Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shrimp Pasta Salad

This recipe doesn’t have a long and exciting history for me. Well, not a long one anyway. I simply saw it while spinning through Pinterest and decided I wanted to eat it. At its base it is a simple macaroni salad with mayonnaise dressing, but it’s got shrimp and peas and a few other vegetables, too, all of which help to bump it up to something new and exciting for my kitchen.

It doesn’t matter what size shrimp you use to make this. If they’re bigger than you want, just chop them. I started with some medium-sized ones that I had on hand and chopped them into about ½-inch pieces, which fit in well with the elbow macaroni. You could also put more shrimp into the salad (the original recipe did), or more of anything else you like, really.

If you’re lucky enough to have some fresh peas, they would be as terrific in here as they are everywhere else. I used frozen sweet peas and they were good, too. Also, any kind of bell pepper will do. I used red because it was what I happened to have on hand, and I liked the color it added to the salad. I love dill, so, for me, it really makes this especially delicious, and especially spring-flavored. It’s great with shrimp and with peas and with macaroni.

This recipe makes a pretty hefty amount of salad for a two-person household like mine, but it held up really well in the refrigerator for a few days, which meant I had lunches ready for a good chunk of the work week. And I didn’t get tired of it either! It’s far too delicious for that. I think I may be on my way toward having a long and exciting history with this fresh and tasty salad.

Shrimp and Pea Macaroni Salad
Adapted from

½ pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
8 ounces elbow macaroni
¼ cup chopped green onion
1 medium-size red bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1. To prepare the shrimp, cook in boiling water about 5 minutes (depending on the size of the shrimp) until fully cooked. They will be pink in color and firm. Drain and chill. Chop shrimp into about ½-inch pieces. Set aside

2. Cook macaroni in boiling salted water until al dente or to the texture you prefer, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.

3. Place the shrimp and cooked macaroni in a large bowl. Add the green onion, bell pepper, celery, and peas, tossing to combine.

4. To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk together to combine. Stir in the dill.

5. Pour the dressing on the shrimp mixture and stir gently to coat well. Chill 30 minutes or more before serving.

Makes about 8 servings.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Honey Almond Cheese Spread

This is such a simple idea and such a good one. When I get up in the morning, I’m not particularly functional. (Heck, I’m not sure how functional I am as the day goes on.) A quickly toasted bread product with something delicious spread upon it can do wonders for my ante meridian attitude. And so I jumped on this recipe as soon as I came across it.

Well, that’s not exactly how the story goes. If you’ve been paying attention to The Messy Apron at all (or if you actually know me), you know that I don’t exactly get to anything right away. I’ve had the cookbook from which this recipe came for many years, and I had neglected it for almost as many (which is a shame because it’s great.) It was, however, only a matter of weeks after I re-discovered this recipe that I made it. We don’t have to talk about how long it took me to get it to these pages.

Anyway, the good part of the story: this is delicious, especially for how little effort it takes to make (assuming you have a food processor.) All it involves is toasting some almonds, grinding them, then whirling them with cream cheese, cottage cheese, and honey. Toasting the almonds is worth the extra time for the extra flavor, and if you can get good honey produced close to home, all the better.

I like this spread on toasted bagels, but just about any toasted bread without competing flavors will do. I think it would be great on a sturdy muffin, as the original recipe suggested, heavenly on a scone, and over the top on a croissant. It’s not especially sweet, with the cream cheese keeping it kind of tangy, but if you want it sweeter, more honey might be pretty good. I also think changing up the nuts, swapping in ricotta for the cottage cheese, swirling in some jam, or adding warm spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg would be great ways to vary the flavors without increasing effort.

This spread lasts at least a week in the refrigerator (I’ll admit that it was in mine longer, and was still just fine), so easy breakfasts on slow mornings are in the bag for a little while. Of course, so are mid-afternoon pick-me-ups and perhaps a midnight snack or two, if that’s how you prefer to roll.

Honey Almond Cheese Spread

¼ cup almonds
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup cottage cheese
3 tablespoons honey

1. Place the almonds in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Warm the almonds, stirring or tossing frequently, just until they are beginning to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Be especially careful not to burn them. Cool.

2. Place the cooled almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely ground. Add the remaining ingredients and process until well blended. Keep refrigerated for about 1 week.

Makes about 1 ¼ cup.

Another recipe like this one: Chocolate Cookie Butter 


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Featured Ingredient: Rhubarb

I’m not sure that if rhubarb could only grow in tropical or sub-tropical climates that anyone would bother to eat it. It may simply be this bold plant’s early emergence from the cold ground in regions that have just endured a frigid, fruitless season that gives it a chance to be a culinary darling of spring.  I know I start peeking at the ground in the sunny spot next to the shed in my back yard as soon as the dirt seems mostly thawed. The first homely knob of proto-leaf and stem poking through the soil has me digging through my recipe files for the next rhubarb recipe to try.

These thick, super-sour stems (the leaves are poisonous, so don’t eat them) need a bit of doctoring to make them palatable, although I remember dipping stalks in a bowl of sugar before crunching on them when I was a little girl. The good news is that something very simple to make, such as a stewed sauce, can be very, very good, and rhubarb goes well with many fruits as well as warm seasonings, such as cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger.

My first cuttings of rhubarb usually go into a sauce, such as this one with vanilla and brown sugar. When good strawberries are available, I make this Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce.

And since rhubarb grows all summer long, I make this delicious one with blueberries when the occasion calls for it.

Take a little more time with sauce and it’s jam. I like to make this Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam, and, though it has been a while since I’ve been able to make them, the Bluebarb Jam (blueberry-rhubarb) and Gingered Rhubarb Jam with Honey in The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard are very good. (Both are canned jams.)

Rhubarb pie is probably the most common use of rhubarb historically. Apparently, rhubarb has often been called “pie plant,” although I’ve never heard anyone call it that myself. Whatever you want to call it, it’s great in this Rhubarb Custard Pie, which is big and rich.

It’s also great in simpler creations like Rhubarb Ginger Galette and Berry and Rhubarb Galette.

Two other rhubarb desserts I love are Rhubarb Custard Bars, which are quite different from Rhubarb Custard Pie,

And this crumb-topped Rhubarb Yogurt Cake is a simple coffee cake that’s good for breakfast and afternoon snacks.

While I absolutely love rhubarb in sweet settings, it has some delicious savory applications as well. This Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce, which is chunky and sweet-tart, behaves sort of like a chutney.

I’ve also seen savory recipes in which rhubarb plays the same role as tamarind, providing an exotic tartness in a lentil stew, for example. I hope to try such a recipe this year and tell you how it goes.

Since rhubarb is quite prolific and grows in my yard with no effort on my part, I’ll be equipped with plenty of it to revisit my favorite recipes and try new ones - like upside down cake, old fashioned pudding cake, and rhubarb-lemon cookies! - all spring and summer long! I hope you like it too!