Shrimp with Cheesy Bacon Polenta

I don't know about you guys but we've been having some whacky weather here. Our winter was an unusual warm 70* for the most part, then we went up to high 80's and now we are down in the 60's. I'll be honest, I was feeling a little cheated on my cooler weather. So I'm happy to start cooking some good ol' comfort food.

Ironically enough I'm not a fan of grits, but I am a fan of polenta.  They are sort of the same thing but I guess I just like the taste of polenta more.  I've made dishes with it before like the polenta lasagna and the pumpkin polenta with spinach and black beans. This recipe was great.  It had that comforting feel to it while still looking like a 5 star restaurant dish.  I was very pleased with it all the way around.  The only thing is, it doesn't heat up well as leftovers.  It turned into this congealed clump of polenta and just wouldn't go back to the smooth polenta that it originally was.  In the end I wound up throwing out the leftovers.

 Recipe from MyRecipes

·  1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
·  1 c. cornmeal (not to be confused with corn bread mix)
·  8 slices thick-cut bacon
·  2 bunches (about 16) green onions
·  3 medium tomatoes
·  1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
·  3 cloves garlic
·  1 1/4 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp
·  1/2 c. dry white wine
·  2 Tbsp. butter
·  1 c. grated cheddar cheese

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp. salt. Pour in cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly, and whisk until mixture comes to a steady simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover, and stir every 5 minutes until done, about 30 minutes total.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until fat renders and edges start to brown and crisp. While bacon cooks, trim stems and ends of green onions, leaving onions as intact as possible. Drain bacon on paper towels, chop, and set aside.
  3. Remove all but 1 tbsp. bacon fat from the pan. Add whole green onions and cook until soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes; turn and brown opposite sides, about 3 minutes more. While green onions cook, halve tomatoes along the equator and sprinkle cut sides with salt and pepper. Chop garlic. Set both aside.
  4. Transfer green onions to a baking sheet or platter and cover to keep warm. Put tomato halves cut side down in pan with bacon fat and cook until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until heated through and a bit soft, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to baking sheet with green onions to keep warm.
  5. Add garlic to pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to turn pink, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in wine and continue cooking, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the pan, until shrimp is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. Stir butter, cheese, and bacon into polenta. Divide polenta among 4 to 6 plates and top with shrimp and remaining liquid in the pan, dividing evenly. Set a tomato half and several green onions beside polenta. Serve immediately.

Pizza Casserole

In the colder months it's always nice to have casseroles.  Not only are the easy to make but running the oven always helps take the chill out of the air.  This was a great spin on both a pasta casserole and a pizza.  I wound up only putting pepperoni on half since my friend is a vegetarian.  This is a really easy and versatile dish.

This is a recipe that you can assemble beforehand and put in your refrigerator until you need to bake it.  It's also a great casserole to give to someone to bake at their leisure (new babies, house warming, etc.)  You literally just toss everything together in the pan.  I think I've made this recipe three times now each with different toppings added in.

Adapted from Premeditated Leftovers

1 lb. rotini or penne pasta noodles,
31/2 cups of pizza sauce
2½ cups water
2 cups of your favorite grated cheese
24 – 32 pepperonis (optional)
¼ cup onions (optional)
2 tablespoons diced bell peppers (optional)
½ cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
other favorite pizza toppings.
  1. Place uncooked pasta noodles in a 13×9 baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl combine the pizza sauce, water, and your favorite pizza toppings: onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc
  3. Pour pizza sauce mixture over noodles, mix enough to ensure the noodles are coated.
  4. Sprinkle cheese over the top of the noodles.
  5. Spread pepperonis on top of the cheese.
  6. Bake at 425 for 30 – 40 minutes or until the noodles are al dente and the cheese is melted.
  7. Let rest for several minutes before serving.

Review: Varick Winery's Screaming Hornets Hot Sauce

I have got to share this hot sauce with you guys. Last year my family went on a wine tasting tour up by the Finger Lakes and came across a winery that also made hot sauces. Knowing how spicy my husband likes his food, my mom bought a bottle of their Screaming Hornets hot sauce for a Christmas gift. However, when the Mr. and I tried the hot sauce I quickly claimed it as mine. You see, the Mr. has a tenancy to put hot sauce on everything... literally. He puts it on hot dogs, on his eggs and even on his turkey sandwiches.

I thankfully had the fortune of visiting the winery when the Mr. and I were in NY a few months back. Funny story, we couldn't find the place. We drove past it about twice because within the year from when my family went to when I got to go the winery had changed their name due to legal issues. So, who knows, maybe I have the few bottles of hot sauce with their old name on it. 

*info taken from their website*
Varick Winery is a jack of all trades in the Finger Lakes Wine Country in Upstate NY. The historic farm dates back to the early 1800's and houses not only the vineyard but a berry farm and lodging as well. Yes they make and sell wine ranging from dry reds and whites to sweet cherry wine, but you can also go there during berry season and pick your own berries (which is one of my fondest childhood memories or my grandmother and me). They also have a country store where you can purchase their hot sauce, BBQ sauce, various fruit butter, jelly, fruit toppings, fruit preserves, mustard and salsa.

About the product.
This hot sauce is buzzing with flavors of Tabasco, peppers, habanero peppers, vinegar, green chili peppers, and black pepper. It can make some of the less qualified absolutely SCREAM! A must for chicken wings. Hot-Hot-Hot!

Conclusion: I love this hot sauce. It's not really that spicy, which may take away points for some but not me. When the hot sauce first hits my tongue, I taste a tangy sweetness to it, but then the heat kicks in for a second and then there's a peppery after taste to it. I will say that I'm not like the Mr., I don't put this hot sauce on everything. In fact, I love it so much that I'm quite stingy with it to be honest. I find that it goes really well on creamy noodle dishes like the creamy beef and noodle casserole, beef stroganoff  and S.O.P. However, when I do put it on something, I make sure there's hot sauce in every bite. This is definitely a great hot sauce. It has amazing flavor and isn't over powering in the spice department. I highly recommend this hot sauce if you're a fan of a little spice and tend to put pepper on your food.

Chicken Pot Pie

I don't know about the rest of you guys but we went through one cold spell here in the desert and that had me pulling out all my winter recipes. I grew up on frozen chicken pot pies. So to me, winter is not complete without one. I went out and bought whole chicken to roast in the oven in hopes to take the chill out of the house. Then the next day I took the leftover chicken and used it in the pot pie for another oven warming meal.

Because I used leftover chicken, I got to skip the whole cooking the chicken part. Which, when it's so cold I don't want to come out from under the warm throw blankets on the couch, is a total bonus for me. Plus, I like to be lazy and cut corners when I can. Who doesn't?

recipe adapted from Allrecipes

2 (9 inch) pie crusts
4 chicken breast (about 2 cups), boneless, skinless
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
2 c. frozen mixed vegetables
1 c. mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 2 quart casserole dish.
  2. Place chicken breasts, onion, and poultry seasoning in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover. Simmer over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Drain and dice chicken.
  3. In a large bowl, combine chicken, onions, cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, Cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Lay one sheet of pastry in bottom of greased and floured pan. Pour chicken mixture over pastry. Cover with second sheet of pastry. Seal edges of top and bottom pastries. Cut steam vents in top.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.


Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ever get jalapeno poppers when at a restaurant? Imagine that in a sandwich form. Yup, this sandwich has become my new favorite. I saw this recipe on Pinterest and quickly looked at the recipe. I was really excited when I saw that the ingredients were simple basic things that I already had in my pantry. It also allowed me to test out the coconut oil that I just got.

The Mr and I like two very different levels of heat. So I removed pretty much all of the insides of my jalapeno but left his fully intact. This was by far the best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had. I'm not a huge fan of grilled cheese. Don't ask me why but I'm just not. But I am a fan of jalapeno poppers and I think that this is even better than a jalapeno popper. You had the spice, the creaminess, the gooeyness and amazing flavor all across the board. I'm not even going to lie to you, the next day I made another one for lunch. Just because it was delicious... and I could.

2 slices of bread
2 green onions; chopped
1 japaleno pepper; diced
2 Tbsp fat free cream cheese
1 slice colby jack cheese
coconut oil cooking spray

  1. In a small bowl combine green onion, jalapeno and cream cheese. Blend until combined.
  2. Heat a pan on medium heat until hot.
  3. Spray both sides of each slice of bread with coconut oil cooking spray. (or do what I did and very lightly spread coconut oil onto bread)
  4. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly onto each slice of bread. Add a slice of cheese on the cream cheese.
  5. Combine both sides of bread to make a sandwich and place into pan. Cook evenly on both sides, about 2 minutes on each side or until sliced cheese becomes melted.