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

Lighter Chicken Salad

Lighter Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t eat it often, mostly because of the whole calorie bomb factor, but I want to eat it all the time. A couple of months ago, after a tough day, I decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered a chicken salad hoagie from Wawa. It was heavenly. That is, until the angel on my shoulder innocently wondered exactly how damaging my mayo based revelry really was. Wouldn’t you know, Wawa provides nutritional information on their website. All I can say is…ouch. I enjoyed the first half of that sandwich. The second half was just as delicious but not nearly as enjoyable. I hate that.

Today’s recipe is my solution. I think this chicken salad is perfection. The dressing is a perfect balance of creaminess, sweetness and acidity. The chicken is roasted on the bone to ensure it stays juicy and flavorful. Crispy and crunchy accents abound in the form of veggies, seeds and nuts. I’ve tried a lot of “light” chicken salad recipes and have been disappointed in many of them. Greek yogurt is almost always used as a stand in for mayo (and makes an appearance in my recipe, too.) But the problem is, I know the difference between Greek yogurt and mayo. Using Greek yogurt alone results in an overly tangy, distinctly yogurt-y salad. No thanks. I use equal parts low-fat mayo and nonfat Greek yogurt to reap the lower calorie, protein rich benefits of the yogurt while enjoying the luscious creaminess of mayo. The dressing is rounded out with honey, apple cider vinegar and poppy seeds. I’ve stuck to traditional add-ins in this recipe, such as finely diced celery, shallots and almonds. However, if you want to get creative, you could add diced apples, halved grapes, dried cranberries, carrots or any type of nut you prefer. You could also get creative with the herbs you use- basil or tarragon would be delightful.

Lighter Chicken Salad

The abundance of mayo in traditional chicken salad can hide a lot of sins, particularly dry chicken. We’ll make sure that’s not an issue here by roasting bone in, skin on chicken breasts. This way we ensure the chicken stays moist, but still get the benefit of lean breast meat (we toss then skin.) As the chicken roasts, whisk together the dressing, dice the veggies and toast the almonds. Once the chicken is done and cool enough to handle, shred either with two forks or your fingers. I like the chicken in my chicken salad to be finely chopped, so that’s what I do. If you like bigger pieces, you do you. When you’re ready to serve, you have a multitude of options. I think it’s adorable as a light lunch or hors d’oeuvre on top of cucumber slices. I’ve been packing this chicken salad for work lunches this week on a bed of greens. Or, you can take advantage of all those calories you’re saving and serve on a nice toasty baguette. That will be a sandwich you can enjoy start to finish without a shred of guilt after.

Lighter Chicken Salad

Lighter Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb bone in, skin on chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s Light)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken dry and place on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper over chicken. Roast 35-40 minutes, until meat registers 160 degrees. Once meat is cool enough to handle, shred using hands or two forks, then finely chop.

While chicken is roasting, toast almonds, chop vegetables and prepare dressing. To toast almonds, place them in skillet over medium heat and toast about 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Watch closely to ensure they don’t burn. To prepare dressing, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds and remaining salt and pepper.

Once chicken is chopped, combine with vegetables, dressing and parsley in a large bowl and toss until ingredients are evenly coated with dressing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately or chill to serve later.

Serves 6-8.

 

Lighter Chicken Salad

Shredded Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad

shredded-brussels-sprout-and-kale-salad

AKA trendy vegetable salad. Kale and Brussels Sprouts have become quite the happening veggies in the past few years. Which is awesome, to be sure. As long as they are treated correctly. There’s a reason that these two nutritional superstars were relegated to garnish and grandma status for so long. When not prepared well, they can be pretty….blech. Maybe SNL said it best:

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Yeah. When treated carelessly, both brussels sprouts and kale can be repulsive. But when treated properly, they are such a treat. I’ll let you guess which route we’re going today.

I’ve only really been turned on to brussels sprouts in the past few years. I was fortunate to never have experienced the sulfurous stink of improperly cooked sprouts in my youth, but that is mostly because we didn’t eat them at all (maybe my mom had lingering memories of bad brussels sprouts past.) Roasted, almost charred brussels sprouts have thankfully been my gateway, and I’ve been head over heels ever since. Raw, shredded brussels sprouts take a little leap of faith but are so worth it. In this salad, they’re sliced super thin, courtesy of a food processor or a very sharp knife and steady hand. Tossed with kale, our other veggie du jour, they form a hearty and nutritious base for a delicious fall salad.

shredded-brussels-sprout-and-kale-salad

Since we start with a super healthy base, we can obviously indulge ourselves a little, right? Sure we can. We’ll crisp up a few thinly sliced shallots in olive oil, toast some nutty pumpkin seeds and sprinkle some tangy blue cheese over top. Sweet cranberries and chopped apples top off the tasty additions. And we’re not done yet. Such a delightful salad deserves a yummy homemade dressing, no? Mix together some apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, almond butter, dijon mustard and maple syrup and OMG. A variation on this dressing has been my go-to for fall and winter salads ever since I tried Kristin’s version over at Iowa Girl Eats. SO delish. I promise it is worth tossing all of these ingredients into a mason jar and shake, shake, shaking to your heart’s content. Almost as easy as store bought but a thousand times more tasty.

shredded-brussels-sprout-and-kale-salad

A few tips to make this salad as wonderful as possible: First, when trimming the root end of the sprouts, be sure to get all of the tough, woody part from the bottom where the sprout connects to the stalk. Even when shredded it can be somewhat tough, so take care of it at the outset. Next, toss the chopped apple with some lemon juice so that it stays crisp and doesn’t brown. Finally, if you won’t be eating the whole salad at one meal, don’t dress the whole thing. The sprouts and kale can wilt a bit once left in the dressing for a significant period of time (we’re talking like a day) so it’s worthwhile to dress each serving individually if you’ll consume over a few days. Oh, and maybe double the dressing recipe. I’m pretty sure you’ll find a way to use it.

shredded-brussels-sprout-and-kale-salad

Shredded Brussels Sprout and Kale Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, tough outer leaves removed and thinly shredded, either with food processor or sharp knife
  • 2 cups chopped kale ( I used lacinato)
  • 1 apple, diced and tossed with the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp then chopped
  • 3-4 shallots, thinly sliced (or 2 very large shallots)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • Almond Cider Dressing:
    • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • juice of 1/2 lemon
    • 1 Tbsp almond butter
    • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
    • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
    • salt and pepper

Instructions:

Prepare dressing: in mason jar add dressing ingredients and shake until thoroughly combined.

Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in skillet over medium high heat. When oil shimmers, add shallot and fry 3-4 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove shallots to bowl lined with paper towels.

In large bowl, combine brussels sprouts, kale, apple, bacon, shallots, blue cheese, pumpkin seeds and cranberries. Add dressing and toss to combine. If you will be eating the  salad over a few days, dress each serving as eaten.

Serves 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma with Garlic Sauce and Cucumber Tomato Salad

oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

So let me preface this recipe by saying that I am by no means an authority on Middle Eastern cuisine nor am I an expert on the traditional means of cooking shawarma. What I DO know is that I am exceptionally glad that I can close my office door when I eat lunch, because I’m pretty sure I moaned in ecstasy when eating this oven roasted chicken shawarma and accoutrements for lunch today. It’s just. so. good. Tender chicken thighs are marinated in a garlicky, lemony spice blend and are quickly roasted in the oven then crisped under the broiler. The result is out of this world delicious. Topped with a quick garlic sauce made with pantry and fridge staples and a fresh and crunchy tomato cucumber salad, this meal is truly a symphony of flavor and texture. This dinner has definitely earned a spot in our regular meal rotation.

oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

It’s hard to believe that something this flavorful can be simple to make, but it’s true. The marinade comes together in a snap and the chicken marinates on your schedule. Only have an hour? Great. Need to toss everything together the prior evening or before work in the morning? You are in for a treat, my friend. You can’t argue with that kind of versatility. When you’re ready to make the chicken, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and place the chicken in a hot oven. While the chicken cooks, whip up a quick (and yummy) garlic sauce and a fresh cucumber tomato salad. The cucumber tomato salad is a riff on Tabbouleh sans the grains. You know I love carbs, but save them for the naan (a soft, delicious flatbread) in this case. I found mini naan in the refrigerated section at Costco and I am obsessed, because they fit in the toaster. Warm, toasty naan on demand? Yes, please!

Once the chicken comes out of the oven, transfer it to a cutting board and chop into bite sized pieces. Drain excess juice from the sheet pan and place the chicken back on the pan. Broil the chicken for 5-10 minutes until edges have crisped and you’re ready to eat! The richly spiced, tender chicken, fresh salad and tangy garlic sauce complement each other so perfectly you’ll be amazed that this came from your own kitchen and not an NYC food truck. And since you’ve made it at home, you’ve controlled the amount of oil, fat and sodium in the dish so you can go back for seconds (or thirds) guilt free. If you make ONE dish in the next week, promise me you’ll make this. Please also promise me you’ll call me so I can come over. I’ll bring the wine!

oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

Oven Roasted Chicken Shawarma with Garlic Sauce and Cucumber Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

Chicken:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 large red onion, cut into large wedges
  • Naan bread, for serving

Garlic Sauce:

  • 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt
  • ½ cup mayo (low-fat is fine)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Cucumber Tomato Salad:

  • 4 firm Roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 ½ seedless (English) cucumber, seeded and finely diced
  • 4 green onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp mint, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions: 

Add chicken thighs and onion wedges to gallon sized resealable plastic bag. In medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and red pepper flakes in bowl until well combined. Pour marinade into bag with chicken and seal. Massage chicken until thoroughly coated. Place bag in a bowl and refrigerate at least an hour, up to 24 hours.

When ready to cook chicken, preheat oven to 425. Spread remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil on rimmed baking sheet. Remove chicken and onion from marinade and place on sheet pan. Bake 25-30 minutes. When chicken is done, take out of oven and remove chicken to cutting board. Preheat broiler. Chop chicken into small pieces. Pour juices from baking sheet into a bowl. Place chicken under broiler for 5-10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until crisp edges have formed.

While chicken is cooking, prepare garlic sauce and cucumber tomato salad.

To make garlic sauce, add all ingredients to medium bowl and whisk until smooth.

To make cucumber tomato salad, toss vegetables and herbs in olive oil and lemon juice.

Serve chicken with sauce and salad and warm toasted naan bread.

Serves 4.

Shawarma recipe adapted from the New York Times

Tabbouleh recipe adapted from The Mediterranean Dish

oven-roasted-chicken-shawarma

Autumn Quinoa Salad with Maple Cider Vinaigrette

autumn-quinoa-salad

Hi there! How was your first weekend of fall 2016? Mine was an ideal mix of productivity and active relaxation. A couple of spin classes, ALL the laundry and a Thanksgiving style turkey dinner on Sunday evening have left me renewed and invigorated…and just a little sleepy. I’m no good at inactive relaxation (aka sitting on the couch.) I need to be doing something, which is why this blog makes such a great hobby. If I have the time during the weekend, I love to prep something healthy and yummy for easy lunches or dinners for the week ahead. One of my favorite make-ahead dishes is a veggie filled quinoa salad. I vary the ingredients based on the season. This time of year, butternut squash, kale, cranberries and pumpkin seeds are in season and heavenly. Nothing brightens up a long work-day like a hearty bowl of fall’s bountiful goodness.

This Autumn Quinoa Salad fits the bill. I’ll be happy to face plant  in a bowl of this salad during lunch this week. All of my fall favorites make an appearance in this dish. The butternut squash, in particular, steals my heart. It’s roasted in a bit of butter until caramelized, browned and tender. It’s sweet and slightly savory and all autumn. The secret to perfectly roasted squash is two-fold. First, of course, is the butter. Second, you have to let it cook longer than you think it needs to. After about 20 minutes in the oven, the squash will be tender and almost too soft, but have faith. With time, more of the water evaporates from the squash and it caramelizes beautifully. A few handfuls of hearty kale add a healthy, delicious bitterness. Sweet dried cranberries are a must in any fall salad. Pumpkin seeds add a seasonal nuttiness and cheese (of your choice- I used parmesan, but blue or goat cheese would be divine) round out the additions. Toss everything in a sweet and savory maple cider vinaigrette that I would gladly eat with a spoon.

Start by preparing and roasting the butternut squash and everything else will be ready by the time the squash is through roasting. Serve the salad immediately and it’s warm and toasty, or prepare in advance and let the flavors mingle in the fridge. This makes a great side dish to roast chicken or pork. Or, top with grilled chicken or shrimp and serve as a light but satisfying main course.

autumn-quinoa-salad

 

Autumn Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped, cleaned kale
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • ½ cup cheese (parmesan shreds, blue cheese crumbles or goat cheese crumbles)
  • Maple Cider Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Instructions:

First, prepare butternut squash. Preheat oven to 425.

Spray large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and add butternut squash, butter and 1 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Mix ingredients until squash is coated. Bake squash 25-30 minutes, until side resting on baking sheet is browned. Then flip squash and return to oven for an additional 5-10 minutes, until it reaches desired brownness.

While squash is cooking, prepare quinoa. Bring water to a boil in medium saucepan and add quinoa. Once water returns to a boil, reduce heat, cover pan and simmer 12-15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Allow quinoa to rest, covered, for about 5 minutes, then fluff with fork and add to large bowl.

Once quinoa is in bowl, add kale, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and cheese. Add butternut squash once it is done. Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Add about half of the maple cider vinaigrette and taste. Add more vinaigrette as desired. Serve hot, room temperature or chilled.

Makes 4 main course servings, 6 side dish servings.

Maple Cider Vinaigrette: 

In mason jar, add:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place lid on jar and shake thoroughly, until ingredients are well mixed.

 

Olive Bar Pasta Salad

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My grandpa was a quiet man of simple tastes with a heart of gold. He was content to let my grandma, our family’s social butterfly and current queen bee at her assisted living home, do all the talking. During family gatherings, he would sit in the midst of the chaos created by his large family and calmly observe, the eye at the center of the Pisani storm. He noticed things about us that we didn’t realize. We would later hear from my grandma what he thought of a new haircut or boyfriend. He loved to be the center of attention, though he would never seek the spotlight. When he turned 90, all five of his sons gathered from across the country to celebrate. I remember as we sat at his 90th birthday dinner, how the happiness and pride he felt at being celebrated by his family shone through his smile. As was his way, he didn’t need to put it into words.

When it came to food and drink, Grandpa knew what he liked. Peanut brittle, red meat and his daily chili dog and beer from his club. The free lollipops from the bank that I’m pretty sure were meant for little kids. Like any true Italian, he loved his wine. At family dinners, a wine bottle somehow always came to rest near his spot. If my grandma caught him lifting the bottle to go in for a refill, he would defend himself by saying “I’m just reading the label!” Sure…me too, Grandpa, me too. He also loved olives from the olive bar at the grocery store. Any time we went to visit, my dad would bring a container of olives for Grandpa to enjoy. I’m pretty sure this Olive Bar Pasta Salad recipe would be a hit with him.

This pasta salad is a perfect summer potluck dish. You can pick up everything you need from the olive bar at the grocery store, meaning it comes together in a flash. Briny olives, creamy mozzarella and whatever other goodies you choose. I added artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms and roasted red peppers. I also added in a diced cucumber for its’ crisp texture and freshness.The dressing is an update on the typical mayo-heavy pasta salad dressing, brightened up with white balsamic vinegar. And the end result? Divine. I’ve been sneaking bites of it every time I go into the fridge.

I’ll enjoy my next helping with a glass of wine to toast my grandpa.Then I’ll “read the label” and go back for more.IMG_6124 (1)

Olive Bar Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb dried pasta (I used Girelle– Farfalle, Orchiette or Rotini would also work well)
  • 3.5-4 cups assorted olives, tomatoes, artichokes, peppers, etc. from grocery store olive bar
  • 8 oz. mini fresh mozzarella balls (you can also use the mozzarella in the olive bar)
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped basil leaves
  • White Balsamic Pasta Salad Dressing:
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp mayonaise (I used light)
    • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
    • 4 roasted garlic cloves- from olive bar
    • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp oregano
    • 2 tsp honey
    • black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Cook pasta in boiling water, 1-2 minutes longer than package directions. Pasta should not be al dente. Drain pasta and rinse under cold running water until cool.

While pasta is cooking, chop olive bar ingredients. If mozzarella balls are on the large side, cut them in half. Place olive bar ingredients, cheese and chopped cucumber in large bowl.

In small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together until smooth.

When pasta is cool, add to large bowl with olive bar ingredients, cheese and cucumber. Toss with dressing until well incorporated. Add chopped basil. Chill at least 2-3 hours before serving.

Serves 8-10 as a side.

To serve as a main course, you could add chickpeas, grilled chicken or grilled shrimp.

Diane and Grandpa

Love you, Grandpa.