Eating Our Way Into 2013

Happy New Year! I’m hoping that 2013 is full of fun adventures, new experiences and staying healthy mind, body and soul.  I have a few resolutions and as always, I’m going to try my hardest to keep with them.

This year the husband and I stayed in to celebrate bringing in the new year.  We actually did this last year and came up with some food traditions that we plan to carry over each year.  Growing up I remember that NYE was full of lots of food, mostly fun appetizers that started early and ended well into the night.  Now since its only Eric and myself, we don’t go all out with the appetizers, but we did eat some pretty fantastic food (just in time to work it all off in 2013!)

Now, if you know me, you know how much I love Wegmans.  I grew up in western NY, basically the birthplace of Wegmans.  When I moved to Virginia, I was so excited to hear that there was a Wegmans pretty close to my home.  Now, 7 years later, I have my choice of two Wegmans! So exciting! It’s hard to put into words how awesome this store is, it’s better than any grocery store I’ve ever been to.  I do have a point, I promise.  For every party, special occasion and holiday I do my grocery shopping at Wegmans, NYE is no exception.   I bought Eric his steak from the meat department and my scallops from the seafood counter.  While trying to make my way through the crowd of 100 of my closet friends, I saw they had a display of seafood appetizers.  I’m always up for trying something new, so when my eyes spotted a huge soft pretzel stuffed with crab I knew I had to get it.  I’m so glad I did because it was so good.  I don’t have a recipe for this, well, I do actually,  go to Wegmans, buy the crab stuffed pretzel, bake for 19 minutes at 375 and prepare to have your mind blown.  I should have bought two or three, but I didn’t want to get carried away.

Crab stuffed pretzel

Crab stuffed pretzel

Since the pretzel was pretty big, I was glad my dinner was pretty light.  For Christmas I received Ina Garten’s new cookbook,  Barefoot Contessa Foolproof.  I’d love to go through this book and make every single recipe in it, they look that good and this book passes my five recipe rule hands down.  Eric’s been bugging me about finding a recipe with fennel for weeks now, fortunately this book contained a few, Ina loves her fennel as much as we do.  As a side dish I made her recipe for Fennel & Garlic Shrimp.  This was the perfect accompaniment for Eric’s steak and my scallops.  If you like shrimp, garlic and fennel and want a quick dish, this is perfect.

Fennel & Garlic Shrimp (from Ina Garten)


4 tablespoons good olive oil

1 cup chopped fennel bulb, fronds reserved

3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red

pepper flakes

1 pound (16-20 count)

shrimp, peeled with tails on

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon Pernod (optional)-I didn’t use this and it came out awesome

1 teaspoon fleur de sel

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground

black pepper


Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and saute for 5 minutes, until tender but not browned. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook at a very low sizzle for 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic just begins to color.

Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, add them to the pan, and toss together with the fennel and olive oil. Spread the shrimp in one layer and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes on one side. Turn the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes on the other side, until they’re pink and just cooked through.

Off the heat, sprinkle with parsley, 1 tablespoon of chopped fennel fronds, the Pernod (if using), the fleur de sel, and black pepper, and serve with bread to soak up the pan juices.

Fennel & Garlic Shrimp, Seared Scallops and Asparagus

Fennel & Garlic Shrimp, Seared Scallops and Asparagus

Verdict:  Ina has done it again, we were not disappointed with this at all.  Eric said he could eat the whole pan (he practically did) and wants to add it to our rotation.  I agree that this was a wonderful shrimp dish and the best part was how fast and easy it was to make, which always gains an A+ in my book.

Last NYE Eric and I decided to start a tradition of making Zeppole.  For those who don’t know what Zeppole are, they’re basically fried doughnut balls.  I finally found a recipe that is not only super easy but probably makes the best Zeppole I’ve had in a long time.  I found this recipe in Anne Burrell’s cookbook Cook Like a Rock Star .  I could go on about how yummy these were, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Zeppole & Chocolate Sauce (from Anne Burrell)

For Zeppole

1 cup of sugar

8 Tbsp unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

1 cup of flour

3 large eggs

zest of 1 orange (I didn’t have an orange so I used a splash of vanilla)

3 cups of oil (Anne uses peanut oil, I used canola, works the same)

2 tsp. of cinnamon

For the Chocolate Sauce

6 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate chopped (again, I took the shortcut and used chocolate chips)

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 Tbsp light corn syrup

Directions for Zeppole

In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the sugar, 1 cup water, butter and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.  Cook until the mixture forms a ball, has a slightly sweaty sheen to it, and pulls away from the pan, 3-4 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and let cool for 3-4 minutes (the mixture does not have to be cold, just cool enough so it doesn’t cook the eggs when added)  Using an electric mixture or lots of good old-fashioned elbow grease, beat in the eggs one at a time; be sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next egg.  Add the orange zest (or vanilla) and beat for another few seconds to combine.

Pour oil into a large saucepan over medium heat (I used an electric fryer); the oil should come up 1 1/2 to 2 inches up the sides of the pan.  Test a bit of dough to see if it the oil is hot enough.  If it sizzles and floats quickly, you’re good to go.  If the batter burns, turn down the heat.

While the oil heats up, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl.

When the oil is hot, drop tablespoons of batter into the pan without overcrowding.  Cook the zeppole until they rise and get brown and fluffy, 6-7 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the zeppole, shake off excess oil and toss them into the sugar-cinnamon mixture.  Transfer to a serving dish and continue with the rest of the zeppole working in batches.

Directions for Chocolate Sauce

Melt chocolate in heat proof bowl (either microwave or double boiler method).  Add heavy cream, butter and corn syrup and stir until combined.   Transfer to a serving dish and serve with zeppole.

Zeppole & Chocolate Sauce

Zeppole & Chocolate Sauce

Verdict:  Best Zeppole recipe ever!  The recipe kind of reminded me of how my mom makes cream puffs.  When you fry this batter it creates a custard like inside that is amazing.  I suggest you don’t skip the chocolate sauce, even though they’re good on their own, the sauce takes them over the edge.  I wish I could say we didn’t eat them all, but as with most fried dough, it doesn’t taste good the next day, so we ate them all.    It’s probably a good thing we only make these once a year, though I could be persuaded to make them before the end of the year.

Since I’m posting all the recipes from last night, I can’t just leave out tonight’s dinner.   I think in 2013 I should try to use my slow cooker more, so I started the year off with a slow cooker recipe.  I found this recipe in Prevention magazine.  I’m still not sure how I got on a magazine list for people over 50, but I guess its better than being surprised with a subscription to Hustler.

The recipe was super fast and easy, duh, it’s for the slow cooker, you can’t get any easier than that.   I know it seems like we just had tacos, but these were way different than the tacos from this weekend.  The pork in this dish could easily become a pulled pork sandwich, it actually might become that as a redo leftover meal later this week.

BBQ Pork Tacos (Prevention Magazine)


2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 lb pork loin roast, trimmed
4 tsp canola oil
2 med yellow onions, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2″ thick
2 fresh poblano chiles, cut into 1/2″-thick strips>
1 C orange juice
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp hot-pepper sauce
12 corn tortillas, warmed


Coat slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine first 4 ingredients and 1/4 tsp each salt and black pepper. Halve pork crosswise and rub with spice mix.
Heat 2 tsp of the oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to slow cooker. Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in same skillet. Add onions and 1/8 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Place on top of pork with poblanos.

Whisk together next 6 ingredients and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Pour over pork and vegetables. Cover and cook until pork is tender, 4 to 5 hours on low.

Transfer pork to cutting board and shred. Add onions and peppers. Add sauce, 2 or 3 Tbsp at a time, until pork is just moistened. Serve with tortillas, optional toppings, and additional sauce, if desired.

BBQ Pork Taco

BBQ Pork Taco

Verdict:  Super easy, super fast, super delicious.  It’s also healthy.  We used whole wheat tortillas and topped ours with avocado and cheese, but you can do whatever you want.  Eric loved this, again another recipe added to the rotation.

There you have it, all our recipes from NYE and today, we literally ate our way into 2013.  It’s a good thing one of my resolutions is get in better shape, I’m glad I worked out this morning.  I have to say I’m still thinking about those zeppole and really wish there was a low-fat version because I’d eat those every day.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2013 filled with great food, fantastic friends and family and fun adventures.  I have a feeling this year will be a great one!

Happy New Year!



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