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You don’t want to miss these LOVE-ly (and mouth-watering) recipes in Sara Stirs’ Valentine’s Day edition

Editor’s note: Sara Stirs is contributing to My Town, WV on an occasional pop-up basis to give readers an exclusive look at some of her favorite recipes she’s perfected over time. For more content, follow her on Instagram at @sarajstirs.

Shrimp Etouffee

Feeling fancy? Shrimp Etouffee is the perfect warm, rich and spicy dish to heat things up on Valentine’s Day. Doing February 14 solo? Treat yourself! (Photo by Sara Jeran)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon Old bay seasoning
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 15 oz can tomatoes
  • 2 cups shrimp or seafood stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Cooked rice for serving
  • Lemon wedges
  • Garlic bread (recommended)

Directions:

  1. In a Dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt butter and flour. Stir continuously until an amber color roux develops; this could take 15 minutes.
  2. Add peppers, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes to soften.
  3. Add tomatoes, spices, and herbs (avoid parsley), and cook 5 more minutes.
  4. Slowly add the stock in while continuing to stir allowing the roux to thicken the liquid.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce and allow sauce to thicken.
  6. Drop in the shrimp; they will cook quickly only a few minutes, depending on the size
  7. Turn off heat and stir in the heavy cream and parsley.
  8. Serve over rice with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Note: If you save the shrimp shells/tails combine them in a pot with: 3 cups water, 2 celery stalks, 1/2 onion, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon peppercorns, 1 old bay. Simmer on low uncovered until it reduces to 2 cups of liquid.

Chicken Pad Thai (serves 2-3)

Who doesn’t love homemade pad thai that tastes better than takeout? (Photo by Sara Jeran)

Ingredients for the main dish:

  • 6 ounces rice noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 jalapeño, julienned
  • 4 green onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Red pepper flakes

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (or white distilled)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Chopped peanuts for garnishing
  • Red pepper flakes for garnishing

Directions:

  1. Scramble the eggs, remove from skillet and set aside.
  2. Whisk all sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Cook noodles according to the package instructions. Most rice noodles instruct you to drain and rinse. DO THIS to avoid a gooey mess.
  4. Toss chicken with salt and red pepper flakes.
  5. Put one tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat and add seasoned chicken. Sauté for 4-5 minutes.
  6. Add veggies and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in bean sprouts and green onions, but reserve some for garnish.
  8. Sauté a couple of minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  9. Pour in sauce allow to cook a couple of minutes. Remove from heat.
  10. Stir in egg and cilantro, but again, reserve some for garnish.
  11. Top with peanuts, green onions, cilantro and red pepper flakes.

Weeknight Tomato Soup

Weeknight Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese is the ideal meal for a cozy, romantic night in. (Photo by Sara Jeran)
  • 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Parmesan rind (or 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. In a Dutch oven sauté onions, carrots and garlic in butter and olive oil over medium heat; season with salt and pepper. (Be easy on the salt as the canned tomatoes and stock both contain salt.)
  2. When the veggies have softened, add tomato paste and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in the stock and add basil and oregano.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.
  5. Drop in the Parmesan rind. However, if you are using grated Parmesan, wait and stir it in at the end.
  6. Cover and cook 20-30 minutes.
  7. Blend soup until smooth or use an immersion blender (do not blend the Parmesan rind).
  8. Return to the pot and reduce for 10 minutes.
  9. If you’re using grated Parmesan, stir in now.

Directions for the grilled cheese:

  1. Butter the outside of the bread with garlic butter and spread basil Pesto on the inside.
  2. For the cheese, use fresh mozzarella that is cut into small pieces and grated Parmesan.
  3. Add arugula and/or spinach dressed with balsamic vinegar.
  4. Grill until crispy on each side and finish with a drizzle of hot honey.

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