Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Asparagus

Spring is in the air, and it’s only March. And what better way to celebrate the nice weather we been experiencing the past couple of days than with a real taste of spring — asparagus.

It’s hard to go wrong with this tasty and nutritious superfood. Whether you steam it, broil it or grill it, asparagus is good by itself or combined it with other vegetables, meats or seafood.

The following is an easy saute in which asparagus is combined with shrimp for a delicious dish that can be made in less 30 minutes. Served with a salad, a side of rice or over pasta, this recipe is sure to be one that you will reach for each and every spring.

Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Asparagus
1 pound shrimp, medium to large, peeled and deveined
¾ teaspoon kosker salt (to taste)
Black pepper, to taste
1 lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, sliced thinly
¾ pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and cut into 2 inch lengths (about 2 cups)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon cornstarch
Place shrimp on paper towels and dry very well.
Sprinkle shrimp with a bit of the salt and pepper.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel off strips of the lemon peel and then cut the strips into very thin long pieces; be sure to peel only the yellow part of the peel, not the bitter white part.
Cut lemon in half and juice it into a small dish, removing seeds.
Heat a deep 12-inch skillet (preferably not nonstick) over medium high heat for 1 minute.
Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat until it’s shimmering hot — just a few seconds.
Add the shrimp in a single layer and do not disturb it; let cook for about 2 minutes until browned.
Turn shrimp over and brown the other side, about 1½ minutes, then transfer to a plate. Shrimp should not be cooked through.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic, stirring for 30 seconds.
Add asparagus, lemon zest strips, red pepper flakes and a bit of salt and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add chicken broth and cover, simmering for 1 to 2 minutes until asparagus is almost done.
Stir cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and stir into the pan.
Add shrimp back to the pan and cook another 1 to 2 minutes until done.
Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice, then taste and add more juice, salt and pepper if needed.
Yield: Serves 3.

Smoked Chicken Casserole

The leftover dilemma is one that’s been the bane of many cooks for years. On the one hand, it’s wasteful to throw out perfectly good food. But on the other hand, some are just hard to keep/reheat.

Leftover chicken is one food that most cooks don’t mind. In fact, some relish the opportunity to let the fowl star again. I’m one of those people.

Today, I had a pile of leftover smoked chicken. I could have used it in a number of dishes, including soup, but chose to put it to use in a casserole (recipe follows).

Casseroles sometimes get a bad rap in the culinary community but are a great way to make use of leftover ham, turkey, beef or chicken. They also have the reputation of being able to go together in a hurry.

Smoked Chicken Casserole
2 cups smoked chicken, shredded
6 ounces egg noodles
½ cup onion, diced finely
½ cup celery, diced finely
1 cup frozen peas
1 10½-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons Miracle Whip
Salt and lemon pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients in large bowl. Add cooked noodles and mix. Pour into greased casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes or until done.
Yield: Serves 4.

Slow Cooker Ham and Lima Bean Soup

A lot of people believe it’s a good day to make soup when the weather outside is on the nasty side. That’s not a bad philosophy. But there others, including me, who think any day is a good day to put the soup pot on the stove. I think my dad was in the latter camp.

Today, with temperatures nearing 50 and the spring melt under way, would have been the type of day my dad would have made soup. One of his favorites to fix on a day like this was bean soup.

His bean soup always featured ham. He either used the leftovers from a Sunday ham dinner or if that wasn’t an option, he’d picked up some ham hocks or pork hocks at Erickson’s Meat Market in my hometown of Crookston, Minn.

The soup also featured a healthy dose of carrots, an onion, a couple of stalks of diced celery and, of course, beans. He used whatever we had on hand, which was either Great Northerns, navy or pinto beans. We usually had a good assortment of them, since my mom worked at Minnesota Bean and Pea Co., which was located just across the street from our house on the south side of town.

While bean soup wasn’t my favorite soup that my dad made (I much preferred his vegetable beef with homemade noodles by Mom), it still hit the spot. And let me say, there was nothing like a bowl of hot soup to soothe the soul and warm the body after an afternoon of playing outside in the runoff water in the streets.

Here’s a bean soup recipe from pepperplate.com, a food app site where you can import and edit recipes from the most popular recipe sites by simply pasting a URL, add and edit your own recipes, create your own unlimited categories to organize your recipe library as well as plan menus for special events or regular meals, add meals and recipes to the calendar so you’re always on schedule, automatically arrange your shopping list the way you shop in the store and scale recipes to make the right amount.

The site has drawn rave reviews. The New York Times “loves Pepperplate,” Gaper’s Block calls Pepperplate “a food nerd’s fantasy app” and Serious Eats lists Pepperplate in it’s top 10 food apps.

Slow Cooker Ham and Lima Bean Soup
1½ cup dried lima beans, cannellini beans, or navy beans
6 cups water
2 cooked smoked pork hocks or 1 to 1½ pounds meaty ham bones
2¼ cups water
1 14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken brother
1½ cups sliced celery (3 stalks)
1½ cups sliced carrots (3 medium)
1½ c sliced leeks
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 2½ teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
1 bay leaf
3 c torn fresh kale or spinach
Salt
Ground pepper
Rinse beans. In 4-quart Dutch oven, combine beans and 6 cups water. Soak overnight. Or bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans, put in slow cooker.
Add pork hocks, 2¼ cups water, broth, celery, carrots, leeks, rosemary, ¼ teaspoon pepper, bay leaf. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 11 to 13 hours, or high heat 5½ to 6½ hours.
Remove pork hocks, cool. Mash beans slightly or put in blender and return. Cut meat off ham bones and return. Discard bones and bay leaf. Stir kale into soup. Season to taste.
Yield: Serves 6.

Lemon-Garlic Marinated Shrimp

It would be hard to find an appetizer more popular than shrimp. No matter if they’re chilled and accompanied by cocktail sauce or hot on skewers with some vegetables that have been grilled, shrimp is pretty hard to beat.

The simpler the better is my motto when it comes to shrimp appetizers. A good example of this is shrimp that are  marinated.

The following quick and easy recipe, from Olisur, Chile’s leading olive oil producer, finds the crustacean in a marinade that contains extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, little salt and pepper and some fresh parsley.
Lemon-Garlic Marinated Shrimp
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1¼ pounds cooked shrimp
Place garlic and oil in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss with shrimp in large bowl. Chill until ready to serve.
Yield: Serves 12.
Note: Cover and make ahead 2 hours.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 73 calories, 3 grams fat (no saturated), 92 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, no fiber, 153 milligrams sodium.

Lucky 32′s Meatloaf

Bacon always has been popular with the breakfast crowd, especially when combined with eggs. But these days, it’s showing up in a lot of places that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

There are bacon milkshakes, bacon doughnuts, bacon sticky buns, chocolate bread pudding with bacon sauce. You get the picture. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Well, I not too crazy about trying any of the aforementioned dishes, but another recipe for a meatloaf wrapped in bacon definitely tickled my taste buds.

The recipe, which is from Chef Jay Pierce of Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Cary and Greensboro, N.C., looks like it might have a little kick, Tabasco sauce and cayenne pepper among its ingredients.

That sounds like my kind of meatloaf!

Lucky 32′s Meatloaf
4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup chopped yellow onion
½ cup finely chopped celery with stems and leaves
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
½ cup diced green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped green onion
2 eggs
½ cup half-and-half
½ pound ground pork
1½ pounds ground chuck
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon ground mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1½ teaspoons salt or to taste
¾ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1 cup panko bread crumbs
12 slices bacon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat and saute onions until golden. Add celery, garlic and bell pepper and saute until tender. Spread vegetables out on a cookie sheet to cool and allow some moisture to evaporate.
Combine eggs and half-and-half in a large bowl. Mix until combined. Add sauteed vegetables, pork, beef, Tabasco, Worcestershire, mustard, cayenne pepper, thyme, salt and black pepper. Mix well. Work bread crumbs into meat mixture by hand and set aside.
Line a loaf pan with 12 bacon strips, six on each side, so that the bacon will wrap the meat loaf. Place a strip at the joint where the bottom meets the side of the pan and bring the strip up the side of the pan and allow the excess to fold over the outside of the pan. Continue in this manner alternating from side to side . When bacon is all laid out, place meat mixture in pan. Fold the bacon strips over the top of the loaf, completely wrapping loaf with bacon.
Place  meatloaf in oven and bake until thermometer inserted in the center reads 160 degrees.
Yield: Serves 8.

Meatloaf with Sriracha Barbecue Sauce

Meatloaf undoubtedly is one of America’s most-loved comfort foods. And there probably are as many recipes for the popular entree as there are people who consider it one of their childhood favorites.

We often had meatloaf when I was growing up, both at home at school hot lunch. It was one of those foods that I liked so much that nary a morsel was left on my plate when lunch or supper was over.

But perhaps my favorite way to have meatloaf was as a leftover, on a sandwich with mustard. I remember numerous fall weekend days hunting ducks with my dad when we would have meatloaf sandwiches for lunch when there was a lull in the action.

Of course, the sandwiches were always cold, which didn’t matter, but I wouldn’t have turned down a warm one one some of those cold, wet days in the duck blind.

And that brings me to a recipe that I came across today. It’s from Lori Pearson, chef and co-owner of the Savor Cafe in Charlotte, N.C. Pearson says she make her meatloaf a day ahead and then heats slices on a gas grill before serving.

Here’s the recipe, which I hope to try later this week, when the temperatures are expected to be in the high 40s to near 50 and grilling won’t be so inconvenient.

Meatloaf with Sriracha Barbecue Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon fat
1 green bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ large yellow onion, diced
6 eggs
¼ cup spicy Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 cups panko bread crumbs
5 pounds ground sirloin
Sriracha Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat olive oil or bacon fat in a large skillet over moderate heat. Saute peppers and onion until tender. Set aside. Let cool.
Whisk together eggs, mustard, salt and pepper in large bowl. Once vegetables are cool, add to eggs. Add bread crumbs. Let sit 10 minutes.
Add ground beef and lightly knead with hands until thoroughly mixed. Mold meatloaves into rounded ovals in baking dishes. Bake for 50 minutes, rotating dishes in oven after 25 minutes. As meatloaves bake, make Sriracha Barbecue Sauce.
Slice meatloaf and serve immediately. Or make meatloaf a day ahead, slice and grill to reheat.
Yield: 2 3-pound loaves, 6 to 8 servings each
Sriracha Barbecue Sauce
½ onion, cut into chunks
½ red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
½ green pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
1 cup spicy barbecue sauce
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
Place onion and peppers in a food processor and chop until finely diced. Add barbecue sauce, ketchup and Sriracha sauce and whip together until combined. Serve with meatloaf.
Note: Sriracha is an Asian hot sauce widely available in supermarkets.

German Potato Salad

If you had to choose between regular potato salad (cold) and German potato salad (hot), which one would you pick? That might be a pretty tough choice for some spud lovers, including me. I love both of them.

Potato salad is one of those dishes that is a popular choice of chefs who are preparing food for a large number of people. A picnic or cookout is a good example. But for me, potato salad isn’t just for such occasions. I like it any time we have burgers. And it doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold, which brings me to my latest foray into the world of spuds.

We had burgers the other night, and I made some German potato salad to go along with them. The recipe came from Therese’s Better Homes and Garden cookbook. It turned out pretty good and was quite tasty. But the next time, I’m going to use a little less water (¼ cup instead of a cup) and more vinegar (1 cup instead of ½ cup)

Here’s my revamped version of the BHG recipe.

German Potato Salad
6 slices bacon
½ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
Dash pepper
¼ cup water
1 cup vinegar
6 cups sliced cooked potatoes
Cook bacon until crisp; drain and crumble, reserving ¼ cup drippings. Cook onion in reserved drippings until tender. Blend in flour, sugar, salt, celery seed and pepper. Add water and vinegar; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add bacon and potatoes, tossing lightly; Heat thoroughly, about 10 minutes. Trim with parsley and pimiento, if desired.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Almost Lasagna

“Get Your Plate into Shape” — that’s the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month, which starts today. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is encouraging Americans to return to the basics of healthy eating by consuming the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy each day.

One way to do that is to add mushrooms to your diet. Thanks to their compatibility with meat in terms of taste and texture, mushrooms can be seamlessly swapped in for a portion of the meat in recipes to bring more vegetables and nutrients to the plate.

For example:
— Chop up your favorite mushroom variety to match the consistency of the ground beef or turkey.
— Cook and season mushrooms the same way you would meat.
— Combine the cooked meat and mushrooms and use the mix to complete your recipe.

The following recipe for Almost Lasagna, adapted from “MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better,” by Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., showcases the “swapability” of mushrooms. It includes a combination of mushrooms and meat in an old favorite to bring an extra serving of vegetables to the dinner table.

Almost Lasagna
1 pound long fusilli pasta or linguine
8 ounces white button mushrooms
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small carrot, diced
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
8 ounces 93 percent lean ground beef
1 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes, drained
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons trans-fat free margarine
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions.
Chop mushrooms into ¼-inch pieces. Reserve
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, carrot, onion, and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.
Place ground beef in pan and cook over medium-high heat, breaking meat into very small bits.  Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Add the vegetable mixture to the beef in the skillet. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, and basil; simmer for five minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and parsley. Toss hot pasta with the margarine and return to skillet. Mix with meat sauce. To serve, scoop equal amounts of the ricotta into shallow bowls, top with pasta/sauce mixture.
Tip: You can substitute firm tofu or 100 percent ground turkey breast meat for ground beef.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 449 calories, 11 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 116 milligrams sodium, 64 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 22 grams protein.