Seafood Risotto

Seafood Risotto

Cooking a slow meal is a great way to reset after a hectic week. Turn on your favorite music, open a bottle of wine, and make some Seafood Risotto to start your weekend off right!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 cloves finely chopped garlic

1 cup sliced mushrooms

3 1/2 cups fish stock or chicken stock

1 cup Arborio “risotto” rice (do not substitute another variety of rice)

1 cup sliced zucchini

1 cup salsa

12 ounces frozen seafood (I recommend bay scallops and/or raw, peeled shrimp)

1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese

Parmesan cheese and lemon zest (for garnish; optional)


Step 1) Bring 3 1/2 cups of stock to a low simmer in a medium pot… we will use it in a few minutes!

Step 2) Add olive oil, onions, and garlic to a (separate) large sauté pan.  Over low heat, sauté five minutes, until onions are partially translucent.  Add mushrooms and sauté five more minutes.

Step 3) Add Arborio rice.  Stir gently for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture feels quite dry.  This “toasts” the rice and helps to give risotto its distinct texture.

Step 4) Add 1 cup of stock to the pan and stir until it is absorbed (maybe 2 minutes or so).  Add another 1 cup of stock and the zucchini to the pan.  Stir until the liquid is absorbed a second time.  It will take a bit longer, maybe 5 minutes.

 Step 5) Add another 1 cup of stock and the salsa to the pan. 

Step 6) Add frozen seafood to the remaining 1/2 cup of stock in the medium pot. Turn heat up to medium high and allow seafood to both thaw and cook. This will only take about 3 or 4 minutes (bay scallops will turn white; raw shrimp will turn pink). When seafood is cooked, remove pot from heat.

Step 7) Meanwhile, continue stirring the rice pan until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  Each time takes a bit longer.  This addition may require 5 to 7 minutes to absorb.  Don’t forget to continue stirring, so the rice doesn’t stick!

Step 8) When the liquid is almost completely absorbed, taste a few grains of rice.  If they are crunchy, you may need to add a bit more stock from your seafood pot (1/4 cup at a time).  Be careful not to add too much liquid or the rice will get mushy!  Think “al dente,” like pasta.  When your rice feels “al dente,” it’s done.

Step 9) Remove rice pan from heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked seafood from the pot to the rice pan. Gently stir in the seafood and fontina cheese. 

Step 10) Garnish with parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Enjoy!

Brazilian Steakhouse Pão de Queijo

Today we’re making those warm little cheese puffs that taunted you from the basket on the center of your table the last time you dined in a Brazilian steakhouse. You know, those cheese puffs you said you weren’t going to eat because you were hungry for steak… and then you ate the entire basket of cheese puffs anyway because they were absurdly addictive and outrageously delicious? You’ve never done this? Oh. That must have been, er, another friend of mine. 😉

Credit for inspiring today’s dish goes to Olivia’s Cuisine. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Tapioca flour is gluten free

Ingredients (Makes 20 small cheese puffs)

2 cups tapioca flour

3/4 cup milk

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup finely shredded fontina or asiago cheese

1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese


Step 1) Add tapioca flour to a large bowl and set aside.

Step 2) Bring milk, olive oil, and salt just barely to a boil in a small pot. Remove from heat and pour over tapioca flour.

Step 3) Use an electric mixer to blend tapioca flour and milk mixture together into a smooth dough.

Step 4) Add egg and continue blending until dough is uniform.

Step 5) Add cheeses, one at a time, and blend until dough is uniform.

Step 6) Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until the Pão de Queijo are a speckled, golden brown color.

Serve while warm!

Lavender Chamomile Biscotti

Spring is in the air, and these delightful biscotti are just the treat for a springtime tea. Enjoy!


1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon dried lavender buds

1 teaspoon crushed, dried chamomile flowers

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt


Step 1) Cream together butter, sugar, egg, milk, vanilla, lavender, and chamomile.

Step 2) Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.

Step 3) Shape dough into a rectangle, approximately 10 x 3 inches. Bake on a parchment lined pan in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Step 4) Immediately cut rectangles on a slight diagonal into 1/2 inch slices. Place slices cut side down on a parchment lined pan and return to the 350 degree oven for another 15 minutes.

Cool and enjoy with a cup of tea!

California Cioppino

When visiting my Aunt in California, I enjoyed awesome – and I mean awesome – cioppino. In an ironic twist, I was inspired to make a pot of California Cioppino 2,500 miles away on the Gulf Coast. The seafood varies, of course, between the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the main ingredients here – mussels, tilapia, bay scallops, and shrimp – can be found in any supermarket. Don’t worry if you’re nowhere near a coastline; frozen seafood is just fine for this dish. Just pick up the seafood that is available to you in your area, put on some flip flops, and pretend the snowbank you see from your kitchen window is a white sand beach.  😉

Note: The cioppino recipe below is a stew, intended to be served in a bowl, like soup, perhaps with a side of good bread. Some folks prefer cioppino as a pasta topping. If that’s more your style, then reduce the fish broth from 4 cups all the way down to 1 1/2 cups. Other than that single change, the rest of the recipe remains the same. Your resulting cioppino will be less brothy and will hold up when served over a plate of pasta.

Ingredients (Makes a big pot; serves 8+)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

4 cups fish broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

24 ounces frozen mussels in shells

12 ounces tilapia fillets, fresh or thawed if frozen, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

16 ounces frozen bay scallops (keep frozen!)

24 ounces raw shrimp (fresh or thawed if frozen)

1/4 cup fresh diced parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley)


Step 1) In a large stockpot saute onion in olive oil, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add celery and saute for one minute longer.

Step 2) Add fish broth, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and Old Bay Seasoning to the pot. (Don’t add the wine yet.) Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Step 3) Add frozen mussels and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Step 4) Add tilapia (NOT frozen) and bay scallops (frozen). Simmer, uncovered, for an additional 3 minutes.

Step 5) Finally, add raw shrimp and wine. Simmer for a final 3 minutes. At this point the shrimp should be pink (not opaque), the scallops should be bright white (not opaque), the tilapia should be flaky, and the mussels are definitely ready! Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.


After spending a lovely but blustery morning fishing from Okaloosa Pier, we came upon Nellie’s Lumpia in Fort Walton Beach. Self-described as an “unfussy strip-mall joint offering a buffet of Filipino staples, including lumpia & chicken adobo,” Nellie’s is reasonably priced and absolutely delicious. What’s not to love about piping hot, savory deep fried spring rolls filled with pork and cheese (below left) or beef and veggies (below right), served with a sweet and tangy chili dipping sauce? Yum!

The Global Recipe Project cookbook contains a fantastic recipe for authentic lumpia. Bee at Rasa Malaysia also offers an approachable recipe to try. Whether you make them in your own kitchen or pick up a batch from a Filipino diner, I hope you try these amazing snacks. Life is short. Eat happy food!

Key Lime Cups

Key Lime Cups offer all of the flavor of a freshly baked key lime pie, without all the fuss. Also, by eliminating the pie crust and serving this frozen dessert in small juice glasses, we lower the carb count. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 6)

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Juice from three limes

Lime wedges to garnish


Step 1) Using an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until completely uniform.

Step 2) Add lime juice and blend for one minute.

Step 3) Pour mixture into juice glasses and garnish with lime wedges.

Step 4) Freeze for two hours or until semi-firm before serving.

Gulf Islands Shrimp Boil

Delicious, easy, and feeds a crowd – a Gulf Islands shrimp boil might just be the perfect, no fuss special occasion meal. You won’t need fancy dishes or silver utensils for this dish – this, friends, is a paper plates and paper napkins meal! Stuck in a polar vortex and need a mood boost? Put your heavy coat away and fish out your flip flops. Turn on some island music, slather on some coconut lotion, close your drapes and pretend it’s summertime while you enjoy this dish. Winter really will end, eventually.

Ingredients (Serves 6; recipe halves easily)

8 cups water

3 chicken bouillon cubes

1 teaspoon steak seasoning mix (or Old Bay)

1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes

12 mini cobs of sweet corn (frozen is fine)

2 small zucchini, sliced 3/4 inch thick

3 pounds fresh Gulf shrimp (unpeeled or peeled, it’s up to you – also, frozen and thawed raw shrimp will work fine)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon Sriracha

1 lemon, sliced into wedges


Step 1) Bring water, bouillon cubes, and steak seasoning (or Old Bay) to a boil in a large pot.

Step 2) Add potatoes, whole, to boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.

Step 3) After 10 minutes, add frozen corn cobs to boiling water. Boil for an additional 5 minutes (if corn is thawed, boil for only 2 minutes).

Step 4) After 5 minutes (or 2 minutes if corn was thawed), add shrimp and zucchini. Boil for an additional 3 minutes, or until shrimp have lost their opaque color and have turned completely pink.

Step 5) Remove pot from heat and carefully drain off liquid. Tip pot over a LARGE serving platter (a large turkey platter or jelly roll pan works well for this) and spread out potatoes, corn, shrimp, and zucchini.

Step 6) Stir together melted butter and sriracha. Drizzle butter mixture over the platter.

Step 7) Squeeze lemon wedges over platter and then leave the lemon wedges on the platter.

Enjoy! Leftovers are delicious warm or cold.

Orange Butter Shrimp

Orange Butter Shrimp served over noodles

Today’s bargain find at the local Gulf Coast seafood market was unassuming, small Gulf shrimp. These little guys might not be the most exotic item at the market, but wow are they delicious! This simple preparation will have you dining on tasty shrimp in minutes. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup sliced orange segments, sliced


Step 1) Sautee garlic in butter and olive oil over low-medium heat for one minute.

Step 2) Add shrimp and orange juice. Sautee for three minutes or until shrimp have turned pink (make sure there are no opaque sections on the shrimp remaining).

Step 3) Serve over noodles, spiralized zucchini, or lettuce. Garnish with sliced orange segments.

How easy was that?!

Potato Crusted Squid Steaks

Looking for a new appetizer idea? Pick up a squid steak or two from your local seafood market (or check any market for frozen squid steaks; frozen is fine for this recipe). Squid steak sounds exotic, and is indeed delicious, but this squid steak recipe is really quite simple to prepare.

Ingredients (Serves 2 as an appetizer)

1 squid steak (thawed if frozen)

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup instant potato flakes

1/4 teaspoon season salt

2 tablespoons olive oil


Step 1) Add olive oil to skillet and place over medium-high heat.

Step 2) While skillet heats, pat squid steak dry. Dredge squid steak in potato flakes, then egg, then potato flakes again.

Step 3) Place coated squid steak in hot skillet. Fry for one minute on each side. Done!

Life is short. Try new things!

Low-Carb Shrimp Satay Wraps

Creamy, spicy satay sauce is the perfect dressing for fresh Gulf shrimp. Tossed with fresh, spiralized zucchini and wrapped in crispy cabbage leaves, this dish packs a low-carb, high flavor punch. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Makes 8 wraps)

12 ounces cold cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 small zucchini, spiralized (about 1 1/2 cups)

8 raw cabbage leaves, thick center vein removed

For the satay sauce:

1/4 cup all natural peanut butter

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon (or more) sriracha sauce


Step 1) Whisk together satay sauce ingredients until sauce is smooth and uniform. Chill.

Step 2) Toss together chilled satay sauce, cold shrimp, and spiralized zucchini.

Step 3) Scoop about 1/4 cup of shrimp mixture onto each deveined cabbage leaf (see below). It’s easier to fold or roll the cabbage leaves as you eat them. I recommend serving these open-faced, as shown at the top. Enjoy!

Clams Okaloosa

Little neck clams are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, economical along the Gulf Coast, and delicious. We’re using a simple preparation today, because these delicate clams don’t require a lot of fuss. Also, the beach is calling!

Ingredients (Serves 2 as an appetizer, 1 as a dinner – recipe doubles easily)

1 teaspoon salted butter

2 orange segments, thinly sliced crosswise

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup frozen spinach, thawed*

1 teaspoon soy sauce

12 little neck clams


Step 1) Melt butter in skillet over low-medium heat. Add garlic, orange, and spinach. Layer clams on top of spinach.

Step 2) Turn heat to medium-high and cover skillet. Cook, covered, which steams the clams, for 6 minutes or until all (or almost all) of the clam shells have popped wide open. Remove from heat.

Step 3) Discard any unopened clams. Serve immediately in shallow bowls, alone or with French bread for dipping. Note: the broth which forms when the clams open and release their juices is absolutely delicious!

*Yes, we’re really using frozen spinach! Why? First, because it contains a lot of liquid and we actually want that liquid in this dish. Second, because the leaves are already packed down, which is convenient for this recipe.

Baked Snapper Wings

Baked Snapper Wing with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Both whole red snapper and red snapper filets are pretty common in Gulf Coast seafood markets. They are also pretty darn expensive. Today, however, I stumbled across a curious find tucked in the ice right between those plump whole fish and jumbo filets… an unassuming Post-It note declared “Red Snapper Wings, $3/lb.” Now, I’ve never heard of a fish wing, but for $3 a pound I’m not above asking for details! The fishmonger explained that “wings” are the cut above the filet and below the head on any large fish. This cut, she explained, contains bone and fins, but also a surprising amount of tender meat. Alrightie, let’s try fish wings!

As it happens, fish wings are just about the easiest thing you can make for a quick snack or simple dinner on the Gulf Coast. Simply arrange your wings skin side up on a greased baking pan, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. That’s it. The end. Just pick them up, or use a fork if you are feeling fancy, and eat them as you would a chicken wing. A simple spicy mayo sauce may be served alongside: mix together 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 teaspoon sriracha sauce. Enjoy!

Spiralized Carrot Salad

carrot1Eat Well, Be Well!

We shared this recipe on Crowded Earth Kitchen several years ago, and since that time quite a few health conscious readers have joined the Crowded Earth Kitchen circle of friends. Everything about this light and crunchy salad is aimed at wellness, from the cancer fighting phytochemicals in carrots to the anti-angiogenic compounds in the simple dressing ingredients. If your local market sells carrots in a variety of colors, great! Different colors (orange, yellow, purple, red) indicate different phytochemicals, and we want to invite lots of those disease fighters to this dinner party! Don’t worry if you can’t find other colors, though – commonly available orange carrots are super healthy on their own. Read more about the awesome properties of carrots here!


I’m using my Veggetti vegetable spiralizer for this carrot salad. For just a few dollars, it offers a great way to enjoy a variety of crunchy vegetables.

Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer, Makes Veggie Pasta

If you don’t have a vegetable spiralizer, that’s fine – you can make this same recipe with grated or shredded carrots. Either way, your salad will be delicious!

Ingredients (Serves 1 as a meal or 2 as a side)

2 large or 3 small carrots

For the dressing:

1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger

1 diced clove of garlic

1/4 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Braggs Liquid Aminos (or use soy sauce)

1 sprig of fresh mint (or 1/2 teaspoon of dried, crushed mint)



Step 1) Spiralize or shred your carrots. Arrange on a serving plate.

Step 2) Combine all dressing ingredients in a small blender. Blend until onion is pulverized and a creamy emulsion forms.

Step 3) Drizzle dressing over carrots. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately.

Simple Fish Head Stew

At a local Gulf Coast seafood market, I was able to procure the head of a red snapper for $1. It was big – around 1 1/2 pounds, and sizeable enough to almost fill the bottom of a stockpot – quite a deal for $1! To put that in perspective, if you would like a fresh red snapper head with the rest of the red snapper attached, well, that will set you back upward of $30. Red snapper is not an economical fish, so we’re getting creative to capture red snapper flavor without the red snapper cost!

To make fish head broth, just get yourself a fish head and drop it in the bottom of a stockpot. Ask your butcher or fishmonger for a fish head if you don’t see them… if a market sells fresh fish fillets, they must have had heads at some point, yes? Cover the fish head with 10 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Strain the liquid into a separate pot, and Voila! Now you have mild and delicious red snapper broth as a base for your fish head stew.

If you’d like to pick the meat off of the cooked fish head, go for it. I pulled a bit of meat off of each of the sides or “cheeks,” but that’s about it. Fully dissecting a large fish head is not for the faint of heart; if you’re a little squeamish, just strain your broth and discard the head entirely. No worries.

NOTE: This version of simple fish head stew is low-carb and keto friendly. If carbs are not an issue, consider adding 1 or 2 peeled, cubed raw potatoes and 1 cup of corn kernels along with your seafood in step 1. Either or both would make delicious additions to your stew!

Moving on, here’s what you’ll need to turn your fish head broth into a delicious fish head stew:

Ingredients (Makes a big pot)

10 cups fish head broth (see above)

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 pound of seafood (I used tilapia fillets because they’re inexpensive; other ideas include raw peeled shrimp, canned minced clams, or small bay scallops – use about 1 pound total, in any combination.)

2 slices bacon, diced

1 cloves garlic, minced

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1, 16oz bag “California blend” frozen vegetables, chopped small

1 cup firmly packed chopped spinach

1/2 cup half and half cream


Step 1) Bring strained fish head broth (see above) to a boil. Add seafood and bouillon cubes. Immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer over low heat, uncovered.

Step 2) While seafood is simmering in broth, fry diced bacon in a small skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside; do not drain or clean the skillet!

Step 3) Add zucchini and garlic to the skillet with the bacon fat. Sautee for about 3 minutes, until you can smell the garlic and the zucchini peel turns bright green. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 4) Check your seafood. If you are using tilapia fillets or bay scallops, they should be turning from an opaque color to white. If you are using shrimp, they should be turning pink. When the seafood appears almost cooked through (i.e., mostly white or mostly pink), add all of the vegetables to the pot. Continue simmering over low heat until the seafood is completely cooked, and any fish in your stew flakes easily.

Step 5) When the seafood is completely cooked, remove stew from heat and allow to cool for one minute. Then, add half and half cream.

Step 6) Ladle your fish head stew into bowls. If desired, ladle into bowls over a scoop of cooked white rice (optional). Garnish with crispy fried bacon and serve immediately!