Monday, February 28, 2011

A Lil' Sunshine

Again, we had beautiful weather this past weekend. I love when the temps reach mid to late 70's in February. But this is Georgia so even though today it is still in the 70's, we are under a tornado watch. I know this because my mother will always update me on all weather conditions. I really think that she should get a job at The Weather Channel (she might even know someone that may or may not have worked there before and has connections.) But for real, she can stay on top of those weather conditions better than any meteorologist that I've met. It's true, my friends remember the days when the sky would look a little dark and they could predict that I would not be allowed out. Oh, mom...

But back to this weekend... it was definitely patio weather again which usually makes me crave an ice cold beer but not this time. I went to the grocery store on a whim and picked out a cool, white wine, Erath Pinot Gris from Oregon. It was a tad sweet and perfect for sipping on a warm day.  With the wine, I picked up some cheese and crackers. I go gaga for cheese and crackers. I think it is a childhood thing. That was "my snack" and to this day I still get just as excited. In fact, the wine may have even been an excuse to make a meal of cheese and crackers.

Warm days also make me crave barbeque like any good southern girl so I thought I'd share a bbq recipe. This is fantastic on it's own or served on buns or texas toast.

Texas Brisket

4 1/2 lb. beef brisket
2 large onions, sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1/4 cup Worchestershire 
1/4 cup A1 Steak Sauce
1/4 cup strongly brewed black coffee

1. Spread onions evenly along the bottom of your slow cooker.  Place brisket in slow cooker,  fatty-side up.
2. Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over the meat and onions. 
3. Cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours. 
Optional: I like to eat the flavorful onions just as they are when they come out of the slow cooker. But you could also choose to use them as a gravy by throwing them in a blender with a ladle or two of the liquid and pouring it over the meat. 

*Note: If you do not have a slow cooker, you can make this in the oven. You would instead place everything in a roasting pan and cook at 325 for 3 and 1/2 hours. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not Your Traditional Spaghetti

We tried a new pasta dish last night, Spaghetti with Portabellas, Sage and Walnuts. It was a bit hard to describe taste-wise. It was light because of the lack of sauce but then the exorbitant amount of butter that I used made it rich. The amount of butter it called for won't make any Southerners bat an eye but this might scare away all the health nuts. I plan to make this meal again but next time I might add more mushrooms which would make it a bit "meatier."

With the pasta, I had a glass of Alexander & Fitch Cabernet Sauvignon. It was cheap and good. A lot cabernets are complex and heavier but this one was lighter making it a better choice with the pasta.

Spaghetti with Portabellas, Sage & Walnuts from Fine Cooking magazine
Makes four servings

3/4 lb. dried spaghetti
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 large portabella mushroom caps, gills scraped out and discarded, caps thinly sliced and cut into 2-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until it’s tender but still firm to the tooth, about 9 min. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and 2 Tbs. of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the butter is melted. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re brown and tender, 4 to 5 min. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.

In the same sauté pan, melt the remaining 6 Tbs. butter over medium heat. Add the sage leaves, and cook, stirring occasionally until they darken and crisp and the flecks of milk solids in the butter are golden brown, 3 to 5 min. Return the mushrooms to the pan and pile in the walnuts, the cooked pasta, and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss the pasta continuously with tongs to coat well, adding more water as needed so the pasta is moist, 1 to 2 min. (If your skillet isn’t big enough, you can toss everything together in the pasta pot.) Season with salt and pepper, mound into bowls, and sprinkle generously with the Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Another Day, Another Chili

Last time that I made chili, I mentioned that I wanted to play around with various recipes this winter since there are so many out there. I guess you can say I'm hosting a season long chili cook-off but I'm the only judge. I house IS safe to step into. :-p

I've only made chili previously with either ground beef or turkey but I tried something different this time, "steak" (stew meat.) I had to add the quotes/parentheses because I have been calling the meat "steak" whenever I described it but my husband felt that I deceived him since he believes stew meat is not even close to steak meat. PICK-Y! Anyways, the meat was so good after being slow cooked all day long that even he gave it two thumbs up with many praises. It was SO easy too.

Grass-Fed Beef Chili
makes 10 servings

28-oz can whole tomatoes, quartered (reserve juice)
10-oz. can of Rotel (diced tomatoes with green chilies)
2 cups tomato juice
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 lbs extra lean grass-fed stew meat or steak, cut into cubes
2 cups chopped onion
1.5 cups finely diced celery
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 15-oz cans of red kidney beans
Cheddar cheese, shredded

Combine first seven ingredients into your slow cooker. Slowly stir in the meat, garlic, and cut up veggies.

Cover, cook on LOW for 8 hours. Add kidney beans and cook on HIGH for 15 minutes. Serve and shred a little cheese over the top or add sour cream.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dreaming Cow

While shopping at Whole Foods last Sunday, I came across a new local find, Dreaming Cow Yogurt. Their supply was in a small corner of the yogurt section that I would have missed had they not had a representative in the store sampling it. Luckily, they were there so I could confirm that they were indeed good before picking up a few. They are slightly less expensive than their competitors. I love that they are local and also believe in having grass-fed, humanely treated cows on their farm. I have a lot of respect for companies like this that are ahead of the curve in terms of humanely treated, properly-fed animals, and locally produced products. One thing that sets them apart from other companies doing this right now, is that that their yogurt is a 100% natural, New Zealand style. They have yummy sounding flavors such as Honey Pear and Vanilla Agave. If you live in Georgia, pick up a few at your local farmer's market and let me know what you think! I found them at the Whole Foods in Sandy Springs but you can look on their website for more info on where they are sold.

Honey Pear

Picture Source:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Asian-Style Beef Barbecue in Lettuce Packages

This was a good healthy weeknight meal for an absent-minded girl who was craving some Asian food. I say absent-minded because after I was done eating my first lettuce wrap, I said something that went like this: "Man, this is pretty tasty for something that only has veggies and meat....oh wait...." as I then remembered the rice I made that was still sitting on the stove. But really, why does the recipe tell me to make the rice first? Do they not know that I will then proceed to forget it?! And this was before I opened the bottle of wine which was a Three Sisters Vidal Blanc. Yes, that's the Georgia one that I was talking about and it was great as usual!

Asian-Style Beef Barbecue in Lettuce Packages as seen in Fine Cooking magazine
Serves four.

  3/4 cup long-grain white rice (I used brown rice)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt; more as needed
2 medium hearts of romaine or 1 large head red or green leaf lettuce, separated into leaves
1 cup small cilantro sprigs
1 cup small mint leaves (or larger leaves torn into small pieces)
6 medium radishes, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, including tender green parts
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 lb. flank steak, 1 inch thick
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. sesame seeds

Bring 1-1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add the rice and salt, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until the rice is tender and the water absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange the lettuce leaves in a bowl and set the cilantro, mint, radishes, and scallions in separate piles on a plate.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the hoisin with 2 Tbs. water; reserve for assembly.

Position an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler to high. Line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil and replace the perforated top part of the pan. Season the steak with a large pinch of salt and the pepper. Broil the steak until it loses its raw appearance on top and begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Brush the steak with about 2 Tbs. of  the remaining hoisin, and broil until lightly browned, 2 minutes longer. Turn the steak over with tongs and broil until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Brush generously with the remaining hoisin, and broil 2 to 3 minutes longer for medium rare (130°F on an instant-read thermometer), or to desired doneness (don’t let the hoisin burn; if necessary, move the pan to a lower rack).

Transfer the steak to a cutting board, sprinkle with the sesame seeds, and let rest for 5 minutes.
 Cut into thin slices across the grain at a slight angle. Arrange the steak and rice in separate bowls.

Let diners assemble their own packages, filling the lettuce leaves with the rice, steak, cilantro, mint, radishes, scallions, and a drizzle of the diluted hoisin.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baked Rigatoni with Cauliflower in a Spicy Pink Sauce

This is one of those meals that doesn't sound greatly appealing from it's title but is actually delicious. I will add this one to my rotation. Next time, I might add vodka to the sauce while it is cooking and also some additional red pepper flakes. Even though the recipe claims to be spicy, I really didn't detect the spice at all.  I liked the cauliflower in their floret form but my husband suggested that crumbling it up would help it to be more like a ground meat substitute if that's your thing.

Baked Rigatoni with Cauliflower in a Spicy Pink Sauce (recipe taken from Fine Cooking magazine)
Serves 6 to 8 (I made half of this recipe and it lasted two days for us and even then we had to toss some of it out)

 3 Tbs. olive oil
2 28-oz.  cans whole tomatoes
1 lb. yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 medium)
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. rigatoni
1 lb.  cauliflower florets (about 4 cups)
10oz. shredded Fontina (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 3/4 cup)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil in a large pot with a pasta insert. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with 1 Tbs. olive oil.

Pour off 1 cup of juice from one of the cans of tomatoes and discard it. In a blender or food processor, purée both cans of tomatoes with their remaining juice and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil in a 6- to 8-qt. Dutch oven or heavy-based pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, about 1 minute, add the onions and 1/4 tsp. of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Push the onions to the side of the Dutch oven with a wooden spoon and add the garlic. Cook until it just starts to sizzle and becomes fragrant, about 10 seconds.

Add the puréed tomatoes and cream (be careful; it will splatter), plus the remaining 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, so that the sauce thickens slightly. Add the parsley and the red pepper flakes, and cook until the flavors are melded, about 5 minutes more. Taste for salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, when the salted water comes to a boil, cook the rigatoni until it’s al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta by lifting out the insert and leaving the water in the pot. Add the pasta to the sauce. Return the water to a boil (with the pasta insert in the pot) and cook the cauliflower until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and add it to the sauce.

Add 1-1/2 cups of the shredded Fontina to the pasta mixture and toss well. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Top the pasta with the remaining 1 cup Fontina and then the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Bake uncovered until the cheese is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let the pasta rest for 10 minutes before serving.

 I promised you that I would report back on my cheap wines finds from my trek to Total Wine last week.  With this dinner, we had the BearBoat Pinot Noir ($13.99). Actually, we opened it to have with the lamb burgers earlier in the week and were not impressed with it. It was a tad too sweet for a Pinot Noir in my opinion. But on the second night, it was actually pretty good for the price point. I think it had a chance to tone down. I rarely like second day wine but with this nifty tool it usually works out okay.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lamb Burgers

Over the weekend, I decided to make a recipe for Lamb Burgers with yogurt sauce that I actually found in an old issue of Glamour. This recipe is a keeper!

Lamb Burgers source: Glamour
Makes 8 burgers

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
For burgers:
2 lbs. ground lamb
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 cup chopped mint
1 1/2 tsp. each celery salt, ground cumin, ground paprika, and chili powder
1/4 cup ketchup
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
For yogurt sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt ( For Atlantans, my favorite is Atlanta Fresh Greek Yogurt )
1/4 cup chopped mint
Hot sauce
For assembly:
Pitas (I like Whole Wheat), tops cut off
Chopped lettuce (I prefer mixed greens)
Minced red onion
Diced tomatoes

1. In a bowl, combine burger ingredients until just incorporated-you don't want to overwork the meat. Take 1/2 cup of mixture and shape into a small patty. Repeat for the rest of meat.
2. Make yogurt sauce; in small bowl combine Greek yogurt, mint and enough hot sauce to taste.
3. Heat saute pan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and cook patties for a total of 8 minutes to achieve a medium-rare doneness, or longer if desired.
4. Place everything in individual serving dishes and let your guests assemble their own burgers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Love is a fire.  But whether it's going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell. " - Joan Crawford

To celebrate the holiday that everyone likes to pretend they hate, I made my valentine some red velvet cupcakes. Of course being the cute wife that I am, I also put heart sprinkles on the top. Unfortunately, my cell phone took a really blurry picture so no photo. :-(

Red Velvet Cupcakes
(makes one dozen )

muffin pan and cupcake liners
Cream cheese icing ( this one works nicely or store bought can be used as well)
1/4 cup of butter, softened
1/3 cup of shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 1-oz bottle of red food coloring
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 tsp salt
2/3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup milk


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat butter, shortening and sugar until well mixed. Add eggs in gradually. Stir in vanilla and red food coloring. 

Mix flour, salt, and cocoa. Add to shortening mix alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture until well-blended.  Pour batter into lightly-greased cupcake liners in the muffin pan. Fill 2/3. 

Bake for 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool before icing and decorating them.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Heirloom Tart

Heirloom Tart

3 Heirloom Tomatoes or 4 Vine-Ripened Tomatoes
18 basil leaves, rinsed and chopped finely
1/2 to 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of Pecorino-Romano Cheese or Asiago Cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
black pepper
1 refrigerated pie crust


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Seed and thinly slice tomatoes, set aside. Chop all basil leaves except for a few, set aside.
In a bowl, mix half of the Pecorino/Asiago cheese with the Parmesan and Ricotta. If you are trying to make this meal lower in fat, only use 1/2 cup of ricotta. For a richer tart, use 3/4 cup. Slowly, add in the chopped basil leaves and season with salt and pepper. 
Unroll pie crust and fit to the bottom of an oven-safe pie plate letting any extra dough hang over.
Spread half of the mixture along the bottom of the dough.
Arrange half the tomatoes slices on top of the mixture. 
Lay the rest of the mixture atop of the tomatoes and then add the remaining tomatoes on top of the second layer of cheese mixture.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Lastly, sprinkle remaining Pecorino cheese over the top before setting the tart back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Garnish with remaining basil leaves.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Need A Little Help

First thing: So, I've gotten a few emails from readers saying that they aren't able to comment on my blog. They either receive an error or they comment and it never shows up after they've submitted it. Since others have been able to, I'm not sure what could be the problem. I've also had someone tell me that they had trouble signing up to become a follower. I am new to the blogging world so I'd appreciate any advice that you have on how to remedy this.

 So the second thing...Do you have any tips for peeling and slicing onions? I am one of those people who immediately starts tearing up once I start slicing and dicing.  And it's not just tearing up, it's the UGLY CRY (we're talking mascara running down my cheeks and all.)

Picture from
No, of course that isn't me. That is Matthew Fox from LOST. And if you know me well, you know how I love LOST. This was basically an excuse for me to bring up the show in my blog. But really, the onions are a problem for me and I use them a lot.  Does this happen to anyone else? Do you have any tips to help prevent this complete meltdown from peeling and slicing onions? It would be nice if I could cut up an onion without having to take multiple five minute breaks!

Since I don't have a recipe today, I will leave you with a picture of my cats per my mother's request of course.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Campanelle with Broccoli Raab, Sausage & Olives

The only modification that I made was to buy spicy italian sausage instead of the milder sweet version since I like it hot :-). I wasn't feeling like wine last night much to the dismay of my husband. Besides, our wine table was nearly barren but don't you worry... I went to Total Wine today to replenish my stock. I made it a goal not to spend more than $13 on any of the bottles I purchased today. So I will definitely let you know if I found some good ones. Cheap wine that is also good is always a plus! I figured that campanelle might be a little tricky to find so I went to Whole Foods where I surprisingly was not able to find any. But, I did find some at Kroger.

Campanelle with Broccoli Raab, Sausage & Olives taken from Fine Cooking magazine

Kosher salt
1 lb. broccoli raab, thick stems trimmed, leaves and florets rinsed well
6 oz. campanelle pasta (2 cups)
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 lb. sweet italian sausage (bulk sausage or links removed from casing)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup homemade chicken broth
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
2 tsp finely grated lightly packed lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Add the broccoli raab and cook until bright green and tender, 2 min. (the water doesn’t have to come back to a full boil once the broccoli raab has been added). With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli raab to the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well and gently squeeze the broccoli raab to remove excess water.

Return the pot of water to a boil, add the pasta, cook according to package directions, and drain.

While the campanelle cooks, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium- high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring and breaking it into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon until it’s browned and almost cooked through, 4 to 6 min. Add the garlic and chile flakes and cook until the garlic is lightly golden, about 1 min. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil; cook, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon occasionally, until the broth is reduced by about half, 3  to 4 min.

Add the broccoli raab, olives, and lemon zest and cook, stirring, until hot, 1  to 2 min. Add the pasta and cheese to the skillet and toss well. Season to taste with salt and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Bachelor's Dinner

The reason for the title of this post is that I had a couple friends (my bachelor friends) tell me that some of my recipes were a little too advanced for them and they want something they can easily prepare with not much cooking required. So, I give you a recipe for Chicken Pot Pie:

Chicken Pot Pie

1 pack of refrigerated pie crusts (make sure there are two in there since you need them both)
2 cups of rotisserie chicken 
1 cup of frozen mixed veggies
1 can of Campbells's Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 cup of milk


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Unroll one pie crust and form on the bottom of an oven-safe pie plate/pan.

Pull apart the chicken, remove skin and chop up the chicken pieces.

Next, mix the chicken, milk, soup, and veggies in a large bowl. Pour everything onto the pie crust and spread evenly.

Unroll the second pie crust and place over the top of the pie. Pinch the edges of the pie (top crust and bottom crust) together all the way around the pie plate. I slacked a little on this step and while it was tasty, you can see where some of the filling seeped out.

Use a fork to make holes in the top crust to vent the pie. You can also use this step to make pretty designs in your pie :-). Bake in oven for 35 minutes. You may need to pull the pie out halfway through the cooking time to cover the crust with foil so that it doesn't burn. Cool on rack before serving. Enjoy!

You really don't need wine with chicken pot pie. In fact, I see beer as a better compliment if you need a drink. But, there are just some days when you need your wine. So, I served it with a Cabernet Sauvignon. This was actually an accident since I thought I bought the Pinot Noir but the wine was good either way!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Goin' Coastal

A seafood restaurant somewhat recently opened up in Virginia-Highlands, Goin' Coastal. I haven't had the chance to dine there just yet but I thought I'd "borrow" their recipe for delicious shrimp chowder. And it was indeed delicious. I will have to pay them a visit in the near future.  Eating the soup made me feel like I was somewhere in Savannah enjoying hot soup and a beautiful view of the river. But in reality, it was more like the rain gushing down outside my window. Uh, hello sunshine, where did you go? I may need to have a talk with the weather gods because two weeks ago we were snowed in, last weekend it was in the 70's and I was enjoying a cold beer on a patio and now it's cold and rainy again. Anyways, the soup was yummy and I made corn muffins to go with it. We also enjoyed a Chardonnay from Three Sisters Winery. More on that later...

From the menu of Goin' Coastal
Shrimp Chowder 
Makes 13 cups (I didn't make this much, don't you worry)

3 cups seafood stock
3 bay leaves
1 pound, peeled shrimp, cut in thirds
3 tablespoons  olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups finely diced yellow onion
3/4 cup finely diced celery
3/4 shredded carrots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons seafood seasoning
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 pound unpeeled red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup minced parsley
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, bring seafood stock and bay leaves to a boil. Turn off heat and add shrimp. Cover pan and allow shrimp to poach while you start the chowder.

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic and saute for  3 minutes. Add seafood seasoning and cook for another 3 minutes. 

Drain seafood stock into saucepan with vegetables. Set shrimp aside. Discard bay leaves.

Add tomato sauce, potatoes, and hot sauce to the stock mixture and cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn heat to low, add cream and corn; stir to combine. When soup is heated through, remove pan from heat and stir in shrimp and parsley. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Okay, so back to the wine...Georgia is the last place you probably think of when you imagine wine. I know it was for me until I spent a weekend in Georgia Wine Country. No, that's not a typo there actually is one.  Now, a lot of the places here are known for their sweet wines and I am NOT a fan of sweet wine.  It's unfortunate that not many places serve Georgia wine and that most people turn their noses up at the thought of it. On my visit, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found (and I have visited Napa and Sonoma.) My favorite Georgia winery is Three Sisters Vineyards. It is probably the most causal, laid-back winery but don't be fooled. They make some damn good wines. If you do visit, they do a free tasting and also a premium tasting for a fee. (The premium tasting is not to be missed!) My favorites are the Cynthiana, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, and Pinot Blanc. The Fat Boy line is also quite good if you are looking for a less expensive bottle. Other honorable mentions for Georgia wineries are: Wolf Mountain Winery, Frogtown, and Montaluce Winery (I love to look at the estates around this one.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Because You Have To Get Your Veggies Somehow

Last night's dinner was a bit healthier than most of the meals that I've cooked lately. It also helped satisfy my craving for Asian food. It is a good weeknight dinner because it can be thrown together so quickly. I like to serve it on a bed of brown rice.

Apple and Pork Stir-fry with Ginger (recipe from SparkPeople Recipes )
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. peach jam, fruit sweetened
2 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. dark toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. finely minced fresh ginger root
1/2 lb. (8 oz) pork tenderloin, cut into thin strips
1 1/2 tsp. canola oil
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 can (8 oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 firm apples, Fuji or Gala, cut into one-inch pieces
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. In small bowl, combine jam, soy sauce, water, and cornstarch. Set aside.
2. in large non-stick skillet (I used a wok), heat sesame oil over medium high heat. Add pork and ginger and stir-fry until pork is browned and just cooked through.
3. Transfer pork and ginger to bowl with slotted spoon. Add canola oil to skillet. Stir-fry peppers, water chestnuts, and apples until peppers are crisp tender, about 3 minutes.
4. Add pork back to skillet along with scallions. Stir-fry 30 seconds. Add jam mixture. Continue to stir-fry 30 seconds to one minute, or until sauce thickens. Season to taste with black pepper.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Baked Whole Wheat Penne

Typically these types of dishes are made with regular pasta but I chose to use a whole grain version instead. I know a lot of people have an aversion to using wheat pastas but really it's not bad at all (and it's better for you)! If you aren't a fan of penne, I think this dish would work well with rigatoni, ziti or rotini pasta. Another substitute you could make would be to use a spicier sausage or even a turkey version.  And of course...don't forget the wine! We enjoyed our meal with a french wine. This was my first time buying this particular wine and I will definitely pick it up again.

Baked Whole Wheat Penne
Makes 4 servings


1 box (13 -16 oz) of whole wheat/grain pasta 
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 onion, diced
3 links (about 12 oz) of sweet Italian sausage, remove from casing
black pepper
1/4 cup dry red wine
big can (28-35 oz.) of whole plum tomatoes in juice
1/8 cup fresh marjoram (use 1/3 the amount if dry herbs)
1/8 cup fresh oregano
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
1/3 cup Italian Parsley, chopped 
1/2 tsp nutmeg
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed


Preheat oven to 375.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, 5 minutes.
Add sausage and garlic. Break up sausage as it browns. Once the sausage is browned, season with salt and pepper.
Add the wine and let sit until the liquid is almost evaporated.
Add tomatoes (with juice) and chop them up while they cook. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add the italian seasonings.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl,  mix half the pecorino cheese and the ricotta.  Slowly add in the parsley and nutmeg. Season with more salt and pepper.
Cook the penne until al dente. Drain and toss with the cheese mixture making sure to mix well.
Add the sauce and mix. Slowly stir in the fresh mozzarella.
Transfer pasta to a lightly greased Corningware dish (or other baking dish).
Add the rest of the pecorino cheese to the top. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Lil' Southern Tradition

 I was born in the Northern part of this country but raised in the Southern part. Regardless, I still don't think of myself as a "Northerner" or a "Southerner." But since I've spent most of my life down south, I figured I better start learning to cook like a southerner. One of my favorite dishes to eat and to make is Shrimp 'n' Grits. I found a particularly good recipe for this on the lovely Vintage Victuals blog.

She was kind enough to let me share the recipe here.  I highly recommend checking out her blog as she has been doing this for awhile and has some great recipes! The only modifications that I made were: 1) I left out the ham because I just don't like ham overall and 2) I added a tad more cheese (you know because I saved the calories from taking out the ham hah).

Georgia Shrimp 'n' Grits
 as seen here

I think I started eating before I took this picture so it's not "perfect."
3/4 lb. wild Georgia shrimp
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup water
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup quick-cooking grits
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon butter
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
4 teaspoons flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 slice cured country ham, cooked and torn into pieces


Peel and de-vein the shrimp.
Combine in a small bowl the Cajun seasoning, the paprika, the Italian seasoning, and the pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over the shrimp, tossing until they are well coated. Set aside.
Next, pour the water, the chicken boullion, and the butter into a heavy saucepan. Bring the mixture to a full boil. Slowly add in the grits, and whisk constantly, cooking over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, the cream, and the cheddar cheese. Continue to cook and whisk for 2-3 more minutes, until grits become very creamy and thick. To quote the original recipe, “Don’t skimp on the butter and the cream, folks.”
In a large skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.
Pour in the spiced shrimp and cook JUST until they are done and tender, about 2 minutes (depending on the size of your shrimp). Do not overcook or your shrimp will get rubbery.
Remove the shrimp from the pan to a clean bowl and set aside.
Return the pan to the stove.
Add the flour to the drippings, stirring to make the base of a roux. Cook for 10 minutes until medium tan in color. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and the cream. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the worchestershire sauce and hot sauce, stirring to incorporate. Finally, add the country ham.
Serve the shrimp on a generous bed of grits, topped with the roux sauce.