Cajun Shrimp Quinoa Casserole

We didn't really have a winter here but there were a few weeks where it was a little chilly. By chilly I mean 50°f. However, considering we just came from the 115° desert this past summer, 50° feels like winter to us. So I started searching for casserole dishes that I could make that would not only be hearty but easy to make. That's when I found this recipe. I had some extra frozen shrimp in the freezer from new years eve that I had been wanting to use and this was the perfect recipe for it. 

This is definitely something new that we've never had before. I don't think I've ever had cheese on shrimp before. However, considering I've made and enjoyed shrimp with cheesy bacon polenta I figured this wouldn't be too far off. This was pretty delicious. I'm not familiar with cajun food so I can't say that this was authentic or reminded me of Loisianna but I can say it was different from anything I've had and it was tasty. I particularly enjoyed that you make everything in the one pan (if it's oven safe). So there aren't multiple dishes to clean up afterwards. The only downside to this dish is that you kind of have to eat it all while it's fresh. We had a lot of leftovers and they weren't quite as good after being nuked in the microwave the next day.

 recipe adapted from This Gal Cooks

  • 3/4 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2½ tsp cajun seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2½ c. cooked quinoa
  • 1 c. shredded fontina cheese
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish
  1. Cook quinoa according to package, set aside.
  2. Toss the shrimp and 1 tsp Cajun seasoning together, set aside.
  3. Toss the tomatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp Cajun seasoning, set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron skillet (or any oven-safe skillet) Cook the shrimp until opaque, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil to the pan along with the onion, jalapeno and garlic. Cook until the onion and jalapeno are tender, stirring often. Mix in the quinoa, tomato paste, ½ tsp Cajun seasoning and tomato chunks. (If you don't have an oven safe skillet then transfer ingredients to a 9x9 baking dish and follow remaining steps) Top with the shrimp and then sprinkle with the fontina cheese.
  6. Place in the oven and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. During the last 2 minutes, turn on the broiler to high and broil until the cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.
  7. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cupcakes

The Mr. and I don't really celebrate Valentine's day. We did when we first started dating and got married but now it's just one of those white noise holidays for us. I refuse to go out to eat, I don't want him buying me chocolates or flowers, and I'm not talking about that thing us ladies do where we say we don't want something but we really do, it's just a typical day for us. This year I didn't even make a fancy dinner; I made pizza. However, what we did do was make cupcakes and drink a bottle of champagne that a friend got me for Christmas that had been sitting in the back of the fridge begging to be opened. So I guess in our own crazy way we celebrated by drinking mimosas, eating pizza (not at the same time because that would be gross), and baking cupcakes while slightly intoxicated.

Initially I wanted to make the white chocolate coconut cupcakes I made about 5 years ago but those were a bit of work and I have been pretty lazy lately. It could have something to do with the 80° weather we've been having here. Plus, I had bought this big bottle of Trader Vic's macadamia nut liqueur last year when I had planned on making lava cakes for me and a couple of friends for a girls-night Valentine's day thing. That never happened because by the time we all got off of work, we were done for the day and nobody wanted to do anything, let alone bake cake. So here I am with this bottle just collecting dust when I found this recipe for amaretto cupcakes. Almonds... macadamias... they're kind of the same thing, right? This was probably the most perfect recipe to have made that night because it was super simple and a breeze to whip up. I even brushed off my piping equipment that I bought for those Wilton cake decorating classes I took way back when. Oh and if you have a dairy allergy or you're vegan these will be right up your alley. It wasn't until I was stuffing my face with cupcakes that I realize these had no eggs in them. Although, I did end up using real butter for the frosting so mine weren't vegan in the end.

 recipe adapted from Love & Olive Oil

  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used cashew milk since I had it on hand)
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp macadamia nut liqueur
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 - 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp macadamia nut liqueur
  • 2 Tbsp coconut milk or other non-dairy milk (again, I used cashew milk)

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together the coconut milk, sugar, oil, macadamia nut liqueur, and vanilla extract and beat till foamy (Mine never really got foamy so after about 5 minutes I moved on). In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and mix until no lumps remain (or very few remain).
  3. Pour into liners, filling each with about 3 tablespoons of batter. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  4. For frosting, cream butter/margarine until smooth and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add in cocoa powder, along with 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Beat until combined. Beat in macadamia nut liqueur to taste. Continue adding sugar 1/2 cup at a time, adding cream as necessary, until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Store cupcakes in the refrigerator.

Bananas Foster Chia Pudding

I'm relatively new to the whole chia seeds thing. I have no idea what to do with them, and for the price, I don't want to waste them. So I was really excited when Joanne from Eats Well With Others posted this recipe. I've tried a few of her recipes over the years and they have never let me down.

I love that this was such a simple recipe. It does require some planning ahead since the chia seeds soak in the coconut milk overnight to make the pudding portion of the dessert. Other than that, you just make the topping when you're ready to eat. The contrast between the warm topping and the cold pudding is out of this world. If you have ever wondered about chia seeds, this is a must try recipe, and for those bananas foster fans out there, you need to try this version. Trust me, it was amazing.

Recipe adapted from Eats Well With Others

  • 2 c. coconut milk (refrigerated, not canned)
  • ⅓ c. chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 bananas, peeled and sliced into coins
  • ½ c. packed brown sugar
  • ¼ c. bourbon
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ c. chopped pecans, toasted
  • pinch of salt

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the coconut milk, chia seeds, and maple syrup. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next more, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in the bananas and saute for a minute or two, until starting to brown. Add in the brown sugar and bourbon and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened and bourbon has mostly cooked off. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecans, cinnamon and salt.
  3. After it's overnight stay in the fridge, the chia and coconut milk mixture should be thickened, almost the consistency of tapioca pudding. Divide it among 4-6 bowls and top with the bananas foster topping. Serve warm or cold.

20 Minute One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta

I know I'm not alone when I say that a lot of the recipes I try come from Pinterest. Sure, I still crack open my cookbooks now and then to try something new, but Pinterest is so convenient. Plus, I find a lot of great food blogs that way. I've no idea how I stumbled upon this gem but this is a pasta dish that is here to stay. I'm seriously making this for dinner, again, after I finish typing this post.

I've made this dish twice now. However, the first time I made this, I looked at the water to pasta ratio and thought, "There is no way this is going to turn out. I'm going to end up with soup". Do not be fooled like I was. Do not, I repeat DO NOT drain out some of the water... like I did. Trust me in this. I did just that and wound up with bone dry pasta that I ended up adding sink water to in order to eat. It's kinda like that science experiment you did in elementary school with the baking soda and vinegar. You know the one. You look at the two components and think, "There's no way this is going to... HOLY COW! IT'S A VOLCANO!" Yeah, that's how I felt the second time around when I actually followed the directions. I started with what looked like the beginnings of spaghetti soup and wound up with a mouth watering alfredo that took one pot, about twenty minutes, and little time on my part in the kitchen to make.

adapted from Damn Delicious

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced and quartered
  • 2/3 c. peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 c. grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream

  1. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, combine spaghetti, mushrooms, zucchini, peas, garlic, thyme and 4 1/2 cups water; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is cooked through and liquid has reduced, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and heavy cream.
  3. Serve immediately.

Review: Cooking with Frank's RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce

Ever since I was a little girl, Franks has always been a staple in our home. My mom would make something called "hot noodles". Which are essentially egg noodles mixed with various spices and seasonings, then doused in Franks. I put Franks in just about everything I make. I'm not joking, it goes onto everything from my morning eggs, to my popcorn. Not only does it have a kick to it, but it's got great flavor as well. So when I was asked if I wanted to review Cooking with Frank's Redhot Cayenne Pepper Sauce by Rachel Rappaport, I was over the moon excited. I mean, c'mon! This is a cookbook focusing on Franks. How could I say no?!

The first recipe I tried was the Sizzling Sesame Noodles. The recipe is easy to make and was ready in no time. My one issue with this was that the recipe is just for the sauce. In the description at the top of the page, the author talks about how you could make it a meal by adding various vegetables. I personally wish the vegetables were included into the recipe because I had no idea how much snow peas, scallions, or carrots to buy at the store. Which is why I settled on just carrots. As for the flavor... I've made peanut ginger noodles before and hated it. However, this recipe has tahini and Franks in it, which I thought would alter the flavors... it didn't. With that being said though, I did like the kick of heat the Franks brings to this dish. It's just I've come to terms with the fact that these types of noodle dishes are not for me. However, if you like peanut ginger noodles, then you should give this recipe a try.

The next recipe I tried was the Hot Nuts Brittle. I actually made this right before the holidays as one of our holiday treats. The directions were easy to follow, everything was mapped out for you in the recipe itself, unlike the previous recipe. I liked that there's a note at the bottom of the recipe that gives you a tip on howto make them even spicier (which we did). These turned out fantastic! I actually brought some over to a friends house on Christmas and she loved them. They aren't sweet like I would assume nut brittle to be, but rather savory. The Franks definitely adds this kick to them that really takes these to a new level. I plan on making this recipe every year for the holidays and even doubling the recipe to send out as gifts. Trust me, this recipe is that good.

The last recipe we tried was the Oven-Baked Crispy Catfish Nuggets. I've been on a fish kick lately and was excited to give these a try. I've never had catfish before and thought this was a good way to try it. Although I wasn't a fan of the fish itself (I guess I'm more of a salmon, tuna, swordfish kinda girl), the flavor combination was awesome. You definitely got that tangy, creamy, spicy flavor from the Franks buttermilk marinade. I was a little worried that after all the Franks I poured into the marinade you wouldn't even taste it with the coating, but you can. Plus, there's the added bonus of flavors with the mixture of chili powders and panko that really made for a delicious crispy outside. Now granted, the recipe called for breadcrumbs but all I had was panko. So with that being said, the recipe itself is forgiving if you need to swap a few things out for something else. I think this is a great recipe and if you like catfish or any white fish, then no swap outs needed. However, if you're not a white fish fan like myself, I would substitute the fish with chicken. ;)

In the end I would say this is a great cookbook for any Franks lovers out there. There are a lot of recipes in here. There are recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, side dishes, appetizers, dips, and dessert. A lot of the recipes even had full page pictures of the dish which I really liked. I'm a visual person and like to see what I'm making and how it's supposed to look. The only down side to this cookbook is that it is not vegetarian friendly and I currently gave up meat for a year. I was honestly hoping for more out-there recipes like the peanut brittle. There is one recipe in here that I wanted to try that's a cinnamon bun with Franks icing. THAT'S what I was hoping to see here but those kinds of recipes were few and far between in this cookbook. Then again, I realize that not everyone is as adventurous when it comes to cooking and eating new things.

With that being said though, I do think there are some good sounding recipes in here and I love that there is a cookbook out there that revolves around Franks. The author takes the time to give you the background story on Franks and even lists the various types of Franks sauces that are out there. If you didn't know, Franks is more than just the original hot sauce that's known for covering wings. She also includes a recipe to make your own dry ranch dressing mix and blue cheese dressing. Neither of which contain Franks, but compliment the hot sauce nicely. Like I said, this is a nice cookbook. It's not something you would want to get for your vegetarian family member or friend, but any Franks or carnivore lover would definitely get use out of this book.

 *I'd like to thank Kourtney and Ulysses Press for sending me a copy of the book for review.