I’m working on lightening up meals these days. I adore shrimp scampi, love pasta, but knew that I had to find a way to enjoy some of those flavors while watching the fats and carbs. This is my version of a shrimp and garlic pasta that satisfies those cravings, but also keeps me on the better side of healthy.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti, cooked in salted water until al dente
1 pound shrimp (raw, peeled, deveined and tails removed)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small green pepper, cored and thinly sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
juice from 1/2 lemon
2-3 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cook whole wheat spaghetti in a large pot of salted water until just done.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When oil is heated, add the shrimp to the pan. Salt to taste and sprinkle with cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just pink. Remove from pan and keep warm.

In the same pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion, green pepper and mushrooms. When they begin to soften, add the garlic and stir for another 1-2 minutes. Mix together the chicken broth and corn starch and add to the pan with the vegetables. Stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Drain the spaghetti, reserving some of the pasta water. Add the spaghetti to the sauce. Add the shrimp and toss to mix. If the sauce is a little thick, add a little pasta water until it is the consistency to coat the pasta. Add the lemon juice and parsley and mix well.

Serve and enjoy!

The amounts of salt, garlic and cayenne are according to my tastes. If you like less spice, alter the amounts to suit your preferences.

Grammy

The battle lines are drawn. Will it be the dressing/stuffing? Or, will it be the green bean casserole? Everyone has their favorite must-have Thanksgiving side dishes that have become nearly as important as the traditional turkey. Here’s your opportunity to share your favorite along with any stories about who prepared it and why you love it. I’ll start…

IT’S THE DRESSING. Hands down, my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal. I still make the dressing I learned to make from my Mom, although I’ve made a few tweaks here and there. I’ll be sharing that recipe later on so watch for it! For most of my childhood I thought all dressing was the same. But, there is a whole wide world of options and a big difference between dressing and stuffing. We never stuffed the bird. The cornbread dressing, full of onion, celery and seasonings, was baked on the side.

I still limit this to a once a year offering so that it remains a treasured “treat” during the holidays. What’s YOUR favorite Thanksgiving side? Maybe this year I’ll be inspired to branch out and try something new!

I had you at Cajun Shrimp, didn’t I? Who doesn’t love a nice spicy helping of shrimp on top of smooth, creamy and cheesy grits, with a little jalapeno chaser? I looked at a lot of different Shrimp and Grits recipes before putting together something that suited our tastes. This is another super easy dish, suitable for a weeknight and can be made spicy or not, your choice based on the spices you choose to use.

INGREDIENTS:

For the grits:

3 cups water
1 cup stone ground grits, long cooking variety
a dash salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons diced jalapeno (I use the jarred variety)

For the shrimp:

12 oz. package of frozen, peeled and deveined raw shrimp
4 slices bacon, diced
3 scallions, finely sliced
1/2 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Cajun Seasoning (add more according to your taste)

INSTRUCTIONS:

For the grits:

Place the 3 cups water, dash salt and grits in a saucepan and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 25 -30 minutes, stirring often. When the grits are cooked and smooth, add the milk, butter, garlic powder and jalapeno. Stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes to allow the milk and butter to incorporate into the grits. Add the shredded cheese and stir until cheese has melted and the grits are smooth and creamy. Turn off heat and keep warm while preparing the shrimp.

For the shrimp:

Thaw the frozen shrimp in a colander under cool water until completely thawed. Drain.

Place a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is done, but not yet crisp. Add butter and allow to melt. Add the onions and the red bell pepper. Cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the thawed and drained shrimp the the skillet and sprinkle with the Cajun Seasoning. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is pink and just done. Don’t overcook.

To serve, place a few spoons of grits in a bowl and top with the shrimp mixture.

Adjust the seasonings according to your taste. Just remember that when preparing the shrimp that you’re serving it atop JALAPENO cheese grits. It’s easier to add more spice, but difficult to remove if you’ve added too much at the beginning. I suggest when taste testing you try some of the shrimp with the grits to get a true sense of how spicy it is.

Grammy

This is my go-to recipe when I want something spicy, easy, and guaranteed to open up my sinuses! Made with ingredients I usually have on hand, it’s easy to put together and makes a wonderful weeknight meal for people in a hurry, especially if you do a little prep on the weekends. It also freezes well!

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, finely diced (optional)
6 cups chicken broth
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn OR 1 14.5-ounce can corn, rinsed and drained
3 chicken bones, skinless chicken breasts
1 packet taco seasoning
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup shredded Monterey jack or cheddar jack cheese
Sour cream and tortilla chips for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a large heavy bottomed dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and the jalapenos, if using, and cook for another minutes. Don’t saute for too long or the garlic may become bitter.

Add the chicken broth, Rotel, beans, corn and taco seasoning to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Add your chicken breasts, cooking for about 20-25 minutes until cooked through and tender. Once the chicken is cooked, removed from the pot and dice or shred into bite sized pieces and return it to the pot. Add the cilantro.

Just before serving, add the cheese and stir until melted throughout. Dip into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream and tortilla chips or Fritos on the side.

NOTE: If planning to freeze, don’t add the cheese to the whole pot. Stir it into individual portions of soup instead or on the side as a garnish.

Want to make this even easier? Cook and dice chicken on the weekend and just add it to the soup and heat through. I usually cook chicken in large batches and portion out diced pieces to use in recipes later. You can even pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for this purpose.

Grammy

This is a new favorite recipe for several in my family who have gluten allergies. These sugar cookies are a gluten free version of the famous LOFT frosted sugar cookies. They’re pretty and festive, easy to make and even those without gluten issues think they’re great!

INGREDIENTS:

For cookies:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (check your GF flour mixture to see if the xanthan gum is already in it – if so, skip this ingredient)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups gluten-free cup-for-cup flour

For frosting:

1 cup butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
food coloring of your choice
Sprinkles to make all the little people happy!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the softened butter and sugar on medium speed with a hand or stand mixer. Add the eggs and beat until smooth and lemon colored.

Add the salt, baking powder, xanthan gum (if needed) and vanilla extract. Then add the gluten free flour blend and mix until combined.

You can roll the dough out between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and cut out with your favorite cookie cutters, or use my method: Drop cookies on parchment covered cookie sheet using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop. Dip the bottom of a small glass in sugar and press down gently on the tops, flattening a little.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will be soft, but the edges should look slightly dry and the bottoms of the cookies will be lightly brown. They won’t look done, but take them out at the prescribed time and let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5-10, then move to a cooking rack.

When cool, frost with buttercream frosting (don’t be stingy) and add sprinkles. LOTS of sprinkles!

It’s important to read the ingredients on your gluten free flour blends as the ingredients differ by brand.

Grammy


I have this recipe in my family cookbook. My Mom made it. My Auntie Brooks made it. And what I remember is that everyone’s cheddar cheese grits casserole tasted just a little different. Every cook had their own way of selecting ingredients and making the dish their own. I’ve done the same by using the basic recipe my family had and making a few changes along the way.

INGREDIENTS:

4 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup long cooking grits
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring milk to a low boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; add butter and gradually whisk in the grits. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, whisking frequently, or until the grits are done. Remove from heat.

Stir in the eggs and the remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 11×7 baking dish.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until mixture is set. Serve immediately.

One of the changes I made is to use the long cooking grits, not the quick cooking variety. I order mine online and use the Carolina Gold variety. The consistency of the long cooking grits is smooth and velvety – well worth the extra time.

Grammy

Every family has their personal meatloaf recipe. It’s the one you equate with comfort food meals your Mom made when you were a kid. This is one that my Mom made and it’s always been in my personal family recipe notebook. However, I guess I hadn’t made it in a long time because when I recently started using this recipe again everyone reacted like it was something brand new and exciting. So, without further adieu, here is my Mom’s “New” Old BBQ Meatloaf.

INGREDIENTS:

For the meatloaf:
2 pounds lean ground beef
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 egg, beaten
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup cracker crumbs ( I like to use a butter cracker like Ritz. If I’m making a GF version, I use plain GF bread crumbs.)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard

For the sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all meatloaf ingredients together. Work gently to incorporate all of the ingredients, but don’t overwork. Make a loaf in a 9×13 baking dish, shaping by hand. Try not to pack the mixture too tightly or it will create a dense and tough meatloaf. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Top with the sauce mixture and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Let stand for about 10 minutes before removing from pan and slicing into serving pieces.

This can be made ahead and reheats well. It is also a freezer friendly dish.

Grammy

This bread is super easy and really tasty. It’s only got a handful of ingredients and is the perfect accompaniment to a pot of soup or stew. I found this one on Taste of Home.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups self-rising flour (if you don’t have self-rising flour, see below for instructions on making your own)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and sugar. Stir in honey and beer, just until moistened.

Transfer to a greased 8×4 inch loaf pan. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

Self-rising flour: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt.

Grammy

This recipe is a cold weather staple in our house. It’s one that even those people who claim they can’t cook can manage to put together and for a working Mom, this is a nourishing meal that is a real time saver and budget stretcher.

When my Dad retired, he took an interest in cooking. My Mom showed him how to make this recipe and he mastered it. It always makes me think of them when we have it. It’s literally 5 cans, some onion and smoked sausage. You can’t get much easier than that.

INGREDIENTS:

1 smoked sausage (I use Eckrich either beef or turkey), cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cans navy beans
1 can Rotel tomatoes

INSTRUCTIONS:

Using a dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and smoked sausage, saute until the onions begin to soften and the sausage begins to brown slightly. Add the cans of beans and the Rotel tomatoes, mixing well. Continue to simmer on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.

If you can use a can opener, you can make this soup. If you want to make it even easier, use chopped frozen onions.

Grammy

This was a great recipe my Mom made when I was growing up. She worked and had to be an industrious and budget conscious meal planner for our large family. Luckily for us, she was a great cook. I’ve taken so many of my best planning techniques from her and, as the mother of six, those habits have served me well.

This is a dish she would make ahead of time and refrigerate. When we got home from school, Mom would leave instructions about how much liquid to add, what temperature to set the oven and when it needed to go in. This kind of meal planning and finishing were cornerstones of my education as a cook. Savory Sausage and Rice Casserole is still one of my go-to meals when I’m cooking for a crowd. (Note: I usually double this recipe for my family, but a single batch should serve about 4-6 people. Unless they eat like my family. Which means it probably will feed 4…or maybe 3.) 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pork sausage
1 cup rice, uncooked
2 envelopes Lipton dry chicken noodle soup mix
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

INSTRUCTIONS:

Brown and drain the sausage. Mix together the sausage, rice, soup mix, onion and celery and place in a 2 quart casserole dish. Mix soy sauce with the water and add to the casserole. Mix gently. Cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Great make-ahead dish that reheats well. I tend to add a little extra soy sauce because I like the extra flavor, but I always use low sodium because there’s already plenty of salt in this dish.

Grammy