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.

Antipasto Pasta Salad

I made this dish the other night for my book club. It was a big hit. I made it an advance and served it cold, but you could serve it right after it is prepared. If you decide to serve it cold, the best way is to cook the pasta first and allow to cool in the fridge. Once cold, finish the rest of the preparations.

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
1 bunch fresh basil, stemmed and leaves chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
the juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Antipasto Salad:
1 pound fusilli pasta (or any short, spiral shaped pasta)
1/2 cup hard salami, cut into strips (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup smoked turkey, cut into strips (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup provolone cheese, cut into strips
1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese (Parmesan or Romano works as well)
1/4 cup green olives, halved and pitted
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips
1/4 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vinaigrette: In a blender or food processor, add the basil, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper. Blend until the herbs are finely chopped. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is smooth.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta with the remaining salad ingredients. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Serve.

This vinaigrette is great; you could use it on a variety of salads.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Old Bay Giveaway

Ok, here we go. The first A Modern Housewife giveaway. I promised you it was coming and I don't go back on my word. The lucky winner of this giveaway will receive a gift basket provided by Old Bay Seasoning in celebration of its 70th Anniversary! The basket, which is actually a pretty nice bag, includes a beach towel, recipes, Old Bay seasoning, key chain, steamer bag, etc.

So, if you're interested, post a comment below with a creative way to use Old Bay Seasoning in a dish. The yummiest sounding suggestion will win and I will attempt to make a dish from the suggestion. I have turned off the comment moderation, so you're comment will be posted immediately. Comments will close at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 31. The winner will need to provide a mailing address to me, by emailing I will then share it with the Old Bay people to send out to you.

London Broil with Chimichurri Sauce

Just when I think I have this cooking thing down a major mistake bumps me back down to reality. But, more on that later. Here is a low-carb meal using London Broil that is cooked under your broiler and served with a Chimichurri sauce. This sauce is very versatile. Use the leftovers on chicken or like I did tonight, sauteed fish.

1 and 1/2 pound London Broil
olive oil
salt and pepper
a couple of handfuls of flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp fresh oregano (I used thyme because I had it on hand and really didn't want to buy oregano, too. But, I think oregano is more authentic for this Argentinian sauce.)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
handful of cherry tomatoes (Totally optional. I don't think tomatoes are low-carb, I just added them because I thought they would be good...and they were.)
3 Tbsp olive oil

Alright, this is where I screwed up. The directions that I was semi-following said to cook under your broiler by placing the oven rack on the closest setting to the flame. So being that this was my first time cooking a piece of meat in such a way, I did what I was told. Then it said to liberally drizzle the meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, which I did. Well, after a couple of minutes I noticed there was a lot of smoke, I peeked inside the oven and there was a flame, actual fire! I totally freaked out, closed the door, turned off the broiler and yelled fire to my husband. Needless to say, he wasn't amused. All was well, the flame went out by itself but smoked filled my house. It still kinda smells in here. Miraculously, the meat wasn't ruined and turned out pretty well.

But, this is why I test recipes prior to posting them, so you all can learn from my mistakes. So, if your broiler has two settings like mine - low and high - place it on low. And DO NOT place the oven rack closest to the flame. Instead, place it second to the top. Set the London Broil on a broiler pan, season with salt and pepper and liberally drizzle with olive oil. Cook for about 8 minutes per side. Longer if you like it more well done. But, I warn you, London Broil is a tough meat, the more done it is, the drier and chewier it will be. Remove from the oven to a cutting board, cover with foil and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.

While the meat is resting, place the tomatoes on the pan and cook under the broiler for a minute until they get hot and pop a bit. Place the parsley, garlic, oregano or thyme, red wine vinegar and tomatoes into a food processor and chop. Add the olive oil and mix. Slice the meat thinly across the grain (the lines running horizontally through the meat). Spoon the sauce over the meat.

I served with green beans that I boiled for a few minutes and then sauteed with olive oil, garlic and sliced almonds.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Shrimpy Breakfast Burrito

I had some leftover shrimp from last night's quesadillas and had a great idea to make a breakfast burrito with them for my husband. He loved it.

Leftover Old Bay seasoned shrimp, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
2 large eggs
1 tortilla (I used my low-carb wheat Tam-X-icos)
salt and pepper

Crack the eggs into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk with a fork. Set aside.

In a skillet over medium low heat, add a pat of butter. Once the butter melts, add the shrimp to re-heat. Then add the green onion and saute the two for just a bit, less than a minute. Add the eggs and scramble the mixture slowly. You never want to scramble eggs real fast over high heat. They'll become rubbery and that is not good. Be patient and scramble slowly over low heat.

While the eggs are cooking, heat a tortilla in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften it. Add some shredded cheese on the tortilla. Place the cooked eggs and shrimp over the cheese. Add a few drops of hot sauce. Roll up the tortilla into a buritto and enjoy!

Obviously, if you have enough shrimp leftover to make two burritos, go for it. I just had a few leftover.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shrimp Quesadillas

These quesadillas were great! By the way, when you say quesadillas, you gotta say it like as if you were in Napoleon Dynamite. Pronounced as "quesadilas", not "quesadiyas." Anyway, this is another recipe incorporating Old Bay Seasoning and I got some great low-carb, whole wheat Tam-X-icos tortillas from Tampa's La Bonite Ole ( The texture was very soft and tender for a whole wheat product, even my husband liked them. The local movement to save this company must be paying off because I bought the last package of Tam-X-icos that Publix had.

3/4 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
Old Bay Seasoning
olive oil
red pepper, chopped small
2 green onions, chopped
4-5 tortillas
shredded cheese, I used a Mexican blend
hot sauce (I used my friend's carrot-based hot sauce, Intensity Academy)
sour cream, avocado, salsa for garnish

Liberally season the shrimp with old bay seasoning. In a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat, add a little olive oil, about 1 tablespoon. Once hot, throw in the shrimp and cook on both sides for a couple minutes, until cooked through. Shrimp will be bright pink and curled up. Remove to a plate. Add a little more oil to the pan, add the red pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the green onion and cook for just a minute longer. Remove the pepper and onion to a plate. While the pepper and onion are cooking, chop up the shrimp.

Wipe the skillet clean. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Brush with a little oil. Add a tortilla to the pan. Sprinkle with an even layer of cheese. On half of the tortilla, add some shrimp, red pepper and green onion. Be careful not to over fill it. Add a few drops of hot sauce. Once the cheese melts, fold the tortilla over the side with the toppings. Let cook for a minute or so longer. Slide onto a plate and top with sour cream, avocado, salsa and any other toppings you like.

Repeat until all the filling is gone.

I like to cook my quesadillas this way. Alternatively, you could place a few tortillas on a baking sheet, top with cheese and the other items, place another tortilla on top and bake in the oven for a few minutes.

Simple Swap Outs for Low-Carb

I've had a couple of requests for low-carb meals. I haven't made any yet, but below I provide a few tips for how to make a dish low-carb with simple swap outs.

1. Instead of using bread crumbs to bread chicken or fish, take your favorite nut - pecans, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, hazlenuts - and place them into a food processor to grind down into almost a dust. Pass your preferred protein through eggwash and then into the nuts. Either cook in a pan with a little oil or bake in an oven.

2. Instead of pasta, make thin ribbons out of yellow squash and zucchini. Take a vegetable peeler and make thin, pappardelle-esque ribbons. Either boil or saute in a pan with olive oil.

3. Instead of mashed potatoes, use cauliflower. Boil the cauliflower, then mash with a little milk, butter and cheese.

I hope you'll find these tips useful. Check back tomorrow for a low-carb meal using London Broil with a chimichurri sauce.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First TasteCasting: Save the Tortillas

Last night I had my first tastecasting event. Future tastecastings will be held at locally-owned restaurants, but this one was a little unique. There is a local tortilla company, La Bonita Ole, that manufactures Wrap-Itz and Tam-X-icos products. You may have seen them at a grocery store near you. They are readily available in the Eastern states, and some Midwestern states.

Unfortunately in 2008, they were forced into chapter 11 bankruptcy, but after some changes they remain profitable. Even so, the bank, which is Sun Trust, may move to sell. A community effort and campaign has sprung into action to try and help save this company. I met the owner last night and she is a very impressive woman. She started the company in 1992 with only $13,000 and grew it to over $12 million in sales. Forty employees are at risk as well if the company is sold.

Let's help Save the Tortillas! I urge everyone to check out and sign the petition telling SunTrust to save this company! And if they're available in your area, buy La Bonita Ole tortillas and wraps. There are various flavors and are the best tortillas around. I will be posting some recipes in the next few days using the La Bonita Ole products.

The community outpouring that has taken place to try and help save this local company has been amazing and inspirational. Everyone can help, visit today! Viva the tortillas!

101 Simple Salads

My awesome boss and fellow foodie sent me this link to a New York Times article offering 101 ideas for simple salads. I wanted to share it with all of you. For my low-carb seekers, maybe there are some ideas in here for you.

Have fun!

Low Carb Dishes

I've had a couple of requests for low carb dishes. I have to admit that I have never tried a low-carb diet, so I don't know much about it other than avoiding pasta, bread and sugar. Those are all things that I LOVE, so I have never wanted to give them up. Instead I try to consume whole wheat and multigrain pasta and breads.

However, I do have a low carb cookbook, so I will go through it this weekend and pull some ones that I think sound both yummy and satisfying.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Puttanesca Sauce

This is the easiest and fastest meal ever and can be made with staples right out of your pantry - very economical. It's also a great blank canvas that allows you to personalize it by adding your favorite ingredients. Tonight I served it over whole-wheat thin spaghetti, but it is also great over fish or chicken.

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tbsps. capers
1/4 cup (or a little more) pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
Parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on top)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for just a minute or two, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the parsley, crushed red pepper and capers and saute for another minute. Add the olives and then after a minute add the diced tomatoes. Let simmer for a couple more minutes. I like to add the drained pasta right to the skillet and toss with the sauce or spoon the sauce over a piece of fish like halibut or seabass or grilled chicken. Finish with a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Variations could include a little diced roasted red pepper (like I did tonight), feta instead of parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, wilt in spinach or arugula towards the end, green olives instead of Kalamata, etc., etc.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas

Here is another recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis. It is also courtesy of my cousin Amber in Chicago. She sent me a bunch of Giada recipes that she and her husband loved. Thanks, Amber! This recipe is great. It is vegetarian, but you don't even notice. It is cheesy and creamy, kind of like risotto, but baked.

4 cups chicken broth
1 pound orzo pasta
3 tablespoons butter, plus more to grease the baking dish
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I like Baby Bellas)
1 cup Marsala wine (Great way to use up some of that Marsala wine you have on hand for Chicken Marsala. It also adds a little sweetness.)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half and half because that is what I use in my coffee and have on hand.)
4 ounces shredded fontina cheese (about 1 cup)
4 ounces diced fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 cup)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the orzo and cook until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Pour the orzo and the broth into a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add the Marsala. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and cook until the Marsala has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture to the orzo in the large bowl. Add the cream, fontina, mozzarella, peas, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and dried thyme. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of the pasta. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

Serve with a little side salad.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tampa Taste Casters

A friend of mine suggested I join this new group called Taste Casters. They're in select cities around the country. Basically, it's a group of socially networked people that get together and taste food from local restaurants, cafes, bakeries, etc. Then we tweet and blog about it. It might also include making announcements like special offers, grand openings, and such.

The purpose is to help local establishments grow their business. I am very excited about it; there is nothing I like more than eating food. Our first meeting is this Wednesday at a local tortilla manufacturer. I look forward to sharing with everyone the activities of this group. Keep checking back.

Broiled Salmon with Herb Mustard Glaze

Here's another great salmon recipe for your arsenal. This one is courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis.

2 garlic cloves
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
6 (6 to 8-ounce) salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 lemon wedges

In a mini food processor, combine garlic, rosemary, thyme, wine, oil, Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon of whole-grain mustard. Grind the mustard sauce until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a small bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of whole-grain mustard to the sauce and stir to combine. Set aside mustard sauce.

Preheat the broiler. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with nonstick spray. Arrange the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Broil for 2 minutes. Spoon the mustard sauce over the fillets. Continue broiling until the fillets are just cooked through and golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the fillets to plates and serve with lemon wedges.

I served this with roasted potatoes and zucchini. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees. Cut the potatoes and zucchini into wedges. The potatoes will take longer to cook, so start with them first. Lay on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and make sure the potatoes are spread out in an even layer. Roast for 10 minutes then flip. Roast for another 10-15 minutes. (May take longer, it depends how big the potato wedges are.) When the potatoes have about 8 minutes left add the zucchini to the baking sheet and prepare the same way.

I made these prior to broiling the salmon and just left them in the oven while the salmon was broiling so they stayed warm. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese right before serving.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Update: My First Private Cooking Gig

The night was a success! I have to say I was a little nervous and was running around frantically this afternoon prepping and packing up all my stuff, but everything worked out and my "clients" were very happy.

I made them my favorite salmon - marinated and seared with a pepper crust. I think it is their favorite now, too. I have posted the recipe before, but you can check it out here:

Congratulations Carol and Mike! And thank you for being my little guinea pigs.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My First Private Cooking Gig

Tomorrow night I will be doing a little private "chef" (and I use that word rather loosely) gig for a friend. She has asked me to come cook for her and her husband. It is a special night because tomorrow is their wedding day! Talk about pressure.

But, I have devised a simple, but delicious meal for them. I have made a list and put together a gameplan to ensure everything goes smoothly and I don't get overwhelmed or too stressed out. I will have most of the meal prepped and ready to go so when I arrive all that needs to be done is the main course and it will have my undivided attention. Stay tuned to find out how it goes, in the meantime below is the menu for the evening.

Boccaccini Mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto and roasted red peppers
Assorted olives
Roasted garlic with toasted sourdough bread

Mixed baby greens with artichoke hearts, capers and feta cheese tossed with a homemade viniagrette

Main Course:
Marinated Salmon with pepper crust and roasted asparagus

Peach Shortbread Tart with vanilla ice cream

Monday, July 13, 2009

Easy Peach Shortbread Tart

I am doing a little private cooking gig for a friend of mine of Wednesday night. She requested a peach shortbread and I found this great recipe, but I had to test it out first, which I did yesterday. This is delicious. The crust is buttery and crumbly. I know I just made peach crisp, but peach season doesn't last long, so you gotta take advantage. I think peach desserts are quickly becoming my favorite. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get a slice.

Makes one 9-inch tart
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for egg wash)
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Filling:
2 pounds fresh peaches, not too soft, ripe but firm (about 4 peaches)
2 tablespoons dark rum (I actually left this out because I didn't have it on hand and didn't feel like buying any. Tart was still great, but by all means use it.)
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sanding or coarse sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the pan by lining a 9- or 10-inch springform pan with a parchment or waxed-paper circle. Lightly butter or spray with vegetable cooking spray, the sides of the pan and the parchment. Set aside.

2. To make the dough: In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with the sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides, then add the vanilla and the egg yolks one at a time, beating a few seconds after each one. Beat until smooth and light, about 1 minute. Add the flour in 2 parts, mixing on low until just combined but not overmixed. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Place half of the dough into the prepared pan and press it out evenly on the bottom and up 1 inch on the sides. Cover the pan and remaining dough with plastic wrap and set aside. (I recommend using a little more than half for the bottom crust. I felt the top crust was a little too thick. It's better if the bottom crust is thicker.)

3. To make the filling: Peel peaches by using the blanching method. Bring a large pot of water to a heavy rapid boil over high heat, and then add peaches. Let peaches stand in the water for 30-45 seconds then transfer immediately with a slotted spoon into a large bowl of ice water. Let sit in the ice water for 5 minutes or until chilled. Remove from ice water.

4. Cut peaches into large wedges and peel the skins off, they should remove easily. In a bowl, toss the peaches with the rum. Combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl and toss in with the peaches, coating well. Pile fruit into the dough-lined springform pan.

5. For the egg wash, whip the reserved egg whites in a small bowl until slightly frothy. Set aside.

6. On a lightly floured surface, such as a cardboard disc or big piece of plastic wrap, press out the remaining piece of dough to 9 or 10 inches diameter. Slide it onto the filling and press it into place. This top crust should fit just inside the dough that extends up the sides of the pan and come all the way to its edges. Carefully seal the seam where the top joins the side dough, making sure the edges are straight and even.

Then brush the top lightly with the egg wash and poke the top with a fork in 5 places. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

7. Bake in preheated oven about 55-60 minutes or until golden brown and filling is bubbling out a bit. Then cool to room temperature before removing the sides. You may want to run a knife along the sides before unmolding. (Be sure that the parchment paper is not stuck on the tart when serving.)

8. To serve: Top tart, warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream, vanilla or peach ice cream, if desired.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pot Roast

I told you earlier this week I wanted to start using my Crock Pot more often, so yesterday I picked up at the store one of those McCormick seasoning packets for slow cookers. My mom and my sister use them often and really like them. I decided to pick up the one for pot roast because I have never made a pot roast, plus chuck roasts were on sale at the grocery store. This is a perfect Sunday night dinner.

1 (2-3 lb.) chuck roast, well-trimmed
5 cups of assorted cut vegetables (baby carrots, celery, onion, potatoes)
McCormick Seasoning packet
1 cup water
salt and pepper

Place the vegetables in a 5-quart Crock Pot or slow cooker. I cut mine into pretty big chunks and I just threw in the baby carrots whole, no need to cut those up. I also used Yukon Gold potatoes because those are my favorite.

Season the roast well with salt and pepper. Place on top of the vegetables. Mix the seasoning packet with the water, pour on top of the roast and veggies.

Cook on high for 4 hours or low on 8 hours. (I always use the low setting.) Remove the roast to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes, slice. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Stir the remaining gravy well before pouring over the meat and vegetables.

Serve with a little salad and rolls.

Update: My husband loved this dinner. Husband to me: "You never have to worry about a divorce." Me to husband: "That doesn't mean I won't ever divorce you." lol I do love that man.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Update: Julie & Julia

I finished Julie & Julia a couple of days ago. Now I am even more excited to see the movie. The book was really funny and I love Julie's attitude. You gotta love a book laced with profanity. I just hope they didn't soften Julie for the movie.

I will say that I don't know how she cooked all those recipes. I was in Border's last night and flipped through Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and was immediately intimidated. Plus in Julie's book, she recounts how she extracted marrow from a bone and repeatedly committed "lobster murder." Most of the recipes call for ingredients I wouldn't even know the first place to find. I doubt Publix carries marrowbones.

I can't wait for the movie. Now I'm reading Firefly Lane. It's my next Book Club pick. It tells the story of two lifelong friends as they come of age during the 70s and 80s. So far I love it. I'll keep you updated.

Old Bay Shrimp Pasta Salad

Here is a great Summer pasta salad courtesy of Old Bay seasoning. It has colorful veggies, shrimp and a zesty dressing. This will definitely be a hit at your next cookout. Feel free to swap out different vegetables. I added cherry tomatoes. And don't forget about the upcoming contest to win a gift bag from Old Bay. Keep checking back for details.

1 lb. cooked shrimp
2 cups small shell pasta, uncooked
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 package cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup mayonaise
1/4 cup Italian dressing, whatever is your favorite
2 tsps. Old Bay seasoning

Cook pasta in boiling salted water as directed on the package. Drain, rinse under cold water.

In a large bowl, toss pasta in with shrimp, celery, green and red pepper, onion and tomatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayo, dressing and OLD BAY together. Pour over the pasta mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for two hours. Before serving, sprinkle with additional OLD BAY, if desired.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tangy Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Break out the Crock Pot it's time for some slow cooked pulled pork. Granted it may not have the same flavor as if it spent all day in the smoker, but hey, I live in a condo with no access to a smoker. Plus, I think that would be against HOA rules. But even so, this pulled pork is delicious and always a winner with my husband. And what's better than coming from work and not having to cook? This recipe is courtesy of the semi-homemade queen, Sandra Lee.

1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced
3 lb. pork butt, a.k.a. Boston butt, rinsed and patted dry
salt and pepper
1 cup barbeque sauce
1/2 cup yellow mustard
3 Tbsps tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 lime, juiced (I didn't have a lime, so I just added 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar and a couple of splashes of worcestershire sauce)
hamburger buns

Place onions in the bottom of a 5-quart slow cooker. Season the pork butt with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker on top of the onions, fat side up. (You could probably trim off some of the fat if you'd like.)

In a medium bowl, stir together the barbeque sauce, mustard, tomato paste, chicken broth and lime juice (or vingar and w. sauce). Pour over pork. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 6 to 8 hours.

Remove pork and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Pull the pork. Scoop out some of the onions and pour some of the leftover sauce on top of the meat. Serve on toasted hamburger buns.

Feel free to top with coleslaw. We like to top our sandwiches with a little extra barbeque sauce and sliced banana peppers. I served with baked beans that I just heated real quick on the stove and Steamfresh corn that you microwave for 5 minutes. This couldn't have been an easier dinner to make.

This makes great leftovers and if there's only two of you, you're sure to be eating it for at least a couple more meals.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A New Tapenade

I didn't really do my week's grocery shopping this weekend, so yesterday I just had to make do with what I had around, which I thought was more than it actually was. But I didn't do too badly. I threw together a quick parsley and sundried tomato tapenade that I slapped on a refrigerated pizza crust with a feta cheese topping. It was actually pretty good, but as my guy's guy of a husband indicated to me today it wasn't much of a dinner. I so wish I had some kalamata olives, pepperoni, mushrooms, anything else at all to top it with. But, I just didn't.

Needless to say, today after work I had to run to the grocery store to stock up on provisions for the rest of the week. The only thing worse than going to the grocery store after a workday is going when Mother Nature feels like having a little fun by pouring rain on you with no end in sight. Oh, it did stop - as soon as I got upstairs with all the groceries.

Tonight I made an equally fast dinner by sauteeing tilapia and topping it with leftover tapenade and served it with steamed broccoli and a little side of pasta. My husband was left a little more satisfied.

Parsley and Sundried Tomato Tapenade
1 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a skillet until golden
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves of garlic
pinch of crushed red pepper
about 1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients, except for the olive oil into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Let 'er rip until ingredients are chopped and mixed together. Turn the processor on again and slowly stream in the olive oil until the pesto comes together and reaches desired consistency. May take more or less oil, just eyeball it. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Old Bay: Celebrating 70 Years

I received an email last week from an Old Bay representative telling me they are celebrating their 70th anniversary and noticed a few months ago that I used Old Bay in a recipe. They offered to send me a basket of goodies including some recipes to try out. I of course agreed. I mean, how exciting, right?

The package came today and includes a nice beach bag filled with a beach towel, key chain, recipes, steamer bag and of course, Old Bay seasoning.

Check back later this week for Old Bay-inspired recipes and one lucky reader will also receive a gift bag! I am working out details for a contest, so check back often for more information.

Thank you, Old Bay and Happy Anniversary!

Friday, July 3, 2009

4th of July Dessert: Pecan Bars

I suppose for Independence Day I should make a dessert that is red, white and blue, but oh well. I wanted something that is easy for people to eat, like a finger food. I didn't want to make cake or a jello trifle using red and blue jello layered with whipped cream. But hey, that is not a bad idea, so knock yourself out. My husband just loves pecan pie and this past November I discovered I love it too when I made it for him on his birthday. But again, I wanted to make bars or brownies of some sort, so I am attempting to make these Barefoot Contessa-inspired pecan bars.

For the crust:
2 sticks of unsalted butter
granulated sugar
2 large eggs
vanilla extract
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

2 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 cup good honey
1 and 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/8 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 lb chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with a padle attachment, until light, approx. 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla, mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased baking sheet, approx. 14 x 9 x 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. The dough will sticky so sprinkle it and your fingers with a little flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

For the topping, combine the butter, honey and brown sugar in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. (Good luck with that, it didn't quite work out for me, but I don't think it's a big deal.) Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

4th of July Side Dish: Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Salad

This is a great side dish for barbecues since there is no mayonaise it can sit out for awhile and it's not a big deal. It's delicious, healthy, fresh and little fancier than other pasta salads.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsps. red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Half a bag of baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 (15-ounce) can of artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I love cheese so I just usually eyeball the amount)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 lb. box penne pasta, cooked, well-drained and cooled (I usually cook the pasta in advance and refrigerate it until cool)
Coarse salt and black pepper

Combine the oil, vinegar and lemon juice in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I like to make this a couple of hours prior to serving, so it all marinates together and the flavors are enhanced. It also tastes great as leftovers.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

4th of July Fireworks and Barbeques

Happy July and Happy Almost Independence Day! What is more American than celebrating the 4th with a backyard barbeque with family and friends?... Nothing. If this Tampa Bay rain ever decides to stop we plan to celebrate at a friends house. Here is what we have planned for our cookout so far:

My husband is making his jerk chicken
Picking up a rack of ribs
An assortment of sausages
A penne pasta salad with feta and spinach as a side dish
Possibly pecan bars for dessert
Yummy domestic beer (It doesn't seem right to drink an import on our Independence Day)

What are you planning to cook for the Fourth of July? Please share in the comments section.