Baked Shrimp Scampi

We had a couple dinner guests join us on Wednesday night.  My husband was out of town (surprise, surprise!), but not a big deal.  I love having people over and flying solo has become the new normal over the past year.

Only problem....I completely forgot they were coming.  100% spaced it.  Luckily, what I had in the oven was enough to feed us all.  To add to the craziness that evening, the kitchen drain decided to detach right as they got there.  Dirty water was everywhere.

The cherry on top for the evening:  my children were not on their best behavior HORRIBLE!  I sat them down afterward to talk about expectations...and how I would feed them all ramen for a week if they ever behaved that way again.
So, I certainly wasn't the entertainer/hostess I like to be, but we all survived.  Though, I don't know if our guests will ever cross the thresh hold of our home again.  If I can convince them to give me another chance, I will serve them this extraordinary shrimp dish.  As I devoured it last night, I began planning my next dinner party that would feature this dish as the star.
This is divine enough to convince anyone that they love shrimp.  Have I mentioned yet how scrumptious this was?  I felt guilty dumping out the extra juices that formed on the bottom of the pan.  Next time, I will prepare some pasta, pour the extra juices on top and add a grating of fresh parmesan cheese.  I can taste the perfection already...
The recipe calls to butterfly the shrimp, mainly so they will stand up beautifully in the casserole dish. To butterfly them, simply run a paring knife down the back of each shrimp and cut a bit over half way through the thickness. 
If you are short on time, or patience, butterflying certainly isn't necessary.  Just spread the shelled, deveined shrimp in the bottom of the pan.  You might need to cook it a couple minutes longer though, since they will be thicker.
Baked Shrimp Scampi
(adapted from Ina Garten)
2 pounds extra large shrimp in the shell (15-18 per pound)
3 Tb olive oil
1 Tb white wine vinegar
1 Tb water
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper

1 C butter, room temperature
4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 C minced shallots
3 Tb minced fresh parsley
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
1 large egg yolk
2/3 C panko bread crumbs  *You could also use fresh bread crumbs

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Peel, de-vein and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on.  Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil, vinegar, water, salt and pepper.  Set aside while you make the topping.
2.  In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the topping.  It helps to use a fork to mash the butter a bit.  Set aside.
3.  Arrange the shrimp cut side down with the tails curling up, in a casserole that has been lightly sprayed with nonstick spray.  Pour any liquid left from the bowl of shrimp over the top.
4.  Using your fingers, dot the topping evenly over the arranged shrimp.  Bake for 12 minutes until hot and bubbly.  If you would like the top browned more, place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.

**For gluten-free, use gluten-free bread crumbs. 
**For a freezer meal, prepare as above in a disposable foil pan or a Glad Ovenware dish.  Once the dish is topped, do not bake.  Cover well, label and freeze.  To prepare, remove from freezer to allow the dish to thaw and bake as directed above.

Rainbow Rice

Joining Pinterest has help remind me of some of the fun activities I used to do with my "older generation" of children.  Having only 1, 2 or 3 kids naturally left me with the time to be creative.  Now with 6 kiddos, each day is a delicate balance of scheduling, patience and putting out fires :)
So last week, I decided to clear my morning and find something different and creative to do with my little ones.  This rainbow rice was the choice and it was a HUGE success.....and a huge mess, but that's not the point, right?!?!
In fact, my four year old had so much fun that he flat out refused to go to preschool the next day, so he could stay home and "have fun with Mom."  I think I need to put more effort and creativity into my time with these younger kids just like I did with their older siblings.
Yes, it does make a big mess, so lay out a blanket for them to dump it on.  It makes for a quick clean up by dumping it back into the container.  Some of it does have to be vacuumed up, but their pure joy is worth the mess.  Every morning, my two year old asks to play with her "ice".  I think the plan can be labeled a complete success.
The rubbing alcohol does have quite a strong smell, but once it dries, the smell is gone, so don't be afraid!
Rainbow Rice
(adapted from Share and Remember)
For each color of rice:
4 C uncooked rice
3 T rubbing alcohol
2 small globs of food color gel, or 2 T liquid food coloring

1.  In a gallon size ziploc bag, combine all three ingredients.  Remove the air and zip close.  Smoosh and mash the bag until the color is evenly distributed.
2.  Pour onto a cookie sheet and allow to dry completely.  It helps drying time to stir it occasionally.

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

One aspect of my life I am trying to get under better control is my menu planning.  I have planned my menu for years, but I am attempting to plan out more of the details so I am not stuck one night because I forgot to defrost something from the freezer or missed an ingredient at the grocery store.

I have used Remember The Milk for about a year to keep track of my daily task list, but just recently I started using it for my menu planning, preparations and shopping list.  It has made a major difference.  Not only does my list tell me what I am making for dinner, but gives me a time I need to start so it is ready by 6:00.  Also, if there is a recipe that requires prep a day or two ahead (like defrosting or marinating), that is now on my list so I am ready to go!
I love being organized and planned out.  My days are much less hectic and frantic.  Last week during game night, a friend of mine made fun of this personality trait, but he can mock all he wants.  Running a family of 8, most of the time on my own while my hubby travels, takes A LOT of planning and organization.  Our family would fall to pieces without it.  A bit obsessive-compulsive, yes.  A complete necessity, yes!
Yum, yum, an easy slow cooker I make extra to stick the it is low-carb and gluten free!  All of those equal a perfect recipe for my life right now.
Crock Pot Chicken Caesar Sandwiches
(adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything)
3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs *You can use breasts, but the thighs have more flavor!!! And they are cheaper!
seasonings (salt, pepper, 1 bay leaf, garlic and onion powder)
1 C quality Caesar dressing
1/2 fresh parmesan cheese *Yes, use fresh!
1/4 C fresh chopped italian parsley *Yes, use fresh!
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1.  Place chicken in your slow cooker and season with listed seasonings.  Use enough water to come just shy of covering the chicken thighs.  They should be sticking out slightly.  Cook on low for 6 hours.
2.  Remove the chicken from the cooker and drain away the water.  Pull in the chicken into shreds, discarding any fat pieces.
3.  Place the chicken back in the cooker and pour on the dressing, fresh parmesan cheese, parsley and pepper.  Mix completely and cook on high until mixture is hot, about 30 minutes.
**For low-carb and gluten free, serve wrapped in large lettuce leaves or gluten-free buns.

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Portabellos

Do you love spinach artichoke dip as much as I do???  My hubby and I used to go to our local restaurant and order just that for dinner :)
So take that amazing dip, stuff it into beefy portabello mushrooms and a crispy topping.  Viola!  My husband declared these were "the best way he had ever eaten mushrooms."

My kids were VERY hesitant to eat these.  After all the rude comments, I was ready to serve them all oatmeal instead and save these for those who appreciate such amazing deliciousness.  Of course, once they stopped flapping out complaints and actually tasted them, I won over 5 of the 6 kids.  
To prepare the large portabellos, you need to clean them up a bit more than the normal wipe down with a damp towel.  First, use a paring knife to cut off the stem level with the inside of the mushroom.
To remove the gills, use a small spoon and scrape them away.  My kids were disgusted when they saw the bowl of scraped out gills.  Of course, it didn't help I told them it was "mushroom poop." I guess that might explain why they put up such a fuss to eat them.  Hmmm....maybe I should be eating the oatmeal for causing my own problems!
Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Portabellos
adapted from Annie's Eats

3 T olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
4-5 medium-large portabello mushrooms, wiped clean and stems removed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (reduced fat is fine)
3 tbsp. mayonnaise (reduced fat is fine)
3/4 tsp dried thyme
9-10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 can small artichokes, drained, patted dry and coarsely chopped
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs 
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1.  Preheat the oven to 450˚ F. In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with two thirds of the minced garlic. Scrape the gills from the inside of the mushroom caps. Set the mushroom caps on a baking pan, bottom side up, and brush lightly with the garlic-oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes.  When you remove them, pour off any liquid that has pooled inside the mushrooms before filling.
2.  Meanwhile, mix the filling. Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, remaining garlic, ½ teaspoon of the thyme, spinach and 1/4 C fresh parmesan in a medium bowl. Stir together until evenly blended. Gently stir in the artichokes. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Evenly spoon the filling mixture into the roasted mushroom caps.
3.  In another small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the breadcrumbs, remaining 1/4 C Parmesan, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of thyme. Stir with a fork to blend. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the filling mixture on each mushroom. Bake for 10 more minutes or until golden and warmed through. Serve immediately.
**To make gluten-free, use gluten free bread to make your breadcrumbs or just top with the fresh parmesan cheese.  To make low-carb, just top with parmesan cheese.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Last week, I was hit with a quite a sucker punch.  I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance.  Um....excuse me??!?!

I am still in the mourning stage right now.  All I can think about are the endless amazing foods I will never again be able to eat.  Sure, I could sneak a taste here and there, but the extreme pain that lasts for days just isn't worth it.  

I'm not sure where I am going from here, but I am grateful that after 5 years, I finally have an answer to my misery.  
I've already had a few people ask me if I was going to switch my whole family to a gluten-free diet.  Nope!  So don't unsubscribe because I promise to post those gluten-loaded recipes, but the reviews will have to come second-hand :)

I have already gone through my previous posts and labeled those that are gluten-free and will continue to do so.  There are a lot of great recipes out there, both with and without gluten, and I hope to find a great balance for everyone involved!

There are so many different versions of this recipe out there, but I adore my version the best.  I think it is the perfect proportion of all five ingredients.  Not too heavy on any one.  Perfectly balanced.  Yes, you can substitute out the blue cheese for a ranch, but the blue cheese really is quite subtle (again, that perfect balance!) so don't dismiss it before you try it.  I think it is considerably better with the blue cheese than the ranch and I don't like blue cheese :)
Buffalo Chicken Dip
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 C blue cheese salad dressing
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
3 1/2 C cooked chicken, shredded
1 C Franks Hot Sauce for Wings
1 C shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 2 qt baking dish with nonstick spray.
2.  In a medium bowl, mix together the warm, shredded chicken with the hot sauce.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
3.  In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese, salad dressing and 1 C of shredded cheese.  Add the chicken mixture and mix thoroughly.  Pour into the greased pan and sprinkle with the other 1 C of cheese.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until bubbly.  Serve with Fritos.