Shrimp in Alfredo Sauce over Crispy Polenta with Greens

DSC_0030(Becky, the Mama.)

I love it when a plan comes together, when a dish in your imagination turns out as delicious as the actual experiment.  This is one such meal.

Last night I  put a little gourmet Italian twist on southern-style Shrimp n’ Grits, then added a serving of smoky-garlicky greens as a side. The results?  Not only was the presentation gorgeous, it tasted heavenly.  As in I would absolutely put a this recipe in the category of “the perfect bite” and serve it up in a spoon to Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain on the show “The Taste”.  Then step back and wait for them to swoon and hand me the prize without further debate.

In place of  the traditional grits, I pan-fried thin slices of ready-made polenta, often used in Italian recipes.  I used Trader Joe’s brand, which comes in package shelf (not refrigerated), usually near the Italian section of the store.  It looks like moist, cooked cornmeal made into a log and wrapped in plastic.  That is because, well, it is.   It is not the most appetizing looking food when you open it up for slicing. (Think yellow corn grits that may have been left too long in a pan.) However, once you’ve pan-fried them in olive oil and butter, with a little salt and pepper…. Look out, Louise.   They turn into crispy-edged, buttery disks of corny decadence.

tj polenta

 

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polenta skilletI made a quick n’ easy, creamy Alfredo sauce for the shrimp and paired it side dish of greens–  a mixture of kale and some wonderful fresh greens, a gift from our neighbor’s garden.

I can’t wait for you to try this recipe, a Taste of Tuscany meets South in Your Mouth.

Bon appetito, Ya’ll!

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Shrimp Alfredo with Crispy Polenta and Greens

Serve’s 2

Ingredients

For Polenta:

½ log of pre-made polenta

1 T. butter

1T. olive oil

Dash salt and pepper

 

For Shrimp and Alfredo:

20 pieces of raw medium shrimp, cleaned, peeled, tails removed

1 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup cream

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Dash salt

 

For Greens:

1 T. Olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced,

½ red onion, diced fine

2 slices pork or turkey bacon diced fine

4 cups loosely packed, rough chopped  kale and/or other greens,  thick stems mostly removed

½ cup water

1 t. smoked paprika

1 T. vinegar, your favorite

1 T. brown sugar

Salt and Pepper (or Grill Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning) to taste

Tabasco or Frank’s Red Sauce or Red Chili Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Start the greens first, so they can simmer on the back burner.  In your largest deepest skillet, saute olive oil, garlic, red onion and bacon, until bacon crisps. Pile the greens on top of this mixture in the skillet, cover with ½ cup of water, cover, and let the greens cook down about 5 minutes over medium heat. Take lid off and stir in paprika, vinegar and brown sugar, add salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste.  Cover again and simmer while you make the shrimp and sauce.  (Adding water if needed to keep from scorching, but no more than necessary.)

In another skillet (I like my iron skillet) let oil and butter melt and get hot while you slice the polenta into ¼ inch or so rounds.  Place the rounds in the skillet and turn heat up to medium high so that the polenta starts to pan fry.  When it is golden brown in places, turn it over and brown the other side.  Sprinkle the tops very lightly with salt and pepper.  Remove to a paper towel to drain any excess grease, then cover with another paper town to keep warm.

Wipe out the iron skillet with a paper towel, and then put in oil and garlic and shrimp.  Cook for just a minute or two until shrimp just turns pink on both sides.  (You can add a little water to the pan if the shrimp starts to stick.)  Add cream and parmesan cheese.  Stir and heat until cheese is melted and the shrimp and sauce is heated through.  Season lightly with salt to taste, if needed.

Put about 5 or 6  rounds of polenta on each plate.  Pile with shrimp and sauce.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika.  Serve with a side of the greens.


Light, Airy, Crispy Bacon Waffles (Best. Waffles. Ever.)

waffles bacon 006

(Becky, the Mama.)

If there was one dish I loved more than any other as a child, it would be my mother’s homemade waffles.  Life was good when that enormous waffle iron was plugged in and heating up.    She used a recipe for “Oh Boy!” Waffles from her stained, yellowed, old copy of her  red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  I asked for them for my birthday and every special occasion I could find or make up.

I’ve tried dozens of other waffle recipes, and none compares to this very old standard.  Today I substituted almond milk for a little more than half of the diary milk and used a light olive oil in place of the vegetable oil in the original recipe.

Insert me high five-ing myself right here.  No kidding.  The BEST WAFFLES I’VE HAD IN MY LIFE.  Period.

Light as air, crispy…. Simply perfect.    To me there is nothing worse than a heavy waffle, the kind where,  if you take one bite you feel like you already ate the whole waffle and need to go lie down.  If you, like me, prefer an airy, tender waffle, brown and crisp on the outside, a waffle that leaves you perfectly, lightly satisfied instead of feeling like you swallowed a ball of dough,  prepare to fall in love.

We also love bacon with waffles, and I’ve found that cutting the bacon up before browning (I use kitchen shears) and then stacking the pieces atop the waffle to serve not only looks pretty, but allows you to easily get a little bite of bacon with each bite of waffle.  Plus you get a little syrup (we indulge in pure maple syrup and close our eyes at the price), on the bacon:  maple and bacon together make a very happy coupling in your mouth.

 waffles bacon 008

Airy, Crispy, Bacon Waffles

Make 5-6 Round Belgian Waffles

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I always give the flour in my canister a little stir, then lightly put the flour into the measuring cup, leveling off)

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons  sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups almond milk (I used 30 calorie per cup brand)

1 c. dairy milk (I used 1 percent)

3/4 cup light olive oil  (plus oil for waffle iron)

8 slices bacon, cut in 1/3’s,  cooked crisp and drained

Directions: 

Heat waffle iron to your desired temperature, putting a little olive oil on the bottom iron, closing the lid to let it distribute well and let the oil get hot. (I always use the Dark setting to get them extra crisp)

 In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour baking powder salt and sugar together.  Make an indention in the middle of the dry ingredients and put eggs, almond and dairy milks and olive oil in the indention. Whisk the wet ingredients in the middle of the bowl and graduation pull in the dry ingredients around the sides until thoroughly whisked.  Batter will be loose, and you make think it is a bit on the then side.  Also as it sits it will begin to rise a bit in the bowl.

Using a long-handled measuring cup, put about 3/4 cup batter into hot iron.  Cook to desired crispness.

Put waffle on a plate and pile up the bacon pieces in the middle, like a little bacon haystack.

Add butter and syrup and enjoy a little bite of bacon with every piece of waffle…  (I also like a little squeeze of fresh orange atop my waffle, for a bright citrus taste.)

Leftovers: Since this recipe makes quite a bit of batter you can use leftovers in two ways:  1) go ahead and make more waffles, on the light side, put them in ziploc bags and refridgerate or freeze.  When ready to heat,  put them on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees until re-crisped and golden.  2) Save leftover batter in Tupperware container in fridge.  Just before making waffles, add another 1/2 t. baking powder to batter to help revive the “lightness”  and cook as above.  This is my favorite method.

waffles bacon 004


Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon

(Becky, the Mama.)

Greg is away this evening, having dinner with a friend.  And therefore, I decided to make this dish that I created and love and that he considers, actually, to be the Side Dish From Hell.

His three least favorite foods are onions, peppers and green beans, so even the addition of a scrumptious sauce and bacon could not turn his head.  It would turn his stomach, but not his head. Greg worked many summers as a kid in Oregon either picking green beans or in a bean cannery and he has vowed, and I respect this, never to eat another green bean again.  Onions and peppers, according to him, have an “icky, slimy” texture and are also to be avoided.

So while Greg is gone, and won’t have to even look…I made my own Dream Dinner to Eat in Bed, while snuggled in my PJs.  Tonight’s dream meal is made of this sweet and savory green bean dish, below,  loaded with sautéed onions and sweet peppers, with a side of (I know, it’s bad, but try not to groan) boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese. Served with a spoon in a big flat pasta bowl. With a glass of ice cold milk in a frosty-frozen mug.  And a cozy blankey tucked around my feet. While I watch non-action-related shows like Parenthood and Oprah’s Next Chapter, TV my husband enjoys about as much as green beans.

Of course, I miss my man, as I do adore him.

But in the meantime, I’m soldiering on the best I can,  a bowl in one hand, remote in the other.

Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans with Bacon

Ingredients

2 cans or 4 cups frozen or fresh green beans, cooked and drained well

1 T. olive oil

1/2 c. red onion, diced

½ c. chopped sweet red pepper (I used some mini red and yellow peppers)

3 T Thai sweet chili sauce (in the Asian aisle…or World Market)

2 T. brown sugar

¼ c. red wine vinegar

1/3 c. crumbled bacon (I used some Hormel pre-cooked bacon pieces this time.  Some nights you just take the easy way.)

*Vegans can use a vegetarian bacon bits product instead or use sliced almonds that have been sauteed in smoked paprika and a little olive oil instead.

Salt and Pepper to taste (I like a lot of black pepper in this)

Directions

Turn oven to broil

Drain green beans as well as you can. (I even use a paper towel to sort of pat them dry in the colander.)

In an oven-proof skillet saute onions and peppers in olive oil.  Add the Thai sweet chili sauce, red wine vinegar and brown sugar. Cook and stir all together until it is syrupy.

Add well drained green beans and stir once again until well heated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (This will vary quite a bit depending on whether you used canned or fresh or frozen green beans.)  Sprinkle the top with bacon crumbles and put pan under broiler for a minute or two until bacon is crisp and beans are bubbling.

Serve as a side dish (a nice alternative for a Thanksgiving green bean casserole) curl up with a bowl of it, while lounging in your PJs.

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The Title: Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon
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BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing

Becky’s BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Ranch Dressing

(Becky)

When my daughter Rachel was a little girl, I asked her, “What would you rather be when you grow up, a doctor or a nurse?”  I wanted her to know she would not be bound by gender rules, that she could be anything she wanted to be as an adult.

She pondered it for a minute then answered, thoughtfully.  “I’m not sure. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see which outfit looks better on me.”

Though her reasoning may be dubious from a career-choosing standpoint, I must admit that I adopt her philosophy a lot when it comes to cooking.   “What’s for dinner?” my husband will ask.  “I don’t know yet,” I’ll say as I rummage through the fridge.  “It depends on what jumps out at me, sounds good and looks pretty in a picture for the food blog.”

Rachel and I laugh that the way to get food re-pinned on Pinterest is to put a slice of avocado on it.  We’ve debated about putting a piece of avocado on everything we make, from desserts to cocktails, as our “signature garnish.”  Because, let me tell you,  people love the sight of a green, ripe avocado in food pictures!

Thus, using those guidelines,  this salad was born.  At the end of groceries I had one meat protein left in the fridge: natural, nitrate-free bacon.  (Though I’m shifting toward vegetarianism, my husband is staying put in the land of meat for now, so I try to buy the least processed, organic varieties.)   I thought about a BLT sandwich, but our waistlines are calling for more vegies and less bread.  Ah-ha!  A BLT salad! Then  I spied some of those little sweet red and yellow peppers in the crisper. With a roasted pepper dressing! Yes!  I pulled out a little of the leftover cornbread in the back of the fridge, spread with butter and broiled until crispy, like a giant cornbread crouton.  Ta-dah.   Dinner done.

Needless to say, it worked.  We WILL be having this salad again.

Vegetarians and Vegans:  There are lots of bacon bits that are great for vegans and vegetarians. McCormicks makes a tasty brand and is easy to find at most any grocery store.

Becky’s BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing

BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing

Makes two meal-sized salads

Ingredients

Nitrate Free Uncured Bacon (8 slices, cut in one inch pieces with kitchen scissors before cooking. It is okay if they stick together in little bundles.  They will separate in the skillet as the fat melts.)

(Vegans: use 1/4 cup vegan “bacon bits” in place of bacon, such as McCormick’s brand. Or make your own vegan coconut bacon.)

2 cups mixed salad greens (I used spinach and romaine)

2 small to medium tomatoes, diced

1 avocado,  peeled and diced

1 red pepper or 4  small sweet peppers, roasted (See pics below) (You can also used jarred roast peppers if you have them on hand.)

1/2 cup your favorite Ranch Dressing (There are plenty of good vegan varieties! Also, to cut calories, you may want to use 1/4 cup Greek Yogurt for 1/4 cup of the Ranch Dressing.)

Directions:

Cook the cut up bacon over medium high heat in a skillet until the pieces are golden crisp and brown.  Drain on paper towels.   While bacon is cooking, roast the peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler. Put them in a plastic bag when they have a good char all around so the steam will loosen the skin.  Wipe the charred pepper skin off with a paper towel.

Tiny red peppers roasting on an open fire… 🙂

Red peppers in a sandwich baggy, steaming and loosening the charred skin

Wiping away the charred skin with paper towel. Don’t worry about getting all char off of the peppers. Some of it adds flavor.

Into each of two large salad bowls (I like big pasta bowls for this), put one cup of mixed salad greens.  Sprinkle each salad with half the tomatoes and avocados.  Top with crispy bacon or bacon bits.

Put Ranch Dressing and roasted pepper into a food processor or blender.  Blend to desired consistency.  I left the peppers a little bit chunky.

Ladle dressing down the middle of the salads and serve.  A few turns of  fresh pepper are nice.  This is especially good with cornbread on the side.

Variations: Additional yummy add-ins could be thinly sliced red onion or chopped green onion, corn, beans, or a diced boiled egg.

BLT/Avocado Salad with Roasted Pepper Dressing

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The Title: BLT/Avocado Salad wth Roasted Pepper Dressing
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Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

Becky's Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

Here is my Facebook status from last night, which drew a crowd of friends volunteering  to join the experiment:

“I really do think I could live the vacation life all year long. Sleep late, coffee & toast, to pool to read and swim, lunch, check email, etc., more pool reading and swimming. Happy Hour. Cook dinner or go out to eat. Relax some more. Bedtime. Repeat. Why aren’t we all on this schedule all the time? The world would be such a happy place if it were. I think it might even wipe out PMS.”

I’m on the sixth day of this schedule and I can tell you the world seems brighter, my heart seems happier and people, in general, of all shapes and sizes and ages seem especially adorable.  I think I may have discovered the cure for world peace.  Yesterday at the pool, with some sort of soft jazz playing in the background I looked up into a blue cloudless sky and, I kid you not,  someone was  sky-writing,  “God loves you. Jesus forgives you.”  I started wondering if perhaps I had stepped into the Christian version of the Truman Show.  But I’m going with it.

I have come to the conlusion that the cure for World Peace is for all of us to be on perpetual vacation. Well, that, and bacon.

I cooked up a mess of bacon from the remaining contents of our condo fridge this morning.  Bacon alone makes my normally laid-back husband want to dance me around the kitchen.  But I needed to make something lunch-worthy out of it.  I spied an apple. Lettuce.  Italian Dressing. Brown Sugar. Voila!  Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing. Seriously,  how could this not be amazing?  Let me assure you it is!

And in keeping with keeping me out of the kitchen and at the swimming pool, it is also easy.  Enjoy it and visualize, “World Peace. God loves you. Jesus forgives you. Bacon is good stuff.”

Becky's Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

Becky’s Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 small head of lettuce or spinach, chopped (1 to 1 1/2 cups per person)

1 large apple, cored and sliced thin

6 pieces of bacon, cut in small pieces and “stir-fried”

1 t. bacon drippings

1/3 c. your favorite Italian Dressing

1 T. brown sugar

Directions

Divide lettuce into two salad bowls. Arrange apple slices over each.  Top with crumbled bacon, dividing evenly.  In small skillet put 1 t. bacon drippings,  Italian dressing and 1 T. brown sugar. Warm just until brown sugar melts, cool slightly then drizzle desired amount over each salad.

Variations: Try this vegan version of baconmade with wide pieces of coconut, liquid smoke, and soy sauce.  Add avocados, dried fruit or use crisp pears instead.

This was printed from:

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

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The Title: Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-eS