Quarantine Cooking Part 2

We are in quarantine, so…. I started cooking!  We learned how to order groceries online and have them delivered to us.  We began using “touch free” grocery pick up.  I joined some cooking groups online.  I dug out cookbooks that I hadn’t touched in years.   Luckily, it’s the time of year for harvest and good availability of south Louisiana fresh fruits and vegetables.  My refrigerator and freezer have never been so full.  It’s become habit to make each evening very special with a cocktail hour and a sit down dinner.  There is nothing better than sitting down together to enjoy home cooked food.  It's my favorite part of the day!   

I decided to dig in and make the best of it!  What else was there to do?  My Momma used to quote the adage: “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.”  Sounds cheesy, but that attitude has always been my mantra.  I don’t have lemons, but I do have lots of groceries including fresh tomatoes, cantaloupes, peppers and other fresh vegetables, some good kitchen skills, and a keen interest in eating!  

When my feet hit the floor each morning, I plan my day which consists of some early morning walking, some laundry, sewing masks, Jeopardy recordings (Love me some Jeopardy), a little reading and a whole lot of meal planning and preparation.  You will have to understand that before the COVID-19 Pandemic my husband and I ate many meals at restaurants.  It was something we really enjoyed and there were so many times when it was just easier.  We were on first name basis with many servers and restaurant managers in our area.  You know you have been to a restaurant lots of times when the server brings the wine you like even before you are finished perusing the menu!  

This is the second in a series where I am sharing some of my Quarantine Cooking Ideas.  

CHILLED CANTALOUPE SOUP

The first time I ate chilled fruit soup was on a Mediterranean Ocean cruise we took a few years ago.  I attended a cooking demonstration on board and learned to use watermelon, peaches or berries as well.  Great way to begin a meal on a hot summer evening.  

4 cups ripe cantaloupe peeled and cut into chunks
1/3 cup cream sherry
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup  Dannon Light and Fit Greek Yogurt Vanilla Flavor
Dollop of sour cream
Mint leaves

In a blender, pulse the cantaloupe, sherry, lime juice and cinnamon until blended.  Then add the yogurt, pulsing just a couple of times until mixed.  Store in refrigerator until serving.  Stir well before pouring into serving bowls.  Garnish with sour cream, more cinnamon and mint leaves if desired.  


BAKED STUFFED TOMATOES

Ina Garten has a recipe for baked tomatoes called Provencal Tomatoes.  I based my recipe on hers but tweaked it to use the ingredients I had on hand.  We got beautiful tomatoes from our dear friend, Homer, who has a roadside vegetable stand!  My son, Greg, who is quite a cook inspired me to get creative with this one!  For a main dish idea, You could even toss in some protein, such as cooked shrimp or crab.  In the picture, the tomato is served with a baked potato (The oven was on already!) topped with cheddar cheese, sour cream, butter, and grilled shrimp.  



For each tomato:  Cut off the top of the tomato and scoop out the pulp.  Push the pulp through a sieve or strainer to extract the juice.  To the juice, add about ¼ cup breadcrumbs, about 1 teaspoon olive oil, sautéed chopped onions, chopped parsley, basil, thyme, salt, pepper and about 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine well.  Spoon the mixture into the tomato shells and top with more Parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil for easy cleanup.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Don’t overcook.  Before serving, drizzle with olive oil. 


EASY PEASY SHRIMP STEW

This recipe is my own creation based on techniques I’ve learned over the years.   My husband loves “stews” served over a starch.  Sometimes I use grits instead of rice!  The jalapeño pepper adds zing in the recipe.  To remove much of the "heat", cut the pepper in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and then chop.  Jalapeño peppers are inexpensive and full of vitamin C.  I use them raw in salads, too!  

Seasoning tips:  Add the salt just before serving because the shrimp are inherently salty.  Use smoked paprika for a richer taste and color. 

1 strip bacon, cut in small pieces
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped fine
½ green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce
8 oz. shrimp, drained well
Salt, pepper, smoked paprika
¼ cup Italian flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

In a 10-inch skillet, cook the bacon, stirring often.  When the bacon is crisp, add the peppers, onion and garlic until tender and onions are transparent.  Stir often.  Add flour to the skillet and stir until combined.  Pour in the chicken broth, stirring well and simmer for about 30 minutes.  During this time, add the Kitchen Bouquet.  About 10 minutes before serving, add the shrimp. Add more chicken broth if mixture has become too thick. Cover the skillet and simmer on very low heat until shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper and paprika to taste.  Garnish with the parsley.  Serve over hot cooked brown or white rice. This recipe serves 2 people with no leftovers.  


Enjoy these recipes!   And…. stay safe!   

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