Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Well hi, strangers! How is the holiday season treating you? If your days are anything like mine, it’s been a whirlwind so far. But a lovely, twinkly, holly jolly whirlwind. This time of year it’s a challenge to eat healthfully. Between parties and preparation, cookies and cocktails, it’s very tempting to say “to heck with it”, indulge with abandon and vow to do better in the new year. The problem with that strategy, of course, is that we wind up feeling a little…less than stellar during December. And in a month where we’re more likely to see old friends and family than any other, it would be nice to feel (and look) our best. Luckily, wholesome meals can easily fit into this busy holiday season. This Super Simple Skillet Shrimp is ready in a flash and is so tasty and filling you may just find the willpower to say no to the cookie tray.

Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Over the past year I’ve come to favor shrimp as my go-to salad protein. It cooks quickly and seems more inspired than plain old grilled chicken. This method has become my favorite way to prepare it. Four simple ingredients- shrimp, salt, pepper and butter, are all it takes. Since shrimp is so lean, I splurge by cooking it in a little butter. The butter solids brown and stick to the shrimp, creating a delicious crust. You’ll swear that there’s more going on, but I promise, it’s that easy. Your protein will be done within 10 minutes total and ready for whatever you have planned- salad, pasta or platter. I like to make a big batch on Sunday to put on salads throughout the week. Lunches at my desk are not quite as sad when I have yummy, and healthy, shrimp salad to look forward to.

As always, a couple of tips to make sure you get the best result: Make sure the shrimp is dry when you put it in the pan- you don’t want any residual moisture when you put it in the skillet. The yummiest part of this recipe are the brown bits of butter stuck to the shrimp and those won’t develop if your shrimp is wet. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Next, allow the butter to sizzle before putting the shrimp in the pan. The shrimp cook super fast, so if you don’t let the butter come up to temp before placing the shrimp in the pan, you won’t get those delightful browned bits. Finally, allow adequate space between shrimp while cooking. You don’t want them on top of one another. If needed, you can do it in two batches and add a tiny pat more butter if the skillet looks dry. It cooks quickly enough that the first batch will stay warm while you cook the second.

How are your preparations for the holiday going? I’ll be sharing some cookies and indulgent recipes in the coming weeks. Please let me know if you have any requests! My Grandma’s Anise Italian Cookies are always a must have. Happy Holidays, guys!

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Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp, patted dry with paper towels
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Make sure shrimp is thoroughly dry by patting with paper towels. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the shrimp.

In large nonstick skillet, heat butter over medium high heat. Once sizzling, add shrimp in single layer, being sure to allow adequate room between shrimp. Cook shrimp for 1-2 minutes, until pink on one side and butter solids have browned and stuck to shrimp. Flip shrimp and cook an additional minute. Shrimp may be cooked in batches if your skillet is not large enough to cook them all at once.

Serves 3-4.

Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats

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Hey there! I hope you had a great weekend. Mine was wonderful, just too short. I could always use one more day. If someone ran a presidential campaign on the platform of a nationwide 3 day weekend they would have my vote. Sadly I think all hope is lost on that front for this election. At least homemade treats make a pretty good consolation prize. I did have time  this weekend to make this fun, seasonal update on the classic Rice Krispie Treat. Which is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because they are delicious. Bad because…they are delicious and I keep eating them. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios and white chocolate chips turn this childhood classic into a delightful autumn treat. These Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats would be a great fall baking project to make with young kiddos for Halloween. No complicated measuring or prolonged baking time. Just melt, stir, pour and slice. Easy peasy.

I’m sure you don’t need too much in the way of directions for these treats, since they follow the tried and true Rice Krispie Treat method. However, I will offer a couple of tips. First, learn from my mistakes and mix the cereal with the melted marshmallows in the pan you use to melt the marshmallows. I did the opposite- I poured the melted marshmallows into a bowl with the cereal/chocolate chip mixture and it almost cooled before I had thoroughly mixed everything. If you mix in the pan, the residual heat will keep the marshmallow warm enough to evenly coat the cereal. Next, these are most easily sliced if  you spray your knife with some nonstick cooking spray. That way you’re sure to get clean edges. Finally, if you can’t find Pumpkin Spice Cheerios (I bought the last box at my store. Sorry, neighbors!), you could also use Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Or use plain Cheerios or Rice Krispies and add 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice to the butter/marshmallow mixture.

I decorated individual squares with mellowcreme pumpkins, since I’m a sucker for those little things. If you put them on while the treats are still warm they’ll stick. Sliced up and put in individual cellophane treat bags, these would be great for a fall bake sale or class party. One last thing- this recipe uses a bag and half of marshmallows, which means you’ll have half a bag leftover. If you’re wondering what to do with the extra, take a peek at my recipe for S’mores Tarts. Enjoy!

pumpkin-spice-crispy-treatsPumpkin Spice Crispy Treats

Ingredients:

  • 9 cups (1 box) Pumpkin Spice Cheerios*
  • 2 cups (1 bag) white chocolate chips
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 15 oz (1 1/2 bags) marshmallows
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

In large bowl, toss cheerios and white chocolate chips.

Prepare 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In large stockpot, melt butter over medium low heat. Once butter is melted, add marshmallows and stir continuously until marshmallows are completely melted. Add vanilla extract and stir to incorporate. Take stockpot off heat. Add cheerios and white chocolate chips and stir until cereal mixture is well coated in marshmallow. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and  press into even layer. (Spray cooking spray on your hands or spatula to make this task less messy.)

Allow treats to cool, then cut into squares. To cut cleanly, spray nonstick cooing spray on knife.

Makes about 24 treats, more or less depending on how sliced.

*If you cannot find Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, you can use Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Alternatively, use either regular Cheerios or Rice Krispies and add 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice to marshmallow mixture before adding cereal.

Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats

 

Grandma Pisani’s Pasta Fagioli

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My grandma’s recipe for pasta fagioli departs from the typical soup version of the dish. Instead this is a hearty pasta dish, quick and economical enough to make on a weeknight when the pantry is bare. Grandma’s pasta fagioli is the definition of comfort food: warm, delicious and packed with love and happy memories. 

My love for cooking started in my Grandma Pisani’s kitchen. She has a tiny stool that says “Happiness is Retirement”, or something to that effect. When I was a little girl, Grandma would pull the stool up to the counter and patiently walk me through the steps of her recipes. She started with the  quick and simple ones, keeping in mind my small hands and attention span. Scrambled eggs, or “eggies”, as we called them, were an early favorite. As the years progressed, we moved on to grilled cheese and pan fried sausages, to cookies and Christmas kolachi. Grandma let me taste each ingredient, so I knew the difference between butter and oleo (margarine), between provolone and cheddar. The dishes we made were never complicated or fancy but were always delicious and full of her boundless love. They are the recipes I turn to when I’m feeling blue, homesick or under the weather. On a dreary Sunday afternoon, nothing makes me happier than making a big batch of meatballs and sauce, Grandma-style. The savory aroma and divine taste evaporate all of the years and miles and place me right back in Grandma’s kitchen, where nothing very wrong could ever happen and all problems could be cured with a cookie, a cup of tea and a hug.

Fortunately, not all of Grandma’s greatest hits are weekend-only affairs. This pasta fagioli is a perfect example. Lightning quick and made entirely of pantry staples, this is a busy weeknight’s saving grace. The entire dish is done in the time it takes the water to boil and pasta to cook. Chopping a little garlic is the extent of the culinary skill needed to pull this one off. Saute the garlic in some olive oil flavored with a pinch of red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning. Add some tomato sauce and red beans (red because my Dad and uncles used to pick the beans out- lunatics!- so Grandma used red beans to make this task easy for them) and simmer while the pasta finishes. Reserve some pasta water, drain pasta and toss in the sauce. Add pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce so it coats the pasta. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle on some shredded Parmesan and dinner is on the table. This is humble, good food, perfect to warm bellies and souls as the cold months approach.

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Grandma with all of her grandchildren ❤

As is typical for a family recipe, there are a million stories and memories associated with this pasta fagioli. When my parents started dating, my dad brought my mom to dinner at Grandma’s house unannounced one evening. It was the first time my mom was meeting my dad’s family and Grandma was less than thrilled with her lack of notice. She had made this pasta fagioli and homemade pizza(!) and was embarrassed at the modest dinner she had prepared. Of course, my mom was floored by the delicious home cooked meal she was served and has raved about the pasta fagioli ever since. Which just goes to show, simple can be best and Grandma knows what she’s doing. Love you, Grandma!!!

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Grandma Pisani’s Pasta Fagioli

This pasta fagioli is a hearty and economical pasta dish. The sauce just lightly coats the pasta. If you prefer a more saucy pasta, you may increase the amount of tomato sauce in the recipe by 1.5 to 2x the amount called for. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups ditalini pasta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Season water generously with salt. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet or saucepan. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning and cook another 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomato sauce and kidney beans. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Simmer sauce gently until pasta is done.

Once pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain pasta. Add pasta to sauce and toss to coat. Add reserved pasta water as necessary to ensure sauce evenly coats pasta. Taste and season again with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Ham, Gruyere and Apple Panini

ham-gruyere-and-apple-paniniWell hi there! Sorry for the silence in these parts the past few days. We unexpectedly adopted a kitten on Monday and the past two days have been full of vet appointments and crawling under the bed to socialize with our little Miss Elle. The inspiration for her name? That’s right, Stranger Things. We’re big fans of Eleven in this house. I’ll post a picture of the little lady as soon as she’s not curled up next to some old shoes shoved under my bed. No demogorgons allowed 😉

Anyway, on to the main event today- a fantastic ham, gruyere and apple panini, perfect for pairing with soup on a chilly fall evening. I love putting apples into grilled sandwiches. The fresh, sweet crunch of thinly sliced apple is a wonderful complement to warm, melty cheese. This panini pairs apple, dijon mustard and hearty bakery bread with the classic combo of ham and gruyere cheese. The real showstopper here is a sprinkle of crispy sage leaves on the inside of the sandwich. It’s such a small touch but makes an enormous difference and really elevates the standard ham and cheese sandwich to something special. Of course you can make the sandwich without the crispy sage, but please please please, if you have an extra 3 minutes and some sage around, do it. Just heat a little bit of butter in the skillet you’ll use to grill the sandwich and crisp up the sage while you assemble the rest of the sandwich. One other tip- it is worth the effort to shred the cheese rather than slice it. The shreds melt more quickly and evenly, meaning that your bread won’t burn before the cheese melts. The resulting panini is far superior to anything you’ll find at the local sandwich shop. Pair with a bowl of soup and a glass of wine and you’re on your way to an excellent evening.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a kitten to go cuddle!

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Ham, Gruyere and Apple Panini

Makes 1 sandwich. Double, triple, etc. until you’ve fed all the hungry people you need to feed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices hearty bakery bread, about 1/2 inch thick each
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (sharp cheddar can be substituted)
  • 2-3 thin slices ham (I used Citterio Rosmarino ham)
  • 3 thin slices of apple
  • 1 Tbsp chopped sage leaves
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Instructions

Heat 1 Tbsp butter in skillet over medium heat. When butter sizzles, add sage leaves and cook 3-4 minutes, until they are crisp but not burned. While sage cooks, prepare the rest of the sandwich.

Spread mustard on slices of bread. Sprinkle half the cheese over one slice of bread, then top with ham and apple. When sage leaves are crisp, remove from butter and sprinkle on top of apples. Top apples and sage with remaining cheese and close sandwich. Spread remaining 1 Tbsp butter on each side of the sandwich.

In the skillet used to crisp the sage, grill the sandwich over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve and enjoy!

 

Tortellini Rosa

Tortellini Rosa 1Well, hello from the other side of Labor Day weekend! I hope you were able to have some fun and relax. Are you all hot-dogged and hamburgered out? Summer is, unofficially at least, over and we’re back to school, schedules and busy weeknights. Quick and easy recipes are a necessity. This time of year, if you don’t have a plan for dinner, you’re looking at PB&J or Cheerios. Luckily you do not need a lot of time or energy to get this tasty and satisfying Tortellini Rosa on the table. Getting back into the swing of things can be a real drag, so cheese and carbs are here to help.

This dish is inspired by a former favorite at a neighborhood restaurant that’s since been taken off the menu. Fortunately it is easy to recreate and I think my version is even better than the original (though I may be biased.) Cheesy tortellini are combined with 1/2 cup each of Italian pantry staples: black olives, artichokes and roasted red peppers. Pancetta adds meaty richness and blue cheese adds a decadent tang. Add spinach for some healthy greens. Everything is mixed into a slightly spicy and super easy creamy tomato sauce. I use a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Between the cream and the cheesy tortellini, there is plenty of richness in the dish to balance it out. If you’re heat shy, you can scale back to 1/2 a teaspoon. Dinner will be on the table within 30 minutes and you’ll only have a skillet and stockpot to clean up afterwards. So you can move on to whatever else your evening has in store, whether it be soccer practice of a Netflix binge. I’ll cross my fingers that it’s the latter.

Tortellini Rosa 2

Tortellini Rosa

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz dried tortellini (I used Barilla Collezione Cheese and Spinach Tortellini)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup black olives, chopped
  • 2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

In large stock pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water and add tortellini. Cook tortellini 2 minutes short of cooking time on package. Drain.

While tortellini is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. When oil shimmers, add pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove pancetta from skillet and pour fat from skillet, reserving 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Return skillet to heat and add reserved fat. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook 3o seconds, until fragrant. Add wine to skillet and reduce for about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and water to skillet and cook until sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives and spinach. Cook until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes.

Add tortellini to skillet once it is ready. Cook tortellini in the sauce for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add  heavy cream, stirring to combine. Add pancetta and blue cheese to skillet. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to your preference. Sprinkle basil over skillet and serve.

Serves 4

S’Mores Tarts

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I’m not really what you would call an outdoorsy kinda gal. Camping has never been my thing. When I was in sixth grade, my class spent a week at Camp Fitch, a local youth camp. While my peers were hiking, riding and archery-ing (?), I was getting stuck in the middle of a pond in a canoe. For real. They had to send one of the counselors out to get me. I was also picked last in gym class, in case that isn’t clear.

My point is that I do not have significant camping experience, nor do I have many memories of making s’mores ’round the campfire. At beach bonfires, yes. In the living room fireplace, of course. In the microwave… let’s not talk about it. However, being an indoor girl can have some perks. Take, for example, these s’mores tarts. You couldn’t make these babies at a camp site.  Flaky, buttery puff pastry and sweet, smooth cookie spread act like a little blush and mascara to elevate the yummy, but predictable, s’more into something spectacular. These are s’mores all dolled up.

Store-bought puff pastry is cut into squares, scored around the edges and baked. Spread Biscoff or a similar cookie spread on pastry, then top with chocolate. Pop the tarts back into the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the chocolate, then top with marshmallows and stick under the broiler until sufficiently charred. The resulting tarts are just as gooey, sweet and delicious (and messy) as their campfire counterpart, but feel a bit more special and sophisticated. They’re fancy enough to serve at a dinner party but simple enough to make on a weeknight. Inside.

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S’Mores Tarts

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (half of one package)
  • 4 full size Hershey bars
  • 1/4 cup Biscoff spread (or similar cookie spread)
  • 20 marshmallows

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat, or spray with cooking spray.

Cut puff pastry into 4 even squares and place on baking sheet. With a paring knife, score each square about 1/2 inch from edge. Do not cut all the way through, just about half. With the tines of a fork, prick the inner square of the pastry. Do not prick outer edge. Bake pastry squares for about 10 minutes, until lightly brown. Remove from oven.

Spread about 1/2 tablespoon Biscoff on interior square of each piece of pastry, pressing down the center if it is overly puffy. Top Biscoff with 1/2 a Hershey bar. Place pastry squares back into the oven 1-2 minutes, until chocolate is softened. Remove from oven.

Turn on broiler. Place 5 marshmallows on top of each square. Once broiler is heated, place tarts back in oven and broil until the marshmallows are charred, about 2-4 minutes, depending on the strength and proximity of your broiler. Watch closely, as the marshmallows can burn quickly. Remove from oven when marshmallows are sufficiently charred. Allow to cool until tarts can be handled, then serve warm.

Makes 8 tarts. Recipe can easily be doubled.