Tag Archives: Shrimp

Summer Entertaining: Guiltless Tapas

Summer Entertaining - Guiltless Tapas

Clockwise from top left: Caprese salad, spicy garlic shrimp, turkey bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo, walnut cranberry date balls

Last month, to celebrate our wedding anniversary, I made a tapas spread fit for a king…or in this case, my husband. One of our early dating rituals was frequenting restaurants that served sangria and tapas. Nothing is better than sitting outside at a cafe in the summer, sipping sangria and grazing on tapas. Nothing. Except if your dog is haunting you for a nibble…but I digress.

Are these recipes completely guiltless? Well, not really. But, wherever I could, I used lower calorie options, like substituting turkey bacon for regular bacon. You get my drift. But you’ll also see no bread or wheat, so these are all gluten-free.

The great thing about these recipes too is that I made everything in just over an hour.  Plus, if you’re entertaining friends and family, you can keep the dishes coming as you finish. So, to start this meal, I started with something easy– a caprese salad.

Caprese Salad


  • 1 or 2 beefsteak tomatoes
  • buffalo mozzarella
  • fresh basil
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar


Cut the tomatoes into thick slices and arrange on a serving plate. Cut similar-sized slices of the buffalo mozzarella and place them on top of the tomato slices. Next, chop up the fresh basil and sprinkle over the tomatoes and cheese. Lightly drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad and serve.

Walnut Cranberry Date Balls

Next, I served up these walnut, dried cranberry & date balls. I know the picture above looks like raw meatballs, but I’m telling you, these are soooo delicious that you’ll want to devour the plate. Also, these are a good snacking option if you’ve been working out as they also have protein powder.

Walnut Cranberry Date Balls

Adapted from the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan


  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup pitted whole dates
  • ¾ cup walnuts (unsalted)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (optional)


Place walnuts in a food processor and chop until the nuts are finely ground. Remove nuts into a bowl. Next, place the remaining ingredients (dried cranberries, dates and protein powder) into the food processor and mix until a paste forms. In the bowl, combine the cranberry-date paste with the chopped walnuts. Place bowl in refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill. Once the mixture is chilled, roll the paste into 1-inch snack balls and serve. These can also be made ahead.


Keep those dates handy, as you’ll be using them for this traditional Spanish tapas recipe, Turkey Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Chorizo. Yum….

Turkey Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Chorizo

Turkey Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Chorizo

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine


  • 1 small Spanish chorizo sausage (about 2 ounces), casing removed
  • dates, pitted
  • 12 slices of turkey bacon, halved crosswise
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • toothpicks


Slice chorizo into small, matchstick-sized pieces. Tuck each chorizo stick into a date and pinch the date shut. Wrap a turkey bacon strip around the date and secure with a toothpick. Next, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Place the wrapped dates in the pan and sauté for about 10 minutes or until all sides of the turkey bacon have thoroughly cooked. Serve immediately.


Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine



  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle chile pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined medium shrimp
  • Sea Salt


In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add garlic, chile pepper and parsley and saute for about 30 seconds. Next, add the shrimp and adobo sauce. If you prefer more heat, add more adobo sauce. Sauté until the shrimp turn pink and curl. Sprinkle with salt and serve.


Summer Sangria RecipeAnd where would a tapas meal be without sangria? You can make this recipe the night before since it will need to chill for at least 4 hours. Traditional sangria recipes call for wine and liquor, but to cut the calories a bit, this recipe also uses seltzer, which gives it some fizz.

Summer Sangria

Adapted from Tropical Sangria recipe in Cosmopolitan magazine


  • 1 (750-ml) bottle full-bodied red wine, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur, such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
  • 1 orange (unpeeled), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1 (8-oz) can pineapple chunks packed in 100% juice, with juice
  • 2 cups naturally flavored lime or lemon-lime seltzer or club soda

Summer Sangria ingredients


Combine all of the ingredients (except the seltzer) in a large pitcher and stir. Chill for at least 4 hours (or overnight) in a refrigerator. Before serving, add chilled seltzer to the pitcher and stir.


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Dinner Tonight: Rigatoni & Shrimp with Vodka Sauce

When I was in college, there was an Italian restaurant just off-campus, Mario & Luigi’s, which had an all-you-can-eat pasta night on Mondays. My go-to dish was penne alla vodka. Oh it was so good!

Of course it was loaded with calories and fat, but at 19 I didn’t really care that much. Now though? Yeah, I care.

About a year ago I found a penne with vodka sauce recipe on Weight Watchers that had rave reviews. Could it be too good to be true? Nope! And my picky Italian husband – he loves it! He cannot believe it’s a Weight Watchers recipe.  And better yet, he calls this dish “blog worthy.”

I’ve adapted the recipe quite a bit. For one, my husband’s favorite noodle shape is rigatoni and it sops up the sauce better. For another, it needed protein, so I’ve added shrimp. Also, it seemed like such a waste not to use the whole small can of tomato paste and box of pasta, so I usually use all of it. To make up for those tweaks, I substitute fat-free half-and-half for heavy whipping cream.

This is definitely a meal you can cook on a work night. I can usually make this in a half hour or less. Also, if you have leftovers, it reheats very well.

Rigatoni & Shrimp alla Vodka Sauce

Adapted from Penne with Vodka Sauce recipe on Weight Watchers

Serves: 6


  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, separated
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • ½ tsp. coarse sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
  • 6 oz. canned tomato paste
  • 2 oz. vodka (use a quality vodka, not the cheap stuff)
  • 1 lb. uncooked rigatoni
  • ½ cup fat-free half-and-half
  • 20 leaf/leaves basil, fresh, cut into ribbons


Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add half of the butter, shallots and garlic. Sauté until shallots start to caramelize, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add parsley, sea salt and pepper, stirring once or twice. Add tomato paste and mix to form a paste. Cook for about 5 minutes, moving paste around pan occasionally so it doesn’t burn. Add vodka. Scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon and cook for about 5 minutes more.

At the same time, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the butter and raw shrimp (peeled and deveined) and sauté for about 5 minutes.

While everything is cooking, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions on the box and then drain.

Add half-and-half to tomato sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 3 minutes.

Add shrimp and pasta to sauce and mix to coat. Serve and top with basil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus value: 10 points

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Dinner Tonight: Shrimp Étouffée with Rice

I am a big fan of anything related to New Orleans… The culture, art, music and of course, the food! I’ve now visited NOLA three times, including Jazz Fest last year. While there last year, I had my best meal at an after-hours venue…a bowling alley of all places!. The meal was shrimp étouffée served out of a foil chafing pan at the Rock ‘n Bowl. It was soooo delicious. And that’s saying a lot since I ate very well that trip!

Shrimp (or crawfish) étouffée is a traditional Cajun dish that is usually served over rice. A rich roux forms the base of the recipe, which consists of flour and butter melted together. Traditional roux is made from lard  — but I want to still fit into my jeans. It can take a bit of time to make a roux, depending on how much étouffée you’re making. When you first start cooking the roux, it looks like this:

After you have been constantly stirring, so it doesn’t burn, the roux should be the color of peanut butter, like below. (I was visualizing Jif here.)

The first time I made shrimp étouffée, it was a several years ago from a recipe I found in The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American. Unfortunately, the recipe isn’t available online.  I recently made it again, this time from an Emeril Lagasse recipe on foodnetwork.com.

I adapted the recipe somewhat, first by cutting the recipe in half, since the original served 10.  I also bought Emeril’s Essence spice at the grocery story, but I think next time I’ll play around with the spices more. There is a link to his recipe for Essence on the website. I would also punch it up a little more next time with more cayenne or Tabasco. This was a tad flat. I cheated a little with this recipe too. Instead of making my own shrimp stock, as the recipe suggests, I used canned seafood stock. Homemade stock would have given the étouffée more depth. So, with those notes, here we go!

Shrimp Étouffée

Adapted from recipe in New New Orleans Cooking, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch

About 5 servings


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cups chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 cups chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you want more heat)
  • 2 tablespoons Essence, recipe here
  • 1/2 quart shrimp stock or seafood stock
  • 1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp (21 to 25 count per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
  • Steamed white rice, for serving
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion tops, for garnish


Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the flour and stir continuously to make a roux. Stir the roux over medium heat until the color of peanut butter, 5 to 7 minutes (see picture above).

Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic to the roux, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the pot and season with the bay leaves, salt, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of the Essence. Cook the tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes and then whisk in the shrimp stock.

Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook the étouffée, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Season the shrimp with the remaining tablespoon of Essence and add them to the pot, stirring to evenly distribute. Cook the shrimp for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Add the chopped parsley to the pot and stir to combine.

Serve immediately over steamed white rice and garnish with sliced green onion tops.

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