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Archive for the category “sauces”

Divorce Shrimp over Spaghetti Squash

divorce shrimp spagh sq

There is a story/urban legend known down in Texas about a restaurant called Paesano’s. It was (and still is) popular for a Texas version of Italian, including a particular shrimp dish. The shrimp is butterflied and gently dragged through flour and lightly cooked in softly boiling oil.  A creamy lemon sauce is made and poured over the top. Totally addictive. I don’t know how true the story is, but here is what I heard many years ago. The married couple who owned the restaurant got divorced. Rumor has it the husband got the restaurant, but the wife got the recipes. It was not enough to have the recipes, so to even the score she widely distributed them and they gradually crept into kitchens far and wide. Eventually I got a fuzzy copy of the recipe titled ‘shrimp paesano’. I have made it many times, laden with flour and served on top of linguine or angel hair pasta. Each time I made it the kitchen is left fragrant and an absolute mess – multiple pots and pans dirty, the counter sprinkled with shrimp shells and flour, but some beautifully presented shrimp resting on a pile of creamy, lemony pasta with sauce. I think I usually remember the mess in the kitchen because you serve immediately and don’t do the final clean up until much later, after food coma passes. I prefer cleaning as I go, then have little to do after dinner. For this recipe you need to drop everything right when the shrimp is ready and sit down and eat. Of course, the dishes are always waiting when dinner is through, just a little stickier than I prefer. Since the restaurant is nowhere near where we live now, and quite pricy when within reach, I can do nothing but make it myself. Here is my attempt to make a version more in line with our less expensive, wheat free, low carb eating habits. The kitchen still is a mess when all is said and done, but the flavor shines through just like the original. I may do a ‘breaded’ shellfish version in the future, but for now the two pot version below really hit the spot on a staying in, snowy Saturday night!

Divorce Shrimp over Spaghetti Squash

1 pound large shrimp or langoustines, shelled
2 eggs, whisked
¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp butter
3 lemons, juiced with meat and seeds removed (about ¾ cup)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1 medium or large spaghetti squash
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half and scrape out seeds. Place halves face down on baking sheet. Place in oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until meat is soft. Scrape out meat with a fork to make spaghetti ‘noodles’.  Melt 2 Tbsp butter into noodles and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover and keep warm until time to serve. While the squash cooks prepare the sauce and prep the shrimp or langoustines. In a large skillet over medium heat melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add shellfish and gently toss, only cooking long enough so they shellfish is only half cooked – the rest of the cooking will happen later when simmering in the sauce. Set aside the shellfish and make the sauce.  In medium sauce pan over medium heat melt ¾ cup butter. Add all the lemon juice and garlic. Heat until steamy. Add cream, lower heat and cook until sauce is mixed well, stirring frequently. Add cheese and stir slowly, making sure it melts and blends in with the smooth sauch. Add arrowroot powder and whisk. Sauce should bubble and thicken, but not boil. Add shellfish and gently simmer for about five more minutes, allowing the shellfish to cook through completely. Remove from heat and keep covered. On individual serving plates make a bed of spaghetti squash, then generously drizzle a ladle full of shellfish and sauce. Serve immediately.

Low Carb Layered Enchiladas

lc layered chicken enchiladas

As I have stated many times before, we are hard pressed to find good Tex-Mex food north of Austin. Actually, north of the south of Austin. Enchiladas are a dish where I find it very important to have perfect bites. If you just get tortilla and sauce, it is just off. A bite full of only filling and there is something lacking. I need filling AND tortilla AND sauce AND cheese in every bite. Otherwise, it is just a pile of stuff on a plate. A good Tex-Mex combination platter has the enchiladas perfectly rolled with just enough sauce, sandwiched between refried beans and rice. A chance of leftovers is not favorable to a combination platter. It is nearly impossible to transfer the enchiladas in a way that allows the perfect bites to be experienced in leftovers. The easy way to ensure many perfect bites when I anticipate leftovers or reheating is to approach them in layers.  One of the comfort foods from my childhood was layered enchiladas. Rolled enchiladas are good, but when you want to reheat them after playing in a late high school soccer game, the layered version has been sitting in the fridge after mom made them earlier, or even a day or two earlier. Trust me, they are much better later than the first day. Now, to make my mom’s masterpiece low carb seemed overwhelming. My approach to layered enchiladas came out so very much better than I expected! Not only was it good hot, but the leftovers were good cold, too! The texture of the coconut flatbread gave a similar effect as corn tortillas and soaked up the sauce just right, just like mom’s. I am experimenting with low carb tortillas, most recently with coconut flatbread versions. I used them for this recipe, so serving these layered enchiladas was done right before serving, as opposed to layering a casserole then baking it. I am now convinced a baked version would work, but this recipe is a quicker version without a long baking period. I hope you enjoy it, for it is filling, satisfying and has a bit of a bite that remind me of mom.

Low Carb Layered Enchiladas

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
11/2 small yellow onion, finely diced
15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 to 2 4-ounce cans green chiles
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 cup water or chicken broth
4 – 6 cups cooked, shredded chicken (pre-cooked in a crock pot or strip a roasted chicken from the grocery store)
1 to 2 batches coconut flatbread or corn tortillas
2 – 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat add oil. When oil is hot add the onion and cook until translucent. Add tomato sauce, green chiles, paprika and cumin. Stir until combined and lower temperature to simmer. Cover and cook for about twenty minutes. Add water or chicken broth to thin out to the consistency of thin gravy. Let simmer for about ten more minutes, then set aside until time to serve. While the sauce simmers make the coconut flatbread, or rely on your personal preference of corn tortillas. When you are ready to serve make sure the flatbread is made and the chicken is hot. Start layering on serving plates with flatbread/tortillas. Next pour some sauce, followed by cheese and chicken. Repeat layers again, topping with more cheese. Serve immediately with sour cream.

Non Vodka Chicken

non vodka chicken

I have been absent for a bit, and so has chicken from my blog. I am always trying to find variety, because chicken is always chicken, and absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Busy work and busy weekends made for a quiet kitchen lately, and the repeating of old, reliable recipes. Also, Big D has been on a culinary swing while I go about other things. Work is busy, and spending a bunch of time outside in the heat makes me groggy, so hanging out reading books to Little B is much more appealing than a hot oven or stove. This recipe I almost called pizza chicken, because when Big D first took a bite he said it reminded him of pizza. Did the same for me! I was inspired by my hankering to inhale a bowl full of pasta with vodka sauce. The thing about vodka sauce is not necessarily the vodka, but what it does to the flavor of the tomatoes. The vodka, when used, actually soaks into the tomatoes and enhances their flavor with a tart tanginess. The alcohol itself evaporates. If you have had the sauce before you know what I mean. If not, then imagine a mild bloody mary – a skidge of pepper and hot sauce – not to ferocious, but an extra bite beyond plain tomato. I decided to try to find the same flavor as the vodka sauce, but without the vodka. What else could I do with a hankering for vodka sauce while experiencing an absence of vodka? It was my own fault. I used the last of it from our stash to make a Greyhound (vodka and grapefruit juice with a twist). A little bit of this, a little bit of that resulted in the sauce taste I was looking for to go on top of chicken, and then I made it chunky, a la pizza. Yum!

Non Vodka Chicken

1 Tbsp butter
8 ounces mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 onion, finely diced
4 ounces chopped black olives
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 14.5 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 – 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp dried parsley leaves
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
6 – 8 chicken thighs, skin trimmed, but some left on meat
4 ounces cream cheese
2 – 3 tsp Crystal hot sauce

In medium sauce pan over medium high heat melt butter. Add mushrooms, salt, olives and garlic. Saute for about five minutes until mushrooms and garlic soften and butter browns a bit. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce, parsley and oregano. Stir and lower heat. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. While sauce simmers place chicken thighs in frying pan over medium high heat, skin side down. When skin is crispy flip thighs, turn down heat to medium and cover. While chicken cooks finish the sauce. Add cream cheese to the sauce and stir occasionally until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth (except for vegetable chunks, of course). Sprinkle one to two teaspoons hot sauce and stir. Taste to confirm there is a tang in the sauce, but not necessarily a bite. If no tang, then add more hot sauce. Simmer for about 15 more minutes. When chicken is cooked through and juices run clear, remove from heat and let rest. Remove chicken from pan and place on serving dish. Pour sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Steak in Tomato Spinach Sauce

sauteed beef with tomato and spinach sauce

We are moving soon. Again. Not a big move for now, just a short term local move before a bigger move. We don’t know when or where the bigger move will occur, but want to be ready, which means not signing a long term lease or making a real estate purchase. A move translates into me trying to clear out the fridge, freezer and pantry. The less I have to move that is perishable or heavy, the better. This recipe used the last big can of tomatoes from the pantry and some stray steak from the freezer. I like never-been-frozen steak straight off the grill, but if it has been frozen I don’t mind baking or broiling or smothering it in sauce. I like how the tomato and spinach made the sauce nice and rich. Serve it next to or on top of some baked spaghetti squash. I ate too much. Roll me on over to the couch!

Sauteed Steak with Tomato and Spinach

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh spinach
12 – 14 ounces tomato puree
½ cup dry red wine
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp sugar or sweetener equivalent
1 ½ Tbsp butter
1 pounds thin steak
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice steak against the grain into bite-sized pieces, then season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Roughly chop spinach into 1-inch pieces. In medium pot over medium-high heat add olive oil. When oil is hot add onion and garlic. Cook until onion and garlic begins to brown, about two minutes. Add spinach and toss with onion and garlic until most of it wilts, about three minutes. Add oregano, parsley, thyme, tomato, sugar/sweetener and wine, then stir. Lower heat to simmer, and cook uncovered for about ten minutes until it begins to thicken. Cover sauce and cook for 20 – 30 more minutes. Set aside. Right before the simmer time is over heat a shallow saute pan over high heat. Add the butter. Just before it begins to brown add the meat and toss until coated with butter. Continue tossing until steak is cooked to desired doneness (for me about 3 minutes for medium rare). Remove from heat. Add the meat to the sauce, stir and continue simmering for about five minute. Salt to taste. Serve immediately over spaghetti squash, pasta or rice.

Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce

dads spaghetti sauceYou may not have noticed, but earlier this month I began a greenish/Irish theme, which will lead us up to St Patrick’s Day and beyond. Last year I covered traditional stuff like corned beef and cabbage, colcannon and the less traditional but politically symbolic white chocolate frito popcorn. This year I started with coleslaw, which has green cabbage, followed by some chicken with the green of spinach, then the Dublin Coddle, with a slightly more Irish leaning. I really enjoy St Patrick’s Day. Not only because I am about 87% Irish, or that I have a dual citizenship, or that it is another excuse to drink a little too much, but also because when I was growing up we laughingly called everything my dad made ‘Irish’. Irish popcorn, Irish fajitas, Irish potato salad, Irish steak…you get the idea. The dishes did not necessarily have a historically Irish origin, but because a big Irishman with blue eyes put effort into making it for his loved ones. My dad’s specialties were typically products from the outside charcoal grill. He cooked meat exceptionally well. Whether it was fajitas, steak, chicken or a whole passel of meats in his tower smoker – ribs, ham, turkey, roast – if it used to walk he could cook it, and it tasted great. He was the reason I rarely ever ordered steak in a restaurant until I moved out of the house. Restaurant steak always tasted salty, but not flavorful. I know most of his secrets, and I may share them one day, but today is not the day. Today I share with you his spaghetti sauce. One of his two significant non-grill, non-smoker dishes. In case you were wondering, his other dish was potato salad. Now on with the spaghetti sauce. I have done other tomato-based sauces, but this one is consistent with what he always made. Huge batches filled a big old aluminum pot that simmered on the stove top all day. It smelled heavenly, especially walking into a warm house on a cold, wet Texas day. It smelled like comfort, which is what I often sought on a wet Saturday after playing soccer or doing yard work. When I got older I helped him make it, discovering his penchant for perfectly sized chopped veggies and just the right combination of herbs. Another thing about his sauce – he rarely used fresh ingredients. I don’t consider it a good or bad thing. The sauce was always full of flavor and satisfying. He grew up during the Great Depression, which I think established for him certain habits, including the stockpile of canned and dried goods. You should have seen our pantry when I was growing up – we never failed to have fresh meat, fruit or veggies, but if we didn’t there were always canned. I still love the taste of canned spinach and pineapple – separately, of course. I recognize the canned and dried elements in this recipe. I don’t think you can beat the finished product very easily. I have made a version of this from scratch – fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs…it was good, but you know, after cooking it for so long, I could hardly tell the difference. Maybe it was because I tweaked it until it tasted like Dad’s version, or maybe because after enough cooking the fresh version tastes like the Hunt’s canned version. On top of everything else, I found a great new base to hold the sauce – broccoli slaw. In the past I have used traditional spaghetti pasta, gluten free pasta, spaghetti squash and just chopped sauteed squash. This time I saw some broccoli slaw on sale at the store – it is basically broccoli stems cut julienne and packaged with a bit of carrot and red cabbage. I microwaved it straight from the freezer for five minutes to soften, salted it then set it on a plate and topped it with sauce. The texture worked great – not pasta-y, but definitely a strong texture that worked with the sauce. It is my new favorite to pour things over. I can imagine a decadent cheesiness next time, or maybe some kind of lasagna concoction…

Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound ground beef, 15% fat or less
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp dried parsley leaves
1 ½ Tbsp dried oregano leaves
1 Tbsp dried basil leaves
42-56 ounces Hunt’s brand canned diced or plum tomatoes
6 – 8 ounces tomato paste
1 tsp truvia, or one small pinch of pure stevia
More salt to taste

In a deep stock pot heat to medium high and add olive oil. When oil is hot add onions and garlic, saute until the onion sweats (gets shiny and releases liquid). Add ground beef. Break meat up with a wooden spoon and saute until browning begins, but not until it is completely cooked. Add bell pepper, celery, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano and basil. Stir and cook until vegetables begin to soften. Add tomatoes and stir some more. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours (or more). Sprinkle in sweetener, to bring out the tomato flavor, and stir well. For an additional 30 minutes to an hour simmer with the top tipped so steam escapes. The sauce should thicken noticeably. Turn off heat and cover. Let sit until ready to serve, or cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. If you double or triple the recipe there will be plenty to freeze in reasonable portions. Reheat slowly on the stove top. Serve over your preferred base – either al dente pasta, spaghetti squash, or my new favorite, cooked broccoli slaw.



I could just eat this stuff straight from a bowl, with a big spoon, as in “would you like some lamb with your tzatziki”? Forget daintily dipping or drizzling it on food. Sometimes I get a Greek salad just to be able to mix tzatziki in with it. I used to love dipping pita bread into tzatziki and hummus – oh, what a bite exploding with flavor! These days, since I don’t eat pita anymore, I rely on roasted meats and veggies as my tzatziki conduits. Beyond the lovely, tangy creaminess of the sauce, I just like saying the word – tzatziki, tzatziki, tzatziki. I eat salsa with Mexican food, I eat wasabi with sushi, I slather steaks with chimichurri, I put mustard on hotdogs and I top Greek food with tzatziki. So there.


2 cups plain Greek yogurt, or half sour cream and half yogurt
1 medium cucumber
2 large garlic clove, crushed
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste

Peel, halve and remove seeds from the cucumber, then finely dice. Sprinkle salt on the diced cucumber and let sit for about five minutes. Place diced cucumber it between two towels and press gently to remove any excess water. You may need to repeat with more dry towels to get all the water. In a medium bowl combine yogurt/sour cream, garlic, mint, dill, olive oil and lemon juice. Stir until combined. Fold in cucumber and mix until it is evenly distributed. Add salt to taste. Chill overnight before serving.

Greek Salad Dressing

greek salad dressing_edited-1This post is the beginning of a short Greek-themed series resulting from a feast Big D and I made recently. It is all Big D’s fault. He brought home some beautiful lamb chops one evening and it started us talking about how good they would be marinated in some olive oil, lemon juice and mint. That conversation reminded us about how much we like tzatziki and dipping dolmas in it. Besides grumbling tummies we also reminisced about John the Greek’s Dressing from a restaurant of the same name we like in San Antonio, Texas. The restauruant dressing is great, and I think we figured out a pretty good version. This dressing is tangy with oregano, thyme and lemon dancing around together in my mouth! Not exactly like the stuff by John, but so much better, in my opinion, than Italian dressing, which tends to be sweeter, or straight oil and vinegar. I am still deprived of actually having a salad in Greece, much less experience the dressings used  there, so I am relying on my experiences with family-owned Greek restaurants I have frequented in the U.S. Whenever I come across one I duck in for a good meal. This dressing really stands up to a salad full of strong flavors like roasted peppers, feta and olives. The dressing also works well as a meat marinade.

Greek Salad Dressing

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white or red wine vinegar
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
½ tsp dried thyme leaves
½ tsp fresh dill
½ – ¾ tsp sea salt
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper

Add all ingredients except oil into a glass jar with at least a two cup capacity. Stir with a fork or whisk until well combined. Continue stirring while adding oil in a thin stream. Stir a bit more after all the oil is added. Let sit overnight in the fridge before using. About ten minutes before serving pull it out to warm up a bit, since the oil may have formed solids. Shake and serve.

Cilantro Pesto

cilantro pesto with spoonWe had a bundle of cilantro sitting in a water jar on the counter. Since I kill it every time I try to grow/regenerate it, I tend to overstock on it when I find it fresh cut in the store. It was starting to look sad, even with its water, which meant it needed to be used pretty soon. The stuff goes from perky to slimy and brown pretty quickly when it starts to go, so I had to act fast. Big D was grilling steaks for dinner, so what could I do with cilantro. Hmmm….cilantro, steaks, cilantro, steaks….I know! I remembered a cilantro sauce from a restaurant I went to years ago in Denver, I think it. Maybe it was Boulder. Instead of basil they used cilantro for pesto. I decided to whip up some cilantro pesto to drizzle on top of the wonderfully seared rare steaks. It helped me use the cilantro instead of leaving it to go bad, and I could not imagine it being uncooperative with the grilled meat. I was right, I must say. The pesto worked great with the steaks, and the leftovers also worked great on pork loin. Another plus was the pesto kept much better in an airtight jar in the fridge compared to un-pesto cilantro would have done sitting on the counter. Double score!

Cilantro Pesto

1 bunch fresh cilantro, most thicker stems removed
1/4 – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 jalapeño, seeds removed
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp lime Juice

Add all ingredients except oil to blender or food processor. Purée until blended, then slowly drizzle oil into mixture. Scrape sides and blend more until everything is about the same size. Use immediately or chill until about an hour before serving. Room temperature is the best for serving.

Chicken Tomatillo

What the heck do you do when you have chicken and some leftovers in the fridge? Come up with something for dinner using them! Duh! After a long day at work I really needed to cook something so I could relax and totally enjoy my family. Cooking, Little B and Big D are what I rely on to balance out the chaos at work. It is a necessity for me to focus on those three things when I get home. It definitely works. I don’t think about work again until the next morning when they are sleeping and I am on the way out the door on the way to the office. I love that it works so well for me. There is nothing better than being able to escape at home. One of my constant challenges is to do something creative and simple with chicken. We are dark meat people, which means packages of legs and/or thighs cooked up for dinner. Recently we had a package of thighs, so I poked around in the fridge and came up with something luscious and amazing for dinner and a couple of lunches at work, which, of course, reminded me of home and let me escape for a bit in the middle of the work day. Yay!

Tomatillo Chicken

3 – 4 pound package chicken thighs, with bone and skin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

2 cups salsa verde with tomatillos sauce

2 cups mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Get your hands dirty and cover chicken with combined spices. Place chicken in 9×13 glass baking dish. Pour tomatillo sauce over chicken, then top with cheese. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Let sit for about ten minutes before serving.

Spaghetti Squash with Meaty Sauce

This is a down and dirty delicious weekday dinner. It uses some basic kitchen pantry ingredients I have on hand pretty much all the time. The first time I had spaghetti squash I did not like it. I think I was about ten and very much looking forward to pasta. It was crunchier and the flavor is very much squashy – of course I was comparing it with soft cooked pasta, so of course it would be different. As I got older I began to appreciate it more, and now love it! We used to try and boil it, which took forever, but then we discovered the microwave method, introduced to us by my mother in law. Of course the sauce would benefit from simmering for five hours, but it was delicious with just 20 or so minutes. I will be doing more quick dishes in the future, and am inspired by my friend Stacie’s blog. Besides her awesome food ideas she also makes wonderful lotion.

Spaghetti Squash with Meaty Sauce

1 medium spaghetti squash
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp butter
2 14 ½ ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 pound ground sausage

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat combine tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt and sugar. Cover and cook until bubbly. While tomatoes are bubbling away add sausage to a frying pan, break up the meat and cook until browned and well done. Drain sausage and add it to the tomato sauce. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the flavors have time to mix. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and stringy membrane. In shallow baking or pie dish add about ¼ inch of water. Add half of the squash, cut side down. Cover with cling wrap and place in microwave. Cook on high for about eight minutes, until squash is soft. With a fork scrape out inside of squash, pulling stringy ‘spaghetti’ out of the shell. Place squash in bowl with butter and cheese*. Stir together and let cheese and butter melt. Serve sauce on a bed of squash.

*Sometimes the squash soaks up some water. If you want to avoid the possibility of having a watery plate when serving, you can add a step before mixing the squash with butter and cheese – lay out a couple of paper towels and spread squash out to dry a bit. After doing this you may need to reheat the squash to make sure the butter and cheese melts.


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