Shrimp and Grits

We’re eating healthy again! Sort of. Matt is in a weight loss competition among volunteer fire department members. So he is counting calories.  And I don’t want him to shed way more than me so I’m going to make a little more of an effort. Sadly, that means less ice cream, and more moderation.

You wouldn’t think that shrimp and grits is a low-calorie option. But I pulled this recipe out of a recent Cooking Light magazine, and supposedly one serving is less than 300 calories!  And Matt loves shrimp and grits, as a rule, so I was excited to make it for him.  The only issue was that I did have to do a bit of actual grocery shopping for it. I did have the the half-and-half hanging around, and the green onions from the farm share. Polenta makes yet another appearance. The shrimp is from a frozen 2 pound bag from Costco that hangs out in the freezer. The mushrooms I did buy fresh.

Shrimp and Grits with Mushrooms
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves: approximately 6

  • 3 Cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits or cornmeal polenta
  • 1.5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 Cup slightly packed in)
  • 5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

  • 1 Cup chopped white onion
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 8-ounces of presliced mushrooms (I used 4 ounces white mushrooms and 4 ounces exotic mushroom mix)

  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (if you’re afraid of spice, lower the amount to 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 Cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 Cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

  • 1/3 Cup chopped green onions

Bring 3 cups water and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. While heating, make sure most ingredients are chopped, measured, and ready.
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Heat a large nonstick pan and cook bacon until crisp.  While this is cooking, you could whisk the grits/cornmeal into the boiling water and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until smooth and desirable.
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Remove from heat. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cheese. Cover to keep warm.

A note about the cheese: the original recipe said 2 ounces, about 1/2 cup. But the size of your grated Parmesan must make a huge difference, because with my trusty kitchen scale I was well over the 1/2 Cup mark on my bowl and had just passed 1 ounce.  It seemed like a lot of cheese to me, so I stopped there.  I didn’t miss the parmesan flavor too much, more so on the second day reheat, so I would say 1.5 ounces is a safe bet.
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Add white onion, garlic, and mushrooms to pan; cook 8 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown and give off liquid, stirring frequently. (At this point you could sautee a vegetable for the side, like green beans with garlic and red pepper like I did).
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Add shrimp and red pepper; cook 3 minutes.
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Combine half-and-half and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. A note about the flour: you will see from my final product that the sauce is not quite as thick as I would  like. I used the original recipe, which called for 1 tablespoon of flour, but it did not really thicken up. I suspected that I should have mixed in more flour. My suspicion was proven correct based on this website at least, so I updated the website to specify 2 tablespoons.

I suppose the texture of my sauce could have been affected by the fact that I used lower-protein Better Than Bouillion Chicken Base–which, for the record, I bought because Cook’s Illustrated did a chicken stock/chicken broth test and rated this one of the top choices!
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Add broth, flour mixture, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened a bit.
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Top with green onions. Serve shrimp mixture with grits and green beans.
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Another great thing: it only took about 30 minutes to make this pretty fancy-looking meal!
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Bottles Upon Casks Upon Jars

Last week, I decided it was about time that I found a way to use some of the specialty ingredients that have been sitting patiently in my refrigerator or pantry, expiring away.

It takes a sincere effort to use up an entire jar or bottle of these things, before they pass their date.  I lamented about this fact when my friend Kristen and I discovered expired and unusable Sriracha in my pantry once when cooking together in my kitchen.  I told her I liked having it on hand, but didn’t want to have a full bottle. She is an avid Sriracha eater, so she offered to transfer some of hers over to a small jar for me to have. How great is that? This kind of friendly/neighborly trade makes so much sense to me, and it harkens back to the idea of neighbors lending a cup of sugar.  Do neighbors even do that anymore? I have trouble imagining myself knocking on someone’s door to ask for some sugar, flour, sauce, etc., even in my safe and relatively comfortable suburban neighborhood. It would be interesting, though, if groups of people in a local vicinity “went in on” smaller quantities of goods.
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I won’t tell you how long past expired the sweet chili sauce was, but unlike the Sriracha, there was little difference in taste, and I searched through the web to find a recipe that could take advantage. Here’s what I settled on.

Spicy Shrimp with Thai Peanut Rice Noodles
Based on recipe found via the Food Network here
Servings: ~4

~6 ounces rice stick noodles
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce
(Trader Joe’s)
1 teaspoon spicy chili garlic paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup broth
,
plus extra as needed. Use whatever kind you have around–I had an open container of vegetable broth in the fridge, and I thought it worked fine.
1/3 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 -3 green onions
, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic
, chopped
1/2 pound frozen raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
, tail on,
thawed overnight in the fridge or if you need to cheat, carefully thaw in bag submerged in room temperature water, replacing the water as it cools.
Chopped peanuts
Lettuce

Optional Thai Sauce:
1/3 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon vinega
r, white or rice
1/8 teaspoon sweet chili sauce
1 pinch crushed chili flakes
1 small carrot
, shredded

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions, placing in a bowl with hot water until soft. Noodles can be al dente since they will be added to the pan and simmered for a few minutes with the shrimp and sauce.

Melt peanut butter in a small microwave safe bowl for 15 seconds. Whisk in lime juice, sweet Thai chili sauce, chili-garlic sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, broth and curry powder. This can be made ahead of time and re-whisked immediately before adding to noodles.

Make optional sauce ahead of time, if using. This sauce is for drizzling over the noodle bowls upon serving. I was skeptical, because it didn’t taste like much on its own, but it does add to the final taste product. Prepare sauce by combining the following in this order: cold water, sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, sweet chili sauce and crushed chili flakes. Grate carrot, add to bowl, and stir.

Heat oil in a large nonstick fry pan at medium-high heat. Add onions and let cook for about 30 seconds. Add garlic and sautee for about 1 minute. Add thawed shrimp to hot pan. Cook for about two minutes per side until just pink.
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Add drained rice noodles to the pan along with prepared peanut sauce. Cook for a few minute until all ingredients are heated through and rice noodles soften. If mixture seems dry, add 1/2 cup more broth to loosen up.

Place lettuce on serving dishes and top with rice noodles and shrimp. Drizzle with 1-2 Tablespoons of optional sauce. Top with fresh cilantro, if you have it, and chopped peanuts. Additional carrot can also be shredded on top.
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Enjoy! Try not to dwell on the fact that you haven’t made a noticeable dent in the various bottles and casks and jars…