An Appetizer Dinner on New Year’s Eve

Having just made a big sit down meal the day before, I opted for all appetizers on New Year’s Eve. Turned out to be a pretty good decision.

Some of these recipes were pretty involved, but making them all together actually saved a lot of time with so many shared ingredients (corn, onion, green onion, all the seasonings for the pork, etc.). I marinated both pork butts the night before, had my mom roast them while I was at work, and then was able to throw it all together between 4:30 and 6:30. My mom also helped with some of the chopping and prep work – and then most importantly, helped watch the kids while I cooked (or it may have taken me twice as long!)

They all turned out really good, but my personal favorite would have to be the corn muffins stuffed with pulled pork. The corn muffin is really sweet and really fresh with the corn and the tangy pork and salty butter go absolutely perfect with it.

New Year’s Eve Menu:

Avocado and Chicken Salad
Shrimp Crostini with Herbed Cream Cheese
Lettuce Wrap with Asian Pulled Pork
Corn Muffins Stuffed with BBQ Pulled Pork

Chicken and Avocado Salad

Avocado and Chicken Salad

3 ripe avocados, cubed
Juice from 2 1/2 limes
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded and chopped (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used half red cherry tomatoes, and half golden cherry tomatoes)
1 1/2 cup fresh corn (boiled in water, then drained and cooled)
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced small
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1.) In a large bowl, add avocado and lime juice and combine. Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
2.) Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with corn chips.

Shrimp Crostini

Shrimp Crostini with Herbed Cream Cheese

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
Olive oil
Salt, pepper and garlic powder
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup parsley
2 tbsp green onions, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp capers (capers only, none of the water from the jar)
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 baguette (crispy sour dough or French bread)

1.) Preheat oven to 375. Place shrimp in an even layer on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake for 15 minutes. Place shrimp in a bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool.
2.) Place softened cream cheese, parsley, green onions, garlic, capers, dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a food processor. Process for about a minute until it is all well combined. Scrape sides and then process for about 30 seconds longer.
3.) Slice baguette thin, making slices between 1/4″ and 1/2″. Spread cream cheese on each slice and top with a shrimp.

Garlic Herb Cream Cheese

Lettuce Wraps with Asian Pulled Prok

Lettuce Wraps with Asian Pulled Pork

Slow Roasted Asian Pork Butt
3 lb pork butt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sweet thai chili sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp pepper
2 onions, chopped large
6 cloves garlic
6-8 slices of fresh ginger

1.) In a large Ziploc bag, combine pork and next 12 ingredients. Make sure marinade evenly coats the pork and marinate a few hours to overnight.
2.) When you’re ready to roast the pork, place chopped onions, garlic cloves and fresh ginger in the bottom of a casserole dish. Place pork on top of onions/garlic/ginger. Tightly wrap with aluminum foil and bake in a 250 degree oven for 4 to 5 hours. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Asian Pulled Pork

Asian Pulled Pork
Slow roasted pork butt (above)
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp thinly shredded carrot
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sweet thai chili sauce
Juice from 1 1/2 limes
1 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1.) Using two forks, shred the roasted pork butt and place in a bowl. Set aside.
2.) In a large saute pan, heat sesame oil and sauté onion, garlic, carrot and ginger. Cook until onion is translucent. Add soy sauce, vinegar, chili sauce and lime juice. Stir well. Add pork, green onion, cilantro, salt and pepper and remove from heat. Mix well to combine.

Lettuce Wraps
Asian pulled pork (above)
1 head of bibb lettuce, rinsed, dried and leaves removed
Sweet thai chili sauce
Sesame seeds

1.) To assemble, place a spoonful of pulled pork in the lettuce leaf and top with chili sauce and sesame seeds.

Make them one at a time as you’re ready to eat them because the lettuce will get soggy if it sits with the warm pork. 

Corn Muffin with BBQ

Corn Muffins Stuffed with Pulled Pork

Slow Roasted Pork Butt
3 lb pork butt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp pepper
2 onions, chopped large
6 garlic cloves

1.) In a large Ziploc bag, combine pork and next 8 ingredients. Make sure marinade evenly coats the pork and marinate a few hours to overnight.
2.) When you’re ready to roast the pork, place chopped onions and garlic cloves in the bottom of a casserole dish. Place pork on top of onions and garlic. Tightly wrap with aluminum foil and bake in a 250 degree oven for 4 to 5 hours. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
3.) Shred pork using two forks and place into a large bowl. Add BBQ sauce (recipe below) and set aside.

This recipe makes more pork than is needed for the corn muffins. You can freeze the leftovers or use it for pork sandwiches. 

BBQ Sauce
2/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp yellow mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper

1.) Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan, mix well and heat until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat.

Corn Muffin Stuffed with BBQ

Corn Muffins
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh corn (boiled for 1 minute and drained)

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.) Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix well until fully incorporated.
3.) Using a greased cupcake tin, place enough batter to fill each cup half way. Place a spoonful of pulled pork on top of each.
4.) Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
5.) Serve warm with softened butter.

This yielded me 15 corn muffins. 

Corn Muffins with BBQ1

Shrimp Bake

This dish is one my mom used to make when I was growing up, and it was always one of my favorites. Tonight was my first time trying it… when I wasn’t able to reach her for the recipe this evening, I had to go off of memory and try to figure out how she got it to taste so great. Good news is, I think I figured it out. My mom made hers with shrimp, scallops and crab meat, but I only had shrimp on hand, so shrimp alone it was.

This is a pretty easy meal to make – sauté mushrooms, onions and garlic, deglaze with wine, toss with shrimp and top with provolone… voila, you have a dinner that tastes great with very little effort. I served mine over some jasmine rice (I cooked it according to the package but substituted chicken stock for water, added 1 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp of salt and 2 tbsp of olive oil).  It was the perfect amount of flavor to pair with this shrimp (that makes its own sauce as it cooks).  Hope you enjoy this as much as we did tonight, and I did growing up!

Shrimp bake 2

Shrimp Bake

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 half sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and pepper
3 – 4 slices provolone cheese

1.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.) In a saute pan, heat olive oil. Add onions, mushrooms and garlic and saute until onion is translucent, and pan starts to brown. Deglaze with white wine; simmer for about 5 minutes.
3.) In a casserole dish, combine raw shrimp with sautéed onions and mushrooms and mix well. Top with slices of provolone cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and cheese is browning.

Shrimp bake sauted mushrooms and onions


Shrimp Bake 1


Shrimp bake provolone


Shrimp bake 3

Mexican Shrimp with Cilantro Lime Rice

Last night for dinner, I wanted to try something new with shrimp.  My go-to with shrimp is pasta or scampi, but I was wanting my weekly Mexican fix.  What to do, what to do…  So I decided on  shrimp with Mexican seasoning, sautéed with black beans, corn, salsa, lime juice and cilantro. I served it on top of copy-cat Chipotle cilantro lime rice. If I haven’t mentioned before, I LOVE Chipotle – one of my favorite places to eat. Good quality food, reasonable prices, and right across the street from my office makes it good and dangerous. But I digress.

This meal qualifies for the 30-minute designation, so it’s definitely weeknight worthy.  Since shrimp takes such a short time to defrost, I try to keep some in the freezer and it’s always good for a last minute dinner.  All three of my boys finished their plates with this one so it was a dinner success! Hope you enjoy!

Mexican shrimp 3

Mexican Shrimp with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 lb shrimp (make it easy – buy it peeled and deveined!)
1/4 tsp each – cumin, chili powder, paprika
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh salsa (I used Publix deli brand)
1 14.5-oz can black beans, drained
1 14.5-oz can corn, drained (or 2 ears fresh corn)
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1.) Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, saute for 1 minute. Add shrimp to skillet and sprinkle, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper over it.
2.) Saute shrimp for about 5 minutes, or until shrimp is pink,  stirring well to incorporate all the spices.
3.) Add salsa, black beans, corn, lime juice and cilantro. Continue to cook until heated thoroughly. Remove from heat.

Mexican shrimp 1 Mexican shrimp 2

Cilantro Lime Rice

1 1/2 cup water
1 cup jasmine rice
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1.) Heat water, salt and olive oil until boiling. Add rice, reduce heat and cover. Cook over low for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
2.) Stir in lime zest, lime juice and cilantro.

Cilantro lime rice ingredients Cilantro lime rice

Shrimp Scampi over Creamy Parmesan Orzo

I have stumbled upon a much easier, equally as tasty substitute for risotto – orzo.  I must admit that my orzo exposure has been limited to (cold) salads, but I decided to branch out the other night in an attempt to replicate my favorite flavors of risotto without the 30 minutes of stirring.  It was a success! This is definitely weeknight friendly, and was the perfect compliment to shrimp scampi.  The rich and creaminess of the orzo went perfectly with the acidity of the shrimp. This will certainly be a repeat meal in this house!  Hope you enjoy!


Creamy Parmesan Orzo

1 1/3 cup orzo (half a box)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup onion, finely minced
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp sour cream
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1.) Cook orzo according to the box. Drain, add back to a large pot and stir in olive oil. Set aside.
2.) In a medium saucepan, heat butter. Add garlic and onion and saute until onion is translucent. Add in milk and sour cream and heat just until warm. Pour over orzo. Stir in parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Shrimp Scampi

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.) In a saucepan, heat butter and add garlic. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, wine, salt and pepper.
3.) Add shrimp to a casserole dish. Pour butter/wine sauce over shrimp, stirring to ensure the shrimp is evenly coated. Arrange shrimp so they are in a single layer in the dish.
4.) Bake for 10 minutes.




Shrimp and Grits

I’m going to throw a warning out on this one – unless you don’t have kids or you have a babysitter, this is not a good weeknight meal.  I regretted making this on a Tuesday immediately after I started – it’s a lot of chopping and shredding and a lot of moving parts all cooking at the same time.  The kids destroyed the kitchen while I was making this one – they had snacks pulled out, Play-doh, pots and pans, tupperware, towels all over the place.  It was a freaking wreck!  And then I was so busy just trying to prepare the food (and fast to prevent any further destruction from the boys) that I left myself an even bigger mess.  But luckily, the dish turned out great and it was not for naught!  So my verdict on this – will definitely make again, but next time I’ll do it on a weekend when I’ve got backup (Blake).

So about this dish – I found the recipe on Pinterest (shocker!) and stayed pretty true to it. I used less lemon juice and Gouda instead of Gruyere (it was what I had on hand).  It has lots of fresh veggies (which I love), fancy cheese (which I love), and the acidity of the shrimp/peppers/tomatoes pairs perfectly with the rich and creamy cheese grits.  This Shrimp and Grits recipe was everything I hoped it would be – hope you enjoy it as well!


Shrimp and Grits

2 tbsp butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup quick cooking grits
1/3 cup each shredded parmesan, white cheddar and gouda
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup butter, divided
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped (I used a yellow and a red)
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp cajun seasoning
1 1/2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp
1 cup dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of diced cherry tomatoes

1.) Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Add garlic and 1/2 tsp thyme; sauté 1 minute.  Add milk and 1 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil; whisk in grits. Reduce heat to lowest setting; cook 5 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally. Add cheeses and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm. If they set too firmly when ready to serve with shrimp, add water or milk to thin and reconstitute.

2.) Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet. Add garlic, celery, bell pepper, onions, thyme, cajun seasoning; sauté 30 seconds. Add shrimp, and cook 7 minutes. Remove shrimp and veggies from skillet.

3.) Add wine to skillet. Reduce heat to low; whisk in remaining butter, 1 tbsp at a time. Stir in lemon juice and tomato. Cook 3-5 minutes. Return shrimp and veggies to pan. Stir to mix with butter tomato sauce. Serve over grits.

Adapted from Katrina Runs for Food’s Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits

DSC_1050 DSC_1063 2

DSC_1051 DSC_1052


And this is what my kitchen looked like when I was through….

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Mediterranean Risotto with Shrimp and Lobster

Dinner last night was a result of lobster and shrimp being on sale at Publix, and trying to make use of some of my bulk purchases from Costco. And thus, my husband and I decided to create a Mediterranean influenced risotto made with lobster stock, artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and feta cheese. We topped it with shrimp and lobster that had been cooked in a white wine cream sauce. It was a tasty success – both adult and kid approved!


Mediterranean Risotto

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can artichoke hearts, diced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
8 to 10 cups lobster stock (chicken stock could be used)
1/2 cup half and half
2 cups fresh spinach, julienned
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 ozs feta cheese, crumbled

1.) Heat olive oil in large dutch oven. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent. Add arborio rice and brown, about 3 minutes stirring constantly. Add artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes, sauté another minute.
2.)  Add about 3 cups of the stock, stir well, scrapping any rice that may be sticking off the bottom of the pan. Stir constantly. When liquid is nearly evaporated, add 2 more cups of stock and repeat until rice is almost done cooking (it will be slightly harder than al dente). Make sure to stir constantly throughout the cooking process. Add the half and half and cook until rice is fully cooked. Remove from heat.
3.) Add spinach, parsley and feta cheese and stir well.

Shrimp and Lobster

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 lobster tails, meat removed from shells and cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve shells for lobster stock)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup half and half

1.) Allow shrimp and lobster to marinate in garlic, parsley, olive oil, oregano, dill, salt and pepper while cooking the risotto.
2.) Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and lobster and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and half and half, and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until shrimp and lobster are done.

Lobster Stock

10 cups of water
Lobster shells
1 lemon, halved
3 whole cloves of garlic
1 carrot, cut in large chunks
1 medium sweet onion, quartered
2 tsp salt
2 tsp whole peppercorns

1.) Add all ingredients together in large pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain liquid.

I purchased my shrimp already peeled, but if I would have known I was would be making stock, I would have bought them un-peeled and used these shells in the stock as well. 

To serve, I placed the risotto on the plate, topped it with the shrimp and lobster and spooned the white wine cream sauce over top. Hope you enjoy!