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.