Saturday, February 5, 2011

Let's Get This Started - A Week of Recipes

So here we are...this first post is going to be a monster.  I feel like starting this whole thing with just one measly recipe is boring, so you're getting several!  I've been saving them up for this very occassion, constantly annoying my husband with my insistence that before we get to eat dinner, we have to take 50 pictures of the meal from various positions in a million different lighting "schemes".  Poor guy.  But I think its a small price to pay for what he USED to get for dinner, which was usually prepared by either himself (so, a sandwich), or the line cooks at Ariana's Italian Grill around the corner.

Anywho, speaking of takeout, its also a bit ironic that my new interest in cooking has coincided with my renewed interest in losing some weight.  But, never fear, this is not a "healthy cooking" blog, nor am I going to bore you with my complaints about how crowded the gym is or how I'm only allowed to eat salad for lunch in order to be able to eat this stuff for dinner.  So, I'll say this.  Thankfully, around the same time I discovered I loved to cook, I also discovered that I love spinning.  You know, that exercise class where you ride a stationary bike for an hour while a perky instructor screams "FASTER!!" at you at the top of her lungs and you try to keep from throwing up?  Yep, that class.  The first time I went I thought about quitting in the middle and DEFINITELY tasteed blood at some point during the class, but I made it through and now I'm hooked.  This is a good thing, because if I am going to lose weight, I either need to burn a lot of calories or take in very little.  And since we all know most healthy food tastes like crap less delicious than what is optimal, I chose the exercise route. 
So, here is my disclaimer.  You don't have to go to spin class several times a week like I do, but you should probably exercise at least a little if you are going to cook and eat this stuff.  Or you are going to get fat.  Just sayin'.

Let's post some recipes, shall we?!

Spicy Carolina Style Pulled Pork in the Crock Pot

I'm a huge fan of anything that cooks itself while I'm doing other things, so this was perfect.  I made it on a lazy Sunday where we did nothing but watch football and eat delicious pork sandwiches.  The meat literally fell apart, and if you put some Bone Sucking Sauce (can be found at Tom Leonard's Farmer's Market), there is no sandwich more perfect than this one.

Spicy Carolina Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches

3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
5 lbs pork shoulder
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper
2 red onions, quartered
2 yellow onions, quartered
Combine the brown sugar, paprika, salt and pepper, and rub the mixture over the roast. wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate a few hours, overnight is best.
In a bowl, combine the vinegar, worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. mix well.
Place the quartered onions in the bottom of the crock pot. unwrap the roast, and place on top of onions. drizzle most of the vinegar mix over the roast, reserving some to add to the shredded meat at the end.
Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or high for 4 to 5 hours.
Remove the meat and onions to a cutting board. remove skin and set aside. using two forks (or your fingers, if you have asbestos hands), pull and shred the pork. chop the onions, and mix into the shredded meat. using a fork, remove some of the fat from under the skin, mince, and add to the shredded meat and onions as needed for moisture and flavor.
Serve on warm buns or crusty hard rolls, with the remaining vinegar mixture

Pappardelle with Bolognese Sauce

I've never had a Rachael Ray pasta recipe I haven't loved, and this one was no different.  Please also ignore the piece of Texas Toast there on the side...I know its easier and cheaper to just make your own garlic bread (with less butter), but Texas Toast is a guilty pleasure and I could eat 4-5 pieces for a meal.  Not that I HAVE, or anything, but...I could and I've thought about it from time to time. 

Back to pasta talk.  This was amazing, and even after giving me the side-eye because I was putting carrots and celery in red pasta sauce, Andrew (my husband) gobbled up like I hadn't fed him in days.  And maybe I HADN'T fed him in days when I made this, but that is neither here nor there.

Pappardelle With Bolognese Sauce
Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

2 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 pound diced pancetta (Italian bacon)
1 pound ground sirloin
1 pound ground pork (I used all sirloin)
1 onion, cut into small dice
1 carrot, cut into small dice
2 celery stalks, cut into small dice
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated (I used 3 cloves)
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, removed from stem and chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups red wine
3 cups beef stock
1/2 teaspoon (a pinch or two) crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1 pound pappardelle pasta (wide noodles),  or fettucine
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided

In a large pot, heat EVOO over medium-high heat, then add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.

Add the sirloin and pork to the pot the pancetta was cooked in and brown well, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, 4-5 minutes.

Add salt, pepper, allspice, bay leaves and thyme, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the reserved pancetta back into the pan and stir in the tomato paste. Cook 3-4 minutes to caramelize. Add in the wine and scrape up all the tasty nibbles that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the beef stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

While the sauce is simmering away, bring a large pot of seasoned water up to a boil. Drop the pappardelle pasta into the boiling water and cook to al dente, according to package instructions. Stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

Add the cream to the sauce and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Once the pasta is done, reserve about a cup of pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and toss it back into the pot it was cooked in along with some of the reserved water, a cup of cheese and a handful or so of the parsley. Add the pasta sauce, reserving enough to top, and toss well to coat.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls, topped with additional sauce and some additional parsley for garnish. Pass the remaining cheese at the table.

Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas

There's not a lot that needs to be said about Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas, is there?  They are creamy and delicious and easy to make and easy to freeze the leftovers.  Why WOULDN'T you make these right this second?

Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas
Source: Adapted from Epicurious

1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
3 green onions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1 tsp minced jalapeno, seeds removed if desired
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp good quality chile powder
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces cream cheese, room temp (I used reduced fat)
3/4 cup grated Monterey jack or white cheddar (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup diced red pepper
10 medium flour tortillas
1 cup good quality enchilada sauce
2 tbs sour cream (I used reduced fat)

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and, when warm, add the onion and green onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeno and chile powder and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Stir in shrimp with a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, just until shrimp are opaque, 1-2 minutes more. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool.

To the cooled shrimp mixture, add the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the monterey jack, corn and red pepper. Stir very gently to combine, taste and season as needed with additional salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lay the tortillas on a work surface and divide filling into the centers of each. Roll up and place, seam side down, into a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Combine the enchilada sauce with the sour cream and spread the mixture over the enchiladas. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup of monterey jack and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Turn oven to broil and cool 1-2 minutes more, just until tops are lightly browned.

Grilled Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

 Pork Tenderloin is one of my favorite foods in the whole world.  Its also one of my Mom's few "specialties" where you were guaranteed that you would like the dinner she cooked (sorry, know its true and that "recipe of the week" was a total flop).  I like it way better than pork chops because its leaner and stays juicy even when cooked all the way through (I am REALLY squemish about under-cooked pork because I hear trichinosis sucks really bad).

This pork tenderloin didn't was perfectly juicy and tender and it went perfectly well with the rice dish I made up.  I just microwaved a package of chicken flavored 90-second brown rice and then added some feta, a little bit of butter, and toasted pine nuts.  Delish!

Grilled Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
Source: Adapted from
Recipe Girl

4 Tbs balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp crushed garlic
3 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbs chopped green onions
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbs cracked black pepper
1 Tbs sea salt
2 lbs pork tenderloin

Combine marinade ingredients in a large ziploc baggie. Add tenderloin and massage to work marinade into meat. Refrigerate in marinade for at least 6 hours.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 155.

Remove tenderloin from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Chicken with Balsamic Syrup and Goat Cheese

One of my biggest challenges with cooking is getting the timing right.  Like, recipes don't tell you WHEN to start things if you want everything to be done at the same time.  This recipe did not say, "don't start the balsamic syrup too soon or it will get so thick that it sticks to your front teeth for 3 hours after you try to taste it".  Needless to say, the syrup took me a couple of tries as those potatoes were roasting.  It was worth it, though, because the potatoes were perfect (just some fingerlings and broccoli tossed in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and thyme and roasted in a 400 degree oven for....until they are done).

The chicken was good, too, but it was frustrating because they took FOREVER to cook in a skillet, so I ended up putting it in the oven to finish and probably left it in there 5 minutes too long.  It was a little dry, but it had goat cheese on it, so that evens out in my book.

Chicken with Balsamic Syrup and Goat Cheese
Source: Gourmet Day to Day

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
4-6 thin boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

Boil the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. (A great way to test for the proper consistency of the syrup is to dip the spoon in the syrup, draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger, if the sauce is done, the line should stay pretty clean without the sauce running back into the line)

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Saute chicken until cooked through and golden brown on both sides. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet. Crumble the cheese over the chicken and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.

Transfer the chicken to plates. Drizzle the balsamic sauce around the steaks and serve.

Easy Cajun Pasta

This was delicious and I probably won't make it again, because even if I went to TWO spin classes every day, this would probably still make me really fat.  The recipe itself isn't THAT bad for you, but I found myself literally unable to stop eating it, as pasta and sausage are probably my 2 favorite things to eat in the entire world.  Well, I technically have about 100 favorites, but these are right up there.  

If you are one of those people who are able to exercise self control when it comes to portion control, make this really soon.  If you're not, make it anyway!

Easy Cajun Pasta

1 pkg chicken andouille, sliced
1 pkg Buitoni linguine (fresh)
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 small jar prepared light alfredo sauce
1 medium onion
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Fresh ground black pepper

Chop vegetables and cook with oil and 1 tbs cayenne until tender, add sliced sausage and cook until thoroughly heated. Heat sauce and add remainder of cayenne, crushed red and black pepper to taste. Serve over prepared pasta.

Cornflake Chicken Tenders

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Joelen's at What's Cooking Chicago? She makes amazing food and takes equally amazing pictures.  I kind of want to be her when I grow up. She got this recipe from one of my other favorite blogs to follow, Pennies on a Platter.  They are both in the Chicago area, and while I don't live there any more, the one thing I miss the most is the food.  So I automatically assume anyone who in the Chi-town knows their food and should therefore have their blogs followed.  When I saw this, I knew I had to make it, AND I had leftover Bone Sucking Sauce for dipping.  Score! 

Cornflake Chicken Tenders

Chicken Gyros

Chicken gyros have a special place in my heart.  When I was in college (at James Madison University....Go Dukes!), there was this takeout restaurant/dive called Dave's Taverna and they specialized in Greek-inspired bar food.  They also had $2 pitchers and gave you cards to play Asshole (a mindless drinking game played with cards) with while you were there.  So, needless to say...everyone loved Dave's.  I specifically rememeber leaving class early convincing some friends to leave class early on happy hour days to reserve a table here so we could make sure we had optimal space for cards, Natty Light pitchers, and chicken gyros.  One night I even ate a chicken gyro at Dave's, went out to a few parties, and then ordered Dave's delivery of chicken gyros later that night when I got home.  Shameful but true.

These days, I prefer enjoying my chicken gyros in the comfort of my own home, with my husband (who is FAR classier than the clientele at Dave's), and a nice glass of red.

I found this recipe on ANOTHER blog I love, Elly Says Opa!  She is awesome and her gyros didn't disappoint.  I adapted a little bit, but only because I was too lazy to make my own tzatziki.

Chicken Gyros
Source: Adapted from Elly Says Opa!

3 chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons
red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt and peppertzatziki sliced tomatoes

Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in a reseal-able bag. Place in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and then broil until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side, depending what size/type chicken you are using.

Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.

Heat your pitas to make them pliable. Stuff the pita with the chicken, tzatziki and tomatoes.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter, melted
2 cups finely crushed corn flakes cereal

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400˚F. Place an oven-safe cooling rack on a baking sheet and set aside.

Combine the flour and spices in a small bowl; set aside. Place melted butter in another small bowl; set aside. Place the crushed cereal in a medium-sized bowl or pie plate.

Dip the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, then the butter, then the cereal. Place the coated chicken strips on the rack in the baking sheet.

Bake the coated chicken pieces in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink. Serve with your favorite sauce.


  1. That pork tenderloin looks really good. I'm bookmarking. :)

  2. Major guys seriously need to have us over for dinner!! We can bring cheesy dips

  3. Molly Jean and Christina - Thanks for visiting!! I'm following y'all as well!

    JB - you guys really do need to come over! We'll figure out a time soon!