Ever since I moved out of my university dorm and had a place to call my own, one of my favourite things to do is host friends for dinner. I think the origins of this interest comes from watching one of my aunts, who has been the definition of hostess with the mostest for as long as I can remember.
The summers of my childhood were filled with hours spent lounging by her pool with a popsicle in hand, having sleepovers with my cousins in a tent in the backyard, movie nights in the basement, and making jewellery while sitting on blankets in the lush, green back yard. My aunt always had something fun for us to do and staying at her house was like being at the best summer camp ever.
When it came to meals, whether it was a sit-down dinner in the dining room or an outdoor barbecue, they were always stunning – sort of like a photo straight out of a Style at Home magazine. I remember thinking that I wanted to be an awesome hostess “when I grew up”, just like her.
Back when I lived in Ontario, I’d have friends over on the regular for food-related gatherings – everything from brunch and dinner to post-run smoothies and girl’s nights. I loved the process of preparing recipes for these occasions, shopping for super fresh, vibrant ingredients and figuring out how to lay out the spread in my kitchen. These weren’t super fancy or elaborate parties, but that was ok because all we needed was tasty food to be enjoyed along with fabulous conversations.
Since having moved to Vancouver last year, I can’t say that much at-home entertaining has been happening. For one, my apartment is tiny and there’s nowhere near the amount of space that I used to have. (I’m not complaining though – part of me LOVES having a small living space because it limits the amount of possessions I can acquire.) In addition, there are SO many restaurants here and I’ve noticed that people tend to do a lot more eating out than dining at each others’ homes – at least in my social circles.
Even though hosting others isn’t something I’ve done a ton of lately, I don’t see that as a reason not to create beautiful food for myself with the most delicious, high quality ingredients possible. It can be easy to fall into the trap of making the same thing for dinner, day in and day out, especially if it’s just yourself that you’re cooking for. But our bodies deserve the best, no matter whether we’re dining with a crowd or alone, don’tcha think?
With this in mind, today’s Shrimp & Quinoa Paella recipe is one that will impress a crowd, yet at the same time, is easy to make and totally doable on a weeknight when you’re dining solo. The inspiration for it came from Muir Glen, a company whose canned tomatoes are currently making their debut in Canada.
Muir Glen’s tomatoes are organic, free of artificial preservatives and packaged in BPA-free cans. They’re picked from the vine at peak ripeness and go from farm to field in 8 hours or less, which means big things for taste by the time they get to your fork. For this recipe I used a simple combo of ground spices along with the Fire-Roasted Diced variety, which created a lovely smoky flavour and made my kitchen smell amazing. (Seriously, I half contemplated calling some friends and demanding that they come over because this was so good!
For the vegans and vegetarians in the house, you can easily make this recipe veggie-friendly by swapping the shrimp out for cooked chickpeas. To do this, skip step 2 in the instructions below and stir the chickpeas into the tomato mixture in step 5. Alternatively, simply up add in a few more of your favourite vegetables – artichokes, zucchini and green beans would all work well. Even without chickpeas, you’ll still be getting some protein from the quinoa, as well as plenty of fibre to keep you feeling satisfied.
Shrimp and Quinoa Paella
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Ingredients (4 servings)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 454g/1lb large uncooked peeled shrimp, defrosted if frozen
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup diced white onion
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp each ground turmeric and chipotle chili powder
- 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 cup diced zucchini
- 1 x 14.5oz can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, with juices
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 cup green peas, defrosted if frozen
- fresh chopped parsley, to garnish
Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of boiling water on the stove according to package directions. This should take about 10-12 minutes and all liquid should be absorbed in this time.
Meanwhile, mist a large skillet with olive oil and heat on the stove for 1 minute on medium. Add the shrimp to the skillet, plus a pinch of paprika, turmeric and chili powder, and stir fry them until almost cooked, about 3 minutes per side. (The flesh should be almost completely opaque.)
Transfer the shrimp to a large bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, heat the garlic, onion, paprika, chili powder and turmeric, stirring to coat the onion in spices for 2 minutes. Add the carrots and zucchini, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. (If needed, drizzle a few tablespoons of tomato juices on top to prevent sticking.)
Mix in the fire roasted tomatoes and diced bell peppers. Stir to incorporate, cooking for another 3 minutes.
Transfer the shrimp back to the skillet along with the cooked quinoa and peas.
After stirring everything together, turn heat to medium and simmer for a final 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the stove and sprinkle with fresh parsley just before serving.
If you’re curious about trying out Muir Glen’s new-to-Canada line of tomatoes, it’s your lucky day because there’s a prize pack up for grabs! It includes:
- 1 can of Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
- 1 can of Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 can of Plain Diced Tomatoes
- 1 can of Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
- a $50 President’s Choice gift card…. so that you can buy all the ingredients you need for this recipe, as well as groceries for a few others!
To enter, all you need to do is:
- Mandatory entry: Comment on this post telling me what your favourite dish is to make for guests, as well as your favourite meal to make for yourself
- Optional entry: Tweet about this giveaway, and be sure to mention @eatspinrunrpt and @MuirGlen. I’ve created a little tweet for you below, but feel free to customize it:
This giveaway is open to residents of Canada from Wednesday June 1st to Sunday June 5th, 2016 at 7pm PT. The winner will be selected and contacted on Sunday evening. Good luck! 🙂