Tag Archives: thyme

Butter vs Olive Oil – Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There was a time when most any meal I set out to cook began with a big glob of butter melting in a hot pan. Whether it was sautéing onions for a casserole, browning chicken for a braise, or scrambling an egg; it all started with butter. Then as I began reading about nutrition and becoming more conscious of my health, slowly but surely I transitioned to olive oil. Quietly and gradually, somewhere over the last few years, olive oil became my butter.

Through most of my years of cooking, it was not unusual for me to use a pound of butter per week, or at least every couple of weeks. Nowadays it is a rare purchase indeed and though I still keep (un-salted) butter around for a special treat in a pan-sauce or on my Sunday morning toast…I can honestly say the transition is complete. And why not?

Butter is a saturated fat too much of which can contribute to the build-up of blood cholesterol – Olive oil actually contains anti-oxidants and monounsaturated fats that have been proven to help lower cholesterol. Olive oil also contains vitamins E, K, and A, powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a host of other health benefits.

So why eat butter at all? Well, aside from that wonderful flavor there are a few good things about butter. For one, it does not contain any trans-fat, it also contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, can be high in Omega 3, and can even help your body fight off cancer cells. There is a great article at getmybodyback.com that discusses the details.

To my thinking these days, a little butter goes a long way…It’s a good fit in my “everything in moderation” theory that I mention so often. Butter is not inherently evil but it can easily be too much of a good thing. If you balance it out with a good bit of olive oil though, I think you can find a happy medium that will help you live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Recipe notes: This recipe uses olive oil as the base for the “sauce”. It is surprising in that it is not dripping in fat or greasy tasting. The idea is to coat the pasta rather than drenching it in a heavy sauce. The recipe comes together very quickly so I recommend having all of your ingredients ready to go by the time the pasta is almost ready to drain.

Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

1 Lb – Med fresh shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/3 Cup – Extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp – Fresh garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh thyme
½ Tsp – Dried red pepper flakes
8 Oz – Dried 100% whole wheat penne
Juice of ½ Lemon
1 to 2 Tbsp – Fresh basil chiffonade
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Add a tablespoon of kosher salt to a large pot of water over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil gently stir in the pasta. Continue stirring occasionally and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta has softened to your desired doneness.

When the pasta is roughly two minutes from being done, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes and about ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds then add the shrimp in a single layer. Shake the pan to “nestle” the ingredients.

Meanwhile, test the pasta for doneness, and drain into a colander reserving a little of the pasta water on the side.

After about 2 minutes, shake the pan again to loosen any shrimp that may be sticking and turn the shrimp over. Cook 2 minutes more on the second side then add the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Cook another minute and remove the pan from the heat. To finish, stir in the pasta and the basil, gently tossing to combine.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan sprinkled over the pasta.



Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

(or What to do with all that Chicken Stock – Part 1)

As a follow up to Singing The Praises Of Chicken Stock I wanted to post a series of recipes that use chicken stock (or broth) in various ways. At the risk of repeating myself, stock is a valuable ingredient in healthful cooking and a means of boosting the flavor in what otherwise might be a boring and uninteresting dish. My recipes will always call for stock because I like the flavor but you may certainly substitute broth if you like.

Second only to the chicken stock, the mushrooms create a lot of flavor in this recipe. To coax as much flavor as possible from them I start cooking the mushrooms in a hot, hot pan. Because of the high water content in mushrooms, they create a lot of liquid in the pan as they cook. With the pan very hot, this excess water cooks away quickly leaving the mushrooms to brown. On a lower temperature the mushroom would steam instead of browning…that’s not what I want in this recipe!

I know I have mentioned Seeds Of Change quinoa & whole grain brown rice in a previous post. I can’t recommend this product enough; if you come across it at Costco or otherwise please do give it a try. I use it here because it is convenient, healthy, and the spices blend perfectly with the other ingredients. Other starch suggestions for this recipe would be brown rice, couscous, or even orzo. Check for seasonings if you use a mix, I needed no additional salt with the quinoa.

This one is rich enough that the only side I served it with was a nice green salad and was plenty for two with leftovers.

Casserole of Chicken, Quinoa, & Brown Rice with Mushrooms

1 – Large Boneless Chicken Breast Half (about 12 oz.), halved lengthwise from the top and sliced very thin (as for a stir fry)
8 oz – Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1 – Small Onion, chopped
2 – Celery branches, sliced (leaves add flavor…use them too!)
1 Clove – Garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh Thyme, left whole
2 Cups – Chicken Stock
2 Cups – Quinoa & Whole Grain Brown Rice, pre-cooked
2 Tbsp – Unbleached Flour
Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
About 1/4 Cup – Panko Breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large (12”) skillet over medium high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, carefully add the mushrooms and cook them stirring constantly much as you would a stir fry. When the mushrooms begin to release their liquid slow down a little on the stirring but keep them spread out so the liquid will evaporate quickly.

As the mushrooms dry and begin to brown, stir in the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and ½ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring until the onions soften. (Note: The mushrooms should be getting nice and brown by now. Don’t worry if some of the vegetables stick a little bit…they will loosen when you add the stock.)

When the onions become tender and translucent stir in the chicken, separating the slices and blending them carefully into the mixture. Continue cooking and stirring gently for another 5 minutes then Stir in one tablespoon of the flour until well mixed. Stir in the second tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring gently, for one minute more. Stir in one cup of stock and cook until some thickening begins. Stir in the other cup of stock and cook until bubbling and thickened.

Remove the thyme sprigs and discard, then stir in the quinoa and gently mix until thoroughly incorporated. Pour all into a 9X9 casserole, sprinkle just enough breadcrumbs to cover evenly on top. Bake 25 minutes, allow a few minutes to rest and enjoy!


Italian Sausage Turkey Meatloaf

This recipe is an adaptation of Ina Garten’s Turkey Meatloaf recipe, which you will find at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/turkey-meatloaf-recipe/index.html. Her recipe is one of my favorite turkey meatloaf recipes and makes enough for a crowd! The version below cuts down on the size by half and boosts the flavor by adding an Italian flair. Believe it or not I originally came up with this version because the turkey italian sausages at Publix were nearly $2.00 a pound cheaper than the packaged ground turkey.

In this recipe I can’t stress enough to “Coat the Meat Loaf very generously all over with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and Italian spices”! This really does boost the flavor and forms such a great crust that I am tempted to nibble all the way around the outside of my leftover meatloaf sandwiches just like when I was a kid.

Italian Sausage Turkey Meatloaf

1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
6 Tbsp. low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 package ground turkey (About 1.25 Lbs.)
1 package sweet Italian turkey sausage (About 1.25 Lbs.)
¾ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 large egg and 2 large egg whites, beaten
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Italian spices

½ cup ketchup
½ tsp. ground coriander
1 splash Louisiana hot pepper sauce
1 splash apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a sauté pan, over medium low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf until the onions are translucent (but not brown) approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire, broth, and tomato paste and stir until mixed well. Simmer until just heated through then remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Line a sheet pan with foil then set a foil wrapped cooling rack on the cookie sheet. Using a toothpick or a skewer poke drain holes in the foil on the cooling rack. These should be spaced roughly one drain hole every inch or so.

When the onion mixture has cooled somewhat, combine the ground turkey, Italian sausage (removed from casings), bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Gently fold the mixture until well mixed and shape into a loaf on the prepared cooling rack. Coat the Meat Loaf very generously all over with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and Italian spices (I used a store bought grinder with a mixture of Italian Spices including garlic, red pepper, and rosemary.)

Place the meat loaf in the oven and bake for one hour. (Note: If you place a pan of hot water on the shelf below the meat loaf this will keep your loaf from splitting.) Meanwhile, combine the ketchup, coriander, hot pepper sauce, and vinegar in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir until well mixed and heated through. When meat loaf has cooked one hour, carefully remove it from the oven and coat evenly with the ketchup glaze. Return the meat loaf to the oven and bake 30 minutes more.

Allow the meat loaf to rest 15 minutes before slicing.