Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake | On The Menu

Y’all. I made a killer dinner last week. Like, so good I shared it with friends at work because 1) I made a heaping ton of it and 2) I knew Mike wouldn’t eat it. And I want to make it again. I’ve dreamed about it. I’ve talked about it nonstop. I love me some Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake.

cajun shrimp and quinoa bake

This is not my recipe — I found it while searching for a fun casserole recipe because what screams “I need a casserole!” more than 98° temps outside? But I was in the mood and when I saw it, I knew it was the one. So this whole experiment is thanks to This Gal Cooks.

I had never cooked quinoa before. I’ve eaten it plenty of times… have had some really badly done quinoa too, so I was afraid I’d eff it up. But I followed the directions and thanks to the gentle reminder of my friend Tricia, I treated it like I do my rice: cooked it in chicken broth. The quinoa was good enough to alone. Actually, several bites were taken while the rest of this was cooking. I will be cooking with it more often, mark my words.

But this dish has the right balance of… everything. With the quinoa and juicy shrimp, fresh tomatoes and garlic, and a bit of kick with a jalapeño and cajun spices… my goodness, I just want to put my face into again!

The only thing I didn’t follow the recipe on was the cheese. I didn’t have fontina cheese. So I improvised with whatever brick of white cheese we had in the fridge — and I didn’t use much at all. I also forgot to salt and pepper… but there’s so much flavor with the cajun seasoning that it covered up that little mishap. But even still, this gets five out of five stars from this gal.

If you’d like to get the recipe for this Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake, you’ll have to visit This Gal Cooks‘ blog — but she has a handy-dandy printable recipe at the bottom of the page. If you like, be sure to leave her a comment and rate her recipe too! (I did. Bloggy love is a real thing, people. Especially when it feeds me.)

And take my advice: Add some chicken or vegetable stock to the quinoa water to add even more flavor. If you don’t have chicken stock, chicken base or dissolving bouillon cubes in water does the trick too. Oh, and don’t skimp and get frozen shrimp. Nah… bad plan. Pony up for the fresh ones. It’s worth it, I promise.

Week 31: Close Up | 2017 Project 52

This might be the first week all year that I didn’t have a running list of ideas for the prompt. I had zero plans, figured if inspiration struck I’d just zoom in as much as I could and see if I could frame something interesting. I mean, the theme was “close up,” how hard could it be? But without my list, by Sunday I started to worry that I was letting myself off my creative leash too much. So I decided carried my camera all day while I was running around town… and then a light bulb went off.

close up

Settings: f/7.1, 1/125 sec, 70mm, ISO 400
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

I had brunch plans with my book club (I love those ladies and our little group) down on Frankfort Avenue. If you haven’t had brunch at Silver Dollar yet, make yourself a reservation and put your face into some biscuits and gravy. But anywho, I always park on a side street and remember that there’s a really weird/cool salvage place on Frankfort at William Street. So I showed up a bit early and took a walk a block over to see if anything caught my eye.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. SO MUCH TO CHOOSE FROM!

I’m not sure how many pictures I took of the side of a rusting train car, but it’s not like I would disclose that embarrassing information anyway. ;) But the fading, scraping and rusting paint made was the inspiration I needed. I chose the image above because of the colors and the textures bleeding into one another. I love the warm and cool colors, those big rust rings that reach out to crackle the paint. It makes me happy. Really happy.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Week 32: One Love
due 08.09.17

One Love. One Heart. Let’s get together and feel all right.

Think of something that makes you pause, maybe makes your heart grow two sizes bigger, and melts into happiness all over. Now try to photograph it.

This theme can be interpreted in many ways, but I challenge you to let your heart lead you this week. What got you interested in photography to begin with? What types of subjects draw you in the most? Forget perfect lighting or fantastic composition — slow down, think about the things that matter most to you and then pick up your camera. Make us feel what you feel.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Week 30: Red | 2017 Project 52

Color challenges continue to be a favorite of mine because I love the hunt. But it is SO FRIGGING HOT OUT that taking a photo walk is more like torture than fun these days. So much sweat, you guys. So I decided this week instead of seeking out the color red, I’d let it come to me.

And that really didn’t work out for me.

For starters, not going outside meant not seeing anything, or anyone, new. I was at work. I was at home. I was in my car. I was in my bed. And finding inspiration when you’re in a routine really doesn’t work all that great. I did carry my camera everyday though, hoping to see a pop of color that got my wheels turning. But it was actually a last-minute, random decision that I made to get this week’s photo.

red stop sign

Settings: f/2.8, 1/1000 sec, 53mm, ISO 100
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

After a baby shower [where I ate my weight in delicious food] and dropping off a friend [who I had the best conversations with], I was heading back towards Prospect to go grocery shopping. And… on a whim… I took a turn that I normally wouldn’t take to get to Kroger. And then the pep talk began. “Let’s just check it out. Maybe traffic is a lot lighter on Sunday. No one will judge you – OK, maybe they will but those people aren’t our friends anyway. Actually, they’re assholes. They don’t know you and how awesome this project is. How dare they throw shade at me from their air-conditioned Benzos!”

I’m happy to report traffic was slow — very slow. And no one rolled down their window to ask what the hell I was doing. The little repair shop was closed even, so no bother with parking their small gravel lot. I just pulled over, hopped out and walked down a narrow strip of grass, praying that there was no poison ivy, and got to work. (I’m about 90% sure I got poison ivy from last week’s photo and didn’t even realize it until I was editing. I thought I just had some terrible rash on my ankle… which could have been prompted while taking a few steps into the field. It was quite itchy.)

But this sign… I drive past this stop sign every morning on the way to work. And I remember the afternoon I was driving home and saw these little “smile more, love more” signs that had been screwed into the post, sprinkled down River Road, both directions. I liked it then and I still like it now. Because it’s a reminder to find joy in everything. I’m happy that I summoned up the strength to do something I normally wouldn’t do. And now I have a sweet reminder that there is good in the world because someone took the time to do exactly what I did to share some love.

Week 31: Close Up
due 08.02.17

That’s right, we’re getting close to our subjects this week. Zoom in, or if you prefer prime lenses like I do, move closer to the your subject and really consider what you see through your viewfinder.

Are you able to find better light if you move around your subject? Is there amazing texture or detail that give it more character than you originally thought? Does it make more sense to stop down to a smaller aperture so more of your subject is in focus? Should you consider photographing different angles to create more interest?

Just step in, get close, and see if you can find detail that you otherwise would have missed. You don’t have to shoot macro, but if you want to I say go for it. I don’t have a macro lens so I usually fake it – click back to Week 17 if you’d like to reference ways to fake macro photography.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

My Five Faves: Summer of 2017

We’re halfway through 2017 and now halfway through the summer. Overall, I feel like 2017 has been a better year for me, personally. Well, so far — we do still have five and half months to go. And this summer… although it’s been a relatively lazy one, it’s been good. I’ve been able to visit with friends and family, take pictures of people I love, challenge myself with a huge project at work, love seeing what our Project 52 Flickr group captures and even find time to unwind at home. A good balance. But there are a few things that I keep coming back to that are my favorites of the summer!

My Five Faves: Summer of 2017

1. Wonder Woman  2. Claws TV series on TNT  3. Wayward Pines trilogy  4. Starbuck’s Peachy Iced Green Tea  5. TOMS Lexie Sandal

If you haven’t seen the new Wonder Woman movie yet, I don’t know if we can be friends. Mike and I enjoy comic book movies, but when it comes to the Justice League characters… they aren’t my favorite. Batman’s OK. I’ve never really understood Superman (even though he’s my brother’s favorite). The Flash seems like a cool guy. Aquaman… can’t say I know much. And then there’s Wonder Woman. I never liked the TV series from the 1970s and what I had learned about how she came to be… it made me pause. But — AND THIS IS A BIG BUT — what the writers and director Patty Jenkins did for the new 2017 movie changed my opinion of her. Is the storyline of the movie perfect? No. I actually disliked the love interest part of it. But the cinematic choices made and the fact that these Amazonian women are the fiercest beasts to ever protect a hidden island makes it fantastic! There were actual moments during fight scenes that I was on the verge of tears — it struck me on a deeper level than I expected. I will own this movie and watch it all the freaking time.

Sticking with motion film, another favorite of mine this summer is the new TNT drama, Claws. It’s about a group nail artists in Southern Florida who are also kind of sort of involved with a prescription drug clinic ran by mobsters… but it is GREAT! It’s a little dark (re: the parts involving drugs, mob guys and murder), but it’s also very funny. Niecy Nash does such a great job as Desna, a character that drifts between two different paths of life but knows what she wants in the end. Carrie Preston is so fun to watch because her character, Polly, is being revealed in layers like an onion. Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) is full of surprises and I’ve really enjoyed seeing Harold Perrineau act as Desna’s autistic brother, Dean. The episodes are wonderfully written, I’m engaged throughout (and love the limited commercials), laugh numerous times and the soundtrack is on point. The fact that One Way’s Cutie Pie was featured made me smile from ear to ear. Give it a chance — I think you’ll be delightfully surprised.

I’ve been reading a lot more this year (thanks to my great little book club) and actually set a goal for myself to read 30 books by the end of 2017. I’m on book 21 already, so I think meeting that goal is in the bag, but I a series I read this summer has me feeling like Alice trying to figure out which pill to eat next. I read Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter earlier this year and really enjoyed his writing style, so when his Wayward Pines triology went on sale on Amazon, I bought it for my Kindle. And then I proceeded to breeze right on through all three books. Not gonna lie, it’s a little weird… a mix of sci-fi and what-ifs… but a really good story. When I read that Twin Peaks had actually inspired Crouch to write the books, I had to look into that too — I’ve spent the last few weeks watching the early 1990s series much to Mike Murphy’s dismay. And once I can get my hands on the short-lived Wayward Pines TV show, I’ll watch that too. Like I said, I fell into a rabbit hole with this one.

It’s been hotter than the hinges on Hades door this summer. Even this past week we’ve been topping out in the upper 90s, closing in on triple digits, so finding solace with a peachy iced green tea from Starbuck’s has been a go-to-treat the last several weeks. I don’t really like Starbuck’s coffee (not that I’m drinking it all that much these days), but there’s a couple of things I do like, the peach tea being my favorite. It’s ice-cold, fruity and refreshing… it hits the spot on those once-a-week-treat-yo-self-to-coffee meetings we have at work. The bonus is the tea doesn’t rattle my stomach, which is why I keep going back to it.

I love sandals. I actually did a five faves sandals post a few years back — that’s how much I love them. I actually still wear the ones I blogged about, but have added more to my collection since then. A pair I recently bought though are my new favorites: TOMS Lexie Sandal. And because I signed up for Zappos Rewards, I only paid half price for them. Why do I love them? They’re casual but the woven tops take it up a notch, the neutral “greige” color matches a lot of my wardrobe (and my house!) and the ankle strap makes them even more secure on my foot. Like most flat sandals they don’t have arch supports, but they are on my feet all the time regardless.

Week 29: Nature | 2017 Project 52

I had big plans to go out this weekend. I’d convinced Mike Murphy to come along and we were thinking up cool places to visit to find inspiration for my nature photo. We could stay close to home in Oldham County or head over to The Parklands. Or we could have driven out to Jefferson Memorial Forest and hunted for Fairmount Falls, or gone further out to Bernheim Forest. Or drive north into Indiana to see the Falls of the Ohio, which is a place I’ve never really explored. Mike even remembered a lookout near Clark Memorial that he thought would be cool. We had big plans. But none of that happened. Nada.

I got sick. I picked up a sore throat on Thursday, started some OTC medicine into Friday and by Saturday I was a hot mess. HOT MESS. My sore throat, which thankfully disappeared by the weekend, turned into a full-on head cold and knocked me on my ass. For the most part I felt fine — I never lost my appetite and my stomach only felt cruddy when I took pills without food. But I was congested. Sneezing, coughing, blowing, wheezing, slipping in and out of sleep for three days mess.

The thing is that the weather over the weekend was actually nice. It was hot (I mean, it is summer here), but not unbearable. But come Monday it’s like Hades slept with his mouth open — so much humidity you could where the air outside like a blanket. I knew that by the time I was up and at ’em on Tuesday that an outside adventure was out of the question. I confirmed it with my two block walk into work when breathing became impossible: congestion plus hot, heavy air is not a winning combo.

But I did manage to pick my camera up last Wednesday after work.


Settings: f/4.0, 1/200 sec, 57mm, ISO 400
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

I know they’re a weed, but I have a thing for Queen Anne’s lace. Or some call it wild carrots. There’s always pesky little bugs around them. But I love how simple they are. Flat, white lacy flowers that grow wild here in Kentucky. So when I drove home last week and saw the field across the street had a slew of them growing, I walked up the hill with my camera.

I wasn’t really happy with any of the pictures I took, telling myself that I’d get something so much better when Mike and I went exploring… but then life just had to remind me that plans change.

I chose this frame because of how the flowers line the bottom 1/3 of the image, white tops popping out against the dark background. But you can still see the tree line in the back, with light breaking through, creating a soft bokeh that contrast with the sharp flowers below. Is it a good photo? Meh, not really. But one of my goals with this project is to have a new photo each week that aligns with the prompt. And if I hadn’t had visited the Queen Anne’s lace last Wednesday, I would have been putzing around my backyard yesterday with my camera in one hand and my inhaler in the other.

This week I went with the flow and took the easy route.

Week 30: Red
due 07.26.17

How about we focus on photographing only one hue this week… the color of passion, of energy, of power — let’s focusing on the color red.

Being a warm color, we’ve learned that it’s an advancing color that comes forward in an image. And red is one that carries a lot of meaning and feeling without trying very hard. But like our other color challenges, know that anything goes. Isolate the color taking advantage of the advancing color to make it pop on a background. Or choose to have the color dominate your frame, in all the shades in between. It’s your project, you choose how far you want to push yourself, how much you want to explore.

Bonus Challenge: Red always seems like a hard color for me to photograph. It’s like the details of my subject get lost in the vibrance of the color. So I challenge you to approach this prompt as if you couldn’t see in color. Look for light and contrast so that if you converted it to black and white, the image won’t lose detail and still tell the story you intended. If you want to push yourself even more, take your your photo using the monochrome setting on your camera and then share the color version with us in our Flickr group.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!