Tackling seafood in the kitchen

I am always apprehensive to take on seafood in my kitchen. One, because I haven’t much experience cooking with it and two, living in an apartment, the smell is a bit of a deterrent as well. But I really like a lot of seafood (I’ve successfully made crab cakes before)and it’s one of my goals this year to try to get brave and cook more seafood at home. So, this weekend I tackled shrimp.

Shrimp was on sale at Publix which is why it was the one I decided to try this weekend. The guy at the seafood counter enjoyed trying to help me figure out what I needed (he was very patient with me since I didn’t have a clue what I needed really). I bought it deveined but not peeled so I did have to take the tails off and peel them all before cooking. It was my favorite task I’ve done in the kitchen but it wasn’t awful and went better than I expected actually.

What actually failed is I tried to use frozen zucchini noodles for this recipe and I didn’t have them thawed enough which caused some issues. In the future, I’ll cook the noodles as the package notes and then integrate into the recipe. I think that would work fine and still saves me from the spiralizer (which isn’t hard to use but is a pain in the butt to clean afterward). This recipe had a bit more of a kick than I expected but it’s still tasty and the shrimp cooked up so easily. I was impressed by how quickly they turn that shrimp pink! While I don’t think I’ll be hanging onto this recipe, I have got over the fear of shrimp in the kitchen so I have some other recipes I hope to try this year!

[no picture this week as 1) I forgot to take one and 2) Mine did not look as good as the site I got the recipe at so go there and see their pretty dish!]

Zucchini Pasta with Shrimp & Tomatoes (original recipe here)
Servings: 6 (which…I disagree with. Mine came out to more like 4)

Ingredients
3 medium zucchini, remove most of the peeling (or zucchini noodles already made)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (I used the kind in a bottle – it was fine)
1 cup halved grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 pound raw shrimp (thawed if frozen), peeled and deveined

Directions

  1. To make pasta, attach zucchini, one at a time, to a vegetable spiralizer. Use the smaller holes for spaghetti.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until opaque and pink, 2-3 minutes. Place shrimp on a plate and cover.
  3. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté 1 minute. Add remaining olive oil, zucchini pasta, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and lemon juice, and tomatoes, toss to combine. Continue cooking until pasta is tender, about 5 – 7 minutes.
  4. Place shrimp on top of pasta, cover skillet and remove from heat. Allow to set for 1 minute, ensuring shrimp is hot.
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Getting a healthy(ish) Cheeseburger Fix

I adore cheeseburgers. It’s one of those dishes that I am always in the mood for, no matter what. I will never say no to getting a cheeseburger. It may be a bit of a downfall though when trying to eat healthier. So, I have collected LOTS of “healthy” cheeseburger recipes over the years. Most are just deconstructed salads than never really satisfy a craving for a big old burger. But, I tried a new recipe out last week that did a pretty good job finally!

First of all, I love a dish that comes portion controlled out of the gate. I am hit or miss about measuring out portions as well as I should be these days. I am trying to get back into my good habits but it’s not going well. So, this recipe immediately wins because it uses a handy muffin tin to portion out the correct amounts for me! I also like that the serving for this is two “muffins” so basically you get two cheeseburger sliders for dinner. I also liked the meat mixture to create the “burgers” – adding the mustard into the meat mixture really adds a nice little kick and then the ketchup and pickle on top make this an excellent cheeseburger substitute. It also comes together really easily with a fairly small amount of chopping for once. This one went onto the keeper pile for sure!

Cheeseburger Mini Loaves

Mine aren’t very neat but they were tasty!

Cheeseburger Mini Loaves (original recipe here)
Makes 6 servings (2 loaves per serving)

Ingredients
1 lb. raw extra-lean ground beef (4% fat or less)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (about 2 large) egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute
3 tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray (use a paper towel to make sure the spray is spread all over the inside of the cups).
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients except cheese. Evenly fill muffin pan, and smooth out the tops.
  3. Bake until firm with lightly browned edges, about 35 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until melted, about 3 minutes.
  5. Optional: Serve with a dollop of ketchup or mustard and a dill pickle chip on top

Not hitting the spot (but it’s me, not the recipe)

There is nothing wrong with this recipe really. Other than it really should have told me to “half-moon” cut all the vegetables, and not just the zucchini, it’s very cool looking and easy to make. Lots of chopping but let’s face it, all recipes have lots of chopping. But, it’s just not hitting the spot for me this week. Also, and I find this very rarely, it’s a recipe that is not holding up as leftovers. I may make this again when I have company and it will all get eaten at one sitting as it was really best right out of the oven. I will also serve it with a side of spaghetti and sauce. It is a dish that needs some sauce to really make it sing.

Primavera Stuffed Chicken (original recipe on Delish.com)
4 servings

Primavera Stuffed Chicken

There is chicken there among the giant pieces of veggies (fixed the recipe to deal with that next time around!)

Ingredients:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
salt
ground black pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 zucchini, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
3 medium tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
1 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced and halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
1 c. shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400º. Place chicken on a cutting board and make 5 slits in each breast, being careful not to cut through completely. Place on sheet pan.
  2. Drizzle oil over chicken and season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  3. Stuff each chicken breast with zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, and red onion.
  4. Sprinkle each chicken breast with mozzarella.
  5. Bake until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, 25 minutes.
  6. Serve with a side of pasta and sauce.

I keep trying lettuce wraps…

Sigh. I love bread. I really do. In every form they have figured out how to make bread, I adore it. But it does not adore me so well so I try to be wary of eating bread with every meal. So, lettuce wraps. Everyone…I keep trying. I think there is some secret to using lettuce as a bread substitute I have not cracked yet. I think part of it is Publix fails in having the kind of lettuce everyone suggests to use (Bibb) so I usually am trying to make iceberg lettuce work and let’s be honest…it never works for much of anything. So, I’ll keep trying!

This recipe is tasty and if anyone has Philly cheesesteak cravings, this should satisfy it! The recipe lightens the recipe a lot and it was super simple, always a bonus. I also always enjoy when I get to have steak at home (with cheese!).

Philly Cheesesteak Lettuce Wrap

Requires a fork since I fail at lettuce wrapping

Philly Cheesesteak Lettuce Wraps (original recipe on SkinnyMs.)
Serves 4 (with two wraps a piece)

Ingredients
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean steak (I used the kind they sell for stir-frys as it’s already cut!)
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dry oregano leaves
1 yellow onion, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
8 large lettuce leaves (I used iceberg – it fails. Try for the original recipe recommendation: bibb lettuce)
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese (I have some Italian mix as Publix didn’t have a straight provolone option to buy)

Directions

  1. In a large skillet over high heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the steak and season with salt and pepper. The oil will splatter so be on guard for that!
  2. Add the oregano, onion, and the green and red bell peppers. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the beef is cooked through and the peppers and onions are soft.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the lettuce cups and sprinkle cheese on top. Serve hot so the cheese melts for you.

Curry Away

I have been reading. And cooking. And not sharing so I’m sorry. I am lining up a bunch of posts this evening to get me into June and hopefully, I can keep up on top of things better this summer (hope springs eternal).

I was ready to try another curry. This one is a bit more traditional than my first curry attempt but I liked it better. What I feel I might have done wrong though is this was a bit soupy (and didn’t match the picture on the blog where the recipe) but I found I liked the added bonus of the “soup” with the rice I served it with. This is still quite mild (because I am a wimp) so it was a nice step up from my first curry. It also made a ton! So 6 servings easily.

Coconut Curried Chicken over Brown Rice

A nice big portion is always a bonus in my book!

One-Pot Curried Coconut Chicken (original recipe on SkinnyMs.)
6 servings (1/6 of the recipe and served with 1 cup brown rice)

Ingredients
1.5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 tablespoons curry powder (I used yellow curry powder, a red would make it spicier)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 white onion, cut into strips
1 can lite coconut milk
1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and cut into strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1.5 tablespoons honey

Directions

  1. In a large pan over medium-low heat, sauté the onion and bell pepper in olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring every so often until onions are softened and translucent, for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the spices, garlic and chicken pieces, and cook for about 3 minutes, until spices are fragrant and the chicken is a bit golden on the outside.
  3. Add the coconut milk and sweetener, stir, increase heat to high and bring almost to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Serve over brown rice.

Royal Tea Garden Tour

One of the bonuses to visiting Walt Disney World so often is I can take the time to enjoy the many “extras” that exist on property that if you need to be running from one park to the next, or from one Fastpass to the next which is probably most accurate, you might not want to take advantage of. The tours WDW offers (and there are a lot!) are some of my favorite extras. I don’t do them as often as I would like but when I have the time, they are some of my favorite memories.

The Royal Tea Garden Tour is a relatively new offering, only available during Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival. I missed catching it last year so made sure it was on the agenda for this past trip. As a tea nerd and someone who will never say no to a scone, I braved the WDW tour phone line to book a spot.

 

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An empty bridge into France

The first bonus to the WDW tours is you often get to see areas of the park devoid of people. One of my favorite memories is walking through Epcot to get to the front of the park for my Backstage Magic tour before the park was open (I even got a rose from one of the horticultural staff that time!). This time, while the park was open, I was in World Showcase before anything else was open so most people weren’t headed in that direction. I got to enjoy empty France and United Kingdom pavilions and also just enjoy all the blooms of the Flower & Garden Festival without all the crowds aiming for the food booths.

 

The Royal Tea Garden Tour has a check in starting at 9:30am at the Rose & Crown. A friendly cast member will check your name on their iPad and hand you a badge. You’re told you can wander more if you’d like and just reconvene at 9:45 on the Rose & Crown patio. A lovely couple from Pittsburgh adopted me for the morning and we chatted until our tour guides arrived. Rick from London and Owen from Northamption (of Kinky Boots fame) then introduced themselves and took over us to the tea gardens. Now, the tea “gardens” are a bit of a misnomer. If you’ve ever visited during Flower & Garden, you’ve seen the teapots gracing the gardens behind The Tea Caddy in the UK pavilion. These are individual tea gardens growing the different plants Twinings uses to create their different blends of tea.

 

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Entrance to the English Tea Garden at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival

 

Rick began by sharing the history of the Twinings company and telling the group about the current company and its main flagship store in London, his hometown. Rick then started in explaining how tea is grown on plantations, what the process for creating the tea leaves is once plucked and the difference between black, green and herbals teas. He then started explaining all the different blends currently being grown in the UK gardens. With each teacup garden, he explained the blend, the different plants grown to create the flavor and how it was best brewed and asked if anyone had tried the blend and if they’d liked it. In this way, we worked our way through the garden. You could ask questions at any time. I appreciated one person asked about how to officially pronounce “Twinings” – Rick reminded the group of the history of Thomas Twinings, the founder. He family traditionally had produced twine and the name was originally spelled “Twynings” so that is the correct pronunciation. Rick and Owen were both engaging speakers and clearly enjoyed the tour though they both thought it was fairly funny they’d come to the States to learn so much about tea.

The tour is fairly short, and you aren’t given the usual Disney tour earpieces, so in the small garden, if you weren’t close to the cast member speaking, it could be a challenge to hear them. Rick and Owen were aware of this and projected well and often did “sound checks” to make sure everyone could hear them. Luckily, the gardens themselves mean the group needs to stay cozy (close together) so I did not have a problem hearing at any time. It was also chilly and windy, though sunny, the morning I took the tour so the wind often carried the speaker’s voice helpfully.

 

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Tea and Scones at the Rose & Crown

Following the tour, you return to the Rose & Crown patio for tea and scones. They have all the different blends of tea currently being grown to try as well as two scones per person. One is a savory scone, cheddar and herb, served with a bacon butter and the other sweet, a traditional golden raisin scone with clotted cream. Rick and Owen also circulated the entire time, trading our tour badges for a little bag of Twinings tea to take with us and answering any other questions about the tour or themselves and where they were from in the UK. You’re welcome to have as much tea as you’d like, though the official ending time for the tour is 10:30am. If you wanted more hot water after that time, Rick and Owen could get it for you if you asked.

 

 

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Your “parting gift”, samples of blends on display in the Garden.

The tour is held only once a day, every day and does go rain or shine. For $18, no AP discount, I enjoyed the chance to learn more about the tea gardens, try new and different teas (as well as find a new favorite – I’m currently obsessed with the Twinings green tea with pomegranate, raspberry, and strawberry blend) as well as spend some time with two of the UK cast members. They were well versed in the teas being grown, had tried them all, had favorites to recommend and could answer questions about the growing and drying process. Obviously, Twinings is the tea WDW uses so it’s the only one mentioned but I liked the aspect of the tour where we learned the history of the company and how it grew over time. A new life goal? Become a master tea blender someday by taking a master class at the Twinings flagship store in London!

 

This ranks high on the list of tours I’ve taken at WDW. It’s affordable, fun and has a delicious treat at the end of it (that was really quite filling!). If you enjoy tea, gardening or just the ambiance of the UK pavilion of Epcot, I would recommend this tour highly during the Flower & Garden Festival.

 

One-Pot Asian Feast

I love one pot dinners. Fewer dishes. I adore cooking but I am a messy cook with so many dishes. The clean-up from me cooking is longer than cooking half the time. I have been slacking on the cooking front so it’s time to get back at it. Despite some scheduling setbacks this week, I finally got myself back into the kitchen to try a Sesame Chicken recipe. Some of my Asian recipes are hit or miss. Some are too watery; the sauce doesn’t thicken and ends up just kind of blah. This recipe is one of the better ones I’ve tried and I would recommend if you have a hankering for Chinese take-out with a healthier twist.

 

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The sauce thickened perfectly! I love a heartier sauce.

 

One-Pot Sesame Chicken [original recipe]
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch strips
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into thin 1 inch ribbons
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup green onion, sliced

Directions

  1. Heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Once hot add the chicken and carrot. Cook until the chicken is firm and cooked through. Drain off any excess liquid.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except sesame seeds and green onion. Whisk until smooth and pour over the cooked chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute, or until thick and chicken is coated.
  3. Stir in the sesame seeds. Remove from heat and top with green onion.
  4. Serve with brown rice.