Nov 122015
 

We all know that when life gets busy, cooking is one of the first things to go. I’m guilty of it too, although due to my somewhat frugal nature (aka shamelessly cheap), rather than ordering take-out this means resorting to a combination of hummus, cereal, peanut butter, and anything else I can find in my fridge. I’ve been getting crafty though, and have realized delicious does not have to entail 20 ingredients and hours in the kitchen. Would you believe me if I told you that this meal, this beautiful restaurant quality, fancy-looking meal, took me a whopping 15 minutes to make? Well believe it.
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Pan-seared salmon is the perfect quick and healthy meal, and for this one after cooking it I made a quick sauce in the pan with a whopping 4 ingredients (lemon juice, maple syrup, whole grain dijon mustard, and olive oil). Another time saving secret I use every week is to prep a big batch of grains and roasted veggies on the weekend, any kind you have/like. This week for me that included quinoa and roasted beets and brussel sprouts. I combined the two along with some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oil and vinegar for a super fast side dish.
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Nutrition highlights: We all know salmon is healthy, and I think any fish is better than none (since most of us don’t eat nearly enough)! Still, the truth is that NOT all salmon is created equal and lately even frugal-old-me has been spending the extra few dollars to get wild Alaskan or Norweigan salmon rather than farm raised Atlantic salmon. Not only does it typically have less toxins (like polychlorinated biphenyls), it also has about 1/3 less calories, almost half the fat and higher amounts of many healthy vitamins and minerals. This meal is rounded out by complex carbs/fiber from the quinoa and tons of veggies (brussels and beets) to make it the perfect balanced meal. Though the sauce has a little sugar from the maple syrup, it adds a sweet dimension to this savory dish that makes it incredibly satisfying.
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Pan-Seared Salmon with Maple-Mustard Pan Sauce
makes 1 serving (double it for 2!)
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What’s in it:
1 4-oz wild salmon filet
Juice from 1 lemon, divided
1 Tablespoon whole grain dijon mustard
1-2 teaspoons good maple syrup
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt, pepper, (optional: garlic powder, dried thyme)
Optional: chopped nuts to top fish

How to make it:
1. Cut about 1/3 of the lemon off and squeeze over your salmon filet. Let sit for a few minutes (at least 5) while you get the other ingredients ready.
2. Heat a heavy skillet (NOT non stick is better to get a good crust) over medium-high heat. Dry off the salmon with a paper napkin, season generously with salt and pepper. Once your pan is very hot, add about 1 teaspoon olive oil and place the salmon in the pan (flesh down/skin up). Let cook undisturbed for about 4 minutes (more or less depending on thickness) and then flip and cook the other side for another 3 minutes.
3. Set salmon aside and reduce heat to low. Add another 1 tspn olive oil, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, and the maple syrup/ mustard. Add salt, pepper, and optional garlic powder/dried thyme to taste. Simmer for 1 minute until the sauce thickens slightly.
4. Spoon sauce over salmon and top with chopped nuts for crunch. Serve with your favorite roasted veggies/whole grain for the healthiest meal in all the land. Enjoy!
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Give your seamless/grub-hub/neighborhood chipotle a break this week and try a quick and healthy meal like this one!!
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Jul 012015
 

After spending two weeks in Thailand for my honeymoon, I wasn’t so sure I was ready to come back to America. The beaches were beautiful, the were people friendly, you could have an AMAZING massage for approximately $4, and you can eat pad thai daily with no shame (ps, recipes coming soon!). But, alas, here I am back in the US and I’ve gotta say it’s not so bad here either. Between the supreme court decision last week, the perfect NYC weather, and the 4th of July coming up this weekend, I’m feeling pretty patriotic. Here are two amazing recipe ideas to spice up (literally and figuratively) your summer BBQs!
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Making delicious food in the summer is easy because the produce is so freaking good. Too many people miss this amazing opportunity at have a 4th of July cookout with some sad hot dogs, stale doritos, and maybe a lone slice of watermelon if you’re lucky. Add color and flavor to your bbq using lots of fresh fruits and veggies, in these dishes that look way more advanced than they are.
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This salad is a mix of chopped kale, cooked quinoa, cubed mango and avocado, toasted sunflower seeds, and cilantro. The amazing charred jalapeno vinaigrette adds the perfect punch to bring it all together.
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These kebabs may look like your standard chicken skewers, but looks can be deceiving. These are actually swordfish skewers, which are perfect for grilling due to its sturdy texture. The marinade is a spicy mix of ginger, garlic, soy, and dijon and they can be skewered along with any of your favorite veggies.
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Nutrition highlights: Both of these recipes are incredibly healthy. The kebabs use swordfish which is low in calories (150 per 3 oz serving), and high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids which is great for controlling inflammation in your body. A simple marinade and lots of veggies makes this a very healthy bbq option. The salad is great too, and on it’s own is completely gluten free and vegan. It’s high in protein from the quinoa and healthy fats from the avocado and sunflower seeds, and tons of vitamins (like C and A). It can stand alone as a meal or be the perfect side for your summer BBQ.
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Mango-Avocado Quinoa Salad with Charred Jalapeno Vinaigrette
Makes 3 servings as a main, 5-6 as a side
adapted from plated.com
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What’s in it:

For the salad-
3/4 cup quinoa
1 mango, cut into 1/2 in cubes
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (note, don’t cut avocado until right before use)
1 bunch kale (can sub other greens if you prefer), big stems discarded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds

For the dressing-
1 jalapeno
1 shallot, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste

How to make it:
1. Cook your quinoa. Combine 3/4 cup quinoa with 1 1/4 cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 10-12 minutes or until water is evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.
2. Heat a heavy skillet (I used a cast iron skillet) over high heat. Half the jalapeno and carefully remove the seeds (don’t touch your eyes or you will pay). When pan is just starting to smoke, place the jalapeno cut side down and cook for 3-4 minutes, flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes, pressing down slightly so you get a nice char on the outside. If you are using raw sunflower seeds, you can toast them in this same pan for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. If you’re using already roasted/toasted sunflower seeds you can skip this step.
3. Make the dressing by finely mincing the jalapeno and then adding the vinegar, lime juice, minced shallot, and honey. Whisk to combine. Slowly add olive oil while whisking the dressing. Taste the dressing and add salt and pepper. Set dressing aside.
4. Make the salad by combining the all of the cooled quinoa, thinly chopped kale, and 3/4 of the cilantro, avocado, mango, and sunflower seeds. Toss this with the dressing and add salt and pepper to taste. Top the salad with the remaining cilantro, avocado, mango, and sunflower seeds for presentation. Enjoy!

Notes:
-You can make the vinaigrette and prepare the salad ingredients (except the avocado/mango) up to 2 days in advance. Just toss all of the ingredients before serving!
– If you’re making it for a main, feel free to add other ingredients like red bell peppers, black beans, or tomatoes. Be creative!
– Depending on how much heat you like, you can use more or less jalapeno in the dressing.
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Spicy Swordfish Skewers
Makes about 4 servings (6 smalls skewers or 4 large)
adapted from Ina Garten
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What’s in it:

3 Tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoon peanut or canola oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 Tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/4- 1 1/2 lb swordfish steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt, Pepper to taste
Vegetables for skewering: choose your favorites like zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, red onion, and mushrooms
6 bamboo skewers, soaked for 30 minutes in water

1. Make the marinade by combining the first 8 ingredients. Add the cubed swordfish and marinate in a plastic bag or sealed container for at least 1 hour (preferably 4-8).
2. Prepare the vegetables by cutting them into pieces as close as possible to size as the swordfish cubes.
3. Preheat your grill or grill pan to medium-high.
4. Make the skewers by alternating veggies and swordfish cubes. Brush the kebabs with some of the remaining marinade and season with salt and pepper as desired.
5. Grill the kebabs for about 2-3 minutes per side, until swordfish is just cooked through and veggies and fish are browned. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Jun 202014
 

OK so maybe I’m not quite Jiro (yet), but I did finally learn how to make sushi! Sushi making has been on the “things I want to learn how to do” list for quite some time, so I decided to sign Jeff and me up for a class with Sushi by Simon. Not only was the class hands on and super fun (the drink tickets didn’t hurt either), but I also walked away feeling confident that good sushi is something I can do at home. Andddd so can you! (PS pardon the low lighting photos in this post).
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There are only a few special tools/ingredients you need for sushi making. The first is a sushi mat, which are very cheap and easy to find. We were told to cover it in plastic wrap to save the trouble of picking out rice from in between the grates later–great call. Second is not required, but encouraged–a rice cooker. Perfectly cooked and seasoned rice is the key to sushi success, so it might be worth buying a small one, although you can get away with stove top rice if need be. Third, and almost as important and amazing fresh ingredients and sushi grade fish. Most super markets probably won’t have sushi grade fish, so you may want to find a specialty market in your are. Be sure to ask your fish counter for sushi grade fish and tell them your sushi making plans–they will cut it differently than if you were going to sear a tuna steak. In addition to the tuna and salmon, we also used avocado, cucumber, pickled daikon (it’s a type of radish that looks kind of like a white carrot), masago (the orange fish eggs), and black sesame seeds.
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Now check out this rolling technique. I need you all to know that this is literally the first time I have seen Jeff cook in our six years together (no, easy mac does not count). I’ve got to say I was pretty impressed.
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A brief overview on rolling techniques here but you’ve really just got to try it out yourself. For standard maki (seaweed on the outside), line your HALF piece of seaweed long ways along the bottom edge of the mat (closest to you). Spread a layer of rice (using wetted fingers so it doesn’t stick to much) on the bottom 3/4 of the sheet of seaweed. You leave about 1 inch along the top with no rice to help in the rolling process. You then lay your ingredients long ways in the middle of the rice. As tough as it will be, don’t put too much in there or you will have a rolling disaster. Then put your thumbs under the mat and your other fingers on top of the ingredients to hold them in place. Roll the mat up, over, and down over the ingredients, creating a little rectangular box and applying some pressure to make sure it is tight. Then do it again to finish the roll. Here’s the first one we made–a simple cucumber roll which was great to get the technique down.
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For inside out rolls (rice on outside) the process is similar. Start by putting the same amount of rice on the seaweed and put on anything else you want on the outside like sesame seeds/masago. Then flip the sheet so the seaweed is on top and the riceless portion is at the bottom of your mat closest to you. Put your ingredients on this riceless portion and then roll the same way as before. Serve it along with soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabi, and, if you must, spicy mayo. A little etiquette I didn’t know about sushi condiments. You’re not really supposed to mix your wasabi into your soy, but rather just put a little bit right on the roll. Ginger isn’t supposed to be eaten with the sushi but between pieces as a palate cleanser. Last, spicy mayo is just something Americans made up (duh), and it’s essentially mayo + srirarcha. Sounds like a lot of rules, but I say if you’re making sushi at home, screw it and do what you want!
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Nutritional highlights: Making sushi at home can be super healthy because you have control over the ingredients. You can use mostly veggies and healthy fish–no shrimp tempura here! You can also use a thin layer of rice rather than a ton, and substitute brown rice for standard white rice. The fish used are high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids (especially the salmon). Sushi is gluten free (as long as you use tamari rather than soy sauce) and can easily be made vegetarian/vegan by omitting the fish and loading up on veggies. Feel free to get creative and use a variety of raw and cooked ingredients and see what you can come up with!
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And here’s the required awkward selfie from sushi class. And guess who made which hand roll?
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Jul 152013
 

One of my favorite features of my new apartment is the little herb garden I’ve started in the windowsill. Well, it’s actually a bit generous to even call it a garden, really it’s just three little pots.  And while we’re being honest, I should probably confess that I’ve already killed 2 of the 3 plants (rest in peace thyme and oregano).  Clearly I don’t have much of a green thumb, at least not yet, but what I do have is a surprisingly healthy basil plant despite my repeated attempts at negligence, so I’ve been trying to use her as much as possible.  Last week it was in this amazing summer “pasta” dish, Spicy Shrimp Fra Diavolo served over Zucchini Linguine.


For me, pasta has always been more about the sauce and the toppings than the noodles itself.   That’s why I’m so excited when I come up with a noodle like alternative, like spaghetti squash in the fall or shredded zucchini in the summer.  For noodle enthusiasts out there (hey, sis) this substitution may not cut it, but for me it’s a perfect way to lighten up a heavy italian dish.  Next time I may get a julienne peeler, which makes the zucchini a little thicker and sturdier, but I just used a wide cheese grater for this “linguine”.  The sauce was a spicy mix of tomatoes, white wine, garlic, herbs, and of course, chili flakes.  Simply sauteed shrimp topped it off and this meal took well under an hour start to finish.


Nutritional Highlights:  A cup of cooked linguine would have 220 calories and 43 grams of carbohydrates, whereas a cup of zucchini has only about 20 calories and 4 carbohydrates. Just a tiny difference there, right?  By making your own sauce, you know that there isn’t a ton of added salt and sugar like a lot of store bought sauces have.  Shrimp is a great low cal protein source as well, but be careful with shellfish if you have high cholesterol (but as long and you’re careful with portion size, you should be OK).  Overall this meal is incredibly healthy and well balanced, and perfect for a quick summer meal.


Shrimp Fra Diavolo
serves 4

adapated from Giada DeLaurentis

Ingredients
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined (I used wild frozen shrimp)
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons
1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

4 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions

Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and red pepper flakes. Heat the 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside. Add the onion to the same skillet, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan, if necessary, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute, until fragrant.  Then add tomatoes with their juices, wine, oregano, and half of the basil. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the tomato mixture; toss to coat, and cook for about a minute so the flavors meld together. Stir in the parsley and basil. Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.

For Zucchini Pasta:  Use about 1 large Zucchini per person.  Shred the zucchini into pasta strands, it seems like a julienne peeler gets the best results, but you can also use a cheese grater. Right before serving, heat a saute pan over medium, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil, and add your zucchini.  Saute for 2 minutes just until it has softened slightly, season with salt and pepper, and top with your favorite sauce and toppings (like this shrimp fra diavolo!  Enjoy!

 

Jun 132012
 

I can’t believe that less than five years ago I wouldn’t even go near seafood or fish of any kind (except for maybe those little orange crackers) and now it’s basically the only thing I order when I eat out.  The only problem is that it can get pretty expensive at restaurants so I decided to make some restaurant quality tuna at home.  This sesame crusted tuna is seared and served rare along with a spicy Avocado-Wasabi sauce.  





The sesame seed crust isn’t just there to make it look cool. It also gives the tuna great crunchy texture and nuttiness.  It’s also incredibly quick to make, because you only cook the tuna for about 20 seconds on each side if you like it rare like I do.  You’ll impress just about anyone with this meal, and it took me about 15 minutes to put together the whole thing.  Not too bad.         





Nutritional Highlights:  Tuna is totally nutrient packed.  It’s an excellent source of protein and rich in a variety of important nutrients including the minerals selenium, magnesium, and potassium; the B vitamins niacin, B1 and B6; and perhaps most important, the beneficial omega-3 essential fatty acids. Although people worry about consuming too much Mercury, as long as you eat tuna in moderation you will be fine.  The sesame seeds and avocado sauce add additional protein and healthy fat to this recipe.  Serving it with plenty of vegetables makes this and incredibly healthy meal for anyone (except maybe my prego sister :)

Seared sesame crusted tuna
  • ¾ to 1 lb sushi grade yellowfin tuna
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Sea salt
  1. Cut the tuna into 2-3 rectangular pieces.
  2. Mix the sesame seeds and sea salt together on a plate.
  3. Press the tuna into the sesame seeds on all sides.
  4. Heat canola oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.
  5. Sear the tuna for 20 seconds on each side, then transfer to a paper towel to drain. Let rest a couple of minutes.
  6. Slice  into ¼-thick pieces and serve with orange ginger dipping sauce.
For the Avocado-wasabi sauce:  I mixed 1/4 mashed avocado, 1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste (I had saved from my last sushi order), juice from 1/2 lime, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and salt. If wasabi is not your thing, you could also try this orange ginger sauce from the original recipe here.  

Serve the tuna with the wasabi sauce and your favorite veggies or brown rice.  Enjoy your amazing restaurant quality meal at home!
Feb 292012
 

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’d find seasonal delicious produce.  There are tons of hearty root vegetables, healthy greens like kale, and my favorite of all-citrus.  I have a theory that grapefruit keeps me healthy in the winter.  I love um so much that I just peel them and eat them like oranges.  I had to come up with a creative way to use my favorite winter fruit, so I made this amazing salad with some spicy shrimp, avocado, and a sesame ginger dressing.





The flavors in this salad worked so well together–acidity and sweetness from the grapefruit, creaminess from the avocado, a little heat from the cayenne sprinkled shrimp, and crunch and nuttiness from the toasted sesame seeds.  It was incredibly quick to throw together and is the perfect light but satisfying lunch or dinner.





Nutritional Highlights:  Grapefruit (as I’m sure you all know) is a vitamin C powerhouse.  In addition to that, it’s deep pink color comes from the antioxidant lycopene, which is also found in tomatoes.  Avocados are also packed with vitamins (like K, C, B5), fiber, and healthy unsaturated fats.  Shrimp is a great protein source for this salad because it’s incredibly low in fat and calories (since we’re already getting some from the avocado).  It also is a great source of selenium which some studied have correlated with cancer preventative qualities.  Plus, with spring right around the corner, this salad can help you get out back in warm weather shape!


Spicy Shrimp, Grapefruit, and Avocado Salad with Citrus Ginger Dressing


For the Salad (serves 2):

  • 4 cups fresh spinach or other greens
  • 12 large wild shrimp (frozen), salt and cayenne pepper for seasoning
  • segments from 1 grapefruit (squeeze the excess juice from the rind and reserve for the dressing)
  • 1 small avocdao, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • fresh cilantro to garnish
For the dressing (you can also use a store bought dressing)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
  • 3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions:

Prepare you ingredients: segment the grapefruit, slice the avocado, thaw the shrimp by running under cold water, and toast the sesame seeds.  Combine all ingredients for the dressing and set aside.  Sprinkle thawed shrimp with salt and cayenne pepper on both sides (or regular pepper if you can’t stand the heat). Heat small skillet over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook shrimp for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until opaque and just cooked through.  

Toss the spinach leaves with some of the dressing and put in the center of your plate.  Surround the spinach with alternating grapefruit segment, avocado, and shrimp.  Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the top and garnish with fresh cilantro and an extra drizzle of dressing. Enjoy!
May 162011
 

One of my favorite restaurant genre choices these days is Thai.  It has so many of the components that make a perfect meal to me–lots of vegetables, flavorful sauces, and a whole lot of spice.  One of my go-to’s when I eat out is spicy thai basil sauce, and I’ve been wanting to recreate it for a while.  It had all the things I look for when I get it at a Thai restaurant, but it had two extra benefits: I knew exactly what went into it, and I didn’t pay $15 dollars for it! Win, win.

The process was incredibly simple: mix a sauce that was water, soy, fish sauce, and a touch of sugar.  Then saute ginger, garlic, and chilis, and add the shrimp.  Remove the shrimp, add the veggies, and once those are cooked put it all together again with the sauce.  Let the sauce reduce, toss in the basil and lime juice, and you’re good to go.  Then eat it, and be happy.

I wasn’t able to find “thai” basil (whole foods, I’m disappointed in you) but regular basil seemed to taste just fine.

Nutritional highlights:  This is an amazing, balance meal.  Shrimp for protein (you could easily sub chicken or tofu too), and a big mixture of veggies, amped up by plenty of garlic, ginger, chile, and a sweet/salty/savory sauce.  Served with some brown rice, brown rice noodles, or soba, it’s a really filling meal that gives you a great variety of nutrients (fiber/protein/vitamins/carbs).  It’s also an easily adaptable meals, so include the vegetables that you like!

Spicy Thai Basil Shrimp


adapted from Food Network

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons Southeast Asian fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated, peeled, fresh ginger
  • 1 red chili, thinly sliced into rounds(or use red pepper flakes)
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut in thin slices
  • Vegetables I used:  Red pepper, baby bok choy, green beans, zucchini, and mushrooms
  • Other options: broccoli, snap peas, yellow squash, carrots….
  • 3/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Serve with: brown rice or brown rice noodles

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, fish sauce, and sugar; set aside. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until pink but still translucent in the middle, about 2 minutes (do not over cook because they get more time in the pan at the end). Transfer the shrimp to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the vegetables to the skillet, and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan along with the soy sauce mixture. Bring to a boil, and stir-fry until the sauce glazes the shrimp, about 1-2 minute more. Remove pan from the heat, stir in the basil and lime juice. Transfer to a serving dish, serve immediately.