Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker

I have been hearing about cooking pork in a slow cooker with pop for ages now and have been completly intrigued ever since. I finally gave it a try this past weekend and wow was it delicious! The soda pop works not only to give the meat some nice flavor (no it doesn't taste like pop, just flavorful) but it also works as a tenderizer.  The pork came out of the slow cooker super juicey and completely falling apart. I hardly had to really "pull it" apart, just gently separate.  A nice bonus is that it is a very inexpensive meal as well.  It only cost me $6 for my 2 1/2 pound pork butt at Whole Foods Market!  Sure, this cut of meat is a bit fattier, but that also makes for a more flavorful final product.  Once cooked, the fat easily separated from the meat when I was pulling it apart.  We all agreed that this recipe is a winner and will be added to my meal plan rotation.

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker
adapted slightly from Mama Foodie

2 1/2-3 lb pork butt (also known as a pork shoulder)
24 oz. (2 cans) Dr. Pepper (or any caramel colored soda pop, each will provide a slightly different flavor)
1 medium onion, cut in quarters and then again in half
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dry ground mustard
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on personal taste.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
bbq sauce of choice
rolls or buns of choice

Place the chopped onions in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place the pork butt on top of the onions and add the garlic, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Pour the Dr. Pepper on top and cook on high for 4-5 hours (or on low for 8 hours).

Very carefully, because the pork will be hot, remove the meat from the slow cooker and place on a large cutting board.  Using two forks, shred the pork by pulling away from each other.  The meat should be very tender by this point.  Place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker and continue to cook for an additional hour.

Drain the remaining juices and toss the meat and onion mixture in the bbq sauce of choice.  I don't have an exact amount listed- just add a bit at a time until you get to your desired sauciness!

Top onto lightly toasted buns and enjoy!  Goes great with a good slaw and some oven fries.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Kristian Campana

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends." ~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking' 

Kristian Campana

Here's the scenerio: the weekend is upon us, the weather looks promising and goodness, wouldn't it be fun to have something FUN to do?!  Well, look no further then Ohio Festivals:Exploring Ohio's Festivals one funnel cake at a time and Adventures of a Trapped 300 Pound Man: Entertaining my inner obesity through food, Ohio festivals and fun! These two blogs are really all you need to find out all that is happening throughout the beautiful state of Ohio.  To say that Kristian loves festivals would seriously be an understatement- He has taken festival hopping to a whole new level!  But wow, does he live a fun life!  Kristian travels all over the state in search of the wackiest, most delicious, and just plain entertaining festivals Ohio has to offer.  Follow along on his journey vicariously or print off the festival schedule, hop in the car and see for yourself- there is a lot of fun waiting to be had!

Oh and be sure to give your congrats to Kristian, he is a newlywed!  Last weekend, he married the love of his life, Julia and they are having the time of their lives celebrating in style on their honeymoon.  Congratulations Kristian!  I am so happy for the two of you!

Also, thank you so, so, so much for your recipe of the Mozzarepas!  Every time I go to New York City I absolutely have to get one of these things at their weekend flea markets.  They are my favorite! Serious Yum! Now I can make them myself here at home- I am super excited!  Yay!

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Medleys of any could be some concoction where I mix pork, sweet potato and apple. Or it can be an omelet filled with refrigerator leftovers. This also includes pasta sauces consisting of various ingredients (I don't make traditional red sauce) and sushi as well.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Fish dishes. And I love fish. But it has to be cooked just right and I get nervous about over/under cooking it.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
Favorite - I absolutely love Pacific East. And since it's an hour drive from me, it's always a special treat.
A second restaurant a little closer to home would be India Garden in Lakewood.

To Try: I'd really like to try L'Albatros

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Hmm...I'd want nice melodies that didn't get too loud so that we could still talk. I think I'd go with something like Zero 7, Air, Joan as Police Woman, and Cat Power.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
A fine assortment of sushi, baked scallops topped with a steamed egg custard I used to get in Columbus, raw oysters, and maybe some coconut shrimp.

For dessert, I'd be happy with a snoogle and a corner piece of cake from Kiedrowski's bakery (Amherst). Maybe even a well-frosted sugar cookie.

What are you currently reading?
Lately, I've just been reading food blogs and astrological websites. I've been getting pretty good at reading charts and figuring present aspects. Maybe I'll pick up a side job.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Although I don't use it too often, I love the double boiler for making custards and ice cream. It has saved me a lot of unnecessary stress.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
I make green bean salads a lot in the summertime. I'll pickle thinly sliced cucumbers before adding them for extra flavor.

I also make sushi or mozzarepas (corn pancake sandwiches filled with melted cheese) for pot lucks or parties.

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
Its history of immigration. It affects our restaurants, grocery stores and supplies tons of great ethnic festivals. It helped make me who I am.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
There's a scalloped potato and ham casserole that I absolutely loved. I haven't thought about it in a long time, but it really sounds good now and it's easy to make.

Top 3 Movies of all time?

From left to right: Getting ready for the meatball eating contest at the Dean Martin Festival, Pawpaw Contest judge photo with the giant pawpaw, and the Dublin Irish Festival

What was your happiest moment in life?
There are actually a few moments that stand out:
1.) making a wish at a Japanese temple to find my soulmate
2.) learning that, before he died, a college professor got to read my letter and loved it
3.) driving down Route 2 during a fall overcast day and realizing that things were going to be OK
4.) Getting my first reply from the tons of letters I sent to Italy to find family - it changed my life forever.
5.) being with my girlfriend and family at my 100th festival last year and really feeling like I accomplished something
6.) learning that my wish in 1.) came true

I guess I'm just a happy guy!

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
I'm all over the place. Overall, I go to Giant Eagle, but I'll try to go to Marc's for cheaper produce and certain groceries and maybe Heinen's for fish and some things. If I can make it to some local farm market, then that's even better.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I'm such a sucker for potato chips. I can't even keep them in the house.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
Reconnecting my family's Italian heritage, the entire Ohio Festivals Project and the children's book I wrote and illustrated.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I think I would like to make grape ice cream (not sorbet). I had some in Geneva once at their Grape Festival and it was like a grape creamsicle. I loved it.

One word that best describes you is:
the newlyweds! 

And now can you please share one of your favorite recipes? 

Mozzarepas (or Arepas with Mozzerella cheese)
1 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly boiled corn on the cob (2 cobs)
1 1/4 finely ground yellow corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Mozzarella or Provolone (sliced)

After boiling 2 cobs, use knife to cut corn off and then grind in blender. You should have a nice pulp. Mix the yellow cornmeal (pass through coffee grinder to make finer if necessary), flour, sugar, salt and shredded mozzarella and mix well.  Add the corn pulp to the mixture and stir to combine well.

Bring milk to a boil as you add the butter (be careful not to burn milk).

Make a well of the mixture in the bowl and gradually add the hot milk mixture while mixing.

Get to a good pancake batter consistency. If you end up not needing to add the rest of the milk, so be it. If it's too thick, then add more milk.

Heat a lightly buttered griddle or pan and spoon batter to make small pancakes. Flip when golden brown.

you can add the cheese once it flips and then add the second pancake when done. Or you can just cook them all, make sandwiches with the cheese and nuke them in the microwave to melt the cheese.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds- Two Ways, Savory and Sweet

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are one of my favorite snacks this time of year.  One taste makes all the work of separating seeds from the pulp completely worth it.  I have tried lots of recipes over the years, but this is probably my favorite.  A bit salty, a bit garlicky, and with just a hint of heat from the Worcestershire sauce and seriously so, so good.  They are awesome just by the handful, but also taste yummy sprinkled on soups and salads or anywhere you would like a bit of a crunch.

I have also added a nice Cinnamon Sugar version.  You soak the seeds in apple cider, bringing out the sweetness of the pumpkin flavor.  By tossing it with a buttery, cinnamon sugar topping, the heat from the oven makes the sugars caramelize, giving them an almost candy coating.  I love salty and sweet snacks together, so if you have enough seeds to make both flavors do it and serve them side by side.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter OR olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (I like using corse salt)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper (about 20 grinds from the pepper mill)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Seperate the seeds from the pulp of the pumpkin.  Don't worry about getting all of the pumpkin strands off, it adds extra flavor to the roasted seeds.  I just love when I get a seed with pumpkin still attached- yum!  You just want the seeds clean enough so you can easily toss them.  Once rinsed, lightly dry and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add the melted butter, Worcestershire Sauce, salt, pepper, garlic salt, and garlic powder and whisk until well blended.  Add the pumpkin seeds and toss, throughly coating in the butter mixture.  Spread pumpkin seeds in a single layer onto a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, checking them often and tossing occasionally, until butter topping has dried and the pumpkin seeds are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool and dry-out the rest of the way on the cookie sheet on top of the stove.  Store in an airtight container.

Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Cider Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter OR olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Pour the apple cider in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Add the pumpkin seeds and boil on medium heat for 10 minutes. Drain the seeds and pour them in a large mixing bowl.

Pour the melted butter or olive oil into the bowl, along with the salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Mix well to coat and spread pumpkin seed in a single layer onto a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, checking them often and tossing occasionally, until butter topping has dried and the pumpkin seeds are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool and dry-out the rest of the way on the cookie sheet on top of the stove.  Enjoy!

Store in an air-tight container.

Winner of the Avery See-Through Sticky Notes!!!

Using the Random Number Generator at Stat Trek, I found my winner!  Congratulations Becca, my lucky number 1!

Becca said...
Oh my goodness! I love this giveaway. I'd use them at work, because I use post-its for EVERYTHING at work (right now I'm using star-shaped ones)

1 Random Numbers
Specs: This table of 1 random numbers was produced according to the following specifications: Numbers were randomly selected from within the range of 1 to 9. Duplicate numbers were not allowed.

You are going to love these things, Becca! Please send me an email with your address right away so I can pass it on to Avery!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cinnamon Bun Muffins (Gluten Free, Low Carb)

I have been getting lots of requests for more Special Diet recipes (low carb, gluten free, vegan, etc.)  So this one is for you!  This recipe is low carb and gluten free due to the use of the almond meal.  The use of honey or maple syrup makes it low on the glycemic index as well, meaning that your body will break it down faster instead of storing the sugars like when using granulated white sugar does. 

But most importantly, they are SO, SO yummy!  These muffins have tons of cinnamon, making your home smell like heaven while baking.  The almond meal gives a nice nutty flavor that blends everything together beautifully.  Even if you aren't concerned about any special diets, you would still fully enjoy these muffins. Our whole family just loved them.  Thank you Comfy Belly for introducing us to this great recipe!

Cinnamon Bun Muffins (Gluten Free, Low Carb)
recipe courtesy Comfy Belly

1/2 cup of yogurt
1/4 cup of honey (or maple syrup)
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups of blanched almond flour
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Cinnamon Topping Ingredients 
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons of honey (or maple syrup)
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted (ghee or coconut butter will work too)
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts (optional; or other nut)

Preheat oven to 310 degrees F.

Combine all the wet muffin ingredients into a bowl and blend well with a spoon. Add the dry muffin ingredients and blend well with a spoon. Place cupcake liners in a baking pan, and fill the liners halfway with batter.

Blend all the topping ingredients well. Add about a tablespoon of topping to the center of each muffin. Now put another scoop of batter on top of each muffin until the batter just about reaches the top. Add nuts now if your adding them to the top of the muffin. Evenly distribute the remaining topping over the top of each muffin. Optionally, use a toothpick to poke at the top of each muffin to allow some topping to drip into the batter.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of a muffin comes out clean and the tops are starting to brown. Cool and enjoy!

Store for a few days covered, or in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Don't forget to enter my 
by Avery Office Supplies for one lucky winner!  

click on the link to make your entry and to read all the details for this great prize!

I linked up on Sweets For a Saturday #43. Come find some other delicious sweet things :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

*GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED!* Avery See-Through Sticky Notes Review and a GIVEAWAY!

"Imagine what you can do with Avery Sticky Notes and what schools can do with ½ Million Box Tops coupons!"

This is the question that Danae of Avery Office Products asked me the other day.  My first thought was "Well considering I use sticky notes all over my cookbooks and magazines for those I Seriously Need To Try recipes", that is an easy one!!!  Take a look for yourself.  This stack here on my counter are the cookbooks I am using right now.  Look at all of those colorful papers sticking out the tops of my cookbooks......

My other thought was "wait a minute, did you say ½ Million Box Tops?!!"  As a mom of a child who's school collects these little things -that is a HUGE prize.  Jackson goes to a private, nonprofit school with no funding of the community.  Something like this would be amazing for them to be presented.  What a wonderfully awesome, awesome gift.  

So when Avery asked if I would like to review their new product Avery® See-Through Sticky Notes and also run an extra special giveaway for all of you wonderful readers in conjunction to their own Mark the Spot campaign, I jumped at the chance!  

So at first appearance they are really nice.  They have a great feel to them, smooth, and silky- you know a ball-point pen would write really nice on them.  Although they are a little tricky to separate (probably my only complaint) once placed they looked so cool!  I love so much how you can easily see right through them.  And the backing sticky is good too.  I stuck, pealed, restuck, pealed and stuck again; and yet they still hold strong.  They didn't loose adhesive or start to curl at the edges (oh how I hate that!).  

....see how the traditional post-it, my old faithful, completely covers up and hides all the words beneath it.  But the new fancy-pants Avery sticky notes are completely transparent.  There is absolutely no need to remove the note to read the recipe under it.  Love it!

I am notorious for writing all over my cookbooks.  I like to take notes in the margins: good recipe or not, added this, removed that, etc.  But in my brand new cookbooks, the first few notes are always the hardest to make because well, they are so pretty!  With these new sticky notes, I can use those to makes my comments and not worry about ruining my nice, new book.  I also noticed that my writing doesn't smear when rubbed.  So my handwritten notes stay easily readable.  

I also found that in cooking magazines where there is a lot of content in a small space, these sticky notes were wonderful for working as a highlighter, showcasing the information I found most useful- as well as writing on for reminders of later projects.  

Over all I think these guys are great. Although thin, they almost have a velum or plastic-y feel to them making them seem much sturdier then their paper counter-part. You can see how the paper post-its have curled over time and heavy use...  I haven't owned these new Avery post-its long enough to know if they will also bend in time.  We shall wait and see.  But I definitely give these guys a thumbs up.  They are my go-to for page-marking from now on!

So here is the exciting news!  

Twenty-thousand people who register for their Avery® Sticky Notes Mark the Spot Sweepstakes on Facebook will randomly be selected to win a FREE pack of Avery® See-Through Sticky Notes. Five of those winners will be randomly selected to receive 100,000 Box Tops coupons (valued at $10,000) that will be applied to a school of their choice. The selected schools of the “Avery® Sticky Notes Mark the Spot” promotion will be presented with credit for the 100,000 Box Tops for Education®.

Sound good to you?!

Well all you have to do is go to the Avery Facebook page and sign up to win a free pack of Sticky Notes and then choose the school you’d like the money to go to should you win. Pretty simple and it’s a great cause! Invite your friends and you also get to print off a coupon for $1.00 off your next Avery Sticky Notes purchase!

Avery Dennison has generously donated (6) packs of See-Through Sticky Notes for one lucky winner! To enter: Just mention in comments before midnight, Oct 23rd what you would use your sticky notes for. A random winner will be selected and notified via email shortly thereafter. The winner will then have 48 hours to claim their prize.

To earn extra entries, you may do one or all of the following. Each one counts as an extra chance to win but you must leave a separate comment letting me know what you did for each one.

Subscribe to My Retro Kitchen with Google Friend Connect.
Follow My Retro Kitchen on Twitter.
Follow Avery on Twitter.
Like My Retro Kitchen on Facebook.
Like Avery on Facebook.

This giveaway is open to US addresses. Good luck!

Disclosure: This post was written for Avery Dennison who provided the complimentary item for review & giveaway. All opinions are 100% mine and not influenced in any way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Weekly Meal Plan

Do any of you do it?  I didn't used to.  For a long time I was a Fly By the Seat of My Pants kind of girl.  I would hear about my best friend's plan and think she was crazy.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense.  Especially when you have kids and a budget. Many of you ask if I really cook dinner every single night.  And yes I do.  Even before I made a meal plan I did.  But we we were definitely more tempted to do take out because I didn't have a quick, handy list of ideas hanging on my fridge and all of the needed ingredients stocked in my pantry and fridge.  If you are trying to keep a budget you know that getting take out isn't a good way to save money (or good on the waistline either!)  Sometimes my day gets busy and cooking a full meal seems unappealing.  Like last night.  On a whim I decided to paint some of the playroom (flat paint and kids are not a good combination!)  I also needed to bake bread since we were fresh out.  By the time dinnertime rolled around I was in no mood to cook.  So salami sandwiches it was.  And everyone was fine with that!  Now I have one extra meal that will carry over to the following 14 day meal plan.  Works out all around.

So this is what I do.  Every two weeks I sit down the day before payday and make up a list of 14 meals that we would like to eat over the course of the two weeks.  Then on that Friday I go shopping for only the ingredients needed for these particular meals (plus all the essentials like milk, cheese, flour, toilet paper, etc.) This is a huge money saver because you don't buy as many odds and ends without a reason for them.  How often do you look at your pantry and fridge and see tons of stuff inside but have a heck of a time figuring out what goes with what to make a full meal?  This used to happen to me all the time and always got me so frustrated.  Creating a plan and shopping accordingly ends this cycle. I don't break my meal plan down Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, etc.  I originally tried it this way and it seemed like I never was in the mood for whatever I designated for a specific day.  So my meal plan looks more like a menu.  Each morning I look at the list of meals and decide what to make that night so I know what I need to take out of the freezer, etc.

Two weeks may seem like a big commitment to you, so if this is the case then try planing for just one week at a time.  I used to go grocery shopping every week.  But in an attempt to save money and be more prepared Scott has been challenging me to only shop once a week.  The first time I did this was awful!  I totally had a hard time planning that far in advance.  But I think I am finally getting a better system down and am forgetting less and less things.

Kalli from the blog My Life as a Kalli suggested that we post our weekly meal plans to help each other find new ideas and stay creative in the kitchen.  So here is mine:

14 Day Meal Plan Menu 
(week of October 14-27th)

  • Sauteed Chicken Thighs with a Greek style Israeli couscous (think artichokes, tomatoes and olives....mmmmmmm)
  • Salmon Burgers and garlic-y oven fries
  • Loaded Baked Potatoes and a salad (I made these on Sunday night and topped the potatoes with leftover BLT Dip- one word amazing.  I might actually like it even better as a potato topping then a dip.  Gotta love having dual uses for recipes!  Super yummy)
  • Tacos, Classic Black Beans and Spanish rice
  • Pork Chops, homemade apple sauce and roasted butternut squash
  • Caramelized Onion, Pumpkin and Ricotta Tortellini's with a Walnut and Sage Brown Butter Sauce (I already made these ahead and froze them.  So all I have to do is cook the torellini's for 2-3 minutes and make the brown butter sauce.  Dinner on the table in 10 minutes!)
  • Mac 'n Cheese and hotdogs (Turkey Pepper Jack Brats for the grown-ups!)  
  • Traditional Spaghetti with garlic toast and a side salad
  • Meatloaf, buttery noodles and broccoli
  • Breakfast for Dinner (whatever I feel like at the time.  Often it is just dippy eggs, bacon and toast. But sometimes I do a french toast casserole, Potato Puffs or a frittata (here is a  good one).  This night is pretty flexible, EASY and everyone loves it.) 
  • Chorizo & Butternut Soup with Herbed Tomato and Cheese Quesadillas (This is a Rachael Ray recipe that I am super excited to try out.  I'll let you know how it is!)  
  • Chef Salads and butter bread
  • Homemade Pizza and a side salad (thinking iceburg lettuce wedges- yum!)  
  • Roasted Spaghetti Squash "Pasta" and rolls
I hope this gave you all some new ideas!  And if you have any you would like to share please leave them in the comments! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Greek Orzo with Feta

I have a new favorite orzo recipe, and this is it.  Bonnie made it for our girls Greek Night dinner this month.  It is refreshing and seriously addicting.  It tasted wonderful warm the day it was made and I thoroughly enjoyed it the following day cold out of the fridge.  It would make a great potluck and a surefire family favorite.   

Greek Orzo with Feta 
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 (8 ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
1/2 pound dried orzo pasta
1 cup chopped fresh parsley

Stir together olive oil, lemon juice, olives, tomatoes, red pepper, red onion, garlic, oregano, and feta cheese in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and toss the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Favorite Go-To Lunch: Quick and Easy Pasta (or Rice) for One- plus Homemade Montreal Steak Seasoning

This dish is my favorite quick and easy lunch.  If you happen to have some leftover pasta or rice, it comes together in seconds, and is easily adaptable depending on what else you may have in the fridge.  I make this for my family for dinner too, and they all love it.  But for some reason I generally enjoy this one solo.  I think because this recipe originated back in my college days when I was just beginning to really cook for myself. My roommate, Andrea and I would make various versions of this on an almost daily basis and somehow never tired of it.  I'm not sure if she still cooks it at home- but I sure do!  Honestly I really do need to make it more often for the family because it works great as a fast, weeknight meal.  It is fresh and light and just plain delicious.  

Quick and Easy Pasta (or Rice) for One

1 cup cooked pasta or rice (yay for leftovers!)
1 tomato, chopped (do not discard the seeds and juice, they help to sauce up the dish)
1 scallion, chopped
freshly grated parmesan or mozzarella cheese
garlic salt and fresh ground black pepper (I like to use the coarsely ground setting for this pasta), to taste
Montreal Steak Seasoning, McCormick's makes a good one or make your own (recipe follows)
a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except tomatoes in a microwave safe bowl and toss.  Heat in the microwave for a minute and a half then add in the tomatoes, stir and heat an additional minute.  You can also heat this dish on the stove top over medium heat, but I generally use the microwave because it is nice and fast!  Once heated through, top with another light drizzle of olive oil and a good handful of extra parmesan cheese and enjoy!

This is the very basic recipe, which I love as is.  Give me a big bowl and I am a happy girl!  But depending on what I may have in the fridge, I will sometimes throw in other goodies.  Chicken or shrimp is yummy, roasted or grilled vegetables, shelled edamame, fresh herbs (don't bother chopping, we are just making this up quick, remember.  Just tear them up and throw them in, either before heating or after), Uncooked leafy spinach (just let it wilt in the heated pasta), sautéed mushrooms and onions....

Montreal Steak Seasoning
Makes 2/3 Cup

2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dill seeds

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kolokithopita- Savory Greek Pumpkin Pie

At our last girls' night in, we decided on a Greek Theme for dinner.  I've made plenty of Souvlaki's, hummus and pitas, kabobs, and all your traditional fare in the past.  So tonight I thought I would try something a little different.  Being that it is fall and I love all things pumpkin this recipe really stood out to me.  It is a pie, like the famous Spanakopita; a spinach and cheese pie layered between flaky phyllo pastry.  Only instead of spinach it uses the festive pumpkin!  It is called a "pumpkin pie", but it tastes nothing like the American counterpart.  It has a slight sweetness thanks to the pumpkin, but otherwise it is a very savory dish with the salty feta and ricotta cheeses, sautéed onion, and rice.  It was a lovely recipe and I am so glad I gave it a whirl!  You should too.

Kolokithopita- Savory Greek Pumpkin Pie
adapted slightly from Healthy Greek Recipes

1 medium to small pumpkin OR one can of pumpkin
1 large onion, chopped
1 and ½ cups milk (I prefer evaporated because is creamier)
1 cup short grain rice
2 whole eggs (substitute is ok too)
2 cups different cheeses (you can use feta, which is typical, but any other cheese will do it as long as it is a salty one.  I used one cup of feta and one cup of ricotta)
pepper to taste
1 tsp cinnamon
Either ½ box of Phyllo (pictured) or 1 whole box puff pastry

If using a whole pumpkin, cut in half, clean out the seeds and grate the pumpkin into a bowl.  Set aside. 

In large skillet sauté the onion until it begins to caramelize and turn brown. Add the pumpkin stirring occasionally over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes until it looks like paste. Add the milk and rice and stir for about ten more minutes. Add the eggs, cheeses cinnamon and pepper and mix throughly. Taste and adjust seasoning according to your liking.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

If using puff pastry:
Brush olive oil at the bottom of a pan and roll out the first sheet of pastry on the bottom.  Spread the pumpkin and cheese mixture on top and layer with the second sheet of pastry. Brush the top with a little olive oil and put it in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the pastry becomes light gold. Allow to cool before you cut in squares.

If using phyllo dough:
Brush the pan with melted butter. Carefully layer the thin sheets of phyllo one on top of the other, brushing each sheet with the melted butter or olive oil before adding a new sheet of phyllo.  You want about half of the stack of phyllo layered on the bottom of the pan.  Spread the pumpkin and cheese mixture on top and repeat layering and buttering of the remaining sheets of phyllo dough until gone.  With a sharp knife carefully score the top few sheets of phyllo dough into squares where you will want to cut them apart.  This will keep the phyllo from shattering when you cut it after baking.  Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or until the phyllo sheets are crisp and golden brown.

I linked up my recipe on Mom's Crazy Cooking!


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