Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dinner on the Farm - Shrimp Scampi

I love shrimp scampi! It's easy to make but most recipes load it with butter and white pasta's. Some make richer sauces than others. Following a few simple steps you can convert Shrimp Scampi and most other recipes to low fat, reduced calorie and heart healthy.

Most all grocers sell a whole grain pasta however they vary in nutritional value. It really does pay to read labels. You'll be surprised in the difference between products that are seemingly healthy.

The things to look for are ingredients, sodium content, serving size and caloric value.

When looking for ingredients, the first ones listed will tell the story of the product. I cannot tell you how many times I have picked up something that said whole grain and the first ingredient was bleached flour.

A low sodium content is important for a heart healthy diet. Sodium can raise blood pressure and allows the body retain water. New guidelines suggest we consume only 1800mg a day. For John and I we usually keep it way under 1000mg. Think your food will be bland? Not at all if you use Mrs. Dash, garlic, vinegars, wine and some other marinades like Liquid Smoke and Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and lime juice.

Serving size is the big one. Most people cannot envision what a 1c or less serving size is. To make it easy I bought a variety of Rubbermaid storage containers and measured how much each of them held. Then with a sharpie I wrote on the corresponding lid. It helped me learn just how much each serving size was which helped me when I was shopping.

Caloric value goes hand in hand with serving size. Just because a product looks like it is low in calories it may not be unless you can eat the serving size and be satisfied or if the serving size is sensible.

Now on to the recipe and method of cooking...

Cook your whole grain spaghetti pasta, drain and drizzle 1 tsp olive oil over it. Stir well. This keeps it from sticking.

In a sauce pan using 2 tablespoons olive oil saute 2 tlb minced garlic, and 2 cups total of a mixture of chopped celery, onion and bell pepper.  When the vegetables are just starting to get tender, but not totally cooked, add in 1 lb shrimp. I had large shrimp that I cut into pieces. Cook the vegetables and shrimp about 4-5 min or until the shrimp turn pink. Add 1/4 c. lemon juice and 1/3 c or more while wine and some fresh cracked pepper and cook 1-2 min more. 

Pour over the whole grain pasta and mix. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over your portion. The lemon juice and white wine make it pop and you will not miss the salt. 

Very good, quick and heart healthy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The sounds of spring - Night Sounds..

If you stop to listen...just listen to the outside world it is amazing what you can hear.

This evening just before dusk, the coyote pack that runs in the wooded area across from us was on the move. There is another pack that runs in the woods behind the house closer to the river. Sometimes late at night, after the television is off and John and Chuckie are asleep and I cannot fall asleep, I just lay there to listen to the night sounds.

Usually I hear vehicles coming down our county road more than a mile before they finally reach the house and pass by. Sometimes I hear owls hooting but that doesn't happen very often except in the spring and summer. I wonder if they are watching for baby animals to stray too far from their mothers for an easy midnight snack and when our kitten litters thin out with no sign of a baby kitten we blame it on the owls.

Often though I hear the coyote packs. I have heard them so often that I can tell them apart. The pack across the street has coyotes that tends to yip with a higher yip and their cadence is different as singers singing the same song.

The pack across the street travels closer to the house too. I hear them yip and sing for long periods of time and if you really listen you can hear them moving across the county road and into the corn field behind us or sometimes, our pasture. The pack behind the house occasionally yips at the same time as the other pack and I am not sure if they are calling each other or warning each other of territorial boundaries.

It's about time for female coyotes to be giving birth to their pups too and I don't expect to hear the them on the move for several months or if they do the packs will be running lighter leaving the female in the den. If I were to guess they were yipping tonight at dusk to call the pack closer or to announce a big meal or perhaps to announce the birth of new offspring.

I love to listen to the night sounds. You also hear the farm cats in a scrap or a lone tom cat making a patrol around the house. You can hear him starting in the front and as he turns the corner to the back of the property his slow meow gets louder until he moves further from the house and you no longer hear him. If you are still awake in about half an hour, you'll hear him come around again. I don't know where he goes but it seems he is taking a long walk to patrol the farm.

You hear occasional bugs too and as the summer get closer you will hear a multitude of chirps and whistles. The tree frogs should also be in song soon. I hope they hurry as there is an abundance of mosquitoes to eat.

When the wind is just right you also hear a train whistle from one of the two lines that are fairly close to the house although I cannot distinguish between the two.

So between the occasional vehicle, coyotes, cats, bugs, owls and frogs and a multitude of other things that make noise in the night it is anything but quite in rural America. In fact it can be very noisy!