Archive for June, 2011

As you can see (scroll down ya lazy bum) B and I tried out a New Orleans themed restaurant this weekend.  One of the things that stood out to me on the menu was their Shrimp and Grits.  Unfortunately, it was made with bacon, and ham, and all sorts of things that most people find delicious that I don’t eat.  So I sighed and (tragically) opted for the catfish (can you feel the sarcasm?).

I was inspired though.  I wanted to make Shrimp and Grits at home.  I have never been a huge fan of grits.  My dad is from the south and has them as a side with his eggs and I was always like “eh, I’d rather have home fries with ketchup and hot sauce” also known as the NJ diner way of eating egg sides.  Thumbing through a cookbook in our kitchen I found a recipe for shrimp and grits that I wanted to try to work with.  First, the grits had cheese in the recipe.  I thought, “Self, you love cheese.  This can’t be bad.”  Also, this recipe seemed to be incredibly Weight Watchers friendly (which it turned out it was).  I made a few adjustments to the recipe that can be changed back.  First, I swapped out 6.5 oz of Turkey sausage for one box of Morningstar Farms Sausage links (10 links).  Second, I added a lot more Old Bay Seasoning.  In the future, I think I would dramatically reduce that quantity and increase the amount of hot sauce in the shrimp mix (which the recipe did not originally call for.  I liked the strong Old Bay taste but B seemed a little lukewarm on it.  For mass appeal I would reduce to 2 tsp from 4 1/2 tsp.  A final benefit of this meal, it was incredibly quick to make.  With prep time for chopping it took no more than twenty minutes to make the entire dish. Enjoy!

The Northerner’s Take on Shrimp and Grits
4 Servings, 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus Points per serving


16 large shrimp, deveined and detailed
4 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 large green bell peppers, diced
10 links Morningstar Farms Sausage Links
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Frank’s Hot Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat a large non-stick pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add shrimp, 3 tsp of seasoning, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Cook approximately 3 minutes or until the shrimp are done, stirring frequently.  Remove shrimp from pan and keep warm.

2) Return pan to medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add bell pepper.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add sausage, remaining seasoning, and hot sauce.  Cook approximately 2 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently.  Add reserved shrimp and garlic.  Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add 1/4 cup of water.  Cook for about 30 seconds scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Remove from heat and let stand for about 2 minutes.


1/2 C Quick 5 minute Grits
1/2 C fat free milk
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Frank’s Hot Sauce
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1) Bring 1 1/2 C of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Gradually stir in grits to boiling water.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in milk.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.

Serve shrimp over the grits.  And serve warm!

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Watermelon Vodka Martini

Sitting here, on my couch with my oh-so-annoying dog grumbling in my ear and a bad headache I knew I needed something desperately: a stiff drink.  Thinking ahead and about what was in our fridge, I decided to try my hand at making a fruity martini.  We bought a watermelon this weekend and had a lot sitting around in our fridge.  I am also toying with the idea of having a BBQ or get together on the weekend of the Fourth of July so I wanted to make some sort of drink alternative to beer and straight liquor that would work in the heat.

This actual got a good review from B, who almost never likes anything fruity or that isn’t 95% straight liquor.  There are a few changes that I will make in the future.  First, use an immersion blender instead of our Cuisinart to chop watermelon and blend.  We don’t have a really functional blender so I’ve been using the Cuisinart for these types of meals/drinks/etc.   It was insufficient to properly blend the watermelon and make the drink smoother.  Second, I need to make it colder.  I plan on, in the future, doing one of the following: either blend with ice or shake with ice.  Either way, the drink would have been much better ice cold, not that it was bad at slightly cooler than room temperature.

Watermelon Vodka Martini
2 servings, 5 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving

2 C diced watermelon, off rind
3 shots vodka
2 tsp Splenda no calorie sweetener
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped

Rinse two martini glasses in cold water.  Place in freezer to get a frosted martini glass.  Using a blender (or immersion blender, see note above) grind the watermelon and mint until it is smooth and well pureed.  Add Splenda and vodka. Using a strainer, strain into frosted martini glasses.  Garnish with a slice of watermelon and spring of fresh mint.

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B is a fantastic cook.  For all the reasons I love him and married him, after tasting this dish the fact that he is a fantastic cook was at the top of my list.

I was treated to a home cooked meal from B and the star of the show was this polenta.  He built off a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis and I thought it came out awesome.  It had the right balance of garlic (which may be a little garlicky for some, since we’re both big garlic fans) and feta.  It also had a great creamy quality to it that went very well with what he served with it (grilled tomatoes, onions, and marinated Greek chicken with a cucumber dill tzatziki sauce).


Roasted Garlic and Feta Polenta
Makes 8 servings, 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving

1 tsp olive oil
1 bulb garlic, trimmed
2 tbsp reduce fat feta cheese (or to taste)
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut the top off a garlic bulb.  Place in tinfoil pouch and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover and roast in oven for 30-35 minutes or until garlic is soft.

In a heavy, large sauce pan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.

Add roasted garlic and feta and mix well.  In a large Pyrex pan, spread out polenta and put in fridge for 1 hour or so to cool.  When polenta is cooled, slice and finish on grill, cooking approximately 5 minutes on each side.

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I have been a terrible example of a cooking blog lately.  I can blame it on a number of things: its hot out so I go for cool and easy recipes, I’m busy with work, we’ve been traveling and have had visitors, etc.  These lame excuses only demonstrate why my loyal (hah!) followers are associated by blood or marriage (it may also be my amazing lack of wit!).

Since I started this blog to discuss those things that I made myself and those foods that were made for me that I found delicious I wanted to add a review for a local establishment we recently tried out.

Nola on the Square, Market Square, Pittsburgh, PA

We had come across this restaurant on urbanspoon.com a few weeks ago.  We were looking for a new place in the city to try and this place seemed to fit the bill.  For one reason or another we decided to bypass this establishment that particular night in favor of another restaurant we had been looking to try in the area (Pino’s in Point Breeze, which is an Italian restaurant).  With a large contingent of family visiting the city last weekend, we ended up in Market Square for lunch.  There were numerous inquiries into this Nola on the Square restaurant, which put it back on our radar (even though we opted not to dine there for lunch that particular day).

Looking again for something new, B and I decided to try this place out last night.  We called around 3pm for reservations and were told that the first available was at 9:15pm.  Hoping for a miracle, we decided not to make reservations and try our luck putting in our name.  We ended up having to wait a little over an hour for a table.  The host told us that Saturdays from 9-12pm there is live jazz (as well as Friday nights and I believe Wednesday nights) so if you go to make sure to make reservations.  Once we got seated it was clear our waitress was very frazzled and busy but it did not impact our service what-so-ever.  We got a lot of food.  I had decided “go-go Weight Watcher’s extra points” for that night.

In terms of cocktails, we tried the Sazerac, the Nola Cocktail, and the Toulouse Martini.  The Sazerac was VERY good (it is made with rye whiskey, bitters, and absinthe).  I thought it would be a very powerfully tasting cocktail but you got the right balance of every different liquor without having it being overwhelming or clashing with the food you were eating.  In terms of the Toulouse Martini (vodka, prickly pear, and other elements), I thought it was very crisp and clean with a nice fruity taste without being overly sweet.  It was not B’s style but I was a fan.  The Nola Cocktail (bourbon, simple syrup, absinthe, and lemon) was my least favorite.  I found it to have a very strong absinthe flavor and very little of the bourbon came through for me.

For food, we tried one of the specials, which was fried soft shell crab with a potato salad (more potato than salad which made me happy) with a cilantro and jalapeno salad.  This was B’s first experience with soft shell crab.  I thought the elements that went with the crab were fantastic – the salad had the perfect amount of a kick and flavor and the potato salad was a nice complement.  I thought that the crab left something to be desired in terms of flavor; I would have liked to see bolder Cajun or creole flavors given the flavor of the crab.  While this sounds somewhat critical, I thought that it was a very good dish.  It was clear from the way that they cooked the crab the kitchen knew what it was doing.  I am sometimes concerned with fried soft shell crab but it was the perfect amount of crisp and was neither greasy nor heavy.  For dinner, I had grilled catfish and B had pork chop.  Both we were very big fans of.  Again, I thought the fish could have used a little more spice, but it was cooked almost perfectly. I think that the lack of spice that I was looking for might be due to the restaurant’s desire to cater to the patrons of Pittsburgh.  I would imagine the preferable spice level for someone in Pittsburgh is much lower than the preferable spice level for someone in the New Orleans area.  The highlight of the meal was the dessert; B and I shared a banana’s foster bread pudding with caramel ice cream.  I told him it was a shame our one-year anniversary is a week away since I would be leaving him for said dessert.  The bread pudding was perfectly moist and tasted very much like banana’s foster.

Overall, I would very much recommend this restaurant.  While it got loud with the jazz, it was very nice to have in the background for our meal.  In terms of cost, I found it to be less costly than some of our other standard nice restaurants.  For 4 cocktails, 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, and 1 dessert we had meals for about $50 per person.  Granted, the entrees and drinks we got were not the most expensive on the menu, so that has the potential to change.  If you’re looking for something different (and especially something downtown since the pickings are slim) try out Nola on the Square.

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