Saturday, May 15, 2010

Baked Shrimp and Tomatoes with Penne Pasta

I've had a super exhausting day. I just became a foster mama to a new puppy that is one of the "Nashville flood" animal victims. I'll be taking care of "Harpeth" (5 or 6 month old boxer mix - female) for the next week. Next Saturday, she goes back to the Petco with the rest of other adoptable dogs from the animal rescue mission that I'm working with.

Here's a photo of my foster puppy:

Anyway, she is super needy. She has to be in the same room that I am in at all times, which can be a little exhausting at times. I am not used to having a dog, but I think she's simply the sweetest little girl. My cat, Mr. Pumpkin, seems to be getting along with the dog all right. A little jealous but I think he will cope.

So I decided to do something more simply tonight. Less hassle. I combined cooked shrimp (which I had in my freezer) with a can of tomatoes (tomatoes are high in antioxidants so they're very good for you), onion, garlic, and other herbs and spices. I also combined Parmesan cheese and feta cheese for a truly yummy taste.

Baked Shrimp and Tomatoes with Penne Pasta
Makes 3-4 servings.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 can of no-salt added diced tomatoes with their juices
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1/2 bay leaf
1/2 lb of raw (or cooked) shrimp, peeled and deveined 
2/3 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 box (1 lb) penne pasta, cooked according to box directions


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and cook until they are soft and fragrant. Add sliced garlic and cook for a minute or two, until they are browning at the edges.

Add the can of tomatoes and cook until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for several minutes, until the tomato juices thicken slightly.

Add the seasonings (Basil, Creole seasoning, and bay leaf) to the tomato mixture. Stir until it is well-blended. Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink. (If you are using cooked shrimp, turn off heat before adding the shrimp).

Transfer the tomato and shrimp mixture into an oven-safe casserole dish. Top with feta and Parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Serve over cooked penne pasta. Enjoy!

Before baked in oven:

After Baked in Oven.

Over Pasta ... Minutes before I ate this delicious meal. 

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Foods You Should Eat Every Day

Since my boyfriend is making me dinner tonight – I am technically "single," since I am not married or even close to being engaged – I've decided that I am going to blog about health topics that I find relevant and interesting.

So I was reading online about Foods That You Should Eat Every Day, and I became very fascinated. I am going to try to add these into my diet, but it's going to be difficult.

For more reading, check out the links at the end of each section.

The Foods You Should Eat Every Day

They contain soluble fiber, which helps lower your risk of heart disease. Oats also contain manganese and selenium (both have tons of anti-oxidant properties), vitamin b1 (which helps your body convert blood sugar into energy), protein, phosphorus (which aids in strengthening your bones and teeth), and a few other nutrients.

Oats are plentiful in granola bars and oatmeal. Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of either. If you pulled my hair, I might eat it. Oatmeal is too sticky for me, and granola bars are hard. I'm going to pass. Maybe when I'm old, like 40 or 50, and I am worried about my cardiovascular health, I'll add this into my diet. But to each his own.

Oats have antioxidant properties, which are a plus for preventing off cancer and other diseases. If you like the taste of oats, why not have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or toss some oats into your yogurt or on top of your salad?

For more reading, check out WHFoods: Oats

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
They are loaded with anti-inflammatory properties, so hey are good for lowering your risk of heart disease, cancer, and even arthritis. In certain studies, they are linked to improving brain function. When you are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, this can lead to dry skin, diabetes, mood swings, depression, poor memory, and heart problems.

You can find omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon and many other fish (including sardines, halibut, snapper, tuna, and scallops), spinach, kale, collar greens, summer squash, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

This is something that I can definitely add into my diet. I already made Salmon Marsala the other night, so I've already eaten some Omega-3 Fatty Acids this week. Go me!

The nice thing about omega-3 fatty acids is that you can also get them in supplement form -- Fish Oil!

More info, check out Omega-3 Fatty Acids Nutritional Benefits.

A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, spinach also contains folate, which lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Getting enough folate in your diet also lowers your baby's risk for neutral tube defects if you are pregnant. Spinach also contains lutein,  an antioxidant that's essential for preventing eye disease.

I absolutely love spinach and I could definitely eat it every day. Since I can't afford fresh spinach, I find that canned spinach isn't bad, as long as I cook it with my favorite seasonings (garlic and soy sauce, because I'm Asian).

This is definitely something that I can try to add every day. It's simply to eat. I can put it on top of a pizza, in a salad, omelets, sautéed with mushrooms! The possibilities are endless!
Further Reading: WHFoods: Spinach.

These tiny fruits are packed with more antioxidants than any other fruit available in the U.S. So they are essential in helping prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even age-related conditions (like Alzheimer's). They can also relieve common intestinal problems like constipation and diarrhea. They contain vitamin C, manganese, dietary fiber, and vitamin E.

People enjoy eating blueberries in salads, by themselves, in jams and jellies, muffins, and much more.

I personally love, love blueberries so this is a fruit that I am going to pay extra money for. They are pricier than other fruit, but so juicy and delicious. Plus, they are an antioxidant superstar, how can I resist?!

Nutritional Facts about Blueberries: Recipes for Health.

Packed with the antioxidant, lycopene, tomatoes will protect you from a variety of cancers (such as lung, pancreatic, breast, endometrial, and prostrate). They also contain a huge amount of vitamin C (almost 60 percent of the suggested daily value), vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin B1 and B6, folate, vitamin E, and more.

What I love about tomatoes is that you can eat it in so many ways. Tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, fresh on salads and sandwiches, in ketchup . . . the list goes on and on.

I love tomatoes, so this is no biggie. It's summertime and tomatoes are in. I will make an effort to buy cherry and grape tomatoes every time I go to the grocery. I love the smaller tomatoes more, simply because they are easy to eat and store.

Tomatoes and Cancer from the American Cancer Society.

We've all seen the yogurt commercials on TV. We know that the yogurts with live active cultures are great for your digestive system. But did you know that yogurt also helps your immune system and can protect against certain cancers? That's because yogurt contains lots of probiotic organisms, which help your immune system in the fight against harmful bacteria.

Yogurt is so simply to eat. You can eat as a dessert or as a side dish with your meals. Since I typically have digestive problems, I always eat yogurt after lunch when I work. It works wonders and I feel great!

This is probably the only food on this list that I eat every single day.

 Check out: WHFood: Yogurt.

Black Beans

A great source of dietary fiber, folate, manganese, magnesium, vitamin B1, and other nutrients, black beans may help lower your cholesterol. They are also loaded with anthocyanins, an antioxidant that can boost your brain function.

I'm not a huge fan of black beans, but if they improve my thinking processes, why not? Maybe one day I will try some black beans.

WHFood: Black Beans.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lazy Dinner: Chicken Fajitas

So I was being very lazy tonight. It's American Idol night, which means lots of oogling and being in love with the very talented and hot Casey James! I wanted something easy and quick to make, so I decided to make chicken fajitas.

I had bought an Old El Paso Fajita Dinner Kit a few weeks back, but I haven't used it. Until this weekend, when I went on a grocery shopping spree, I didn't have any chicken strips to make the fajitas with. But now I do.

The box calls for bell pepper and onion. I didn't have any bell pepper in my frige -- simply because I cannot afford to buy bell pepper on my budget. (Around here, they cost almost $1 for each bell pepper. That doesn't sound a lot, but when you see how tiny these peppers are, you realize that it's definitely not the price.) 

I heard that there is a Farmer's Market on the town square on Saturdays, but since I'm either in Huntsville with my current boyfriend or in Nashville visiting family or friends on the weekends, I just haven't had the opportunity to go to the Farmer's Market. Plus, I don't carry a lot of cash on me. I'm a city girl -- I use my plastic for almost everything I buy!

So back to my dinner story . . .  I had the fajita dinner kit, and I had a bag of white onions. (They are about a dollar cheaper than yellow onions.) I also had left over mushrooms that I didn't use in the salmon marsala last night. I figured the onions and mushrooms would make up for not having bell pepper. 

So off I went making dinner. It took me between 35 and 40 minutes to make my dinner. That includes the time it took to chop up the onions and mushrooms, slice the raw chicken tenders, and actually cook the meal. 

Before I give you the recipe, I wanted to break down what my total cost was for this meal. (Keep in mind that I halved most of the prices, because I only used half of what I originally bought.)

Half of a bag of onions -   $1.10
Half a carton of mushrooms - $1.15
1 lb. of chicken tenders - $4.32
Fajita Dinner Kit - $2.00
Total cost = $8.57
 Total servings: 4
Price per meal = $2.14

$2.14 is not bad for a meal at all. It is comparable to a fast food meal, and it actually tasted pretty good. Unfortunately, I hadn't read the back of the box when I bought it. My meal apparently has 890 mg of sodium -- that's almost 40 percent of the recommended daily value! Fortunately, I do not eat a lot of foods that contain salt, and I almost never add extra salt in my meals. So hopefully I will not die from all this extra salt. 

Since I will be eating these fajitas for lunch tomorrow and Friday, I will throw in some raw carrots for some added health benefits. No dressing for me. I am going to try to reduce my sodium intake when I eat the leftover meals. 

Quick and Easy Chicken Fajitas with Onion and Mushroom


3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb. skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders, sliced thinly
Garlic powder, optional  
Fajita dinner kit
2 medium-sized onions, sliced
1/2 carton mushrooms, sliced

In a large skillet, heat oil in medium-high heat. Carefully add chicken strips to hot oil. Cook thoroughly, stirring until chicken is no longer pink in the middle. (You may add garlic powder on chickens, if desired.) Stir in the seasoning mix until chicken is well coated.

Add the sliced mushrooms and onions and stir. Cook uncovered for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are coated and tender. Stir frequently. 

Warm tortillas in the oven or microwave. Follow box instructions. 

Spoon chicken mixture onto tortillas. Serve and enjoy.

(Again, Sorry for the bad photo. But the lighting is awful in my apartment.)

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Salmon Marsala - and Omega-3 Fatty Acids!

While researching for work (I'm a professional health writer), I was reading up on omega-3 fatty acids and how beneficial they are for you. According to the Whole Foods (my favorite organic grocery) website, omega-3s may help prevent cardiovascular disease, asthma, arthritis, and even depression. Unfortunately, most Americans don't get enough in their diet, because we typically eat more meats than we do fish.

Salmon, my favorite fish in the world, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating, rather than taking supplements, helps absorption of omega-3s into your system. 

I won't bore you with anymore health talk, since this is a cooking blog and all. But after I started reading more and more about omega-3 fatty acids, I decided I needed to try to cook and eat more fish. 

Fish has never been my forte, because I have a harder time knowing when it is "cooked." Everyone says "flaky" is often the sign that fish is ready to be eaten, but you don't know what "flaky" looks like until you have had several disasters in the kitchen.

Tonight for dinner, I decided to use what I had in refrigerator. I could have simply seared the salmon with salt and pepper, and eaten it on top of a salad... but where is the fun in that? Since I am a creative cook, I decided to attempt "Salmon Marsala" from Emeril's classic "Chicken Marsala." I made a few tweaks of my own, but here it is.

(Sorry about the generic stock photo with this post. My digital camera is out of batteries, and my cell phone apparently did not save the photo that I had snapped... And now that I've eaten this delicious meal, I can't snap another photo.) 

Salmon Marsala for Two
(Serving size: 2) 

1/2 cup all-purpose flour1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 salmon steaks
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste 


In a plate, combine the Creole seasoning and all-purpose flour. Drench the salmon steaks in the seasoned flour mixture. 

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the salmon steaks and sear on both sides until both sides are brown. Transfer to another plate and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the chopped garlic and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are golden brown and the edges have given off liquid. Add the red wine and chicken stock, and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly. 

After sauce has thickened, lower the head to medium. Return salmon steaks to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Why I started this blog

I'm a 20-something single chicka who just moved to the Middle of Nowhere, TN for a new job. I was previously a city girl, from Nashville, so this tiny town (name withheld for privacy reasons) is not exactly my cup of tea. 

Food is a challenge here. Unlike Nashville, my choices are very limited here. I either have to go to Wal-Mart (No Target, Publix or even Kroger in town!) or to the locally-owned grocery store, Johnson's. Since I'm not a huge Wal-Mart fan -- I hate the fact that they put mom and pop stores out of business -- I prefer shopping at Johnson's, even though it is more expensive. 

I buy all of my meats at the local grocery store, and some of my produce at Wal-Mart. Johnson's doesn't have the best produce. Half of the time their veggie offerings are about to go bad, or they are simply too expensive for my current budget. I still travel to Nashville on the weekends, so I do some of my produce shopping there. 

Since I live alone (with my cat), I often make smaller-portion meals. I cook enough for myself, and I like to have a serving or two left over for my lunch during the week. The recipes that I've chosen for this blog tend to be easy and quick to fix. They make great leftovers and they are yummy to boot. 

I try to eat healthy, so you will probably never see fried or overly greasy foods. 

Enjoy learning about my cooking journey, and my experiences living in the Middle of Nowhere, TN.