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

Truffled Pappardelle with Pancetta and Asparagus

truffled-pappardelle-with-pancetta-and-asparagusHave you carried over any routines from your childhood household to your adult life? I have retained so many that I’m 95% sure I have morphed into my mother. (Which is a pretty awesome thing, my mom is the best!) For example, like my mother before me, my Thursday nights are for cleaning the house while Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune play in the background. The first 15 minutes after arriving home from work are reserved for a fresh cup of coffee and a magazine. And Friday nights are “no cook” nights. While there were occasional Friday evenings where we had tuna noodle casserole, by and large our Friday nights were pizza nights. Nothing was so simultaneously thrilling (pizza!) or terrifying (I didn’t want to open the door and awkwardly pay the delivery guy) as seeing the Pizza Hut delivery car pull into the driveway.

For the past 5 years, my husband and I have carried on the Friday night pizza tradition. However, in the past few months pizza hasn’t really been hitting the spot. I want something…else. Sometimes we’ll pick up Chinese from the place around the corner. Other times, if I’m reeaaally nice, I can convince Justin to drive out to our favorite Thai restaurant to grab takeout. And no, I really don’t feel like eating out on Fridays. For one, I’m exhausted, and two, my cats have been home by themselves all week and need our attention, thankyouverymuch. Surprisingly, the most satisfying Friday night dinners in recent history have been the ones where I’ve gotten over my initial weariness, poured myself a glass of wine and gotten to work in the kitchen. Maybe it’s the little thrill of bucking tradition. More likely it’s been the phenomenal and phenomenally easy pasta dinners I’ve thrown together. Today’s Truffled Pappardelle with Pancetta and Asparagus is one such home run.

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This recipe was inspired by the meal I ordered at our anniversary dinner a few weeks ago at  Chow Bistro. It’s one of those recipes that is delicious and impressive and has the added bonus of being unexpectedly simple to make. Perfectly al dente pasta is tossed with crisp bits of pancetta, lightly charred asparagus and coated with savory, slightly funky (in the best way) truffle butter. Plus, it’s topped with a fried egg. Fried eggs = happiness in my book. If truffle butter is a deal breaker for you, or if you simply can’t find it, you can easily substitute browned butter. The result is a rich and special occasion-worthy pasta dish that is done within 30 minutes. Go ahead and invite some friends over for a weeknight or Friday night dinner- they’ll think you’re a rockstar with this meal.

Pappardelle is a medium wide egg pasta usually sold in adorable little “nests.” The cute factor obviously makes it that much more tasty. While the water is coming up to a boil and the pasta cooks, diced pancetta is browned in a large skillet. Once the pancetta is crisp, remove it from the skillet and rest in a bowl lined with paper towels. Toss the asparagus into the skillet and quickly cook it in the fat rendered from the pancetta. If you have time before the pasta is done, you can take the asparagus out of the skillet, fry the eggs and set them aside. Otherwise you can quickly fry them up after the pasta is plated. Once the pasta is done, toss it into the skillet with a generous amount of truffle butter, the asparagus and pancetta and toss until everything is coated in decadent, buttery goodness. Shave parmesan over the pasta, top each serving with a fried egg and eat! Give this a try one Friday night, or any night. The only loser here is the local pizza shop- they’ll miss you!

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Truffled Pappardelle with Pancetta and Asparagus

If you cannot find or do not like truffle butter, you can substitute an equal amount of browned butter. Truffle butter can be found near finishing butters in grocery store.

Ingredients:

  • 9-10 oz dried pappardelle pasta (1 package)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz diced pancetta
  • 1 bunch asparagus, about 1 lb, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 Tbsp truffle butter (or browned butter, if desired)
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs

Instructions:

Fill large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add salt to water. Add pappardelle and cook until al dente, per package instructions (around 7 minutes.) When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain.

In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add pancetta to skillet and cook until browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove pancetta from skillet to bowl lined with paper towels. Add asparagus to skillet and cook until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Season asparagus with salt and pepper. Remove asparagus from skillet and add eggs. Season with salt and pepper and fry until the whites are set and yolk remains runny. Set eggs aside.

Reduce heat under skillet to medium. Add truffle butter, pasta, pancetta and asparagus. Cook until truffle butter is melted and all ingredients are coated. Taste and season again with salt and pepper. If the pasta looks dry, add reserved pasta water in small increments until you reach desired consistency. Note that this will not be a heavily sauced pasta.

Portion pasta onto plates and top each serving with parmesan and fried egg.

Serves 3-4

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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.

Cheesy Bacon Guacamole Chicken

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By the time I’m halfway through the work week, I need all the help I can get. Is anyone available to do my laundry, pick up my dry cleaning, clean my house and maybe just do my job for me, too? No takers? Darn. I don’t know how those of you with kids do it. I’m lucky if my shoes match by Wednesday. Luckily I have a few simple and tasty last minute dinner recipes up my sleeve to save me from the after work hangries (hunger + anger, for those of you lucky enough to be unacquainted.) This chicken, for example, is ready in a snap and checks enough delicious boxes to keep me going until Friday. Cheese? Check. Bacon? Check. A heaping pile of guacamole? Ohhhhhh, check. Served over a bed of greens dressed with olive oil and lime juice, this is a delicious, relatively healthy low carb dinner. Served with tortilla chips and margaritas… can I come over?

This recipe has a lot going for it even beyond deliciousness. It’s done in 30 minutes and leaves virtually no dirty dishes in its’ wake. Start by lining a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and bake the bacon in a hot oven. No greasy splatters and the bacon grease can be rolled up in the foil and thrown out once you’re done. While the bacon sizzles away in the oven, prepare the remaining ingredients. Chicken cutlets are a favorite of mine for a quick weeknight protein. They’re easy enough to make yourself with a chicken breast, a sharp knife and a steady hand, but if you’re really pressed for time they are also easy to find in the grocery store. While the bacon is cooking you’ll have plenty of time to season the chicken, shred some cheese and mix a quick guacamole. The chicken is baked on the same sheet you use for the bacon, then topped with shredded cheese and bacon and popped back in the oven until the cheese and bacon melt into the chicken in a gooey delicious mess. Top each chicken cutlet with as much guacamole as you please and you are DONE! You could also use shredded cheese and store bought guac to make this even more of a time saver. Enjoy this quick and easy mid-week dinner and keep your chin up. There’s light at the end of this tunnel.

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Cheesy Bacon Guacamole Chicken 

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken cutlets (either purchased as cutlets or 4 chicken breasts cut in half to make cutlets)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 heaping cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 ripe avocados, mashed
  • ½ tomato, diced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450. Line rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place a baking rack inside of sheet. Spray baking rack with cooking spray. Place bacon on rack and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from rack and chop when cool enough to handle.

While bacon is cooking, season chicken cutlets with chili powder, cumin, 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper. When bacon is done, wipe excess grease from sheet with paper towels and place chicken on baking rack. Cook chicken 3-4 minutes, then remove from oven. Divide bacon evenly over chicken cutlets and top with cheese. Place chicken back into the oven for 2-3 minutes.

While bacon and chicken are cooking, prepare guacamole. In medium bowl, mix avocados, tomato, onion, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, remaining 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper.

Once chicken is completely done, spoon guacamole on top and serve.

Serves 4, 2 cutlets per serving.

Quick Pork Chops with Apples and Sage Cream Sauce

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Do you ever get stuck in a rut when it comes to an ingredient? When I was a kid my mom made (really excellent) pork chops dipped in an egg wash and tossed with breadcrumbs and topped with onions. For the longest time, that was the only place my mind would go when it came to pork chops. More recently I’ve come to appreciate the versatility of quick cooking pork chops on nights when I just can’t deal with the thought of one. more. chicken breast. Of course, pork chops and apples are old pals, a classic pairing. However, classic doesn’t always mean delicious. Too frequently, the pork winds up dry and flavorless and the apples turn to mush. This recipe remedies both of those problems and restores the classic duo to their rightful glory.

This dish is a delightful autumn dinner, fast enough to whip up on a weeknight but special enough for company on the weekend. Thin cut pork chops are quickly seared to form a flavorful crust while the interior stays moist and tender. Then sweet and tart apples and onions are sautéed in the same pan. Finally a savory, herby cream sauce comes together at the last minute in the pan, lightly coating the pork and apples with just a bit of richness. Serve this with mashed potatoes or polenta (hint hint, an awesome recipe is coming your way tomorrow) for a hearty supper or serve along side a mixed salad for a lighter, low carb option. Either way, you’ll have a cozy, tasty fall dinner on your table in no time.

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Quick Pork Chops with Apples and Sage Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 (5-6 oz) thin cut bone-in pork chops
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Instructions:

Heat large skillet over medium high heat. With paper towels, dry pork chops. Season pork chops with ½ tsp each salt and pepper. Add oil and butter to skillet. Once oil and butter shimmer in pan, add pork chops and brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Remove pork chops from pan to a plate. Reduce heat to medium.

While pork chops are browning, mix mustard and wine in small bowl. Once pork chops are removed from skillet, add wine and mustard, stirring to scrap up browned bits from bottom of pan. Add apples, onions and herbs. Cook apples and onions until softened and wine has reduced, about 3-4 minutes. If pan becomes too dry, add water or wine. Add pork chops back to pan and cook until cooked through, about another 3 minutes. Turn off heat. Add heavy cream and remaining ½ tsp each salt and pepper to pan, stirring until sauce is combined.

Serves 4.

Adapted from Cooking Light

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