Attempts at a Slow Carb Life

A few meals from the last two months:

Shrimp and zucchini "noodles"

Shrimp and zucchini “noodles” – an only somewhat successful first attempt at replacing pasta with pasta-like substances. Fortunately, we like both zucchini and shrimp. Unfortunately, this was a pretty lame dinner. Next time I’ll try NomNomPaleo’s version.

Adventures in Low(er) Carb Eating

Orin asked, “Is this breakfast food?”. I said, “Today it is.” Mustard tofu with sauteed kale, mushrooms, and onions. I had this breakfast pocket on the brain.

Dinner, SELMA-style

Post vacation dinner, SELMA-style: fried eggs over pulled pork, shredded cheese, and a coarse salsa made from garden excess. I discovered exactly how many successive pulled pork meals I can stomach. The answer? Five.


Straight Talk

We’re making some changes around here.  As a result, I’ve had less to blog about because frankly, food has been making me crazy.

See, a few weeks ago Shane decided to get recommitted to fitness and weight loss.  We both started P90X, and Shane has been making a concerted effort to eat low carb.  Needless to say, this has thrown a wrench in various resolutions and generally made meal planning and social events difficult – not impossible, but difficult.

At the same time, I’m trying to figure out what I should be eating.  I want to lose a little weight, but I also want to eat real food and enough of it so that I’m not constantly hungry or grumpy.  I crave vegetables and fruit.  I’ve been attempting to eat in moderation for a long time.  I’m not interested in protein shakes, and the smell of protein powder makes me grimace.

Shane has said that he’ll eat whatever I make for dinner – but that said, I don’t want to be responsible for making him stray from his diet.  We went out for nachos the other night, and both felt totally stressed out by the fact that the vegetarian/vegan restaurant was both overpriced and extremely carby.  What’s a girl to do?

We’re trying, though.  The meals posted here will probably alternate between our attempts at lower carb, higher protein – while also being as ethical and seasonally appropriate as we can manage – and weekend splurges.  There will be no photos of protein shakes.  Here’s a sample dinner from this week:

Zucchini "noodles"
Zucchini from the garden, shaved with the vegetable peeler and boiled for 1 minute in very salty water, then tossed with a coarse marinara made from last summer’s tomatoes.

Broiled shrimp
Shrimp brushed with a basil-infused dipping oil and a generous amount of black pepper and then broiled

Shrimp and zucchini "noodles"
The whole dish, followed by a Lillet spritzer and frozen banana “ice cream” for me.

1202 Shrimp and Grits

Dinner tonight? Really and truly exceptional.  Shane gave it five stars.  I wish I’d taken a picture.

Instead you’ll have to imagine pan-fried corn and shallots tossed with snow peas, shrimp, and a handful of slow-roasted cherry tomatoes served over creamy and wonderful grits.  A pinch of red pepper flakes to add a bit of heat.  No cheese or other enrichment necessary.  Just simple, fresh, hearty, and delicious.  I halved the shrimp and grits and used the full portion of veg, which made plenty for the two of us for dinner plus leftovers for Shane’s lunch.  I can’t wait to eat this again – good thing we have almost everything on hand thanks to the summer’s preserving.

Shrimp and Grits (and then some) from Dinner: A Love Story


A few weeks ago Susie and Matt started floating an idea around.  I don’t know if it was an idea so much as it was a concept, which in my head are subtly different.  Maybe an idea is more actionable?  I don’t know.

Anyway, here’s the concept: vacation photos on a slide projector.  Cocktails and “fancy” finger food.  You know, the sort of party you might imagine your grandparents having in the 60s.  Except instead of the carousels full of slides, we’d have thumb drives.  And instead of the finger food – wait, why shouldn’t we have the finger food?  Especially when I have been just waiting for the opportunity to break out the SHRIMP TREE:


At some point in the last two years, my grandma gifted us with a bunch of recipe cards and other food-related odds and ends, and included in there was a brochure with recipes for fancy foodstuffs that could be made from Red Lobster products.  And included in there was a SHRIMP TREE.  The photo above is my attempt at replicating this beautiful, ridiculous thing.  From the brochure:

Create a festive centerpiece with this Shrimp Tree appetizer.  You can fill it with a variety of savoury [SIC] bites to be selected by the guests.

1 Styrofoam (18, 20, 22, or 24 inches high)
Curly lettuce, mustard greens, or kale
Large, cooked shrimp, tails on
Combination of cherry tomatoes, black olives, green olives, pineapple cubes, marinated mushrooms, or baby corn (choose 2)
Cocktail sauce for shrimp
Crab claws
Lemon wedges

Tear the center out of lettuce leaves and make long strips of the leaves, about 4 inches wide and as long as possible. Start pinning leaves to the cone with toothpicks to completely cover it with green, leaving ruffled edges to stick out between shrimp and other items. Make rows of shrimp, tomatoes, pineapple, or whatever you choose, on the cone securing them with toothpicks. You can leave toothpick “handles” or push them into the cone so the shrimp, olive, or tomato is just picked from the tree with the fingers, Surround base of the tree with crab claws, garnish with lemon wedges. Serve cocktail sauce in a separate bowl.

As you can see from the photo, I skipped a couple of steps. I couldn’t justify paying $4.99 for the appropriate size of styrofoam cone, so I used hard plastic canvas shaped in the appropriate form. I pulled a bunch of arugula for lining the tree, then forgot it at the garden. And I didn’t get crab claws.

Pigs in a Blanket

Despite all of those things, we had a damned fine shrimp tree, and a damned fine dinner: pigs in a blanket, stuffed mushroom caps, a cheese ball with crackers, amazing vegan pudding pops, and, for a final non-retro touch, pumpkin bread pudding. We looked at photos of weddings and honeymoons and conference trips abroad. We drank Toms Collins. A fine time was had by all.

0912 Farfalle con Gamberetti e Rucola

Or: Farfalle with Shrimp and Arugula

Sometime in July, I planted arugula.  Shane isn’t particularly a fan – he likes his salad greens a bit milder – but I hoped for a few salads, maybe a batch of pesto or two.  Nothing big.  It was already the middle of the summer, after all, and nothing in the garden was looking particularly well.  I checked on our neglected little patch yesterday and came home with bags full of veg – roughly five pounds of tomatoes, several gorgeous bell peppers, a ridiculous quantity of banana peppers, and the first harvest of arugula!

I’ve had Jamie’s Italy for a couple of years but haven’t had much use for it – apart from dreaming of making our own porchetta or pasta.  This recipe helped me turn a corner in my appreciation of the book, as it was simple, fast, and delicious, all good things for a weeknight or a night when you’re just suddenly and ravenously hungry.  We tag-teamed the prep work, with Shane earning a gold star for his handling of the shrimp when I was getting grossed out, and had dinner on the table in about half an hour flat.  The sweetness of the tomato paste and shrimp complemented the bite of the arugula and cooled the spice of the red chilies.  As with most Jamie Oliver pasta recipes, the ratio of pasta to stuff was off – even with reducing the pasta by 1/3 – but that just meant more little bow-ties for me to snack on.   We’ll be making this one again.

Spaghetti con Gamberetti e Rucola from Jamie’s Italy

0810 Shrimp Tacos, Corn on the Cob

Necessity is the mother of invention, right?  Tonight’s dinner is brought to you by the urgency of thawing food from the freezer and of a giant bag of corn dropped on a doorstep.

shrimp taco
Photo by beanqueen

A pound of shrimp that half thawed over the weekend, peeled and quickly sauteed. A couple of spoonfuls of yesterday’s cilantro “pesto” (which I forgot to mention also contained a handful of raw cashews, which added a creamy nuttiness). Hard taco shells (soft would’ve been better).  Corn on the cob, boiled and topped with a fair amount of butter, salt, and pepper.  Simple, satisfying, and delicious.

0807 Shrimp Boil & Cheddar Biscuits

Though my siblings and I are enthusiastic carnivores, our parents don’t eat that much meat, so planning a dinner for the whole family can be tricky.  When mulling over our options this morning, though, Mom and I hit on an excellent plan: a shrimp boil.  And also cheddar biscuits.  And maybe cupcakes for dinner.  The sort of meal where you could pick and choose your preferred components – Pop could have mostly veggies, I could eat all of the corn on the cob that I could manage, and everyone could bathe everything in butter.  I like where this is going.  A LOT.

At Go Time, though, I was worn out from a night of lousy sleep, so Shane and Jenn did much more of the prep than I did.  I came upstairs in time to knead and form the biscuits, though, and to peel and devein a couple of pounds of shrimp with Shane’s nimble help.  And then we feasted:

Frogmore Stew

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Frogmore Stew, torn out of a magazine several years ago
Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits from The Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

0720 Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp

I’m a little in love with Sprouted Kitchen.  Their food photography is consistently wonderful – to the point that when I showed Shane tonight’s recipe on the blog, he asked “do they cook outside?”.  Seriously, they must be blessed with the best lighting in all of Southern California.

This dish feels very Southern Californian to me  in that it embraces seasonal produce while also throwing in a bit of seafood and velvety avocado.  Of course, I live far from the origin of both the shrimp and the avocado, so it’s not terribly seasonal for me, but occasionally those splurges are worth it.  Like here:

Shrimp and Avocado

I didn’t love the corn soup, but I did love the contrast between the warmth and richness of the soup and the texture and freshness of the shrimp and avocado.

Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp

If you make this recipe, I suggest cutting way back on the oregano.  In fact, that’s the only thing I’d really recommend changing, though I look forward to trying this with my mom’s corn chowder recipe.  Maybe I can even talk my brother into bringing some avocados home from LA…

Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp from Sprouted Kitchen

0512 Roasted Shrimp, Parsnip Puree

I am not exaggerating when I say that I came home tonight after my run and took all of the produce out of the fridge in order to figure out what to make for dinner.  Did I want to use the three very wilted stems of collard greens left from making the coleslaw?  No.  How about the five carrots?  Maybe the two parsnips that had gone a little soft, but looked good otherwise?  Maaaybe.

And then what?  The rest of the bag of shrimp, I guess, probably roasted just like last night.  This is sounding promising!

I peeled the parsnips, cut them into 2″ chunks, and tossed them in the steamer for a bit.  While the ‘snips were minding their own business, I thawed and peeled the shrimp, drizzled them with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice, and popped them into the toaster oven.  When the ‘snips were soft, I pureed them up in the food processor with salt, pepper, and an ounce or so of goat cheese to make things nice and creamy.

I have to say – I felt pretty fancy having concocted both a protein and a side dish on the spot – but really, this was a no frills kind of dinner – just a simple, hearty dinner followed by homemade ice cream and LOST.

0511 Last Minute Shrimp Tacos

I say ‘last minute’ because I really didn’t have a plan tonight.  Well, I kind of had a plan, but then it was extremely rainy, and also we went out to dinner last night, and the quantity of cheese and fancy fish on hand wasn’t really enough to constitute a meal, per se.  I also forgot that Karin doesn’t eat fish (or is it just shellfish? not sure) and had planned to do something shrimp-y.  So you see, there were problems.

It all worked out just fine, though.  Karin had picked up a salad from Plum Market while out being a grocery store tourist, so she was all set.  I had been kicking around the idea of roasting shrimp using this basic recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, so I quickly thawed some shrimp, lined a roasting pan with tinfoil, drizzled the shrimp with olive oil and salt and pepper, then popped them in the toaster oven (oh beautiful Cuisinart oven) for about 7 minutes.  We filled warmed tortillas with the shrimp and a bit of plain Greek yogurt, then topped them with leftover coleslaw from Sunday’s pork.  The tart spiciness of the coleslaw nicely balanced the sweetness of the shrimp, and the Greek yogurt mellowed out the extremes of both flavors.

This was such an easy dinner – from start to finish, about 45 minutes, including time to thaw the shrimp – and I suspect you’ll be seeing it on the menu again soon, especially if we can source the local shrimp we keep hearing about.