Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce

shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce | sunsets on the side

shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce | sunsets on the side

I’m a pasta girl.  I always have been.

I am legitimately half Italian, so I guess I come by it honestly.  But, truly, if I didn’t think my husband would object, I’d have absolutely no problem eating pasta for dinner every single night.

And, this particular pasta?

It’s everything.

It’s rich and filling from the cream sauce yet bright and fresh from the lemon.  The shrimp and vegetables add pops of color and flavor and keep it from seeming too heavy.  (See, I had spinach with my heavy cream.  Antioxidants!  Iron!).

Oh, and did I mention it’s easy?  If you prep a little bit ahead of time – zest and juice the lemons and chop the vegetables, you can totally cook this baby in about 25 minutes flat.

Win.

Shrimp Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce
 
Author:
Makes: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb shrimp (31/35 count), peeled & deveined
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. penne (or any short pasta)
  • ½ cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. In a large (12”) nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp to the pan. Sear the first side for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side until they are cooked through. Remove the cooked shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic to the remaining olive oil. Cook for one minute.
  3. Add the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until it thickens.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water with a handful of kosher salt to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and put back in the pot.
  5. Add the thickened lemon cream sauce to the pasta in the pot. Add tomatoes, spinach, and parmesan cheese. Stir together to coat with the sauce. Let the mixture cook on low for 3-5 minutes until the sauce is mostly absorbed into the pasta, and it coats the other ingredients.
  6. Turn off the heat, add the basil, and stir to combine.
  7. Serve hot with extra parmesan cheese, if desired.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Grasshopper Pie

grasshopper pie | sunsets on the side

grasshopper pie | sunsets on the side

Today is my husband’s birthday.  (He’s just slightly older than the single candle suggests).

During our recent visit with his parents, we somehow got on the topic of a secret recipe folder Scott keeps hidden away in an undisclosed location.  One recipe found in said location is this recipe for Grasshopper Pie.  It’s one of his favorite things his mom made when he was a kid, and even though she’d sent him the recipe, he’d never had any success making it himself.

He seemed so excited by the prospect of finding the recipe so I could give it a whirl that I decided I’d make it for his birthday dessert.  It’s no secret that I’m not a cake lover, so anytime I see good reason to skip one, I take full advantage.

grasshopper pie in the making | sunsets on the side

This recipe has all the main elements of a throwback birthday dessert.  It’s really fast and easy to put together, it’s delicious, and it makes you feel all loved and nostalgic on your special day.  Sometimes, only a childhood favorite will do.

So, even though we did an early celebration while his mom and dad were still in town, now it’s sort of like we’re all together in spirit again today, thanks to a long-awaited, successful remake of the Grasshopper Pie recipe.

Happy Birthday, Scott!

Grasshopper Pie
 
Author:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 24 Oreo cookies
  • 4 T. butter, melted
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • ¼ cup Crème de Menthe liquor
  • 1 (7-oz) jar marshmallow creme
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the Oreo cookies until they’re broken into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process to combine.
  2. Pour most of the crumbs (reserve 2-3 T. to decorate the top) into a 2-qt. soufflé dish and press firmly into the bottom. (You can use a different size/shape pan if you'd like. A 9x13" dish would work or, the original recipe calls for the use of a baking sheet. But, I didn't have room for that in my freezer!).
  3. Place the cold cream into a large bowl. With a hand mixer, begin to beat the cream on very low speed. Once it starts to thicken, turn the speed of the mixer up and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl with the mixer on low speed, slowly incorporate the Crème de Menthe into the marshmallow creme. Mix until combined.
  5. With a spatula, gently fold the crème de menthe mixture into the whipped cream. Pour over the Oreo crust, and sprinkle the top with the reserved Oreo crumbs.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 3 hours or until ready to serve. Remove from freezer 5-10 minutes before serving.

Recipe from “Three Rivers Cookbook,” by Norma Sproull.

Strawberry Lime Cheesecakes with Pretzel Graham Crust

strawberry lime cheesecakes with pretzel graham crust | sunsets on the side

strawberry lime cheesecakes with pretzel graham crust | sunsets on the side

This is probably my favorite time of year in St. Pete.  The humidity typically hasn’t picked up yet.  The temperatures are still cool.  It actually feels like spring.  Spring training adds a festive energy all around the area.  We usually get a lot of fun visitors from the north who just can’t take it anymore.

And, we have local strawberries.

Life is good.

When I originally started playing around with this recipe, I was using fresh strawberries.  And, darn it if I just couldn’t get it to work.  I buzzed up the strawberries, made a sauce, mixed the sauce into the cheesecake mixture, and…it just wasn’t tasting right.  So, I ultimately switched over to strawberry jam, and that worked like a breeze.

I sort of want to apologize to our local strawberries for skipping them this time, but I’m sure I’ll figure out plenty of uses for them in the upcoming weeks.

In the meantime, break out your jam, and try this little taste of spring.  Whether your temperatures are starting to inch upwards or it’s still a deep freeze where you live, this may just be a nice change of pace from your winter menu.

Strawberry Lime Cheesecakes with Pretzel Graham Crust
 
Author:
Makes: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • ~~~For Crust~~~
  • 4 whole graham crackers
  • 1 cup pretzels
  • 2 T. granulated sugar
  • 4 T. unsalted butter, melted
  • ~~~For Filling~~~
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, at room temp
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup strawberry jam
  • 1 T. freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • Zest of 1 lime
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and pretzels with the sugar until they’re broken into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process to combine.
  2. Distribute crumbs evenly between 8 (6-oz.) ramekins, and press firmly into the bottom. Refrigerate the crusts while making the filling.
  3. Place the cold cream and 1 tsp. vanilla in a large bowl. With a hand mixer, begin to beat the cream on very low speed. Once it starts to thicken, turn the speed of the mixer up and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. With a mixer on medium speed, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and remaining teaspoon of vanilla. Add in the strawberry jam, lime juice, and lime zest. Mix until combined.
  5. With a spatula, fold in half of the whipped cream.
  6. Divide the cream cheese mixture evenly among the ramekins, and top each serving with a spoonful of the remaining whipped cream. Garnish with additional lime zest and sliced fresh strawberries, if desired.
  7. Chill for at least one hour or until ready to serve.

Filling adapted from Rachael Ray.

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup

homemade cream of mushroom soup | sunsets on the side

homemade cream of mushroom soup | sunsets on the side

Soup is such a comfort food, but to me, it’s also comfort cooking.  There’s just something about standing over a hot, bubbling, (usually) garlic-scented pot, adding and stirring, until something delicious is ready to serve.  It makes the whole house smell incredible, and it’s like a giant bear hug for anyone who eats it.  What better soup to bear hug them with than homemade cream of mushroom?

This is a simple soup to put together, but somehow it seems impressive.  The delicate wine and thyme flavors bring a little bit of elegance to a very familiar soup.  This would make a great first course for a holiday meal.  You could even make it the day before your big meal and reheat it slowly on the stove just before you’d like to serve it.  Or, serve it in larger portions with some crusty garlic bread for a main course on any cold winter’s night you like.

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup
 
Author:
Makes: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¾ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 cups half and half
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 T. chopped fresh chives
Instructions
  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms and thyme to the pot, stir well, and cook until the mushrooms’ liquid has cooked off and they are tender and brown, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
  3. Sprinkle in the flour, stir until it’s totally dissolved, and cook for about a minute. Pour in the wine, stir well, and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the wine is slightly reduced.
  4. Pour in the beef stock and chicken stock, and stir in the salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Using an immersion blender, blend until the mushrooms are chopped but not totally pureed.
  6. Add the half and half and cook (without boiling) just until heated through. Add the parsley and chives, and serve hot.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Farfalle with Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

farfalle with oven roasted tomato sauce

farfalle with oven roasted tomato sauce

Once upon a time, this pasta was a soup.

Well, not really.

Once upon a time, I made a soup recipe and thought, “wouldn’t this method be a great way to make a quick pasta sauce?”  (Incidentally, if you’re always on the lookout for easy, creamy soup recipes like I am, definitely hop over and check this one out.  It’s crazy delicious).

oven roasted tomatoes

This sauce is great because it takes less than half an hour to get a sauce that tastes like you cooked it all day.  And, it’s perfect for a simple weeknight dinner, too.  It doesn’t take much time from start to finish as it is.  But, you could make this sauce over the weekend, refrigerate it, and then just heat it up while you cook some pasta on a weeknight.  Easy.

If you’re looking for something heart healthy, you can omit the cream.  But….you know.

It’s better with the cream.

Farfalle with Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce
 
Author:
Makes: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. plum tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1” chunks
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz. farfalle (or any short pasta)
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place tomatoes, cut side down, and onions onto the baking sheet and brush with the olive oil (it will seem like a lot, but the extra that spills onto the sheet will protect the garlic from burning). Sprinkle garlic, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and thyme evenly over the tomatoes.
  3. Roast until tomatoes and onions are soft and brown around the edges, about 22-24 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. Place tomatoes, onions, and all the juices from the baking sheet into a blender. Add the red pepper flakes and cream. Blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. (I like the garlic to totally disappear into the sauce, but you could leave this sauce chunkier if you prefer that consistency).
  5. Pour sauce into a serving bowl, reserving some of the sauce for serving.
  6. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  7. Drain the cooked pasta, and place it into the serving bowl with the sauce. Add parmesan, fresh parsley, and fresh basil, and toss to combine. Serve with reserved sauce and extra parmesan on top.

Adapted from Taste of Home.