30 Minute Tortellini & Shrimp

30-Minute Tortellini & Shrimp via Brittany's Pantry…I would like to say welcome back!  To those of you who have been following this, I took a little blog break.  A family vacation (and recovery from said vaca) and a sudden onslaught of apples from a friend have kept me busy, in and out of the kitchen.  I have been thinking alot about the topic of this blog and, I have to say, sometimes I have too many ideas.  I find it increasingly difficult to pick only one thing to chat about.  For example, do I discuss the fact that I had such a craving for smoked oysters today (No.  I am not expecting.) that I have consumed nearly an entire can.  I am justifying this by the fact that even though they are so high in calories and I will be exercising till the cows come home, they are actually crazy high in protein.  Seriously!  5g per oyster.  Or do I confess that I have spent the last two days canning this summers bountiful harvest?  Right now its just applesauce and apple butter, but when I pick up fresh peaches at the farmers market on Thurs, it will be peaches, baking apples, tomatoes and tomato sauce, spicy peach jam, plum preserves and…I think that’s it.  I used to can with my mother when I was a kid and now that she isn’t doing it all that much I have inherited her boiling water canner and equipment.  And a LOT of canning jars.  I love to freeze food and keep a pantry stocked, but there is something supremely satisfying about looking at the rows and rows of brightly colored jars filled with food sealed at the peak of freshness right from my own garden or local farm.  Now, having done this in my family for years, I have some background information and experience about the process that is extremely useful if you plan on canning.  However, there is plenty of information out there and as long as you follow the steps-no deviating, all the steps are very important-the results are worth it when you pop the top on a quart jar of fresh tomatoes in January and the sweet smell of summer makes you close your eyes and sigh.  Not to mention that it just looks cool.  Jars and jars of multi-colored jewels lining the shelves of my laundry room?  Yippee!  Please note that if you are storing any type of food, a warm laundry room is not the place for it.  My cold, dark, basement laundry is an exception.  No danger of heat or brightness.  In regards to the canning, my husband is thrilled, as he frequently reminds me that with the world in the state that it is, a fallout shelter might be a good idea.  And hey!  I could stock that shelter with premium eats!

I would love to include a recipe in this blog entry to highlight the apples I have been using, but so far, I haven’t used a recipe.  When I make applesauce, I just throw the peeled and cored and sliced apples on the stove with a splash of apple cider, some sugar and cinnamon and go from there.  I just keep tasting it, adding cider, and cooking it down till I get the consistency I am looking for.  I do add lemon juice if I am going to can it.  Apple butter I do the same way, except in a crock pot with LOTS more spices and alot more tasting.  My family and I will be eating this homemade applesauce over pan fried pork chops tonight in a fall inspired meal.  Hmmm…steamed broccoli and cauliflower and rosemary roasted potatoes.  Nothing fancy, just a boneless pork loin chop sprinkled with salt and pepper and seared in a hot pan with some olive or canola oil.  Normally I don’t like anything to interfere with the meat, especially fruit.  But in the case of pork, I occasionally make an exception.  Like when I make my killer pork roast with apricot jam-but that’s another day.

While canning will no doubt make a future appearance in the next entry or so, the recipe for today is a super fast meal I threw together last night.  Wait.  Last night we ordered Thai food.  So I guess it was two nights ago.  I needed to get rid of a few things in my fridge and, like many fantastic meals born of necessity, it turned out to be a hit.  I will do my best to give you ingredient measurements, but as anyone who knows me will tell you, unless I am baking, I just don’t pay much attention.  My husband is continually annoyed by this.  I would like to say that the perfectionist in him goes crazy, but in all honesty, I just think he hates it when I make something really great, and then can’t recreate it because I didn’t write anything down.  I tell him notepads would stifle my creative flow, but he is never amused.  I’ll try to do better, honey.  And even though I am holding on to the last days of summer with a ninja death grip, Labor Day weekend and chilly days are right around the corner.  So with the smell of apples and cinnamon in the air and my last swallow of coffee long gone, I am looking forward to my autumn inspired dinner tonight.  Hold the oysters.30-Minute Tortellini & Shrimp via Brittany's Pantry30-Minute Tortellini & Shrimp via Brittany's PantryTortellini with Shrimp, Zucchini & Tomato Cream Sauce
I’ll just write this the way I made it.  Sort of progressive and random.  The sauce turns out wonderfully pink.

1 large pkg refrigerated three-cheese tortellini
Boil pasta according to package directions.  While you wait, saute in a large nonstick skillet:
2 T butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
Cook over med heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Don’t let the garlic burn or it will become bitter.  Add to the skillet 1 small zucchini, cubed and about 20 med sized shrimp, peeled and deviened.  Saute until shrimp just turn pink, 2-3 minutes.  Add 1 large tomato, diced.  Cook for 2 more minutes, or until tomatoes starts to break down and whole mixture is bubbly and hot.  Add a large splash of heavy cream and cook 2 more minutes.  Toss whole mixture with hot pasta and serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Easy Pulled Pork

Classic BBQ Pulled Pork W/Dry Rub | Brittany's PantryThere are few foods out there that I love more than meat.  Ask my husband!  I usually start in the ‘steak’ section of the menu when we eat out.  I have a hard time eating a meal that doesn’t include meat in some form or another.  I mean I love beef, but chicken, pork, fish, duck-I’m really not picky.  I’ll eat it all.  I don’t know what it is, but just thinking about a nice rare prime rib, a golden roast turkey, the smell of bacon frying, the taste of just caught fresh walleye all golden and crispy on the outside, and my Dad’s roast duck about to come out of the oven…for me, this surpasses fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

Speaking of my Dad, I blame him for my obsession.  Its in my blood and I can’t control it.

And speaking of meat, as I type this, the smell of roasting pork is filling my house.  I am leaving for vacation in a few days and decided to bring a big batch of bbq pulled pork with me.  Hot or cold, spicy or sweet, its fantastic on a dollar bun no matter where you are when you eat it.  I plan on eating mine at the end of my parents’ dock with my legs hanging off the end and swirling my toes in the water.  I have never quite warmed up to the whole coleslaw-on-a-bbq-sandwich way of eating them as the slaw would detract from THE MEAT!  Heck who needs a bun?  This is a safe place, I can be honest!  In a few more hours when I take the pork out of the oven and its cool enough to handle (probably even before then) I will be stealing pieces.  Burned fingers and all, I am a world class snitcher.  A happy one.  So all that’s left to say is “Thanks, Dad.  Let me buy you a steak.”
Classic BBQ Pulled Pork W/Dry Rub | Brittany's Pantry Classic BBQ Pulled Pork W/Dry Rub | Brittany's Pantry BBQ Pulled Pork
No matter what kind of sauce I am putting on the pulled pork, or even if I am serving it plain, I use this dry rub on it while its cooking.  The meat itself needs to be seasoned and while I want it to have flavor, I don’t want the rub to compete with the flavors of the bbq sauce I might put on it later.  This is my rub recipe, but I cannot stress enough, EXPERIMENT!  I have never met a pork sandwich I didn’t like and there are infinite possibilities and ingredients to try.  Here is a jumping off point.  This serves about 8.

5-7 lb pork butt or pork shoulder
1 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T kosher salt
2 T dry mustard
2 T brown sugar

Mix all spices and rub over every surface of the pork.  If desired, let sit in the fridge overnight.  Roast at 300 degrees for 5-6 hours or until pork easily falls apart and the internal temperature is 170 degrees.  When meat is cool enough to handle, pull apart, discarding fat and bone.  Mix with bbq sauce or leave plain.  Our favorite bottled sauce is Sweet Baby Rays.  Pulled pork freezes great.

Margaritas, June Bugs, and Tea

The BEST Margaritas Ever | Brittany's PantryMmmmm.  There is nothing like reaching for an ice cold beverage when its a million degrees outside.  And trust me.  Right now, in central Illinois, its about that hot.  Personally, I like a nice strong, sweet tea.  In fact, sweet tea is one of my favorite all time drinks.  I suppose I developed a taste for it when I was young.  My parents used to make sun tea in a pickle jar.  Remember those enormous glass pickle jars with the green lid?   They were huge!  A gallon.  We had several, scrubbed clean, filled with water, and about 5 plain Lipton tea bags floating at the top.  We would set the jar out in a sunny spot and and heat from the sun would warm the water.  I used to love to sit and watch the dark, red-brown gold color seep from the top to the bottom.  I’m not sure how long we let it steep like that (I remember several occasions when we forgot and left it out all day) but after awhile we brought it in and mixed in lemon juice and sugar.  The sugar dissolved easily because the whole jar was pleasantly warm and with five other siblings, we easily polished off a jar in one meal.  Its been years since I’ve made sun tea-and even longer since I bought my pickles in a gallon jar-but I remember the flavor of that drink with such fondness, I measure all sweet teas against it.  Of course grilled hamburgers, sun bleached hair, and dirty toes add to the memory, but I stand by my taste buds.

So there you have it.  My drink of choice.  But after all that, I’m not giving you a special iced tea recipe.  No sir, far from it.  Instead I’m posting three drinks that I have come to fall back on when I need a classic, or just need something everyone likes.  I rarely drink so two out of the three are non alcoholic, but if you choose to spike them, I won’t tell anyone.  As usual, these are collected from various sources.  Until this moment I guess I never realized how un-experimental I am with beverages, but I know what I like and am passing my research on to you.
Note: All beverages taste better outside in a lawn chair with your feet up.  Dirty toes are optional.

Jane’s Margaritas
This recipe comes from my sister-in-law’s mother.  I don’t know if she created it or not but everyone who drinks them seems to say the same thing.  “These are the best margaritas I have ever had!”  You be the judge.

6 oz (1/2 can) frozen limeade concentrate
1/4 c triple sec
3/4 c tequila
12 cubes of ice, about half a blender full
Blend in a blender until smooth and frothy.

June Bug Punch - A refreshing drink the whole family can enjoy! {Brittany's Pantry} June Bug
I came across this recipe just a few months ago in the June edition of Better Homes and Gardens.  I made it for my daughters 4th birthday party and it tastes AWESOME.  It quickly became a favorite of kids and adults alike.  Seriously, soooo gooood.

3 c ginger ale
1/4 c grenadine
1/4 c orange juice
3 scoops orange sherbet
Blend together all ingredients.  Pour into ice filled glasses.  (To make a version with alcohol, add a splash of white rum to individual glasses or a 1/2 c to the pitcher.)

Herbal Iced Tea | Brittany's Pantry - No added sugar makes this as healthy as it is refreshing. Herbal Iced Tea
This is a recipe from the cookbook Barefoot Contessa, Family Style, by Ina Garten.  Even though this recipe is one of her most simple, the woman is a food genius.  I know it sounds crazy, but follow the directions.  No sugar needed.

4 Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea bags
4 Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea bags
4 c pure apple juice

Steep the 8 tea bags in 4 c of water for 10 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and add the apple juice.  Chill till cold.