First, let me say that I am not Catholic. Not that there’s anything wrong with being Catholic, I’m just not Catholic. I had a friend in high school who was Catholic (still is, in fact). Every year he gave up dessert for Lent. Needless to say, all of his friends loved Lent, because inevitably sometime during those magical 40 days our school would serve enchiladas for lunch. No, the enchiladas weren’t all that, but whenever you walked into the lunchroom to see 90% of the student body lined up for “hot food” (as opposed to 70-80% of the student body in the hamburger line) you knew our sweet lunch ladies were serving enchiladas. (Admittedly, our lunch ladies weren’t always sweet. As a have-to-cook-dinner-every-night grown-up, I have much more empathy for lunch ladies than I ever did as a kid. Back then ~ in the bronze age ~ lunch ladies still did actual cooking.) So why the excitement over enchiladas? I just mentioned that they weren’t all that, and they weren’t. But the long lines weren’t for the enchiladas. You see, whenever our sweet (grumpy, hot, frustrated) lunch ladies made the decision to serve enchiladas, they ALWAYS served peanut butter fingers for dessert. Peanut butter fingers were the most coveted dessert in all of school lunchdom. If you ~ my faithful reader ~ weren’t among the school goers lucky enough to have been served the wonderfulness that was peanut butter fingers (or if were unlucky enough to suffer from a peanut allergy) you have no idea what you were missing. Ambrosia. Heavenly. Food of the gods. Still one of my favorite desserts. Of. All. Time. (Speaking of which, it’s still Lent, and I really need to make some. Or maybe, in the spirit of Lent, I’ll wait for Palm Sunday...)
Anyway, every year during Lent, one lucky person among our group of eat-lunch-together friends would be chosen for the honor of receiving the coveted Lentish peanut butter finger. And it was an honor. And in honor of that honor I have had a special place in my heart for Lent ever since.
Because of that experience, I have for many, many (or maybe I should say, for not that many ~ not because it hasn’t been that many, but because I don’t really want everyone and their dogs who don’t already know to know just HOW many) years made the usually rather spontaneous (because it sneaks up on me every year) decision to give up sugar, sweets and/or desserts for Lent. Every year for many (no, really, it hasn’t been all that many) years I make it a day or two ~ sometimes even a week or two ~ and then sheepishly succumbing to sugar’s evil lure. Every year my admiration for my friend grows, although he did admit to me not all that long ago that he’s not perfect at following through either. He just doesn’t give up. Unlike me, he doesn’t see one misstep as an excuse to scrap the whole exercise. An example I firmly intend on following one of these days. Er, years. Lents.
So, to make a long story short (too late!) I’m always looking out for Mardi Gras. Why? Well, for those of you who also aren’t Catholics, or aren’t all that familiar with the Catholic faith, or didn’t know that Mardi Gras was in any way related to the Catholic faith, Mardi Gras is the last self-indulgent party before the self-denial of Lent begins. So when Mardi Gras comes I know Lent is right behind it.
So in honor of Mardi Gras (yes, I know Mardi Gras is long past, so more in honor of Lent) I decided to try this recipe. And I’m very glad I did. Mmm. Of course, I’m a sucker for shrimp...
Dirty Brown Rice with Shrimp
source: skinny taste.com
1½ cups uncooked brown rice
chicken bouillon cube
2 bay leaves, divided
1/8 + ¼ teaspoon cayenne, divided
1/8 + ½ teaspoon paprika
1/8 + ½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oil
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ pound lean ground beef
salt and fresh pepper, to taste
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 scallions, chopped
Cook rice according to package directions in water along with a chicken bouillon, 1 bay leaf, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt, cayenne, paprika and thyme.
When the rice is almost done cooking, heat a large heavy saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the oil, onions, green pepper, celery, bay leaf and garlic. Sauté on medium-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add beef, salt, black pepper, remaining paprika, thyme and cayenne pepper. Sauté until browned, about 10-15 minutes; add shrimp, cover and cook 5 more minutes.
When the rice is done, toss with beef and shrimp and combine well. Top with scallions and serve.
Of course I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I wouldn’t be me if I did! hehe I used some of my brown Texmati (sadly, since I can’t seem to find it at any of the stores around here and I hate to have used the last of it. Yes, I’m weird that way. I’d rather have some of the things I love in the house and never use them than use them up and not have anymore) onion powder, and about half the cayenne than was called for (I have little kids, remember). And I used frozen, pre-cooked, shelled and deveined shrimp. But oh was this good. Even my husband, who likes his shrimp cocktailed, thought it was amazing. And the kids liked it too. Not to mention, it’s a healthier dinner than we usually eat. This is definitely being added to my Cajun/Mardi Gras/Lent favorites.