Skinny Spicy Buffalo Shrimp Dip

I absolutely loved this dip when I made it for the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, so I’m bringing it back for March Madness! The “skinny” part is deceiving in this gooey, cheesy, rich dip that tastes especially decadent with the shrimp. With only 120 calories per 1/3 cup, you’ll save enough calories to have an extra beer in the second half of the game. You can make this dish as hot as you want by adding more or less hot sauce. So instead of snacking on buffalo chicken wings, try out this tasty dip.

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You've never guess it is healthy!

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You’d never guess it is healthy!

What you’ll need:
4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/2 cup hot sauce – I used sriracha
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 cups cooked peeled large shrimp, diced
3/4 cup reduced fat Mexican blend cheese

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray an 8×8 baking dish, or any dish of an equivalent size.

Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, vinegar, and 1/4 cup of the cheese. Mix until smooth.

**Tip: Add the hot sauce little by little until you achieve your desired hotness.

Add the shrimp to the dip and mix. Add it to your baking dish.

Keep the chunks of shrimp bite-sized so you can scoop up a bit in every bite.

Keep the chunks of shrimp bite-sized so you can scoop up a bit in every bite.

Bake in the oven until hot, or about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and top with the remaining cheese. Add it back to the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Let the dip cool for a few minutes before digging in.

Bake until the cheese bubbles on top.

Bake until the cheese bubbles on top.

Serve this with carrots and celery to keep it extra skinny, but it’s also delicious with baked pita chips. If you like this dish, try my Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip!


Healthy, Easy Slow Cooker Jumbalaya

Andouille sausage, shrimp, brown rice, loads of veggies, and a kick of hot sauce … need I say more? This simple slow cooker dish is packed with flavor and texture. It’s perfect for a lazy Sunday at home while we wait for the weather to turn slightly nicer, and it makes delicious grab-and-go leftovers to pack for lunch during the week.

The best part is that it’s healthy, though you’d never guess it. You can add whatever veggies you have lying around the kitchen that need to be eaten, and the hefty dose of satiating protein and healthy whole grains keep you from heading back to the fridge for a midnight snack. It’s a fun dish to throw into the week’s lineup!

This dish is a quadruple threat: delicious, hearty, healthy, and easy to make!

This dish is a quadruple threat: delicious, hearty, healthy, and easy to make!

What you’ll need:
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons (or cloves) garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 medium bell peppers, chopped – I used sweet red bell peppers
1 can (15 ounce) crushed tomatoes
1 cup brown rice
1 package (12 ounce) andouille sausage, cut into 1/2 inch rounds – use turkey or chicken sausage if possible
1 teaspoon hot sauce – I used sriracha
2 tablespoons thyme, minced – fresh or dried
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups water
3 tablespoons parsley, minced – fresh or dried
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

What you’ll need to do:

Start by chopping and mincing all your veggies.

Place the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, rice, and sausage in your slow cooker in that order. Add the hot sauce, thyme, salt, pepper, and water.

Cover and cook on low for about 9 hours.

In the last hour of cooking, add your shrimp and parsley. Stir to combine.


Mom’s Crazy Chili

Nothing sounds better on a freezing cold night than a big bowl of chili. It’s warm, hearty, delicious comfort food – but it can be healthy comfort food! The best thing about chili is that you can pretty much add whatever ingredients you want as long as you have the basics: meat, beans, beer, and the right spices (that’s right: beer).

I may be biased, but I believe my mom makes the best chili. When I called her to ask her for the recipe (for about the 15th time), she replied, “Well, I just add a little of this and a little of that.” I asked, “Well do you know how much chili powder or cumin you add?” She answered, “I add enough to make it taste good.” So I improvised. That’s why I call it my mom’s crazy chili recipe – there really isn’t any set recipe. But those basics I mentioned are in there, and that’s the key. I also truly believe that beer is the secret ingredient to setting this one over the top.

I’m going to break down necessary ingredients and optional ingredients. I’ll also give you healthy and indulgent options. Lastly, you can make this either on the stove or in the crock pot, so I’ll give you both options there, too. However, there is one area where you don’t have an option: you cannot make just a little bit of chili. You have to make a giant pot. But that’s a good problem to have because chili makes the best leftovers!

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it's delicious.

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it’s delicious.

What you’ll need:

Necessary ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1.25 pounds ground meat – use ground turkey for a healthier option, but I love the taste of ground beef.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic – not necessary to have fresh garlic, but garlic in general is necessary. Use more garlic powder if you don’t use fresh garlic.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder – garlic powder is necessary, even if you use fresh garlic. If you don’t use fresh garlic, too, then triple the garlic powder.
  • 4 tablespoons cumin
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can or bottle of dark beer – ales, nut browns, stouts, or porters are the best. In a pinch, you can use a light beer, but stay away from IPAs.
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed

Optional ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, chopped – I like green because it adds color; I use 2 bell peppers
  • Cayenne pepper – adjust the amount to make it more or less spicy; I use 1/2 teaspoon
  • Celery, chopped – it adds a nice crunch to the chili, just use however much you have in the fridge
  • Carrots, chopped – it adds a little sweetness to the chili, again, use however much you have in the fridge
  • Bacon, crumbled – either turkey bacon or regular bacon is delicious, turkey bacon is healthier
  • Rice – it’s traditional in my family to serve chili over rice
  • Cheddar cheese – I love topping my chili with cheese!

What you’ll need to do:

Brown your meat in the two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove for about 5-7 minutes. If you’re going to use a crock pot, use a large pan. If you’re going to make the chili in a pot on the stove, just brown the meat in the pot. As the meat is browning, constantly break it apart with a wooden spoon. You want the meat to be smaller crumbles instead of large chunks.

Or, as an alternative, cook the bacon in the pan first. Cut or tear the bacon into smaller pieces and put them in the pan so that they cook faster and so you don’t have to crumble it later. If you’re cooking turkey bacon, cook the turkey bacon in the olive oil. If you’re cooking regular bacon, don’t put any oil in the pan. Then brown your meat in the same pan with the bacon drippings.

When the meat has browned, turn the heat down to medium and add the onion. If you’re using fresh garlic or bell peppers, add those at this time, too. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the onion has turned translucent. Add all your dry spices, except the bay leaves, and stir with the spoon until the spices thoroughly coat the meat and veggies.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

If you’re cooking in a crock pot, transfer the meat and veggies into the crock pot. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, beer, and bay leaves, either in the crock pot or big pot on the stove. Stir to mix.

Cover and let cook for many hours. If you’re using the crock pot, set on low heat for at least 6 hours – you can let this cook all day if you’re making it on a work day. If you’re cooking on the stove, turn the heat to low and let simmer for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally. The chili generally tastes better the longer you let it cook.

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

In the last hour of cooking, add your kidney beans. You can also add celery or carrots at this time if you’re using them. Stir and cover.

I love serving my chili over rice and topping it with cheddar cheese. In my family, we’ve also been known to put chili over tamales, but that may be a Southern California thing. Of course, chili is also delicious on hot dogs, fries, or other ballpark food. I’ve also heard of people putting chili over noodles. If you want to make it healthier, chili would also be good over quinoa. But you don’t have to pair it with anything at all – this chili is also delicious all by itself.


Mango Salsa over Mahi Mahi, and a 50th post thank you

To celebrate my 50th post on SeaJetCook, I wanted to post one of my favorite dishes of all time: Mango Salsa over Mahi Mahi. There are so many reasons why this is my favorite. The mango brings me back to one of my favorite places in the world: the beach in Hawaii. The cilantro in the salsa reminds me of growing up in Southern California, my home. Fish is one of my favorite foods ever, and mahi mahi in particular tops the list. It’s spicy, sweet, light, and fresh. The crunchiness of the salsa perfectly balances the delicate flakiness of the fish. The deliciousness of this meal is to die for (no pun intended, keep reading), and I just lucked out that it’s incredibly healthy, too.

Maybe this is a little morbid, and maybe it’s a bit of an over-share, but my family and I have often discussed what we would want our last meals to be. More specifically, what our death row meals would be. It’s weird, I know. But if you throw away the weirdness, what it really boils down to is what our favorite meals are. I know Clinton’s would be teriyaki steak and chicken with a zesty salad and giant scoop of white rice. My dad’s would be a bone-in filet with a baked potato, sautéed mushrooms, and beets. Mom’s would be the same (which is why they’re meant for each other). Throw a big helping of steamed broccoli and creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes with mango salsa-topped mahi mahi, and you have mine. So here’s my recipe, I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as I do!

It’s spicy, sweet, fresh, and simply delicious. The fact that it’s healthy is just an awesome afterthought.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 filets of mahi mahi
  • Mango salsa (makes enough for leftovers):
    • 2 ripe mangos
    • 1 medium onion
    • 2 Serrano chiles (or 1 if you don’t want it to be too spicy)
    • 1 cucumber
    • 1 cup chopped cilantro
    • 6 tbsp lemon juice

What you’ll need to do:

Though I generally like to multitask when cooking, I like to make the mango salsa before I even start cooking the fish. It gives the salsa time to let the flavors marry and letting me focus all my attention on one element of the dish.

Start by peeling your mango. Once it’s peeled, cut off the very bottom to make a flat surface or base, making easier to cut around the pit. Use a paring knife to cut off the flesh of the mango around the pit. Chop the mango into small- to medium-sized chunks. Add to a medium-sized bowl.

Cutting a base on your mango makes them easier to cut. After you cut off the big fleshy sides of the mango, they’re easy to chop into small, salsa-perfect pieces.

Peel your cucumber and chop into chunks, making them about the same size as your mangoes, and add to the bowl. Finely chop your onions.

The chiles are going to give you the heat in your salsa. Start by cutting them in half and removing all the ribs and seeds to control the heat (the spiciest parts). Then mince into very small pieces and add to your bowl.

Chop your cilantro with both the leaves and stems – I like to leave the stems in because I think they have a ton of flavor that you miss when you add only the leaves.

Add the lemon juice to your bowl, and thoroughly combine. Set aside.

This is delicious with fish, chicken, pork, or simply with tortilla chips as an appetizer. It’s a fun twist on a traditional favorite.

**Tip: I purposefully make extra servings of the mango salsa because it’s also delicious to simply serve with tortilla chips as a dip. You can also use it to top chicken or pork.

Set a pan over medium-high heat on your stove, and spray with cooking spray. Cook your mahi mahi in the pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side.

Top your mahi mahi with mango salsa and enjoy!

**As I’ve written my 50th post on the 5 month anniversary of SeaJetCook’s launch, I would like to thank all of my readers. I started this blog as a small passion project. It was a way to write down some of my recipes so I wouldn’t forget them, and I hoped to inspire a few hesitant cooks to get in the kitchen and give cooking a try. So far, SeaJetCook has reached thousands of readers in 27 countries, which simply astounds me. While I set out hoping to inspire you, it’s you that has inspired me to keep creating and keep writing. So again, thank you. And bon appetit!

Southern California-Style Steak Tacos

I’m a Southern California girl at heart, through and through. I was born and raised in a small beach town and grew up with the best Mexican food in the country (no bias, really). So when Clinton and I moved to Chicago a couple years ago, aside from missing our families, we sorely missed the Mexican food (so much so that we have been known to smuggle back guacamole in our suitcases from time to time). But because we can only get back to SoCal a few times a year, I had to learn to cook some of our favorites Mexican dishes myself.

Now, there’s a difference between SoCal Mexican food and Mexican food found elsewhere. Tex-Mex is very different because of its heavy use of melted cheeses, beef, beans, and spices (particularly cumin). Southern Mexican cuisine also heavily uses cheese and spicy sauces in dishes such as in enchiladas (which is arguably the most prevalent Mexican cuisine in the U.S.), and these tend to be a little heavier. SoCal Mexican food is largely influenced by Baja California, and therefore uses more fresh or raw ingredients, such as chili peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and lime, also making these dishes fall on the healthier side. And while southern Mexican cuisine uses more chicken and pork, northern Mexican dishes use more grilled beef (carne asada) and fish. Although I truly love any kind of authentic Mexican food, the Baja California-style cuisine takes me home.

These fresh and light steak tacos take me back to the beaches of Southern California, even in the middle of blusterous Chicago.

What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):

  • 20 corn tortillas or 10 flour tortillas (you need to double up the corn tortillas; I prefer flour, Clinton prefers corn)
  • 1 pound flank steak or top sirloin roast
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Pico de gallo
    • 2 tomatoes
    • 1/2 medium yellow onion
    • 1 cup chopped cilantro (or 1 big giant handful)
    • 2 jalapeno peppers
    • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon salt

What you’ll need to do:

Start by getting your beef on the grill pan over medium heat. Cover with aluminum foil. If you’re making flank steak, cook for 3 minutes on one side and flip, cooking an additional 3 minutes on the other side. If you’re using a top sirloin roast (like I did in this recipe), cook for about 10 minutes on one side, flip, and cook for an additional 10 minutes on the other side. Whichever cut of beef you decide to use, let it rest for a few minutes after it’s done cooking.

These beautiful pieces of beef require no seasoning. Just spray your pan with a little cooking spray so they don't stick, and then let the beef flavor shine through.

While the beef cooks, make your pico de gallo. Chop your tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, and cilantro. Mix in a medium bowl, and add your garlic, lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Set aside.

The cilantro is what makes this dish extra special. Not to mention, it's almost all veggies so this dish is super healthy!

Slice your avocados and lettuce, set aside for assembly.While the beef rests, warm your tortillas directly on the stove. If you have a gas stove, put your tortilla directly on the burner and toast over medium heat, about 30 seconds on each side. If you don’t have a gas stove, warm your tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Side note: One of my favorite snacks is a toasted tortilla rolled up with a little butter. So amazingly good.

After your beef has rested for a few minutes, slice across the grain into long strips. If the strips are too long, cut into more bite-sized pieces.

All the ingredients are ready to go!

Assemble your tacos as follows: Beef first, then avocado, pico de gallo, and top with lettuce. Enjoy this one with a nice cold Pacifico or Corona, and picture yourself on a sunny beach in SoCal.

Simple Spinach and Artichoke Dip

As your friends indulge in this gooey, cheesy, yummy appetizer, they will never guess that it only takes about 10 minutes to make. It’s become a Super Bowl staple, an easy treat for family get-togethers, and a hit with my book club. And really, it’s so easy.

This little kick of cayenne makes this seemingly ordinary Spinach Artichoke Dip extraordinary.

What you’ll need:
1 10 ounce package of frozen spinach
1 9-10 ounce package of frozen artichoke hearts (if you can’t find them, 1 can of artichoke hearts will work, too)
1 8 ounce package of low-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup low-fat mayo
1 big handful of Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or a couple pinches)
1/4 teaspoon salt (a pinch)
1 tablespoon garlic powder

What you’ll need to do:

In a large microwave safe bowl, defrost your spinach and artichoke hearts together. You’ll do this by adding about 2 tablespoons of water to the bowl, microwaving on high for 5 minutes, stirring, and then microwaving again on high for about 3 minutes. Drain out any liquid.

The best part of this dish is that it's a one-pot wonder. The defrosting is done in this dish, and then everything else is just added in. I even use my glass microwave-safe dish as my serving dish!

If your artichoke hearts are too big in size, break them apart with a fork.

Stir the cream cheese in with the hot mixture. Then add the sour cream, mayo, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, salt, and garlic (I use low-fat versions of the ingredients if I can so that I feel less guilty about enjoying scoop after scoop of this, but feel free to use full fat if you’d like). Stir until thoroughly combined.

Serve hot with pita chips, crackers, or chunks of bread to scoop up the goodness. This can be stored in the fridge overnight and reheated the next day (reheat by microwaving on high for about 3 minutes, and then stirring to combine). Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts with a Kick

I’m lucky because my parents aren’t picky eaters, and they raised my brothers and me to be the same when it came to food. You eat what’s served, whether it’s dark green, bright red, brown, yellow, or purple. However, there were a few food items that I knew my parents disdained, and for my dad, Brussels sprouts topped the list.

So for the longest time, I was afraid of cooking Brussels sprouts. Since they’re a food I didn’t really grow up eating, I wasn’t even sure I would like them. That is, until Clinton and I went to dinner at a friend’s apartment and our lovely hosts completely blew me away with this yummy veggie that I never knew had so much potential. So, Dad, I think I found a recipe for Brussels sprouts that I think even you would like.

The trick: Sriracha.

They're a little spicy, a little crispy, and extremely healthy and delicious.

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):
1 lb Brussels sprouts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Sriracha
Salt and pepper to taste

What you’ll need to do:

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then start slicing off the nub-like stem at the bottom of your Brussels sprouts, and then slice the Brussels sprouts in half.

As I slice, I throw the sprouts directly in the baking dish.

After all the Brussels sprouts are in your dish, drizzle with the olive oil, Sriracha, and salt and pepper to taste, then mix with your fingers to get the Brussels sprouts completely covered.

I use about 1 tbsp of Sriracha, but I'm sensitive to spicy. The more spice you like, the more Sriracha you should glob on.

Cover your baking dish and stick it in the oven for about 30 minutes. And that’s it! While it cooks, sit back and relax, or even make a yummy main course to go with it (see my post on chicken, as an example). It’s a super easy recipe that requires very little babysitting. What you’re left with is a super healthy, simple, and delicious side dish that’s great with any meal.

Pictured here with a baked potato, recipe to come!