Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Shrimp, Tomatoes, Pesto, and Fettuccine

This wonderful, unseasonable autumn weather continues and I’m really enjoying it. Somewhat. The temperature and lack of rain has been perfect for outdoor painting (of the house, not on canvas!) and I’ve accomplished more in the past month than I have in the 2 previous fall seasons combined. I’ve given up trying to paint in the spring (too wet, too cool) and in the summer (too hot), so that leaves autumn to be the season in when I attempt to accomplish too much that was delayed for too long.

The days are getting very noticeably shorter and we are now eating dinner in the evening after the sun goes down behind the barn, so no more patio dinners. Even with the torches lit it becomes quite chilly, very quickly. I love dinners on the patio and that makes me sad.

We also are planning to rent the train station which we restored 12 years ago. Jack really hasn’t used it as an office for a few years, and we hate to see such a nice building empty. So we spent yesterday scraping loose paint, repairing split wood, replacing a few rotted pieces, and priming. When we left it looked silly- a cream-and-burgundy building spotted with white paint. We hope to return next week to topcoat.

It was warm outside, and it was late when we finished so I needed a quick dinner. I decided that I wanted some kind of pasta and shrimp. When we arrived home I measured out 12 ounces of frozen shrimp into a large bowl and filled it with cold water. Then by the time I showered and dressed and prepared the tomatoes they were thawed. These were already deveined, so all I had to do was peel them. I didn’t measure because I was in a hurry, but here is the recipe with approximate measurements:

Shrimp with Basil Pesto and Tomatoes over Whole Wheat Fettuccine

(makes 2 nice-sized servings)

6 ounces whole wheat fettuccine

2 medium fresh tomatoes, diced

2 teaspoons olive oil

12 ounces frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto*

2 ounces shredded Parmagiano-Reggiano

Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil and add fettuccine. When the pasta is almost done, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add shrimp in a single layer and cook for about 1-1 ½ minutes or until they start to turn pink. Using a spatula, turn the shrimp and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, stir, and cook for another minute.

While the tomatoes are cooking, measure ¼ cup of pasta cooking water into a small bowl and drain the pasta. Add the basil pesto to the water and stir well. Add to the shrimp mixture and stir to coat. Add fettuccine and toss well.

Divide between 2 bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

  • A note for the above recipe, the pesto I make is very thick because I do not add a lot of oil to make it creamy like some of the purchased pesto can be. This is why I add hot pasta water to thin it (thereby also adding a lot less fat and calories). If you have purchased pesto, use your own judgment as to how much water to use.

  • I have purchased pesto before and save a lot of fat and calories by draining it, using a strained lined with a coffee filter, for an hour or so. Just remember, after you spoon it back into the container, to smooth the top and add a thin layer of olive oil to keep the top of the basil mixture from turning brown.

This is very quick and very good. I served with whole wheat Italian bread.

My basil has grown rampantly this summer and is still at it. I have a couple of jars of pesto in the refrigerator and am contemplating making more (thank heaven for Sam’s Club and their big bag o' pine nuts!).

As much as I am enjoying this weather, I need for it to get cooler so I can start making more seasonal recipes! But I can wait for a bit on that. :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Easy Key Lime Pie

I wrote this over two weeks ago and forgot to post. Whoops!

More beach house reminiscing. I’ll be “over it” in another month or two. Definitely before Thanksgiving, I promise!

I pulled a ready-made graham cracker crust out of the pantry one morning to prepare a key lime pie for dessert that evening, and Tammy exclaimed “Wow! You’re using a store-bought pie crust!”. Okay, I don’t make everything from scratch! I really try not to use processed foods, for reasons of nutritional content as well as taste, but sometimes I do. Take graham cracker crusts. I hate the mess of mixing the crumbs and melted butter together and pressing it into the pan. I always try to use as little butter as possible and the crumbs stick to my hands and the crust tends to crumble—it’s not fun. Keebler makes a reduced-fat graham cracker crust that is just fine with me. I only use these for key lime pie in the summer, so I’m not going to sweat taking the easy way out.

The same attitude I take with angel food cake mixes. I’ve tried the “from scratch” route. Separating a dozen eggs, whipping them (with an electric mixer—I’m not talking about doing it with a hand-whisk in a copper bowl because that’s just crazy) into the just-right volume, then baking. They have never turned out as good as those which I make from a prepared mix where I just add water and beat.

Brownie mixes are on this list, too. The best one I’ve found so far is a Ghiradelli mix that includes a chocolate syrup packet, and I’ve not made a “from scratch” brownie that compares. I know that it can be done. My friend Jenni gave me a sampling of three wonderful types of brownies she made earlier this summer and they were excellent but for now, for brownies, I will go the mix route. I don’t make them often and brownies are my go-to for an easy company dessert. I have found that adding dark rum to the mix instead of water makes a wonderful tasting brownie!

To turn the brownie mix into something a little less convenient but healthier, I have also used pureed pears instead of most of the oil called for. I regularly use pureed pears (which are just what it sounds like—canned pears, in juice, drained and pureed until smooth) as a substitute for oil in baking. In fact, I’ve subbed up to ¾ of the oil with pureed pears with no noticeable difference in texture or taste with muffins, quickbreads, and bundt cakes. For brownies, when the recipe calls for 1/3 cup of oil, I spoon pureed pears up to the ¼ cup mark in a glass measuring cup then pour in canola up to the 1/3 cup mark. The puree lasts for a week in the refrigerator and can also be frozen. A 15-ounce can of pears will make about 2/3 cup of puree.

I’ve also been playing around with a recipe where I add dark rum to the chocolate batter but also make a cream cheese “swirl” flavored with coconut for coconut-rum brownies. Unfortunately, they have never really turned out the same way twice (or, they probably would if I could quit playing around with the recipe) so I do not want to post this until I get it right. Something to look forward to… ;)

Until then, here’s the recipe for key lime pie. Since I take the easy way out and buy the crust I also forgo the ritual of squeezing a billion tiny little key limes and, instead, buy Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime juice. Five ingredients, it really doesn’t get much easier!

* Exported from MasterCook *

Key Lime Pie

Serving Size : 8

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

2 large egg whites

2 large eggs

1/2 cup Key lime juice

1 teaspoon grated lime rind

14 ounces fat-free sweetened condensed milk

1 reduced-fat graham cracker crust

1 cup Cool Whip Lite® -- thawed

1 large Key lime -- optional, sliced thinly into 8 "center cut" slices (simple, impressive finishing touch)

Preheat oven to 350.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the whole eggs and beat well. With the mixer running, gradually add the milk and lime juice, then lime rind and beat until well-blended (about 2 minutes). Pour into crust and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the center is almost set (the tip of a knife, inserted into the center, will come out clean). The pie will jiggle, but it will firm up as it chills.

Cool pie on a wire rack until no longer warm. Cover loosely, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Cut into pieces, serve with a dollop of whipped cream and, if desired, a lime "twist" made from the key limes.

*** Key lime twists-- make a cut in each lime slice from the center out to, and through, the rind. Hold at each side of the cut and twist one side one way, the other side the opposite way. Place in each individual dollop of whipped topping.***

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Per serving: 281 Calories (kcal); 6g Total Fat; (18% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 47mg Cholesterol; 200mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 0 Grain (Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Fat; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrates