Pork Tamale Pie

The other night, I was prepping dinner and I was following a recipe. I actually rarely follow recipes. I consider them “suggestions” or jumping off points in most cases. I read a lot of blogs and google a lot of recipes so it is often mishmash of an “adapted from.” Following recipes can be stressful and it takes even longer! You might be surprised how quickly I can whip something up if I’m not blogging it!
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Things were going well, then going poorly, and it was crazy. Part smelled really good but the other part seized up. I burned my hand (not badly, don’t worry mom!) and almost dropped the entire cast-iron skillet (which contained the entire meal). The external flash I nab from Mr. J wasn’t working, I chose a pan a bit too small, and the pup was underfoot.

While all of this was happening, I was rocking out to my kitchen radio the previous owners of the house so kindly left. Kelly Clarkson’s “oldie” “Beautiful Disaster” came on. How appropriate for this meal?! It was seeming like just that.

Pork Lover’s Tamale Pie

 

from Rachael Ray Magazine

1 cup milk
1 cup cornmeal
2 cups boiling water
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon corn oil or EVOO
1/3 pound mexican chorizo (raw) or chopped spanish chorizo (cured) (I nixed this since my store only sells spicy and Mr. J doesn’t love lots of heat)
4 slices bacon, finely chopped (I nixed this too since I planned another meal with bacon and figured we’d be fine without it)
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped (I used dried)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander (about 1/2 palmful)
1 small onion, chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup beer
1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles, drained (I used fresh)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
Cilantro leaves and sliced scallions, for garnishing (I chopped arugula I had instead)

Directions (in Rachael Ray’s words)

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk. Whisk in the cornmeal, then whisk in the boiling water and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until very thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the butter and honey.
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Preheat the broiler. Meanwhile, in a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the chorizo and bacon and render the fat for 3 minutes. Stir in the pork and cook, crumbling the meat, until browned, about 8 minutes.

Season with the thyme, chili powder, coriander, salt and pepper. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes to soften. Stir in the beer to deglaze for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes to heat through.
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Spoon the thick cornmeal over the pan and spread evenly. Top with the cheddar and brown under the broiler for 2 minutes. Serve from the skillet, garnished with the cilantro and scallions.
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So, check out what happens when you read the first step and overlook the fact that the water should be boiling water. In the time it took to heat the water (after adding the cornmeal to the milk) it totally seized up. I was going to dump it and start over but I was feeling especially determined. I whisked as much as I could once the water was finally boiling. Seriously though, milk and cornmeal are cheap ingredients and wouldn’t have set me back.
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After all that I bet you’re wondering how it was. It was good, not amazing. I think the chorizo and bacon would add a bit more flavor. We joked it was Pork-Liker’s Tamale Pie rather than Pork-Lover’s Tamale Pie since I omitted 2 of the 3 porks. I used fresh tomatoes and think canned would have boosted the flavor too. That’s quite the creative licensing given the fact that I said I was following the recipe.
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I liked the cornmeal topping and I appreciated that this wasn’t a million ingredients. It reheated surprisingly well too. It was a fun and I was glad to have a different Mexican meal for a change.
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Crockpot Sesame Chicken

My crock-pot really doesn’t get as much action as I’d like. I really want it to get out more.

Most slowcooker meals need to cook 4-6 hours. There’s an occasional 8 hours but when I’m gone about 11 hours it just seems like if it has to “keep warm” so long after the cook time that it won’t be that great. I decided to do something with chicken on a Sunday since I’d be able to cook it just the required 4 or 5 hours. I’d be home for the wonderful smells in those hours too!
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It wasn’t fantastic. I guess you can judge this one on your own. Mr. J wasn’t crazy about it, but he’s just really crazy about sesame chicken at his hometown restaurant and it couldn’t compete with that. This is a good one to switch things up if you’re eating the same things over and over again.
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Slowcooker Sesame Chicken

(adapted from Keeping Up With the Joneses)

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts
1 bag of baby carrots
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup honey
2 tbs garlic, minced
2 tbs ginger, minced
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs sesame oil (optional)
4 tbs cornstarch (with 3 tsp water)
2 tbs sesame seeds

Directions:

Cut chicken into cube chunks and add to the slow cooker with carrots.
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Mix chicken broth, honey, garlic, giner, soy sauce, sesame oil and add to the slow cooker.
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Cook on high for 4-5 hours.
Remove chicken and keep warm while mixing the rest of the sauce in the slow cooker itself or in a pot on the stove.
Mix the cornstarch and water and whisk into the sauce.
Let it cook on medium high for about 5 minutes as it thickens.
Serve it all together and top with sesame seeds.
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We had this over rice (his = white, hers = brown). I liked that it had some different flavors than we’d had recently, but it really couldn’t beat the deep fried version of Mr. J’s favorite Chinese restaurant.

The leftovers were pretty good the next day for lunch too! I just felt like it didn’t add anything for this to cook that long. I think I could have pretty easily made the same thing, if not better, by adapting the recipe and cooking it to serve, rather than in the crock-pot.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Made Easy

Chicken Cordon Bleu sounds tricky but my way is very simple and could easily be tweaked into anything else! (Isn’t my new serving plate awesome??)
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I don’t exactly have “knife skills”, or great butterflying technique so I cut a pocket and filled it. It is much easier than trying to roll it back up and keep the good stuff inside.

Ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 slices of deli ham, sliced thick and chopped
1 egg
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup breadcrumbs

Directions:

Cut a pocket into the side of the chicken breast carefully not cutting through the top, bottom, or all the way through.
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Stuff it with the cheese, then the ham.
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Whisk the egg with mustard and 1 tsp water.
Combine the breadcrumbs and add salt & pepper to taste.
Dip each stuffed chicken breast into the egg mixture then into the breadcrumbs.
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Bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

I was really happy with these! I think I did well cutting the pockets to get almost all the way to each end so the filling was well spread out.
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I mixed up a little roux with more cheese and more mustard to put on top. It wasn’t the most perfect cheese sauce I’ve ever made but wasn’t too bad.

This would be a great meal to impress guests because you could have it pretty prepped before they even came. It isn’t even many ingredients.

I think I might see what I could to making this into a casserole. Each chicken breast is a lot of food for one person and when you add ham and cheese it’s not a light meal.

I served this with a sliced potato bake thing. It really was an excuse to use my new le creuset and I wanted to make something in it that would be appropriate for the gifter.
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I was trying to just par-boil the potatoes a bit but they went further than I planned on while the chicken was coming together. The potatoes were too soft to mandolin so I did thicker slices and topped them with butter, sour cream, and rosemary fleur de sel.

Balsamic Citrus Chicken, You Heard That Right

At my wedding shower, the guests each gave me recipes and I couldn’t have been more excited. I got some great one including one of the only things my Grandma could cook, in her own handwriting, a few from grandmothers on both of Mr. J’s sides.
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I broke out this chicken one with the littlest bit of hesitation. I questioned balsamic and citrus but was widely impressed with Mrs. P’s Chicken with Balsamic Citrus Sauce. Mr. J called it one of the best things I’ve made in awhile! I was a bit snap-happy so feast your eyes on this.

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless chicken breasts
salt, pepper, and flour
1 shallot
1 tbs honey
1 cup chicken stock1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tbs balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Pound chicken breasts thin and dredge in flour, salt, and pepper mix. (Check out how easily I pounded chicken tenders…unpounded is on the right)
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Heat a large skillet with 1 ½ tbs butter and 1 ½ tbs olive oil to medium temperature and saute chicken in batches, keeping the others warm.
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Leaving 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan, add shallots, honey cooking until shallots wilted. Increase heat to high.
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Add chicken stock and lemon juice.
Boil until reduced to about ½ cup.
Reduce to medium temperature and add heavy cream. Cook until slightly thickened.
Add balsamic vinegar and return to a boil.
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Add chicken back in until heated through (about 1 minute).
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This. was. amazing.
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I loved the balsamic flavor since it reduced down and was creamy. The vinegar wasn’t too assertive. I had questioned the citrus in there but it was a great touch.

I served it with some mashed “potatoes”. I did half potato and half cauliflower florets.
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I whipped them and mixed in some plain greek yogurt and butter. Mr. J didn’t suspect a thing before I told him! The mashed potatoes were light, fluffy, and a great accompaniment.
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Have you ever been asked to give a recipe to a bride-to-be? Did you think she’d actually make the recipe? I really treasure these and will have more to come!
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One Pot Wonder

Have I mentioned I hate to grocery shop? I know, most people don’t mind it. It’s a stumbling block since I love to cook. I think it’s moreso that I don’t like how much money it is. I used to grumble since afterwards I then had to carry it up three flights…now there are no stairs involved. Also, it made me so sad to see really little kids there with their parents when I’d go super late (like 10 o’clock, past their bedtime). My previous grocery store was always crowded.  I now shop at the world’s largest grocery store. I cannot believe how big it is and it isn’t ever crowded. I might be coming around.

This dinner was a 1 pot meal with what I had around in an effort to use a few things up AND to avoid shopping just one more day.

Ingredients:

2 sweet Italian sausage links
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 tbs butter
1 apple
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup dried cranberries
white or brown rice

Directions:

In a dutch oven, brown sausage until cooked most of the way through and then remove it from the pan. When cooled a bit, slice into disks.
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Stir in broth and scrape any browned bits off the bottom. Cook for 5 minutes on medium.
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Add onions and butter until translucent.
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Add in apple, sliced sausage pieces, and cranberries.
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Cover and cook for 7 minutes more (or until sausage cooks the rest of the way through and the cranberries have rehydrated).
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This was so good, so easy, and had really minimal clean up! Win, win, win!
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I served this over some rice and steamed some broccoli on the side. I decided to thicken it a little bit with a cornstarch slurry but it is good the way it is. You could easily do most of the prep without the apple and cranberries the night before for a reallllly quick dinner.

I wish I had given the apples less cooking time but they were a different texture than the sausage anyway. I loved the cranberries in there. How good would it be over wild rice?

I plan meals ahead of time, I bring a list. What will make me enjoy it more. Maybe I should get to pick out a treat each time (as in a random ingredient to play with)!

 

Pumped Up Risotto

I love risotto and always think of it as a fall/winter comfort food. It is surprisingly easy and I even love it reheated. I like it better than regular rice, which we don’t eat a lot of at home.

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On my honeymoon I had some AMAZING risotto with shrimp and arugula which was a fantastic reminder to make some at home. I also was gifted a broccoli risotto recipe that I’m looking forward to making. I added it to my fall-to-make list.

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Ingredients

1 cup arborio rice
2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)
1 cup pumpkin beer (or white wine)
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 slices prosciutto, chopped
3 tbs grated Parmesan
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions

Toast the rice on medium low for 5 minutes while liquids are heating separately.
Add ½ cup of liquid mix until absorbed. Repeat until liquid is gone.

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Heat prosciutto until crispy.

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Mix pumpkin, prosciutto, Parmesan, and spices into risotto.

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I liked it a lot. I think there was a bit too much prosciutto but that’s an easy fix…it wasn’t that much of a problem seeing how I ate it for dinner, and 2 lunches in the days following.

The color was awesome and it felt really fall-ish. Sage would have been good in it too.

I’ve never put beer into my risotto so I was definitely a bit nervous about it. I worried what kind of aftertaste it would give. I think it worked though! I wouldn’t have included it if I didn’t have pumpkin beer on hand.

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I’ve made one using tomato juice and zucchini. It’s an awesome vegetarian one and the V-8 is a great addition for even more veggie perks. I’ll have to make that one sometime soon too! If you’re not too pumpkin-ed out after Thanksgiving, make this one when the pumpkin shelves are restocked!

Piggy Went to the Crockpot

I’ve been just on the edge of my seat to share my pulled pork with you! HUGE win for me. See, I attempted this once before. I cooked my pork butt for HOURS over the course of 2 days and it was terrible and undercooked. I tried to salvage it but it was a wash. I was annoyed, felt betrayed by the pork, and felt wasteful.

This time was different since I used my shiny red crockpot for the pork butt/pork shoulder. Fun fact: pork butt and pork shoulder are the SAME thing. Pulled pork cooks low and slow for hours. Mr. J and I work too long for most crockpot items to be weeknight dinners. I was out of ketchup so I improvised with my fav tomatoes and some vinegar, salt, and sugar.
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The prep was super fast  in the morning and then it cooked low and slow for 10 hours all while the pup was probably drooling. I always wonder if he is driven crazy by the food smells or if he loves it. Well, he loves most things in life so I’d guess he loves it.
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Ingredients

4 pound pork shoulder/pork butt
1 onion, chopped
2 tbs garlic, chopped
1 cup canned tomatoes (or ketchup)
2 tbs white vinegar (omit if using ketchup)
⅓ cup cider vinegar
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbs paprika
3 tbs spicy brown mustard
2 tbs salt
2 tbs pepper
1 tsp liquid smoke

Directions

Mix onion, garlic, tomatoes, vinegars, sugar, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper.
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Cut pork into quarters being mindful if it is a bone-in cut (mine was).
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Add everything into the crockpot.
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Set for 10 hours on low and return home to delicious barbecue smells!
Gently remove pork and reheat the sauce on high or in a pot to thicken.
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I was so excited! This was good and really different from meat I typically serve. I used tongs to get it out of the crockpot and it FELL off the bone. Success! I didn’t even have to fork the meat appart…it separated enough just when I picked it up with the tongs a bit!
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There was a lot of meat here given I’m feeding two of us. We ate it a few times then I froze the rest with the sauce. I’m curious to see how it is defrosted.

I served it with some cornbread muffin tops I made. I rarely use my muffin top pan for actual muffins but I did this time! I used a mix but they’re easy enough to whip up.
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Sangria Kickoff

Before the honeymoon, I’d never been to Spain before. I’ve been to England, France, Italy, Greece, and all sorts of random countries in Eastern Europe but never Spain. Barcelona definitely made me want to go back. I loved it! It’s such a beautiful city. We landed, checked into our hotel, and immediately started to explore. I chose a hotel just steps off Placa de Catalunya. What a lovely area! It was also a holiday so it felt like our honeymoon was really off to a great start.We were starving and strolled past a bunch of out door cafes on las ramblas. We found a spot at one and began with some sangria. Ohh. The. Sangria. This is a half order! Mr. J tried it as well only because a when-in-rome mentality and loved it too!
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We each chose a dinner option for 3 house tapas and our choices of paella, pasta, or pizza. The tapas was heavy on fish, but I didn’t mind at all. Mr. J didn’t seem to either. One was a warm potato wedge with a sweet & creamy dressing. I liked it. Another was a crustini with tomato and a sardine. The last was a cold pasta salad with tuna. The sampler was good since we would’ve spent forever picking piece by piece.
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I went with the seafood paella. It was so good! I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I’ve always wanted to try and and I got my most authentic chance ever! There were huge shrimp (with the heads), scallops, muscles, and some sort of tougher fish…calimari-esque but not exactly the same. I could definitely taste the saffron but it wasn’t overpowering.
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I loved it. I ate my first shrimp head since apparently that’s where all the flavor is. I’m not sure if that will happen again or not.

Mr. J got pasta that was good, but not as blog-worthy as paella!

I fell for Barcelona while sipping my sangria, munching on paella, and watching a street festival unfold before my eyes. I guess there were fireworks but I was too tired/jet-lagged to even stay awake until 9 PM (also known as when locals eat dinner).

Happy Halloween!!

Chili Surprise

I’m a little backwards on my timeline here but shhh! Don’t tell anyone you haven’t seen honeymoon meals before seeing this honeymoon-return-meal.

I’m lucky to call one of the kindest humans I know, my friend. Ms. L not only supported me through allllll my wedding planning as a bridesmaid, but she cooked a meal and delivered it to me with all the fixings so I could put off grocery shopping after the honeymoon. How well does she know me?!

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She made Ina Garten’s chili and sent onions, sour cream, shredded cheddar, and corn chips for toppings. AMAZING! I ate it for meals on end before actually grocery shopping. It was delicious and I hope she kept some for herself too!

Chicken Chili (Ina Garten’s recipe)

Ingredients

4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
1/8 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
For serving: Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream

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Directions

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly.
Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut it into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes.
Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

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It was such a thoughtful gesture and we loved it. I ate it for lunch all week too. I’m totally stealing this idea and giving somebody a meal when I think they’d need one. Thanks Ms. L!

Speaking of chili…I entered a Chili Cookoff! Can’t wait to share that with you too!

 

Honey Limey Shrimpy

Here’s a quick dinner I wanted to share. Today I’m off to NYC for work after only been home from my honeymoon for 10 days. I was away for the weekend too. Phew! What a whirlwind! November definitely quiets down so I can’t wait to get some fall-ish meals going!

One night we thought a his & hers dinner would be good so we shared some roasted asparagus and each made our own thing. I had some grilled shrimp and Mr. J made some beefy thing. Chicken fried steak maybe? The only trick was that I started the asparagus wayyy too early, and my shrimp didn’t take long to cook either. Our tiny kitchen isn’t really conducive to 2 chefs so it didn’t surprise me that the timing wasn’t perfect.
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Anywho, onto my made up marinated & grilled shrimp!

Ingredients

7 shrimp, peeled & deveined (I buy them frozen that way)
1 tbs lime salad dressing (or lime juice)
1 tbs honey
½ tsp chopped garlic
½ tsp crushed red pepper
salt & pepper

Directions

Soak 2 bamboo skewers in water for 5 minutes to avoid splinters
Whisk marinade together and let shrimp rest in it for 10 minutes
Grill 4 minutes on each side, flipping once
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The asparagus was just roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The shrimp was really delicious. It got a great carmelization from the honey and was perked up from the lime and red pepper.
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I like skewers just for the ease. Do you remember my ‘On A Stick’ appetizer for fried ravioli on a stick? I thought the stick just made it easier. Same story for the grilling.

I don’t always think about shrimp when I’m coming with up a quickie dinner but maybe I should!