This week has been utterly overwhelming so of course my adventure into the realm of new flavors was thwarted by work and an endless list of to-dos. Thankfully I squeezed a few recipes I never tried before and they were absolutely brilliant (I don’t know why but “brilliant” seems to be the word of the week for me. I think I have been watching too much BBC America…).

In my scramble to live through the week, I decided to go for something simple – Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Skillet. Funny story about me and spice…. I can’t handle it. I blame my parents for leaving me alone at a table when I was about 5 years old with a bowl of chips and the hottest salsa known to man. Did I, a hungry child, see the sign that said “HOT!!” next to the bowl of salsa I so eagerly dipped my chip into? No. No I did not. What followed was what felt like hours of torture that no amount of water, soda, or milk could cure. That experience made me avoid spicy food like the plague for a very VERY long time. When I met my husband, I started trying spice, primarily because I didn’t want him to think I was a wimpy girl who was too scared to eat spicy foods (even though that was exactly who I was). After forcing myself to stand the heat, I am happy to say that I can eat and enjoy medium heat salsa! It only took me…. 25 years… ok I give you the freedom to taunt me because that is just sad.

When I started making the marinade for the shrimp, all was going well despite the fact that I had a terrible day that day. I had worked late and was too stressed and annoyed to even think about working out. So I turned to cooking. Of course, I was rushing because I was starving and it was getting late. Not paying attention, I opened the top of the red pepper flakes and sprinkled some in. By sprinkled, I mean dumped. I had unknowingly opened the wrong side of the bottle (this is exactly why I should not cook in middle of the week after a terrible day). For a moment I just stood there, shocked at what I had just done. The moment passed and after some explicit cursing I attempted to scoop out the excess amount of red pepper flakes (no the thought of just remaking the marinade did not enter my mind at the time. That would be way too logical for this girl). Thankfully I rescued the marinade and my mouth did not burn off when I ate the finished product (actually it was absolutely DELICIOUS).

I HIGHLY recommend this dish (adapted from How Sweet It Is!).

Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Skillet

serves 2-4

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (not 5 tablespoons, just in case you were wondering…)

2 cups uncooked penne

Whisk olive oil, parmesan, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes together in a medium bowl. Add shrimp to the bowl and coat in the marinade. Place the shrimp in the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes or longer.

When ready to cook, bring water to boil in a large pot and cook penne according to the directions on the box. Heat a separate medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp along with the marinade to the skillet and cook until the shrimp are pink – about 2 minutes per side. Add cooked penne to the skillet and toss to coat. Top with additional parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

To get a break from this evil week, I was lucky enough to go to one of my close friend’s houses for dinner this week. We made a raw dessert that was absolutely heavenly. It was a Cashew Fudge (completely vegan for those of you out there) and I felt like I was floating on a chocolate coconut cloud when I ate it. The ingredients were simple and fresh and it is packed with “power foods”. Sidenote: I really should be more familiar with the term “power foods” as I am trying to be healthier and lose a little weight before the summer hits and I head to Mexico. This is one of the big reasons why I am going to the BLEND retreat ( in Boulder in May. Though I am completely terrified at the thought of exercising in front of other people (it’s not a pretty sight), I am getting really excited for the event! The food should be fantastic and spending a weekend with fellow bloggers sounds like a pretty amazing way to spend a few days.

Anyway, this chocolate goodness is fantastic, especially when you shape it into hearts (oh it makes a difference in the taste, TRUST ME).

Wind’s Raw Cashew Fudge (from Natural Papa)

2 cups raw cashew pieces

1/3 cup cocoa powder

a pinch of salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup honey

1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla

Grind first three ingredients together in a food processor until fine. Add wet ingredients to dry and blend until a dough ball forms. Roll into balls or spread in a pan and refrigerate until very firm.