Sunday, November 15, 2015

A hobby turns a profit

Last year, I started painting some pieces of reclaimed wood I came across. I sold a few pieces, but really got out of it fairly quickly. Until a couple months ago. 

On a whim, I shared a photo of a painting I had done last fall. 

I'm getting ready to start grad school in January. Did you realize how expensive it is to even apply?? Between ordering transcripts, paying for tests, and paying for the application itself, my already tight budget was feeling the squeeze. I shared this photo as a "feeler"... "Would anyone be interested in ordering some paintings to help me cover the application costs?"

Yes. Yes, they would. 

What started as one order turned into a few more... And then a few more... And then even more. 

Since September, I have been blessed with a steady stream of painting orders. They have helped cover all of my application costs, unexpected bills, doctor visits, and more. 

I am thrilled with how busy I've been and so thankful for the opportunity to use my gifts. 

Today, the mother of one of my husband's former students called me to say that she'd come across SEVERAL discarded kitchen cabinet doors. For free. And she was giving them to me!

Look at that pile of treasure just waiting to be discovered! I have some great ideas for these. Chalkboards, coat or key rack, etc. I was so excited to get started!

They'd been kept in a shed for a while, so they had some dry mold growing on them. 

I sprayed them with a bleach mixture to kill and remove the mold. It already looked better just from the wash, and I loved the chippy texture, so I didn't do anything else to the cabinet itself. 

This piece was perfect for one word, two at the most. I knew what word I wanted for my kitchen: "gather."

I free handed the word in pencil to make sure I had the size right. Then I went over it in black acrylic. 

It's the perfect statement for my kitchen. The kitchen is truly the heart of my home where my family gathers together. We cook, we eat, we clean, we talk. 

We gather. 

I have several more doors available, but this one is all mine!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Honey Lime Fish Tacos with Mexican Cream

Who doesn't love Taco Tuesday? Personally, I look forward to it every week.  It doesn't have to be the same taco every time.  That's the beauty of it.  Pretty much, if you can put it in a tortilla, it can be a taco.

My favorites are fish tacos, especially for summer.  They are lighter than regular tacos, and on a hot, summer day, they can be quite refreshing.  Especially when paired with a cool, creamy sauce.

For these tacos, I used tilapia, lime, and honey.  It was really simple and really tasty.

Four tilapia fillets
One lime
1-2 tbsp honey
salt and pepper

Set your oven to broil.  While the oven is heating, salt and pepper both sides of the fish.  Place on a baking sheet and top with half the lime juice and half the honey.  Broil for 5 minutes.  Flip the fish over, and top with the remaining lime juice and honey.  Broil for 5 more minutes until the fish is white and opaque.

For the sauce, I mixed one tbsp cilantro paste with 1/2 c sour cream. It was paired perfectly with the lime in the fish.  I chopped some cucumbers, put them in the taco with the fish, and topped the whole thing with the Mexican cream.  To add some extra spice, I sprinkled on some red pepper flakes.

To make this meal low carb, I used a low carb tortilla.  However, the only ones I could find were soft.  To make them crunchy, I baked them in a 350 degree oven like this...

That way, they baked into the perfect shell shape. Just check on them periodically to make sure they are starting to crisp.  I haven't timed it myself; I just go by feel.

I hope you enjoy making these for your next Taco Tuesday!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Nine Tips for Nine Months

There is was... The "plus sign" we'd been praying for.  I can't believe it has been three years since we first found out about our Sweet P.

With that plus sign came a whole new slew of questions... What can I eat? What positions can I sleep in safely? ... Do you mean to tell me I can't have coffee AT ALL???

And with those questions came the advice. Oh, you know what I'm talking about.  It's like now that you're pregnant, you have lost all ability to think for yourself.  Friends, family, even strangers in the grocery store parking lot feel like they need to tell you the whats, whens, whys, and hows of being pregnant.  And the "stranger in the grocery store parking lot?" That actually happened.  "You know you shouldn't eat deli meat, right?" yelled Stranger-Danger from across the aisle as I was loading my groceries into my car.  Thanks for your concern, ma'am.

But with each passing month, you become more and more aware.  You're going to be a mom. Those motherly instincts kick in way before the due date, let me tell you.  Trust your gut.  You will be fine.

But if you're like me, you're still going to scour the internet for all things pregnancy. Amid all the uncertainty, all the "new," it can be difficult to simply rest and enjoy those 40 weeks.  They may seem to be dragging by, but soon, your own little sweet one will be out in the big world.

For me, each month brought with it a new challenge. Here are my tips and tricks for staying healthy and sane for the next nine months.

Month one: Confirming the Plus Sign

Yay! We're pregnant!... Now what? First things first: call your doctor.  Actually, call your mom.  Then call your doctor.  My doctor waited to do the ultrasound until I was eight weeks along.  A friend's doctor did her ultrasound at five-six weeks along.  It's really up to the discretion of your doctor.  Be sure you love your doctor, by the way.  The two of you are about to get really close. In the few weeks before my ultrasound, I started a prenatal vitamin, watched what I ate, and counted down the minutes until I would see that tiny jellybean of a baby growing inside me. Any questions, call your nurse.  That's what she's there for!

Month two: The Reveal

This was the picture my husband and I posted to social media to announce that Sweet P was on the way.  My tip for this? Make it fun. Make it special.  You only get to announce your first pregnancy once, so go all out.  Feel like shouting it from the roof tops the second you find out? Do it! Want to wait until the first ultrasound (like me)? That's fine, too.  Or even after the first trimester.  It's whatever you choose.  I just probably wouldn't wait until delivery.  That could be a little too late ;)

Month three: Morning Sickness

Week 8
Myth: Morning sickness only happens in the morning.  Fact: Morning sickness happens in the morning... and the afternoon... and the evening... and the middle of the night.  For me, it was a constant feeling of nausea that never really went away until I was thirteen weeks along.  You know the feeling you get when you get off a really crazy roller coaster right after eating a bucket of hot wings? No? Well, imagine it.  Now imagine it lasting for three months. Boom. That's morning sickness for you. I never took an anti-nausea medication.  I didn't want to take any medication that wasn't absolutely necessary. In fact, concerns are currently being raised by American Recall Center about the drug Zofran, which is being used off-label in a way the FDA has not approved. Zofran side effects include birth defects such as cleft palate and heart defects! I was not about to take something that could harm my Sweet P. Instead, I found out what worked for me.  If I ate a few crackers and drank some water when I first woke up, I could head it off.  Also, listen to your body.  Food cravings and aversions are not just funny old-wives tales.  I couldn't stand ice cream.  Even the smell.  If I ate it, terrible things happened to me.  Just take my word for it.

Month four: Maternity Clothes

Week 15
Week 18
You know all of the gorgeous celebrity moms prancing around in their perfectly-fitting maternity dresses and four-inch heels? You are not going to look nothing like that.  Sorry to burst your bubble. Don't get me wrong; you're going to look beautiful! It's just that maternity clothes are expensive! And you're only going to be wearing them for five months. My advice? Consignment stores.  Seriously.  I never paid full-price for any of my maternity clothes. You can find some awesome brands at discounted prices by browsing through the racks.  I found GAP, Motherhood, Target maternity... all for a fraction of what I would have paid in stores. Another trick? Borrow them from a friend! Trust me, she'll be happy to have those clothes out of her closet and being put to good use.

Month five: The Gender Reveal!!!!

Week 21
Finally! The month you've been waiting for! At least, if you plan on finding out the gender of your baby.  For me, that was the only thing I could think of.  I HAD to know.  If there had been a pregnancy test available to buy that said "You're pregnant. It's a girl," right away, I would have paid I don't even know how much money to buy that stick. The waiting drove me insane.  And just like the pregnancy announcement, the gender announcement should be as special as you want.  If you want it to be just you and your spouse in the doctor's office, that is just as good as a color-coordinate cake or a box of balloons, which by the way is what we did.  Our ultrasound tech wrote the gender on a slip of paper in an envelope.  We gave the envelope to a friend who met us at our house with a box of either blue or pink balloons. We counted to three and opened the box...

Finally knowing that our Sweet P was a girl was the best part.  We got to call her by her name and pick out tiny dresses.  For me, that made it even more real. My DAUGHTER was growing week by week.

Another thing that starts to happen this month... sleeping becomes a real issue.  I couldn't get comfortable.  If I laid on my back, I felt like I was suffocating. Laying on my stomach was not an option anymore.  So, side-sleeping it was.  My recommendation: get a BODY PILLOW!! Seriously, it was my best friend.  It gave my growing stomach the support it needed so I could be as comfortable as possible. 

Month six: Pregnancy Brain

Oh, its real, folks. Very real.

Week 24
Week 27

You always hear pregnant women blaming things on "pregnancy brain." Yeah, like that's even a thing. IT IS. One night, I had made a giant pot of broccoli soup (remember those cravings I was telling you about?).  I was so excited.  I was going to put it in individual containers to carry to work for lunch the rest of the week.  Did you catch that? I was going to. Instead, I left the whole darn thing sitting on the kitchen counter all night, ruining it. Combine that fact with the crazy-pregnant-lady hormones, and you have all the necessary ingredients for a meltdown that would rival 2007 Britney Spears. Advice for dealing with pregnancy brain: make lists, get organized, and learn to say "no." There are things you have to do; write those down on a list.  Meal-prepping should have gone on my list.  It did not, and there I was, soup-less.  But you do not have to do everything! Say no to the unnecessary things.  Use that time to relax.  Goodness knows, you won't get to for much longer.

Month seven: Maternity Photos

Week 30
 As a photographer and former pregnant lady, I highly recommend getting maternity photos done around the seven month mark.  Any earlier, you're likely not showing as much.  Any later, you are going to be miserably large.  Month seven is the perfect in-between stage.  Definitely, visibly pregnant; still able to move around with some sort of ease.  Also, make sure you get maternity photos.  It breaks my heart to hear clients turn down our maternity package because they "feel fat." You are not fat; you are beautiful, doing the most beautiful thing in the world.  Treasure it.  Show it off.  I felt like a supermodel at my pregnancy shoot, swollen ankles and all. If you are really concerned about it, talk with your doctor and develop a pregnancy fitness routine.  I adored prenatal yoga.  The stretches really eased my back pain and helped me feel more relaxed.  It's also great for breathing techniques to use during childbirth.

PS- I got this entire outfit at a consignment store!

Month eight: Packing the hospital bag

33 weeks

36 weeks

As if you couldn't tell from my pictures, by the eighth month, I was ready to pop.  Literally.  My doctor had said baby could come at any time, so for the next few weeks we waited for "any time" to come. We made sure hospital bags were packed and ready to go.  Looking back, there are so many things I should not have bothered packing and so many other things I wish I had. The adorable set of pajamas I bought to wear in the hospital? The magazines? They stayed in the bag.  Some things I highly recommend bringing? Two big, fluffy, dark brown towels. The white hospital towels were awful for postpartum. Not to mention scratchy and small.  Another item is toilet paper.  That one-ply nonsense the hospital supplied was not gonna cut it.

At month eight, I was so uncomfortable.  My back hurt 24/7; my ankles were a thing of the past. To help with the back pain, I would stand under the shower and let the hot water hit directly on my lower back.  It felt amazing.  For my swollen feet, I propped them up on pillows.  Not only did it make me feel like a princess, but it helped alleviate some of the swelling.  That was also the month I went for a pre-delivery pedicure.  If my feet were going to be hoisted up for all to see, I wanted my toes to at least look cute.  I got pink polish in honor of baby girl.  And the pedicurist doing it was so sweet.  She gave me an extra long leg and foot massage before painting my tootsies.  She was an angel! I highly recommend this little treat. You've earned it!

Month nine: Make Room for BABY!

Week 39
 With my daughter, I ended up needing to be induced. She was out of growing room. But that was fine with me.  My doctor and I had a plan.  I know most pregnant ladies have an idea of what they want to have done in the delivery room.  I cannot express enough how important it is to talk to your doctor about it before hand.  Waiting until you are contracting every minute and trying to squeeze out a tiny human is not going to provide you with enough time to have that conversation.  I wanted an epidural; some women do not.  I wanted just my husband to be with me; some women want more people.  It's up to you, but make sure the plan is made ahead of time.  While you are in labor, you cannot eat or drink anything, but you can have ice chips.  And you'd better eat those ice chips. With my daughter, I could not get cool enough.  They cranked the A/C down and fanned me with clip boards.  I had cool cloths on my neck and chest.  But I was so hot.  Giving birth is exhausting, and you will need the water those ice chips provide to help stay hydrated and cool. But you can do it, and you will be rewarded with the greatest gift...

 A tiny, perfect, eight-pound, 20-inch-long bundle of joy.

I hope my tips and tricks work for you and your pregnancy.  If not, you will find what does.  Trust your "mama-instincts," and enjoy every moment of those beautiful 40 weeks! Time will fly by! And, trust me, it will never slow down again...

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chipotle Orange Pork Chops with an Apple Raisin Chutney

Today was a perfect summer day.  It was the stuff that dreams are made of.  My Sweet P went to school this morning and gave me a big hug "bye" before heading off to play.  I spent the morning with my husband.  Sweet P actually took a nap in her big girl bed, which is HUGE for her.  She's never been a napper.  Granted, my husband took a nap with her, but it's a step in the right direction.  At least she slept this time.  And, boy, did she sleep!

I went outside and laid in the sun in her little pool, just the right size to keep me cool.  I read a book. I finished my book. I went to the library and got a library card! I checked out more books.  All the while, my family was napping, and I got some "me time." It was much needed, and I enjoyed every second.

I enjoyed some "me time" last week with a friend. We went to Whole Foods and Sprouts and At Home... I enjoyed adult conversation and grocery shopping without having to rush.  At Whole Foods, I picked up a new seasoning to try: Chipotle Orange salt.  It has a strong chipotle flavor with just a touch of orange.  The chipotle has a good bit of heat, so be mindful of that when you use it.  A little goes a long way.

I knew it would go well on pork chops, so I simply seasoned both sides of the chop and seared them on my grill pan to give them those pretty lines.  I finished them off in the oven for 20 minutes at 375.  

The zucchini I also did on the grill pan.  I used a touch of the chipotle orange salt, some black pepper, and olive oil. The zucchini cooked quickly and turned out beautiful.

Keeping with my fruit theme, I decided to go with an apple chutney.  Typically, apple chutney calls for green apples, but since I knew I was going to use the chipotle orange seasoning, I decided to go with red apples so their natural sweetness would combat some of that heat.  I cubed the apples and combined the apple pieces with some olive oil, a tbs of apple cider vinegar, some of the chipotle orange salt, a tbs (ish) of honey, and just a splash of orange juice to bring out the citrus in the salt.  I also added in some raisins.  I cooked the apples over medium high heat until the liquid was gone and used them to top the pork chops.  The sweet apples, spicy seasoning, and savory pork chops combined perfectly!

This just looks like summer to me.  So many colors and fruits and veggies; the grill marks... all signs of summer in my book.

Of course, my Sweet P was closely monitoring my work... Silly, sweet girl. 

Do you have a favorite summer recipe! Let me know in the comments!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cheesy Cauliflower "Grits"

I have come to love cauliflower. 

There, I said it. 

I. Love. Cauliflower. 

But... I don't love it as cauliflower. I love it because it can be disguised as nearly anything else. Like grits :)

Start by "ricing" a head of cauliflower. I use a cheese grater to do this, but you could also use a food processor or cut it fine with a butcher knife. 

Next, you'll combine the cauliflower with a little milk in a pan to heat it through and make it soft. Just check it periodically until it reaches a texture you like. I like it to have a little bit more crunch to it. 

Once the cauliflower is cooked, add whatever cheese you like. I added Parmesan and a bit of Colby Jack. I also added salt and pepper and a touch of garlic powder. 

These are great as a side dish for breakfast. I used to not like grits. I know, what southern girl doesn't like grits?? But then I realized the error of my ways. And now in a low carb lifestyle, I can't have them. Since I made these, I actually like them more. Knowing that I'm getting a full serving of veggies makes it even better! 

I made these again using frozen cauliflower. 

Can't even tell!!  I put a serving of the frozen cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl with two tablespoons of water. Microwave for three minutes, drain the water, and they are ready to be used just like the fresh cauliflower. Either put them in a food processor or chop them with a butcher knife. Easy as pie... Low carb pie, of course!

Hope you enjoy!

Low Carb Fried Pickles

Low carb. Fried. Pickles. 

These bad boys barely even need an introduction. The inspiration for this recipe came from a pic I saw in Instagram. 

Fried pickles have always been one of my favorite snacks. I've made fried zucchini slices using coconut flower as the breading, but I wanted something with more crunch for these. Pork rinds to he rescue. 

I used my food processor to make the pork rind crumbs this time rather than crushing them by hand. They need to be very finely ground. Otherwise, the breading will be too much and you'll lose the pickle. Trust me. 

Coat the pickle slices in an egg wash and then coat them in the pork rind crumbs. Fry them over medium-high heat in hot oil. I used canola. 

I made my dill sauce to dip them in, but this time I added pickle juice rather than lemon juice to give them an extra kick of pickle flavor. It was a good call. 

These were absolutely amazing. I am so excited to have a low carb version of one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures. What's one of your favorite snacks? Let me know in the comments, and who knows? You may see a low carb version pop up on here one day!

Mexican Marinated Chicken with Avocado Dressing

Summer time is in full swing here in Alabama, and technically, it won't be summer for a few more days!! It is so hot!

Luckily, summer means lots of cool summer produce. Avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers... I love them all. And there's nothing like using them in a salad to combat the heat!

But as much as I try, I can't just eat salad. I need something more filling. I need protein. This chicken did just the trick! I marinated chicken breasts in olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, onion powder, red pepper, and cumin. I browned it on the stove and finished it off in the oven (375 for 25 minutes). At the end, I topped it with a thin slice of Colby Jack cheese and broiled it until the cheese had melted. 

For the dressing, I mashed an avocado and mixed it with some cilantro, sour cream, onion powder, salt, pepper, and lime juice- almost like a thin guacamole. It was so good; I had to stop myself from just eating it with a spoon! I sliced some tomatoes to add to the salad and garnished it with a lime wedge. 

As you can see, somebody else thought it looked good, too. 

What is your favorite summer dish? Let me know in the comments!

Cheeseburger Stuffed Mushrooms

I have to admit, I am beside myself. It's the women's World Cup in soccer, the NBA finals, AND the Stanley Cup finals. What to watch? Who to cheer for? I don't know if I can handle all the competition!!

Fortunately, I get an excuse to make game day food. On any given day, it's game day. And what's more fun than game day snacks!? 

Take these adorable cheeseburger-stuffed mushrooms, for example. 

These were very easy to make and so much fun to eat!

1 lb ground beef or turkey
8 oz cream cheese
1-2 packages fresh mushrooms (depending on size)
Salt, pepper, onion powder (to taste)
Sliced Colby Jack or cheddar cheese
Cherry tomato halves
Ketchup and mustard for dipping

Preheat oven to 375. 
Combine meat, cream cheese, and seasonings. Mix well.   
Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Fill each mushroom cap slightly overflowing the top. 
Bake for 20 minutes. Top with sliced cheese and broil until cheese melts, completely covering the mushroom in cheesy goodness. 
Garnish with a small piece of lettuce and a tomato half, securing everything with a toothpick. Serve with ketchup and mustard for dipping. 

Even the tiniest sports fans will love these!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mexican-style Zucchini and Turkey Meatballs with Cilantro Lime Aioli

This recipe is inspired by one I found on Pinterest. It's low carb and paleo, so I feel really healthy while I'm eating it ;) 

1 lb ground turkey (or chicken)
1 medium zucchini
Juice of one lime
1 tbsp cilantro
Salt, pepper, onion powder, and cumin to taste

Use a cheese grater to shred the zucchini. Salt the shreds really well and let it sit for about 30 minutes to draw out the water. Squeeze in a dish towel to drain. 

Preheat oven to 350

Combine all ingredients and mix well by hand. Form the mixture into meatballs and place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. 

Bake for 20 minutes. 

I served these with a super simple cilantro and lime aioli. 

Lime juice
Onion powder

Mix everything together, adding more to taste. I like a lot of cilantro!!

Apparently, so does my toddler :) These are some of the outtakes from trying to shoot this dish. Her little hand was pretty fast! She loved them being on toothpicks. They were too tempting; she had to pick one up for herself!

These are a great appetizer, snack, or main dish. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Low Carb Jalapeno Popper Bombs

One of my very favorite snack foods is jalapeno poppers.  Before I went low carb, there was a certain brand of popper at Walmart that I'd buy all the time.  They were made with cream cheese and diced jalapenos in a crunchy breading. I called them "bombs" since they were more like a bite than an actual popper.  Oh, they were delicious.  But with my new eating habits, I try not to eat things like that anymore.  But that doesn't mean I can't make my own!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent all day today working on that English project.  It was certainly a doozy.  I started around 8:30 this morning, blinked, and suddenly four hours had gone by! No wonder I was hungry!

I needed a good break.  I needed a good LUNCH.  Luckily, I had just the ingredients I needed to try my own jalapeno popper "bombs."

I sliced and removed the seeds from three decently sized jalapenos.  I think I may add a fourth one next time; I like it hot! I diced them into small pieces and poured them in a large bowl.  I added around 6 oz of cream cheese and stirred it all together.  Then I added a sprinkling of shredded parmesan to help the mixture take on a thicker texture.

I scooped out a small amount of the mixture and rolled it into a ball.  I was able to make 10 out of my ingredients. I placed the balls onto a baking sheet and put the whole thing in the fridge to really set.  Cold foods fry better, in my opinion.

Once the balls were set, I heated my oil over medium-high heat.  I prepared the ingredients for my "breading." In one bowl, I cracked and scrambled an egg.  In a second bowl, I poured crushed pork rinds: my go-to ingredient for when I want a really crispy coating. I coated each ball in the pork rinds, then rolled them in the egg, and then added a second coat of pork rinds, making sure that not one area of the cream cheese was left exposed.  When I began to fry to balls, I was really glad that they stayed together.  I had envisioned globs of cream cheese oozing out of all sides, melting into a giant mess.  They took only about a minute to cook, getting nice and golden brown on all sides.  I drained the excess oil on a paper towel and let them cool for a minute.

Let me tell you, for as much as I loved my old favorites, there's a new favorite in town!

The outside was so crunchy, and the inside was creamy perfection. 

What is a snack food you can't live without? Share in the comments!

Low Carb Pork Schnitzel

Hi, everyone! I hope you had a safe, happy Memorial Day.  Mine was spent in front of my computer finishing up a project for one of my English classes.  Only 6 weeks until I graduate! Yipee!!!

I actually started working on the paper yesterday after church.  Before lunch.  That was my big mistake.  When I start writing, I get in the zone.  Time passes and I don't even realize it.  So when my husband asked, two hours after we'd been home, how much longer the pork chops would be, I realized, "Oh, no.  I never started them!"

I had taken chops out the thaw Saturday morning, but they weren't thawed for in time for dinner (You can see what I made instead here). Sunday evening, we'd made plans to grill out at my in-laws' house, so I had planned on making the chops for lunch after church.  It totally slipped my mind. When I am in the zone, I am in it 100%, even to the point of forgetting to eat.  My poor family. I knew I needed to come up with something quick. 

One of my mom's and grandmother's staples is pork schnitzel, one reason being is that it is so fast and simple to make. I started by melting two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. My pork chops were already thin cut, so I didn't even need to flatten them out. I placed the chops in a ziploc bag with some coconut flower, salt, and pepper.  I shook it up, much to the delight of my two year old who thought it was the funniest thing she'd ever seen.  She's such a good audience.

Once the chops were nicely coated, I placed them into the hot butter.  It only took a few minutes on each side before the chops were nice and golden brown.

I wanted to dress up the chops a little, since I really didn't have anything planned to go with them.  Remember, my brain was still caught in the American Renaissance, running rampant through Nature with Thoreau and Emerson.

I grabbed some half and half (left over from this recipe) and poured about 3 oz I guess into the pan where I'd been cooking the chops in order to make use of all that browned butter left in the bottom of the skillet. I brought it to a simmer and added some shredded Italian-blend cheese (Italian cheese with schnitzel? It's like a tour through Europe without leaving home!). I seasoned it to taste with a bit more salt and pepper and, to give it a nice kick, some red pepper flakes. Allow the sauce to simmer until its almost as thick as you want it; it will thicken more as it sits.

To add some color to my plate (and some veggies) I sauteed a handful of spinach in butter with garlic powder, placed it on the schnitzel, and topped the whole thing with my creamy, spicy cheese sauce.

It may not be exactly how my family makes it, but I think they'd like it nonetheless.

Do you have a family recipe you've made your own? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Coconut Cauli-rice

As my husband and I were driving home yesterday from a day of running errands. I just knew that the pork chops I'd taken out for dinner were not going to be thawed. My refrigerator has lofty ambitions to one day be a freezer, and it spends its days practicing, even though I continuously increase the tempurature. My fridge and I know each other very well, so I just knew those chops were still going to be frozen for dinner. 

So, as we are careening down the interstate, I am frantically trying to come up with what I can make for dinner instead. My husband had just bought an iPad mini... "For work"... so we really didn't need to go out to eat. In all actuality, the iPad really is for his work, so I'm really not complaining... Or jealous...

So as we are quickly approaching our exit, I am racking my brain. 

"Shrimp. We have shrimp. What can I do with shrimp. Tacos are good. I can't have tortillas. Mexican food sure does sound good though. What goes with shrimp? I have avocado..."

"I need cilantro," I announced.

My husband, doing his best impersonation of a nascar driver, veers into the exit taking us directly to Publix. It could not have been timed better if it had been scripted. 

I enter the store by myself, which for a mom can almost feel like a mini vacation.   I knew I needed my cilantro. But if I'm getting cilantro, I'll need some limes. And what are we going to have with the shrimp? Coconut rice sounds good. I can't have rice. I can have cauliflower. So I found a small bag of pre-cut cauliflower florets because I was feeling incredibly... Let's say efficient instead of lazy. Then I headed to the Hispanic food aisle for a can of unsweetened coconut milk, realized that after ten weeks of taking Spanish classes, I still can't read the language, so I just guessed. 

By this time my short excursion into the store had turned into a rather extensive expedition to find my ingredients. I quickly made my way to the register to pay and headed back to the car. 

"It took you a long time to get cilantro," my husband said as I climbed into the car. "Yeah. I couldn't find the coconut milk." He just looked at me, wondering how the two items could possibly be related, especially since I had not mentioned coconut milk at all up until this point. Bless his heart, he knows not to question my logic, so he just let it go. He's a keeper. 

When I got home, I immediately thawed my shrimp by placing them in a colander under cold running water. Next I made a marinade for my shrimp. I combined olive oil, cilantro paste, lime juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I placed my thawed shrimp, deveined and tails removed, into the marinade and put it in the fridge. 

While the shrimp was soaking up all that flavor, I got started making my cauliflower rice. I used my cheese grater to shred the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces. I just made enough for me since my husband was getting real rice, so I probably only made about a cup of cauli-rice. Next I added 1/4 c coconut milk, about 1/2 tsp salt, and one stevia packet. I stirred it all together and brought it to a simmer, stirring occasionally until my cauliflower reached a desired softness, just as fluffy as rice. 

Now I did cheat a little bit with this dish. My shrimp was already cooked, cleaned, and de-tailed. It made for a very fast prep and cook time. I dumped the whole marinade with the shrimp into a skillet and brought it to a good simmer. I added a tiny bit of a cornstarch and water mixture to thicken the sauce just a little. Once the shrimp was heated through, it was done!

I sliced my avocado and placed a few slices on top of my shrimp. The cool, creamy avocado paired perfectly with the hot shrimp. 

I was a little nervous to give it to my husband. He doesn't like too many foods. I gave him his plate and ran back to the kitchen. I waited to hear what comments he would have, if any. 

"Oh, wow. It's sweet! What is this?"

I told him. 

"This is really good. This is my new favorite."

Apparently, I did a good job. 

I love it when a recipe turns out better than I'd planned! This dish will probably be seen several more times this summer. It is a perfect, light, refreshing meal after a long, hot, summer day.