Pasta, Rice, and Grains

Crawfish Boil

Crawfish boils are kind of a big deal here in Houston. And by kind of a big deal, I mean how much more fun could a person want to have besides drinking beer (ahem, grapefruit margaritas), standing around a gigantic pot filled to the brim with corn, potatoes, crawfish, and scary amounts of cayenne pepper.

All that’s turned out onto a large table covered with newspaper. Suddenly, it’s the ultimate, informal family style experience.

Crawfish Mac & Cheese

I’ve developed a new appreciation for crawfish this year. You see, I’ve always had this thing with crawfish… or against crawfish.

Really, my thing has to do with getting to the actual crawfish. It’s not the most appealing thing. But a few grapefruit margaritas seem to take care of all of that and I found myself peeling away.

Crawfish Boil

My friend Harmony says peeling crawfish is therapeutic. And I’d agree… all the way up until my fingers began to burn. And that really just meant it was time for another margarita.

Crawfish Boil Spices

Harmony sent us away with a bunch of leftover crawfish and the orders to “make something awesome” with it. And something awesome we made.

I whipped up my favorite stove top mac & cheese and added the leftover crawfish and the spicy corn cut away from the cob. If you already think that a pile of spicy crawfish is pretty much a perfect food on its own, try it in a big bowl of carbs, covered in a light cheesy sauce.

The rest of the leftovers went into the freezer until I have the chance to make something awesome for Harmony :)

Crawfish Mac & Cheese

Crawfish boil leftovers get new life in a creamy stove top mac & cheese.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz macaroni pasta
  • 4 oz white cheddar cheese, grated (don't use pre-shred)
  • 4 oz fontina
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (I use 0% Fage)
  • Tobasco
  • 1 Tbsp Creole (or other spicy brown) mustard
  • 1 cup leftover crawfish tails
  • Kernels from 1-2 leftover corn cobs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sliced dark green onions, for serving

Instructions

  1. Cook macaroni pasta for 8-10 minutes in salted water, until al dente.
  2. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining the pasta.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  4. Add 1/4 cup pasta water, the yogurt, several dashes of Tobasco, mustard, and 1/3 of the grated cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
  5. Stir in remaining cheese, one small handful at a time to prevent clumping, adding additional pasta water as necessary to thin the cheese sauce.
  6. Stir in crawfish and corn kernels, and serve immediately topped with green onions.
  7. To reheat, microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Add a tablespoon or two of skim milk or water to thin the sauce, if necessary.

Notes

Yields: 3-4 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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Crawfish Fettuccine

Spring is just around the corner! You can tell because we’re already gardening. And swimming. And every restaurant around here without the words “happy meal” or “value size” on their menu has a banner hanging off the front of the building with one single 8-letter word:

CRAWFISH

Crawfish boil

But even better than that? Pulling up to your grocery store and finding a crawfish boil going on right next to the big plastic truck kiddie shopping carts.

Three years ago I swore that I’d never use those things. And then The Little got old enough to realize how “awesome” the carts were and started throwing tantrums. So it was 1) die a little inside and push a kiddie cart or 2) eat a mustard sandwich for dinner.

Crawfish Fettuccine

Mustard sandwiches aren’t nearly as good as Crawfish Fettuccine.

Now, I’ve come to realize that the inventor of those things was a genius. You know what a Terrible Two/Three doesn’t care about? EVERYTHING. As long as they have a shopping cart with a fake steering wheel to keep them busy while you’re digging through the bins trying to find the perfect limes for margaritas.

Even the liquor stores out here have them. God Bless Suburbia.

Crawfish Fettuccine

I picked up a kiddie cart (I’m partial to the black one with flames on the side) and 2.5lbs of already cooked (doesn’t get better than that) crawfish for a couple of dishes, but after my husband finished peeling them (I do not peel crawfish), I only had enough for one.

So I tried to make it count.

I whipped up our favorite (and light!) alfredo sauce and then spiked it with Tobasco and creole mustard. A few simple flavors with a little heat turned into a pretty phenomenal dinner. It wasn’t so spicy that my 3-year old couldn’t eat it but enough to make it not-your-everyday alfredo sauce.

Crawfish Fettuccine

Turn up the heat on a light and flavorful alfredo sauce with hot sauce and crawfish.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz fettuccine noodles, uncooked
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 green onions, chopped (dark green parts reserved for garnish)
  • 2/3 cup milk (I use 2%)
  • 3 oz (6 Tbsp) neufchatel
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp Tobasco
  • 1 rounded tsp creole mustard (or other deli- or dijon-style mustard)
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • 12 oz cooked and peeled crawfish tails

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta in salted water per package instructions.
  2. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain pasta and set aside.
  3. In a sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  4. Cook garlic and white and light green parts of the onion just until garlic begins to brown.
  5. Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, milk, and cream cheese, stirring until the cream cheese has mostly melted.
  6. Add Parmesan, tobasco, and mustard, stirring until the cheese has melted and the sauce is mostly smooth.
  7. Add cooked pasta and crawfish tails, tossing with tongs or two large spoons to coat.
  8. Add additional splashes of pasta water as necessary while tossing the pasta to smooth the sauce and ensure everything is coated.
  9. Serve immediately.

Notes

Yields: 3-4 servings

Alfredo sauce adapted from The New Way to Cook Light

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese

It’s the day before Christmas Eve. And like just about everyone else, I have a ginormous to-do list.

I’m supposed to be bagging up the biscotti and wrapping caramels.

Instead, I’m watching a disappointing football game (spoil it and tell me it gets better – I’m an entire half behind), trying to relax after hitting 6 or 7 stores in what will forever be known as the Great Cranberry Clusterdebacle of 2012, and wearing a shirt that smells like I burned 4 pieces of bacon at breakfast.

And that’s because I burned the bacon at breakfast.

Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese

But I didn’t burn the bacon at lunch. And that was important because it was the last of the bacon in the house and there’s no way I’m stepping foot into another grocery store until December 26th. At least.

Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese

Dress up homemade macaroni and cheese with crispy bacon and green peas.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz penne or macaroni pasta (I use Dreamfields)
  • 8 oz frozen peas
  • 4 thick slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use fat-free Greek)
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • 4 oz cheddar, shredded
  • 4 oz fontina, shredded (or other melt-friendly cheese - not more cheddar)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. In a medium saute pan, cook the bacon to a crisp and then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
  2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions, until al dente.
  3. Add the peas to the pasta water in the last minute of cooking.
  4. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining the pasta and peas.
  5. Return the pasta and peas to pot.
  6. Add 1/4 cup pasta water (it must be hot), the yogurt, a few dashes of hot sauce, and 1/3 of the grated cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.
  7. Stir in remaining cheese, one small handful at a time to prevent clumping.
  8. Add additional pasta water as necessary to thin and melt the cheese sauce.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Add the bacon, mix well, and serve.

Notes

Yields: 4 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Nutritional Information*
Calories: 425.3 | Fat: 15.5g | Fiber 12.4g | Protein 23.8g | Carbs 14.5g
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 7

*Your nutritional count may vary based on the brands you’ve used. I use Dreamfields Pasta (because my dad is diabetic and can eat it without too much of a noticeable spike) and it has reduced impact on digestible carbs and might account for larger discrepancies in fiber and carbs per serving.

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Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

In my family, Thanksgiving has 3 rules. And they all involve cheese:

1) There must be broccoli & rice casserole. I can bring roasted broccoli for a healthier broccoli dish. But it has to be served alongside of – not instead of – the casserole.

2) I must make the broccoli & rice casserole. Me. Shawnda. We spend every other Thanksgiving day with Jason’s family and every other Thanksgiving day, my little brother complains about how the casserole just isn’t the same. Even though it totally is. Except that one time my sister messed it up. I won’t embarrass her to the world… but her “fix” might have involved stirring in uncooked non-instant rice to firm things up about 27 seconds before it was time to eat. Crunchy casserole = no bueno casserole. And a whiny little brother.

3) Don’t mess with the broccoli & rice casserole recipe. The temptation, it’s great with this one. It’s loaded with not-real cheese, more butter than it needs, one of the maligned cream-of soups, and scandalously white rice. It’s not fancy but it’s tradition and it’s delicious and it’s a family (especially little brother) favorite.

So this year, I’m totally messing with the broccoli & rice casserole. It’s hard to disown a family member when you’re actually eating dinner at her house, right? Right?

And I’m not doing it to be a jerk. For serious. I’ve always wanted to make the dish a little more healthful – a task that at Thanksgiving, always feels like shooting a BB gun at a freight train. But after eating a bowl of it for dinner the other night, I have very little doubt that my little brother will be more than “just” fine with a less-processed version.

The texture of the quinoa is similar to rice. There’s still plenty of cheese. The top of the dish still gets those little crisped brown bites that he sneaks into the kitchen and steals before the rest of dinner is ready. There’s still plenty of that one bowl, creamy comfort food factor going on.

And more importantly, there’s plenty of real food going on.

Or I could be completely wrong and my little brother will be holding auditions for the role of new big sister before the first football is in the air on Thanksgiving.

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

Rich, cheesy, and comforting, this less-processed version of broccoli and rice casserole uses quinoa and real cheese and is made without cream of mushroom soup. Make it a one-dish meal and add leftover shredded chicken!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 crowns of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups milk (I use 2%)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard (I use Creole)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cup leftover shredded chicken (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, cook the quinoa in water with a generous pinch of salt, according to package, directions and then set aside.
  3. In a large pot, add the broccoli and a couple of inches of water.
  4. Cover the pot, bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes, and then drain and rinse with cold water.
  5. Return the drained broccoli to the large pot and add the quinoa.
  6. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter.
  7. Whisk in the flour, onion, garlic, mustard, cayenne, a generous pinch of salt and black pepper.
  8. Let cook 1-2 minutes and then slowly add the milk, whisking until the sauce is smooth.
  9. Let the sauce simmer, reducing the heat if necessary, about 5 minutes until thickened and bubbling.
  10. Remove from heat, whisk in the cheddar a handful at a time until completely melted.
  11. Salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Pour sauce over broccoli-quinoa mixture and toss to coat, mixing well.
  13. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish and bake 35-30 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.
  14. Serve warm.

Notes

Yields: 10-12 servings

Slightly adapted from Annie's Eats

Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes

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