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Food
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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Tortellini goes upscale with shrimp

Thursday, May 03, 2001

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In fashion, they call it a knock-off. In food, we call it fun.

Elaine Grubbs is the kind of creative cook who can taste a dish at a fine restaurant and then go home to put together a reasonable facsimile. For this winning Countdown recipe, she did it with one of the ubiquitous seasoning packets. (Who knew?)

The dish is Shrimp with Tortellini, which she enjoyed for lunch at Top of the Triangle restaurant, then experimented with in her own kitchen with an Alfredo mix (we used McCormick Creamy Garlic Alfredo Pasta Sauce Blend).

It couldn't be easier --with this recipe, you can practically be into the kitchen and out to the dining room in under 30 minutes. (It barely took us 15 minutes for the cooking, but take your time and savor this rich-tasting dish.)

Elaine, who marks this as her fourth Countdown winner, also experimented with "homemade" commercial Alfredo sauce from an Italian grocery, but she says this worked even better.

She laughed about the admonition -- perhaps overblown --that Alfredo is little more than "heart attack on a plate."

"There's a little butter and milk, but it's not all that bad -- if you eat it in moderation," she says. (We used skim milk but didn't skimp on that great taste enhancer -- butter.)

She adds that she usually buys peeled and deveined shrimp on special at Wholey's in the Strip, "then you just defrost and go."

Since November, Elaine has been on an extended leave of absence because of complications from a broken foot. She has worked in public relations for USX for nearly 35 years and still keeps up on her newspaper reading at home, looking for mentions of the company.

Despite her problem, "I could always cook -- the kitchen chairs have wheels on them," says Elaine, who uses a wheelchair to get around.

She and husband Jim, who works for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority -- "In the summertime he cooks out a lot" -- live in Lawrenceville with their two daughters. Alexandra, 16, is a tenth-grader at The Ellis School, where she will be joined next year by her 14-year-old sister, Rachel, an eighth-grader at St. John Neumann School.

"We are so blessed to have scholarships to Ellis," Elaine says. "The students are exposed to so many types of people there."

The cook says in order to get things accomplished you have to be organized, especially with two teen-age girls. "You can't wait and do six loads of clothes in one day."

Things can still go awry. "Being organized doesn't mean we don't sometimes have to grab slice-and-bake cookies for the bake sale -- that we didn't know about until that morning," she jokes.

Shrimp with Tortellini

1 pound package frozen cheese tortellini
3/4 to 1 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and cooked
2 packages Alfredo sauce (envelope type)
Butter and milk to make sauce

Cook tortellini as directed on package. Drain. Meanwhile, cook the envelopes of Alfredo sauce as directed (we used McCormick brand Creamy Garlic Alfredo Pasta Sauce Blend, which called for 3 tablespoons butter and 1 cup milk per package).

Add tortellini and shrimp and heat until hot. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with a green salad.

Tester's note: We used only one-half of Elaine Grubbs' recipe (1/2 pound frozen tortellini, 1/2 pound shrimp and 1 package mix, plus the 3 tablespoons butter and 1 cup milk required by the mix, making three generous servings).

-- Tested by Suzanne Martinson


Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail: nanderson@post-gazette.com. Questions? Call 412-263-1760.



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