lola rugula pasta with shrimp, garlic and tomatoes recipe

linguine with shrimp, fresh tomatoes and basil

Hallelujah, spring is upon us!  Even though it’s hardly been a brutal winter here in Northern Illinois, I’m still excited for longer and warmer days. This weekend was a much-needed stay at home treat for me, as there’ve been many personal issues that have had me more stressed than usual. lately. I’m a big believer in taking time for yourself. Physical and mental rejuvenation is vital, not only for your own sense of well-being but for also having the strength and peace-of-mind to take care of those you love. Today was that day for me. My feel-good dish of the day was fresh pasta with garlicky shrimp and fresh tomatoes and basil.

lola rugula pasta with shrimp recipe

This recipe was mostly just inspired by 3 things:

  1. I was really craving shrimp
  2. I was really craving something healthy and fresh-tasting
  3. I had some Roma tomatoes that I really needed to use

Looking for a quick and easy weeknight (or even weekend, in my case) dinner with pasta and shrimp? This definitely fits the bill.

lola rugula linguine with shrimp and tomatoes

pasta with shrimp, garlic, fresh tomatoes and basil recipe

  • 9 oz. fresh linguine (I keep Buitoni pasta in the freezer when I don’t have homemade on hand)
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (divided – you’ll use 2 Tbsp. for the shrimp and 2 Tbsp. for the sauce)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped (divided – you’ll use half for the shrimp and half for the sauce)
  • 1 lb. raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 small sweet yellow sweet peppers, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1 generous cup loosely-packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced. Retain a few fresh slices for serving, if desired.
  • Salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water for sauce.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat half (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil. Add half of your chopped garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and heat. Add remaining garlic and yellow peppers and cook about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add scallions and cook, continuing to stir, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and their juices, and stir well. Cook for about 7 minutes, until tomatoes start to release all of their juices. Pour over reserved shrimp.

Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to sauce pan and scrape well, loosening bits from the pan. Continue to cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 3-4 minutes.

Add drained pasta to pan and stir.

Add plate of shrimp and tomato sauce to pasta and toss well.

Add fresh basil, stir and remove from heat.

Serve immediately, with reserved basil.

Easy, right? This dish satisfied me today on many levels, with the fresh tomatoes and basil bringing in thoughts of spring when I needed it most.

Pasta is so versatile – you can toss it with a bit of olive oil and so many, many things. Carbs get a bad rap sometimes but when you pack your pasta dish full of veggies and protein, you really can’t lose. Toss in some fresh herbs and you really do have a beautiful, flavorful dish that everyone will love.

Happy spring everyone!

lola rugula pasta with shrimp, garlic and tomatoes recipe

french flower pot makeover

This is, without a doubt, one of my easiest makeover projects ever and the results are beautiful. I’ve had these French flower pots for many, many years. I stumbled upon them at a flea market for next to nothing and knew they’d be perfect for my plethora of summer flowers.

As the years have passed, however, their colors faded and they began to rust. Here’s a shot of 2 of them from a couple of summers ago, packed with lavender from our gardens.

lola rugula french flower pot makeover original

You can see on the rim of them where they were rusting. so I took a bit of sandpaper and sanded the rusty spots down. After sanding, I rinsed them off, wiped them down and let them dry.

Then, with a few light coats of spray paint that I had on hand, I now have beautiful, bright French flower pots again.

lola rugula french flower pot easy makeover

 

The sage green color I used here is XO Rust gloss in Reed and the orange is Premium Decor gloss in Banner Orange.

This was an easy one-day makeover project that makes me feel like I have brand new flower pots.

lola rugula french flower pot makeover

The gorgeous flowers are compliments of my husband, who surprised me with them one night, for no other reason to except to say “I love you”.

Spray paint is such an easy way to make over small items, such as these pots. You want to start with as smooth and clean of a surface as possible, making sure the surface is dry before painting. Shake the paint vigorously for a minute or two and then always do a test spray on a piece of paper or cardboard. Then, apply the paint from at least a foot away, using sweeping motions as you paint, to help prevent drips.

Let each coat dry an hour or so before applying the next coat. These pots have 3 coats of spray paint on them.

Of course, you should always use spray paint outside or in a large, well-ventilated area.

Have you done any spray paint projects lately? I’d love to hear about them!

lola rugula pasta with shrimp, garlic and tomatoes recipe

bloody mary shrimp

This is one of those ridiculously easy recipes that’s just as fun to serve as it is to eat. I love a good Bloody Mary and I love shrimp, so these Bloody Mary Shrimp are the best of both worlds. I keep my recipe pretty simple, with a kick of horseradish and hot sauce, but you can adjust this recipe to your own personal tastes.

lola rugula how to make bloody mary shrimp

bloody mary shrimp recipe

  • 1 lb. large cooked shrimp, shelled and deveined, with the tails removed
  • 1 cup thinly sliced or small diced celery
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (save about 1 tablespoon for serving)
  • 3/4 cup V8 Juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish (don’t drain)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup vodka (totally optional)
  • lemon wedges for serving

Special serving pieces, such as Chinese soup spoons or shot glasses – you can use glass or plastic, whichever you prefer.

In a large bowl, whisk together everything except the shrimp and lemon wedges. Toss the shrimp in and mix well again.

Spoon  1 shrimp and some of the bloody mary mix into each serving piece, until all of the shrimp and mixture is used. Sprinkle with reserved sliced scallions and fresh lemon juice immediately before serving. You can refrigerate these for a few hours before serving. but don’t add the scallions and lemon juice until right before you serve them.

Makes about 35 servings.

lola rugula how to make bloody mary shrimp recipe

The style of serving these is really key, as you want each serving to include a shrimp plus the bloody mary mix, which is why Chinese soup spoons and shot glasses work perfectly. This way, you and your guests can slurp them down easily.

I’ve served these with and without the vodka and they’re just as good either way, it really just depends on your taste and the occasion you’re serving them at.

You know I always tell you not to be afraid to play with your food, so play it up with these. The scallions, horseradish and hot sauce can all be adjusted or removed entirely if you’re just not a fan of one or all of them.

As a gardening side note, check out my post on how to grow and make your own horseradish, in case you’re interested.

Tell me this doesn’t make an impressive presentation…

lola rugula bloody mary shrimp recipe

Chilled, spicy and delicious, I think this will become one of your favorite go-to appetizers. It’s easy and always a hit at every event I serve them at.

Enjoy!

lola rugula pasta with shrimp, garlic and tomatoes recipe

homemade gnocchi

I have a lot of fun making homemade pasta. It may not always look perfect but it’s always more delicious than the boxed, refrigerated or frozen stuff. That’s not to say I don’t ever cook with dried or refrigerated pasta, but it’s fun to play with making it fresh. Oh, and did I mention it’s always delicious?

I’ve been on a homemade gnocchi kick recently and my recipe creates fluffy pillows that have flavor all on their own. One of the keys to great homemade gnocchi is to not overwork the ingredients or dough. If you spend a lot of time smashing or kneading everything, you’ll take away the lightness that creates a light, fluffy gnocchi.

lola rugula easy homemade gnocchi recipe

Do you see how beautifully imperfect they are? Please don’t sweat the small stuff. The reason for the ridges in gnocchi are to help hold onto the sauce you put on them.  They don’t have to be perfect ridges or equal ridges…just make some ridges, pour some sauce over them and sit back and enjoy your talent at making homemade gnocchi.

This recipe makes 4-6 healthy servings – for me it makes enough for a dinner for 2 and an extra portion for freezing. How to freeze gnocchi? Easy! When you’re done rolling them, just lay them on a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze for about 2 hours. Then toss them into a freezer-safe container or bag and freeze. To cook frozen gnocchi, just add to boiling water and let them all come to a slow boil for 3 minutes or so. No need to thaw or anything…it’s a beautiful thing!

A potato ricer, at least for me, is the key to making terrific gnocchi. It’s also good to rice the potatoes while they’re still hot, as this helps keep your gnocchi fluffy.

homemade gnocchi recipe

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes (about 6 medium)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Scrub potatoes and place them in a large pan. Cover with cold water by a couple of inches and bring to a low boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 35-40 minutes, until the skins begin to split. Drain potatoes and let them cool just 5 minutes or so. Using a towel or paper towel to hold them, quickly but carefully peel them. One by one, place the potatoes (cut them in half if needed) into a potato ricer and rice onto a clean, dry surface. Let the riced potatoes cool completely, at least 1/2 hour.

In the meantime, beat the egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool, sprinkle them with the parmesan. Bring everything together to form a “mountain” of potatoes and cheese. Form a well in the middle and add the egg mixture. Using your fingers to lift everything up from the bottom, gently mix everything together. 1 3/4 cups of the flour and gently mix

Sprinkle the mixture with 1 3/4 cups of the flour and gently mix it all together and form into a ball. Gently roll the ball into a long tube and slice into  8 equal sections.

lola rugula how to make homemade gnocchi recipe

Dust your work surface with some of the remaining flour and, using your hands, roll a section into about a 1/2 rope of pasta. Using a knife or pastry cutter, slice the rope into 1 inch pieces.

Laying a 1 inch piece of dough in one hand and holding a fork in the other, use the fork to gently roll indentions into the piece of dough. You may find it easier to dip the fork in flour first. Don’t make yourself crazy making perfect indentions…as you can see by the first photo, I don’t get too worked up about it and they still come out pretty good. My husband, who has Sicilian roots, is naturally a pro at gnocchi rolling, so I enlist him whenever I can. You can also buy gnocchi rolling boards to make this process even easier.

Repeat these steps with each section and piece, until done.

lola rugula homemade gnocchi recipe

To cook your gnocchi, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, add the gnocchi and let them float to the surface. Continue to boil for about 2 minutes. Drain the gnocchi and serve immediately with your choice of toppings.

We have 2 favorite ways of enjoying our gnocchi – with my homemade fresh tomato sauce or with just butter, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

lola rugula how to make homemade gnocchi

My gnocchi may never be perfect but it’s perfectly light and delicious. If you do freeze some of it, it’s best to use it within a month or so – I find that freezing fresh pasta for any longer than that can significantly deteriorate the quality of it.

Well, are you ready to roll some fresh gnocchi? I hope so! If you have any questions or comments, be sure and let me know. Remember to never, ever be afraid to play with your food. Happy pasta making, everyone!

lola rugula pasta with shrimp, garlic and tomatoes recipe

rattlesnake bean and vegetable soup

I had the pleasure last summer of growing rattlesnake beans for the first time. I had never heard of them and was intrigued because they can be eaten just like green beans when they’re young or eaten as dried beans when left to grow and dry on the vine. Anyone who’s grown green beans knows how quickly they can grow, so the advantage to growing rattlesnake beans is that if they go past their young, tender stage, you can let them go to dried beans and still enjoy them. Genius, I say!

I ordered my beans from Territorial Seed Company and planted them in early May. Rattlesnake beans are pole beans, so you need to give them a fence or support to grow on and boy do these things grow. I did not have the foresight to take a picture of them on the vine but here’s a shot of them while they’re young:

lola-rugula-how-to-grow-rattlesnake-beaans

Aren’t they beautiful? The dark purple striping makes a stunning contrast to the green pod and these really are delicious when harvested at this stage. If you’re wondering how to cook young rattlesnake beans, they can be cooked any way you cook regular green beans. They’re wonderful steamed, roasted and added to soups and other dishes. We had a very healthy harvest of these before I let them go to the drying stage.

Growing them here in Zone 5 was very easy for me. I planted the seeds against a garden fence with some compost and manure mixed in. These are very fast growers and occasionally I had to train the vines around the fence, to make sure they had some much-needed support. I harvested them as green beans until late July or early August and then let the rest of them mature and dry on the vine, picking them as they became fully dry. Then I shelled them and stored them in a storage container in my pantry, where they’ve kept well as I work my way through them.

lola rugula how to grow rattlesnake beans in zone 5

As you can see, the dried beans are just as gorgeous as the green ones – their distinctive markings make it easy to see why they’re called rattlesnake beans.

So here we are, in the middle of a cold Midwestern winter, and what’s the best way to cook these rattlesnake beans? In soup, of course! Packed full of veggies, this is a great version of a clean-out-your-fridge recipe. Mine here simply reflects what I had on hand for veggies, so please don’t be afraid to use whatever you love and/or have on hand. There are no rules to veggie and bean soup, except that you make it with the veggies you enjoy. And if you don’t have rattlesnake beans, then use whatever beans you like. Don’t like beans? This is still a great vegetable soup recipe, so don’t be afraid to omit or change things up. Be prepared, this is a long list of veggies but don’t be daunted…I’m just cleaning out my fridge for soup…

lola rugula how to cook rattlesnake beans recipe

rattlesnake bean and vegetable soup recipe

  • 1 cup of dried rattlesnake beans
  • 1 cup of small pasta, such as ditalini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 8-10 baby carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 5 small sweet peppers, diced
  • 4-5 medium-size turnip greens, tough stem removed and chopped
  • 1 cup small spinach leaves, torn or chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 15 asparagus spears, tough ends removed and sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup bean broth
  • 1 2-inch piece of Parmesan rind (optional)

In a medium saucepan, add dried rattlesnake beans and fill with water. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, cover and remove from heat. Let sit, covered, for 1 hour. In the meantime, cook the pasta, prepare the veggies and start the soup.

In a medium saucepan, cook the ditalini or other small pasta for 10 minutes or just until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let sit until ready to use.

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and carrots and cook just until they start to sweat, stirring a few times, about 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the veggies and continue to cook until they all start to wilt and soften, about 7 more minutes.  Season with pepper flakes (if using), salt and pepper and stir well. Add vegetable broth, water, bean broth and Parmesan rind (if using).

Add the rattlesnake beans. You will not add the pasta until the soup is almost done. Bring to a boil, partially cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer.

Simmer for one hour or until beans are tender. Add pasta and bring back to a simmer. Remove from heat and serve.

We had a good 2 bowls of this before we sat back and wondered at the incredible flavor of these beans. Rattlesnake beans have a meaty, hearty flavor but cook quickly and stay tender. I love these beans and will definitely add them to my “things you should definitely grow in your vegetable garden” list.

Happy soup season everyone…here’s hoping for an early spring!

lola rugula pasta with shrimp, garlic and tomatoes recipe

quinoa with mushrooms, scallions and thyme

If you’ve resolved to eat better this year, quinoa is a terrific food to add to your grocery list. Of the many things I cook, quinoa is still one of the things that I’m asked the most about. How do you cook quinoa? What do you do with quinoa? Is quinoa good for you? What does quinoa taste like? Quinoa is not only easy and fast to cook, it’s also gluten free and packed full of nutrients. Quinoa a great source of protein and a great source of antioxidants.  It’s also one of the only plant foods that contain all of the amino acids. Not too shabby, eh?

I love to use quinoa in a myriad of recipes, some of them cold and some of them hot. If you’re looking for a delicious gluten-free salad recipe to take to your next gathering, check out my Mediterranean quinoa salad that’s packed full of veggies. If you’re just wanting an easy stuffed mushroom recipe, my stuffed portobello mushrooms with Italian sausage and quinoa are a perfect meal.

 When it all comes down to it though, my quinoa with mushrooms, scallions and thyme recipe is still the first one I recommend. It’s flavorful, easy to prepare and most people really love it.

lola rugula how to cook quinoa

This recipe doesn’t involve a ton of ingredients or prep time. Aside from quinoa, garlic, scallions and mushrooms are the main ingredients, with thyme bringing in a hint of herbiness.

quinoa with mushrooms, scallions and thyme recipe

  • 1 generous tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 6 portabello mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup pre-rinsed quinoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and quickly stir. Add scallions and stir again. Saute for about 30 seconds, add mushrooms and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add thyme and stir.  Add broth or water, bring to a boil and then add quinoa. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring once 1/2 way through cooking time.

lola rugula easy quinoa recipe with mushrooms and thymeWhen almost all of the liquid is absorbed, shut off heat and let sit, still covered, for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Quinoa is a little bit nutty and makes a great substitution for rice or pasta in a number of dishes. Once you’ve cooked with it, you’ll find it’s very versatile.

When I first started cooking with quinoa years ago, you had to rinse, and rinse, and rinse it some more, to get rid of the soapy flavor that’s inherent to unrinsed quinoa. Now, most quinoa comes pre-rinsed and you can find it in a number of colors. The one I used in the photos is an heirloom blend of different colors.

As a final note, don’t hesitate to change out the mushrooms if you’re not a fan of them or simply don’t have any on hand. I’ve made this with asparagus, broccoli and without any veggie at all and it’s delicious any way you make it.

Enjoy and Happy 2017!