Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Shrimp, naturally gluten free, high in protein, and low fat (although high cholesterol) may just be one of Mother Nature's best gifts to us. And, when they go on sale around $5/lb, they're not too bad on the wallet either. Regardless of whether we want to eat junk food, comfort food, or healthy, low-calorie diet food, shrimp is always a good bet to have in the freezer. Bonus: When stored in an airtight freezer bag, it defrosts quickly and easily in a cold water bath.

Typically, we like to keep 1-2 lbs of frozen, raw med-large shrimp in the freezer. I also buy the small, pre-cooked salad shrimp when Price Chopper has them on BOGO specials, because they're pretty versatile and can be used in a lot of dishes.

Looking for some ideas of how to use shrimp? Here are a few, ranging from super-healthy to super-unhealthy (but incredibly yummy). If you have a favorite way to serve shrimp, please share in the comments!

  • Shrimp cocktail. One of the easiest shrimp dishes to make, cold boiled shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce is incredibly yummy, and so good that it's easy to forget it's not that bad for you. 
  • Grilled shrimp skewers, basted with fat free Italian dressing. Serve with grilled veggies (I usually do portabella mushrooms, white mushrooms, red peppers, Vidalia onions and yellow squash), basted in the same dressing. 
  • Buffalo shrimp. I dredge raw shrimp in egg whites, gluten free Bisquick, and repeat. I then pan fry them in a bit of olive oil until they're fully cooked and golden brown - when they're done, I pour warmed-up Frank's Red Hot Buffalo sauce over them and serve them as an appetizer - spear with fancy toothpicks and eat (these work best with medium shrimp). 
  • Sauteed shrimp with basil over angel-hair pasta. 
  • Shrimp summer rolls. Rice paper, lettuce, and vermicelli. I haven't quite gotten this recipe down yet, but I use the salad shrimp for it. 
  • Jambalaya - shrimp, andouille sausage, chicken, veggies, lots of cayenne pepper, and rice. I use the recipe from America's Test Kitchen.  
  • Shrimp fried rice. I add egg, and whatever veggies I have on hand. Usually something like peas, carrots, onion, mushroom, etc. Salad shrimp can easily be used here in a pinch.
  • Shrimp alfredo over penne pasta. I use Classico alfredo sauce, and my special finish is to top with a bit of mozzarella/cheddar cheese (just a tiny bit) and sprinkle liberally with black and cayenne peppers. 
  • Coconut shrimp. Serve with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.
  • Shrimp dip. Canned or salad shrimp with cream cheese, a bit of soy sauce, and scallions. Mix together. Good "plain" on rice crackers or rolled up in rice paper wrappers and deep fried, served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hidden sources of gluten

My husband and I like to think of ourselves as “gluten-savvy.” Just a few examples:

  • I religiously read all food labels. If an item isn’t labeled gluten free, I’ll look online, or someone in our family will call the manufacturer to ask about the product and their gluten labeling policy.
  • When we first “de-glutened” our kitchen, I tossed all of the wooden spoons, colanders, etc. into a big box to give to my cousin who was just settling into a brand new apartment.
  • We own a dedicated gluten free toaster as well as a second, older toaster is boxed away in our basement in the event we need to toast wheat bread).
  • I – as the non-gluten free member of the household – always lick the envelopes when it’s time to pay bills every month. (Always thinking of the Seinfeld episode with the wedding invitations, but that’s an entirely different situation).
  • If I have to bake something containing wheat for an event, my mother allows me to use her kitchen instead.
  • I make sure the lipstick I wear is gluten free.

All that said – of course, we do have some gluten in the house. I don’t have celiac disease, and I’ve read there can be negative dietary consequences of eliminating all gluten entirely from your diet if you don’t have to for medical reasons. Now, I’ve never been much of a bread eater and my household rule is that my husband won’t eat anything that I – as a gluten eater – don’t think is sub-par. (The exception being Ian’s Waffle-wiches, which he absolutely loves). I also won’t keep any of the food that he used to love in the house, because that’s just too cruel. I’d say as a result, 95% of my diet is naturally gluten free.

The gluten in our house tends to be packed away – Chicken noodle soups that I keep on hand for when I’m sick, alongside the chicken and rice soups we keep on hand for my husband. Frozen meals and Velveeta Easy-Mac bowls for quick office lunches every now and then.  Beer in the fridge for when company comes over. Stuff that I’ve never bothered verifying to be gluten free, like Skinny cow chocolate ice creams (which he would never eat, since they’re chocolate). Or, crackers – because, let’s face it, I’m perfectly happy to shell out $$ for my husband to have good crackers,  but spending $5+ on a pack of crackers when I am perfectly fine eating the $1 box is insane to me. So I keep my own crackers, far away from anything else, and a dedicated jar of non-GF peanut butter for when the craving hits.

99% of the time I eat gluten away from home, but on the rare occasions when I do have it at home, I act like it’s a level 4 containment zone, wiping off counters with Clorox wipes, brushing my teeth, etc.

That said? We found another “gotcha” in the house. We buy Wellness dog food, some of which contains barley, and the puggle’s dog biscuits contain wheat. We never gave it a moment’s thought – since it never goes near my husband’s mouth – until one day when we were watching a movie and making popcorn. My husband gave the puggle a chew, and I absentmindedly called out “Make sure to wash your hands before you touch the popcorn.” My husband stopped, stared at me for a second, and exclaimed “I never thought of getting glutened by dog bones!”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Recipe: Baked coconut shrimp with dipping sauce

This evening, in an effort to escape the dinner rut my husband and I tried a new recipe that I'd found online for baked coconut shrimp.

I didn't have everything on hand and modified it to suit our preferences, so here's what I made:

  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I had about 30)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 400F and grease baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Rinse & dry shrimp. 
  3. Mix cornstarch and seasoned salt together. 
  4. Dredge shrimp in cornstarch, then egg, then roll in coconut. Place on sheet. 
  5. Bake for approx. 16 minutes, turning halfway through. Shrimp will be pink and cooked through and coconut will be brown. 
I served with the following dipping sauce (a variation of one of my own concoctions):
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (pineapple would be better)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tsp oil (I was out of sesame so used canola) 
Heat in a saucepan over med-high heat until thickened to the desired consistency, and serve.

Overall the shrimp went over very well. It's a bit rich and might be better off as a party app, but made a very satisfying dinner. I served with baked potato and steamed broccoli (mostly because that's all that was left in the house for veggie options).