Why Shrimp Cocktail Sucks

Ok, not all, just most.

Typically, a shrimp cocktail has no flavor. It doesn’t taste fresh and sweet like fresh seafood; it tends to taste like ice, and at best like good flavorful cocktail sauce.

Truthfully, you could dip just about anything in that cocktail sauce, and it would taste the same and probably be considerably less expensive.

The reason is that people, especially restaurants, cook the shrimp all wrong!

I have found that most places throw some seasoning into a big pot of water. If you are lucky, they throw in some lemon or a bay leaf too.

Once the water comes to a boil people dump in shrimp in the shell, bring it back to a boil long enough to change color and then drain the shrimp. The next step is running cold water and maybe dumping some ice on top.

As if this has not washed away any possible flavor they then peel the shrimp taking off the only part that picked up any real taste.

So, lets back this up.

Thaw, peel and devein your shrimp (this recipe works for about 2 pounds)

Take all of the shells and toss them into a small stockpot with about 1 tablespoon of oil

Sautee the shrimp shells until they change color

Pour in two cans of beer (you decide what kind)

Add in 1 small onion, medium dice

4 cloves crushed garlic

About 1/2c. Old Bay Seasoning

3 bay leaves

2 cups of cold water

Bring all of this to a good rolling boil to infuse the cooking liquid with the all of the seasonings.

Once this comes to a boil dump in your shrimp, stir, bring to a boil and wait for the shrimp to become slightly firm and turn white.

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Remove from the heat, stir several times as the shrimp will continue to cook a touch more. Add in about 3 cups of ice and allow the shrimp to cool in the flavored liquid.

If you have ever allowed a piece of meat to rest to allow the juices to be drawn back into the meat; this is the same principle.

If you dump off the flavored liquid and run cold water over the shrimp, it will taste like cold water!

Once the shrimp have cooled, about 15 minutes, remove the shrimp from the cooking liquid and refrigerate. I typically keep about 2 cups of the strained liquid in the container with the shrimp so more absorbs and so they stay moist.

I promise you this will be the best shrimp cocktail you have ever had!




Hate Thanksgiving Leftovers?

There are parts of Thanksgiving dinner that I LOVE, and others that I eat because its tradition and they’re ok once a year.

But what happens when you have lots of leftovers?

Authentically Mark - Thanksgiving Leftover - Turkey

Growing up, we ate mid-day and after dessert, a nap, and some football on TV. It was turkey sandwiches on white bread with mayo and sliced tomato sometime after football and before bed.  While I don’t eat much white bread these days I did sneak one about 9 o’clock on multigrain bread.

I’m always looking for something new and different to do with Thanksgiving leftovers… here are a few.

Authentically Mark - Wild Turkey - Maple - Rosemary

This is a favorite that uses turkey, rosemary and maple…

1½ oz. Wild Turkey

¾ oz. fresh lemon juice

⅓ oz. maple syrup (or more, to taste)

1 small sprig fresh rosemary

Lightly bruise the rosemary between the palm of your hands and place in shaker. Add remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass.

LOL, I had to sneak in one because you know a good cocktail idea goes a long way!

But one of the best ideas I saw was a waffle made with leftover stuffing, turkey and cranberry sauce…

Authentically Mark - Thanksgiving Leftovers - Stuffing Waffles

2c.       Stuffing (leftover or fresh)

1c.       Cooked Chopped Turkey (cook ground turkey if you make this another time)

1/2c.    Cranberry Sauce (any kind works)

2          Whole Eggs (beaten)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, place a large spoonful of mixture into a hot waffle iron and grill for 7-8 minutes until crunchy.

I’ve seen great variations of this that included leftover green bean casserole, or even serve it with a poached or sunny side up egg on top with some maple syrup; all of which sound like a great way to use everything up.

Here’s another that’s a lot of fun too; Empanadas!

Authentically Mark - Thanksgiving leftovers - empanadas

The best part about this recipe is you can literally use anything as the filling. Chopping up some turkey with any leftover vegetables is probably my favorite; add a little seasoning and make them as spicy or flavorful as you want. Leftover mashed or roasted potatoes with some veggies works well too and even using sweet potatoes or leftover pie makes a nice treat.

If your local grocery’s Latin food section doesn’t carry empanada wrappers, pie crust works and I’ve even seen tips that use crescent rolls.

The biggest thing is that there are quick, easy and flavorful ways to use up your holiday leftovers…enjoy!

Lighten Up!

This is the week we all start to prep for Thanksgiving dinner; whether we are hosting and cooking or bringing a dish to someone else’s house, we begin our preparations.

Tonight, we’re headed to church for a Thanksgiving potluck dinner, Thursday is Thanksgiving and we’re hosting Chuck’s father and some of their old family friends.

I know that gives us at least two nights off of the healthier eating band wagon; so, last night we lightened up a little with some healthy options.

Tomato Soup, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and a Salad… comfort food, but with a lighter twist.


For starters, regular condensed tomato soup can be very high in sodium and if you add the recommended amount of milk it’s also now high in fat. I lightened this up by adding low sodium vegetable broth instead of milk, a little fresh ground black pepper, garlic and fresh basil from my herb garden.

For the grilled cheese sandwich, we used whole grain bread… we’ve pretty much eliminated bleached white flour and really focus on whole grains. I really like Dave’s Killer Bread with 21 Grain and Seeds. (If you are buying this at your local organic market you might want to check out Sam’s Club, ours carries a two pack for about the same price you pay for one at other stores, and it freezes really well.)

On the inside of the sandwich; sharp cheddar for flavor and low fat, low moisture mozzarella cheese for that great stringy texture and to cut some of the fat. For the outside, a quick spritz of light extra virgin olive oil from the pump sprayer and a nonstick griddle.

Paring that with a salad of dark leafy greens, shaved carrots, mushrooms and tomatoes; a light vinaigrette dressing and we’ve got a great lightened up dinner in about 20 minutes.

We saved time so we could prep for tonight’s dinner, Thanksgiving and made sure not to over eat when we know the week will be filled with meals that might side track us.




Last night, Chuck and I had fried chicken.

We’d both done 30 days of healthier eating. We’ve cut out all of the fast food, made great choices when we’ve eaten out with family and friends, added vegetarian meals, more lean meats, smaller portions and lots of veggies. Eating less and moving more.

Last night was a big splurge, we both said this would never work if we denied ourselves things we enjoyed. So we had fried chicken.

We both balanced that with our usual healthy options the rest of the day and an extra long walk last night.

Today is a new day, we enjoyed our splurge and are back on track – tonight I’m lightening up Thai Green Curry. Ground turkey, coconut water instead of coconut cream and lots of crunchy vegetables.

#EatingSplurge #ItsANewDay #HealthierEating #AuthenticallyMark

Lighten Up: Shepherds Pie

Tonight I was in the mood for some comfort food…. something with rich gravy, beef and lots of vegetables.

Chuck bought a pound of extra lean ground beef  (96% lean); I cooked it up in a nonstick pan with no oil, a little garlic sea salt, black pepper and diced onion. (600 calories in the entire pound).

I portioned out the cooked beef into two baking dishes – not to self, one pound of extra lean beef cooks up to about 10 1/2 ounces of cooked, seasoned beef. 5 1/4 ounces per dish or 300 calories.

I added 3 ounces of frozen mixed peas, carrots, corn and green beans to each dish. (60 calories each).

I mixed in one cup of Swanson Beef Gravy (it’s thickened without flour) 1/4 cup has only 15 calories.

After mixing everything in I topped it off with a cup of mashed cauliflower. I cheated and used Green Giant frozen because we didn’t have any fresh and was working on dinner after work. It had slightly more calories than fresh at 160 calories per cup.

I topped it off with a sprinkle of paprika and some grated Parmesan cheese (about 20 calories).

All in we’re a 600 calories for a huge portion that was really filling.



Ciambotto is the Italian version of ratatouille with sausage.


Japanese eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, onion, peppers, kale, garlic, sea salt, ground pepper and oregano. I tossed this with homemade tomato sauce made from canned plum tomatoes, roasted garlic and fresh basil.

15 ounces was only 225 calories!

I added 2 links of Italian roasted pepper sausage – 140 calories each

We topped it off with 1/4 cup of low fat mozzarella cheese and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.

The entire dinner was 610 calories and packed with great vegetables and lots of flavor.

#ItalianRatatouilli #BigFlavor #AuthenticallyMark


One Bad Hombre


In honor of all my hombres; today’s healthy twist is lightening up on Huevos Ranchero.

Heat 1/4 t. of vegetable oil in a non stick omelette pan on high, add 2 ounces diced peppers, onions and tomatoes (I bought them pre-diced in the supermarket), one ounce of Jimmy Dean Healthy Turkey Sausage Crumbles and 1/4 cup of pinto beans.

To that add 6 ounces egg whites and reduce the heat to medium as the eggs start to set up, move the edges so the liquid runs under the cooked eggs and sets up.

Season with cracked black pepper, sea salt and a little sprinkle of garlic powder.

Slide on to a plate and finish setting up for about 30 seconds in a microwave, top with 1 T of shredded 2% cheddar cheese and a dash of hot sauce.

All this Mexican inspired goodness is 260 calories, filled with protein, low in fat and also has some healthy carbs.

It’s good to be a bad hombre!

#HealthierEating #BadHombre #LightenUp

Home Cooking


Tonight we were in the mood for a “meat and potatoes”, home style meal.

So of course we lightened it up a bit –

The meatloaf is 4 ounces of lean ground turkey breast, 1 t. diced onion, 1 t. diced sweet peppers, 1/8 t. chopped garlic, ground black pepper and Creole Soul Seasoning. We baked them in muffin pans and drained off any excess fat. About 240 calories each.

The mashed potatoes are actually Green Giant Mashed Cauliflower with Olive Oil and Sea Salt. (heat and serve) About 80 calories in 1/2 cup.

Swanson Beef Gravy – 1/2 cup has 15 calories and I used just under a 1/2 cup.

Fresh steamed Green Beans – 50 calories

Tonight’s entire meal, a full plate is 625 calories!

#YUM #LightenUP #HealthierHomeCookin #AuthenticallyMark


Meatless Monday: Indian


Today we got up early and and headed out to Webster Farmer’s Market; we stocked up on lots of fresh produce and used some of it for tonight’s Meatless Monday Dinner, Indian style.

On the top left you’ll see Chuck’s favorite- Saag (or Palak) Paneer, a spinach dish with cubes of farmer’s cheese. I lightened it up by replacing the butter with a small amount of vegetable oil, just enough to open up the spaces and we replaced the full fat milk 1% milk.

On the top right is Aloo Gobi which is typically made with cauliflower, white potatoes and peas. I lightened up this curry dish by removing the butter, and swapping out the white potatoes for a much lighter and more vitamin packed butternut squash.

And the last dish is the protein packed Chana Masala a great flavorful dish of chick peas, tomatoes and onion. Low in fat it has lots of fiber and protein.

These HUGE portions of all three items totaled just about 600 calories with the paneer making up about 120 calories of this and the chick peas being a slightly larger piece at about 300 calories.

(and we made enough for several more meals!)

#AuthenticallyMark #MearlessMonday #LightenUp #BigBoldFlavors