Life with toddlers is much more fun than life with newborns, though I would give my right arm to actually HAVE another newborn in our lives, and every day seems like an adventure now. It may take an hour to pick up three items at the grocery store, since we have to stop and get a free balloon, pick out a gumball, discuss the different tomatoes, talk about spices, say hello to the lobsters in the tank, etc; but I much more enjoy simple, annoying chores like grocery shopping now that I get it to see everything through the eyes of a two-year-old. He really gets off on going to Walmart (my idea of Hell), and filling up the car with gas can provide endless entertainment. But lately, the little guy has taken more of an interest in cooking, and he'll knock me down to be the one who gets to pulse the sauce in the food processor, or scoop the coffee into the French Press, or even to carry the vegetables from the refrigerator to the chopping block.
I'm loving it. All of it.
Sometimes, when I'm stirring something on the stove and dicking around with the final seasonings, I will sit Odd Toddler on the counter and hold out the wooden spoon to get his opinion. Taste tests are his favorite part about cooking, and he watches me carefully to make sure he does his part correctly. He'll lean over the spoon, sniffing it carefully and trying to make appropriate noises. Then he'll take the smallest taste, smack his lips together, swallow, and exuberantly proclaim, "That's YUMMY for me, mom!"
So of course its mildly disappointing that Odd Toddler rarely gets to sit down with The Carnivore and I at dinnertime and discuss the meal with us. Because of course we discuss every aspect of every meal, deciding whether or not a new recipe is a keeper, whether there is enough salt or if another herb or spice might be lacking, which ingredients might be tweaked, and so on. And every night The Carnivore makes my efforts worthwhile when he thanks me for a delicious dinner (even if we analyzed the final result to within an inch of its life and deemed it not entirely delicious after all). Its nice to be appreciated.
I've been on a new-recipe-every-night kind of kick lately, and have found the time to pore over some new cookbooks and get some quality time with my cooking magazines. Variety can be difficult within our self-imposed dietary restrictions, so I'm always looking for new riffs on pasta dishes, and I enjoy adding seafood to our meals once or twice a week as a way to appease The Carnivore's desire for flesh on his plate without his having to succumb to his disgusting red meat cravings. For the past couple of weeks, I have eyed a Creamy Cajun Shrimp Linguine recipe from the September issue of Cooking Light magazine, but there were a few elements of the recipe that gave me pause and it took me a while to get up the nerve to give it a shot. I finally went for it on Monday evening, and The Carnivore and I were very pleasantly surprised (Big Mama claims its her new favorite). The flavors were simple yet tasty, the texture was great and the overall look and taste of the dish was restaurant-quality, but the dish was amazingly quick and easy to prepare. Most surprising though is how rich and creamy the sauce tastes, while being quite healthy and relatively low-fat. Maybe its time to quit dissing Cooking Light all the time. The only tweaks I made were switching vegetable broth for the chicken broth, using whole-wheat noodles instead of icky white ones, upping the butter a little, and doubling the Cajun seasoning measurement.
CREAMY CAJUN SHRIMP LINGUINE (serves 3, adapted from Cooking Light)
- 1 cup water
- 14 oz vegetable broth
- 6 oz whole-wheat linguine noodles
- 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3 Tbs unsalted butter
- 8-oz sliced mushrooms
- 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 2 tsps all-purpose flour
- 2 tsps Cajun seasoning (I used Emeril's Bayou Blast)
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2/3 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Combine 1 cup water and broth in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil.
- Break pasta in half; add to pan. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes.
- Add shrimp to pan. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes or until shrimp are done; drain.
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and pepper to pan; saute 4 minutes or until moisture evaporates.
- Add flour, seasoning, and salt to pan; saute 30 seconds.
- Stir in half-and-half; cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
- Toss together the sauce, the pasta and shrimp, and the parsley.