Sunday, January 31, 2010

Meal Plan and Grocery List 2/1-2/7

Monday February 1st

African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans

Tuesday February 2nd

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Wednesday February 3rd

Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Thursday February 4th

Ham Pot Pie

Friday February 5th

Pizza Night

Saturday February 6th


Sunday February 7th


Spicy Clam Chowder
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
and more...

Grocery List


1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes
red bell peppers
lime wedges


1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast
4 cups chopped ham


shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
half and half

Canned Goods

olive oil
1 1/2 cup small red beans
vegetable broth
diced tomatoes
chopped green chilies
peanut butter
(2) chicken broth
spaghetti sauce
tomato sauce
tomato paste

Dry Goods

dry roasted peanuts
1 envelope taco seasoning
baking powder
bay leaf
fennel seed
active dry yeast
corn meal

Friday, January 29, 2010

One Week From Tomorrow....

There's going to be a serious football game happening in Miami! Are YOU ready for some football!?! I am! Super Bowl Sunday is always fun, but this year I'm actually a fan of the teams in competition, which makes it all the better. First off, we're huge Colts fans in this house. I'm an Indiana girl and my husband grew up right outside of Indianapolis. I proudly wear my #18 jersey each and every game day as we crowd in front of the television to cheer on the Colts. Peyton Manning is awesome! At the same time, my other favorite NFL quarterback is playing in this game and we're rooting for him too. Drew Brees, fellow Purdue alumnus, (he was just a year behind me and in the same class as my husband) led us to the Rose Bowl. We cheered for him all through college and we've been following his career ever since. Needless to say, we are psyched for Super Bowl XLIV! Our celebration will be pared down a bit this year. We're celebrating with a few friends up here in Cleveland Browns country. I've been tossing around ideas for what to serve. Of course the party is at our house. We just got our new high definition cable hooked up in time for the occasion!

If you're in the market for recipes for your own super bowl party or if you're heading out for the night and bringing a dish to share, here are some suggestions...

I'm doing a "Soup-er Bowl" Sunday. I'm going to have Chili with all of the fixins'

and I'm making my favorite Spicy Clam Chowder too. I haven't written about that yet, so stay tuned.

You might also try this Shrimp Bisque.

Or Cheesy Potato Soup.

Of course, my husband will be frying up some WINGS!

The rest of my menu isn't set in stone yet, But here are some party foods that are sure to please!

Texas Beef BBQ (Didja know that Drew Brews hails from the great state of Texas?) This picture isn't phenomenal, but I assure you that the BBQ is! If you're looking for an easy crock pot BBQ recipe, this is it!

Cajun Seafood Bread (and not only are the Saints playin' in the Super Bowl, but New Orleans is Peyton Manning's hometown.) This one gets my highest recommendation!

Of course, NACHOS are always a favorite in the stadium and at any party.

Or you could go a bit more gourmet with these Sesame Asparagus & Caramelized Onion Bruschetta.

Then there's my Cheddar Beef Pull-Apart Bread. I might just have to make this one for the sake of tradition. I brought this to the party the last time the Colts won a Super Bowl.

I'm still a fan of Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts at any party. YUM!

Oh, and meatballs are good too. Make these easy meatballs and then cook em' in your crock pot with a bottle of chili sauce and a jar of grape jelly...a weird but wonderful combination.

Or make Meatball Sliders.

Some prefer subs on Super Bowl Sunday. If you live in a warmer climate or if you're not bothered by trudging through the snow to your grill, you can't go wrong with this Grilled Submarine Sandwich.

Oh, you know what else? A big pan of Cheesy Beef and Bean Burritos would go over nicely too.

Or any one of these PIZZAS.

And you can't forget the dip. What's a party without dip? Try this 7 Layer Dip.

Or this Spicy Hamburger Dip.

Or Frank's Red Hot Dip. I love this dip!!!

Or my husband's favorite, the Hot Triscuit Dip.

Of course, to indulge those with a sweet tooth, you could whip up some Monster Cookies.

Or a batch of Caramel Corn.

Personally, I'm trying a new recipe. A peanut butter and jelly bar. I'm really excited for this one.

As much as I enjoy football, I guess it's pretty obvious that I'm excited about the food too!

I just have to share this. I made this collage the last time the Colts went to the Super Bowl. This is my oldest daughter, all ready to cheer on the Colts. I just wanna pinch her two-year-old baby cheeks and freeze her in time forever! She's growing up way too fast! Lucky for us, this Colts jogging suit is now the perfect size for her little sister...just in time for another Colts Super Bowl! Gotta love hand-me-downs!

I hope that you all have a safe and fun Super Bowl Sunday wherever you are and no matter what team you're cheering for!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pan Seared Duck Breast with POM-Thyme Reduction Sauce

I admit, this dish is a bit fancy for a Thursday night dinner. I had some duck breast in my freezer that I needed to use up and I still have a couple of bottles of POM Wonderful in my fridge that I won in a giveaway on Deep South Dish. I found this recipe on the POM Wonderful website. I was excited to try it out and combine 2 excellent products for one fabulously delicious dinner. If you're still looking for a special Valentine's dinner to prepare for your sweetie, you may want to print this one. This dish would be perfect with a nice bottle of red wine and a dessert of lava baby cakes or individual caramel flans with POM syrup.

If you've never tried duck, you're in for a treat. It's such a wonderful protein. You may expect it to be like chicken or turkey, but for me it's nothing like the other birds commonly consumed in this house. Truthfully, the best comparison to another meat that I could make would be filet mignon. It's tender and juicy and meaty...but healthier for you than beef.

Among people who have never tried duck, or those who rarely eat it, there appears to be at least two concerns. One concern seems to be a lack of knowledge of how to properly prepare duck. Actually cooking duck is not too different from cooking other meats and once a few basic principles are mastered, most anyone can become a master duck chef. You can get duck cooking tips HERE or check out my last post about preparing duck for a step by step preparation tutorial. The other concern among the uninitiated appears to be the somewhat higher fat content of duck, which is true of whole duck but not of leg meat or skinless breast. In truth, White Pekin duck breast is comparable in fat and calories to a skinless chicken or turkey breast. Check out this nutritional information chart comparing duck breast to chicken, turkey, and a number of cuts of beef. If you thought that duck was too "fatty" before, this should alleviate any concerns.

I used Maple Leaf Farms duckling for this and all of the duck recipes that I prepare in my kitchen. Maple Leaf Farms is only about 10 miles from where I grew up. Not only have I toured their facilities, I interned with them in both Marketing and Research and Development when I was in college. It's a tip top operation, offering the best possible products. The good news is that you can get Maple Leaf Farms Duckling just about anywhere in the U.S. Look for it in your local grocery store.

Since this recipe features a reduction sauce, I began that first. Because it needs to well...reduce. Begine with 2 cups of POM Wonderful juice and cook it down to 1/4 cup.

Then, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic to a large heavy-bottomed pot. Saute over medium heat, caramelizing the vegetables nicely.

Add the red wine and simmer over medium-low heat. Allow to reduce to a syrup.

Allow to reduce to a syrup.

Strain out the vegetables and discard. I pressed mine through a sieve to eek out the last bit of that syrup.

Add 2 quarts of chicken stock to the red wine reduction and reduce down to 2 cups.

Add fresh thyme sprigs and pomegranate juice reduction to finish. At first taste, I wasn't really sure about this sauce, but after I simmered it for a bit and the thyme infused into the flavor, this sauce really added to the dish.

With the sauce well on it's way to complete, I prepare my duck. The recipe instructs to season the duck breast. These duck breasts came pre-seasoned, so I skipped this step. Next, I scored the fat on each breast. Check out my last post about duck for additional details. By scoring a duck breast and then searing it on the scored side, you can eliminate up to 70% of the fat, while crisping the skin and adding to the distinct flavor of the meat.

Add olive oil to a large saute pan, over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the duck breast, skin side down. Sprinkle with crushed rosemary. Sear for 7-9 over medium heat. Flip the duck breast over and cook for an additional 3 minutes for medium rare. Go a couple of minutes longer for medium. You really don't want to go much past medium, in my opinion. Remove the duck from the pan and allow it to rest for 2 to 3 minutes before slicing.

While the duck rests, drain most of the fat from the skillet and then toss in a whole, diced shallot. The recipe recommended to "sweat" the shallot, rather than brown it. Mine browned. I'd like to know, what's so wrong with that? It was delicious!

Slice the meat diagonally before transferring to your serving plate. See?! It's like steak, only leaner! Note: I removed the skin before slicing.

To prepare each plate, I put down a bed of the sauteed shallots.

Then I ladled the POM-Thyme reduction sauce over the shallots and topped with sliced duck. It was perfection!

I served mine with garlic-cheddar smashed potatoes and some vegetables. (Confession time: they were Green Giant mixed veggies in rosemary butter).

Pan Seared Duck Breast with POM-Thyme Reduction Sauce from the POM Wonderful website. Written by Chef Erick Williams mk, the restaurant, Chicago
(adapted by me)

Time to Table: 35 Minutes Prep: 1 Hour 35 Minutes Cooking
Makes: 4 Servings.

POM Thyme Reduction Sauce

juice from 4 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates,* or 2 cups POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate Juice
4 oz. Spanish onion
2 oz. carrot
2 oz. celery
1 clove garlic
2 cups red wine
2 quarts chicken stock
5 sprigs fresh thyme

Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Seasonal Vegetables

4 duck breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1 small shallot, minced
3 cups seasonal vegetables
1 sprig fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste


POM Thyme Reduction Sauce: Prepare fresh pomegranate juice*, in a small pot, reduce the pomegranate juice to 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz.) or until it coats the back of a spoon easily, then remove from heat, rough chop the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, saute in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, caramelizing the vegetables nicely, add red wine and simmer over medium-low heat, allow to reduce to a syrup. Strain out the vegetables and discard, add 2 quarts of chicken stock to the red wine reduction and reduce down to 2 cups, add fresh thyme sprigs and pomegranate juice reduction to finish.

Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Seasonal Vegetables: Season the entire duck breast, add the olive oil to a large saute pan, over medium heat, when the oil is hot, add the duck breast, skin side down. Sprinkle with rosemary. Sear for 7 to 9 minutes over medium heat. Flip the duck breast over and cook for an additional 3 minutes for medium rare, remove the duck from the pan and allow it to rest 2 to 3 minutes before slicing. Drain all but 1 teaspoon of the duck fat from the skillet. Add minced shallots to pan and saute the shallots, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the seasonal vegetables and saute until warmed thoroughly. (I skipped this step and prepared my veggies separately) Slice each duck breast, diagonally, into 1/2" pieces, serve the duck with the vegetables and the pomegranate thyme reduction.

Nutrients per Serving
Nutrients per Serving (1 duck breast): 119 calories (2 g fat), 28g protein, 15g carbohydrates, 2g dietary fiber, 111mg cholesterol, 8g total sugars, 18mcg vitamin A RE, 670mg sodium, 399mg potassium, 28mg vitamin C.

To download or print this recipe click here!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Quickie Post: POM Wonderful-Banana Smoothie

After all of the organization that I've been doing around here for the past few days, I'm beat. I thought that maybe I'd take tonight off from blogging about my kitchen endeavors, but this POM Wonderful-Banana smoothie I made for breakfast this morning was just too good (and easy!)not to share. If you think you don't have time for breakfast, check this out.

It's just three ingredients (strike that, 4...I tossed in a couple of ice cubes), no chopping, juicing, or peeling (unless you use fresh bananas) involved and a few seconds of blending. I poured 3-4 ounces of POM Wonderful into my measuring cup. I happened to win this pomegranate juice a while back in a giveaway sponsored by Mary at Deep South Dish, but you can find it at your local grocery. Pomegranate juice is a powerful antioxidant. Check out the POM Wonderful site if you're interested in just how good POM juice can be for you. Next I added in about 3/4 cup of Dannon Light and Fit vanilla yogurt. It's fat-free and sugar-free, and it's a good source of calcium and vitamin D. It tastes pretty darn good too. Finally, I tossed in half of a banana. For smoothies, I peel my bananas, cut them in half, and freeze them ahead of time. This way they don't go bad while waiting to be made into smoothies and they add to that frothy, cold, smoothie texture when blended with the other ingredients. Bananas consist mainly of sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and fiber, which makes them ideal for an immediate and slightly prolonged source of energy. I know that bananas are high in potassium too. I ate them to ward off leg cramps during my pregnancies. Upon my search for the additional health benefits of bananas, I stumbled across If any of you need to justify your love affair with bananas, click here for a complete list of how bananas can make you a better, healthier person. My favorite: "Bananas contain tryptophan, an aminoacid that can be converted to serotonin, leading to improved mood." Well, that explains why monkeys are always so darn chipper.

I used to have a smoothie maker, but I burned up the motor a little over a year ago. Hey, I was on a smoothie kick back then. That tiny little motor just couldn't keep up. After that, I used my blender for a bit...until it went down in a blaze of glory. Seriously...there was smoke. After that, I went on a smoothie hiatus. Not willingly, but I was at a loss for a blending apparatus. Silver lining: I honestly didn't miss washing all of the smoothie maker/blender pieces after my morning smoothie making sessions. Then, this Christmas, I received a Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender Now this is smoothie making at it's finest. I don't have to assemble anything (unless you count twisting on the blending shaft). And I only have to wash one piece. Plus, it comes with it's own little beaker, (pictured below) which is perfect for measuring ingredients and blending the smoothie to perfection. I love my new kitchen toy!

A few seconds of blending and...breakfast is served! Best of all, my kids really liked this too. For about 108 fat-free calories in an 8 oz. serving packed with antioxidants, calcium, potassium, and mood-lifting serotonin, you can't go too wrong!

POM-Banana Yogurt Smoothie

Serves: 2 (8 oz. servings)

4 oz. POM Wonderful juice
3/4 cup Dannon Light and Fit Vanilla Yogurt
1/2 frozen banana
2 ice cubes

Combine ingredients. Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shrimp n' Grits

The first and only time that I have ever tried shrimp and grits was 2 years and 4 months ago. It must've made an impression if I can remember the specifics, right? We were living in Atlanta, Georgia and my husband's company put on a fancy, catered, family picnic. It was October, and the lawn of the historic mansion where the event was hosted was beautifully decorated with pumpkins, mums, and scarecrows. It was certainly picturesque. However, as a woman nearing the end of my second trimester of pregnancy, I was not distracted by the decor nor the kiddie games that my 3 year old was begging me to play with her. I didn't even care to take a horse drawn hayride. No ma'am! My focus was solely on the fragrant and steaming chafing dishes and bowls of salad, (not to mention the wide assortment of desserts), lined up under the billowing white tent at the center of the lawn.

The food was incredible that day. But the dish that is forevermore burned into my memory was the savory, succulent shrimp served over cheesy grits. I sent my husband up for seconds so that I wouldn't look like a total pig in front of his colleagues. Luckily, my social graces kicked in and told me to not go for a third helping. See, I do have some restraint. On the way to the parking lot that day, I bumped into the chef. I praised his dishes and gushed over the shrimp n' grits and asked for the recipe. He seemed hesitant to give it out. Not one to take "no" for an answer and hungry for more shrimp and grits, I offered the chef my email, elbowing my husband and then waiting awkwardly while my beloved fumbled for a pen so that I could scratch my email down on his card. My husband is well aware that it's not in anyone's best interest to argue with a pregnant woman on a mission for a craving. Looking back, I may have badgered the man a bit. Oops. Not surprisingly, the recipe never showed up in my inbox. But that doesn't mean that I'd forgotten about shrimp n' cheesy grits.

Today was about as far from that hot, Southern, October day at the picnic as I could get. I woke up to this snowy late-January day, wiped the sleep from my eyes, and trudged down to the kitchen to serve up a hot breakfast. My oldest's favorite, Coco Wheats. While my kiddos happily shovelled the chocolate gruel into their mouths, I reviewed my long to-do list, looking up as needed to answer questions, wipe little chocolate faces, and observe the snow flying outside of our frosty Northeastern Ohio window. Half an hour later, with one kid at pre-K and then other intensely occupied with Melissa & Doug Abby & Emma Deluxe Magnetic Dress-Updolls.(My kids love these!),I set about all of the tasks that had been neglected during the holiday season. I scrubbed grout, I organized closets and the toy room, I re-arranged furniture, sucked up dust and cobwebs with that handy attachment on my vaccuum, and I made about 20 trips up and down the basement stairs. It was time to re-claim my home! By the time that 5 o'clock rolled around, I felt that I might collapse into a gelatinous pool of goo. Instead, I whipped up shrimp and cheesy grits. I'd been looking forward to it all day. I can't remember the exact flavors of the shrimp and grits from that picnic over two years ago, but I was certainly not disappointed by the flavors offered by the recipes that I chose for tonight's dinner. This dish was just what the doctor ordered after a day of intense cleaning and organization. Hearty, creamy, a hint of heat, and full out dee-licious! Best of all, it really wasn't that complicated to make.

To begin, you want to fry up a couple of strips of bacon until they're nice and crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel. Save about a teaspoon of the bacon drippings in the skillet for later. Discard the rest.

While the bacon fries, peel and de-vein a pound of shrimp. FYI: If you've got an ALDI nearby, you can snag a 1 lb. bag of this shrimp in the freezer section for a mere $3.99/lb. Not too shabby.

Let's go ahead and get those cheesy grits started. Bring 2 tablespoons of butter, 4 1/2 cups each of water and milk, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot), and a pressed clove of garlic to a boil. Then, gradually stir in 2 cups of white grits. You'll bring this back to a boil and then reduce the heat and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes until the grits are thickened. This is the first time that I've made grits. Polenta and/or mush, yes. But grits, no. It's pretty much all the same.

Now back to the shrimp portion of this dish. Add about a cup of sliced mushrooms to the bacon drippings in the skillet and 2 teaspoons of oil. Saute until tender. Then, add in 1/2 cup sliced green onions, and sauté 2 minutes more.

While my mushrooms and green onions sauteed, I dredged the shrimp in flour, salt, and pepper. Add the shrimp to the skillet with a couple cloves of minced garlic and cook until the shrimp are lightly browned.

By the time my shrimp were cooking, the grits were ready, so I stirred in some more butter and some cheddar. The recipe called for 10 oz. of white cheddar. I only had about 2 oz. of white cheddar leftover from Friday night's Bacon, Onion, and Mushroom Pizza, so I shredded the white cheddar and added in 8 oz. of store brand mild shredded cheddar. Cook and stir over low heat until the cheese is melted.

Back to the shrimp, it's time to stir in a cup of chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce.

Cook and stir for a few minutes, letting the flavors all simmer together and the sauce thicken.

Serve the shrimp over those creamy, cheesy grits. Crumble the bacon that you browned at the very beginning and sprinkle it over the shrimp. If you think you don't like grits, I'd encourage you to give this a try. It's nothing short of wonderful.

Shrimp and Grits adapted by me from Southern Living

*The original recipe is from Bill Smith, executive chef at Crook's Corner, the landmark Southern restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

2 bacon slices
1 pound unpeeled, medium-size raw shrimp
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat 10 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tsp. drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon.

2. Peel shrimp; devein, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper; dredge in flour.

3. Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings with oil in skillet 5 minutes or until tender. Add green onions, and sauté 2 minutes. Add shrimp and garlic, and sauté until shrimp are lightly browned. Stir in chicken broth and hot sauce, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Spoon shrimp mixture over hot Cheese Grits; sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings

Creamy Cheddar Cheese Grits from Southern Living May 2009

4 tablespoons butter
5 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 1/2 cups uncooked stone-ground white grits
1 (10-oz.) block sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated

1. Bring 2 Tbsp. butter, next 4 ingredients, and 5 cups water to a boil in a medium-size Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 1/2 hours or until thickened. Stir in cheese and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter until melted. Serve immediately.

Quick-Cooking Creamy Cheddar Cheese Grits: Substitute 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits for stone-ground grits. Decrease water and milk to 4 1/2 cups each. Prepare recipe as directed, cooking grits 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened.

Yield: Makes 8 1/2 cups

Notes: I used the quick cooking version of this recipe. I also used bagged, shredded yellow cheddar cheese with only 2 oz. freshly grated white cheddar. This recipe makes more than enough grits for the 1 lb. of shrimp that I prepared. Next time I'll cut the grits recipe in half.

To download or print this recipe click here!
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