Cheese, cheese, and more cheese · Easy recipe · Life Balance · Mid-Life Career Change · Shrimp Recipe

Fall Comfort

We are now more than half-way through October (what???) and I’m not gonna lie, the change of seasons is kicking my butt. I blame it on the change of seasons because of the shorter days, but in reality it’s probably a combination of things. In addition to the mild seasonal blues I get when we start to lose daylight hours, I’ve had some tough exams and projects at school and I’ve been looking (unsuccessfully) for additional part-time work that I can fit into my existing school and work schedule. It turns out that when you’re over 40 and have worked in the corporate world for most of your adult life, people are a little weary of hiring you to sit at a front desk and greet people. Go figure. Regardless, it all has me a little stressed out and I’ve been dealing with a mild bout of anxiety over the past couple of weeks. Luckily, it’s not debilitating by any means. I usually just breathe through it when I feel like it might become a full-on panic attack, but the heightened emotional state hangs around a bit.

If I’m 100% honest, I don’t even think school and work are all I’m worrying about. I think aging might have a bit to do with it. I’m not one to blame my age on everything, but hear me out for a minute. The older I get, the more I expect from myself. I expect that I have to work twice as hard to be the absolute best at everything I do. I have to make straight A’s at school and I have to always be at the top of my game at work. I also tend to get down on myself about where I am in my life. I realize that I chose to give up a good career to follow my passion, but the longer it takes to finish what I started, the harder it gets to make the sacrifices that come with it. I feel like I’m constantly declining events and/or travel because of cost, schedule, or a combination of both. And don’t even get me started on the fact that I can’t seem to drink coffee anymore. I’m only half kidding about this one. I really love my coffee! I know many people who say they can’t drink coffee after a certain time or they won’t sleep, but that’s not my issue. I have no problems sleeping most of the time, but my nerves aren’t quite what they used to be and coffee sets them on edge like you would not believe. If I have more than one small cup, I feel so anxious I want to crawl out of my skin and curl up into a ball in the corner. As a result, I mostly just drink tea, but on weeks where I am particularly stressed, even tea can cause a bit of edginess. This situation has me a bit bummed, so if you have suggestions for good coffee alternatives, I’m all ears.

When I get down or anxious, like a lot of people, my first instinct is to reach for comfort food. And I allow myself to indulge a little, but I’m careful not to overdo it. As with any situation, moderation is key. Not only do high sugar or starchy foods tend to lead to overeating that makes me physically feel bad, but these types of foods are not good for anxiety and stress. They cause your blood sugar to spike, and then it drops and you’re left feeling tired and energy-less (is that even a word?). It also doesn’t keep you satisfied for long, so you end up eating more. This is the type of emotional eating that can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and weight gain if you let it. So, when I need comfort food, I make sure to load it up with vegetables and lean protein and I keep my portions in check so that a little indulgence doesn’t lead to a downward spiral of binge eating and self loathing. One of my recent favorites for comfort food indulgence is shrimp and grits. In fact, we’ve made it a recurring dish in our weekly meal prep for this fall. I love Cajun food and, coming from a state that borders Louisiana, you would think that I have eaten this my entire life. Not so. I was just exposed to this amazing dish a few years ago and I loved it so much I felt the need to make my own spin on it. Apparently shrimp and grits can be made many different ways, but I like mine spicy with Cajun seasoning and a tomato-based sauce. Enjoy!!

ShrimpGrits2

What’s your favorite comfort food? And don’t forget those coffee alternative recommendations!!!  Much appreciated!

Spicy Shrimp & Cheesy Grits
Servings: 6
Serving Nutrition: 361 calories, 28.4 g protein, 11 g fat, 3.5 g fiber, 33.5 g carbohydrates
Ingredients
1 lb peeled & deveined shrimp
1/2 medium red onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper (any color, but I like yellow or orange), diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
2 chicken andouille sausages, sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (this has a bit of kick, so adjust down if needed)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (adjust according to your desired spice level)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
Salt & Pepper to taste
Optional – chopped green onions for garnish

Grits
1 cup quick grits
1 cup milk
3 cups water
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 oz (3/4 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
1. Spray large skillet lightly with olive oil & sauté onions until they begin to soften.
2. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Stir in sausage, bell pepper and celery.
4. Add white wine, stirring to get any cooked bits from bottom of pan, and cook until smell of alcohol diminishes.
5. Stir in seasonings and tomatoes and bring to a low boil.
6. Reduce heat to simmer and spread shrimp in single layer in sauce. Cook for a few minutes on each side, or until shrimp turns pink.
7. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Grits
1. In medium saucepan, bring water, milk, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to low and whisk in about 1 Tbsp grits until it soaks up liquid, then continue slowly adding remaining grits 1 Tbsp at a time and whisk until all liquid is absorbed.
3. Add butter and cheese and stir until well mixed.
4. Add salt & pepper to taste.

ShrimpGrits1
Eaten with a side of sauteed spinach with lots of garlic, onions, and tomatoes.  So good!
Batch Recipes · Pasta · Shrimp Recipe · Summer · Veggies!

Who are you calling shrimp??

I may be short, but big things sometimes come in small packages, right?!?!? Much like the little crustaceans we so love to use as a derogatory reference for people of small stature. One 3-ounce portion of shrimp packs about 15 grams of protein! That’s more than a quarter of the daily protein needs of your average 150 pound person. Shrimp contain omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, which are important for cardiovascular health. They also contain the antioxidants selenium and astaxanthin (the pigment that gives shrimp a pink color when cooked). Additionally, shrimp is low in saturated fat.

I don’t know about you, but I crave light, citrusy seafood dishes during the summer. I had a craving several weeks ago for shrimp scampi. Typically a very buttery dish, I used a fraction of the butter called for in most recipes and really amped up the lemon flavor. It has become a favorite around here and I’ve made it at least 3 times since the summer began. This recipe makes a pretty big batch, and we eat the leftovers for a couple of days. I think it’s just as good eaten as leftovers…so good that I only got one photo before we devoured it. Oops!shrimpscampi1_li.jpg

Lightened Up Shrimp Scampi
Servings: 6
Ingredients
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot (or 2 small), minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
1 – 1.5 lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined, tails off
2 medium lemons – zest & juice
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how much spice you like)
1 box (13-16 oz) whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, angel hair pasta, or linguine work well)
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of cooking water.
2. In large skillet over medium heat, sauté shallots in butter and olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook for about a minute.
3. Add white wine and shrimp, cooking shrimp for about 1-2 minutes on each side, or until just pink.
4. Add lemon zest and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and add salt & pepper to taste.
5. Add pasta to skillet with shrimp, then add parsley, spinach, lemon juice, and ¼ cup of the pasta water, and toss all ingredients together until well combined. Remove from heat. If pasta still seems dry, add more pasta water until sauce distributes easily. Salt & pepper to taste.
6. Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

 

Chicken Recipe · Shrimp Recipe · Travel

Making Do

As mentioned in my previous post here, my boyfriend and I had a nice little vacation in the Caribbean to kick off 2018. After our adventurous night in Antigua, we headed over to Montserrat via the tiniest plane I’ve ever flown on. That was a little nerve wracking because even just a slight wind would push the plane around, but we made it safely and the rest of our trip was amazing.  We swam and played in the sand like 10-year-olds on beaches where we were often the only ones there, we swam in the pool and lounged on the patio of our villa just watching the ocean or the huge iguana that lived in the tree next to the pool (we named him Igor the Iguana), and we ate well. Usually, when I say I ate well on vacation, I proceed to provide a list of restaurants I tried.  Montserrat is a small island with a population of just about 5,000, so it’s not exactly a fine dining mecca.  On this vacation, we wanted to enjoy the peace and quiet at our villa as much as possible anyway, so we ate in a lot.  Before we left New York, I pulled together a couple of recipes for Caribbean food using fish and shrimp, thinking these items should be easy to find and super fresh…we were going to an island, after all, right?  Wrong!  Even though there is great fishing in the Caribbean, the people of Montserrat apparently don’t really fish much.  Most of the food on the island is shipped in from larger islands, so all meat is frozen.  I’m ok with frozen shrimp or chicken, but I prefer my fish to be fresh, so we had to adjust.  Sometimes when in a new place, you have to adapt and find ways to modify the plan a bit.  We had a fun challenge ahead of us.

MontserratRainbows
This island might be short on food variety, but they have rainbows every day…sometimes 2 at a time!

The first day we arrived, the property manager for the villa took us to the grocery store to stock up on supplies.  It was a tiny little store and it didn’t have everything we were used to seeing in our grocery stores in the US.  We also felt rushed because the property manager was waiting.  It was all a little overwhelming.  Not a problem.  We pulled together some canned goods, a bag of rice, and some cheese and crackers to get us through the next day or so.  Our “pantry meal” actually ended up being really good!  I used black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, jarred jalapenos, rice, and spices to make a really tasty beans and rice dish that lasted a couple of days.

On day three, we had a little more time on our hands, so we took a taxi back to the store and spent a little more time exploring.  We found the frozen meats and got a bag of shrimp and a couple of chicken breasts.  Then we realized that the fresh produce is all in the refrigerator at the side of the store – makes sense because the doors to the store are always open and bugs are everywhere.  Armed with this jerk shrimp recipe from Lawren Moneta, we went looking for everything else.  As mentioned, this was a tiny store where variety was limited, so once again we adapted.  Instead of cantaloupe, I just put some pineapple in the salsa.  We couldn’t find a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, so I used the jarred jalapenos we previously bought.  Honey was extremely expensive and we couldn’t find limes, so the juice from the pineapple pulled double duty for sweetness and acidity.  We also didn’t have thyme or cilantro, so I just left it out.  The shrimp was still very good, and the sweetness from the salsa was a really nice compliment to the salty and spicy shrimp!  In fact, it was so good that I made it twice during our 9 days at the villa.

JerkShrimp
The second time I made the jerk shrimp, we didn’t have a cucumber or kiwi, so I just made a pineapple & jalapeno salsa.

Another dish we really enjoyed was chicken curry.  Curries are very common in Caribbean cuisine, and the grocery store where we did our shopping was owned by an Indian couple, so we decided to buy a bag of Indian curry powder so I could attempt my own.  It was really easy and tasty!  Here’s what I did:

ChkCurry

 

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 can coconut milk
1 potato, diced small
1 box frozen spinach
1/2 cup chicken stock (I couldn’t find this, so I used a bouillon cube)

Saute onion a couple of minutes, add garlic and cook for a minute.  Add chicken, potato, curry powder, and chicken stock and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is cooked through.  Add coconut milk and spinach and continue cooking, breaking spinach apart as it thaws.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft and spinach is thawed and integrated well.  Add salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, more curry powder.  Serve over rice or, as they often do in Montserrat, wrapped in a roti.

Enjoy!