE. There are always way too many people, it’s freezing (even by SoCal standards), and everything is always overpriced.

The last few years, my husband and I have just stayed at home and still had a great time. The kids are in bed by 8:00 and we put on our jammies, watch movies, pour ourselves a cocktail (or two… or three…) and have a great time. We always turn on the Times Square coverage and watch Ryan Seacrest welcome us into the new year, but we are usually in bed shortly after that.

Every time I watch the people in Times Square, it just makes me tired. Those poor people are standing out in the cold from 8:00 am until well past midnight. You can’t leave for anything. You are stuck there all day long. That really does not sound like fun to me. And in other “How Old Are You Again?” news, I had absolutely no idea who most of the singers who were doing the concerts were. Carrie Underwood? Check? Pentatonix? You got it! But not too many more than that. We saw a bit of the concert done by Jimmy Buffet and our immediate reaction was “That’s where we would be!” First of all, who doesn’t love Jimmy Buffet? Cheeseburger in Paradise, amiright?! Second, they were inside, warm, WITH SEATS… and BATHROOM ACCESS!!

There are two ways to do NYE in NYC: That Jimmy Buffet concert, or pay thousands of dollars to get a nice hotel room with a balcony overlooking Times Square. Not down in the thick of it all, I don’t care what Jenny McCarthy says.

Since we stay in, another tradition that has developed is I try to make a nice dinner. I couldn’t decide what specifically to make this year, so we had a bit of a seafood sampler. It was super delicious. We thought about adding a steak and making it a surf and turf, but I’m glad we didn’t because I was STUFFED after eating all the food. We headed over to Bristol Farms and picked up some lobster tails, crab cakes, shrimp, and asparagus (because you gotta have a veggie!). I just boiled the lobster and seared the crab cakes, but for the shrimp, oh baby, I wrapped it in bacon and it was heavenly. And really easy!

½ pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
bacon, cut in half (my ½ pound of shrimp gave me 10 shrimp, so I used 5 pieces of bacon since you half a slice on each shrimp. Just do the math for however many shrimp you get)
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wrap ½ piece of bacon around each shrimp. You can secure with a toothpick, but I didn’t feel like I needed to. Lay them out on the baking sheet.

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Rub a little bit on each side of each shrimp.

Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes, turning halfway. (I actually forgot to flip mine at the halfway point and they were fine. The bottom bacon wasn’t quite as crispy as the top, but it was still fine.)

These were so good! They were a little sweet, a little salty, with just a hint of spice from the cayenne. These would be perfect for a cocktail party appetizer!

I hope you are all have a great New Year so far!

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I don’t know why this photo won’t upload the right way, but sideways photo or not, the bacon wrapped shrimp was out of this world.

Lemon Shrimp Orzo Salad

Some days just call for a easy refreshing lunch and lately here in SoCal, those days are upon us.

It’s usually still a bit warm in September around here, but definitely cooling down in preparation for the Fall. Not this year. The past week has been getting warmer and warmer and hit highs of about 100 or more.

Ugh. Gross.

When it’s that hot, you don’t really want a heavy meal so that’s where this yummy concoction came from.

I pretty much just through everything together and hoped for the best. The verdict? My hubby said “This is fantastic!” So I guess it’s a winner!

Lemon Shrimp Orzo Salad

1 cup orzo, cooked to package directions
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook the corn in a skillet  for a few minutes. If using frozen, make sure it is completely thawed 

Season shrimp with garlic powder and lemon pepper

Cut the tomatoes in half. I used a big handful. Just eyeball how much you want.

Chop fresh basil

Combine the corn, orzo, and tomatoes in a bowl and put in the fridge to cool.

Sauté the shrimp in a little olive oil. Until cooked through, just a few minutes on each side.

Since the shrimp doesn’t take long to cook, do this very last.

Add the shrimp to the bowl and stir. Add the olive oil, zest of the lemon and the juice of the lemon. Add the basil and stir to combine everything.

This salad was so yummy! We ate it at room temperature and the leftovers were delicious cold.

I feel like I could have added lots of other types of veggies to this and it would be so good.