Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Coconut Cauli-rice

As my husband and I were driving home yesterday from a day of running errands. I just knew that the pork chops I'd taken out for dinner were not going to be thawed. My refrigerator has lofty ambitions to one day be a freezer, and it spends its days practicing, even though I continuously increase the tempurature. My fridge and I know each other very well, so I just knew those chops were still going to be frozen for dinner. 

So, as we are careening down the interstate, I am frantically trying to come up with what I can make for dinner instead. My husband had just bought an iPad mini... "For work"... so we really didn't need to go out to eat. In all actuality, the iPad really is for his work, so I'm really not complaining... Or jealous...

So as we are quickly approaching our exit, I am racking my brain. 

"Shrimp. We have shrimp. What can I do with shrimp. Tacos are good. I can't have tortillas. Mexican food sure does sound good though. What goes with shrimp? I have avocado..."

"I need cilantro," I announced.

My husband, doing his best impersonation of a nascar driver, veers into the exit taking us directly to Publix. It could not have been timed better if it had been scripted. 

I enter the store by myself, which for a mom can almost feel like a mini vacation.   I knew I needed my cilantro. But if I'm getting cilantro, I'll need some limes. And what are we going to have with the shrimp? Coconut rice sounds good. I can't have rice. I can have cauliflower. So I found a small bag of pre-cut cauliflower florets because I was feeling incredibly... Let's say efficient instead of lazy. Then I headed to the Hispanic food aisle for a can of unsweetened coconut milk, realized that after ten weeks of taking Spanish classes, I still can't read the language, so I just guessed. 

By this time my short excursion into the store had turned into a rather extensive expedition to find my ingredients. I quickly made my way to the register to pay and headed back to the car. 

"It took you a long time to get cilantro," my husband said as I climbed into the car. "Yeah. I couldn't find the coconut milk." He just looked at me, wondering how the two items could possibly be related, especially since I had not mentioned coconut milk at all up until this point. Bless his heart, he knows not to question my logic, so he just let it go. He's a keeper. 

When I got home, I immediately thawed my shrimp by placing them in a colander under cold running water. Next I made a marinade for my shrimp. I combined olive oil, cilantro paste, lime juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I placed my thawed shrimp, deveined and tails removed, into the marinade and put it in the fridge. 

While the shrimp was soaking up all that flavor, I got started making my cauliflower rice. I used my cheese grater to shred the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces. I just made enough for me since my husband was getting real rice, so I probably only made about a cup of cauli-rice. Next I added 1/4 c coconut milk, about 1/2 tsp salt, and one stevia packet. I stirred it all together and brought it to a simmer, stirring occasionally until my cauliflower reached a desired softness, just as fluffy as rice. 

Now I did cheat a little bit with this dish. My shrimp was already cooked, cleaned, and de-tailed. It made for a very fast prep and cook time. I dumped the whole marinade with the shrimp into a skillet and brought it to a good simmer. I added a tiny bit of a cornstarch and water mixture to thicken the sauce just a little. Once the shrimp was heated through, it was done!

I sliced my avocado and placed a few slices on top of my shrimp. The cool, creamy avocado paired perfectly with the hot shrimp. 

I was a little nervous to give it to my husband. He doesn't like too many foods. I gave him his plate and ran back to the kitchen. I waited to hear what comments he would have, if any. 

"Oh, wow. It's sweet! What is this?"

I told him. 

"This is really good. This is my new favorite."

Apparently, I did a good job. 

I love it when a recipe turns out better than I'd planned! This dish will probably be seen several more times this summer. It is a perfect, light, refreshing meal after a long, hot, summer day. 

Egg in a Bell Pepper Basket

Happy Saturday, everyone! And happy first-day-of-summer-break to all my teacher friends! We made it!

You guys, this year has been rough! Lay-offs through out the county had everyone worried and stressed almost to the breaking point.  This summer break is much needed to regroup and get settled back down.

Being the first day of summer break, I was so looking forward to sleeping in, but the toddler had other plans.  Bright and early, she was ready to wake up. However, my amazing husband got up with her, allowing me a few more hours of precious sleep!! I woke up feeling totally refreshed... And pretty hungry. I'm not used to eating so late in the morning. I knew I needed a breakfast instead of just my usual cup of coffee. 

I sliced a few rings of red bell pepper and grabbed my eggs and butter. I heated the butter until it was melted and bubbling, then I placed my bell pepper ring in the skillet. Very carefully, I cracked one egg into the ring. Some of it seeped out from the bottom, but I just scraped it up and put it back in. Once the egg was done on one side (as evidenced by a slight golden color to the edges), I slowly slid one spatula under the egg and used a second one as a kind of lid to keep everything together. On the count of three, I prayed and flipped. Amazingly, everything stayed exactly where they needed to stay! Thirty more seconds of cooking, and I had a perfectly cooked, over-easy egg in a bell pepper ring. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cajun-style Surf-n-Turf

This is it, yall. I am in the final countdown to summer. I love my students, and I love my job, but I am so ready for a break and to spend the whole summer with my sweet girl!

However, with the end of the year comes all the end-of-the-year craziness. My husband has started his percussion sectionals, so he doesn't get home until 6:00 every evening. We've had celebrations to go to. Not to mention having strep last week :( I haven't been able to cook quite as much as I'd like.  

I remedied that tonight!

I made a Cajun-style surf-n-turf dinner with chicken and shrimp in a cream sauce. This dish has some kick, but it's toned down by the creamy sauce. 

2 chicken breasts, pounded 1" thick and cut in half
1/2 lb shrimp (I cheated and used precooked)
4 tbsps butter, divided
Salt, pepper, Tony's creole seasoning
1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 c half and half (I would have used heavy cream, but Walgreens was out)
2 heaping tbsps cream cheese
Onion powder

Preheat oven to 375.
Melt 2 tbsps butter in a hot skillet. 
Season two chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and Tony's. Brown in the melted butter. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts in the remaining butter. 
Transfer chicken to a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. 
Add chicken stock to skillet to deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil to reduce for about 3 minutes. Reduce heat and add half and half and cream cheese. Allow to simmer, stirring constantly until thick. Season with onion powder and other seasonings to taste. 
Add shrimp and heat through.
Serve chicken topped with shrimp and sauce. I served mine over a plate of zucchini, but it'd be good in a pasta or by itself with a side dish. 

My favorite part of this dish is that my sweet P even ate some of the chicken!! She typically won't touch chicken at all, but she actually had a decent serving, accompanied by her beloved zucchini slices, of course! Hopefully this means she is going to stop being so picky!! We will have to wait and see :)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Low carb squash casserole

Southern summers mean one thing: summer squash. Well, actually, it means heat, humidity, lightening bugs, and some of the most beautiful sunsets you'll see in our life. And summer squash. 

Many people enjoy gardening in the spring and summer. When the veggies start coming up, they do so in abundance. You can hardly drive down the highway without seeing roadside fruit and vegetable stands. Farmers' Markets open early weekend mornings for customers to scour and pick the freshest ingredients. 

I have never had a green thumb, but I am surrounded by would-be farmers. My grandparents had a "garden" one year that was literally a half an acre. For a little girl, it was magical. I remember helping plant seeds and picking the fruits and vegetables. They made so much salsa and homemade pickles and preserves. It was amazing. 

My in-laws always have a great garden. Last year, Parker got to help them the way I helped my own grandparents. It's so wonderful to pass along that tradition. 

We always receive the surplus from others' gardens. It cushions the blow for not being able to grow my own. 

One dish that is a staple at family gatherings and church potlucks is squash casserole. It's such a creamy, comforting dish, and like most comfort foods, it's not necessarily the healthiest. I changed up a few ingredients to takeaway some of the carbs to make it more diet-friendly. 

2 summer squash, cubed
Olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 c mayo
1 c shredded cheese
Onion powder, seasoned salt, and pepper (to taste)
Crushed pork rinds
3 tbs melted butter

Preheat oven to 375f. Sauté the squash in olive oil with salt, pepper, and onion powder to the point that they are soft without being mushy. In a bowl, beat eggs and add mayo and cheese. Stir to combine. Add in the squash. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and fill with squash mixture. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and top with crushed pork rinds. Drizzle with melted butter and broil until top is golden. 

This dish had perfect squash casserole flavor with none of the extra carbs. The eggs add some extra protein, making this dish almost a meal in itself. 

With summer just around the corner, I am thrilled to have a great squash recipe to help use up all of the great veggies we will be receiving! Gotta love a southern summer!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Our Accidentally Wonderful Home

I recently came across a company called  It is a company that works mainly in New York and the DC area to match people looking for a home with the neighborhood that is just right for them and an agent who can make it all happen.  They are running a series called Starter Stories, which got me thinking about my starter home. My husband and I lived in his college apartment when we first got married, and when we moved for his job, we found a temporary apartment until we could save up enough for a house. 

Oh, how excited we were.  A young couple, married for two years, setting out on the journey of home-ownership.  What you cannot see in the picture above is that our little family of two was about to become a family of three; I was about two weeks pregnant in this shot!

I immediately threw myself into turning the house into a home fit for a princess.  The first room we made over was the nursery.  We painted and decorated, and our little starter home started to look like it was ready to welcome our sweet girl!

I remember sitting in that rocking chair before she was born, daydreaming about the little toys that would soon cover the floor and the little feet that would learn to walk on these carpets.  It wasn't anything fancy, but it was filled with love and dreams and hope. My daughter would live here.

We brought her home nine months after purchasing the house.  Needless to say, all further room makeovers got put on hold while we focused on being parents.

Our little home waited patiently for us to pour some of our attention back into it.  Last summer, I really started working on creating a master bedroom for us.  Remember, we used to live in what was essentially my husband's bachelor pad.  Bless his heart, he thought Batman movie posters qualified as wall decoration.

We had mismatched furniture, the it needed to be repainted, and nothing was hung on the walls.  Because we didn't have a lot of money to spend, I re-purposed and repainted everything. I found other pieces of furniture at thrift stores and painted them to match.

Before and After...

Slowly but surely, my house is turning into a home.  But not just because we are painting and redecorating.

This house is our home because it is where we brought our daughter home when she was born. It is where we learned how to be parents.  It is where we have celebrated five years of marriage.  It is where I earned my college degree, staying up late at night after my daughter went to sleep.  It is where we owned our first pet. It is where I have cooked hundreds of dinners and where my husband learned to lay tile. We have loved here; we have argued here; we have overcome here. My house doesn't look like anything out of a magazine.  It doesn't look anything like what my Pinterest boards would lead you to believe.  It might not be my dream house, but it is the home where all my dreams came true.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eggplant Parmesan Soup

Have you ever had inspiration strike from an unlikely place? That's what happened to me when I came up with this recipe. 

In my family, food is not just for sustaining life in my house; it's a WAY of life. I can remember watching my mom and my grandmother cook from the time I was a little girl. I fought it for a while, but I eventually gave into my true calling,and now I love to cook. Any time I visit my mom, you can bet we'll do two things: cook and watch the Food Network

It was during one such visit that I came up with the idea for this recipe. I don't know if you've heard of it or seen it before, but there is a show on Food Network called Cutthroat Kitchen. The chefs can buy items to sabotage another chef's meal. It's a fantastic show, and it's on Netflix, so you can bet I've been binge watching the mess out of that. 

Anyway, in the episode I was watching at my mom's house, the chefs had to make eggplant parmesan. One chef bought a food processor, and his opponent's eggplant got pulverized. How was he supposed to make eggplant parmesan with no eggplant? Well, that's when I had my moment of inspiration. 

I had recently made a roasted eggplant soup, so I immediately thought about adding roasted tomatoes, cheeses, and different seasonings... All the ingredients of eggplant parmesan, just prepared a different way. 

I roasted the veggies, puréed them with vegetable stock, added my cheese and seasonings... Let me tell you, this might be my best recipe idea yet. The dish had all the flavors of real eggplant parmesan and all the comfort of a big bowl of soup. I even made some eggplant parmesan bites to go on top of the soup. Those little guys are addictive!!  

1/2 eggplant
2 tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Onion powder
4 c vegetable stock or chicken broth
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 c Italian cheese blend
1 tbs Italian seasonings

Preheat oven to 400. In a baking dish, place eggplant and tomatoes skin-side down. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Roast veggies for 45 minutes. 

Bring 4 cups of vegetable stock to boil. Add roasted veggies. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, purée the vegetables. If you do not have an immersion blender, you can use a food processor or regular blender. 

Add cream cheese and Italian cheeses, stirring until melted. Add Italian seasoning and other seasonings to taste. Serve warm topped with extra shredded cheese and eggplant parmesan bites. 

The eggplant parmesan bites are really easy and the perfect touch to the soup. I used the second half of the eggplant, chopping it into one inch squares. Coat the pieces in coconut flour, then dip them in egg. Finally roll them in grated parmesan cheese. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spray them with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder and salt. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Flip the bites over, spray and season the new exposed side, and bake an additional 10 minutes. These are great in the soup and really great by themselves as a snack!

I love it when a recipe I've created tastes even better than I'd hoped it would what's the craziest way you've found inspiration for something? If love to know I'm not alone in this!

DIY Chalkboard Art

I recently painted several mirrors for a boutique that just opened up in the Birmingham area. One of the mirrors the owner had tried to makeover herself using spray paint, but some had gotten on the glass of the mirror. I tried several methods to remove it, but nothing worked. She said I could just throw that one away. 

Those of you who know me know that's not an option. 

I had been looking for a big piece of art to go on the wall of our bedroom. The mirror was just the right size. 

I took it outside and sprayed all the glass with chalkboard paint. I didn't worry about protecting the frame because it was already paint splattered, and I knew I would have to cover it with something anyway. 

To redo the frame, I modpodged pieces of white tissue paper all over it. It gave it the look of a chalkboard that needed to be cleaned, which I thought was perfect for a chalkboard!

I decided to write a phrase on the chalkboard that really fits our lives right now. We are always busy, always stressed, and we don't know what the future is going to hold for us. Rather than focusing on all of that, we need to...

Because we most certainly are blessed. 

It is so nice to fall asleep and wake up with this reminder that God has blessed us greatly.