Bait, Hooks & Tackle

Fishing season is off to a great start. We have two outings under our belt and only one hook through the foot, not a bad ratio. Things have changed a lot since last year. Cutting worms in half, no problem. Hooking bait thru the eyeball, not an issue. Our poles have doubled in size, we’ve got some fancy new lures, and the boys are able to sit still for five full minutes. That’s five minutes more than last summer!

Although we haven’t caught any fish yet our hopes remain high. I’m ready to cook the first thing we catch but in the meantime some shrimp from the freezer will have to do. After last week’s beet debacle I needed to make amends, and I know shrimp is usually a sure thing…

Taco Shrimp w/Spicy-Lime Dip


For the dipping sauce:

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

Juice of ½ lime

1 tsp hot sauce, adjust to taste

Salt & pepper to taste

For the shrimp:

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ package of taco seasoning

Juice of 1 lime

Handful of fresh cilantro, rough chopped

1 1b. Raw shrimp, large or jumbo, peeled and deveined

Lime wedges, optional

(Recipe by Elaine Studdert)



For the sauce:

Mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime juice and hot sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. And more hot sauce if you like it spicy. Refrigerate for up to an hour to let flavors combine. Dipping sauce can be made ahead and stored in refrigerator for 3-4 days.

For the shrimp:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, taco seasoning, lime juice and cilantro.


Add the shrimp to the mixture and coat well. Marinate shrimp for 15-20 minutes.


Heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add shrimp to pan and cook no longer than 3-4 minutes per side, depending on the size on the shrimp. Shrimp are cooked when they are opaque and turn pink.


Place shrimp on platter with dipping sauce, and garnish with lime wedges. Serve cold or at room temperature.



And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Love this”

Liam (age 5): “Shrimp are my favorite, better than cheese”

Dylan (age 5): “Dip is too spicy”

Next time we are doubling this recipe!


In A Pinch

The other day I was Skyping with my sister. The topic of my blog came up as it often does (she is my editor and biggest fan) and she started giving me grief about how infrequent my posts have been in the last month or so. Well I immediately launched into a rant about how little time I had to get things done around here. How busy the holidays had been. How some nights I could barely get dinner to the table much less photograph it, write about it and get it up on the blog. Blah blah blah…

Even though our connection was not that great and there was bit of a time delay I could still see her rolling her eyes. Clearly, this excuse was not working on her. She wanted a weekly post in her mailbox, not some lame reason why I couldn’t get it done.

It got me thinking that I really needed to come up with some healthy meals that I could pull together super quick for those nights when we are racing against the clock to bedtime. And they needed to be blog worthy. Not just scrambled cheesy eggs, which are delicious, but not exactly interesting to read about or very original. Thus, my “In A Pinch Series” is born. A meal that is half homemade, half store-bought. Ideal for those nights when you are lingering somewhere between a leisurely home cooked meal and takeout.

Indian Simmer Sauce Shrimp


1 lb bag of raw frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

2 cups Indian tomato simmer sauce (see note)

1/2 bag fresh baby spinach, pre-washed, roughly torn

2 Tbsp mascarpone cheese (optional)

Handful chopped cilantro (optional)


Note: I get a delicious Indian tomato simmer sauce at our local farmers market. When I see the vendor I stock up. But most supermarkets have several options of this type of sauce to choose from. You can use tomato simmer, green curry, or yellow curry sauce.


Rinse shrimp, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile heat the simmer sauce in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Stir 1/4 cup of water into the simmer sauce. Then add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.


Add the shrimp to the sauce and cover. Cook over medium heat until the shrimp are cooked through, about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.


Lastly, stir in the mascarpone cheese. Cook for an additional minute until cheese is melted into the sauce. The mascarpone is optional but it makes the sauce creamy and tames the spice. Milk or yogurts are good substitutes.


Serve over rice or with a hunk of crusty sourdough bread. Garnish with fresh cilantro.


And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Whoa, that is spicy! Water, water!”

Liam (age 4): “I’m not eating this”

Dylan (age 4): “The Indian sauce is good”

Although the reviews don’t sound stellar, I consider this one a success. I got Matthew water and he inhaled it (the water and the shrimp). Liam did eventually try it and no one was bothered by the spinach!

Do you have any quick and easy semi-homemade recipes? Would love to hear about them!

The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

I tested lots of pumpkin and sweet potato recipes last month. There was pumpkin risotto, sweet potato fries, and pumpkin brownies, just to name a few. The boys finally put their feet down and demanded an end to it. The other night at dinner they delicately told me enough was enough. “Gross, not another orange dinner thingie!” Kids can be so subtle.

Well, I can certainly read between the lines, I got the message loud and clear. Looking back it must have been the pumpkin turkey meatballs that put things over the top. For the record, I thought they had potential. I might even post about it next year at Thanksgiving time. But after a month of gourds and potatoes even I needed a break from it. I took a vote to see what the family might want to try for a change of pace. It was unanimous – they all wanted shrimp.

I was happy to hear it because I had some shrimp in the freezer and rice noodles in the pantry. I confess this recipe came straight off the package of rice noodles (with minor adjustments). Surprisingly, it wasn’t half bad, except Brian and I had to break out the hot sauce since it was lacking in the spice department. In spite of this, it seemed to hit the right note for the kids and, more importantly, it wasn’t orange.

Un-spicy Shrimp Pad Thai (very kid-friendly!)


1 package rice noodles

1/3-cup vinegar

1/3-cup sugar

1/3-cup fish sauce

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp fresh limejuice

1 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp vegetable oil or peanut oil, divided

2 eggs, beaten

1 bunch scallion, chopped into small rounds, reserve some for garnish

1 lb small or medium sized shrimp, peeled and de-veined



1/2 cup crushed salted peanuts

1/2 cup cucumbers, seeded and cut into matchsticks

Reserved scallions

Lime wedges

Handful of cilantro, rough chopped




Soak rice noodles according to package directions and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, Worcestershire, limejuice, and soy sauce until the sugar is dissolved. Set sauce aside.

In a large skillet heat one tablespoon of oil on high heat. Add the eggs and swirl them a bit around the pan. Let the eggs cook but make sure they don’t brown. Remove the eggs from skillet, cut into small pieces and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add scallions and cook for about two minutes until softened, then add the shrimp. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes just until shrimp are pink. Remove from skillet and set aside.


Add the noodles and sauce to the skill and coat the noodles well. Then add the shrimp, scallions and eggs back to the skillet and toss to combine.

Place in bowls and top with nuts, cucumbers, scallions, lime and cilantro. Serve with chopsticks!

IMG_6969 IMG_6968

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “I like the lime on it!”

Liam (age 4): “How do we squeeze this lemine in?

Dylan (age 4): “Oh, nice bowl”

Play Dates

A lot of times when the boys have friends over they want it to be a “dinner” play date. As I am cooking for three anyway, I usually don’t mind, what is one or two more. But since all play dates are not created equal, there are times the night doesn’t always end as planned.

Awhile back we had a few friends over and I served tuna fish to the kids. OMG – big mistake – I thought since I mixed it with plain pasta it would be a no-brainer, but it was a disaster. The moms had to scramble in my fridge for something to feed their melting children. To this day, we still laugh about the “tuna incident”.

There is one little guy I particularly enjoy having over, he eats everything I put on his plate and always asks for seconds. My kids see him eating so they usually follow suit. I once mentioned to his mom how much he enjoyed my dinners. She laughed and said that he would never refuse to eat something served to him. He was taught that would not be polite. Huh?! And here I thought it was my cooking!

The other day he came over and I decided to try a recipe that my cousin Judy sent me. I thought it would be a perfect choice for the four of them. She sent me the recipe in a narrative without any specific measurements so I sort of winged it.

Judy’s Pasta  (adapted from cousin Judy’s arsenal of recipes)


1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 can diced tomato

1/2-cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup fresh spinach, rough chopped

1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

10-12 large shrimp, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces

Salt & pepper

1 lb dry pasta, we used Rotini


Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, spinach, and Worcestershire sauce.


Reduce heat and let simmer until tomatoes have softened, about 20-25 minutes. Do not add the shrimp until the last minute; they just need to heat through.


Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain and toss pasta with the sauce in the skillet. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water to help the sauce stick to the pasta. Salt and pepper to taste. Add grated parmesan cheese if desired.



And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “It’s a little good”

Liam (age 4): “It’s bad – just kidding!”

Dylan (age 4): “Don’t like the seaweed part”

Jaume (age 5): “Really yummy!”

The Cupboard is Bare

I had big plans to cook a few new dishes this week, but none of those ideas panned out. Between the ending of school and camp on the horizon there has been little time for cooking and even less time to stroll around the supermarket finding ingredients for a new recipe. There has barely been a minute to run out for the basics. Even as I am writing this I discovered there is only one more Starbucks K-cup! Might have to leave that for Brian, he is even crankier than me without his morning coffee, although he might not agree…

There has been a hilarious post by Jen Hatmaker going round the mom circuit that sums up this end of the school year frenzy in a nutshell. I must have read it about 10 times to keep my sense of humor and my sanity.

To make it even more challenging, the last days of school are all half days. And the half days are 35 minutes less than the normal half days. And the last day of school is literally 25 minutes! 25 MINUTES, what is the point? In conjunction with the half days school week, the local pool and beach are both open for the season. Which translates into a lot of packing and repacking beach bags, dressing and undressing three kids, sun blocking three kids (the worst!), throwing together lunch and dinners in a rush, getting them in and out of the car (a huge production) and of course let’s not forget all the LAUNDRY!  How many towels does a child need???

On top of it all, I just discovered that my kids all grew two inches and have barely any clothes for summer. So shopping for bathing suits trumped the trip to farmers market this week.

But after rummaging through the fridge I discovered I had some decent ingredients: a bag of frozen shrimp, a knob of ginger, some questionable scallions (remove the outside leaves and they are good as new), a shriveled old lime– and way in the back of the pantry, a forgotten can of coconut milk and some rice, The possibilities were endless but time wasn’t so I went simple.


Ginger Shrimp with Coconut Rice


1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

2 scallions, chopped

Juice of 1 old lime

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp honey

1/4-cup olive oil (peanut oil or canola oil would probably be better but I had none)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 lb. bag frozen shrimp, defrosted, peeled and deveined

12 wooden skewers (optional)

1 cup Jasmati rice

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup water

Pinch of salt


For the shrimp

In a large bowl combine, ginger, garlic, scallions, lime juice, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, oil, salt and pepper, whisk until well blended. Add shrimp and let marinate for 20 minutes.


Soak skewers in shallow pan with cold water while shrimp are marinating.

Preheat grill or a grill pan to high. Remove shrimp from marinade and thread onto skewers, do not overcrowd. Grill 2-3 minutes per side.



For the rice

Cook rice according to package directions but replace 1 cup of water with coconut milk.

Serve shrimp over coconut rice.


And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “Shrimp!”

Liam (age 4): “Shrimp!”

Dylan (age 4): “Shrimpie!”

And then total silence until they screamed for more. I think I even heard a please!