Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas

Here are some food gift ideas to give your foodie friends. These work well for those work people you just don't know what to get.

Buy little mason jars, clean/sterilize them and fill with my pesto or tapenade. Tie a little bow or ribbon around the jar.

Homemade baked cookies are always good. I like snickerdoodles.

This year I am also making some white chocolate bark to give to lots of people. Wrap in some holiday plastic wrap or baggies and tie with a bow. Or if you have any of those holiday tins you can put them in there.

White Chocolate Bark
1 pound good quality white chocolate
1/2 cup craisins
1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Create a double boiler by placing a glass bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Be sure to not overheat or the chocolate will seize.

Add the pistachios and craisins and mix well. Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly, about 1/4 inch thick, with an offset spatula (those are the ones used for frosting a cake, but you could use a butter knife or rubber spatula if you don't have an offset one). Tap the pan firmly a couple of times onto the counter to settle the chocolate.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set before breaking into pieces. Wrap or package to your liking and your gift is all set.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Old Bay Holiday Gift Contest

My friends at Old Bay Seasoning contacted me again about a great new contest in honor of the Holi-Bays. They're running it through Facebook for all of their fans. I have posted the details below. Good Luck!

Celebrate the Holi-Bays Contest:
  • November 19th through December 25th, OLD BAY wants to hear from its Facebook fans* on how they use their favorite spice blend during the holidays - it could be whipping up an OLD BAY recipe, sprinkling it on a holiday favorite, using it as a holiday decoration or giving it as a gift.
  • To enter the contest, post a photo on the fan page ( showing how you zest up your holidays using OLD BAY – (Entries are limited to one photo posting per week).
  • Each post will be voted on by the amount of “likes” it receives from fellow Facebook fan members.
  • The photo post with the most “likes” will receive an “Ultimate Holi-Bay Gift Basket” ($140 value) that includes a $25 gift card, a steamer pot and fryer, tons of OLD BAY products, 5 sample packs of OLD BAY for you to share with friends and family, as well as some items for the ultimate OLD BAY fan – branded t-shirts, cups, temporary tattoos, and an inner tube for sledding (or relaxing in the water for those who live in warm weather all year round)!
  • One winner will be announced each week, starting the week of November 30th.
    All gift baskets will be mailed out upon receiving each winner’s address information.*You must be a Facebook member and fan of OLD BAY’s Facebook page to enter contest

Throughout the contest, OLD BAY will also be offering its fans great tips on how they can make it a Happy Holi-Bay and zesty New Year! Here are just a few of the recipes we think would be great for holiday gatherings:

Hot Crab Dip -
OLD BAY Crab Cakes -
OLD BAY Steamed Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce -

* I definitely want to try out the hot crab dip. Would be great with some yummy crackers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

As promised, here is the blue cheese dressing recipe I made for husband's birthday and served on a wedge of iceberg. I wanted to test it first because it was something I played with. I am happy to report it was really good. The dressing would be great with buffalo wings or a vegetable platter for your next get together.

3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 shallot)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled domestic blue cheese
1 head iceberg lettuce, core trimmed, cut lengthwise into quarters
small grape or cherry tomatoes (optional)
crumbled bacon (optional)

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, shallot, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir in blue cheese. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. Place each wedge of lettuce on an individual plate. Drizzle each wedge with dressing and garnish with tomatoes and bacon, if desired.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Tomorrow is my husband's birthday, so I always try to make something special for him. Last year I made Chicken Carbonara, a dish I usually ridicule him for ordering at restaurants because I am sure it takes a year off of his life, but I figured for his birthday I would make an exception. And boy was it good! This year I am making Penne with Vodka Sauce and serving it with a wedge salad topped with homemade blue cheese dressing. Below is the recipe I am using for the main course. I will post the blue cheese dressing recipe tomorrow after I try it out. I am sort of experimenting, so want to make sure it is delicious before I pass it on.

(This is Giada De Laurentiis' recipe from her cookbook, Everyday Italian)
1 quart (4 cups) simple tomato sauce, blended until smooth (see my Holy Marinara post and do yourself a favor and double the recipe. Freeze the extra in freezer bags in 2 cup portions)
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 pound penne

Simmer the tomato sauce and vodka in a heavy large skillet over low heat until the mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creamy Cauliflower Puree

This one is for all my low carb lovers. I have recommeded before taking cauliflower and mashing it up in the place of mashed potatoes, so here is a great recipe. I haven't actually tried it, but I plan on making it soon. This recipe is courtesy of my boss via Eating Well Magazine. If my boss and fellow foodie likes it, it has to be good.

8 cups bite-size cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/3 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Place cauliflower florets and garlic in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Place the cooked cauliflower and garlic in a food processor. Add buttermilk, 2 teaspoons oil, butter, salt and pepper; pulse several times, then process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve hot.

Veggie Side Dishes for Thanksgiving

Roasting vegetables is a very healthy and delicious way to cook vegetables. It enhances the flavors of the vegetables without losing any of the nutrients. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, season with a little Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. You could also use some fresh or dried herbs, a squeeze of lemon, etc.

Roast Asparagus
Start by trimming the ends of a bunch of asparagus. The easiest way to do this is hold one at each of the ends and bend until it snaps, this will give you a good guide and then you can use a knife to cut the rest of the bunch at the same place.Lay the asparagus out on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. You could squeeze a little fresh lemon on top. Bake the asparagus in a pre-heated oven at around 400 degrees. Cook for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. At about halfway turn the asparagus.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
I know most people don't like brussel sprouts, but that is probably because your mom used to boil the hell out of them until they were mushy and lacked all flavor. This is a much tastier wa of preparing them. Lay out the brussel sprouts on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil; season with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bake for 30 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

Here is a more modern and healthier take on the traditional green bean casserole.
Green Beans with Carmelized Onions and Sliced Almonds
2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed and rinsed
1 yellow or sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 small package of sliced almonds (can be found in the baking aisle of your grocer)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until caramelized, about 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile in another shallow pan with tight-fitting lid, add a couple of inches of water. Bring to a boil. Season well with a few good pinches of the salt. Add the green beans and put on the lid. Let steam for about 3-5 minutes. They should be bright green and still have some crunch. This maintains flavor and nutrients. Drain the green beans and shock them in a bowl of ice water. This allows the beans to maintain that great bright color. Once the onions are caramelized, add the garlic and almonds to the pan and let brown for just a minute. Then add the green beans and sauté to coat them in the oil and allow for the onions and almonds to distribute. Season well with pepper and a little more salt.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Re-post: Southern-style Cornbread Stuffing

I posted this recipe last year after my husband asked me to make a stuffing to bring to his work holiday luncheon. Well, he signed me up again this year for their Thanksgiving luncheon that is tomorrow. I happily obliged, even though he forgot to tell me and remembered on Monday. But, he did make it up, by going to the store and buying everything and helping me as my sous chef chopping up the onions that always make me cry and doing all the dishes!

Cornbread, I just made a cornbread mix from a package
8 slices white bread
1 sleeve of saltine crackers
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 cups of celery, chopped (about 8 stalks)
1 onion, chopped
4-6 cups of chicken stock (start with 4 and add more if it isn't moist enough)
Kosher salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
4-5 eggs beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay the slices of white bread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for just a few minutes, until lightly toasted. In a large bowl, crumble the cornbread, white bread, and saltines together; set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery and onion, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until soft and transparent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sage and poultry seasoning. Pour the vegetable mixture over the bread mixture. Add the stock and a little more salt and pepper to taste; mix well. Now add the beaten eggs; mix well.

Pour mixture into a lightly greased cooking pan (9x13) and bake until dressing is cooked through and lightly brown on top, about 45 minutes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pork Chops with a Caper Sauce

Here is another great Mediterranean-inspired meal. Nice and healthy, utilizing ingredients you may already have in your pantry.

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 boneless pork chops, about an inch or two thick
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 generous handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine, like a Pinot Grigio
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their juices (I like to use the no salt added tomatoes)
1/2 lemon, zested and the juice
2 tablespoons capers

In a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add the pork to the pan and brown on both sides, about 4 minutes each side. Remove the pork from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.

Add the shallots and half of the parsley to the pan and cook over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pork back into the pan, so they are mostly submerged in the pan juices and tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes, until the pork is cooked through.

Place the pork on a serving dish. To finish the sauce, add the lemon zest, remaining parsley, capers, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Spoon over the pork chops and serve immediately.

I served it with rice pilaf and steamed broccoli.

Monday, November 16, 2009

White Chipotle Chicken Chili

My husband's co-worker sent us this recipe courtesy of the South Beach Diet, so it's healthy and low-carb. It was very flavorful and we made only a couple slight changes. We ended up putting in a entire 7.5 ounce can of chipotle peppers when the recipe only calls for a teaspoon. It was pretty spicy, so if you don't like spicy, I recommend sticking to the recipe's guidelines. Also, removing the seeds will take away most of the heat, as the seeds are where most of the heat is stored. However, if you like spicy go our route.

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 ¾ lb), cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
3 cans (14.5-oz size) white kidney or cannellini beans, drained (save ½ cup draining liquid) and rinsed
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 tsp canned chipotle chili, seeded and minced
½ cup nonfat half-and-half (I used regular half-and-half, so I am sure I added a few more calories and fat grams)
Garnishes: Shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Warm oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion; cook 4 minutes, stirring. Push onion mixture to one side; add chicken to skillet; sprinkle mixture with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add 2 cans of the beans and draining liquid, 1 ¼ cups broth, and chipotle; bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 can beans and ¾ cup broth in bowl of food processor. Puree until smooth. Add to soup in pot, along with half-and-half. Simmer a few minutes, stirring, until warmed through and flavors incorporated. Serve hot; garnish with cheese and cilantro.

Nutritional Information:
360 calories
41g protein
33 g carbohydrate
8 g fiber
5 g total fat
1g saturated fat
85 mg cholesterol
671mg sodium

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Publix Apron's Recipe: Tuscan-Style Chicken

I made my first Publix Apron's Simple Meals recipe tonight. I picked up the flyer this week while grocery shopping and saw this recipe. It was pretty good. What is nice about the Simple Meals is that they are quick and usually use only one or two pots/pans. Plus you can find all the ingredients right there in the store.

Here is a link to the Tuscan-Style Chicken with Italian Sauteed Beans:

I perused around a little bit and saw some other yummy-sounding recipes as well. Yet another great resource for quick, healthy and family-friendly meal ideas.

I'm Back

Sorry I have been M.I.A the past week. I have honestly been overwhelmed with my new dog, Lily. She is a very sweet, well-behaved girl, but I can tell she is also very sensitive. I have just been worried about her. I want to make sure she is happy and adjusting well. And to be honest, I have been adjusting, too. I have never really had a dog of my own, so I guess the responsibility has just been a little overwhelming. Not to mention I am a total worry wart anyway, so I have just been a bundle of nerves lately.

Things are getting better though. I am getting used to it and we are getting in a bit of routine. Luckily, my husband seems to be quite fond of her as well. He didn't really want a dog, but gave in to make me happy (I know, sweet). But he has been very patient with not only Lily, but more with me. He has been reassuring and really helpful. He even gave her a bath - solo - the other night when I was out at an event.

It's been only a little over a week and we've already had to attend our first vet appointment. I honestly didn't think we'd have to worry about that yet because she is an older dog and supposedly the breeder took her to the vet a couple days before sending her. But, I noticed she was really scratching and rubbing at her ear, and when we were over at my friend's house on Saturday we noticed her ears were really dirty, so we cleaned them. We thought she might have an infection, and boy did she! The vet let us look into her ears and they were filled with all kinds of crap; yeast and bacteria. So know were are flushing her ears out with cleaner, putting these other drops in and giving her oral medication. She already seems better though and she is very cooperative.

Anyway, with everything going on I haven't been cooking much, but I am getting back on track.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Welcome Lily to the Family

Meet the new addition to my family, Lily. She's an adorable, sweet, almost five year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that we adopted. She flew in yesterday from Alabama. For years I have wanted a Cavalier and now I have one. I am so excited. She is still adjusting, but doing well. You can count on more Lily-related posts in the future.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hungarian Goulash in the Crock Pot

I have posted a goulash recipe before, but this one is a little different. It uses cubed steak instead of ground beef. I have made this one before and it is very good. Best of all the Crock Pot does all of the work. It dawned on me last night that this would be a very fitting Halloween dinner. You know with ghosts and ghouls... goulash. This recipe is from my Fix It and Forget It Cookbook.

2 lbs round steak, cubed
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 and 1/2 tsp paprika
1 (10 and 3/4 ounce) can tomato soup
1/2 soup can water
1 cup sour cream
1 lb egg noodles

Mix meat, onion powder, garlic powder and flour together in slow cooker until meat is well coated.

Add remaining ingredients, except sour cream. Stir well.

Cover. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 4-5 hours.

Add sour cream 30 minutes before serving. Boil the egg noodles according to the package directions. Serve the goulash over the hot noodles.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spinach and Artichoke Calzones

Here's a great vegetarian recipe that even kids will love.

1 to 1 and 1/2 cups low-moisture, part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeeze well to release all of the water
1 (15-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
black pepper
1 (10 ounce) tube refrigerated pizza dough, regular is better than thin crust
marinara or pizza sauce, warmed for dipping

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic and mozzarella until well incorporated. Season with pepper. Set aside.

Roll the tube of pizza dough out onto a nonstick cookie sheet. Cut the dough in half across. Divide the spinach mixture in half and spread across one side of each piece of dough. Fold the dough over top of filling and pinch edges firmly to seal.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Serve with tomato sauce on the side for dipping.

Pepper Pork Chops with Wine Sauce

This is a quick, easy recipe that would also be good with chicken or fish. This is a take on a Ellie Krieger recipe.

4 boneless pork loin chops
dijon mustard
fresh cracked pepper
olive oil
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red or white wine
Kosher salt to taste

Spread a little dijon mustard on both sides of the pork chops and rub with black pepper, as much as you like. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork chops on both sides until browned and the inside is no longer pink, but still juicy, about 10 minutes total.

Transfer the meat to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Add the broth and wine to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, scraping up any brown bits from the pan. Continue to cook until the sauce has reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes. Pour the sauce over the meat, season with salt, and serve.

Book Club Pick: She's Come Undone

We're switching things up this month, reading something a little different. This is a bit of an older book, written back in 1997 I believe. It of course became a best seller when Oprah picked it for her book club.

"Mine is a story of craving: an unreliable account of lusts and troubles that began, somehow, in 1956 on the day our free television was delivered . . . "

Meet Dolores Price. She's 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Beached like a whale in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallmomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally rolls into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she's determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before really going belly up.

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years. At once a fragile girl and a hard-edged cynic, so tough to love yet so inimitably lovable, Dolores is as poignantly real as our own imperfections. She's Come Undone includes a promise: you will never forget Dolores Price.

About the Author: Walter (Wally) Lamb was born in Norwich, Conn., in 1950. He attended the University of Connecticut, receiving a B.A. in 1972 and an M.A. in 1977; he also earned an M.F.A. from Vermont College in 1984.

Lamb has written numerous short stories, most notably "Astronauts", which received both the Pushcart Prize and the University of Missouri's William Peden Prize in 1990. He is also the author of the bestselling novels She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Club Eats: Beer Cheese Dip

My friend Ashley brought this dip to our book club meeting on Saturday. I really liked it, especially with pretzels for dipping. This dip is fast, easy and affordable.

2 pkgs (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup beer or nonalcoholic beer
1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
pretzels, bagel chips, crackers, etc. for dipping

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, beer and dressing mix until smooth. Stir in the cheese. We like beer.

Book Club Eats: Apple-Cheddar Salad

I have been wanting to make this salad for awhile, and my book club gathering was the perfect opportunity. This recipe is courtesy of my Cuisine at Home magazine. The only thing I omitted from the salad was the pecans. One of my friends is allergic to nuts, so I didn't want to kill her, she is one of my favorite people. I had meant to prepare the pecans and serve them on the side, but I forgot to even buy them.

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup pecan halves or pieces
1 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

Toast the pecans in the butter, sugar and salt in a small saute pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes; set aside.

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh chives
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half & half)

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl and whisk in the cream.

Salad ingredients:
1 Braeburn apple, cored and sliced
1 bag salad mix
sharp white cheddar, shaved

Toss 1/3 of the dressing with the salad mix, apples and pecans. Garnish with the cheese. Save the remaining dressing for another use.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Club Eats: Roasted Red Pepper "Hummus"

Here is another recipe I made for Book Club today. This is kind of like a hummus, but without the tahini paste. It is super easy and fast to make.

1 (15-ounce) can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
half a jar of roasted red peppers, make sure the pieces have no seeds
about 1/2 cup of feta cheese
1 garlic clove
olive oil
Serve with crackers, pita bread, or vegatables such as carrtos, celery, cucumber, etc.

Place the chick peas, roasted red peppers, feta and garlic into a food processor. Blend until a smooth mixture forms. While the processor is running, stream in some olive oil, about a 1/4 cup, until it reaches the desired consistency, like hummus. Serve with vegetable crudite, pita bread or crackers.

Book Club Eats: French Onion Tart

Claire Robinson is my new favorite host on The Food Network. A couple of weeks ago she had an episode that had a lunch with the girls theme. She made this yummy and easy looking French Onion Tart. When I suggested to my book club that we meet at my house this month I immediately went back to that episode.

Here is the recipe:

I love Claire because all of her recipes have five ingredients or less. Although I added a sixth ingredient to the tart, blue cheese crumbles. Just a little on top before you return the tart to the oven to reheat for five minutes.

Women's Car Care Clinic

This past week I was invited by a friend to attend this women's car care clinic. It is basically a small class for women to learn the basics of car maintenance, including changing a tire, probably the most important car-related skill a woman should know.

The clinic was held at a local Century GMC/Buick dealership in Tampa on West Hillsborough Ave. Before we get to the clinic, I have to tell you about this dealership. It has been family-owned for 40 years and this location is a new facility that just opened in 2007. It is really amazing. I have never seen such a clean and welcoming service area. They have wi-fi throughout the facility, a great looking cafe and seating area, a 14-seat movie theatre that shows movies three times a day, a gym, and flat screen TVs everywhere. Best of all they have a nail and hair salon. I mean where else can you go get your car serviced and while you wait watch a movie or get a pedicure? We got a tour of the dealership and it was really impressive. They boast tons of space for meetings and events. If you're involved with a group that ever needs some meeting space, give them a call.

The car care clinic was taught by Lori Johnson, president of Ladies, Start Your Engines. This is what she does for a living, travels teaching small groups of women how to take care of their cars to reduce the cost of ownership and extend the lives of their vehicles. The class was hands on and I really learned a lot of great tips. I am now totally comfortable with changing a tire if need be. If you work for a large company, you should really consider asking your management to hire Lori to come and educate all the female employees. She doesn't just go to dealers, anyone can hire her to teach the clinic.

In addition to changing a tire, we also learned how to check to see if our brake pads and rotors are worn out and need to be replaced. Lori showed us under the hood and we checked the oil and other fluids as well as fuses. Here is a major tip when buying a used car. One of the first things a dealer will do is change the oil. So, it is important to not only check to see if the oil is clean, but check the oil cap and inside the oil pan. If there is any crusty oil stuck inside or any discoloration in the oil, do not buy the car. This can be a sign of a bigger mechanical problem.

Ladies, I urge you all to check out her site and educate yourself. You want to be able to keep your car running as long as possible, right? And you certainly don't want to ever be taken advantage of by a dealer or mechanic.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Club Pick: The Last Song

This month's Book Club pick is The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks. I know his books are whimsical and cheesy, but I love them. I have read almost all of them. I am a hopeless romantic so I just get lost in his books and end up finishing them in like two days.

I am excited because this Sunday I am having the girls over to my house to discuss. I am going to prepare so yummy eats for us, so check back later this week for the recipes. Right now I am thinking about a carmelized onion tart and elegant spring mix salad. Very much chick food to go with our chick lit.

Here is the background on the book from the Nicholas Sparks website:

"Seventeen year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Miller’s life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father… until her mother decides it would be in everyone’s best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie’s father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story about love in its myriad forms – first love, the love between parents and children – that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that deeply felt relationships can break our hearts… and heal them."

I am about halfway through at this point, and it is very much the typical Nicholas Sparks fare. This one is aimed at a more of a younger audience since it is mostly about Ronnie, an almost 18 year-old trying to find herself.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Boots!

After looking for boots for like three years I finally found ones that I really like. I always thought I would get brown boots, but after that great Calvin Klein find last weekend I knew I had to get black ones to wear with my new dress. I went shopping with my mom and sister on Friday and we ended up at DSW. My sister got a similar looking brown pair by Sam & Libby and I got the black ones below. They're Madden Girl and were only $50. I really like the suede, but I wasn't crazy about the bow in the back, so I pulled out the ribbon.

Double Duty Dinners - Chili

I love double duty dinners. Making something one night and then turning the leftovers into dinner for the next night. Yesterday was the first real cool day in Tampa, so my husband made his chili. He loves to make chili and has been waiting for it to cool down just for that reason.

It was probably his best batch yet, not too spicy for me. He used ground beef as well as some Italian sausage that he took out of the casing. He added red, yellow and cubanelle peppers, as well as some other long spicy pepper. And of course he put in onion, canned diced and crushed tomatoes, and kidney beans. He likes to season it with lots of cumin and chili powder, 2 and 4 tablespoons respectively.

So the chili was last night, tonight I baked potatoes in the oven and topped them with chili, cheese and sour cream. Not very figure-friendly, but it was budget-friendly, and delicious. However, I still have chili leftover. He made a huge batch. I guess we'll be eating it for lunch tomorrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Spiced Bars

Just in time for the Fall season. These pumpkin spiced bars are so good, more like a cake actually. You can always rely on Paula Deen for a good dessert and these certainly don't disappoint. I love the taste of pumpkin, but I have never been a huge pumpkin pie fan. I think it's the texture, but these bars are a great alternative for me. Plus, I love cream cheese frosting and this is the best you'll ever have.

I made these tonight for my husband to take to work for a bake sale. I'm hoping they'll be a big hit and sell out, raising money for a much needed family.

Check out the recipe on the Food Network web site:

I dare you to make these for Thanksgiving this year!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tilapia with a Smothered Mushroom Sauce

Tilapia was on sale this week at Publix, so I couldn't pass it up. Also on sale were baby portabella mushrooms, which I love. I decided to put the two together by creating a creamy wine sauce for the tilapia using sauteed mushrooms. I added a little spice with some cayenne pepper.

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tilapia fillets
creole or cajun seasoning
1-2 Tbsp butter
1 package baby portabella mushrooms (also known as cremini), wiped clean and sliced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup half and half
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of garlic powder

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Season the tilapia on both sides with the creole seasoning. Saute on both sides until lightly brown and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Return the skillet to the heat and melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms cook down a bit and the liquid from them evaporates, add the wine and let cook for a minute. Add the half and half, cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Reduce the heat and simmer for a couple minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the tilapia back to the pan to heat through.

Serve this dish with couscous or creamy grits.

Huge Savings at the Grocery Store This Week

So, I saved almost $40 at Publix this week! Very exciting. I have become a coupon clipper and I'm proud of it. I look through the ads every Sunday in the paper and clip coupons. And I gotta say there have been some really good ones lately.

A couple of tips: don't clip coupons for items you don't normally buy or won't really use. This will just cost you money because you wouldn't normally buy it. Also, I've heard to not use coupons right after you clip them. Wait a week or so because supposedly some vendors/manufacturers will raise the normal price right after they run a coupon to make up the difference. Just a thought.

Oh, and I didn't save $40 on coupons alone. I looked at what was buy-one-get-one-free and what products were on sale at Publix this week. I then created my meals around those sales. (My friend Jeanne is the master saver and she has taught me well. Needless to say, she was very proud of me this week.) Even though, I saved $40 this week I still spent well over a hundred dollars, but I must say I really did stock up on meats. Chicken cutlets and ground turkey were on sale, so I bought a couple of packages of each. Italian sausage, pork loin chops and tilapia were also on sale. I love when my freezer is packed and now I probably won't have to buy any meat next week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

New Cookbook: 500 Soup Recipes

While at the mall today I was browsing around Waldenbooks and saw this huge cookbook of 500 soup recipes on the bargain shelf. It was only $3.97, so I thought what the hell. I have already looked through it and picked out some of the soups I want to try. There are several things that are great about this book.

1. The price, obviously.
2. There is a picture of each and every soup. I love visuals.
3. The diversity. There is everything from creamy soups, cold soups, Asian-inspired, vegetarian, bean, pasta, meat, seafood, etc., etc.

Now if only we weren't in the middle of record high temperatures I might want to make some of these. I guess I'll have to start with the cold soups. Gazpacho anyone?

Shopping Deals at Ross

Today I went to Ross for the first time in a very long time. Ross is very much a hit or miss place, but there are always great deals on housewares and accessories.

Today I got a stainless steel tea kettle for only $10. I have been wanting to get a tea kettle for awhile and I couldn't pass this one up. Now, it just needs to get cooler than 90 degrees, so I'll feel like having a cup. Another houseware I purchased, also for $10, was a set of four white storage canisters. I am going to store my flour and Kosher salt in them for sure and I'm thinking maybe some orzo and breadcrumbs in the other two.

Last, but certainly not least, I bought this charcoal grey Calvin Klein sweater dress for only $50. Again, I just need it to cool down so I can wear it. That and also a pair of great black boots would look cute, so that'll be my next purchase. What is even more exciting than finding this dress at Ross, was immediately afterwards I went over to the mall and was browsing around Macy's when I saw the exact dress for $100. I couldn't believe it. I was so excited I had to tell this perfect stranger shopping in the same vicinity. She was excited for me. I tried to find a picture of it to post, but couldn't find it at or the Calvin Klein website.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share my cool findings from Ross today. I need to remember to check out Ross more often. You never know what kind of deals you'll come across.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Spicy Feta Dip

It is no secret that I love Mediterranean food, so this dip recipe is right up my alley. I am always looking for new snacks and noshes I can make for get togethers and this one was a big hit tonight at my monthly book club meeting. The book? Not so much. Everyone agreed that the book wasn't very captivating and could have delved a little deeper into the story and character developement, but nontheless it was a nice story and had a good ending. Oh! the book was The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinksi.

This recipe was courtesy of my Cuisine at Home magazine. A great magazine that I believe comes out bi-monthly or quarterly. It has great recipes that are easy to follow and shows step-by-step instructions.

1/2 lb. (or 8 ounces) feta cheese
4 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped pepperoncini chile peppers (I used banana peppers)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (I prefer to use dry, just use a lot less of it, maybe a palmful.)
couple of pinches red pepper flakes (recipe says to use 1 tsp., I just didn't want it too spicy)
1-2 tsp minced garlic (1 clove is sufficient)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (again, you could use dried thyme, just use less)

Using a potato masher, mash together feta and oil until mixture is smooth and creamy. Add peppers, lemon juice, oregano, pepper flakes, garlic and thyme. Mash to combine. Serve dip with warm pita bread or fresh vegetables.

Seriously, this dip is super fast to prepare, under 10 minutes, and is so easy and full of flavor. Definitely want to use a high-quality feta cheese for this.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chai Thai Teriyaki Turkey Tacos

This recipe is courtesy of my friend Michele, the brilliant creator of Intensity Academy gourmet sauces. I first had these at my first tastecasting event for Save the Tortillas. She made these then and the next time I made tacos I asked her for the recipe. It is really easy and the best turkey tacos you'll ever taste. Plus, they're healthy because a.) it's ground turkey and b.) the sauce is all natural. Thanks, Michele for a wonderful recipe! You can find Michele and her award-wining sauces at local farmer's markets and festivals. Check out the St. Pete Saturday Market every saturday at Al Lopez Park. Check out all the sauces and order at Here is the recipe, plus a few seasonings my husband added in.

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 package ground turkey
1 tsp cumin
dash of crushed red pepper
1/2 bottle of Intensity Academy's Chai Thai Teriyaki
flour tortillas - I like TamXico's low-carb wheat tortillas
toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, avocado, hot sauce

In a large skillet over medium-high heat add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the ground turkey and brown while breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula. Season the meat with the cumin and crushed red pepper. Once browned, add the teriyaki sauce, reduce the heat and simmer allowing the meat to absorb the sauce.

Serve on warm tortillas and top with desired toppings.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Black Bean Soup

My husband loved the Cubans I made last weekend, so he requested them again. This time I thought I would make them for Saturday night's dinner and press them on my panini press. I was trying to think of what I could make with them, not really wanting to do the black beans and rice thing, which we do a lot when we have tacos and such. He suggested a black bean soup. It was perfect because I knew I had seen recipes for black bean soup in one of my Rachael Ray cookbooks. The below recipe is a variation of her Black Bean Stoup (thicker than a soup, thinner than a stew) that is in her 365 No Repeats cookbook - my favorite cookbook of hers I think.

This soup is healthy, high in protein and can be made vegetarian if you use veggie stock instead of chicken stock.

2 Tbsps olive oil
2 dried bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 (15-ounce) cans black beans
2 Tbsps cumin
1 and 1/2 tsps coriander
Salt and Pepper
couple of pinches crushed red pepper
2-3 Tbsp hot sauce
1 quart (4 cups) chicken or veggie stock/broth
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
sour cream and chopped scallions for topping the soup

Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the hot pot, then add the bay leaves, garlic, onion and celery. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the bell pepper and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes. Drain 2 cans of black beans and add them. With the remaining can, pour the entire contents into the food processor and blend until smooth. Add to the pot. Season with cumin, coriander, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and the hot sauce. Add the stock and can of tomatoes, bring to a bubble. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream and scallions.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tampa Pitcher Show

I have been going to the Tampa Pitcher Show for years. It is truly a Tampa original, located in Carrollwood off of North Dale Mabry. What's unique about it is instead of sitting in the normal row of seats, you sit at a little pub table where there are servers that bring you food and drinks, like beer. That is what is truly great.

They have everything from snacks like popcorn and appetizers to sandwiches and even entrees like pasta dishes. My husband always orders the chicken wings and I usually get the blue cheese burger, but I have had entrees like lasagna before, which was equally good.

It is just one theatre, so they only play one movie at a time. Last night we went and saw The Informant! with Matt Damon. The movie was a little weird, but Matt Damon was great, as always. But even when the movie isn't that great, the experience always is because you can enjoy a pitcher of beer or sangria and enjoy some deliciously bad for your food.

14416 N. Dale Mabry Hwy
Tampa, FL 33618
I definitely suggest all you locals check out the Tampa Pitcher Show if you haven't already. It's a great laid-back atmosphere and definitely a better value than going to the regular movies. Admissions for adults are only $7 and you can have the whole dinner and a movie at the same spot.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Salmon Puttanesca

Tonight I whipped up a quick meal of sauteed salmon topped with puttanesca sauce served over linguine. I took some amateur pictures, which I have posted below. I think it looks like a pretty fancy dish when in reality it took less than a half hour. Here is the recipe from a previous post:, except tonight I topped with some really good feta cheese. The Land & Sea Market has really good Greek and French feta cheese.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Potatoes

This is a great hearty dish that seems like it would be really fattening, but is actually quite healthful. Cut even more fat and calories by using low-fat cheese and not using any butter on the potato. I can't wait for it to cool down so I can stuff a big potato with leftover chili.

2 large baked potatoes
1 chicken breast, about 1/2 a pound, cooked and chopped into small chunks
1 cup broccoli florets in small chunks, blanch in boiling water for no more than 3 minutes
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese, grated

Rinse the potatoes well. Using a fork, poke the potato to make various holes in them. Place in the microwave and cook on high for approximately 14 minutes, turning once halfway through. (You could also bake in the oven, but that would take over an hour, and what modern housewife has an hour to kill after work during the week?) Test the doneness by poking with a fork. If it goes in smoothly and the potato is soft, it is done.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauce pan. Whisk in the flour and let cook for a minute or two, until golden brown. (This is called a rue and is used to thicken sauces and gravys.) Then slowly add the milk while whisking. Bring to a bubble, stirring often until thickened. It won't take long, maybe 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the cheddar cheese, stir in the chicken and broccoli.

When the potatoes are done, remove to a plate and slice in half. Mash up the insides of the potatoes a little with a fork. If you'd like, add a little butter. Season with pepper. Pour the sauce over the potatoes and sprinkle with a little grated parmesan cheese.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Roasted Garlic

I had to repost this recipe. The first time I posted it was back in February when I made it for Valentine's Day. I made it tonight and served it with pita bread that I warmed in the oven. Just add the pita bread to the oven when the garlic has about 8-10 minutes to go. Cut the pitas into wedges and spread the garlic on them.

Roasted Garlic
1 whole head of garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil

Roasting the garlic this way mellows out the flavor and softens it, allowing you to spread it on bread as if it were butter. Delish! I had this years ago at an Italian restaurant, but this was the first time I tried to replicate it.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Using a knife, cut off the top third of the garlic head. Do not peel the garlic. Place it in a small, oven-proof dish, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil; and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Remove the foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes. You should now be able to use a butter knife to scoop out the garlic cloves and spread on bread, or anything else you can think of.

Pesto Risotto with Shrimp

Everyone is probably getting sick of reading about me making pesto all the time, and I know, but I just love it. Here is another great use for it. Make a batch of basic risotto, recipe follows, and then add a few spoonfuls of my basil pesto to the risotto. I also added shrimp to the dish. Just stir the shrimp into the risotto when there is a couple minutes left, maybe when you add your last ladle of broth.

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion or 1/2 a medium one, chopped small
1 and 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc works well, too.)
grated parmesan cheese (a couple of small handfuls)
salt and black pepper to taste

Place the broth in a saucepan over low-medium high heat to warm.

In a deep skillet, melt the butter and oil together over medium to medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for a few minutes, until translucent. Add the rice and saute for a couple more minutes. (This toasts the rice and gives it a light golden color.) Add the wine and let it cook out for 1 minute. Now add a couple of ladles of the broth. As the rice absorbs the liquid, add a couple more ladles of broth. Stir often and continue to add broth as the rice absorbs the liquid. Takes about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. What you'll end up with is a delicious, creamy and cheesey rice dish.

Serves 4. Yummy!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mount Diablo Dip and Cuban Sandwiches

This is a great game day spread. This dip is my version of layer dip or taco dip. My family has been making it for years. I'm not sure where it originated from. I think a neighbor used to make it and we loved it so much he shared the recipe. Anyway, this dip makes an appearance at various family gatherings. I also made some Cuban sandwiches.

2-3 avocadoes
juice of 1 lemon
Sprinkle of both onion and garlic powder
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 pint sour cream
1 package of taco seasoning mix
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tomatoes, diced
1 small can of sliced black olives
3 green onions, sliced
1 bag of tortilla chips

On the bottom of a pie plate, mash up the avocado with the lemon juice and season with a little of the garlic and onion powder. Spread out on the bottom of the plate.

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning until smooth. (There are always a little bit of lumps. I even tried mixing it with my Kitchen Aid and it was still a little lumpy.) Spread the mixture over the avocado.

Next, sprinkle an even layer of the shredded cheese. Top with tomatoes, olives and green onions. Serve with your favorite tortilla.

For the cuban sandwiches, take real Cuban bread and slice in half. Spread mayo on one side and yellow mustard on the other. On the bottom piece of bread, place sliced swiss cheese, then dill sandwich pickles, sliced ham, turkey and pork. Top with the other piece of bread.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blew Through Yet Another Hair Dryer...

...Pun definitely intended. Is it just me or does everyone go through a hair dryer like once a year?

I swear I just bought this hair dryer maybe a year ago and it already broke. Died on me this morning. Luckily I was just about finished and used my flat iron for the final touches. Otherwise I wouldn't have looked very pretty this morning. My hair is getting longer now, so I can't get away with not blowing it dry anymore, otherwise it does this very unattractive wavy thing. I only reserve Sundays for no blow dryer use, because come on, it's the day of rest, right? And then I just throw it up so no one can tell I have this weird wavy thing going on.

Anyway, I am looking for some suggestions on a good hair dryer that will last me longer than a year. Please provide your suggestions in the comment box, preferably an affordable suggestion. Thanks!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Linguine with Clam Sauce

I have made this dish before, but last night was by far the best. I think it is because I let the sauce simmer and reduce while the pasta was cooking. It is also key not to use all of the clam juice, but half and make up the rest with broth. By the way, this meal is very inexpensive because I use canned clams in lieu of fresh clams.

I served it with a caprese salad topped with my homemade basil pesto. Just slice ripe tomato and fresh mozzarella. Season the tomato with salt and pepper, alternate the slices of tomato with mozzarella, drizzle with some of the pesto.

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsps butter, divided
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 (10 ounce) cans whole baby clams
the clam juice from 1 of the cans
10 ounces chicken, seafood or vegetable broth
juice and zest of 1 lemon
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 lb. linguine (I used multigrain)
salt and pepper
fresh grated parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the olive oil into 1 Tbsp of butter. Add the shallot and cook until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for another minute or two. Add the red pepper and clams and sautee for a minute. Add the clam juice and broth; let simmer while the pasta is cooking. Some of the liquid will cook out and that is good. The clams will absorb some of it as well. When the pasta is almost done add the lemon juice and the remaining Tbsp of butter to the sauce.

By this time the water should be boiling, salt liberally, add the linguine. Cook for about 7 minutes, or as the box directs. When the linguine is done, don't drain normally. Use tongs or a pasta spoon and take the pasta out and directly add to the skillet with the clam sauce. Don't worry about draining the pasta really well as you scoop it out, some of the pasta water is good.

Add the lemon zest and parsley, toss the linguine well with the sauce. Add some parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste; toss well again. Divide among 4 bowls. Serve with a little extra cheese on top.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Italian Chicken (in the Crock Pot)

My mom, sister and I have frequently been using our Crock Pots lately. The two of them had both told me about this Italian Chicken dish using one of the McCormick slow cooker packets. So, I finally decided to make it. *Note, I found this particular packet at Sweetbay. I was having trouble locating them at Publix.

Ingredients: (This is all on the packet, but I have some cooking modifications to share)
1 McCormick Italian Chicken packet
2.5 lbs chicken (Definitely use skinless, boneless chicken breast. When you use bone-in chicken it all just breaks down and you're left with a bunch of bones hanging out in your sauce.)
1 (12 ounce) package fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 (14 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (one of the very few times you'll actually use a whole can of tomato paste)

Add the chicken to the Crock Pot, then the mushrooms. Mix the seasonings, tomatoes and paste together, pour on top. Cook on low for 6 hours. *Note the package says 8 hours on low, but that is really too long.

Remove the chicken and mushrooms to a platter. Stir the sauce well. You can serve over pasta or creamy polenta as I did.

Creamy Polenta
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup polenta or cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

In a saucepan bring the broth and milk to a simmer over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low while whisking the cornmeal in slowly and continue for about 5 minutes until it starts to thicken. Add a drizzle of olive oil and stir in the cheese until melted.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September's Book Club Pick

As you all know, I love chick literature, and I am in a book club with other chick-lit enthusiasts. This month's pick is The Next Thing On My List. It's about a woman, June, who is in a car accident where her passenger dies. June finds a list that the passenger, Marissa, had written of "20 things to do before I turn 25." To ease her guilt, June races to finish the list before the deadline, which gives her 6 months to complete tasks like run a marathon, go braless, change someone's life, etc.

Surprisingly, I am not getting into it. I'm about a third of the way through and it just hasn't sucked me in yet, but I'm hoping that will change. I'll keep you all updated. Apparently the book is being turned into a movie, too. Anyway, I just wanted to share with all my other chick-lit fans who are out there.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hungarian Goulash

My cousin Sarah in Illinois sent me this recipe. I've made Goulash before, but I usually use stew meat, this recipe uses ground beef. It was really good. A hit with my husband as well. The recipe makes a lot and since there is only the two of us I halfed it. But, if you have children, definitely make all of it. The key to Hungarian food is the paprika. If you can find Hungarian paprika, even better. It has much more flavor. Below is the full recipe. Thanks, Sarah for the great recipe!

1 lb of elbow macaroni
2 lbs ground beef
1 medium white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
a pinch of nutmeg
a healthy sprinkle of marjoram
1 (24 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp of sourcream (optional, but highly recommended)
2 pats of butter or a drizzle of olive oil
handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp of caraway seeds (optional, but suggested to toast the first or ground them up)

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the macaroni. When water boils, add salt and pasta.

Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and brown. Grate an onion into the skillet with a hand grater. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, nutmeg and marjoram. Mix in tomatoes, heat through. Right before serving mix in the sour cream and heat through.

Drain macaroni and toss with butter or olive oil, parsley and caraway seeds. Serve the goulash over the noodles.

Serve with a nice salad. I made a vinaigrette with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp dijon mustard and 1 clove garlic, run through a press. Whisk together, then while whisking stream in a 1/2 cup olive olive oil.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Argentinian Wines

Last week my husband and I attended a wine tasting at our favorite local restaurant, Gino's. The night featured wines from Argentina. We ended up going by their Wine Shoppe and picking up three bottles of wine with two of them being Argentinian reds we tasted that evening. I recommend checking these out. Both are very affordable, under $10.

Condor Peak Merlot - It's from the Mendoza region; light and fruity on the nose; rich, medium body with hints of black cherry and coffee flavors.

tierra adentro - also from the Mendoza region; very nice table red wine; well-balanced; deep fruity flavors; pairs nicely with red meats

Keep in mind I am no wine connoisseur, but I promise both of these are very smooth, enjoyable wines.

White Bean Soup

I have made this soup a few times. It is really good and with the bits of bacon on top it almost resembles and tastes like a baked potato soup.

2 ounces sliced pancetta or bacon cut into small strips
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (also known as white kidney or Great Northern beans)
1 and 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage (You could also use dried sage or oregano)
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cups water
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

Cook pancetta in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat until most of the fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp, about 7 minutes; remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Stir onion and garlic into the drippings; cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Add beans and sage; cook 1 minute longer. Add broth and water and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Puree with a stick blender, or in batches in a blender or food processor, until smooth. (It took me 3 batches with my food processor. Pour back into the saucepan and reheat over a low flame. Season soup with pepper and salt to taste, and garnish each serving with crisp pancetta bits.

I served the soup with grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches. It was a great dinner on a rainy night.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tomato Paste Tube

So here's a little shopping tip. Have you all discovered the tomato paste that comes in a tube like toothpaste? It's the greatest thing ever. Before you'd have to buy this whole can just for a couple of tablespoons and then the rest would go to waste. Now there are tubes where you can squeeze out a little for what you need now, twist the cap back on and throw it back in the fridge for the next time. I usually find it next to the jars of marinara sauce and pasta versus next to the canned tomatoes.

Sloppy Birds

This is my version of a sloppy joe. I call them sloppy birds because I use ground turkey instead of ground beef. It's a little healthier that way and honestly I can't tell the difference. I'm no mother, but I bet these would be a big hit with the kids. Now, this doesn't use a can of Manwich, but it is almost as easy. It's just dumping in a can of tomato sauce and some other seasonings that you most likely have on hand. Note, this recipe has been altered from a Rachael Ray recipe.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 and 1/4 pounds ground turkey
3 Tbsps brown sugar (adds a little sweetness)
3 tsps steak seasoning, such as McCormick's Montreal Chicken blend
1 small onion, chopped (or half a large onion)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 (15 ounce) can tomatoe sauce
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 yummy bakery rolls, split, toasted, and lightly buttered
Garnish with sliced tomato, pickles or banana peppers

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and turkey to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula. Combine brown sugar and steak seasoning, then add the mixture to the skillet and combine. When the meat has browned, add the onion and red pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Add vinegar, stirring briefly to reduce, then add Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and paste, stirring to combine. Reduce heat to simmer and cook sloppy bird mixture for at least 10 minutes, stirring often. This will allow the mixture to thicken and not be so sloppy.

Spoon mixture onto the buns and top with select garnishes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Blondies

Here is a great dessert recipe for your Labor Day cookouts. This recipe has been altered from a Food Network Kitchens one.

1 and 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1 and 1/2 cups of a combination of chocolate and peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish.

Put the sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small skillet or in the microwave in a glass measuring cup. Stir the butter into the sugar until smooth, cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

Beat the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time and mix until a smooth thick batter forms. Fold in the chips.

Spoon the batter to the prepared dish and spread to evenly fill the dish. Bake until the blondies are light brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.

Beer and Cheese Soup

At a recent beer and food pairing dinner we went to, there was one course that featured a beer cheese soup and we loved it. So I went on a mission to find a recipe I could make. I'm not sure where I found this recipe, but I tried it last night and it was delicious.

6 tablespoons butter
1 pound smoked sausage, chopped (Such as Hillshire Farms)
8 large shallots, chopped medium-fine
1/2 cup flour
2 (13 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer (some type of ale works best)
2 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1 large baking potato or 2 small to medium ones)
2 cups milk
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon hot sauce
freshly ground pepper to taste
sliced green onions for garnish

Melt the butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the sausage and sauté 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped shallots and continue to sauté until shallots are translucent. Add the flour and stir to coat. Slowly add the chicken broth and beer, stirring well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the mixture has thickened slightly, add the potatoes and continue to simmer, approximately 12 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through. Add milk, cheeses, salt, and flavorings. Stir constantly over low heat until cheese is smooth. Top with sliced green onions and serve with toasted crusty bread.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fettuccine with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This recipe is courtesy of Ellie Krieger, a healthy chef and nutritionist from her The Food You Crave cookbook. I added chicken to it to make it a more balanced meal and served it with a salad. The recipe calls for whole-wheat pasta, which I would normally use, but regular Barilla fettuccine was on sale at the store, so that is what I bought. Note: I have altered the cooking instructions just a bit.

2 Tbsps olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 (16-ounce) jar of roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (6 ounces)
1 (16-ounce) box whole-wheat fettuccine
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted red peppers and cook, stirring a few times until heated through. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Transfer the red pepper mixture to a food processor, add the broth and all but 2 tbsps. of the feta. Process until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds. Return the sauce back to the skillet and reheat over low to medium heat.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water (I didn't need it.) Add the pasta to skillet and toss with the sauce. (Here is also where you would add the cooked chicken - cut into bite-sized pieces.) Add the reserved pasta water by the tablespoon if needed. The sauce should cling nicely to the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among pasta bowls. Sprinkle with the parsley and reserved feta. Makes 4 entree servings.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jazzed Up Couscous

Couscous is great because it cooks so fast and you can start off with plain couscous and add all kinds of vegetables, herbs and spices to jazz it up.

1 Package of cous cous (I like the Far East brand)
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
artichoke hearts, chopped
kalamata olives, chopped

Prepare the couscous according to the package directions. One caveat, I like to use chicken or veggie broth instead of water to add a little extra flavor. Half way through the couscous cooking process add the additional chopped ingredients. Once fully cooked, fluff the couscous with a fork and incorporate the rest of the ingredients.

Other potential additions: chick peas, green onion, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, saffron, basil, capers, lemon zest, cucumber, etc., etc.

Pork Chops with a Lemon Butter Sauce and Goat Cheese

This dish is a spin on Carrabba's Chicken Bryan, one of my favorite dishes there. Goat cheese is one of my favorite cheeses. It is so freakin' creamy and tangy.

2 pork chops, preferably boneless and not too thick, no thicker than an inch
all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsps butter, separated
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken broth
sundried tomatoes, sliced or chopped (eyeball it or roughly 1/4 cup)
crumbled goat cheese (eyeball it)

Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and melt 1 tbsp. of the butter into the olive oil. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. On a plate, add enough flour to coat the chops. Dust off the access and add to the hot skillet. Cook the chops until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove the chops to a plate.

To the pan, add the broth, a couple turns worth. Add the lemon juice and let simmer away until it reduces a little. About 5 minutes. Add the remaining tbsp. of butter, allow to melt. Add the sundried tomatoes to the pan, add the pork chops back in to reheat.

Plate the chops and top with equal amounts of the sauce and tomatoes. And finish with a little bit of the glorious crumbled goat cheese on top. I served with my roasted zucchini and cous cous.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Turkey, Feta and Orzo Stuffed Peppers

These peppers were a big hit. I think the key to yummy stuffed peppers is using red peppers. How many people have made stuffed peppers and then not even eat the pepper? Right, Mom? Well, red peppers are much more milder in flavor than green ones. Plus, they have more vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Yellow or orange ones would also be great choices. My husband found this recipe and it was a great find. I am always looking for new ways to use ground turkey and this one is a keeper.

4 large red bell peppers - tops trimmed off, seeds and ribs removed
1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup cooked orzo pasta (about 3/4 cup uncooked and cook really al dente, only about 6 minutes in boiling, salted water)
½ cup diced onion
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp minced garlic
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
½ cup panko breadcrumbs (or crushed Ritz crackers)

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large mixing bowl, add orzo (let it cool slightly first), onion, tomatoes, garlic, spices and dill. Mix well and gently fold in ground turkey and ½ cup of feta cheese. Spoon equal amounts of turkey-feta filling into the bell peppers. Bake peppers, in a greased casserole dish, for 45 minutes.

Add the remaining feta cheese to the panko breadcrumbs and set aside. Once the peppers cook for 45 minutes, remove from the oven and top them with the panko-feta cheese and return to oven for 15 more minutes.

(Note that the crushed tomatoes in this dish give a reddish color to the meat. To ensure the turkey is cooked completely, be sure that the internal temperature reaches 165F. Place a meat thermometer into the center of the pepper to read the temperature.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner: Frittata

Like we often do, we made breakfast for dinner tonight. This is one of our favorite things to do. Tonight I made a frittata and my husband made homemade hash browns. Frittatas are so easy and versatile. You can basically throw in anything you have lying around the house, which is what I did tonight.

I started out with a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat and preheated my broiler. I added a tablespoon of butter and olive oil each. Added some chopped up portabello mushroom and cooked for about 5 minutes, until softened a bit.

While the mushrooms were cooking, I whisked 5 eggs in a small bowl with 2 tbsps of half & half and a couple spoonfuls of grated parmesan. The cream and cheese add a little richness.

Now back to the skillet. I then added 1 diced tomato (seeds removed), some leftover asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces, and some diced ham. Cook for a minute or two until heated through. Then I poured the egg mixture into the skillet. Stirred it a few times, added some feta cheese on top, and covered with a lid. Allow to cook for a few minutes, until the bottom is set, but still a little runny on top.

Place the skillet under the broiler to allow the top to cook. This will take a few minutes. Once it is set on top, remove from your oven, very carefully. Remember to use a potholder. Then cut into wedges like a pie. Makes 3-4 main servings.

I just used what I had around. You could do frittatas with bacon, potatoes and chedder cheese. Spinach would be great. Turkey and fresh dill is another great combination.

By the way you could totally eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Just reheat in a toaster oven or microwave.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dinners This Week

This week's dinners have been and will continue to be a bunch of oldies, but goodies.

Last night:
Last night I made chicken topped with a basil pesto. Check out my previous post. Although, I didn't have parmesan, so I added a little feta instead. Quite good. I wish I had a yard where I could grow basil, because I would make big batches of pesto. You can really put it on anything. I served it with lemon orzo and my roasted asparagus.

We had good 'ole chicken fajitas. I love just using the seasoning packet because it reminds me of when my mom used to make when I was growing up. Check out the recipe here.

Turkey meatballs over pasta with homemade marinara.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Marinated and Grilled Zucchini

I have been making zucchini this way for awhile. It is so tasty. You don't have to have a real grill for this, no worries, you could use a grill pan or a George Foreman grill (everyone has one of those, right?).

(Trust me, these don't have to be exact)
2 zucchinis
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
a splash of worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
olive oil (about 2 or 3 tablespoons)

Cut the zucchinis in half, then cut into 1/4 inch slices. Set aside. In a medium bowl add the vinegar, garlic, oregano, worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the zucchini slices and let marinate for at least half an hour, but up to a couple of hours. Grill over medium heat until grill marks appear and the zucchini is tender, but still has some bite.

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with a Basil, Garlic Butter

I am housesitting and doggysitting for my parents while they're at the beach with my younger brothers. I am taking full advantage by using their grill, and if the weather cooperates, I'll be using the pool this weekend as well. I picked up some filets at Land and Sea today, which we will make tomorrow night. I then stopped by my happy place, The Fresh Market, to get some fish. We wanted something atypical, so I picked up some Chilean Sea Bass. It was expensive, but well worth it. It almost tasted like lobster. It just melts in your mouth and is so buttery.

handful of flat leaf parsley
10 leaves of basil
2 cloves of garlic
1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
zest and juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb of Chilean Sea Bass (or other white fish, halibut would be good as well)
olive oil

In a food processor, chop the basil, parsley and garlic. Cut up the butter in 4 to 5 pieces and place in the processor, pulse until combined with the herbs. Add the zest, juice and salt and pepper and pulse again. Remove from the food processor and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap and form back into a log. Refrigerate until ready for it.

Preheat the grill to medium-low heat. Rub the seabass with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook for about 6-10 minutes per side, depending on thickness. The fish should be firm, but still a little moist in the center. Remove from the grill and top with pats of the herb butter. Serves two.

You will have leftover butter, but save it for bread or another dish. I am going to use leftovers on my filets tomorrow. I suggest having some good bread nearby to sop up the melted butter that is left on your plate. You could also sautee the seabass if you don't have access to a grill (which is my case most of the time).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Just In...Turkey Bacon is Not Healthier than Real Bacon

So, while I was working from home the other day I was watching Oprah. She had on the guy who wrote the books Eat This... Don't Eat That or something like that. Anyway, the episode was about childhood obesity and they were trying to educate obese tweens and teens on healthy eating habits.

They played a little quiz with the audience asking what is healthier (or at least better) to eat between two choices. Well, one of the questions was, what is better, real bacon or turkey bacon? It turns out the better choice is REAL BACON! Who would've thought, right? Not me. For the past 4 years I have been eating turkey bacon thinking it is better for me. Apparently, they have the same fat and calorie count, but turkey bacon has more sodium.

I totally feel like have been cheating myself this whole time. I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't mind turkey bacon, but I would much rather have regular bacon. So, no more denying myself the pleasure of real bacon. I will practice some self-control, though. I'm not going to start eating bacon on a regular basis or anything.

Roasted Pork Loin Chops with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette and Roasted Potatoes

On Monday I spent a horrible and exhausting day at jury duty where I was asked by lawyers some very personal questions in front of a room about 40 strangers. Needless to say I was not in the mood to cook when I got home. Luckily, my loving and adoring husband offered to step in and cook dinner. He made a fabulous meal, what a modern househusband he is!

Ingredients for the Roasted Pork Loin Chops and Potatoes:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried rosemary (You could use fresh, but we didn't have any, plus I prefer dried rosemary because fresh is so strong)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4 boneless pork loin chops, each about two inches thick
1 and a 1/2 lbs. red or gold potatoes, quartered

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a roasting pan with nonstick spray.

Combine the oil, garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss the potatoes and the pork chops in the mixture.

In a skillet over medium-high heat. Sear all sides of the pork chops until golden brown, a couple minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and place in the middle of the roasting pan. Add the potatoes to the pan, around the pork chops. Roast for 30 minutes, turning the potatoes halfway through. The pork should reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Top with the sun-dried tomato vinaigrette (see below). Serves four.

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup shallots, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. capers
salt and pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Pulse all ingredients together except for the olive oil in a food processor. While the processor is running, slowly add the oil until combined.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beef Bolognese Sauce Over Creamy Polenta

I have made bolognese sauce before, but have always served it over pasta, which is traditional. Tonight I served it over creamy polenta. It was absolutely heavenly. Usually to make this sauce from scratch you start with carrots, onions and celery. But since last week I made Giada's homemade marinara sauce, which already has those vegetables, I just used the sauce I had in my freezer. This saved a lot of time.

Ingredients for the Sauce:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
3 cups of Giada's marinara sauce (Find the recipe here.)
8 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese

Ingredients for the Polenta:
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil. Once hot add the ground beef. While it browns, break up the meat with a wooden spatula so there aren't any large lumps. Add the sauce, basil, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cheese. Check for seasoning.

In a medium saucepan bring the broth and milk to a boil. (Keep an eye on it because as soon as I turned my back for one second, it boiled over and made a mess on my stovetop. Some of my readers may have remembered this happen to me before. I don't know what my deal is with polenta, but I digress.) Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and whisk in the polenta. Continue to stir for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Serve the polenta in the bottom of a bowl and top with some of the bolognese sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Italian Beef Sandwiches

This recipe is courtesy of my mom and her co-worker Carol. Italian beef sandwiches are a staple of Chicago. I'm not sure how authentic these are, but my dad, a Chicago native, says they're pretty on par with what you find there. Husband loved this one - another great Crock Pot recipe for the arsenal.

3 to 5 lb sirloin roast or rump roast (I used the latter)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
salt and fresh ground pepper
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 (10-ounce) jar mild pepperoncini peppers (preferably ones presliced)

Trim the roast of any excess fat. Rub the roast with the garlic powder, Italian seasoning and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Cut the roast into three large chunks. Place in Crock Pot or slow cooker. Add the entire contents of the jar of peppers, the bouillon cubes and cover (or nearly cover) the roast with water.

Cook on low for 8 hours or until the beef shreds easily. Serve on toasted buns with a slice of provolone cheese. I like to pour some of the juice over the meat and even dip the top bun into the juice.

These sandwiches do have a bit of kick. If you don't like spicy, don't use the entire jar of peppers or drain some of the juice from the jar before adding to the Crock Pot.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Oatmeal Craisin and White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love oatmeal raisin cookies, but I really love Craisins, so I decided to swap them out. But you could really use any type of dried fruit. I had some leftover white chocolate chips that I decided to throw in, too. It made a great combination.

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried Craisins
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture and stir until well blended. Fold in the Craisins and white chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool.

Italian-Style Meatloaf

My husband loves the meatloaf at our favorite local Italian restaurant, so I thought I'd try to replicate it. I haven't had it myself, so I went by his description. I doubt mine was as good as Gino's, but it was good and my husband said it was on par. I served it with garlic mashed potatoes, but now that I am thinking about it, polenta would be really good. Oh well, there's always next time.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 lbs. ground beef/pork combination
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 grated parmesan cheese
1 cup marinara sauce (I made a batch of homemade sauce. Get the recipe here.)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onion and sautee until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for a couple of more minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the fresh bread crumbs, tear 4-5 slices of white bread into pieces, add to a food processor, pulse until fine. Add the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

In a large bowl, place the ground beef/pork combination, bread crumb mixture, eggs, milk and cheese. Mix well, but be careful not overwork. Place the meat mixture onto a greased 9 x 13 pan and form into the shape of a loaf.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes. Once it's done, spoon the marinara sauce over it and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Place back in the oven and allow the cheese to melt for 5 minutes. Then turn the heat off and turn the broiler on low. Broil for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chicken and Broccoli with Spaghetti

Here is another pasta dish I threw together this past week. (Sorry to my low-carb readers, but I may have something for you later this week.)

1 head of broccoli, florets trimmed into smaller pieces
1 lb chicken cutlets, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced
handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 lb spaghetti (I used a whole-wheat, chive and garlic spaghetti I got at the Farmer's Market.)
lots of olive oil and parmesan cheese

Bring about a cup of water to a boil in a skillet with a lid. Add the broccoli florets and season with a little salt. Place the lid on the skillet and let the broccoli steam for a few minutes. The broccoli should be a little tender and bright green. Remove to a plate.

Drain the water from the skillet. Add a little oil to the pan and cook the chicken on both sides until cooked through. About 5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and slice.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Allow to cook for 10 minutes.

In the skillet, add more oil and the garlic; cook for a couple of minutes. Add the parsley. Return the broccoli and chicken to the skillet to re-heat. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet. Toss the pasta with the chicken and broccoli. Add a little more oil, season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates and top with lots of fresh parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Spaghetti with Sausage and Mushrooms

While at Publix last weekend I saw this Italian sausge with parsley and cheese. I was intrigued, so I bought them. I realized I had a couple jars of marinara from a previous shopping trip and decided to make a little pasta dish.

1 package of Italian sausage, your favorite kind
1-2 portabello mushrooms, chopped
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1 lb. spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
parmesan cheese

In a skillet with a tight-fitting lid, add the sausage with a cup of water. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 15-20 minutes. Drain the water, return the skillet to the heat, add a little oil and brown the sausage on each side for another 5 minutes. Remove the sausage to a plate. Add a little more oil to the skillet and add the mushrooms. Season with a little salt and pepper, sautee the mushrooms for a few minutes. Add the jar of sauce and can of tomatoes. Slice the sausages and add back to the pan. Allow to simmer together while the pasta cooks.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, divide the pasta among plates and top with the sauce. Serves 4.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Busy Week

So, I'm sorry I've been neglectful this week and haven't posted anything since Saturday. It has been a busy week, but I promise to post some new recipes this weekend.

Just a reminder Julie & Julia opens tomorrow! I'm very excited. I'm not sure when I'm going to see it because I have like 4 people who want to see it with me. I have a feeling I'll be seeing it in the theatres more than once. And I have a feeling after seeing it I am going to be very hungry and craving pastries.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

And the winner is...

Middle-Aged Diva! She submitted three ideas/recipes, and they all sound delicious. I will probably make all three at some point. Check out her recipe suggestions here:

The other two people were disqualified because one was my husband and the other emailed me the recipe instead of posting it. It does sound good though, so I have posted it below.

Congratulations, Middle-Aged Diva and you can expect your Old Bay Seasoning gift basket soon.

Steamed Shrimp and Old Bay Aioli (Idea from my sister, who is also a great cook)
Last night I played around with my shrimp idea. I put about a half a pound of shrimp (peels on) in a steamer bag and then added a few pieces of sliced lemon and sprinkled in a couple of tablespoons of old bay. I closed the bag and shook it up and put it in the microwave for 2 and a half minutes. Be careful opening the bag because the steam is hot. The shrimp were cooked nicely and had a nice flavor from the lemon and old bay.

I was out of horseradish so instead of cocktail sauce I made a sort of remoulade but Brad renamed it Old Bay Aioli. I mixed equal parts mayo and ketchup and added a healthy dose of cayenne pepper, salt and old bay seasoning. Brad loved the dipping sauce. This is a great quick appetizer if you have people drop by because I usually have lemons on hand and you can keep shrimp in the freezer. In fact, you can add the shrimp right to the bag frozen if you want to. Plus, it only takes a few minutes to make. I also, thought that this might work with salmon or other types of fish.

Snow Crab Legs

There is nothing my husband loves more to feast on then Snow Crab Legs, so when I noticed Publix had them on sale this weekend for half the normal price, I knew I had to pick some up. And indeed I did, 4 pounds to be exact. I know that sounds a little excessive for two people, but it doesn't happen often, so when it does, you must indulge yourself.

Fill a big pot with water. Season with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder and Old bay (about 1/4 cup). Cut two lemons in half, squeeze in the juice and just throw them in the pot, too. Bring it all to a boil. Add the crab legs in batches and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Remove and repeat. Serve with melted butter.

Delicious. It just melts in your mouth.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Old Bay Giveaway: Final Chance to Enter

Entries for the Old Bay Giveaway will close today at 5 p.m. Hurry and get your ideas/recipes posted. Visit this page to enter:

Good Luck!

Book Club: August's Pick

For August, my book club is going to read the National Bestseller, The Time Traveler's Wife, followed by a screening of the movie.