Friday, 27 March 2015

Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole

Have you seen that President's Choice commercial where Galen Weston talks about food and wonders why someone would eat the pineapple, or the mushroom, or whatever?
 
For real.  Who would have thought that cutting into that spiny, evil-looking thing would result in sweet and juicy pineapple? 

And who was the brave soul that looked at raw wild rice and thought "yeah.  Let's try this.  Looks delicious".
 
 
How hungry would you have to be?  Probably pretty hungry.
 
I have no Cast of Characters picture for you.  They were too busy being turned into dinner to have their picture taken.
 
Start cooking the very weird wild rice according to the package instructions.
 
Be nervous about it.
 
While the rice is cooking, melt butter in a frying pan and add in the onions and green peppers.  Cook them until they are soft.  It takes about 5 minutes.

 
Then, in a large bowl, combine the cream of celery (or mushroom, or chicken, or whatever) soup.

 
And the cheddar cheese.

 
And the cooked onions and peppers.

 
And the shrimp.

 

And the wild rice.  When cooked, the rice kind of breaks out of the black shell so there's soft fluffy bits and chewy black bits.  It's strange and delightful.

The proverbial pineapple of rice if you will.

 
Mix it all together, put it into a casserole dish, top it with additional cheese and bake it in the oven until it's bubbly.

 

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this casserole.  It was creamy and cheesy, the shrimp was plump and juicy, and the rice was actually completely perfect. 

Even my 5-year old niece, albeit slightly freaked out at first, willingly cleaned her plate!

It's an easy weeknight meal that anyone would love.  Although maybe your most finicky eaters might freak out totally.

And the leftovers were great too!

Enjoy! - Heather

Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole

8 oz package of wild rice
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deceived
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
10 ounce can cream of celery soup
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Prepare wild rice according to package directions, but remove 1/4 cup of cooking water.  Drain and cool
  2. In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of water and 1/2 tablespoon salt to a boil.  Add the shrimp, cook for 1 minute.  Drain and set aside.
  3. In a frying pan, melt the butter and add the green pepper and onion.  Cook until softened - about 5 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the soup, 1 1/2 cups cheese, cooked pepper and onion, the shrimp, and the wild rice.
  6. Add the salt and pepper.
  7. Grease a 7 x 11 casserole dish, spread the rice mixture into the dish and top with the remaining cheese.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until bubbly.
Source:  Kitchme

Friday, 20 March 2015

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Holy crap you guys.

I made this sandwich.  This sandwich.  Then I proceeded to think about it and crave it for DAYS afterward.  I'm totally obsessed.

My job for the day was to pick up one furry puppy, and one sassy little girl and hang out with them until my brother got home from work.

Pretty solid job.

And - being responsible for said puppy, girl, and brother - I also had to figure out what to feed them.

My kid brother digs spicy food.  While I'm not into the esophagus-melting, eye-tearing, cough-inducing heat that he likes, I'm not opposed to a little spice to make things interesting.

And I know for sure that my brother's wife doesn't like jalapeños, so really - it kind of ended up being a no brainer. 

Last year, I made this killer jalapeno popper pizza that was surprisingly awesome and figured - why not put it into a sandwich?

It only takes a few ingredients - but a little bit of patience.  So stay with me.  It'll be worth it - I promise. 

 
I absolutely insist that you use Texas Toast Sandwich bread.  I mean - you could totally use regular bread, but I feel like the Texas Toast bread is where it's at for this sandwich.
 
First things first, I recommend roasting the jalapeños.  It makes the flavor just that much more intense. 
 
To do this, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the jalapeños on the baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so.  You'll hear the jalapeños making a popping sound when the skins pull away from the pepper.
 
After the skin is bubbled all the way around the pepper (about 20 minutes), put the peppers in a zip-loc bag and close.  Let cool for about 10 minutes, or cool enough to handle.
 
Then peel off the skin, cut in half, scrape out the seeds and membranes and dispose chuck out with the skins.  For more heat, you can leave some of the seeds (the seeds and membranes are where the heat truly is).  Mince up the remaining flesh of the pepper. 
 
Like I said.  It takes some time, but it's seriously worth it.
 

 
Here's the thing.  I don't have any measurements for you.  I kinda just eyeballed combining the jalapeno and cream cheese until I thought it looked good.
 

 
Once the cream cheese is combined with the jalapeno, take two pieces of bread and two slices of medium (sharp would be good too!) cheddar cheese and put one on each piece of bread.
 
 
Then spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the cheddar.

 
The slap those two pieces of bread together.
 
Before I continue - there are two things you need to know.  Then pan should be well-heated on medium low (like, number 3 if you've got numbers on the cooktop)...  This will ensure that the bread gets toasted, the cheese gets gooey, but the bread doesn't dry out.  It takes a little longer to cook, but it's worth it.
 
The second thing you need to know is that the bread should be buttered all the way to the edges.  Make sure the butter is super-soft and spread, spread, spread to the edges.
 
Then drop that sandwich onto the pan and let it cook.  Don't fiddle with it too much.

 
After a few minutes, lift up the edge and check to see if it's golden and flip it over.
 
However, it's totally my personal preference to have my grilled cheese sandwiches super-golden and crisp, but not hard.

 
Once both sides have been cooked to golden, I flipped it one more time, just to make sure the middle was hot and the cheese was gooey.

 
Whew - check out that cheesy, gooey, deliciousness.

 
The sandwich is creamy, cheesy, a slight hit of spiciness from the pepper and the bread is perfectly toasted and buttery-crisp.
 
And on my brother's sandwich?  I actually cut a couple extra jalapeños (roasted) in half and flattened it out and slapped them in the middle. 
 
And my niece's sandwich?  She didn't get any jalapeños at all and totally CRUSHED her cream-cheese, cheddar grilled cheese sandwich.  Which would be awesome also. 
 
You know what would also be awesome?  Bacon.  Bacon on this sandwich would also be awesome.  I mean, you're already there, why not go just a little further.
 
Really - the possibilities to make this totally a personalized sandwich are endless.  Why don't you give it a try?!
 
xoxo - Heather

Monday, 16 March 2015

Irish Soda Bread

Ah Spring.  The warmer weather can only mean one thing.

St. Patty's Day!

Now - for those of you who remember why, I decided a number of years ago to boycott St. Patty's Day parties.  I just kind of think it was the appropriate thing to do.

But I didn't boycott the food!  Which has resulted in a number of delicious stews, breads, and desserts.

Maybe next year I'll be brave and make colcannon.  I don't really know what that entails, but I'm sure it will be delicious.

This year, I tested a different Soda Bread recipe.  The actual name of the recipe is 'Classic Irish Soda Bread', but I can't imagine that cake flour was readily available to the general population.  But whatever.

Let's just call it classic.

 
In a large bowl, add the all-purpose flour.

 
Then the cake flour.

 
Then the sugar.

 
The baking soda.

 
And the cream of tartar.  (which is often difficult to come by in my neck of the woods.  Seriously.  I have witnesses)

 
Then toss in the butter.  Use a fork to break up the butter in the bread.  You can use a fork, but I also used my hands.

 
And then stir in the buttermilk.

 
You want to stir in the buttermilk using a fork until it forms a loose dough.
 
Turn it out onto the counter and knead it together until it's JUST combined.  If you stop when the dough is smooth, it'll come out of the oven tough.  It should be lumpy and ugly looking.  That's when you know you've got it right.
 
Then form the ugly dough into a 6-inch circle about 2 inches thick.  And place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

 

And, using a very sharp knife, cut a cross-shape  - not too far down.  I'd say about an inch.

 
Then the dough gets baked in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

 
The result is a heavy, dense, chewy bread that is totally perfect for sopping up rich, luxurious gravy from a stew - like this one.  (I love this stew, I think you will too!)
 
Just so you know, I that found the next day the leftovers seemed to be dry, but I heated it gently in the microwave and it softened right up. (3 minutes at 30% power)

I hope your St. Patty's Day is bright and fun!

An Irish Blessing from my favorite Irishman:
May you have love that never ends,
Lots of money, and lots of friends.
Health be yours, whatever you do,
and may God send many blessings to you!

xoxo - Heather

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Lemon Basil Shrimp Risotto

I was thinking about doing something comforting and filling because - well - Winter.  But instead, I'm going to knock you sideways and make you something that will make you think of sweet summer breezes and warm sunshine.
 
Risotto.
 
Lemon Basil Shrimp Risotto. 
 
Oh yeah.
 
 
Heat butter in a pan and add the shrimp. Cook until done - about 3 minutes.  Shrimp cooks very quickly. 
 
Oh - and make sure you give it a flip so both sides cook evenly.

 
Give the shrimp a rough chop.

 
In the same skillet, add the onion.

 
And the garlic.

 
Once the onion is translucent, add in the rice and stir it around.

 
Then add the white wine.


Once the wine is absorbed, start stirring in the broth 1/2 a cup at a time stirring until absorbed before adding more.

 
During one of the additions of chicken broth, add in the salt and pepper.

 
Once the rice is nearing al dente, stir in the lemon juice and the zest.

 
Once the rice is al dente, stir in the heavy cream.

 
And the shrimp.

 
And the basil.

 
Serve with extra lemon zest (if desired) and a little Parmesan cheese on top.
 

It's completely perfect for today.  Or for July.  But really for today when we desperately need to be reminded of summer and the way it feels.  Or tastes, as it were.  And for me, this is what summer tastes like.  Lemony, fresh, tangy, with the savory sweetness of the basil (which I positively love and will put on almost anything), creamy, and delicious. 

I totally think you'll love it!  Make it today.  It just might propel you through to the spring.

xoxo - Heather