Friday, February 25, 2011

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Pasta

This recipe is simple, quick, and delicious, and has become a staple meal in my house:

1lb. medium to large shrimp (I think I buy a bag of 31-40 count)
1 tsp olive oil + more for pasta
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 TBSP lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package Buitoni whole wheat linguini
parsely for garnishing

Heat a grill pan on med-high heat.  Toss shrimp with all other ingredients.  Grill shrimp, 2-3 minutes on each side, so that the shrimp turn pink with some grill marks.  Set aside

Prepare pasta according to package.  It too needs only a few minutes to cook, because it's not hard like other pastas.  But it's one of the few whole wheat pastas I can stomach.

Heat olive oil and garlic in a large saute pan.  Lower the heat, add shrimp and pasta, toss just to coat pasta and heat shrimp.  Don't cook pasta and shrimp too long in saute pan, or it will burn and stick to pan. Garnish with parsley, and enjoy!

Last night I decided I didn't want an extra pan to clean, so I cooked the shrimp in the saute pan.  Grilling the shrimp on a grill pan gives it more flavor.  Next time I'll suck it up and wash an extra pan.  Or if the military would give my husband a moment's rest, I'll make him wash it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Creative Ecology

Husband and I recently moved to North Carolina.  As a native Southern Californian, I'm always interested in investigating "beach culture" in other parts of the country.  We live pretty close to the Atlantic, so I did a little research and came across Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach.  Fort Macon is a Civil War fort where a month long battle transferred control of the fort and by extension the North Carolina coast to the Union Army. 

Fort Macon is now a 398 acre beachside state park.  With a lucky break from cold winter weather, we loaded the dog in the car and headed to Fort Macon State Park.  Though I will always favor the steep cliffs and rising waves of the Pacific Ocean, I admit that North Carolina has some beautiful beaches.  Part of the charm of east coast shorelines come from sloping sand dunes covered with tall golden grass and soft white sand.  The Atlantic Beach community appreciates the importance of the sand dunes, not just for their charm but for their more practical purpose of protection from tropical storms. 

The Atlantic Beach community came up with what I thought was a clever and creative ecology project.  After Christmas Fort Macon State Park offered its beaches up as a Christmas tree cemetary.  Instead of watching a tree rot on the front curb only to be hauled away to a trash heap, residents could drop off their trees at the state park. The trees will serve as a base for building up the sand dunes, protecting and enriching the beachfront.  Scores of Christmas trees lined the beach in semi scroll patterns.  I love when items can be cleverly recycled, and when a community comes together to enhance its natural beauty!

Aside from its creative use of holiday decor, Atlantic Beach is a fun outdoor day trip, especially in the winter, when the beaches are free from crowds of sun-bathing tourists.  Dogs are allowed; ours had a blast romping around the sandy beaches.  People fly kites, climb the rocky jetties, and collect colorful shells scattered over the beaches (one thing west coast beaches lack).  I'll defintely be back, perhaps for a run, or maybe even a picnic!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Greek Bulgar Chicken Salad

My husband and I continually strive to live a healthy lifestyle.  Unfortunately, this is more of a battle of mind than matter.  We've learned that our bodies can take whatever exercise punishment we throw at them (I'll soon post on our experience with the Insanity workout from Team Beachbody), however our minds have not completely grasped the notion that what we put into our bodies is just as important.  In a desperate attempt to reinvigorate our healthy eating venture, I found this recipe on an email newsletter from Self Magazine, and made it for dinner last night:

Greek Bulgar Chicken Salad  (4 servings)
12 oz chicken breast tenderloins
1 1/2 cups bulgar
6 TBSP fresh lemon juice, divided
1 tsp sald, divided
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/4 cup peeled and chopped cucumber
1 cup diced tomatoes
5 TBSP crumbled feta
10 kalamata olives
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper

Poach chicken in 2 cups boiling water in a medium pot over medium-high heat for 10-15 min (check if cooked through at 10 min).  Cool, dice, and set aside.  Bring bulgar, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 TBSP lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand until bulgar absorbs liquid, about 10-15 min.  Uncover and cool to room temperature.  Transfer to a bowl and combine with remaining 4 TBSP lemon juice and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.  Add chicken and remaining ingredients. Toss well to combine.  Cover and chill before serving.

I was actually shocked at how much I loved bulgar, a type of wheat.  I tasted it before mixing in the other ingredients, and it was great on its own.  It could have been the lemon juice flavoring, but I tasted a hint of sweetness, so I might try a sweet recipe with bulgar next time.  Regardless, this little wheat gem will become a staple in my new healthy pantry.  And this recipe can easily be adapted for a vegetarian or vegan diet (not sure about gluten-free, check the label on the bulgar package)

One last note about the recipe:  My husband despises olives (everyone has faults, right?) so I kept the olives out of the main recipe and just chopped a few up for my bowl.  They actually gave the recipe too much of a salty bite, even for an olive lover such as myself.  So unless you really adore that briney bite, I'd go easy on the kalamatas.  Enjoy!