Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wild Ingredient Chase

When I lived in DC and first started this blog I would run all over town looking for special ingredients.  DC was a great place for hunting for unique recipe components. There was a great variety of markets I could visit to find almost anything I needed.  Beside the fact that I had a multitude of shopping choices, the biggest contributor to these ingredient chases was that I had the time.  It was in my pre-mommy/pre-homeowner days and I had all the time in the world to cook and track down every single specific ingredient.  These days I just don't have the time to go to four different stores looking for something specific and so I substitute much more than I ever had to before.

When I first read through the ingredient list on this recipe, I planned on substituting the potato starch for corn starch.  I had never heard of potato starch and since it was such a small amount I planned to use what I already had.   But for some reason I decided to Google the difference between potato starch and corn starch as I sat down to make my grocery list.  As it turns out, thickeners behave differently at different temperatures and potato starch is able to tolerate higher temperatures than corn starch.  I decided to put faith in the author of this recipe and stick with potato starch since it is used to thicken baked goods.  Luckily I only had to visit one additional store (Whole Foods) to find the potato starch.


Shrimp Stuffed Shells
Adapted from Cooking Light January 2012



  • 20 uncooked jumbo pasta shells (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese 
  • 1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped 
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (such as McCutcheon's), divided 
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese



1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Cook pasta 7 minutes or until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.

3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add cream cheese, milk, and pepper; cook until cheese melts, stirring until smooth.

Remove from heat. Stir in basil.

Place shrimp in a bowl. Sprinkle with potato starch; toss well to coat.

Add cream cheese mixture to shrimp; toss well.

4. Divide shrimp mixture evenly among pasta shells.

Coat a 11 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray; spread 1 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Arrange shells in prepared dish;

top with remaining 2 cups marinara. Sprinkle shells evenly with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until shrimp is done.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pre-Vacation Dieting


We just got back from an awesome family vacation.  Rex is at a really good age for air travel and we chose a destination that was full of activities to keep him busy during the day.  We had two flights followed by a two hour drive and he was so well behaved and adaptable throughout the entire journey.  I was so proud of him and he acted far better than I expected.  The trip was great and we all had sooooo much fun. 

Since I knew I would spend most of the vacation in a swimsuit, I really buckled down with the healthy eating and exercise for a few months before we left.  This was one of our dinners during that pre-vacation cut back.  Dishes like these kept me feeling satisfied, but were still smart dinner options.  I served this over rice noodles for Forrest (as pictured), but I ate just the chicken and veggie mixture and it was still very filling. 



Stir-Fried Lemongrass Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light January 2013



  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 4 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon sliced peeled fresh lemongrass
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced red bell pepper 
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallots
  • 8 ounces haricots verts, trimmed 
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced 
  • 1/3 cup unsalted cashews 
  • 1 Thai chile, thinly sliced



1. Combine first 5 ingredients. Stir with a whisk.

2. Heat a large wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add lemongrass and garlic; stir-fry 30 seconds.

Remove from pan with a slotted spoon; place in a small bowl. Add bell pepper, shallots, and haricots verts to pan; stir-fry 2 minutes.

Remove vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon; add to lemongrass mixture. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken in a single layer; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Add cashews and chile to pan; stir-fry 2 minutes or until chicken is done.

Stir in stock mixture

 and vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until sauce begins to thicken. Serve immediately.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe