All posts in Cooking

Shrimp & Squash with Wild Brown Rice

I had to work late one night recently, so Penny and the kids took the opportunity to have dinner her mom and grandmother in Bonneau. I am the sole seafood fan in the house, so I thought I’d make a new shrimp dish I’ve had rolling around in my head for the past couple of weeks. I have been changing my eating habits to be healthier and I’ve lost about 12 pounds so far, but more importantly, I feel so much better! So this dish is a result of my changed thinking.

PREPPING: I purchased some wild-caught shrimp from our local Publix market, along with some shredded parmesan cheese. When I got home I diced a small zucchini  and a small yellow squash. I also diced a third of a large bell pepper and a third of a large sweet red pepper (they were on sale…). Then I chopped half a stick of celery and a half dozen baby sweet carrots. Lastly, I cut about 10 cherry tomatoes in half.

COOKING:  This part is all about timing…You don’t want to over cook anything or it will get mushy. With a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a tiny pat of butter in a medium hot frying pan, I sauteed the peeled shrimp, which I had cut in half to be more bite-sized. Add a liberal amount of Mrs. Dash Table Blend and a smaller amount of ground red cayenne pepper. Cooked just until the pink was starting to appear – 2 or 3 minutes. Then I added the squash, peppers, celery, carrots, more Mrs. Dash and fresh-ground pepper and stir fried for about 2 minutes. Then I added the tomatoes last. Stir fried for another 2-3 minutes and added some shredded parmesan cheese. Stirred a couple of times, removed from the burner and put a glass lid on the pan to keep hot.

I confess that in this one instance, I had forgotten to cook my brown and wild rice, which would have taken about 20 minutes or more. So, it was Uncle Ben’s 90-second brown and rice medley to the rescue! It has a bit more sodium than the one I usually cook, but it tastes great.

EATING: I had cut back my soda consumption to once a week, so I took the opportunity to drink a hot (spicy) Ginger Ale with the meal and it was perfect.

VARIATIONS:  There are lots of variations you can apply to this general recipe:  use chicken (cook a little longer initially), change up the veggies, add the cooked rice in the middle and stir fry, try your own favorite spices, serve over angel hair pasta, add a little white sauce… feel free to get creative and enjoy!

Firecracker Chicken and Squash Alfredo


I grew up with experimental cooking my whole life. My dad loved to try new things with sauces, seafood, etc. while my mom was the experimental baker in the family. Among other recipes, she has absolutely perfected her world-famous Banana Nut Bread! I have had my own good ideas and bad over the years (one of the worst was probably Spam Fried Rice on a backpacking trip in college). However, last week I think I hit the jackpot.

Penny and the kids were up at her Mom’s house for supper and I came downstairs from work looking for leftovers in the fridge. I found some cooked penne pasta, a few crookneck yellow squash, a jar of sliced jalapeño peppers, a half-full jar of roasted garlic Alfredo sauce and two pieces of fried chicken. I was pleased at the prospects of this collection of items, so I got to work.

  • I put the chicken in the toaster oven first.
  • Then I poured some olive oil in a medium frying pan, added a pat of butter (a trick my mom taught me last week) and turned on the heat.
  • I sliced the squash, cut the slices in half and added them to the pan, along with a dozen jalapeño slices.
  • While I was sautéing the veggies, I pour a bowl full of the cooked penne pasta into a large pasta bowl, added a tiny bit of water and microwaved for one minute. I covered the pasta with Alfredo sauce and microwaved for another minute.
  • I like spicy food, so I liberally added Mrs. Dash (a great mix of salt-free spices), cayenne and black pepper to the veggies and on top of the sauce.
  • I took the chicken out of the oven, sliced and chopped it into bite-size pieces.
  • I added the chicken and veggies to the pasta and sauce in the bowl and tossed it lightly with a fork to mix everything.

I don’t know if it was one of those “things-always-taste-better-when-you’re-camping” things or not, but it was one of the best meals I’ve had – and the fact that it was made entirely out of left-overs made it even better!

Lowcountry Crab Dip

With the holidays upon us, I thought I’d post a favorite recipe or two. This one is for Lowcountry Crab Dip — nothing exotic, just really good. Let me know how it goes over at your next party.

Lowcountry Crab Dip

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 6 oz. crab meat
  • 2 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (finely grated)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. horseradish sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste if you want to give it a little kick

Preparation is pretty easy: mix all ingredients in a bowl. You’re done! This goes great with most crackers, my favorites are Triscuits (I like those new little triangle shaped ones, too), Wheatstone, Captain’s Wafers and even the old standard, Ritz. This makes a rather small bowl full, so you may want to use your math skills and make a bunch. Bon appetit!

Creative Ideas for Leftover Christmas Turkey

This year, Penny’s mom cooked a great ham AND a turkey breast for Christmas dinner. Somehow, we ended up with the whole half of the leftover turkey (which was GREAT!). So, after a few days of straight leftover turkey, dressing, gravy, etc., we decided to come up with some alternative creative ways to take advantage of that great gift of food to us. Here’s what we came up with so far…

Turkey Quesadillas: Easy lunch item. Chop the turkey slices into relatively small cube sort of shapes and saute in olive oil with whatever creative spices you have on hand… mine happened to be black pepper, cayenne pepper, jerked chicken spices, Mrs. Dash, blackened steak seasoning and a little powdered garlic. While that is sauteing, spray a little olive oil on a medium hot griddle, throw on the tortilla and your favorite shredded queso (mine is pepper jack, but I have to shred it myself – the girls like colby jack). Add the turkey on one side and any side items you may have, like sliced black olives or jalapeños. When the cheese is mostly melted, fold in half, flip once and you’ve got a great lunch. Serve with mexican rice, sour cream and hot taco sauce packets from Taco Bell. If you need some packets… call me — we have a bunch in our pantry, somehow.

Spicy Turkey Salad: Great for lunch or dinner. Over pure iceberg lettuce, cut into cubes, I add the following: the same sauteed turkey from the quesadilla recipe from above, diced or cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, black olives, garlic croutons, sunflower seeds or cashews, real bacon bits, chopped broccoli if you like it, grapes actually add a nice sweet touch to the spicy stuff, and finally, a packet of Chick-fil-A Spicy Dressing (I confess that I ask for an extra packet every time I get a salad there, but my friend who owns our local CFA said it was A-OK.). Now, I should probably mention that even though this is technically a salad, which are typically considered a healthy meal choice, I cannot vouch that it is good for you or anything — but I think it tastes really great — and it MUST have less fat than say… a Big Mac.

Other ideas that need less explanation could be:

  • Turkey and Broccoli Casserole
  • Turkey Noodle Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Turkey Chili
  • Turkey and Black Olive Pizza
  • Turkey Salad with spicy mayo, sweet pickle cubes, a little diced celery and cayenne pepper…  on your favorite toasted bread.

Let me know what you think and what ideas you have in the comments section. Enjoy!